Yesterday I played my first match of Hobgoblin. It was a delight, and an epiphany.
I’ve wanted something like this for years. I was in middle school when I got a copy of the core rulebook for Warhammer Fantasy. I read through that book cover to cover, and then I read it again. I bought a faction’s army book (for the Skaven) with all their special rules and abilities, and read through that over and over too. I bought my first box of models. I yearned to play.
Losers might be the wrong title for this series. But I think that’s the point, and I think it’s a point worth making. Where sports narratives often feel caricatured or inevitable, this feels more human. It’s good.
I’ve been reading A Lesson in Vengeance, been part way through it for a while. The combination of that book, plus my own meditations, has left me musing on the nature of ghosts and how they work in stories. I don’t think I’m saying anything revolutionary when I say that, while ghosts are often said to have unfinished business, they can also be interpreted as the unfinished business of those they haunt.
Ghosts make a neat device for unwelcome and intrusive thoughts.
Leave yourself room for later. If there’s anything I’ve learned from doing lots of worldbuilding—for my own linear fiction and for the collaborative fiction of RPGs—it’s that trying to fill every last nook and cranny of a setting is a daunting task. And actually filling up everything is choking, stifling. Don’t fill up everything. It leaves no room for the future, and it leaves no room for anyone else.
This might be true of art in general, but it’s video game graphics that keep reminding me of it. Chasing realism is an expensive luxury. Unless realism is a core part of whatever you’re trying to make, it’s probably not worth fixating on it. That’s because…
I’m traveling, hence missing my regular post yesterday. I have some thoughts to share in short essay form some time soon, but I didn’t manage to finish writing them before I left. Because I was traveling I also saw some movies, so here’re some quick sleep-deprived impressions.
Somehow, despite a decade of posts on this blog, I’ve never gone in-depth into Dogs in the Vineyard or what I love so much about it. There’s more to Dogs than I could easily cover in a single post: cooperative story-telling and turn-taking, cinematic descriptive and narrative tools, a conflict mechanic that encourages brinksmanship and escalation, a well-articulated method for understanding what’s at stake… all those elements are a delight.
But there’s another piece that Dogs explicitly encourages groups to home in on. That’s the experience of wrestling with moral conundrums, something many modern CRPGs both want—and struggle—to deliver. That’s what I’m focused on today.
One of my RPG groups is currently struggling to solve several time loops and their various disasters. I love time loops (see my thoughts on Palm Springs). But at the end of our last run some of my players asked: “Are we actually getting anywhere? Because I don’t want to keep doing this if we’re not making any progress.” And that showed me that I needed to open up a little more, because, well…
It’s been a while since I last wrote about Deep in Trouble, Cesi’s sequel to Bury’em Deep. A friend of mine inhaled Bury’em Deep recently, and her enthusiasm has reinvigorated mine. It’s also prompted me to revisit the setting and my ideas for how Deep in Trouble would work, and I’ve started making progress again!