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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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I like the suggestion of Lexicon

Lowell Kempf
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Lexicon is a game that was just recommended to me by Russ Williams, all around brilliant member of BGG. Between my interest in GM free systems and my interest in RPG's that can be played online, he made a good call in knowing that I'd be interested in it.

Lexicon falls into that category of role-playing games that are really about developing worlds and settings. My beloved Microscope is another, as is the Quiet Year. It is an unusual design space in the world of role-playing games but I still believe that it falls under the larger umbrella of role-playing.

In Lexicon, each player is a scholar who is helping write an encyclopedia. At the end of the game, the encyclopedia will be made up of 26 entries, one for every letter in the alphabet.

Here is the twist, that makes the game of Lexicon one that is interconnected between all of the players. At the end of your entry, you have to cite to other entries. Indeed, at the beginning of the game they will be entries that haven't been written yet. And, you cannot write or have written an entry that you have cited.

The designer recommends that you set up a wiki to play the game, hyperlinking the citations. So, when the 26th entry has been written, the one that starts with a Z, you will have a tightly linked, self referencing document.

Honestly, this sounds so cool to me. I have really gotten a lot out of my email games of Microscope and Lexicon would take a lot of those ideas is an even more online friendly place.

And I like how, unlike in Microscope or the Quiet Year, a player can actually take on the role of a specific person. Namely a scholar or researcher who may have their own agenda and who may not think much of the other goobers who are trying to hone in on their area of specialty. You know, the other players.

BUT I have also found that keeping people involved and active in an email game can be a struggle. The commitment might be smaller, in some ways, than getting together for one four-to-six hour game but it will be a commitment that will span weeks or months.

AND Microscope has a fail safe valve in be form of periods and, in particular, events. Only a sentence or two long, they let folks make quick moves when they are strapped for time or thought. In Lexicon, every turn is a full entry and one that has to involve two other entries. That's a lot more to ask for.

For all that, I am still hoping that I manage to play a game of Lexicon in 2016. I'm certainly not going to try while I have a game of Microscope already going and some of those folks are the first ones that I would try and involve.

http://lexiconcubine.wikidot.com/lexicon-definition
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Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:43 pm
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Beginning my journey from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age

Lowell Kempf
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I just picked up a barely used copy of Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age. It even had the Mediterranean expansion, which I don't think is standard. (Maybe it is. I could be wrong) I'm definitely going to try it out solo and maybe even get some multi-player in.

But it does make me want to revisit its older, smaller brother.

Although, to be fair, it's not like I've ever really left it. I've almost always had at least one game of it going on Yucata for years. When Nations the Dice Game got added, that just gave me two different dice games about civilization building to play online.

(I have to say that as much as I enjoy Roll Through the Ages, it doesn't truly feel like a legitimate civilization game to me. Like other civ – light games that I enjoy, like Nations the Dice Game or 7 Wonders, the scope doesn't seem broad enough to truly feel like I am developing a civilization over a swath of history. (Interestingly enough, Settlers of the Stone Age does work for me as a civ – light game, possibly because it covers the entire world.) I don't know if the Iron Age will feel more like I am actually developing a civilization over the ages.)

Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age's core mechanic is Yahtzee, which is not uncommon. On your turn, you roll the dice and you get two rerolls. The faces on the dice can give you workers to build stuff (including more cities to get more dice), food to feed cities, goods to buy advances and dreaded skulls that bring down disasters on your civilization.

While part of the reason why the original Roll Through the Ages has both stayed in my collection and been in study rotation on Yucata for me is that it is a light, Yahtzee-inspired dice game that is both easy to teach and something that I can play even when I am feeling brain-dead, it does have some touches that make it nifty and give it its own feel.

I like the disasters. In Civilization and Advanced Civilization, juggling and coping with calamities is one of the major features of the game. I like how the disasters in the original Roll Through the Ages don't just wipe out your turn but have some kind of effect. There's a flavor to them and different ways of coping with them.

More importantly, I like the advances. For me, one of the defining characteristics of a civilization game is the tech tree. And, while Roll Through the Ages lacks the grandeur and the breadth of a true civilization game for me, it does have a tech tree. If the game was just about checking off boxes to get points, it would not be nearly as interesting or have any flavor. Instead, the advances give you special powers that what you plan out in shape your game, at least as much as the dice will let you.

After just one game of the Iron Age version of the game, I can tell that the decision tree is a lot more complicated then the Bronze Age. As I've said, a big part of the Bronze Age has seen so much play for me is because it is simple. I am going to have to see if the more intricate design of the Iron Age is a good trade-off for that simplicity.

So, more plays.

Originally posted on http://www.gnomepondering.com
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Thu Mar 10, 2016 5:46 pm
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You know, Toon would be a good RPG for kids

Lowell Kempf
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For over a year, both on this blog and my other blog, I have been looking into role-playing games that are suitable for younger players. Even though, I'm pretty sure that our toddler is probably going to be more interested in T-ball then Dungeons & Dragons.

There have been a lot of games that of come out in the past five, ten years that have been aimed at younger players. And, I mean as young as four years old. There's a whole genre, and I'm willing to bet a market, for role-playing games that are aimed at people who are still in their single digits.

However, it was pointed out to me recently that there is at least one much older game that is perfect for younger audiences. One that I have played now and then over the years and even ran. A game that I have described as being the perfect introduction for non-role players, in fact. But not one that I considered for small children.

That game is, drumroll, Steve Jackson's Toon.

The game of 'we really wanted to get a Looney Tunes license', the first edition to Toon came out way back in 1984. Seriously, every time I find myself thinking how brave new ideas are breaking into gaming, I find that the seeds for a lot of innovative ideas are much older than I thought.

I remember how Roger Ebert, who was a vocal supporter for animation as a serious medium, would complain about how every time a new animated movie came out that was either aimed at adults or at least offered a lot for adults, you would see headlines talking about how cartoons weren't just for kids anymore. (Grave of the Fireflies came out in 1988, for crying out loud!)

Which isn't to say that new content and innovation are undercut because you can find older examples. It means role-playing games are actually a vast interconnected network of developing ideas, with nothing growing in isolation. Which is pretty cool.

And I just rambled my way completely off-topic. OK, back to looking at Toon.

Toon is the game of playing a cartoon. And by cartoon, I don't mean action adventure cartoons like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the Transformers. I mean Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Slapstick silliness where the rule of funny is the most important one.

Designwise, Toon definitely reflects the time what it was made. The characters have stats and hit points, just like Dungeons & Dragons characters.

However, it is still mechanically light system that will be easy for kids, probably even as young as six, to handle. It uses a point build system, so you can make the character just the way you want. And, even though you have hit points, no one ever dies. If you get crushed beneath the grand piano that fell out of the sky, you just take three minutes timeout.

And the mechanics are really simple too. You just roll under your combined stat and skill on two six-sided dice to do something. So snake eyes is totally awesome and boxcars means you failed on an epic level.

While Toon fits the mold of being a traditional-style RPG and simulation driven rather than narrative driven, the mechanics are light enough AND intuitive enough that I don't think non-role-players, young or old, will have any problem understanding them.

Of course, what makes Toon really work as an introduction to role-playing is the theme. I'm not sure if there is anyone who isn't living in a cave who hasn't seen Sylvester and Tweety and the Roadrunner and Daffy Duck. And those people who are living in a cave under a rock, even they've seen Bugs. People understand how these cartoons work.

More than that, you don't have to worry nearly as much about consequences or doing something wrong. If Frodo tried to give one of the ring wraiths a noogie or Luke challenge the emperor to a thumb war, I'm pretty sure we'd be looking at a total party kill, not to mention some serious tone derailment. But in Toon, you can do that and it fits.

It's okay to make silly or stupid decisions. That can be a tough lesson to learn, in RPGs and out of them as well.

Toon is over thirty years old. I haven't seen the latest edition but I don't think much has changed. And I think it would make a dandy game to play with a bunch of kids getting ready for kindergarten.

Originally posted on http://www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed Mar 9, 2016 4:03 pm
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Life without a GM

Lowell Kempf
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After looking at the Name of God, I got curious as to how many GM–free systems I have played over the years. As it turns out, I have played at least nine different GM-free systems, not counting playing Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition with no DM.

The list includes the Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchaussen, Fiasco, Microscope, Once Upon A Time, Polaris, The Quiet Year, Ribbon Drive, The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach, A Thousand and One Nights, and Zombie Cinema.

I realize that there are folks who will argue that some of the games, Once Upon a Time for instance since it's a card game for some folks, aren't RPGs. Well, those games don't have to be RPGs for them then

But these are all games where folks get together to tell a story together. For me, that is a huge part of why I play RPGs and what defines an RPG for me.

Of course, having a game master is a big part of the paradigm of role-playing games. After all, somebody has to control the world and tell all the NPC's what to do. That's how Dungeons & Dragons works. That's how the World of Darkness works. Heck, that's even how Apocalypse World work.

At the same time, it's not like games without GM's are some wild and crazy new idea that is springing up in a liberal college campuses while stodgy old gray-haired grumps like myself yell at these young whippersnappers to get off my lawn. Baron Munchaussen was first published back in 1998, close to 20 years ago. More than that, I'm pretty sure I remember early issues of Dragon magazine having instructions on creating dungeons as you go for when you didn't have a Dungeon Master.

Personally, I have become more and more fond of GM free systems. Why? Well, frankly it comes down to time and effort.

I have been in campaigns that have lasted years, even decades. They were amazingly immersive and they created lasting friendships that I treasure to this day. However, even before I became the daddy of a toddler who is running around in circles even while I am typing this, it became harder and harder to find the time to commit to a long-term campaign and find the mental energy to really participate in one.

And, heck, I wasn't even one of the game masters. Over the years, I have seen some serious burn out and even bitterness in game masters. Some of them spend hours and hours of work every week for a bunch of ungrateful bastards. And that's me speaking as one of their ungrateful bastards

Role playing games without game masters tend to be much shorter affairs, usually design for only one sitting. No one has to do any work before hand, no dungeon masters spending hours working on maps and back stories and timelines. Everyone just comes to the table to play.

Of course, there are some downsides to playing without a game master.

For one thing, almost all of these games are simple and light affairs. You aren't going to get the depth or immersion that you would from playing in a game that takes weeks to years to complete. And if you are someone who really enjoys crunchy complicated mechanics, this is not going to scratch that itch.

And, while the games do tend to be simpler, everyone has to understand how they work in order to play the game. I was playing Dungeons & Dragons for years before I really bothered understand the nitty-gritty of all of the mechanics. The DM handled all of the fiddly work for me. Heck, Sandman: Map of Halaal was designed to have the game master handle all of the mechanics. The players are actually intended to be ignorant about them. On a certain level, games with game masters are better for casual gamers.

Playing without a game master can be very helpful if you don't have a lot of time either to devote to a regular game or to prepare for a game. At the same time, I think that it has a bigger initial hurdle for new players to get behind than playing with a game master.

Exceptions work both ways to that rule. Some of the games that I have played, Once Upon a Time for instance, are so rules light that they will work for anyone as long as they are willing to play make-believe. On the other hand, my experiences with Polaris were a multiple-session campaign that involved a fairly intricate system.

When I started poking around, I found somebody had compiled a list of over 200 games that were designed to be played without a game master. (https://doubleninja.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/the-ultimate-bi...) Clearly, this is an idea that has inspired a lot of people.

And there are some games, like Fiasco, that have made a legitimate splash. There's an audience out there and these games will get played. I don't think GMs are going to go away but I do think there is growing room for games without them.

Originally posted on http://www.gnomepondering.com
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Tue Mar 8, 2016 1:50 pm
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Okay, now I've actually read The Name of God

Lowell Kempf
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After enough people asked how exactly The Name of God worked, I wrote to Alessandro Piroddi to get permission to get the PDF of the first edition early and review it before the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

He said yes, so here we go! (Thanks Alessandro!)

In The Name of God, you are a small god who has fallen from power. You are trapped in a mortal body without your name or even money or shelter. You are a homeless outcast in the city. But you have a hope of regaining your divinity. But, of course, there's going to be a cost.

The Name of God is a GM-free system. It's a role playing game that doesn't require any prior set up and everyone has an equal part in running it. The rules take up four cards, unless you double side them. In the original edition, which is what I'm looking at, the rest of the game consists of the four fetish cards. (The second edition will have more than twice times that number of fetish cards, by the way.)

At the start of the game, everyone will take a fetish card. They've got three parts. The name, which is something cool like the Wyrm or the Shadow, that gives an idea for that fetish's theme. Some questions that will help you define your character. And, finally, the ritual action. That is the big deal, how you try and manifest your forgotten divine presence.

On a turn, one player will be the active player. Their lost god/homeless madman will be the main character for that scene. After they describe what urban wasteland they are at, the other players fill in key details. Who else is there? What is bizarre or wrong? What is dangerous?

You then play out the scene, with the other players taking the roles of the other people and the environment. Effectively, everyone but the active player collectively is the GM or the stage manager, if you like the Our Town analogy. (I love it, which is why I drag it out on a regular basis. Hate the play, though)

The scene keeps going until an action is taken that is either difficult OR perilous OR difficult and perilous. One player must call it out and another player describes the consequences of that action.

The active player can either accept those consequences or they can perform their ritual action. The other players tell them what they must do to perform the ritual action, who gets hurt and other details. The active player must then decide if they are willing to pay that cost.

No matter what, after the action is resolved, ritual action or no, the scene ends and the next player becomes the active player.

An individual character journey will end in one of two ways. They will successfully perform their ritual action three times and regain their divine nature and power. Or they'll die. The game ends when everyone finds their final destiny.

Now, let me say I have played a number of GM-free systems over the years. And I have to say that they actually work. Looking over The Name of God, I'd honestly say that it shouldn't just work but it'll be harder to mess up than others I've seen or played.

Part of that is because what everyone has to do is pretty straight forward. The other part is because the concept and setting, which has been used in works like American Gods is both real enough for people to understand and fantastic enough to be safe.

(The concept does remind me of Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, while being completely different in tone and setting. At the same time, I can imagine playing a stray dog or an alley cat who is secretly a god)

Of course, there are still going to be speed bumps for getting into this game. You have to go in with the goal of telling a good story, not to win. The better story might to be to reject the price of divinity and die, unknown and unloved in a filthy alleyway. If you can get into that, awesome!

I thought the idea of the Name of God made it worth backing. Now that I have seen the actual Core System, I'm pretty excited to get the expanded game.

Originally posted on http://www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Mar 7, 2016 5:50 pm
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Kickstarter stretch goals that excite my jaded heart

Lowell Kempf
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As I spent more time on Kickstarter, both doing a lot of lurking and backing some projects, I have grown more critical of stretch goals. Well, at least more careful in my scrutiny of stretch goals.

When I first learned about stretch goals, they were the most amazing thing ever. Bonus goodies are so exciting!

But, as time went on, some stretch goals felt like pieces of the game that had been shaved off and you needed to make the stretch goals to get the actual whole game. Other times, I'm forced to wonder if it's really just bonus fluff.

So now that I have become at all discerning when it comes to stretch goals, when I find some that are exciting, it's really cool for me. Particularly since I am just backing on the Print and Play level more and more, so most stretch goals don't mean a thing to me.

And, at the moment, I'm backing two projects with stretch goals that excite me. So, of course I have to write about them, even though I've already mentioned them before, to try and drum up more support and achieve more stretch goals

The Name of God is a nanno RPG, originally consisting of eight cards. Four cards of rules and four fetish cards. In this case, fetish means a special ritual object, not a kinky obsession. Although it's an indie game that lists Apocalypse World as an inspiration so it could end up both in a game

The stretch goals are more fetish cards. Since they are the special action/big mechanic of the game, even one is 20% cooler and We are at nine. 220% cooler? Rainbow Dash's head explodes!

What is actually super cool is how every bonus card is being designed by a different indie designer. I really hope they get to card eleven, since I've gamed with Megan and she's groovy.

Of course, the second series of Pack O Games is what really has me thrilled. It's a series of micro games and every stretch goal is another game! (Mind you, it doesn't hurt that the first set ended up being micro games on a Love Letter level of quality. A bag of junk games ain't anything special)

More than that, this time, every time a new stretch goals is announced, backers get to vote on which of two games it will be. I hope they don't run out of play-tested games!

Now, it is nice how the stretch goals in both projects add big content but what is really cool is how they engage the community. The Name of God is making big use of the indie design community and Pack O Games is giving people choices, at least as long as their supply of designs hold out. Both projects having lots of updates and decent transparency helps too.

Honestly, a good pledge experience has become part of the whole backing a Kickstarter thing for me and these guys are doing a fine job.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/unplayablegames/the-nam...

http://www.PackOGame2.com
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Sat Mar 5, 2016 7:08 pm
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Pack O Games is back for more and I am on board

Lowell Kempf
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One of the most rewarding Kickstarters of 2014 for me was the Pack O Games series.

Part of the fun was that every stretch goal was a new game in the series and, by the end of the Kickstarter, the number of games had doubled and the last game to get added was the one I was the most excited about. (BUS, by the way. A pick-up-and-deliver game on just thirty cards? I had to see that!)

However, the other thing that was really cool was that we had a lot of fun with the games once they arrived. We haven't played all of them but we have had fun with the ones that we have played. In my opinion, the Pack O Games series has really pushed the bar for the quality of micro games.

So when the second series of Pack O Games was launched, I backed it before I even started looking at what the games were going to be.

Stretch goals or one of those things that can be really exciting in a campaign or you can end up feeling like they added a whole bunch of stuff that you don't really need. Since every goal in this campaign is it's own game, I find that pretty exciting. And, this time, you get to vote on what the next stretch goal will be. That's a great way to engage the backers and keep everyone excited about the campaign.

I really enjoyed the first set in this series and I'm looking forward to what this one brings.

http://www.PackOGame2.com
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Fri Mar 4, 2016 9:33 pm
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Party game tools to expose painful memories

Lowell Kempf
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A Penny for My Thoughts has reminded me just what fragile creatures RPGs are.

It goes without saying that every game depends on the group, including party games like charades or board games like Catan. But role playing games can be a lot more easily broken by a group that doesn't mesh well with it.

And, of course, some games are easier to break than others. The fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, despite having plenty of detractors, did a good job of being a game that could still work even when people were actively trying to break the system.

(Just for the record, I personally found fourth edition to be a good game but one that didn't feel like D&D to me. Just so you know where I'm coming from)

A Penny for My Thoughts, on the other hand, strikes me as a game that can easily crash and burn with a group that approaches it in the wrong way, even if you don't have any outliers looking to spoil the game.

In A Penny for My Thoughts, the players are amnesiacs who are using a telepathic drug as a form of group therapy to regain their memories. The whole idea behind the telepathic twist is that it lets the other players feed information into the active player's story.

At the start of the game, everyone writes down five memory cues on slips of paper and puts them in a bowl. Everyone then draws a penny (a penny for my thoughts) from a bowl. One person gives their penny to another player and the player with two pennies starts the first memory.

At the start of a memory, the active player draws a cue and everyone else asks them a question about it, creating a framework for the memory to develop.

When the active player reaches an important decision, they will ask two other players what happened next in the memory. The active player MUST choose one of the two options that they are given and gives a penny to the person who offered them that choice.

When they run out of pennies, they've completed the memory. They write it down on a questionnaire that helps guide them, draw a new penny and the role of the active player moves to a new player.

When everyone has completed out their questionnaire, the game ends with everyone making the choice to remember their life or not.

There are two big potential game breakers I see in A Penny for My Thoughts (and, to be fair, the author does address both of them)

The first one is that the baseline game is set in the regular world. No science fiction or fantasy or super hero or spy movie elements. The issues that caused you to lose your memories are likely to be real and potentially painful things like divorce or PTSD or suicide or such.

That can be a really hard sell and people can really pull away from a game that is too grounded in reality. I remember being told about a game of Ribbon Drive where one player redirected the game into being about vampires going to Las Vegas. In ribbon drive is probably one of the most found grounded in reality games I've ever seen, other then some Nordic LARPs that are flat out supposed to be about regular life. Another time in the game of Fasco that I was in, one player had his Steve Busceme style gambler turn into a magical China man who flew off on the back of the golden dragon to Middle Earth. Yes, that's right. I was in a game of fiasco that turned into Toon. (which does have its own weird sense of cool)

Interestingly enough, the author solution is pretty simple and obvious. Change the background setting something more fantastic, like having the characters be secret agents like Jason Bourne or in a Lovecraftian and story. He includes new background material in questionnaires for such games.

I can picture playing the base game with my old Indy group from Chicago. Otherwise, I would skip the base game altogether. Buckle up, this bus is going straight to Cthulhu Country.

The other issue that I see the game having is that somebody else sets up the key decisions for you. The critical decisions that you develop in your memories/story are ones that other people make.

Honestly, this doesn't worry me nearly as much. When you are playing games that are about collaborative storytelling, you're going to have to trust the other players. But I certainly know people who this would be a big problem.

A Penny for My Thoughts uses the props from party games to create a dialogue between the players. At its best, it will create very personal stories in one session. However, I think I would tone it down for everyone's comfort level.

http://www.evilhat.com/home/a-penny-for-my-thoughts/

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Fri Mar 4, 2016 3:32 pm
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No Thank You Evil offers unlocks the world of make believe

Lowell Kempf
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After I wrote about Hero Kids, a role-playing game that is specifically aimed at very young children, an old college friend recommended that I look into No Thank You Evil.

No Thank You Evil hasn't come out yet, unless you're reading this a month or so after I posted it. It's being published by Monte Cook Games, which is an awfully good pedigree. I don't know if Mister Cook himself worked in the game but the fact that he put his name behind it is a feather in its cap.

The previews give me a decent idea of how the game works and what kind of stories you're probably going to come up with using the system.

It's very mechanics light, which is really what you would hope for in a game aimed as young as five-year-olds. Character creation consists of coming up with a sentence with up to three characteristics for your character. For instance, your sentence could be I am a thoughtful prince who likes sailing.

You also have trait pools, a certain number of tokens that you assign to tough, smart, fast, and awesome. The pools act like stats in Robin Law's Gumshoe system. You spend them to get bonuses in the appropriate action.

(There, I have compared a game that five-year-olds can play to Trail of Cthulhu. I feel proud of myself)

As for actually resolving decisions, the GM sets the difficulty level and you try to roll under with a six-sided die.

The preview hints at other rules, like having pets that do tricks. Obviously, you're going to have to actually buy the game if you want to get all of the good stuff.

Oh, the preview does mention a special rule for very young players. They get a No Thank You Evil token, which can be used to get out of jail for free. If the game ever gets too intense or too difficult, they can just give that to the GM and the GM will sort things out.

The game is set in Storia. It is the land of make-believe, no brakes applied. Is your kid into dinosaurs or robots or fairies or ghosts? Well, then they will be there. Peter Pan's Neverland has nothing on Storia.

Obviously, since the game hasn't come out yet and I haven't been able to actually read all the rules or see all the things that come with it, it's hard for me to really judge what No Thank You Evil would really be like.

It definitely stands on the other side of the line from Hero Kids as far as design philosophy is concerned. Hero Kids is a very mechanics driven game that you're even supposed to play on a grid. The base game is very solidly set in the Sword and Sorcery genre, although there is a science fiction setting as well. It creates a very concrete, dare I even say rigid, structure for the game.

No Thank You Evil, on the other hand, is much more free-form and built on the imaginations of the players. It takes the games of make-believe all kids play and adds a few rules to them so that there is some suspense to what the heroes are doing.

Which one is better? Honestly, I think that all depends on what your kid likes and what they need. I like the fact that there is a game out there like Hero Kids that has a strong rule structure. I think that is a good tool to have in your gaming bag. On the other hand, I can also easily see the kids might respond much better to the more imagination-based and whimsical No Thank You Evil. I think the way that it fully embraces make-believe opens up a lot of potential story doors.

So, if you are looking for role-playing game for very small children, I like the fact that there are good options out there. You know your kids. You know what they need and what will work for them. I'm just highlighting what seems to be some good options to my mind.

I will say, one thing that I really like about No Thank You Evil is the title tokens. I think firmly establishing a way for kids to say I'm scared or I'm frustrated or I'm unhappy is a really good tool to communicate where they are at with their parents or whoever is running the game.

http://www.nothankyouevil.com

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Thu Mar 3, 2016 6:48 pm
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A little game of dangerous promises and bad ideas

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
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As pretty obvious by now, I am someone who enjoys looking into quirky little role playing games. Unlike my interest in boardgames, I'm not looking for games that I'm planning on playing. Instead, I am interested in the ideas that people come up with and the ways that people tell stories.

Lover of Jet and Gold is a tiny little RPG that is beautifully written and a little vague about what you're supposed to do. Seriously, not counting the cover and a list of names, the thing is six pages long and I had to read it three times to get a sense of how it was played.

Vaguely set in an Arabian Nights world (although, I can see how you would easily be able to use these ideas in just about any setting), the players are mortals who have an understanding of the power and influence of names. Over the course of the game, they will struggle to survive and to not be forgotten.

As mortals, the players are doomed to die and to be forgotten. They deal with the names of force is more powerful than them, in order to gain favor and to deal with their enemies. While they will inevitably pass into the sands of time, the players can hope to have a lasting impact on their descendants.

The actual mechanics of the game consist of generating dice pools for your times of trial. Everyone gets to jet (or black) dice that serve as their mortality. You need to deal with powers and their names to get gold dice in order to bulk up your dice pool.

Of course, dealing with a power that has its own desires and interests and agenda is something that could come back and really bite you. If the dice rolls go bad, they may harm you or make new demands of you. Of course, at the same time, if you don't deal with the powers you're only rolling two dice at best and are probably going to fail horribly.

At the same time, along with the jet dice that represent your mortality and your hit points and the gold dice that represent favors from names, you're also trying to accumulate destiny dice. While that you can spend those dice to reroll jet dice, the cool part of destiny dice is that you get to roll them after your inevitable death see what lasting impact you had on the world.

Basically, as the game goes on, you're getting yourself deeper and deeper into the debt of powers that can easily destroy you. However, that's really the only way that you're going to succeed in your trials and the only way that you are going to build up any destiny dice to be remembered. Live a boring life and be immediately forgotten or take terrible risks in order to become a legend.

Lover of Jet and Gold reminds me of two games that I really like. The trial mechanic reminds me of the moves from Apocalypse World, where successes will let you pick from a selection of benefits. The destiny dice reminded of Fiasco, where the dice pool that you're building up for the end of the game will determine what kind of ending you have.

I can easily imagine using this exact same system without any problems with the theme of doom-laden Vikings or stone-age cavemen struggling to understand the world around them or even computer-age hackers. Like so many story telling games, Lover of Jet and Gold really is what you put into it.

The first time I struggled to understand Lover of Jet and Gold, I thought the language was beautiful but I didn't have a good idea how the game was played. But it was really short so I read a few more times and got a sense of how the game worked.

And now I actually DO want to try this game!

I am worried that a game could get derailed if one player loses all their jet dice and dies long before anyone else dies. I have a feeling that would require some extreme swings of luck but that can happen. Still, there is some potential for good stories in Lover of Jet and Gold.

http://glyphpress.com/talk/2015/lover-of-jet-gold-roleplayin...

Originally posted at http://gnomepondering.blogspot.com
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Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:55 pm
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