Saturday, December 06, 2014

Had a great playtesting session with @gamesteratlarge & @simoncarryer last week.

+Simon Carryer has been developing a game which he pitches as "What if D&D has been designed by David Cronenberg?" Over the last couple of years we've worked through what the biologically-invasive monsters would look like and tried out a few versions of brutal combat. But there's always been this tension:

  • the communities in this game are traditional and suspicious of outsiders and monsters
  • the adventurers are outcasts from society being gradually transformed by their exposure to the dungeons they enter
  • the communities need the adventurers but are primed to reject them.

We discussed how the adventurers could fit into the setting, and that prompted Simon to share some very cool ideas that had been implicit in his rules for a long time.


+Michael Sands has been designing a Napoleonic naval combat RPG for a while. Recently he switched it over to a science-fiction setting in order to explore crew creation without having to bring players up to speed with lots of historical information.

It worked great: crew design is a bit free-form, and we argued for a while about whether our stolen and experimental racing ship needed a User Experience Consultant in addition to our Pilot and Engineer. Plus we have a teenage stowaway and an uplifted (and kleptomanic) octopus who just wanted to fit in, on board.

Really looking forward to giving this more of a test next month.


We finished off with a playtest of my game, Soth. I think this is close: it's a game about cultists trying to summon a dark god. After the last round of playtesting, I've simplified the rules for how a community grows suspicious about what the cultists are up to, and introduced some Mountain Witch-esque not-so-secret agendas to complicate the cultists' attempts to maintain the appearance of normality while performing four ugly rituals to summon Soth.

One more playtest and then I think I'm ready to whip this up from a beta draft that I can use into something publishable.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What are your picks for the best sit-coms of the last 10 years?

Someone just asked over on Facebook and said pick only 1.

I cheated when answering:

---   ---   ---

I've found that most sit-coms in the last 10 years have had one or two seasons of greatness (or greatness sprinkled all the way through.

So, picking only one? Nope. But …

Arrested Development (2003-2006) is the master of the gradually building running gag.

Community is inventive and has the bonus of pulling back the curtains on how a sit-com works. Not only about the plot mechanics, but about watching a team of amazing writers correct the faults it discovers in the show as it's running. It needs to be heavily curated though. I'm happy to point you in the direction of what I consider to be the 'right' episodes to watch. The creator, Dan Harmon, has also done great in-depth interviews with the AV Club and Alan Sepinwall that make great companion pieces.

The Thick of It (Season 3) combines humanity, astute observations about how political power is wielded and lost, and is pretty damn filthy.

How I Met Your Mother (Seasons 2 and 3) are a show coming into its height: most episodes play around with narrative structure or running gags. It also has a lovely rom-com heart.

Louis (Season 2) is something I haven't seen, but reliable reviewers have described it as incredible.

Silicon Valley (only one season so far) has the setting with the most comic potential of any sit-com I've ever watched.

Personally, I've also found Big Bang Theory has executed its premise splendidly. It's trad multi-camera comedy, and one day I will write my defence of it—but I have found (a) that by turning geeks into the lead characters, the first few seasons found an entirely fresh field of jokes to plough, and (b) despite massive stumbling blocks in Seasons 3 and 4, it fulfills the promise it makes to the audience and is not afraid to let its characters grow. The latest season I've watched (7) is disappointingly filled with misogyny and jokes about obesity: some episodes were basically unwatchable as a result.