Archive for the ‘role-playing games’ Category

Good Reward Mechanics

In boardgames, game design, mechanics, role-playing games on June 13th, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Over the last couple months I’ve developed a new view of what makes a reward mechanic good. It’s arisen from viewing, in close proximity, and thinking about this excellent Extra Credits video about achievements in video games and an old blog post by Dogs in the Vineyard & Apocalypse World designer Vincent Baker including an interesting discussion in the comments).

I believe that a good reward mechanic acts as a giant landmark or sign post, drawing players through the fun ways to play the game offers while helping them avoid viable but boring (or downright painful) options. If you, as a player, pursue well-designed rewards you will use the other mechanics in ways that are fun. Ideally, the more aggressively you pursue those rewards, the more fun you have, although roleplaying games have complicating factors which keep this a theoretical ideal. Boardgames or video games which violate this principle are missing the point and are much more likely to be outright broken. Often, designers of these games argue that the people that break them aren’t playing the game in the right spirit, but I would argue that the designer doesn’t understand what a game is.

Other factors – rewards that also serve as currency, largely – can be added to reward mechanics, complicating the picture. Good game design is more complicated than getting this aspect of the reward mechanics right, too. Nevertheless, I think any game that falls down on this front fails, or is at least horribly weakened, as a game design, and bells and whistles will not cover it up. Read the rest of this entry »

Guðlaugur, Mythender

In role-playing games on May 20th, 2011 at 11:59 am

Like your humble authour, my friend, Ryan Macklin (from the internet) has perfectionist’s disease. One result of this is that he’s been working on his roleplaying game, Mythender, for several years now. Mythender is, well, pretty much what it says on the tin. The players create characters who, for one reason or another, seek to destroy mythic  creatures and gods in Norden, a mythic version of Scandinavia. Unfortunately, if you look deep into the abyss, the abyss looks into you, and these Mythenders are doomed to perpetuate the cycle of myth, becoming new gods themselves, eventually. Nevertheless, they continue on their quest to destroy all mythical beings, clinging tenaciously to their last shreds of humanity.

Mythender is beginning to see the light of day, and Ryan’s recently posted a beta draft of the character creation rules. I need to point out a few typos and vague wordings to him, but in the meantime I want to encourage him – and help spread the word – by posting an example character. Nothing breathtakingly original, but he’s got a bit of punch, and it’ll give you all some idea of what a Mythender is all about.

Without firther ado, here is Guðlaugur, Mythender.

(you pronounce the funny-looking “d” (called an “eth”) as a voiced “th” like in them or those) Read the rest of this entry »

Supers RPGs and Comic Book RPGs

In game design, gaming society, mechanics, role-playing games on October 14th, 2010 at 11:09 am

WARNING: An uncharacteristic amount of namedropping occurs in the following anecdote. I’ve done my best to keep it to a minimum, but some is necessary for context.

I was fortunate enough to attend DexCon 13 in July, partially as a birthday present to myself. My first session was an experimental session of Marvel Superheroes run by With Great Power… designer Michael Miller. Darren Watts, president of Hero Games (publisher of the Champions RPG) and Indie Press Revolution (the latter newly minted at the time) was just closing up the IPR booth as we started up, and when someone mentioned we were playing MSH, Darren expressed nostalgia for the game. That inevitably led to us wheedling him into taking the last available seat for the game. Seriously, supers gaming with Michael and Darren was too good an opportunity to pass up. Read the rest of this entry »

Kickstarting Worldbreakers

In gaming society, role-playing games on October 12th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I want to let my readers know about a new project that’s just come up on Kickstarter. Quinn “Gamefiend” Murphy is starting a new line of Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition PDF products, and he is Kickstarting his first product, Worldbreakers: Legendary Villains.

If you know Quinn’s D&D blog At-Will (and his game design blog The Black Pond) you’ll know that he is on the cutting edge of 4e thinking and design. That alone is reason enough to support this project, since it will help Quinn get the wider audience he deserves. He’s using Kickstarter to fund this project, though, because he doesn’t want to make another slapdash third-party D&D product created on a shoestring budget. The Kickstarter funds will go to pay such talents as print designer Daniel “Happy Birthday, Robot!” Solis and freelance illustrator Jared von Hindman (who WotC has used on some projects). Oh, and he has hired your humble authour to serve as his editor, too :)

In Worldbreakers, Quinn explains a new type of monster, the Worldbreaker, which is a solo with the ability to warp reality or change the environment around him part way through a fight. This tool helps DMs design epic solo villains that do not devolve into a grindfest. Worldbreakers have been in development for more than six months, and are being honed to a high polish in public discussions on At-Will and in hardcore playtesting. When complete, this 32-page PDF will include complete rules for creating and playing your own Worldbreaker solos, plus a catalogue of nine worldbreakers designed by Quinn to serve as examples and to inject into your own games. Each of them comes with a useful backstory complete with plot hooks.

Check out the Kickstarter page, and if Worldbreakers are something you want to see the light of day, kick in a few bucks. Support quality third-party D&D products so people want to make more of them.

UPDATE: Worldbreakers has met its funding goal! Don’t let that stop you from providing Kickstarter funding while you can, though. You can still qualify for the Kickstarter-only packages, like custom-made worldbreakers and illustrations, and Quinn can use the extra funds to improve the final product in numerous ways, as well as letting him know now that there is a market for his work.

Bohnanza: the RPG

In boardgames, game design, mechanics, role-playing games on May 28th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Okay, not literally. But I ran an idea up the flagpole on Twitter and got a reaction from a few people, including a request to expand a bit and, well, here we are :)

My original tweet said:

The hand management in Bohnanaza is crying out to be used as a conflict resolution system in an RPG. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday, Robot!

In appraisals, first thoughts, role-playing games on May 25th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Thanks to my girlfriend, I was lucky enough to get a look at the preview PDF of Daniel Solis’s new storytelling game Happy Birthday, Robot! He is still funding an initial run over on Kickstarter, and there is a week left to pitch in and order a copy. I heartily recommend that anyone with young children, that works with young children or just has a slightly oversized inner child do so. Happy Birthday, Robot! is a delight! Read the rest of this entry »

A Brief, Rant-like Post on Art in Roleplaying Games

In gaming society, role-playing games on February 3rd, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I own half a dozen books on improving your chess skills, and I’ve read (thanks to libraries) a couple dozen more. Among them, I doubt there has been a single illustration except chess positions and, possibly, photos of great chess players whose games are being referenced. In particular, I cannot think of a single picture of a “chess babe” in any of them (although chess magazines have indulged in the genre; paging Alexandra Kosteniuk).

I’ve also read a couple dozen books on the history of espionage, ranging from the Cambridge Five to the history of National Security Administration. Most of these books have a section of glossy pages in the middle that feature photos of prominent figures within the book, and possibly a couple of key locations. Those that discussed cryptography also had pictures of some related equipment; say, the the Nazis used to encode and decode messages using the “Enigma” cipher during World War II. I’ve never seen a gratuitous photo or illustration of a large-breasted woman stroking a gun barrel lovingly or sneaking along a corridor, though.

Even coffee table books, which are largely about collecting large numbers of attractive photos and illustrations, normally manage to be written around topics that justify all the eye-candy.

If you page through most roleplaying books from major publishers, though, you will see plenty mood pieces, and cheesecake is not that uncommon. Worse, when a game book does not have these kinds of illustrations, it is subject to comments like this one, which finally prodded me to write this post: Read the rest of this entry »

Party Building for the Lazy GM

In role-playing games, techniques on October 6th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

One of the issues in party-based games like Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun or Traveller is making the PCs a party, not a group of strangers that have no reason to work together. I’m also a lazy DM who likes getting story ideas from my players, but not every game provides player-authoured story hooks the way The Shadow of Yesterday or Burning Wheel do.

Here is an easy trick that I think should solve both of these problems. It’s unplaytested, but it is based on various story gaming techniques, notably the character creation in Don’t Rest Your Head, Spirit of the Century and Mouse Guard. I’m not starting a new campaign in an appropriate game any time soon, but wanted to jot it down while it occurred to me. If you try it out, please let me know how it goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on What Makes a Good RPG Setting

In role-playing games on August 17th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

One of the many topics that gamers find to divide themselves over is RPG settings. Not only are the settings themselves the topic of “love it”-”hate it” holy wars, but how settings should be presented and makes up a “complete” setting sourcebook also cause divisions. My own opinions on these subjects have changed several times over the years, aligning with almost every major fashion as it came along.

A few days ago, I made an offhand comment on Twitter about how exposure to Forge-influenced RPGs and theory prompted the most recent change in my views. This led Seth Ben Ezra to ask me how they did so, and this post is my response. Hopefully, it’s of some broader interest. Read the rest of this entry »

Chromatic Dragons

In role-playing games on January 6th, 2009 at 8:00 am

I finished reading Draconomicon I: Chromatic Dragons (you can read my full review over at my new reviewing gig, Game Cryer), and it reminded me of something that’s niggled at the back of my brain about D&D dragons from day 1. Read the rest of this entry »


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