Friday, August 20, 2010


Ok, so much as I enjoyed the WE ROCK (formerly KWORC) posts, those were a heck of a lot of work. I mean, I'm totally pleased with them, and I may at some point go back for another swim but after all that thinking I'm really all for spending some time thinking about how to smash monsters or cool dice tricks. So for the moment, let's just focus on some cool stuff.

Will Hindmarch has done a fantastic playset for Fiasco which reminds me of The Man Who Folded Himself pushed through the lens of the Coen Brothers and Quantum Leap. This is not a bad combination at all.

Fiasco playsets are, by the way, one of the most fantastic pieces of gaming technology of the past few years. The game rules themselves are quite simple, but each game uses a playset to create the relationships, locations, objects and needs that drive the particular game. Playsets are modular tools that can be swapped out to totally change the nature of the game, yet they're simple enough that anyone can make one with a little time and effort. Simply brilliant. Brennan Taylor has been working on something similar with Campaign Frames for Mortal Coil, though his approach is a little different (and he's selling them, so slightly different distro too).

On one hand, some part of me wonders if it's possible to do a game for free but supplements like this for charge and try that as a model. Another part of me says that's not workable because you really want to encourage players to make their own because doing so improves the game as a whole. There's a lot of merit to either approach, and it's totally something to watch.

Rob Schwalb, the man I like to think of as "The guy who wrote half the cool RPG material published in the past year or two" has started blogging and its well worth checking out.

I occasionally bump up against things I need words for. In this case i was thinking of things which are eye-opening and useful when you first discover them, but eventually get set aside as old hat or foundational, so that when - some time later - someone else finds it for the first time and is full of bright eyed enthusiasm about how this is the most amazing thing ever and you can either nod and smile knowingly or roll your eyes and wonder what kind of idiot they are. As I explain it, it is perhaps weird that it comes up often enough o demand a word, but it really does. But unlike my usual quests, someone actually found one. My friend Shai suggested Liminary, which means something introductory or preparatory, but implies a gateway of sorts (from limen). Its wordplay also suggests liminal and luminary, and that seems just about right. So, thank you Shai.

New theory to explain the Bermuda Triangle. Methane Gas. Not sure I buy it, but it is a great set up for MASTER BLASTER RUNS BERMUDA TRIANGLE!

On a different note, Daniel Perez has written a pretty serious post about balancing love of gaming with life. Lots of stuff that will sound familiar to anyone who has realized their passion is not a practical choice as a way to make a living.

Lastly, I think I'm going to dip my toe in trying to run some tabletop games online, so I'm looking for recommendations for tools. I've put out the call on twitter and already have some great answers, but I always welcome more. I have no idea what we'll actually end up playing, and we'll likely have a mix of computer types, but since this is a experiment, I'm willing to try most anything.


  1. I've been using IRC for online gaming for a while. A friend recently had the idea of combining that with a Google Docs presentation to handle any maps that are needed. It can be set to let everyone edit, so players can put markers on the map to represent their characters and move them around as the game progresses. So far it's worked pretty well.

  2. If you check the comments on that Bermuda Triangle post, you'll see that that theory is not new. It's also fairly problematic in a couple of ways. The biggest being that the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon is nothing more than confirmation bias in action.

    On a related note, I heard a theory a while back that the same methane hydrate crystals were responsible for the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2004. Companies were drilling in the area looking for underwater mining sites, and hit a huge pocket of the crystals. When they gassed out, the pocket collapsed, causing the earthquake. I've never seen anything related to that theory that I would call evidence, but I have seen some stuff that a massive deposit causing an earthquake is plausible.


  4. My gaming group is, just this Saturday, going to start a DFRPG campaign. While the other existing online game (my Unknown Armies game) is run on a MUSH, we have been frustrated with the inability to tell when someone was typing. Once upon a time we could all spend eight hours at a time on this kind of thing and lengthy pauses didn't matter as much, but lately nobody has the time.

    So for the new game, the GM asked me to find a better way. I determined that MapTool was a good fit for our needs. Oh, it does 1001 things we don't need, but it is multi-platform and is not a resource hog.

    It features a chat system with typing notifications, so you know whether Player2 has just fallen asleep or is composing his nine sentence pose of doom. It supports all sorts of dice, including Fudge dice. I was able to create a little macro(/roll 4dF) and everyone who connects in gets a button marked Roll in their campaign window. They click it and it rolls 4dF and outputs to chat. Handy.

    As for the actual map part, it's a handy way to quickly draw a few squares and rectangles next to each other to sketch out zones. I created a very boring blank circle token, so every PC and NPC can be represented by dragging said token out and just giving it a name.

    Sure, the program is designed so you can run an uber-crunchy 4E D&D game where you care deeply about the light radius of someone's torch...but you don't have to do it. What I described here is what we are planning to use and it looks great. The poor map system is probably weeping that we're using it like the back of a napkin, but such is life when you are a computer program.

    About the only configuration changes we've needed are to set the option when starting up the server that players receive campaign macros (that's so that they get the 'roll' button), making the chat box bigger(we have it fill up the whole left side) and pressing control-t I believe it is to cause token names to be displayed by default so that our "all tokens are the same little circle" works.

  5. Rob,

    I've been lurking here for a while and have been thoroughly amazed, informed and entertained. Thank you for that.

    re vtt, Maptools is great and very importantly multi-platform. i've also managed quite a few games with Vassal and Skype. I think Skype has a typing indicator also but i could be making that up.

    sincerely, eric

    ps. better acronym.

  6. Skype does indeed have typing indicators, and the bonus that you could go right to voice chat if it suited everyone involved.

    I tried Fantasy Grounds for a while a few years ago, but the sheer crunchiness of it mandated almost 2x the prep-time for my D&D games than my in-person games demanded. It's certainly pretty, though.

    My brother keeps pushing MapTools at me. I will have to check that out as well. I wasn't so impressed with it about a year ago, but I'm not sure if that was a lack of pretty or if it needed more somewhat else.

    Right now I'm trying to use Google Wave to run a Traveller game, but we haven't got very far yet.

  7. Infrno has been getting some buzz as well. Debuted at GenCon I think:

  8. I have used MapTool in conjunction with Skype to run a pretty successful WFRP campaign. I got a load of artwork from the Games Workshop website (the stuff they use on boxes and army books) and used the TokenTool from rptools to make more tokens than I could ever possibly need. When you get the hang of the LoS stuff it gets quite impressive. Skype voice chat along side the map and die rolling in MapTool worked very well.

    I've also been running Dark Heresy on Wave for a while, that has been moderately successful. It requires a slightly different way of thinking than I'm used to as a GM. It might be worth checking out, but be aware that Google is stopping further development on Wave by the end of the year.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.