2016-06-07 : Core Tension
In Chess, the object of the game is to checkmate the other king, but you might not be able to do it. This is because you can move your pieces only in certain ways, arranging a checkmate requires some pretty complicated coordination, and your opponent is not only actively resisting, but is trying to checkmate you too, the whole time.
This is the "core tension" in Chess. "The object of the game is to __, but you might not be able to do it, because __."
What's the core tension in your game?
From this point of view, you can say that "a game" is an elaboration of its core tension, and that when you enact it, "gameplay" spills out.
You can compare games to see whether they have identical, similar, or different core tensions, and also how they elaborate their core tensions into similar or different games. You can see how small differences in core tension and elaboration can create large differences in gameplay, and how similar gameplay can spill out of radically different core tensions, if that's how they're elaborated. Examples: Chess vs Tafl, Hearts vs Spades vs Knaves, Eat Poop You Cat vs Pictionary.
You can peer into a core tension to see the lines across which it's tensed. Some games are easy or inevitable, some are impossible. Some call for gambling, some for patient problem-solving, some for the right strategy, some for followthrough. Some are easy if you approach them one way but impossible if you don't realize the trick. Examples: jigsaw puzzles, Eat Poop You Cat, High Five the ISS, Golf (the card game), Are We In the Game?, Perplexus.
You can examine and judge how well a game's elaboration suits its core tension. In some games, the winning way to play isn't the most fun way to play; in other games, it is. In some games, the winning way to play isn't the intuitive way to play; in other games, it is. Examples: Roborally, Go, Pandemic, Mobile Frame Zero, Kodama.
2016-05-31 : Fallen London Again
5 years later, I've taken to playing Fallen London again! I'm bored of hunting rats but indifferent to hunting sorrow-spiders. I'm brazenly* courting devils. I just had my first sojourn in the Tomb-colonies to amend my scandalous reputation.
Anybody else playing, again, or still?
* If you will.
2016-04-26 : A Quick & Dirty Outline
Meg and I gave a talk at a college con recently, and I thought I'd share our quick & dirty outline.
Topic 1: Why Create?
• Why a new game?
• Why a new roleplaying game?
• Why a new fantasy roleplaying game?
I know you have answers to these questions or you wouldn't be creating a new fantasy RPG.
• Your three insights.
Topic 2: RPGs are Games
• Games have objects.
• What do you do?
• The game is the tension between them.
How do you achieve the object of the game, using the moves of the game?
Topic 3: RPGs are Unusual Games
• The purpose of an rpg's rules is to get you and your friends to say something interesting.
• When you create an rpg's rules, you create a bell curve of experiences.
• What-if yourself out of conventionality.
Topic 4: Writing
• Hack what you like to make what you love.
• Explain your game, not RPGs. (RPGs are not one game.)
• Kill your darlings.
Topic 5: Publishing
• Don't go broke, publish yourself.
• Compete where they're weak.
• "It takes 20 years to make an overnight success."
Questions and observations always welcome!
2015-12-21 : AW:Fallen Empires
When you’re lying in the dust of fallen empires guts aspilled, for whom do you pray? The gods? This is their doing, all of it. Your bold comrades? If you could rely on them you wouldn’t be here. Your precious old mother? She’s a darling but what will she do for you but weep and mourn. No, you pray for death’s gray bird, a bonepicker, to lay a hand upon you, and the cauter, and to tell you whether you will live or die...
2015-11-11 : Playing Nature's Year
Meg's running a Kickstarter for her new book, Playing Nature's Year. It's eight short seasonal wishing, fortunetelling, and storytelling games, plus essays for each.
Check it out!
Video here: Playing Nature's Year - Video Update!
2015-10-29 : Freebooting Venus Playtest Document
2015-09-08 : Threeforged Challenge: Public Voting
2015-08-31 : This August Past
2015-07-04 : The Object of an RPG is to...
2015-06-27 : A Small Western Binge
2015-05-23 : Fury Road vs The Homesman
2015-05-22 : Stating the Obvious
2015-04-27 : Followup Questions from Owen
2015-04-13 : 5 Questions from Owen
2015-04-05 : Matchmaker