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Andy Kitkowski

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Trying to "reshare" to Public, looks like a G+ bug...
I played the Dracurouge RPG yesterday. Holy crap. I've never seen a game blend (to go back to 2003 for a sec) so much hard gamism and narrativism in one thing. An incredible experience. I'll have to contemplate on it, read a bit more into the book, and write up a post on it.

In short, it's kind of like a Dice Fiction (read: Shinobigami) game, small book which includes replay, meant to be played in one-session stories. The setting is an unending night, a Germanesque vampire fantasy kingdom. The players are vampire knights who protect their lands from the curses brought by the sealed sun, and vampires who have Fallen. Very gothic Vampire Hunter D feel.

But in short: There are only two types of scenes: Talk and Fight. You use a simple combat map for combat. You use the SAME combat map for fight scenes. You all have Noir (physical combat) powers that do "black damage" during the combat scenes, and Rouge (intimacy, love, romance, emotion) powers that do "red damage" during the talk scenes. And in the last combat scene? All limits are off, and baddies do not have "red an black" HP, they just have "HP".

Which means that in the final battle - like I actually did in the game - you can stab an evil count for 1 damage in the first round, then gently caress his cheek and whisper in his ear for 4 damage in the second round, then escort him to the Garden area hand in hand in the third round where you shoot slow motion crossbows at him for 2 damage.

Your only real resource in the game for tracking (like hit points) is your relationships with everyone and everything around you. Relationships are hit points. Relationships are everything. Burning, building, changing, tagging, resetting, growing.

It's fortune in the middle (roll the dice first, then decide where they go).

I have not been excited about a design like this in like... well, since I picked up Shinobigami basically. Incredible.

Also, the author is Kamiya Ryo, of MAID and Golden Sky Stories. Whaaaaat.

Only problem coming in from being JSL (Japanese as a Second Language), is that it's VERY Kanji-nuts. Other fantasy games will use contemporary words and katakana for many medieval fantasy words. Dracurouge specifically goes in the opposite direction; every ability and skill and resource has an old kanji-heavy poetic reading that sends even my adult Japanese friends scrambling for their dictionaries. I picked up (then forgot/ejected; need to go back and actually Learn it) a truly astounding amount of vocabulary from this one session. It started with "Oh, and when you refer to others, you don't use "sama" or "anata", you use (cue specific totally unused in modern life heraldry words)". Utterly fried my brain, and I must say I was maybe like follow half of the dialogue as spoken (instead, it took me like up to 5-10 seconds to digest and understand what was being said; imagine being an ESL student who "likes school theater", and being brought to a full production of King Lear). It was an extremely enriching experience.

More later!

Wait a minute: Now even "Public" posts in G+ are not viewable to people unless they log into Google Plus now?

I shared a post to twitter ( ); friends reported getting a 404 error. I signed out of Google and tried the same URL, and it too gets a 404. I log back in, and I can see it.

Is there some kind of global setting that I missed?

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So, video game Kickstarters. Any folks have thoughts on recent deliveries?

Here's some random and incomplete thoughts. In short, I really don't do video game Kickstarters anymore. They're far more volatile than other analog game projects: I've backed some that looked almost complete but disappeared into ether; I've passed on others that later came out and were awesome (and bought and played at normal price, no regrets).

* Most frustrating experience is backing a game, seeing it come out on Steam, then just a few weeks later see it in a HumbleBundle or Steam Sale for less than what I backed it for. It's not even about the money, I can't put my finger on it, it just doesn't rub me the right way. Same thing about tabletop RPGs I see dropping on Bundle of Holding less than 3-4 months after release. Seriously?

* Rain World dropped! I backed it because it looked cute and love all post apocalypse media. Found it frustrating and not very fun. After about an hour of play, I uninstalled it. Mixed/poor reviews.

* Torment: Tides of Numenera came out. I again love the far-far-far-future setting concept, so if nothing else I want to play it more for the visuals and ideas than the story and dialogue. But in the few years it took to drop, I've gotten too busy for these kinds of long term isometric games... Won't uninstall it, but wil likely wait for Golden Week to sink into it. Mixed reviews.

* Cosmic Star Heroine dropped. I had to remind myself of what it was about, and that I backed it (way overdue). But it's got lots of positive press.

* Hollow Knight I did NOT back on KS. I picked it up on a whim after seeing it and its reviews, and has become my favorite game of the last year next to a AAA P4 release (Horizon Zero Dawn). EVERYTHING about this game is near-perfect, and I've become an instant fan of the studio. Great soundtrack, design, and gameplay. It is brutally hard at times, though, but I'm 40 years old and have no problems with firing up CheatEngine to set the game speed to 0.7 (70%) to get me through many of the boss battles before ragequitting.
Hollow Knight alone? A-. Hollow Knight with Cheat Engine, slowing down some of the boss battles a bit? A++.

* Night in the Woods This game is wonderful and makes me happy to be alive. It's a more hipstery, more jovial Life is Strange but with animal people. It's like Gilmore Girls meets Juno, sometimes heavy topics about adulthood framed as an animal town. I have not finished it yet, but it is very, very good.

* Meriwether is still happening. I played a beta release, it was sluggish and blocky, but still extremely unique and satisfying. I actually am looking forward to this release. They're WAAAAAAY over deadline, but they're producing regular results, so folks are not complaining.

* Undertale - Funny story: I backed this on KS. I forgot I did, and bought it later on Steam for full price. Doesn't matter, this game is incredible and I don't mind.

* Harvest - This was the game that taught me that, no matter how awesome and developed it looks, the creator can still fuck off with your money without a trace. What a loss, it looked like a great concept.

* Barkley 2 is still in development hell. Around the time folks start giving up, the devs post an update where you can tell that they have actually been working on it all this time, and are just as embarrassed as anyone that its taking them so long. Still. When it drops, it will either be one of the best indie games of all time, or a total mediocre wreck.

I've backed other games, some which delivered, some still in dev hell, but the above were the most notable ones in my head.

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PERSONA 5 Non-spoiler warnings of sorts, as I just remembered it's dropping in English in a day or so.

I picked it up last year. I love the story and most of the characters. The story is wonderful, involved and features lots of good "people problems". The concept of the team in P5 is really, really cool; right up there with the bonding and teamwork that came out in P3. The graphics are excellent. It's got a non-linear narration (not a spoiler, the game literally starts that way) that is very creative and effective. Best storytelling of the series, IMO.

The fact that it's set in Tokyo is Woah, because it features a lot of my hangouts and even a location right by where I used to live. Lots of flavor.

Two warnings: One is a gameplay one, the other a cultural one.

Gameplay: Despite loving it, I haven't finished it. Ran out of steam. There's a number of, let's call them "dungeons", and I'm on one dungeon, with two more dungeon (and two "months" or so of gameplay) before it ends. The same thing happened in P4 (despite having played P3 to death, getting all the Persona etc way back when)... It suffers a bit from just being too goddamn long, and there's only so much enjoyment you can squeeze out of doing the same basic thing (find monster weakness, attack weakness), over and over with little variance. A kind of gameplay issue.

I found out lots of my Japanese friends had a similar issue. Love the story, but after a while just really got sick of the gameplay, and at one point had to kind of grudge-fuck their way through the gameplay to get to the rich story at the end, often lowering the difficulty to "super easy" just to get past all the repetitive battles once and for all. If Cheat Engine were possible on P4, I'd have boosted my levels and turned off random combat, just so I could get through the levels that much faster.

Not to say all will have that problem, mind. For example, I recently uninstalled Witcher 3 after putting a lot of time into it (about halfway through the main quest, but completing LOTS of side quests), again because it just felt too damn long, and no amount of awesome story could keep me exited to kill more dudes with the same combos and equipment and methods over and over (W3 had me longer, because you can activate abilities in different ways to change your own gameplay experience. Still).

So if "game length fatigue" is a thing, and it's a thing you experience (perhaps even in a previous Persona game), just know that P5 has a ton of it. It has so much awesome to make up for it, but it's still there.

Culture: You go to the Kabukicho. Whatever, I hung out a lot there in college with friends, drinking and raving and clubbing. Kabukicho is next to 2-cho-me, which is basically the nightlife version of Grenwich Village, and features the highest concentration of gay bars in the world.

P5 features a bar as a setting (that is, one of your regular Commu is there, you can work there etc) which features a cross-dressing mama-san. Which is an actual thing that really happens. Said mama-san has typical "gay best friend" lines, and does add some humor, but is not there as only comic relief, and is not the butt of simple lowbrow jokes. Thumbs up. Awesome.

...however, there is a gay couple in the game (and as far as I know, the only gay couple featured in the game) that you run into as part of the main storyline, which ARE the butt of simple lowbrow jokes, because they're gay and that's funny and scary. In short, aggressive gay dudes bother the main characters and try to pick them up a few times. They appear in other parts of the game, but (to date, that MAY change later, as mentioned I haven't played through to the end) always as corny comic relief like walking stereotypes ala "The Blue Oyster Bar" from Police Academy.

Of course, none of the main characters or secondary characters (save mama-san) are openly bi or gay (again, yet ). And the only very gay ones are comic relief.

Given the presentation of other adult material in the game (including some VERY adult material, no spoilers, but one can google "Deriheru") that's treated very well, the above is but a few minutes in a sea of story. I believe we can chock it up to "we can enjoy problematic things", without burning it down because they got one thing wrong.

Still, it leaves that kind of bad taste that you get in your mouth, like when watching like a beloved 80s or early 90s movie (or 70s-80s era stand-up comedy ala Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney, etc), and get reminded in a point blank blast to the face that homosexuality was the punchline of jokes. Blah.

Oh, Soundtrack After many hours of play, the soundtrack is godawfully repetitive. Easily fixed by turning game BGM down and Spotify up. I find the Deep Focus or Peaceful Piano mixes produce some cool dissonance.

Those bits aside: Fantastic game. Enjoy!

(Cross posted to Reddit's /r/Ryuutama subreddit)

Hey all: I just posted to the Kickstarter, but long story short the First (English) Ryuutama supplement is still on track, and will come out this year. I'm finishing up the last of the additional content not in the original Japanese supplement, and wanted some feedback.

So, aside from the expanded rules staff (caravans, boats, Navigator class) and scenario ideas, I'm also including a series of small essays to give folks advice about the game. A number of topics keep coming up from time to time, so I wanted to make sure that kind of feedback made it into an official work.

To that end, I'd like to ask the group: Is there anything you'd like to see in terms of official advice? Any questions you had or concerns you had about the game, that we could aim to help you simplify?

Here's some topics we're working on now:

- Good introductory "one shot" scenarios for home, conventions, etc.
- How to get your players interested in trying Ryuutama
- How to do "Honobono" (Feelgood) GMing, and why it's actually not that important for Ryuutama (!!!)
- Advice for giving out status effects
- Advice for folks wanting to create their own monsters
- Advice for folks wanting to make their own character classes

...anything else you can think of, that you'd like to see official help with?

Interesting problem I detected: How would you handle these two things?

1) Sandboxy play: We had some group turnover recently (one of our members moved away; and we had a new member join this time as she just moved to the area): This was "session three" of a campaign, so there's not been a ton of bond change:
- How would you handle the issue of a new player joining with new bonds, vs the older players with their bonds already set?
- How would you handle the issue of the bonds with the characters no longer attending the game, with new characters appearing in the game? (cross out the previous one, freeing it up for the new character, etc? Pull extra bonds out of supplements and books?)

2) We played for four hours and had a blast. Lots of drama, exploration, worldbuilding, politics, inter-character drama, high adventure and chases and action; ...but there was no combat (just didn't feel right given the players' actions and decisions. I was thinking about shoe-horning one in the end, but it was really unnatural).

No problem, right? Well, the thing about Combat is that's where the dice rolling goes from "maybe one roll per scene" to "many, many rolls in quick succession", which leads to "high potential to fail a lot more" which leads to "more XP".

In my situation, at the end of the session, since everyone was ON FIRE and just missed the opportunity for a bag of XP because I didn't push a monster fight, I just told everyone to move up a level, flat out. It worked for the session, as a lot was accomplished, an "adventure" was complete and there was downtime int he end.

Still, was a tad unsatisfying. Any one else have other suggestions, or other alternative or supplemental XP award methods?


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Sharing this list of TRPGers that +Claytonian JP gathered. Note that he relied heavily on feedback from others to build the list (and specifically asked for women, nonbinary gamers and the like who talk publicly about games), so if you see that a notable name is missing, please post to the original thread or here, and Clay will update the list.

Note: He's not curating or excluding, but he can't add folks who have him blocked, and he can't add folks who put all their gaming stuff into Private circles. We fed him a lot of names a few months ago, but even now I realized I forgot some friends. Please help add!

EDIT: Clay confirms that you can post gaming stuff in private, as long as you expand your circles (and he can confirm it).
Okay, here is a list of people to follow on g+ if elfgames are your thing. They are pretty good examples of how and where to make interesting general gaming posts.

+everyone thanks for giving me names. People that had me blocked or whatever didn't make the list.

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Board game friends!

So, my friend Okada (designer of Ryuutama) asked me to help out his friend about a year ago: His friend Uzura and his 3-person indie game production troupe (Uzura, his wife and their friend) produce board games in Japan as a hobby, and they were contacted by someone interested in taking their earliest design and releasing it in English. However, since they really couldn't speak/read/write English, they needed help with contracts, details, and basically international licensing stuff. So I got in and helped out with all that.

Over a period of months, I worked with Iraklis at LudiCreations (who wanted to license the game): Even though it's "just a game", he showed the utmost of professionalism and care in handling the property. Given his record for publishing stuff, and the amount of time and resources he already put into the development of the game and the alternate art set, it's absolutely a done deal and I'm fully confident in the timely release of this game.

Funny thing is that even though they kick ass at development and publishing of Japanese board games, Uzura and crew are through-and-through RPG players and fans. Uzura's kinda a local legend when GMing DoubleCross and Call of Cthulhu, and now works part time at Okada's game cafe running events for players new to tabletop RPGs.

Another interesting thing - They absolutely share credit for all their designs: When it came time to write down "who designed the rules", "who did the art", "who did the playtesting" etc for the original version, even though there was clearly one person who did 80%+ of each of those things, they always share credit together: "Please just write "Circle 3D6" for each", they were very insistent on that. It's a very cool, tight collective they have.

Anyway, great people all around. Further, the game is great, and it's pretty cheap, too.

(feel free to reshare if you want)

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Service Announcement: If you like the abstract cello music that plays in the background when you start playing For Honor , you will love the work of cellist Jami Sieber . All of her albums appear to be on Spotify.

Their music direction was probably something along the lines of:

Producer: (plays the first track from any Jami Sieber album)
Musicians: ". . ."
Producer: "Yeah, just do basically This Here."

Specifically, while I love her album Unspoken (appears on Hearts of Space from time to time), Hidden Sky and Timeless are what you're looking for. Queue up track one and let it play through. Note: Sometimes they get a little weird, like the 10th track "Mandlovu Mind" (the only one with actual voice) is breathtakingly creepy . (track one on Hidden Sky)
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