Indie Gems 1 – Misspent Youth

We are in a golden age of creator-owned and independently produced roleplaying games. Countless creative designers, from all walks of life, have created beautiful rpgs that explore important issues through play.  The true innovation in games, like in all media, comes from the little-known gems. These small games are often overlooked in favour of the bigger games on the market, but they add something vital to the hobby. I hope to shine some light on these gems, so that they can be discovered anew by designers and fans alike.

Each of these bite-sized reviews describes the game overall, what kind of experience it offers to the players, and what new game design tech it offers to designers. It’s only a small taste of each of the games in question, but it should be enough to get started. Now let’s get to the games!


MissMisspent Youthpent Youth (2010)

Designed and published by Robert Bohl

Available at http://misspentyouth.robertbohl.com/

Misspent Youth is a game of teenage punk-rebels in a f*cd up future dystopia. It’s a game with a GM who portrays the brutal Authority who is killing, consuming or perverting something that matters in society. You build a dystopia that reflects on real-life bullying behaviours, then portray teenage characters who stand up to oppose it.

Misspent Youth is the most punk RPG I have ever read, and it is glorious. The characters find ways to exploit the various systems of control and bypass the iron grip of the Authority. As they struggle, they may be forced to sell out some of their characteristics in order to succeed, losing part of themselves in the process.

When I last played this game, we made a dystopic Authority who was controlling and limiting art. When a bit of creative graffiti, and some of us were accused of doing the artistic crime, I was put on the spot and fell back into my own dysfunctional defense mechanisms against bullying. I felt like my younger self, and it gave me space to consider my own youth more deeply. It was highly engaging for me as a player.

For a designer, Misspent Youth presents some beautiful pieces of game design technology. It offers a very compelling yet focused procedure for creating a dystopic society. It reinforces bleed to further the emotional foundation of the ideal game experience. It uses a relatively strong scene structure to great effect, encouraging a coherent story emerges from the player contributions. The layout is also a fantastic case-study in user experience and interface design, reinforcing the themes of the game beautifully.

Check out this indie gem, if you get a chance!

Award-Winning Game Designer

There is no easy way to say it.

It appears that, despite the odds, my little game Posthuman Pathways won an ENnie-award. One of the five judges identified this as a game as deserving of attention, and gave it the Judges’ Spotlight Award. The ceremony itself was an interesting affair with a host of technical problems that were perfectly suited to the theme of my game. At the end of the day, I wound up with validation for my little game.

Thank you all for making this possible.

ENnies Award Certificate

 

 

How to Learn Game Design – A Reference Post

At GenCon, I present a panel titled Introduction to Indie Game Design, where we hope to provide a host of resources for the panel attendees. This blogpost stands as a curated collection of resources for their use, and for anyone else who wants to get started in designing RPGs.

  1. A giant pile of resources on dropbox.
  2. Free and Professional RPGs for Game Designers
  3. Software Choices
  4. Scribus for Game Designers
  5. RPG Design Overview Sheet
  6. Basic Budgeting for RPG Publishing
  7. Design Geology
  8. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to recommend you check out the RPG Design Panelcast which is hosted on this site. There’s a heck of a lot of excellent information for you to enjoy brilliant minds.

Good luck!

GameChef 2015 – Le Lustre des Libellules

Le lustre des libellules est un jeu optimiste et plein d’espoir. Au cours de chaque session du jeu, chaque joueur joue le rôle d’une libellule. Chacune des libellules bénéficie d’un talent particulier pour aider ses copines et pour pourvoir à ses besoins. Chaque libellule est motivée par son Rêve, la Quiétude et le désir d’abandonner ses Faiblesses. Elle utilise ces trois motivations pour échapper aux dangers et pour résoudre des conflits avec les autres libellules.

Au cours du jeu, elle va satisfaire ses motivations par l’utilisation de ces Rêves, sa Quiétudes ou ses Faiblesses. Le joueur établira une partie de la personnalité d’une nymphe de la prochaine génération. Éventuellement, les vieilles libellules sont remplacées par les jeunes nymphes et le jeu continu.

Dans « Le lustre des libellules », on essaie de créer une expérience bucolique, qui célèbre la beauté naturelle et la valeur des milieux humides. On prend soin de partager et d’explorer l’innocence des jeunes libellules pour créer des histoires familiales. De plus, on peut utiliser le jeu comme une occasion de faire un commentaire social et métaphorique, afin d’ajouter de la profondeur pour les joueurs adultes. Les deux grandes inspirations ludiques sont The Warren de Marshall Miller et Golden Sky Stories de Ryo Kamiya.

Ce jeu est disponible gratis, si tu veux le télécharger Le Lustre Des Libellules .

ThousandEyesCutout

Posthuman Problems: On Technology and Society

I published a small roleplaying game last year, titled Posthuman Pathways. It’s a game about transhumanism, the importance of technology, and how it inevitably changes us. It’s a cute little GM’less game; five pamphlets in an envelope that three people can play in an evening. Designing something like that is challenging, but that’s nothing compared to the philosophical and moral challenge that it brought to my door.

Modern society is still trying to grapple with the emergence of new technologies. The technophobes fear that we shall create tools of our own destruction. The technophiles preach from the digital rooftop that these tools will bring about something greater than humanity. Both of these urges pulled on me and the game I designed.

For context, I’m a walking ball of privilege. I’m a physically-able and university-educated white guy from Canada. By day, I’m a professional scientist with a decent income and a good deal of job security. I tend to be a broad proponent for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) education in society as a matter of course, and I have the heart of an intellectual. In short, I’m loaded to bear with biases.

One common complaint about science fiction is that it’s a medium about the danger of upsetting the status quo. Changing things, particularly through science or technology, invariably causes disaster. There’s always a pesky professor reading a book that call infernal or eldritch horror.  Engineers design robots which will destroy us. Researcher study particle physics, biologist try their hand with genetic engineering and everything goes to hell in a hand-basket.  and scientists examining particle physics invariably cause terrible problems that everyone has to deal with.

An example: Caveman Science Fiction
This technophobia runs together with anti-intellectualism that inspires such blights as the anti-vaccination movement or climate change denial. The fact that politicians say “I’m not a scientist, but I think” to justify going contrary to science? This is a problem in my books.

It would be easy to leave it there. Comfortable, even. Life would have been simpler if I had, but I couldn’t help but see the other side.

Despite the technophobia present in society, there is also some danger associated with going too far the other way. I designed a game about transhumanism, and it got me looking very hard at the intellectual threads within that subculture.

There is a status game associated with education. Those on the top are those practitioners of S.T.E.M. disciplines, who just _happen_ to be disproportionately male.
Lower in status are those with “less important” and “fluffy” university degrees in the arts, humanities or social sciences which coincidentally tend to have female students in attendance.

As a general trend, university folks look down on the technical college graduates, who are still considered a step above the trades. You will note how closely tied this ranking is to issues like economics. Why should I be receiving more respect and financial remuneration compared to a plumber, a social worker or a farmer?

What this means is that there is a tendency for those of us with  social and economic power to reinforce and glorify the technological solutions to the world’s problems. We imagine that someone from Silicon Valley will come up with some new “disruptive innovation” that will “save the world”. There is a line of thought that technology will lead to some utopian future by erasing the differences between people.

Lots of games explore science and transhumanism. Shock: Social Science Fiction by Glyphpress recreates social science fiction with a great deal of care. Eclipse Phase by Posthuman Studios explores technology as a positive form of change while addressing how it can be misused.

I worry about the idea of erasure of identities, of disrupting the current world and the impact that could have on the most marginalized members of society. That’s why I seized upon that care as the philosophical core of Posthuman Pathways. For this game, I chose to address how technology changes the world, and how this new world affects the people within it.

I have hope for what the future might bring, but that depends on us being thoughtful on what we create.

Source 1: http://www.esa.doc.gov/reports/women-stem-gender-gap-innovation

Source 2: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/women-more-educated-men-still-paid-less-men

More about Posthuman Pathways: https://genesisoflegend.com/products/posthuman-pathways/