This is a copy of all the posts and comments from the old blog. New content now appears on the main blog.


Not The Beginning Of The End, But The End Of The Beginning

A Penny For My Thoughts goes to Fred Hicks for layout on April 13th.

Remember how I said back in January that I was almost done with the text? Things got in the way. But I've cleared them out, and I'm excited to finish this thing off. Publication doesn't mean I'm done, of course. But it means moving into the next stage, which I'm looking forward to.

If you've been involved in this stage, make sure I'm giving you the credit you deserve. I just posted the current version of the credits, so if you're not on them but should be, let me know.

William Shakespeare's Dracula, Session 1

Last night we sat down to play Annalise, Nathan Paoletta's game of vampire stories. I had played a session of it at Dreamation, and I thought it would be a good fit for the group. Despite my mangled explanation of the rules last night, I think I was right.

Shakespeare keeps showing up in our games, so we decided this time around to do an explicitly Shakespearean game. We settled on the "early timeless" setting of plays like Midsummer Night's Dream that draw on antiquity, but we're also borrowing tropes of any number of other plays. The action takes place on Cyprus (by way of Illyria), and there's a good bit of the Odyssey floating around in there, too.

Dramatis Personae:

  • Alexander, deposed Duke of Egypt (played by Roy)

  • Flavia, handmaiden to the Duchess of Cyprus (played by Christina)

  • Cato, Duke of Cyprus (played by myself)

  • Lucius, brother of the Duke of Cyprus (played by Ted)

We played through the first phase of the game, which during which the characters and their Vulnerabilities are introduced. Alexander and his loyal servent Antonio were washed up on the shore of Cyprus; Antonio is Vulnerable because he has lost his duchy to a usurper. Flavia told her mistress about rumors of the strange men who washed up on the shore; Flavia is Vulnerable because her husband (along with the Duke) is away fighting a war (against Egypt we later discover). Lucius returned in secret from his intrigues in the north and flirted with Flavia; he is Vulnerable because of his ambition. Cato also returned in secret from the disastrous campaign against the Egyptians; he is Vulnerable because he has failed his people by losing an army and emptying the treasury. After the first round of scenes we had a good sense of what was going on and a good set of Claims to support that: mistaken identity, husbands, Egypt, the Duchess of Cyprus, etc.

After that we created Secrets for the characters (more on that in a minute), assigned Coins to our Traits, and played one scene in the second phase of the game.  Alexander had disguised Antonio as the Earl of Northumbria and himself as the Earl's servant in order to find out more about what was going in the court. In the course of the Moment we played out, Alexander was able to discover the lay of the land and to win the Duchess' favor, but Antonio and his strange "northern" fashions attracted the amorous attentions of the court ladies, and in grief over all that he had lost, Alexander drank too much and was left on the floor with the Duke's dog his only companion. At that point we called it a night.

The game was fun, and we're looking forward to continuing it next week, but there were some problems. First, I didn't explain the game well at all. I hadn't reviewed the rules beforehand, and it definitely suffered for that. I did, however, manage to explain how Moments work by using a concrete example, specifically the scene in Hamlet where the players perform "The Mousetrap" for Claudius. I've been reading about the power of concreteness, and as soon as I stopped talking in general terms, people started to get it.

Second, we had an unexpected disconnect when Ted got his own Secret back. We talked about it afterward, and Ted doesn't know why it happened, but it threw him off for the rest of the session. (He ended up trading Secrets with Christina.)My takeaways were that you need be prepared for that possibility and that figuring out who has your Secret can't be the major component of the fun of the game (because the odds are good at least one person will get their own). With regards to the latter, I think there's plenty more gold in the game to mine.

We're hoping to get two games in next week, as we'll be off the following week, when I'm in Vegas.

Jesse On Choices & Internal Conflict

I apparently provoked Jesse Burneko, over on his Play Passionately blog, into talking about about Choices & Internal Conflict. My plan worked!

Coming Attractions

My spring convention plans have shaken themselves out in the last few days, so I thought I'd share them in case you're hoping to meet up with me somewhere.

GAMA Trade Show, April 14-17, Las Vegas, NV

I'll be at the show in an official capacity, as I'm currently serving on the Board of Directors. My schedule is uncertain, but if I were a betting man I'd say you'll probably find me hanging out with Ken Hite a lot.

Nerdly Beach Party IV, April 24-26, Cambria, CA

I'm looking forward to the fourth installment of our bi-annual gaming-and-camping event. I'm going to miss most of Saturday due to a class I'm taking in Ventura, but I'm coming up Thursday night, and I plan on driving far too much in order to be at the rest of it. I'll be running a game of Montsegur 1244 on Friday night.

Gamex 2009, May 22-25, Los Angeles, CA

The second Strategicon of the year will be at the Sheraton LAX (thanks to a double-booking at the Radisson), but it should be fun either way. I don't know what the BarCon possibilities look like, but I'll be running Montsegur 1244 and Mouse Guard at this one.

Looking towards summer, I'll definitely be at GenCon. Origins is looking less and less likely (which makes me sad, as it's my favorite convention of the year), but I might try to sooth my pain by heading up to the Good Omens Mini-Con at Endgame in Oakland, CA, on July 18th. As they say in Polaris, we shall see what comes of it.

Now The Old King Is Dead, Long Live The King

While driving up to Oakland on Friday, I listened to Ryan and Josh talk about making games epic on Master Plan. Right after that, Coldplay's Viva La Vida came on the radio. Immediately, an RPG idea that can best be described as "Birthright meets The Golden Bough" popped into my head.

The protagonists are all the children of monarchs of the realm. Royalty carries with it an inherent connection to the land, and royal blood bestows magical powers. The land and the royals reflect each other; when the royal family earns glory, the land increases in abundance, and when the land is harmed, the royalty suffer with it. The game is played over the course of four "seasons," beginning with spring. In the spring season, the protagonists are young adventurers, sent forth by their aging parents to protect the land and to grow in power. There are similarities to the post-Chrétien de Troyes cycles of Arthurian Romances here, with knights off on long, complex adventures for years at a time. Eventually "spring" comes to an end, and the protagonists must return home to rule over their lands. And, in true Frazerian fashion, they may have to kill their parents to allow spring to come to full bloom. (Yes, I realize Frazer says that the king dies in fall and is reborn in the spring, but bear with me.) In the summer, the protagonists are mighty monarchs, now truly one with their lands. They face threats from afar, but in this phase challenges serve mostly as a demonstration of their power. It is in the fall that their own children begin to take a hand in the fate of the realm, and the misdeeds of spring come back to haunt them. Finally, in winter, they will discover if they can pass their crowns peacefully on to their children or if they will hold on to their fleeting powers for as a long as they can.

I have no idea how any this would work, but I'm tempted to try to find out.
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