Tag: gaming

On D&D, and preparation

I cancelled my D&D game last night, and it’s been a huge relief.

My partner got into roleplaying games when I’d already tired of traditionally-structured games like D&D, World of Darkness, and the like. I’d played plenty of this style of game as a teenager, and by that time I was more interested in exploring narrative structures than rolling for initiative one more time. So I always felt I should run some D&D, if just to show her what she was missing out on.

Constraints breed creativity

I tend to find that too much choice is bad for me. When faced with the giant wide-open possibility space of unconstrained choice, two things tend to happen:

  1. I spend considerable time and effort trying to narrow down my options and pick the best choice, resulting in a form of analysis paralysis that I’ve come to think of as candy overload.
  2. Unless I am explicitly aware of it, and make an effort to avoid it, I’ll end up making a comfortable (and therefore typically boring) choice.

Space in role-playing

Late in September I played in an excellent twenty-person live action as part of SAGA’s Nanocon. We had a number of colourful characters, a bunch of (spontaneous and set-piece) scenes that involved the entire cast, and a bunch of boisterous fist-fights (and a staking or two) to spice up the evening, but almost all my favourite scenes were small, two-person conversations in the quiet spaces between the big action.

This sense of space can be hard to achieve. Especially in big1 games, GMs and writers can feel the need to weave together multiple complex plot-lines, giving every player so much to do that they’re frantically checking their list of actionables every minute of the game, working out who they have to talk to next. In comparison, my character in September’s LARP had a grand total of two goals. I never felt particularly rushed, and I even got the chance to make my own goals as the night progressed.

Pleasing all of the people all of the time

Buckets of Dice 2014, Christchurch’s local gaming convention, has just finished, and we’re getting a raft of happy people enthusiastically telling us how much fun they had1. One question that came up in discussion with out-of-towners is how we allocate players to games. There’s a couple of fun algorithms we’ve developed over the last few years to do player allocation, and since it may be of use to others who are helping organise roleplaying conventions (or any other real-time event where you have to repeatedly assign people to things), I figured I’d post it on the internet for everyone to see.

Because there’s no niche too small on the internet.

Constructing languages with Markov chains

I really don’t know if I should put this under “coding” or “gaming”. Like a good number of things I enjoy immensely, it’s a combination of two equally geeky subjects.


The process of building a constructed language (or “conlanging”, as it’s also known) is something that I consider integral to the whole world-building process. It’s easy enough to throw down some consonants, put a couple of apostrophes, exclamation points, or dashes in the mix, and call it a day, but that will just leave you with a hodgepodge of badly-formed words with no unifying character, like you’ve just raided the remains of your Scrabble game.

Hacking XP part two: applications

In part one of this post I discussed experience and its uses in gaming. In particular, I brought up the ideas of:

  • Tailored triggers, in which different characters gain XP in different ways, allowing everyone different goals in play.
  • Pre-meditated experience, in which you choose which mechanical thing to advance (in whole or in part) before you set out to gain experience.
  • Combining these, the idea of advancement tailoring triggers, in which your triggers are determined by your choice of advance.

Hacking XP for a more meaningful life

Experience and advancement are a pretty common feature of a bunch of roleplaying systems. In general, they follow this formula:

  1. Your character performs one of a number of pre-specified actions (a trigger)
  2. You get some form of immaterial, mechanical token or point
  3. Either now or later you “spend” a number of these tokens to alter or improve your character in some intrinsic way.

Society of Dreamers: Randomness through mad-libs

Society of Dreamers is an “indie” roleplaying/storytelling game by Matthijs Holter, author of Archipelago amongst others. In some ways it’s closer to improv, in the same way that Cleopatra’s reign is closer to the moon landings than the building of the Pyramid of Giza1. I’ve been running/playing it with a group of friends for the past few weeks: while Holter suggests that you can run the whole thing in one session, we’re now up to our third.

The premise of the game is this: at some point, in Europe in the 19th century, a group of people form a society whose goal is to hunt down one or more mnemosites: creatures that live in peoples’ dreams. The number and nature of the mnemosites is unknown, and much of the game is dedicated to finding out more about them. The Society also knows of a mnemosite host, and can participate in dream diving: a form of lucid dreaming in which the diver experiences the host’s dreams. The setting has elements of Victorian-era adventure, supernatural horror, and suspense.

Random NPC generation in Trunk Notes

This week on the Story Games roleplaying forum, there’s been a thread entitled: Dealing with Bad GMing Habits: Better NPCs. It’s been an interesting read, mainly because of the tips and tricks that people let slip for how they make NPCs generated on the fly more interesting.

One of the things I noticed was that a lot of people have random X roll as their means for generating interesting NPCs. To be honest, I think random rolls for NPCs are good, because:

Programming in Lua for Trunk Notes

Here’s a thing I’ve been working on:

I’ve got all my GMing notes in Trunk Notes for iPad, which is still awesome1. I have pages for different plot threads and factions, people linked off of those, and their relationships with one another all mapped out. Tagging helps a heap - being able to just dump a list of everything tagged “Front” or “Faction” means I don’t forget about this one thing off to the side.

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