Monthly Archives: April 2012

Designing a Ghibli RPG

All Ghibli films

© Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli and its most famous director, Hayao Miyazaki, are known for their remarkable animated films. Their stories emphasize pacifism, intelligence, kindness, and respect for the natural world. While several of their movies could be labeled “action movies,” their protagonists (mostly girls) are usually not warriors, and they wrestle with complicated, multi-faceted problems rather than simple good vs. evil fights. There is rarely any combat in a Studio Ghibli movie.

What would a role-playing game like this look like?

I can think of a few design goals:

  • The system should encourage group collaboration and consensus.
  • The system should resolve conflict at a high level, rather than using blow-by-blow dice mechanics.
  • Conflict resolution should be less about success and failure and more about many outcomes.
  • The system should have minimal combat abilities.

Let’s look at existing systems that are close to what I’m looking for. The first that comes to mind is FATE. Thanks to the Fudge Ladder, Aspects, and Skills, characters can be described using personality traits and beliefs than as physical abilities.

So, let’s define characters by giving them a bunch of aspects. How do we keep track of them? One convenient method is cards, so we’ll assume that each character is defined by a set of 10 personality traits, each written on a card.

(Some people are, apparently, very anti-card. Those folks can just as easily write down the cards’ information on a sheet of paper.)

Some cards will be more useful in some circumstances than others, and we want a mechanical way of representing that. For now, we’ll put keywords on the bottom of each card, indicating the kind of situation that the card is particularly suited for.

How do we handle conflict? Let’s take a few pages from the recent Marvel RPG, by establishing scenes and conflicts, and letting players build dice pools. But instead of facing off against just opponents, let’s also add possible outcomes to the mix.

So, each conflict is made up of a mixture of Dangers and Futures. Players bid their cards on a particular Future, which adds dice to a dice pool on that Future. When all players have bid, the dice pools are rolled. Dangers must be neutralized by assigning dice to them.

How to prevent players from just throwing low-rolling dice on the Dangers? We’ll give each Danger a value, so you must sacrifice a die that rolled at least as high as the Danger’s value to neutralize it.

That’s a first stab. What do you think?

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Weekly Assembly: The Crunchyfluff Debate

Howdy, campers! This week we’ve added Gaming as Women’s weekly game links to the Metaroundup. Please let us know if you find any other weekly series of link collections we can add. And speaking of links, we have a huge list this week. Enjoy!

At Home

Articles posted here on The Gamer Assembly.

  • April's Blog Theme at The Gamer Assembly is “Gaming Fools”, covering the outlandish, crazy, and over-the-top games and situations that grace every table at least once. Have a gonzo RPG article idea? Contact us for guest blogger opportunities!
  • The Call To Assembly, Volume 1, our collection of the first 2 months of Gamer Assembly posts is now available as a free PDF at RPG Now and as a not-free printed magazine at Lulu!

Away

Content from people involved with The Gamer Assembly posted elsewhere across the Internet.

  • Helping Player Play Better by Brent Newhall introduces a tool for more effective player immersion. Try declaring “Drama Time” at your next game and encourage your players to get into their characters.

Notes From Abroad

Other interesting articles and cool links.

Wizards of the Coast went public with their announcement about the next edition of D&D on Monday 09 January 2012. We're collecting D&D Next links in our wiki. If we've missed any good ones that you've read, feel free to let us know in the comments or join us in the chat.

  • Gnome Stew published a couple of great articles this week. Story Mashups for Improvising provides a framework for taking several story plotlines and combining them into a richly-detailed game at the drop of a hat. Also, DNA Phil lists the approaches and elements that work well for his games and encourages you to do the same in Signs of Campaign Greatness.
  • Ryan Shelton muses about emotional manipulation as a reason why he plays RPGs in this Google Plus post.
  • Skwervo Games just released the alpha playtest version of The Writer's System, a flexible RPG focused on storytelling and characterization.
  • If you remember the “No Elves” ads in Dragon Magazine, you'll be happy to know that Talislanta books of all editions are being scanned in and made available for free downloads. Talislanta also got a mention this week over at Tenkar's Tavern.
  • If you're in the mood to play a totally random superhero, check out this Random Marvel Datafile Generator. It's a little clunky, but then again it's totally random.
  • Telecanter's Receding Rules decides to take a completely different approach to dungeon design with The Rule-Based Dungeon, where the specific dungeon features shift based on set rules like performing prior actions or how many characters are in the party.
  • From Old Books provides free public domain images and pictures copied from old books. I'll need to take a closer look at this site for some upcoming projects.
  • The RPG Stackexchange is out of beta, and they've got a great new design to boot. Check out this free Q&A site for RPGs. Ask or answer questions and help out the community!
  • House Rules, Intent, and Affordances at Gaming As Women takes a look at the various possibilities in the intersection between design and perception. The cases of mismatched design and perception are fascinating to think about – either you've designed something that nobody uses or your players have made something you didn't intend.
  • And while on the subject of inspiration, take 3 minutes to watch Ze Frank's An Invocation For Beginnings. Powerful motivation juice. FILDI.

MetaRoundup

A roundup of roundups featuring links of interest to the tabletop RPG community.
Please let us know about other weekly roundups in the comments!

  • Keith Davies maintains In My Campaign and he publishes a collection of Links of the Week including recommended Kickstarter projects and interesting YouTube videos. Take a look at this week's collection which includes the athletic body diversity reference for artists, John Cleese on creativity, and the magic of Polyhedral Pantheons.
  • Gaming As Women gathers links in their This Week in Gaming and This Week in Feminism series of articles. Both series are collected under the News category. This Week in Gaming features increasing diversity in the art for D&D Next, the importance of story over combat in Prose Before Blows, and a plea for more entries into this year's ENnies.

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Background Questions for Players

Are you a GM whose players create one-dimensional characters?

Are you a player with a GM who wants you to flesh out a character, but you just don’t know where to start?

On our wiki, we’ve put together a page of Background Questions for Players. These are questions to ask yourself about a player-character’s history, to put muscle and flesh on the bones of the character’s statistics.

A few sample questions:

  • List 3 things your character does well (that aren’t on the character sheet)
  • List 3 instinctive mannerisms that your character exhibits
  • Name 3 emotional attachments
  • List 3 allies
  • List 3 enemies, and why they’re enemies
  • Why did your character choose his or her class? How was he or she trained?

What questions do you like to ask about player-characters? Let us know in the comments.

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Weekly Assembly: Post-PAX East

So a fair number of us here at The Gamer Assembly just got back from PAX East. I had a great time, even if I didn’t stay through until Sunday. And now it’s back to the grind, starting with this collection of links. Enjoy!

At Home

Articles posted here on The Gamer Assembly.

  • April’s Blog Theme at The Gamer Assembly is “Gaming Fools”, covering the outlandish, crazy, and over-the-top games and situations that grace every table at least once. Have a gonzo RPG article idea? Contact us for guest blogger opportunities!
  • The Call To Assembly, Volume 1, our collection of the first 2 months of Gamer Assembly posts is now available as a free PDF at RPG Now and as a not-free printed magazine at Lulu!
  • The GA Panel at PAX East by T.W.Wombat gives a panelist-eye view of the Gamer Assembly panel at PAX East on Friday. Thank you to everyone who came, and a double thank you to everyone who asked us questions!

Away

Content from people involved with The Gamer Assembly posted elsewhere across the Internet.

Notes From Abroad

Other interesting articles and cool links.

Wizards of the Coast went public with their announcement about the next edition of D&D on Monday 09 January 2012. We’re collecting D&D Next links in our wiki. If we’ve missed any good ones that you’ve read, feel free to let us know in the comments or join us in the chat.

  • The RPG User Agreement at Syntax Error leads with “Due to a printing error this text did not appear in every RPG ever published. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
  • On Village Resource at Hack & Slash contains a great collection of links to online generators of all stripes. From names to descriptions to mottos to demographics to adventure seeds, take a look here for online shortcuts when creating towns.
  • Here’s a quick and unpolished system to connect a player character to the game’s setting with personal relationships from Rob Donoghue’s Some Space To Think simply called An Idea. Looks like a great base for a more social RPG, and it can be used with almost any rules system.
  • Roleplaying Games About Evil at Deeper in the Game muses about how games that handle evil well always include some mechanism for compromising with evil with a quick decision in the moment that leads to regret. Also provides a great overview of some darkly-themed RPGs.
  • Also at Deeper in the Game but requiring a totally different entry, The Many XPs of D&D looks at rewards in past versions of D&D and imagines “XP Sockets” to personalize how the system gives rewards based on the campaign the group wants to have. Want to reward greed? Give XP for treasure. Story? Give XP for achieving plot milestones. I love this idea.
  • Roles, Classes, and Themes! Oh My! at RPG Musings imagines a stripped-down four-class structure for D&D, allowing players to personalize their characters with an endless variation of themes. Classes reflect the current 4e Roles, and things like weapon and armor choice would be tied to Themes.
  • Why did old-school D&D steer clear of rules for social conflict involving the PCs? Social Combat is Asymetric at Untimately looks at both OD&D and the Moldvay Basic/Expert D&D rules to examine the extent of social conflict rules, then extends the line of thought to explain why they stopped where they did. Great analysis and spot on conclusions.
  • I Am Dungeonmaster! at The Rhetorical Gamer recently watched the Dungeon Master in the D&D cartoon with horror. “That’s who I’m supposed to model myself after when I sit behind the screen? Seriously, no wonder we got a generation of D&Ders which spawned so many bad DMS.” And on a much more useful note, The Sages of Yore advocates using sage NPCs as information-based story pacing devices, which makes a great amount of sense to me.
  • I read a couple of great posts over at Gothridge Manor this week. Playing It Fast and Loose explores the good and bad sides of low-prep games, and includes a clip from The Hustler. Also, the classy local Assassins’ Guild provides many opportunities for story using only a bulletin board by posting a Notice of Impending Assassination. I love that plot device and will totally steal it for my game.

MetaRoundup

A roundup of roundups featuring links of interest to the tabletop RPG community.
Please let us know about other weekly roundups in the comments!

  • Roving Band of Misfits publishes their Weekly Roundup column every Sunday. This week’s Papercraft Dragon Edition gives us a reaction to Dungeon Crawl Classic, a week’s worth of articles on random encounters, and the Fourthcore One Page Dungeon submission entitled “The Tears of Mother Pestilence”.
  • Keith Davies maintains In My Campaign and he publishes a collection of Links of the Week including recommended Kickstarter projects and interesting YouTube videos. Take a look at this week’s collection which includes map porn at The Cartographers’ Guild, very cool colored tokens called Penny Gems, and blog articles on reskinning monsters and monster variants.

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The GA Panel at PAX East

On Friday night, several members of the Gamer Assembly ran a panel at PAX East called “Fix Your Tabletop RPG with the RPG Doctor and the Gamer Assembly”. Going into it we had very little idea about what to expect. We had seven people on stage with microphones, and we all had a total blast answering questions and telling stories.

The Gamer Assembly Panelists

The Panelists: Casey, Kait, Zed, Brent, Wombat, Ryven, and Brian. (Photo courtesy Dan Afonso.)

Prep Work

Truth to tell, we did precious little prep work for the panel. We each got an intro slide that Brent typed up, and we added games to the communal list of games we had experience with. We decided to leave as much time as possible for audience questions.

We found that our panel ran opposite the D&D Next playtest, so we had no illusions that we’d fill the hall. It turns out our timeslot was a blessing in disguise, a fact that we realized later in the evening. Knowing what we were up against, we advertised a bit through GA and a few random tweets. Suffice to say that the marketing machine wasn’t in full swing for the panel, though we did pool our resources and put together a door prize filled with random gaming goodies, from Traps Too to Volume 1 of the Call to Assembly to the 4e D&D Red Box to a Gamer Assembly tote bag.

We arrived at the room our requisite 30 minutes in advance, which gave us time to actually meet each other. Most of us had only talked online, so I loved having faces and mannerisms to attach to names. The Enforcers in the Merman Theater were awesome by helping us set up, getting us settled with a mic check, and taking attendance once the doors opened.

View from the Stage

Our audience filters in.

Opening The Doors

We had no idea if we would have more audience members than panelists. Turns out we had nothing to fear on that front. We had 68 people in the audience, and once things got rolling we had over a dozen questions asked over the course of the evening. Every question made us think, which made me really happy.

We felt our way through pacing early on, so things may have dragged a bit. Once we had everyone form a line at the microphone we kept things rolling fairly well. At the end of our allotted time, we had gotten to only 5 or 6 questions, but our Enforcers told us we were fine to keep going.

We ended up going an hour over and answering every question that came up. It turns out the room was scheduled as overflow for the Friday night concert, but the main theater still had plenty of seats left. Going last had its advantages, and I loved being able to field every question that came up.

We had a great crowd with great questions. I’m not going to go through all the questions, as some of them were very campaign- or group-specific. After attending the Campaign Doctors panel on Saturday, many of the same questions came up from a larger audience, so I think we covered most of the common issues GMs and players deal with.

Personal Reactions

It struck me that a large percentage of the questions focused on “How can I help the GM do this?” That question speaks to the large portion of gamers out there who understand that RPGs can’t exist as a zero-sum game. The group forms the backbone of the game, and acting selfish at the game table can bring down an otherwise great group. That goes doubly for GMs. The game “belongs” to everyone sitting at the table; it’s not the GM’s game exclusively. Leading with “How can I help?” brings home that mentality.

Hearing that question so often at the panel raised my spirits and gave me great feelings about the people involved in tabletop RPGs.

Chatting with and working with such a diverse group of talented people here at the Gamer Assembly and in our audience on Friday has shown me that some aspects of tabletop gaming hold true no matter if you’ve been playing for 30 years or if you’ve just picked up your first set of rules that morning. First among these? Player selfishness has no place at the game table.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who came to hear us speak. An even larger thank you to those of you who stood up and asked questions. We couldn’t have had as great a time without your input. If you want to continue the conversation, feel free to join us in the Gamer Assembly chat, or you can contact most of us via Twitter.

We’ll see you next year, if not sooner.

- Wombat (@twwombat)

The other panelists were:
Casey (@TheDanDDaddy)
Kait (@TheDanDMom)
Zed (Lurks in the Chat)
Brent (@BrentNewhall)
Ryven (@ryvencedrylle)
Brian (@BrianLiberge)

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Weekly Assembly: Pre-PAX and Short On Time

PAX East is this week! We’re excited for PAX, can you tell? We’ll be running a panel and wearing Gamer Assembly T-Shirts, so feel free to introduce yourself if you see one of us. We’ve got a great slate of links this week, so let’s get to ‘em…

At Home

Articles posted here on The Gamer Assembly.

  • Only 4 Gaming Days Until PAX EastIf you’ll be in Boston on Easter weekend April 6-8, you owe it to yourself to attend the best gaming con. Three-day passes have sold out, but you can still pick up day passes. We’ll be there running the “Fix Your RPG Problems with the RPG Doctor and Gamer Assembly” panel on Friday, April 6 at 7 pm in the Merman Theatre. Will we see you there?
  • April’s Blog Theme at The Gamer Assembly is “Gaming Fools”, covering the outlandish, crazy, and over-the-top games and situations that grace every table. Have a gonzo RPG article idea? Contact us for guest blogger opportunities!
  • The Call To Assembly, Volume 1, our collection of the first 2 months of Gamer Assembly posts is now available as a free PDF at RPG Now and as a not-free printed magazine at Lulu!
  • Designer Tool: A Blank Playing Card Template by Brent Newhall provides a pre-formattted template for Excel or OpenOffice to quickly churn out a deck of cards for playtesting by printing 6 standard-sized cards per sheet of paper. You’re on your own for printing card backs and cutting the cards.

Away

Content from people involved with The Gamer Assembly posted elsewhere across the Internet.

Notes From Abroad

Other interesting articles and cool links.

Wizards of the Coast went public with their announcement about the next edition of D&D on Monday 09 January 2012. We’re collecting D&D Next links in our wiki. If we’ve missed any good ones that you’ve read, feel free to let us know in the comments or join us in the chat.

  • And while we’re short on time, No More Average Campaigns at Gnome Stew says there’s no shame in killing an average campaign since there’s only so much gaming time to go around. Go for the awesome and eschew the merely adequate.
  • It’s a Man Ray Kind of Sky encourages all of us to out ourselves as gamers and to shed the mantle of self-loathing. “People often ask how wargamers justify their fascination with playing games about mass destruction. … The best argument I’ve heard is who cares, because if you don’t like it, you’re free to go to hell.”
  • If you’re looking for really good anecdotes from the gaming table, take a long look at the Fake War Stories Tumblr. Yeah, there’s an Arrow of Slaying for that.
  • Risking It All on the just-launched-this-week blog Character Generation shares a simple equation involving risk and impact that explains why we strive for the heroic even when the rules don’t support that choice. Congratulations on the blog launch, and I look forward to more great articles from Liz and Lyndsay in the weeks and months to come!
  • Character Generation is also mentioned in Space Race over at Some Space to Think. The rest of the article covers how Bulldogs! handles race using a short list of attributes to pick from. It’s a great technique that can extend beyond FATE to breathe some life into PC races in other systems as well. You can also use the same approach to make institutions like martial arts schools have a specific and recognizable flavor.
  • The Bard for Basic D&D at Strange Magic reimagines the much-maligned bard in OD&D or OSR systems as a sub-class of Magic User who can wear leather armor and identify magic items. I really like the flavor that brings to the Bard.
  • Over at Hack & Slash, On the Village Calm puts forth a system for describing villages and other small settlements called Quadruple D. I love a good framework for describing things.
  • A 3×5 Map Experiment expands dungeon geomorphs into small connected dungeon areas drawn on 3×5 cards. That’s a great-looking dungeon shown in the article over at Blood of Prokopius, plus a challenge to make more 3×5 maps to hook together into more organic-looking larger dungeons.
  • Also on the mapping front, Dungeons of Carcassonne at In My Campaign presents the kernel of an idea to adapt Carcassonne kingdom tiles for use as random dungeon tiles. I’d love to see this fleshed out a bit more.

MetaRoundup

A roundup of roundups featuring links of interest to the tabletop RPG community.
Please let us know about other weekly roundups in the comments!

  • Keith Davies maintains In My Campaign and he publishes a collection of Links of the Week including recommended Kickstarter projects and interesting YouTube videos. Take a look at this week’s collection which includes the five rules of monster design, Kickstarter rewards for retailers, and a tower defense game built on top of 8-Bit Google Maps called MapsTD.

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Filed under Weekly Assembly