I’m back from a weekend away. We went camping at Knoebels’ for a letterboxing “gathering” with Kat’s friend Daina. There were a number of rollercoasters–both physical and emotional. My role was basically to be the facilitator–he who makes sure that everyone else has fun. I’m usually pretty good at that, and this time I was able to facilitate everyone else’s fun and squeeze in a bit of time for me, a notebook, and a few gaming thoughts.

Kat reminded me that she loves With Great Power… more than I do. But that’s okay, ’cause I really love it. She wants it to have a Sorcerer/Burning Wheel level of success. I’m pretty happy where it’s at. I’ve often said that I want 10% of what Luke’s got. That includes 10% of the workload. Right now, I’m o-target for acheiving that goal

Kat and I talked more about her problems with Stakes. Part of the way I think about this is best summed up in a picture.

The red line represents what we’re talking and thinking about. The part circled in blue is too easy to skip and just go from setting Stakes to resolving Stakes to setting a new scene. It’s really part of Fortune-in-the-Middle. Once the fortune is resolved, a lot of the scene’s tension bleeds away. Skipping this part leads from anticlimactic scene to anticlimatic scene.

Plus, pulling into character, then out of character, then into character again creates its own distancing problems. It puts a wedge between player and character. That wedge can lower the emotional impact of the play and weaken the SIS.

A few solutions that pop into my head are:

1) Lessen the impact of the “rules discussion” by making it very simple and perhaps even nonverbal. Something like hand signals for resolution or sliding chips forward could accomplish this. So could With Great Power…‘s card comparison, so long as everyone at the table was reasonably familiar with the rules. I had this kind of silent resolution in mind while writing the examples.

2) Another way would be to set up a reward system that specifically targeted the blue-circled section. It would work like PTA’s Fan Mail, but focus strictly on play after the resolution. After all, in the blue circle, you’re essentially like an actor in a stage play. You know what’s going to happen. You’ve just got to play it out as if you’re experiencing what happens.

3) Possibly reviving Fortune-at-the-End for social-type encounters while keeping FitM for physical stuff to avoid the Whiff Factor.

Just got off the phone with Jason Roberts. I think it’s been over a year since I spoke with him. We’re both family men now with kids to provide for. But we weren’t always….

Jason is my cousin and was my first Dungeon Master. We’d see each other on Easter and Thanksgiving and I’d pull out my beat-up character sheet (a gnome named Figtoe–don’t ask) and he’d run me through Queen of the DemonWeb pits or a dungeon he scribbled on the back of a napkin. I didn’t know which dice to use when, or what “Save v. P/P/D” meant. Even so, whenever my character sheet got too worn out, I’d painstakingly copy over every saving throw and weapon stat, waiting for the next holiday.

Jason is four years older than me and when he went off to college he left me a massive box of his old modules, a Monster Manual, and notes (and notes and notes) about his high school D&D campaign. I looked through every module and at every piece of paper. I pulled out a thing or two and put the rest back in its box. It’s sitting in my closet right now. Even at the dawn of my gaming life, the act of creation was paramount. I never ran a module.

Ten years later, Jason and I were both out of college. Both married. I was still gaming as often as often as I could. He was a self-confessed “bookshelf gamer.”–buying games and reading them, but not playing. We’d get to talking at the family reunions. About this and that and scifi and gaming. He had this idea for a game about Rome (Jason majored in Classical Archeology). But not just Rome. Rome with Guns.

FVLMINATA was born. It took more than a year and a ton of work (most of it Jason’s) to make it happen. But it was published in August 2000.

A month later Jason became a dad. Five months later, so did I. Life expanded.

We put together FVLMINATA 2nd Edition. It was wildly successful for a total crash-and-burn disaster. He got a new, extremely demanding job and moved to New England. I got involved with the Forge. Time has passed.

I sent him a copy of With Great Power… and he called to say “Thanks.” We talked for nearly an hour. It was good to hear him get that excited catch in his voice when he’s talking about the cool stuff he’s working on with Jared. It was a little awkward to have no project in common.

It’s awkward to have no project at all.

“So what are you working on, now that With Great Power… is done?” he asked.

“Recuperating,” I said. Which is another way of saying “I don’t know.” Or “Nothing.” Or “I’m wasting my precious time here on Earth.”

We’ve got a lot of history, Jason and I. He spoke of feeling his way back into the gaming world. He got burned, badly, and it’s brave of him to come back. I look forward to seeing him at GenCon next year, maybe.


If I were a good writer, I’d wrap this up with some kind of conclusion. It would draw on the tidbits I’d mention before. It would have a smooth, satisfying, somewhat bittersweet ending with a hint of finality. But I’m not that guy. My conclusions are simple, obvious, and crudely phrased:

It was good to talk to Jason. I’ve missed him. I’m not the dabbler I once was. I need a project.

It has begun…

I’ve been thinking about getting a LiveJournal for a while now. What cinched it this time was reading The Book of Judd. Judd’s simple, declaritive sentences have a power and vividness to them that I envy.

Y’see, I just spent four months wrasslin’ with the words for With Great Power… It wasn’t too much game design, mostly trying to express the design in a form that could be understood by people who weren’t me. It was a chore. Every sentence was a fight. Writing shouldn’t be so hard.

How do things get easier? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.

I’ve got vague notions of what to do with this journal. Analysis of why certain games work the way they do. Preliminary thoughts about my own game designs (Like Matt Wilson’s The Dog Blog). My own ideas of how the Star Wars prequels should have been written. My thoughts about my own life (like my wife’s LJ).

We’ll just have to see whether this is something that thrives and adds to my life, or something that I drop by the wayside.

Only time will tell…