Scotty: How thick would a piece of your Plexiglass need to be at sixty feet by ten feet to withstand the pressure of eighteen thousand cubic feet of water?
Dr. Nichols: Oh, that's easy - six inches. We carry stuff that big in stock.
Scotty: I noticed. Now suppose - just suppose - I were to show you a way to manufacture a wall that would do the same job but be only one inch thick? Would that be worth something to you, eh?
Dr. Nichols: You're joking!
-- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Say a character in one of your games is going to do something offscreen, or perform some complex task that could have a number of possible interesting results. Or maybe the player just missed a session and you want to find out what happened to them. What do you do? You could spend a bunch of time having them make rolls and play out solo scenes, but that's boring for the other players and not very creative.
Now suppose - just suppose - I were to show you a technique that would give you all the benefits of playing out a montage or flashback scene but require only one roll?
Would that be worth something to you, eh?
Continue reading Choice of N: a simple but effective GM technique
Hacking the Apocalypse World system is all the rage these days. Game designers are using the core framework to create brand new games across multiple genres - from horror to romance to historical fiction.
Many of these hacks are complete re-imaginings that take the game away from its post-apocalyptic roots. But there's also a lot of room in the AW system for small hacks - things that keep the gritty, desperate feel of the game while changing the focus or tone just enough to make the setting feel different. Here are three that I've come up with that can be used individually or together.
Continue reading Three Small AW Hacks
This is another good gaming post I've salvaged and cleaned up from my old blog. Independent games are breaking a tremendous amount of new ground in RPG design but most gamers still play the old standards: D&D, White Wolf, etc. If you like what indie games do but still love traditional tabletop RPGs, what can you do? As it turns out, lots!
These are some principles you can use to spice up your traditional RPG experience. I'll be mostly using D&D as an example, they should apply to any game. And note that these are techniques I use - they're not just theoretical.
Continue reading Applying "indie" principles to "trad" games
I'm a lucky dude. I present as a fit, able-bodied, middle-class, straight white man. Pretty much anywhere I go I am the dominant paradigm. I'm playing the game of life on easy mode. I have no fear of time machines.
A lot of people use video and role-playing games to escape their lives; to be more awesome versions of themselves. That's great. It can be wonderfully therapeutic. But when I do it, I get bored. What do I have to escape from? I live a charmed life! No, for me, games are an opportunity to explore; to step into another life; to walk a few miles in another person's shoes. They're an opportunity to experience different expectations and responsibilities, to think differently, to see what life is like without some of the privilege I take for granted. They're an exercise in empathy.
My current Apocalypse World character is that, turned up to eleven - and I think I've bitten off about as much as I can chew with this one.
Continue reading [disem]Power[ment] Fantasy