Flight Papers

feminism and creativity, art, madness, and play

Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Vagrant Stories.

Friday, June 13th, 2008

You worked to realize an exceptional dream.

…Name the dream.

Your work violated the order.

…Name your crime.

The violation threatened powerful people or things.

…Name what and who you threatened.

You were punished for your crimes.

…Name the punishment.

Your dream was not destroyed, but changed.

…Say what you lost.

You work to realize an exceptional nightmare.

…Name the nightmare.

Through these trials, you have found:

A Heart, to tell the clean from the damned,

Your Heart is rooted in nightmare. Say what it is.

Claws, to ensnare the unworthy,

Your Claws take something that cannot be returned, or offer something that cannot be repaid. Name the thing.

Tongues to speak their true shapes,

Your Tongues grew in your punishment. Name the lie that they cannot say.

A Maw, to consume them.

Your Maw is lined with sharp teeth. Name the power you hold over those lesser than you.

Your name is not for you to decide. The others will name you.

Next up: the city.

Premise is easy, story is difficult.

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

I was browsing the Exalted wiki*, and I came across this little piece,

It is generally going to be hard to understand anything I write if you assume that I balance things with CAN and CAN’T. I balance things with EASY and DIFFICULT.—Rebecca Borgstrom

She’s talking about Sidereal and Solar Charms, and how certain abstract restrictions on Sidereals are actually represented, subtly, in the Charm definitions in a way that makes some people go, “omgbroken.” (If you don’t understand any of that, don’t worry about it, it’s not really necessary to understand the point).

She’s taking an in-world perspective. Some things are hard for certain characters, some things are easy for certain characters. From this perspective, balance is making sure there are enough things that are easy for each character that no player feels like theirs is useless.

But let’s switch stances for a second and look at it from the outside: now, we’re not looking at characters, we’re looking at people playing a game. And standing in this frame, those things which are “difficult” are things that produce conflict. They produce spotlight time. Those things which are “easy” aren’t worthless—they dictate premise. If it’s explicitly easy for a character to tear the heads off a ten-thousand soldier army, well, you’ll probably develop stories which take that fact for granted and build from there. If it isn’t, you’ll develop stories which take something else for granted, and build from it. From this stance, balance is about making sure that everyone’s character has enough meat that they feel engaged with the stories.

But you want characters to be good at the things they’re doing, right? Well, ah… no.

This is the superpower dilemma—if a character is good at a thing, the story will not be about that. House isn’t about medical diagnostics, and Buffy isn’t about killing vampires. Where this gets tricky is that players (and, let’s be fair, some writers) don’t always realize this. So they make characters who are good at the thing they want the story to be about, rather than the thing that will lead to their characters having trouble with the thing that the story is meant to be about, neatly short-circuiting the story.

It’s possible to do work to avoid this, mind. Shock: averts this by starting with the concept you want to address (Issues), and works backwards to world effects (Shocks), and then character traits (Praxis Scales and Features). This guarantees that there exists a vector between the protagonists’ qualities and kinds of issues you actually want to form the story. (Dogs does this a bit differently, with town creation and the hierarchy of sins. This definitely gives the GM [and Vincent Baker] a lot more power to define what issues get addressed.)

There’s a bit more subtlety here, too. I’m not exactly advocating that characters should be bad at the things they do—rather, the things characters do should have complications for them. If those complications stem from, “you’re an idiot,” then you have a particular brand of comedy. If they stem from the generally malicious nature of the universe, you have Hitchhiker’s Guide. If they stem from the confluence of particular institutional forces, you have a story about that (you can say that Serenity’s crew is just getting screwed over by the universe, but that ignores the bit where every obstacle they face is an artifact of the Alliance-imposed class system. The film makes this very explicit, directly addressing the Alliance as an adversary.)

* I wanted to see the second ed Sidereal charms, okay? DON’T JUDGE ME.

Twilight Thoughts.

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

I’m working up some more substantial posts on radicalism. And it’s CU’s Islam Awareness Week next week (is it just me, or does that name seem… not right? Don’t we usually have awareness weeks for, y’know, problems?) so I’ll have some stuff to blog about that when it comes up.

But first, let’s play some more.

Twilight is a game where you play urban legends. Bloody Mary, the Blue Woman, Santa Muerte, Jesus. You take on the roles of these people and their stories. The story takes place in the City.


The House.

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Okay! Now for something different. Here’s a game hack I’ve been working on. Comments are welcome. It’s a hack on a board game—Betrayal at House on the Hill. The original game has some role-playing elements; this enhances them somewhat.


A Helpful Graphic.

Monday, March 17th, 2008


Touch and Drama

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

I read The Rules for Hearts a few days ago, and let’s just pause for a moment to love the title and cover, shall we?

There are very few ways in which that isn’t the exact cover for Touch that I’ve had in my head, and there are very few ways in which the title isn’t, in fact, better than anything I’ve come up with. Which is perfect, because The Rules for Hearts and is precursor, Empress of the World, are precisely the genre Touch is aiming at.

Specifically, the genre is romantic lesbian high school drama.


I am beginning to believe…

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

…amongst other things, that story structure is not so much a tool as it is a blanket. It isn’t so much that we need help in discovering the story. Rather, we need to be drawn out of ourselves, so that we may express the stories we already know.

And at that point, to continue the analogy, we will find it warm, fuzzy, comforting, and possibly filled with poisonous spiders.

I just got back from California and started a new job, so I’m a bit scattered right now. Still, there’s some good stuff happening with Touch—Asa made a particularly insightful suggestion the other day, which I think to be even cooler than I understand at the moment. I’m settling into an update schedule again, so more soon.

Things like that only happen where things like that don’t happen.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

There is a camaraderie in shared alienation. Nobody gives a shit about any of us, so we’re all in it together. We have weapons, we have violence in our hands, there are more of us than there are of them, but what can we do?

Stop. Change the circumstances.

Now, some of them are collaborators. They are loved and wanted, and their futures are shining brightly ahead of them, like those blue xenon headlights on some godforsaken SUV. We’re just problems. Speed bumps. So maybe a few of us will make the ride as uncomfortable as possible.


This is what I know: The characters are students at a suburban high school. The game session concludes in an act of violence.

This isn’t Touch, though it’s related (I don’t think it’s Vesperteen, either, but I don’t fully understand Vesp, and the page for it seems to be down at the moment, and Jonathan and I need to talk about it more, at any rate). Where as Touch hits its high notes being Buffy or Lost and Delirious, this game is Elephant through and through.

I’m not sure how I feel about playing that, but I’m damn sure I want to write it.

I have limits.

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

I don’t know what they are—and even in saying that, I get a sense that I do, actually, know what they are. There are some things that will make me just leave. Stand up from the table and walk away.

The table in question is not necessarily a gaming table. Empirically, it isn’t; I have walked away from conversations, but never any games.

My question to you is: what will make you leave? What sort of game would push the boundaries that you don’t want pushed?

This is relevant with regards to a game I’m working on called Touch. It’s set in high school, and it is explicitly sexual—although it does not necessarily involve explicit sex, if that makes sense. It’s Sugar Rush. It’s Cruel Intentions. And whenever I’ve talked about it with people, I’ve come away with the sense that only people really, really on the same page, who really trust each other, could possibly play it.

Maybe that’s true. I’m not sure yet, but I’d like to know.

I am a space cadet whose chest is about to burst open

Monday, July 16th, 2007

And because of that, I completely forgot to mention in my last post that Jon is working on a survival horror game of his own, called Giger Counter. He even linked me to it! I am, as he says, a pirate queen.

There’s some really interesting stuff going on in Giger, some of which I might well steal (arr). It definitely takes Afraid’s Conditions and runs with them, and the monster die-naming seems like a nice way to roll monster discovery and description into a low-prep system—I could actually see something like it working for player characters in a couple of hacks I’m currently marinating.

Anyway, the hack is cool, and he also links to a neat playtest report of a Scream-style teen slasher game played with Afraid. Go check it out.