Archive for July, 2011
Are you going to be at Gen Con next week? If so, let’s play a game of buzzword bingo! To get your card, click on the link below:
RPG Buzzword Bingo for Gen Con 2011
This card is generated from around 70 terms and 20 quotes for the center. Playing is simple, and the instructions are on the card:
The rules: Print this out before Gen Con. At Gen Con, mark your bingo card when someone else in normal conversaion says the term. The center square is a quote or partial quote. The other squares are terms & subjects.
Once you have a row crossed off, tweet @RyanMacklin with a picture of your board, or show him in person to win the admiration of countless dozens. He may blog about these later.
The cards are generated based on your IP address, for two reasons: one, I don’t want people refreshing until they get a card they like. Bingo is about being handed your fate, not mulliganing it! Two, if you want to find out all the various terms used, you’ll have to talk with other people playing. Of course, plenty of people know how to circumvent this, which is why I’m declaring why I did up front.
So come and play. My default location, if you don’t have a smart phone & Twitter, will be the Games on Demand area (which you should check out anyway).
If you find typos or whatever, feel free to comment. I hope to see some of you playing there!
P.S. This is not the same as the buzzword game Robin Laws’ does, though a prior year’s buzzword made it on this list.
Several people have asked me about drinking at conventions. Apparently, I have some sort of reputation for being a, uh, who the fuck am I kidding? I have a Twitter account for drunk-me, @NightMacklin. I have a giant flask that’s bigger that your head, which holds 64 ounces of bourbon (however that’s expensive to fill and heavy, so I only fill it to the 50 oz point. SUE ME.) And I’ve been known to walk around conventions, like some sort of Alpine Saint Bernard, hooking those in need up.
But to quote the venerable Walter Sobchak, “This is not ‘Nam. There are rules.” Gen Con is coming up, so I’ll talk that specific, but many of these things apply in general. Today, we’ll talk about bringing your own booze to the show.
Know The Convention Rules on Alcohol
Before you go swinging around booze like it’s the day before Prohibition, find out how kosher that is. What we’re talking about are rules and laws regarding open containers. Conventions often have some sort of rule about this, either their own or inherited from the convention center or hotel they’re held at.
Do a little effort to find out how cool that is. For instance, having an open container and bringing it non-convention center food & drink are apparently not kosher, according to this forum post (and we all know how reliable forums are):
Not that I’m surprised. I found this by doing a quick google search on “site:gencon.com alcohol”. The only pages that came up where in the forums, and not in the other information. But really, the rules are more complicated. After all, if they weren’t, White Wolf wouldn’t have been able to do their bar in the dealer’s hall last year.
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between having a cover-your-ass policy and enforcing it. Some people won’t care as long as you’re not a jerk or in-your-face. Others are hardcore about enforcing every rule in the book. If you decided to break an alcohol rule (or, really, any rule) and get called on it, be cool. Put it away. There’s always time later to get your drink on. And it’s not worth you getting ejected from the convention. Do you really want your convention story when you get back home to be “yeah, I decided to argue about how I had a constitutional right to this bottle of Captain Morgan and they kicked me out?
Frankly, that’s a better story for what happened to your character that to you. Here are some other ways to keep you in the good.
Follow-up: Check out this post that briefly goes over some of the legalese of Indiana state law. It also talks about how you shouldn’t fornicate with corpses, so it’s pretty good advice.
Don’t Be a Dick
Wheaton’s Law applies strongly here.
Not Being a Dick During a Game
When I do drink at a game, I limit it to one shot, one I sip. The point isn’t to get drunk, but to enjoy a moment in time where I’m engaging in my beloved hobby while also enjoying an adult beverage. But before I do, I ask two things:
- “Hey, does anyone mind if I do?”
- “Would anyone also care for some?”
I don’t ask when I don’t know other folks at the table, because I don’t want to put people in an awkward position. It’s only when I feel like the answer will be “totally cool” when I bother to bring it up. Use your inherent social gauge for if it’s cool or not.
And when you offer, pour for those who accepted before you pour your own. Again, this is not Walter’s ‘Nam.
Not Being a Dick in the Dealers’ Hall
Offer to people you know, and if you’re in a situation where they’re around others, offer to them as well. Take quick pulls from a flask or bottle; don’t make a big deal with as you’re walking around the convention hall.
Not Being a Dick in General
You might be around alcoholics and not know it, or around people for whom alcohol is a bad memory trigger. Shit happens. Respect that. Be magnanimous. Discretion is the better part of valor, they say.
Don’t offer to minors. I know, I know, but I gotta say it.
Offer once, but don’t be pushy. If people say no, respect that. I violate this rule with friends sometimes, but that leads to the next bit…
Know Your Limitations
And here’s where we heed the words of Saint Callahan: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” This comes in two forms: knowing your body’s limits on consumption, and knowing your social limits. Some people can walk around the convention with a few bottles of booze on them without blinking an eye because that’s their function in their social circle. Others would look stupid, like they’re just drunks in constant need of a fix. (Some would argue that these are the same person. Whatevs. :)
Don’t get tipsy or drunk, especially during a game when people are relying in you to actually engage with others. Don’t be pushy or awkward about having it on you.
Use good judgement on when it’s cool to throw back. And if you don’t have a good sense of social cues, just don’t fucking do it.
It boils down to this: Don’t be a guy that causes concern.
The best way to get out of an awkward social situation you’ve created, beyond just walking away, is to make a joke about it. Look at what’s engraved on my flask pictured above. People might not want to drink from it, but I get chuckles when they see it. It goes a long way to making me not look like a dick when I take a quick pull in front of them.
When In Doubt, Remember: After Hours
What I’m talking about is how to do the open container thing during a convention hall’s hours and at sanctioned events. Remember that there’s another time that’s more or less designed for this: after hours parties. Hotel lobbies, bars (though don’t flaunt your own stash there), suite parties, private games, things like that are great for drinking.
Final Word: The Litmus Test
If you think you’re pushing it, you are.
If someone else thinks you’re pushing it, you are.
If you’re pushing it, back the fuck up. Slow your roll, son.
Keep all this in mind, and people will not give you shit for carrying a small bar in your shoulder bag. (That said, it’s damned heavy. Stick to a small flask if you have back problems. I’m not kidding.)
Edit: A year later, I recorded a bit on packing alcohol for flying:
 True story: I was told if I didn’t make it, it would be made on my behalf. And I wouldn’t know the password.
 A friend said of this post: “That’s possibly the thing you’re most qualified to write about.” Wow.
 To be fair, hotel lobbies are hives of scum and villainy. You won’t get busted for an open container inside, especially one with a hotel bar. Being disorderly, however, that’s no good.
 Admit, you thought I was going to finish that sentence with “…while playing a game.”
After a year of PDFs and incremental releases, Sage Kobold Productions will proudly have the Dungeon World Basic Game on sale at GenCon through Indie Press Revolution (IPR, booth 413) for $15. It’s a striking red book featuring four classes playable to level 5, all the rules, equipment, and an included adventure. The cover is by Edwin Huang, artist of the wonderful Skullkickers comic.
The included adventure is really something special. It’s the first time we’ve tried to write a module for DW and it’s pretty great. It features a wonderful new map by Tony Dowler and an awesome contribution from none other than Jason Morningstar, designer of Fiasco and many other great games.
If you’ve been following me over the years, you know that normally I would never tell you to check out a pay-for “preview edition” (or playtest edition, or ashcan) of a game. They’re usually unplaytested, unfinished crap that someone’s trying to get out early so they can claim some indie cred. But I’ve been watching the game & the twitter streams about it for the last year, and it’s clear to me that Sage & Adam have actually Done The Work. So I’m likening it more to incremental products like the Dragon Age RPG box sets from Green Ronin, which I think is a pretty neat model.
I’m showing some love to Dungeon World because they’ve take ideas from the old school revival and from Apocalypse World, and have made it their own. It’s like a sweet little idea baby from an odd but loving marriage. I hear they’re doing interesting stuff with layout, which excites the fuck out of me because I’m looking at doing similar with Mythender. And they ended up inspiring a fix for a problem I had in Mythender — Bonds came directly from Dungeon World (though they do things differently in terms of mechanics, the language around the idea solved a lot of stuff). And Sage tweeted about having an editor, so yay!
Granted, that doesn’t say shit about the game play. And I haven’t had a chance to play it myself — every time I’m at a con where a game’s happening, the fucker fills up fast. But I got to hear an entire group be Excited As All Hell at the May #BarCon in LA. Colin Jessup ran the hell out of Dungeon World down there, and all of his players came back with that sort of high you get from an exciting, phenomenal play experience. Them raving about it makes me want to play Dungeon World. Maybe at Gen con.
It’s a sweet, sweet idea baby. Go check it out. Flip through it. Play it at Games on Demand. And if it look like it’s up your alley, like it’s worth your $15, buy it & take it home for your group to play.
 Which I did when I participated in the Ashcan Front, and which is what the ashcan model in 2007-2008 felt like. It was a place where several people wanted spotlight without Doing The Work, which was a shame.
 Which mortals call Gamex.
Since I was asked last week to take my critical eye toward things I’ve worked on, I’ll talk about something in A Penny For My Thoughts that has been on my mind for over a year: text that’s meant to be read that takes too long to read. To be fair, it’s been on Paul’s mind as well, since we’ve both had some time to see the game in action outside of our “work on the book” mindset.
For those who don’t know, A Penny For My Thoughts is a parlor game/story game where you play amnesiacs recovering memories by using a scripted process. You read the text aloud to play. It’s a lot of fun, and really gets one in the mental space of playing one of these characters. The text is all in-character-voice, so reading it doesn’t take you out of playing the game; it’s part of it. If I do say so myself, and I do, it’s pretty fucking awesome.
But we did a couple things that weren’t awesome. First, I’ll show you. Then, I’ll tell you how we could have saved ourselves from “Too Long; Didn’t Listen”.
Here’s one really long piece of text that’s meant to be read as a step in the process:
There are two problems:
- The text takes too long to read. I tested myself, and it took me 2 minutes 10 seconds. I haven’t read this page in a year, but I was familiar with it, so after the second paragraph I stopped stumbling as much in my reading it.
- The text requires a page flip in the middle of reading. Luckily, it’s not a page flip where a sentence breaks, but it’s still not good.
Why This Happened
Turning the text into an in-character set of directions was a later part of the process, after a couple playtests I ran where I had problems when that wasn’t the case, and I had smoothness when it was. Paul talks about that more in the designer’s notes chapter. But by then the mechanics are whatnot were mostly tested, so we didn’t keep testing the text. We did do email games, but those didn’t address this situation.
We didn’t test people reading the text aloud. Granted, I’m pretty sure I heard it aloud, but I wasn’t listening for those problems. And that’s on me.
Keep any text you’re expecting people to read in the middle of play to around 45 seconds. A minute, tops. Keep from page flips (which, in an age of e-readers, means try to keep it to a page rather than just to a spread.)
Now, sometimes this is hard. In reading that passage, it’s that long because you need to know those things for that section. But if Paul & I were having that in mind when designing the text, we might have found a solution that breaks it up to make it more easily digested. Of the top of my head, I would put in some Stop instructions midway through, since we use that construct in the book:
[STOP] Stop here and ask each patient if they understand what’s just been read. Repeat if it need be. There are further explanations on Page XX in Chapter Three, SECTION TITLE, should you need it. Once everyone is ready, proceed.
Or break that up to:
[STOP] Stop here and ask each patient if they understand what’s just been read. Repeat if it need be. Once everyone is ready, proceed.
There are further explanations on Page XX in Chapter Three, SECTION TITLE, should you need it.
How to Test This
Have some folks over. Have one person, not you, read the text. It’s cool if they’ve read it first, since that’s not an unreasonable expectation. (Though, also test someone who has not yet read the text.) Then watch where the reader and those listening start to lose moment, start to get bored.
Hell, if you get bored reading your own text, that’s an issue. The Mythender intro text I wrote up last year bores me to read aloud about 3/4 the way through. So I need to tighten it.
In testing this, you’ll also see places where reading it to yourself is natural, but speaking it — adopting a vocal rhythm — is problematic. Listen for how people are speaking for ways to make said speaking more natural. Do this even if the text already has the content you want. If there’s stumbling the words around that content, it might not stick as well in the listeners’ minds.
Do this for your inspiring intro text, and for other text you think the GM will read, like parts of character creation, and you’ll be ahead of the class.
 Awesome enough to win Indie RPG Most Innovative Game Award in 2010.
Hey! We’re starting to take registrations for one of California’s funnest indie cons, the Nerdly Beach Party!
Welcome to Nerdly Beach Party VIII, a weekend of gaming and tent camping in the serene San Simeon State Park!
Nerdly Beach Party VIII will be held from the afternoon of Friday, September 23rd to the early afternoon of Sunday, September 25th, 2011.
Located in the California Central Coast, San Simeon is the perfect spot for gamers from the Bay Area and Southern California to meet up and relax for a couple days to the sounds of dice rolling and ocean waves crashing. Around two dozen great gamers like you get together to grill and sit by the campfire, take hikes along the beach, laze in the sun, and of course play games.
Our Eighth Event
We’re a group of role-playing gamers who bring many games to try, including new games recently released, playtests of new games by designers, classic favorites, and other forms of gaming like board games. We pride ourselves on self-organization—we’re looking for like-minded people who bring fun with them.
We’ve put on seven Nerdly Beach Parties since 2007, typically during early Spring and early Fall. This is the West Coast sister event of Camp Nerdly in Virginia.
Do you enjoy role-playing games and story games?
Do you enjoy campfires, sunshine, and the sound of the ocean?
Do you want to meet some great gamers and designers?