Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

Archive for the ‘Artistry’ Category

Reasons Why I Publish

Posted by Nathan P. on February 12, 2008

  • I like doing it.
  • It makes me happy.

Huh. Same reasons why I play games.


Posted in Artistry, Mission, Publishing | Leave a Comment »

“Story” Games

Posted by Nathan P. on July 29, 2007

This is coming out of a discussion at Dexcon with Rob and Eppie and Terry.

So, like, Story Games is a great label, and it has a lot of legs (as we can see). We’re at the point where you can have conversations like “yeh, check out this game, it’s a story-game…” or “here’s how story-games tend to work…” and have them be useful, cuz the shorthand works.

But they’re not really story games, right? I mean, most of them are Character games. Some are Theme games. There’s some Plot games. And so on.
I dunno. It seems to me that, in terms of generating fictional narrative, we’ve successfully caught up to a screen writing 101 class. Which is great! These games are fucking fun, and don’t let me make you think I’m saying that they’re not!

Part of it is that whole pesky intrinsic nature of what roleplay is (the whole audience-participant thing). Another is the youth of the medium. But I just think there’s (the constant) danger of being satisfied with the state of the art, and it’s worth mentioning that there are so many other places to start expanding with what we do, as designers and as players.

Posted in Artistry, Mission | 2 Comments »

Haha Wow

Posted by Nathan P. on January 18, 2007

So I’m doing a proofreading edit of carry for the second print run, and guess what! one of the examples is wrong!  Not in a huge way, but definitly in a way that directely contradicts the rules text right next to it.

Wow. I feel like a total shmuck.

Writing rules text is hard.

Posted in Artistry, carry. a game about war., Publishing | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Nathan P. on November 17, 2006

So there’s this thing that happens with roleplaying, where you can have an awesome game session, but then if you retell the narrative, it’s flat or staid or not particularly interesting. And this is a dissonance, because you know that it was a really fun game, and you guys were all really into making that narrative through your audience-participation, so why is the “plot” so lame?

So there’s this thing that happens in literature and film where it’s creator gets you to identify with different characters in different ways. It”s really easy to see in film because it’s how film works as an emotional medium – the good guy has a set of attributes, and is presented to you in such a way, as to make you project your sense of self-identity into him. The villain is presented in such a way as for you to project things and people that you have experience with as being wrong or bad into him. And so on.

So there’s this thing in roleplay called “character creation,” where the process of creating your filter for interaction with the fiction is a process of straight-up, no-holds-barred, identification with that character.  And so, your game is full of characters that you start off the bat as identifying with in a way that nobody else can.

So I think that’s really interesting.

Posted in Artistry | 2 Comments »

Ok, Seriously

Posted by Nathan P. on November 15, 2006

So…uh…I guess I get all warm and fuzzy when I see the word “awesome” being note-ad-ly edited “out” of yer posts, and all, but it’s getting old.

If you wanna say something about it, say it. If you don’t, I don’t need the flak, yo.

Posted in Artistry, Mission | 3 Comments »


Posted by Nathan P. on November 15, 2006

Sometimes you just have to start throwing shite at the wall and see what sticks.

I have a draft of a character sheet now. Characters have traits that have boxes, stuff about their Perversity (including Discipline and Nerve and Malocchio’s), stuff about the Imp they are playing (including Influence, Duplicity and Lusus Naturae), and a section called Grim and Horrible Tales that is stuff that other people get to give to your character (under the headings of Compassion, Desperation, Discovery, Tricks and Secrets) and is the means of character advancement.

Now I’m figuring out how this all hooks into the resolution matrix idea that I’m running with for resolution stuff.

The Reverse Engineer experience is totally helping here. I’m putting stuff on the sheet that I want to be there, and figuring out how it all works as I go.

I’m trying to keep the fiddly bits to a minimum – that is, there is going to be a deck of cards, and the resolution matrix of cards, but I think I want everything on the sheet to be about effecting the matrix. You never have a hand of cards, or anything. I dunno if this will be boring.

I think that this design process is going to be extremely iterative.

Posted in Artistry, The Imp Of The Perverse | 2 Comments »

Tired Of Awesome

Posted by Nathan P. on November 7, 2006

So…I dunno. I’m starting to get tired of awesome.

I’m sure there’s a liguistic term for it, but it’s the thing where the constant (over)use of a term makes it meaningless. It seems that everything I see on teh intarwebz is described as awesome. Or bringing the awesome. Or stepping up with the awesome. Or whatever.

Is this merely a linguistic rant? Perhaps. But I think it’s a sign of something a little more important, and this links into some of the post-Gen Con kerfluffle (remember that, kids?) regarding criticism and feedback. In internet discourse, at least, there’s a lot of pressure to only post with things that are awesome. Games that are great, things you think are really good, game experiences that kicked ass, and all of that stuff.

Like most things, this is both good and bad. It’s good because we are a small community, and there’s a lot of negativity out there, and we need to have the energy of awesome in order to have a comfortable sphere within which to interact. And that’s all good.

But it’s bad in terms of creating a culture of feedback and constructive criticism. Not everything is awesome! There’s a lot of stuff out there that happens that isn’t awesome. A lot of it is still quite good. And, more importantly, much of is has potential to be really good. But it is never going to get to the next level if there isn’t critique and criticism!

“It” could be a game design, playing a game, reviewing games, whatever. Doesn’t matter.

I personally am a little frustrated because I’ve gotten private feedback about one of my games, and when I said “hey, could you/are you going to do an AP post?” I got the response “well, it wasn’t a great session, so I don’t think it’s worth it.”

I mean, post, don’t post, whatever. But I think making the deciding factor whether a given session was awesome or not?

Well…it’s hard to critique awesome.

[EDIT: Definitly read the comments on this one, folks]

Posted in Artistry, Non-RPG Gaming | 13 Comments »


Posted by Nathan P. on September 10, 2006

Last night I saw The Pillowman, a haunting and very, very thoughtful play about the nature of art and where the responsibility of the artist lies, among other themes. There’s also this thread where Ben talks about tradition over at Anyway, and this thread about why there aren’t any games about 9-11 at Story Games. Let’s not forget Jason’s thread about the ethics of game design, and I’ll humbly link to my own concerns on the subject.

All of which is striking directly at something that I feel very strongly about: the responsibility of the artist. As in, if an artist creates art, and that art causes someone else to do a horrible thing, is the artist responsible?

I think not. I think, that once you blame the artist for the consequences of someone else’s action, you are in effect telling them to stop making art. And that, my friends, is not acceptable to me.

I don’t think that you can blame the creators of a videogame for some kid taking a gun to school; you cannot blame a television show for the obsessive fans; you can’t blame a role-playing game for some nutjob doing a crime while “in character.”

But. Artists do still have responsibility and accountability, and that’s for fulfilling their goals as artists and seeing clearly what effects that fulfillment may or may not have on their audience.

In The Pillowman, the protagonist writes a story about a little boy who gets his toes chopped off by a traveling stranger. He tells this story to his mentally deficient older brother, the only family he has in the world. The older brother goes out and acts out the story, killing the child in the process.

Is the protagonist responsible for the death of the child? I think not. Is he responsible for forseeing that his brother, who has the mind of a child and who looks up to him for everything, might take his stories as something that he is asking the brother to do, and change (or not change) his stories as he sees fit? I think so.

I’d be really interested to hear others opinions on this. Where do you see the line?

Posted in Artistry | 4 Comments »

On Stupidity

Posted by Nathan P. on July 25, 2006

From Stephen Brusts’ LJ

I was aware that considering the greater part of humanity to be idiots is popular in the science-fiction and fantasy community; I had not realized the importance it held in many people’s personal identity. This intrigues me.

Of course, such an attitude is death to an artist. An artist who holds that opinion has only a few choices: to write down to his audience, thus producing insulting drivel (Hollywood is the obvious example); to see his audience as some sort of “elite,” which leads to smug, snobbish work profound only in how cleverly it says nothing; or to deliberately cut himself off from any audience, generally followed by either cessation of work, or by a decent into the most worthless self-indulgence.

Posted in Artistry, Mission, Personal | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Nathan P. on May 24, 2006

I don’t find the push/pull conversation particularly interesting. This fact is starting to bug me, as it seems like a ton of the designers that I like & respect are getting very excited by it. So, either:

1. I don’t get it, and haven’t yet found an explanation that connects to my feeble brain.
2. I totally get it because it’s part of how I play and think about RPGs anyway, so it’s like reading discussions about how, say, plays and films are like TOTALLY DIFFERENT man, WHOA!
3. I think I get it, but I think that it’s basically reformulating the basic process of roleplay, which is something I’m a little burned out on thinking about.

Number 1 just means that I’ll eventually stumble across something that’ll make it click. Number 2 means that hey, cool, now I have some new words to communicate with. Number 3, though – well, let me take a quick stab at #3.

To recap: the dynamic process of roleplay is that of collaborative creation mediated through the exploration of a fictional space. The players are audience/participants of this exploration, with each individual exploration “pendulum” swinging back and forth from audience to participant depending on the specific makeup of the fictional space.

Now, according to Mo,

Push is an assertion of individual authority.

Pull is a directed solicitation for collaborative buy-in and input.

Push and Pull slot in really nicely, actually – its the different ways that a/p’s move the pendulum of exploration! When you are on the participant end, you can Push the pendulum of others either way (audience participant). You can also Pull the pendulum of others from audience to participant, but I’m not sure you can really Pull from participant to audience (audience –> participant).

Very simple play examples!

[Push A–>P] I am a wizard in D&D. I use my Charm spell on another players character, who now roleplays his characters attraction to mine.

[Push P–>A] I am a wizard in D&D. I use my Lightning Bolt spell on another players character, who fails his save and takes enough damage to take him out of the fight. He has to wait until he gets healed or the fight is over to get back into the game.

[Pull A–>P] I am a wizard in D&D. I raise my arms and threaten another players character with magical death unless he does what I want.

[Pull P–>A] I’m not sure about this one. Maybe something like spending plot points to put myself in someone else’s scene, but I think thats more of a Push. Some help here?

So if I’m totally mangling Push/Pull (#1!), lemme know.

Posted in Artistry | 2 Comments »