To better fit my current projects, and to be more memorable, I have changed the name of this blog from “Mhu Thulan” to “The Wrong Kind of Wax”.
I’ve been thinking some more about my concern in my previous post – that “high production values” are a net negative for my pleasure in rpgs. There are three reasons for this. For clarity, I will express them purely in terms of art:
First, if the art doesn’t work for me, it damages my fragile images of the imagined world. For example, anything cartoony feels wrong to me — Dungeon World, Masks, Fate… even D&D 5e is too far down this path. I’m sad to say that Silent Titans gives me trouble, too — I find Leichty’s art powerful, but too abstract and far too garish. It thus prevents me visualising the Silent Titans world.
Second, even art I like can be a problem if creates an unwelcome contrast with things I’ve brought to the table. My own rules and texts have basic typography and little or no art. I might have art printouts or a Pinterest board, but they’ll have a mishmash of artists and styles. I might have made a map, but it will look a bit shit. If there’s a game text on the table produced to a high standard, my work will look poor by comparison.
I think David Grogan is right, in that improving production values in rpgs may be antithetical to improving actual gameplay. Now, sure, people can make what they like, charge what they like, and buy what they like… but I don’t think the move towards ever-fancier production is net-improving our gameplay experiences.
(for a narrower, more personal, angle on this, see my post Low production values are better for my enjoyment)
So, I have a proposal — we could start an annual prize for the best rpg product with modest production values. This would reward people who come up with good ideas, good words and good game design, but don’t want to (or can’t) take the cost, delay, and risk of fancy art and layout and printing.
A few possible rules:
- Bottom end of “modest” is “competent use of a word processor”
- So e.g. The Quarrymen, as reviewed by Melan, would be out, even though the content is good
- Upper end of “modest” is “POD-quality book with some spot art and maps”
- So e.g. Patrick Stuart’s Deep Carbon Observatory might scrape in at the top (although that feels a bit like cheating as Scrap’s art has a misleading effortless quality)
- Middle ground might be something like Archipelago III
- No weird distribution channels e.g. “You have to get it from the author at a con”. Has to be easily available in at least one Anglosphere country
Ideologically, I’d like to make it PDF and POD-only, because it supports idea that this competition is about avoiding barriers that some creators put between (their ideas and design expertise) and (people who might use and benefit from them). But I’m not wedded to that.
I envisage this as being something I run alone, and that has no reward other than glory — something in the vein of the Rammies. If I’m feeling extravagant, I might send out hand-signed certificates.
A Broken Candle combines rules similar to those of Immergleich with a setting not unlike Beyond the Forest — 14th century Britain with modernised norms and fantastical elements. The most powerful influences are medieval history, folk horror films, action-horror video games like Bloodborne, and OSR/Post-OSR/ArtPunk D&D. There will be of course be meat, and there will of course be liquids.
Ahead of the first test session this week, here are key documents for A Broken Candle:
- The player-facing rules (live version on Google Docs)
- A Broken Candle chargen guide v1
- A Broken Candle char sheet v2
I have also started a Pinterest board to set the tone.
Some years ago, I created a play-sequence checklist for Burning Wheel Gold, explicitly to remind me of those rules features I was most prone to forget.
- The tax benefits were substantial
- The priest insisted
- One is anxious, one unflappable
- One is slothful, the other beats them
- A love potion, mistakenly administered
- One made the other, and felt responsible
- One rescued the other from a troll
- One talks too much, one never listens to anyone
- They are both a strange shape, like a lock and its key
- They have never thought about it, they just are
- One’s mother schemed extensively
- For the sake of the child
- In the hope of a child
- So that the child would face the curse, not them
- Because no other would have either
- The thing in the well told them to
- Only one had money
- Only one had good sense
- To make eachother keep a secret
- It was the only way they could share the treasure
- They’re actually not, but nobody knows that
- …not even them
- The authorities won’t be looking for a married couple
- The presence of the animal made it necessary
- They already had the same name
- There was nowhere else to hide
- They are always ill in different seasons
- They were born married
- They are actually one creature with two bodies — saying they are “married” is just the least-hassle way to describe it
- No reasonable explanation, but here they are
F M Geist, while talking about a variety of things in response to a post by Emmy Allen —
I’ve always thought of clerics as being like young men from the lower classes in any theocracy: they’re sent out to wage holy terror against others so that the religious order, hierarchy and viewpoint is not challenged because young men who might found a schism are busy dying somewhere. Also it would account for Clerics being somewhat capable fighters and devoted to weird shit about their religion.
Joseph Manola’s vision for how he would do Warhammer Fantasy now — http://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2018/10/bringing-down-hammer-part-12-my-own.html
Manola again, on how his dystopian setting Against the Wicked City is, against appearances, a romantic fantasy setting — http://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2016/06/romantic-fantasy-revisited-4-so-what.html .