Mysteries must have answers in all roleplaying games. At least, the secrets the players wish for their characters to uncover should have some means of being laid bare. That means the DM, at least, has to know, or have an idea, where a path of exploration leads. In the case of published work, the designers should know such answers and, more important, reveal them.
More than a few folks have asked me for advice on writing. I don’t know why. I have edited and written, with mixed success at both, for publication and pleasure. Like I said, that doesn’t prove anything. What I can say is that writing isn’t easy. It takes courage and skill and patience, and a good editor always helps.
A year ago, I went to Nanocon and made friends with the illustrious Richard Dansky. On Friday evening, we were a between commitments, and we were amused at the Dakota State University game design program’s promotional literature. We also stumbled on some loose dice and game pieces. We decided to make a game . . .
Nanocon’s magic is in its intimacy. It presents a great opportunity to meet players and play games. As a guest, I also had the chance to mingle with all the other guests, as well as the faculty and organizers. That type of interaction with others who love games is hard to overvalue. Perhaps needless to say, I’m glad I went.
This week I’m resting up. I’ll be old and crotchety by Saturday, so I’m taking it easy to build up my strength. (Okay, I’m playing a lot of Mass Effect 2. I like to keep Renegade nearly as high as Paragon, so don’t push me.) I’ve been working up a few ideas. Kyle Ferrin’s fine image for my Mailbag feature needs some showing off, too. It makes sense, with this confluence of events, to post some requests to you. I’ll do these articles without any help, but I figured it makes sense to do something more personal. Check out the possibilities.
One of the problems with the usual take on magic items is that most of them provide simple mechanical benefits without doing anything truly interesting. This isn’t a fault in and of itself, since magical trinkets need to affect the game in some way. The essence of the problem is when the game renders such mechanical bonuses mundane by assuming the characters have them. The developers increase the challenges in the game based on such assumptions, rendering the potentially fantastic merely necessary.
The new D&D Gamma World game is a crash course on reskinning. Character creation, from concept to equipment, is a real-world exercise in putting your imagination’s images over a mechanical chassis in a simple game. Sections in the rules cover the process, from the “Reconciling Contrary Origins” segment to the “What Does it Look Like?” sidebar on equipment.
What if we imagine the original D&D game as the evolutionary link between wargaming and modern roleplaying games of all sorts? Every derivative game has some part of the original, signs of its ancestry. Like with organisms, variations from the original are introduced in the process of creating a game. Further, more game “offspring” tend to be produced than the gaming environment can support. Traits that ensure survival in a given environment become more common in descendants.
Loss shapes us. How one responds and moves on from loss can have a profound effect on the shape of one’s life in the near and far future. In this world, loss is inevitable but often without deep impact. We don’t live in a place where kobolds can eat our babies or a maniac can call up the avatar of the Mad God. Our characters do, though.
Like all good things, PAX ended. Due to required nuptial witnessing, it ended on Saturday for me. Oh, I’m not bitter. In fact, I feel privileged that PAX is local. With all this good stuff happening before, during, and after the show, it’s sure to become one of my yearly rituals. Here are some high points of my trip to the show.