Monday, May 11, 2015

Game Stories: Complexity or Depth?

So! Last week, I went on a bit about how I want to see more mechanically-involved RPGs. I'd like to talk a bit this week about what that can mean, because there's a lot of RPGs out there which try to satisfy this criteria by being complex. Complexity, however, often has nothing to do with depth, as many tabletop gamers should know already. But let me give you an example firsthand...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Game Stories: Why RPGs Need Game Designers

I love boardgames. Interestingly, my involvement in boardgames increased dramatically shortly after my involvement in the tabletop roleplaying hobby; this was around 2011, as the second wave of new and popular boardgames started sweeping over America and Wil Wheaton's Tabletop had its genesis. Because I got into boardgaming and RPGs at around the same time, I start thinking about how they relate to one another, and what benefits tabletop RPGs can reap from studying other tabletop gaming...

Monday, April 20, 2015

I Made a Thing: Schism Song Alpha

So, this time around, I've got something new for all of you: a game that I'm slowly starting to polish up. It's inspired by the likes of Bastion, with a dash of Apocalypse World, and it's been through a lot of mental revisions already! Someday maybe I'll break out into the story of how radically this initial alpha has changed from my initial conception of the game.

And this is what I've wrought! MWAHAHA! Um, er. So what I'd love you to do is to read it, have a look at it, and try it out. Let me know what sorts of speed bumps you find in the game, stuff that really needs clearing up, or ways that it falls short of its goal, which is to pull together a vibrant story. The structure of the game is heavily inspired by the concept of music jams, and I'm interested to see how well that translated.

And though I'm short on time these days, I'm open to running a session with people over Google Hangouts.

Schism Song Core: Alpha v0.1

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Mythic Mortals

Who doesn't want to take the battle to titanic foes, wielding super-awesome powers in cool action scenes? I know I do, and that's exactly the itch that Mythic Mortals aims to scratch. You play as humans imbued with the spark of ancient gods' power, fighting back when the Ancients come back to reclaim the world. (There's a little more to the story than that, but I'm condensing.) The game's goals are to give players a fun, vibrant, action-packed experience that's also very straightforward to learn and play.

I received a review copy of this game for the purposes of this post.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Streamlining Rules With Pandante

This Monday, we're going to do something a little different! As the Pandante Second Edition Kickstarter winds to a close this Friday, I'd like to use it as a platform for talking about how designers streamline rules. If you don't know much about Pandante, here's a good overview post that not only talks about the basics of the game, but also about some of the design decisions that went into it. Then, come back here and read up on how the game changed. (I'll also summarize how the old rules worked, if you really don't feel like learning about panda gambling.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Game Stories: Coup Redux

A while back, I posted about the board game Coup, talking about how the different characters' powers each had a sort of story baked into them, reinforcing the theme with mechanical effects. I'd like to revisit this game a second time around. This time, I'm talking about how the entire game comes together, how it folds a bunch of different mechanisms into one big collection of game that creates a very specific atmosphere. Curious?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Teaching a Game: Mythender's Tutorial, Part 2


It's time to follow up on last week's post, where I started breaking down the (incredibly awesome) Mythender tutorial battle. It's a tool that Ryan uses to teach players how to play a very mechanically intense RPG. In Part 1, I talked about how the tutorial begins by very clearly defining foundations. You're going to start to see something else in the battle: a layered instruction system where the most important parts of the game come into play one at a time...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Teaching a Game: Mythender's Tutorial, Part 1


It's a game that's over-the-top, wonderfully excessively metal, and it mashes its hyper-edgy attitude with some surprisingly thoughtful character beats. You play as characters imbued with the power of the mythic beings you're trying to destroy, and as you get pulled further towards an inevitable tragic end, you start to learn more about the human half of the Mythender, because they're trying to hold onto it. But that's not the main reason I'm singling out the game this time: this week, I'm talking about the way that Mythender eases new players into the game...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Game Stories: Yomi and the Story of Fighting Games

Whether you're a button-masher or skilled in the art of cancels, bursts, supers, and Dragon Punches, you've probably at least heard of arcade-style fighting games like Streetfighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Killer Instinct, and Guilty Gear. At the very least, you've likely played or watched Super Smash Brothers, which shares a lot of DNA with these frenzied but also mentally intense games. Yomi is a card game designed by David Sirlin, a veteran of these games, carefully crafted to not only feel like them but also to tell its own type of tense narrative.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Five Commandments of Intuitive Game Rules

This post got spurred by my readthrough of Hillfolk, as I lamented some of the decisions made in explaining the game. I made a bit of a fuss on G+ about it committing a large number of the cardinal sins of rules-writing, so now I'm going to discuss this in a bit more depth. Rules are important to get right, especially with roleplaying games, but the hobby hasn't had a good history of rules that explain themselves well...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Game Stories: Keeping Tempo

This week, I'm talking about two games that I've enjoyed immensely: Star Realms and Hearthstone. They're both card games (although Hearthstone is primarily digital) There's a lot of little things that come together about these games, but there's one particular storytelling area that they both touch on: the concept of tempo. "Tempo" refers to the fact that, in a turn-based game, one player will be the aggressor, while the other player attempts to respond to them. If that player can turn the tables with their response, they seize tempo. So how does that work out in these games?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Game Stories: Sunless Sea and the Rhythm of Tension

Sunless Sea is quite a novel game. Sold with the tagline of "Lose your mind. Eat your crew.", it's a game where you explore a tranquil gothic ocean dotted with wonderfully weird islands. You need to ensure that your ship has enough fuel to sail successfully, that your crew has enough supplies so that they don't start starving, and that everyone stays calm and doesn't start freaking out because you've been zailing for days and days in the middle of the dark waters that lap at your boat again and again with a practiced dripping glassy precision...

Well. That's Sunless Sea, and it's a game that does a spectacular job of illustrating a particular sort of tension in its gaming narrative: the tension of survival.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Game Stories: Mechanical Hares

This week, the topic shifts to a negative aspect of narrative in some games. It's a concept that I'll be calling "mechanical hares", and it has to do with how your objectives in a game aren't necessarily meaningful objectives. In the interest of exploring game narratives, I'll talk about how these "mechanical hares" show up in some games, and are averted by others. Read on to find out just what that means...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Game Stories: Eminent Domain and Reinforcement

It's the clever game with a really weird name! In Eminent Domain, the players build empires across the stars, colonizing, waging war, and discovering new technologies that let them make their empire even stronger. The core of the game hinges around a fascinating combination of mechanics that gives your empire an incredibly strong character that adapts to your playstyle.