Tag Archive for political


LOVEINT (noun) 1. The slang term used by the NSA surveillance analysts to refer to the misuse and abuse of intelligence capabilities to observe the activities of romantic rivals, potential or former lovers. 2. The 200 word RPG I wrote about the same.

Interstellar Diplomacy

Interstellar Diplomacy is a freeform-ish game I wrote as an entrant into the Golden Cobra Challenge. You play alien diplomats, meeting on earth to decide whether or not war will destroy the galaxy. I’m voting against it, but you might have other concerns.

The formatting for the game is just whatever raw text output that Google Drive created, because Scribus crapped out on me several hours into working on the game. Stupid Scribus, I’m beginning to really hate you. Juan Manuel Avila was kind enough to make some nice looking cards that should be helpful if you choose to play.

[Doodles and Dragons] Wight

[Serpent’s Nest] Consulting the Oracles

Much of the game is built out of iterating a specific set of actions: One player draws a card from a deck of Tarot cards and asks a question. That player picks two players to offer interpretations of the card and how it applies to the current situation. Then the asking player picks one interpretation to be true. (I’ve used this in a couple recent projects, and I continue to be pleased with the results.)

This happens frequently in the game, and I’m getting tired of typing out the instructions every time. Though I’m wary of adding unnecessary terminology to the game, this seems like a good time to make a term for the interpretation protocol. At the moment, I’m calling it “Consulting the Oracles”. Then I can just write “when you go to do X, draw a card and consult the oracles…” or the like.

[Serpent’s Nest] Morality and reality are one and the same

I was idly thinking about how Planescape had towns that could get sucked through from one plane to another if they became too lawful or evil or something. While doing so, I came up with an alternate setup for Serpent’s Nest that does sort of the same thing, without the predefined moral alignments of Planescape’s Great Wheel. It’s not exactly the same, but it gets a similar feel and makes moality and belief a real and relevant part of the game. Here’s the rough plan:

A Realm has Principles. A Principle is a statement about how life works or about how morality works. You might have “The ends justify the means” or you might have “life is made out of cages that we’re all trapped in. The lucky ones just get to choose or make prettier cages for themselves.” These Principles are the core of your Realm. The rest of the Realm is just a reflection of an a physical manifestation of these abstract moral Principles.

(The GM’s job is to make these principles true. When introducing a new NPC or detail of the Realm, identify one or more Principles that they represent. When players act, use the Principles to determine the results of those actions.)

More example Principles:
-Nobody likes their job, but they do it anyway.
-Slow and steady beats quick and careless every time.
-No pain, no gain.
-Luck rather than hard work determines your success.
-Beauty is truth and truth is beauty.
-If you serve a master, then you’ll never get what you want, just what he wants.
-Nobody in this world ever gets what they want, and that is beautiful.
-Hard work and dedication will be rewarded in the end.
-Everybody lies, but the wise man knows that everybody lies.
-The moment you’re born you start dying, so you might as well have a good time.

It’s quite possible that a Realm will have two or more Principles that disagree with one another. A realm with conflicting Principles will probably be chaotic and unpredictable. Different parts of the Realm might be in conflict or opposed to other parts of the Realm.

Principles and Realm Creation:
Everyone (GM and players? Just players, not the GM?): Draw a card (two?) and interpret it to make a principle. Look at the card’s imagery, title and prescribed meaning. Come up with a way that card is represented in your moral or ontological statement. (If you need, you can always ask other players for ideas, but this Principle is ultimately your responsibility.)

Then each player defines how that Principle is made concrete and mythical. Each principle will have obvious, magical manifestations throughout the Realm. Write down one now for your Principle now (more will be defined as we play). If you have a principle about hard work, define who does the hard work or what sort of fantasy labors they perform. If your Principle is about how the real currency of the world is secrets and knowledge, maybe you define something about how the Spymaster knows how to crystalize secrets into solid tears, and so that is used as money throughout the Realm. Make sure that your fact doesn’t directly contradict someone else’s, or work out how those two facts fit together. Maybe both are partially true, or maybe each is true in a different part of the Realm. (Eg., if your Principle is that the Realm floats high over the clouds while another player’s is that the Realm is always overcast, perhaps the realm floats through the cloud banks. Or maybe the Realm floats on a cloud, and the poor and oppressed live on a series of platforms underneath, and so never see the sunlight directly.)

These Principles lead into constituencies: each constituency is representative of two Principles. (Possibly, these two Principles replace the dramatic poles of standard Dramasystem. Details still to be worked out.) Then we define what each constituency wants to change, and another constituency declares why they can’t possibly allow that change to occur, and we go from there.

Principles act also as the determiner for popular opinion in the Realm. Whenever you have a public referendum (like when you go to vote to change reality), each Principle adds votes in favor or opposed to the referendum, based on whether the proposed bill fits with the Principle’s overall ethos. (The GM determines this.) Principles can be changed, by having the Council (the PC statesmen) take it to a vote, but every Principle opposes its own changing. (The GM should evaluate the votes based on the principles, not simple on trying to influence the vote result. This might be a sticking point here.)

When you change Principles, you shift your Realm’s place in the multiverse. Each Realm connects to a few other Realms via planar portals. You only can change connections between your plane and neighboring planes by rewriting a principle. So many planes remain neighbors to planes they hate because both are too stubborn to relocate.

It’s unpredictable what planar connection will change when you rewrite a Principle, too. No sage can predict what portal will be severed when the principle is struck down, nor can they predict what plane will find new connections to your Realm when a new Principle is put in place. In play, this means that when a Principle is changed, the player(s) that voted against the change get to choose one planar portal and replace it with a new planar connection. They pick which connection to a neighboring plane is now severed, and they pick a new plane to be connected to the Realm. (If all the PCs voted for the change, the GM handles this change.) This is in addition to the standard rule of Unintended Consequences (see elsewhere).

NaGaDeMon, Serpent’s Nest, and the Citadel of Former Flame

I haven’t made any progress on the game for a week. I was busy last weekend with running Games on Demand for Gaspcon. And I’ve been sick for several days. But I’m getting back to working on the game. Will it be done in November for NaGaDeMon? I can’t guarantee that. Still, work continues.

Current thinking is that the core gameplay might be a hack of Hillfolk/Dramasystem. Partly, this is because I had a really quite successful game of Hillfolk while at Gaspcon. But also I think the essential gameplay of Dramasystem fits pretty well for what I’d like out of the game; with different people wanting differing things for the Realm, and with the drama token economy and that.

I might change a fair amount of the procedural rules for Dramasystem. I figure I’ll reincorporate some of the Ganakagok tarot cards stuff I was planning to use, replace the action resolution with that and use it to make the drama tokens more important in the overall gameplay. Details still need worked out there.

Occasionally, I write up weird bits of setting, though, which hopefully will be of some use to the game.

The Citadel of Former Flame
This plane is the afterlife of flame. Didn’t you realize that flames had souls? Fire is a living thing, too, and the Phoenix Queen’s Realm is where fire goes when it dies. This smoky realm is populated by ashen husks of former flames that give off no heat or light. In fact, the only light or warmth in the entire Realm come from the Phoenix Queen herself. No other flames can burn in this Realm. The queen, meanwhile, burns brightly in her palace. An ingenious series of tubes channels her light and warmth into nearby homes. The lower classes live further from the Citadel and receive less of the Queen’s warmth. Far from the palace, the Realm is dark and smoky and always bitter cold.

Scholars of the planes claim that anything destroyed by flame is reformed in the Citadel of Former Flame. When a flame is extinguished, it appears in its afterlife here with any items it destroyed in its possession. (This is why fire so hungrily consumes all it can, you see.) But the Phoenix Queen claims these as her own, as payment for remaining in her Realm. Somewhere in the enormous and mazelike Citadel, then, must be a vast storehouse of wealth thought lost to fire’s destruction.

Once every thousand years, the Phoenix Queen travels to the mortal world and builds a nest of pure cinnamon in which to die and be reborn in flames. For an entire year, the Citadel is plunged into Wintersnight, a terrible period of deepest blackness and crushing cold. Wintersnight has just ended once more, and while the Phoenix Queen waited to hatch from the egg of her own creation, something was stolen from her hoard. Rumors abound as to what was taken, but no two taletellers agree on what wonder was taken. All rumors agree, though, that the Phoenix Queen blames our neighboring Realm for this theft. The Phoenix Queen, like many others, equates a deity-less Realm with a lawless one, and so naturally assume the thieves are to be found here.

Questions about the Citadel of Former Flame:
-What evidence does the Phoenix Queen have that someone from our Realm stole the items from her hoard?
-What is the most valuable item from our Realm ever to be destroyed by fire?
-Why did the Phoenix Queen rejoice over Nilakanta’s downfall, but then regret her rejoicing?
-Which constituents of our Realm have been illegally channeling the Phoenix Queen’s light and heat into our own Realm?
-What assistance did our citizens provide to the inhabitants of the Citadel to survive the deathly cold of Wintersnight?

[Doodles and Dragons] Otyugh

[Doodles and Dragons] Orog

Whittling back towards minimalism

I had brief plans for a complicated token economy for my NaGaDeMon game. (The game which still needs a title. Titles are hard.) You’d earn tokens when you proposed how things would turn out but someone chose a different path, then you’d spend those tokens on all sorts of things. Getting more votes, bribing other players, controlling NPCs.

The system had one or two fixable flaws. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the token economy was the wrong fit for this game. Gaining tokens would overpower the core storytelling aspects of the system, I fear, and mechanize too much of the game.

So I scrapped it. Paring the game back to the minimum it takes to get it to work. Build a bit onto the core mechanic, look at it, whittle some or all of it off. Repeat until you have a game.

(So I’ve only managed to write down some purely optional setting material, which is very nice but probably needs trimmed down in size. Eventually actual rules text should hit the word processor.)

NaGaDeMon Game First Thoughts

I have a lot of random ideas for games to make for NaGaDeMon. I might very well try to make something else instead. But here is my initial plan for what to work on: an urban weird fantasy game about democracy, urban politics and the ability to rewrite the laws of physics by majority rule.

There are innumerable planes of existence out there. Each is ruled by a god or a few gods. Some planes are huge. Some are the size of a small cottage. In these realms, the god’s word is the only true law of physics. Rain falls because the rulers have decided that it should fall. At least, it does in the realms where it rains. In some realms, it rains butter or flowers or cats and dogs. Or rain goes upwards. Or it is never raining at all. Anything is possible, but it is all dependent on the will of the god in charge.

You live in one of the few without a god. A decade ago, a revolution overthrew your realm’s god. Now it is being run by a loose democracy. The city government has complete control over everything. If a majority of representatives decide to abolish gravity, it is gone. But will the citizens reelect the guy who made them float everywhere?

The PCs are the legislative council, trying to benefit their constituencies and keep the city under control and happy and keep the neighboring realms from invading. Benefitting your own constituents generally means hurting another constituency.

I’m trying to get at the bits I like most from Nobilis (group setting creation, politicking, making decisions about how to best change the world and then dealing with the consequences), but without needing a colossally skilled GM to make it work properly. Also, getting some of the cool fantasy flavor of Planescape, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, or the writings of Jorge Luis Borges or Lord Dunsany.

The rules will be loosely based on stuff I developed for House of Masks and my recent nameless horror game. They’ll probably be tweaked and reworked a bit to make it sing in this context. A few new mechanical bits might get added in, but not much. (Possibly, some Nomic style rules to rewrite the game’s rules as you play.)

I think this will all come together. We’ll see, though.