Friday, April 30, 2010


I had no idea that rape would be such a big topic. I have never had so many visitors to this blog as yesterday.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope I had something worthwhile to say, and you might want to check back again.

I have myself gotten some food for thought from this.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rape in the game. Why?

Edit: a *very* crucial negation was missing!!

I listen to podcasts sometimes. Maybe I should do a post on some of the shows I like some day. There are shows I'd like to shine the light of attention on. Anyway.

I was listening to this podcast called The Walking Eye, and in that episode they had an interview with Vincent Baker. Vincent, for those of you who didn't know, is the guy who designed and published Dogs in the Vineyard. That is an awesome game that opened my mind to some new ways to game. Check it out!

One thing Vincent and the guys talking to him were spending time on, was the fact that in his game Poison'd, rape is something that by the book can happen to your character.

Now, I have heard before that this is something that is a big issue for some people. Considering that many of us started play while in our lower teens or slightly younger, it is understandable that some kids love to go wild when it's "just a game". That being said, I have never really understood how you could stomach rape in a game session. A lot anti-social behaviour takes place around game tables, and many times I just don't get it. I mean, why?

What Vincent said made me really think about this. According to his experience, rape was something that most gamers he knew had experienced. It's probably something of an understatement to say that having something like that happen to your character is quite disturbing. Personally, I find the idea that the majority of gamers having had this experience to be totally mind boggling! But, I'd say it's very sad even if it only happened once.

I was first a bit annoyed at Vincent, because when they asked him about that facet of the game, he told them his experience, and that that it was "worth having a conversation about". That was his whole explanation. I thought he was dodging the question. I mean, start having one then! But, now I'm thinking he wasn't evading anything. He put it in the game. It is there and playing the game is having that conversation! If you play the game you get to do this in an ordered fashion, and this time it is on your terms, empowering you. Maybe he is right.

If such a thing happen in a game, and you can just say "no, I'm fighting you", you will at least formalize it, and take control of it. Psychology is strange, and sometimes it is worth quite a lot to be able to contain, and empower you to handle an issue. I'm not sure of what to think of this one.

So. Why is this happening? At all? Is it really as frequent as Vincent say?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chgowiz found?

Last week, when I as usual stood half asleep waiting for the commuter train, I was suddenly more awake than I've been in a long time. The train driver, sitting in the first car of the train braking, looked like the long lost twin of Chgowiz!

If you haven't heard, the Old Guy, have left us. He took down his blog and have gone offline. I consider it one of the more unfortunate event I've been a witness to since I started blogging. While I haven't met any of the people whose blogs I read regularly, I still have started to consider them "friends" in the wider sense. It hurts to see them go. Imagine my surprise, and happiness, too see this reminder of Chgowiz.

Maybe Mike decides to check out some blogs one day and see this, or someone might meet him and tell. It was good to have you back, if only for a second!

A subtle piece of game design

Today I read this piece where Trollsmyth take a closer look at the way game mechanics work, and how to make a change to the game to support a class, an attitude or style of play. Very interesting, and well thought out article.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's all about killing things

Almost everyone in gaming have heard the old adage that D&D is all about killing things and taking their stuff. We might all have different ideas about the truth value of that statement, and some of its implications. I have now twice been behind the screen for a game of 3:16, and I am enjoying some carnage. It's a game that's by the book is only about killing things. Usually you don't even take their stuff, you just kill some more of them.

Taking a few moments to browse the web for discussions about XP awards and game systems for advancement and rewarding this or that behaviour, I find myself seeing a lot of the same stuff gamers have been talking about for decades! 3:16 is awfully neat in both avoiding all that stuff, and embracing it.

Imagine a game where you will get better from killing things, only. Imagine that you also can narrate, not the GM you, how you fail and succeed. This is a marriage the newest of the New School design (Forge style) and the simplistic summary of Old School gaming with less focus on story.

So what kind game is the mechanic supporting? Well, you have rules for killing, and rules for using a flashback to get out of trouble. That's it, simplifying a bit. But, this is one of those new-fangled "story games". It's probably not strange that for some of us, games which gives us a rough sketch of a PC will be the ones where we manage to develop some real personalities, through play. We have seen some very interesting character development in our two sessions of 3:16, and all we have been doing have been killing things.

Try it out, it sure is enlightening.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Year with The Eye

Roughly one year ago, I had been reading Grognardia and been thinking of blogging. Tunnels & Trolls had become one of my favourite games and reading it made my heard sprout ideas like crazy. Pandora's Box was open, wide open. Then Dave Arneson died.

Knowing that James had started his blog when Gary died I realized that all my plans would amount to nothing unless I overcame inertia, and this was the moment. I wanted to celebrate the memory of those who created our hobby, and maybe give something back.

Now I look back upon a year of over 200 posts. Some of them are less inspired, but some I still feel proud of. Some have generated quite a lot of traffic and even some nice discussions. The fact that so many have been reading my ramblings and cared to comment is very ego boosting. Also, I feel like home in this community of bloggers. Thanks to all you people out there.

Not everything I hoped for this blog have come to pass. I had hoped to produce more original material, and more thematically tight posts. But, I think I've found my niche, and after reaching the point of burn-out I even took some time off to get back in the seat with new energy. Maybe some of the hopes will come true my second year.

Thanks to Ken St. Andre and Dave Arneson and all the other gaming ancestors for showing the way through the dungeons and wilderlands of high adventure!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some thoughts on a Glen Cook novel

I might sound like a broken record (imagine how some youngsters wont understand that expression!), but I have once again been thinking about campaign frames, story and player influence.

Recently I finished a novel by Glen Cook, A Shadow of All Night Falling. It had a sad ending, where the fates of nations and individuals were intertwined. Some people sacrificed a lot and it wasn't very clear if they really got what they wanted. Now, imagine that happening in a rpg campaign.

As a GM you can set up the potential for this high drama. You can show the powers that be to your players by exposing them to NPC's and hope they interact enough to show the motives and the personality flaws of everyone involved. What you can't do is making the players take a stance. They might do, or they might not. Sure, you can set it all up so that they player characters have some emotional or other investment in a faction, but it's still not sure. Looking at that potential and not knowing if it will fizzle of not, I can understand the lure of heavy handed story railroading.

As I read that book I thought it would have been great to have been the player in a campaign that ended thus. I wonder if it can be done, nicely, in a way that I'd enjoy? I'm not sure. The John Wick game, Houses of the Blooded, tries to do that  by making the players help build the narrative and the intrigue. I guess that should help create some enthusiasm. Hmm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another take on a "D&D Endgame"

I've been thinking a bit about the idea of a sandbox. It is basically the idea that you give the players an area wherein they can shape things. Having read John Wick talk about player empowerment in his Houses of the Blooded, I'm amazed by the similiarities.

John isn't exactly old shool. He masterminded they metaplot for AEG when they published the Legend of the Five Rings and acompanying CCG. Talk about story trumphing player initiative.

But, in HotB, he talk alot about how players can, and should, take the part of the narrator. To shape things.

I realized that this is the sandbox ideal, in another form. There have been a lot of discussion about the "D&D endgame", and how there are or not rules supporting something of that kind. Now, look at HotB. It's a game where the players will rule a land, have servants, fight for resources, spy on foreign powers, make strategy and take decisions on how to manage their fief. Add to that game mechanic that actually support player the tools to shape things. Hand out points, currency, for the players to help set the things in motion.

Don't it sound like old and new are converging here? I think the main difference is that in the game John Wick designed there are game mechanic for what the old school think is a natural development.

Sure, that means it's less of a wide open toolbox, but John is upfront with his intentions. He explains that this is a game about one specific thing, and D&D never did that. On the other hand, many have theorized that D&D also are a game about something specific, like exploring. I happen to agree, and also think it's kind of cool to make it explicit and have game mechanic support your vision. I will just mention gold for xp again, since I think it's the idea in a nutshell.

Take a peek at what John Wick is doing. He is interesting.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What did the wolves every do for us?

I just read Zach over at RPG blog II post about White Wolf. They are a company that somehow generate some strong feelings. Since I have some of those myself I will focus on something else.

Let's say WW stop focus on RPG products on dead trees, and become just a part of the EVE online game. Good riddance? Sad?

Imagine this.

I don't know about you, but after the Vampire boom I saw tons of new people at cons. Many new faces appeared, and suddenly gaming cons wasn't 1000 teen aged boys and two girls. Now there actually were new players and more female players.

Whatever you feel about black, angst or anything else, I know I saw the Wolfies bring new players into the hobby. Think about that.

I hope those people stay when the wolf goes away.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How to draw dungeons, density and linearity

Taking a look at the very intriguing post by Lord Kilgore at his blog, I was thinking on my latest attempts at drawing dungeons.

I have been drawing while planning, meticulously thinking of how things fit, designing choke points and god knows what. Surprisingly often I feel dissatisfied with the result and never finish them. Very often I draw like crazy and suddenly realize I have made one long corridor with rooms or twists along the line, i.e. a very linear adventure.

So, how much space does people actually have in their dungeons? I have found that if I start by drawing rooms and then try to connect them with corridors, or if I just tries to cram oddities in every open space on the paper I get very different dungeons. I still haven't found a good balance of spontaneity and planning yet. Lord Kilgore's post made me think of that again.

What works? What effect does the "dense" dungeon have in play, and how easy is it to "make sense" of a dungeon like that? Imagine a dungeon like, say, Stonehell, where different dungeon levels have different creatures which live in different sections. Can you make that work in a "dense" dungeon? I find some people draw like that naturally, and I wonder why. Maybe I have something to learn. It looks interesting.

The thing with dense dungeons is that I wonder if it's really that fun to play in such a twisted environment. Mapping it must be quite a challenge, and I wonder how many players are that into mapping.

One of these days I have to just try it out, I guess.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Horray for Dave-day!

This day marks the one day anniversary of the death of Dave Arneson. Let's make it "Horray for Dave"-Day by celebrating all feats of player ingenuity, remembering the player who won a session of Braunstein by distributing flyers from helicopter.

I have two player memories to share.

At one time I was harassing my players with an outsider. He could communicate telepathically and he was invisible. After being seriously creeped out by his very tempting insinuations and teasing they pulled back from the caves. Armed with what they had learned they decided to study spells, use potions and make a tactical plan for positioning and striking with maximum efficiency. This time when they entered the caves the outsider soon saw they meant to kick ass, and perched itself on top of a tall building and started to call down flaming rain and hellfire upon the characters. They now had protections against fire and at once ran their tactical plan like clockwork. One guy now equipped for flying raced towards the demon with a tool of dismissal from their plane. Everyone was exactly where they should be, and the dismissal worked at first try. The outsider was gone, just like that! They spend quite some time to make sure and they secured the caves. Player skill and planning.

In another dungeon the party was encountering a tribe of hyenakin, gnolls. After having had these doggies ask them for toll every time they passed, one player decided to end it. He challenged the pack leader, the alpha male, to a duel. He won, and from now on had a tribe of his own to call upon. Quite cool. They ended up building him a tavern outside the dungeon, getting revenue for the party.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A radical thought

Having read the intriguing post by Trollsmyth over at his blog, and felt really depressed by the moronic "yes you did" and "no I didn't" in the comments. I feel like suggesting a radical thought.

The designers of the old games put everything in the book for a reason, and it's a valuable pastime to see those rules for what they are. Also, they might still have made things that in retrospect are broken or plain wonky which you can criticise without being a card carrying member in the Cult of the New.

Chew on that one.

For the record, I think Trollsmyth is fully aware of this radical thought. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fragments of campaign potential: Kingdoms of Kalamar

As I was reading my Kingdoms of Kalamar campaign set, I realized how to write setting background. Let's take a look at this.

The kingdom of Cosdol in Brandobia is described as a peaceful nation of magicians and merchants. But, the description also mentions how the capital is overrun with refugees from a tsunami-like event out on the coast. Combine this with the fact that the king's main advisor have just been assassinated and how that have forced the prince to take a more part in the ruling of the land. Do you smell change and conflict yet? Add to this the fact that Cosdol have a legal code based on elven morals, which means very lenient laws, and the fact that the whole land of Brandobia is split in three nations which are constantly at each other's throat.

Now we have a nation that is described as ordered and prosperous, but with a lot of tension. I can see a lot of things you could do in a Brandobian campaign. Let's just suggest that the influx of refugees means more social unrest. Quite likely, I'd say. Add to that one of the strange cults which can be found in the lands, with a strong and charismatic leader. Imagine that happening at the same time as more assassinations, probably payed for by a foreign power. I think it could be quite fun.

Good writing for a setting means sowing the seeds of change while describing how everything fits together, feels real and there being an imagine of normality. Sometimes Kingdoms of Kalamar have been accused of being a bit plain, and almost dull. Reading this I'd say the most plainly described setting can be filled with interesting conflict, if you just read the plain description thinking of how this situation in balance could be tipped in the favour of somebody.

I'm not sure if I managed to make it clear, but I got some insight from this and I wanted to somehow impart the gist of it in a post.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dragons, brain damage and dead horses

I just read a very good and imaginative post about how to re-think dragons, over here. I must say, though, that one of the reason the problem appears with the silly symmetry of evil and good dragons, is alignment. Alignment rots your brain. I've said so before.

It's not surprising that the designs get kind of stale, with more and more far-fetched breath weapons. If you have to shoehorn the fantastic into a narrow minded metaphysics you will get a narrow result. The fantastic is not about that. Dragons should be like humans, of all moral shades. And colour.

Yeah, I know I'm beating a dead horse. Go read that post linked above. It's good.
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