Episode 105 – Cultural Mechanics

Cultural Mechanics

Recorded at Metatopia 2015RPG-Design-Panelcast-sml

Presented by Jason Pitre, Julia Ellingboe, and Mark Diaz Truman.

Games are part of our cultures, and the rules we create reflect our own backgrounds. In this roundtable, we explore how mechanics can reflect and/or interrogate culture. How can mechanics explore other people’s experiences? What assumptions do we bring to the game-design table?

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Episode 104 – Cyber Infiltration Hotsheet

Cyber Infiltration Hotsheet: Prepping to GM a Cyberheist

Recorded at Metatopia 2015RPG-Design-Panelcast-sml

Presented by Shane Harsch, Tim Rodriguez & Mark Richardson.

What a cyberpunk GM should consider when prepping a cyberheist to keep the drama at least nominally grounded in reality (watch Mr. Robot before attending)

This is a follow up to Episode 50, the panel on Hacking in RPGs. 

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Indie Gems – Small Things (2016)

Small Things

Seven-Wonders_cover_350-200x300-200x300Designed by Lynne Hardy 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 fifth of these is a game by Lynne Hardy, titled “Small Things”.

The introduction begins as follows.

In Small Things you play a noble guardian who protects your House and Family from whatever may come along. Problem is, you’re only little.

The default setting is Britain, somewhere between 1930 and the mid-1950s (but without the inconvenience of a World War and rationing), but you can also set it in your country during the same mythical time period. Small Things takes place in a world of faded colours, good manners, few labour-saving gadgets and tea made in big brown teapots and left on the hearth to warm under a stripy tea cozy.

If games had a smell, this one’s would be like hot buttered toast, newly baked bread and cakes, fresh cut grass and clean laundry. It might look a bit like a Raymond Briggs graphic novel (but much, much cheerier), or Wallace and Gromit without the modern conveniences.

 This is one of those games that appears to be simple under the surface, but holds a wicked sharpness underneath.  It’s a game where each of the players portrays one of the small being, almost a spirit of the household. They are hidden from the big people, unappreciated for their hard work at keeping a household. They fight valiantly against disrepair, dust, and clutter, which threaten the Family. It seems to be a beautiful metaphor for how feminine-coded labour is treated by society, and it’s masterfully done.

When you begin the game, you collaboratively determine the kind of home, such as a country cottage, a flat, or an old home. You then pick the kind of family which lives there; anything from a big family, to grandparents, to a single bachelor. This combination of home and the family that lives there does a fantastic job of increasing the diversity of potential play experiences, and the kinds of problems they are likely to face. Simple elements combine to create novel situations, and the structure allows for episodic stories as homes or families change.

The resolution system is elegant and thematic. Each of the Small Things has a few special abilities, things like mending cloth, or closing doors. If they want to do something that they have a relevant ability for, they succeed!  Otherwise, they need to work together with other Small Things to come up with a creative solution. This structure means that the Small Things are driven together, either to cooperate, or bicker based on their personalities.  The Caretaker watches over the whole affair, by introducing wrinkles such as Big Things (people), Creatures, and the malevolent spirits of disrepair from the Outside.

Brew a pot of tea, curl up with a comforter, and enjoy the game!

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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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