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Cam Banks
Ginger Kiwi Game Designer and Family Guy
Ginger Kiwi Game Designer and Family Guy

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Last Day to Vote in the Ennie Awards!

It's my birthday, so you know what that means! It means it's the last day for voting in the 2017 Ennie Awards, which are revealed as they always are on the Friday evening of Gen Con.

This year Unknown Armies is up for two awards in two highly contested categories. They are:

Best Production Values
Thanks to the amazing art direction of +Aaron Acevedo, the endless editing of +Colleen Riley and the lovely layouts & gorgeous graphic design of +Thomas Deeny the new edition is a really high-class set of books, and I'm very happy with them.

Best Writing
Helmed by the surly and prolific master of the disturbing +Greg Stolze, this edition also features the talents of our mighty cabal of writers: +Tim Dedopulos, +Shoshana Kessock, +Sophie Lagace, +Chris Lites, +WJ MacGuffin, +Ryan Macklin, +John Scott Tynes, +Chad Underkoffler, +Monica Valentinelli, and +Filamena Young. All of these creative folks knocked their works out of the park and I feel honored to have been among them.

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Happy Wednesday, lovely people.

There are folks upset at me again on the internet, but rather than go into the details today I'd just like to share a story about my kid.

The first RPG my oldest son played was Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. You might think that having a game designer as a dad would mean you'd play some of your dad's games, but in this case we wanted him to pick something he felt interested in, and he was completely obsessed by David Tennant's Doctor at the time, so DW:ATS was the game.

(Later on he played a bunch of Marvel Heroic with me but that's a different story.)

My son had no baggage going into RPGs, other than being a fan of the thing the game was about. I'd talked to him before this about the work I did, and how RPGs worked, at least to explain why I spent so many hours at night sitting at my laptop with piles of opened D&D books around me. And when he was a baby, I would bounce him on my lap at 3am because he couldn't sleep and I was hitting Price of Courage (Dragonlance adventure) deadlines, or making stats for Raistlin, or something.

So we taught him how the rules worked pretty quick and got into the scenario, which was in the boxed set and was about a Judoon (rhinoceros alien from a very group-think-style military culture) who was different and didn't think like the others of his species. I think the general gist of the scenario is to make sure the weird Judoon heretic wasn't treated badly by his people while also negotiating some other crisis. But faced with this quandary, my kid went entirely off the script.

He mentioned how he knew how the Doctor was at least somewhat telepathic, and that the TARDIS was a sort of living, telepathic thing with a ton of power, so he came up with the plan of taking this free-thinking Judoon heretic and using the TARDIS and his own Gallifreyan brain to share that attitude with the entire Judoon species, everywhere.

He basically infected the Judoon with free and independent thought. He rolled the dice and it was totally a success and all of the Judoon's family and people came and took him back and apologized for ever attacking him for being different and weird.

My kid, who is on the spectrum, and knows about being ostracized because of some outburst or perseveration or another from his peers, came up with a solution based on his own experiences. I mean, you could argue that he'd decided to screw with an entire species' way of life and that was sort of oppressive etc, but honestly I thought it was amazing. And I still do.

I will fight every day for gamers coming into this hobby to have the opportunity to express themselves and their new, welcoming, wonderful ideas. I think that if you know me, and you know what I seek to do, you'd see that this is one of those goals that guides and influences all of the stuff I've done and continue to work on. I think we can all see something amazing in these free thinkers and rebels and young, unburdened folks who are just now picking up RPGs for the first time and looking to us to be mentors and examples.


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Everything +Levi Kornelsen says here is magic. And this is a holy grail I've never really been able to achieve, even in the most epic and sweeping success stories of my GM experience.

Here's the basic plot of a "defeat evil" story.

1. The hero is called to action against a partly-known enemy.

2. The hero collects their armaments.

3. The hero makes easy progress towards confrontation.

4. The first confrontation fails; the hero learns much more about their adversary, but is now faced with (or trapped in) a harder and more isolated place to go through to the second confrontation. (The adversary is defeated but revealed as not the real threat is also "learns much more").

5. The hard journey occurs; it is a grinding one, damaging the hero.

6. The hero emerges at the heart of or out of the bad place; a last confrontation occurs there.

7. The hero is victorious, and at least a little changed.


My assertion:

When gaming falls into this loose structure, roleplaying games tend to fall pretty flat on 4 without good and flexible prep. Additionally, many games empower but don't really change the heroes at the end; they aren't made different by their struggles, only stronger.

Beyond: Two Souls

I finished playing through this game a couple nights ago. Not quite as big an impression on me as LIFE IS STRANGE (which is still available for free this month at PlayStation Plus) but very emotionally connected. I think the difference between games like Beyond: Two Souls and LiS is that the latter doesn't have anywhere near the kind of fiddly controller-heavy activity that the former does. I am certain that some of the major plot-based decision points in B:2S were dependent on the controller and as such my inability sometimes to properly mash the X button or time the L1 and R1 buttons lead to an outcome that I don't feel like I chose.

That's where LiS beats out B2S for me. Every choice in LiS that affected the outcome of the story was mine. I didn't have to worry nearly as much about button mashing or controller skill. (There's some of that - mostly in terms of knowing when to rewind and so on - but not as much.) I owned those choices, I owned that ending. I felt a huge amount of investment in it.

I will say that watching the amazing Ellen Page move around in such flawless motion capture was pretty cool. I have binge-watched a lot of YouTube videos of her since then, behind the scenes interviews and footage of the production of the game and of her in general since the game (including her coming out speech and subsequent activism). So that's been a plus.

But on the scale of 1 to 5 where LiS is currently at a 5 along with Fallout 4 for me (for different reasons, though), I put Beyond: Two Souls at 4.

Over the Edge Pre-Playtest Information

Atlas Games is partnering with designer +Jonathan Tweet for a brand new edition of Over the Edge, the roleplaying game of trouble, tension, and twists set on the conpiracy-quickened island of Al Amarja. This is an all-new edition with new rules and some surprising changes to the setting so many fans have loved for a quarter century.

We want:
* Up to twenty committed, enthusiastic game groups
* A balance of total newcomers and old veterans
* Actual play feedback and engagement with rules
* Tasty beverages

We can handle the last one on our own, but the rest are up to you. Please consider if you can devote a little over a month (July 14 to Aug 21) to playtesting this game. If so, please drop me a line: playtest AT atlas-games DOT com.

There is always a rising movement in tabletop.

There's always a mainstream, a place where big boxes of shiny components and deluxe cardstock boards and glossy rulebooks live, where stacks of shrinkwrapped core rulebooks move like crazy out of warehouses, where colorful booths demonstrate dazzling new product at conventions.

There's always a cadre of popular designers, a community of like-minded professionals who share panels together and talk at length about their experiences and their ideas to crowds of interested fans. There's always at least two if not more companies that hire these folks, and marketing teams, and warehouse crews, and enjoy benefit packages or at least access to a soda machine in a break room.

But there's always a rising movement, a new breed, a gathering of fresh ideas and radical thought and dangerous suggestions for how to break through the ceiling or pierce the illusion or change the hearts and minds of gamers. Sometimes there's more than one, and in the shadow of the mainstream behemoths they bicker and fight or occasionally nod respectfully at the others, as they send another new idea out into the world through a blog or a print-on-demand book or a Kickstarter.

It's unfair to tell people that there's nothing new under the sun, that their exciting new community of idea-makers and designers is just the latest in a cycle of idea-makers and designers, and that some of them will reach that height they aspire to and join the choir of mainstream voices while others burn out on a huge project they couldn't complete, and yet others never leave the movement, they're happy enough designing games and blogging and talking to each other in the scene, for as long as the scene lasts.

For today's mainstream tabletop professionals were, in many cases, in most cases, yesterday's rising movement, the struggling artists and radicals and thought-leaders of the revolution. And tomorrow, some of them might transition on to a lucrative career in video games, working horrible hours but welcoming heftier paychecks, or they might throw up their hands and say "to hell with this!" and find a different career entirely.

There is always a rising movement in tabletop. We should cheer them on, we should see what they are doing, and we should critique their games or challenge their ideas. But for as much as it's unfair to say, it is also true that those who feel strongly that there has never been a movement such as this... are walking the path of others who, like them, felt as strongly about their own.

Gods bless all of us, designers, gamers, new ideas, old guard, the cycles that go 'round and 'round. Gods bless all of us.

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Sixteen hours left. All stretch goals unlocked. Max value. Mighty supporters. If you haven't checked it out yet, now's your chance.

Looking for artist recommendations to illustrate in seinen manga style similar to that of Neon Genesis Evangelion and other giant mecha/supernatural forces serials. 

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With less than a week to go, CORTEX PRIME is approaching $65,000 in pledges and that means:
* Another group of designers is added to the project!
* Everyone who backs the project gets even more content!
* The pledge levels with print copies of the Spotlights are even better value!

Do you have a favorite Cortex story? Share this link and let me know!

Let's talk gonzo!

When I say "gonzo" in connection to a tabletop RPG setting or rules, what comes to mind?

What does a gonzo setting or game entail for you?

What examples exist in tabletop, and what makes them gonzo?
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