Apocalypse World has been generating a heck of a lot of discussion, and I think I’m going to have to join in, possibly in podcast form, especially once I finally get a copy of the actual book. I got to play it at the South Bay Story Games Day event at Game Kastle in Santa Clara, and was very impressed, though it’s worth noting that it was MCed by a gentleman named Carl who was very experienced with running it.
One particularly interesting thing about it–which somewhat ties in with what I talked about in the last podcast–is how the game very carefully and thoroughly delineates the GM’s job, to a degree that is basically unprecedented. (Which explains the change in terminology to “Master of Ceremonies.”) As Jonathan Walton put it, apart from explicitly encouraging hacks, “it makes no effort to offer flexibility to people with different tastes or desires.” On the one hand I don’t share Will Hindmarch‘s (apparent; I may be misreading him) discomfort with AW’s approach, but on the other hand I really like the idea of this development and the tools it implies existing, but on the third hand (I’m running Dark Sun this weekend; maybe it’s a hypothetical Thri-Kreen?) needless to say I wouldn’t want every game to work that way.
Over on Theory From the Closet’s interview, Vincent said he’s a game designer rather than a teacher, and in light of that it makes sense that he’s sending what he’s figured out about GM techniques out into the world in game form. While it goes without saying that he never meant it to be the end-all be-all of GMing techniques, the GM’s role is one of the single most ephemeral things in RPGs. There are definite advantages to that of course (another Theory From the Closet Episode has David Wesley explaining how using a human referee saved his wargaming hobby), but there’s also the problem that we don’t really have the vocabulary or techniques that we probably should for discussing (much less modifying) what exactly the GM does. There’s a lot of good advice out there, but it’s really hard to be concrete.
A Story of Slime
Of course, right now the thing with Apocalypse World that’s more immediately relevant to me is the Hx/History system (the one that gave Ryan Macklin a little trouble), since it’s pointed me to a way to improve Slime Story. Setting up connections between characters is currently one of those things that can easily become tedious because it asks for largely unguided creative input. AW’s History mechanic the setup of the PCs’ relationships and shared history into kind of a minigame with different abilities per character type, which also serves to dump the players into having to work with mechanics and each other. While I’m not completely happy about stitching yet another piece onto this Frankenstein monster of a game, it looks like it has immense potential.
A while back I made the acquaintance of Steven Savage, who amongst other things does the Fan To Pro blog and the Seventh Sanctum name generator site. (And if we can ever get our schedules to coincide enough he’s going to be on the podcast.) When I told him about the game I was working on he, having recently seen the Scott Pilgrim movie, said Slime Story sounded like “magical realism.” While Slime Story doesn’t strive for a Jorge Luis Borges type of style or anything, it does juxtapose the real and fantastic, and I think that in terms of the setting that’s its real strength. There’s an inherent tension between the teenagers’ ordinary lives and the absurd monster hunting they do. I’m not sure what to do with this epiphany apart from including it in the text, but I think it’s very important to realizing the game I want to create.
Dice Within Dice
I was at Toys R Us the other day and wound up buying the “Pavilion Games Black Die Multi Game Set.” Pavilion Games is apparently a brand name TRU came up with for selling cheap and generic board game stuff. I’d seen this many times before and put off buying it because it was $19.99, but it was on sale for around $12. It’s a black faux-leather box like a black d6, about 6½ inches on a side. Inside are two decks of cards, four small dice, a doubling cube, a set of poker dice, a small game board for chess and backgammon (with pieces for both), a rather small set of double-6 dominoes, and a booklet of rules. I think I like it more for the novelty of the box than what’s inside, though I suppose even given that I’m not really into board games it’s not a bad idea to have those things around. (Someone was working on an RPG that uses dominoes, right?) Also, it has enough room to fit several of the other assorted game materials I’ve accumulated.
I’ve heard such complaints about, for example, Prime Time Adventures’ pitch sessions. The results can be great sometimes, but I certainly don’t find that kind of thing terribly efficient with my friends.