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Bryan Shipp
Lead Game Designer, Room 209 Gaming
Lead Game Designer, Room 209 Gaming


So, I'm sure you've heard the news by now that Google+ is getting shut down in 10 months. A bunch of people are starting migrating now. A big question for us is, where should we move this community?

Reddit? MeWe? Discord? Something else?

I'm probably only going to be able to pay attention to one community, rather than a bunch of different ones, and since it's OUR community it's not just up to me where to move it. So...

...where would you like to go?

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Oooh, it's gone diceless! It's been years since I've gotten the opportunity to play this, and it sounds like it's changed a LOT in that time. When you've got +Jason Morningstar's praise you know you've got a damn fine game that's doing something new and fresh on your hands!
The project was ready so launched ahead of schedule!
The campaign already got its first backer, yay!
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Hi, all!

We've taken down the Early Access Rules because I've gotten word that some folks are keeping up with that instead of grabbing the Creative Commons Edition or Core Rulebook. To prevent confusion, we've flipped that product to private.

If you've already downloaded the Early Access Rules, you should still be able to look at them if you want. If you're interested in them for historical value or whatnot, just drop us a line and we can send you a coupon code that'll take you to where you can download them.


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Voting for the 2018 ENnies is now open!

Forthright Open Roleplay is nominated for BEST FREE GAME, and we would very much appreciate your support by voting for it in that category :-)

Thank you very much, and may the best games win!

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FORTHRIGHT OPEN ROLEPLAY has been nominated for the 2018 ENnie for Best Free Game!

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+Chris Spivey is good people! Check this out!
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+Jason Pitre's got some excellent pointers in here, and these four structures he identifies are well-considered.

Classic generic systems tend to be strong in SYSTEM only, or SYSTEM and SITUATION to describe "kill bad guys, get stuff" and clean mechanics for how.

Once you get into your more easily-pitched and certainly more "sellable" systems, you've got strength in SYSTEM, SETTING and SITUATION. Here's who you are, here's what you're doing, here's how you're going to do it.

SUBTEXT is where it gets trickier, because depending on how in-your-face it is, it can feel preachy. Some players don't want to have games that try to force them to "learn today's special lesson"; other players don't feel complete without a subtext to play. Should it be part of the system itself, or should it be left to the adventure designers / GMs?

Personally, I like to keep subtext low-key and subtle. For example, in Forthright, the social subsystem doesn't distinguish between truth and lies. I've had a lot of people tell me that doesn't make a fundamental sense to them, because they should be different, but ... looking around at today's political landscape, are they really? Or is all talk just boiled down to "what do you believe?" As the song goes, there are no facts, there is no truth, just data to be manipulated. I can get you any result you like - what's it worth to ya?

If subtext is too obvious, it either becomes a wall that keeps people away or preaching to the choir. That's not going to spread an idea, that's only going to radicalize it. And I'd rather folks consider ideas without the heavy weight of the designer's moral judgment upon them. I think most players would prefer that in their elf-games, too.

But, let me be clear, I'm not saying SUBTEXT is bad or should be absent. To the contrary: it should be subtext. It absolutely should be considered, and included, but once it's the pulsing heart of your game it's no longer implication, it's no longer nuance, it's obvious and unequivocal. And I'd say boring, too, because then it becomes as explicit as saying "all orcs are evil."
Design Framework - The Four Structures

Every failure has made me a better designer. Seeing the fail states if games, either in playtesting or after publication, has shown me a dozen different areas where I can hone my craft. Recently I decided to step back and look at the broader patterns which highlighted four different core design structures that need to be carefully tended in order to produce a compelling outcomes.

Every game can be viewed as a combination of four distinct structures, and the balance of effort among these areas will vary greatly depending on the nature of the project. How you combine these elements is an important decision for any designer and it's worth your attention. Two of these structures (System and Setting) are well trod territory, but I rarely see mention other two (Situation and Subtext) and wanted to share my framework more broadly.

System consists of the rules and procedures of play. This is all about how you play the game, and how the person at the table will interact with the fiction you create. Rules mechanics and resolution systems all fall into this structure. A weak system tends to result in a game experience that depends on the personal competences of the participants in order to create a compelling play experience. The expression of a game “so good that we never touched the dice” dice stems from weak systems.

Setting consists of the fictional context for play. A setting can be as broad as a galaxy, or as small as a tiny pub where everyone knows your name. Setting often represents and existing genre of fiction, but there is plenty of room for innovation in this realm. A weak setting feels bland and generic. There is no flavour to play, and the narrative is shallow. Indistinct character personalities and lack of immersion into your roles are symptoms of weak settings.

Situation consist of the inciting incidents and the purpose of play. This is all about why you are playing the game, why your characters matter in the setting, and why the system will help them shape the narrative. A weak situation feels aimless and undirected. The participants have no strong direction or guidance in how they should be acting or what they should be doing. If the players are purely reactive to the GM's plot or the fiction feels "on the rails" it's a sign that the situation isn't giving motivation.

Subtext consists of the deeper meaning and symbols associated with the game. Every game is a reflection of the real world in some way, and the subtext is all about intentionally crafting the messages and politics encoded in play. A weak subtext feels unintentional or unimportant. The participants are driven to achieve their practical goals, but those goals don't align with the player's personalities or passions. If a game that feels uncomfortable to play, or seems to accidentally perpetuate harmful philosophies, it might be a sign that the subtext is unintentional in nature.

An example in action. My first game was titled the Spark Roleplaying Game and it was a mixed bag. The system was fairly robust and moderately well implemented in hindsight. It didn’t have a single cohesive setting, but did give some amazing tools for creating your own settings at the table as a group. The lack of a singular setting led to very weak situations and only allowed for the simplest of subtext. The game had all of the basic functionality necessary to play, but that game itself wasn’t compelling enough to stand out from the crowd.

My more recent game designs (Circles of Power and After the War) have done dramatically better in part due to the fact that I have very intentionally done some heavy design work with regards to the situation and the subtext of play. A game about wizards might be fun in it's own right based on the system, but anchoring it on the situation of revolutionaries from marginalized communities has made it sing.

The 8 Structural Questions.
Consider answering these questions to explore how these different structures fit into your own game projects.

1. What does your system encourage players to do at the table?

2. What is the most important mechanic, rule or procedure in the system, and why is it key?

3. What about your setting is mundane, relatable and human?

4. What about your setting is wondrous, fantastic, and exciting?

5. What is the situation that encourages the players to interact with each other in play?

6. What is the situation that encourages the players to interact with the setting in interesting ways?

7. What kinds of player behaviors are encouraged by the combination of system, setting and situation? ]

8. What is are implications, morally or politically, of those behaviors?

Do you think this framework could be of value for your own designs? Am I missing something in my presentation, or does it run contrary to your experiences? Let me know in the comments and share freely.
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And now for part two of an Actual Play session of Home of Lost Hope, currently available on DriveThruRPG and IndiePressRevolution!

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This is rather sad. I'm of the mind that if you're such an asshole people don't want you around them, you should take that opportunity to rethink your life rather than trying to legislate them (Sherman Act hahahahahaha) accepting/tolerating you.
Alert -

There is currently a Facebook thread screenshotting posts by people who raised concerns about the Origins GoH situation. They are also digging into personal information about people and this could lead to doxxing and is already trending into potential harassment. If you see comments like this on Facebook or elsewhere, please report them and don't engage.

Consider notifying people who may be at risk so they know what's going on. I've Facebook messaged some people and I shared on Twitter too.

So sorry for the bad news!

thread in question:
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Home of Lost Hope is now available in Print and PDF!
Home of Lost Hope
Home of Lost Hope
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