Reading Thou Art But A Warrior – A Polaris Supplement by Anna Kreider

Thou Art But A Warrior was actually the reason why I bought Polaris in the first place, playing doomed Muslim knights seemed way cooler than doomed Arctic knights.

Since TABAW is just a supplement for Polaris the sections below will be rather short.

The book
The book is a small booklet with 52 pages of game and a few more pages with ads for other indie games at the end. Anna has painted the pictures herself, and they are in colour!

I usually don’t see editing mistakes, but in TABAW I caught a few. The layout was done in Word so it is not as pretty as the original Polaris.

The setting
The reason for getting TABAW, playing doomed Muslim knights in Iberia. There are about 20 pages of pure setting, and a list of stuff that a knight should and should not do.

The rules
The rules are basically the same as those in Polaris. The most prominent change is the addition of Discord – a measure of how close the final doom of the community that the knights are trying to protect. As the Discord rises the setting is changed, and suggestions are given for scenes that can reflect that change.

The form
Some off the phrases have changed to reflect the new setting, and there are some additional advice on how to play.

Conclusion
The setting is OK, suddenly the game is about a historic period instead of some imagined fantasy world. But twenty pages and a list of Dos and Don’ts seem a bit thin.

The rules are good, the inclusion of the rising Discord is cool.

The form excellent, but it does not offer anything that was not already in Polaris.

Will I play it?
Maybe, I feel a need to read up on that period of time before playing. Perhaps after having played Polaris for a while Thou Art But A Warrior will be a nice change of scenery.

www.browserbeware.com/tastybacon.html – Tasty Bacon Games.

Reading Polaris – Chivalric Tragedy at Utmost North by Ben Lehman

I actually played Polaris last summer and I found it to be a nice game, but had some issues with the prep and found the rules rather confusing. Still, we had a great time and I put it on “my good list”. This week I got into a discussion on Story Games about Polaris, and the others could not relate to my experiences of the game. So I decided to read it myself.

The book itself
Polaris is a nice little book, just short of 140 pages, but only 80 of those are really the game. The remaining pages include some examples and a pretty big section of advertising for other indie games.

There are a few very odd, but rather fitting illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff.

The setting
The game is about knights fighting demons, and the players all know that the knights are doomed to either die, join the demons or see the world around them go under. It is a game with tragic stories.

Once upon a time, as far north as north can go, there lived the greatest people that this world will ever know. We cannot look upon them as they were, but we can understand them as they die, melting like a snowflake in the sun.

This is no longer a history; this is not yet a story. This is all that remains. Whatever else is what you make of it.

The knights are of a people that once prospered and ruled the north pole, but a disaster struck and now their people are dying. Tragedy, drama, and lots of it. The setting is described in about 20 pages of rather poetic prose. Few details are given and the players can pretty much include whatever elements they want in this fantasy setting, as long as everything points towards that final doom.

The rules
There are very few rules in this game, actually there are only two kinds of rolls that can be made, and they both revolve around the two stats Ice (acting with or for society) and Light (acting alone or for oneself), and the Zeal-Weariness scale what shows how close the knight is to defecting to the demons.

The form
See the short description of the rules above? Not much to base a game on. But what Polaris lacks in rules it makes up for in form instead. This game bulges with form. Play is rigidly governed by ritual and key phrases, there is even a whole system of conflict handling baked into the key phrases. There are extensive instructions in the book on how the game is supposed to be played using those key phrases.

The game is not a game of rotating GM-ship, but rather the role of player (called “the heart”) rotates among the participants. The other participants share the usual GM role between them, one manages the world and the introduction of obstacles (called “the Mistake”) and the other two act as arbitrators of the rules (called “the Moons”).

Conclusion
The setting is very focused as the players all play doomed knights in the utmost north, but also very open as while lots is said, little detail is given about it. Everyone can read the setting chapter in the book before playing, yet everyone will not see the same game world before themselves. Given the story focus of the game the free reins are nice to have, you can introduce whatever you need without contradicting anything “official”.

The rules are OK, they manage the game style that they aim for. But since all game terms have been given “in-game” names it gets rather confusing. As soon as a game term is mentioned everyone will first have to translate it into the real meaning of it before acting upon it. When we played I found this to be a major hindrance for getting into the game. The character sheet really looks like some sort of cool astrological chart, but the constant translation between terms and their true meanings is a bother.

The form is excellent. The key phrases and rituals around them are not only well explained in the text, they also work well to generate interesting scenes. And there is good advice on how to play the game in the book.

Will I play it (again)?
When I joined the discussion on the Story Games forums I could not imagine myself running Polaris, but possibly to play in a game facilitated by someone else. Now that I have actually read the text myself I think I’ll see if I can find three gamers that want to tell stories about doomed knights in the utmost north.

But first I’ll get the key phrases in Swedish, and I’ll redo the character sheet into something a bit more conservative.

swingpad.com/dustyboots/wordpress/index.php?page_id=243 – The official Polaris page at These Are Our Games.

story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=10973 – The discussion on Story Games where everything started.

While the World Ends – A story game about a future on the brink of change

Today I got a package from the UK in the mail – the test print of my new game While the World Ends – A story game about a future on the brink of change. Since the test print came out OK I have opened the Lulu shop to the public.

The game was written as my entry in the Write an RPG in 2009 challenge on the WRNU boards. It was first released in Swedish, but after some discussions on Story Games I decided to translate and release the game in English too. Thanks again to Jens, John and Micah who proofread the game and gave it a lot better language than it would otherwise have had. And to Seth, who got me started.

As you can see from the back of the book it is a game for three to four players that can be played in an evening. It is GM-less and no-prep, or rather everyone does the prep together at the beginning of each game.

Before the game starts the players generate a futuristic world together, decide upon an important change that it is about to go through and two possible outcomes of that change. When the game starts the players follow the adventures of the main characters as they go through the story pursuing their goals and avoiding their fears. At the same time the players try to influence the story to lead they at the same time compete to drive the change into causing the outcome that they strive for.

That is, the outcome that the players strive for. The players are divided into two teams that compete to decide the outcome of the change, this is an RPG where you can actually WIN the game. Also the game is good fun.

www.lulu.com/product/5945539 – The While the World Ends page on Lulu.

rollspel.nu – The Swedish RPG community Rollspel.nu where the SERU2009 challenge was run.

story-games.com – The Story Games Community.

On April 9 2010 Björn den Gode posted a review/actual play on www.rollspel.nu you can read the Swedish orignal here or machine translated by Google here.

Reading Run Robot Red(ux) – A Funny Little Game About Funny Little Robots by Annie Rush

Before SävCon I stocked up on games to sell, and since I was ordering stuff from Lulu anyway I put some games for myself in the basket as well. One of those games was a little black book with red and yellow print on the cover – Run Robot Red(ux) by Annie Rush. It is not unheard of that I buy a game only to put it on my shelf, but in the foreword Annie writes:

As the writer and designer of Run Robot Red, I don’t want to tell you what to play so much as I want to offer you new suggestions on how to play.

The game promises Form, this must be investigated!

The book itself
Like most other small games on Lulu RRR is a 6×9 book with soft covers. It has 104 pages with double column text and a few very nice pictures of Robots drawn by Reagan Lodge. The double column layout and small pages combined make pretty short lines of text, reading the game took longer than I had expected. But it was a nice read.

I think the first edition was called Run Robot Red and this is the second edition.

The setting
In RRR the players play robots. These robots live in a strange dictatorship aboard a spaceship called Widenet YT. The spaceship is on a never ending journey through space and since there are no humans around the robots are left to their own devices. Directed by their mysterious leader Cel Tron Stroma the robots live on a fixed work 12 hours/rest 12 hours schedule.

The laws that the robots live under gives me vibes of Animal Farm and stories of dystopia:

Nobot is better than any other bot.

Nobot shall make his fellow bots feel inadequate.

Nobot shall do more than asked of him.

Allbots are equal! Allbots are brothers! Allbots are the same!

But naturally some bots are more equal than others and all bots are not the same, but must act like that is the case. Hilarity ensues when the bots must make sure not to do anything TOO well, else they are taken away for reprogramming.

The rules
The rules are simple, but make a good job of supporting the setting. Roll a number of d10s, adding them to hit a target number. Hitting, not exceeding. If you exceed the target you do something too well and may attract unwanted attention of the authorities. There is a bit more to it than that, but that is the basics.

There are no less than five different character generation systems in the chapter on bot building. A few basic styles of bots are available, but by adding different options they can be customized to the player’s desires. Also bots are given different personalities depending on which factory they were made in.

The form
Annie recommends that the game is used to run short stories, with a clear beginning, middle and end. There is a section with advice to the GM on how to run the game (or really any game that is not about going into a dungeon, killing for XP and looting for gold). It is not a very deep or detailed chapter, but considering the game’s short length it must be seen as adequate.

Also there are lots of adventure seeds in the end of the book. Nothing that is ready to run, but with some work each of them can be fleshed out into full blown adventures.

Conclusion
The setting is good. I think you will get bored with the game before exhausting the adventure seeds in the book, and there is a list of different factories and some goodies in the GM’s section for those that want to write their own.

The rules are good, they match the setting and the short story style suggested by Annie. I don’t think anyone would want to extend the game into campaign play anyway, so the lack of such support is not really a problem.

I am torn over what to say about the form. On one hand it does not give the “new suggestions” that I was hoping for. On the other hand, the first edition came in 2004, same year that we got The Shadow Of Yesterday and Cat RPG, perhaps the stuff I take for granted was all shiny and new back then. But since the stuff that we actually do get on how to play the game looks like it fits the setting and rules and forms a distinct way of playing I’ll say that the form is good too.

It is a very focused game – you play robots on a ship, and the game does not support much of anything else. But I think you’ll have great fun for a few sessions with a regular group or if you do some pre-gens and write a proper adventure for playing it as a pickup game at cons,

Had it contained some more examples from actual play it would have made a pretty good beginner’s first game.

Will I play it?
Yes, I think so. If I ever get around to doing those pre-gens and writing that adventure I’ll bring it with me for short stories about robots, on a ship.

www.lulu.com/product/paperback/run-robot-red/418563 – Lulu entry for Run Robot Red(ux)

You can also be Perfect

I just saw that Joe McDonald is looking for playtesters for the second edition of Perfect.

A while back I got the first edition from 1km1kt and it is a very cool game. Sort of 1984/Equilibrium set in an alternate Victorian era. The players play rebels against an oppressive society.

I have volunteered to be an Inspector, you should too!

buriedwithoutceremony.com/perfect – The blog post where Joe asks for playtesters.

www.1km1kt.net/rpg/perfect-rpg – The first edition of Perfect at 1km1kt.

Indierummet at SävCon IX

This is just a short summary of the gaming that took place in the indie gaming lounge (Indierummet) at SävCon IX in Sävar, Sweden on the All Hallows Eve weekend. While I usually post con reports on rollspel.nu I thought I’d try doing it on a blog to see what happens.

About the con
SävCon is not a big con. I never heard any report on the number of attendees but I estimate there were about 100 people there, including staff. It is strictly an RPG con. You might see some gamers breaking out board games in the corridors, but they are just passing time waiting for their next scheduled game.

The con is hosted in a school building, and many attendees are or have been students at the school. People either go home at night, or sleep in sleeping bags in classrooms. There is a core of experienced scenario writers that come back year after year. Most of the games are free form or system less.

About the indie gaming lounge
I have been at SävCon a few times before, running my game Höstdimma. But this year I hosted an indie gaming lounge with some friends instead. We brought many games with us and put them on display, some that we expected to run, and some just to show.

The greeting table

The table where we displayed some indie games

The event was a huge success. During the three days of the con, Friday at noon to Sunday at noon, the five of us ran about twenty five games, most of them in the schedule’s four hour slots. We accepted both pre registration of five-player teams (as per the con’s usual registration process) and drop-in play.

We had a small study chamber and two huge home economics classrooms at our disposal. This was great, we could actually cook in there. The five of us and some of our friends had soup every evening. Beats pizza and burgers any day. It was great to sit down together and discuss the games that had been played. Those meals not only recharged the body, but also the mind. light conversations over a proper meal are a surprisingly good way to wind down after running intense games for a day.

We tried to get a short evaluation from each group of players after every game.

The games we played
The list is sort of in descending order of how much any game was played. I had planned to add some comments from the evaluations near each game, in case any designer stumbles across this blog. But most of the comments were of the “Awesome game!” or “Great GM!” kind.

  • Panty Explosion – one of the most popular games, many groups came and asked to play it specifically.
  • Höstdimma – the other very popular game, people came and asked for it too
  • Itras by – I ran this awesome Norwegian game four times, a recycled scenario from SnöKon 2009 written by Terje Nordin. The players really liked the two decks of cards that are used in the game.
  • Zombie Cinema – This game is great! Easy to teach, and short enough that even a very tired host can run it.
  • Snakes on a Plane RPG – This gag game from the RPG.net boards proved to be a huge success amongst the hosts themselves. Very fast and very focused. I only played in one, but my Russian thief (as played by Vin Diesel) actually won by stealing the uranium in the cargo hold before ejecting himself with a parachute right before landing. Also, Vin can ACTUALLY see in darkness.
  • 1001 Nights – Meg Baker’s story game about story telling in the Sultan’s palace. I ran this late on the night between Saturday and Sunday.
  • Medan världen går under – I had planned to run my new game lots and lots, in order to sell lots of it. Instead I mostly ran Itras By. But the single game I played was awesome.
  • Evolutionens barn – Swedish indie game about to released was demoed once.
  • Den Yttersta Domen – One of the authors of this coming indie game was with our group of hosts in the lounge, and he ran a demo of this game.
  • Supergänget (Supercrew) – This game was brought along by us, but no one had actually planned to run it. However when we were away a friend picked it up and ran it for some drop-in players. This late night game turned out to be the best (as in having the highest count of the word ‘Awesome’ and exclamation marks in the evaluation) game run in the indie gaming lounge during the entire con. Awesome!

One cool thing I saw at…
.. nah, I can’t limit myself to just one thing, But having home economics classrooms to play in was very cool, especially since we had the soup get-togethers every evening.

Also I sold all the remaining copies of Höstdimma (except my personal copy) that project now has reached break-even. WOHO! Well, as long as I only count money spent, and not hours spent…

The spirit at SävCon is great. It is a small con but there is so much gaming going on, all the time! It is very easy to find a group to play with or go to the cafeteria to find players for a pick up game. And the staff really makes you feel welcome.

We already have started planning for SävCon X

www.interaktivhistoria.se/savcon/ix – The SävCon IX website.

www.atarashigames.com/whatispantyexplosion.html – Official site for the game Panty Explosion. The link to the web shop is dead at the moment but you can order it from Lulu.

www.ludd.ltu.se/~wilper/hostdimma – Official site for the game Höstdimma.

itrasby.no – Official site for the game Itras By. Contains PDFs of the cards used in the game. Download, print, cut!

www.arkenstonepublishing.net/zombiecinema
Official site for Zombie Cinema.

forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=253565 – The thread at RPG.net where Snakes on a Plane RPG can be read.

www.nightskygames.com – A Thousand and One Nights site where the game is sold.

www.fairgame-rpgs.com/1001nights.html – The playtest document for A Thousand and One Nights in Meguey’s blog, this was the one I ran at the con.

www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/medan-världen-går-under/7565668 – Direct link to Medan världen går under at Lulu.

ytterstadomen.wikidot.com – Wiki for Den Yttersta Domen.

urverkspel.com/evolutionensbarn – The official Evolutionens Barn page.

www.kaleidoskop.se/spel – The list of games at Kaleidoskop, Supergänget (Supercrew) that we (sort of) ran. Also has information about Haragada and Nostalgi that we had on the display table.

www.rollspel.nu/forum/ubbthreads.php/posts/658296.html – A thread on rollspel.nu where Anders links to a PDF of the game Bläck, which we never ran but it was on the display table.

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