Misery Loves Company? Kickstarter Project

So a couple of guys have decided to create what should – in theory – be an Indie Darling. This is a set of one-shot story-game type scenarios that are each centred on difficult and controversial topics from rape and abuse to views of welfare claimants and all things in between. There’s shades of the ‘New Style’ games of old there as well as various other games that try to address controversial topics. My own Little Grey Book would seem to be the type of thing they’re angling for here, but with more structured play.

These kind of one-shot ideas aren’t really the kind of thing that I like to play myself, though it might be fun to write one-shot, hyper-specific game scenarios, but it was brought to my attention in a blatant attempt to use my controversial reputation to aid the project. It’s controversial topics that interest me, more than the controversy itself, but there does seem to be an interesting level of hypocrisy and panic going on here.

People associated with the project have been bullied because of their association and threatened with loss of work. The predictable and usual suspects have gotten their panties in a bunch. At this point it’s a familiar dance. What makes this odd is that these games are not, even remotely, interpretable as glorifying any of these topics (though a fictional setting that did could be interesting to explore). They’re Indie games – which are usually given more latitude – and, though I hesitate to mention it, one of the chaps involved is a Person of Colour.

Given that hysteria about game content has reached such stupid heights that the inclusion of a succubus-like monster in Numenara is enough to set RPGnet off, maybe I shouldn’t be quite so surprised that they’re now eating their own.

Anyway, it’s not tempting enough for me to back as I’d get no use out of it whatsoever, but I admire the attempt, the goals of the project and the attempt to stay reasonable with critics. Unflinchingly tackling difficult concepts is a worthy thing to try to do.


Colony Moon: Edumacational!

I was dead chuffed to see this come across my G+ feed today (and if you’re not on G+ why not?). Being ‘educational’ can be the kiss of death to games, but I’m incredibly pleased that this game was this useful in this context. Thanks Anthony! You can buy Colony: Moon HERE:

In May, when I first got James Desborough’s Colony Moon, I was delighted by the premise and looked forward to getting to play it. As I work in a language department, I also felt that this was a product that could be useful in the classroom.

A few weeks later, after a few sample sessions, I decided to take it to work. Work for me is at a business school.

I chose a class of international students in their first year of university, and assigned some of them the task of familiarizing themselves with the space race, and the others with current plans for Luna and Mars. We don’t need to go into how many of them had never given space a thought. I linked these researches to product development, product life cycles, and the ongoing demon of expanding their active vocabulary.

The next stage was to assign the reading of the background for the game. Students returned with some questions, and we held a discussion regarding the factions, their goals, and their motivations.

We followed this up with a trial run of the game mechanics. The students had to use the source material to teach themselves how to play under a time limit. Once we got over the partly surprising hurdle of these students being almost entirely unfamiliar with the use of dice for anything other than counting spaces on kiddie game boards or gambling, we were ready to go into the fourth stage of the project: simulating our colony. It was at this point that the students really started to understand the underlying purpose of all of this, and really get into it.

Personally, I like cooperative play but I recognize the value and impact of competition, so I set the class into small groups of 4-5. The progress of each group would be judged against the others, as would the quality and originality of their solutions to the problems they encountered.

Groups had to guide themselves in running the game (with some on the spot assistance from me) and take notes regarding the events, their solutions, and the fate of the colony.

The final stage was to have each student turn in a report of the simulation, describing what their colony had encountered, the effectiveness of their solutions and the administrators, the actual fate of the colony at the end of the simulation, and their thoughts about what might happen afterward.

I was very pleased to read in these reports how much the students enjoyed the concept of the assignments, the challenge of having to use their English under pressure to learn and demonstrate a set of actions, and the actual situations they faced in the simulation. Initially there was some obvious, but unvoiced, resistance to the idea of a “game.” Not only did Colony: Moon expand their idea of the meaning of the word game, it further opened them to the idea of working together in discussion and debate to develop their understanding of other subjects and courses.

Using the game in class provides challenges for students with little to no background in gaming, and many more for those students with limited English skills and limited awareness of the history and hopes of space exploration. Taking things in stages, and connecting these stages to other real-world applications and requirements can turn these challenges into very worthwhile training.

Colony: Moon RELEASED

A cooperative (or competetive) story game about founding a Moon colony, making it succeed and opening up the way to the rest of the solar system.

Players take on the parts of ‘The Board’ and make decisions about the future of the colony, expending political capital and gaining prestige when their plans work.



This game will be available at Paizo, IPR and E23 shortly, if those are your preferred outlets.

Do: Melanie in the Whale – Actual Play

(I went to art college, if you can believe that…)

Our Pilgrims leave the temple on their pilgrimage, heading out into the floating worlds to solve (or cause) problems for those they encounter.

Pilgrim Clumsy Spinner is a knit-wit. The sound of her clicking needles is ever present. She solves problems through her skill with crafting yarn and gets into trouble because outside of knitting, she’s a ham-fisted clod.

Pilgrim Spazzy Cook loves her food, especially cake, especially chocolate cake. She can bake almost anything from whatever ingredients are available. She’s a little excitable though and tends to ‘spazz out’ when the pressure is on.

Pilgrim Dithering Doktor loves his science and hopes to find knowledge out in the worlds. He uses the power of SCIENCE! to help people with their problems but his brain rushes with so many ideas, all at once, that he often can’t choose between them.

Pilgrim Oblivious Locks is a bit of a preening egotist but his magical, long, flowing, beautiful hair gives him good reason to think well of himself. Between the hair in his eyes and his self-absorption he seldom really notices what’s going on around him though, lost in a world of his own.

The first letter to find its way to the pilgrims was from a poor girl called Melanie whose small world had been swallowed, whole, by a Sky Whale (along with her house and her cat – disaster!). Melanie seemed like a nice girl in a bad situation and fired up with enthusiasm the pilgrims set off to her rescue.

Oblivious Locks hurtled through the void ahead of the whale and span his hair into a gigantic net to catch the whale. It was only then the whale hit the net that he remembered that he’d forgotten to anchor himself and got torn away, trailing after the whale, pulled by his hair.


Dithering Doktor froze with indecision in the bath of the barrelling hair-covered whale, flitting this way and that, unable to decide which way to go. The whale swept past him, a little too close for comfort, it’s fluke smacking the controls of his rocket pack! Dithering Doktor hurtled around and around on a pillar of fire and smacked into the whale’s mouth, the jets forcing him in with a loud pop!

Seeing the plan going horribly, horribly wrong Spazzy Cook threw up her hands and screamed in horror. “No! My cookies!” Flushing with embarrassment she quickly corrected herself “I mean.., no, Melanie!” Quick as a flash she arranged her pots and pans in the air and dashed off some krill cupcakes, luring the whale back her way.

Clumsy Spinner, being a little more calm and collected decided to correct Oblivious Locks’ mistake and tied off one of her balls of yarn to a floating tree, hurling the other end into the whale’s mouth as it gaped to munch on the cupcakes. Om nom nom nom. The yarn swept past Melanies cat – the putative target – and got tangled in the trees next to Melanies house, whereupon the cat chased the yarn up into the trees and got stuck!

Still tangled up in the whale by his hair, Oblivious Locks struggles and twists and, with excellent ‘luck’ his hair tickles the whale’s blowhole. There is a world-shaking sneeze and Oblivious Locks is blown free – albeit covered in whale snot.

Pilgrim Oblivious Locks’ hair tickles the whale’s blowhole and it sneezes, hurling him into the void covered in whale snot.

Globs of snot float through the air and line the whale’s mouth. Dithering Doktor picks himself up inside the whale’s mouth and grabs a handful of whale snot and slathers it to the yarn tangled around the house and trees, drying it to a hard seal with his technological wonder, the ‘Hair dryificator’, securing the yarn to the house.

Spazzy Cook is strong – from kneading dough – and grabs hold of the yarn with her broad cook’s arms, yanking hard on it and hauling the house, the planet, the trees, Melanie – and her cat – out of the whale’s mouth while it sniffles and wipes its mouth with a fluke.

Victory was theirs and the pilgrims shared a – slightly snotty – high five.

Clumsy Spinner was give a bale of wool from the planet’s sheep (singular).

Oblivious Locks got to wash his hair in Melanie’s bathroom and she brushed it for him – no mean feat!

Dithering Doktor got to collect as much whale snot as he wanted for his experiments, which made him happy, what an odd fellow.

Melanie shared her cookie recipe with Spazzy Cook and then the pilgrims left, bags heavy with cookies, for further adventures amongst the worlds!

Review: Do – Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

This isn’t going to be that much of a review since we just finished playing and it’s not long until midnight. However…

Do is a simple story-telling game for 3-5 players where you take on the part of a gang of Pilgrims. The Flying Temple lies at the centre of a massive universe of floating planets, each different, each special and all contained within a great sphere of air and light. Pilgrims fly from world to world solving problems for people and getting into terrible scrapes along the way.

As a Pilgrim you’re one part Santa Claus, one part Buddhist monk and one part natural disaster, all rolled into one.

Characters are defined by their names, which form two traits one of which describes how you (usually) get into trouble and one describing how you (usually) help people.

My character was Pilgrim Oblivious Locks, he got into trouble by failing to pay attention and not noticing things, he solved problems with his magical, long, flowing hair.

You play the game by taking it in turns to draw beads from a bag. There are twenty black and twenty white (or you can use other colours so long as there are two different ones) and depending what combination you draw and whether you’re in trouble or not determines what happens. The players whose turn it isn’t are called the ‘troublemakers’ and determine what goes wrong for you – if you get into trouble.

Letters from people seeking help give you keywords and these are worked into your story as you go along to solve the problem. You fail if you get too many beads before all the keywords have been dealt with, otherwise you win, huzzah!

Between letters you can change your name and thus how you help and/or how you get into trouble. Oblivious Locks, for example, became Lusty Locks after one adventure and a regrettable flashing incident at the village square.

Lastly, when you decide to finish your pilgrimage one of three things can happen depending how you conducted yourself and the balance of the beads. You can either return to the temple and a life of service and contemplation, you can vanish into the world and settle on one of the planets, or you can transcend and become something more or other.

We had some of each in our games.

Is it a good game? Yes, but it works better as a sort of creative exercise amongst friends. I suspect the real pleasure can and will come in writing up the adventures ‘properly’ from the game notes. We had fun tangling ideas and making a narrative together but it’s much more stilted than an RPG and much more vague. Determining what is acceptable or not in someone’s turn is much more about other people’s ideas than rules and dice and, thus, is a subjective judgement. Something that can become hurtful and problematic if people disagree or don’t like each other’s concepts.

The art in the book is fantastic and inspiring, really brings across the feel of the game.

Some of the included letters are charming or interesting, all show the scope of the potentiality of the game world but some are more than a little… well, pretentious or anachronistic compared to the overall presentation of the work. That’s the only real fly in the ointment of an otherwise very agreeable game.

Style: 5 (Near as damn to perfect).
Substance: 3 (It’s a light game, but there’s still a bit of a consistency issue in the letters).
Overall: 4 (Enjoyable, but there’s definite potential for hurt feelings and disagreements).
Verdict: Small-group filler game, great fun with the right people. Trust and creativity are important though it’s simple enough that anyone can do it.