yeloson: (pic#459018)
Stars Without Number is a tabletop rpg where you travel around the galaxy to different planets and get into adventure and intrigue. (The link goes to the free PDF ebook version). It uses an old-school-ish system with some really smart updates, and great rules for generating different worlds and conflicts.

It's not Hitler's Future

So, you know at this point our expectations for rpgs and representation is pretty much bottomed out. SWN does the following things right:

1) Images of POC are in the book!
2) No default assumption about the cultures that you'll encounter
3) ...backed up by the name list in the back! There's several name lists, divided by culture, with a few paragraphs about clothing or food, and the acknowledgement that odds are good that what was traditional for us in the 21st century would be a massive throwback by the 31st century. The full cultures listed include: Arabic, Chinese, Nigerian, Indian, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, English. Obviously not entirely comprehensive, but the fact that it's not euro-centric is awesome.
More about the game... )
yeloson: (pic#459018)

Daniel Solis is making a roleplaying game that's heavily inspired by Avatar the Last Airbender. Preorders available on Kickstarter, and you can get either the PDF or the hardcover of the game. More details about how the rules work are here.
yeloson: (pic#459018)
You can pay whatever you like for Polaris or Bliss Stage!

Ben's one of my favorite designers- all of his games sharply hit on the human condition, and none of them are like anything else out there. Go check'em out!


Polaris is a game about a dying society at the North Pole. Their world of perfect harmony collapses under corruption and in-fighting while armies of demons gather without.

You, one of the last knights protecting the land, with a sword of starlight and an oath of honor, you will see who and what, if anything, you can save, before you also fall in battle or fail in your heart and turn to the demons.

It's a GM-less game where the mechanics are resolved primarily through specialized "key phrases" that turn conflicts into bargaining - "I kill the Demon King", "But only if you are captured in return", "But only if I am unharmed", "And so it was."

Bliss Stage

Aliens have come and conquered the Earth... through our dreams. Everyone over the age of 18 has fallen into a stasis-sleep, "The Bliss" and the kids who have survived the last 7 years have finally cobbled together a means of fighting back.

Jumping into the dream world, you construct giant robots made of your love and care for those closest to you- to fight the aliens and hopefully free our world. But in doing so, your risk your relationships- damage to your dream-mech is damage to your relationships... can you protect your friends? Can you save the world?

Bliss Stage is a post-apocalyptic anime soap opera. You jump between scenes of bonding and friendship... and terrible nightmare worlds of the aliens. Think Satoshi Kon meets Evangelion and you won't be far off.
yeloson: (Default)
Yoon asked about collaborative roleplaying games and how they work.

Overall, these are my favorite kind of rpgs. They have consistently created the most interesting stories, most intense roleplaying, and general fun for me.

Most tabletop roleplaying either creates events by: a) preparing/creating combat encounters or b) preparing a set of events that players must be "guided into" enacting. In contrast, the kinds of games that I like to play have no prepared story- interesting stories aren't created by prepared events, but rather as an emergent point of play.

So how do they work? Many have a classic rpg set up- you have a GM, each player has a character and so on. Usually the two big differences are what players are rewarded for and how they can affect and shape play.


Many games use what I call "Flags". A "Flag" is something on your character sheet that explicitly tells the group what you want to do with your characters' story. "Loyal to the King", "Secretly in love with the Queen" are Flags...

Flags make things easier because they get everyone on the same page about what the story is going to be about in a general sense - even if no one knows how it will turn out in the end. A lot of games set it up so that your Flags create conflicts and situations- my example, obviously, is someone who's on a quick road to drama. You can also create Flags that conflict with other player's Flags, or, a "Flag" for an NPC.

A lot of games work with Flags by giving you points to improve your character, extra bonuses to succeed, etc. when you chase a Flag. In other words, if you pursue this thing, you get points and that starts pushing everyone in play to start chasing them.

This isn't the only kind of reward system, but it's a simple, common one that works well and can be found in several games. The Shadow of Yesterday, Lady Blackbird, Primetime Adventures, The many Burning Wheel games, are some key examples.

Player Input

Most traditional roleplaying only gives a player power over their character and nothing else. Many games have started playing with that- giving players more power.

Such as being able to narrate the results of success/failure is a common one - for example, winning a fight against a foe, you might say, "We rush each other, and strike... and then his head falls off", or, perhaps, "It's a long drawn out battle, and I knock away his sword, and before I can swing the killing blow, he says, 'So, is this how it ends, brother?'"

Obviously, different games have different restrictions, but by opening things up, players can drastically affect the imaginary events- and the GM -cannot- railroad or ram a story at the players. Giving players the ability to declare facts, actively, or retroactively, allows the players not just the ability to resolve conflicts, but to set up new ones in interesting ways. (Houses of the Blooded, which has plenty of examples of that).

Mostly, though, the minimum required is that players are guaranteed some form of input- that the GM can't railroad. At the other end of the spectrum you have games where anyone can input as much as a GM, sometimes divvied up based on dice rolls or spending points to make facts about the game world.

A key thing to notice about a lot of these games is that, when the problems are scaled up beyond something like, "Can we kill this monster?" or "Can we follow this clue trail?", giving players more power to resolve those things trivially is no longer an issue.

Games that do this include The Pool, Inspectres, 1001 Nights,

In Play

Together, what happens with those two elements is that:

a) It's clear on from the get-go what the game is about, what people should be focusing on.
b) The input rules allow players to take it there, or shift it to new, meaty story space if they need to, and not wait for the lumbering movement of "the story" to find it's way to them, if ever.

Here's some links to the most recent game of Primetime Adventures I've played: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,
Part 4

Hit me up with questions!
yeloson: (Default)
My good friend Ben Lehman is donating profits from PDF sales of his rpgs to Haiti relief. Also note that if you've already donated, he'll send you a free PDF!:

Hi everyone.

From now until Sunday midnight, I’ll donate all profits from PDF sales on my website (which is basically the amount you paid) to Haitian earthquake recovery organizations. Additionally, I will donate $5 from each copy of Drifter’s Escape. So if you’ve been thinking about buying Polaris or Bliss Stage, now’s a great time. For this to work, you have to buy directly from my website not from IPR.

If you have already donated $10 or more, send me a receipt and I’ll send you a free PDF.

A short summary of the games he has:

Bliss Stage: The Evangelion mecha game where your relationships power your mechs- and your mech's damage damages your relationships. Angst! Trauma! Fun!

Polaris: The fantasy game of knights trying to defend the doomed society before time in face of the first Dawn. GM-less. Awesome. Tragic.

Drifter's Escape: The Americana game about a person travelling into town, just trying to get by, while The Man and the Devil both try to con him or her out of her soul.


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November 2012



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