Archive for March, 2012
There’s been some great blogging happening recently, so I thought I would share some with y’all.
The Game Mechanic
My friend Jesse Coombs (@TheGameMechanic) has started a really cool tumblr: gamemechanicoftheday.tumblr.com. Jesse takes a game mechanic from a board game, card game, RPG, video games, whatever he’s been playing, and talks about it. He’s talked about how in Jason Morningstar’s Downing & Falling, putting items found on a post-it note rather than on a character sheet promotes an interesting dynamic; the social effects of taunt mechanics in Street Fighter; the value of “defenders win ties” in Risk; etc.
Check it out. He’s got some really neat thoughts to share.
Joe McDaldno on Kickstarter Best Practices
Joe McDaldno recently completed his crowdfunding campaign for Monsterhearts, and has been on both sides of crowdfunding endeavors. He shares some thoughts on best practices when you engage in crowdfunding, not just for creators but also for consumers. If you’re looking to engage in crowdfunding, or have before, check it out & share your thoughts.
Quinn Murphy’s New Project: Thoughtcrime
Quinn Murphy’s putting his game passion back to work on a project/blog called Thoughtcrime. It’s a new project, and he’s doing it with Ryven Cedrylle and David Welsh. If you recall how passionate he was doing At-Will, you know to expect great things from Thoughtcrime. It’s pretty new, so rather than point out individual articles, I invite you to browse what’s there.
Rob Donoghue’s Back to Blogging
One of the brightest minds in the RPG blogosphere, Rob Donoghue, has started up again. He talks about looking at the d6 in Cortex Plus as normal, two lessons we can learn from Bulldogs!, and I expect more great stuff from him.
That’s it for now. If there’s something you think should be on my radar, let me know!
In Fate, your degree of success over a difficulty is measured in shifts. When you roll equal to the difficulty, you have zero shifts. Roll one over the difficulty, and you have one shift. Two over means two shifts, and so on.
As I am reading over Fate Core, I started thinking hard about that assumption. And how that needn’t always be the case.
Imagine it the shifts generated were exponential, like so:
- Meeting the difficulty = 0 shifts
- Beating by 1 = 1 shift
- Beating by 2 = 2 shifts (so far, the same)
- Beating by 3 = 4 shifts
- Beating by 4 = 8 shifts
- Beating by 5 = 16 shifts
- etc, doubling each time.
Master Fencer: (Weapons) When you are fighting off a horde of mooks, your shifts are exponential.
Master Engineer: (Engineering) When you are building or fixing something, your shifts are exponential.
Master Against the Dark Arts: (Wizardry) When you are fighting against the dark arts (necromancy, curses, and other evil magics), your shifts are exponential.
If that seems too large, it could be unlocked by spending a Fate point. No idea if this works, but it came to mind, so I thought I would throw it out there.
(Incidentally, stuff like this won’t be in Core, because it’s not, well, core to Fate. But I am considering it for a Fate build I’m tinkering with.)
I’ve been involved in many conversations about Technoir, and one of the criticisms I hear is that there isn’t really any noir in the game. And I agree, insofar that I also see there isn’t any inherent pulp in Fate–it’s genre expectations & understanding of theme & tropes that bring those things to life in a game. A game doesn’t have to directly support a genre with mechanics if there is an understanding that desired tone will be filled in.
However, there is one place where I’m seeing a lack of noir tone in Technoir: the distribution of Push dice.
If you don’t know, well, check out the free Technoir player’s guide.
The players start with all the Push dice, giving them the power to make lasting change and defend themselves. The GM’s characters, in contrast, don’t.
That’s the opposite of noir, in my view. So what happens if you give all the Push dice to the players?
I don’t know. But I look to find out.
P.S. Thanks to EZ for his comment on yesterday’s post that triggered this thinking.
 That said, putting framing elements (like questions or options) into character creation could more easily push noir into the game, but creating characters that remind us of those tropes and themes, with elements on the character sheet to reinforce that. Which, I think, it does pretty well for cyberpunk, and I’ve had fun with as long as I treat the game like a harsh cyberpunk world and allow noir to be a happy accident.
Over the last years or so, I’ve been playing Smallville & Technoir, which have interesting coin economies. Smallville’s Plot Points are infinite from the perspective of the GM, but when people get them, they aren’t immediately available–which is key to making the PvP elements sing. Technoir’s Push Dice is a table-wide closed system, where spending it means it goes to the person affected–player or GM–for them to use in the future. And that makes me think about one way to tweak Fate Points.
Fate Points as Closed Economy
Imagine if, when a game starts, the PCs have their refresh in Fate Points, and the GM has none to use. At the players spend Fate, the GM keeps them (unless you’re talking PvP, in which case the affected player keeps them instead). Later, the GM can use those Fate Points to compel the PCs or invoke aspects for her NPCs. This tackles one common question about Fate: does the GM have any?
Because the GM has none to start, she cannot right away compels. If that’s not desired, either the GM should start with a couple, or some compels (perhaps all) should come from the ether rather than from her pool. This means it’s no longer a closed economy, but semi-closed.
Similarly, the refresh mechanic at the start of a session or crucial point makes the economy semi-closed, since if you have more than your refresh in Fate Points, you keep all you have. Not sure how I’d want to tackle that inflation, but it’s something to consider.
Fate Points Delayed
Fate Points that you gain are not immediately available, but become available after the current conflict or scene. This is a necessary component for a closed system to work; otherwise, you can keep something going by throwing Fate Points freely back and forth.
Now, this isn’t something for every Fate game. My gut says (as I just thought of this and haven’t tried it) that this will be a somewhat grittier game.
What do you think?
Recently, I wrote some tips for Safari Book Online’s blog — on jQuery & CSS widgets that I’ve built in the last few months:
- Rotating quotes using jQuery, with a follow-up tip
- Some simple tricks for making tables friendlier with row hovering & column hovering
- Collapsable menus with persistence (much like I do on this blog, only the article’s code is a refined version, and far more elegant) and a follow-up on making a menu not respond to the hiding code without changing the code much.
I’m pretty happy with these. I have done quite a bit of tech writing, but it’s usually been for government projects, which means very few portfolio pieces. And while I don’t normally talk about software stuff on this blog, I thought I would use the opportunity to talk about process. Since that’s a big part of why people follow this blog.
For the last few years, whenever I’ve written anything — technical, writing craft, RPGs, whatever — it started with an important thought:
It doesn’t matter if I’m not qualified to write about this. I will either become qualified enough or throw it away.
This is essentially a specific version of not telling yourself “no”. To try things and see what happens. Either you’ll become qualified in the process, or your piece won’t be worth publishing. Either way, you’ll learn something.
So let’s talk about how to become qualified:
- Try things
- Talk with people who know about what you’re doing
- Do peer review
- Dare to be wrong publicly
- Consider & process criticism
I’ve been doing this in my technical field for years behind closed doors, so writing how-to documentation with tested code snippets isn’t really a big deal. especially when you have folks for peer review and good editors. But the only way I was able to crank out those articles, these blog posts, various games, etc., was to try things I wasn’t qualified to do in the first place.
So, you know, do that. Years down the road, you’ll be happy you did.
P.S. Today, I drive from Northern California to Denver, so I’ll be out of touch for two or three days.
 Thanks to Tracy Hurley for some peer review on the above articles