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.

(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”
  • 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 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, January 2019

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 —

Manola again, on how his dystopian setting Against the Wicked City is, against appearances, a romantic fantasy setting — .

Progress in rpg design

(from an old G+ post I found while looking through my G+ export)

For some people, the idea of progress in RPG design is threatening — they like the games they have, and they don’t want them to change.

For others, the idea of progress in games is associated with assholes using it push the games they like, or the games they are selling (cf Vampire in the 90s, some of the Forge crowd in the 2000s).

For yet others, they see the counter-evidence to any simple story of linear hobby-wide progress. For example, the recent resurgence of OSR play as a reaction to the plotted-epic-story direction D&D took in the 90s and 00s.

I think progress is possible, and is happening (on multiple stylistic fronts, which as S John Ross points out in [his now-unavailable G+ post] it must do). But I’m not surprised when people don’t believe in it, or don’t like the idea.

Transactions and Rawplaying

Paul Beakley has defined two new rpg theory terms which I think will be useful.

The Transaction — “The steps players engage in to settle outcomes in the fiction. … a subset of the much larger conversation in which all the play takes place.”

I don’t think that definition is particularly instructive, but the worked examples he gives in his post (for Scum & Villainy, Burning Wheel, and Apocalypse World) are much more so.

Rawplaying — “Playing an RPG by the rules because we earnestly feel the rules produce the best experience for us.”

The term is useful to me because while it’s not always what I do, it’s very often what I try to do. And there’s a big divide in rpg culture between people who take this seriously and people who don’t.