The Seven-Sided Die

Breaking radio silence with a basket of links

Posted Monday September 14, 2009 at 06:48 AM

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•dō 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.

Comments (9)


Monday September 14, 2009 at 04:49 PM

Archipelago interested me too, particularly because of the LeGuin like tie. I wonder how similar it will be to Microscope, which is more about the sweep of history [as I understand it].


Monday September 14, 2009 at 06:18 PM

I immediately thought of Microscope too. The nearly-freeform play that Microscope has during scenes is fun but challenging for a group used to more structure. Ben Robbins' advice is to just sit back patiently and let people think. That exhortation to a more relaxed kind of roleplaying was refreshing after coming from Burning Wheel and traditional games like D&D, but without a framework that made slowing down more natural there was always tension between wanting to get the scene question resolved and trying to slow down enough to make it work at all.

I suspect that Archipelago would more naturally foster that kind of play by its rules, so maybe it would be less challenging to "make it go"? It might even be a naturally-complementary system to Microscope, in that Archipelago could be used as the ultimate level of zoom on a Microscope-generated history. I'm looking forward to playing it sometime, if I can get anyone in my group interested. Playing scenes in Microscope has, perhaps, softened my group up enough that they could buy in to the dreamy style of play that Archipelago promises.

Matthijs Holter

Tuesday September 15, 2009 at 06:57 AM

Thanks for posting the link to Archipelago! I'm the guy who wrote the game. It's very interesting to see the comparision to Burning Wheel - there's been some discussion on the similarities and differences between the two games on Norwegian forums recently.

If you're used to having a ballast of rules - a damping mechanism, if you wish, that lets you think between scenes while workin with the system's fiddly bits - you'll definitely want to change pace a bit when playing Archipelago. For a beginning group, it's very important to use the ritual phrases a lot, and be aware that the first session will probably be a bit clunky (which our first BE sessions definitely were, but in a different way). The ritual phrases help the group establish their style of play quite explicitly. I especially recommend asking for more detail during play - it really helps the group stay in the moment and making sure the game doesn't rush on too fast.

There are some actual play threads over at Story Games, where people try different genres - SF, for example, or this very recent magical western game:

Anyway, thanks for the interest in my game!


Tuesday September 15, 2009 at 08:56 PM

I recently hit the jackpot at a gaming store and scored some used books:

Grave of Heaven: Uresia (BESM D20) Terran Empire (Star Hero) The Flower of Battle (Riddle of Steel) The Complete Monstrous Wizard’s Compendium (d20) The Banewarrens (d20) Galactic Underground (Battlelord’s of the 23rd Century) Fields of Blood: The Book of War (d20) The Lords of the Night: Liches (d20) The Lords of the Night: Zombies (d20) The World of Aden (West End Games) Hollowfaust: City of Necromancers (d20) Necropolis, by Gary Gygax (d20) Strange Lands: Lost Tribes of the Scarred Lands (d20) Wars Roleplaying Game (OGL)

I figure they will keep me busy for months. :)


Wednesday September 16, 2009 at 12:13 AM

Nice haul!

I've been wanting to take a look at Uresia for a while now. On the one hand I want to wait until Cumberland finally releases the "all-systems" edition, but I also don't want to wait forever...

How are you liking The Riddle of Steel? I ordered it a while ago but it seems to have got lost in the queue... I still need to get that sorted out. In the meantime, I have to experience it vicariously.

Joe McDonald

Thursday September 17, 2009 at 05:37 AM

Hey d7, thanks for mentioning Buried Without Ceremony.

I think that post is definitely one of my strongest, though I have plans to refine some of the thoughts and re-present them at a later date (specifically, focusing more on the ways to frame for different sockets, once I've actually figured that out).

It's nice to hear mention of my writing in different corners of the rpg world.


Saturday September 19, 2009 at 01:24 AM

I really enjoyed the article, so thanks for writing it. I like the idea of practical theory and I'm looking forward to reading more at Buried Without Ceremony in that category.

Unrelated aside: Vancouver Gaming Guild? Why have I not heard of this earlier?! (Just expressing glee: I already found the site.)


Thursday October 22, 2009 at 08:47 PM

How is the website going? The last entry I can see is this one, from mid-September-- have you had problems posting since then?


Thursday October 22, 2009 at 09:24 PM

Just life getting in the way. Ironically, I was going to write a post last night saying that in more detail and musing about gaming as an adult and parent… but life got in the way. :)