#RPG – MetaCards – System-Neutral Roleplaying Prompts RELEASED!

GET THEM HERE

MetaCards provide a means to encourage roleplay and verisimilitude in your TTRPG games.

GET THEM HERE

MetaCards are a generic system that can be overlaid on top of any other game system.

The cards provide prompts to roleplay in a certain way. The players can then represent a certain mood or perform certain actions that can provide verisimilitude for games that are designed to seem ‘real’, or thematic cues for games that are more narratively focused.

The players are encouraged to follow the cards by a small, mechanical, near-universal bonus. Decks can be customised with prompts specific to your group or campaign if you’re seeking to encourage a specific kind of roleplay. You could customise the deck to prompt players in a horror game to do stereotypical horror-movie things, or those in a romantic fantasy game to engage with the romantic preconceptions of that genre.

This is meant to be introductory, allowing you to take the concept and run with it for your own games.

GET THEM HERE

Hardcopies of the MAIN DECK and BLANK BOOSTERS will be available at TheGamecrafter.com

#RPGaDay2018 – 3: What gives a game “staying power”?

rico-cilliers-finalentry

I’m not a fan of classic class/level games. They tend to burst my immersion asunder, and immersion is something I very much go for in my gaming. They do have something right though, a very strong sense of progression, meaningful choices and meaningful differences in a character’s power and skill. That little reward hit of brain chemicals you get for each level of achievement. System depth can be a big part of this, a more granular system can have more vectors to advance a character in than more simple or narrativist systems, making them inherently better suited to long campaigns than story games – which are better suited to one-shots.

Class/Level also tends to give you something coherent to aim for, some sort of end goal as well as shorter duration goals. It’s just a shame, mechanically, that I hate it. If you step outside of system, however, and look to the play of the game itself, similar kinds of rewards and goals can be on offer narratively, though these tend to be much more player driven and contingent on the story and adventures being offered. Perhaps your goal is to marry up into the nobility by seduction or political manoeuvring. Perhaps you long to reclaim your home planet from the filthy alien infestation across its surface. Perhaps you long to forge the perfect sword. It can be anything, but goals and sub-goals are what gives a game ‘staying power’.

One, particular, somewhat obscure RPG has had a huge influence on my design ethos, and that is Underground, a Superhero game from the 1990s which took its cues much more from Marshal Law than DC, Marvel, or even Wildstorm. While the game itself was satirical and dark, it contained within it a rather hopeful mechanic and a way of influencing and seeing improvement and change in the setting around you as a result of the character’s actions. This is a huge draw of RPGs to me – seeing your actions affecting the world around you – and their mechanics gave the game a natural structure of bettering the world around them.

The longest campaigns we’ve ever played had these kinds of long-term goals and the results of your actions seen in the world about you. Vampire (tabletop and LARP alike) felt like being part of a world, Cyberpunk 2020 let us really make a mark on Night City, SLA Industries had the Security Clearance Level as a goal, grinding missions to get greater access to information. So it goes today with our Iron Kingdoms and Eclipse Phase games, bringing order to Five Fingers and solving the near-extinction of humanity in turn.

Meaningful impact, character improvement and narrative arcs all lend themselves to long campaigns – but sometimes, you just want to kill orcs.

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!

#RPG #TTRPG #My30dayWorld – Who Dominates the Political Spheres of Your World?

014e08dd227fb5c8a7ff229228a6067d.jpgThe main and obvious split in the politics of the world I’m describing is between the revolutionary and expansionist Comity and the various monarchical nations that remain, as well as the thaumatocracies (magic rules)of the remaining Philosopher Kings. Being a fantasy setting, with many different races and peoples and large an dangerous monsters, there’s plenty of scope for other groups and forces acting on a smaller level and for wilderness, since most of civilisation will be fortress-farms and walled cities…

To read the rest of this article – and others – as well as to get discounts and access to me for help, advice and suggestions, back me on Patreon, Makersupport or donate tokens on Minds.

If you’re a Redditor you can find me there, and you can also find me on Steemit.

#AprilTTRPGmaker Biggest influences?

10651_0.pngThat’s a huge question to ask, and it’s not that clear on what kind of influences it means. Does it just mean gaming influences? Hard to know.

Then there’s the matter of how you’re influenced and whether you even know you’re being influenced, and in what way.

Not to mention things that influenced you in the past may not be the same things that influence you today. Things change, people change, hairstyles change, interest rates fluctuate…

So here’s just a bunch of stuff off the top of my head, divided into different areas:

Film & TV
David Cronenberg
Gullermo Del Toro
Strange Days
Flash Gordon
Big Trouble in Little China
Bladerunner
George Romero
Sapphire & Steel
Dr Who (pre NuWho)
Robin Hood (84-86)

RPGs
Dragon Warriors
ICE’s Middle Earth Roleplaying
FATE
Mind’s Eye Theatre
Storyteller (Old World of Darkness)
Cyberpunk 2020
Traveller
Call of Cthulhu
Over the Edge
SLA Industries

Computer Games
Grand Theft Auto (Series)
Far Cry (Series)
Minecraft
Magic Knight (Series)
Guilty Gear
Silent Hill (Series)
Rogue
Sun Tsu’s Art of War
Alpha Centauri
Skies of Arcadia

Books/Authors
Life After Man
Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction
E E ‘Doc’ Smith
Neverwhere
Bas-Lag (Series)
How to be a Superhero
Phillip K Dick
Willam Burroughs
Tolkien
Gorean Cycle

Art
Brom
Michael Manning
Michael Whelan
Tim White
Chris Achilleos
Dave Allsop
Boo Cook
Massimo Belardinelli
Steve Dillon
Rene Magritte

Music
Monster Magnet
Rob Zombie
Nine Inch Nails
School of Seven Bells
The (English) Beat
Primitive Knot
Carpenter Brut
Ministry
Pigface
The Cure

Music

#RPG – RE: Diversity Trainers of Gor

There’s an interesting article on The History of BDSM blog about the Gor RPG. It’s mostly fair and well worth a read, but I want to pick up a few points here and there from it to reply to.

Gor is notorious for its strong emphasis not only on the world’s apparently universal chattel slavery, but the male-dominant/female-submissive philosophy that justifies it, endlessly reiterated in the books.  That’s what made me pause when I thought about Manning illustrating the book. Manning’s work, starting with the graphic novel The Spider Garden, has a strong bi/queer flair, running all over the map of sexuality from conventional, heteronormative pinups to “sacred androgynes”, cross-dressed men, and other, stranger types of sexuality. This also comes in a time when video games and related media like tabletop RPGs are under a lot of flak for #GamerGate. The games designer, James Desborough, reportedly has connections to #GamerGate and some other controversies. It got me wondering: how will Gor be adapted into this medium?

Manning is, first and foremost, a top-tier illustrator. I wanted to work with him for a variety of reasons. Firstly that, secondly because of his links with the BDSM/Kink community and – as such – his innate understanding of the project. Thirdly because I was previously involved (though not as project lead) in an attempt to bring his Spider Garden series to the roleplaying world. The final factor that tipped me over was his work in The Nibelungen, which was brilliant. One thing that didn’t enter into any decision-making was the ‘queer’ (it’s unclear what this term even means any more) content of his work – and why would it?

I think there’s a misunderstanding here of what #Gamergate is and in which direction the flak is going and why. Gamergate would be much more accepting of kink etc in games and so forth than their opposition, which is typically sex-negative, ‘Dinesian’ outlook, censorious and authoritarian. Gamergate has certainly been painted as some sort of reactionary, conservative movement but it really isn’t. It’s primarily about the egregious cronyism and corruption in games journalism, along with censorship – issues that everyone should be able to get behind, but the misreporting has, sadly, been effective.

It is unfortunate that the article writer has linked to some horrible slander and wilful disinformation by a biased ‘hater’, but I’ve answered their accusations before.

The image above was posted on the Postmortem blog with the caption, “See? It’s not ALL male-dom.” This does not contradict Gorean canon. There are male slaves and free females who take advantage of them, and I suppose you could squint a bit and envision M/m and F/f encounters just off stage. However, the Gor canon is overwhelmingly about maledom/femsub.

Yes it is and, as the game writer and a curator of sorts of the world – as I put together these books – I have a duty of care to the canon. However that doesn’t mean that such things aren’t hinted at elsewhere. There are certainly homosexual relationships hinted at and explicitly there is talk of male slaves for men. Femdom comes up repeatedly and while Tarl (the protaganist of the books) may cause a comeuppance in many of these instances it’s well established in the world.

I have to present the world in the game as it is presented within the books, and wouldn’t want to do otherwise. At the same time a game is different to a book. In games writing you’re creating a space in which people tell their own stories, so it’s important to give as broad a scope or as many possibilities as you can, within the scope of the themes etc of the established material.

I cannot, and would not, completely change and alter the Gorean world just to appeal to a handful of non-fans who likely wouldn’t buy it anyway.

On the other hand, an excerpt from the world book suggests male pleasure slaves, whether serving women or men, don’t really count for much:

“Male pleasure slaves are relatively rare as submissive men, silk slaves, do not often arouse mistresses and do not often appear on Gor. Nonetheless, some are found and some are even bred for, though even the most submissive male slave may ‘revert’ and turn upon his mistress. Men are also bought by other men and while Gorean society is largely not judgmental on sexuality some of the practices to produce male slaves for other men – especially from boyhood – are regarded with distaste.”

So much for inclusiveness.

I don’t quite see how ‘So much for inclusiveness’ follows from there. Male pleasure slaves are definitely present and these are the attitudes and problems with that described in the source material. While nothing is said about it, I suspect there’d be similar disdain in forcibly training young female slaves to serve gay mistresses too. A big part of what constitutes the Gorean philosophy is an acceptance of ‘nature’ and this seems to be the root of the disdain for forcing people against their innate sexuality. There’s absolutely nothing to stop you playing a gay free person, or a gay slave, or a slave forced into a homosexual relationship, or a gay slave forced into a heterosexual relationship. This just describes the norms of the fictional world.

Desborough gets into an awkward, “it wasn’t rape-rape” rationale for some of the sexuality in the books

Yeah, no, that’s not what I was actually saying at all. You can see that in the quoted passage back at the site. I was talking about the semantic meaning of the word in the context of Gor, which is more akin to a synonym for ‘fuck’ (with added implications of forcefulness, ruthlessness and passion). The Gorean world itself, in terms of sexuality, occupies a similar fantasy-space to Mills & Boon bodice rippers, 50 Shades of Grey, Conan (women seem to be helpless before his raw sexuality) or – to reverse the genders – the way men are helpless before the sexuality of Femme Fatales.

It does remain hard to understand why such a common and popular fantasy, which is after all just a fantasy, causes such a high degree of objection, even within communities that already practice consensual non-consent or even much more marginalised fantasies. Of course, though this shouldn’t need reiterating again… Gor is a fantasy world that isn’t real and nobody in their right mind would suggest that indulging in a fantasy would mean you would necessarily want that in real life. Troops of people aren’t raiding old castles in search of monsters either.

One post says you can make the sexual encounters as detailed or as vague as you like, or have female warriors or male slaves. It makes sense from an economic perspective, in that a Gor RPG with the gender politics turned down might appeal to a larger audience.

Any game ultimately belongs to the people that play it. There’s no need for anyone to – necessarily – be restrained by canon (though canon incorporates far more of this kind of content than people give it credit for). It’s important – seemingly – to emphasise that to people while remaining true to canon in presentation.

Tabletop RPGs have an awkward history of gender and sexuality issues (inherited from their pulp adventure literary ancestors), especially as they were primarily marketed to heterosexual male adolescents. There are also some nasty outliers like the obscure FATAL. Now that the RPG culture has matured and diversified, they’re likely to avoid something based on Gor.

In my opinion TTRPGs have, rather, come under attack unfairly on these matters, as videogames are now. Gor, in particular online, has been massively popular with women and has retained popularity despite being forced into relative obscurity through implicit – sometimes explicit – censorship. For its time it was hugely progressive in terms of its exploration of kink in the relative mainstream, as was his book Imaginative Sex.

I don’t believe that this new prudishness and the censorious authoritarianism that comes with it is a sign of maturity or diversification. The ideas underlying that worrying trend are awfully homogeneous, and not at all diverse. Progress, to me, indicates liberalisation and tolerance, a diversity of ideas. Not what appears, from experience, to be a ‘great leap backwards’ into the attacks on RPGs from the religious right in the 1980s – albeit from a different source.

It seems likely that I’ll go to my grave not understanding why people want to police each other’s fantasies, fiction and kinks. Especially when it comes from people claiming to be progressive and open-minded.

The writer of the blog may be right in that many gamers don’t want to explore worlds of radically different ideas, not just Modern Views & Mores in a Tolkienesque Pastiche, but I hope enough do and that there are enough Gor fans out there willing to take a punt on a new experience. All to rarely in games do we see exploration of the full implications of differences in ideas or the social and other impacts of, say, magic. I think Gor is an exception to that and a big part of what makes it a truly different setting.

I still hold out hope.

Art is still trickling in, I hope to have more updates soon. Meanwhile, let’s make this post an AMA about approach, content, anything relating to the game that you’d like to know.

Chronicles of Gor – Roleplaying & Sex

SexAndRPFUND IT!

This is an incomplete and early version of the essay in the book on this topic which is still being updated as I read people’s concerns, wishes and thoughts.

Role-Playing Sex

The weighty question for many in more adult role-playing settings is ‘how do we handle sex’. For people who are happy to slaughter hundreds of enemies and trample their bodies underfoot, to torture for information and to commit genocide on tribes and tribes of goblins on their PlayStations, the question of sex – or even ‘nipples’ – seems to cause a huge amount of vexation, upset and outrage. That’s just regular sex too, not the kind of dominance/submission that characterises many – even most – sexual relationships on Gor.

It can be unsettling to cover sexual topics around the table, especially with friends who you may feel will be judging you. Playing online is, perhaps, an easier venue to explore these areas of role-play and even more so in a venue that preserves anonymity and creates distance (such as text chat).

Different groups will have different comfort levels. Some will wish to be explicit, others will seek to avoid the topic altogether, others will find a middle path that suits them. The golden rule here is that everyone at the table should be comfortable with what’s going on, should feel free to speak up if they’re uncomfortable and that they shouldn’t feel judged for doing so.

The Gorean novels themselves vary from coy, to suggestive to almost-but-not-quite explicit, so if you’re looking to recreate the feel of the novels in your games then even a small and terse description will be adequate.

Ignore it

“…”

So there’s naked people around and some of them are in chains. So what? The focus of the game is still going to be sword-fighting, intrigue, flying around on giant birds and exploring exotic locales. So who cares? The slaves and the sexual dynamic are just set dressing and shouldn’t come up at all. It’s just silently assumed that the characters do sexy stuff but it’s not described, just as its not – usually – described when characters go to the toilet.

Coy

“I’ll leave a copper tarsk on the table and carry the paga slave off to the alcoves.”

“Refreshed and relieved you emerge again, after a time, having slaked all your thirsts.”

With a coy approach you acknowledge that the sexual world exists but you do not go into any detail. It’s there as and when people want to access it but it doesn’t intrude. No detail is really gone into, but everyone knows what’s going on. It just doesn’t need to be said. The actual sex part ‘fades to black’.

Suggestive

“Buy me Master!” The slave girl writhes in her chains and presses her body against the bars of cage, wild eyed, flushed and needy. “Try me! Only a tarsk bit, one taste and you will want to buy me!” The slaver smacks the cage with the butt of his whip, but the grin on his face says he’s pleased with the girl’s display.

With the suggestive approach the sex can and will intrude but there’s a limit to how graphic and involved it gets. Sexual characteristics might be described and, perhaps, a couple of sentences on the performance but that’s about it. This is probably the best sort of level to play around tables.

Explicit

I grasp hold of the silk slave’s leash and pull him down between my legs, tugging my intimate robe up around my waist as I do so. “Perhaps, slave, if you do a good enough job you can remain here in my chambers, rather than breaking rocks in the quarry.”

His broad back stiffens slightly and a scowl flashes across his face but, after a meek sounding: “Yes Mistress,” he lowers his head and begins to attend to your pleasure with an eager and fervent tongue.”

Blow-by-blow sexual encounters probably aren’t a good idea around a table as they’re the most intimate and personal and the most likely to cause people discomfort. They’re also going to take up time and cast the spotlight on a single player, preventing the others from getting their time to shine and eating up a lot of your game time. Explicit encounters are probably only worthwhile in one-on-one games or when playing online in environments were people can do their own thing.

A Word About BDSM

BDSM encapsulates bondage, domination, discipline, submission, sadism and masochism, even more broadly you could use the term ‘kink’. For a lot of people those terms are going to bring up thoughts of 50 Shades of Grey or ‘Bring out the gimp’. The term might even make you giggle or think of furry handcuffs, spanking and so on. I’ve mentioned 50 Shades simply because it’s a point of cultural reference that kink has become somewhat mainstream, even The Simpsons has had its ‘snuggle dungeon’ episode, which is another cultural touchstone.

50 Shades, of course, was awful as a representation of the BDSM scene and should in no way be taken as any sort of reflection of how that world really is. Similarly, even though there are ‘Gorean lifestyle’ people within the kink community, Gor should not be taken as any sort of guide to BDSM or any sort of reflection on how things really are.

Consent is hugely important in BDSM circles, as is obvious given the existence of the ‘safe word’, a word of phrase that when uttered unquestionably and absolutely means “No, stop!” Role-playing, similarly, needs to be a safe, sane and consensual activity and whether its that spiders creep you out or that you don’t want to know what your character is being put through at the hands of the slaver or torturer you also get a ‘safe word’ and can demand a ‘fade to black’ at any point.

If you want to know more about BDSM, kink and so on, there are better places to learn about it – and to explore it – than within a game.

An Adaptive Sandbox

CirclesSandbox games or hex crawls give you a lot of freedom to explore and discover but without a lot of extra effort your characters aren’t going to make a true impact on the world. The sourcebooks – such as Carcosa – present a snapshot of encounters, places, kingdoms, countries, cities. It’s rare – if ever – that anything is built into it to account for the heroic deeds of the adventurers and the effect they might have.

I’ve long sung the praises of the social change mechanics in the old RPG Underground and it is from that seed of inspiration that I grew my GMless story game Colony: Moon.

I can see the potential to mix together elements from:

  • Traveller’s Universal World Profile
  • Hex Crawling
  • Underground’s ‘Make a difference’ mechanics

Mix that all together with a ‘web of influence’ and you might be on to something for an adaptive and reactive game world.

So, say you have a capital city, Aalberg, which rules over an area that includes the port towns of Balsport and Calder and Calder has influence over the villages of Delmar and Eegan.

The characters back a coup d’etat against the King in Aalberg and as a result the political stability of the capital nosedives as does its military strength. We assign it a 50% chance of having a knock on effect and roll.

Balsport doesn’t suffer, perhaps they were never too loyal in the first place.

Calder suffers political instability as a knock on effect. Perhaps it’s a hold-out for loyalists and they’re in open rebellion against the new government. We assign Calder a 33% chance of having a knock-on effect to its surrounding villages.

Delmar suffers, Eegan doesn’t. Rather than spread the instability further we decide that Calder is draining the coffers of the village to prepare for its war effort.

Some sort of program or spreadsheet and a ‘universal settlement profile’ would make this all a lot easier, but as a basic idea framework, I think this has some promise.