Surburban Shadows

I’m way too domesticated to handle the rough streets of a real city, so tonight’s game is going to be a modest hack of Urban Shadows.

The factions are:

HOA: power-hungry control freaks who must be immortal because they have way more time than you do. They’re always on the streets. Watching. Judging. Playbooks are The Retiree, The Fundie, and The Yuppie.

Grownups: An uneasy alliance of ostensibly responsible adults. Playbooks are The Teacher, The Parent, and The Childless.

Kids: They’re everywhere but invisible, darting through your property and staking out their territories. Playbooks are The Preschooler, The Teen, and The Prolonged Adolescent. 

Work: All-encompassing and omnipresent, this nightmare faction seeks to crush the dreams and efforts of all the other factions. There is no live-and-let-live; either you give your life to Work, or Work does its level best to make sure your life isn’t worth living. Playbooks are The Manager, The Drone, and The MLMer.

A sample of common moves:

When you leave the recycling bin out, roll +Responsible. On a hit, you remember to get it back in before Wednesday at noon. On a 7-9, any HOA faction member can submit a trouble ticket to the association management office anyway. On a miss, you done fucked up and left it out after noon. The MC will tell you what happens next.

When you are fundraising, roll +Breeder. On a hit, you raise the funds. On a 7-9, pick two: you don’t alienate everyone around you, you don’t make your child hate you for some reason, you don’t have to spend your own money on crap you don’t want. 

When you discover someone you know from work lives in your neighborhood, roll +Networking the first time it happens. On a 10+ hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 1. Spend holds to: discover something weird and uncomfortable about your coworker; hide something weird and uncomfortable from your coworker; obligate your coworker to a social or fundraising event; escape from a social or fundraising obligation.

And so on.

Don’t know about Corruption moves yet, but they’re definitely part of the game.

Indie Game Reading Club

I feel compelled to say a few things about this Collection I set up. 

As much fun as it is to write long posts and as gratifying as it is to hear that people enjoy them, I have to say the best part of this Collection is the threads. Holy cow do I have smart, thoughtful, well spoken people who participate. Amazing. 

I mean, did you see that Montsegur 1244 thread? If you didn’t, or if you think freeform-y hippie shit is not your bag, I strongly encourage you to go back to it (it was just yesterday) and read that thread. My word. Amazing. Thank you Rachel E.S. Walton, Brand Robins and Adam D for your amazing thoughts there.

Every week. Every week there’s at least one absolutely amazing thread. That thread about morality and race in Urban Shadows just last week, another great one. Crunch talk about Cartel, those overwrought postmortem roundtables, appropriation… Every week.

I have no idea what constellation of prompting (me) and community (you) and gestalt (the world) is coming together, but it’s better than anything. 

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who jumps in and shares. I feel exceedingly lucky to have stumbled into you all.

Montsegur 1244

Paul B is more fun when he’s talking about fun things! So let’s talk about being burned at the stake.

Had a chance to read through the rulebook last night, and as Adam Day mentioned, there’s definitely some Durance like stuff happening. Or rather, Montsegur 1244 sets up an early template that games like Durance fit into as well. 

You’ve got a dozen little character sheets (plus four ‘optional’ characters, more exotic characters for when you’ve already experienced your baseline sads) with some leading questions you should try to answer before the siege is over, and a little historical context about who they are and who they relate to. No matter how many players you have (never outright stated, but it’s between 3 and 6), every character gets dealt. Players then choose one “main” character, but will also be playing their backup characters when called upon.

There’s no resolution system; it really is a freeform in the most general sense (that is, you don’t need to subscribe to any particular definition). So as story-gaming goes, great, the tension definitely lies in watching creative people improvise around their questions and and other scene-framing details the game provides. The unknown outcomes lie in what comes out of each player’s mouth rather than what comes out of dice.

There is some randomization happening, though, and I think it’s a really interesting way to ensure the game is replayable — which I was concerned about. There are always three Scene cards on display; they have little scene-setting elements to be worked into each Act’s scenes. A player sets a scene within an Act — there’s an intro, three Acts, then a wrapup where you decide who lives, dies or escapes. They use one of the Scene cards and then hold the card for when they’re done. Then I think they also pull a Story card, which is another fictional element that’ll be dropped in (second and third Acts only, since you don’t start with any and need to run a scene to get one).

So you’ve got the Act (background provided by the siege timeline), a scene card and probably a Story card to work with. That’s practically a pretty good bit of framing, as long as you’ve done this kind of game. It’s more than you get in Durance and I’ve had no problems, personally, running that one either. I’m sure it works great, and I love that there’s so much variability in setup. Kind of boardgame-y that way truth be told.

By the end of the game you’ve had a slow introduction to the history and situation (certain key characters are attached to background sheets, which those players are responsible for conveying at certain points), everyone’s had a chance to invest in their characters’ situation, and I’m sure after 3-4 hours of watching events unfold, the “do you live or die” moment is pretty tasty.

There’s an admonition to “make the choice as painful and difficult as possible,” which made me chuckle because man, right there is the Great Dividing Line, isn’t it? Adventurous Escapism | Misery Tourism and/or Human Drama | Infantile Empowerment Fantasy. Either you buy the notion or you don’t.

Super Sekret Project

I’m diddling with Scrivener and it’s pretty freaking awesome, especially on a laptop. I think the tool is probably optimized for laptopping, actually, since it shows you so much so fast in such a compact way.

Next up will be building up links between sections, which at least is in the same zip code as plain old hyperlinking. Kind of boggling, I’m sure this gets easier the more I use the tool.

Joe Beason I told you I was working on it. 😉

Bundle of Holding
PbtA Bundle
City of Judas

So I’m looking through that last good Bundle (yay I finally have World Wide Wrestling!) and this one jumped out at me. I’ve never even heard of it! 

Has anyone played? Is it any good?

Slowly but surely overcoming my allergy to PDF rules. May have to buy a (much) faster tablet to put them to use though.

Montsegur 1244

My word, what a beautiful production. Feels handcrafted but also highly polished. The book is nicely made, the playmat is beyootiful, cards and other stuff all jammed in there. Feels like it’s worth the $50ish I payed.

This has made me itchy and curious to seek out other small-press productions that have stretched beyond ye olde perfect bound book. Fall of Magic I think will be similar. 

This is going way-high on my to-play list. Might haul it along to NMCon to give it its first spin.

Two Players
Table Dynamics

When I have an opportunity to run a game with two players — that is, a GM and two players — I almost always punt and suggest a board game.

I’ve been thinking about games explicitly designed for this configuration, and I can’t think of any. I can think of quite a few two-player games — Mars Colony, Murderous Ghosts, and so on — but not two and a facilitator.

I mean, on the one hand you can just run any old trad(ish) structured game with two players. But it’s sort of weird, or possibly ultraweird depending on the game you’re running. It’s not quite as weird as running a single character through a trad RPG, where both the GM and that single player have a lot of work on their plates. 

Or possibly it’s weirder, come to think of it, and here’s why: Does the game make any assumptions about this pair of protagonists? Their relationship, their interactions, leadership dynamics, etc? Most mainstream RPGs don’t really talk about this at all, but I think the dynamics of two protagonists is fundamentally different and maybe less explored than leader-and-follower or “a party.”

So like…what could you do with a game designed for a facilitator and two players? Let’s assume up front that I’m most interested in an equitable division of whatever: screen time, authority, sympathy. 

* Hero + Sidekick: assuming the game actually provides asymmetrical support for these roles, I think you could actually write something neat around this. This feels like the kind of thing that some small-press game has poked at at least once before.

* Best friends

* Enemies or rivals

* Spouses or other binary love-relationships

* Business partners

* Time travel; you both play the same character but from different points

* Evil parallel universe interloper, perhaps with a sinister goatee

I’m totally just spitballing here. Also still wonder about what titles might be out there that I know nothing about.