26 December, 2010

One more post for 2010...

Two quick things in this post...


I read it and instantly thought it might be useful for those people who come here looking for design advice. I agree with the sentiments in this post, I've had game ideas in the first stage that have been sunk through option paralysis when other contributors have had great ideas to contribute, but haven't offered a decent way to integrate them into what has already been defined...and I've had just as many projects sink when other people who claimed early interest simple disappeared when the call for playtesting or constructive feedback was announced.

The most important thing when designing a game is to give it your enthusiasm and don't let others demoralise you.

My second part to this post...

When did Storygames come back online? I've been looking at it once or twice a week for over a month now and have always been getting a page indicating that Storygames is suffering database difficulties. Yet now it seems as though there was nothing wrong for most of that time...

19 December, 2010

Last Post for 2010

This may be my last post for 2010, it's been a pretty wild ride. Loss of a job that I thought was going well, moving house, declaring bankruptcy, meeting new friends, getting disillusioned by old friends.

My thoughts on Vector Theory have been refined somewhat through the posts I've made. The games I've written throughout the year have started receiving some positive attention, and that's always good. My comic is getting ever closer to completion.

It's generally been a year where unfinished projects have been worked on and exploration in the left field has proven useful. I had hoped to get a few more projects completed this year, but that just didn't prove to be.

Sometimes life just gets in the way...and if you worry about this too much, you forget to live life and just enjoy it while you've got it.

Let's see what happens next year.


Alternatives for Hit Points

I've been thinking about the idea of hit points in games.

They appear in computer "RPG" games, and they've been a staple in tabletop games since the beginning of the hobby. I've discussed them a few times in old posts, and ways that they might be looked at. Alternate suggestions in other games have included a standardised range of "health levels", or penalty levels incurred for different degrees of damage.

But what I'm more interested in today are the alternatives for damage. In a social game you might look at political penalties that make it harder for you to accomplish social activities, or a pool of reputation points that absorb the insults and treachery of your opponents. In a digital "Tron"-style setting, you might have a pool of energy points that fulfill the dual purpose of absorbing incoming effects while being used to fuel attacks of your own (a precedent for this might be blood points in Vampire: the Masquerade/Requiem).

I'm trying to think of some other alternatives that might more closely link this absorption pool into a specific setting or genre of play.

23 November, 2010

A New Design Collective

Just a quick post to see if any readers out there might be interested in joining a design collective. A group of designers who are interested in cross promoting their games and game ideas, who will help each other out with industry ideas and game design advice. This group will probably also work on a few communal projects, as well as getting the support they need to get their own games going.

There are a few core members, and the finer details are being worked out. I just thought I'd share this news to see if anyone else was interested.

Reply to this or send me an email if you'd like more information.

Project Death Race

Seems that my "Babes and Bitumen" idea already has someone designing something similar.

Project Death Race can be found here.

It's associated Kickstarter project is here.

It's similar to the concept I was going for, but I was thinking of developing a bit more story around the cars and the teams that support them.

22 November, 2010

Babes and Bitumen


I've been thinking about some alternate ideas lately. It's an annoying habit that I have.

When I'm meant to be working on something, I inevitably start thinking about something else.

When I tried to create Bunraku nights for the Cyberpunk Revival Contest, my mind spontaneously generated FUBAR as a side project (which has now reached over 1000 downloads)...and now that I should be refining Walkabout, my mind has taken a wild turn into a completely different genre.

What would roleplaying be like if it developed from slot cars and model race tracks rather than wargaming with toy soldiers? Instead of stories about dungeon exploration, a game might centre around a big race. Buying gear in town might instead become upgrading a vehicle, and haggling with the thieves guild might become negotiation with corporate sponsors.

The intrigue would still be present with different race teams developing animosity toward one another. Relationship maps could be drawn up for the individual members within a team.

Betty the mechanic likes Janet (the team's "media liaison") due to a one night stand a few months back, but he doesn't like Roxy (the team's "ace driver") because she's reckless on the brakes and keeps burning out the clutch.

It doesn't need to be an all female team, I just thought that might boost up the soap-opera angle, and it's makes for a catchy game title.

Is it an option worth pursuing?

16 November, 2010

Post Apocalyptic Instructions



If you knew the end was coming and there was nothing you could do about it, how would you prepare?

I just read this article on Wired...it's a couple of years old as I write this, and it discusses a mystery that is decades older still.

But reading it really made me think of my game WALKABOUT, and some interesting directions where it could be taken.

Table Consensus

In my readings and podcast listening, I’ve noted a few people discussing the idea of collective GMing, especially in regard to the notions of dividing up responsibilities such as narrative framing, awarding experience and determining if a character is “being played correctly”.

Each of these is a very different topic, but the last one has seen some controversy. So that’s where I’ll be turning my attention.

GMing is a delicate art of maintaining a collective dream (that mysterious thing that many people refer to as a “Shared Imagination Space”), and by keeping a degree of authority imparted to them by the gaming group.

In traditional roleplaying games, a group might impart virtually limitless control to their GM. They allow the GM to frame scenes, tell them when to roll dice, and then tell them how the results of those die rolls manipulate the unfolding narrative. Often, in this type of set up, the players don’t even mind when a GM fudges die rolls just to ensure their story unfolds in a predetermined manner.

It’s a lot of responsibility on the GM. They basically have to prepare the story in advance, prepare the scenes and any props that might help make things more immersive for the players. The GM basically plays the role of a raconteur, telling a story to their group and occasionally allows their players to become scene focal points when the story demands it. The players sit back and either enjoy the ride, or get bored/frustrated and find a new GM. It’s just the way things have been and most players put down a bad gaming experience to a “bad GM”…and as a flipside to this, most traditional players feel fearful of the idea of stepping up to GM duties.

The main “expected right” in a traditional game is the idea of player advocacy or protagonism. When a GM is given the rights over everything else in the story, a player expects the right to make choices that are important to their character, and through the process of character generation and backstory, they expect the right to decide which choices will actually be important.

If I make a character who is a “high school kid seeking popularity while coming to grips with newfound psychic powers”…I expect a story where seeking popularity will play a role, where I’ll get to use my character’s psychic powers in interesting ways, and where I’ll probably face issue of being something other than human. If my GM isn’t planning to tell a story relating to any of those things, I’d like him to tell me from the beginning. That way my character choice won’t clash with the GMs story and I won’t get frustrated.

There is advice like this in GMs guides for many games, White Wolf’s Storyteller system is riddled with it. But that’s the whole point of the storyteller system; it’s right there in the title. The system is designed for one person to tell a story with their friends portraying characters in some of the key roles. It gives you the tools, gives you pages and pages of advice on how to use those tools and offers suggestions for how to tailor those tools to your group. Too many GMs I know simply ignored those pages of helpful hints and advice, simply running the World of Darkness as a dungeon bash or concocting elaborate conspiracies regardless of the character types devised by the players. To make things worse, a lot of GMs would then tell their players “make any type of character you want”, to appease their players up front, not realising the treachery of their words in the long term.

On a few occasions, I was one of those GMs; but over time I learnt the art of incorporating the chosen concepts of player characters into my stories, getting players into the story generation right from the point where their characters are created.

But is it enough to ensure characters are integrated into a story to ensure that they have a degree of fidelity and internal consistency.

I’d say probably not.

These are just the elements for valid testing of integrity. If a character is incongruous with a story, none of their decisions make sense in context. If a GM declares that I’m not playing my character right, I need to have a valid point of reference if I’m going to take their critique. Metaphorically, if an accurate portrayal of a certain character is 23.5 degree Celsius, an inappropriate story is like trying to determine that temperature with a ruler. If my “high school kid seeking popularity while coming to grips with newfound psychic powers” was critiqued in a setting riddled with immortals, vampires and werewolves in the southern states of the US, it would probably get a very different critique to the same character played the same way in a sci-fi space opera. If I knew what the Gm was planning from the outset, I’d tailor my performance…and my performance would tailor the way the true nature of the character was portrayed. I guess it’s a symbiotic feedback loop. When certain things get tested, those are the things that become the defining aspect of the character.

That could be argued as one of the important reasons why “system matters”… but it’s probably more of an important reason why everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to story, character and the shared dream.

That gets me back to the topic title, and sets groundwork for the actual things I’d like to delve into.

In a traditional game like Dungeons & Dragons, characters advance based on their success in encounters. More recent (but still traditional) games, like the Storyteller system and certain variants of d20, characters get the chance to improve based on a player’s consistent portrayal. Maybe they earn Willpower points (or some other mechanism altering benefit) for acting according to their “nature”; in other games they might earn a few bonus XP for achieving goals associated with their personal agendas. This type of advancement is another arbitration decided by the GM, but many groups I’ve been a part of have allowed this decision to be arbitrated by the other players on the table.

Here’s where the controversies arise in the discussions I’ve been reading/watching/listening to.

How do we determine what is an accurate portrayal? How much do we want to reveal about a character at the early stages of a story, especially when a character is meant to be slimy or treacherous?

How much do we allow meta-knowledge into the game? How do we persecute it when we discover that it has been used/abused?

I’ve been playing with the idea a bit in some of my recent game writings…

I’m trying to find a way for a player to be rewarded for sticking their character to a core concept, while allowing that core concept to grow.

It’s one of those problems seen fairly frequently in the fan-fic community. One person writes a story about Leia Organa in the extended Star Wars universe, carefully defining the character’s reactions through the instances when the character has faced something similar in the past…another person says that the character isn’t portrayed correctly because things worked out badly the first time the decision was made and now they’d make a different choice…another person still claims that certain events aren’t canon and therefore the whole piece of prose is inaccurate.

The shared dream just isn’t there so the gauges of character fidelity are instantly skewed. With established and famous characters it’s hard enough to get agreement on the accuracy of the choices made. Therefore, trying to get an accurate assessment of a personally created unique character must be next to impossible. It seems like a great way to get the players more active in the decision making for the game, but is it sound judgement to base a game reward mechanism on a system that is inherently flawed? Is there something we can do to make the system more structurally sound?

13 November, 2010

Theory From The Closet

With over 50 episodes under it's belt, "Theory from The Closet" (referred to hereafter as TFTC for this post) seems to have become one of the heavyweights of unconventional/non-traditional/independent roleplaying podcasts.

After being referred to a recent episode in regard to my Game Chef entry, I decided to download the entire back catalogue. I figured that I needed a bit of context before I just sat and listened to a new podcast, and I can be a bit obsessive so I just went whole hog and downloaded the lot.

It's not like Here Be Gamers which I started listening to from close to the beginning (besides, I know Nathan from GenCon Oz, so I understood a bit more where he was coming from in his podcast)....but I digress, this post is about TFTC.
I've been plugging away at listening to the whole thing, in my spare moments and when I'm writing away at my assignments and own gaming projects. Trying to listen to the whole thing in chronological order where possible, and condensing years worth of podcasts into weeks worth of listening.

A few things stand out to me:

Clyde L. Rhoer seems like a really interesting person. I like the fact that he doesn't shy away from the mistakes he makes in the sound recording and the awkward pauses in conversation. The discussions/interviews he holds with various designers throw up a fresh perspective on a lot of the people and the games they produce.

He seems to have a bias towards the Burning Wheel team, and the IPR guys but since they're basically the heavyweights in our gaming scene it's not really surprising. They've been doing some cool stuff, I didn't realise how cool until I actually listened through the interviews with Luke Crane and his posse, and with Fred Hicks. But, to be fair he has also interviewed Ron Edwards and Vincent Baker (with Ron being especially noteworthy as he is often seen to stand on the opposite side of the indie game fence to the Story Game crowd).

It's weird being here on the other side of the world, knowing the names of the people involved and now being able to put voices to those names. There's no way I'd be able to actually head around the world and chat with these people face-to-face, but it's added a level of familiarity with them.

I guess that's one of the cool things about podcasts.

TFTC has settled into a rough pattern of interviews, with a scattering of pure theory monologues by Clyde. I don't know which of the two options I find more interesting, both certainly have their merits. I think it's actually a good thing that the show hasn't become too formulaic and polished. That really doesn't seem to go with what we're about as a community.

Independent game design is about experimentation, expression of gaming individuality, not giving in to the demands of "the man"...but I guess that's one of the reasons why we don't make any money off it either (not much anyway).

So far for me, some of the highlights have been:

Episode 12...about 28 minutes in...where the discussion seems to draw some amazing parallels to what I was trying to achieve with Vector Theory. Even the terminology gets close, but then the conversation drifts away.

Episode 59...sorry, I can't remember the time reference (it's at least an hour in)...where I think Clyde was raising a question to Vincent Baker, in it he states how the "Forge theory" and the big model aren't really about game design at all. They're about social design around a game. The rest of the conversation basically meanders around the topic that "The Forge" was designed to set up a parlance for discussing game design and it's basically taken 10 years to get to the point where a meaningful conversation can now be had. We now have a range of mechanisms, and we have a range of outcomes that various people want from their games. Now we can start the process of designing the connections between those two sides of the equation. Now we can actually start designing rather than just theorising.

And that's another point where I was trying to go with my Vector Theory. It's not about defining outcomes, it's about the minutiae of actual game design...this mechanism affects the game in this way...that mechanism affects it in that way....this affects the flow of the story, this changes the direction of the story, and that alters the characters effectiveness within the story.

It's been really insightful to get the combined perspectives of dozens of game designers. Seeing that we all share issues, and the various ways we've used to overcome them...or at least the ways we're continually struggling to overcome them.

Maybe I'll get interviewed in a podcast one day...then my thought patters can filter through the world via a different medium.

...it's too much effort to set up a podcast of my own at this time.

Anyway, if you're interested in game design, I'd recommend you have a listen to a few episodes.

08 November, 2010

NaGa DeMon

Crackpot genius Nathan Russell has come up with a bastard variant of the National Novel Writing Month.

He has called it the National Game Design Month...(or NaGa DeMon for short).

Participants basically spend a month writing a game, getting as much done as possible. Hopefully turning out a complete product by the end of the month.

I'm going to be refining Walkabout over the course of the month.

I've done a little so far...

A progress report shortly.

03 November, 2010

The Myth of Cultural Appropriation

This is a rant, it's designed to stimulate thought.

It is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, because there are certain people on the periphery of the independent roleplaying community who get very vocal about the topic.

Cultural appropriation is argued vehemently by a number of people who have very strong opinions on the topic, but in many cases when I’ve tried to nail someone down on the subject they get very ephemeral in their responses. The more I look into it, the more I feel like this should be a topic for the Penn and Teller television show “Bullshit”.

As far as I can see (based on the rhetoric and histrionics), cultural appropriation is the taking of a cultures elements and the use of those elements to pigeon-hole or even belittle the culture. If you take the stereotypes of a culture and use them to engage the typical stereotypes of the group, then it seems you are engaging in cultural appropriation. If you are prejudiced toward a culture, drawing opinions about them based on the information of others and not doing research for yourself; that also seems to be a case of cultural appropriation.

This idea seems to be a very secular view of things, almost a reaction against religion. I say this because most religions have a view where their version of salvation or redemption is deemed the “correct path”, while everyone else is considered wrong. Those who indulge in cultural appropriation are engaging in the same tactics, by claiming to know something about other cultures and then claiming specific facts about those cultures based on their assumptions…a fundamentalist Christian says that all Muslims are going to hell because their belief system is flawed, a devout Buddhist might claim that a Christian will never achieve enlightenment because they draw their faith from a part of the illusion that surrounds us all. Those who take a stand against cultural appropriation seem to believe that the Christian fundamentalist and the Buddhist from the example are both flawed in their thinking. The religious examples provided are simply human nature:

  1. I join a group.
  2. I identify with the group I’ve joined.
  3. I know that there are groups that exist outside the group I’m a part of.
  4. I don’t identify so much with those groups.
  5. 5. In my opinion, the ways I don’t identify with those groups are ways that those groups are wrong.

“Cultural Appropriation” says that everyone makes their first choice to identify with a group, and in that way everyone is unique. It further seems to push the notion that you shouldn’t categorise other people based on the groups they identify with, in fact you shouldn’t categorise them at all.

It’s a nice doctrine, generally inoffensive; you shouldn’t judge others without engaging in their deeper aspects of being. But like most doctrines, when you push it a bit further it starts to crack. That’s when the adherents start to get defensive.

In Australia, we’re seeing this idea filter through the news. No longer are you allowed to say that a crime was perpetrated by a man of middle-eastern appearance, because that’s considered ethnic profiling, or even racism. You can say “light skin”, “dark skin”, “olive complexion”, but as soon as you get more specific you have a backlash from somewhere. I guess the same thing has happened around the rest of the western world. We saw the same thing come out of the United States a few decades ago when it was declared racist to use the word “Nigger”, the race had to be referred to as “African American”, “Black American” or whatever new catchphrase was deemed appropriate in each passing year…then the “African Americans” decided to take the word back for themselves. They were allowed to call each other by the name “Nigger” (or “Nigga” if they identified with street culture), but if someone not of their race used the term is was still considered an affront. This has left a generation of people unsure of what is offensive any more.

So it seems that people just take offense to anything and everything, just to be safe.

We’re getting to the point that descriptions are meaningless…you can’t say “Black” because that will offend someone, you can’t say “Muslim” because that will offend someone else, you can’t call them gypsies because that’s a racial slur that has been perpetrated for centuries. As soon as you try to identify someone according to some context, you run the risk of offending someone.

Those who oppose cultural appropriation seem to be the types who will take offense for the sake of taking offense. They take on the role of old ladies who tell young children that roads are dangerous because of cars; the kids don’t know where to play anymore because all the flat areas around them have been paved by people of a previous generation (people who had been told that grass caused allergies, so they couldn’t play there).

Everything offends someone, and it seems that there are some who are offended by everything.

That leaves us with a dilemma.

If we can’t describe people according to their appearances (because that’s prejudicial or racist), and we can’t identify them by their cultural affiliations (because that’s cultural appropriation or just another form of racism), how do we describe them?

You could describe them by the sum of their actions, but that would take a long time to assess and just as long to divulge the information. What if you only caught a glimpse of them or heard a few heavily accented words in a conversation? You can’t describe their skin colour or their accent due to claims of racism, blatant stereotyping or some other form of offense taken by someone.

I was referred to a TedTalk by an African author Chimamanda Adichie (Here). This was referred by one of those people who are vocal opponents of cultural appropriation. It was an interesting talk, but it seemed to be hedging around the issues rather than confronting them. An interesting point she made was an anecdote about an American university lecturer who claimed that her writing didn’t sound “African”. Obviously the professor had a prejudice about what an “African” novel should sound like; he had appropriated her culture and had pigeonholed it. She thought it seemed odd that as an African novelist her novels didn’t sound “African”. I’m not going to say that her novels are bad, I haven’t read them. Apparently they seem to be pretty good because she was invited to present the talk and has sold numerous copies of her work. Africans can identify with what she writes, but my question would be how well other people identify with what she writes.

She might be a good novelist who is African, but does she write good “African Novels”. What is an African novel?

As soon as we start to identify traits of an “African Novel”, someone will claim that we are appropriating the culture. Perhaps she writes good stories about living in a newly urbanised environment within a specific African nation, but is that just generalising that particular urban area. Perhaps she writes a good story about a specific person, but who is that person out of context?

As humans we need descriptors to identify people.

Using cultural stereotypes may not be a perfect way to describe people, but surely it’s a distinct part of the whole.

If I write a story or a game about Australian Aboriginals and simply write them using common English speech and inoffensive mannerisms, how do I show that they are different to the Europeans around them? If I use a couple of stereotypical terms to place them in context, they actually develop character. Granted a stereotype will only generate flat characters, but it gives a reader a common ground, allowing potential for further and deeper exploration once the common ground has been set. If I don’t place them in context, the actions of these characters will be much harder to connect with.

If I write a story about the Lebanese community in western Sydney, I could use the stereotypical conflict between the Islamic and Christian Orthodox families within the community, tying this conflict back into their homeland. There are people who’d find it racist, but there are far more people who’d instantly grasp the background of the story. I could do the same thing through the car culture commonly found among young Lebanese males in the area. Again, it’s a stereotype, but it instantly sets up degrees of conflict within the setting. If I apply both stereotypes, I run the risk of generating caricatures of the community members, but if I apply other cultural templates across the characters to build up something deeper, they each become more complex.

That complexity just wouldn’t be possible without the cultural context.

Maybe I could rewrite one of Chimamanda Adichie’s novels using characters from the Lebanese community in western Sydney, simply changing the place names and the character names. If it still resonated as a moving story, then maybe it’s not a good “African Novel” after all, it’s just a good novel written by an African.

01 November, 2010

Hopefully time to settle down (and a bit of FUBAR)

The move has been completed, rubbish has been thrown away, rooms have basically been sorted. We've actually unpacked boxes that were never unpacked after our last move...so things are seeing the light of day after six years or longer in careful packaging.

Some stuff had to go, there simply isn't as much room in the new place as we had in the old place. I had the luxury of an empty double garage to use as a workshop/storage area in the old place, and now the range of ephemera once locked into that "warehouse" has had to integrate into the house, justify it's continued existence or be thrown away.

With this in mind, I've done a little bit of work on my first genre supplement for FUBAR. I'll hopefully have it out on RPGNow by this time next week. The aim will be to generate a supplement each month for the foreseeable future, I've got enough ideas to keep going in this regard for a couple of years.

The genre supplements will follow a basic pattern:

An introduction to the genre (one or two pages).
A twist on the core rules to help reflect this genre better in your games (one or two pages).
Two or three optional rules (one or two pages each).
A roughly laid out setting for the genre (a map page, a pair of suitable NPCs, some story hooks, and some evocative descriptions to help set the mood, all up about 4-6 pages).
A range of sample trait cards applicable to the genre (followed by a page of blank trait cards)
A range of sample location cards applicable to the genre (followed by a page of blank location cards)
A range of sample item/objective cards applicable to the genre (followed by a page of blank item/objective cards)
A range of sample organisation/plot-twist cards applicable to the genre (followed by a page of blank organisation/plot-twist cards)
A blank character sheet
(About 20 pages on average).

The cards and character sheets will be formatted in a style to match the genre; thus the first genre supplement is "High Plains FUBAR", a wild-west inspired setting. The character sheets look like wanted posters, and the trait cards are shot through with bullet holes.

Like the core FUBAR rules, there will be plenty of images and nicely laid out pages.

I haven't fully decided on the prices yet, but the supplements will probably be released at about $2 each (US). The core rules will always remain free, I'm hoping that interested players will show their devotion by buying a couple of supplements from me over the course of their play. Given that I've had over 700 downloads of FUBAR so far, it would be nice to think that at least 10% of those downloaders would be willing to occasionally fork out a modest sum for a way to invigorate or transform their game. I could hope for more, and maybe if the game develops a bit of a following those numbers might improve with time.

Once I get a few similarly themed genre supplemenets under the FUBAR banner, there might be the opportunity to print up a batch of limited edition physical copies.

We'll just have to see where things go.

26 October, 2010

House Move Finished

I've finally finished moving house. Now my biggest issue is getting some kind of internet connection back. Hopefully that shouldn't take too long.

06 October, 2010

Walkabout Page Updated

It cam as some surprise that half of the Walkabout page was missing.

There must have been some issues during the last update. Maybe the server got disconnected halfway through the process.

As a result of this, the Walkabout Page on the Vulpinoid Studios Website has now been updated.

05 October, 2010

The dangers of Commitment

The annoying thing about committing to impending projects is the fact that inevitably, things will occur that you haven't planned for.

I've been preparing for moving house for two months now...which has left me in a flux state for an indeterminate period, living off borrowed internet (because we shut our accounts down, not knowing when the move would actually hit), throwing myself into computer based activities (because the laptop is unpacked while most of my art supplies, DVDs and other amusements are packed), and other disruptions to the normal routine.

I had hoped for a weekend of release over the past few days, but even that didn't work put right. I was aiming to play a few sessions of FUBAR at Sydcon, to iron out some bugs and seriously put it through it's paces with a variety of people. But things went catastrophically wrong for two reasons.

First, the real estate decided to give an open house viewing of our property, right in the middle of Saturday. The house was in no state for an inspection, but messages had been left on my phone which was for various times uncharged, or out of mobile reception coverage on the way to the new house. I couldn't cancel because they'd already booked people to view the property, and I had to spend the morning cleaning up. That knocked out any chance of getting to the convention on Saturday.

Then, Leah decided we'd try to move out as quickly as possible now that leases had been signed at one end, and termination notices had been given at the other. So Saturday consisted of two trips with a heavily packed trailer down to the new property. That wiped out Sunday.

To make things worse, my neighbour with the unprotected wi-fi decided to shut off his router (he obviously went on holiday for the three day-weekend). This meant I was cut off from my most regular form of communication with people I had tried to organize events.

Makes me feel really bad, because I've let down a heap of people (maybe 20 or so, who would have played the game on the weekend...including many of my playtest regulars).

This whole collapse of a weekend meant that I wasn't able to get any of my college Web Design assignments done either...and now we're in heavy moving mode, so my attempts to write up Game Chef reviews have had to be put on temporary hold. I'll be moving pretty solidly for the next two weeks. I'll see what I can do to get a few reviews out in my gaps of rapidly filling timetable.

So my new priorities...
  1. Moving House
  2. College Assignments
  3. Freelance Writing Stuff (Avalon and QT Games)
  4. Game Chef Critiques
  5. Walkabout
  6. Other Personal Projects
Once the house moving has completed, things should reshuffle.

Anyway...that's enough rant for the moment, back to regular scheduling.

29 September, 2010

My Game Chef Review Criteria

As I said yesterday, I've been plugging away, reading the Game Chef Entries. A long slow train trip to my parent's house gave me time to take some notes as I read. I figured that I'd try to be pretty transparent in my review criteria and my reasons for liking some games and not liking others. As a result I've come up with a general scoring system based on the things I think are important in a game and the things that I think should be sources of challenge in a contest like Game Chef.

Game Chef Review Criteria:

0-5pts: Use of Ingredients and theme in an appropriate manner

+0.5: per ingredient used in a cursory manner (either a flavour addition or a throwaway mechanism name)

+1.0: per ingredient integrated into the game through flavour and mechanism

+0.5: if the game has a cursory connection to the theme.

+1.0: if the game resonates with the theme at a deeper level.

0-5pts: Clarity of Rules

0.0: The rules are an absolute disgrace; I can’t even fill in the gaps through intuition.

1.0: The rules are pretty sparse, and they don’t seem to address the actual methods of playing the game.

2.0: The rules seem pretty solid but there seem to be a couple of pieces left out (or just not explained clearly).

3.0: The rules carefully explain the methods of play, either through elegant terminology, or careful play examples.

4.0: The rules are at about the quality you’d expect from a good game entry; easy to read and clear to understand.

5.0: The rules are very good, at least of the quality to expect to find in a professional game from one of the “big” companies.

0-5pts: Completeness of Rules

0.0: There aren’t any rules at all.

1.0: There aren’t enough rules to play any part of the game in any meaningful way.

2.0: There are rules enough to handle the basics, but I can foresee a lot of situations that just aren’t covered by them.

3.0: The rules are a solid set; they may not tie in with the themes and there might be a few disjoints, but reasonably complete.

4.0: The rules cover pretty much everything; and they do so in a way that gives a sense of uniqueness to the game.

5.0: The rules are extensive and well flavoured; anything you could want to do is easily covered by their depth and scope.

0-5pts: Originality of Rules and Concept

0.0: It might as well have been copied verbatim from a book pulled off the shelf in my local game store.

1.0: Nothing overly original about it, but at least the author changed some of the names or added their own touches.

2.0: It fits squarely into an existing genre, or game system; but there are some intriguing elements thrown into the mix.

3.0: It combines a few systems or setting I’ve seen before, but in a way that makes it a bit different or original.

4.0: I’m unable to remember where I’ve seen some of the elements, either it masks them well or adapts them effectively.

5.0: This has simply blown my mind with its originality.

Bonus Points:

0-2pts: Layout

0.0: No Attempt at formatting

0.5: Minimal formatting (maybe a font befitting the game or a two column layout)

1.0: Decent formatting (different fonts for headers and text, maybe some text boxes)

1.5: Good formatting in a style suiting the game (maybe with text boxes for rule clarity/actual play)

2.0: Well formatted in a style suiting the game (with decent indexing/table of contents)

0-2pts: Imagery

0.0: No images what-so-ever

0.5: One or two images, or some kind of play aid of basic quality

1.0: A title image, and a map or other play aid of good quality

1.5: A scattering of images through the text to evoke mood or theme.

2.0: Fully illustrated with evocative pieces (whether hand drawn or otherwise)

0-1pt: Title Page

0.0: No title page

0.5: Simple title page, maybe a list of contents

1.0: Elaborate title page.

Multiply total result by 4 to gain a percentage score.

28 September, 2010

Game Chef Reviews (In Progress)

I'm still living the life of an internet nomad at the moment.

We've luckily got a neighbour who is tech-savvy enough to have a Wi-Fi network, but not quite tech-savvy enough to have a password protecting it.

Depending on where the laptop is in the current house, there might be good reception, poor reception or a signal so weak that it doesn't actually allow signals through.

When I work on my laptop in bed, I can't get any signal at all because we have metal security shutters on the window, and the winder snapped...thus a thick metal plate barring any signals from getting to me. So I find myself typing in a room filled with packing boxes while most of the other rooms in the house are bare, or packed similarly.

The good news is that we've secured a new house, the bad news is that it's a bit of a distance out of Sydney. Our broadband network supplier doesn't have cables or ADSL boards installed in the phone exchange that far out...and most of the service providers I've managed to contact are the same. As a result we're going to have to spend $100 to break our internet contract, annoying since we couldn't continue with them if we wanted to. What's even stranger is that the $100 contract breaking fee is less than the $150 change of address fee that we would have had to pay even if they were in the area we are moving too. I'm sure it makes some kind of corporate sense to somebody, but it makes no sense to me.

So, for the next three weeks, the joys of moving house.

I've read through a few Game Chef entries and I could easily see myself playing some of them. I've written up a page of notes each, for the five entries I've read so far. I'll compile them into some semblance of a decent review shortly.

23 September, 2010

Game Chef 2010 Critiques

Now that Game Chef 2010 is over, I've looked through a few of the games produced and have been generally impressed with the diversity and quality of the games produced.

9 Days isn't a lot of time to generate a professional quality piece of work, but a lot of people have produced some finely polished pieces of semi-professional writing and game design. Quite a few of them could probably do with a good read-over and like all new games I'm sure they need a bit of playtesting to iron out the bugs. But, all in all, there are some great games in there and quite a few I'd like to play if I wasn't in a limbo state of trying to move house, and caught between groups of roleplaying friends. I don't know how many of the games would hold up well under a two person play scenario (I can probably rope in a third, but only for short periods of time).

As a result, I'm going to give a general critique on the games that stuck out to me as being interesting. My criteria of interesting is based on the blurb written on the game chef site, the number of comments made on threads during game development (on praxis, the forge, or 1km1kt), and whether or not I've been interested in the games produced by the author in the past.

With 59 finished games produced for the competition, I could have just limited myself to to the 10% that met all those criteria, but I really could have missed some of the gems of the competition. Instead, I've downloaded and printed out the top half of the entries according to my criteria. Remember that 2 of my criteria are highly personal things regarding my tastes in gaming, so my top half might not be your top half. But the third is pretty quantifiable.

The first five I'll review will be from the praxis feedback group to which I belonged in the contest; but beyond that, there's no particular order that I'll be reviewing them in. I'll try to alternate between longer games and shorter games where possible.
If there are any games on the short-list that I haven't critiqued, I'll make sure to add them to my list.

I'll be trying to get a critique done once a day; but given that I'm in the middle of moving house, I
can't 100% guarantee that I'll keep up that schedule.

Feel free to make your own comments if you think my critique is off in some way, of if you appreciate what I've written about the games. Anyway, on with the reading, and then the critiquing.

21 September, 2010

Walkabout

In case anyone's interested in downloading my entry for Game Chef 2010...it can be found at a new page on my website.

http://www.vulpinoid.com/walkabout.html

After getting 400+ downloads of Walkabout from the shopfront on RPGNow, it was fun to see how well I could twist the fundamentals of the game into a new setting and story style.

I think it seems to have turned out relatively well, but now it could do with a few weeks of fine tuning and some good playtest sessions.

11 September, 2010

Game Chef 2010 ideas

This has been cross posted to 1km1kt and the Forge.

Awesome list.

I'm really tempted to do something along the lines of Dark Sun, but a lot of people have already suggested this as a possible inspiration.

Mechanically, since hacks are allowed, I think I'll try a twist on my own recent game FUBAR. Instead of a revenge tale, I'm going to twist the rules to reflect a post-apocalyptic road trip, or perhaps a chase across a shattered desert landscape.

That's the intention for the surface layer of the game, but I like things to have a bit of depth to them.

With that in mind, I'm thinking of the alchemical journey of the soul...a progression from initiate to adept to master...and beyond

A single session will be about a physical journey between places or the pursuit of a quarry. The campaign play will be about the enlightenment achieved by engaging in the metaphorical journey multiple times.

These are my initial thoughts prompted by the ingredients.

But like normal, I'm starting to deviate from the actual words and delving into abstracts. So I'll try to pull things back to the actual terms of the contest.

City - An urban location...the voyage beyond the accepted culture is a path taken by outsiders, it is in this path that enlightenment is achieved, but without the buffers of the community it is easier to fall into insanity or simply lose one's way.

Desert - As a noun or adjective this could refer to a wasteland basically devoid of plant and animal life ("this place is a desert")...as a verb it can mean to flee an area with no intent to return ("she doesn't like it here and is going to desert the place")....then it also has the meaning of a reward or punishment ("he got his just deserts")...so much potential in this term.

Edge - Another ambiguous term that could be used many ways...as a noun it could represent the border between two things, the sharp side of a knife, or the advantage someone has in a situation (I already use it in this way in FUBAR)...as a verb it can mean moving cautiously toward something ("he edged his way toward the fence"), or sharpening something. Hmmm.

Skin - This has a variety of meanings that typically apply to the outer surface of something, examples include the outermost flesh of a creature and the visible interface of a computer program (which can be "re-skinned")...but colloquially it could refer to a drum, a condom or a dollar note. As a verb, "to skin something" typically means peeling away the outer layers.

Straight up, two of the terms have a juxtaposition...Desert/City. One is devoid of life while the other is a place of community.

Two of the terms have a commonality...Edge/Skin...both refer to an interface between two objects.

It's a push to link "edge" and "desert" as movement terms. As movement, edge tends to imply moving slowly toward something, while deserting implies moving away with reckless abandon.

Again....just more thoughts.

I keep pulling back to the idea of enlightened tattooed nomads, living between the worlds of city and desert. A journeying people who take sacred journeys between the civilised realms and into the wastelands of the physical and the metaphysical spirit deserts. They make these journeys to reclaim the lost, or discovers insights about the future...with these journeys achieved, they return to their home cultures to reveal the truth. If they travel too far (physically or mentally), they may get lost. Becoming physically lost means being unable to return to their home, while becoming lost in a mental/spiritual sense means that the character has lost their ability to commune meaningfully with their people, perhaps they have gone insane, or maybe they have transcended the mental state of their people to such a degree that people simple can't understand them.

With this last idea in mind, there could be other wanderers in the desert/wilderness...dangerous lunatics who have devolved and gone insane...and strange enlightened mystics who have lost contact with their people but who might still have useful advice for those who are still capable of returning from their sacred journeys.

Maybe doing something about the Australian aboriginal community and the Dreamtime. They didn't have tattooing as a common practice, but traditional scarification processes fulfil the same basic function...and if I make the setting a post-apocalyptic wasteland, then tattooing might become a viable option again.

With these ideas bubbling away in my head, it's time to head off and think about some other stuff. The ideas can ferment for a while, who knows where they might lead.

08 September, 2010

Deathwatch Collector's Edition

I've long had a passing interest in the rich mythology surrounding Games Workshop's Warhammer 40k. The Space marines with their almost Nazi zeal aiming to eliminate the other races of the galaxy, the ancient Eldar who are a vague mask for the normal elves in a fantasy setting, the inhuman Tyrannids, and the other races that make up the milieu.

They've been pumping away at this stuff for decades, and they've had a dedicated following...but it's only recently that they've had a proper roleplaying game within in the setting.

I never really got into the setting as well as I could have because I didn't want to paint up hundred of figures just to get into a game. I liked Necromunda, and I had a couple of teams for that game...it came close to role-playing, but with a story guided by the exploits of a small team...the scope didn't cover the breadth of the Warhammer 40k universe though, and the other races simply weren't represented (not in the same way that Mordheim allowed teams in the fantasy equivalent). Then we had Inquisitor, a curious game focused on the exploits of long Inquisitors and their entourages of lackeys, cybernetically implanted slaves and flagellants. This was a lot closer to what I was after in a role-playing game because it allowed a wider range of exploration. I even generated up a few hacks to play other races using this system. I never got the chance to play them though.

But with Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and now DeathWatch we're getting the chance to really delve into the rich mythology of the setting. I haven't actually opened up one of the books and started reading, but they seem to be keeping the fanboys happy, and I haven't heard much bad about them in the reviews I've read.

But now I look at the Deathwatch Collector's edition. If I had the money, I'd drop it in a heartbeat for this sucker. Solid metal case, parchment pages within, each copy printed with dedicated lines for it's prospective owner. A true gaming artefact that sets the tone for the product within.

Great marketing ploy.

I'm wondering if I could do something similar with a product of my own....sculpt up some bas-relief forms...use moulds to cold-cast metallic front and back plates with a hinged spine...use this to encase a gaming tome of some type. It would certainly be a step in a different direction to the pdf market, providing a uniquely crafted artefact in exchange for the money dropped by the consumer. Might be worth exploring.

07 September, 2010

Off Kilter Globe


I had an idea a while back...


There are a few theories about the shifting magnetic poles, and how the world might shift off it's axis and rotate in a new way if they become too far out of alignment. The movie 2012 touched on this a bit, and at least one theory about Atlantis uses this as a hypothesis.


As a result I've considered the idea a few times.


What would the map of the world look like if you pplaced the north pole at an arbitrary point on the globe, placed a south pole diametrically opposite, and then spun the world on a new axis as defined by these points.


It either of the pole locations was on land then it would become locked in polar ice (much like Antarctica), if it were close to land then there would probably be an ice-shelf packed with glaciers along the shoreline. Much like the northern coasts of Russia and Canada.


A map of the world drawn from the perspective of this new spin would probably look vaguely familiar in places, but dramatically different in others. After a few hundred years you'd note changes in the vegetation. With rain tending to fall toward the east of mountain ranges while a rain-shadow of dry land falls to the west. Imagine enough of a tilt to cause the Amazon rainforest to now become a vast desert, while the rolling desert plains of Western Australia and Africa might become a lush and fertile ecology.


I've looked for programs that might redraw the map from a tilted perspective, but haven't met with any success so far. I haven't been expecting such programs to account for ecological changes, I've just been looking for coastline manipulations. But no luck. I didn't think I was after anything that was overly revolutionary (no pun intended).


I'm considering the idea of drawing up a few sample maps, perhaps to use as the basis for a new project. It's just one of many ideas at the moment.

RPGNow



I now have products available through RPGNow through two distinct stores.

Avalon Games has put up it's first piece of work by me...How to Make a Great Dungeon. Hopefully there will be a few more of those going up on a monthly basis.


And more importantly (to me anyway), Vulpinoid Studios has established a web store on RPGNow.
In the first 12-hours, I've sold 4 copies of the Eighth Sea pdf. Sure it's only $1 for the pdf, but that's more copies than I've managed to sell in the last few months. I hope there will be some feedback on the game from at least someone who has purchased it.
The new version will hopefully be made available before the end of the year...like all those other projects I'm working on.

06 September, 2010

Alt 1977 - Retro Funk


As a child of the disco era, born in the heady days of the mid 1970s, I spent my earliest years listening to the dulcet tones of Tom Jones, the experimental sounds of Led Zeppelin and the smooth sounds of old-school soul and chunky bass of funk. I looked in wonder as amazing techologies like the Atari 2600 were purchased by aunts and uncles, the Vic-20 was plugged in by a friend's family, and another uncle broke into the modern world with this first CD player (while my parents didn't have any need for such things, until I moved out of home and suddenly the money for toys and gadgets increased exponentially).

Looking over these advertisements is like a trip back to a world that should have been. It's a great inspiration for a game....someone may already be working on that game. But it doesn't mean that other people can't draw inspiration from the same well.

Edit: While adding in the links, I've just realised that the game is in development by Contested Ground, so if this means it will be a part of the Cold City/Hot War oeuvre, then I've already got space on my shelf for it.


05 September, 2010

Vector Theory #29.5: Object Oriented Design Methodology (Part 2)

Hmmm...

I guess I forgot to actually link my post back to Vector Theory.

I don't think everything needs to feed back to Vector Theory but since I titled the blog post "Vector Theory #29", it probably should.

What are design objects from the perspective of Vector Theory?

Any aspect of the narraton's path can be manipulated by design objects. The wavelength of the narraton can follow a certain pattern (a specific array of stats, or a group of traits), and this can be defined as a design object. The nodes themselves can be design objects.

If I want to handle combat the same ways that they do in "Riddle of Steel", I take the design patterns that form the combat system and I know that my narraton will follow through a certain set of procedures every time I get into a combat sequence.

If I love the magic system in "Mage: The Ascension", I take the nine spheres, the concepts of Arete, Coincidental and Vulgar magic, and I find a way to interlock these with the randomisation mechanic I'm using.

I had a game like this just over a decade ago, using the magic system from Mage, but the rest of the game was played using the systems of Amber, and in fact we didn't use character sheets at all, and had no idea about the true capacities of our characters. It was all about immersion without the distraction of rules, everything was about the story and the roles of the characters within that story.

But this just serves the point, the GM in that game was trying to create a story that would follow certain tropes and he knew that those systems had a good chance of providing the types of twists and turns that suited his storytelling method. He certainly wouldn't consider himself a game designer, and this is probably the first time public notes have been revealed about it, but it was one of those moments in gaming that really got me thinking about how games can be something more...communal literature.

All from the gathering of a few suitable component objects.

Vector Theory #29: Object Oriented Design Methodology

Object Oriented design is a concept that has swept across computer programming over the past twenty years (probably longer), but it seems to be something that has been restricted to the computer world, and hasn't really spread much further to my knowledge.

That's not entirely true, but I'll explain a bit more later.

Traditional computer programming looks at developing an outcome, then works toward designing a solution to fulfill that outcome. In traditional methodologies, each program develops independently. They may achieve something similar in the end and they make take a number of similar steps along the way, but the development process is discreet for a particular project. For example, if you need to develop a program that will print out facts about a person, you create a series of specific routines that gather information about the person, consolidate the specific information into a specific format, then print the specific information.

Object oriented programming follows a different theory. Instead you build a bunch of chunks. The same program developed from an object oriented perspective might take a chunk that's designed to gather information of all different types and add it to a chunk that provides a data structure for the class referred to as "people". It would then take another pre-designed chunk for sorting any type of data, but since it's a generically functioning piece it can work just fine in this overall system...finally a general use printing chunk is attached to the end.

This is a very simplistic scenario, but you get the idea.

Traditional design builds everything from the ground up, object oriented design develops a series of generic pieces that can be built together like pre-built clusters of Lego blocks into a larger structure.

Computer programming might have received countless pages of theorising about object oriented design, but a simple look at Lego shows that the practice is more widespread.

What sort of computer do you have?

Do you simply say "I have a Mac" or "I have an HP"? Or do you look at the motherboard a singular object, the graphics card as another object that fulfills a specific range of functions, specific sticks of RAM, a specific sound card, a Central Processor Chip....

I remember being amazed the first time I had a friend open up a computer and fix things for me by simply taking out one of the boards and replacing it with another modular piece. The mystery was shattered. A computer isn't a monolith, and the little sticker that says "VOID WHEN REMOVED" is just a social barrier, it doesn't actually affect the workings of the computer if you open it up, and you can actually make it better if you are willing to get your hands dirty.

Cars are much the same once you get down to it; sure, it takes a different skill set to fix a car and each of the tasks becomes easier with a very different range of tools, but at the essence you can look at the car as a range of assemblies and systems, or it can be looked at as a collection of numerous tiny pieces.

In a similar way, all cars from a certain company might share the ability to use a certain range of parts...mufflers might be interchangeable across the range. They all share the same function on the car and a single company finds it cost effective to mass produce a single part to be used on various models in their range.

Let's pull this back to game design.

John Kim and John Kirk have written some great stuff about the patterns used in RPGs. I'd thoroughly recommend any prospective designer to have a look through their works. I've mentioned Kirk's work in the past.

Take a look at generic systems like GURPS. In most cases they aren't truly generic, instead they provide a toolkit of generic objects and then in the sourcebooks and genre books they'll offer a way to combine the components to provide an experience that reflects the genre, or maybe they'll add a few new subsystems to plug into the generic toolkit.

But you don't need to get deeply involved in game theory to appreciate the concepts of object oriented design. I've seen it applied in almost every game that I've run, and most other GMs seem to do it pretty frequently as well.

"I like this game, but I don't like the experience system, so I'll allocate experience the same way they do it in that other game."

"This game has a really great combat system, but that game handles magical stuff much better."

"I like the official game released for that licensed property, and I'll use some of the ideas, but if I combine these parts from this game, and those parts from that game it'll be much closer to that dramatic episode that we all like."

Home Brews. Hacks. Call them what you will, they're a staple part of the hobby. We take components from one game, add components from another and get something that we like. We might use a bit of trial and error to get things just right. Exposure to a wider variety of games gives a wider assortment of components to choose from. A bit of good knowledge and grounding in theory can help to make the process a bit easier. Visiting game design forums and looking at insightful blogs, might teach you some new ways to incorporate pieces, or discover how other people have failed when trying to combine certain game design objects.

I"m thinking of design objects as Game Chef looms closer. I've got a whole bunch of unfinished components that could be plugged together into a range of new game forms. It's just a case of which ones to use.

04 September, 2010

250 POSTS!!!

When I first started this blog, I didn't think that I'd reach 100 posts. But now that I've past the quarter millennium it really feels like I've been getting some interesting ideas out of my systems through this blog.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully there will be plenty more interesting topics and discussions to come.

Game Chef 2010

It's time for Game Chef again.

Awesome.

It will be running from September 11th through to the 19th. From the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, through to annual "Talk like a Pirate" day.

Or if you're Jewish, this post on 1km1kt shows the coincidences from that perspective.

I like Game Chef because it always ends up challenging my ideas about what a roleplaying game can be, especially when I start looking at what the other contestants have produced.

It gets me feeling experimental, sometimes producing absolute train wrecks, but on other occasions producing something that acts as the kernel for a new track of design thought.

I recommend any game designer give it a try at least once in their design lives.

I don't know what it will have in store for us this year, but it's going to take all of my mental restraint to prevent myself from rewriting my entry and editing it into pirate prose on the final day.

At least I can share the day after the contest with my wife on our anniversary, I'll have gotten a whole heap design angst out of my system for another year (or at least until the next contest comes around).

Unexploited Resource #4: Rosary Beads


What the...

Yes. Rosary Beads.

The kinds of beads that form chains used for Catholic prayers. Buit this could just as easily be extended to other forms of prayer beads, such as those used by Buddhists, Sikhs, Assorted Orthodox Christian denominations, and numerous other religions around the world.

I got the idea the other day when driving behind someone who had a sticker of rosary beads on the back window of their car.

To use Daniel Solis' coined phrase, they'd make a great "mechaphor" (a mechanically present metaphor) in games where faith is an issue. Especially if you wanted to make some kind of mechanism related to the vagaries of faith, rather than simply leaving these issues addressed by a fruitful void.

A quick look at Rosary Beads and Prayer Beads in Wikipedia shows that there are many different types and variations within the theme, so it would make sense to have some kind of balancing mechanisms present between different types of beads, or simply assume that each of the characters using the bead shares a common path of faith and therefore uses an equivalent string of beads.

Here's my 10 possible suggestions for using these in a mechanism within a game:

  1. The catholic rosary typically has 54 beads, and a string of that denotes it's start and end. There are 5 "decades" of ten beads, each separated by a distinct bead that is smaller, larger, or simply of a different colour, then the separation from start of the chain to the end comes from the string, which may be a cruciform.


    If we assume that the rosary mechanisms is a generally ambivalent story tool. It should provide an equivalent number of positives as negatives. Each of the 50 standard beads might give a -1 to a roll, while each of the beads marking the change of decades (or the string at the start/end of the ring) provides a +10 bonus to a roll. Players simply progress through the rosary for each action they take....standard action (-1 to roll), standard action (-1 to roll)...continue for ten times...change of decade (+10 to roll). This would make most rolls more difficult, perhaps earning complications as a result of the adherent's faith, but every now and then the grace of a greater powers smiles down on the characters and makes something go really well.
  2. Perhaps the idea of trudging around the rosary one bead at a time is too slow. Maybe you could roll a die with each action. The player might choose to have their character make a test of faith. If the character doesn't test their faith, their position on the rosary remains the same. If they do test their faith, a d6 is rolled. For every bead they progress around the chain, they suffer a cumulative -1 to their roll...but if they pass a change of decade, they get to add +10 to their roll. This way, on average, every third test of faith will come with a benefit.
  3. Islamic prayer beads come in chains of 99 beads, or 33 beads that must be cycled 3 times. This represents the 99 true names of Allah. In each of these cases, the methods of progressing through the beads described above could be used, but instead of providing each skill attempt with a bonus or penalty, each bead would flavour the results of the task at hand by the name of Allah according to the character's current place on the chain...If Allah is known as "The Wise" during this action then the character might learn something useful...if Allah is known as "The Avenger" then the character might smite their enemy through the task at hand.
  4. Perhaps the beads could be used as a counting method for "spiritual hit points". A character might move both ways around the chain, improving their position through acts of faith, or falling through acts of hubris and sin. Each time a decade is passed, a new penalty might be achieved or overcome.
  5. Conversely, the beads could signify spiritual enlightenment. Where a character ascends around the chain, gaining a new power each time they pass one of the decade changes.
  6. In faiths where the prayer beads represent reminders for specific prayers or number of times a prayer must be incanted, the game significance might be a bit different. Perhaps the beads could form an analogy for the combat wheel in a game such as Exalted. Actions take a certain number of beads to occur. Quick actions count as 1 bead actions, typical actions might take 2 or 3 beads, while drawn-out effects might take 10 or more beads. Characters progress around the chain based on their actions and time cycles around it as well. This works well in faiths professing the belief in cycles or reincarnation.
  7. Perhaps the rosary could be used as a randomisation method in itself. Especially if it is marked into decades or smaller increments. The rosary might be tossed into the air and caught by a single bead. The position of the bead around the chain determines a value to be applied to the task at hand...or in the case of Islamic prayer beads it might signify which aspect of Allah is watching over the current situation.
  8. Another common form of symbolism within prayer beads is the completion of a journey. With this in mind it might be possible to make each bead a step that must be overcome on the path to completion. A single success on a roll might move a character (or a group) by a single bead, while multiple successes might move the character(s) further around the ring.
  9. Closely related (from a Greek point of view) are worry beads, and the progression around the chain could represent the amount of stress the character is currently suffering, rather than any kind of religious parallel.
  10. In Catholic Prayer, there are a number of "mysteries" that may be obtained through observance of the prayers associated with the rosary. In this manner, progression around the chain might symbolise improvement and development within a specific field of endeavour, a proxy experience system.
There are probably plenty of other ways that the symbolism and the beads of the rosary could be used in a game where faith is a component. But this time I had enough trouble trying to come up with 10.