telerib: (Default)
I have role-played romances at tabletop games in person, between tabletop games via email, in online play-by-post games and now in a video RPG. For my money, the last two are the most effective, albeit in very different ways.

Let's face it: most role-players are not comfortable with doing the mushy bits at the table. When the table is all (straight) men... it often is just not pretty. I'll leave it at that*. Even when a woman is present, as player or as GM, to provide a more acceptable interlocutor... RPers are geeks. The Awkward is strong in us. (And let's also never mind the difficulty some people have with understanding that flirting in-character is not flirting out-of-character... both flirters and flirtees can misuse this.) It's frankly amazing that we can manage it at all, let alone manage it well.

Using email between games provides some space. It's less immediate, which lessens the emotional impact, but it also provides a sense of security that allows for more expression of emotion. It's easier to type the "corny" lines than to actually say them while looking at another person. Online play-by-post gaming extends this, providing a forum where extensive (and sometimes purple) prose is encouraged.

The video RPG experience takes it even farther. The actual other human being involved is a professional voice actor; you are looking at an animated avatar. Nobody you know is going to snicker at you for being a sap, or be shocked if you're cruel. The digital avatar, ironically, can express more emotion than your average RPer, if the animation is decent and the voice work is good. The voice actor is a professional, after all, and has no trouble emoting deeply and on cue.

However, the video RPG has definite drawbacks. First, in my mind, is the limited number of responses the player can make. The format of the video game requires that the player's response be a sentence or two. This means you will often get your romantic interest delivering a nicely-written, nuanced declaration of sentiment, and you get to reply, "I feel the same way." As someone who enjoys wordplay, I find this to be a problem.

Second, it borders some creepy territory. Maybe all role-playing does - we certainly have the reputation of non-functioning losers who retreat into imaginary fantasy lives to escape reality. It just seems like a short trip from "digital romance for fun"-land to "digital romance because my Polyhedral Prince/ss will never disappoint me like a real person"-land. There's the aspect of investing emotional energy in a construct... and yes, fanfic along those lines is also bordering on creepy to me.**

Maybe in the end, it's comparing apples and oranges. One activity is social, the other is not. (But it pretends to be, which is maybe what's weird about it.) On the whole... I've scripted some play-by-posts that I can reread years later and still find touching (rather than cringe-worthy, and I'm a fairly hard judge of my own writing). With a good co-writer working opposite, those are probably the best romantic moments I've managed to create in an RPG. The romance options in Dragon Age: Origins have an advantage of visual and auditory immediacy, giving a moderately interactive first-person experience which surpasses that commonly found at a gaming table, where forays into the subject are often furtive and clumsy.

That suggests some lessons learned...

*Your Mileage May Vary and all that. I concede that in the entire universe there may well be an all-guy RP group that manages to rise above the typical "Is she hot? I wanna bang her!" dynamic that takes over. I have not yet met them. At best, love and lust are simply excised from the game.

**I probably have friends who write/enjoy self-insert romantic fanfic. I don't want to get into it here, but I said "bordering on" for a reason. I mean that I find most of it not-creepy (although not to my taste) but that I can see creepy from here. Just like role-playing games.
telerib: (captain)
You are allowed a fair amount of facial customization in the Dragon Age: Origins character generator. You can even be wrinkly if you want (although your body will still be that of a fit, perky twenty-something.) I was scrolling through the hairstyle options when I got to "bald." I was immediately reminded of a game from ten years ago...

Cut for being a 'let me tell you about my NPC' character story )

So of course my Dragon Age avatar had to be bald. I think she looks kind of awesome, actually.

Cut for being pictures )
telerib: (Default)
There is one area in which Dragon Age: Origins is actually blowing most tabletop RPGs out of the water: expression of emotion.

Technically a spoiler about Duncan )

Dragon Age provides options for romance as well; I haven't really gotten there yet, but that's a subject that's notoriously difficult around the gaming table.

It probably shouldn't be a surprise: the Dragon Age avatars are digitally animated and voiced by professional voice actors, whereas gamers are... well, gamers.
telerib: (Default)
Geocities closes on Monday, so - thanks to the wonderful folks at WebRing - a decade's worth of gaming schtuff has been moved to its new home. The old D&D setting, the online game logs, the 7th Sea stuff - all migrated over. So's the old bardic website.


Jul. 28th, 2009 03:23 pm
telerib: (Default)

It's... an RPG. Or a philosophy about RPGs, I think. Somewhat explained here. Reminds me of some of the shiny bits in Houses of the Blooded that gave narrative control to the players, cranked up to about eleven.

I don't know that I'd want to run a jeepform game. Some of the ideas are interesting, but I'm not sure I like them. On the other hand, go read Immersion and then Play for Show.

This... movement? Organization? Is up for a Diana Jones Award. Hat tip to Robin D. Laws.
telerib: (Default)
I'm still not sure what to do with my GeoCities page. I seem to have three options:

1) Pay ~$5/mo for hosting via Yahoo. Pro: Probably simplest, and I get a domain name. Con: Costs money

2) Post to the domain. Pro: Already paid for, ad-free. Con: Uploaded web pages are either not easily editable online or else are stuck in the site's frame, labor-intensive shift of pages.

3) Migrate to one of the other free sites offering this service. Pro: They promise automated migration service, free Con: Ads on site, no guarantee of continued service.

telerib: (captain)
So, I participate in an online 7th Sea game. And when things are going slowly, I get bored and tend to do things like write random filk songs about the game.

I will spare you the narrative about a ship battle. Two ships almost hit each other but didn't. The End.

I will, however, inflict the two more clever ones on you all. Behind a cut, because I'm not totally inconsiderate in my displays of raging ego.

'Toss the Dwarf,' tune of 'Strike the Bell' )

'Chef Maurice,' tune of 'Richard Cory' )
telerib: (Default)
A new board game from AEG, publishers of one of my favorite RPGs, 7th Sea. It's an Indiana Jones, pulp exploration-looking thing.

There are twelve possible 'characters' you can chose to run through the game. Four are women. Not a bad ratio, all things considered. But while the guys come in builds from "weeny teenager" to "beefcake Rambo" to "spindly old guy," the ladies come in "skinny and busty and young." Two have truly unnecessary cleavage and one is barely dressed. The fourth, who's wearing buttoned-up clothes like most of the guys? "The Ice Queen." Because there's something wrong with you if you don't like men to stare at your chest.

I've registered a complaint and gotten mostly incomprehension in return.

Y'all, the problem is not the cheesecake, it's when 75% of the options are cheesecake. It's when we feel ask if we're either ignored as a customer base, or that you assume that your fantasies about us are the same as our fantasies for ourselves. It's when we don't deserve the same variety of depiction as the guys.

This is not rocket science.
telerib: (Default)
I picked up a new RPG: John Wick's Houses of the Bloooded. I think of it as Opera: The RPG, and someone else called it "Vodacce on steroids," which is pretty accurate, too. Wick himself has said it's a reaction to D&D - an anti-D&D, if you will.

The PDF is $5. If I have ever GMed for you and you liked it, go spend $5 on this. It's the kinds of stuff I try to do, given mechanics and turned up to 11. All the social interactions, the groundedness, the networks of ties and obligations and loves.

The ideas are very shiny. More PC control over the narrative? PCs who win rolls - so they can describe how they win or how they fail? PCs adding clues and details to scenes, determining the results of their Knowledge rolls? Yup. Very different.

It has a Wanker Rule. If you find a loophole, or a killer combo, or a way to break the setting - just don't. Don't be a wanker. If you have to ask if you're being a wanker, you probably are.

On the downside - it feels like it needed another trip to the editor's place. Insult and Injury both seem to have two mechanical meanings. So does 'Seasons.' Examples don't always tally with the rules. Big chunks of text are copied and pasted, although that might be deliberate - Wick says up front that he'll be using repetition as a flavor device in the text. Heck, it all might be deliberate - the ven, the race and culture the PCs are playing, are all about simple laws with dozens of exceptions. Maybe the rules are supposed to be murky and flexible and open to interpretations.

To be fair, most of the core mechanic is fairly clearly presented. The devil is always in the details. There's a lot of errata on the website.

I am still making my way through the book - about halfway through 400+ pages. It's a player's handbook and narrator's guide combined, and I'm still in the player section.

I don't know if I would make a very good player of this game. It's about tragedy. I would have to hit a hard reset on several of my long-standing gamer habits to play it well. But I'm fairly sure I would be a good Narrator for it.
telerib: (Default)
I just got a download of John Wick's Playing Dirty and am starting to read through it. I'm a fan of several of the RPGs he's designed, and his GMing advice in them usually resonates with me. And hey, he invokes Chumbawumba close to right off the bat.

On the one hand, I agree with his "Die Hard" idea, that (many) players want to be challenged, to be knocked down so they can get up again. I'm a giant fan of Willpower, Wisdom, Resolve, Earth, or whatever the relevant stat for mental fortitude is.

Between hands, my guess is that he played with a lot of munchkins who he was educating in his version of role-playing via the school of hard knocks. I happily don't play with many munchkins or cheese monkeys.

And on the other hand, my early impression is that I'm not caring for his major technique for "hitting them where it hurts," which is using a villain so omniscient that it's almost silly. Now, we're talking about a supers game example, and if Adrien "Ozmandius" Veidt can be a believable, um, character in "Watchmen," I suppose I should loosen up. But I can see where players would get pretty ticked off, because it looks like it's the GM screwing with you and your Disads ("Oh, he just 'happened' to know my secret allergy? Uh-huh, sure."). Because bad GMs do that kind of thing - arrange utterly implausible 'coincidences' just to mess with their players. Wick had an in-game reason - and figuring that out was apparently a huge part of a two-year game - but I can't fault anyone for not being able to distinguish that. There are way too many bad GMs out there.
telerib: (Default)
We're getting ready for the Star Wars mini-campaign, which means I'm on-deck. Which also means I should start thinking more about what I want to run.

A key part of the concept is the hero/villain pairing. Which comes first, or do we develop them in pairs? Do I let the PCs pick their nemesis? Is that likely to result in playground-esque last-guy-picked stuff?

I'm leaning towards developing villains first, because they're more fun. Then maybe a random assignment of people for nemeses, with the ability to barter because you've got just the best, best BEST idea for a nemesis for the White Mandarin. (No, white, not Caucasian... it's the color of death, silly.)


While they build Heroes, I'll build henchmen for the Villains. At least one will Fall In Love with a Hero; one will attempt to Supplant His Master. Possibly, a third will have a Crisis of Conscience, but that's a lot of turncoat henchmen. (On the other hand, that would explain where they are for the Boss Fight, wouldn't it?)

The key, of course, is dramatic timing. If there's a Crisis of Conscience planned, it'll probably be pretty obvious from Day One. He's the henchman who questions orders. But the trick is to pretend it's not obvious, until the hench is caught in the act of telegraphing secrets to the Heroes. And then unleash self-righteous Villainous vengeance upon him - saving him to use to challenge the Heroes would be a classy option.

Why would they overlook this evidence of treason? One, because it sets up the classic scene later. Two, because it helps their Hero characters to do so!

(But will it work? I don't know!)


Oct. 10th, 2008 04:30 pm
telerib: (uhh)
Well, I've downloaded my complimentary copies of the RPG.

The original cover art clearly did not test well because it was not good. Either the cover artist got in a lot of practice between editions, or they got a new artist. The originals were markedly less polished than the released versions.

(On going back to check that point... you know, I really thought the "Lady's Rock" cover had pants on. And a belt at her waist. Wishful thinking, evidently.)

As to content... the corebook has two women in belly-baring outfits with cleavage. One's got her teeth bared and is glaring at the reader in a way that's supposed to be fierce; the other, in her school-girl plaid skirt, is holding her cutlass like she's thinking about stabbing Glarey in the back. (Although I don't think that's the intention.) It's obviously cheesecake, but slightly more tasteful than the finished product.

The den of thieves supplement features the same 5th Element-inspired bandage outfit (no, that's not a typo). At least this figure is standing up (dancing? she's got a sway to her, and her hands over her head) but - yeah. Bandages over boobs. Her proportions aren't as outlandish as Busty Pirate and the whole thing is cartoony enough that it's a little hard to take seriously.

So... less blatant, but still nothing that makes me think this isn't targeted squarely at fifteen-year old boys. I was so hoping for scenes of swashbuckling sky-pirate action. And maybe dirigibles. Sigh...
telerib: (Default)
Lo, I did write a letter, and lo, got back a response within hours:

Originally, we had different covers on our products. However, our distribution agent for our print versions “strongly encouraged” us to change those covers because they did not do well in marketing tests. The covers that we currently have are the result of those marketing test.

That is not to dismiss your concerns or excuse our current covers, even though it may sound like it. I’m merely trying to explain our cover art to you. The fact that these covers cost us a potential customer is very upsetting to me personally. We’re a very small company, and we are not going to ever become a large company… or even a medium sized company… if we alienate any portion of our customer base.

As a show of our thanks for your input and an attempt to earn your business in the future, I have uploaded the PDFs of both Lady’s Rock and Rooks’ Haven, with the original cover art, to the Erisian Entertainment website for you to download and use at no charge.

(Downloading instructions snipped)

To ensure that this does not happen again, I am looking to create an advisory board of partners, play-testers, distributing agents, and customers. As one of our (potential but lost) customers, I would like you to be a part of that project, if you would be willing to do so. I have to work out the details with the other partners, but I’m confident that there will be few, if any, complaints once they learn of what has happened.

telerib: (Default)
Here's a link to the gaming setting/system Lady's Rock. Fantasy sky-pirates, looks like. Allegedly worth $30, it's on sale for $5. For $5, it might be fun... Except...

Well, Here's their entire line. Only three products at the moment, but guess what I think the problem is?

If you guessed "more bad softcore covers," you win a cookie. (You may collect your cookie Saturday afternoon or Sunday. I'm baking tomorrow! Eee!)

I suppose I should write them a letter or something. Voting with my dollars is all well and good, but they're not going to know they almost had a sale otherwise.
telerib: (Default)
"Rooks' Haven is the first campaign supplement for the Lady's Rock. It details a metropolis that can truly be described as a 'wretched hive of scum and villainy,' to steal a phrase from an incompetent member of a ancient mystic brotherhood of warrior monks that was destroyed and then almost completely forgotten in the span of 30 years."
- Preview copy of "Rook's Haven," a gaming supplement for something called "Lady's Rock." And while you should not diss Sir Alec... they've kind of got a point there.
telerib: (Default)
"But [ profile] telerib," I know the argument will go, "sex sells! If these CGI blowup dolls weren't selling, they wouldn't make them!"

Okay, yes. Sex sells. As a female GM, I use this simple fact to my advantage.

...No, my sessions are not red-hot X-rated phone sex.

Simple fact: Men will RP romance with a female GM that would squick them out to play with a male GM. Women don't usually seem to care much one way or the other. So a female GM has a larger emotional space to work with than a male GM.

Another simple fact: Merely hinting at sexual themes is enough to rivet the attention of most gamers. When they say "sex sells," they don't mean that they're going to show you naked people driving a Mercedes. They show good-looking people getting into the Mercedes, implying that you, too, could entice beautiful people into this car if you owned it. And like in the horror genre, it's generally more powerful to imply that certain things could happen or are happening, and then leave it up to the individual imagination, rather than spell it out in unnecessarily graphic detail.

How this is different from "action hero pin-ups": All of the above applies to people, both men and women, and is a tool to increase their interest and participation in an RPG. It also adds an important, often neglected personality component to PCs and NPCs, if it's handled with maturity.

"Action hero pin-ups" are just pure wank fodder. The heavy use of display poses, and startled and/or threatened expressions gives the lie to the assertion that these are competent heroines engaged in butt-kicking. These are CGI porn stars in hero costumes. While I don't find anything inherently morally wrong in wanting a picture of a CGI porn star in a hero costume, I'm somewhat offended to find it in an online gaming store rather than a fetish emporium. About the last thing I really want to see in a gaming store, as a female gamer, is more of this "woman as nothing more than a vehicle for the man's desire" crap.

It's the Internet. There is real porn out there. Go find it. Get out of my gaming store.
telerib: (uhh)
Note to publishers and distributors:

Thinly veiled bad softcore like this may have something to do with your difficulty in attracting the female of the species into the hobby.

Come on, people. The "oh, but we have guys too" doesn't cut it. Your male "portraits" aren't in "display" poses, nor do they seem to be predominantly on the floor.

And "teen" heroes and villains? That's just icky, even if they are just CGI who are as "teen" as my Firefox browser. (Although wouldn't you think that "teens" would have smaller boobs? What, they're teens because the headline says so? Okay, whatever headspace gets off on that is not one I want to be near.)
telerib: (Default)
In a game with six players, four PCs have eyes which are some shade of green (two bright green, one grey-green, and one blue-green). Because green is special and unique (except in adventuring parties, evidently).

(Okay, I can't mock too hard. One of my tabletop PCs has green eyes, although if I recall correctly, I was more trying to avoid the "blonde, blue-eyed" cliche and the "red-haired, green-eyed" cliche for an Irish, so I split the difference and went with "blonde, green-eyed.")

Been there

Jul. 31st, 2008 10:47 am
telerib: (Default)
I have occasionally run across Lore Brand Comics but never stuck with them. Now I learn that the artist/author, Lore Sjöberg, has a column at And it looks like a pretty funny column. Exhibit A: If cookbook buyers were like RPG fans.

My hypothetical comment isn't in there; I'm the person who will tell you, at length, what I think is wrong with the new "The Better Joy of Cooking," and why I'm sticking with my old copy. I have enough sense to know that I can cook however I damn well please, but can't quite resist the siren allure of pontificating about my opinions on cookery.

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