Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Game design by idiots / odds even die rolls.

Shit, this is basically the system I outlined in an earlier post. Back to the drawing board.

Ideas I thought of first / Fungal zombies

Every now and then, everybody thinks of an original idea way in advance of popular culture.
I am happy to say that I have thought of something cool before a bona fide gaming genius.
Fungal zombies! It's an alternate zombie origin I thought of whilst running a zombie holocaust game for the Bolton gaming group. I didn't use it, but I still got my friend Eli (Dr Wood to you), a microbiologist, to dumb down exactly how a Fungal zombie may work.

Anyways, here's where I beat Robin Laws to the idea...


EDIT following comments that for some I can't reply to...
Ah, but technically these are animated corpses, and not living creatures infected (?) by a fungus.
The zombie ant fungus dictates the behaviour of the living ant. I suggest a Fungal strain that modifies the behaviour of humanoids and causes them to become violent, have a lust for nutrient rich fresh moist flesh and finally migrate to a tall building and spores.
It also leaves room for Resident Evil esque mutations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Awesome e-book publishing idea / Tell me why I'm wrong

I have a question for those game book publishers that obviously read my blog.
Or anybody that cares to answer.
It's about publishing electronic books, the perils of piracy and the whole new market of e-book readers.
It basically goes:
Most game publishers have been putting out pdf's for a few years now, and they've been popular enough to justify the existence of multiple e-book only gaming stores. Drive thru rpg, for example.
Obviously, as soon as you put a pdf out, it inevitably gets copied and distributed illegally. This is perceived as a problem by some, a fact of life by others.
Wizards of the Coast cited piracy as the main reason they stopped selling pdfs of their books. Instead they opted to explore other means of electronic publishing, which seems to translate into subscription only web page access.
As you may be aware, I've recently invested in an Android phone (which I'm actually typing this entry on, fact fans), and one of the free apps I've downloaded is Amazon's Kindle app. As I understand it, I can read any Kindle book I've purchased on my phone, PC, tablet device or actual Kindle thingy. It's a buy once, use multiple times on multiple platforms deal. I think this is awesome, especially in today's market of platform tie-ins.
So, my question is: why don't we see gaming books on the Kindle?
I can see real value to the player to be able to access their game library remotely, as well as from their PC. I'd be well up for it. The quick access to that supplement I left at home would be invaluable.
I can also see value for the publisher, who would be providing an e-book in a format that can't (to my knowledge) be copied and shared.
Yes, there's no colour. Yes, art and tables may be problematic, although I know the Kindle displays pencil drawings incredibly well.
So why haven't Kindle game books emerged? Is it something to do with Amazon? Maybe It's too hard to format a game book to Kindle? Would they not provide enough profit?

EDIT 19 March: Google Buzz has provided some good feedback, which I shall now address.
Sam H -Seems like a reasonable idea to me. There is one stumbling block, that being Apple insist on a 30% cut of any product purchased through an iPhone app, even if the app itself is free. This is enough to put off quite a lot of publishers. Colour wise, there will be plenty of colour e-ink readers by 2012. The current displays are a bit slow and clunky still.
Nook - Point taken re: Apple. I'm quite happy using Kindle on my Android phone and PC. Plus Michelle wants an actual Kindle, so that's three devices we could use.
I'm not too bothered about colour at this stage, as most RPG books are black and white.
Alex Bennee -From my point of view DRM is evil because it gets in the way. Although the Kindle DRM is fairly generous in allowing you to view on multiple devices it's something that can be revoked -as Amazon have done in the past. Think you own something, no you don't, it's there at the whims of the holder of the DRM keys. Far better to provide un-DRMed books with watermarks to discourage copying. But of course I'm a freedom loving open source beardy type so I'm probably in the minority here ;-)
Nook - The sheer volume of pdfs I have on my hard drive that I've not paid supports the pro-DRM argument, although I should clarify that I'm trying to see it from a publishers perspective here as well as a consumers. Obviously I'd like everything to be free. I just don't think that will happen.
Arwel Griffith -What I'd like to see is free ebooks/ pdfs with each dead tree book sold. No way I'm paying for content twice.
Nook - I think this is an idea Waterstones are presenting to their creditors as HMV try to stave off bankruptcy. I also believe some RPG publishers do this already. Pelgrane Press, who publish The Esoterrorists and Trail of Cthulhu give you a free digital copy when you buy the hard copy version from them direct.
Since my original posting, I have been thinking about Kindle vs PDF.
Kindle is good for the publisher because of the DRM, and good for the consumer because of the convenience of sharing a document across multiple devices.
It's also bad for the publisher because they're reliant on Amazon to distribute and maintain the document, and bad for the consumer because they can't share the document like you can with a hard copy or a pdf.
Yesterday I bought a pdf from DriveThruRPG (yes, with money. Don't tell the wife), and have today loaded it onto my phone. It's a bit slow, and takes up as much memory for one book as the entire of my Kindle library, but I can share it, print it and copy sections out and paste them elsewhere.
Clearly there are pros and cons to all formats, and I guess my original question still stands... Why don't you see gaming books on Kindle?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

One shot game Ideas / Alien vs Predator

My last post was primarily a brain dump in response to a friend telling me he's running his first WoD game, which he intends to be a zombie holocaust-esque game (of the Dan O'bannon variety rather than the Romero type), and was looking for ideas.

Having written the post, I find that I like the idea of sharing ideas. Especially ones I'll no doubt not get round to running.
Sorry for the double negative there...

So, let me tell you about my Alien vs Predator idea. In World of Darkness game terms, it's Werewolf vs Azlu, or, more specifically, a Predator King vs a swarm of Azlu, with humans in the middle.

I kind of see the start of the game in two threads. I'd have the players create two characters each, and split them up into two teams.

The general set up would be an archaeological expedition to the rain forests of South America and some recently uncovered Aztec ruins.
The cast would range from guides and jungle survivalists to archaeologists and documentary camera crew to security and porters.
To maintain the parallels with the AvP film (there was only one, right... la la la I can't hear you), one group will uncover some ancient sealed pottery jars that, when opened, contain large, soft eggs.
These eggs hatch into the immature Azlu, which quickly grow into obscene spider type things.
Azlu can do a number of things. When small, they can burrow into a persons brain and take full control.
When larger, they're massive, horrific spiders the size of dinnerplates (or face huggers) and can encase a human in a web cocoon and transform and take over their body, becoming a humanoid insect (like an Alien).

I hope you can see where I'm going with this.

I opted for a Predator King Pure Tribe Werewolf because these are the tribe with the most disdain for humanity and most likely to hunt and kill humans for the thrill.
There's little danger of a Predator King allying itself with humans, even if it's life counted on it.

So, why have the players stat two sets of characters? Glad you asked. I'll tell you why.
Having a bunch of parasitic aliens invade the bodies of the expedition is horrific in itself, and even more so if it happens to the players characters.
The down side is, those characters are dead and our of play very quickly.

My solution to this is the doubling up of characters and then splitting them off into two separate groups.
During the initial exploration of the ruins the narrative will jump between the two groups.
One will find the sealed pottery jars. The other will find a repository of ceremonial silver daggers. One group will open the jars back at base camp, the other will discover evidence of recent blood sacrifice. One group will be infected by the Azlu. The other group will have to fight to survive as their colleagues turn on them and lone hunter starts killing everybody.

It's probably worth including some supporting NPCs like local porters and tribesmen, faceless jungle guides and sexy college interns who can all die as the need arises.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One shot game ideas / Brain dump

I often walk around with game ideas gestating in my head, most of which never come to term, and those that do are often born baring little or no resemblance to the inspiration that conceived them. The bastard offspring of necessity and circumstance rather than the planned child of vision and inspiration.

So, after that rather turgid and overly long metaphor, what I intend to do with this post is record some of these game ideas for future generations. Seeing as the practice rarely resembles the theory, I'm not too worried about potential players getting advance warning. They usually cause deviation and upset within half a session without prior knowledge.

Summary: zombies lay siege to a gated community
Here's what I'm talking about when I say 'gated community'
One of the virtual fortresses with defensive walls, full time security staff and exclusive residents.
The set up: It is Bob and Lorrain  Danver's silver wedding anniversary. They are having a massive party at their home in Range Point Gated Community, and have invited dozens of guests - friends, family, work colleagues, country club tennis buddies, water buffalo lodge members, mothers circle members, neighbours and local businessmen. It's a huge blow out with professional caterers and a free bar, a jazz band, string quartet, ice sculptures and a guest appearance by a pro golfer.
As the party goes on into the night, the normal dramas and exchanges play out: family politics, illicit liaisons, business networking, drunken brawls, tears and laughter, before finally coming to a sudden halt when Bob keels over from a massive coronary.
Everybody stares. Everything stops. Somebody screams and Lorraine rushes to his side. One of the guests, a doctor, examines Bob and finds no pulse.

As people start to dissipate, and as several guests attempt to call cabs or an ambulance, several things come to light.
There is no mobile phone service. Network error. Network error.
The gates to Range Point community are locked, and the security guard is missing.
There are several homeless people milling about outside.
TV news stations are covering mass riots and gang violence across the country.

Shortly afterwards, Bob gets up and attacks Lorraine.
The dead have risen and are attacking the living.
The residents of Range Point, the party guests, party staff and community security are trapped in the community. They are safe for now, but have limited supplies of food and water and medical supplies.
What do they do? Wait it out or leave the safety of Range Point.

Players can play a resident, a party guest or staff.

The game would use the World of Darkness rules

If you're planning a zombie holocaust, then see if you can get a copy of Hunter: the Vigil, which has a whole chapter on Morality and killing monsters.
My tips for dramatic Morality tests would include:
Accidentally killing a human being Having to kill somebody who's been bitten but not yet turned
Having to leave someone behind to die horribly to save someone or something else
Stealing supplies from other survivors. They need it. You need it. You're not them...
Having to kill somebody who's been driven mad by the horror (like Tim Robbins in War of the Worlds)
Not destroying a zombie, and learning that zombie has killed somebody close to you