Monthly Archives: April 2008

Cloverfield is a Pile of Shit

Tim and I rented this tonight. It is quite possibly the worst movie I have scene in some time.

It’s not about the monster. It’s about a bunch of boring characters.

The movie has a horrible first-person camera man motif. It’s in the context of a home video recording. This would be interesting for a fifteen minute arthaus film, but it drags on and on and on.

There’s minimal action, pieced together between long scenes of nothing happening and the characters being confused and scared.

I had no empathy for any of the characters. They were cardboard cutouts with no personality. Cliches have more personality.

There was no tension, no suspense. No pacing. All I wanted was for the movie to end.

Spoilers: The monster is really fucking big. They don’t kill it in the end. Everyone dies. But you could have figured that out from the first minute of the film. There, now you don’t need to see it either.

Best of Willowrants, Volume IV

Is it that time already? It’s been a good six months, with lots of good posts. This is the Best of Willowrants.

Game Design
Chance and Randomness
How Do I Win?
How Do I Win? Part II
Warriors From the Mystic Mountain: Design Epiphany
Game Design on a Budget: Art
SotC’s Designer’s on SotC’s Flaws– especially for the comments.
How Do I Turn My Game into a Text?

Convention Reports
Plattecon 2008
Forge Midwest

Sounds like a Plan… a Master Plan!

I was recently featured on independent design podcast Master Plan. Check it out!

Power 19+1: Gnosis

(This is for this year’s Game Chef competition.)

Power 19+1 for Gnosis

Bonus Question: What art are you using?
Ben Lehman’s “One False Move” artwork, plus Elizabeth Shoemaker’s Hands.

What is your game about?
Gnosis is about mystic knowledge and transcendence. One is living in a dark world that is a lie; only by gaining more knowledge about the truths of the world can ascend; but ascension carries its own price.
What is humanity? What do you hold dear? Is divinity worth the price?

What do the characters do?
Characters go through three phases of play: Sorcerer, where they are still fundamentally human, and tied to the human world, and potentially fragile and vulnerable. In this phase of play, characters will have conflicts that have very human concerns, dealing with malevolent supernatural elements that threaten themselves and things they cherish.

After transcending, the character becomes a Sephirot, a pseudo-divinity. Now, the character has shedded most of their humanity, and is open to new possibilities of power and conflict. The truth of the world has been made bare to the character, and they have the power to fundamentally alter it for the better- but other, ancient and sinister Sephiroth may stand in their way.

(Hmm, maybe the character can become a Bodhissatva instead of a Sephirot?)

Finally, the character may reach the stage of the Demiurge. Now the character has the power to create reality and metareality in their own image- but what will they create?

(And what’s the phase after Bodhissatva-dom then? Hmmm.)

What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
Players take the role of their character, and antagonists, and play out scenes of conflict. I need to think more about this.

How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting is a gnostic, kabbalistic view of the universe. Our own world is a lie- human souls are kept in a state of suffering, so the immediate state of awareness is a world much like our own, only darker. Sorcerer level play takes place in that framework.

How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Players create human connections for their characters- friends, family, beliefs. These are all things the character loves, but they are fetters that hold the character back.

What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
The character needs to overcome their human base connections- either by destroying it, or transforming it into a new, posthuman connection.

How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
Only by doing so can a character gain Gnosis and become more aware and advance in the structure of the game.

How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Whoever wins conflicts gets narration. Winning conflicts is heavily tied to having more Gnosis. If you have more Gnosis, your paradigm of reality is more correct.

What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
It’s pretty fucked up. That draws my interest. Hopefully, they’ll find Ben Lehman’s art sufficiently haunting to draw them in.

What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
I’m thinking something about bidding chips.

How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
It’s all tied back to Gnosis, and what you’re willing to do.

Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
Yup. Gnosis is advancement, as are special powers.

What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
Introspection, questioning the nature of humanity, and the role of the divine in the universe.

What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
What the universe looks like to Sorcerers. Ben’s art had a huge effect on me, and I want that to carry over into how Sorcerers view the world around them.

Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
Just the whole thing. It practically popped into my head as a whole.

Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
The subject matter is pretty occult and arcane, in the non-supernatural meanings of the words. There aren’t a lot of games that let you be God (or Cthulhu)

What are your publishing goals for your game?
It’s a game chef entry, and depending on how it goes, I’d like to do another book run, similar to Awesome Adventures.

Who is your target audience?
People who liked Mage: the Awakening, Paul Czerge’s Acts of Evil, or Nobilis.

Here’s Some Stuff I Did at Forge Midwest

First, an apology- I was really fricking tired last weekend, so if I seemed irritated with you, it’s probably not your fault.  Unless you were being really irritating.

This isn’t going to read like most of my con reports, since of said tiredness, and as I felt a bit like a hostess and saleswoman, I percieved the event slightly differently than I have past events.

Anyway, Forge Midwest was held right here in Madison.  I used my industry contacts to get us cheap prices at the Best Western- so cheap in fact, Ron Edwards and Matt Snyder paid for the meeting rooms, making the convention absolutely free to attendees!  How’s that for a deal?  Everyone is already talking about holding it here next year which is fantastic.

Friday, Tim and I got at the hotel pretty early- noon, and were some of the first people there.  I think some sort of boardgame was played, then Blood and Bronze, which I found rather unsatisfying.

I’m going to talk about Blood and Bronze here for a moment- I really like Gamism, and this is Gamism, but it doesn’t seem to be a kind of Gamism I enjoy.  I don’t know if it’s the negotiation-based gameplay, or if it’s a problem with the rules.  I’d rather just boast all the time and not engage with the wargame underneath.  I may go into more depth into this another time.

I ran Awesome Adventures that day, which was a decent game about cthonic wuxia.  Best moment- the cyborg flying vampire enemy is charmed into switching sides.

I finally played Trollbabe for the first time, which I posted about over on the Forge.  It was a good’un.

I played Emily Care Boss’s Sign in Stranger, a hillarious game which uses random words for creating setting descriptions.  It’s still in playtest, and I’m hoping to get a copy of it.

Also tried Jeepform, which is an interesting Scandinavian form of gaming that is a reaction to LARP, in the same way that indie/story games are a reaction to ‘traditional’ rpgs.  It used tighly framed scenes, and nothing I could identify as a resolution mechanic, to tell a very interesting story.  It was certainly a game, and an enjoyable experience, but one I’m still wrapping my head around.

Sunday, I got to run Mountain Witch, which was fun, though six players is quite a bit in a one-shot, and I felt up the mountain took too long, and I didn’t have enough time for the keep itself and the really meaty bits of the game, having to cut out the final rising tension arc.  I should have had tighter chapter requirements early on.  This game notably had no other Roleplaying Revolutionaries in it, (I didn’t drive all the way to the East side of Madison just to play games with people I play games with every week in the Central part of Madison!), but it did include fellow Madisonian Daniel, who I have not gamed with in some time, and Swede and Jeepplayer Tobias, who enjoyed it but also needed time to wrap his head around it.

Afterwards, Tobias, myself, and Mike Holmes had an orginially interesting and then increasingly frustrating conversation about gaming, roleplaying, GNS, and other things, which I decided to cut my losses and drop out of.  Which was good, because I got to playtest William Hessian’s Riot card game, which shows early promise, and helped him with some roadblocks he was having.

The downside, is that I didn’t sell as many copies of Awesome Adventures as I had hoped.  I still made sales, but I was gunning for just a few more, and I feel that if I had been more in it during the AA game or if the selling was better organized and/or highlighted, I would have done better.  Having that extra level of concern took time and energy away from what was really important, having fun and playing games.

That single negative note aside, it was a great weekend- great gaming, great people, great conversations, and great fun.

Anyone CSS Savvy?

I want to do some stuff with the layout for my blog, but the basic page style has fairly narrow columns and a low font size, and I’d like to make it easier on the eyes.  If you can help me out with this, shoot me an email, at

Retail: Garden of the Surreal III

The Alvin and the Chimpmunks DVD is flying off the shelves.