A Glimpse into the Vault is one of the oldest features on Cannibal Halfling, giving us opportunities to look into our respective “vaults” at other media we consume. These articles have covered a range of different items, but tended to stay in the gaming space…until now. You see, my personal vault doesn’t have many board games in it, but I do live surrounded by books. And recently, I finished a book that is not only a great read, but has some pointed lessons that gamers can learn about worldbuilding.
Infomocracy is written by Malka Older and was first published in 2016. It tells the story of a world in the near future where most of the world is ruled over by a unified micro-democratic government. The population that participates is divided into “cententals” of 100,000 people, who each vote on a government to represent them. Each government has power based on the centenals which elect them, but there is special influence (and statistical benefits) afforded to a government able to win a “Supermajority” of these centenals. The story, which I’ll summarize soon, focuses on the lead-up to an election where such a Supermajority is in play.
When we play RPGs, we tell stories. For some it’s a fun consequence of the characters’ exploits, while for others it’s the whole point of the game. These stories can often have great power for the groups who create them, creating characters more personal and compelling than any novel ever could. It’s natural, then, to want to share these stories outside the group. The problem here, really, is that a tabletop campaign is a big, extended instance of “you had to be there”. As fun or dramatic or gutwrenching as it was at the time, you cannot recapture those feelings by turning your campaign into a novel.
There are many phenomenal tabletop roleplaying game kickstarters occurring presently, as can be seen in the latest Kickstarter Wonk article, but one that particularly stood out to me was one that centered around a very specific and intriguing concept.
Preparing For Paris is a game where you play discontinued Olympic Sports, personified as high school students, training to become once more an Olympic Sport. They will also do, as teenagers in high school are likely to do, all the humdrum of adolescence that comes with it.
I sat down with PfP’s creator, Logan, to discuss his new (and fully funded) game.
Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! In case you’re wondering, no, nothing is normal yet, and I’m still not covering the ‘normal’ spread of ten games. Fear not, though, because Kickstarter volume does appear to be picking up! Once you sift through the awful pandemic and political cash-grab board games, there are a slowly increasing number of RPG Kickstarters, almost enough for me to start upping my numbers again. Of course, there’s also an increase in shorter campaigns, so I’m missing more of them. One example of this? Necronautilus, by Adam Vass, ended the day before this article was published, sadly. Still, I’d watch that one for late pledges if I were you.
Missed opportunities not withstanding, there’s a great crop here, including games about Chinese restaurants, athletes, sign language, and of course, rodents.
Usually we talk about playing games – how about an episode about making them? From house rules to hacks to wholesale creation, the Cannibal Halflings take a delve into all things tabletop game design: tips, tricks, advice, history, systems, and games worth taking a look at!
We all know the series. The one with the boy who had a scar upon his forehead. The great tale of a chosen one and their band of friends going off to challenge the far too powerful evil and bring them to reckoning. It’s a story that spawned millions of fanfictions and fanart. Millions more in profits off spin-offs and merchandise. Oh! It’s also responsible for slingshotting a violent and disgusting transphobe to having her hateful opinions validated and listened to by wide audiences and those in power.
Yes, the Harry Potter series cannot be detached from the many actions of harm done by its creator. Death of the Author is an act of cowardice when used to simply continue liking something without ever fearing being criticized for it. There’s also the fact the books themselves are far from free of her problematic ideals. Be it the depictions of Goblins and the valid issues the Jewish community brought up in how they are portrayed in relation to harmful stereotypes of them. The oppression tourism and mishandling of the topic of slavery with relation to house elves. And many, MANY more that could fill up the brim of this article.
All in all, JK Rowling is not someone anyone should try to emulate. But that leaves the question of what should be done with the books that had such an impact on so many throughout the world. Harry Potter is something we can’t simply do away with. People will have the idea of it, of how it can be done better, on their mind quite often. So, what do we do?
Well, I don’t have the answer. I’m not a smart or genius woman. The fact I just used two words that mean the same thing separately should show that. But when it comes to RPGs, we may have the answer for how to quell that Harry Potter craving without having to whip up your own homebrew. And most importantly, how you can do it better than that shoddy TERF ever could.
Space…the final frontier. The mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no-wait, I am being informed that we are talking about the wrong Star Noun here!
Joking aside, I am a firm believer that the Star Wars Universe has a vast potential to tell stories of different genres. The original Star Wars was born out of a desire to make an updated retelling the serials of the 1930’s and 40’s, of which there was a slew of westerns, swashbucklers, even noir mysteries, but probably one of the most famous update of these serials was another George Lucas project, the other trilogy that he is famous for, the most famous Action Archaeologist, Indiana Jones. As it so happens, Star Wars is absolutely chock full of single biome planets, abandoned temples, strange creatures, hostile natives and an ever present lingering group of fascists looming over the horizon. On top of that, there is the Unknown Regions, a vast regions of space that are uncharted on the hyperlanes. All of the tools for stories about exploration and colonization, and offers the chance to look hard the effects of those on the planets you visit. This cocktail actually is a great mix to harken back to Gentleman Adventurer tropes of Alan Quartermain, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days and Herge’s Tintin, but perhaps with an extra hundred years of hindsight to explore some of the ramifications of that your characters are doing. One eye on the past, and one eye on the future? That sounds like an excellent mix for exploring the great beyond!
Some RPGs are demanding. While you can’t homebrew D&D into anything, it is still flexible and doesn’t demand that you play it a specific way. Some games do. There is no end of teeth-gnashing about this; for some reason people take more issue with RPGs having set procedures than, say, board games. But, as the entire indie RPG community knows very well, making a game for a specific purpose and experience often nets you a better version of that experience than trying to simulate it with a ruleset designed with breadth in mind. I’ve been having some revelatory experiences with such a targeted game recently; I will say though that when I say “targeted game” and “specific experience”, most are imagining a zine, something small, not a 600 page hardback with red and gold filigree. Yeah, I’m talking about Burning Wheel.
Tabletop RPGs are not realistic, and this is a good thing. On one extreme we don’t really want to simulate the hygiene of our fantasy worlds, and on the other we don’t really want to play Apartment: The Playstationing. What RPGs should and do have, though, is verisimilitude. Verisimilitude is the appearance of being real, and in RPGs this means that the characters exist in a world which behaves in a way the players expect. One place where games fall down in this respect is in having a world that changes around the characters, one that might even be responsive to their actions. That is why I’m returning to my old stomping ground, the field of economics.
I miss the old days. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Things are better now, without a doubt. The Empire took everything from us that made us who we are. It ripped apart our most sacred monuments, it dismantled every part of our government that we prided ourselves in. It took our children away to be “reeducated”, they even took the spirit of the land itself away from us. But while they were directly in front of our faces, we hated them with unfettered ferocity. Before, in our old lives, you would have had a scion of a rival family that you would have been obligated to feud with for tradition’s sake. Now, they were in the work camp right next to you, swinging the same pickaxe. At the end of the day you both were literally too tired to care. The Arbiter saw that and knew what he could do with it. We were able to unite, to ignore generations of contempt for each other because our contempt for the Empire was so much greater. After bitter struggle we have at least some measure of ourselves back, but we bear scars: monuments defiled, power structures crippled, refugees who barely remember their old lives pouring back. Even the magic of the land itself has begun to forget us. But as those things are far from normal, our old rivalries have begun anew as every old faction, necessary in our struggle, now wants their voice heard. While we’re Free from the Yoke, we risk forgetting a grave truth: the Empire is still out there. It has not forgotten.