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Keeping the narrative pressure on

I played another session of Trollbabe yesterday, and I would like to take the opportunity to write a little bit about GMing this game (and similar narrativist games). This is not a worked out manifesto so much as an attempt to think through an approach that I've been taking more or less instinctively.
First, some context. This game was online, with two people I had never played with before: Judith and Katy. Actually, it's not quite true that I never played with Judith. I've known her for some 38 years, and possibly the first roleplaying I was ever engaged in was on a vacation with her family and my family. She acted as a kind of story guide, and I and her brother Adriaan played characters in an unfolding short story. I was thrilled by the possibilities inherent in such an activity, but it would take more time before I really discovered the world of tabletop RPGs.Both Judith and Katy played a bunch of roleplaying games before, though as far as I can judge they were all fairl…

Thoughts on a Trollbabe session

Yesterday, I played a second session of Trollbabe with Erik and Michiel, even more delightful than the first. (Trollbabe. I dislike the title of the game, to be frank, but it's the only thing about it to dislike. Let me stress that the whole point of the game is that you're playing strong, independent women. With horns.) To give you an impression of the context, let me say that both Erik and Michiel are very good friends of mine, and that we've done a fair amount of roleplaying before, though mostly D&D. In fact, the two of them have played various editions of D&D almost exclusively, and neither had any previous GMing experience. That was about to change.
In the first session, I GMed their characters Rolda (Michiel) and Vekir (Erik), who were together in a single adventure -- something that is not a given in Trollbabe. This time, we were going to do the same thing, but in addition I would also get to play a character, one adventuring at a different location. Michiel…

Two new videos: introduction to IF, and "We know the devil"

Fictional truth and secondary worlds

The (more or less verbatim, but certainly not 100% accurate) text of my video on Fictional Truth and Secondary Worlds can be found below.1. In this episode, I want to talk about fictional truth and secondary worlds in traditional as well as interactive fiction. But I’ll start by talking again about the game I discussed in the first episode of this series, the game 9:05 by Adam Cadre. Just like last time, I will spoil the story – so if you would prefer to play it unspoiled, you should pause this video now and return later.2. Let’s ask this question: what is the story of 9:05? Since it’s an interactive piece in which you can reach multiple endings, there’s no simple answer to that. How it ends depends on what you do. If you’re a first time player, you are very likely to end up seeing the following text, which summarises what you, as the protagonist, have been doing: a burglar broke into an East Las Mesas home, killed the owner and stashed his body under the bed, put his possessions in t…

Video: fictional truth and secondary worlds

Posted a new interactive fiction video. Starting (again) from Adam Cadre's9:05, I discuss issues about fictional truth, secondary worlds and canonicity. Major roles for Tolkien and M. John Harrison. This video should also of interest to traditional fiction folks!
Since I wrote out the entire text of this video, I'm planning to post that as an article here sometime in the future.

Video: "9:05" by Adam Cadre

I've been playing around with video editing software, in part because I'm probably going to need it for teaching next semester -- at least if I want to do it well. But I decided to first try my hand at an interactive fiction video, and so here I have for you an analysis of Adam Cadre's 9:05.

Clearly, I need a better camera. Less clearly for you, but clear for me, is that I need more memory and CPU/GPU power. However, otherwise I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts, both in in terms of the technical aspects of the video and of course in terms of the substance of what I'm saying.

[IF Comp 2019] Dull Grey by Provodnik Games

(I'm here analysing a fantastic piece of interactive fiction, and the analysis will contain spoilers. So do yourself a favour and play it first!)

The first thing one notices about Dull Grey is how it looks. Provodnik Games's previous piece, Railways of Love, was presented as a retro pixel-art game, which was nice enough; but for Dull Grey the authors have chosen to use a large-scale visual background. As the story progresses, we move and zoom through the white, grey and black landscape, focusing on one or another location. The art style reminded me slightly of the cover art of Radiohead’s Kid A, the haunting and sometimes obsessive sounds of which would in fact work nicely as a soundtrack to this piece. Speaking about soundtracks, Dull Grey in fact comes with background music. It gets perhaps a bit repetitive on subsequent playthroughs, but it does set the tone nicely.

Like Railways of Love, Dull Grey takes place in the world of the Progress Program, which I described last ye…