I've spent most of my life thinking and worrying about games but not nearly enough time actually playing. That is changing now. In real life I'm a legal aid lawyer, though I prefer the term 'public defender', in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Apr 232015

Higs Renuion 2015Friday, April 17th – Halifax Indy gamers gathered at Josh’s house to fritter away our lives. Sam Fraser of Grow Giant Games (yes that’s a plug Sam), offered up a chance to play-test a project he’s had on the back-burner of an old decommissioned wood stove hidden in a shed at the old homestead.

The Clam Farmer

The Dog-eared Super Hero doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with super heroes.  In our iteration it featured a beleaguered clam-farmer trying to hold her family together on the shores of Nova Scotia while exploiting her supernatural connection to the tasty bi-valves.  Sam has done a lot of experimentation with story-building games.  Working at all levels of granularity – I recall him testing a game that worked on a word by word scale.  What I think really works well with this one is that the players get to actually write. Instead of role-play or drama, the players simply write out an event or scene or 2-3 lines of dialogue on an index card.  Each round the cards are read out and the table votes on which one becomes canon.

This gave everyone a chance to experience the pleasure of uncompromising creativity while tending to create a mostly coherent story.

 Posted by at 12:14 pm
Oct 222014

I totally failed to print this review in time to have any impact on Sam Fraser’s awesome Kickstarter campaign.  Never the less for the sake of closure I’d like to sheepishly finish it out now (in October). 

— Draft circa sept 2, 2014 —

Summer break is done and its time to start taking gaming seriously again!  I can’t think of a better way than to joyously promote my friend Sam Fraser’s excellent project:  Rogues to Riches.

I first played this game with a group of strangers at an open game night at Quantum Frontier on Robie Street in Halifax. Sam was teaching people to play with a simple prototype deck of beautifully illustrated cards. But besides the cards, it was still pretty bare bones.  I think, to keep score, we were using a bowl of roasted almonds.  This proved to be a serious handicap for someone with my will power since I couldn’t stop my self from eating some of my points before the game wound up – thus severely impacting my final ranking.

The premise is simple: Each player is a wealthy dilettante burglar in a steam-punk toned alternate Victorian era  city.   The burglary is motivated by pride and bragging rights more than any other reason.  The game play is even more elegant.  On a turn a player describes how they would use certain arbitrary equipment to assist in a heist at a location ‘guarded’ by another player. The group then decides whether the attempt succeeds or fails by voting – the votes are added to a die roll and fate decides!

Sam introduced this to me as a story-telling game.  I was originally skeptical of his usage as my views were constrained by conventions of the “story-games” crowd of game design (many of which are discussed on this blog).  But I was wrong.  Story-telling is exactly what Rogues to Riches is about.  Or perhaps telling tall tales is more accurate.  Since in order to convince other players to vote in your favour and allow you to get the loot, you have to pitch a fairly far fetched explanation of how you would totally be able to subdue a hungry tiger with an umbrella.  Or traverse a barbed-wire moat with only a bear costume and a collection of mechanical beetles.  It’s a challenge of advocacy and facts and logic are not on your side.  Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novels describes a an element frequently left off the periodic table called ‘narrativium’.  It’s the element of the universe that causes “million and one chances to crop up nine out of ten times”.  Rogues to Riches oozes narrativium.  A good session of this game consists of a group of players competitively cooperating to goad each other into coming up with outlandish fallacious but irresistible arguments.

I stopped to think about something there that I’ll have to talk to Sam about soon.


Back to the review.

I think R2R is an important game because Sam is deliberately challenging the division between competitive and cooperative gaming.  There are points (in the form of gold coins) and loot and there will be a winner a  lot of losers at the end of the game, but without beating you over the head, the game is very clearly nudging players to practice ‘giving’ in the sense that improv actors and comedians use the term.  In lots of modern role-playing games there is talk about shared authority and stuff suggesting that GM’s and players subvert the goal of winning to the value of a narrative . In R2R this proposition is right out on the table.  Once the story telling starts, everyone enters into a negotiation.  The player whose turn it is makes a pitch.  The defender counters, and then the rest of the players are pulled in as their vote is sought.  Being an ungenerous and unreasonable defender taints the pool from whom you’ll be seeking votes on your turn.  Giving in too easily, or voting too liberally in favour of feeble stories, gives away points to your competitors.  So its got a fundamental prisoners dilemma at a subtle level.  All these considerations teach people to be more fun to play with and therefore teach people to play games better.  The skills / attitude demanded by R2R can make people better at playing all games!



 Posted by at 5:22 pm
Jul 162014

So on July 10th players met at Sam’s place for our third AW session.  Astute readers of this record will note therefore that this implies an undocumented second session. If you are that reader you are correct.  If I had made a a post I know the title would have been: [Apocalypse World] You gotta know when to hold ’em. With such a precedent, the title for this report would make even more sense.  Action during that lost session revolved around the struggles of Vega’s hard hold: Iron Well. Iron well dealt with a refugee problem, shunting some weary and possibly sickly pilgrims off to work on the out-lying farms.  Now the pilgrims are gone or dead and the farms are abandoned.  Session three began with Iron Well sliding into want.  In the mean time Always and Crimson Beastie turned about at began heading back to the Hold. Crimson set on declaring his love for Plum and daring Vega’s wrath by inviting Plum to abscond together.

Always’s group of followers also finds themselves in want after giving up so much of their life energy to fuel Alway’s cryptic ritual in the swamp.  Going in to want seems to make them jumpy.  Just in sight of Iron Well the party is intercepted by Pyotr on a mission from Vega.  Crimson refuses to be deterred and sweeps Pytor up in his mad, all but headlong rush to destruction.

Before  the walls of Iron Well, Crimson makes his declaration at the top of his lungs demanding Plum be “set free” to follow eir heart and then makes an additional plea directly to Plum’s heart. Out of shear grandiosity Crimson hurls the precious lure, the hook in his heart that continuosly drew him back to Plum up into Vega’s face.  The logic being, if Vega didn’t respond they’d be storming the Hardhold anyways and would either reclaim the precious treasure or die in the attempt.  With Crimson, there really never is ever any ‘holding back’.

But the bloody climax was averted.  Ever pragmatic, Vega accepted the return of her stolen property and allowed Plum to make eir own choice.  Pyotr had earlier offered to take Plum on his far flung trading missions.  Crimson, battle lust sated (or at least distracted) resigns her temporary and tenuous command and offers to work for Pyotr so long as Plum is in his company.  Always does what Always always does…  But before the new party can depart, just before they’ve turned their back on Iron Well a sound from the wild lands captures everyone’s attention.    Some people are coming out of the woods.  They are coming this way.  And they don’t look like they’re coming to talk.

May 302014

This is a place holder, not  a report yet… some Halifax Indie gamers: Sam, Kevin, Alissa, Jake, Owen and Joshua met on May 29th at Sam’s house to commence an AW campaign.

Sam, I think you already have author or editor privileges on this blog.  If you care to report on the game play please edit this post.   Actually anyone who played is welcome to contribute to this blog.  Email me for an account.


 Posted by at 4:21 pm
May 302014

On the 8th of May, Carter, Alissa, and Joshua returned to the unassuming tables of gaming at Games People Play to continue the story of our Sorcerers.

Event’s at the end of our last session had lead most players to consider their need for greater demonic power.  I believe it ended with failed summoning attempts by both Vincent King and Stephen Demoine. On this day, Vincent gathered together a make-shift coven recruiting his pagan friends and relations from their commune out in Beaverbank to assist with a massive summoning.  They were seeking to call and contain the soul of an illustrious war hero in the King Family history. Since Nat wasn’t playing today the Professor Demoine did not re-attempt any summoning today but  Detective Constable Garien, on extended enforced leave with pay, set about seeking additional aid from beyond the grave.   It took us the rest of the session to resolve these two sorcerous endeavours.  It is a shame I didn’t get around to recording this entry more quickly because my memories of the details are quire fragmented. The following impressions are not likely to be complete or accurate.  Actually as I riff off those memories I’m liable to invent lots of detail that wasn’t discussed at the table. [Alissa’s note: confirmed. My commentary is below].

Tasha driven I think primarily by her hatred for the danger other demons posed for innocents sought to summon something to help her protect others from their powers.  Having seen both Kyoteh the shadowy strangler and Smythe in action she needed something that could interfere with those attacks. Frustrated by the limits of her own powers, she was none-the-less adamant in her refusal to dabble in the narcotic concoctions that other sorcerers often use to ‘open their mind’ to the Lore.  She relied as best as she could on hard cold historical research and managed (I believe)  to get her hands on a useful artifact.  The enabled her to make contact with the angry karma of a scientist, who died before his time, who had dedicated his life to the study of sound, sonic shocks and the like.  (I really hope you can flesh this out Alissa because I remember I quite liked the story).

[Clive Benjamin, a young man rendered permanently deaf by the Halifax Explosion in 1917. He became a driven scientist who studied the properties of sound as it relates to sonic booms. He had just made a major breakthrough in 1922, which would lead to revolutionary technology which could be used for defence (self explanatory) and industry (moving heavy objects). Before he could publish his work, he was murdered (strangled, he didn’t hear the threat behind him) by a jealous rival scientist, Stewart Linnon. To add insult to a dead body, Stewart Linnon intended to take credit for his work. Of course the murderer was a pretty poor scientist and he couldn’t make any sense of Benjamin’s research; so instead he destroyed everything he could find. Some small pieces of research did survive in the form of letters and related papers (Tasha found these in the NS Archives), but sadly these only point to what Mr. Benjamin had discovered. They are not enough to recover his original research. Of some note is the fact that Stewart Linnon mysteriously drowned one year later; after falling off the waterfront into the harbour on a completely calm day. Perhaps Clive Benjamin got some measure of revenge after all.]

(Despite successfully contacting this spirit, it would take something more than mere research to bring it back across…  Still eschewing the drugs, she allowed herself to dabble for the first time in animal sacrifice.  Recently  her home had been invaded by pigeons.  A mated pair had meticulously constructed a cozy nest up in the attic and had lost no time starting a family.  Several eggs had recently hatched and three adorable squabs (or ‘squeakers’ as baby pigeons are also called) [Alissa’s note: really? squabs? squeakers?] had begun to fill the air with their cries for food.  Their demands not only kept their parents in a constant flutter but of course also disturbed the Detective-Constables’s already fretful sleeps. So we can hardly be surprised, that upon recognizing the utility of spilling the blood of live, thriving creatures in the dark rituals in which twisted and tortured souls are invited to take form once again in our universe Tasha’s mind would immediately light upon a means of killing two birds with one stone… What happened next is so grim, gross, and soul-destroying I shall not describe in any detail. [Alissa’s note: that’s because you can’t remember. As I recall it wasn’t that gross or soul-destroying… but I’ll agree it sure wasn’t pretty and it made a big mess I had to clean up.]   Suffice to say, if Tasha lies awake, haunted and sleepless… it won’t be those birds fault any more.

The summoning and binding then proceeded without a hitch and Tasha now finds herself the proud mistress of yet another object demon.  This one resides in the physical form of a miniature glass bell jar complete with aircock and diaphragm like those used in early 20th century science experiments to demonstrate the lack of sound in a vacuum.  In bright natural light the jar appears perfectly empty, but at night or indoors, it is often possible to catch curious shadows: sometimes of mysterious mechanisms, other times a human figure or even the fluttering of bird wings appears for an instant.   Whenever you are looking directly at it, it is perfectly silent. But anyone who is deaf  will ‘hear’ a rapid whispering when its presence. [Alissa’s note: I think you “invented” this part Josh. I don’t remember anything about the thing whispering. It does sound kind of cool though.]  Any sort of deafness will do, so temporarily deafening oneself permits communication. It’s need is to be present and subjected to deafening bursts of high decibel noise [Alissa’s note: the sorcerer may wear earplugs].  In the immediate wake of subjecting oneself to such sound, a person can also ‘hear’ its whisperings.

[What about Vincent King? he did a sort of successful summoning but lost his humanity and is now possessed by his ancestor demon. Also what about him slitting the cow’s throat? After all, I got told off for pigeons. Nice pictures!]

To be continued…




May 022014

Thank you, thank you!   Let me take a break to introduce the members of our Trio:  First the’res  me Willem Wilson on base… then of course our front:  Octavia the Brave, free lancing paladin of all that is good and just, wielding her Halberd of fairness in her mailed fists of righteousness…  and finally, in the back we have….  er … well never mind the man behind the curtain.  So is everyone glad to be here!??

Last night Nat lead Owen Alissa, and Josh on a fine dungeon delve courtesy of Dungeon World – a “powered by the apocalypse” reboot of the dungeon crawling fantasy genre.

Character creation is pretty fun and fast.  It’s awfully fun to grab a character sheet and simply make a few simple choices.  Owen chose the thief sheet, I chose the bard, and Alissa the paladin. We all filled in some blanks to describe our bonds (history) with eachother.  The premise became that Octavia was a notable hero.  Willem  was an entertainer and musician who had convinced Octavia to let him join her on some important mission for the purpose of gathering material to compose a great ballad about her deeds.  Derek was an old comrade/rival of Willem who had some history together. Willem thinks Derek stays with him out of genuine affection and loyalty. Derek claimed that Willem was so flashy he provided great cover for Dereks more nefarious hobbies.  Pickpocketing and looting I suppose.

The adventure began with the three waking up in the depths of a cavern far far from the surface.  Observations suggest that they are standing on a dry (at least for now) subterranean river bed .  Should we go  upstream or downstream?  Before making progress in any direction we get attacked by a small swarm of giant rats from upstream.  After gnawing on Willem for a while, and getting bashed by Octavia the rats decide to move on.  Derek scales the wall of the cavern — the river bank— and discovers a crevice leading up and away.  Goblins attack.  Glowing mushrooms are gathered.  A cloaker constricts the paladin and is defeated. Diplomacy with underground nautically inclined dark elves ensue…

It looked like we were all having fun.  We probably only played less than two hours all told.  I’m pretty sure we could have gone longer – in terms of still having fun – had we more time.  So I’d give the game, and Nat, a high recommendation for being good for quickstart adventure fun.


 Posted by at 2:22 pm
May 022014

The latest chapter of our Halifax-based sorcerer game unfolded last Thursday on April 29th. The action commenced down on the waterfront where we had left at least three of the sorcerers following the shoot-up from the previous session.

I admit my memory is getting foggy already, so I propose to start with a short snapshot of where each character was at the end of the session.  Then I’ll leave it to you to remind me about how they got there. And/or correct me regarding last known position.

Shake Finegan: last seen in the dead of night helping Marley launch her dubious vessel into the Bedford Basin.  Will he board and sail the seas as Marley’s 1st mate?  Will he debark at Point Pleasant Shoal, dig up his wealth and carry out his shceme of revenge?  Will he do something totally unpredictable?  We don’t know.  We only know that his name will live in infamy among the surviving blue devils who will look back on this as the year Shake shook us down.

Vincent King: Last seen with other members of his clan cow jacking or cattle rustling or something, presumably looking for blood to fuel some hideous pagan ritual in the woods of Beaverbank.  What are they summoning!?

Stephen Demoine: Malingering back in his favourite bed back in the Infirmary.  In kind of a reverse Münchausen syndrome, he’s feigning injury in the hopes of AVOIDING more attention.  Will he succeed?  Will he defeat his inner demons or will he succom…  oh wait no.    Dr. Demoine was last seen collapsed in his apartment, illuminated by a single guttering candle fame,  historical print outs scattered around him, oddities and artifacts, hand drawn sketches of things we were not meant to know…  His hunger for power and efficacy wracking his body. Will he find the physical strength he needs from somewhere beyond the grave?

Tasha Garien: Home, alone confronted with the dire choice… to let the other sorcerers in this city continue to run amok, leading to terror, human sacrifice, shoot outs down town… or will she embrace the power she needs to turn the tides and defeat them.  Suspended from work, isolated from her friends.  To whom, among the living, can she turn.

It turns out I remembered more than I thought despite my headache:

Starting off Vincent King was under arrest for being involved in last night’s stabbing and having a human toe in his pocket. He was shown to a room with a phone and called a very sleepy lawyer at 3:00 in the morning. The lawyer basically told him not to say anything, and Vincent was released pending trial that morning, told his court date, and left to walk home.

Our other characters were left off in front of the maritime museum. Shake kept swimming away and Stephen Demoine is unconscious and gravely injured from multiple bullet wounds. Kyla Mardine is also badly hurt and semi-conscious. This leaves Tasha Garien. She briefly checks on Kyla, who is closest, and props her up against the car, making sure she touches both her hands. Then she runs to Stephen Demoine and gives him first aid. Tasha is successful and Demoine is stabilized. Ambulances and police arrive to take them away. Sarge gets there and the first words out of his mouth are: “Garien, what the fuck happened?” Tasha tells him she was in the car with Kyla and saw the professor in an altercation with the stabbing suspect (Wimpy) and another suspect thought to be his accomplice (Shake). She continues by saying she got out and told Kyla to stay in the car (she didn’t) and got out. Tasha then says when the suspect/assailant (Wimpy) shot the professor, and she fired a shot herself at the suspect. Garien mentions she believes she hit the suspect, but it had little effect and he ran off around the corner of the museum, while his accomplice (Shake) jumped into the harbour and swam away. Finally, she says she (Tasha) heard Kyla go down behind her (doesn’t know why) and she didn’t chase the attacker because she had two civilians down.  Sarge believes the story but is still very ticked off and tells Tasha to go to the station and write up a report ASAP. Garien’s response: “Yes sir.”

Vincent gets home and decides he has to lose the sawed-off rifle. To do this, he walks (unarmed) into the local Blue Devils bar/dive (name?) and tells the bartender he has something to sell. The bartender tells him he should leave in no uncertain terms, and he does. He heads home, but he’s followed out of the bar by two Blue Devils. The knock on the door and Vincent opens it a crack to talk to them. Big mistake. The devils slam the door open; knocking the writer backwards. Vincent fights but is easily overpowered. The devils aggressively tell him he can’t go selling drugs on their turf; trying to take away their customers. Vincent says he wanted to sell a weapon, not drugs. The goons search his place and find his specialized sorcerer drugs and ask him “what the fuck is this shit”? Vincent has some concoction that includes, dope, E, and a feather. They take that. The devils then get high on Vincent’s drugs, eat his food, trash his place and laugh at him. Then they leave. They do not find the sawed-off rifle.

Stephen Demoine wakes up in hospital (again) and is making another miraculous recovery. He asks to give a video statement to police. He says “Two crazy ladies shot me”, one of whom is a coroner, and the other one who was wearing a police uniform. He’s talking to Vernon, who quickly kills the video recording and asks him to repeat himself, saying “Constable Garien shot you?” Demoine is adamant that yes, she did. Vernon leaves and Stephen goes home to feed his demon. He’s in for a loud three hours.

Shake manages to climb onto the passing Dartmouth ferry without being noticed; thanks to help with Dominic’s glamour. He pickpockets a student and sneaks off the ferry before it docks without raising the alarm. Shake climbs up a nearby wharf (near the small park) and has made it to Dartmouth, dripping wet, with $150, but with a hundred bill and a fifty bill. He needs change to call a cab from a payphone.

At the police office, Tasha presents her report to Sarge. Vernon suddenly arrives and asks to speak with Sarge in private for a moment. Tasha hears Sarge yelling in the hall. The two of them return and tell Tasha that Mr. Demoine is claiming she shot him. Garien seems surprised. Sarge tells Tasha she’s suspended with pay for a week during the investigation; she is not to talk to or have any contact with the people involved. This means Stephen Demoine, and Kyla Mardine. Kyla is still in the hospital. Tasha changes into plain clothes and calls Jeremy, but he tells her he has to report anything she says to the chief, so they can’t talk. She goes to Annabel’s office.

Vincent decides he wants to summon a demon, since he currently has none (the toe is still with the police). He calls his druid buddies and they decide to get together, take drugs and do a group summon (possibly there was something involving sacrificing cows?). The end result; the summoning does not work and they all wind up sick from failed summoning and dangerously losing willpower as a result of the drugs (permanently). I believe they were summoning in a field somewhere. They fail miserably and pass out en mass, in pretty bad shape.

Stephen has just finished a three hour horror screaming session to feed his demon; with Beethoven blaring to mask the noise from his neighbours. With his demon sated, a hoarse Stephen goes to the library and researches a demon he wants to contact (something involving armour). He goes home, takes drugs to boost his power (?) and tries to summon it. He fails miserably, throws up and passes out in a near death state; alone in his apartment.

Tasha Garien goes to her appointment with Annabel. Annabel has changed her mind about Simon Kim and wants him to go back to normal police custody; even though she thinks his condition could flare up at any time. Tasha thinks this is rather two faced of her; since the police officer risked her career to get him into Annabel’s hands in the first place. However there is very little a suspended officer can do, and she takes this news with resignation. After some questioning, Annabel reveals what she was hiding from Garien earlier—Peter Garien told her he had concerns Tasha was hiding something before he died. Tasha knows this is the truth and is stunned. After more discussion Annabel starts talking about “stress and paranoia” and writing a prescription; telling Garien she should tell her what she’s hiding because “I fix people and I can fix all your problems.” At this Tasha start laughing bitterly and says she will tell Annabel… but “Are you sure you want to know?” Annabel hesitates at first and then eventually says yes. Tasha goes to Delane’s computer and shows Annabel everything that Kyla complied. Annabel starts freaking out, saying both Tasha and Kyla Mardine are suffering from delusions. Tasha walks out of the office (taking Kyla’s evidence, leaving the presciption) with Annabel screaming her name. Tasha stops in the hallway as Annabel runs after her; but the doctor is hysterical and is saying something to the effect that Tasha and Kyla must be stopped from spreading this delusion and making other people believe it. Tasha responds “you’re pathetic. you’re in denial” and continues walking out of the office; ignoring Annabel’s screaming. As far as we know, Tasha is on her way home.

Shake walks up Queen Street in Dartmouth and finds a sketchy place to buy some food (making change) and eats. He gets to a payphone and calls a cab, and the cab takes him to see Marley. Marley demands to know what’s going on and he brings her up to speed. She asks why he is so eager to get a certain someone out of jail. Shake finally explains he wants to get him out of jail so he can kill him. Months ago, the criminal in question kidnapped Shake and kept him imprisoned in his house for days; where he was assulted/tortured. Shake wants revenge. Marley tells him that revenge could get him killed; he should just let it go, get out of town with her and be free. She’s finished her “boat” and wants to sail away out of Halifax and “live off the land and hunt whales.” Shake is intrigued and follows her to the boat.



Apr 282014

reposted for Geoffrey McVey who sent it to me on March 31  (Sorry I’m so damn slow about this) 

A Quartet for Ravens, Session Three

Tonight in our game, Derek, Joan, and Odette emerged from choosing their faerie patrons to go rescue Odette’s brother Travis from what they thought were the clutches of the Unseelie Court.

As it turned out, they were right. Going to Odette’s place, they found him looking slightly more out of it than usual and explaining that the Unseelie had promised that they would make his wishes come true if he served them. He also brought out two more of the Unseelie champions from St. Collens: Edie (“the town’s only Goth”), who had apparently been given a bow and told that she would be rewarded by having Derek notice her; and Dionne, a dancer not quite as good as Odette, who had been promised to take her proper place as a dancer once the Unseelie won.

Combat ensued, taking up most of the evening. Odette faced off against Edie with a combination of acrobatic kicks (thanks to the goatlike leaping powers granted by her patron, Father Mountain), Joan grabbed a lamp and tried to tangle Dionne’s legs in the cord, and Derek hid behind a couch as Travis’ shadow grew to menacing size. The battle ended with Derek conjured a soothing flame in his hand that caused the Unseelie to stop their violent attacks and retreat.

Afterwards, the heroes retreated to Derek’s home to check on his father, only to discover that someone had left a saucer of milk outside the door. Upon entering, Derek heard sounds of scuttling feet and spotted a group of tiny, white-haired men hiding around the house. They spoke to him in a language he couldn’t understand, but seemed friendly (and had tidied the place), so he withdrew to bring in Odette and Joan. Neither of them could understand the men, either.

Eventually, they all decided that whoever the men were, they didn’t mean any harm to Derek’s father, so the group all decided to sleep for the night. That’s where we paused.

 Posted by at 11:22 am
Apr 152014

Pirates!Last Friday, April 11 a great number of gamers, I hope I don’t miss any (in order of appearance), Alissa, Jake, Carter, Richard, Travis, Sam, Stacy, and Tracy arrived at Joshua’s house.  We warmed up with a couple of rounds of Resistance.  I inadvertently played the traitor strategy of “draw maximum attention to myself and distract the resistance from thinking about who the other traitor is”.  This worked well, but possibly only because we weren’t playing exactly by the rules. (We thought team leaders couldn’t send themselves on missions.)  After two rounds of play and plenty of appropriate beverages we were all in a perfect frame of mind for Pirates!  Since neither Nat or Sebastian from the previous Pirates! game was present I recycled the plot from their game.  Actually, plot and story are so unimportant, I don’t think it would have mattered if they were here.  When people are drinking and playing role-playing games, silly over-the-top play is the norm.  So that isn’t what makes Pirates! special.  In my opinion the genius of the game is that it is designed to provide sustained enjoyment in such a state.  When other RPG’s start to break down into silliness I feel they enter a fairly brief death spiral of hilarity.  Perhaps its because another game might be designed to reward careful tactical thinking and great violence has to be done to the prepared material or the mechanics and system to tolerate the tomfoolery.   But with Pirates, since the foolish response is generally the correct one, the game’s integrity is unharmed and it can carry on.   We were up to eight players + gm, all very rowdy and talkative and it seemed that everyone was enjoying it right up until the end.  I resorted to a pretty strict turn-taking order with each player allowed to act, and roll dice, get consequences once before moving on.  People were allowed to invite others to join in on their turns ie.  to avoid “drinking alone”.   One thing that didn’t work well at all was PvP action.  I waffled between disallowing it completely, to allowing attempts to be made thought guaranteed to fail.  In retrospect I think it should vary between the tricks.  “Kill” will always fail, “Tease” should probably be subject to the will of the target player; Maraud and Devastate might work as expected (I interpret devastate v. a single target to always be non-lethal), Maraud however will always trigger the “don’t steal from friends” taboo (read broadly as don’t steal from friends or even fr-enemies).

Trying to play a game about pirates without tripping over racist or sexist or colonial tropes is tricky.  I’m sorry to say we were far from successful, however I was pleased with some stupid innovations. Whether the amount to sensitive or enlightened play, or not, is a question I’ll gracelessly duck.  When the pirates arrived on the island with the volcano, they fell afoul of the locals.  As soon as the word ‘cannibals’ escaped my lips I felt awkward so I attempted to patch it up by describing them as universally white, balding, middle-aged cannibals… a la Anthony Hopkins.   The island of Siren’s was merely populated by alluring and seductive ‘members of gender of your preference’, this worked well and seemed to provide something for everyone.


 Posted by at 1:35 pm
Apr 042014


On March 27, 2014 Sam, Nat and Joshua gathered at the Board Room.  After the owner bullied us (hey we didn’t resist that hard) into playing a cool space board game (what was it called?), Joshua bullied the group into trying out “Shooting the Moon” by Emily Care Boss .

I required that I play the beloved and let Sam and Nat fight over the desirable rolls of ‘suitor 1’ or ‘suitor 2’.  After minimal bloodshed we agreed one some solution.  As much as I had hoped the night would turn into a session of ‘bros’ gender switching and pushing various role-playing boundaries 😉 we inadvertently all that excitement by concocting a fairly abstract romance in which I, as the beloved played a hot sexy new tech and gaming startup and the boys played large corporate interests both intent on winning me as “the prize”.  I was a company called Counterfate Revolution in partial homage to Sam’s latest prototype storytelling game (Counterfate) . Looking across the Boardroom my eyes lit upon some people at another table playing something called Revolution.

Sam’s character was meant to portray the dullest and oldest of tech behemoths with social media thrown in. Kinda if IBM, Microsoft and Facebook all merge  (if they haven’t already).  He was called V.A.T. Technologies, the joke is that V.A.T. stands for Value Added Technology but no one remembers, so they’ve grown another ‘technology”  I can see this turning latter into VATT Tech Corp down the road…  and so on and so on.  Trust me it feels good to think you’re as clever as I felt like I thought I was that night!

Nat played “the circle”  a kind of warmer and fuzzier version of Anonymous with only the most altruistic of goals.

Story? Yeah there was plenty of that.  Shooting the moon works by rewarding players for advancing the story with dice which they roll to gain points and add  positive aspects to their characters descriptions.  There are further incentives to accept certain setbacks and negative aspects in return for  more dice.  While the rules call for three complete rounds we wrapped up with only a single round.  Frankly by that point, due to aggressive play there was so little left of the main characters I’m curious about whether anyone would have survived 3 rounds.  Lots of fun was had.  Our reading of the game seemed to really open the door up to satire and smart-alecky play.  Perhaps with different settings and character choices one develops more intimate and authentic narratives.  But I doubt it.  Emily Care Boss has published other games including “Under My Skin” which I believe are more in that vein.   Shooting the Moon is prettly clearly marketted as light hearted fun.  And we definitely got what we expected.


 Posted by at 3:56 pm