It’s Complicated is available for preorder

3 07 2008

Preorders are closed. If you would like to order a copy of this book, you can do so here.

Cashier: How are you?
have them a week or two before GenCon. You can preorder <a
Customer: Do you want the honest answer?

Cashier: Yes.

Customer: I feel like the business end of a donkey. I am extremely hungover and did a mountain of cocaine last night. Now I have to make dinner for a 68-year-old gay artist who is trying to fuck me.

Cashier: I’m… sorry.

Customer: And the woman I love is in another state pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby, and I wish the baby was mine. And I’m sleeping with a dominatrix. And it’s all true.

-From “Overheard in New York”

Do you like stories about happy, functional, well-adjusted people who fall in love with the right people, say the right things, and live happily ever after?

If so, this is definitely not the game for you.

It’s Complicated is a about personality quirks, secrets both dark and embarrassing– but most of all, it’s about convoluted, messy, compelling, and occasionally one-sided relationships. This game is designed to facilitate play in the style of movies like The Royal Tenenbaums, and television shows like Ugly Betty and Pushing Daisies.

It’s probably going to be around 40 pages, 4.25″ x 7″, with color interiors. Art by Shreyas Sampat, layout by Nathan Paoletta, and game by me!

I’m really excited. I hope you are too!

(Also, Shreyas and I may be running a couple games of this and of Mist-Robed Gate at DexCon. Stay tuned!)

Play Unsafe and writing dangerously

31 01 2008

Graham Walmsley released his well-received roleplaying handbook, Play Unsafe, as a PDF earlier today. Since I’m in the process of packing up my worldly belongings to ship them elsewhere, I haven’t been keen on the idea of getting more stuff shipped here, so I’d been waiting for the digital download. I’m glad he finally released it in PDF form, and I think the price ($10) is perfect for what you get.

There’s a lot that’s good about Play Unsafe, so much in fact that we should get the only negative out of the way– that way, when you buy this (and you should buy this) you don’t ask, “Elizabeth! Why didn’t you tell me about the layout?” It’s not the best. Sometimes the blockquotes are hard to read. It’s not slick eye-candy, and you squint sometimes, but it’s worth dealing with that for the content.

Let’s get the normal review bits out of the way too, so we can get to what I’m truly excited about: the tone of the book is great. Graham talks quite a bit about playing outside the comfort zone, about relating things to personal tastes and fears– and he brings up some of his own. The tone is conversational without being too talky, and the fact that he brings himself into the equation does nice things; if, as he says, we tend to dislike characters with status higher than our own, the fact he speaks to the reader as a peer is probably one of the reasons this book is so likeable.

The content is spot-on. There are a lot of important concepts: collaborate with the players, don’t plan ahead, don’t try to be too clever, just build on the story as an ensemble. Create mysteries and solve them together. Figure out how to reincorporate elements, and be aware of accidental promises you make to the other players. My favorite bit of advice is one I’ve always tried to live by, so it only makes sense that it works for roleplaying too:

If you find something difficult, do it until it’s not. If something scares you, do it until it doesn’t.

The thing that excites me the most about Play Unsafe, however, is the idea of reversing the information here. There are games which encourage the kind of play this book evangelizes– Jonathan’s Transantiago is the immediate example that comes to mind, and I think there’s a decently-sized chunk of it in It’s Complicated as well. But why stop with rules that merely encourage this kind of play? Why not make games which specifically, through the mechanics and the general system requirements, prohibit planning? Railroad the players into spontanaeity and collaboration?

I feel like this approach could be the direct response needed to the great conversations Jonathan and Chris Chinn have been starting about RPGs and our wargamer roots. If non-gamers don’t understand stats, why have them? Everyone understands stories. If you give people the tools to tell compelling and fun stories with a minimum of effort– enjoyable effort– then, well, I think you’ve got a game worth playing, for gamers and non-gamers alike.

If you’re already playing games from the frontier, the concepts in this book might not seem too new to you– but if you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around some less mainstream games, you’ll find this a godsend. If you’re designing games on the frontier, these are concepts you may have thought about but not known how to articulate– this book is a great reminder of how deceptively simple it can be to create enjoyable play. And if you’re anyone who likes RPGs at all– but especially someone transtioning from the world of trad gaming– get yourself this book. When everyone at the table can point out why a story is good, and everyone has the confidence to adapt and trust and keep from trying too hard.. Well, that’s a game I’d want to play in.

JiffyCon, arcade gaming, etc.

13 11 2007

So, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be catching a flight to Pennsylvania in the wee hours tomorrow morning. Once there, I’ll be hopping in a car with Shreyas and we’ll road trip it up to western Massachusetts, where we’ll be crashing with the completely awesome Josh and Casey! And then, on Saturday: JiffyCon!

I’m excited, because other than a chargen playtest for Shreyas’ game Skyflower, and the playtest for It’s Complicated (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t even count), I’ve never played a single “indie” RPG. My experience is all WW and TSR (yes, I haven’t played D&D since WotC bought them out.. Man I’m old) and WotC and Palladium. I haven’t even read any published indie games— just stuff in The RPG Bakery’s Oven for critique, and to give feedback on stuff my friends are working on. (Speaking of: Fingers on the Firmament and The Mist-Robed Gate are unspeakable hotness. Dancing lost and alone through the stars and emo wuxia where you stab character sheets with knives? HECK yes.)

Anyway, I digress. I’m really looking forward to getting my feet wet and seeing how all of this innovative game design actually works in play. Plus! Josh has expressed interest in getting a playtest of Addict going, which is super exciting to me. I’d like to get a rough PDF laid out today, but I have so much to do to get ready for tomorrow, I’m not sure I’ll have time.

Also: Jason Petrasko and I are working on a completely awesome project together! If it goes well, it’ll make PDF distribution much slicker– it’ll be easier to find games you’d love to play, and easier for designers to get feedback from people playing said games. I’ll probably talk more about this once the barebones site is actually up– so probably after JiffyCon. If you want to know more and you’re there, though, poke me about it and I’ll be happy to go on a happy ramble.

Addict: First draft DONE!

11 11 2007

I’m completely psyched! All initial work on Addict is done. I’m sure it will need some fine-tuning once it gets playtested, but all the basics and the guts of the game are all there. Please check it out and let me know what you think; there’s the big shift in rules (from the three different point mechanics to the unified balancing thing, and new rules to encourage working together), and of course, lots of technical writing, which I’m not convinced is my strong suit.

My goal is to get either this or It’s Complicated playtested before Shreyas and I go on our monumental JiffyCon road trip on Wednesday. Will it happen? Time will tell! I’m really hoping so. Complicated is rough, because it takes a minimum of four players; Addict may be rough because chargen is so involved. Maybe we can do something like Shreyas did with Skyflower, and run a playtest of chargen only. We’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see.

Big ups to the fine folks of #indierpgs helping me talk through the endgame stuff, and everyone else I’ve bothered with this nonsense over the last two weeks. (Note to said people: you’re not out of the woods yet.)

It’s Complicated: A game about messy lives and messy relationships

4 11 2007

The extremely rough PDF of the rough version of It’s Complicated can be downloaded here. There’s also a tab at the top of the screen, if you’re the type who prefer things in HTML form.

Hey look! I wrote a whole game. That still needs a lot of polishing. But all the mechanics are there! That’s kind of crazy to me. Please take a look and let me know what you think– I’m going to be looking for playtesters in the near future, just to see if it actually works, and what needs to be streamlined.


4 11 2007

You know how I said that “Perfectly Dysfunctional” would be the game I wrote after I finished Addict? That’s kind of a lie. I finished writing it last night. There’s a lot which isn’t in my last blog post; I’m polishing up a playtestable PDF, and I’ll hopefully post it later today. Since the game was written in, say, 12 hours, I’m certain it’s pretty rough– and the layout won’t be that pretty, but it will be workable. Oh, and it has a new name: It’s Complicated.

Me: Hey, should I explain why you don’t have like
stats in this game?
Other than oddities and dysfunctions I mean
Shreyas: oh
i mean, you could, but i don’t think it’d be any content added if you did

Me: Right, that’s what I thought
I was just wondering if people were going to be like
“Wait, how do I know how strong I am”
Shreyas: yeah
so i’m curious
why aren’t there

Me: It’s not what the game is about
If I make a bunch of stats for strength and dexterity and charisma, people will think they have to punch walls and run fast and convince people to do things
Plus if you have a bunch of standard stats, you feel compelled to take something in everything, even if it doesn’t fit your character

Shreyas: mhm

Me: It’s just way more elegant to be like “My oddity is extreme strength; my dysfunction is that sometimes I forget I have it, so I don’t like to exert any force at all”