Thursday, September 22, 2005

An Introduction to Forge Theory


So, a lot of the Finnish theorists that I've met, along with a lot of other people who seem really sharp, have expressed a real frustration with the Forge -- It looks like we're doing really interesting theory, they say, but it is so hard to make sense of things that they don't want to get involved.

It's a legitimate complaint. The only real record, the only real teaching text for the theory, is the history discussion itself, which is a little like trying to learn about bread by watching wheat grow. If it weren't for the forum medium, we'd have only an oral tradition, and as it is it is pretty close to that. A lot of teaching is done by "uh, just watch" and a lot of learning is done in a really feeling along gestalt sort of way. We have shit for organization.

I don't blame anyone for this. By definition, anyone participating in the Forge in a serious way has at least three very time-consuming hobbies (game play, game design, and running a small corporation) in addition to whatever family, job, school and other things that occupy their time. It is frankly miraculous that any of us have time to talk about anything at all. Outsiders coming in and telling us that "we should" put together a teaching text frankly chafes.

But, right now, I'm more or less unemployed, and I've been traveling around Finland giving intro to theory lectures, so I thought I would condense my "introduction to theory" lectures into a short text and put it up online. I welcome criticism from anyone. I'm particularly interested in what those totally outside of Forge theory find confusing (as in -- ask any questions you have) and what my peers in theory development find inaccurate.

Here's a rough outline, subject to change:

  1. Players at the table
  2. Rules and the Lumpley Principle
  3. Good Rules, Bad Rules
  4. Big Model
    1. The way I draw it
    2. The way Ron draws it
    3. Elements of Exploration

  5. The designer's part
  6. Creative Agenda classification
  7. Some techniques

(That giant gap in there? Not a typo.)

My eventual goal for this is to post it to the Essays section of the Forge and possibly sell small booklets to benefit the Forge's upkeep. It is possible it might be published in the Knutepukt book this year, too.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

[Bliss Stage] Anchors

So I'm on the road in Finland, and my blogging is suffering. I'm not upset.

In Bliss Stage, there are two types of folks engaged in military actions. Pilots, who enter the dreamscape and form their robots to fight for them, and Anchors, who help tether them to the real world and keep their dreams focused enough to matter. As relationships are the only thing of value in the dreamworld, the relationship between a pilot and an anchor is an important one. A player will be playing both a pilot and an anchor, but never a pair (I'm an anchor for your pilot, and so on.)

Game text:

Here's what it's like to be an anchor.

Okay, first off, if you're an anchor, ten to one that you're a kid, and not an authority figure. So you've got all the baggage from the above box.

Here's what it's like to be an anchor: You get chosen because you've got a tight relationship with a pilot. He's the love of your life, maybe not sex but probably, and he's going to save the world just for you, and you're going to talk him through it and sing him into it. Just you and him, you're going to make a difference, you're going to be there for him when he fights, and then you're looking into the black soup of nightmares that he's wading through and seeing yourself reflected back with all the reasons why he hates you and you're seeing that all the time, and if you even flinch once or get angry once or say any damn thing dollars to donuts it's going to kill him, so you've got that all in your head, and you can't tell anyone. And then there are others, other girls that he's in love with, the other people that he cares about more than you, and you can see them through there, you can hear him call their name as they fight at his side, and everyone smiles like its a good thing and hell if you open your mouth, and if he dies it's your fault because he didn't love you enough.

And then he dies. Because pilots die, because it's a war, because, after all the lies and betrayals, you didn't love him enough to save him that last time. And there's a funeral, maybe, but probably not even, and everyone forgets the dead pilots but you would remember him in your heart, because he was the love of your life, except for that all that love got burnt up by nightmares and now all that remains is a dull thudding.

Then, you know, you've got the anchor training, so they introduce you to someone new, and say, 'hey, why don't you fall in love with this guy, too, because that would be to our strategic advantage and, you know, the whole saving humanity thing. And all you want to do is curl up into a ball and cry yourself to death, but, god help you, you fall for him again, and maybe not as strong as before, but it's the same damn shit.

Repeat until you get used to it.

That's what it's like to be an anchor.