Monday, September 21, 2015

Threeforged Game Thoughts: Part 2

Continuing on from my earlier post, here's a roundup of my second set of impressions for #threeforged games. You can find the full list and download links for those games here. I don't state individual games' premises, since I'm trying to get down quick impressions for myself. I hope to finish reading through all of the games this week so I can submit my vote.  

We'll see if I can accomplish that. 

15109 Hound/ed
This game opens with one of my pet peeves: extensive game fiction. In something of this length, eating up that much of the word count and my time bugs me. The crucial idea could have been conveyed more tightly. Maybe start with “Jesus, Jason…” and work from there. I recognize this is a personal preference. Could that space have been better served with an extended example of play or fuller card explanations?

I’m always interested in systems based on custom cards. We’ve been playing with something like that- though more generally tuned and without hand management- for a long, long time. I like what these do and I could see them laid out with interesting icons. The basic premise of the game seems solid and the resolution has some structure in the form of the cards. Another game for two people, would like to see how it plays out.

15107 Platonic Mastery
So there’s a weird thing going on in the presentation here. The opening begins with the classic “You are…” and then presents the premise. The game establishes you as an old male, but doesn’t perhaps address the why and importance of that. More strikingly, we are given characters who seem to be singular and revolutionary. At first I assumed this was a two player game, but it seems to be structured for more. Perhaps some discussion/explanations of how a company of unique and independent thinkers band together? Or are their stories completely in parallel? I think that structure needs to be detailed.

I suspect I don’t have the font that the original author used or they chose a particularly bad one. It eats up punctuation, making it hard to read in places.

Because we have the different die types, perhaps needs to take some time to explain why. I get the Platonic solids thing, but the rules don’t explain that or metaphorical meaning for these elements in the opposition. Also, it seems like there’s a real consequence for choosing the smaller die types. You roll and take the sum for Conviction. Is that imbalance intentional? The die types affect some actions and that should probably be spelled out in the die pick section. But in fighting and dealing damage it looks like only Self matters.

15106 Salt Crown
I’m reminded of the old Marvel comics, Strikeforce Morturi. I like supers of any kind, so I’m curious right away. We’ve seen only a few “historical” supers games (This Favored Land comes to mind). I can only think of one other rpg product covering the Spanish Civil War, one of the pitches from Hillfolk. Playing the nationalists would be hard. I don’t think I could do that. But clearly, if expanded, this game could benefit from additional historical material and some discussion of the motivations of both sides. This game has huge potential, and I’ve love to see what work with a good developmental editor would bring.

The mechanics seem simple enough, decay’s driven by players choices rather than dice impositions, so any death spiral’s a choice. I really want to see a lot more of this game. Feels like a small start to a larger and quite interesting game. Side Note: I’d love an anthology of superhero games in different historical settings. One point that struck me: Why the weirdness in the item listing? Is that intended to be a joke or a throwaway? If not it suggests a ton of other strangeness in the setting which needs to be addressed.

15104 State Cinema
I like the concept. I like games which establish a distinctive voice and then carry that through. It’s pretty funny right now, but could be made even stronger. Not to go over the top, but in a couple of places it slips up or misses an opportunity. I like the drawing, especially the absurdity and indirect world-building. Font or other marker could be useful for the break between in game instruction and meta commentary (i.e. from "Running State Cinem"a on).

I got lost on the mechanics in my first read through, but it was clearer on a re-read. There’s a lot going on. The GM advice is strong and well-done. I like the comment on ways to bring in players who aren’t as involved.

And then we get to the end stakes. The possibility of losing their family. Especially because you’ve named them before. That’s a hard punchline. Wow. I know that might wreck some of my players, especially if we switched gears from high comedy to their daughter being taken out and shot. Have to handle that carefully. I read and watched enough about NK that the whole concept gives me shivers.

15103 VHS Fury
We’ve seen some PvP games so far, but for some reason this one strikes me as the most explicit of those. We begin by setting up strong and direct agenda conflicts. Do you have to have four players? If not, what do you do with fewer? Which one goes?

I like the character set up and these could be laid out as pseudo-playbooks, with the play sequence reference and rules on each (i.e. something close toChildren’s Radio Hour). The resolution system seems cool and I like the push your luck combined with randomness. If there’s one limitation to this game, that’s in the premise itself (which I love, so don’t get me wrong). It requires a good deal of knowledge and buy in to play comfortably IMHO. The culture and ideas are fairly niche which might be OK, but then you have to bring that specialized knowledge into play. It would be easy for someone to get left out. I recall Sherri discussing that with me and her hesitation about Wuxia and Swashbuckling games because she had no connection or knowledge base for those. You might get over that hurdle over time, but it could impact a one-shot. Talking about that beforehand is necessary.

Side note: I don’t know what titling font the designer used, but I can’t imagine the weird gothic script here it came through as was the original pick.

15102 The End
I had to read the paragraphs a couple of times before I caught the “in space” point. “Master of the End” (or MOTE), another new name for GM I get to add to my list. Lots of collaborative creation, Unsure where that begins and ends. How long will this take? It almost seems like an entire session might get eaten by this. It seems complete, but I’m not sure how the mechanics are fully supporting the exploration of these characters internal lives. Maybe that’s not the point, but that’s the sense I get at the start.

15101 Ghost
This is the first one I’m going to skip commenting on. Not one of mine.

15100 Children’s Radio Hour
This looks interesting and it takes the risky step of avoiding any major rules discussion, instead putting that on the playbooks. Are some roles better to have in games with fewer players? How much can you get done in the time allotted? Play usually expands because of the additional meta-narrative, so I wonder how well real time will work. I think I’d have to see. The genre’s a little alien to me, and I have a hard time visualizing play. A revision might be served by expanding and perhaps offering some behind the curtain insights.

1596 Friends of the Venom Spider
Intro is clear on what’s the game's about, sets structure and leaves interesting questions open which make me want to read on. Abstract set up; I’m not as interested in those as a player. That’s a personal preference. Why “players(?)” is there an unanswered question about that? Drop the ?. Wait, so Faithfulness gets further sub-divided in play? Why the two different terms. Unclear from first introduction of the term.

“Read up the alternatives for the other players so that they don't know the outcome of the result.” Not sure what the sentence is saying: is there a dropped word? So what’s the deal with the Quiz. It does seem to establish some facts about the world i.e. spiders wouldn’t be answering this. What stance should we be taking: ourselves or a fictional character? How are we to imagine that? Might want to talk more about that. “Character secret, flaw and gift” given that we have no context or sense of what this does, how are we supposed to decide?

We shift from a Voigt-Kampff test to this set of nature metaphors. May I suggest a switching of information under the establishing relations section? Something like “If a player has a Faithfulness score, they must give at least one point to Spider. Add any remaining points to their Loyalty for a character of their choice.”

I appreciate the idea here, but this isn’t my kind of game so I don’t feel as confident to judge. There’s some order of information issues here which some workshopping and editing could fix.

1595 The Quantum Haurspex
OK, if you’re deliberately trying to confuse me with terminology in the first paragraph, you’ve succeeded. Tense switching throws me off as well- is that intentional? There’s a lot of fuzzy in that Petitioners section and beyond. Might need more discussion of the interpretation process here. So everyone’s playing a possessed character they have to rescue simultaneously. This the set up process all by consensus? Should we talk about how that negotiation works? How long will this set up take in practice? I’m not sure. Lost here in the resolution, are we still in set up or have we moved to play? Really unclear where the scenes come into play. After step 6 or is that step 6? Before that? As presented it doesn’t look like an interactive moment, but a declaration.

I’m really confused.

1593 Aquila, the Role-Playing Game
Wow. That’s a cool but borderline double mumbo-jumbo introduction. Weirdly the actually play’s presented as fairly generic. We lose a good deal of the wonder and weird from the intro after that. Instead we get a kind of long-form Kingdom or more sandboxy The Quiet Year. It isn’t a bad concept. But, I’m wondering about the decision to present colonization so unquestioningly. I think you need to make it even more fantastic and fairy tale to be able to avoid those issues. Maybe more explicit that there’s no other races present on the world. Well, except the Leaf Giants and they seem to be presented as unquestioning bestial. There’s mention of “investors” early on that connect with these colonial concerns. But maybe I’m reading way too much into all of this. Carry on.

1591 Eat at Joes
Good clear statement of initial concept. Is the Weirdness Score their appearance outside of their disguise? Scale suggests there’s some kind of trade off (more weird, get something else?). Doesn’t look like it. What’s this value used for? Usefulness has this built in. I like Suspicion and Cover tracking- that’s the place where the system mechanics support the theme. Good game. Looks and reads well. Could look at developing more material to support the premise But that being said, I liked it.

1588 Under the Broken Moons
Intro story could be tightened. Feels just a little too long. There’s a weird switch in the classic appearance trope: the Barbarian seems to be of the thinner and lighter group. OK, we get past all the setting and deep background to establishing the premise: “The civilizations of the World are broken, can they be healed? Play to find out.”

A civilization building game in a world like Thundarr? OK, that sounds cool.

But that’s not exactly what we get. Instead there’s some interesting collaborative region-building, a lifepath system, and some conventional play. It feels rushed towards the end, sort of half-finished because it seems to have taken on too much for the space? I’m not sure. Perhaps the designers didn’t have time to get to the premise they established.

1585 Sandbox like
I appreciate the intent of this and that sounds kind of awesome. But I don’t think the game itself actually recreates the feeling of a campaign. Of an unflavored hexcrawl, perhaps. But there’s no other color to this. Instead it is a kind of weird outdoor version of the Dungeon! Boardgame. If re-shaped to be more of a board game, it’d require development of the mechanics or an interesting set of reference material/charts.

On the other hand, this does make me think that Derek Gour could make a cool version of Hope Inhumanity focused around this kind of hexcrawl campaign. I’d play that.

1583 Faery Wedding Reception Party Game
A party game, go on…

This sound fun, but I’m really inexperienced with LARPs, so I’m not sure if there’s enough mechanics, too much, or other structural problems. It has some variants which need further explanation, as I don’t understand what it’s suggesting in a couple of places.

1582 Ad Libitum Absurdity
The first sentences, the first paragraph. So important. I keep harping on this in my comments, but I’ve read a bunch of these games where I come away from the intro going “s’wha?” I’ve gone back to my own submissions and seen how I needed to tighten and focus them. Too much info dump, too vague a statement of play. This entry does all of that well. We get the basics of play, the premise, and one key term.

When you assign numbers freely, I always want to know about the game logic. If they’re freely set, what actual impact do they have? Are the words picked for the cards done in the open, should we worry about redundancy? I like that this game seems tight and playable in a short period of time. Some of the other games I’ve read seem overly ambitious for what can actually be accomplished.

Good examples, simple objectives, well executed.

1581 Zen Flashback Battle Zero
Another strictly 2p game. If you’re going to do pvp that cuts down on the complications. Interesting random tables, could certainly be expanded. Typos a little distracting. The order of information’s tough here. We see the players making choices and get introduced to a bunch of concepts and terms at once. Maybe could slow down to clarify some of those. War of the Indines with more rpg elements? I like the connection of the mechanics to the events. Flashbacks which impact.

I like the concept, but some of it feels underdeveloped. I’d really have to see this played. When you’re actually playing does it feel more like a narrative game or a board game? What’s good or bad about that?

1580 Bootleggers
I wonder if this is inspired by Firefly?

It’s dangerous to echo the tone of a franchise so closely. You run the risk of coming off like parodyor hackneyed. And that’s especially true when you carry things through the whole of the rules. The voice here wears out its welcome for me quickly. It’s not that I don’t like narratives done with a unique, evocative, and consistent voice. It’s that this voice I find annoying.

What a superficial response.

1579 Conspiracy and Cowards
I wasn’t sure about this the first time I read it. Coming back a week later, having gone through other games, I appreciate this more. It has some interesting and dense mechanics- and they connect & interlock. It definitely takes a PbtA approach, but significantly modifies that to the intent at hand. I like this, but you’ll definitely need to reference sheets to actually play this. We’ve had that problem with a couple story games which have a convoluted sequence of play and mechanics.

But I think this is a contender for me. It has an interesting design, good presentation, novel mechanics, and a premise I think I could run.

1577 The Policy of Truth
Someone has some graphic design chops. A two player game plus- with the other players taking on other roles as needed. Does that feel more LARPy? Or is it more an ensemble GM?

The writing style’s crisp, clear, and direct. Black Sharpie to mark out. Nice touch. The play sheets are interesting though as a reader, I immediately had to jump to the end after the “Preparing to Play” section. I wanted to know about those choices so I had them in my head as I hit the mechanics. Don’t answer the questions right away. Interesting.

Side note: the clear presentation makes me trust elements will be explained. That’s especially necessary in the Play section.

Here’s a basic point that’s not spelled out early on: I assume that Player A creates the Agent for Player B’s handler. And vice versa.

Role of the other players? Finally present under field work. What should the others be doing while the two key players are setting things up. Should other players get involved in the Additional Cost question?

“compromised, killed, quit” that’s pretty extreme and entirely left in the hands of the players. Is that too squishy? Nope. Looks like those options exist on the list. Burning down through resources.

Feels really solid. Setting aside the excellent graphic design, the mechanics feel like they fit the situation: random and arbitrary. I like burning through the options.

If we’re going to say this game can support more than two players, then it might need more for the others to do. Be explicit about what the Handler can hand off in choices. OOH do we need other players? Why not simply 2p?

A contender.

1576 No Myth
Have to see how the premise plays out. That’s a vast concept- and there’s the challenge of improvising a surrealist world. I like the assignment of situations to the control of specific players.

Here’s the thing, the opening suggests high weirdness, but when we get to the situations, all of that comes across a little colorless. Probably need to support that with more details and options. Otherwise this just seems like a storytelling version of The Morrow Project. That’s especially true because much more attentions given to the crunch and reality of place and gear. How can we bring the weird? Barf forth uncanny? Needs much more.

1574 The Coven
How long will the creation process take? I keep thinking about this for games which feel like one-shots. What can designers do to make that process quicker? Cutting extra elements? Randomization tools? Condensing options? Assumption about Poker knowledge. Feels underdeveloped. Layout doesn’t do it any service. Lot of index cards. How much does the earlier written material and choices come into play in resolution?

1572 Life As It Was
I can think of three games which do the “adults are gone” apocalypses: Kids World, The Creep Chronicles, and Bliss Stage. Each has some distinct tweaks that move them beyond simply only kids are left. Then there’s the Star Trek episode “Miri.”Of course the touchstone for this genre is _Lord of the Flie_s. LAIW limits the focus tightly: the event itself has no importance, simply the fact that they’re dead. The premise is even tighter than that: we follow them for a set period of time and then test them against a rival gang.

The game itself seems fine. But I think this one forces me to consider my judgement. For a number of these games, I’ve tried to put aside my bias. I’ve tried not to judge as much on genre. But at some point “fun” enters my calculations. Would it be enjoyable to play? If it’s dark, would it be enjoyable to explore these ideas? So The Policy of Truth is grim, and you’re fairly doomed. Yet I find that engaging and compelling. But Life as it Wasdoesn’t seem like fun to me. I really wouldn’t want to play this narrow, dark genre. And because it doesn’t bring anything insightful or novel to the table beyond survival kids, it doesn’t click for me. I’m doing a disservice to the work here and I wish I could approach this more even-handedly, but I think “do I want to play it” has to be a factor.

No one will have read this far, but if you have, here's a picture of Glenn the Frog for hitting the halfway mark. 
1571 The Rending of the Veil
Another interesting concept, but I’m going to skip this.

1570 Psycheball
I like sports games and we need to see more of those (disclaimer: I wrote a sports game but it didn’t make it). Perhaps that makes me a bad judge of these. In any case, I think it’s an interesting concept because you have to deal with two quite distinct areas of rules. You want to handle off-field activities in an interesting way, but you also need depth, challenge, and excitement for the actual “game day.” I think this does the latter perhaps better than the former. 

Cards and dice. Interesting the choice of individual competition. That versus a team. Do we need all of these questions? That’d be one things I’d check and confirm with a revision. You want those to be tight and easy to answer. Right now we have twelve questions, with three of those being follow-ups. Should we give the reader a sense of the impact of these questions? Is it purely narrative or fiction generating? Or are there practical effects?

We have a limited set of card draws. How significantly will the card draw impact? i.e. can a bad draw hobble a player? If so can we find a way to mitigate? OK, there is team play, but they aren’t a team. What’s the order of resolution for tactics? How do we bring the color discussed in the other sections to the actual play of the match? Perhaps some kind of randomizer to generate features?

1567 Shinobi Village
“Inspired by an imaginary anime series,” I like that we’re explicitly in an anime. Any game which cites Tampopo gains a few points for me. The way it considers the “camera” is a nice touch. Good character rundown. Would we present this full list to the players, say with a reference card? Easy scene framing, I like the randomization.

Once a players has been cast as a character, do they play them later? If so, that could create multiple character problems. On the other hand, if anyone can play a character, that feels a little odd. That may just be the trad player in me talking. Hmmm. That seems like a big gap.

The hand gesture thing’s interesting. We’re referencing something from Naruto here, right? Does this feel artificial, natural, fun or what at the table? Interfering gestures…not sure about this. I can’t quite picture how this falls out, seems chaotic. Is that deliberate or is it smoother than I think? The example seems clear, but is that what would actually happen?

The whole thing has potential. I hope to see a revised version after the competition.

1566 Untitled
More playing cards. I’m wondering about the impulse to use a non-standard randomizer. Does it matter if we end up with all elementals or all scientists? I’m not sure I can judge this well. I mean I get what the play is, but that seems more than a little unfinished. This is one of those games that I think would hugely benefit from workshopping. Trying the tease out what the designers’ intent was and then figuring out how to support & enhance that.

1565 Spiral Star
Might want to give the reader a little better introduction at the start. It doesn’t really hook or encourage me to read on since we jump right into structural elements. The narrative text seems long: can we tighten? Time this. How long does it take to get through? How much is key the play?

Better or worse to have choices on the character cards. What’s that gaining the play? There’s a lot of material here, but you can see how much need to be developed: guide to best practices, discussion of the general shape of things, guide for running LARPs. I’m not a LARP person and I have no clue how resolutions handled beyond this. What do you tell the players about event triggers? How do you monitor things? I suspect, though, I’m not the intended audience. Perhaps some statement that this is aimed for experienced LARP moderators.

1564 A Hard Goodbye
A thematic game. Would it be stronger/weaker if we established a specific frame (and then had ideas for how to shift it to other settings at the end)? If we keep it open then shouldn’t we decide setting before choosing our relation to the organization. Actual building of the organization seems quick. How long will that take at the table? A half-hour? Good- when you assign attributes it’s useful to explain what those numbers mean! Character creation’s equally simple. When we introduce our characters do we share everything?

A revision would give more options and examples of assignments. And here’s why I think it might be good to set a backdrop. You could use that to reinforce and support the specific atmosphere.

Success? s’wha. The resolution system isn’t clear to me. Is there an explanation missing. I think success means one side’s die is higher than the other. Is the total based on value showing or number of dice? I like the act structure and the kinds of scenes tied to those.

1563 Transmission
Interesting two-act premise. A little bit of setting creation, followed by the transmission generation, followed by exploring those transmissions. I like how short the colony creation is. Interesting, but we should probably have some Data Point examples where the concept’s introduced. Should we be referencing other details and characters in these transmissions? If so, perhaps someone ought to be recording these somewhere.

Side Note: I feel like this process might lend itself to a wiki or PbF approach. Especially given the journal phase. Could be fun if players actually recorded transmission audio and posted those.

Parallel format. You have questions under two of the topics. Can we have Qs for the other two?

Diceless system, with additional peril mechanic. What’s behind the choice to avoid specific mechanics here? Not that I disagree. I just want to know what it does to push the theme forward. Overall it has an interesting idea. It needs some examples to flesh it out and make clear what’s these concepts and play look like (especially how the ending appears). 

1561 Among Humans
I’m sure the designer considered whether this layout and design would support the material or make it more difficult to read. I come down on the "Augh can't read it" side. I find it immediately off-putting. I appreciate the creative attempt, but at least for me it’s a major knock against my desire to read on.

A forum thread game; that's neat. I’ve seen only a little of this so far.. Once I get past the early awful pages, the layout and design levels out. The concept’s interesting. Has some decent stuff there- I like the faction split but I also wonder how well that will play out. I guess within curated circles, you have a good chance of persons taking up those roles and sticking with them. So good, with some interesting ideas. Not exactly my cup of tea and I nearly stopped reading before I hit the meat of the game. YRMV.

1559 Magical Mystery Tour
OK, that’s an engaging concept- I don’t know if we’ve seen a game so far with two, I guess co-GMs. They’re not entirely that, more abstract forces. I’m amused because I rewatched Sgt. Peppers: the Movie a few months ago. Loved it as a kid. I like the briefing on the two forces. I appreciate that it complicates the reading. Limiting action choices: that’s really interesting. I'm also appreciating that we can turn these ideas from virtue to vice. Should we have further examples about what that means for one vs. the other? I dig the associated powers.

Interesting resolution mechanic- seems like there’s an equal balance of agency within this. I also like the band creation picks. Connection to the earlier vices and virtues, could we make this stronger? I don’t mind that we don’t have real structures for travel, arrival, and gigging. I get that we’re aimed at something more metaphorical. Overall this is a pretty cool game and concept.

I have to go back and look at it again, but it ranks up there for me.

1558 Keeping Counsel
OK, that’s a strong premise and an ambitious one. I like the idea balancing those choices- and making clear how important that is early on. I appreciate that the designer decided to go with a specific setting as illustrative of the possibilities of the game. So someone tells the story, and can be interrupted by other players to tell the story. Voting mechanic to settle things out. OK, I’m wondering if we’ve got the cart before the horse here. Explanation of the mechanics without having a good sense of how we get to that point.

Need more examples of goals. I assume the games going to circulate around this key struggle. Examples of facts. Is that three rights or duties per fact? Scratch that- completely not what’s meant there. Until the sum is twenty. Does imply a potential imbalance; do we stop when everyone has the same number? Also, we probably need a clearer explanation of what rights and duties actually mean in the context of the mechanics before this.

Did I miss the explanation of Fairness voting? How to define the problematic part? How far can a player rewind or redact the previous players statements? I think I’ve read too many of these today. I completely don’t get the voting, duty, and rights thing. It seems like it ought to be easy to get but I feel particularly stupid here.

(eight hours of sleep later)

1557 Alien Passion Disaster
Sentence #2 has a weird phrasing: they’re going to play all of these (in which case “and” instead of “or”) or they can play all of these (in which case “may/can” instead of “will.” Overall  sentence structure problems  that working with an editor will smooth out for the designers. Is “soil” the right word? IMHO you’ll definitely want a permanent marker to mark up playing cards- and even then you have to let them dry for a minute or two before shuffling.

Trait section: Should we be marking these already? In this picking, we’re likely going to end up with duplicates. Is that a problem? What’s the final trait here? There’s a lot of “Make Everything Up” here. Like the players have to come up with everything and this is just a resolution system. Not feeling the connection between them and mechanics.
I’m generally in favor of card systems with mark ups. That the basis of the homebrew we’ve been playing for fifteen years. But I’m lost throughout the process here. There’s a big break between theme and mechanics that could be fixed with  work.

1556 The Mask and the Daydream
Um. This opening couple of paragraph’s written in a particular and stilted voice. Is this intended to be a parody? I can’t quite tell. If it is, it still leaves me uncertain about the point. If it isn’t, then perhaps the stiffness needs to be worked on. Well outside my wheelhouse. Don’t feel qualified to judge. The only thing I’ll say is that the academia tone feels incredibly distancing.

1553 American Heroes
Cute idea but joke in the first paragraph stumbles in execution. Why the minorities reference? Ah, OK now I’m getting a little bit of the tone here. But still…that joke falls flat because it is presented objectively. In theory I think the jokes could work here but the prose needs to be cut and streamlined. Best joke: “Don’t change any of the rules.” Typos.

I like superheroes, but this is more like an outline. At first I thought this was going to be a riff on America F*ck Yeah Supers, but that isn’t really carried through. I think it wants to be a parody of supers in general, but it falls flat. Lots of opportunities for that. For example, how about a joke about how bad supers investigations can be, solved either through coincidence or deus ex machina. Potential here, but feels half-baked. Too many cooks?

1551 Titanomachy
This opening swerves a little. At first I thought we were getting Everybody Loves Zeus, an insight into the mundanity of the gods’ lives. Something ala Thorne Smith’s The Night Life of the Gods. But then it switches to be more metaphorical. Enemy Gods or Nobilis. Lots of history: necessary for the play which follows?

There’s a tendency in some of these games to offer situations of “parallel play.” Everyone has a distinct character, they get scenes, and they advance their goals. Then we move on. There’s some room for a little interaction, but the main kind of play is solo. That's combined with an abstract, distanced approach to play. I almost think this could be better served as a board game. Some version of Populus? I like the general idea and appreciate the work done in providing the powers, but I’m unsure of the play at the table.

1550 MUSCLE WIZARDS VS LASER DINOSAURS: TURBO VAMPIRE EDITION
We’re at the point where between my working backwards through these and reading everyone’s reviews I’m hitting games I’ve heard a lot of talk about. I know some have avoided reading other reviews, but I dig theme. I appreciate seeing other readers' biases and enthusiasms (and how they express those). I wonder how much that colors my own responses? In any case, I expect I’ll be short-handing some of my impressions as a result.

Like with MWvLD: TVE. While there’s a lot of inspirations and sources, all I could think of when reading this was Sockbaby. It’s over the top- which could be wearing (see HoL for example). But there’s enough clever asides that I keep reading. It’s a stupid thing, but I appreciate the shift in making this testosterone cavalcade gender inclusive. There are some typos- if they’re accidental, they can be fixed. If they’re deliberately, I don’t think that works. It’s more distracting than reinforcing.

How long does this process of creation take? Do we have to answer all of these questions?

Page twelve. The tonal shift’s bad here. This really need to be rewritten with the voice of the earlier material. It’s shown it can do that with mechanics, so I’m not sure why you’d present this so flat.

Good stuff, fun and smart. Really deserves to get developed further.

1549 10 Million A.D.
First one I’ve seen so explicitly Powered by the Apocalypse that they use the banner. I was wondering about that. We’ve seen several games borrowing from other games, many with clear references about their lifts. I wonder how many designers stayed away from that, for fear of it being outside the scope or rules. I know with the 24 Hour RPGs, you explicitly had to come up with a new resolution system.
I’d like to see a contest that’s just about hacking. Not necessarily for any particular system, but one in which you had to reskin or modify an existing system.

There’s an interesting switch here vis a vis Planet of the Apes. There’s also the fact of playing insurgents and terrorists. Risky. Anti-colonialist themes. How does it move beyond a simple AW hack? The Sapient Politics thing is an interesting idea. What’s the connection between the player actions and the progress meter. I mean, I know what it is, but is that purely GM fiat? Is there any other player interaction choice tied up there? I think we need to see more about the set up and backdrop. We get very little about their adversaries. The main new developments seem to be the unit rules and the framing of the character building. I think we need more. The thematic elements drop out mid-game.

1548 Velocity Times at Space High
This has challenge of the high bar of Teenagers from Outer Space and my rose-colored memories of Galaxy High. We have two elements here: the sci-fi nature of things and the high school simulation. It does the latter better than the former. There’s an interesting system of mechanics, but perhaps a little colorless. All characters equivalent save for the fiction. And here’s the other thing, if we strip out the examples and the flavor text, is there anything left of the sci-fi theme? Can we find some way to embed that more? Will that make it stronger or not?

1547 Langer Memorial Trauma Center
I think ambition may outstrip the space given to this simulation. I think probably intended for die-hard fans of things like House.

1546 Mixtapes and Mistakes
Wow. That escalated quickly. Interesting that the opening tone seems somber, but the two movies mentioned are both comedies. And comedies about adults. Maybe Heathers orJawbreaker might be better? Not sure.

Agh, stick with your framing device and connect it to the mechanics. You can talk about alternate settings at the end- and offer suggestions for what dials you can tweak to make that fit. We’ve begun with a strong sense of theme and then this paragraph dilutes that. Stick with the modern HS and reinforce that. Mixtape implies some prep ahead of time (though I guess you could build it with Spotify in a few minutes). Go ahead and be structured with the character creation. What do you lose by removing the “just do what you want in passing” element?

Is it fair for me to say I don’t know what to make of this one? I like the idea of the interrogation sequence? We’ve seen questioning games before and it has some strengths. But would this whole package be fun? Would the tilt work at the table?

Yeah, tilt. The early part cites Fiasco which is certainly the looming influence here. What does this game bring to the table that Fiascodoesn’t? I don’t want to knock it by comparison, but I think that’s a question the designers need to deal with head on. I’ll be curious about their answers.

1545 Fear of the Dark
“Check it: shit, fuck, and beheaded children.” OK, bye.

Other folks have written insightful reviews of this game, so I’ll leave this in their hands. Seems well-written.

1544 King of Bones
For a lighthearted game, we start with some heavy background. I think there’s potential here, but maybe we’re aiming for the wrong audience? I wonder if this could be re-wrapped to be more of a kid’s game? Would that be stronger? I like the idea, but I’m self-conscious enough I would be reluctant to play. The play structure as presented feels a little disjointed to me.

On the other hand, this does make me want to go and craft the rpg +Rich Rpgers suggested using Rock Band sessions as a resolution mechanic.

1541 The Spirit of Nations
One of those times when a generic approach actually works in the game’s favor. Establishing a concrete frame could be a problem. Some odd sentence structures and typos. That World Building structure is perhaps a little too open. Pretty much “how about a world and a map,?” In nation creation, it takes some teasing out to get the difference between nation/people and who creates what. We switch from super fuzzy to super specific. Not getting exactly how these sheets are filled out: perhaps a step by step list? The example actually makes it harder for me to follow, given the placement.

Page three, done reading. No citation for image sources, no references to that.

1540 To Return a Wallet
OK haven’t hit a concept like this so far in the competition. Player actions generate currency for the GM. Squishy resolution system. What’s the logic behind that choice? Not saying that’s bad, I’m just curious about the thought that went into that. What do we gain from that? I like random tables so this is pretty cool. Reminds me of Fiasco and could certainly be expanded. How about an app? Overall it looks fun, but slight. Could be a super easy pick-up game with fast generation tools.

1539 Automaton
Set up on page one is compelling enough I get through it despite the length. Not always true with these. But then I hit two more pages of background. Really neeed to hit me with what the game’s about at this point. You have my attention, don’t waste that goodwill immediately. I skipped pages 2-3 to find out what this game is actually about.

OK, page 4: OK we’re playing these evoAI’s. And it’s a Crime story. Android, The Automatic Detective, Caves of Steel, Almost Human, that PA thing. Collectively building a mysery: yes, I can see how that works, but I wonder how satisfying that will be. Not as much, based on my experience with that kind of play. Is that process supposed to be a model of the perceptual process of the AI characters?

OK. So I see what’s going on here: we need to playtest this. I see the machine, but I don’t know how that’s going to land at the table. There’s some super smart stuff here. And if it actually works this could be amazing. But right now I’m unsure of what kind of play outputs you’d actually get and if the mechanics might be overly complicated in places.

1537 Twilight Hotel
Heavily dependent on play consensus. Play appears to be simply establishing boundaries for shared storyteller. Very loose: “And then a Miracle Occurs” emergent story and play. The central concept: of players in a hotel isn’t bad. Perhaps we can make this more grounded: ideas for specific roles, a quirky example hotel done in depth, citations of sources.

1536 Bakehouse Brawl
OK, I like the intro hook, though I think it needs some development. Feels like an outline in places rather than a fully developed game. In other places, the designers have put together some good ideas and developed things solidly. More a question of attention or word count? I like the split in effects between the wrestling and baking elements: does a good job of bringing these things into parallel.

Getting a little punchy. I might take a break tomorrow from going through these.

1535 Flashback and Fate
Hello most confusing introduction I’ve yet read. What the what?


OK. No I’m definitely taking a break right now. I’ll do this one and 1534 Forgeborn when I can get my head around these.