This world is not as it should be. There is no truth. Reality is what we believe it to be. If you think you can fly, then that flight is real to you. Others may see you plummet and die, but you might live on, soaring above the clouds. Anyone can dream, but it takes someone special to make those dreams real.
Here is the release of my May game: LORE, the Lightweight Omnipotent Roleplaying Engine, and its first sourcebook, Belief. Together, they form my first tabletop roleplaying game system.
Both of these books are beta releases. They have been playtested, but not enough for me to say they’re finished. Please, read them, play them, and comment with anything you think I did especially right or that I could change for the better. I’ve provided them in bookmarked PDFs slavishly laid out for optimal printing at your local print shop, and they’re released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 License.
These are just the initial releases; I wanted to get them out and in people’s minds so that I could start getting feedback. Expect extras like quick reference sheets and maybe an adventure or three in the coming weeks and months.
It happens a lot in tabletop roleplaying games: you have a certain mood and tone planned for a campaign, and the players have other ideas. I’m running a Promethean campaign, and I planned for it to be dark, desperate, and gritty. The players are approaching it much more comically. It’s dark humor, which works with the setting, but it’s not how I planned it.
There are two classic responses to this issue. The first is the author-is-king approach: refuse to go along, chastise or punish the characters, and mold them to Your Story. This, of course, ends with an adversarial player-game master relationship and probably some grumpy folks in your house where they can break your stuff if they want. The second response is the players-are-god approach: let the players have the sort of fun that they want to, and adapt accordingly. This can end in a muddled mess, where adversaries planned to be scary and bad end up being too hard to kill and trying too hard to be funny.
I’m trying to reach a middle ground. I’ll present the players with the world more-or-less as it was originally intended. Vampire princes will be grumpy, monsters will be scary. The players, however, can be as cheery and carefree about it as they want. I’ll feed them straight-men for their jokes all day long, including burly bikers named Jim and long-suffering, maybe over-indulgent vamp princes. But when it comes to conflict, I’ll expect them to match their humor with actions.
In a sense, I’m turning my game into a Marx Brothers film. The players aren’t nearly as silly or disruptive as Groucho, but I’m going to aim for the same feel: NPCs will play it straight, but indulge the PCs their jokes and play around a bit. As in Duck Soup, it may all end with the walls shot to pieces and the characters wisecracking about it, but I’m going to try and enable silly, humorous play within a darker, more serious framework.
I love tabletop roleplaying games. They are, in some ways, the perfect game. That being said, they certainly aren’t without their flaws. I’ve been working on a tabletop RPG system, and one of the things any creator needs to ask is “what’s wrong with what’s already there?” and “how can I make it better?” Here, then, is a list of the things wrong with tabletop roleplaying games. Continue reading What’s Wrong with Tabletop RPGs→
In this podcast episode, I present and discuss my definition of the word “game.” In short, a game is an interactive simulation that provides metrics which allow a user to track progress toward a goal. Listen on to hear why Microsoft Paint is a game and why winning and losing are really the same thing.
I’d love to hear what you think! Comment if you have any opinions on the things I discuss in this episode.
The players in a tabletop roleplaying game never do what you expect them to.
Case in point: I’ve just started up a campaign of Promethean. It opens with the player characters being drawn to a mysterious, sprawling house, where they discover an otherworldly being called a qashmal who dispenses a cryptic riddle.
This is the second time I’ve run the beginning of this campaign with different players each time. The first group did what I expected: they searched the building top to bottom for clues, then proceeded to follow up on the riddle. This latest group, however, decided against that. Continue reading Never According to Plan→
I’ve been playing a lot of Left 4 Dead lately. I got it in the recent weekend sale, and I can say with confidence that it’s the best co-op experience I’ve ever had. It’s got the typical Valve polish, it’s fun and funny, and the experience of finding, playing, and reminiscing about a play session is a complete joy. There’s an incredible amount to talk about here, from the way the setting is introduced through wall scrawlings to the way the game teaches you how to play. I’d love to see Richard Terrell do an article about the tactics and interplay of L4D. But I’m primarily a story guy, so I’m going to talk about the story.
This week’s episode is a special False Narrativism piece, discussing the obscure but visionary Polish game Oszustwo, or Incongruity. I can easily envision a world in which this game never existed, but fortunately we have access to the most technologically-advanced, creepiest, and hardest-to-play game ever developed.
My latest article has gone up over at GameSetWatch. It’s called “Layered Gameplay in Disgaea,” and it’s about how that game lets you get as in-depth as you want with character and gameplay customization.