Episode 103 – Superhero RPGs

Superhero Games Across the Multiverse

Recorded at Metatopia 2015RPG-Design-Panelcast-sml

Presented by Dave Chalker, Cam Banks, Darren Watts & Christopher Badell

Superheroes are more popular than ever in the movies and on TV, and there are more games about superheroes than there’s ever been. What makes a superhero game a superhero game? How do you make your superhero game distinct? What are the most important aspects of a superhero game to make it feel heroic?

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Episode 102 – A Designer’s Guide to Podcasts

A Designer’s Guide to Podcasts

Recorded at Metatopia 2015RPG-Design-Panelcast-sml

Presented by James D’Amato, Alex Roberts & Kat Kuhl.

A Designer’s Guide to Podcasts” presented by . Getting your ideas in front of people can be one of the most difficult and unpleasant parts of game design. So people love design, but hate talking about what they are doing. Thankfully there is a community of people who are dedicated to talking about games in public spaces, they are called podcasters. Topics will include: Proper etiquette for self promotion, how to choose which shows to target, how to communicate effectively about your game, how to ask for what you want, how to purchase an ad, how to write an ad, whether you want to be a guest or a topic, how to make actual play easy and effective flattery.

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Episode 101 – Promoting Your Game

Promoting Your Game Through Podcasting and Other Media

Recorded at Metatopia 2015RPG-Design-Panelcast-sml

Presented by Chris Perrin, Tara Clapper, Chris Bell & Mario Dongu.

Gaming has a rich, vibrant media that really enjoys advocating for new games and new game designers. However, it can be hard for game designers to find gamer media outlets and even harder to know what to say. This panel will look at ways game designers can find gaming media and promote themselves, presented by the This Just In… crew.

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Indie Gems – Acceptable Losses (2016)

Acceptable Losses

Seven-Wonders_cover_350-200x300-200x300Designed by Tova Näslund and Published by Pelgrane Press as part of the 7 Wonders Anthology Available at the Pelgrane Press site.

Pelgrane Press has recently published a fantastic anthology of story games, titled “Seven Wonders”.  I will be preparing short reviews of all seven games within the book as part of my “Indie Gems” series. The fourth of these is a game by Tova Näslund, titled “Acceptable Losses”.

The introduction begins as follows.

Acceptable Losses is a freeform story game of family drama set in a dystopian near future, where people live in a self-sustaining building, large enough to holds hundreds of thousands of people. The social classes are represented by which floor you live on – the higher in the building you live, the higher your social class. Your social status can change depending on how hard you work; an “employee of the month” is announced at the end of each month, and is allowed to move up a floor, while a family that doesn’t fill their work quota is sent down a floor to be replaced. 

This game takes place in the slums of the lower floors of the building, where a community of maintenance workers are based. It looks at the daily lives of those maintenance workers, and how they either sacrifice their own hopes and ambition of the good of their families, or break away to pursue their own best interests.

This game describes itself as a freeform story game, and the description seems apt. Acceptable Losses feels, to me, as a curious hybrid of Montsegeur 1244 and Archipelago. Like Monsegeur 1244, it describes a rich web of dramatic relationships between pregenerated characters. Like Archipelago, it uses a set of prepared cards for resolution, with each card saying something such as “Yes, and” or “No, but”.  This combination of rich relationships, and simple dramatic resolution, pairs together in a beautiful way.

I think that the elegance of the game cannot be overstated. The mechanics for the game are relatively minimal, with a simple rules to handle any conflict which arises. Instead, the designer focussed their efforts toward crafting a compelling situation, rife with possibilities and drama. The game is set in a corporate archology, barely self-sufficient in the dystopian world. The crushing poverty and class-based oppression bear down on your characters, who are torn between their following dreams and caring for their family.

The game offers premade lead characters from the same family, a cast of minor characters, and evocative locations to enable interesting story moments. You define these locations be answering a series of leading questions, which help you define the world your characters live in. A question about the police station is “What do the holding cells look like, and what happens to those who are contained there?”   Similar questions exist for the bar, the harsh exterior walls of the archology, the upper floors, and the character’s communal apartment. Each fact anchors the setting in the collective minds of the players, helping them understand their character’s lives.

Acceptable Losses is a clever game and well-crafted work of art. It is worth your attention.

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Episode 100 – Structuring Game Texts

Structuring Game Texts

Recorded at Metatopia 2015RPG-Design-Panelcast-sml

Presented by Jason Pitre, Robert Bohl, Jay Treat and Cat Tobin.

You’ve designed your game, you’ve playtested it, and you’ve decided you want to publish it as a text (either for free download or sale). How do you structure that text so that it will draw readers in and make the game easy to understand the first time, and easy to use as a reference later?

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