Friday, October 19, 2012

Well That Was A Long Time Wasn't It

First off, did you know I actually won an SA design contest for my diceless time travel game Retrocausality? It's true! (at the time of writing I think the paywall is up, but I might throw this up elsewhere.)

Second, worse and even less important news! Due to a whole bunch of stuff coming up in my offline life and some online shenanigans on the side, I am going to go ahead and lay this blog to rest for now. Don't worry, it's all good things. Among other things, I am now somehow a moderator at that Orwellian clusterfuck of a forum (Don't tell them I said that.) Hopefully the "he's a secret goon 4channer Stalinist storygamer troll who has it in for (insert shitty game designer here)!" conspiracy theories are better this time.

Also, check it out! You might like it, despite that time I slagged it off a year or two ago. (PS: Don't tell them.)

Anyway, yeah. Anyone who doesn't already have my deets can reach me at the Something Awful forums, the sup/tg/ IRC or any time they want. (If you want to call me a cunt with impunity avoid the one I moderate, obviously.)

The blogosphere has enough unfunny idiots droning on about minor RPG shit once every two months. You'll live.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Which James Desborough Is An Incredibly Sad Man

If you're expecting a followup to that game design contest stuff, it's coming! In the meantime, let's talk about "In Defence of Rape" by James Desborough.

Don't read too much into the title, it is shock bait. The actual article is a defense of rape as a plot device, which is kind of like walking through a minefield with a blindfold and a jackhammer. Read through it and form your own opinion if you like; this is less about the article and more about how Desborough is a manchild.

For example, did you know he has a persecution complex? It is actually kind of hilarious. The dude wants a reputation as an edgy iconoclast who thrives despite being censored by THE MAN so badly he can taste it. If trying to shock people for attention nets him any consequences or criticism, though, watch the fuck out because it's time for an angry post, usually one trying to conflate his cause with an unrelated one!

Banned from RPGnet? WHY DO YOU THINK I'M WORSE THAN HITLER??? I'll get you, RPGnet moderators!

His friend Uri (a lying nationalist who also desperately wants to be an internet martyr) gets banned from RPGnet after posting a map of a fantasy Israel with a racist Palestinian caricature? HE WAS BANNED FOR BEING JEWISH!

A creepy card game about tentacle rape gets pulled off Kickstarter? this is just like the persecution of LGBT people! CENSORSHIP!

Wait, people criticised my post on Twitter? WHY DO YOU SUPPORT CENSORSHIP?

Of course he'll probably get hard just reading this post, but apparently this guy's post has already set off Operation Rape Martyr and part of an old review of one of his works I wrote has already got him posting dumb shit, so I guess it can't hurt!

Anyway, this post! Like I said, I'm not going to bother breaking it all down - look at it yourself, check the comments, do some reading. What I am going to argue, though, is this:

Rape could, hypothetically, be used as a plot device. I can't actually think of any examples off the top of my head that aren't horrible (certainly not in the RPG community, which still has massive issues with objectification of women), but I am prepared to believe that somewhere in this world is someone that can write something about rape that isn't garbage.

The problem is, most people who think they are qualified to do so are wrong. Just look at CthulhuTech (or better yet, my ongoing review on SA), or Dominic Deegan (links to the SA Deegan thread because fuck making people go to his website).

Very few people who think they can do it are right, and they sure as fuck aren't James Desborough.

What makes me think that? Well, a lot of things, but let's go with something from that old post of mine he was crying about because I'm lazy. A long time ago Desborough wrote Encyclopaedia Arcane: Nymphology , a joke book about sex. Now, raunchy comedy in an RPG work is something I can also kinda see, but unfortunately Desborough knows more about misogyny, homophobia and cries for attention than he does about jokes, so that kind of fell flat.

Let's see what Desborough thinks would be funny to write about!

Summon Sex Partner

This spell summons a creature and binds them into your presence or that of a client long enough for a sexual act to take place. The creature summoned may not be entirely willing (some are) but is bound by the magic of the spell to do what is required and cannot return to their home save by fulfilling the demands of the spell. Beware of meeting a previously summoned creature outside the context of the spell or you may well be in trouble.

Huge surprise: Turns out the guy crying about "rape culture" and insisting that he doesn't trivialise rape decided it would be hilarious to write up a spell for a comedy book that lets you summon sentient creatures (or an animate table) and force them to have sex with you. No trivialising for Desborough, no sir! Only the finest, deepest, most "awesome" uses of rape for him!

Holy shit, James. Are you twelve?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ryan Dancey Is Basically A Con Artist

The best news I've heard all month: Paizo Goblinworks has a Kickstarter!

A recap: Six months ago, Paizo hired Ryan Dancey, brains behind the OGL, who had just left his position as Chief Marketing Officer of CCP (developers of EVE Online) coincidentally around the same time CCP had a marketing debacle so bad the CEO had to apologise to their customers. Also completely coincidentally, Dancey had convinced Paizo that what they really needed was a sandbox MMO. All they need are a few little things like staff, investors, a few hundred thousand dollars.

A few months and approximately zero dollars later, Dancey needs your help! Enter this Kickstarter, which asks for $50,000 for... a technology demo that he can show to investors.

So, a funding drive for a funding drive.

Dancey can write a strong opener, at least. The pitch basically begins with Paizo taking credit for Vampire and Magic: The Gathering. Smooth! Also, did you know Ryan Dancey is the Steve Jobs of MMO marketing? I mean I would have gone with Kevin Siembieda personally, but I have a soft spot for the guy and Steve Jobs' career has the same future prospects so let's roll with it.

The meat of every Kickstarter lies in the rewards, though. What have we got?

At the basic $5 level, you get "an exclusive long video of the final Technology Demo." So basically, a Let's Play of a tech demo of an unfinished MMO. If that sounds anything like "We get to watch the game in action!" to you, well, here's the tech demo for Doom. Tip: It's not called a "content demo".

Oh yeah, and according to the FAQ, they're releasing most of the video for free anyway.

At $15 you get a 64-page PDF of a book about a city they're going to use in the game, and I am so glad the cover art is only a mockup because what the Christ. Also, half of those pages aren't actually gaming stuff, but "written by our Pathfinder Online design team, letting you into Goblinworks’ design philosophy and giving you inside information gleaned from the development of our technology preview." What fucking inside information? Dancey's magical adventures convincing Lisa Stevens to write him more paychecks while he workshops vaporware?

At $100 you get a Goblinworks t-shirt. There's no picture of the t-shirt.

At $250, you become a "Goblinworks Founder", which means you get a certificate and a special icon on the Goblinworks messageboards. You know, to make sure people on AND offline know you're a fucking idiot.

At $1,000, you get to actually play Pathfinder Online! By which I mean playtest the alpha. You do get to give "direct input on how Pathfinder Online ends up looking and playing", though! Wow! They sure are listening to the fans!

(You know what they call people who give input on how games end up looking and playing? Playtesters.)

At $2,000, and yes these are still going, you'll get to play the technology demo itself! Wow! Not only that, but you'll do it at Goblinworks HQ, where you get to hang out with Paizo for the day! Lunch is included, even! Not lodging and transport, though, which you will have to pay for yourself. Also, if you can't make the day they pick, too fucking bad.

Finally, at $5,000 (Jesus Christ), you and five friends (or five people from Paizo if you have no friends, and let's face it, you just ponied up $5,000 to fund a technology demo of a vaporware MMO based off a Dungeons & Dragons knockoff) will play an RPG for 5 hours with a celebrity GM of your choice! While I would definitely pay money to roll with Rich Baker (dude did 7th Edition Gamma World, come on), I wouldn't pay $5,000 for the privilege. There's more, though! That evening, you'll get to eat dinner with Ryan Dancey, Lisa Stevens and your celebrity GM!

(Transportation and lodging is your problem.)

And at the time of writing, someone already backed this. Someone actually gave Dancey $5,000 to promise to maybe promise to make an MMO later.

Hell, the entire fucking thing is paid for. Right now, 1,232 backers have pledged ~$77,000 to keep alive Dancey's vaporware dreams for a bunch of rewards which mostly boil down to "we will give you a thing that says you donated". There's already a  new video in which Dancey actively encourages people to keep donating. Why, though? I mean, he explicitly said this Kickstarter was for the tech demo only and not an MMO he can't promise he'll deliver yet (because it's fucking vaporware), so I guess extra money goes to the tech demo?

"If additional funding from the Kickstarter won't go towards making the demo bigger, what will it be used for? We're glad you asked! Extra funding will allow us to bring more resources to the table faster. We may be able to accelerate our hiring plan, and begin the task of expanding the work we're doing to create the technology demo into the alpha version of the game. And, of course, the more money we raise, the better Pathfinder Online looks to investors!"

Or I guess Dancey and Goblinworks are skimming the excess. That's cool too.

Oh, and there's a stretch goal now! Sort of. Actually, instead of a new money target, they're shooting for number of backers - Dancey wants to point to this Kickstarter and say "Look how many people want this MMO to happen!". (Personally I am incredibly skeptical that a few thousand Pathfinder fans, at least some of which must be backing just for the PDF, translate to a sustainable MMO base but hey whatever, I'm not Steve Jobs.)

You know what, though? I hope he succeeds. I hope it gets more backers. I even hope Kickstarter doesn't shut this down despite the posters reporting it for basically exploiting the letter of Kickstarter's guidelines to bilk Pathfinder fans. I hope this tech demo gets released and everyone gets to watch their glorious Youtube of a generic fantasy dungeon made with outdated middleware on a shoestring budget, and think "fans paid tens of thousands of dollars for this".

Hell, you know what? I hope someone invests in this, at least enough to keep this going another six months. This is a fucking hilarious schadenfreude clusterfuck. Start another Kickstarter if you have to.

I want to see this lumbering monster shamble through the Internet like an octopus who has somehow found a way to become morbidly obese, prolonging its inevitable collapse as long as it can. I want to see the fans who seriously sank hundreds, even thousands of dollars into this fucking thing cling to it as long as possible, convincing themselves this is totally going to happen any day now and sinking hundreds more.

I want to see the fanbase's reaction when they can't prop it up any longer and the project finally goes down, taking their money with it.

Keep going, Pathfinder Online. I love you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SA Design Contest - Rambling Horseshit

I am going into this with no idea how I'm actually going to do this. That's cool though! I'm just going to hash things out in big wordy posts and hope I don't turn into an Ideas Guy.
So, this is basically a game about being a precursor civilisation that ruins everything - basically making fun of a gentle ribbing a heartwarming love letter to a common sci-fi theme. What do I want out of it?

• Fun. (hurrr ima gaem deingsiner)
• It has to be simple enough to be run online. (Most of my games are over IRC and I doubt I can get a game going locally, which rules out certain kinds of dice tricks.)
• It has to be broad enough for individual games to use whatever references they like (like if one guy wants to make fun of Mass Effect, another guy wants to be the Yith and another wants to do something weird with energy beings and megastructures they can all do that.)
• It has to be easy to play. I am not making a game about micromanaging alien fleets while harvesting vespene gas.
• I want the players to be able to play whatever they want, from libertarian fungus colonies to humans with funny ears.
• I want the players to customise the "galaxy" they play in, so galaxy creation should be involved.
• I want the players to interact with each other, whether by interstellar war or diplomacy or whatever.

And on the subject of theme, what are these alien dudes going to get up to anyway?

• Seeding worlds with life
• Encouraging the development of civilisation with monoliths and whatever
• Sealing away ancient evils
• Creating ancient evils
• Leaving powerful artifacts in tombs and shit (probably weapons for shooting the evils)
• Leave traps to kill people because fuck you, that's why
• Killing you with synthetics
• Going into hibernation/hiding, intending to murder or enslave everyone later
• Making records of history (for bonus points, Be The Yith)
• Embedding themselves in mythology as gods because why not
• Leaving travel networks
• Ascending to higher planes of existences
• Getting themselves murdered by shoggoths
• Fucking with people

Actually, that's giving me an idea, so I think I'll work out the broad strokes of:

Character creation!

This isn't going to be a crunchy system, but there should be some rules. Looking that list gives me an idea: What if one of the defining features of your race is how they intend to leave a lasting legacy? I think it could be divided into several categories: Those that want to create things (particularly life), those that want to destroy things, and those that just want to change what's there to their liking. If I rearrange the list we'd get:

DESTROY: Leaving traps, planning to return and kill everyone, leaving synthetics to kill everyone

CHANGE: Monoliths and whatever, sealing ancient evils, leaving artifacts in tombs and shit, making records, embedding in mythology

CREATE: Gene seeding, creating evils, shoggoths, travel networks

Some of those seem like they could be in either (travel networks could go under "change" and "create" could mean creating and leaving technology behind, for example), but for the moment what I am working with is that "create" means massive, sweeping and potentially galaxy-changing projects, while "change" involves smaller tweaks - for example, creating entire alien species and seeding the galaxy with them is something much bigger than "dump some artifacts in the galaxy for some alien species to find and use later". Oh, and fuck alignments. You can be benevolent bumblers or tremendous assholes or something in between, I don't care. For now we'll use Create-Change-Destroy instead - the means rather than the ends, I guess.

So how do we use this? I am thinking that there's some possible crossover between these things - wanting to lay traps everywhere wouldn't stop you creating a travel network, for example - so it's best not to make players pick just one. I'm thinking you'd get some "points" to spread across them, to represent how into that particular method you are - something like "Create 3, Change 2, Destroy 1", or similar. As a bonus, this starts making me think about dice mechanics - maybe that determines how many dice you're allowed to roll for a particular action, or the size of your dice.

Speaking of actions, how about skills? Or some kind of character elements, at least. I'd like to be able to specify each race's strengths - do they create life? Invent technologies? Murder dudes? We're trying to represent an incredibly diverse range of aliens, too, so we want the skills to be broad as well. Let's also roll with this idea that you get to roll more dice (or use bigger numbers) for the things you're the best at, and skills are ranked like Create-Change-Destroy.

I could use the list of things aliens can get up to as the "skills" (plus anything else that seems like a good idea), and let the player describe the details. For example, let's say some hypothetical skills are "Life" (Creating life, obviously), "Sealing" (imprisoning races or evil beings or whatever) and "Superweapons" (leaving behind powerful weapons for others to use). I like that setup - the skills play off each other and make me think dealing with non-player life forms is going to be a big part of this game. One player could want to make a race of scientists who want to use the galaxy as an experiment and a test to breed the ultimate life form, seal undesirable elements away in time-slowed prison dimensions and set up automated defense networks to protect their assets forever. Some of their skills could be:

Ultimate Lifeform Experiment [Life] +3, Creating Prison Dimensions [Sealing] +1, Automated Defense Systems [Superweapons] +2

Another player could want the same skills but have different ideas:

Summoning Elder Evils [Life] +2, Prison Worlds [Sealing] +1, Weaponized Shoggoths [Superweapons] +3

Why engage in boring life experiments when you can summon the servants of Hastur, trap your enemies in prison worlds (or give your summoned horrors somewhere to sleep) and leave ways for everyone to destroy each other and hasten the arrival of the Old Ones?

I'm not sure how much else I can do there without hashing the dice mechanics, and I'm getting a bit tired anyway, so one last thing before I wrap up this waffling horseshit:

Empires or PCs?

At first I was going to have the PCs represent empires, but now I am getting some different ideas. Basically, I want the players to engage in social combat, something which might be tricky if there aren't any specific characters involved. I still want the actions of the empire to be at the forefront, though.

My current idea to fuse them is to begin with a "setup" phase where the PCs lay out the galaxy and how the race as a whole interacts with it, then move on into a "leader" phase, where the PCs roll as the rulers of their civilisation, chilling out on some kind of Space United Nations world and continuing to issue galaxy-changing orders while engaging in "diplomatic" social combat with their fellows and secure aid and bonuses. Depending on how the game is structured there may be multiple "leader" phases, but for first now I'm thinking of just one. Unless this is an awful idea, who knows!
Also I put this one up a little late and I have the dice mostly worked out, so expect that soon!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SA Design Contest - Concept

Alright, so the short version: the Something Awful forums are having a sort of design contest, and I've decided to enter because why not! I will also dump my posts in this blog.

So, basically I need to design an RPG with competitive elements and some cool dice tricks. Also I need to do it in less than a month. Woo hoo!

My idea:

Assholes Among the Stars

The galaxy is young, and the players represent the first sentient life to spread across the galaxy. Those guys who normally appear in sci-fi RPGs as the amazingly advanced precursor civilisation that seeded worlds with life or planted portal networks or other amazing relics before disappearing? That's you. During the game each player's civilisation tries to leave behind just such a lasting legacy, and competes with the other players to see whose is the best.

In most sci-fi tales, though, the precursor races are either enormous assholes or even bigger fuckups. With that in mind the goal of this RPG is not to be the best, but to be the
least worst: the player who gets the closest to succeeding without actually doing so is the winner. The game is designed so that this may require fucking up your own plans - maybe that evil you sealed away isn't as sealed as you think, or your civilisation just straight-up goes into civil war mode and you lose a bunch of tech. It's not good for them, but it's good for you, provided you can push other players into failing even harder or - better yet - "help" them succeed. 

This should be fun. And by fun, I mean for everyone watching me crash and burn.