Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Red & Pleasant Land TV Series Pitch


Cold open. Candle-lit night in an 18th century bedroom. A man (competent-looking, late 20s, early 30s) and a woman (striking, dark-haired—the same age or younger) in a magnificent canopy bed—the man shirtless and asleep, the woman next to him, awake, propped against the headboard, looking anxious. She reaches over him to an end-table and pours a glass of white wine.
She’s trembling as she brings it to her lips—drops fall on him, he opens his eyes and looks up to see her drinking.
“What’s the matter?” he says.
“I’m scared,” she says, drinking.
“The duel?”
We see he tries hard to connect here: “It will be fine”.

Cut to the morning. Period music plays over a semi-familiar scene of wealthy 18th century people getting dressed, he in one room, she (with servants) in another. Powder, make-up, wigs, layers, corset, petticoat, etc. Her outfit is impossibly beautiful but not quite of the period—a hint of Alexander McQueen or Gaultier in the mesh of the lace, his is crisp but practical with a long coat like a British officer. He takes a fine long weapon like a straight saber (again, slightly off-period) from a wall of swords.

Cut to an exterior shot in the country the two of them in their fine clothes, on a pair of horses, accompanied by a party of servants and family members riding together. The music still playing.
Cut to another similar party, similarly dressed but in a different palette, also lead by a man and a woman coming from the opposite direction.

While the music still plays, the two parties converge on an impressive public building—a great hall of some kind. The two parties occupy opposite sides of the hall. A middle-aged man steps forward, stands on a broad space of empty, polished tile between them and says something we can’t quite hear over the music, gesturing toward both sides. The man from the first scene and his rival walk toward the center of the room with their swords, they bow and then turn and stand back-to-back with the swords held upright.

Then, still facing away, they hold their swords out horizontally toward their respective parties. The striking woman and her opposite number walk forward in their heels and take the offered swords. The men walk away to the margins, the two armed women curtsey, the music stops, and then the women begin the most brutal duel modern camerawork can record.

The fight is not superheroic or acrobatic—there’s grunting and sweat and blood. Two well-trained people, in heels on marble, trying very earnestly to murder each other. They slide and dodge, massive hairstyles tumble, dresses rip, stiletto heels kick at hamstrings and eventually our striking woman stabs her opponent through the chest.

She backs away and hands the competent-looking man the sword as the opposite party rushes toward-, and lifts-, the dead woman’s body and glares at them.
“Do you think it will hold?” the man says, cleaning the sword.
“No, but she is dead” she replies.
“May I inquire as to the origin of the conflict?”
“No you may not, Atlee. Prepare the horses,” it becomes obvious at this point by her manner that he is her servant.

Cut to an exterior and they are riding back through the countryside with their party, somewhat faster than before. After a few beats, Atlee says quietly “We’re being followed”. The woman tells the party to disperse and they all ride off in different directions. Atlee and the woman ride fast through the forest, noticing shadows on horseback at the edge of their vision.

Eventually they come to the base of a grassy hill with a lone rider silhouetted at the top. The woman aims a crossbow up the hill and shouts “State your business”.

The rider raises his arms, holding something. After a bit he throws it and it begins to roll down the hill. As it nears the bottom we see it’s a leather cylinder a little larger than a Pringles can—the woman, still holding the crossbow, gestures with a nod to Atlee, who dismounts, picks up the case, opens it and then unrolls and examines a piece of parchment.
She glances down at Atlee “A warrant for my arrest?”
Atlee: “An offer of employment.”
The opening credits roll...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Grow Up

Ok, this started as a jokey post because when I saw people were again complaining that Monte Cook put out a pricey game (200$ or something) I went on twitter, searched the name of the game--"invisible sun"--and tried to figure out who these people were who suddenly care so much, and did that...
...and that was going to be the whole blog post. That's chapter one.


Chapter two is I went back to work and I was listening to an episode of the Wait, What? comics podcast--they were talking about labor rights for comics creators.

There were repeated failed attempts to unionize comics in the '60s, the '70s and the '80s--they all failed for the same reason a lot of fun, creative industries fail to unionize--if you give your boss any shit, there are millions of other people dying to do your job for half the money.

The '90s in comics didn't have a big push to unionize--instead the superstar creators at Marvel (Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and, yes, the much-maligned Rob Liefeld among others) went and formed their own company.

Monte Cook Games was essentially an Image Comics-style move: Monte had gotten a reputation working in D&D, he'd taken a look at what companies were offering and was like "Nah, screw it, I'll form my own company". This is a fundamentally different track from the one trod by Indie gamers (and indie comics)--he made a name for himself with the majors and built that name up as a source of value before striking off on his own. A world where "Monte Cook" on the cover means as much to nearly as many people as "Shadowrun" is a world where the creator has as much power as the moneymen.

If you've only ever been a comics' fan, you're probably going "Lol Spawn" right now. If you know anything about being a creator, though, you know what Image meant in terms of changing the face of the industry. And that split in consciousness drives a lot of what goes on in games.

You can say what you want about Invisible Sun, but the fact is Monte Cook Games is charging what its charging because it's trying to get himself and his freelancing friends who were sick of the usual immense dick-around in RPGs paid while still putting out a product that does new things for those who get their hands on it. You don't have to see it as heroic, but you do have to give it credit as something that actually worked, in a field where 95% of solutions don't.

Monte solved the problem of giving a handful of creative people a non-nightmarish working situation while (unlike most indies and fellow D&D-grad Robin Laws at Pelgrane) still giving you the consumer a blue-sky game fully-supported in hardcover by graphic design, bits and bobs, and art by someone who doesn't eat paste. If Invisible Sun were the only game MCG made you might have reason to complain--but it isn't, it isn't even their most popular game, so you don't. Three or four Monte Cook games that you can afford sitting on a shelf next to one you can't is a small price to pay for the basically unprecedented situation of RPG freelancers not being treated like cattle that happen to be able to estimate probability curves.


From the point of view of capital vs creator, it's kind of amazing the degree to which the purse-string holders in the industry have succeeded in repeatedly rallying supposedly woke fans into taking their side in every controversy: when the Drama Club aren't complaining to a multimillion-dollar parent company that Mark Rein*Hagen's dynastic vampires are too important to be left in his hands, they're complaining to WOTC that the current edition needs to reflect their taste because the idea of a GM changing rules on their own is too frightening to contemplate, or arguing that the most exploitive wages in the industry are a price they're happy to pay as long as the owners make the right noises, or that the Open Game License was bad because fans being able to make content on top of a lingua franca system means they don't re-invent the system-wheel constantly and thereby drag themselves up by their own bootstraps. There's also the ridiculous refrain, when an uptight reader sees something that bothers their sensibilities "God, just having an editor could have solved this" blandly assuming (as no dissident has ever assumed) that the godlike and objective hand of technocracy would inevitably be on their side.

It's time to take a look at who the Drama Club system--whereby people with no track record of ever making anything including sense decide to have an emotional Take and then every single author in indieland from Dungeon World Guy to Slutshame Girl delivers a Take on that Take while their more anonymous friends snipe at the creators at the center of it--actually serves:

  • It's certainly doesn't serve the targeted creators. Nobody learns much from libel, the Monte Cook people aren't at home nodding sagely at reading "MCG hates poor people" from people who wouldn't dream of engaging them with, like, words in English.
  • It also doesn't serve the creators who gin it up. Evil Hat's predicament proves the age of indie self-promotion via bad faith criticism is over.
  • It doesn't serve the chicken littles who get it started. The whole point of their schtick is they're able to get their Bad Takes repeated because nobody remembered how stupid and wrong their last take was, because nobody remembers who they are. If I told you basically Brie Sheldon and Sean Dunstan started this whole "Invisible Sun prices are bad for people" thing off you'd go...who are Brie Sheldon and Sean Dunstan? These people will never go away because they are too obscure to suffer consequences. But, unaccountably, they still have friends. At least online.
The only people ever served by Drama Club system are companies who do nothing but own the intellectual property--a world where fans view creators as replaceable children who need to be smacked into line in order to deliver the most risk-averse product available is exactly the one they want.

As left as they claim to be, the Drama Club's preferred mode of activism has nothing to say on the subject of creator-rights or fair pay for the people who pump out the stuff they love. Their complaints are far more about their fears and hopes about ways an entertainment ideas they've bought into--be that D&D or Rifts or the concept of roleplaying itself--can be weaponized to influence people to agree or disagree with them.

There's probably a good reason for this disconnect between creators and fan-agitators: They've had completely different experiences in life.

Drama Club fans have had their brains so completely renovated by RPGs that they've decided to spend their entire lives yelling at other people on social media about how they should be.

Creators that have made games that have had anmarked influence beyond their friend group, on the other hand, realize the hard limits on the ability of games to influence people in predictable ways. Even when they're sympathetic to fans' sense of ownership, pretty much no good creator is on the same wavelength as the Drama Club. There's no real communication between these camps--even the most successful storygame creators repeatedly admit they don't really have a back-and-forth with these kinds of activist-fans and just go "Ok, you've been Heard" and pat them on the head.

And there's little reciprocation either--if most dramafans are no more willing to demand their favorite creators be able to work under sane conditions any more than porn fans are willing to swear off using tube sites, why would creators feel like they owe these people jack or shit?


RPG freelancers will probably never unionize, and while solutions like Monte going solo or the profit-split deals LotFP and DIY RPG have made are a workable substitute, they rely on a very tenuous proposition: fans accepting that a creator has value in themselves, and in RPGs they're frankly loathe to do that. Fans write house rules, run games, and know what they think is cool: they think that gets them half of the way to being a game writer and they're not wrong. But until you finish that trip yourself you can't picture how many rations you'll need or how many random encounters there are along the way.

Monte Cook is one version of a sustainable future in a scene with almost none. Until you find another maybe don't be a pissy little twerp about it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Aimé Césaire--Poet, Statesman, Game Designer

Aimé Fernand David Césaire was a poet and activist, a founder (along with Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas) of the négritude movement among the pre-war African diaspora, and served as president of Martinique in the 1980s.

In 1960 he published several random encounter tables disguised as poems, translated here by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith:

Patience of Signs (D20)

1 sublime excoriations of a flesh fraternal and whipped to the point of rebellious fires in a thousand villages

2 arenas

3 fire

4 hulls prophetic masts

5 fire

6 breeding ground for moray eels

7 fire riding lights of an island truly in distress

8 fires frantic tracks of haggard herds which in the mud are spelled

9 pieces of raw flesh

10 suspended spittings

11 a sponge dripping sour wine

12 a fiery waltz of lawns strewn with the cornets that fall from the broken surge of great Tabebuias

14 fires shards lost in a desert of fears and cisterns

15 dried up fires never too dry for a worm to beat their tolling its new flesh

16 blue seeds of fire

17 fire of fires

18 witness of eyes which crazed for vengeance exhume themselves and expand

19 pollen pollen

20 and along the sands where the nocturnal berries of sweet manchineels swell rich oranges always accessible to the sincerity of long long thirsts

Beautiful Spurted Blood (D10)

1 trophy head

2 lacerated limbs

3 deadly sting

4 beautiful spurted blood

5 lost warblings

6 ravished shores

7 childhoods childhoods a tale too stirred up

8 dawn on its chain ferocious snapping to be born

9 oh belated assassin

10 the bird with feathers once more beautiful than the past demands an accounting for its scattered plumes

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Some Damn FIne Work Over Here


this one makes amazon tribe names like "They Who Bring Venom".

Atlas Obscura has a feature on homemade dungeon maps, including some names I recognize (and the Maze). I especially like the Paraelemental Plane of Ooze and Genial Jack, but there are a handful of others that I could just pull off the screen and use as-is.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Characters and Tactical Subtext

This was written on the weekend, and not meant as a tribute to the now late Stan Lee, but it might as well have been...

“We explore dungeons not characters” is one slogan of the Old School Renaissance in gaming and it’s stupid. You can’t explore a dungeon without exploring a character. That's my thesis--let’s go

What’s it look like to play without exploring character? There’s a fantastic game which does this: Space Marine, the video game. It’s a third person-chainsworder where you play—prepare to be shocked—a grim white-haired white dude. The action is fast, the toys are fun, the controls are intuitive, it looks like this:

first person....but with colors! what a concept.

...and it has the best third-person mechanic there is—a jump pack. Soar with marvelous physics over the lovingly-devved scenery while also sneaking up on your enemies. If you’ve ever played Boba Fett in a Star Wars: Battlefront game you know the feeling—closely allied to Spider-Man webswinging mechanics.

Anyway, this game rules but somehow it isn’t as engrossing (that specific word) as some games that look worse, aren’t as fun to smack buttons on, and don’t have 3 decades of decadent John Blanche-inspired design behind them, like, say Lunar: Silver Star Story...

I could play Space Marine any day I have free time alone (so ok never) but Lunar occupies my whole brain when I play.

Lunar is a game that, on paper, I shouldn’t like: rustic (at least at first), romance, goofy bosses, long cut scenes, j-pop, fiddling with buying and equipping gear, cliche story and its one of those games where gameplay curves aren’t worked out so parts are way too easy and tactics slowly cease mattering as you level up: but I like it (also I know at least 2 other overeducated tattooed professional sexpeople who like it, dunno if this is a trend).

Lunar has what Space Marine does not: more than one character who fights at the same time--not support teams, real characters, with names. This is not to say they're great characters--or even good, really, they're just characters. Even the most duplo-block characters do something to your brain just by being characters--who doesn't love Yoshi? He lets you ride on his back and spits apples. He's a solid dude--All that without him saying a word.

This creates tactical subtext—the magical land where people who talk about “story” and “character” in games overlap with people who are actually fun at parties. This is where Pendragon lives (a knight, yes…but what kind of knight?) and where most superhero games try to exist (they made you the ultimate fighting machine—but at what cost?) and of course it’s a part of all tabletop RPGs and it’s one of the reasons you like them.
art: david aja

In Lunar, your first party consists of three people: Alex—exhaustingly earnest main character with a Great Destiny, Luna—irritating singing hippie, and Ramus—a fat dork whose cowardice is exceeded only by his greed.

Or, at least, that’s how they act in the cutscenes and town scenes: in the fights, Ramus is a fucking delicious monster—a wonderful, dart-throwing, item-using support tank whom I would not trade for all the contents of all the Locked Red Chests in Nanza. I love this guy, I love his stupid boyscout neckerchief, I love his unvarnished lust for dragon diamonds, any man brave enough to go into an ice dungeon and fight crystals and yetis with a garbage can lid as a shield can drink from my canteen any day. I get so pissed when the story makes you drop him from the party after the second or third boss and he gets replaced with people with reputations and proper combat powers.

The point is not that Ramus is especially remarkable (he isn’t, he is a stock character), the point is: I have thoughts about Ramus, continuously throughout and after the game, and that's what the marriage of action and even the thinnest character can give you.

As the story progresses, things happen to him and I get to think about them. The game gives you a text: the characters talking to each other in their stupid jrpg way, where Ramus (and then Nash after that and then Kyle after that) are run down as useless jackasses by the other stock-character high-schoolers...

...(who, due to programming limitations and jrpg convention, have no memory of the like 90 times they have all saved each others’ lives in the last hour), but the game also gives you a subtext: your own experience using those characters. They don’t mesh—and that’s actually great, because it enables you to have thoughts—you need thoughts to overcome the gap between the intended story and the unpredictable gameplay events, like Ramus turning out to be really good at luring giant flies into close combat by dodging. So young, so brave.

Whereas in Space Marine the company commander keeps telling you that you need to go do something, soldier, and then you do. Alone. Good job. There's no other way of addressing the problems in the game demonstrated by anyone else you might  compare yourself/himself to--no subtexts are being generated. As far as you know, your way of killing orks is the only way.

This also is a problem with Mass Effect, at least the iterations I’ve played: these support characters are all presented as ubercompetent badasses and…they are. Plus in the fights they are always doing their thing in your peripheral vision, they aren’t characters whose effect on the fight you feel much first-hand.

All of this is a way of saying: Lunar gives you tactical subtext.  The way the characters interact with gameplay (in this and so many cases, that's fighting) interacts with their overt presentation as personalities in ways that an observant, thinking player can have their own ideas about—and the root of all entertainment is creating things we have a series of ideas about.

It won’t have escaped you that his kind of pleasure is deeply spliced into the DNA of D&D and its ilk—in the richest way possible.

Ela Darling, award-winning Virtual-Reality porn pioneer, ambitious woman, and utter sweetheart, plays Poppy Fields, who, out of combat, is kind of the world’s most Total White Girl, constantly incredulous at every monster’s insistence on being monstrous (“You ate him? Who raised you?”) to the point where you half expect her to demand to speak to the Tiktaalik, the Primordial Were-Titan’s manager. And yet, with a bow, she is a masterwork of precision and harm, dealing terrible damage at 90 feet. Morgana—premiere monster actress on Stan Against Evil and funny goth—plays Gwen, grumpy teenage rogue who is so over everything, and in a fight she….really needs help because she’s like second level, and is obviously very proud when she manages to pull anything off and prove she’s cool to the grown-ups. You can have thoughts about that, you can have thoughts about Gwen, you can have thoughts about how Gwen is or isn’t like Morgana, you can have thoughts about how Gwen does or doesn’t like Poppy, you can have thoughts about how Morgana is or isn’t like Ela based on the characters they created. And that’s before you introduce any other characters or players or any specific situation where Gwen has Morgana's back--or doesn't, or they both die together, or save each other, or need each other, or anything else...

Character isn’t just personality, it’s what emerges when people are desperate, thrown together, tested. And an adventure does that always, for free, every time.

art: roc upchurch
p.s. New blog in town starting out with a bang. Fiona is smart.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Frostbitten & Mutilated Autogenerators

Oooh, Sebastian Calvo made some online toys using the Frostbitten & Mutilated tables, they're magnificent...


Party Level

Party Composition



And this one's for items....

Art by Zak Smith

Monday, November 5, 2018

Powered By The Apocalypse Is Pro Wrestling

Warning: This blog entry is going to criticize a PTA game (Powered by The Apocalypse). If historical precedent holds, this means PTA fans will fall upon it and its author like jackals upon a luckless gazelle. This is fine. I do however ask that said jackals (1) be literate in English, the language in which the entry is penned, and (2) then actually use this ability to read the entry before leaving comments. Thank you.

-Zookeepin' Zak

So Jeff Gameblog Ran A Storygame...

It was part of the PTA family of games--that is, Powered by The Apocalypse--meaning a game mechanically inspired by Apocalypse World*. It was a pro wrestling themed game.

Jeff is a big wrestling fan and we all had fun inventing wrestlers, including a juggalo wrestler who hit people with bottles and Jacques LaRoque, a proud Quebecois separatist lumberjack. I played The Leviathan--a phlegmatic mountain of muscle (Power +3) who, behind-the-scenes, was a cerebral, introspective man who disdained the showmanship and foolishness of the circuit but kept on in order to put himself through his PhD.
We all liked our characters and had fun playing them but, as expected, we agreed afterward that the game system seemed to do nothing at all worth doing--and we cast about for other systems we could use.


What Went Wrong?

Part of it has to do with the set up of this particular game. The idea is fine: you don't play Hulk Hogan (a character in the ring) you play a guy named Terry trying to become successful as a professional wrestler. We liked this idea. I might repeat that a few times, since PTA fans are, by and large, kinda slow and may read this: we liked this idea, we liked this idea, we liked this idea.  The biggest problem was twofold:

-The main action of the game set-up (PTA games are much-vaunted for requiring little or no prep) is in the ring. That is, a series of matches.

-Wrestling is fake.

Inside the ring, on top of the usual oblique bunraku-show of storygame combat (Am I rolling vs Work or Power? Can I redescribe what I'm doing so it's about Power, since that's my good stat? Is there any reason to ever not?), you have a match where you have no goal other than serially doing moves (which, if impressive, gain Audience--the xp stat). So while cool wrestling moves are one of the high points of the game (as Jacques LaRoque came toward me with a sliding kick, I swatted his foot aside, spinning him 180 degrees on the mat and grabbed him by the hair in an illegal maneuver) there's no mechanical incentive to describe a cool move (you're still just rolling + Power) and a mild social disincentive to do it (the faster you shut up, the faster other people get to play, including the 3-4 players that aren't even in this match).

Outside the ring, where our characters should be genuinely interesting (The Leviathan, being a postgrad, is actually fairly sympathetic to Quebec separatism and dislikes the frog-baiting that his manager encourages him to do on-screen) there is no support at all:

You are all entertainers competing with each other to gain Audience and become more popular than the other wrestlers--that is the goal. Yet....on top of all the other problems with PTA games, this means that there are very few incentives to do anything behind the scenes with other PCs besides:

-Injure them (which takes your friend out of the game so socially sucks).

-Get into fights with them causing you to gain "Heat" with them. (Which means that there is no reason to do anything but have a conflict, but nothing about the conflict matters so long as it doesn't escalate to someone getting injured.)

Like, after the match...

"I hate you, Jacques Laroque!"

"I hate you as well, Leviathan!"

Ok we both got 1 Heat from that, unless one of us wants to hurt the other one in real life and sideline the next player for an entire session, there's no further mechanical purpose this behind-the-scenes encounter can serve. At this point we can and will keep having fun acting but.....this needs and has no rules? And every second we do this just delays arbitrarily the point at which we switch to the actual wrestling matches and involve other players.

Acting out of the ring (like cool moves in the ring) is the point--and the system disincentivizes it.

Means-Incentives vs Ends-Incentives

In a way, PTA games are pro wrestling: it matters that you dazzlingly leaped through the air onto your opponent--it doesn't matter if that is actually a way to hurt a guy in that situation. The system doesn't care about effectiveness, it only cares about the spectacle. You are only incentivized to do the move not think about what would work and engage the inventions born of necessity.

It speaks to a larger problem with PTA games for people who have played traditional ones or for people who play them as their first game. To back away from the white-hot-button of claiming PTA games are imperfect (I can already hear the trolls going "Zak says PTA is pro wrestling but OSR games are real lol" which I do hope no-one reading is stupid enough to believe) I'll use an example of a game everyone agrees is a mechanical disaster: the original RIFTS:

RIFTS, like most Palladium games, had xp for good plans--if I am right in quoting from memory A critical plan or action that save the entire group or a large number of people: 15 xp. I remember because it was a relatively large reward and so I was always angling for it. The (mild) problem with this well-meaning reward is that it is redundant: your fellow PCs not dying is its own reward, and saving people already has a separate reward.

So the game rewards the means (the plan or action) and the end (everyone being saved). So you get rewarded for both and that's not necessary, it just inflates the math.

All kinds of games have rewards like this where you're essentially rewarded for doing things in the genre instead of-, or in addition to-, successfully achieving the goals that characters in the genre want to achieve. And, of course, old-school D&D and its ilk instead successfully incentivize all kinds of emergent lunacy by the simple expedient of handing out xp for gold or defeating foes.

We can call these rewards-for-steps-along-the-path "means rewards" and call the simpler ones "ends rewards".

Storygames are especially fond of rewarding means-over-ends, because, so far as I can tell from their discussions online:

-A disproportionate number of them are afraid of dying, so the games make it hard to die and "Do this cray thing 'cuz it'll keep you alive" won't work as an incentive

-A disproportionate number of them aren't very intelligent, so the connection between "Get into the spice merchant's good graces" and "Steal the spice ship and its cargo" isn't really apparent to them, so they need to be told they get rewards by saying things like "You are a rogue, every time you deceive someone, gain xp!", and

-Despite being unintelligent, a disproportionate number are dimly aware there is this thing called capitalism that has contributed to them being unintelligent and they get that that's bad (all true), so the idea of granting mechanical advancement for gold sounds a lot like bad capitalism which is bad and bad but also bad, so they never really wrapped their precious lil storygamer heads around how goal-incentives work

So this leads to a game like Apocalypse World positively pneumatic with means-incentives where you're constantly mechanically incentivized to do basically anything in-genre or that creates "drama" and have absolutely no incentive to actually think about how a PC in that universe would achieve an in-character goal. Mad Max and Furiosa have reasons to argue about how to beat the Warboys and little incentive to think of ways to beat the Warboys. They go down when you roll high--possibly because you add the points you got from arguing, period.

Scenes themselves have no end goals (unlike many trad RPGs where they could end with an advantage or disadvantage developing for you during the scene), you can't get anything out of them unless you trigger a move.

So either:

-Like Apoc World you have a long or generalizable move list you kinda need to remember in order that scenes are constantly triggering moves so you make mechanical progress--and you need to always interject the moves at the right moments to make progress, or

-Like the wrestling game, you haven't got many moves so you have a lot of scenes which not only aren't mechanically helpful to you but you know at the beginning aren't going to be mechanically helpful and so now you're just outside the action of in-game progress and delaying the time until you get to the scenes that do create in-game progress. i.e. a strong mechanical and social disincentive to roleplay.

Meanwhile in a trad RPG the goals of your player and that of the PC in a scene often align, so that there is a strong incentive for both of you to get whatever it is the PC wants to get during that scene. Taking actions which seem like the kind of thing your guy would do isn't the point, simply getting the thing that player wants in the scene is the point and the tropes happen as a result.

A really good design doesn't reward Peter Parker for angsting about his personal life, it rewards him for, say, trying to meet commitments and punishes him for failing so the angst will just happen--along with a lot of other things characteristic of the genre. It requires some insight into where a story comes from, not just listing tropes and incentivizing them.

Turns out the implied trad engine "Decide what you want, when you get it gain xp" is actually tremendously flexible and powerful for both action and drama.

Ok, but who cares?

Lots of people like PTA games and are perfectly happy with means-incentives. So what's the problem? Nothing if you're them--but if you like games that push you to do things you wouldn't do without the game or have a lot of emergent mayhem, they can be a little thin. Means incentives don't push invention beyond the expected limits of the genre--any invention is mere gravy. Ends incentives tell you "The standard trope didn't work, think harder".


In other news, INTERNATIONAL LOTFP FANS: if you buy a shirt before wednesday you get free shipping WORLDWIDE on everything in the package INCLUDING BOOKS.

*See also: