Flight Papers

feminism and creativity, art, madness, and play

Archive for July, 2007

Whee! Comic con.

Friday, July 20th, 2007

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We’re off to Comic-con (and a few other places).

Whee!

I might blog a bit from the road, otherwise, I’ll be back in a week.

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

Monday, July 16th, 2007

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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.

A Quick Survival Horror Dogs Hack

Monday, July 16th, 2007

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Survival Horror has been on my brain, a bit. Dogs, too, has been rattling around there. Do they blend?

I haven’t spike tested this yet, though I rather want to. It could probably also use an injection of Afraid’s conditions, and some un-Afraid-like situation creation.

First, lose Relationships.

Second, gain Anchors. Anchors are the people you’re surviving for. The characters’ anchors aren’t constructed as opposed, but the bare facts of the situation are going to bring them into conflict. They should probably be really understandable, sympathetic connections. Connections that even in the worst of times, nobody is going to say, “just forget it! run!”—or, if they do, they’ll feel shitty about it. They’re just going to end up being really understandable, sympathetic connections that drive you to do things opposed to your basic survival, and by proxy the survival of your group. The kids in 28 Weeks loved their home, their mother, and each other. That went not so well.

Start with 5d8 spread amongst four Anchors. You can use them like traits, but it’s one Anchor per conflict, period. You always have five dice spread amongst your Anchors. When you lose an Anchor, knock off one die size and redistribute dice amongst the remaining (so you have 5d8, then 5d6…).

Losing anchors should make you cling to the ones you have more tightly. This should look like desperation, not madness.

NPCs are important, too. They should reflect the fucked-upedness of the situation with their pathologies, but they should be people the characters want to help, or at least people whose help the characters desperately need.

Helping people should start out sounding like a good idea, and slowly become more and more of a liability; the situation creation rules should account for this, somehow.

Escalation involves bringing The Monsters closer:

d4s — whisper about them without names,
d6s — speak their names and your likely fate,
d8s — see and touch them,
d10s — run into the fray, or cut open the doors and let them in.

There should be group fallout as well as individual fallout, somehow.

Mmm… Slash. Also, Fanfiction and Authority.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

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A few days ago, Jonathan posted an interview with Madeline over at Bleeding Play. She’s writing an article for Push 2 about online freeform roleplay, and the interview is pretty interesting—about which more in a bit.

First, because I need very little excuse to bring it up, let’s talk about slash.

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Geek Culture

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

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I understand how close we remain to elements of our childhood. Places, toys, television programs—things that would never make us blink as adults become treasured memories because we saw them as kids.

But Transformers? Really?

Why is that a feature of geek culture and not, say, Captain Planet? Are giant robots in some way intrinsically less goofy than elemental magic or blue flying dudes (and if so, how the hell did X-Men get made?)

These are important questions!

…Okay, that might be an overstatement. This post isn’t really about giant robots or flying eco-warriors, anyway.

A few months ago, I wrote what we might squintingly term a “review” of the movie 300. I shortly thereafter learned that apparently, I had thread-explodey.

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Stakes and Subtext

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

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Is not a D&D mod, though I do like those.

Let’s say we have this bit of narration:

“I’m sitting on the edge of the pier, letting my toes dangle into the water. I watch her from a distance. Her umbrella is dripping, and her eyes reflect the ocean. I pull my hood up, blinking out rainwater, and for a second, I smile. I think she sees me.”

What’s happening in this narration?

Now, suppose I tell you that the stakes are, “Does she fall in love with me?” Does that help?

Suppose I tell you the stakes are, “Do I fall in love with her?”

Suppose the stakes are, “Do I find out if she’s an informant?”

What if they’re, “Do I kill her?”

Subtext matters. Stakes inject subtext.

It’s possible, you might say, to divine subtext entirely from context, but I can think of at least one context (I’m a spy; she might be) where any of the above are good stakes.

You can argue that in a novel or film, you don’t need or really want those stakes to be made totally explicit. Subtext is, after all, subtext, and its disconnection from textually-established facts is valuable. But games aren’t novels, nor are they films. In novels, you can go back and re-read. In films, the sheer wealth of visual information and facial expression and so forth provides a high-bandwidth subtext channel. But game narration is by its nature transient and ephemeral. You can’t go back and re-hear it, and you aren’t watching shots framed by master cinematographers focusing on poignant facial expressions. So I think the ability to inject subtext is super-important, because that ability enables narration like the above. Simple, imagistic, and loaded with emotion and meaning.

What’s the value of the narration, “I touch the patch of skin where her hand meets her arm?” It’s really subtle. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it means a little, but she pulls away and the moment is lost.

Maybe it means a lot.

If we’re playing Dogs, and I Raise 20 on that narration, it means a lot, and everyone knows that. It gains weight in the fiction, because everyone involved in the fiction also saw the raise, and knows that, whoa, this is big stuff.

This is important to me, because in my fictional aesthetic? Tiny things, tiny moments, and subtlety all mean a lot.