Links for the Week of August 28

Cool Links Mashups RP Storytelling Tech

Toronto Star paperboy WhitbyIt’s time again for that timeless Tuesday tradition! Rolling 12d12 until we get all 12s! Post some cool links! This week, we look at how gamers use technology, meaningful character actions that *gasp* sway the GM’s presentation of the setting, and a cool horror/spy game mashup!

Gaming on Tech Crack

This week saw my gaming group’s most high-tech setup ever. To support two distance “virtual gamers,” we used two laptops with built-in webcams, hooked one up to a 52″ HDTV, and used a conference call mic in the room with 4 gamers. Google Hangouts facilitated the session–the “auto picture switch” feature was awesome (whoever is speaking automatically moves to the “big picture” of the video chat). We even used the “screenshare” feature to share pictures of scribbled maps taken from our mobile phones.

While some lament the myriad avenues through which technology infests our lives, I’m the kind to just say, “Oh, another tool.” The same attitude has changed the way I read comics and fiction. Oddly, RPG books have been slower to the mix of my digital library.

Erik at Tenkar’s Tavern shares a useful post on using the Google Nexus 7 to read RPG books. I appreciate that he explores the practicality of looking both “portrait” and “landscape.” Of the four “electronic book” technologies I own (Kindle 3g, Kindle Fire, Google Galaxy Nexus, and Apple iPad), the iPad has been the only useful one for reading PDF RPG books.

I’m glad to hear that a new 7″ Android tablet surpasses many of the flaws of the Kindle Fire, and sincerely hope that new cheap devices on the market will convince RPG publishers that the 11″x7″ “two column hardcover tome” format is probably not the best for the future. In the meantime, us gamers will have to band together to talk about what works in digital RPG book use.

Related Links

More than Choose Your Own Adventure

As an aspiring-to-be-paid-to-be-published fiction author, I echo a sentiment I’ve heard many times from GMs: running a game is more dissimilar than similar to writing fiction. There’s an irony, however, in that gaming is most satisfying when it resembles well-crafted fiction.

The chief difference from RPGs and fiction is the interactive role of GM/player collaboration. I’m not going to go into an essay here on what that means; others have done it before, and it’s a fairly intuitive concept. I bring it up today because a post over at Gnome Stew reminds me of “satisfying when it resembles fiction” element. Patrick tells a gaming story of how a GM used a “color action” Patrick took to influence the outcome of the game–namely, a weapon became “blessed” through color rather than crunchy rules, and this very weapon was used to deliver the killing blow to the BBEG at the end of the game.

I’ve been toying recently with the concept that enemies should die/surrender/be “taken out” when it is appropriate to the story, rather than when their hit points run out. Again, there’s a whole lunchbox of concepts to be explored here, including a number of counter arguments.  The truth is that it sounds like Patrick participated in a damn good story, though, and I want to make my games more like that.

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My Style of Mashup

Frequent readers will know that I’m a big fan of the mashup. The easiest way to change a “tired” element of a setting is to insert another familiar element into it. Yes, you can make sex jokes now, they’ll only serve to emphasize my point.

Hearing about “Nights Black Agents” tickles my mashup fancy. It’s a horror game. The “tired” part of horror games is the “detective story” angle. Honestly, I’ve never played a horror detective game, but the concept excites me as much as a party of a fighter, wizard, and rogue hired to rescue the princess from a dragon. “Nights Black Agents” updates the genre by letting characters take on the role of superspy as they combat the dark elements of nightmares.

By the way, I learned of this game on Role Playing Public Radio, this year’s Ennie Award-winning RPG podcast. Congrats, RPPR!

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