Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Origins Awards

Okay, thanks to a mysterious juror who reads this blog and can identify himself if he wants, I now have the criteria for the Origins awards. The deadline for these puppies is January 31 so if you want to submit, you'd better get cracking.

Cost of submitting: 7 copies. Yowch! That's $140 for me. :-(


Any product released during 2005 is eligible for submission to this
year's Origins Awards.
Nominees will be announced at the 2006 GAMA Trade Show (13-16 March)
and the Origins Awards will
be presented during the 2006 Origins International Game Expo (29 June -2 July).

Please submit your Submissions using the Form found at under
The Academy Submissions form for 2005 can only be completed by
registered users via Registering
for the site is free and
uses the same system as your account so register and
log in today! (The ONLINE
Submission form may be updated so please re-check.)

Provide the following information:

Product submission deadline: January 31, 2006. Deadline extensions due
to circumstances beyond a
company's control may be granted by the Academy Chair. To request an
extension, email your
request, reason, and proposed submission date to

Origins Award submissions must include all of the following
information and items:
* Intended Product Category [categories are listed below]
* 7 copies of the product (or samples in the case of complete
miniature lines)
* CD with 300 DPI images of the product
* Product Title/logo
* Company logo
* A 100 words (or less) description of the product
* A "product review article" with photos (optional)
* Eligibility statement (A signed Memo on company letterhead
stating that the product meets
2005 eligibility requirements.)


Please mail additional materials to:
GAMA Attn: Academy Chair
280 North High Street, Suite 230
Columbus, Ohio 43215

List all entries for each product:
Product Name
Full and complete name of the product
Award Category [Select one category for this product]
Publisher [Complete name of the publishing company]
Release Date [Month and year of product's release]
Short Description [brief (100 words or less) description of the product]
Long Description [detailed description/review of the product]

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Promotion Avenues

Have you developed your role-playing game mostly in public? Do you have a free version of your game on a website? Is your game a website? If so, you may qualify for the Lulu Blooker Prize. Cost of entry: three copies.

I really want to get more visibility for gaming blogs. Let's try to get Deep in the Game or anyway nominated for the 2006 Bloggies, shall we? If other folks pass this along, we might actually get a nomination (I'm voting in the "entertainment" category.)

Apparently we missed nominations for the Origins Awards I swear to God that the rules get more confusing every year.

Also, the Indie RPG Awards should be brewing somewhere, sometime.

Monday, January 09, 2006

[Maps] Protagonists

From the text.

  1. History. Some major event in the protagonist's past shaped her life in a dramatic fashion. This could be very recent, or very ancient, but it is important. Write a very brief summary of this, and assign it a number between 4-7, depending on how much it matters to her. This is the protagonist's initial Wound.

  2. Work. Write down one or maybe two roles that the character plays in his day-to-day life. Assign these a value of 4-7, depending on how skilled the character is at the job (4 = competent beginner, 5 = quite skilled, 6 = excellent, 7 = genius). This is the protagonist's initial Role.

  3. Purpose. Write down four things which are any of: Goals the character wants to achieve, people the character loves, people the character hates, things that the character is unknowingly destined for. Assign them the values 1, 2, 3 and 4. These are the protagonist's initial Impetuses.

  4. Authorship. One player can take responsibility for the authorship of a particular protagonist. However, this is not the only option. A protagonist can also be left to the shared authorship of the group. Each player may only have sole authorship over one protagonist. The GM may not be the sole author of a protagonist.

You will most likely want to use this process several times, to create several protagonists (at least two.)

A note on impetuses: Protagonists must share an impetus with the protagonist created before them (a shared impetus must be about the same thing, although it can conflict or not, and further can have a different numerical value.) Further, protagonists must have a conflicting with someone else in their community. (The last protagonist made must additionally share an impetus with the first protagonist.) In the end, each protagonist should have at least two impetuses intertwined with other protagonists, at least one of which carries conflict.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

This is no longer a history; this is not yet a story*

So I have this big ramble about the place of role-playing games as a form of, essentially, middle-class folk art in modern society, but I actually want to talk about game design right now.

Something is in the air. Something about stories, histories, communities, and how we tell these things and relate to each other through them.

I'm at home (rainy Arcata, CA) right now, and I've been talking a lot with Calder about the game he's working on, which is shocking not the pirate game (wait! A practice game dropped for an important one? I'm shocked!) but a much more fascinating historical game about Ireland. The game has some incredibly sexy tricks up its sleeves, and I'm not going to scare people off from it by mentioning them explicitly. Suffice it to say that, although I have little history in Ireland as such, I will be playing this game enthusiastically and continually as soon as it is available to do such, because it touches issues very close to my heart. I'm going to be talking about it a lot, I think, which means that I should really learn how to spell its name.

What is important about the game, for the purposes of this essay, is the way that stories are framed. Any story gets framed with a direct statement of what the story is about:
"This is a story about love"
"This is a story about family"
"This is a story about duty"

Or whatever else the story is about.

Note that this quite efficiently sets the stakes of the story, where by set the stakes I don't mean the Dogs/PTA/UTB formulation (what game originated this? Universalis?) of "if this roll goes this way, this happens, if it goes this way, this happens" but rather the basic topic of the story. In telling "a story about love" we're going to resolve what we, the players, think about love. Love is at stake, we just don't know how yet.

Now, here's the catch. The characters within the games tell stories of what happened in the past. A character can begin a story, and that's one of the ways to cause a leap in time, where suddenly we're in a new story, that supplements the old one, from an earlier period of history. And they don't have to be the same topic. So a "story about love" can support a "story about pride" or what have you.

It's pretty simple to see that this is a powerful tool to examine history and story.

But Calder isn't the only one poking at this right now. Meg Baker is working on the fabulous Thousand and One Nights, where the protagonists are the captives, servants, courtiers, wives and slaves of a harsh Sultan. To express themselves openly means death, and so they channel their emotions and relationships through stories. Each character uses stories to make their emotions known and try to achieve their goals. Mechanically, each player can start a story, and essentially be running a game-within-the-game, casting each of the other characters in roles within the story, in order to express their hidden drives, desires, and rivalries. I don't want to talk too much about the game, because it's Meg's to discuss and announce and such, but you can see how this is fundamentally touching on some of the same ground -- both mechanically and thematically -- as Calder's Ireland game.

And, in my own Maps, I'm dealing with the same questions. In play, we're examining how a community makes use of its history, stories, and symbols, contrasted and conflicted with how individual people within that community make use of the same or different histories, stories, and symbols. The act of telling a story in a game of Maps -- while not triggering a sub-game in the same manner as the other games mentioned here -- is nonetheless a highly meaningful and vastly powerful action. The act of interpreting a story is a matter of life-and-death.

But that's only half the picture. Maps, like 1001 Nights and Calder's Ireland game, is a game of multiple layered stories and storytelling, it just handles it in a different way than the stories-within-stories model. One of the two core mechanics of Maps is the interpretation of what I'm calling, in my playtest-shorthand, a corpus. The corpus is a set of stories, images, letters, histories, and maps which forms the "setting" of the game. However, at the end of each stories, the players of the story are required to enter new material into the corpus based upon their interpretation of the events of the game. Thus, play naturally builds on itself, and one game may very well be an important legend, or even recent history, for a future game.

So here's two models for mechanics which make ourselves address the role of story in our lives: One is that a player may tell a story, which is in itself a separate game. Another is that previous games become the foundation which we tear apart and analyze in our future play. What are some other ways of thinking about story with games? It seems like a natural medium to discuss the topic.

* This is all the remains. Whatever else is what we make of it.