Thoughts on GMing
As something to do at Halloween with my friends, I wrote and GMed a modern / uncanny horror one-shot using the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules. I had an absolutely incredible time doing so. It was a really rewarding experience to see my friends engaging with and enjoying something that just kind of spilled out my brain, bolstered by a few internet horror touchstones, such as Eckva, The SCP Foundation and The Backrooms. I have some mental notes about the session that I’d like to jot down for the record:
Trusting your friends / players to engage with your work in good faith, or what I often hear referred to as ‘high-trust play’ is so rewarding and affirming.
Being flexible and changing things on the fly to accomodate your players should be a common courtesy when hosting.
I have not bought the Call Of Cthulhu Keeper Rulebook. I have not read it and I don’t intend to. Everything needed to play Call Of Cthulhu is in the player’s handbook.
I deliberately omitted ‘sanity points’ because they’re gross. I was considering trying to replace with a Mothership-style panic table, but in the end I just trusted that my friends wouldn’t make light of any incurred trauma. It worked.
D100 roll-under is great as a resolution mechanic because you don’t need to be constantly pissing about with modifiers.
Call of Cthulhu’s default skill spread is not great. There are very obvious optimal choices such as ‘listen’ or ‘spot hidden’, and there are important skills that present as dump-stats, such as ‘navigate’.
Overall, I’d have preferred to use a much lighter system, such as Liminal Horror, but at the end of the day, Call Of Cthulhu was what was agreed on for the session. I may end up tweaking it for Liminal Horror later though, as I think it’s a much more natural fit for the setting.
I have included all my scenario notes, warts and all, as a separate post, accessible here.
November 3, 2021
Finding a Kindness // Blade Runner: 2049
There is a version of Blade Runner: 2049 which exists inside what was committed to film.
Where although the world is in its death throes, and everyone is lonely and violent and traumatised and without hope or comfort, that a perfectly unremarkable replicant discovers that a small act of kindness to a perfect stranger feels like a radical symbol of defiance in his dying moments.
That all any of us can do against the unwavering ravages of terminal-stage extinction capitalism is to be kind and forgiving and to love one-another.
I feel like I had to painfully tease it out of the audiovisual barrage of leering misogyny, uncritical product placement and ugly, clumsy metaphor that a megabudget Hollywood production demands.
But it’s there. A story that exists in spite of the medium to which it is committed.
This scene never appears in the movie.
October 24, 2021
I voluntarily quit composing for Rogue Eclipse today. It’s possible to work alongside some of the nicest people around on a really exciting project and still know when something isn’t right for you.
At the end of the day, composing music just isn’t where my heart is anymore.
I want to properly explore a bunch of other avenues of creativity, and more importantly, I desperately want to start making meaningful progress on Where Abundance Lies again.
October 3, 2021
Inhabiting Imaginary Spaces // The Dreaded Subject of Systems
I’m still trying to refine my own ideas and how I talk about play. I don’t want to be didactic, but at the same time, I feel a huge sense of discomfort on how it is often talked about by game designers and theorists. Please don’t take this as some kind of grand overarching theory of play, I’m more just trying to make clear my own feelings on such.
Almost every type of play, or game, primarily focuses on some kind of idea of space. This play-space is often imagined, in which case tools such as illustrations on a board, hand-drawn maps, levels in a videogame; or they can be completely real, as with playing fields, tables or social spaces.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the point of any game is to make being inside that space in some way compelling.
The primal joy of being able to inhabit and exist and move and express within an imagined space is the reason why games of all sorts, and more specifically roleplaying and videogames, are so special to me. I feel that often, far more focus is given to systems that intentionally or unintentionally detract from this, and I think this might be a good rubric for determining my feelings on game design theory.
Does a gameplay system aid or hinder the player in inhabiting the space?
For whose enjoyment does a system exist and what is its intended purpose?
Does a system treat the player as subject or participant?
Hopefully I can use these questions to help talk a bit more constructively about my feelings on game design as opposed to endlessly decrying the core loop as a concept.
October 3, 2021
I came up with a quick and dirty system for random-rolling basic concepts for weapons in the game, which I then imported into Gridless and laid out some very rudimentary stats, which can then be exported to a .json file for Godot to parse, hopefully taking a lot of the legwork out of creating each weapon in-game. My roll tables are as follows:
ARCHETYPES: SMG, Precision, Pistol, Burstfire, Assault, Sniper, Shotgun, Heavy (roll 1d8)
PROPERTES: Ballistic, Smart, Rail, Exotic (roll 1d4)
MANUFACTURERS: Eklund Concern, Temtesh Manufacturing Corporation, Tactical Hardware Design, Imnek Research and Development, XOR Fabrik, Void Ballistics (roll 1d6)
EKLUND CONCERN: Mass-production, function over aesthetic, rugged, dependable
TEMTESH MANUFACTURING CORPORATION: Southeast Asian heavy industrial megafabricator
TACTICAL HARDWARE DESIGN: Overpriced American paramilitary / PMC aesthetic fetish gear
IMNEK R&D: Weapons division of high-end scramjet and rail accelerator manufacture corp
XOR FABRIK: ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛-backed manufacturing arm of [REDACTED] ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ blacksite skunkworks
VOID BALLISTICS: Corporate plaything of a sadistic gun-fetishist billionaire, cruelty by design
After rolling about 40 guns this way, I also added in another ‘kitbashed’ category for improvised weapons, figuring it would make sense for those exploring ruins to try and engineer their own weapons out of spare parts, scrap and schematics. Zeiram’s incredible prop design being entirely to blame for this.
How the fuck I am meant to concept and model neary 50 guns is anybody’s guess really. Pretty sure I’ve set myself an impossible task. That number will likely fall considerably.
August 16, 2021
A vast swathe of boreal forest, moorland and rugged, windswept coast. Nobody knows the exact purpose of the many ruins that starkly dot the lands here, and the best guesses are left to the scholars and theorists, but many cut deep into the land itself, veins of angular concrete hollowing out the stone and earth.
Above ground live the people of the Underlands, a diverse mix of the obsolete technologies that humankind cast off in its passing - synthetic humanoids, biomechanical sleeves, constructed intelligences and workforce robotics. Young and unsure of their own history, they have formed many loose fiefdoms and factions, be they through shared identity, common objectives, or mutual aid and support. Tensions are rife and allegiances fluctuate. Some see the land as theirs by right, others as a resource to be exploited, some treat the ruins with a deep spiritual significance, while many simply try to eke out an existence. Salvaged technology and curiosities of bygone ages intermingle with labour and craftsmanship by hand.
Beneath the land, repositories of bygone ages sit untouched, waiting to be rediscovered. However, journeys into the deep are fraught with risk, be it from others who would contend claims with violence, from many weapons of war that still lie hidden, or other, far more esoteric threats that defy easy explanation.
Far off to the vast and uninhabited steppes of the east, lies a tower that juts out of the earth and pierces the sky like rebar through broken concrete. Those who venture there and back report a deep strangeness to the environment that could not easily be described, and the tower itself has yet to be explored. As such, wild rumours and tales abound as to what could lie inside.
April 27, 2021