Category Archives: Articles

Solitaire Storytelling: Laser Beams Like So Many Stars

I am a huge fan of mechs and their amazing pilots. I love to watch their heroics on the news; I visit when pilots come to my town; I own multiple letterman jackets emblazoned with mech pilots’ insignias. I’m burdened with the dream of piloting and eclipsed by the fear that I will never be more than a spectator. I love that which is unfathomably above me, as they exchange Laser Beams Like So Many Stars.

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Good Strong Hands Review

I have to admit, fantasy games come to the plate with two strikes for me. The ubiquity of Dungeons and Dragons, coupled with the large number of single-game players, means that fantasy games generally need to work twice as hard to do something interesting within the existing constraints of the genre. When I first read Good Strong Hands, I saw a game that leaned hard into a very broad, often repeated conceit: A great evil is corrupting the land and you, the heroes, must stop it. Couple this with light, fairly basic mechanics, and I didn’t really know if I was going to find anything interesting in this game.

Luckily, I was wrong. While Good Strong Hands is a rules-light game, and while it absolutely leans on a simplified view of good and evil, it takes this basic struggle and makes it the centerpiece of the game. The mechanics of the Void, Shadow and Corruption, force players to make tough decisions and place the voice of evil with the GM to play with as they wish. The game does want to see its players triumph, but the risk of falling to the Void is very real and a party will likely see at least one character lost to evil in a campaign.

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The Trouble With Drama Mechanics

Role-playing games are all about characters, otherwise they wouldn’t be role-playing games. And what really gets someone invested in a fictional character, whether they’re playing the character or watching or reading the character, is the character’s personal journey. We love to see it in books and movies and we love to see it in RPGs, but in RPGs we typically aren’t given additional rules to support these sorts of stories. This is in part because these stories haven’t been the focus of most RPGs, well, ever, but it’s also in part due to the belief of designers that characters’ inner lives should be governed by the people who play them, not by rules.

The issue with this is that mechanics are what provide richness for games. We want PbtA games to have a palette of different moves, and we want each playbook to feel different. We want a military simulation to differentiate between all its guns and vehicles. So why would we not want rules that help us look at and play out character drama? When I looked at Hillfolk a few weeks back, one thing I thought it did very well was stake out three necessary drivers of dramatic conflict: character desire, character internal conflict (the ‘dramatic poles’), and character external conflict (‘fraught relationships’). What was missing was the next step, which was to provide structure and guidance to build and play with those drivers.

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Crowdfunding Carnival: May, 2022

Welcome back to the Carnival! Here at the beginning of May it’s a momentous time to be looking at crowdfunding. Well, that’s partially true. If you’re interested in the high profile campaigns earning hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, it’s a momentous time to be looking at crowdfunding. If you’re another indie fellow trying to get by, it’s another month. If you’re looking for those indies who have broken into the big leagues, though, there’s a great example of that going on right now. We’ve got co-marketing, we’ve got little old ladies solving murders, we’ve got Tarot cards, and, of course, we’ve got Free League. Let’s take a look.

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Cold Fires, Jedi Shadows, and Creativity: Why You Should Listen To Force Majeure

“Unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.” That’s one of the legal definitions of force majeure, and I can think of a few examples. Getting discovered by a dark figure known as Tenth Brother might prevent you from fulfilling a work contract, or the ‘contract’ that is your prison sentence. An “irresistible compulsion or greater force” is another definition, and an offer you can’t refuse to retrieve an artifact from a strange wasteland certainly fits the bill. However, that second definition is also a pretty good description of the reasons Why You Should Listen to the podcast known as Force Majeure. You know how it goes: a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

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Solitaire Storytelling: Sacred Forge

Everyone who is part of the story touches Destiny in some way. Even if they are not the heroes. Even if they are not even named in the pages. I am a master bladesmith, the keeper of the Sacred Forge. My blades are renowned for their strength, sharpness, and harmony.

A holy sword does not come from nowhere. It does not materialize from starlight and a wish. It is built through effort, honed through attention, and consecrated by a powerful heart. They will not name me in the story. But my blade will never be forgotten.

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