Showing posts from March, 2024

The Spectre of the Commodity Form

My friend Ènziramire shared a paper with me, "Wages against Artwork: The Social Practice of Decommodification" by Leigh Claire La Berge. The author explores decommodification as the obverse side of commodification rather than its opposite (which should really be an expansion of the commons). I agree with this formula in general, but La Berge's case studies were of platform-communities where members directly exchanged goods, services, and favors for the same in return (especially among craft-artisans). Shared these thoughts with him, but also wanted to offer them for consideration and critique. I think there's a tendency for some Marxists to overemphasize the specific influence or centrality of money in capitalism . Like, of course, money as the universal equivalent is what makes the vast abstraction and socialization of labor possible, but money itself is only a metaphor of value which is only expressed relative to another commodity (i.e., as a comparison of socially

Cinco: Thoughts

Over the last couple of weeks. Features? I'm not confident that features are, in the end, very interesting relative to the 'weight' of understanding and using them. The basic feat model is derived from hard-coded spell descriptions and combat maneuvers. Although they can be extended to other game modes, such as exploration or downtime, they contribute to those modes' increasing mechanization. This means you spend more time looking at what buttons you can press for special moves, and also means by picking one feat you risk de-optimizing your character in other game modes than the one you prioritize. The decisions feel uninteresting, and seem to actively detract from characterization. Let's go over the resolution procedure, and see how it generates character actions driven by players rather than the book: Aspects represent your character’s origin, culture, profession, faction, or any other qualities which make them who they are. When your character tries something u

Musicals, Marxism, Messianism

Sooooooooooo. Hi! I feel like my brain was fixed. Haven't thought about this stuff for a minute. Been writing fiction, like real actual fiction, plus reading books (lately: The Political Theology of Paul , Revolutionary Suicide , The Time That Remains , and Assata ). Baking cookies and brownies. Drinking and dancing. Let me talk about writing first because it's completely consumed my brain. I finally started writing the story I've imagined for years and years. Not as a tabletop system, not even as a tabletop adventure, but as honest fiction. It's prose rather than verse poetry but, if I really change my mind, I'll have this as basis. And it's not too shabby by itself! It's about an evangelical Christian conspiracy to deploy the apocalypse, and someone who sacrifices herself for selfish reasons which then throws the whole thing into confusion and disarray. It's an exploration of Christ versus Antichrist (and what difference it makes), the relationship bet

Cinco: Flattening Curves

I like the 1:1:1 odds of success, bargain, and failure much better than the 1:2:3 odds . Besides being more appropriate for heroically competent characters, the d6 pool in general is more effective at distinguishing simply between qualified and unqualified characters without reducing the resolution procedure to an optimization game. There's one problem: aspects and inspiration each add 1 die to the pool, turning a 33% chance of success into a 55% chance into a 70% chance, not to mention additional dice from features. This eliminates friction from the equation, turning these rolls into road-bumps rather than opportunities for decision-making. I looked at FATE for direction. There, aspects have a cost to be invoked at all. That's a little extreme, isn't it? But there's an interesting in-between that came to mind and that I really liked: instead of spending inspiration to invoke aspects, why not spend inspiration to establish facts about your character which would make an

Cinco: Away From D20

Aspect bonuses put players in an awkward position. You could want a new aspect, but starting a new one with +1 or even +2 will be less helpful than investing in one of your existing aspects—especially when you need a +4 to see more successes than outright failures. The choice is to optimize or not, which is a trick question that misdirects player creativity. 5e has a similar trick with ability score increases, with each class having an ability which you would be wrong not to prioritize. This trick is neither fair nor fun. It's opaque and imposes strict expectations on characters. It causes players to fall into the trap of making obvious non-choices or else, knowingly, make their character relatively 'worse' at the game. It's no help to us that, at least, the vast majority of tabletop systems have formal trade-offs between different stats which make them worthwhile in different situations. This is its own can of worms , but at least these worms justify each other. Ther

Cinco: First Chapters

Putting together everything I've written so far into something more cohesive and referential! Most immediate influences here: The Goblin Laws of Gaming , Into the Dungeon: Revived (Piecewise characters) His Majesty the Worm , Wolves Upon the Coast (Player-defined quests or missions) Prismatic Wasteland (Collaborative world-building—just really fun) You Awaken in a Strange Place (Player-defined bonuses for rolls) Without further ado! The screenshots are slightly out-of-date. Playing the Game Your character is your interface with the game as well as your avatar in the fiction. They consist of aspects and features, and have three fluctuating attributes: hearts, bulk, and inspiration. Aspect Checks Aspects represent your character’s origin, culture, profession, faction, or any other qualities which make them who they are. Each gives a bonus for D20 rolls when that character attempts something unlikely or exposes themself to danger. These rolls are called aspect checks, and turn

Playing Shadowdark

I tried out Kelsey Dionne's Shadowdark this morning with Alex as the game master and joined by Moth as another player! We were going through Alex's megadungeon that he had made for OD&D , one in which I had played before but died just a couple rooms in. Got farther this time! :P This is a session report as well as a review of Shadowdark . It's a mixed bag but more good than bad. It hangs onto conventions from classic D&D that I think it is (or should be) better than. Session Report Moth and I both rolled up halflings. Apparently Alex's dungeon has historically only ever seen little player-characters. To compensate for our small stature, we were accompanied by two human retainers: Karl Marx and Felix Guattari. We entered through a sewer, walking along a quay on the left. Some blue guys in the dark were mad at us for entering the dungeon, so we fucked off into the door immediately on the left where we came upon a dozen-ish white-collar skeletons. I told them t

Cinco: Equipment & Encounter Difficulty

Sort of a two-parter, since they relate to each other. Combat Equipment Assume characters can afford most things. What matters are what they can carry in their hands and on their body: let's say 3 bulk. Some items also require a hand (or two) to carry in order to use. Pick weapons (magic weapons deal an additional ½ ♥ of damage): Light weapon (–½ ♥) → 0 bulk, 1 hand Medium weapon (–1 ♥) → 1 bulk, 1 hand Heavy weapon (–1½ ♥) → 2 bulk, 2 hands Pick armor (characters have a base of 3 hearts): Light armor (+1 ♥) → 1 bulk, 0 hands Heavy armor (+2 ♥) → 2 bulk, 0 hands Possible combinations: Medium weapon, light armor, shield Heavy weapon, light armor Medium weapon, heavy armor Medium weapon, light armor (leftover: 1 hand, 1 bulk) Light weapon, heavy armor (leftover: 1 hand, 1 bulk) Heavy weapon (leftover: 0 hands, 1 bulk) Medium weapon (leftover: 1 hand, 2 bulk) Light weapon (leftover: 1 hand, 3 bulk) Hands are a short-term "What are you holding right now?" thing, but bulk is a