Posts

Two days and many realizations

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Read to the end of the post to figure out what this is from. I. I've had a cascade of realizations over the past 48 hours and I feel like if I don't write them all down somewhere they're all going to fly out of my head. I have no idea whether this will be useful to anyone, but at least I'll be able to link it to people if they ask me "hey what ever happened to that G&G thing you were making." This is my second post about the failure of a big project called Goblets & Grues , although the last project under that name was only partially related. (There's a small part of me that's embarassed to write again about my failures, but the rest of me knows that if things are especially hard for me to learn, that just means I'll learn it better. The spark for this new G&G came in July 2021, when I came up with the idea to run some version of D&D for a good friend of mine who lives in another country. I really wanted to run 5th edition D&D

The NSR and definitions

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Choose your alignment — which quadrant(s) do you care about defining? I. We had yet another debate on labels and definitions today. I’m sick of everything I write in these conversations getting lost, so I’m dumping it all in a blog post. Everything from here on out is directly taken from messages I wrote on the Discord, with some links added here and there. II. I think Retired Adventurer had it right when he called them " cultures of play ." The OSR, the NSR, they aren't movements — people have such a terrible sense these days of what it means for a group of people to be organized. They are cultures , in the sense that designer Greg Costikyan uses the word. In Uncertainty , Costikyan defines culture as "the transmission of knowledge within a group" and explains that, while some animals have simple forms of culture, "humans have culture on steroids, because language allows us to transmit knowledge far more effectively." He writes, "In a sense, '

The Four Channels of Creative Constraints on RPGs

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I’ve come up with what I think is an interesting and useful way of thinking about RPGs, but the seeds of it were planted in my head by an unlikely source. I was watching this GDC talk by Mick Gordon about how he created the music for Doom (2016). In it, he describes how his main instrument for the game was a simple sine wave — what he describes as the purest form of sound — filtered through four channels of machines that distort the “pure” sound into something industrial, noisy, and full of character. In a previous post , I described all RPGs as the product of different kinds of “creative constraints” upon play-pretend, which you might call the “purest form” of RPG. I listed various kinds of constraints, but this GDC talk made me think — what if I reorganized those constraints into four channels of distortion? Four channels through which you distort and shape the raw energy of play-pretend into something with a particular character? It turns out it maps pretty well to four channels. S

Untitled WB:FMAG Hack

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I wrote this little White Box: FMAG hack over the course of the past few hours. I like how Spwack  posts little hacks straight to their blog, so I figured I'd try something similar. I basically just stripped down how Worlds Without Number does ability checks and simplified attacking to one roll. The non-standard attributes, combat order, and Difficult Movement rules come from my big WIP, Goblets & Grues . I might try using this to run OSE adventures and the like, who knows. Character Creation Roll 3d6 for your six attributes: Strength . Climb, swim, jump, push, pull, lift. Dexterity . Keep your balance, perform simple acrobatic stunts. Charisma . Persuade ambivalent NPCs, put on a charming or convincing performance. Craft . Create, tinker, repair, or operate. Stealth . Sneak, hide, perform sleight-of-hand. Survival . Hunt, track, forage, handle animals. Then, roll on whatever table the GM has handy for starting items. Task Resolution If your success at an action is uncertain a

The Doubling Devil

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I. I've been working for a while now on a new game. Confusingly, I'm calling it G&G ( Goblets & Grues ), which is what my failed project from over a year ago was also called. What can I say? I really like the name. This is just a short post about a new mechanic I just added to the draft rules that I'm really excited to try out. So, the idea of this new G&G is to combine a focus on exploration and problem solving with a light emphasis on tactical combat. I miss 5E and how the differentiation of roles in combat makes every player feel important. How to marry these two things? The two approaches seem irreconcilable... "Combat as war" gameplay positions the uncertainty of combat as something to be mitigated or avoided entirely. "Combat as sport" gameplay positions the uncertainty of combat as the heart of the game: the fundamental thing you're supposed to have fun with. II. I would argue that there's a popular game series that has bee

Setting: The Gyldir Vale

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Big hexes are 18 miles, little hexes are 6 miles. I. The Gyldir Vale is a temperate river valley enclosed by the sharp and rocky Red Range to the west; the ancient, forested Green Range to the east; and the magnificent, snow-capped White Range to the north. The valley's name is derived from the Golden Flame, the mysterious source of power with which Rotangur barbarians conquered this land from the high elves 1,000 years ago. The Common Church denounces the Golden Flame as the work of the Devil, but some whisper that the Flame was a gift of divine grace, granted to the Rotangur by the pagan gods of their northern lands. II. 500 years ago, when the kingdom of Gyldria was at the peak of its prosperity, the king's oracle pronounced a vision that the Golden Flame would soon be lost and that the rule of his family would come to an end. Desperate to preserve his rule, the king invited a covetous sorcerer into his court, who promised to study the Flame and uncover the secrets behind it

RPGs and Creative Constraints: What’s behind the OSR and FKR?

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I. Before RPG design became my main hobby, I used to write poetry. My favorite book on my shelf from that time is  The New Book of Forms  by Lewis Turco. It explains the fundamental building blocks of poetry (such as what “iambic pentameter” means) and lists, in encyclopedic fashion, all the notable forms within English poetry. Most modern poetry is free verse, including all the poetry I ever wrote. You put the words together however you think they sound good. There are certain principles to absorb that’ll help you with that, but it’s ultimately up to your intuition of what feels right. It wasn’t always that way. For various historical reasons — because poetry used to be primarily for performance, because it used to be set to music, etc. — poems almost were almost always composed within a particular form, such as the sonnet or the villanelle. To gloss over a lot of history: at a certain point, there was a shift. Poets like Walt Whitman popularized a transition to free verse as the domi