Archive for the ‘games’ Category


About “Lair”

September 24, 2007

Tonight I’m listening to John Debney’s soundtrack for Lair1, one of the much-hyped titles unique to the PS3. The score is excellent — evocative, textured, exciting without being immature — to the point that I went to check out whatever I could find about the game’s setting at the official website. Go there, click on the Behind the Scenes link and see what may be the best concept art gallery I’ve ever seen on a video-game’s website. It’s not just pretty, but informative. It really makes me want to know more about the designers were intending for the game to be (since their testimony is the closest I’ll probably ever get, since I vow to never buy a PS3). Dragon-riding sky-knights duking it out in a war-torn, post-apocalyptic fantasy world with a full orchestral score? Sound’s terrific. Too badaboutthe game, …though.

Music: John Debney, “Elegy”

1. I wouldn’t have known it was even released if I hadn’t searched for it, since iTunes does such a lousy job of listing, cataloging, and announcing their soundtracks.


Gamer Weirdness: Example #91

August 30, 2007

When you’re able to back up and see gaming discussions from afar, you have a chance to appreciate their magnificent weirdness. Here is a statement from RPGnet’s forums that would probably be alarming in your regular life:

“I will always downplay cannibalism…”

This reminds me: When our good friend Oscar came to work for the company, he sat down to play in a long-running D&D campaign with some of our coworkers. He didn’t know much about the game. During the first session, one of the players, in a panicked moment when the threat against their characters became clear, said this:

“Oh no! That means we’re probably being watched by beholder-kin on the near-ethereal plane!”

Yeah, what the fuck does that mean, right? This kind of immersion in the utterly crazy is part of what’s great about RPGs, isn’t it? At the moment that statement was made, all but one person at the table were intellectually involved in the fictional story and fantasy world that they were able to take in that idea with a sense of actual menace and excitement. “If we are being watched by beholder-kin in the near-ethereal plane, we’d better come up with a plan before they blast us with their magic eye-rays!”

But for Oscar, this was alien speech coming out of the ordinary mouths of his co-workers, not their characters. Take one step back, and it all gets weird.

To me, those people who can’t take steps forward and back — who can’t appreciate the oddity of the game as ludicrous, or who fancy themselves too cool to enjoy their own imaginations — are the ones missing out.


Thinking Ahead to Mage: The Awakening

July 29, 2007

How much game-related talk is right for this venue? On the one hand, I want very much to write in greater depth about the games I’m working on and playing. On the other hand, I don’t precisely want to alienate people who tune out when we get to talking about dice pools, player agency, and ludology versus dramaturgy. Where’s the balance?

Right now, in the minutes between other projects, I’m writing down little notes that will soon become the Mage: The Awakening chronicle I’ll run at the office. A lot goes into preparing one of these chronicles, for me, from the general narrative terrain the game will cover (themes, atmosphere, the sorts of action that’ll happen “on stage” and the sort that won’t) to all of the choices that will inform or drive gameplay (like the sorts of character types that’ll be welcome and what sort of important decision points will be open to the players). I’ll generate pages and pages of ugly, geeky notes on this stuff, and often it ends up amounting to maybe just a handful of play sessions before real-world scheduling problems drive a chronicle into the ground.

Tonight, for example, I keep coming back to this question: “How much should my Mage chronicle resemble Ghostbusters?”


So, About WoW…

July 25, 2007

Yeah, instead of quitting, I just got my dwarf to level 61. Maybe when he hits level 70 I’ll stop playing. Or something.

But what happens to Boar if I quit?


Do I Quit WoW?

July 16, 2007

So. Should I quit World of Warcraft? I haven’t played in a couple of months now, and when I log on to kill an hour with my weird alien shaman, Airiksandir, I just look at my quest list and think to myself, “I really don’t want to do all these damned Strangethorn quests again.” It’s the same stuff again. But I’ve got 25 gold to spend, and I still haven’t seen most of the Outlands (is that what it’s called?).

The lvl 60+ zones don’t seem real well built to me. Shattrath City is an ugly bore, and the wilderness is overcrowded with monsters that really punish exploration, it feels like. But the Draenei starting area was magnificently well put together. The first 20 levels with my new character were great fun, all over again. But do I want to pay $15 a month to drag that dude to a higher level for no reason? Shouldn’t I be playing with my 360, instead? I’ve hardly touched that thing.

(And of course, right after I log in with my riffing-on-Russian-named character, I see a Draenei named Vassili Zaytsev and slap myself in the forehead. Why didn’t I think of that?)

Music: Nine Black Alps, “Cosmopolitan”


Star Wars Saga, Prelude to a Review

July 4, 2007

So far, so good. I’ve run it twice now, and except for the mockery around the office (from people who play D&D, no less), I’m just about ready to declare The Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Saga Edition the best edition of any Star Wars RPG. Ever.

I’m running six short adventures, each about one session long, to try out the game before moving on to something else. We’re doing three adventures in the “Rebellion Era,” of the original three movies, and three adventures set around the Clone Wars, in the time of the newest three movies. We’ve played one session in each era, so far, setting up an interlocking story, and except that we keep running out of time, and that table talk becomes wacky with Ewok and Robot Chicken jokes pretty quickly, it’s been a good time.

I have a real soft spot for West End Games’ old D6-driven edition (the first, especially), but this thing has a pretty cunning mix of rapid and adventurous combat, cinematic sensibilities (which is to say, it’s quick and dramatically fungible), and fiddly bits for players to earn and design characters with. If it had a few (or, even better, lots) more character options, the game would be a true delight. As it is, this is the first mass-market RPG since Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that I’ve been eager to see, and buy, supplements for.

If this is what some future incarnation of the d20 System is going to look like, then hallelujah. Why is that? I’ll let you know once I’ve put another session or two under my belt, but it mostly has to do with keeping it simple.


Parting with Books

April 16, 2007

Books are oxygen. I need them to live. It’s hard for me to just give them up.

That said, there just isn’t room in the house or the office (or the car, or in the attic, or under the house) for the ten or twelve crates of gaming books I’ve collected over the years. As part of the inevitable course of the game designer, I have reached that point where my collection outmatches my time or likelihood to use it. So I’m selling it off a slew at a time.

Okay, to be fair, my wife is selling it off. She’s the eBay expert. But don’t think this was her idea. Rather, we need the money and the space and I need to cut back on my petty, pathetic, desperate materialism. The things you own end up [t0taly pwning!!!1!] you, or something.

(My apologies to the creators of any of this stuff, many of whom are friends of mine. I understand that it’s not menschy of me to go selling this stuff under your nose, but money don’t come from nowhere.)

Some of this stuff is in good shape. Some of it really very not. And if nothing here catches your fancy, stay tuned for lots more stuff.

Get yourself something nice.

Music: David Holmes, “7/29/04 The Day Of”