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Vote for roguelike of the year 2013

It's that time of the year again: the roguelike of the year competition has arrived! Please consider voting for Kerkerkruip if you like the game. (Note: you can vote for as many games as you like.)

Ludorama #2: "Fiasco" by Jason Morningstar

Title: Fiasco
Author: Jason Morningstar
Year: 2009
Price: 12$ pdf, 25$ book+pdf, link
Size: 130 pages

Genre: black comedy; slapstick; crime
Themes: great ambitions and poor impulse control; big dreams and flawed execution; lives that get fucked up by gigantic stupidity

Number of players: 3-5
Player roles: no differentiation; everyone plays one character
Preparation: none
Length of game: 2-3 hours

Rules complexity: low (but you need some big tables)
Resolution: specified number of successful and unsuccessful scenes; player's choose which scenes will be which
Online playability: medium/high

Capsule overview: An easy to understand, quick game about people with big ambitions and poor impulse control. You will go from a tense situation full of potential to an absolute mess in a very short time, as the characters get themselves and each other into more and more trouble. Do not expect happy endings, but glory in the absolute train-wreck that it all will become. The playsets and tilt do a lot to stimu…

Ludorama #1: "Mars Colony" by Tim C. Koppang

The Ludorama is a new feature at the Gaming Philosopher where I present a tabletop roleplaying game. The first instalment is about Mars Colony by Tim C. Koppang, a game that I recently had the pleasure of playing online with Remko van der Pluijm.

I'll start by giving you the "vital statistics" of the game, and then go on to give a fuller description of the game. Since this is the first instalment, and I'm just trying things out, let me know what you would like to see in the vital statistics. (P.S. I've added several things since the first publication.)
Title: Mars Colony
Author: Tim C. Koppang
Year: 2010
Price: 6$ PDF, 12$ book, link
Size: 52 small pages

Genre: social science fiction
Themes: the toughness of social problems; inability to meet your own and others' expectations; the temptation of using deception

Number of players: 2
Player roles: one "Savior" and one "Governor" (see below)
Preparation: none
Length of game: 2-4 hours

Rules complexity: l…

[IF Comp 2013] Results

The results are in!

I got distracted by other things halfway through the competition, so I played only about half of the games. I haven't played any of the top 3, and in fact only one of the top 7 games, so I guess that there is still some good stuff for me to try out.

I'm flabbergasted by the fact that Their angelic understanding has scored an average of 5.99. I changed my own mark to a 9 at some point. There can be some disagreement about marks, of course, but I cannot imagine how anyone could score it below a 7. This piece has beautiful writing, interesting thematic content and does new and impressive things with its medium.

It's a difficult piece, sure; but if you don't understand something, just refrain from judging. As a judge, you are called upon to judge a work of art, not to tell us how much you "liked" the experience of playing it. If you don't understand it, you shouldn't be judging.

(Yes, I'm kind of mad at this injustice, and guessing…

[Comrade Stalin] Beta rules version 1 -- please playtest!

I have created a full set of beta rules for Comrade Stalin. It is a simple, yet (I hope) tactically and socially complex game that slightly resembles games like Mafia and Werewolves. Comrade Stalin explores the fear, paranoia and ruthlessness of totalitarianism ... while you are having fun.

To play, you need to download the rules and the roles. The roles are presented in an easy-to-print format: simply cut the pages in half to get role sheets.

Please playtest this game and tell me about your experiences! You can post here, e-mail me (victor@lilith.bb, except that it is "cc" instead of "bb"), or post wherever you like and put a link here. Thanks in advance! All playtesters will be credited in future versions of the rules.

[3:16] Weak sauce aliens on Rubens and Rembrandt

Introduction

The first session of my 3:16 campaign was stellar. The second session wasn't as good. It wasn't bad, and fun was had, but in some respects it was quite problematic.

All the previous players attended, plus one new player, Lenny. I had her make a character as if an old character had died: start from scratch with weapons, but start with slightly higher abilities than a true starting character. Our team thus consisted of Lieutenant Sektor ("by the book"), Sergeant "Mad" Mina ("recalcitrant"), Corporal "Iron" Sue ("Rambo") and the new character Soldier Fabio ("man in the mirror," i.e., very vain).

Last time, I had prepared the planets in some detail. This time, I wanted to make room for more player input, so I rolled the planets on the random tables right in front of their eyes; except for AA, which I chose by hand.


Overview of play

Rubens

The first planet was planet Rubens, a radioactive planet with leaping p…

[Comrade Stalin] Roles

First draft of the roles! There are currently enough roles for a game with 9 players.

Every role, except Stalin, has the ability to spy. Once during the game, this allows to you look at one goal card of one person. You cannot show the card to anyone else, though you can of course make claims about what you've seen. Whether people believe you is up to them.

Once you have spied, rotate your character sheet 90 degrees to indicate that you've used up your one chance to spy. Some rules indicate that you can refresh your ability: this means that you get to rotate your character sheet back to the normal position, and you can use your spying ability again.

Every role also has two special rules.

The Favourite (King)
True loyalty: If you have a single goal card which means that you must kill Stalin, it instead means that you must protect Stalin. If you have two goal cards indicating that you must kill Stalin, they have their normal meaning.Hated: If Stalin dies, all surviving players -- y…

[Shooting the Moon] Fleeing the Empire

Introduction

Shooting the Moon by Emily Care Boss is a game I've had in my possession for a very long time, but which I'd never played before. (I think. I may once have started a game with Jasper Polane, but if so, I don't think we managed to finish it.) Last Friday, I got online with Sam Ashwell and Emily Short to finally play this thing. Both of them had played it before. Emily once, I think; and Sam quite often.

Like Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon is a game about love. (At least it claims to be a game about love. See below.) Whereas the former game shows two people coming together, the latter gives us two Suitors fighting over the Beloved, who is also pursuing a dream of his or her own.


Creating characters: the rules

Character creation is where the rules of this game really shine. It is very much a group activity, so much so that we did most of it before we chose who would play which character. (We finally decided that I would play the Beloved.)

The three players fir…

[Comrade Stalin] Alpha rules 0.1

Background: Stalin's Story

A long time ago -- late in 2005, it seems -- I created a role playing game called Stalin's Story. It combined the structures that Vladimir Propp found in Russian fairy tales with a totalitarian Stalin figure. One of the players is Stalin and has unlimited power to kill people and change the rules; the others are either actors trying to tell a Proppian tale or courtiers trying to use the tale's elements to have each other killed.

I never played it, because I had serious doubts about the game achieving my design goals. However, I just found a post by Harry Giles who says he has played it several times, and goes on to say that
“Stalin’s Story” is rich, multi-dimensional, original and scary fun[.] He is definitely being too charitable in that piece, but I do need to talk to him about his play experiences! But this blog post is not about Stalin's Story.

Thematic content

Stalin apparently still occupies my brain. I've just gotten back into playi…

[IF Comp 2013] "Sam and Leo go to the Bodega" by Richard Goodness

By now you probably know that the Interactive Fiction Competition 2013 is happening. Spoilers behind the break.

[IF Comp 2013] "Our boys in uniform" by Megan Stevens

The Interactive Fiction Competition is back! Spoilers behind the break.

[Breaking the Ice] The teeth of Mugabe

Another week, another Breaking the Ice session using Google Hangouts. This time I played with Sam Kabo Ashwell, prolific author of interactive fiction and reviews of works in that medium. We once played a game of Gloom together, which is almost a role playing game; but that's the limit of our shared gaming experience. However, we are both veteran RPG players, and years of contact in the online interactive fiction community have given us a good idea of each other's tastes in fiction.

Character creation

We therefore jumped into the game without much ado. Sam had read the rules once, but long ago. That wasn't a problem. Breaking the Ice works well as long as one of the participants know the rules.

As a switch we chose "being an immigrant" (Sam being an Englishman living in the U.S., and I being a Dutch guy living in the Netherlands). I would play an immigrant man, he would play a non-immigrant woman.

Sam's web of words contained: orange, [hothouses, false safety,…

[Trollbabe] System analysis, Lida and the spirits AP, and questions

Remko van der Pluijm and I got back online on Google Hangouts this week. We decided to play Trollbabe, a 2002 role playing game by Ron Edwards. I played one or two sessions with Jasper Polane once, way back in 2004 or 2005. Remko had never played it before.

Introduction to Trollbabe

Trollbabe is set in a fantasy version of medieval Scandinavia. There are islands, wooden ships, forests, mountains, villages that raise sheep, men bearing axes, women bearing children, ghosts, magicians and, of course, trolls. Trolls sometimes eat humans, and humans sometimes hunt trolls, but they mostly live together in uneasy peace.

It is a setting full of conflicts. Humans versus trolls, humans versus humans, trolls versus trolls, humans versus humans with trolls caught in the middle -- you name it, and it's there.

That's where trollbabes come in. They are big women with horns, not quite humans and not quite trolls, but half-feared and half-trusted by both species. As a player, you play a trollba…

[IF Comp 2013] Second thoughts on "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder"

The Interactive Fiction Competition is back! Spoilers behind the break.


[3:16] First session -- Picasso and Titiaan

Saturday, I played my first-ever session of Gregor Hutton's space marines RPG 3:16 -- Carnage among the Stars. It was a blast. The game delivered everything I had hoped for.

The players

There were four of us. I was the only one with extensive experience of different RPGs, including indie narrativist RPGs. Partly for that reason, I chose to GM the game. There were three other players: Michiel, Erik and Annet. All of them had role played before, but only Dungeons & Dragons. (With the exception of Michiel, who once played a single session game of My Life with Master with me, and took to that quite naturally.)

The fact that most of them had only played D&D was exactly why 3:16 seemed a good choice to me. Just like D&D, it is built around combat scenes in which trying to be effective -- either for the good of the party or for that of yourself, which in this case is not always the same thing -- is the expected behaviour. Death is always a possibility, and the reward of fighti…