19 May 2007


Hey, check it out, I managed to consolidate the two One Thousand One blogs into one giant blogstrosity. That means, as of now, this blog is officially dead. It will go gentle into that good night.

Update your feeds and bookmarks and such!

Yes, Secret Wars is still it's own thing, though drafts of my games will be hosted on the new One Thousand One, even if Shreyas hosts his games at SW. I like having all my toys in one place.

17 May 2007

Afraid Hack Playtest Report

Finally played the Afraid hack last night at StoryGames Boston, slasher movie style. It was awesome.

The premise was that we were in a Catholic high school after hours, and it was about to be struck by a massive hurricane-sized storm, which kept us stuck where we were. Later on, we decided that the movie was called Storm Windows, but that emerged from play.

The locations we ended up with were (in order of their creation):
  • Detention, an outlying concrete bunker.
  • The Cafeteria, where study hall took place.
  • The Storm (outdoors).
  • The Stage, which used to be an old chapel, where they were rehersing a musical version of Masque of the Red Death.
  • The Steeple, towering above the stage.
The location rules worked really well, I thought, though we didn't end up using the items in various locations as much as I hoped. Overall, there were just too many dice already available for them to be necessary.

Some of the ways characters moved between locations was very cool too, since it often involved things besides walking. Two cars were driven into the cafeteria (during separate scenes). One character fell down the inside of the steeple onto the stage, injuring themselves. One character climbed out of the steeple and slid down the roof into the storm (outside). The same two cars eventually ended up being blown, by the storm, into the steeple. The steeple then collapsed onto the stage. The boiler room exploded. Lots of crazy stuff.

Though we did end up naming one of the PCs as the slasher, we had to give him an NPC accomplice in order to make previously established events make sense. I'm still not sure how to ensure that the slasher could potentially be any of the PCs, or even just ensure that the slasher could concievable be ONE of them.

The characters were pretty classic. I was Maryjane Randolph, student council president. Dev was Sasha Ramirez, girl's rugby player. Eben was Derek Nguyen, stoner. And Richard was J.J. O'Riley, janitor. Richard's character ended up being the slasher, but his partner was Sasha's ex-girlfriend, who he had a creepy relationship with.

All in all, it was pretty clear that lots of things worked really well. It was a fun game to play, not just an interesting playtest, and I'd be excited to play it again, though maybe in a different genre (zombies!) or with a radically different premise (trapped on a boat!).

The parts that didn't work as well, overall, were the things I stole directly from Dogs in the Vineyard by way of Afraid. It's pretty clear that this game is trying to do something different, and the Dogs stuff, while very inspirational in the beginning, is now holding it back more than it's helping it along. The group was really helpful at talking through possible ways to strip it down and make it run smoother, which is awesome.

I think stripping some of the Dogs stuff out is going to be my Secret Wars post of the day, so I'll leave off here, but I wanted to talk about the playtest before I forgot. Yay!

16 May 2007

Promise to Myself

No reading or posting to internet forums (Story Games, Knife Fight) for one week, starting right now, noon on Wed. The intense negativity about everything is starting to get to me.

Instead I will focus my online attentions in three places: here, working on Avatar, and at Secret Wars.

If it goes well, I may make the sabbatical longer or do it more often.

15 May 2007

I Have a Dream Today

My dream is that, one day, people will wake up and find that we've questioned and successfully circumvented all their expectations about roleplaying while they've been busy arguing and posturing on internet forums.

P.S. That "we" includes you.


Just for anyone not reading Secret Wars yet, I just posted that Chris Lehrich...
    ...got me thinking about the equivalent of counterpoint in roleplaying, having multiple narrative threads dancing around each other, sometimes juxtaposed in harmony, sometimes juxtaposed in contrast, but interesting and powerful for being simultaneous and providing a more complex experience of play — with your attention constantly shifting between them — than a single narrative thread.

    Which brought me to an improv technique that’s sometimes called "split screen," where you divide the stage into different sets in your mind and have different events take place in different imaginary "locations" at the same time, all on the same stage. This is actually a theater technique in general, not just something limited to improv, and is used a lot in plays like Equus to do flashbacks or to contrast or compare the distinct experiences of different characters. And I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t work in roleplaying, especially in games where players have the power to frame their own scenes and don’t need a GM to do so.
Yeah. Check the post for an example of how this might work. I think it's damn exciting.

14 May 2007

Bleeding Edge Discussion

Continued from my post yesterday...

Shreyas: i'm not sure how to do this; when so many people are so quiet about their design

Jonathan: yeah; well, it requires reading what people are posting and publishing and analyzing it ourselves; or maybe you could do it thematically; one week would be "pacing mechanics"; another would be "alternative trait representations"

Shreyas: mhm; that could work; so i could be being crazy; but part of me feels like most of the people we know that DEFINITELY ARE designing are doing so silently; like kevin and nathan; and the other people who are actually designing are unknown to us

Jonathan: clearly, we can't talk about that; but having a space invites people to talk about it; or we could invite them to post about it

Shreyas: yeah; that's cool

13 May 2007

Keeping Abreast of Design

In the process of writing my most recent post on The Good Ship Revenge over at Secret Wars, I realized that part of the way I understand any work, including my own, is in the context of other similar works. I suspect this may be partially the effect of my academic background and day job as a researcher, where I often try to discover "the state of the field" in a given discipline by finding out who the top names in a particular subject are and reading overviews of the most recent trends.

I find myself wishing for a design-and-practice-oriented equivalent of Mendel's RPG Theory Review, a place where readers could keep up with some of the more interesting recent developments and discussions in roleplaying design and and practice, whether it's Rebecca Borgstrom throwing down some crazy stuff in her freelance work or Daniel Wood trying some interesting new mechanics in his Game Chef game or a poster on RPGnet talking about some neat thing they're doing in their D&D campaign.

Looking at what other people are doing in their games, especially when it's something new and interesting, expands our understanding of what roleplaying can be. Currently, design and practice are rarely considered to be "RPG theory" as such, though I think that's more or less exactly what they are. New design bits and practices can raise or attempt to answer theoretical questions about roleplaying in a demonstrative way that is significantly different than critical analysis.

Am I volunteering here? Maybe I am. Like I need another blog. What do you think? Is this as much of a need as I suspect it is?

Edit: Wikipedia defines "bleeding edge" as representing either:
  • Lack of consensus — competing ways of doing some new thing exist and no one really knows for certain which way the market [or community, in this case] is going to go.
  • Lack of knowledge — organizations are trying to implement a new technology or product that the trade journals [or larger design community] have not even started talking about yet, either for or against.
  • Industry resistance to change — trade journals and industry leaders have spoken against a new technology or product but some organizations are trying to implement it anyway because they are convinced it is technically superior [this happens in rpg discourses too, I think].
I think that's basically what I'm talking about, keeping track of where the "bleeding edge" of design is and practice is, new things for which there is not yet a consensus or even significant discussion about.

07 May 2007

Secret Wars: Pirate vs. Ninja

So it looks like this summer is going to be my chance to finish all those games that I haven't gotten around to polishing. The emo sex pirates game will be next, thanks to Shreyas' new idea: Secret Wars.