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“There’s another tribe of GMless games… and I don’t think they know about us!”

Interview time! I talked to Kevin on The Redcaps podcast, and we ran the gamut from Microscope, to West Marches, to the social dynamics of GMing vs GMless games, group initiative, the worship of the dice gods, and on and on and on. The Redcaps Podcast: Episode 152 – Ben Robbins & Lame Mage (alternate […]

Ben Robbins | July 17th, 2024 | , , ,

Kafka and His Precursors

This is about games, trust me. The poem “Fears and Scruples” by Browning foretells Kafka’s work, but our reading of Kafka perceptibly sharpens and deflects our reading of the poem. Browning did not read it as we do now… The fact is that that every writer *creates* his own precursors. His work modifies our conception […]

Ben Robbins | May 15th, 2024 | , , | 6 comments

Damage Per Second

I was playing Sentinels with the usual crew, and my buddy was playing a character that could play a card to let them play a card to let them play a card, etc. Each turn took… forever. We might still be playing. I’m not sure. The character wasn’t exactly overpowered, because each of those cards […]

Ben Robbins | September 4th, 2023 | , | 1 comment

The Shackles of Precognition

In the past few years I’ve had a lot more regular weekly games than one-shots. Mostly games with no GM, so no one is writing a story for us to follow. We are all just playing in the moment and seeing what happens. I love it. Except for one thing, which I’m doing to myself. […]

Ben Robbins | March 31st, 2023 | , , | 4 comments

Lockdown Level-Up: Mind Over Matter

I was chatting with Pat, part of the old school Story Games Seattle braintrust, about how the online games I’ve been in have gotten so much better since the lockdown. And the logical thought is, yeah, practice makes perfect. We’re playing all our tabletop games online instead of at, y’know, a table, so we’re getting […]

Ben Robbins | April 27th, 2022 | , | 3 comments

Only Say Yes to a Yes

“Say yes” is a fundamental principle of just about every shared creative process. “Yes and”, “yes but” — either way, say yes. And it is absolutely good advice for role-playing games. Accept what other people contribute. Embrace what’s been said as established truth and build on it. Don’t contradict it. But there’s a big caveat […]

Ben Robbins | August 19th, 2021 | , , , | 1 comment

Grand Experiments: Bloody Morder

I’ve seen strangely proud GM’s say “oooh that game was so intense a character jumped off a cliff to escape THE HORROR!” But here’s my question: the player is deciding what the character does, so is that player responding to the fiction or the GM? Is this the dramatic moment of despair the GM proudly […]

Ben Robbins | April 2nd, 2020 | , ,

An Ode to The New Hotness

A con is coming up. There’s always a con coming up, or a kickstarter. And we’re waiting. Waiting to see the new games. Waiting and hoping for The New Hotness. Anticipation is palpable. There are always whispers, then promises, then reveals… and then often disappointment. This new hotness is hot for just a little bit, […]

Ben Robbins | June 11th, 2019 | | 1 comment

Walk a Mile in Their Dice: The practical limitations of “Don’t be a dick”

“Don’t be a dick” has become something of go-to gaming advice, like a social Rule Zero. As a general truth, it’s great. I mean yeah, don’t be a dick. As advice or a rule, it’s useless. Why? There are two cases where someone is being a dick in a game: 1) Malice: The person is […]

Ben Robbins | January 15th, 2012 | | 15 comments

Benefits of Tyranny

If the internets are to be believed, the world is filled with tyrannical “behold my works ye mighty and despair” GMs, game masters who dominate the table and tell their story with the players as witnesses or minimally free-willed participants. They go by many names: storytellers, railroading illusionists, social puppet masters. Tyrant GMs. There are […]

Ben Robbins | February 11th, 2009 | , | 21 comments

Bad Trap Syndrome (part 2), Curing the Bad Trap Blues

You are in a room. Before you are two doors. On the floor are ancient runes that say beyond one of these doors you’ll find the cure to the bad trap blues. Choose wisely! Door 1 — Writing a language of traps To make more and better interactive traps we would need a language for […]

Ben Robbins | March 20th, 2008 | , | 16 comments

Bad Trap Syndrome

“We approach the door.” “Half way down the corridor you step on a trap and darts fly out of the walls! The first character in the marching order takes” (roll roll roll) “7 damage!” (scribbles damage on character) “Okay, we keep going. Someone open the door.” I’m willing to bet that in all the hours […]

Ben Robbins | March 20th, 2008 | , | 21 comments

Initiative: the Silent Killer

“The main thing to remember is to do everything in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. Deal with your players’ actions and reactions one by one instead of all at once, or you will never be able to keep track of what round it is, and who’s doing what when.” – Dungeon Master’s Guide, 1979 In what’s […]

Ben Robbins | August 9th, 2007 | , | 34 comments

Don’t Roll, Think

DM: “You see a few white, eyeless fish, and various stone formations in a pool of water about 4′ to 6′ deep and about 10′ long. That’s all. Do you wish to leave the place now?” Player 1: “Yes, let’s get out of here and go someplace where we can find something interesting.” Player 2: […]

Ben Robbins | July 15th, 2007 | , | 42 comments