Monthly Archives: March 2012

Conspiracy Theory, March 2012

Conspiracy Theory, March 2012

We like to discuss topics we blog about with our readers.  From past experience, comments are not our favorite medium.  We encourage you to e-mail us, or chat us up on twitter.  Every month, we’ll highlight the best e-mail correspondence we recieve.  Our favorite e-mail of the month earns a $20 gift certificate from RPGNow.


Conspiracy of the Month:

Dan, responding to RAW, RAI, RIP, IR: A World of Rules, Acronyms, and Semantics:

Most of my thinking in this space has been to do with the statement “Any game will work with a good GM” and its related line of argument. The notion that when RAW or RAI introduces a problem, it can easily be solved with a good GM makes it difficult if not impossible for someone outside of the hobby to give it a try. Moreso when we’re talking about what the outside world sees as the hobby (lookin at you D&D).

This is probably the place for edition iterations, the aligning RAW, RAI, and RAP. Because trust will work with an established table, but when everyone’s a stranger to the game, and/or each other, one cannot count on trust. Too often I see someone say “That game wasn’t very good.” when they weren’t playing the game (because a rule was ignored or changed), or try to shoehorn a system that does something well (take d20 for action/adventure) to try to make it work for courtroom drama. Of course, acknowledging that different systems do different things better opens the door for the idea that the reason you need such a genius GM is because you’re playing the wrong game, so that can’t happen.

I’m rambling here a lot, and sorry for that. I’m sure this isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before, but maybe, this is a games as product versus a games as games issue. I want the product to be strong because their the gateway into the hobby. I want games that run well with mediocre GMs, as I’ve got a blank stack of index cards that’s a great game, if you’ve got a good GM.

Smart stuff! Enjoy your gift certificate.

Other Conspiracies

Andy, responding to RAW, RAI, RIP, IR: A World of Rules, Acronyms, and Semantics:

I liked the brief overview of the post, but I believe I have something to add to your conclusion. I don’t think RPG rules are solely about trust. If they were, (and if game rules in general were), we wouldn’t have solitaire games. In fact, we wouldn’t have computer games, which are some of the strictest rulesets out there…and most of those are single-player. While I think the idea of RPG rules as a social contract hits on some very true points, particularly when couched in terms like “regulating Cops and Robbers” (a mainstay in many introductions to RPGs), I think it also sells RPGs short a tad.

I like to tinker with rulesets, and to observe what is and isn’t fun about them. So, I do a bit of thinking about why certain rules make a game fun for me. I think that there’s a certain benefit to rulesets: they challenge our creativity, our freedom, our individuality. They throw us into unexpected situations, restrictive situations, and make us part of something bigger than our solitary imagination. When the plan is for the rogue to easily disarm the early traps in the dungeon, and he critically fumbles one, thanks to a random die roll and a ruleset, everyone has to adapt to this unexpected turn of events.They’re not allowed to talk their way out of it; the hard and fast rules generate a sort of reality that they’re forced to cope with, to engage, to move.

So, paradoxically, having a constricting ruleset can actually open a player’s mind. It’s similar to the dynamic between a GM and the actions of the players: the GM isn’t able to change the players’ actions (just as the players can’t change the rules), and they force the GM’s story to shift and adapt in response to them. Interestingly, this analogy points out that a railroading GM is rather like players who handwave away the rules because they’re not giving the desired results. In both cases, I think that letting oneself be bound by these rules can, in the end, give a much stronger story.

You could think of it like this: every rule, every little fiddly bit, is a tool for you to work with, or for someone else to work with. The game designer provides the tools, and the players (a term which I’ll at this point use to include the GM) work together, in a sort of handy little back-and-forth that generates drama, a world, and crazy awesome stuff. Every rule is something fun, just waiting to happen. Just like that undead dinosaur mount in the RAW poster.

Thanks Dan and Andy for your e-mails!  Everyone else, I encourage you to share your thoughts with us on e-mail or twitter.

Table Techniques: Puff-Puff-Pass

Table Techniques: Puff-Puff-Pass

The Problem:File under “endless loop”: A character (PC or NPC) wants something from another character, who doesn’t want to give it away. Back and forth they go, request and denial, request and denial, until someone gets tired and relents or finally someone has the decency to make a roll or change the tactics.PC: I want that sword
NPC: Well, I won’t give it to you for any price.
PC: But surely there is *some* price?
NPC: There is none.
PC: I think this unreasonable.
NPC: I disagree.
PC:Well that is absurd! I disagree with your disagreement!


The Solution: I guess this makes me sound like a stoner, but I swear…even though I have dreadlocks, I HATE pot. I’ve smoked it enough in college to capture the basic etiquette:

Puff-puff- PASS.

Violate this basic rhythm and you will be in trouble. You don’t keep puffing on the joint as long as you please. It slows things down and gives you more than your share.

Similarly, in your games, interactions/dialogues should be moving.  Each exchange of dialogue should ideally be “turning” and building plot. Something that annoys me a little is when RP becomes stream of conscious small talk.

There is value to a conversation that stays in a spot for a second. In my experience though, the limit is about two exchanges before it gets stale. So here’s the rule.

After the second exchange of a stalemate, the “aggressor” (the one making the interaction happen) must accept the denial or make a significant change to the action. That change can be going to the system to resolve (“OK, I’m rolling diplomacy to sweet talk this guy”) or changing the stage (“I’m punching this guy in the face”).  So in the example conversation,  after “I disagree with your disagreement!” you pause the exchange and ask the character want they want to go for and how they are going to get it.  Maybe it’s time for a negotiation role. Maybe the character goes to another shop.  Maybe the character gives in.  But when we hit that impasse, we don’t want to keep it going.  We want to spot the impasse and turn it over to keep our game flowing.

Doing this a few times quickly trains your group to thinking, and opens up your game.

And note:  If  a conversation is moving and entertaining, you don’t apply this. Only during a stalemate.


Have you used something similar to this in your games?  Let us know with an e-mail or on twitter.  Or favorite e-mails get published, and the best e-mail gets a gift certificate at the end of the month!

Three Kinds of Challenge: Survival

Three Kinds of Challenge: Survival

I look at RPGs and I see three distinct type of challenge that we can present players with inside the fiction of our games. When I mean challenge, I am talking about that forms of fictional “resistance” (also an article I’ll explore) that opposes the characters and creates the tension and excitement in RPGs (yes, even “story games” –I consider them the same thing, just like Starcraft and Myst are both video games). I’d like to describe them first, talk about resistance, then I’d like to describe how each informs game design and play in RPGs in detail. Once I lay this out I’ll talk about how you can use it all in games.

The first challenge is that of raw survival.  “Can you live through this?”  To expand:  When we present a character with the challenge of survival, we put the characters and players skill in the ring, and make the player’s right to play a character at stake. We take damage, suffer penalties, and try to live another day. This is the traditional challenge that people think about in games, and it is a hallmark of many RPG designs.

It’s where the wargaming roots of the hobby can be seen most readily as our player characters oppose and antagonie armies of evil or fundamentally misguided foes. When I talk to GMs about challenge, it is this definition that leaves them dismayed.  Not because they didn’t kill the players, but because it didn’t feel like the players could die. It’s a perverse business we are in as GMs.  Kill everybody and all that story you invested in takes a detour;  don’t put pressure on, and people feel like your story has no tension. Someone always counters by saying how there are styles of play that are all about killing PCs and having a great time. I acknowledge that but also assert that there is this other style and it is also valid and pretty damn prevalent.  GMs who are killing PCs who’ve agreed to be in these high risk games aren’t the ones who are complaining:  they frame a style of play where they can supply constant pressure and tension, and the players are having fun trying to thwart that. Any story that comes is coming organically and feels more earned.  A totally valid style of play that fits some people’s needs quite nicely.

But these conflicted GMs I mentioned want to tell stories and they want tension and pain and drama without the threat of restarting every session.  It’s made even more difficult once you acknowledge that many times an appropriate level of challenge is out of your hands:  when dice come into play, very bad or very good things can happen, and often do.  Fights that were supposed to be pushovers become life and death struggles, and BBEGs get one-shotted before they even look at the players.

Dice add their own contributions to any good story told at the tabletop.  Once they become part of the equation, you have to cede that you lose some direct control over the outcome.  When you try to control dice randomness you attempt to control the wind with your bare hands.  It’s a little futile, and in the end you end up frustrated. Because you can’t control the dice, and dice are (in most systems) core to the challenge, basing the core of a more story-driven game’s tension on survival challenges alone tends to be self-defeating. Fortunately there are ways to challenge characters that are more productive than riding the dice down “Threaten TPKs but don’t regularly TPK” lane.

In my opinion, most GMs who have frustrations with “challenging” players are relying almost solely on survival , when they should rely on desires & needs, which I’ll discuss next.


Thoughts?  Take a second to talk with us via e-mail or twitter.  Our best e-mails get printed at month’s end, and our best e-mail gets a gift certificate to RPG Now!

A Heroic Experience: Some Time with the Marvel RPG

A Heroic Experience: Some Time with the Marvel RPG

I’ve been raving about Marvel for some time to my friends. I playtested and knew that is was my kind of superhero game.  There are several reviews of Marvel as a product (including this one by Critical Hits) which I won’t replicate. What I’ll try to do briefly, is convey the experience of Marvel.  I’ve played several games, and possess a good feel of the games emotional and mechanical beats, as well the overall flow of the game.

Marvel looks  strange to RPG veterans  What we assume is necessary simply has no presence in the game. In fact, much of what I love about Marvel rests in what it chooses to ignore:  no character attributes, no initiative, no special combat rules, no HP/damage track. IT breaks the mold, but it also  fits what a comic game needs.  Here’s what I think: giving the Hulk something as puny as HP to represent his toughness or encapsulating Quicksilver’s speed in a standard initiative ranking system is silly. How fast is Wolverine’s regeneration, exactly?

Superhero comics describe a world of  innate absurdity that numbers fail to capture.  Trying to cage the inherent absurdity of a Marvel  comic in mere numbers or complex rules systems slows the game but more importantly detracts from the overall flow of the game. There is a joy in creating a superhero simulation where you have described a fictional character and her capabilities with precision, but I think there is even greater joy in a game  flowing from panel to panel and building super-heroic actions quickly.  For this reason, other super-hero games have entertained my while not fully satisfying my needs. In my ideal comic game I speak the langauge of comics; my table constructs super-heroic sentences which we collide into each other.  I get to do this with the Marvel.

Any action you take looks something like this:  Describe what you are doing, and link what your character can do — her skills, powers, and distinctions –into the action, pulling in dice dependent on the what gets pulled in. You construct the “body” of your action, and then you roll all the dice contained in that body.  Whatever opposes you builds the body of  their reaction in the same way, then rolls too. You both take your highest score  and the winner gets to hit the loser with the biggest die remaining as damage (“stress”), which can be physical, emotional or mental.  That has power and elegance on its own, but it gets better:  when trouble comes your way or you decide to give yourself trouble, you get plot points.  You can use these points to modify how the dice in your action/reaction body behave. Each character has his or her own set of SFX and limits that can be further tweaked and used to alter the body of action/reaction and to spend/gain plot points.

If it were just a die pool game I’d be unexcited by Marvel. The underlying economy and character-specific power sets and engines (specifcally, how each character gains and converts plot points) brings the game to life.  Black Panther plays very differently than Spider-man who plays very different from the Thing.  You’d think that, in a game without Strength or Agility, in a game without its own combat system, that these two would just be pools of dice, but you’d be totally wrong.  You find when you play the game that, wow, Spider-man actually plays like you’d expect, and the engine that drives the character rewards you for playing the character like himself.  The game gives you the opportunity to have as interesting a conflict trying to convince Mary Jane to wait just five more minutes as it does fighting Electro (which is probably the reason you need that five extra minutes).

I’ll share one of my favorite moments in playtest with you to give you a feel.

Power is out in the city and there’s been a breakout at the Raft.  Iron Man arrives on the scene, as do Woleverine and Spiderman.  After helping Wolverine clear out a mob, he heads down into the depths of the Raft to find the  power generators,thinking that power needs top come back to the Raft ASAP to contain this super-villain breakout.

Arriving at the generator, Tony takes a look at system and grimaces.  It’s a Stark generator, but ancient. He makes a mental note to sell S.H.I.E.L.D. the latest and greatest as he starts wiring his suit into the system.  Tony is a bit 0f a hard-headed futurist, so he’s going to go right ahead with this even though it’s not the best idea he’s ever had.  He shuts  down most of the armor’s weapons systems, redirecting power into his now-modified repulsors.  The Raft’s power grid is pretty well-blasted though, so it’s harder than it should be to get started. Flowing repulsor power into the generator, he sees a little bit of result, but too little and too slow. He could slow-drip power at this rate, but he’d be done only after all the prisoners have left.  Time to crank it up.  Tony remembers some cutting edge tech that he’s been wanting to implement and makes a few adjustments.  He pours more juice into the system…and receives massive electrical feedback.  This model of generator is even crappier than he remembered! The suit has protected Tony from the worst of it, but he’s still not going to survive if he stays part of this massive electrical current for too long.

He shunts powers from repulsors to the unibeam, and in one desperate boost, reverses the energy flow and brings the power back online. Security weapon systems come online to help out the other heroes topside, and the cells now have enough power to hold those who have escaped.  It would be a great time for a drink right about now.  Maybe as soon as the suit comes back online?

This happened in the midst of other fights, fluidly, spontaneously and easily.  Didn’t need extra rules, didn’t need extra anything.  The system just handled that while Spider-man fought Carnage and Wolverine fought a super-powered mob (and eventually Crusher Creel).  All the things that Marvel didn’t have let us create the “fight” with the generator using the same model as every other conflict, and the character “engine” of Iron Man gave the character plenty of options to go into the conflict with.

It’s clear that I’m recommending Marvel to you, but more than that: I recommend that you play Marvel, even if it looks weird to you.  It might not be what you’re looking for if you need that detail, but I feel it’s worth it to be familiar with it’s flow, which I really enjoy.

Comments and thoughts?  Talk to us.

Soundcrime #1: Reboot Your Mind

Soundcrime #1: Reboot Your Mind

Cyberpunk depicts the convergence of life and technology. In Johnny Mnemonic, Keanu Reeves plays a messenger smuggling the cure for a virus in an 80 gig hard drive wired into his brain. The data is only as safe as he is. Blade Runner asks important questions about what it means to be human as a bounty hunter executes escaped androids. Can he continue if he suspects he’s a replicant? Would his programmed memories and dreams still matter if they were real only to himself?

When you’re playing cyberpunk RPGs like Shadowrun or Shock, what music represents these elements better than songs that fuse electronic music and real instruments? Below is a cyberpunk playlist almost two hours long, featuring a variety of ambient and electronic bands.

Here are five of my favorite tracks and the type of scenes they’d play well against.

Tangerine Dream – “Zen Garden”

On the way to Mr. Johnson.

Evoking the same Asian influenced future as Vangelis’ Blade Runner score without the distracting familiarity of the movie, the sounds of rain and birds that introduce the song are a subtle way to draw players into the game. Once the slow percussion, strings, and synths come in, the scene is set for a night in the neon soaked streets of Neo-Tokyo. It’s time for the team to meet their contact and make some money.

Kavinsky – “Ghost Transistor”

Breaking and Entering.

Kavinsky is what the 1980s thought the future would sound like. If you’re dusting off an old edition of Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2020, you could set the mood with any of his albums. But I think this is the perfect track for hacking into a security network while your teammates crawl through a ventilation shaft.

Gidropony – “Group Sex of Rabbits”

Busted and F#ck3d.

Definitely one of the more upbeat songs here. Nothing epitomizes the union of tech and life more than chiptuned bunny whoopie. The tempo is swift on this short track. Play this when a hacker forgets to disable a node or a street samurai snags a trip wire. It’s time to run.

Amon Tobin – “Kokubo Sosho Battle”

The Shootout.

Most of the songs on the mix blend right into the background, but this is the battle theme. I wanted to include something from the Akira soundtrack because of the excellent percussion, but this song from Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is more than adequate as a replacement. Spin this and scratch those itchy trigger fingers.

Daft Punk – “Steam Machine”

The Revelation.

Daft Punk’s albums, especially Human After All and the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, are musical masterpieces of the genre. I chose this track because I love the exhaled breath of the only lyrics, “steeaam machiiine…” This song makes me nervous. If your players hear it, they’ve just come across something they shouldn’t have. Perhaps a cyborg struggles to retain his humanity before his augments reboot his mind into a living weapon. Maybe an AI is ready to hit the big red button that will annihilate its human competition. No matter what they found, the party should be on edge and ready to end the crisis fast.

Reboot Your Mind – A Cyberpunk Gaming Soundtrack

Recommended Games: Shadowrun, Shock, Technoir, Eclipse Phase.

1. Tangerine Dream – “Zen Garden”
2. Dntel – “In Which Our Hero Begins His Long and Arduous Quest”
3. Ulrich Schnauss – “Monday – Paracetamol”
4. Air – “Sonic Armada”
5. Justice – “Horsepower”
6. Kavinsky – “Ghost Transistor”
7. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – “Infiltrator”
8. Gidropony – “Group Sex of Rabbits”
9. Avaelin – “October 15”
10. Figurine – “Heartfelt”
11. M83 – “Midnight City (Eric Prydz Private Remix)”
12. Crystal Castles – “Baptisim”
13. Amon Tobin – “Kokubo Sosho Battle”
14. Jack Wall – “The Long Walk”
15. Solar Fields – “Jacknife”
16. Disasterpeace – “Jump Error”
17. Daft Punk – “Steam Machine”
18. Radiohead – “Give Up the Ghost (Thriller Houseghost Remix)”
19. Jesper Kyd – “Desmond Miles”
20. Carbon Based Lifeforms – “Held Together By Gravity”
21. Woodkid – “Iron (Mystery Jets Remix)”
22. Vangelis – “Blade Runner Blues”

RAW, RAI, RIP, IR: A World of Rules, Acronyms, and Semantics

RAW, RAI, RIP, IR: A World of Rules, Acronyms, and Semantics

Rules as written, or RAW is the point of origin for roleplaying games.  When we need the official word on a situation, we look at what was written and interpret it.  If we’re lucky, there is someone with authority to confirm our interpretation. This is the letter of the rules, pretty literally.

Rules as Intended, RAI, are what a designer means when making a rule, the “spirit” of the rule. This rarely matches 100% but needs to be watched.  If a game’s intended play and actual play become too incongruous, then the designer needs to change his perspective on the game and/or needs to change some rules.

Part of what informs that decision is how much players like the rules in play (RIP). If the game that people are actually using the rules to play is more fun than what you built, you need to get your view of the game in line with what people are doing with it.  If it’s incongruous *and* players are having no fun, you have to make the rules match your actual intention. Once a game is in the hands of players, it is no longer your game; it is an *instance* of your game, transformed by interpretation and implementation process of people who run it.   runs a different version of 4e than me, and I run a different version of 4e than you.  Similarities abound since we have the same ruleset, but there are many different ways to run any one game without changing the rules substantially.

When you change how you play a game without really changing rules, you are engaging the vast, open space of informal rules (IR). I feel that this doesn’t get enough attention. Informal rules are ways to run a game and implement rules without needing to add it to the ruleset you are using.  Sometimes an informal rule represents a  rule of thumbs (“OK, after asking for the same thing from a character twice, you have to do something different or let it go”), or it can a consideration/perspective (“Let’s agree that using Detect magic creates an effect like synesthesia”). Informal rules are almost always the result of negotiation or agreement at the table.

It is interesting to note that, to a large degree, rules systems are actually stand-ins for trust.  The more trust we have, the more we can build a game on IR.  Amber is a game that works explicitly in this realm (thanks again to Rob for the reminder). With high level of trusts, we care less about RAW or RAI.  We exist in the “present moment” of implemented rules and informal agreement and negotiation.

The less trust we have, the stronger that RAW must be, and the more we expect it to line up with RAI.  If you are playing in an RPGA game you expect rules to be standardized because you are playing with strangers.

Last note:  Think about what you can do with your current ruleset that changes how it is played without changing rules. What do you think designers meant for a rule to do? What does it actually do?  How do you implement the rule so it conforms to what you feel the intention is?

Let us know your thoughts.

Paper, Rock, Dice

Paper, Rock, Dice

I love fighting games, and I know a lot of other people do too.

Or, I know a lot of people want to love fighting games.  But most people don’t want to train for hours and hours just to do the basic moves and then practice hours more just to approach competence.  To most hardcores, the execution of these arcane patterns is the core of fighting game activity.

I’m not going to argue against skill-building, because I enjoy that. But I think that combos and move execution are just one part of the genre, while the greater aspect remains free of the burden of the purely physical: the art of reading.

Not reading books, but reading your opponent.  What does your opponent what to do? How are you going to counter it?  How can you train your opponent to react in the way that you want?  Once you start reading your opponent, you can play psychological tricks on him to force him into your traps.  You want him reacting to what you do, attempting to predict your moves but always one or two steps behind you.

The beauty of it is that your foe is doing the same thing to you at the same time.

At the heart of any fighting game is  you’ll find a war of psychology and information, both exposed and hidden. At the core of every good fighting game you’ll find layered game of paper, rock, scissors:

Consider a strictly equal game of RPS with clear payoffs. We’ll play 10 rounds of the game, with a $1 bet on each round. Which move should you choose? It makes absolutely no difference whether you choose rock, paper, or scissors. You’ll be playing a pure guess. Since your move will be a pure guess, I can’t incorporate your expected move into my strategy, partly because I have no basis to expect you to play one move or another, and partly because I really can’t have any strategy to begin with.

Now consider the same game of RPS with unequal (but clearly defined) payoffs. If you win with rock, you win $10. If you win with scissors, you win $3. If you win with paper, you win $1. Which move do you play? You clearly want to play rock, since it has the highest payoff. I know you want to play rock. You know I know you know, and so on. Playing rock is such an obvious thing to do, you must realize I’ll counter it ever time. But I can’t counter it (with paper) EVERY time, since then you could play scissors at will for a free $3. In fact, playing scissors is pretty darn sneaky. It counters paper–the weakest move. Why would you expect me to do the weakest move? Are you expecting me to play paper just to counter your powerful rock? Why wouldn’t I just play rock myself and risk the tie? You’re expecting me to be sneaky by playing paper, and you’re being doubly sneaky by countering with scissors. What you don’t realize is that I was triply sneaky and I played the original obvious move of rock to beat you.

Sirlin is smart about this stuff. As he lays it out, once you know my outcomes/payoffs, and once I know that you know, our lives become interesting.  In real time we are engaging in a dance, jockeying for position to control space and see who will truly punish who with a good counter. On the tabletop we can see this at play with Yomi or Brawl.  Heck, one can make a pretty good argument that Magic the Gathering exhibits these same properties.

My entry into this territory is humble but promising. It’s called Dicefighter and how it was born was like this:  I was going over a hack for Don’t Rest Your Head (I will tell you more about that later), and the elegance of the dice pool system was just gnawing away at my brain.  At the same time I’d been thinking about fighting game strategy and how it is often obscured by execution elements of the genre.

The first draft was crafted up in a few minutes, and we’ve had a few playtests since.  We are always looking for more playtesters! The game is simple and fast, but not simplistic;  there are strategies to work out, and countering your opponent correctly is one of the core activities.  If you guess correctly while forcing your opponent into an error, you can score some pretty devastating hits.  All you need are some six-sided dice (multiple colors is preferred but it is manageable without) and a buddy!  Oh, you’ll also need the PDF. With a character like Brogue:

To be honest, nobody knows this guy’s real name.  How are often are you going to ask a man with hands bigger than your head “what’s your name?”  This 7 foot irish wrestler with the impenetrable brogue just goes with the nickname.  He seems amiable enough, but that only means he smiles and he suplexes a competitor into the dirt, or laughs heartily when he piledrives you.  But that’s the game sometimes, isn’t it? You get thrown headfirst on the pavement and a smiling red-headed giant is saying things you can’t understand.

why wouldn’t you want to try this game?

Would love to hear your thoughts if you play this.

New Heresies

New Heresies


Some of you may be familiar with the site At-Will; if you are a fan of my old site, welcome! I hope you enjoy this site just as much, if not more. If you’re hearing about the site and/or me for the first time, you are welcome as well! Let’s talk about interesting stuff and play good games.

I’ve been designing games here and there since I was 11. I didn’t start talking it somewhat seriously until 10 years ago, and then actually took things extremely seriously about 4 years ago. The end result is I have a pile of thoughts and game designs sitting in my head mostly unused. Most of the work I’ve done in the last few years has been for someone else’s world and game ideas. In the time I’ve been serious-serious, I’ve been playing in other people’s sandbox, and following their rules. I got creative, naturally; At-Will looked at 4th edition D&D in a way that others would consider “heretical”, or at least in conflict with mainstream opinions about the game. But someone else’s rules are someone else’s rules. Though I liked 4e (and still do) a great deal, I was spending a lot of time innovating and playing with a system that I didn’t own and in which I could not fully invest.

Eventually, all factors converged to this: I wanted to get out and make my own stuff. I wanted to start new heresies, this time for gaming in general. I wanted to do what I wanted to do within a set of constraints defined by me.

What We’ll Do

Since I’ve been on hiatus, a lot of people have asked me what I’m going to do. Here is a partial preview of what you can expect in the upcoming weeks and months:

  • Questions for Game Designers — a set of questions that I have answered by friends of mine, some that you already know, some that you should know.
  • Games! — One thing I liked about At-Will is that we made “stuff”. I like when blogs have stuff that you can play or draw inspiration from. There will be separate posts about the games, but we have several games in line for you to playtest and check out.
  • Technology — I am that guy who sees a piece of technology and immediately wants to know how I can use it to kill dragons. Videos and writeups of how to use technology to augment your gaming.
  • Playlists — this seems random, but it feeds into the technology angle. Music totally belongs at the game table, so we’ll have spotify lists that we’ll share.
  • Theory — There will definitely be ranting about games. There will be less of that than your typical blog. Again, I am focusing the site towards items that you can use right away. Even my rants will be toward arming you with useful perspectives and thoughts whenever possible.
  • Game Analysis — we are not going to do reviews of games. When a game excites us though, we will talk about it and also what aspects excite us. First on the list? Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

That’s what we’re looking to bring you! Publishing will happen on Mondays and Thursdays. You might notice that we have commenting disabled; this is not accidental but by design. We want to communicate with our readers but prefer e-mail or via twitter. Be nice! Like anyone could reasonably expect, nastygrams will get deleted ASAP. Criticism & insight is appreciated; negativity is sad-face.

All this to say: I’m back.

-Quinn Murphy