Archive for the 'web2.0' Category

21
Nov
09

recap: recession-proof gaming and useful tools

C’mon – you knew this would happen sometime… so just imagine Don La Fontaine doing this voiceover!
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First there was recession-proof gaming.  Then there was the sequel.  The field got opened up with no money, no time, no problem!  Then proof that the internet provides.  The search for stuff introduced pocketmods, graphic tools and yet more generators.  Then the discovery of undiscovered toys that could save you time.

Yet it’s not just about the financiapocalypse.  It’s also about making your life as games master easier – whether you have a game in sixty minutes, need some steampunk or use kanban to help you develop characters.  Add useful web 2.0 tools, browser tricks and TiddlyWiki, mindmapping and writing tools and you have an arsenal to draw on when creating a game. With resources like these, it’s getting easier to make the game you want to play.

27
Sep
09

recession-proof gaming IV: the internet provides

It’s been a while hasn’t it?  The web 2.0 market appears to be clustering around common services in a big way so finding new stuff has been fun.  Yet there’s tools and services which can provide useful for gamers so don’t despair even if we’re on the slow road to recovery.

Free systems – If you like mecha, take a look at Gunwave. Those of you who fancy Harry Potter (slashfic ahoy!) can consider Broomstix (a light RPG).  RPG Objects are offering the Two Worlds RPG for free.  If you prefer your action a bit more Hong Kong/Korean-style give Wushu a shot..  Those of you fancying a bit more collaborative-paced story may want to try Archipelago II.

Organisation – Shout’em is a service that lets you make your own microblogging social network similar to Twitter.  It’s also mobile compatible for those who can’t stay in front of a computer that long.  Some elegant privacy and integration options as well.  Use this to organise gaming groups or fan clubs. 

PrintablesPrintable Paper offers you multiple styles of paper including storyboards and perspective grids as well as the more typical hex and square grids.  Love for calligraphy, musical notation and printable games makes this even more impressive.

Talking – If you’re looking for a (currently free) voice-chat client, try Voxli.  It handles up to 200 folks at once (which deals nicely with online flash mob style gaming and interview chats) and has no limit on the number of rooms.  It also stays within the browser.  Enough for anyone, surely?

Woolgathering – Want to throw some ideas at a wall?  Asking for feedback?  Give Wallwisher a try as this virtual wall lets people put virtual notes on with a 160 character limit on. Being able to embed images, links and videos are options as is setting up a private wall or two.  And it integrates with your Google login.

11
Aug
09

questing kanban and character development

Blame Justin Achilli and Capuchin Captions at Dice Monkey for linking in my mind kanban and player handout cards. Everyone does quests to achieve items or benefits. Unless the DM has told you exactly what you need, you may not get where you need to go. And how do players learn of prestige/paragon classes/paths/epic destinies or that specific feats or rituals exist?

Unless a DM is kind and prepared enough to give NPCs with relevant abilities and opportunities to meet/share their knowledge, your character has a hard time knowing of such things. Doing so adds to prep time and may lead to conflicting agendas between players. Unless you’re willing to collude with players, it’s inevitable somebody will lose out.

Some games may not need (or want) that focus/preparation so it’s handwaved you learn about such things in downtime or by dice rolls. Nice if you know the books (prestige classes in 3.xE are found in the DMG or other sourcebooks) but some players don’t have/want to read them. There may also be a matter of timing – the campaign may have secrets dependent on those classes.

Kanban is a Japanese method of boosting efficiency. You say what you need and it’s supplied – the default method uses signs or cards (kanban) that convey what’s needed often using graphical notation for example 4E power icons or a picture representing a particular attribute. Even if you don’t have killer artwork or a perfect representation, you can just use words.

Godeckyourself earns its recession-proof gaming tag. I’ve mentioned other card creators – this one doesn’t require you to download software and provides ready-made PDFs of your deck and shares others people have made. There are even ready-made quest cards you can adapt for your own game. A tangible reminder can keep your players focussed.

Put them together and you get cards to convey what’s needed and how you might get it. The DM controls what cards are handed out and players can choose from those options what’s available. Smart players may see routes to their objectives that can spark off adventures and the element of choice is still preserved. And you get to re-use the cards for future games.

30
May
09

three things: random inspirations

Block, burnout, call it what you will, there’s a time when expression just doesn’t quite cut it, the imperfect beast isn’t running. You’re stuck. Here’s three tools to get you unstuck.

Oblique Strategies – From the mind of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt comes a number of random inspirations that he’s used while composing and producing. If it’s good enough for REM, it’s good enough for you. A shiny web-based version can be found at joshharrison.net as well.

Abulafia Oracles – The game In A Wicked Age uses a pack of cards and a series of tables as an oracle to suggest plot arcs. Abulafia, home to many random generators has compiled a very useful set of genre-specific oracles to work with. You can also use the original four oracles here.

Rory’s Story Cubes – Yes I know this isn’t recession-proofed but these are pure. improvisational. dynamite. If you can’t link even two of these, then take a shower or a walk somewhere colourful. Props to Greywulf for spotting these and to Vulcan Stev for mind-melding the blog post series out my head. Damn due diligence!

08
May
09

even more gaming tools

Inkwell Ideas has some wonderful tools; while some people have pointed at the magnificent Hexographer, the Coat of Arms Visual Designer deserves it’s own mention for those of you who need a heraldic coat-of-arms stat. And if you’re a GIMP mapper, you’ll love these brushes that draw on the icons from D&D’s classic Mystara setting.

Dungeon Mastering have created a 4E monster database. This provides ready-made cards for your monsters and importable code into Obsidian Portal and HTML (for Epic Words, blogs and other wikis). There is also a database of shared monsters that will certainly grow over time with contributions. Potluck can be fun.

You may also find the Magic Set Editor (lets you make your own trading cards) of particular interest (and it’s open source too) – this is just dandy if you have a card system for contacts/ stuff you can pass to players. Speaking of 4E, an epic labour of love can be found in the Universal Card Set that could be used with the above.

29
Apr
09

it’s nice when people listen…

Wizards have put a quick-start set, Keep on the Shadowfell and the first three levels of Character Builder up for free online. I can’t help but get the feeling the blogosphere contributed in it’s own way to this sudden shift in WotC policy. Before you all get too excited, it looks like the current policy on PDF publishing won’t reverse any time soon. Props to Points of Light for this.

The rest of this post is inspired by a post on Robertson Games about the radio theatre style entertainment that tabletop RPGs can provide. Talk about a bolt from the blue! As I’m late to the party, it would suddenly explain why those podcasts of gaming sessions are popular among some of us – they’re tapping into about *cough* sixty to eighty years of oral tradition!

Sound effects can add considerably to atmosphere – for free sound effects, take a look at The Freesound Project, University of Texas Electronic Music Studio, PacDV, Stonewashed and Ljudo. Some of these have Creative Commons tags so use accordingly. There are some very useful downloads to be found at my.voiceacting.co.uk including this.

Finally, courtesy of HeroPress – notification of a fantasy radio drama on BBC Radio 4 called ElvenQuest starring assorted comedy performers (Alastair McGowan, Stephen Mangan) about a novelist and his dog who is drawn into a world with elves, dwarves and monsters to fight Lord Darkness. The dog of course is the prophesied hero. Starts tonight! Will be iPlayered.

19
Mar
09

synergistic storytelling and random encounters

The concept of using more than one kind of media to tell a story (cross-media or transmedia) stories has blossomed. An icon of modern synergistic storytelling was The Matrix/Animatrix/Matrix Reloaded where a narrative arc was split between three movies and characters appear in the movie narrative as a result of the plot of the Enter the Matrix computer game.

Unless you were a complete Matrix-head, you may not have realised and have even thought that Niobe’s sudden appearance in Matrix Reloaded was a deus ex machina rather than a bold experiment in synergistic storytelling.

The what, where, how, why and when has been summarised nicely by Christy Dena.

Yet there’s the idea that events or decisions taken at the beginning of the story have an impact on the story or the information provided. Like the Fighting Fantasy books where choices made early in the narrative provide options (or equally deny them) later on. A variation on this was trialled by IBM researchers in research on interactive cinema how actions early on in the story cause impacts later on in the story environment and has repercussions for Internet browsing.

So can such deep wisdom be applied to tabletop gaming? Of course it can.

The diagram opposite posits an interesting viewpoint, that story authoring systems can increase interaction in an environment with time-bound story events. By story authoring systems we mean players, games masters/referees and in some cases even AI systems dealing with characters or environment. Which brings me onto random tables – used by all of them. Some of the finer points of these are explored by lumpley games’ In A Wicked Age and the resulting Abulafia oracles as well as cards in Ravenloft to provide situational modifiers.

It was observed that the use of random encounters is something peculiar (though not unique) to D&D in it’s various incarnations. As prototypical story authoring systems, these tables have led to significant impacts on games – not always to the positive. An anecdotal tale (which I recall being from Michael Stackpole) about how a sci-fi RPG game died in the first 10 minutes when the DM rolled an asteroid collision despite a pilot’s awesome ‘avoiding asteroid’ roll and all the players bar one just nodded their acceptance and then put the game away for the evening.

The anecdote illustrates these systems are best applied judiciously.

Some older grognards may claim this is unfair to the ‘roll it and see’ playstyle. I personally think that if you are going to create a space opera, you don’t finish 10 minutes after the start because the director thought it’d be gritty to have a big rock kill you all. Personally, it’s a bit unsatisfying and it closes the story too early. In this instance, I follow the Rule of Cool over the Rule of C4 and yes, this is really a cosmic case of “Rock Falls, Everyone Dies” rather than a strict use of the Rule of C4.

Going back to cross-media, how would you feel about games that marketed itself by different media – not in a D&D Insider or Dungeon-A-Day manner (which provides content as the be-all and end-all) but to provide clues to a setting or story arcs or snackies for DMs?