The pitfalls of narrative technique in rpg play

This is going to rpg be theory stuff, just so you know.

A thing I’ve noticed lately specifically at Story Games, but also on other gaming fora, is the increased acceptance and advocation of narration authority sharing between players in a roleplaying game. It’s a nice technique, but I also find that it is being recommended and utilized in ways that might have unexpected consequences that need to be considered in depth. I’ll write a short treatise about the topic here – I don’t particularly want to piss in anybody’s cereals if they find that unrestrained sharing of narrative authority brings them happiness, but it’s not correct to call it the universal panacea of roleplaying, either – there are solid reasons for refusing to introduce this technique into every single game you might ever wish to play. Read the rest of this entry »


2nd edition Heroquest Metaphysics

I’ll continue on the matter of Heroquest a bit more, I still have a bit to say. This one’s about the metaphysics of Glorantha in Heroquest. In fact, it’s a sort of an extended question I’m going to ask of my Gloranthan sage friend at some point – writing this post should help me verbalize the thing that’s been bugging me for a long time. Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on 2nd and 3rd edition Heroquest

I’ve been re-reading the second and third editions of Heroquest lately. I’m sort of a little bit of a fan for Greg Stafford’s things, so this is mostly me warming up for the new Sartar book which I’m going to get whenever somebody brings it to me from the coastal trade towns. I have historically almost never played roleplaying games in Glorantha, but it’s still one of my favourite fantasy worlds. Now I feel like commenting upon these texts a bit. Read the rest of this entry »

Games and Toys and Defeat Horizons

I’ve continued playing Wesnoth and trying to figure out what it is that annoys me in the game. I think I’ve got at least a part of the answer here: the issue is that what we call “games” actually consists of two different types of interactive objects, and mistaking them for each other is a recipe for disaster. Just an idle thought, let’s see if it goes anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Battle for Wesnoth

I’ve been playing Battle for Wesnoth lately. It’s a light hex-based fantasy war game that mixes influences from western war games and Japanese skirmish war games. Wesnoth is free software, and really quite impressive for that – it has nice graphics and sounds, plenty of cheesy fantasy dialogue and everything else you’d expect of a game in this genre.

For all its good sides, though, I’m quite dissatisfied by this game overall. The project workflow obviously has worked well, and the production quality is good, but the game’s fundamental design tenets seem faulty to me. Let’s see if I can figure out why. Read the rest of this entry »

Overview of the Diplomacy scoring conundrum

Diplomacy is one of the most played and researched of modern designer boardgames. Regardless, many interesting theoretical issues remain. One I’ve been occupying myself with is scoring games – or more generally, evaluating player performance. I have some vague notion that this’ll be useful when we have tournaments here in Finland, but mostly I just find this issue an interesting theoretical problem. It’s so challenging, in fact, that I don’t have any ready-made answers – I can formulate the question, but I don’t have a perfect response. Read the rest of this entry »

Bull Dungeoneering

Mazes & Minotaurs, as the name implies, is a D&D -derivative roleplaying game published a while back. I remember reading it several months ago when I was bored – it has the feel of a ’70s rpg polished to fit modern standards in terms of terminological clarity, rules logic and such. The most amusing part of the game is that it is a Gygaxic take on Greek myth, as opposed to the medievalism of D&D. The game has the same goofy setting bits that make it a bit difficult to relate to at times (like making centaurs a PC race, not my cup of tea), but it also has lots of Greek flavour; I especially liked the Noble as a character class, that should make for some interesting roleplaying.

It’s not the game I want to discuss here, though, but the recently released adventure/campaign (I guess it’s not a campaign in traditional terms, but I know I rarely play this long games nowadays myself) Tomb of the Bull King. It’s an amazing, over 200 page long dungeon adventure, and seems to be the among best adventures in its genre that I’ve ever read. I simply can’t figure out what drives these guys – all the hundreds of pages of material for M&M are free, and apparently just created for the larks, or perhaps out of passion for the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Analytical boundaries of Diplomacy scenario design

Busy, busy… I started writing the new TSoY book, and I have all seven sorts of whitecollar monkey business on my plate, too. In my free time I’ve been speculating about Diplomacy variants a bit again. This time I decided to write down some basics about what makes a Diplomacy variant. This isn’t necessarily that interesting for Diplomacy players so much as game designers interested in system aesthetics – there are certain aesthetic principles to Diplomacy, and they can be used to determine when something goes over the line and becomes something else than a Diplomacy variant.

I should note that the following might seem slightly mystical. That’s Diplomacy for you, some of us take it far too seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

What GNS theory claims

GNS theory is a part of this model of roleplaying developed by Ron Edwards that we call the Big Model. GNS is perhaps the most famous part of the overall theoretical framework, the most contested and the most used for different purposes. It’s also rarely understood very well, which makes it a worthwhile topic here. A discussion at Story Games convinced me that there is still a need for yet another introductory article – I’ll make a point of writing mine in a very exact and simple manner, perhaps it’ll be useful to somebody. Read the rest of this entry »

Depiction of women in rpgs

OK, so both Jukka and Sami raised the question earlier, so I feel compelled to outline it in some greater length. That question is, of course, whether rpg illustrations debase women and how come that’s so. The matter has been extensively dealt with by many writers, some of them women (which might certainly give them some more leverage in complaining, if being offended justifies an argument). Read the rest of this entry »