2015-07-04 : The Object of an RPG is to...

Someone asked, so this is just an index of the posts I made a year ago about the objects of RPGs.
2014-07-15 : Procedure, Components, Object, Strategy, Style
2014-07-16 : When is a game a game?
2014-07-17 : Strategy vs Style
2014-07-18 : Objects of RPGs
2014-07-18 : Non-Endstate Objects, Strategy & Style
2014-07-19 : Aside: Designing a Bell Curve
2014-07-21 : The Object and Particular Strategy
2014-07-21 : Reminder: Object Schmobject
2014-07-23 : The Trouble with RPGs
2014-07-24 : The Trouble with RPGs (ii)
2014-07-25 : RPGs Have Objects, Q&A

I don't mind revisiting this stuff, so if you have any questions about any of it, ask away.

2015-06-27 : A Small Western Binge

After Fury Road and The Homesman I've been on a bit of a Western binge.

The Homesman
I don't love this movie but I expect to watch it over and over. Meg worked for 12 years with women experiencing postpartum depression, and this movie is the only one I've ever seen lay that emotional weight of colonizing the West on the shoulders of women.
(Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Hailee Steinfeld.)

I've heard that the critics felt that the filmmakers didn't know how Westerns worked. I found it as odd and mesmerizing as you'd hope from a Western. It would be a terrible shame, after all, if they were all 3:10 to Yuma.
(January Jones, Amy Madigan.)

3:10 to Yuma
The 2007 one. I don't hate this movie, but in my memory, I'd given it the ending of the short story, so I was disappointed by its real ending. The short story is so good.
(Gretchen Mol, Vinessa Shaw.)

High Plains Drifter
In its way, as odd and mesmerizing as Sweetwater. I was surprised how obvious a High Noon ripoff it was, and how cheesy. It felt unearned in a way that High Noon didn't.
(Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill.)

The Outlaw Josey Wales
A politically awkward movie! Still, I recently read Empire of the Summer Moon and found some things to love. For instance, I found the unlikable Kansas grandma character charming. "Elegant moral double standard," indeed.
(Geraldine Keams, Paula Trueman, Sondra Locke, Joyce Jameson.)

The Proposition
So far, all of my Western binges have ended up with me watching The Proposition again. I kind of hope to avoid it this time, but I can feel it out there waiting for me.
(Emily Watson.)

edit: I forgot one!

Slow West
This is a funny and entertaining flick, a little dreamlike, a little fable-like. It's purportedly set in Colorado, and it gives us a wooded West that I wish we'd see more of, but it has this weird placelessness that some Westerns have.
(Caren Pistorius, Brooke Williams.)

2015-05-23 : Fury Road vs The Homesman

Hey, did anybody else see both The Homesman and Fury Road?

2015-05-22 : Stating the Obvious

I really enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road. Really, really enjoyed it.

2015-04-27 : Followup Questions from Owen

Owen Briggs asked me some followup questions to his original five. I've been so busy with other projects that I couldn't get to them until this morning!

From which non-RPG medium do you draw the most inspiration?

It used to be the obvious one, the FX- or HBO-style sex-and-violence ensemble drama. In Apocalypse World you can pretty clearly see Oz, Sons of Anarchy, maybe The Shield, conceivably some Spartacus, frickin Battlestar Galactica, and I forget what else I was watching while I worked on it. These kinds of shows had a lot more influence on the game than the obvious in-genre movies did. They really gave the game its structure.

These days, though, I don't know. Post Apocalypse World, I've been designing games mostly in response to other RPGs, not other media. I think that RPGs take too narrowly entrenched forms, and I'm grappling with that instead.

How do you think RPGs comment on other media? (On this and the previous question: I've found PBTA games are really fantastic at getting the structure of TV and movies.)


A thoughtfully designed RPG pairs systems of interaction with genre or subject matter in a way that gives you immediate, effortless access to its hidden underpinnings. Like, the way that Murderous Ghosts uses Blackjack in service of suspense allows you to effortlessly create suspenseful ghost stories. If you choose to, you can take this insight away with you, and next time you watch a murderous ghost movie, you'll see how it builds suspense in a Blackjack-like way.

Or the way that Epidiah Ravachol's game Wolfspell uses Apocalypse World-style read a sitch moves to put you effortlessly into a wolf's headspace, or the way that Ben Lehman's game Beloved pits your current imagination against your past imagination to show you how you've let your thinking about romance ossify.

I have no idea if I'm making any sense here! Ask me more questions, anybody, if you have them.

What do you hope to achieve with the games that you make, and how often do you achieve it?

It always depends on the game.

For instance, with The Vengeful Demon of the Ring, I hoped to resolve an outstanding argument in game thinkery, and I achieved it with maybe 1 person. Rock of Tahamaat, Space Tyrant was much more successful in this regard, but then, the argument in game thinkery that I hoped it would resolve was a much less contentious one.

For many of my games I have both gameplay goals and market goals. I hoped that my game Midsummer Wood would get played by at least 10 people out in the world, for instance, and it achieved that. It may have achieved it twice over!

Which emotions do you tend to want to evoke with your games?

When I look back at my games, they make me seem unkind. I want people to feel trapped, betrayed, sold out, suborned, bound by honor and justice to do bad things, led by ambition to do bad things.

I'm pretty kind in real life. My games just don't reflect it.

Which RPG makes use of emotional ambiguity in the most engaging way, and how? (Put simply, emotional ambiguity is not knowing how you're supposed to feel about something.)

Of my games, Dogs in the Vineyard is the only one that makes much use of emotional ambiguity at all. Of others', I don't really know! I'm personally more drawn to games where how you feel about something is or can be perfectly clear, unambiguous.

Thanks for asking!

2015-04-13 : 5 Questions from Owen

2015-04-05 : Matchmaker

2015-04-04 : Actual Play: The Vengeful Demon of the Ring

2015-04-02 : Four Years' Abandoned Games

2015-03-30 : Dirty Tricks in My Games

2015-03-23 : The Vengeful Demon of the Ring as a Con Game

2015-03-20 : High Five the ISS

2015-03-17 : The Vengeful Demon of the Ring

2015-02-20 : Rhinoceros Joust!

2015-02-14 : lumpley games 2014 biz