Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

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Posted by Nathan P. on October 9, 2008

Witness the Murder of Your Father and Be Ashamed, Young Prince


A fiction game for 3-6 players.

The King has been murdered. The only witnesses, his sons, have gathered to determine what happened and declare an heir. There is not much time. If a successor is not named by sundown, the agreements that the King had struck with Crow, the demon-god of trickery, will be broken and the kingdom will perish in a tide of blood and fire.

The players of this game are various princes, the sons of the murdered King. It is an hour until dark, and if what happened to the King cannot be discovered and adjudicated in that hour, all is lost. All assembled know that Crow, the demon-god of tricks, darkness and ill tidings, had struck an agreement with the murdered King to the great benefit of the kingdom; what they do not know (except for one) is that one of the Kings sons was consecrated to Crow in secret, and ultimately this Ravenson serves the whims of his true master.

By the end of the hour, one of these things will come to pass:

  • There is no agreement as to what happened to the King. Thus, no heir can be declared, and the kingdom falls to Crow. The Ravenson wins as the princes will all fall to the bloody madness of Crow.
  • There is agreement as to what happens, and the declared heir is undisputed. The heir becomes King, and all the princes remain princes – unless one of them is the Ravenson, in which case he flees the kingdom, unable to bear the wrath that will be turned against him. If the declared King is the Ravenson, than the kingdom will be turned over to Crow, and it will be as if a King was not declared.
  • There is agreement as to what happens, and the declared heir is disputed. One of the disputing heirs gains enough prestige with his brothers to become the new King, and those princes that support him remain princes; all other prospective heirs are banished, and their supporters are stripped of prince-hood. If the Ravenson becomes King, he sacrifices those brothers who opposed him to Crow; if the Ravenson is banished, Crow’s power is diminished in the Kingdom; if the Ravenson is neither coronated nor banished, he keeps his nature hidden and bides his time.

To Begin

The princes sit in order of age. The youngest prince says “It is now <current time>. This matter must be resolved within the hour.” It is the youngest prince’s responsibility to track the passage of time.

The youngest son places one stone per prince in a bag, alternating between red and black stones. He then secretly chooses either 0, 1 or 2 stones, in any combination of black and red, and places them in the bag. Each prince after him in turn secretly places 0, 1 or 2 red or black stones in the bag. After the eldest son places his stones, he places a coin in the bag, then hands the bag back to the youngest prince.

The youngest prince takes one stone from the bag and says “I, <the princes name> am here. I am the youngest of my fathers sons.” He does not reveal the stone he has.

The next eldest prince takes two stones from the bag and says “I, <the princes name> am here. I am the <superlative> of my fathers sons.” The prince can declare himself anything, from bravest to strongest to wisest. Each prince, in turn of age, takes one more stone than the prince before him and declares which of his fathers sons he is, until the eldest son is reached. No prince reveals which stones he has drawn.

The eldest takes a number of stones equal to the number of princes and says “I, <the princes name> am here. I am the eldest of my fathers sons.”

If any of the princes reach into the bag and there are not enough stones, he keeps this matter to himself.

If any of the princes reach into the bag and feel they coin, they may choose to take it. If they take it, they are the son that was secretly consecrated to Crow. It is not required that the coin must be taken. If a prince chooses to be the Ravenson, he keeps this matter to himself. If a prince reaches into the bag and does not feel the coin, he keeps this matter to himself…for now.

The Murder

The eldest prince than says “While we mourn the passage of our father, we cannot yet take the time to grieve. My brothers, what has happened here this day?”

All of the princes may speak, telling what they saw, think or suspect happened to their father. The princes may speak in turn, talk over each other, interrupt each other, argue, or otherwise speak as they feel appropriate. Once the hubbub dies down, the eldest prince says “My brothers, we do not have much time! What does my youngest brother have to say?”

The youngest prince tells all gathered what he saw.

Once he has finished, the youngest prince says “Who stands with their brother? Who supports my tale?” Each prince extends his closed hand. His hand may contain a red stone, a black stone, or nothing at all. This stone may be taken from their initial draw of stones, or, once the first tale has been told, from the stones before them on the table. Once all  hands have been extended, the princes open their hands simultaneously. If a prince wishes to support his brothers tale, there will be a red stone in his hand. If a prince wishes to challenge his brothers tale, there will be a black stone in his hand. If a prince does not care to support or challenge, or if he is unable to do so, his palm will be empty.

Each supporter places his red stone in front of the youngest prince. Each challenger then must describe what he is challenging about the tale told by the youngest. The youngest may admit that he was wrong, and accept that the challenger is right, in which case he takes the black stone and places it in front of him; alternately, he may restate his case, denying the challenger his tale. If he does this, he takes a red stone in his possession and gives it to the challenger, who also keeps his black stone. If the youngest prince does not have a red stone, he must admit the challenge.

Once the youngest prince has finished his tale, the next eldest prince says “That is as may be, but here is what I, the <superlative> of my fathers sons, saw.” He then tells his tale.

The process of tale-telling, challenging/supporting, and resolving the tale continues, with each prince from the youngest to the eldest telling what they saw when they witnesses the murder of their father.

Princely Authority

A prince may invoke his status as <youngest/eldest/superlative> in order to describe how he was present in the tale of one of his brothers. If the prince describes his presence in a manner that supports the account of his brother, he may take one red stone from in front of him and place it in front of his brother. If the prince describes his presence in a manner that casts doubt or aspersions upon the tale of his brother, he may take one black stone from in front of his brother and place it in front of himself.

If a prince involves one of his brothers in the story, and his brother disagrees with how he is represented, he may interrupt the tale-teller by saying “But, I am the <youngest/eldest/superlative>! That is not how it happened!” and describing his actions in his brothers tale how they really were, before letting his brother resume his tale. If the tale-teller wishes to impose his version of events over his brothers objection, he must give his brother one red and one black stone and say “Though it wounds me, I must tell the truth of what I saw.”

The Resolution

Once each prince has presented his tale, they look at the stones before them. If only one prince has at least one red stone and no black stones, then he is the undisputed heir to the kingdom. If multiple princes have at least one red stone and no black stones, there is a final dispute between those princes. If all princes have black stones, there is a final dispute between any princes who also have red stones.

In a final dispute, each disputing prince reiterates their tale of the murder of their father, with whatever embellishments, changes or revealing of facts they deem necessary to sway their brothers to their side. Then, each prince who is not disputing chooses who they wish to throw their weight behind; they then hand over all of their red stones to their favored brother. Whoever of the disputing princes has more red stones at the end of the final dispute is declared heir. If there is still a tie in red stones, then an heir cannot be decided, and the kingdom falls to Crow.

Time Of The Essence

If the hour runs out before a heir is decided, the youngest prince says “I am sad to see this day, when the sons of our father could not serve his wishes. The bargain is broken, and Crow comes to take our lands.”

The Ravenson

Chances are that the Ravenson, if there is one, will be revealed once an heir is declared; if the Ravenson is not discovered at this time, he is not required to come forth (though it is sporting). The bag may be checked to see if the coin was taken at all.

This is an entry for the Murderland game design challenge. Check that out here.

Posted in Artistry, Contests | 8 Comments »

And The Winner Is!

Posted by Nathan P. on July 3, 2008

Hi there!  Welcome to Happiland!  Happiland is a great place, with singing flowers, dancing trees and a sun that smiles down at you every single day!  In fact, Happiland is the greatest place anywhere, ever!  It’s populated exclusively by talking animals, cute things and little girls.  Everything here is pretty, cute, or both, like me!  But you don’t need me to tell you that, do you?  After all, you’re one of the Horsies of Happiland!

Horsies that have Dreams are conflicted.  They all have two different Motivations: Stormclouds and Rainbows.  I like Rainbows a lot!  Rainbows is our word for all of the wonderful, pretty things that go on here, it doesn’t always mean real rainbows, although it can!  Rainbows are really pretty!  Stormclouds are yucky and gray though.  They’re everything that rainbows aren’t, like drinking and smoking and mounting fillies, whatever that is.

Congratulations to Jamey Crook, winner of my latest design challenge. Horsies Of Happiland: One Night Stand Edition is a pretty twisted version of Nicotine Girls, with the addition of situation/color generation cards and more (!) fucking. The prize is winging it’s way to his door right now, and I’ll be hosting a PDF of the game at some point soon. I hope I get to play it soon too!

So, congratulations Jamey!

Posted in Contests, Promo | Leave a Comment »

New Game Design Challenge

Posted by Nathan P. on May 29, 2008

Write a game based off of this tattoo:

Bonus points for:

*Serious treatment of a literary theme

*Complete avoidance of “My Little Pony” jokes

*Hacking Nicotine Girls

Extra bonus points for:

*Including physical tattooing as the resolution mechanic

(Img from here via my friend Rob)


That’s right, there’s now a deadline and everything. Midnite, June 20th, email it to me at n-dot-d-dot-paoletta-at-gmail-dot-com. Or be square.

Posted in Contests, Personal | 9 Comments »

Vesna Thaw Reviews

Posted by Nathan P. on October 3, 2006

The first:


This is a fairly complex game. There’s lots of fiddly bits to it. Not necessarily unfun fiddly bits, but there’s still a lot of contact. To be fair, the character sheet also has quite a few fiddly bits, so it’s not unreasonable.

Character generation looks like it should be fun, but I still have the faint feeling that the players might be having fun in spite of the system, rather than because of it.

I’m giving it a 5 here. Not necessarily a well-informed 5, but there we go.

Integration of the Character Sheet

The author had a handful with this sheet, I’m sure. But he handled it well. A few bits felt a bit forced, but not unforgivably so.

A good solid 8.

General Cool Factor

Giant Soviet robots in post-apocalyptic battles. That spells COOL in my books.

However, I’m going to ding him a point here because of the terrible font. I’m sure it was some sort of artistic design decision or whatnot, but that doesn’t make my eyes feel any better.

Another solid 8.

Total: 21.

And the second:

Vesna Thaw, by Nathan Paoletta

Vesna Thaw is a game about post-Soviet, post-apocalypse, robot pilots. Players play these brave pilots that use their robots to help their small isolated community survive and grow until they go down in one final blaze of glory.

Playability: 8/10
As I read this game, I could definitely imagine myself playing it. The mechanics didn’t seem to have any trip up points. My biggest problem came in the Robot Scenes section. The section describes how a player’s opponent applies their robot’s Element dice to the conflict, but the text never specifies how the player uses those dice. Fortunately, the play example seems to illustrate the proper use of the dice.

Usefulness of the character sheet: 6/10
I think that Nathan put a lot of effort into using every element of the character sheet, but many of the elements found on the sheet are mapped to new names in the game. The most extreme example of this are the Community boxes in the upper left corner of the sheet. The Community dice names in the game text are Technology Level, Leadership, Population, and Stability. I think that this leads to a dissonance between the sheet and the game.

Wow, that’s cool factor: 10/10
Post-soviet, post-apocalypse, robot pilots. As if that wasn’t enough you get to collaboratively draw your robot with the other players, and then give it mechanical weight. This game seems like it would be tons of fun to play.

Total: 24/30

Thanks Roger! Thanks Dave!

Thats 45/60 – it’s no Architects of Aztlan, but pretty respectable.

I’m not sure I have much to say about the game right now. It’s really, really weird. I have no idea if it’ll play like I want it too. It seems to communicate fairly well, and the premise is cool, but is it fun? I suppose I’ll need to, like, play it, or something.

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Vesna Thaw & Children of the Sun, Children of the Moon

Posted by Nathan P. on September 22, 2006

So I participated in the Reversed Engineer challenge, wherein you first create a character sheet, and you then receive somebody else’s sheet and reverse engineer a game from it. I submitted this sheet, and I received Martin O’Leary’s. Russell Collins received my sheet.

When I made my sheet, I was thinking about a lot of stuff stemming from Gen Con conversations, especially about how the artifacts you use at the table are the interface between you and the game space. So I wanted something interactive, something that you had to participate in creating, which was the germ of the folding portion of the sheet (I was by no means unique with this – folding elements of character sheets showed up all over the contest). I also wanted something with poker chips, because I got an awesome poker chip set at Gen Con. I also wanted something with a mythic/epic tone, with a lot of room for metaphor and interpretation.

I think that Russell did some admirable work by running with those elements of intention, which either means I did a good job designing the sheet, or he did a good job reading my mind. I look forward to putting the game through some play, if I have half the chance. Russell, come Dreamation, we’ll play!

So, my game. The sheet I got was awesome, to me, in two ways – the big box for drawing your robot, and the soviet theme. So, obviously I would be writing a game about giant fighting soviet robots. Now, the sheet has a strong humorous element, but it also has some interesting labels (the box’s in the top right), and I decided that I wanted to write a game that would have giant fighting soviet robots, but would also have some seriousness to it. I’m not big on pure “humor” games, I need some meat underneath for me to enjoy it.

So, somewhere in my brainstorming, I decided that there were robots because there was no other way to get about, because of radiation. And so, my basic idea was born – post-soviet post-nuclear robots. It’s after the cold war turned hot, all of the survivors have been living in isolated underground bunkers for 10 years, and only now, and only in kitbashed robots made from left-over parts and powered by faulty radioactive powerplants, can people take to the surface and try to rebuild.

Fear not, there is still giant robot fighting! But, the game at it’s heart is about seeking and finding, and trying to rebuild a larger community while preserving your local one. I did a lot of design things that I’m not used to, which I think was good. There’s elements of a lot of games and conversations in this design. Burning Empires and Grey Ranks for scenes-as-currency, Grey Ranks for Scenes-as-Pacing, a lot of Jonathon Walton’s work about reward not needed to be mechanical, some post-“stakes conversation” thoughts about how conflicts work, Meatbot Massacre and Mechaton for robot fighting, Polaris for GMful and protagonist-centered play. And more, I’m sure.

In the end, it’s a progressive game (stuff starts out difficult to acheive, and becomes easier as the game progresses, until you’re probably succeeding at everything just as you go out in your radiation-induced Blaze of Glory). Resolution is kind of conflict resolution, but not necessarily. I’m not sure what lingo to use to describe it. Rewards are encoded more for opposition than for success. There’s no GM, and each scene is explicity centered on your character. Oh, and you all get to help draw each other’s robots, which is cool!

So it’s a funky, wierd game that I think I like, and I have no idea if it works or not. Time will tell.

I have two games to review, Christian Griffin’s Celestial Soap and Adam Dray’s Architects of Aztlan, which are very different from each other, which is cool. I’m looking forward to it, and to seeing what Roger Carbol and Dave Cleaver have to say about Vesna Thaw.

Mad props to Kevin Allen Jr for running this whole shebang. It = teh rock.

Posted in Contests, Non-RPG Gaming | Leave a Comment »