Archive for May, 2010
I pre-ordered The Bones from Gameplaywright Press this week. They have a hardcover special edition that I’m very, very eager to get my hands on. I have a few friends in this book, but even if not, I would have to buy it.
See, every book I’ve seen with Will Hindmarch as editor or developer has impressed the hell out of me. His name is one of those that, when seen, will cause me to buy a book without hesitation. (Jeff Tidball, the other half of Gameplaywright, is like that with me for board games. The two together are a fierce combination against my wallet, yo.)
Enough of my verbal fellating. What I want to do is tell you a story. But first, I’ll do a little copy-paste from GPW to tell you what this book is about:
about the book
This isn’t about math. It’s about unlucky breaks and victory against all odds.
This isn’t about percentiles and probabilities. It’s about late-night game-ending rolls where everything hinges on that climactic moment when one single die skitters across the table and determines the fate of a hero, a city, an empire…
The Bones gathers writing about fandom and family—about gamers, camaraderie, and memories— and ties them together where they meet: our dice. These are essays and anecdotes about the ways dice make us crazy, about the stakes we play for and the thrill we get from not knowing what the next roll will bring.
Step back and look at how we play with dice.
When they announced the hardcover on Monday, I ordered it. I got the PDF Tuesday morning. I was in quite a bit of pain from a gout flare-up that started the day prior, so I was in a pretty piss-poor mood. I decided to take a slow that morning at the kitchen table, and downloaded the PDF. Sipping my coffee (which I walked down the damn block to get, because I really wanted that coffee), I opened it and started flipping through.
(Note: if you don’t have a Mac, you don’t know the joy of trackpad gestures. I can honestly feel like I’m thumbing through a book with how swiping up and down scrolls the page. That sort of natural motion is what’ll drive me to buying an iPad. And I’ve been a Windows monkey since 3.1 — you know, back when they used civilized version numbers. Get off my lawn.)
I started with John Kovalic’s Foreword, forgoing the “random essay/article” roll that you can do on the table of contents. (Which, by the way, I think is keen. I may never roll on it, but I love the personality there.) I grinned. Here I am, the big toe on my left foot in a crapton of pain, my left calf aching from having to walk weird, my back complaining about having to use a cane again…and I’m grinning.
And then I read Will’s introduction. That’s when The Bones clicked for me. It’s distilled Gamer Joy. From the history of dice as told by Ken Hite, to Fred Hicks talking about how diceless gaming made him love dice, to Paul Tevis sharing a story about dice and his gaming group, to Jared Sorensen sharing with you the random places he’s found his dice by describing it as a random table, to…well, you get the idea. All these people love this thing we do. And it reminded me how much I love this thing we do, why I keep doing it, making games for other people, things like that.
I kept reading. I kept smiling. I’m not saying The Bones made the pain in my leg go away. That’s crazy talk. But it did cut into the foul mood I had that morning, and made the rest of the day just a little easier. And I know I’m not the only one on the planet who has foul moods. I’m looking at you, Internet. You’re a moody bastard.
So, if you’re looking at The Bones and wondering to yourself “well, that’s neat, but it’s not a game or an advice book, so why would I want it?”, I’m here to tell you: because, if you’re a gamer, if you love this thing we do, it’ll put a smile on your face. It’ll teach you something. (I don’t know about you, but as a nerd, that puts a fucking smile on my face.) It’s about our tribe and being connected to it.
And when you’re having a piss-poor day, there’s that random essay table…
 Or is it?
 I typed and deleted “hardcore.” Thought you should know.
 Yes, I still don’t know where I’m living at the end of June. But I hope to know that by the 15th.
 Which I have heard at least three times before, in person over drinks. Still, the man can spin a fun yarn.
I’ve been working on Mythender since late 2007. People have asked me a lot of questions about it, especially recently as folks are starting to know me from stuff I’m involved with (like Dresden or IPR) but haven’t heard me talk about my pet love over the last couple years.
So, I thought I would share with you the intro text to Mythender. Thank you to the couple dozen people who helped me workshop this, and my editor, Amanda Valentine, for being totally awesome. (I’m sure it’ll continue getting tweaked in further revisions, but not much more so.) Hopefully this gives you a taste of the thing I’ve devoted myself to for some time now. I’m still working on the text, and have a number of people slated to playtest the game from the text alone (in addition to the 70 people that have playtested it at home and cons via me running it).
Maybe tomorrow or later this week I’ll post about my philosophy of game text openers. But for now, I hope you enjoy.
Mythender – Epic Metal Opera
Far north, there is a place of legend, a land of gods and monsters. It is the home of cruelty and oppression, a domain of ice and peril. It takes its strength from the worship its gods demand of mortals, from the terror its monsters inspire in them. With the full force of Eternal Winter, it crushes any who oppose its gods and monsters. To free all people from this fate, these gods must die. This is Mythic Norden, and you are the living weapon that will strike true into the heart of Winter.
Mythender is a game about the handful of mortals who steal power from this land and wage a war against it. This is an epic metal opera, filled with raging battle anthems and reflective power ballads. There will be passion and blood, consequence and tears.
As a Mythender, you are a titan among men—the might of myth, bound within mortal flesh. Your rage boils rivers, sunders mountains, and brings the heavens crashing down upon the earth. The land quakes with each step you take. You rip out the still-beating hearts from the gods and destroy the mythic world. You are the walking incarnation of wrath, of death, of change.
Grand battles will scar the land. Screams will echo like thunder across the world. Rivers will run red with the blood of the fallen. Trolls, giants, witches, warriors long dead, valkyrie, and even Odin and his kin will all taste your blade and your hate. Only the gods themselves are peers to you, and you fill them with an alien sensation: fear.
Even that is not the limit of your power. With each god that you End, you deal another mighty blow against the land of myth itself. You carve away pieces of it and make room for mortals to live without fear of the night and cold. As you choke the life from a god, you rip the power away from Norden to reshape this newly mortal world with your own desires. You can End anything you wish—hunger, despair, illness, peace, love, death—striking it from the world and mortal memory.
Your power rivals that of the gods. But while many would aspire to apotheosis, for you it’s a fate worse than death. The moment you let it go to your head, the moment you give in to hubris, you become those you fight.
Your power—ripped bloody from the beating heart of Myth itself—will make you into the very thing you must destroy. A god. A champion of Norden. A myth.
That is your Fate, Mythender.
The only way to fight against this corruption is to bond with Norden’s people, the innocent victims of this terrifying world. You must struggle to gain their sympathy. But this will be your greatest challenge. You may be able to snap Thor’s neck, but no one will sit at your dinner table. They can no more relate to you than they can to a storm or the sea. As they fear the gods they rarely see, they fear you more. This is the curse of the power you steal from Norden. It is easier to rip away Fenris’ jaw than to put a smile on a child’s face.
But if that is the price of such power, so be it. You will not go quietly into that good night, Fate be damned! You will make Norden pay a dear price before it claims you. And when you fall, you know your comrades will continue ceaselessly with this quest. You trust that, when the time comes, they will End you. For you are the harbingers of destruction, the cleansing fire, the Spring that melts away Winter’s frost. You are a Mythender.
Many of you saw the post from the other day about ICONS, and some of you might have stuck around to see that Gareth and I cleared the air. I said I would post up a public apology here, and I was thinking about what to say.
Then a friend and I were talking about this, and a good point was brought up: I say that ICONS deserved “better marketing” than that in my post…but doesn’t that mean it’s also mean it deserves better than some fuck on the Internet mouthing off? I thought about that overnight, and came to this idea as a way to show this mea culpa as well as put my money where my fat mouth is:
Welcome to the “Taunt Ryan Macklin with how awesome ICONS is” Unofficial ICONS Contest!
I did keep saying that I wish the best for Steve Kenson and ICONS, so here’s the deal. I said that I might not have an interest in ICONS when the PDF is actually available for purchase. But if I keep hearing about how awesome ICONS is, you bet your ass I’ll be grabbing it June 1st. So I’m going to do this contest. You comment on this blog post about the fun ICONS characters you’re making or playing, and one of you will win me buying you the next few ICONS supplements.
No joke. This isn’t something I’m doing with Adamant. It’s just me doing my own thing, because I can and I should.
- You may submit one (1) comment to this post per day. Posting more often will decrease your chances. (I want to be flooded, but past experience shows that people who gunshot post just to post don’t post awesome ideas.) Otherwise, each post you enter gives you more chances to win.
- If you’re worried about whether my time zone will count two posts as being on the same day, keeping them18 hours apart is good enough for me.
- Said post must contain the random bits generated and the character idea that gave you.
- If you’re an asshole in your post, you’re disqualified and I’ll delete it. (I hate having to write this, but it is the Internet.)
- The contest ends June 1st, when I can order the PDF of ICONS. At that item, I’ll close comments on this post and post a follow-up.
- Important: The point of this contest is to continuously taunt me with how awesome ICONS is. If this post gets no comments in a 36 hour period, then the contest is closed with no winner.
- The Winner will be chosen at random from those entries that are valid per above.
- The Winner will receive me buying for them PDFs of future ICONS supplements (when available for purchase), to no more than $50 or until August 2011, whichever comes first. (Should there be no supplements for whatever reason, uh, we’ll figure something else out.)
- Should the Winner not already have a copy of ICONS, but submitted because he has a friend who got it and looked at his laptop and no one would never, ever pirate games because I mean come on, I’ll buy that PDF as well (counted against said limit above).
- I reserve the right to change these rules at any time. Probably to make them more awesome.
BRING THE HEAT! Taunt me (nicely, don’t be a dick) about the awesome that is ICONS!
Man alive, I and 87 other people got a hell of a gift this morning. Daniel Solis released a preview PDF of his upcoming childrens’ game, Happy Birthday, Robot!
If you haven’t checked out this game, you owe it to yourself to watch this short movie (2m 6s):
(Holy damn, that Solis kid has himself some amazing design wizardry. I’ve seen this video a few times, and it never ceases to impress me.)
The PDF is gorgeous. I’m looking forward to sending this book to my sister in Colorado. She’s got three kids and another on the way, and I think they would just absolutely love HBR.
Good news for you is that you can still get the PDF now if you join the Kickstarter. Daniel’s doing a good job of building up buzz and getting people interested while its available. If this sort of thing is your bag, help him out! You can find out more at danielsolis.com/happybirthdayrobot.
(As an aside: I’m totally envious that Adam Dray landed this project.)
P.S. I’m not exactly unbiased here. I think the world of Daniel and his awesome talents. And he decided one of the stories we made playing HBR was good for the book, so my name’s on it (even if it a very minor capacity). You can see the story Justin Smith and I made over a lunch break by going go Daniel’s HBR site and looking at the third story.
[EDIT: Scott Mathis pointed out in the comments that my intent for this post, to talk about how a particular marketing method doesn't work and use my experience as a case study, was only discussed well in the comments. Sorry about that, folks! I forgot about my own rule regarding using the specific alongside the abstract.]
…but I can’t. And that makes me a sad panda.
Specifically, I would like to spend money on the new superhero RPG by Steve Kenson, ICONS. I hear people already geeking about it now that they have their pre-order PDF copies, and that’s got me excited. Leonard Balsera was IMing me today about the characters he was making. That taunting bastard! :)
And if I could right now buy it, I would. But since I didn’t pre-order, it’s not available to me. From one of the posts on Adamant’s site:
The commercial PDF of ICONS will be available beginning June 1st, and the print edition of the game should be available to stores (and shipped to pre-order customers) by mid-June.
Well, fuck. I didn’t pre-order it even though I was genuinely interested, because I didn’t know where I was going to be living in mid-June. (And I still don’t, but hopefully I will in a couple weeks.) And I don’t have a lot of shelf space these days, so I don’t order as many books as I used to. Thus, I’m waiting on the PDF.
The PDF won’t be available for another 13 days.
That is a year in Internet time. That is a long time for me to lose interest in this “SQUEE WANNA BUY” state, enough time for something else to take up my impulse dollars, enough time to hear things about the game that would turn me off — not necessarily something that would make me not want to play the game, but something enough to cause me to stop being excited about it.
I like Kenson and his work, and if I had a PDF today, I might be able to get a pick-up game together at the Memorial Day con in L.A. — my vacation con that’s before June 1st. But since I didn’t pre-order, no dice. (Pun intended, baby. That’s how I roll.)
So while my friends are geeking on it, they’re doing so when that geeking can’t generate sales. And such excitement doesn’t last long. Hell, this blog post might even generate sales, since people click on shit (and I buy that “There’s no such thing as truly bad PR” philosophy). But by the time you can buy the PDF, this post will be old news. The only thing it’ll be good for is collecting spam.
(Now, maybe the PDF isn’t finished. But it’s not like the power to send purchasers an updated PDF doesn’t exist. That’s what Fred did with Dresden. And it worked pretty well, I think.)
But, yeah. Guys, on today, May 18th 2010, in response to the geekfest on my Twitter feed, I want to give you money. Might not have that interest on June 1st. And ICONS probably deserves better marketing treatment than this.