Friday, September 7, 2012

All About the Benjamins (Part 1)

Damn, it's hot again.

Sitting in the bar, in a t-shirt and my phone reads its about 77 degrees and it feels quite a bit hotter. No, Seattle is not Montana but it's still sweat-worthy (town hasn't had rain in more than a month...ugh). I'm sure it will cool down by the Seahawks first home game (a week from Sunday) and I should probably be enjoying it now...but I get thirsty when it's hot and strong drink makes my head swimmy and my spelling messy. Well, messier than normal anyway.

[okay...short interlude while I grab another drinky...hold on...]

All right...all good.

So, quick update before I begin. No apologies this time: my family (wife and child) got back in town Sunday before last after being gone a week-and-a-half and I've spent the time since mainly enjoying the pleasure of their company. Took a long weekend over Labor Day and travelled to Montana to visit the relatives and unwind a bit and much ZERO writing when I was out there (though the wife and I did manage to power through most of Downton Abbey, season 2, on DVD. Best show I've seen from TV land since, perhaps, Firefly for sheer damn quality: acting, writing, emotion, art direction...good stuff and top notch). Now, well...the wife leaves for Paraguay again on Saturday and I am preparing to once again be a single parent for a week. What with the NFL season breaking into full force on Sunday, you can expect little blogging out of me in the foreseeable future.

Well, maybe. Thing is, it's just been a bitch getting on the internet weekdays the last couple weeks because of my job location. The only place I can hit up to post is a school campus library (don't ask) and it's been mostly closed during the last couple weeks for the school break. Since nights aren't free...well...

All right, like I said I just wanted to do a QUICK update. Now, prior to my family coming home folks might remember me doing a scratch poll asking what folks would like me to work on, writing-wise, while my fam was out of town. The Top 5 requests were fairly surprising to me:

#1 D&D Mine (?!)
#2 Land of Ice
#3 CDF
#4 B/X Space Opera
#5 Clockwork (?!)

[oh, and just by the appears there is a current crowd-funding project going on to raise money for a new Clockworks RPG (note the "s") using the Savage Worlds system for a web-comic by the same name. Personally, the numerology isn't good enough to fight someone over the name, so I will probably rename my cyborg-Boot Hill mash-up. However, I will note that MY Clockwork micro-game was first published (on this blog) 9-8-2009. On the other hand, the webcomic is older (having begun June 2009) though the settings bear little resemblance to each other...whatever]

Well, anyway, I'm sure folks are anxious to know what I spent my 10 free days working on. Right? Sure you are.

None of the above. I wrote a new game.

Even had a chance to playtest it a couple weeks ago. Basically I took a lot of the ideas I've been working with in D&D Mine, wrapped it around a turn-o-the-century (1900, not 2000) setting and added all the old school Lost World tropes found in Verne and Haggard and Doyle, etc. Dinosaurs, people. I don't know why but these days I have an unhealthy obsession with hunting dinosaurs with elephant guns.

The great thing is, using a B/X starting point allowed me to simply adapt X1: The Isle of Dread as a near-perfect introductory adventure.

I say "near perfect" because I grow more and more tired with "generic adventure modules." Not because they aren't useful or well-done but because the systems I've been writing lately all make the player characters (slimly out-lined though they are) more richly such a way that they call for tailored adventures specially made for their own particular foibles and extravagances.

For example, our Lost World characters (in the play-test) consisted of a debonair (if debauched and corrupt) Portuguese criminal, a disgraced and exiled Moscovian scientist-professor, and an American ex-pat, Davy Crockett-type living in Panama (these all created by the players...I don't like to play-test with pre-gens as part of the testing involves testing the chargen rules). While it was fairly easy to shoehorn the three together after a little discussion/consensus-building by the time they got to the "mysterious south Pacific island" I was wishing I'd set the whole adventure in the Amazon, preferably with ties to each character's background. It just would have made so much more sense.

As it was, it was still fun and many of the rules worked (though I acknowledge the info I provided to the players was pretty damn scant: "roll this." "roll that." "take damage." etc.). However, there were definitely things that didn't work, especially with regard to motivation and the push-pull dichotomy I intended to set-up with PCs between ethics (Victorian or otherwise) and temptations to be bad. And while players (and designers) of indie-games will say "duh, you need to sculpt a game with those things in mind, not based on a wargame chassis, doofus," I know what I'm aiming for and one-off, premise addressing narrative game design is NOT it.

And after some contemplation, I realized a very fundamental concept of fantasy adventure games which is what I'm more and more becoming interested in and that is...

Wait. Wait. "Fantasy adventure games?"

Yeah. I'm getting tired of "story games" and "role-playing games" (the term...really) and I'm not very good at "war games" due to my somewhat over-competitive nature (my buddy Mike used to tell me 'it's not that you're a sore loser, you're just such a bad winner'). And, of course, the whole boxed-board game-thang of 4th edition really isn't my cup-o-tea.

I want fantasy adventure. No, I'm not being dumb. Try to catch my drift from this point o view: it's not about being an interesting character. It's not. It's about doing interesting things. You can use your imagination to daydream about about being...well, pick your well-cut action hero celebrity of choice. But I can do that withOUT a game. What I can't do is have an imaginary adventure...where the plot is unknown and the ending is unknown and my reaction to events is unknown until they're presented. I want to have a fantastic, imaginary adventure...something outside the normal adventure of average life.

Not that there ISN'T adventure...perils and intrigue and romance and daily life. There is (it really is a matter of perspective)...but still, you can't fly through space or fight trolls or wear a six-shooter on your hip in daily life (at least, you probably shouldn't). The fantastic experience, coupled with the (melodramatic perhaps) adventure is what I'm looking for.

And shit...I got distracted by DNC highlights and now my computer's almost out of juice and I haven't even gotten to the tagline. (*sigh*)

To be continued...


  1. "Fantasy Adventure" is perfect!

  2. Dude, I'm a fiend for dinosaurs, I can't wait to see this.

  3. Fantasy Adventure Games unfortunately has a lame abbreviation. I prefer Speculative Adventure Games. Speculative doesn't reign in the genre, and allows for everything from pendragon, to detective, to space.

  4. what you really want to write is a bloodbowl post.

  5. @ Steamtunnel: LOL. Maybe not as bad in England/Europe.

    @ Shlominus: Ugh. You know me too well. I have been absolutely chomping at the bit to do another NFL/Blood Bowl mash-up, but there's always a certain amount of disgust that comes pouring out when I do. Not that I care, but when I've been so lax in otherwise blogging, well...
    ; )