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Posts Tagged ‘gaming’

Point and Click Adventure Games

I’ve always liked the “point and click adventure” style of video game. You know, the kind of thing Sierra was known for, back in the heyday of this genre: games where you wandered around talking to people and clicking on everything that was clickable to add it to your inventory, and then when you got to a challenge sticking your inventory items on it (or on each other, to make a new inventory item) until you figured out how to solve the problem. Many of these games were low-stakes, in that you could only die at a few specific points, and their overall focus was on story.

Does anybody have recmmendations for more games of that type? Either classics that are available on Steam or GOG, or newer games made in that mold. I’m a huge fan of the Gabriel Knight series, and I’ve also played various King’s Quest and Monkey Island games; I recently finished the more recent Blackwell series, and have also played Gray Matter, by the creator of the GK games. I like ’em because they don’t take too long to play and they don’t make me worry my character is going to die, and it would be nice to have some more to entertain myself with in my spare time. Fantasy genre preferred, but feel free to recommend whatever.

Nighty Knights!

Many of you may recall that I’ve written several times for the TinyD6 RPG line (Tiny Frontiers, Tiny Dungeon, Tiny Wastelands, etc). That’s all been through Gallant Knight Games, but now I’m parterning with a different company, WunderWerks, for a Tiny D6-based game called Nighty Knights!

In this one you play stuffed animals defending sleeping children from monsters and nightmares. Like all TinyD6 games, the rules are very minimalist; it’s designed to be the kind of thing you can easily pick up and play with a minimum of prep. My contribution this time around will be setting material for Underbed and the Dreamlands, detailing the realms your stuffed animal PCs can adventure through.

The Kickstarter campaign has only been running for a few days, but it’s already up to 200% of its goal, with stretch goals falling like ninepins! If this sounds like your cup of tea, get in on the action now, with lots of cool rewards.

This short story GOES UP TO ELEVEN

I recently finished my first short story of the year, which doesn’t yet have a title I am satisfied with, but which is destined for publication in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II, once the Kickstarter behind that link successfully funds. (It’s a quarter of the way there after one day, so odds are good.)

Drafting the story was interesting, because it’s been a while since I wrote something where my constant reminder to myself was GO BIGGER. In some ways “The Şiret Mask” last year, I suppose, but that was more caper-style ridiculousness. When it comes to sheer world-wrecking destruction, I think I have to go all the way back to In Ashes Lie, with its Great Fire and the battle between Prigurd and the Dragon in St. Paul’s Cathedral. But when the theme of your antho is kaiju, well, sheer world-wrecking destruction is very nearly an entry requirement.

(“Very nearly” because you could probably write a really interesting story about kaiju not trashing cities — something much quieter and more personal — and in fact I hope somebody in the lineup for this anthology does so. But that story is not my story.)

As for my story: it’s riffing off the microsetting I wrote for Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters, which was called “The Grand Prize,” and is basically what happens when somebody hands me the prompt “kaiju and mecha” and my brain immediately pairs that with high school science fairs. The short story takes place at the Twentieth Annual Metzger-Patel Genius Prize tournament, and that’s all I’ll say right now — except to remind you that if you want to read a story about teenaged robotics and bioengineering competitions gone massively overboard, you should back the Kickstarter today!

my publications in 2017

A fairly busy year for me, all things considered. And a reminder that I need to go through my bibliography page and clean up all the things that still say “forthcoming” when they’re already out.

Novels

Novellas

Short stories

Collections

Nonfiction

Gaming fiction

Today’s random gaming thought

You can tell how much an RPG system cares about a thing by how granular the rules for it are.

I’ve known this for a while, of course. RPGs evolved out of historical war-gaming, so many of them have incredibly detailed rules for combat, and much less detailed frameworks for other activities. But there’s another angle on this that I don’t think about as often, which is: when you get a bonus, how restrictive vs. broad is the application of that bonus?

In L5R, there’s a spell that gives you a boost to Perception-based rolls. All Perception-based rolls. Vision? Hearing? Scent? Reading people’s behavior? Commanding an army in battle? (For reasons of setting philosophy, that’s based on Perception.) This spell boosts all of them. Because although L5R is better at caring about non-combat stuff than some game systems, it’s really not all that interested in the finer-grained applications of Perception. Instead of having many spells that give you bonuses to different kinds of Perception, there’s one that hits them all.

Or Pathfinder. My PC has a magic item that gives a +3 to all Charisma-based skill checks, because Pathfinder, like most D&D, fundamentally doesn’t give a damn about social interaction. There is not, to my knowledge, a magic item that gives a +3 (or a +anything) to all Dexterity-based skill checks, because that would include Stealth (good for avoiding combat or taking the enemy by surprise), Acrobatics (good for avoiding attacks of opportunity in combat), Ride (good for anybody engaging in mounted combat), Disable Device (good for picking locks and disarming traps), and Escape Artist (good for escaping entangle and grapples in combat), among others. But handing out a cheap blanket bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Perform, and Use Magic Device? Eh, why not. That last is pretty much the only one that will often matter in combat, unless you’ve taken all the feats necessary to make feinting via Bluff a useful thing to do. And the game is relatively uninterested in what happens outside of combat.

And then you get players arguing that doing X isn’t very interesting. They’re right, in a way, because the rules have made it uninteresting. All you need is this single effect and you’re great at the whole shebang. But if the rules started from the assumption that X is interesting, and treated it with the same care and complexity of flavor they use for other aspects of play, it might be a different story.

(No game can do that for every single aspect, of course. If you tried, you’d wind up with something of unplayable complexity. But it would be nice to see that care and attention given to things other than combat more often.)

Today’s random gaming thought

(Non-gaming thing first: one week left to pre-order Maps to Nowhere!)

I’m playing in two Pathfinder games right now, and keep running up against the fact that nobody in those worlds ever uses magic sensibly.

This post is brought to you today by a tongue-in-cheek discussion with one of my GMs about how my PC wants to get an NPC to leave the city faster, wherein I joked about hitting her over the head with a Rod of Concussionless Incapacitation. Which is a solution to a problem we pretend doesn’t exist: in fiction people get knocked unconscious all the time, often for hours, and yet somehow wake up without concussions and permanent brain damage the way you would in reality.

But let’s take problems we do admit exist. The equipment list for Pathfinder includes a collapsible (and therefore semi-portable) bathtub, but there’s no magic item for a bathtub that fills itself with hot water — even though that would be dead easy to make. (Two cantrips would do it: prestidigitation and create water.) The GM for one campaign has a homebrewed cantrip/orison of birth control. The other campaign is Kingmaker, with its “SimKingdom” rules; those include sewer systems, but we built continuous-use wondrous items of purify food and drink into ours so we’re not just dumping our sewage into the lake. And I recently figured out that if we make a command word item of plant growth and use it on all the farms in the kingdom, we’re boosting our crop yields by 1/3 for the year, allowing us to feed our population with less encroachment on wild spaces and less risk of famine, for the low investment of a few thousand gold.

This is a utility approach to magic that you almost never see, whether it’s in D&D or novels. Even when magic is abundant in the setting, it rarely gets applied to the basics of day-to-day life. But if we really had these methods available to us, you damn bet we’d use them to make our lives simpler and more comfortable; just look at what we do with technology! Somebody would set up shop marketing self-filling heated magic bathtubs and command word items of prestidigitation to clean your house with. Sure, it’s a less lucrative market than selling swords and armor to adventurers — but your customer base is orders of magnitude larger.

You don’t see this in Pathfinder because ultimately, the game does not give a flying damn about anything that isn’t pertinent to making yourself a better adventurer. And you don’t see it in fiction because it won’t influence the direction of the plot. But there’s no reason it couldn’t be there as a background detail, a way to make the world feel lived-in and believable. For a while I was reading a serialized online story called Tales of MU, which was basically the urban fantasy evolution of a D&D-style world; that’s one of the few stories I can think of where magic really did get used in all these kinds of ways and more. But I can think of perishingly few others.

So, recs? Either of stories that do this, or other magic items D&D ought to have and doesn’t. 🙂 If I were a game publisher, I would so be tempted to put out a sourcebook of utility and luxury items . . .

DICE TALES is out in the world!

I should have posted this yesterday, but appropriately enough, I was too busy prepping for the game I ran last night. 🙂

Dice Tales: Essays on Roleplaying Games and Storytelling is out now! If you play RPGs and have an interest in them from the narrative side of things — the ways we use them to tell stories, and what GMs and players can do to make them work better in that regard — you may find it of interest. Follow the link to buy it from Book View Cafe, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Kobo, or (in a first for me) DriveThruRPG. And if any parts of it wind up working their way into the games you play or run, let me know!

Also, the New Worlds Patreon has headed off into the wilds of rudeness, with two posts on “Gestures of Contempt” and “Insults.” The theme will continue through the end of this month before turning in a new direction for August. Remember that patrons at the $5 level and above can request topics, so if there’s something you’d like to see me discuss, you can make that happen!

Bounty Offered: Book for Cartoon

This started out as a joke yesterday, but then I figured — why not?

SO! I am offering a signed book from my stash of author copies for someone who can provide me with a quick cartoon-style/chibi/super-deformed sketch of this man:

standing on a pressure plate and looking extremely grumpy, while this woman:

armed and armored like a D&D rogue, skips around sticking pink companion cube hearts on him:

. . . because yeah, last game session my PC left the Blackjack standing on a pressure plate in a hallway to disarm a trap while she went inside to plant a magical surveillance device. Which led to jokes that he was her companion cube, a la Portal. And then my sister said she would totally draw this cartoon if she could draw, except she can’t, and neither can I, but maybe one of you can! There’s a signed book in it for you if you do. 😀

I’m writing for LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS!

I’ve been sitting on this news for nearly a year, waiting for my first piece to go live so I can tell you all about it.

So there’s this game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a collectible card game and RPG; I got involved with the RPG, doing some freelance work for the later parts of fourth edition, because it had sucked me in overnight. The setting, Rokugan, is inspired by Japanese history and culture, and it’s got the kind of rich worldbuilding that makes the place come to life for me. So when the parent company sold L5R off to Fantasy Flight Games, I was, shall we say, rather determined to stay involved.

And I am. But not writing for the RPG this time: instead I’m one of their fiction writers. You see, one of the defining characteristics for L5R has always been the ongoing narrative of the game, influenced by the winners of various tournaments, and expressed through official canon stories.

My first story is here!

I think it should be a decent introduction to the setting for those who aren’t familiar with it. (In fact, that’s one of the goals for this first set of stories: give newcomers an overview of Rokugan, clan by clan.) If you like what I wrote, you might find L5R overall interesting, and you can check out the other fictions here (those provide links to the pdfs if you want to see the pretty formatted versions).

Yeah . . . I’m pretty excited. 😀 The setting has been rebooted back to the Clan War, so there’s an opportunity to do all kinds of cool new things, and this story provided a really great chance to showcase that, with the Dragon facing two entirely fresh conflicts that don’t come with easy answers attached. And I’m working on more stuff as we speak, so my involvement will be ongoing. *\o/*

New Worlds and Dice Tales!

The most recent New Worlds post is on sumptuary laws, i.e. the ways in which societies try to regulate the outward signifiers of class and rank.

Looking back at my previous blog series of BVC — Dice Tales is now set to be an ebook! You can currently pre-order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo; or you can wait for the on-sale date of July 18th and get it from DriveThruRPG or direct from the publisher, Book View Cafe. This is edited and expanded from the original blog series, with more than half a dozen new essays.

And — as a teaser — while it is my first foray into game-related publishing, it may not be my last . . .