ars ludi

if you asked Ben's brain about gaming, this is what it would say

Summer Is Coming

The Story Games Seattle crew delivers some stunningly good Kingdom games. This time we played a Kingdom in the style of Toy Story, if Toy Story walked in on Lord of the Flies going to third base with Animal Farm.

Playtime Is Over (Kingdom)

Is there an award for darkest story featuring toys? Because if there is, I think we are a top contender.

Guilt Con 2015

“Let’s work on our games! Use the devastating weight of procrastination shame to jam it up!”
–the Mighty CHOBBS

Peer pressure makes good company. So this weekend, Marc, Caroline and I set the grindstone speed to “dangerously high” and leaned way, way in. We ignored the pretty-pretty sunshine, the chirpy-chirpy birds, and did the dreadful labor that precedes victory — the horrible, soul-crushing groundwork that must be laid to build a castle in the clouds.

We each have our projects we’re slaving away on: Caroline has Downfall, Marc has Eden, and I’m plugging away at Microscope Explorer.

The genius of working together is that not only does the mere presence of witnesses keep you going, but when you have those roadblocks or doubts, you could turn straight to two other awesome game designers and say “hey, question about character creation…” and bounce some ideas around. Pat runs a weekly Make Stuff gathering, which is fantastic, but I’m usually the only one there working on tabletop games. Most folks are knee-deep in video game dev. Having some other story game designers to brainstorm with was a lovely change of pace.

I don’t want to spill any secrets but much progress was made. This was our first Guilt Con of 2015 but not the last.

Getting ready for Microscope Explorer

Now that all the spin-off games have gone through playtesting, I put up a proper introduction page to talk about what’s going to be in the new Microscope Explorer book.

Three Microscope spin-off games? Detailed step-by-step seeds plus randomly generated seeds? All that lovely strategic advice? Yep, we got all that.

“Fantasy worlds that break history’s back”

“But too often, fantasy worlds are created like Ikea furniture, popping up whole with minimal assembly from big pre-existing parts that creak and come apart after heavy use. That’s why so many many fictional worlds seem to produce carbon copies of real world Western gender hierarchies, even if it becomes painfully dissonant with other details of the setting.”

That’s Katherine Cross, getting to the very heart of the matter.

Her article is about Microscope specifically, but I think it highlights that role-playing games in general have vast potential to help us look at the world with fresh eyes. A long, long time ago, role-playing games were panned as escapist fantasy. I think we’re realizing now they can also be the exact opposite.

Fantastic article. Go read it.

ECCC Games On Demand

Emerald City Comic Con is coming up this weekend! I’ll be at the Indie RPG Games On Demand area, which is now on the 2nd floor of the convention center, in the open area just north of room 208.

I may be trying out some of the new tools that are going to be in Microscope Explorer.

Ooo, I think we’re right next to arcade games. So if the gaming is slow there may be some Galaga.

Microscope Echo Needs Playtesters

Four years ago today, Microscope is released:

would-be players: “Oh cool! A game about time travel!”

me: “Actually no. Players pick where in time they want to explore but the characters in the game can’t move through time. Except, uh, forwards. At the normal speed.”

would-be players: “But… I can haz time travel?”

Fast forward to now. Microscope Echo is ready for playtesting. Yep, you can haz time travel.

As previously described, the game uses time travel, but play is really about exploring alternate histories. Seeing how the world would turn out differently if you went back and changed something. And now it’s time for playtesting!

Same drill as before: because Echo is a Microscope spin-off, you have to already know how to play Microscope to participate. I’m looking for people who will actually play the game and give feedback, not just read it. If you’re interested, email echo-playtest + lamemage.com or leave a comment here with your address in the email field. Make sure to include the last few role-playing games you’ve played (other than Microscope) so I know what kind of spread of players we’ve got.

Change the past to change the future.