Showing posts from February, 2011

The Leftovers in "The Hall of Really Bad Dead Things"

Join the Leftovers as they journey deep into the heart of darkness. Well, actually, it's a skull. A skull of darkness. Right. This map is based on suggestions by Richard DiTullio. Thanks, Rich!

On Hitting

Rob Donoghue mentioned that his favorite RPG design technology of 2010 was Success-with-Complication." He and Fred Hicks draw an analogy to video games: " Missing is very rare in video games. Question is not 'do you hit' but 'What happens when you hit'" This doesn't only refer to a combat scenario. It applies to any scenario where there is a question where it's more important to see the consequences of the answer than the answer itself. "Hitting" is just more impactful, if you pardon the pun. Let's assume for the benefit of the doubt that you have a game where the question really is "Do I hit?" What are the real possible answers? If "no," then often the only recourse is to try to hit again until you get a "yes." Alternatively, you keep getting a "no," until some endgame scenario, at which point you're not playing anymore. So, really, any functional answer is going to be "yes."


Utara is a dice game that makes a game board from any surface on earth. The game's theme calls to mind constellations and stellar navigation. I imagine it being played by wanderers and sailors with uncanny senses of direction. » Development Status: Open Beta. » Inspired by Jorinapeka by Tony Pa. » Developed from this prototype . » Special thanks to Joe Mucchiello for suggesting use of cardinal directions. » Image: " Fishing Boat " CC-BY-NC-SA by Austin King » Utara (उत्तर) is Malay for "North." » Russian Translation: Утара — настольная игра Stuff You Need Two or more players. This is a great game for a group of friends sitting on the living room floor. Special dice. Each face says either North, East, South, or West. The fifth face has a Sun and the sixth face is Moon. You can use any number of dice to play, but you should use at least ten dice per player. More dice will allow higher scores, possibly longer games and require more space to pl

Game Theories as Movie Posters

Cam Banks said , ""Step on Up," "Story Now," and "Right to Dream" sound less like game theories than they do tween-friendly movies on Nick or Disney." So I made these posters. And I admit, I cheated on the "tween-friendly" parameters after this point because I couldn't resist the "dream" pun for Inception. Hope you lol'd. :)

GeekList: The Go-Ban as Game System

A while back, Gerald Cameron created a great list of games that use the traditional board and stones to play the ancient game Go. It's hard to beat the alluring minimalism of a traditional go set. Go's components are the proverbial blank slate for a game designer, so it's no wonder there are quite a few Go variants and original games available. Go is a great example of a thousand-year game. This list is how it shows a long-lasting classic game often inspires derivations. Those offshoots help keep the parent game alive by using the same components. They also often introduce individual elements of the parent game, thus becoming a teaching tool for strategy and tactics. What could you design within the constraints of a 19x19 grid, 181 black stones, 180 white stones, and a couple bowls? » BoardGameGeek: The Go-Ban as Game System » Image: go CC BY 2.0 Luis de Bethencourt

[In the Lab] Jorinapeka Board Game Adaptation Prototype

I've been playing a lot of Tony Pa's elegant flash game Jorinapeka. It's a clever, emergently complex game that tickles my brain in pleasant ways. As a game design experiment, I tried to adapt that experience into an analog, tabletop board game. You can watch the video above for a demonstration of the prototype or read on. Jorinapeka » Status: Alpha. Solid mechanics, but requires more prototyping. » These experiments led to Utara , the compass dice game. Check it out! :) First, I created a clamshell box for storage and play space. (Click here for blueprints.) Then I put a sticker on one side of a blank die and drew an arrow on it. Repeat for sixteen dice total. These dice are the game pawns. For the sake of easy prototyping, I made this box smaller and used fewer pawns than would be in a full-sized game. To prepare for play, place the pawns arrow-down in the smaller compartment of the box. Close it, flip it over, then open it up again. Now you have a randomize

[Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple] Layout Process Timelapse Video

Here's a new timelapse video (and quasi-tutorial) of how I laid out the first part of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple . It includes plenty of notes on my decision-making process and rules of thumb I follow when I start a project. This video is condensed from a four-hour session, so things move fast and the changes can sometimes be hard to detect. Watch in HD to see every text style setting and dialog window. I hope you find this information useful as you lay out your own games. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Otherwise, just enjoy watching the layout process. » Original illustrations by Liz Radtke » More about Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple » Music Playlist: "Troublemakers" by Matt S Wilson "Departures" "Over the Northern Mountains" "Legends of the North" "Reunion" "Traveling Minstrels" by Mattias Westlund , distributed under a CC-BY license.

Free Shirt Offer

Have a "My favorite game console" shirt? If so, take a pic of yourself wearing it proudly and post it in a comment! One commenter will be randomly drawn to win my next shirt free. It's got a "doctor" theme. Hint hint. Deadline for comments is midnight February 28th . Make that March 13th, so you have a chance to take a pic at PAX East.

Game Ideas from September - December 2010

If you follow my Twitter feed, you're subjected to a lot of random game ideas. Ranging from simple pitches to little mechanical ideas. Here's a collection from the end of last year. Game Idea: Chargen+Worldgen in 5x5: How did you change the World / People / Yourself? Only answer one. Other questions left open for play. Game Idea: Retheme Dixit with works of art. You BS art theory critique, other players guess which art you're talking about. Game Idea: Actually, just a mechanic. Roll 3d6, each a different color. Choose lowest/middle/highest: short-term effects. Colors: long-term. Why does this idea sound so familiar? Roll dice. Choose odds/evens as successes. Get the opposite in XP. (Ex: Evens = Successes, Odds = XP.) Idea: Turn-based strat game. No board/pieces. Hands in diff positions. Open with wave? Looks like handshake, pattycake, Mridangam? *Not* RPS Idea: Chess. You do not control your own pieces. You tell your opponent to move a piece. Hm. Idea: Key Wor

Chipboard off the old block.

My friend Kathleen printed her business cards on chipboard. You've probably seen chipboard on the back of notepads or inside hardcovers. Naturally, I got to thinking about using it for games. So, I got in touch Julie, the print rep who helped Kathleen get her cards printed. I talked to Julie about chipboard and its potential as a medium for printing game components. First, an explanation of the stuff: To make chipboard, paper scraps are swept up from a print house's various projects. The scraps are processed into a rough sheet of stiff stock. Because it is reclaimed paper stock, it is more eco-friendly way to make card than using virgin wood pulp. Plus, it keeps serviceable paper stock out of landfills. To top it all off, it's more affordable than glossy white paper. This is all good to know as I pursue self-publishing a board game. Throughout the process, I'm trying to find options that are environmentally sound and economically sustainable. As far as print media

Happy Birthday, Robot! - Actual Play with a Third Grade class

Cassie Krause just played Happy Birthday, Robot! with her third grade class, a group aged 8-9 years old. As she's done in the past, she organized it as a three-player game. A team of boys acted as one player, a team of girls acted as another, and she played the third, to help keep the class organized. Here's the story! Happy Birthday Robot! Robot really loves dogs and tasty oil hamburgers. Robot also loves school recess and making new friends, but his favorite is math. Robot has to figure out division and multiplication before his birthday party, but he’s stuck. Robot calls Freddy Unicorn for help and he quickly comes over to the rescue, but he forgot his calculator. Robot remembered his shiny new multiplication chart so he grabbed it from his backpack and they blew through the homework quickly. Just then, all of Robot’s friends started to arrive with big and huge presents that made Robot extremely happy. Robot and all of his friends partied like there was no

Productivity and Creativity

It's my birthday on the 8th, so permit me to be a little introspective. I felt a distinct difference between my creativity and productivity, to the point where they're mutually exclusive. Now, this is just for me, your personality may steer in a totally opposite direction. It's a semantic distinction at that, to the point where I wonder if it's peculiar to the English language to have two words for what some cultures might consider the same concept. In any case, you might recognize some of these habits and attitudes in your daily life, too. Creativity Distract Connect Rock Out My creative state is info-absorbent, constantly synthesizing all inputs into varied combination. It's a fun, exhilarating way to be, which is why I tend to view this as my "normal." My daily access to content just encourages this aimlessness. The convenience is also what makes the state so unproductive. I check refresh my email, twitter feed, RSS reader, forums eagerly waiti

[In the Lab] Belle of the Ball - Beta v.1 - Feedback Part 1

Last week, I sent the beta test PDF to ten playtesters who expressed interest in putting the current draft of Belle of the Ball through its paces. Feedback is coming in already, and very thorough feedback at that! For the sake of transparency (and to give proper credit to each playtester) I'll post excerpts from their emails so far. These playtesters mentioned here are Thomas, Mike and Tim. Thomas played three 2-player games with his wife and had these findings. "We probably would only play with [Lady Lara Lately] when teaching the game to new players. "We really didn't like [Ruby Rosen's] dance/dance combination – it didn't make any difference to play a dancer or hoard them in hand. [...] The random factor of drawing a dancer is what decided the game, not the placement on the board. "However, the third [...] was the Alexandra Avendale game, and with the snub/eat combination, it felt like at this party, we were gaining points for inviting certain p


Mechaphor noun. A game mechanic or ritual acting as a metaphor for a concept in your game's setting, philosophy or general theme. Examples In Castle Falkenstein , the system uses cards instead of dice because cards are a sign of more civilized culture than the thuggish brutes who roll dice in alleys. This is a mechaphor for the aloof Victorian attitude. In Agon , you roll attack dice in your right hand and defense dice in your left hand, just as you would a sword and shield. This is a visceral mechaphor for brutal ancient combat. In Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple , a bag with black and white stones allows each player's decisions in the short-term to have long-term consequences for the whole group. This is a mechaphor for karma. This is a term I use with some regularity and just realized hasn't been given a proper post on the blog. This is now corrected. » Image : Attribution Non-commercial Share-Alike license by sAeroZar » Discussion on Story-Games

[Do] Sunday Afternoon Group - Episode 3

This is a story created by playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple . » Previously: Episode 1 , Episode 2 The Pilgrims Pilgrim Reaching Satchel gets in trouble by overestimating his abilities and helps people by having something useful with him. (Anders) World Destiny: 6 Temple Destiny: 7 Pilgrim Twisting Voice gets in trouble by being misunderstood and helps people by talking. (Nolan) World Destiny: 9 Temple Destiny: 4 Pilgrim Strong Lens gets in trouble by rushing into tasks and helps people by telling the truth. (Shane) World Destiny: 0 Temple Destiny: 7 Pilgrim Clumsy Decoy gets into trouble by being clumsy and helps people by drawing attention to himself. (Daniel) World Destiny: 7 Temple Destiny: 6 Pilgrim Friendly Card gets into trouble by talking to people he shouldn't and helps people by taking chances. (Marc - Absent [2]) World Destiny: 4 Temple Destiny: 3 The Letter " Is it Safe to Allow Cabbages on Rollercoasters? " by Peter Aronson

Case Study: Houses of the Blooded Layout

Case Study At a Glance » Project: Lay out a John Wick's new role-playing game. » Released in limited edition hardcover with dustjacket. » Later released as an unlimited softcover. » Worked with artist Storn A. Cook. » Also produced a set of icons for FATE aspects. History I met John Wick through Jared Sorensen back when that dynamic duo were founding the Wicked Dead Brewing Company. John has a long and storied connection to the gaming industry, starting as the big brain behind the Legend of the Five Rings and 7th Sea game settings. Thereafter, he independently produced a string of smaller books that experimented with mature themes and new game mechanics. John hired me to lay out Play Dirty , an anthology of game advice articles; No Loyal Knight , a supernatural noir detective novel; and Wilderness of Mirrors , a spy-themed role-playing game. Based on those good experiences, he tapped me for his next major project Houses of the Blooded would be John's first "big&q