Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Art-Inspired Game-Writing Prompts


Writing is truly a creative art – putting word to a blank piece of paper and ending up with a full-fledged story rife with character and plot.”

William Shatner

Wandering around bookstores one often comes upon a rack of notebooks labeled “Writing Prompts” and other such inspirational titles (usually near the blank notebook section). Occasionally I pick one up, check out the exercises, and imagine how something like that might apply to inspiring roleplaying game writing and design. I think these exercises can prove useful both to newcomers seeking to explore their writing potential as well as experienced authors continuously honing their craft (although they rarely have time to indulge in such frivolous experimentation...though goodness knows I should find the time). In ambling around the vast cacophony of ideas and opinions inundating the interwebzes I stumbled upon two resources that provide inspiration for game-writing prompts...or more precisely prompts for creating source material for fantasy roleplaying games. Unlike the “writing prompts” notebooks I’ve seen, these offer visual inspiration specifically attuned to roleplaying gamers.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Player-Tinkerers: Customizing Game Rules


tinker (verb): to work in the manner of a tinker, especially: to repair, adjust, or work with something in an unskilled or experimental manner.”

Merriam-Webster Online

I recently ordered a pretty pricy battle game and – after the initial euphoria of opening the box, reading the rules, and sorting all the tiles, counters, and bits – soon found disappointment in the actual gameplay. The game worked, of course, and I admired some of the mechanics; but in play I encountered several instances that didn’t seem to make sense and even crippled the abilities of units in certain frequently encountered situations. I ambled about in despair for a brief moment...I’d just spent money on something that didn’t work to my satisfaction. But then I reminded myself I could tinker with the mechanics to transform it into something closer to the satisfying play experience I expected. That’s part of our nature as gamers: if a game isn’t working for us, we seek solutions to make it work. And sometimes that’s part of the fun.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Organizing the Deluge of Gaming Goodness


Back in the “Golden Age of Roleplaying” (for me the early-mid 1980s) organizing all the wondrous little bits of gaming goodness seemed so easy. Materials came to us in easily digestible bits that fit into conventional containers: bookshelves, folders, binders, boxes. But today’s gamers face a veritable deluge of useful content thanks to the connectivity of the interwebzes. How do we – can we – organize all the relevant gaming materials we purchase, download, view, and create ourselves in this Electronic Age where everyone’s a creator and nobody’s an editor?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tinkering with Gridded Naval Wargames




I credit Bob Cordery and his gridded wargames rules (including the Portable Wargame series) with kindling my interest in periods and battles I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. His Gridded Naval Wargames recently drew me to the basement wargaming table for some maritime combat action. I’m not a huge naval wargamer. I’ve dabbled in Fletcher Pratt’s game (“The Quest for Naval Minis”). I created a solitaire game simulating the submarine action of Operation Drumbeat. I’ve considered buying into Ares Games’ Sails of Glory, but have second thoughts when I look at the price and complexity. Cordery’s rules – rife with interesting asides, historical insights, and practical examples – inspired me to explore the genre and tinker with the rules...as many gamers do to improve upon mechanics and enhance their play experience.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Trapped in the Museum 20 Years Later



I just published the 20th anniversary edition of Trapped in the Museum, a solitaire adventure gamebook I first released back in 1999. Back then S. John Ross gave me his kind permission and much-needed encouragement to use his Risus: The Anything RPG game system for the brief pulpy tale of a college student who suddenly wakes up in a dark, locked museum. Another mutual friend, Shawn Lockard – who for a while hosted the WEDGE West End Games fan website – maintained a site for me where the free solo gamebook lived for a while. At one point I even printed copies to give away at the few convention appearances I was making at the time. It was all in an effort to keep my name and game design reputation in the public eye in the hopes it might attract some freelance writing work. It was the unintentional launch of a 20-year independent publishing career.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Limitations of Programmed Solo Adventures


I’m wrapping up work on two programmed solitaire adventures, a 20th anniversary revision of my Trapped in the Museum free adventure and a much more substantial science fiction scenario, The Asturia Incident, each using the OpenD6 system. I enjoyed working on them. They offered a break from more traditional roleplaying game writing and allowed me to have fun exploring elements within each genre. Both serve as tutorial adventures walking players through the skill-roll process in numerous situations, though this proved a bit more difficult to adjudicate thoroughly in the longer scenario. And while I’m thinking about developing a substantial pulp-themed solo adventure (a sequel of sorts to Trapped in the Museum), I feel I need some time to cleanse my palate from the rigors of programmed solo scenario writing. As entertaining as I hope the final product might seem, writing a programmed solo adventure takes a great deal of creative effort and has limited appeal in the roleplaying gamer market.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Solo Tékumel Actual Play Report


Lately I’ve had an urge to explore M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel setting through solitaire roleplaying. (You can read my earlier missive on this subject, “Prepping A Solitaire Foray into Tékumel.”) So one night while my wife was off watching Game of Thrones with friends and my son sat glued to the television screen watching American Idol (neither of which engages me in the least) I spread my solo gaming materials across my standing desk and indulged in a brief foray into the Empire of the Petal Throne. My heroes consisted of Ibásh, a young, idealistic priest of Keténgku; Bara, a protective aridani warrior late of the Legion of the Mighty Prince; and Thékuto, a well-traveled trade liaison for the Victorious Globe clan, to which they all belong. Their masters have quietly charged them with researching and retrieving an ancient automaton. As the first step in their journey they stopped along the sákbe road at the Tower of Deathly Hospitality (detailed in the earlier blog entry on this subject). Seeking shelter in the midst of a torrential monsoon, they find a caravan camped on the platform as far as possible from the dilapidated guard tower, with a lone fellow staring into the open door into the structure calling for his wife but, alas, not brave enough to enter and search for her himself. After learning of the tower’s haunted reputation from the encamped caravan, the group approaches Hóru hiArusá, a craftsman from the Silver Collar clan heading home with his new wife. Dzái sought shelter in the tower against his wishes; she has yet to emerge, call for help, or otherwise make her presence known. Although Ibásh wants to charge in, Thékuto, ever the voice of savvy reason, asks what Hóru’s willing to do if they group finds and returns his wife. The artisan offers them a finely wrought copper cup he himself crafted. Encouraged by this incentive the heroes enter the tower.