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A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.

Archive for Lowell Kempf

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The curious world of Nordic School Larping

Lowell Kempf
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Something that I find myself coming across more and more often as I explore the stranger corners of role-playing games is the Nordic school of LARPing.

To be honest, the fact that I'm looking at it all is pretty strange. I honestly don't like LARPs. That's Live Action Role Playing, by the way. There is a limit to how much immersion I think is a good idea. There are boundaries that I honestly think are unhealthy to cross. Feel free to disagree with me.

The Nordic school definitely takes to a fascinating level. While most LARPs tend to be very action/drama oriented and escapist, The Nordic school is almost the opposite of escapist. With an emphasis on internal growth and collaboration, it seems to be designed to make you ask uncomfortable questions.

And while this doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule, the Nordic school seems a lot more inclined to put you in a real life and real world situation to see how you will react.

The first time I ever heard about the Nordic school was when I came across an article talking about the White Road. It was a one time event where three friends dressed up as hobos and spent three days traveling to the sea to scatter the ashes of the dead friend. I'm not joking about the scattering ashes and dead friend. No formal rules or stats, just spending three days being the roles.

Honestly, That breaks just about every concept I have for role-playing game.

At the same time, I don't find the idea of the White Road uncomfortable or disturbing. Other LARPs like the Pebble, which addresses abortion, or Kapo, which explores concentration camps, do disturb me.

I can realistically say that I will never participate in a game like this. In fact, I can emphatically say that I will never participate in a game like this. The Nordic school seems to exist in a place where group therapy meets psychological experiment. I might be being very conservative but I really have to question how healthy that is.
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Fri Feb 26, 2016 6:00 pm
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Stoke - Birmingham 0-0 A game that I am amazed exists

Lowell Kempf
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Off and on, over the last few months, I have been looking at game poems. It started out with the book 24 game poems by is. I also have a feeling that some of the games in the in the mix tapes would be considered game poems as well.

A game poem is a role-playing experience that is designed to last between 15 minutes and an hour and to evoke a specific emotion or experience as opposed to telling a story.

Somehow, I am not surprised that game poems apparently came out of the Norwegian school of gaming. I have never actually played a game from the Norwegian School but they have always struck me as being the complete opposite of escapism. They always seem to be trying to evoke the strongest emotional response possible.

Honestly, I don't know what to think about game poems. Frankly, if I only have 15 minutes to spend with my friends, I would rather pull out a boardgame like Love Letter or Cinq-0 or Pico 2. I do like short form role-playing games like Barron Munchaussen and I really want to try Murderous Ghosts.

However, game poems shave away so many of the things that actually interest me in role-playing games. In particular, the collective storytelling aspect. Part of me even wonders if I can even consider them to be role-playing games. However, they do ask you to take on a specific character and walk at least a few steps in their shoes.

Allegedly, the very first game poem was Stoke - Birmingham 0-0, which was first published in a collection of 17 Norwegian school role-playing games appropriately called Norwegian Style.

In it, you spend 15 minutes playing the role of Stroke supporters who are going over to England to see an incredibly boring tied soccer match. You are encouraged to have a pint of beer while you do this and required to not say anything interesting. No confessions of infidelity or true love or being a vampire. Just sit there and dwell on a really meh soccer game.

I've pretty much made it a hobby to find quirky little role-playing games that offer something different. There's no denying that this qualifies. There's also no denying that I can't see myself ever playing it.

But having said that, I am glad that I took the time to look it up and read the one page that it consists of. I like the fact that we live in a world where this can even exist. I would even go so far as to say there is a crazy form of brilliance in making a game like this.

This isn't an example of true art is incomprehensible. Stokes - Birmingham 0-0 is incredibly comprehendible. It takes an experience that anyone can relate to, even if they're not going to soccer or sports, and asks you to experience it as a snapshot of life. The utter banality of it is why it is so universal.

Ever since I first discovered the idea of indie RPG's, which actually took place years after I actually played some indie RPG's, I have enjoyed exploring just what you can do with the medium of role-playing games. The whole Norwegian School and game poems in particular explore ground that I never knew existed.

Stoke et al isn't a game I can see myself ever playing. Game poems will probably never be my thing. But I can't look away.

https://norwegianstyle.wordpress.com/2007/12/07/stoke-birmin...

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Thu Feb 25, 2016 12:41 am
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As life goes on, Take It Easy just continues to deliver

Lowell Kempf
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For such a simple and inoffensive little game, Take It Easy has had quite an impact on my gaming life. For that matter, it seems that it has had a lasting influence on the hobby as well.

(Yeah, I've written about Take It Easy before and how many games seem to be inspired by it. However, I keep on finding more games like it and it continues to be a game that is really convenient and easy to play. Awesome game for parents to unwind with.)

In case you haven't played it, Take It Easy is what I describe as bingo with choices or strategy. Like bingo, everyone has their own board. Everyone has a hexagram shaped board with nineteen empty spaces, along with an identical set of twenty seven tiles. One poor bastard gets to be the caller, drawing one random tile at a time, with everyone then placing that tile on their board. You're trying to form colored lines across the board but if the colors get broken up, those lines are worthless.

I'd read about Take If Easy for years before I got a hold of a copy and I've been playing it on a regular basis for years after that. It's been a hit with serious, lifestyle gamers and with folks who don't know Catan from Warhammer. If that's all there was, it'd be a good game that had proven that it has serious legs. (Which, to be fair, is still quite something)

Take It Easy came out in 1983 and, as near as I can tell, has been in print ever since then. And for the first twenty or so years of its life, it was fairly unique (Again, as far as I can tell. If someone can tell me different, go for it) However, in the last ten years, it seems like new games that use that bingo with choices mechanic have started coming out in a regular basis.

Some of them, Take It To The Limit and Take It Higher, are direct sequels to Take It Easy. And since Reiner Knizia designed Take It Higher, it's pretty easy to assume that Take It Easy was an influence on FITS and BITS. Other games, like Cities or Wurfel Bingo, I have a hard time believing that they weren't strongly influenced by Take It Easy.

Seriously, it has gotten to the point in which I can't even keep track of games where everyone has their own board and is doing their own thing. It isn't like an explosive genre like work replacement or deck building or maybe even card drafting (I swear I can't look at Kickstarter at any given moment without seeing a couple new cars drafters) but it does seem like a genre that keeps on going and going.

Literally two days ago, I came across both Limes and Karuba, which I had never heard of but both clearly use the Take It Easy mechanic. And at some point, I'd love to give either of those two games ago to see what they've done with the genre.

If you had told me 15 years ago that I would be a huge fan of what could be described as bingo variations or multi player solitaire, I would've thought that you were crazy. But these are games that I honestly just keep on playing.

They aren't heavy or life-changing or burn out my brain. However, as a parent of a hyper toddler, these are games that are relaxing and easy to pull out good and good for winding down at the end of the day.

I have a feeling that I'm going to be playing Take It Easy 20 years from now. There's hundreds of games that I played that I can't say that about.

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:08 pm
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The Name of God: micro card game meets indie role playing

Lowell Kempf
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The Name of God is the Kickstarter project that brings together two things that interest me. Indie style role-playing games and micro games. At its heart, it consists of eight cards that are all you need in order to play the role playing game

Now, before I say anything else, I want to note that I have never played this game and I actually don't have the strongest idea how to play from the Kickstarter. After all if it is that small, if they actually gave way how to play the game, that would take away some of the incentive for people to actually back Kickstarter.

What I do know is that the Name of God is designed to be played with no GM and minimal setup time. Essentially, pull out the cards and go. Pretty cool if it can pull that off.

The American Gods and Anansi Boys are cited as inspirational works for the names of God. Which is really cool, I like both of those books. Apparently, the players are the homeless and the insane... and they just very might be gods. The idea of starting off as the wretched of the earth, people who are on the very fringe of society and transcending that to become something very special, that could make some great story telling.

Particularly because no one promised a happy ending.

The mechanical side of the game comes from the fetish cards. In this case, we mean fetish like a similar ceremonial objects as opposed to a kinky behavior. These fetish cards grant characters moves like in Apocalypse World. (And its no secret I'm a big fan of Apocalypse World) I don't know if folks hold onto one entire game or if they are interchangeable and get mixed up as players need them.

Now, the cool part is that the stretch goals are more fetish cards. But not by the designer of the game. Instead, each one will be designed by an established indie game designers. Honestly, if the game is any good, that'll just make it better.

At the very least, The Name of God is a very interesting experiment. And, who knows, it might be fun.

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Tue Feb 23, 2016 12:57 am
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Using Can't Stop as the basis for a role-playing game. Seriously. And it's good!

Lowell Kempf
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Mars Colony is a two-player role playing game that explores politics, in particular the power and the price of deception. How much power should one person really be having and does the cult of personality equal good decision-making?

This is not the first two player game that I have come across. While it is a pretty unusual form for a role playing game, a number of them have been developed over the years. For someone who started out as an old-school, Dungeons & Dragons player, I still find it fascinating use of the medium.

Normally, I would say that using a fantastic or science-fiction setting to discuss real issues gives us a sense of distance from the issues, so it's safer and easier to talk about them. In the case of Mars Colony, though, I'd say that it gives you a chance to explore politics anyway you'd like.

At some point in the possibly near future, a multi-nation coalition created the Mars Colony. It's purpose was to create a utopia. Yeah, that dream crashed and burned. Civil unrest, ecological problems, a poorly designed infrastructure that's falling apart, whatever you want to be terribly wrong with the place, it's happening.

Earth is sending an expert by the gender-free name of Kelly Perkins to salvage and hopefully save the colony. This is the story of what Kelly Perkins does to save Mars. It's the story of how much they are willing to risk and how much they're willing to lie least appear to be saving Mars.

One player plays the part of Kelly Perkins, the savior of Mars. The other player is the Governor, a role that more closely resembles being the stage manager from Our Town as opposed to a conventional game master.

Mechanically, Mars Colony is definitely an indie game. The way the actual story develops is pure narrative, with nothing more than the guidelines that the players agreed to. However, the crunch of the mechanics, determining how well Kelly Perkins plans are going, is a push your luck game with a resource management element. Seriously, I'm pretty sure you could cut the mechanics of the game and turn them into a boardgame with just a retheming.

Honestly, it's one of the more unique systems I think I've ever seen. And if there are more games like this out there, I'd like to take a look at them.

There are four political parties that are vying for control on Mars. And what are those for political parties? They are what ever the players decide on. More than that, in a particularly brilliant and visceral suggestion, the rule suggest that you use real political parties from around the world.

The reason why I like that idea so much is that it really speeds up the set up time while adding depth at the same time. You're not creating something from cloth, you're using something that already exists. You're also using something that is probably emotionally loaded. After all, religion and politics are two of the best ways to get a fight going.

Another brilliant and disturbing part of the set up is that each player creates three fear cards, based on things that they actually fear about their own government. These cards will serve as inspiration throughout the game for conflicts and issues that will come up.

An important concept that I discovered when I started exploring in the games is bleed. Bleed is when the emotions created in the game to start actually affecting people. I've usually seen it when it comes to personal issues but Mars Colony is set up to really apply it to politics.

You also create other elements like three driving issues of the colony that Kelly Perkins has to focus on, as well as a person on Mars that will serve as a personal connection for Kelly Perkins who comes complete with some kind of significant problem.

OK, let's talk about the mechanical side of Mars Colony. Kelly Perkins has nine status tokens that can be assigned to one of three places. There's admiration, which represents how much Kelly Perkins is loved. At the start of the game, all the tokens are in admiration. There's contempt, which is a measure of how much the people of Mars hate and don't trust Kelly Perkins. If there are ever five or more tokens in contempt, that triggers end game with Kelly Perkins leaving Mars in disgrace.

Oh, and then there is deception. That measures the lies that Kelly Perkins tells to make the people of Mars think that they are doing a good job.

Remember those three issues that you determined at the start of the game? Those are tracks that Kelly Perkins has to progress on in order to either solve the critical problems of Mars people that they're getting solved.

Kelly Perkins gets nine progress scenes to try to make things better during the course of the game. During a progress scene, the player playing Kelly Perkins grabs a couple of dice and starts rolling. Like so many push-your-luck games, you can keep on rolling as long as you want, adding up the dice as you go. If an issue reaches twenty, it's stabilized. If it reaches forty, it's solved and you add an new issue to the list to keep the pressure on.

BUT, if you ever roll a one, you wipe out. You lose all the progress you made in that scene and you move a status token from admiration to contempt. (It is push-your-luck, after all)

BUT (yes, another one!), there's a way out of the despair and disgrace. You can resort to lies. By moving an admiration token over to deception, you can keep the progress you made up to that point.

BUT (they keep coming!), when you are building your house of cards on lies, it can catch up to you. If you roll a one and the other die is less than or equal to the number of deception tokens, scandal hits and everything falls apart. You lose all the points you kept due to lying and all the deception tokens move to contempt. Heck, might end the game right then and there.

Really, it's like someone took Can't Stop and used it for the engine to run a game. Not the weirdest mechanic I've ever seen. Heck, Dread's mechanics are built around Jenga and actually works pretty well. And it should go without saying that you don't just roll the dice. Narration continues and the dice just help direct it.

I find it downright fascinating that the game isn't about saving Mars but the public perception of Kelly Perkins. The crux of the game isn't about the Can't Stop style dice rolling. It's about the decisions that Kelly Perkins makes when the dice stop rolling.

And speaking as someone who has played Can't Stop a lot, I can tell you that just Kelly Perkins either has to be incredibly lucky or use deception to keep their head above the water. With just nine turns to roll the dice, the odds are against them solving stuff without resorting to deception.

Mars Colony is a really neat little game. It's designed to be played in one sitting and I really can't see how you could ever try and make a campaign out of it. There is a definite and point built into the system. It has quirky mechanics but they make sense. I could see how you might make a fluffy or silly game out of it if you really felt like it but I think it is really set up well for a solid discussion on politics.

http://www.tckroleplaying.com/marscolony/
http://www.tiltingatwindmills.net/games/dread/

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Fri Feb 19, 2016 5:07 pm
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The Agency just isn't groovy

Lowell Kempf
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Recently, I picked up the Agency and gave it a read. The Agency is an indie style role-playing game about being groovy spies in the swinging 60s battling against supernatural threats to the civilized world.

The game has some decent points. It has a very streamlined and easy to use system and I like elements how adventures are designed and work. Unfortunately, it is also fairly bland which is kind of unforgivable if you were trying to capture the world of the 60s as it was only on TV.

Character creation and mechanics are very simple. Fundamentally, every time your character tries to do something, they roll three six-sided dice and get successes when you roll four, five or six. (Okay, so you get away with flipping coins) One skill will get an extra die and another will get two extra dice, so we know what you're really good at. Add in some bonuses and flaws and that's just about everything you need.

There is also an economy built around karma. Karma isn't about the dice rolls. You use bonuses to spend karma to get ahead in the plot and you use flaws make your life more difficult in order to earn karma.

The most interesting thing about characters as far as I'm concerned is their motif. That is a reoccurring theme about the character that the player can use to heal up a bit or help another player. And you have to invoke the motif in order to use it. So you know, it has some story value.

I found the actual running of the game more interesting then the player mechanics. Every session or adventure or episode, depending on how you want to find it, has a threat token pool. There's a cap to how many tokens you can use in each scene. The threat tokens let you control the tempo of the overall adventure, as well as each scene.

Another element that I really like are complications. Everyone writes a plot twist down on an index card with the GM writing down three. Folks can draw them to earn some karma and make the story more interesting.

The mechanics of the game are simple but they should handle just about any situation. As a game that's easy to teach or to pick up and play at the drop of a hat, the Agency seems to fit the bill.

However, like I said it's a start, I have some issues with the Agency. You are working for a super secret agency that is set in the colorful world of the television 60s and you are fighting against supernatural threats.

BUT, beyond the fact that the title agency exists and tends to hire folks who survived their first supernatural experience, there's really no information about it. In fact, other then the fact that it's set in the 60s and mentioning some of the different government organizations that handle supernatural threats, there is nothing about the theme or setting.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for homebrew settings and for players and Game Masters to be able to develop their own worlds. However, the Agency is designed for some very specific play and you really don't get anything beyond a list of movies and TV shows to use for inspiration.

There are also some holes in the mechanics. There's no rules for advancing characters, although that doesn't bother me too much since I think the game is more suited for one shots than campaign.

What I consider a bigger issue is that supernatural threats are treated exactly like mundane threats. They just have the supernatural label. While that does keep things mechanically simple, I never had a sense of the fantastic or supernatural. When a major component of the theme seems to be missing, that's an issue.

In the first appendix, the author notes that 3:16 was a major influence on the Agency. When I read that, I not only realized what parts were from 3:16, I realized they were my favorite parts of the Agency.

3:16 is even more mechanically simple than the Agency with very simple scenario structures. However, the theme is very tightly welded to the system. More than that, there is an unspoken underlining theme in 3:16 about politics and genocide that drives the game into being a campaign instead of just one shot. Comparing the Agency to 3:16 doesn't do the Agency any favors.

As I already said, what really are the Agency strong points are simplicity and ease of play. And don't get me wrong, I think those are really strong pluses. However, that's something that I look for in a game and I have other games just a simple that I think are thematically stronger.

Just as one example, last year I looked at a RPG called Mermaid Adventures that was aimed at younger players. Despite looking like Disney's Little Mermaid the RPG at first, I found that it actually had a sandbox environment with enough details for me to have a real grasp of what the game was trying to do. Oh, and it had really simple mechanics that anyone could pick up.

The Agency succeeds mechanically but it just doesn't have any sparkle.

https://realms.co.uk/the-agency/
http://gregorhutton.com/boxninja/threesixteen/
http://thirdeyegames.net/mermaid-adventures/
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Tue Feb 16, 2016 9:02 pm
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The world of concrete and the world of story

Lowell Kempf
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A lot of folks like to break down role playing games into two camps, traditional and indie.

Traditional or trad refers to games that harken back to the original RPGs, like Dungeons and Dragons. They tend to be more mechanically-based and more complicated. Indie games, on the other hand, follow a more narrative tradition and major examples include Fiasco or Apocalypse World. They tend to be mechanically lighter and more driven by the tropes of storytelling.

Here's the thing. A lot of the ways that I have heard people break down the two categories tends to be more about the philosophy of the people playing them as opposed to the actual design itself. You can have a character driven, story based game using a traditional system. And you can have a conflict driven Game that's all about fighting with an indie system. Some of them, it won't work very well but you can still do it.

If you strip away the people playing the games and just look at how the systems work, here's what I think you will find the real difference between the two is. Traditional games are about creating a concrete world for you to interact with. Indie games are about creating a story for you to interact with.

Hopefully, you're going to get a story and a concrete world in either case but I think each philosophy has it's own priority.

Another way that I personally tend to think of them is that traditional games are about confrontation and indie games are about conversation.

Traditional games come out of wargaming. As a general rule of thumb, if most of the rule book is about fighting, you're probably looking at a traditional game. In fact, Shannon Appoline wrote in his book Dungeons and Designers that in the earliest days of role-playing, the game master actually was trying to win against the players.

While traditional role playing games have developed a lot more depth compared to the days when it was just about beating each other up, it is still build around interacting with the environment. That environment can include obvious things like weather and rain or more esoteric things like monsters or politics. And there are mechanical ways of resolving all of your interactions with them. The rules have built a world for you to interact with and that is what drives the system.

On the other hand, indie games are driven by the story. The actual world itself takes a backseat to the needs of the story. The game is not about how you do something but how you tell the story.

For me, the game that really made me realize the differences between the two philosophies was Polaris. Polaris was not the first indie game that I ever paid but it was the first one that made me fundamentally realize what an indie game was trying to do.

You see, at its heart, the rules for Polaris resemble a great we simplified Roberts Rules of Order. They form the procedure for the players to debate with each other. I had never seen anything like it and I still think it is pretty amazing to this day.

Both philosophies are perfectly valid and both will give you an engaging experience when done well. Traditional games will give you a world to be drawn into and indie games will give you a story to be drawn into.

At the moment, I am much more into indie games. Part of that is because they take less time. I don't have to worry about the mechanics I just need to worry about story and that something that I understand innately. But I also have a long history with traditional games. They are also the deep and enriching experience.

These are two different voices that are important to the hobby.

http://dnd.wizards.com
http://www.tao-games.com/polaris/

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Tue Feb 16, 2016 12:12 am
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Using a magnetic Checkers board to avoid playing Checkers

Lowell Kempf
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One of the reasons I've been thinking about game systems is because I've been thinking about much you can do with a magnetic travel Checkers set.

See, while it isn't as amazing as a deck of cards, there are a shocking amount of games you can play with nothing more than to checkers set. Really, an eight-by-eight board with two different colored pieces is some of the most basic components you can get. Checkers is one of the ur-games of history.

A lot of these games aren't new. Some of them have been around for centuries as well, like Fox and Geese, which I understand is good for bar bets, as long as your opponent doesn't know it's been solved. And there are a lot of Checkers variations, some of them regional and some of them just people being wiseacres. (Diagonal checkers, where you turn the board 45 degrees?)

But I'll be honest. I'm not a big Checkers fan. Part of it comes from being taught it too young and not being taught a couple key rules (that you must make a capturing move if you can and that the game can also end if someone cannot make a move)

When I was old enough to understand that there was some real depth to Checkers, I was already into games like Go or modern abstracts like Hive or ZERTZ, dynamic games that made Checkers seem slow and plodding.

Really, the game that really makes me seriously think about using a travel Checkers board is Lines of Action. It's a game about connecting all your pieces and you can only move the exact number of spaces as the number of pieces in that line.

Seriously, it's an excellent game that uses nothing but a Checkers board and feels nothing like Checkers. Truth to tell, if that's all I used a travel set for but I got to play Lines of Actions a lot, I'd be happy.

(Oh, Focus by Sid Sackson. That's another great game you can play with a Checkers set. Also doesn't feel like Checkers, by the way)

Of course, our son is two so I'm really going to end up playing Fox and Geese long before Lines of Action

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/11169/checkers-set-game-s...

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:39 am
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Making laminated tiles

Lowell Kempf
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Ever since we got a laminator, I have been testing out what I can do with it as far is print and play projects are concerned. In actuality, it has actually exceeded my expectations.

The first 'real' project I tried with the laminator was making a set of laminated Micropul tiles. Everything else that I've done up until this point was just to see how it would do, without actually worrying about ending up with a game that I would want to play.

(Well, the first thing I tried was making laminated cards for Button Men, which is a game I like. However, that just makes nice cards. I don't need them to play the game. A friend of mine and I used to play Button Men with just dice and printed out spreadsheet of various buttons)

Micropul is a relatively old print and play game. It first came out over 10 years ago. Part of what has to have given legs is that it is a very simple project make. All you need is to make one page of tiles and some tokens of some kind. However, it's also pretty decent game which has to be the biggest part of why it is still part of the print and play scene.

It's a tile-laying game where you try to claim and close groups of symbols, not unlike farming scoring in Carcassonne. And if that's all there was to it, it wouldn't be that much.

However, unlike most tile-laying games, you don't draw tiles as part of your turn. You have to activate special symbols on the tiles to get tiles. Unused tiles at the end of the game are worth points. That's a pretty good twist.

What I decided to try doing was laminating the sheet of tiles and then cutting them out. I did this, even though I didn't think it would work.

Now, I haven't dealt with lamination in probably over 20 years. My memories of old laminators were that they would basically create a plastic sandwich around the paper with the edges being sealed. If you broke the seal that the edges made, everything would fall apart.

I have some sort of crazy memory of lamination paper that was actually clear plastic with the sticky side and you would make a sandwich out of two of them. But I never used anything like that and I don't know if it actually exists in any place other than my imagination.

I had some hoped that the heated plastic of modern lamination pouches would actually adhere to the paper but I didn't really expect that to be the case. The quality of the plastic has definitely improved and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the actual laminators are hotter.

Lo and behold, the plastic actually did adhere to the paper. Instead of having to cut out the tiles and individually laminate them, I was able to just run the laminator once and get laminated tiles.

The fact that I used regular copy paper as opposed to card stock or cardboard might've actually helped the process.

Now, the real question is how well will they hold up in the long run. I am sure that over time and play, the plastic will start peel off of the tiles.

In the case of Micropul, that's not such a big deal. Between printing and laminating and cutting, I can probably make a set in about fifteen, twenty minutes and material cost probably comes out around fifteen cents at most. Even if they fall apart after a month of play, that's not too bad.

For more complicated projects, I might want to actually individually laminate every piece.

Despite that, this does make making functional pieces a whole lot easier.

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/10660/micropul

http://neutralbox.com/micropul/

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Fri Feb 12, 2016 9:38 pm
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Apocalypse World and its engine keep impressing

Lowell Kempf
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Over the course of a couple days, I found out that a second rdition of Apocalypse World is getting Kickstarted and I read the short form RPG Crossroads, which uses a streamlined Apocalypse World Engine.

Crossroads isn't the first game that I have seen that is Powered by Apocalypse and it is far from the most out there. Dream Askew or Murderous Ghosts both do far more experimental things with the system. But reading through it in conjunction with the Kickstarter got me thinking about why the system is just so nifty.

It's hard to pinpoint what makes it's so good. There are elements like characters being made up of qualities, as opposed to statistics. It isn't what you do but why you were doing it that helps determine what stat you use. There is the fact that the only person who ever rolls the dice is the player, never the GM. This all makes the game both narrative driven and player driven.

Oh, in theory, any game can be narrative driven and player driven. But I have seen games that ended up being just about the dice rolls or being controlled by the GM. But the Apocalypse Engine not just encourages it, it makes doing streamlined and easy.

Players can be creative about what they do and one die roll resolves it all.

Crossroads strips away most of the mechanics. It leaves the player making the die rolls and the failure, success and success with a price outcomes.

That last one it's actually something else that makes the engine special. You don't get partial success. You get what you want. You just get a nasty little bonus. It's actually a very important way of doing things. The story keeps on going but things just got a little more complicated. Which actually makes the story better.

Crossroads is based on a web series which I had never heard of called the Booth at the End. There is a man who sits in the last booth in a diner. He can make any wish come true but there's a price. You basically have to do something horrible to get that wish. How far are you willing to go to get what you want? Will you kill someone? Will you plant a bomb in the hospital? What price can you handle? How important is your wish?

As near as I can tell, the only set in the show is the diner. People sit down with the guy and tell them what they want. And later scenes, they come back and give him progress reports. It's all just conversations and flashbacks and decisions.

Which makes it a pretty decent form for a short RPG that should be completed in two hours.

Crossroads comes as a preset scenario with pregenerated characters with pregenerated desires and horrible tasks you can mix-and-match with them. Even under those circumstances, there's a lot of flexibility about how the story will develop.

But, I realized that it wouldn't be hard to come up with new characters with different desires and new horrible tasks. As long as you are willing to stick with the whole premise of the man in the last booth, there's actually some decent replay value here.

Apocalypse World is one of the most impressive RPG systems that I've come across in recent years. I am very impressed with Dungeon World and Monsterhearts, two well thought out uses of the engine. Crossroads, in comparison, is a pretty dinky little application of the engine. And I still think that it has real potential. That says something about the Apocalypse Engine.

http://apocalypse-world.com

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
(Yeah, I'm trying to expand)
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Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:52 pm
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