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Emily Care Boss
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Emily Care Boss

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At Our Many Games we're collaborating with Why I Need Diverse Games (http://ineeddivgms.info/) to hear about and and get the word out about analog role playing games. 

To better serve the tabletop community and show that there are many tabletop gamers/LARPers and game creators of colour, in collaboration with Why I Need Diverse Games; we’ve created a #DiversifyTabletop Directory in the same spirit of their #DiversifyStreaming2K15 form.

Thanks so much for your help, +Tanya D. 

To submit your info for the directory; Go here: http://bit.ly/1hmf9IE

#DiversifyTabletop

To view the directory and expand your gaming horizon’s you can go here to see the responses as they are entered: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1e128RS7N91ra30vqBduTZwj8W-17wOp5ElcUhuUGwLw/edit#gid=209238756

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1WLGUkXpyGAHkbUBdqDRiNBGMxRBRkNEh5bAgUNQ7Ty4/viewform

Pinging +Ajit George +Chris Chinn 
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#DiversifyTabletopYou're a POC tabletop or live action gamer/game maker? Want to promote yourself? Well you are in luck! Using the information collected here, we are going to profile/promote POC tabletop players/makers at #INeedDiverseGames & Our Many Games (OMG). Please complete the form below. We will have a public link to the results, so folks can find your games, and follow your work & hopefully meet you at conventions. Please keep that in mind as you comple...
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This is great, Emily!
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I'm tremendously proud to work on the War Birds Kickstarter with +Mo Jave, +Ann Eriksen+Kira Magrann,  +Shoshana Kessock and many others to capture more of the lost or forgotten stories of women during World War II. We are so close to funding Shoshana's Keeping the Candles Lit!! (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/721113354/war-birds-0/posts/1312123) I'm hugely pulling for this story of personal struggle and cultural resiliency. 

Working on the anthology, has brought back so much of what I know--and don't know--about the War, how it intersected with my life, and that of the women in my family. I was born in 1971. Only 26 years after World War II had ended. To put this in perspective, it was as close as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is to us now.

When I was young the War felt like a distant memory of my culture, but looking back now I can see that it was all around me. I was feeling the echoes of the inundation that happened during the war. +Hannah Shaffer and +Rebecca Slitt, working on a mini-game about women working in advertising in WWII for the War Birds game contest (http://www.unrulydesigns.com/2015/07/23/war-birds-design-contest-announced/) shared stories  with me about how every piece of advertising--from tooth paste to nylons--hearkened back to the war effort at that time.  Even later, during my childhood it suffused popular culture still. From the Million Dollar Movie Mr Roberts on Saturday afternoon about military maneuvers in the Pacific, to Bugs Bunny doing his Super-Bunny military duty, the media of my day still reverberated with patriotic calls to duty.

The contrast with current events happening during my lifetime could not have been greater--when I was born we were deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War and discontent with war, the government and the military were at an all time high in the US. It gives me some small window into the tremendous generational clashes that went on. 

The war is part of my family history. Both my grandfathers were veterans, and my mother's father, Arthur, served in WWII. Visiting the aircraft the Intrepid many years later, I was overwhelmed by its immensity and wondered at how he felt serving on a similar ship. He and my grandmother Ida married before he shipped out, their wedding photo is a picture perfect from the era: Ida with her hair short and looking so young, and Arthur in his Navy whites.  He came home safe and sound and they had 9 healthy children together. 

Both my grandmothers worked during the war. My father's mother, Carol was a gifted artist and seamstress. She drew patterns, like those for Simplicity or McCalls, and during the war drew plans for aircraft. A job where she met my grandfather, Bobby. Though the marriage didn't last, they had four children together, and she painted throughout her life until she lost her eye sight. Some years before she died, I spoke with her about her life. And in between saying "I don't know why you want to know about this!" she talked about raising her children and her life before marriage, and she spoke with pride about her work during the war. And though she struggled with other issues, I do see very clearly in her life the price exacted on women by marriage and all the expectations of raising a family. 

When I thought about working on War Birds, I was drawn to find a story from the Pacific Theater, wanting to learn about women's lives there. Also to look at the flip side of US patriotic visions. The devastation visited on Japan, Germany and many other countries by the US during the war is inconceivable, and looms large though largely repressed in the background of our cultural memory.

In doing some research, I found the Battle of Okinawa, the massacre of civilians and later widespread rapes of Okinawan women by US forces and Japanese soldiers. A group of nurses doing desperate duty in the final days of the offensive, so many lost their lives. And the struggle of Okinawan women and men dragged on. "Liberated" from Japan and governed by the US for two decades. Colonized first by Japan, then by the US, the Ryukyuan women and men of Okinawa suffered and fought to control their own lives and destiny. 

The Wedding Party was inspired by one book I read Women of Okinawa: Nine Voices from a Garrison Island, with personal narratives of the women's lives. One woman had married a GI some decades after the war, and her story captured so much of the inter-generational conflicts, hopes and injuries.

The story in the Wedding Party will use a similar situation with fictional characters, and add others--the bride's mother and her work and trauma during the war, the bride's sister, who is later part of the student demonstrations against US governorship and who fights for Okinawan self-determination.

It's a sensitive story. I'm looking now for connections with people in Okinawa or in the US who are working still with Ryukyuan women and the larger Okinawan community to collaborate with. I'm a west-european/teutonic descended woman from the US, it's not my story, but I hope to be able to be a steward for the memories. To help these stories reach others, and to be advised by and be a benefit to those whom it represents. 

And I hope to honor the lives of those in my family by engaging with the war in my creative work, while at the same time being aware of the full legacy of my country's actions. Patriotic songs side by side with flag burning in the streets--my childhood in the 70s calls for awareness of all the many facets of this time and our shared lives, crimes and sacrifices. 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/721113354/war-birds-0

#wehavealwaysfought  
Unruly Designs is raising funds for War Birds on Kickstarter! An anthology of live action games exploring the untold stories of the experience and contribution of women during World War II
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That sounds a really interesting perspective to bring into the anthology.
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Interview with +John Kim  and new site for the Indie RPG Awards
Recently, I sat down (virtually) with John, and picked his brain about games and design theory. This is the first in a series of interviews I'll post at the Last Chance Noir blog. I got to hear some updates about the Indie RPG Awards which began back in 2002, started by +Andy Kitkowski, and is now hosted by John. It's a wonderful spotlight on indie games, giving a look-back of many of the games from more than a decade of small press-publishing. Here is the new url:

http://www.indie-rpg-awards.com

Nominations for 2014 are now open. The designer, or anyone can submit a game to be showcased and entered for consideration for all of the awards. Some of the games already submitted for 2014 are Dream Askew, Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine and SexyTime Adventures.

Hope to see your new game there, too!

http://www.indie-rpg-awards.com/2014/registered_games.shtml

http://www.blackgreengames.com/lcn/2015/5/20/interview-with-john-h-kim
An interview with John H. Kim, host of the Indie RPG Awards and Role-Playing website.  John, you've been involved in role playing games by writing, running and documenting the industry since the early 1990s. Your encyclopedic website is a great resource for people who want to learn about the successive waves of game design, and spotlighted women designers.You've written for the Knudepunkt (the Nordic larp convention) companion book...
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Last day for the +Bundle of Holding Indie Spring Festival Bundle! I talk about Spione and some design themes throughout the games here. 

Thanks so much to everyone who has already contributed!!!! We hope you enjoy the games, and are very glad for your help to raise money for the Mines Advisory Group.
 
+Bundle of Holding: *Indie Spring Festival, * Spione & the Power of Tabletop Freeform Design
As the deadline looms, the final game I'll spotlight as part of the Indie Spring Festival (https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival) is +Ron Edwards' Spione (http://adept-press.com/story-now-series/spione/).  _Spione_ is one of the earliest written of the games in the bundle and in many ways was a precursor of the others and the movement in game design they represent. This game is a capstone to the collection and embodies recurring themes seen in the whole group. These games exemplify the structures that can make tabletop freeform a powerful and elegant form of design. 

*_The goal is for the reader to arrive at his or her fictional Berlin, in
two ways: (1) using it to create spy-stories of one’s own (the Story
Now part, described in the final part of this book) and (2) arriving at
perhaps new or at least reflective thoughts about the Cold War and
its relationship to our lives today.*_
--From Spione, Ch. 1: Introduction

Spione is a game of cold-war spies and intrigue written by the creator of influential indie classics such as Sorcerer and Trollbabe. Spione uses a rules-lite, structured system to bring you to confront the personal price and ethical cost of spying, that caps off our collection. The first and largest portion of Spione the book is an engrossing summary of the key organizations and important players of the Cold War, as well as discussion of the English language fiction surrounding the era.

The choices made, of material and presentation are all focused on creating an era that the players can embrace--to make "his or her own fictional Berlin." There are multiple maps of Berlin during the different decades, and one of the steps of setup is to determine what era the game will take place in. Agencies active during that time, examples of historical events, different pressures on the nations during that time inform the characters created, and the missions they are assigned through Dossiers. 

*What happens fictionally, and what it means, evolves through the
activity itself. It’s not like a screenplay or stage-play; it cannot be preset. Everyone involved simultaneously acts as authors and audience for a story that gets created right there: Story Now.*

The in depth research Edwards devoted to Spione supports a deceptively simple game of cat and mouse espionage, embedded in a tale of personal sacrifice, betrayal and loss that comes from the deception involved in 20th century spycraft. He calls his system Story Now--emphasizing the shared nature of the storytelling and world portrayal. All come to the table with the same ability and empowerment to craft the tale.

Each player champions a character and may narrate for or play another--one or more is a spy, and others are civilians in their life, people they spy upon or answer to. The characters lives are frames in brief passages of play, called Maneuvers: dialogue, description, an action taken, a scene set. Until the characters come to a Flashpoint: a moment of crisis or climax where perhaps desperate actions must be taken to determine how the course of the spying falls out. Will the spy betray himself to his wife to reveal that she's been followed home by an enemy? Will a foreign spy handler turn a spy to betray their country, out of hope of relieving some secret debt, shame or failure?  Cards are dealt out representing the characters, and may be moved by the players in certain ways. Once the final constellation is arrived at, this structures the types of narration the players may make to resolve the outcomes of the Flashpoint. Then back to Maneuvers, to see how this fallout ripples outward in their lives.

Themes in Spione and the structured freeform of the Indie Spring Bundle:

PLACE
Spione uses Place as an organizing principle. Edwards dissects a time and place and grounds it in a fictionalized version of  the city of Berlin. This is a powerful tool that supports the collaborative nature of these games. I creates a central fictional motif that can be understood, changed and used by all equally. My Misericord(e) and +Ole Peder Giæver  and +Martin Bull Gudmundsen's _Itras By_ also use this tool--having a shared city that all play groups set their games within. Each making it their own and but having a coherent politcal entity to place their characters within. +Matthijs Holter and +Jason Morningstar's  Love in the Time of Seið and +Anna Kreider's  Thou Art But a Warrior similiarly use a very specific moment in time and place the events of play. In their cases, its not a single city, but a kingdom with coherent issues and themes that the characters' lives embody and exemplify. 

CHARACTERS IN MORAL QUANDRY
Spione uses Characters in a Moral Quandry as the basis for story In Spione, players place pressure on the characters through the requirements of spying versus the normal needs of living. +Ross Cowman's  Serpent's Tooth, +Per Fischer's  Crossroads, _Love in the Time of Seið_ and Thou Art But a Warrior all use this tool to drive play. In Serpent's Tooth the malaise of the old Hero calls in the main cast to take action. Cowman intertwines this fictional theme with the mechanics of the game: as they characters take action, the players are empowered to steer the game play as well. Crossroads' stories hinge on a morally dubious situation, a temptation the characters are offered. The GM uses the magic lamp of fictional play to allow the players to see what a person will do to relieve themselves of their troubles. This mirrors the choices spies make in Spione--is my safety worth destroying my family's belief in me? Is my country's interest worth betraying someone who trusts me? Perhaps ruining their life? The characters in _Seið_ and Warrior are caught in their own predicaments. Bound by their personal hopes and the crises of their kingdoms. 

Why does this matter for structured freeform tabletop play? As +Chris Chinn, has said, these precarious moral predicaments are like "ammo." Fictional dynamite to kick your story into motion. In his game Sorcerer,+Ron Edwards asks the players to describe a "kicker", an event the destablizes a character and sets them on a narrtive arc. These games embrace this principle to provide the players an immediate direction for play, allowing their collaboration to be sure and not founder on lack of dramatic tension.

MOOD AND TONE
Spione uses Mood and Tone to give the players a shared understanding of their fictional goals. The text evokes a tone of anxiety, paranoia and moral ambiguity both through the expression of story through the narration and by priming players with the exegesis on European/US spy culture in this era. And through a mechanically simple but very structured procedure, navigates collaboration for the players through turning points and choices made about the moments of stress and high drama. +Marc Majcher's Twenty Four Game Poems and Itras By use mood and tone extensively as organizing principles. Each Game Poem is centered around a mood: it may be regret, it may be childhood nostalgia, it may be yearning, but each is a short game that eschews plot and character development over creating a contained experiences that strongly expresses a certain emotional mood. Itras By's surreal setting uses the text, illustrations and priming of the players to embrace the bittersweet tones of a 1920s/30s European city: the optmimism, the decadence, the shock and horror of dealing with the aftermath of industrial production of war. Spione in some ways is a return to the setting of Itras By, but without the comforting veil of fantasy and dream. Instead, it is with the deception and dance of espionage--hard, real, and true, and yet no less traumatized, self-deceived or full of fear. In Miseridord(e), I have sought to create a mood of adventure and community. The Lineage Trees evoke the generationgs of Guildsmembers who carry on their craft traditions. The world is one where magic can enter at will, and themes are shared and understood but the will of Fate rules: as represented by the Tarot Cards. The overall tone (whether Hopeful or Fearful, happy ending or tragic) of the story, too, is set by whether most of the Tarot Cards pulled are upright or reversed. And pulling the Fool switches all, reversing the tone of the tale.

FICTIONALLY RICH, PROCEDURALLY SIMPLE RULES
Spione's Story Now is fast paced and laser focused. Build to climax, sort the fallout and repeat. *Serpent's Tooth_, scenes provide an opportunity for characters to respond to the changs in the King, and Threats to be offered and Harm the Kingdom. Over time, the players wrest control away from the King's player, and become the new focus of hope or fear. In Love in the Time of Seið and Itras By, scenes are played that allow the players to explore the desires of the characters and the texture of the world. Then at turning points, "Yes, and..", "No, but.." and other cards are pulled that give more information about what may happen, and choices for interpretation about how what has occured may develop. In Thou Art But a Warrior, when a Knight comes into conflict--usually with an element of the world played by the player in charge of the Infidel aspects of the world--a ritualized set of negotiation phrases ("But only if...", "You ask far too much...") to craft a set of events that takes a toll on all, and deepens the crisis and tragedy of the world. The Game Poems vary in their structures, wildly: some having simple tokens that are used to keep track of who says what when, some have elements that evoke the story (candy, feathers), some simply structure a conversation or give a certain scene to play. Misericord(e) uses Tarot Cards as a random prompt to create situations filling out story profiles ("The Argument", "The Quest", "The Rescue"), and then to introduce new elements, pace play and show whether the story is tending to Fear or Hope at its end.. With two Question tools used by the players and the Storyteller to share their world and character development: players asking "yes/no" questions of the Storyteller about what might happen, the Storyteller asking a concrete, open-ended question about individual details of the world. 

Crossroads varies from the others in two ways. It uses a fairly standard--if still rules lite--process to resolve when dangerous things are attempted by characters. Roll 2d6, with success/complication/failure similar to games using +Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World engine. But overall the game uses another common structure found in structured freeform games: the set story. Each of the four characters is pregenerated, and the challenges they face and the morally questionable tasks they will be asked to undertake are pre-set. Just who will have to do what, and whether they actually do, is in question.  

Note: I've helped +Allen Varney  curate the collection of games involved, and am participating in the Bundle myself.  I've written one of these pre-views for each of the games as we went through the two weeks. 

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival #BundleofHolding   #IndieRPGs   #charitybundles 
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All your overviews of these games have been super informative as well as interesting reads. You've also sold me completely on the bundle. 
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+Bundle of HoldingIndie Spring Festival & Itras By  
Just three days left to get the Indie Spring Festival Bundle!
The second to last game I'll be writing about is the +Ole Peder Giæver and +Martin Bull Gudmundsen's _Itras By_. (http://itrasby.com/about/).  It's a sumptuous, generous game that brings seemingly contradictory elements into one harmonious, grounded yet dreamlike whole. 

The title of this Norwegian game translates to "Itra's City," which forms the setting and central organizing principle of the game itself. The otherworldly illustrations by Thore Hansen and Kathy Schad perfectly evoke this timeless early modern and eerily fantastic setting. +Jonathan Tweet and +Robin Laws worked with some of the same territory in Over the Edge, set later and with a bit more acid, a bit less opium.

Smoke climbs from the factory chimneys, paperboys sell the Morning Post. In the darkness of the cinematographer, silent movies flicker in black and white. Electricity is making its appearance in people’s homes, but still, many live without....

But right beneath this everyday atmosphere, there is another side to the city. In the middle of town, the Moon Tower looms. In a park in the most refined neighborhood, there is a society consisting of talking apes. Downtown you’ll find, or not, a street which only exists on Fridays...

The city is an invitation to a world set in our pasts, as well as in the sideways corners of our imagination. Inspired by the historical Europe between the World Wars--a time of modernity and raging optimism as well as reaction and revulsion from the horrors of war--as well as the fantastical images of that time that live in our art and popular culture. Surrealism is the by word, with the fantastic peeping out of this place which was our past like the Tower of the Moon standing silent over the sooty, gaslit metropolis of Itras By. The works of Kafka, Fritz Lang, Lewis Carroll and Lovecraft all come to mind, as well as Sinclair Lewis, Ann Petry, Dziga Vertov and Dostoevsky.

Yes, and…
The character succeeds, and achieves more than she expected. Perhaps even a bit too much…

Yes, but…
The character succeeds, but something unrelated goes wrong, for the character or someone she cares about.

The game system itself is another juxtaposition. A traditional tabletop rpg in many senses of the word: the book is setting rich, a Game Master prepares adventures, plays the city and its denizens, the players are responsible just for their characters actions, words and decisions. The way the book immediately conjurs the setting impels the reader directly into the world brings +Mark Rein-Hagen's Vampire: The Masquerade or +Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World to mind.  And yet....the engine of the game is the litest of the lite and although actions taken do come to a "does it happen" crux, the means for resolving conflicts is evocative and open ended in a very collaborative way.

"Yes, And.." and "Yes, But..." are two of the cards one can pull for resolution. The system is reminiscent of +Matthijs Holter's Archipelago (https://norwegianstyle.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/archipelago-iii/  Matthijs talks about the relationship between the games here: http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/406703)  Each card answers the question posed by the crossroads reached by the character, but also adds a twist. Adds something to build on. These are interpreted by the GM. The players are given principles to call upon, to orient them towards both accepting and adding to what the GM offers, and to help each other create something interwoven by the play group out of this strange land we all visit together.

The principles create a shared approach to play. "Getting to Know the Character," an invitation to follow and learn to know more about the character one plays over time invites the players to have an openness about what their conception of their character is and can be. An openness to letting it be changed by the world, and simply to focus on the character and its changes as one of the frames of the story, instead of having an external focus on the events of play. This calls to mind the psychological arc of characters in +Sandy Petersen's  Call of Cthulhu, and the fall into abasement and madness suffered by characters in such classic films of the era as M. and The Blue Angel.  And such improvisational foundations as "Build," "Don't Block," and "Reincorporate" provide a basis for a flowing dynamic of play. And the authors devote a chapter to discussing surrealism and how to incorporate it into play.  

Note: I've helped +Allen Varney  curate the collection of games involved, and am participating in the Bundle myself.  I've written one of these pre-views for each of the games as we've gone through the two weeks. 

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival #BundleofHolding   #IndieRPGs   #charitybundles 
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Itras By is a cool game, but it is also a gorgeous book!
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+Bundle of Holding: Indie Spring Festival & Twenty Four Game Poems 
The third of the core starter collection (https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival) is +Marc Majcher's  _Twenty Four Game Poems_ (http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/marc-majcher/twenty-four-game-poems/paperback/product-12919742.html),  a collection of short, lyrical games that make you think twice about just what a role playing game can be. 

 But what the heck is a Game Poem?

"A 'game poem', or 'role-playing poem' is a little game that you can pick up and play in fifteen minutes or so." (From the description of the game by Marc) 

All of the games are briefly written, taking just a few pages. They range in length from The Next Round, a game where you play a group of drunk friends arguing over who gets the privilege of paying for the next round (complete with loud music and everyone wearing earplugs) which  is just the length of a page, to games like First Impressions, a speed-dating game for dungeon questing adventurers, which spans three full pages. 

"There's no preparation time, nothing to get between you and immediate fun." 

The games need minimal materials, usually there is no character sheet to fill out, just a short idea of the role to embody. Behind their Backs, uses playing cards selected to match up the players with their mate--one other person who has the same number card--and one or more secret lovers, people who have the same suit as them. Drama ensues. Many of the games use ordinary objects to focus and provide tone to the game:  _Feather and Stone_ in which players play birds, and pass along the point of view using the feather; and Monsieur Praslin's Candy Shop where real penny candies are parceled out to players whose child characters please M. Praslin. To some games where nothing is required--like Three Old Men, which is simply full of recriminations between the men who secretly hate each other, and it may end in death for one, or sinking back into crochety but innocent sullenness at the end. 

"A 'role-playing poem' is a very short game, where the idea is to investigate a mood or scene or something else of limited scope."
-- +Tomas HV Mørkrid, "Role Playing Poems", Norwegian Style blog.
https://norwegianstyle.wordpress.com/2007/12/07/role-playing-poems/

This genre of games was coined by Tomas, a poet who saw the space for games that evoked certain atmospheres which may not fit in the heroic tropes of most role playing games. Simple daily life, anxiety, despair. Or emotions more evanescent and subtle. Like a poem, the focus is on evoking feelings rather than plot or character--though in the course of pursuing this, you get strong doses of both: just in surprising ways. 

For example, one of the first games in the book is All the Color has Gone, in which you tell memories, but they are washed out and stripped of color at the flip of a coin, creating an atmosphere of nostalgia and melancholy. Or, The Calais Bunker a brief and tightly timed WWII German battlefront scenario, where one of you is a traitor to the Reich. On through light and silly scenarios like M. Praslin's Candy Shop and Buster where you play with a ball, and have only three words to communicate your joy, anger or loneliness: Arf! Grrrrrr! and Awooooooo!!!!

More games these days break the adventure mold and include a wider range of moods, but Game Poems like those of Marc and Tomas, continue to offer a different kind  of game experience, and provide a rich field of writing and design for others to learn from and explore.

Note: I've helped +Allen Varney  curate this collection of games and am participating in the Bundle myself. I'll write one of these pre-views for each of the games as we go through the two weeks. 

(sorry for the brief double post of this message today. the original thread had some errors I had to fix by starting again)

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival #BundleofHolding   #IndieRPGs   #charitybundles 
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As part of my ongoing noir interview series with designers of crime fiction, and socially or psychologically analytical games, the spot light today is on +Daniel Bayn's Secrets & Lies. Dan talked with me about the brilliance of Rian Johnson's Brick, how he brings his work on experience design into game design, and the ways his rules shape the noir narrative. 

Really intrigued by his street game Tradecraft,which takes the procedures of spy communication and makes them into a pervasive game you play on the streets.  Love to pair this with a book-club reading of LeCarre's Smiley trilogy, or an in-depth read and play of +Ron Edwards's Spione (http://spione.adept-press.com/). 
http://danielbayn.com/tradecraft/

Thanks, Daniel! 

http://www.blackgreengames.com/lcn/2015/8/27/secrets-lies-noir-daniel-bayn
Hello Daniel! Thanks for talking with me about noir and crime fiction in games. First off, who is a favorite fictional sleuth of yours? Why? D: I’d like to say “Philip Marlowe,” and he’s certain my archetype, but my true favorite is… Batman. Paul Dini’s Batman, the Batman from the animated series, was a great hardboiled detective: cynical, shrewd, and often outgunned by his adversaries. My second favorite is probably Brendan Frye, f...
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Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
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Noir, Interviews and Grand Schemes
Inspired by the +Bundle of Holding Deadly Games (https://bundleofholding.com/presents/DeadlyGames) charity bundle, now on it's final day --I've started a series of interviews I'd been planning for a while. Kicking it off with a talk with +Greg Stolze about noir, detective fiction and what makes his game A Dirty World tick. Greg's game is part of the bundle, as is Dirty Secrets by +Seth Ben-Ezra, and One Last Job by +Grant Howitt. Thanks Greg for helping me get this going!

I'll be posting interviews with these folks over the next few months along with other designers of games that are noir per se, or that hit on the critical issues that make noir pertinent: such as grappling with identity, critiquing society, and dealing with impacts of modernity and disillusionment. This is a companion set of interviews I'll be gathering, along side a set I've started spotlighting people who have done a lot of work in design and curating games, as well as making strides in how we look at and think about them. That began with +John Kim and +Robin Laws, and I'm thrilled will continue this week with +Andrea Phillips

So, what's up? Why all this?

Two main things:
1) As a follow-up to my  RPG Theory Round Up post (http://www.blackgreengames.com/lcn/2014/10/2/theory-roundup). My post covered some of the trends of the 00s, but trailed off about more recent work, partly due to the proliferation of the material. As I'm experiencing it, we are in the middle of a blossoming of new thought about rpgs in specific and games in general. The Theory series of interviews will be my attempt to weave together ideas from the analog, digital and transmedia fields.
 
2) To start putting some of my own thoughts in order and share ideas about narrative that have been simmering away for a while. Noir's at the center of that. It's a genre (broadly defined) that is well represented in film, literature and games, and which is one step to the left of our typical rpg genres so provides an "in" to looking at how all of these different forms construct narrative and give us insight about the place of the authors, viewers and everything  in between. 

Last year I re-launched my website with the help of +Nathan Paoletta, and started writing a blog again. It's been about 4 years since +Meguey Baker and wrapped our Fair Game blog (which is archived online again here: http://www.fairgame-rpgs.com/ Thank you, +Vincent Baker!) But there is too much going on not to.

 It's easy to point at the incredible richness of game design--both in number and variety--but also, we are participating in some of the largest, most contentious, and I would argue most productive conversations about the hobby that has ever been. From multiple Facebook groups providing discussion and connection about the craft of larp (recreational, educational, professional, etc.), to Google+ as an often harsh, but also transformational place to not only talk & argue about what constitutes gaming, and engage in hard, hard fights about our community but to play, play, play--where, at the virtual table together, whether its private play groups or public events like +Indie+ or +ConTessa, we take our talk and make it real, forging connections and new community. And on to Twitter, where folks like +Quinn Murphy are doing some of the best current work, laying groundwork to help each of us revitalize our corner of the narrative world, and get rpgs out of the 19th century where so many of the roots of our hobby drag us back to (as well as the continuing shortcomings with respect to race, gender, class and more of the present). Claims are being made by folks far beyond our industry, like the article by +Damien Walter, claiming games as literature (http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/jun/19/the-joy-of-reading-role-playing-games). Twitter connects us with people in the mainstream in the thick of re-imagining the world. 

So, my net can't catch it all, but that's what the plan is for the part that I do. Hope you enjoy, and can't wait to see your part of what's to come!
http://www.blackgreengames.com/lcn/2015/6/18/a-dirty-world-greg-stolze
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Looking forward to reading them. Noir is my fave genre. 
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My entry to +David Schirduan's 200 Word game challenge. 
Inspired by and an add-on for +Ben Lehman's A better person.
https://plus.google.com/u/0/117301572585814320386/posts

Budget

A live action, close-to-home game that can be played in public.

Play solo or with two players.

Sit down, alone or with a friend over tea or beverage of your choice. And talk about where you've been putting your energy lately--projects, worries, work, hopes, loves, etc. Use colored paper to represent each, or jot down notes about the balance between them. 

Put that aside, then set down how much energy/time you'd ideally like to devote your time to. If you could adjust where you're putting your energy, what would you spend it on? You may set aside categories, or add new ones. 

Drink your tea, and talk about other things. Take the notes home and take a look at them when you feel like you're out of balance, or in moments when you feel centered and in a good groove.

Campaign: 
Every so often, with your friend or alone, take some time to do this again. Compare it with your past answers. 

Keep doing this periodically, so long as it helps you feel closer to finding balance. If it becomes a burden stop. When you feel in balance, let it go.

**
With thanks to +Meguey Baker for her Wishing Games, +Jackson Tegu for Temper, +J. Walton for Do-Over, Ben for A better person and +Matthijs Holter for Deal.
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You are great.
This is great.
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Emily Care Boss

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+Bundle of Holding: *Indie Spring Festival, * Spione & the Power of Tabletop Freeform Design
As the deadline looms, the final game I'll spotlight as part of the Indie Spring Festival (https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival) is +Ron Edwards' Spione (http://adept-press.com/story-now-series/spione/).  _Spione_ is one of the earliest written of the games in the bundle and in many ways was a precursor of the others and the movement in game design they represent. This game is a capstone to the collection and embodies recurring themes seen in the whole group. These games exemplify the structures that can make tabletop freeform a powerful and elegant form of design. 

*_The goal is for the reader to arrive at his or her fictional Berlin, in
two ways: (1) using it to create spy-stories of one’s own (the Story
Now part, described in the final part of this book) and (2) arriving at
perhaps new or at least reflective thoughts about the Cold War and
its relationship to our lives today.*_
--From Spione, Ch. 1: Introduction

Spione is a game of cold-war spies and intrigue written by the creator of influential indie classics such as Sorcerer and Trollbabe. Spione uses a rules-lite, structured system to bring you to confront the personal price and ethical cost of spying, that caps off our collection. The first and largest portion of Spione the book is an engrossing summary of the key organizations and important players of the Cold War, as well as discussion of the English language fiction surrounding the era.

The choices made, of material and presentation are all focused on creating an era that the players can embrace--to make "his or her own fictional Berlin." There are multiple maps of Berlin during the different decades, and one of the steps of setup is to determine what era the game will take place in. Agencies active during that time, examples of historical events, different pressures on the nations during that time inform the characters created, and the missions they are assigned through Dossiers. 

*What happens fictionally, and what it means, evolves through the
activity itself. It’s not like a screenplay or stage-play; it cannot be preset. Everyone involved simultaneously acts as authors and audience for a story that gets created right there: Story Now.*

The in depth research Edwards devoted to Spione supports a deceptively simple game of cat and mouse espionage, embedded in a tale of personal sacrifice, betrayal and loss that comes from the deception involved in 20th century spycraft. He calls his system Story Now--emphasizing the shared nature of the storytelling and world portrayal. All come to the table with the same ability and empowerment to craft the tale.

Each player champions a character and may narrate for or play another--one or more is a spy, and others are civilians in their life, people they spy upon or answer to. The characters lives are frames in brief passages of play, called Maneuvers: dialogue, description, an action taken, a scene set. Until the characters come to a Flashpoint: a moment of crisis or climax where perhaps desperate actions must be taken to determine how the course of the spying falls out. Will the spy betray himself to his wife to reveal that she's been followed home by an enemy? Will a foreign spy handler turn a spy to betray their country, out of hope of relieving some secret debt, shame or failure?  Cards are dealt out representing the characters, and may be moved by the players in certain ways. Once the final constellation is arrived at, this structures the types of narration the players may make to resolve the outcomes of the Flashpoint. Then back to Maneuvers, to see how this fallout ripples outward in their lives.

Themes in Spione and the structured freeform of the Indie Spring Bundle:

PLACE
Spione uses Place as an organizing principle. Edwards dissects a time and place and grounds it in a fictionalized version of  the city of Berlin. This is a powerful tool that supports the collaborative nature of these games. I creates a central fictional motif that can be understood, changed and used by all equally. My Misericord(e) and +Ole Peder Giæver  and +Martin Bull Gudmundsen's _Itras By_ also use this tool--having a shared city that all play groups set their games within. Each making it their own and but having a coherent politcal entity to place their characters within. +Matthijs Holter and +Jason Morningstar's  Love in the Time of Seið and +Anna Kreider's  Thou Art But a Warrior similiarly use a very specific moment in time and place the events of play. In their cases, its not a single city, but a kingdom with coherent issues and themes that the characters' lives embody and exemplify. 

CHARACTERS IN MORAL QUANDRY
Spione uses Characters in a Moral Quandry as the basis for story In Spione, players place pressure on the characters through the requirements of spying versus the normal needs of living. +Ross Cowman's  Serpent's Tooth, +Per Fischer's  Crossroads, _Love in the Time of Seið_ and Thou Art But a Warrior all use this tool to drive play. In Serpent's Tooth the malaise of the old Hero calls in the main cast to take action. Cowman intertwines this fictional theme with the mechanics of the game: as they characters take action, the players are empowered to steer the game play as well. Crossroads' stories hinge on a morally dubious situation, a temptation the characters are offered. The GM uses the magic lamp of fictional play to allow the players to see what a person will do to relieve themselves of their troubles. This mirrors the choices spies make in Spione--is my safety worth destroying my family's belief in me? Is my country's interest worth betraying someone who trusts me? Perhaps ruining their life? The characters in _Seið_ and Warrior are caught in their own predicaments. Bound by their personal hopes and the crises of their kingdoms. 

Why does this matter for structured freeform tabletop play? As +Chris Chinn, has said, these precarious moral predicaments are like "ammo." Fictional dynamite to kick your story into motion. In his game Sorcerer,+Ron Edwards asks the players to describe a "kicker", an event the destablizes a character and sets them on a narrtive arc. These games embrace this principle to provide the players an immediate direction for play, allowing their collaboration to be sure and not founder on lack of dramatic tension.

MOOD AND TONE
Spione uses Mood and Tone to give the players a shared understanding of their fictional goals. The text evokes a tone of anxiety, paranoia and moral ambiguity both through the expression of story through the narration and by priming players with the exegesis on European/US spy culture in this era. And through a mechanically simple but very structured procedure, navigates collaboration for the players through turning points and choices made about the moments of stress and high drama. +Marc Majcher's Twenty Four Game Poems and Itras By use mood and tone extensively as organizing principles. Each Game Poem is centered around a mood: it may be regret, it may be childhood nostalgia, it may be yearning, but each is a short game that eschews plot and character development over creating a contained experiences that strongly expresses a certain emotional mood. Itras By's surreal setting uses the text, illustrations and priming of the players to embrace the bittersweet tones of a 1920s/30s European city: the optmimism, the decadence, the shock and horror of dealing with the aftermath of industrial production of war. Spione in some ways is a return to the setting of Itras By, but without the comforting veil of fantasy and dream. Instead, it is with the deception and dance of espionage--hard, real, and true, and yet no less traumatized, self-deceived or full of fear. In Miseridord(e), I have sought to create a mood of adventure and community. The Lineage Trees evoke the generationgs of Guildsmembers who carry on their craft traditions. The world is one where magic can enter at will, and themes are shared and understood but the will of Fate rules: as represented by the Tarot Cards. The overall tone (whether Hopeful or Fearful, happy ending or tragic) of the story, too, is set by whether most of the Tarot Cards pulled are upright or reversed. And pulling the Fool switches all, reversing the tone of the tale.

FICTIONALLY RICH, PROCEDURALLY SIMPLE RULES
Spione's Story Now is fast paced and laser focused. Build to climax, sort the fallout and repeat. *Serpent's Tooth_, scenes provide an opportunity for characters to respond to the changs in the King, and Threats to be offered and Harm the Kingdom. Over time, the players wrest control away from the King's player, and become the new focus of hope or fear. In Love in the Time of Seið and Itras By, scenes are played that allow the players to explore the desires of the characters and the texture of the world. Then at turning points, "Yes, and..", "No, but.." and other cards are pulled that give more information about what may happen, and choices for interpretation about how what has occured may develop. In Thou Art But a Warrior, when a Knight comes into conflict--usually with an element of the world played by the player in charge of the Infidel aspects of the world--a ritualized set of negotiation phrases ("But only if...", "You ask far too much...") to craft a set of events that takes a toll on all, and deepens the crisis and tragedy of the world. The Game Poems vary in their structures, wildly: some having simple tokens that are used to keep track of who says what when, some have elements that evoke the story (candy, feathers), some simply structure a conversation or give a certain scene to play. Misericord(e) uses Tarot Cards as a random prompt to create situations filling out story profiles ("The Argument", "The Quest", "The Rescue"), and then to introduce new elements, pace play and show whether the story is tending to Fear or Hope at its end.. With two Question tools used by the players and the Storyteller to share their world and character development: players asking "yes/no" questions of the Storyteller about what might happen, the Storyteller asking a concrete, open-ended question about individual details of the world. 

Crossroads varies from the others in two ways. It uses a fairly standard--if still rules lite--process to resolve when dangerous things are attempted by characters. Roll 2d6, with success/complication/failure similar to games using +Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World engine. But overall the game uses another common structure found in structured freeform games: the set story. Each of the four characters is pregenerated, and the challenges they face and the morally questionable tasks they will be asked to undertake are pre-set. Just who will have to do what, and whether they actually do, is in question.  

Note: I've helped +Allen Varney  curate the collection of games involved, and am participating in the Bundle myself.  I've written one of these pre-views for each of the games as we went through the two weeks. 

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival #BundleofHolding   #IndieRPGs   #charitybundles 
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What Jason said.
I've been meaning to read Spione for years. Now it's next on the list.
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Emily Care Boss

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+Bundle of Holding: Indie Spring Festival & Thou Art But A Warrior
The next spotlight game from this bundle (https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival) is +Anna Kreider's   game Thou Art But a Warrior(http://browserbeware.com/tabaw/), a hack of +Ben Lehman's game Polaris (http://www.tao-games.com/polaris/). Both games take place during a moment of great change in a society: in Thou Art But a Warrior it is Iberia (Spain) after the sundering of the Islamic Caliphate, in Polaris it is an etherial starlit kingdom in the far north coming to its end with the dawning of the day. These are tragic stories, in worlds of great beauty, and heights of accomplishment. The main characters in Thou Art But a Warrior are Muslim Knights, oath bound to protect the kingdom in the face of Christian incursions and conflict within their own society.

The system used is a gmless (or distributed gm) system. Early and innovative, it is still one of the most solid of the alternates to having a single game master. For those not familiar, it takes four players in a Bridgelike manner--each with a position and role that rotates. (There are alternate rules for different numbers of players as well.) In  standard play, each person plays a lead character, a Knight, and the others around them has a particular role: the player opposite playing the adversarial forces in the world, and those to either side playing characters with a hierarchical relationship, and those with more personal relationships. With each turn, the story follows the characters through their struggle with the forces, internal and external, pulling their world apart.

This edition of Anna's game is a gorgeous rendition of a powerful game experience. The setting is compelling, the illustrations by herself and talented  convey a world often overlooked in history books in US history, or portrayed from the side of Christianity driving out intruding Muslims, instead of the fall of the multicultural
civilization of Al-Andalus--home to Jews, Christians and Berber, Arab
and muwallad, or Iberian, Muslims--and the Islamic city states or
taifas which remained once the Iberian Caliphate fell.

While the  first edition of Thou Art But a Warrior required a copy of Polaris for all the rules his version includes all of the rules to play the game making it a stand-alone game. 

Note: I've helped +Allen Varney curate the collection of games involved, and am participating in the Bundle myself. I'll write one of these pre-views for each of the games as we go through the two weeks.

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival #BundleofHolding #IndieRPGs #charitybundles 
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+Bundle of Holding: Indie Spring Festival & Misericord(e)
This weekend, my game Misericord(e) (http://www.blackgreengames.com/shop/misericorde-pdf) was added to the Indie Spring Festival Bundle. 

Misericord(e) is a mod of +Meguey Baker's game of lush storytelling, 1001 Nights (http://nightskygames.com/welcome/game/1001Nights). It  jumps off from the story-within-a-story dynamic in 1001 Nights, where one person takes the role of the storyteller and casts other players in the role of characters within the tale. I've added Tarot cards to the system for Misericord(e), used to create a starting situation, and to prompt tilts and surprises along the way.

Misericord(e) is named after the town where the events of play take place. The setting is an eastern European town in the European high middle ages (@1000-1300 CE). It's intended to spotlight the cosmopolitan and cross-continental trade and travel that happened during that time. With citizens and visitors from as far west as Ireland and as far east as China. The Guildspeople have a custom of gathering for a feast at Midwinter and telling tales. The Guild of the person who tells the best tale carries that honor through the rest of the year. So, the Guildspeople have some call to get involved in matters political, magical or full of adventure. 

The game came out of +Mendel Schmiedekamp's "Shortest Month, Longest Night" game writing contest two years ago. Misericord(e) is intended to be played in bite-size pieces Literally, I imagine people inviting friends over for dinner, making characters and the scenario over food, and then playing for an hour or three to round out the evening. You write down the characters and some story notes in the book itself, and then put it away for another night. The world develops over time, with certain characters becoming recurrent visitors.

I use a single copy whenever I run the game at a convention, so there is this lovely semi-shared world that many people I've gotten to play with have contributed to.  Erzebet the Thronegrinder is a go-to threat to the Town of Misericord(e), and King Julian the Vengeful has figured in several stories. 

Note: I've helped +Allen Varney  curate the collection of games involved, and am participating in the Bundle myself. I'll write one of these pre-views for each of the games as we go through the two weeks. 

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival #BundleofHolding   #IndieRPGs   #charitybundles 
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