I’ve resolved to update the blog weekly with new listens, rather than the ad-hoc “when I get to five”. Here’s this week’s worthy listening.
Stop, Hack and Roll: Advancing Playbooks
PbtA discussion and design. This episode discussed a kind of piecemeal assembly process to not only characters but the whole game (settings, situations) using playbooks that focus on a given trope or genre rather than representing a character. I think they ask the question “why just characters? Why not locations or scenarios as playbooks?” to which I draw your attention to Beyond the Wall. OSR not PbtA, and perhaps a different idea of “playbook” but still a self-contained genre delivery system for players and GM.
Anyway, one other bit of discussion was around what it means if your game has no move for the situation. Does it mean you default to a generic or “backstop” move (Defy Danger/Act Under Fire), or does it mean you automatically succeed or fail? Not an obvious answer. I’ve had exactly this kind of discussion with other people, and I fell down on the “you just don’t do that because it’s not relevant to the game” side (which isn’t exactly the argument here, but relatable). Anyway both hosts make a compelling case for their side. Good stuff.
Frankenstein’s RPG ep 1
This is the first episode in a new podcast about mashing together bits of system that do the best job for chosen duties, and in this episode they tackle character generation and social interaction, and by sheer coincidence I listened to this one after I wrote the copy for the Stop Hack Roll episode above and I was delighted to hear Beyond the Wall getting some love since I’m a long time fan (interview with John Cocking and Peter Williams; also StormHack! was influenced by BtW’s playbooks, and I’ve got some fan stuff around here somewhere for a BtW game set in Garth Nix’s Sabriel setting).
Anyway, this is a great high concept and the host and guests have a nice rapport, and it touches on a really useful bit of game design namely learning from past examples, rather than abstract musing. Good guests too, with familiar names coming up in subsequent episodes.
Mega City Book Club ep 139: The Invisibles
One of my all time favourite comic book series this episode really nails it with the commentary: on how King Mob is a fiction suit for Morrison, on how this is kind of transitional for Morrison but similar to his more introspective stuff like the later The Filth, and how Dead Man Fall is possibly the greatest episode in the series and perhaps of anything Morrison has written, ever. Plus there’s the comments on how The Matrix ripped off The Invisibles, remarks on the artists for the first and second arcs and how the second arc was particularly brave/challenging for the audience (which subsequently declined). I too love Steve Yeowell’s art in the first arc and I can’t imagine what it would have looked like if it had been illustrated by Jill Thompson. Other interesting remarks are about how in the 90s there was no internet and therefore no readily available info on conspiracy theories, meaning such fringe knowledge gained a kind of currency; and how this is to Morrison what the Sandman is to Gaiman. I’m really looking forward to the podcast revisiting the subsequent series.
Orlanth Rex’s Gaming Vexes ep 12: Complexity
Some familiar voices (in common with the Frankenstein’s RPG episodes) discuss Complexity in games, what it means for system and setting, and how this affects play and decision making. Really worthwhile (and well moderated) discussion.
The Loremen S3ep59: Edinburgh Castle
What’s a reliquary?
It’s a bit of a saint… they’re usually elaborate in the shape of the part that’s inside… the resting place of… Christ’s foreskin or whatever it is. There’s about nine of those
What? Was he a cat?
Fear of a Black Dragon: Death Ziggurat
Always good value, Tom and Jason dissect The Death Ziggurat for Mork Borg. This episode shines for the discussion on life in a cold climate, how people speak, dress, move, help one another, get resources, and cross frozen rivers.
What Would The Smart Party Do? 90s Magazines
The Smart Party’s latest episode has been rightly praised by UK gamers of a certain age. This episode features Gaz, Baz and Dirk the Dice from the Grognard Files talking about the 90s PageMaker aesthetic for DTP, hand-drawn adverts with fax numbers on them and other oddities about transient roleplaying print media.
This episode is a thematic pairing with The Invisibles episode (see above) in that it talks about a very different, pre-internet era of games and communication between gamers. In the 90s I ran The Invisibles as both a Mage campaign and then as Department V which ripped off Grant Morrison’s Division X from issue 25 (which ripped off Department S and The Sweeny). As the chaps aluded to, so many games went “a bit David Lynch” in the 90s with Vampire and clones, Kult, The Whispering Vault, even AD&D with Dark Sun (which I always wanted to play), and past me is certainly guilty as charged.
Strong nod to the notion that if you want to play a WW game, you get the core book, end of. VtM 1e forever. Although I kind of take issue with the remarks about Vampire LARP. I didn’t like it for the way that the game became all about a club of fanged supers rather than Near Dark style outsiders (which is why the first edition is superior to the second) but as for the social awkwardness if anything it did the opposite, it was our goth club where we could connect with likeminded people and swap eyeliner and issues of Sandman. Functionally we’d already been doing this kind of game for a few years though (a sort of cross between a weekly in-room LARP and PBM turnsheeted game) so it felt natural.
While I was listening I was having my first COVID 19 jab. Thanks to the age-based tranches and local demographic I was treated to Soundgarden and Dead Can Dance T-shirts and a burgundy velvet jacket. At least I knew I was in the right place.