This is just a personal blog now

February 10, 2009 - Leave a Response

I’m going to use this to keep up with friends and such. Some game stuff might show up here but this is not a structured blog.

Flickers

September 30, 2008 - 3 Responses

I see momentary bits of the ultimate game in other games.

The ultimate game would have:

  • Setup like In A Wicked Age, but the group could agree on an ‘Anchor’ element, and there would be a distinction between heavily-themed elements with low definition (the Signs) and high definition elements with weaker thematic implications (the Multitude)
    • A phrase besides “Best Interests” for the best interest phase
  • Inside-out-stakes like Polaris or In A Wicked Age
  • Dynamic Sets like the best of D&D 4e, Savage Worlds, or Red Box Hack
  • Four Stats: Might, Grace, Insight, Resolve, each with social and nonsocial implications
  • Stat power offset by pre-game character development to equalize the power level of experienced and inexperienced characters out of the gate.
  • These two would be crossed with each other
    • Aspects like Spirit of the Century, but any player could tempt someone for them.
    • Keys like The Shadow of Yesterday, but backwards, with the other players awarding.
  • Budget like PTA, used to both limit the GM’s power and to provide a timing mechanic.
  • Mandated details like InSpectres

Despair

September 30, 2008 - Leave a Response

I like GMing.

I hate organizing games.

Theory post 1: Setup

September 25, 2008 - Leave a Response

Regarding setup:

  • Elements of setup that have a mechanical impact on character creation can’t be skipped.
  • Elements of setup that empower other members of the group can’t be done away from the table.
  • Elements of setup that can have a continuous impact in play are harder to forget about.

Why do I care?

By enforcing certain behaviors, you can get players to communicate their expectations much better than by starting a game with “So, what do you expect?”

In toolkit games, the players need to communicate these things to one another.  

Since toolkit games can be used in multiple ways, they are easy to drift.  Thus, there also needs to be a way to keep the initial agreement salient.

Ain’t Happening

September 13, 2008 - Leave a Response

To anyone following the blog; sorry, but The Cull just isn’t in the cards right now.  Not enough hours in the day between work, 3.5 hrs/d of commuting, and a young baby.

Occasionally I do feel the need to blog, so be warned: this will turn into a personal blog site next time the mood strikes.

ISBW 2.0 part 1

July 23, 2008 - Leave a Response

I finally replaced my mp3 player, and I’ve started listening to Mur Lafferty’s podcast, I Should Be Writing.  I’m Culling 5 episodes of that today.  Also, I’m starting to use a new category called Rough Cut for when I do a very quick Cull.  That means you won’t get “what seconds should I listen to” or “what posts should I read” but more like “what shows should I listen to” or “what threads should I read”.  This Cull is performed with a rifle at long distance with no scope but lots of bullets.

A podcast about writing is only partially related to gaming, but since this is my special snowflake you guys can follow this or ignore it (key phrase follows) AS YOU SEE FIT. We cool?  Cool.

From episode 83 to 86 (including specials) here’s what survived:

Special #29 (John Scalzi interview)

The interview is entertaining and and definitely worth listening to for Scalzi’s ideas about juxtaposing the grim with humor.  If this wasn’t a rough cut I imagine I’d get it down to about 10 minutes or so.

Episode #86 (Back to Basics)

The meat of this episode is great to listen to when you’re ready to submit, but it’s not about the writing process so much as the submission process.  Otherwise, this mnemonic from a call-in listener stands out: “Am, is, are was were, be, being, been.  These, are, very bad words, never, use them again.”

Otherwise, a few comments in the other episodes really struck me.

In Special 28 Mur said (I’m paraphrasing again):

Am I the most talented of all the writers I’m up against in the submission process?  Well, maybe not.  But the most talented person gave up after their hundredth rejection and I didn’t, so I’m the one who’s going to get published.

Episode 84 was amusing, but not much use.  The best part was the very quick reference to the Bushido of Writing from about 10:10 to 10:50 – Matt Wallace describes the first virtue as Write, and the second as Persistence.  I’m highly curious where that’s going.

So that’s what you need to know, and now you can skip 83, 84, 85, and Special 28.  If you don’t, and I’ve missed a gem, let me know in the comments.

antiquated anyway part 2

June 8, 2008 - 3 Responses

Continuing from part 1, this is the culling of the AP threads linked off of antiquated anyway post 144.

What survived?

All of the first posts are worth reading.  More than direct advice, these posts contain provocative accounts of actual play and follow up with excellent techniques that support it.  If you want to make your game more collaborative and want to see how it was done by skilled gamers in a mechanics-independent environment, this is the place to look.  Beyond the first posts, I’ve quoted the worthy text (sometimes substantial).

From Adventures in Improvised System (Direct Link – Not Safe For Work)

The top post of this thread is an example of roleplayers dealing with the unwanted results of miscommunications and unhelpful rules.  You can read it or not to understand the following:

In Reply 15 Vincent talks about the pressures that can come from the reward system or rules and impact back on the players, and how rules can take away from collaboration.

In Replies 17 and 18 Meguey discusses the group’s techniques, which is followed by Emily’s words on the group’s priorities in Reply 19.

Vincent touches on both in parts of his following replies:

Somebody has their character do something, odds are that somebody else will tip their head to one side and say “you do? how come? what’s that like? where’s that come from?”

[…]

We ask those kinds of questions across all our various and permuted player / GM type roles. Not just about the characters’ internal lives, but about the whole landscape.

“Soraya, dude, you killed a dragon?” I might have my guy Acanthus say. “What’s up with that?”

“I haven’t figured out all the details,” Emily might say, “but I know that [Soraya’s abusive master] Severin made me do all the dangerous work, like I was the one who played the riddle game with it to distract it while he bound it, and he made me cut its head off, he didn’t help.”

Maybe she makes a facial expression to show how much it sucked. “That musta sucked,” I might say.

“Yeah. Y’know, every time I think about him, Severin is more a prick.”

So there’s me asking questions to draw information out of Emily, and it’s all good information, and it’ll all eventually come back into the game, but it’s not just Soraya’s motivations or experiences, it’s whatever. A stew of character-level, player-level, and level-crossing stuff. (Who is the “I” in Em’s last sentence, Em or Soraya? Probably both.)

From more adventures in improvised system: techniques (Direct Link)

This thread contains more excellent techniques as well as accounts of their history as roleplayers (see Replies 10 and 12 in particular if you want to know more on that subject).  The first post of the thread is a recap of techniques that Emily thinks are crucial to the playstyle, after that the stuff that survived the cull were the concise, clear insights and recommendations for collaborative play.

In Reply 2, Emily discusses recordkeeping:

As a matter of fact we do have pretty thorough records. Thanks in great part to our faithful scribe, Meg, we have a running record of events from each session (recorded very briefly on a yellow legal pad). And keeping all those magi straight is quite a chore–Vincent created some lists of mages (by covenant, with house affiliation, player and master included) when we peopled the tribunal. And of course, there’s our Big Map o’Mages–two sheets of poster board with all the mages whe know about in the world, grouped by covenant, with major relationships indicated by connecting lines (master-apprentice, etc.) This is used for a certain amount of record keeping too–little x’s by the mage name if the character dies (and, out of some fit of insanity that siezed us, the map also has the actors we would cast for the character if the campaign was made into a hollywood film :).

In Reply 16, Jason Lee sums up the benefits of associated characters being under other players’ control:

[T]hat approach makes the primary characters’ lives evolve more dynamically. With another person in control of attached characters the relationships are more “alive”. The attached characters will act with agendas other than that of the primary character’s player and the relationships develop as responses to actions and conflicts, instead of being planned out. Which makes quite a bit of sense to me with a static setting and the length of time that can pass in an AM game. The changes in the relationships in the covenant is probably the main focus of play (just guessing).

With us, attached characters are like part of the setting that the primary character comes from. Most of the time, but not always, the character is designed first and then the world he comes from is based on the character. The relationships between the primary and attached characters serve the purpose of establishing themes about the character.

My character’s father is there to illustrate she’s a daddy’s girl.

Tara’s character’s ex-wife and child are there to illustrate what he’s losing by being unable to return home.

So, those relationships tend to be more static, because controlling them is part of what creates character-centric themes (when you can get to the attached characters, that is).

Meg on the ramifications of collaborative GMing:

Releasing control as a sole GM was a relief and a challenge; a relief because suddenly there were whole new sections that came into being that I never would have seen, and a challenge because suddenly there were whole new things I had no control over. I’m totally converted, though. GMless play is a challenge for players because they have to learn to firewall, to protagonise appropriately, and to share their vision of the world. It’s hard sometimes to see a given thing clearly (for me it’s usually mapping a place) and have someone else with equal authority say “I’m not seeing it like that” or even more firmly “I see it this very different way”. You’ve got to trust the process of group story-telling, and trust each other at least enough to trust your character won’t be blocked without your input.

If you’d like to try GMless gaming and never have, definitely try with a like-minded group of folks, or the ones who want a GM to guide them through the dungeon will feel like they’re floundering. I’d suggest starting by having someone set the scene (time of day, place, and season), and then take turns sort of vibing it out and telling whatever details come out of what has been said so far. In my book, probably the best tool for successful GMless gaming is having done guided meditations, where you’re in a semi-trance state while someone else is describing a scene and encouraging you to look around the imagined landscape and noticing what you see and experience. This is very like the space I’m in when we’re co-GMing as opposed to straight IC play of conversation.

Ok, next bit:

Handling multiple characters is, for me, kind of like a wardrobe. I have different clothes for each one. Cruciel and Emily Care both talked about voices and accents for distinguishing between multiples; yep that, plus body language. I find that I identify different body postures or habits with different characters. I’m *really* looking forward to the Tribunal, when we’ll have to deal with masses of colorful, well-defined characters in one place at one time. It’ll put every multicharacter skill we collectively have to the test. Stay tuned for that one, I’ll bet.

Also, let me not forget the importance of art, for me at least. I’m getting the tickle to draw all the mages we’ve just seen in this round, so they become more full-color. In our Caer Mearabourne campaign, we had profile headshots of all major and most minor characters, and we had way too much fun rearranging the pics and making the characters look at each other. Sometimes we got whole new insights into the character’s relationships. That’s what you can do when you have nothing to do but blow off a class that afternoon. :)

I loved the diagramming of characters Emily and Jason did. Emily already outlined our attention to playing each other’s ‘branches’, so I don’t think I have anything substantive to add. We do occasionally sum up, and there have been times when we’ve just played out both sides of a brief but important exchange (much switching of voices and body language here).

Hmm, why do some characters get left behind? They may have served their purpose, or just be waiting till their turn. I feel like Emily’s handling of Sioban was very adroit in this regard: Sioban was vital to early plot, but it was always understood she was not going to be around long-term. Now she’s who knows where doing who knows what. I feel like some of our other covenfolk are a bit more in limbo. I’m not sure the characters off-screen are less important, they’re just off-screen. Also, some support cast just have less purpose at some points than others. In setting up Griffin’s Aire, my mage Damwild had as her concept that she was travelling with her stricken and beloved master to a place where he might retire and die in peace. That required a retinue of support cast, who made handy instant coveners. I’d love to see all their various stories, but the importance of the mages setting up the covenant has been overpowering so far. We’ll see what happens. Oh, and then there’s the unpredictability of characters. I recently had a character I really liked and enjoyed playing off Vincent’s mage Acanthus. This character was a visiting mage who just rubbed Acanthus wrong. I was all set to play him at GA for a while, since Damwild is busy with apprentice stuff. But no, Quintus up and leaves. I didn’t know he was leaving until he started saying goodbye and giving Acanthus little prezzies. Jerk. But, from a story point of view, it was totally right that he leave. So there you go.

Of note is reply #25, which is another nest within a nest of AP goodness.  I’m not Culling that or I’ll have to cull the whole forge (anyway’s big enough as it is).

From Further More Adventures in Improvised System (Direct Link – Slightly Unsafe For Work)

Read the first post which is a neat AP account, and hits a high point when Vincent points out some problems at the table.  Otherwise, this reply from Emily illuminates what the players were really doing at the table:

One of my favorite parts about the session was the brainstorming. We knew very close to nothing about these characters prior to that night. Our discussion lead us to flesh out their background and get them plunked right in the middle of juicy plot. From an obscure, almost never thought of trio of characters, they became transformed into pivotal players.

And just a comment about the dice mechanic: I see the dice we rolled as giving us more material to work with, rather than being used to determine resolution. As you said Vincent, we knew they weren’t going to bite it. What a waste that would have been. But it made it easier for us to come up with a believable (to us, anyway) sequence of actions since we had the dice results to interpret. The numbers we rolled on the dice gave us a structure, or put the players in some kind of relative ranking. We had to made sense of the differences, and we did so in ways that gave us ideas for the plot/character development etc. Make sense?

From Adventures in RGFA Simulationism (Direct Link)
The theory left-turn towards the end doesn’t go anywhere, but you won’t go wrong reading this 1-post thread as it’s an account of players working together to create something brilliant.

From More Adventures in Shared Character Vision (Direct Link – Really Not Safe For Work)

Read only the first post, which emphasizes that yeah, the human beings at the gaming table can negotiate and talk intelligently about what htey want.  Just like it’s okay to talk about your game, it’s okay to talk about things that you’re not sure about, to get help from the other players and to work on the elements that didn’t feel like they held together.  This is a good technique – not something that’s limited to the specific kind of collaborative relationship that Meg, Vincent, and Emily nurtured in their game (although it’s that game’s defining characteristic).

The following replies just try to position the actual play relative to some jargon being worked out, without learning anything from that exercise.  However, right towards the end Jason pops up with this very excellent observation:

It’s all about trying to maintain character integrity. Vincent is trying to integrate his character vision into the shared imaginary space. The explored element fails validation through Emily and Meguey, so he has to redefine/elaborate and pass it through validation again before it can be integrated as he originally envisioned.

From Adventures in Dramatic Drama (Direct Link – Not Safe For Work)
Read the first post, which starts slow but is ultimately riveting and contains lucid descriptions of what’s happening at the player level throughout.  This is the grand finale of all the AP you’ve read so far.  After that, skip to reply #6, and you’re done.

In Reply #6 Emily’s guidelines for bringing a new player into a collaborative relationship are good, but ultimately boil down to “Establish responsibilities (especially their responsibility to step in and take authority), proprietorship, and expose them to detail.”  Behind that there’s a few assumptions (like “Make sure they want to and that you have a good creative relationship with them.”) but I think that’s quite clear.

antiquated anyway part 1

May 27, 2008 - One Response

anyway is Vincent Baker’s blog at lumpley.com, and it’s monumental in two ways: First, major ideas in design and theory were worked out there by Vincent and a close community around him.  Second, it’s huge.

I started with Antiquated Anyway, which is conveniently archived here.  Even so, it’s quite dense and I’ve had to break it down into smaller subsections.  Note that in a few places you need to get some definitions or read Forge threads to get the point – I’ve gone through to Cull those as well and link to them where they’re needed or contain something valuable.

Note: I’ve had to do some quoting here because I don’t see a mechanism to link to individual posts without showing the whole thread.

What survived the Cull?

Here’s what I’d keep around to read again:

From Post 137 – 12-21-04 (direct link to post 137)

This section starts with Vincent taking a current Forge snapshot and discusses bridging the gap to those outside the Forge.  As an example he points out Task Resolution vs. Conflict Resolution, which animates most of the ensuing discussion.  Choicy bits:

Emily Care’s point about the need for a guide is very relevant if you’re writing a game:

[…]I have no small amount of impatience for a textbook of all the good, down-to-earth, constructive bits of role playing theory that have come from the Forge [et al] […]

I mean, take for example scene-framing. Standard role-playing games say not word one about where to start or begin a scene, it’s all left up to “gm inspiration”, and it is assumed that everyone who runs a game will know how to introduce tension by beginning a scene in the middle of action. Or be aware of their players preferences for getting a sense of the surroundings, time of day and weather. Or know when to end a scene so it doesn’t ramble on into an eternity of dullness. All these things right now are left up to each gm to learn over time. […] That’s the kind of thing I’d like to see get disseminated. […]

Dan Shiovitz also raises an excellent point for how to communicate theory via examples (you can look up what the Forge term IIEE means here).  This is good advice if you’re writing a game or just plain trying to talk to your fellow players about the game you have:

if I was going to talk about IIEE, I wouldn’t say “ok, there’s this four letter term, and the four letters stand for (and then there’d be a pause as I have to go look it up). This can be classified generally into three subsystems, of which only one is any good. Therefore ..”
because that doesn’t convince anybody.Instead you say “Ok, have you ever had the situation where you say ‘My ninja jumps across the table, does a backflip, and kicks the guy in the head’ and then you roll a 3 on the attack roll? Doesn’t that suck? Here’s a better way to describe your actions so you can avoid that happening. And if you’re a GM, doesn’t it suck when you say ‘ok, when this NPC sees you going for your sword, he goes for his sword too, and the player’s all like ‘well, if I see him going for his sword then I’m not going to draw my sword, I’m just going to shoot him with my pistol’ and you say ‘hey, you already said you’re drawing your sword!’ and everyone gets pissed off? Here’s a better way to do things — here’s what to work out *before* you roll the dice, and then you agree with your player what can get changed before the roll and what can get changed after”

A discussion about Task Resolution’s relationship to GM fiat ensues – Ben Lehman’s post lines up the situation well but I think these comments by Emily Care are short, sweet, and complete:

I just want to follow up Ben’s post with an illustration of why it would be that task resolution ends up equalling GM fiat. I stole it from Vincent, so if you’ve heard it already, bear with me. It actually is a bit different from what you’re describing as GM fiat in task res, Ben, so it may have different ramifications.

So, a player and a gm are discussing events in a game. The player’s character is pursuing a lead on nabbing the villain, and just needs some proof that is said to be locked away in someone’s safe. That’s the situation.

The hero wants to nab the villain. Getting the proof to do so is what’s at stake in the conflict.

The tasks involved may include: breaking in to the office where the safe is, avoiding detection while in there, and getting the safe open.

So this can be handled in a variety of ways. The GM could run the player through task resolution on each step leading up to getting the safe open. Or all the tasks could be lumped together: make one roll and bang–you get in or you don’t. Note that even if the player gets the best possible outcome on all the tasks, the GM still has the power to say whether the needed papers actually are in the safe–this is where the fiat comes in–all that grand effort put into getting in to the safe means diddly since the player had nada to say about achieving their actual goals. Unless you define what’s really at stake, ie what the player and or the character want to achieve, task resolution can be a sop to make players feel like they’ve got input into what’s going on. If they don’t want input, that’s another thing, but if they do, it’s bunk.

After some more discussion Vincent pops up saying (I’m paraphrasing here):

Task Resolution leaves everything in the GM’s hands, and that’s not fair because it leaves the onus on the GM to validate or invalidate what the player characters are doing.

From Post 138 – 12-24-04 (direct link to post 138)

“Rules matter” is a premise I hope you agree with if you’re doing any kind of game design, or even if you’re serious about choosing what ruleset to play by.  Essentially this is Vincent arguing for “Rules Matter” and I think everything he bulleted in the conversation below is crucial and collectively they articulate that thesis very clearly and persuasively.

[G]roups have styles. My group’s style is different from yours, for instance. I also think you’d agree that different groups’ styles lead to and are better suited to different types of play. My group’s style leads to co-GMed play, for instance, while your group’s style wouldn’t be (as) well-suited to it.

1) Would you agree that a group’s style depends on particular techniques, all acting more-or-less together? My group, for instance, uses particular specific techniques to make co-GMed play work?

2) Would you agree that a group could learn new techniques and thereby change its style? My group could, if it wanted, learn some of the techniques your group uses, thus changing our style to better suit your type of play?

3) Would you agree that a group could, with sufficient experience, change its style intentionally to adapt to particular types of play, by choosing which techniques they’ll use? Having learned some of your techniques, my group could choose which set of techniques to use, to get the kind of play we’re currently after?

4) Would you agree that it’s possible to communicate in writing about the techniques a group uses? Your group could, for instance, write down how you play well enough that my group could learn techniques from it?

If you’re still on the fence add:

1) What a group actually gets out of play depends on its players’ and GM’s skills and style.

2) What a group wants to get out of play depends on the group’s tastes and needs.

3) If you have a disconnect between what the group wants and what the group’s skills and style give ‘em, you have an unhappy group. Most groups’ skills and style give them what they want, most of the time. However, if you want something new from a particular game, the way to get it is to learn new skills and change your style.

4) Most published games’ rules don’t communicate real skills that a group will actually use. That’s because the real skills […] are social, interpersonal, and hard to communicate. […] If a game text isn’t telling you how to play at the social, interpersonal level, how to play it will fall to the group to figure out.

[…]

5) It’s possible to write game rules that’ll teach a group new skills all at once, that’ll deliver a play experience that startles the group and changes its style.

This is consistent with actual play reports of a couple of my games in action, and a couple of my friends’ games in action. It’s not a hundred percent, not even close, nor would I expect or want it to be. It happens sometimes, that’s all I’m saying.

and finally

1) In order to play, the group’s players must have a functional answer to two questions: “what should I contribute to the game?” and “how should I treat my fellow players’ contributions?”

2) A game designer can do some of the work of answering those questions. A game designer can do far more of the work of answering them than game designers have typically done.

You can see that this point is extremely important to Vincent, and luckily enough he argues it very well.

From Post 144 – 12-29-04 (direct link to post 144)

Here, we find a Motherlode of actual play compilations.  Vincent points to seven Forge threads covering important moments that came about during a three year period where he, Meguey Baker, and Emily Care played a collaborative game in the Ars Magica setting.  This was done in a way that most would characterize as freeform – it had informal rules and was grounded in their collaboration in a setting based off of Ars Magica, but without a baseline ruleset.  Having read them, I think the stuff that I’m going to point you to below is totally understandable without reading them, but since I’ve already gone through them I’ll include their culling in a separate post.

Vincent brings these up to draw our attention to this question

You’ve been roleplaying without formal rules, relying on open collaboration, for some years. You use dice occasionally, as a collaborative tool, but improvisationally – you don’t even have character sheets with numbers on ‘em. It’s been the best roleplaying you’ve ever had.

What does [good] game design have to offer you?

While there’s a discussion about the suitability and flexibility of informal versus formal rules, I find that discussion tends to feel like the two sides are talking past each other (with slightly different ideas of what informal/formal mean).  But things settle down towards the end of the thread, where we find some good answers compiled by Meg Baker:

Emily Care said:
“‘Good boundaries, good neighbors make.’ If you have clear rules everyone can have the same expectations and thus trust.Rules also exist to impart a _sense_ of impartiality to what happens in play, even if when you analyze it, that’s not what’s actually happening.”

Jason said:
“Good design offers ways to challenge calcified assumptions built up during years of collaborative play.”

Chris Chinn clarifies his position to this:

I would say that well designed rules nail that “How we play” and make it exceedingly clear, to minimize the different forms of interpretations and conflicts that might arise at the table.

and Emily Care adds:

I’d say that the fact that well-designed play can offer the _same_ view to more than one group is the biggest advantage. I’d have little clue how to instruct someone who’d never done it to play like we do, or the Ennead does, but if I can hand them a copy of Dogs or MLwM, I know they’ll (probably) be all set.

There continues to be some banter about the formal vs. informal, but the two sides are coming quite close together.  Vincent wraps up the discussion with this:

I see that it’s time to make my claim, though.

My claim is not that the group I describe – mine or yours – should ditch their informal rules and adopt formal ones for their current game.

My claim is: if my group or yours wants to play a new game about, say, religious marshals in a supernatural Old West, or minions of a Frankensteinesque evil genius, or an interesting ensemble cast in charged relationships – formal rules exist which will serve us better than making it all up from scratch.

My group is doing Ars Magica way better than Ars Magica does, for instance. But accomplished at informal rules as we are, we couldn’t do Primetime Adventures better than Primetime Adventures does.

What was cut?

I cut a lot of well-written material here, both on anyway and from the Forge. Frequently these were case studies, arguments, or endeavours that hadn’t reached a conclusion at that point. At the time these would have been crucial discussions but it’s still basically a study group. I cut everything that was explicitly about Vincent’s personal life, and any place where the accounts of actual play really was working to fix an issue very specific to their table and playstyle (rather than presenting something to mine for ideas).  These are neat developments but in the main they are just being put together, rather than having a polished final version, which is what I’m Culling for.

The Survivors

The survivors – all included above, not including the Forge threads that I’ll be getting to shortly – are fundamental points in roleplaying game design.  If you want to know the kind of philosophies that drive indie rpg designers, and want to be informed by those philosophies – or even challenge them at their roots – this is a good place to start.  That said, I don’t think reading the rest of those threads from 1 to 144 will help you ‘delve deeper’ into these issues – you’ll retread a lot of the same ground on the way to the best and clearest arguments.

Edit: Extra Survivor from Post 144

In post 144 Chris Chin wrote:

[W]hen you have problems with informal rules, you have to 1) try to verbalize unspoken issues and behavior patterns, which most of us are not good at, even more so with friends, and 2) correct behavior patterns…(want to try to give up smoking?).

When there’s formal rules, they serve as a useful tool both for putting things on the table, distancing the problem from the people(to a degree), at least in that you can ask to change the rules, thereby asking to change the behavior pattern instead of saying, “Hey Bill! Stop being an ass!”, which usually does wonders for group consensus :P

I think he’s right on.

Sons of Kryos Season 1

May 20, 2008 - 5 Responses

When you run 60 episodes, you’re bound to have some winners and losers among them.

Sons of Kryos: your success means your podcast is first up.  We’re starting with season 1, which was the infancy of the podcast – it had its high points and low points, but I’m here to sift out the bits that you want to listen to if you want to make your game better.

What survived the Cull?

Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

Episode 5 (direct link to Episode 5)

0:00 to 15:56: The Sons of Kryos talk about using a published setting, and exhort you to “own the book.”  They talk about techniques that you can use to do exactly that.  -6

Episode 6 (direct link to Episode 6)

47:50 to 53:45:  The first good sentences segment covers “Are there any scenes anybody wants to see?”  “What do you want to see next week?”  The later, play-focused Sons of Kryos is emerging in this segment. 10

Episode 7 (direct link to Episode 7)

24:28 to 31:03: John Wick and Jared Sorensen talk about hermetic magic by way of John’s game Secret, and if you’re into hermeticism in gaming then it’s definitely worth listening to. -20

32:00 to 39:32: This discussion of GM screen provokes a lot of thought on social dynamics at the table.  It would have been stronger if it directly addressed those dynamics. -25

39:50 to 44:08: Good Sentences: “If you want it to happen, talk to each other.”   This section is intense and sharply focused.  25

Episode 8 (direct link to Episode 8)

00:00 to 15:05: This section won’t do anything for you, but it’s a great way to waste some time. Honorable mention.

15:18 to 25:55: Fudging dice.  Hilarious and extremely crucial to think about.  600.

26:12 to 36:10: Asking someone to leave your table is a very important topic but the treatment isn’t that strong.   -15

The Culled

The stuff that didn’t survive included some poor audio quality, but was generally topical but unfocused.  There were lots of places where you got to learn a lot about the lives and then-current projects of the Sons and their game designer friends, but this isn’t worth going back for.

The Survivors

The first season is a genesis, and it’s hit and miss.  But the hits are real hits.  Take what I singled out above and listen to that – like a greatest hits album.

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