Low production values are better for my enjoyment

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.

Continue reading “Low production values are better for my enjoyment”

Idea — a prize for the “Best RPG product with modest production values”

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.

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”
  • 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.

A player’s introduction to A Broken Candle

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:

I have also started a Pinterest board to set the tone.

D30 reasons two people are married

  1. The tax benefits were substantial
  2. The priest insisted
  3. One is anxious, one unflappable
  4. One is slothful, the other beats them
  5. A love potion, mistakenly administered
  6. One made the other, and felt responsible
  7. One rescued the other from a troll
  8. One talks too much, one never listens to anyone
  9. They are both a strange shape, like a lock and its key
  10. They have never thought about it, they just are
  11. One’s mother schemed extensively
  12. For the sake of the child
  13. In the hope of a child
  14. So that the child would face the curse, not them
  15. Because no other would have either
  16. The thing in the well told them to
  17. Only one had money
  18. Only one had good sense
  19. To make eachother keep a secret
  20. It was the only way they could share the treasure
  21. They’re actually not, but nobody knows that
  22. …not even them
  23. The authorities won’t be looking for a married couple
  24. The presence of the animal made it necessary
  25. They already had the same name
  26. There was nowhere else to hide
  27. They are always ill in different seasons
  28. They were born married
  29. They are actually one creature with two bodies — saying they are “married” is just the least-hassle way to describe it
  30. No reasonable explanation, but here they are

Several things I have recently read and thought were particularly good

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.

(http://cavegirlgames.blogspot.com/2018/05/orcs-violence-and-evil.html?m=1)

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 .