Tag Archives: false narrativism

Theatre: An RPG (Quickplay Rules)

This game is intended for players experienced with roleplaying. For beginners, we recommend Countdown: A Game for Two Players, by the same developers.

An abandoned theatre in the woods, rotting and overgrown with plants
Image by Daniel Ramirez (CCBY 2.0)

Theatre is a live-action roleplaying game for any number of players, limited only by your available space and resources. Together, as in most roleplaying games, you’ll enact a story. One difference in this game is that you aren’t in control of all the events in the story: they proceed in the sequence established by the adventure you’re playing. What you can control is how those events are explored: what mood do they establish? What events are especially significant, and how do the characters actually feel as they go through the sequence?

You’ll typically play this game with a pregenerated adventure, which establishes the nature of the characters and the moves they’ll make during a play session. Advanced players can play the game improvisationally, with certain players essentially making up the characters and moves as they go; guidelines for this mode of play are available in additional supplements. A sample pregenerated adventure is included at the end of this document, but a wide array of free and paid adventures are available from third-party creators and publishers.

For small groups, a home setting is perfectly appropriate. If you intend to play with a particularly large group (more than ten, perhaps), you will need an appropriate venue with sufficient seating where everyone can see the roleplay area. Consider a place where musical performances are held, perhaps a park bandstand; these usually have an raised, visible area for roleplay and enough seating to support a large number of House players.

Regardless of your setting, you should establish a space for roleplay that is visible to all participants, with enough space to move around. Try to establish a space that people can access from all sides, and make sure to have options for private areas to which people can withdraw if they’re not actively involved in play.

Continue reading Theatre: An RPG (Quickplay Rules)

Hopping Numbers in Pocket Frogs


I love it when games wear their math on their sleeves. I also like when games are based on real-life systems, even when those systems are twisted or simplified for the purposes of smoother design. Pandemic is a good example of the former: the way the Infection deck is constructed and manipulated makes it clear how the game’s randomness works and why the same cities keep breaking out in more and more disease. Spacechem is a good example of the latter: it takes the concept of chemical bonds and process engineering and turns it into a brain-twisting puzzler.

Pocket Frogs, by Nimblebit, does both of these things. It takes the concept of genetic inheritance and uses it to make a sort of gambling game where the math is always visible and calculable.

It’s a game where you breed frogs, trying to produce certain special collections. But let’s pretend it’s not.

Continue reading Hopping Numbers in Pocket Frogs

Ludus Novus 022: Countdown – A Game For Two Players

Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus 022: Countdown - A Game For Two Players


In this episode of the Ludus Novus podcast, I present a new game, “Countdown,” in spoken word form. Trigger warning for self-injury.


Countdown: A Game For Two Players

The rules are arbitrary in the wherever,
but here, in this circle, they are real.

Of course, this membrane is porous.
It flutters and flows and lets pass
certain realities and unrealities.
The game isn’t the same if the world changes.
And games can change your world.

But the magic circle creates a promise of escape.
At any time, you can step outside the circle.
At any time, you can make this stop.

The music for this episode is “Third Moment – A Road Through the Forest” from Three Moments by Darrell Burgan. It’s available under a ccby3.0 license.

Any feedback is welcome in the comments.

Why So Few Violent Games?

With as much time as game designers and critics think and write about the specifics of game interactions, it’s often useful to step back and look at the basics. Let’s ask a simple question: why are there so many video games dealing with social interaction and relationships, and so few that explore violence and action-oriented gameplay?

In some ways, it’s a historical aberration. If Gygax and Arneson had made some war-focused game instead of Counts and Courtship, or Will Crowther had decided to entertain his kids with his obscure caving hobby instead of an exploration of his childhood friendships, perhaps the focus of our games would be different. Doom wouldn’t have been an oddball niche title if there were a hundred other games at the time about shooting aliens with guns.

But I think there’s a more fundamental issue at work here: violence and action are really difficult to simulate, unlike simple relationships.
Continue reading Why So Few Violent Games?

Ludus Novus 019: False Narrativism: Awesome Zone

Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus 019: False Narrativism: Awesome Zone


This podcast episode is about an unreleased game from 1990 that a guy showed me at GDC. It’s called Awesome Zone, and it was created by developer Theodore Alby for a company called KnowSoft over the course of a six-week nervous breakdown.

The music for this episode is from “Three Goes On Forever” by Time Slips By, and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike License as part of the compilation Ctrl-N.

Ludus Novus 016: False Narrativism: Oszustwo

Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus 016: False Narrativism: Oszustwo


as time goes by

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.

Ludus Novus 006: False Narrativism: Walking Away

Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus 006: False Narrativism: Walking Away


The game Walking Away: In what ways does it succeed at what it attempts?

The music for this episode is “Criminal” by Peter Toh, used with permission.


The next episode will be about amnesia, the video game trope we all love to hate. If you have comments or anecdotes about amnesia, please leave a comment here or at

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