In the recent past I had some great but exhausting roleplaying sessions, acquired a pile of new books upon which I am spending my scant hobby time, had a good vacation, got angry at my web hosting provider, switched providers, discovered the Wordpress worm going around had attempted to hack into the Seven-Sided Die, dealt with a Wordpress upgrade[1. Still dealing with the upgrade, actually.], and then switched my web hosting back after some coding excitement involving a close brush with the dark arts of PHP optimisation and low-memory server environments.
I haven't been blogging much lately, to say the least. All that is done with now though—except for the reading, but at least that will give me fodder for posts in a way the other things don't.
This isn't a real post; it's just an excuse to update and keep the front page somewhat alive. So, here follows some real content that you might find edifying or at the very least diverting.
Random Average talks about Min-Maxing Fun, specifically about how some systems have a "cruise control" setting that guarantees a minimum of fun while also usually limiting the maximum fun potential, while other games are wide open to the heights of gaming nirvana and the pits of That Sucked Goats.
Over at the funereally-named Buried Without Ceremony there is an article, Plugging in Scenes and System, that talks about Mo's socket theory and how it relates to satisfying play and personal (in)compatibility with different game systems. Socket theory, very briefly, is about how people "plug into" different parts of the system and the overall roleplaying experience in order to get out of the experience what they want. I think my primary socket is aesthetic, which came to me as something of a revelation and something of a "well, duh!" moment. It also partially explains my incompatibility with D&D 4e. I'm not sure what my other sockets are (oddly, I think system might not be one of them), but I am going to be thinking about this more.
On the subject of roleplaying for the aesthetics of it[2. The above Buried Without Ceremony article defined the aesthetic socket as "not necessarily caring if a narrative is created or if character development makes sense, as long as play creates something beautiful / interesting”. This resonated with me so much that it was like opening my eyes for the first time. I also realise now why what I look for in a game tends to be skipped over or not understood by most people I've played with, because that socket is weird.], I came across a delightfully dreamy game called Archipelago[3. It's worth noting that Archipelago is a free download, and only 22 pages.] that is designed to support and complement the aesthetic socket directly. It takes its inspiration from the visually-immersive mixture of the mundane and the fantastic that is characteristic of Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, which is enough to get my attention alone.
Roleplaying Pro's Colin Dowling answers the question, Why verisimilitude? with a great post. What I took away from it was that I might be better off explaining that when I say I want verisimilitude in my roleplaying experiences, what I'm specifically looking for is not "realistic elves—just like in the real world!!", but rather the experience of a piece of fiction (created by us) that has authenticity. I don't enjoy a movie that continuity problems or has major inconsistencies nearly as much as a movie that puts a high priority on internal consistency and then showcases a believable and authentic story. I'm the same way with roleplaying experiences.
One of the recent acquisitions is Greg Stolze's Reign. It's a gorgeous book I got from IPR along with some other things (one of which was a packed in bonus book as a gift! awesome!) in softcover. I'm liking it well enough that I'm considering using it for the Myth Drannor sandbox I'm contemplating instead of Savage Worlds. It has a simplicity to its system while maintaining just that much more depth of ludus than Savage Worlds offers. It has a points-based character creation system that lets you build the character you envision, including characters who wouldn't know and couldn't care less about how to handle themselves in a fight. The resolution system (the One-Roll Engine) is universal across the system while maintaining a satisfying "fitting-ness" for all its applications. That's a really big deal for me, since I find most universal resolution mechanics dry and unappetising for most of the things that get shoe-horned into them. There's more to say about this game, but it won't fit into a links post.
Geek•d? is a strangely compelling place to spend some hobby time. For the uninitiated, it's BoardGameGeek but for roleplaying games. (For the really uninitiated, it's like the love-child of IMDB and Wikipedia for roleplaying games.) I've made a bunch of entries already, which is simultaneously dry, demanding work and excitingly satisfying. It satisfies some deep (and very buried) urge to tidyness to add an entry to the database so that I can fill a hole in my online collection.
Enjoy, and feel free to share your recent favourite discoveries in the comments.