The arguement for standardized systems & worlds

Tuesday, 31. August 2010

Greg has a few good points as to why having linked systems and settings are a bad idea. I agree with his assertions in general as for the game being terrible for world building, but not everyone are at this stage to where it’s useful. I’ll argue in the case of devils advocate for standardization here at least for the beginning. The majority of them are for marketability in terms of the developer.

In fact it might be simply terrible for any sort of beginner to have to come up with everything without any form of guideance. That is an absolutely a huge turnoff for new players, not only are you required to learn the rules and come up with character, but come up with a world as well? Very harsh.

I believe that having a temperated world for each system is an excellent idea… provided that each system has added rules for expansion in the longer term. Even as an experienced player, I want something to give a general “feel” of the game play and system. Inevitably rules will be tweaked and the setting may be changed, but at least I have a baseline experience to work from. This also makes a game very relatable.. other players and storytellers instantly have a connection when a game is talked about, simply because there is a baseline of how it works.

There is of course, the simplification argument for is that having all classes and clans is that the play is focused. This focusing simplifies game play, it simplifies rules and times at the table and allows everything to move quickly and hopefully smoothly. Assuming the game has been streamlining rather than adding useless rules, the standardization allows for quick quashing of arguments.

From a marketing perspective it allows a designer to cover the largest variety of their players at once. This efficiency hopefully lowers cost for them and prospective buyers in the future. Nobody from a production perspective wants to create a product that has very limited appeal… its inefficient to produce unless you can sell it for high cost or are just into it for the art. If you’re selling cars then for instance; you want to be able to sell tires which everyone needs, not huge spoilers.

In addition, there are branding issues. It’s difficult to brand pure flexibility in a game system as it’s primary attribute. It’s not something that sticks in ones head as a usable attribute. So setting is used to differentiate one system from another.. one does dragons, one does vampires, one does sci-fi, etc.

–Note that I do think modern systems are too limiting both in terms of choice, but also in terms of typing them strictly to the producers product. (Edition, expansion, etc.) But there is a good reason for it other than just being purely greedy.

Michigan Ren Faire

Monday, 30. August 2010

I took a trip out to the Michigan Renaissance Festivalagain this year as I always do. This was the weekend for the highland games, and it seems that they have been running several good promotions through both local radio stations and with a canned food drive. As such, the parking lots were as full as I’ve ever seen them, even running late into the day on Sunday. Entry fee was $20, but there are several exemptions for getting free tickets. The canned good drive was 1 free ticket per purchased one assuming you brought in at least 4 canned goods. It was hot and dusty as it hasn’t rained lately in the area, but at least it wasn’t humid. I think I have a little sunburn to show for it as well.

There was a time perhaps maybe 10 years ago when it seems like the festival really stagnated. Crowds were limited, the number of acts there were dropping off and the place was really becoming somewhat run down. Fortunately over the last 5 years or so they’ve really been pushing a good advertising and sponsorship campaign. There is always new works and development going on, so the site has really become enjoyable to just walk around even if you’re not going to buy anything. Within the last 2 years the new expansion at the end of it has really gotten somewhat finished up, and their large open field now for various events such as archery of the highland games that were going on this weekend.

There was a falconry demonstration this year which I found really interesting and unless I’ve consistently missed it hasn’t been at the faire for quite some time or ever for that matter.  Unfortunately the bird wouldn’t hold still for a good picture and my cell phone camera wasn’t the best in the world.  It’s still neat to see hawks up that close though, even if watching them chow on a piece of meat can be a little disturbing.  I would’ve thought that a hobby like this would’ve been killed of by creeping modernism, but from what I’ve found so far it’s apparently far more popular that I would’ve imagined. (It’s certainly easy to find information on than say, pen and pencil role playing.)  It’s great to see living history like that preserved in such a fashion for future generations.  I’m going to have to see about finding another local demo sometime and perhaps doing an interview as well.

And as mentioned, the highland games were going on.  I managed to catch a bit of the caber tossing, and weight over the bar at the end.. something that I’ve never seen before.  Apparently it involves tossing a 56lb weight up into the air and as it’s name implies over a bar, the field record at this place was 16’2″ in height.  In addition to not being able to throw the weight, even if I did I’d probably manage to land it on myself, dying in the process.  I’d say that the games are really something that needs to be televised and publicised more than they are, just because it’s neat to watch the feats of strength.

All and all, the trip was great fun.  I’d especially recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gone before or anyone who hasn’t been to the Faire in some time now.  Dressing up isn’t required.. good thing because this it was pretty hot out.  Getting a roasted turkey leg is almost a requirement, and the apple dumplings are quite good as well. 

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Thematic Music – The Plaza of Execution

Friday, 27. August 2010

The Mask of Zorro
The Plaza of Execution
James Horner

Classic swashbuckling music if there ever was some. The entire Zorro soundtrack is fabulous.

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Foggy Situation

Thursday, 26. August 2010

From time to time it’s occasionally useful to have a fog or mist over the table for dramatic effect.  Bubbling cauldrons, thick fogs, flying through clouds, enemies dissipating into mist when defeated and so on and so forth.  The question remains how to do this in an timely, cost efficient manner preferably without harming anyone in the room… Breathing fumes isn’t always the wisest idea.

The first is the time honored method of dry ice and water.  This probably scales the best; as you can use a relatively small container with water in it to put the dry ice into.  It’s also potentially one of the most dangerous; as dry ice contacting the body does some damage.  (Modern wart removers now use a similar method.)  Essentially a container is taken full of hot water, and dry ice is dropped into it.  The CO2 is denser than air, so it billows out in a neat fashion.  It also can displace oxygen, so using a lot of it in an enclosed space for a prolonged period of time is probably a bad idea.  Party supply stores should have what you need to make the dry ice.

The other option is to use a commercially available fog machine, such as the ones detailed here. The availability of these has gone up considerably, and the price has gone down within the last few years. A friend of mine acquired one for under $80 and was able to convert his entire basement into a foggy mess for a party a year or 2 ago, so they work rather well. They essentially boil a fogging solution (also cheap now.) and put it out into the air. Larger machines can produce more fog, but be careful that too much volume isn’t produced as players and storytellers still need to see the table. These are also obviously useful for Halloween, parties and the like.

These are just 2 simple, relatively cheap methods of extending the role playing experience. I find them particularly useful in Lovecraftian or similar horror setting to build tension. There is lots of fun having the fog creep in with accompanying background music just to watch players look around and dread whats coming next.

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Classical training without weaponry may be missing the point

Wednesday, 25. August 2010

With a tremendous amount of martial arts available now, the art is becoming progressively more and more specialized. Some only grapple, some strike, some only like weapons and similar. To be a really balanced martial artist one needs to have at least a fundamental understanding in all 3 areas. Weaponry commonly gets lost nowadays, simply because of the mistaken belief that it’s “not applicable” in a modern world because traditional weapons simply aren’t used anymore. Nothing could possibly be further from the truth! In addition to that, you are robbing yourself of a knowledge set involved in any forms you might happen to perform.

We can start by simply looking at the name “Martial art.” It evokes images of Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and the like.  Martial’s meaning of course, is Military.

1: of, relating to, or suited for war or a warrior
2: relating to an army or to military life
3: experienced in or inclined to war : warlike

Military Art. Were fists and feet used in Militaries? Absolutely, as a backup. You used them when Your spear was broken, your sword was bent, and the dagger you were carrying was left in a body 5 guys ago and his club is now broken. Simply put they’re a weapon of last resort after your real ordinance is expended or situationally used opportunistically. Were that not the case, we’d never have evolved beyond using our bare bodies. So, why practice forms that use fists and feet then? It’s not purely that!
Read more

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Synapse Beta now LIVE

Tuesday, 24. August 2010

Synapse is now live in it’s Beta form. If you haven’t taken a look at it, you owe it to yourself to download a copy and look it over. Greg Christopher’s work is very dynamic and one of the most novel twists in defining character mechanics I’ve seen to this date. The system is universally applicable to any setting, and has a good number of templates to quickly make characters and societies. I’ll cover what I consider some of the more unique features of the game. I’m sure Greg will argue with me there is much much more but in my opinion this is what makes the game really stand out.

To begin; rather than planning standard character statistics you actually patter your characters brain. The brain patterning determines how you behave, your strengths and weaknesses as well as the applicable skills your character can learn. Going forward there is a convenient step by step process that builds skills and further tweaks your mentality as you proceed. For instance growing up in the wilderness will naturally skew your skills towards the applicable, but will also tilt your mindset to be self reliant. Everything proceeds in a logical, simple fashion that’s produces an well polished, excellent overall result without being completely overwhelming.

The other particularly unique feature is that the brain characteristics determine the choices your character can make, and how easy they are to make. They also can change based off of your decisions, particularly if you are attempting something that is very contrary to your characters nature.

Along with tracking mental characteristics, this game also tracks stress. Too much, and your character breaks down into a quivering, useless catatonic state. It’s really a good incentive to avoid hazardous situations or if you can’t, catch some relaxation afterwords to avoid snapping like a dry twig. As you might imagine this ties in beautifully with horror games, and you can see your characters getting slowly worn down in a Lovecraftian fashion.

The game is really leaning towards social interaction and role playing rather than just being a combat game with role playing thrown in on the side. I am cutting this short of the sake of brevity, but you really need to check out Synapse if you haven’t already.

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Castlevania – Harmony of Dispair

Monday, 23. August 2010

With a few exceptions, I’ve always been a huge fan of Konami’s castlevania series. Therefore, when Harmony of Dispair was released in a multi-player fashion a few weeks ago on the 360, I had little choice but to pick it up and check it out. The game is relatively well put together, is a lot of fun and plays well but I have a few gripes about it.

The Good – Multi-player Castlevania! How awesome to have that without it being a piece of trash street fighter clone. The game plays well with everyone on screen at once, with no slow down. Up to 6 people can get in on the action, playing as one of 5 currently released characters. Soma, Alucard, Jonathan Morris, Shanoa and Charlotte are all included as base characters and are fairly well polished out, in addition to complimenting each other very well for game play. There is a tremendous number of items to pick up as well as a hard mode for expanded gaming. There are a lot of ways though the maps to the bosses, and there are number of cooperative puzzles in each map. DLC promises more maps and characters.

The Bad – Only 6 maps to play on (Granted, very large maps) and no real story to speak of. In addition, if you’re playing single player you’ll defininetely need to grind out some equipment and levels (Leveling up subweapons is how characters power up.) to get through them.

The Ugly – Ported Nintendo DS graphics. I don’t have a huge problem with this because I’m usually not zoomed in close enough to notice, but really with most 360 games you expect something a little cleaner for the actual sprites and background. The other major sticker was… very poor documentation. All the characters play as their counterparts on the handheld’s, which means if you’ve played their respective games you’ll have no problems with HoD. If you haven’t however.. you’ll probably need to look at the online documentation, as well as going and reading an FAQ or 2 to get the real story on how the game plays.

In Conclusion: Lots of fun and well packaged – this is a good game for fans of the series and is well put together as an online boss crushing fest. The content feels limited for the 15$ price tag though, and you’ll probably have to do a little online reading if you’re not familiar with the series to get full up to speed.

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Thematic Music – The Devil’s Trill

Friday, 20. August 2010

The Devil’s Trill
Vanessa Mae

Very nice contemporary Violin. The music video can be a little weird, but fortunately it’s secondary and even still its not very hard on the eyes.

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Food posts

Thursday, 19. August 2010

It should come as no surprise that I as most people, like food.  I think the gamer pallet is somewhat limited as well, as indicated by Gothridge Manor. I really don’t think he’s that far off the ballpark. I had done a little article on flat bread pizza here and had meant to do some more but I got somewhat stalled as cooking and photographing takes some time particularly when you need to tweak recipes.

For gaming food I like something that is easy to eat, uses minimal utensils and is of course, tasty. It can’t really be a staple if it doesn’t fit into those categories. So the question is, whats my next post on food going to be about?

I am thinking Kabobs.

Hobby shop tweaks

Wednesday, 18. August 2010

Very busy week here, so I haven’t had time to write much in between travelling and preparing for testing.  Reading Madbrew here, and he has some good suggestions as to trying to make hobby stores work out a bit better business wise. I’m especially noticing it since apparently more of the boutique type shops around here are just getting absolutely killed. This of course, makes it harder to get various items on short notice..

Most of them are quite good, but the main thing I might caution against with having an event every night is to make sure you rotate what groupies you’re trying to drag in. Otherwise, it’s your events get somewhat watered down and don’t quite pull the people they possibly could.

The ideas on impulse buys are very good, but I would take it a step further. Make it part shop, and part cafe. Providing some good food at a reasonable price is enough to keep the doors open by itself, but makes any events hosted all the sweeter. Plus not everyone has time to cook nowadays, as sad as that might seem.

The other thing I would attempt to do is if the space is available, go with some other smaller boutique type items that are hard to come by.  It might even work out better to have a partner running another store, or perhaps a number of stores all sharing similar interests.  That way you can pull traffic in a mall-like fashion, but it will be far more focused on whats being sold.  Maybe Chinese goods, or some sort of other import business. Anything that is somewhat collectible or nerd related would do very well in my opinion. Even a bigger plus if you do Internet sales, use the store as only pseudo warehousing/show room, and have it be mostly a bonus.

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