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Friday, April 26, 2013

Huge Live GameScreen Update - 2.2.0!

Big news - lots of conveniences, new features, and support for Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts.

Check out the software page for full release notes.

Posted by Dave at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Tags: development, games, tabletop

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why system matters (a brief example)

So I tend to be the contrarian voice over at DMing with Charisma, and recently we had an exchange which I'll excerpt as follows:

Me: If people are forgetting to RP, that means that there aren’t sufficient rules to support RP, or it’s not compelling for the players to engage those rules. It’s a failure of design.

Him: I’m not going to respond ... because I’m fairly certain I can’t do it with civility.

In fairness, I probably deserved that. It was a strong statement and I should have gone into a lot more specific detail - which is what I'm going to do here. But to do that, I'm going to have to use...

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Posted by Dave at 9:15 AM | Comments (4) | Tags: games, tabletop

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Monster of the Week Review

I've been doing a more-or-less-weekly open indie game series at the local store on Sundays. I post a schedule with a different game each week, and if there are enough interested people, we run it. If there aren't, we don't.

Monster of the Week was a bit over a week ago, and it was a lot of fun.

Monster of the Week (MotW) borrows Apocalypse World's "color-first" ruleset to simulate ensemble-cast monster-hunting TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and Supernatural. The playbooks are very evocative (always a plus for this type of game) and cover most of the character archetypes from those shows pretty well. You can check them out for free at the Generic Games site.

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Posted by Dave at 11:35 PM | Comments (0) | Tags: games, tabletop

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Podcast is go.

I Podcast Magic Missile.

We've got eight episodes up and a backlog of 12+ that will go up gradually as I clear it. Most of the start is kind of random, but it's gradually settling down and getting more structure.

Posted by Dave at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) | Tags: blog, console, games, life, media, science, tabletop, web

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Life stuff (good news abounds)

So things have been going pretty well lately. At first, it was really weird because my brain kept telling me it couldn't be right and the bottom was about to fall out, but after a day or two of that not happening (and some encouragement from friends), awesome just seems to have become the new normal. Here's a brief rundown of stuff that has happened lately:

Posted by Dave at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | Tags: games, life, media, tabletop, tech, web

Friday, February 8, 2013

Live GameScreen is go!

I've updated the Live GameScreen software page. It's something my friends and I have been developing for almost two years now - a cross-platform immersion tool for tabletop RPGs. Best of all, it's free!

Go visit the product page for more info and screenshots.

Planned near-future updates include improved usability for FATE games.

Posted by Dave at 12:04 PM | Comments (3) | Tags: development, games, tabletop

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Games Workshop and Intellectual Property

I've already commented on this over at Whatever, but it bears printing here, too.

Games Workshop recently took a self-published novel off Amazon because it mentioned "Space Marines". They claim that since "Space Marines" are a trademark within the sphere of board games, they can extend it to all other media as well.1 This is obviously not true; Space Marines figure in all sorts of science fiction, much of which predates the existence of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 product.

If you want a litany of the company's numerous abuses against its own retailers and fans, feel free to follow the link to my comment on Scalzi's Blog. But this particular incident also speaks to something deeper and darker about intellectual property in the United States.

IP law is currently designed to favor the bigger guy. The way IP should work is obvious: I create something, I have an exclusive period in which I can market and sell that thing. The way IP actually works is that I create something, and then I must defend it tooth and nail against those who would steal it or claim it as their own. What I can defend and what I cannot is defined by byzantine laws that permit Fox and Blizzard to use other people's ideas while at the same time a snippet of a copyrighted song playing in the background of a YouTube video is enough to have it taken down (or at least deny its creator ad revenue). It is also defined by my ability to pay court costs to defend my intellectual property against those who would simply steal it because they have better lawyers and more money.

And that's just trademark and copyright. Patents are a whole 'nother can of worms. It is literally impossible to enter certain markets for computer software and hardware because so much of the available technology - including things as simple and obvious as clicking on something to buy it and pinch to zoom - are patented by the big players. Worse, key technologies are defended by consortia designed to give the big players a permanent oligopoly (e.g. the MPEG LA, which basically holds a patent to all digital video).

Until these laws are changed, companies like Games Workshop are going to have to go after everyone they can, no matter how ridiculous, just to stay afloat. Otherwise they risk losing the rights to their IP or having another Blizzard come along and rip them off. The small authors and creators that suffer as a result are just collateral damage.

1 Alternately, they appear to have a British trademark that applies to written material; not sure how this applies to an American author selling through an American company, though.

Posted by Dave at 9:48 AM | Comments (0) | Tags: games, media, tabletop, tech

Monday, January 14, 2013

On giving Wizards the benefit of the doubt.

So a bit back I posted this analysis of why it's more interesting for players to know what numbers they're trying to hit when they roll dice. The example used 4th Edition D&D, and involved a player rolling to unlock a locked door.

I thought it was a good example until my friend Yanni, who occasionally comments here, mentioned reading the post. He said that letting people succeed with complications even when they failed the roll was a good idea, even though it was against the rules as written.


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Posted by Dave at 1:56 AM | Comments (4) | Tags: games, tabletop

Friday, January 11, 2013

Task resolution and meta-knowledge.

In tabletop games, players are often asked to roll dice to determine if their characters succeed or fail at a task. The flow tends to go something like:

  1. Player declares character's intent.
  2. GM determines which skill/stat/ability applies and the difficulty.
  3. Player rolls dice based on the skill/stat/ability.
  4. GM compares the roll result with the difficulty and declares the outcome.

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Posted by Dave at 8:45 AM | Comments (4) | Tags: games, tabletop

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On "playing to see what happens"

Recently, in our Friday night Apocalypse World game, one of the characters (a Hocus) died. His player was planning on him dying, in almost the manner it happened, and the character (who was a right bastard) came to a realization about what he'd been doing and redeemed himself through his death. It was, from a story perspective, a very good ending for the character.

And yet there was considerable disappointment - from the character's player, who had a very specific set of things he wanted to see before the end, and from the player of a rival character (the Faceless) who wanted to be the one to finish the jerk off.

At the time, I felt bad. I wondered if I had been too hard on the player; inadvertently turned weak hits into misses or put him in a kill-box he couldn't reasonably narrate himself out of. I've since listened to the recording of the session and (just as the player reassured me after the session) he outright missed a ton of rolls and pushed towards disaster when he hit. And the hurt feelings only lasted a session, because the next week I made sure that the Hocus' death had narrative and mechanical implications that satisfied both players.1

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Posted by Dave at 9:47 AM | Comments (0) | Tags: tabletop

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