Posts Tagged ‘little thoughts’
I’m a huge fan of My Brother, My Brother and Me (an advice show for the modern era). One of the bits they’ll do involves occasionally giving real advice, and then when they realize they’re helping someone and not being funny, one of the hosts will interrupt with “Unless…” and then the three of them go on a laughable journey.
This has made me think about some really stupid shit in our world, like the boob window armor. I mean, it’s just there to titillate a demographic, but in the process makes a character portrayal just ridiculous and difficult to take seriously, and alienates not just women readers who are objectified, but anyone who would be embarrassed to be caught with such images in public.
Unless this is a world where chakras are a source of powerful magic. And the only way to work such magic is to have your charka exposed. Sure, it makes it easy to shoot you in the heart…unless you can do totally awesome psychic shields because your heart chakra is open. That’s right, bare boob window = power.
This started as a silly idea, a MBMBaM “Unless,” and then it started to hit me: what if we were playing in such a world where magic required different chakras being uncovered? Well, there’s more than one chakra! You know what would be a fearsome sight to see on the battlefield?
Yeah, he’s not naked because he’s poor or because he’s just trying to be intimidating, but because he needs to keep all those chakras free since he’s a goddamned battle-wizard.
(Or, he’s bluffing and isn’t actually a battle-wizard, though only the bold will dare to find out.)
Anyway, it’s a pretty fucking ridiculous idea, and doesn’t justify boob window armor, but sometimes it’s interesting to take something that’s stupid and work a model that makes that something reasonable in a different world. So a setting where different magic requires different chakras to be “unburdened” is a world where some people don’t wear helmets into battle, and some people just wade in naked. Plus, dudes wearing boob window armor. And that’s kinda funny to me.
Play the Unless… game next time you see something stupid. You might hit on a usable idea, or you might just amuse yourself.
P.S. If you’ve read this and think I’m cheering on boob window armor, turn your literacy card in. You’re done.
 In fact, I bet some people have closed this window because of the image attached.
Many years ago, I played Spycraft. I loved the first edition, and when Spycraft 2.0 came out, I snapped it up. And promptly never played Spycraft again, and not because I stopped loving the idea.
See, there were somewhere around a hundred little dials the GM could tweak for any given campaign, and many of them sounded awesome. I was paralyzed by choice — I suddenly wanted to run five different games, and consequently I ran none. Similarly, whenever I see a game boast something like “over twenty classes!” in a core book, I shake my head at it.
Here’s the issue: as a designer, you know the optimal choices, the impacts of various choices, and the interactions of compound choices. But that’s you; people new to your game have none of that. Reading all of those options can be overwhelming to some people, because now they’re playing the game of “make optimal decisions.” Others can get inspired with a host of ideas, that can be incompatible with the host of ideas that other players come up with — too many options and choices leads to an inconsistent world.
So, if you end up piling more and more into some part of your game, slow your roll. Strip some of it back. That will help your game get traction as you don’t have such a hurdle of overwhelming information. Pick your favorite half or two-thirds of that content, and hand to the reader what you really love about your game. Play with that — there’s certainly no science to this.
Now, nothing says what you strip away needs to be deleted. If your game takes off, you have more content to hand out, and as people gain mastery of your game, the new sets of choices are not as overwhelming as giving them all at once.
If you’re running a game where personal identity struggles are a key part of the characters’ world, like high school (or any school), you’ve got a fantastic opportunity to add depth to character relationships by looking at them through the lens of cliques. High school cliques are about social status, and social status is something that others impart onto you–though you can influence it with your actions.
You see this technique expertly used in Best Friends character creation, where character creation involves writing down everyone else’s name on your character sheet, in spaces like:
- I hate _____ because she’s smarter than me.
- I hate _____ because she’s cooler than me.
- I hate _____ because she’s prettier than me.
And so on. Then your stats are based on everyone else at the table; if three people say they hate you because you’re smarter than they are, you have Smart at 3.
I did this a bit with the Bad Man scenario for Don’t Rest Your Head (a scenario for first graders in the Mad City), where one of the questions involves asking what others think of you, whether you’re the class clown, teacher’s pet, whatever. Unlike in Best Friends, though, this doesn’t convey stats to your character, just your role in the group dynamic.
This gets into issues of player agency, as others are defining bits about your character, but it’s pretty well representative of life in cliques — others define your role for you. And it’s a hallmark in young adult stories, about overcoming the role others place you in. If you’re looking to experiment with cliquish character dynamics, keep in mind that they aren’t typically chosen, that those on top struggle to stay on top often by bringing others down, that sycophants define themselves by those they support, etc. Those benefitting from cliques do so to reinforce a personal narrative. Those suffering from cliques loathe the personal narrative being told.
P.S. I can’t remember if Monsterhearts has anything like this. It feels like a perfect fit.
There is something that we do, as geeks in the community, that if sit-coms are to be trusted is stereotypically masculine: we present solutions to problems before we actually understand the problem.
Stop that. You’re helping no one.
Too often, fruitful discussion of problems is derailed by proposed solutions and then argument over the solution’s foreseen effects. Sometimes, that leads to further understanding of the problem, but just as often it turns into a pointless waste of energy in the form of a flame war.
It also creates a situation where “I see a problem and want to talk about it” is unhealthy, because the discussion desired is not the discussion created. And then those sorts of conversation seeds are less often planted, which hurts us all (if, like me, you believe that discourse is how we elevate our communities).
Next time someone presents a problem, take a moment to understand it. Set aside your assumptions as best you can — especially when those assumptions are counter to the problem. Like countering someone saying “I don’t like playing games like Burning Wheel because they’re too crunchy for me” with “Well, it isn’t for me” as though the human being you’re replying to is the problem. Ask questions. Get some sense of what is behind the problem.
I understand the desire to immediately problem solve, because that is for many of us its own reward cycle. And I understand the impulse to be the first to post a new solution online, because then maybe you look smart and that’s yet another form of reward. But slow your roll and take some time to understand problems, and you’ll get something even better out of it:
You’ll become one of the sharpest people in the room, for having come to understand so many viewpoints. And you’ll be one of the more appreciated people in the room, because instead of being an assuming cockbite with fast, vacant answers, yours are thoughtful and are themselves worthy conversation seeds.
So, if you cannot bring yourself to slowing down and understanding someone else for the good of others and the community overall, consider the rather selfish ones I just stated. :)
 If you say that, punch yourself in the face right now. That’s pretty damned insulting to immediately suggest the other person is him or herself the problem.
Here’s a thought for publishers out there of the small press stuff. For the past several years, I’ve flown around from convention to convention running indie games for people. Many of them try several games, like sampling a buffet. If I’m excited about a game, like I am right now about running Technoir tonight, I’d like to leave an physical impression on them as well as an experiential one, to maybe get them to check out the game.
So, publishers, how about this: make a one-page document that has fliers for your game on it. Make it so that one page will print out six, ideally 3×2 or 2×3, whichever. Make it easy to cut out after printing from a normal desktop printer, that doesn’t look weird because the outer margins are larger than the inner ones — take mandatory page margins into account. Put your game’s name/logo, your name/company name, website, and maybe one more line on it, and you’re done.
If you’re compelled to make a color version, also make a black & white version for those who don’t have color or are trying to avoid using whatever color you are because they’re out of that ink. Similarly, don’t make an ink-heavy version…or if you do, make an ink-non heavy version too (both to save the ink and to not have the end product have ripples from wet ink drying).
Here’s a text mockup:
high tech, hard-boiled roleplaying
by Jeremy Keller
Check out the free players guide at TechnoirRPG.com
Not that I’m a visual designer. That’s someone else’s job, like the wonderfully talented Jeremy Keller. Now, maybe no one will use it, but is there harm in throwing it out there and seeing what happens?
For those games that have related games, like the various in the GUMSHOE line, you could also use this as a space to direct to those games. (Edit: Kit adds a smart idea in the comments about tying this to a meeting/networking/friend-making element.)
(I’m pretty sure I wrote about this idea years ago on my LiveJournal, but that was an eon ago in Internet time.)