kihou: (Default)

So, periodically I have disagreements on the word “narrativist”, so in an effort to overthink games more, I’ve been thinking about how exactly I use it. Well, literally I use it mostly for story-focused tabletop systems and experimental-to-me LARPs.* But when I’ve historically described something as narrativist, I think I’ve been referring to one or more of the following distinct things:

  1. Meaningful Choices
  2. Shared Narrative Control
  3. Explicit Scene Framing/Narrative Structure
  4. Focus on Feel and Themes
  5. Bleed/Steering
Read more... )

kihou: (Default)
I’d had Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance recommended to me years and years ago, when I really liked Writing Down the Bones. I’m… really not sure at this point why that makes sense. But I'm glad to have read it and have lots of thoughts, some of which I’ll relate here. (Spoilers for a decades-old weird book.)

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kihou: (Default)

So, we recently finished book 1 of my Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine campaign, and apparently people liked it enough to keep going (after a brief Dogs in the Vineyard break). It’s been a lot of fun and really eye-opening in terms of the realms of possibilities for tabletopping mechanics. I thought I’d take some time to write down some of my scattered thoughts and musings. Read more... )

On Torment

May. 8th, 2017 10:33 pm
kihou: (Default)
So, I finished Torment: Tides of Numenera. It was good! It was very Planescape: Torment-y, which is exactly what it said on the tin. In the manner of one who spent the whole game comparing, I have some various and sundry thoughts. These… probably end up sounding overly harsh, but it’s really just that it’s easy to nitpick and overthink stuff like this. I’m going to try to avoid major spoilers, but perhaps talk about some late-game stuff obliquely.
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kihou: (CHUN)
So, I ran Singularity ( last weekend. Five times, in fact. It was my first time running an in-print published LARP, and (depending on technicalities) probably my first time running a LARP I’d neither helped write nor played. It was a lot of fun! It was also a lot different than I’m used to, so I thought I’d write down some thoughts.

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kihou: (All mimsy were the borogoves)
So, I’m not sure how much of that Truths stuff will actually make it into Librarians at this point; it’s probably a bit general. Here’s some other, more specific stuff I’ve been thinking about since then. (Thanks, Sarah!)

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On Secrets

Sep. 1st, 2016 12:35 am
kihou: (CHUN)
So, there were a couple of things I was thinking about when I braindumped about Truths. One was about the role of player secrets, and more generally player knowledge and “metagaming”. Like with basically everything, how you handle secrets in a game depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and your intention.

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kihou: (Most people end up believing they never)
So, mucking about with my ideas for Librarians Errant, I've ended up positing a system, working name "Truths", that's heavily influenced by my experience with Chuubo's, WTF, and Dogs in the Vineyard. It's still very much in flux, but here's a basic sketch of part of it… with examples almost completely of no relation to Librarians.

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kihou: (Death)
This is a followup for my last post, which talked about player skill vs character abilities in video games and LARPs, but focused on "combat mechanics". Player skill comes into other areas as well.

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kihou: (All mimsy were the borogoves)
I'm trying this whole 8tracks thing instead of doing a bunch of links to places, in part so I can have audio for the obscure stuff. It has it's own weirdnesses, but *shrug*.

First Half

  • Fast Forward by Maximalism
  • Rewind by The Paper Raincoat
  • Can't Wait by Kate Klim
  • I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons
  • Nothing Changes by Anais Mitchell Feat. The Haden Triplets
  • The Times They Are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan
  • Superman by Five for Fighting: I both really like both these songs and like how they work as a pair.
  • Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down: I feel like the first version of this song I heard was one of the MIT a capella groups, but I can't find it if so.
  • I Wonder Where You've Gone by Girlyman: These two were probably intentional, because they're from the same CD, but they're one of the pairs that gave me this idea so they're staying.
  • I Know Where You Are by Girlyman
  • Right Here by Amory Sivertson
  • Long Distance by Hannah & Maggie

Second Half

  • Walk Away by Amory Sivertson: This playlist, in addition to lots of Girlyman, also has a surprisingly large amount of Amory Sivertson on it. I wonder what she's up to lately.
  • Just Stick Around by Nate Borofsky
  • Rising by Alba's Edge
  • Falling by Wishes and Thieves
  • Trees Still Bend by Girlyman: One early concept was more "contrasting parallel structure", hence flowers for trees, but that was too hard.
  • Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall by Simon & Garfunkel
  • The Question by Amory Sivertson
  • The Answer by Jason Tam/Joe Iconis
  • Above the Clouds by electronic orange juice: Hey, OJ!
  • Underground by The Orchids
  • Deer in the Night by Po' Girl: This pair is more of a parallel structure thing, and also amuses me overly much.
  • Moose in the Road by Girlyman

kihou: (Death)
This post has some Undertale spoilers. You should play it!

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kihou: (CHUN)
So, it's been a while since I talked before about interesting failures, and I feel like a lot of what I want is actually orthogonal to dice and more in the direction of "interesting complications".

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kihou: (Dr. Morden clone #187)

Playing Undertale made me think about what video/computer games I find particularly meaningful or impactful. So here's an annotated list of questionable interest to anyone else.


  • Chrono Trigger: This is my choice for "canonical JRPG". It's noteworthy for a few places that break your assumptions, and time travel is great. (Also, I played it on the Shinkansen from Tōkyō to Ōsaka.)
  • Earthbound: Fun, quirky RPG with basic mechanics that are reasonably standard but a lot of straight-presented weirdness that gives it something of a Jenna Moran vibe.
  • Mother 3: Takes the stuff that made Earthbound cool and added extra layers of emotion an expectation-subversion. Fun, has impact, has some interpretation possibilities, and fundamentally solid.
  • Undertale: Goes without saying. Also, hard to say much about why its great without spoiling things, though it's a progression from/response to games like the above.
  • Planescape: Torment: super-cool and elaborate setting and use thereof, excellently done amnesiac-hero-that-learns-their-deal-over-the-course-of-the-game, best integration of philosophy and plot. Glad I eventually jumped through the hoops necessary to play it.
  • Persona 4: I must like it, I've written multiple LARPs inspired by it. The divide between the slice-of-life social day world and the monster-fighting night world is cool, though it's a bit on-rails for the relation between the two to reach it's full potential.
  • Honorable Mention to Kingdom Hearts: I feel like the metaphysics have lots of potential, but then they just keep introducing new classes of stuff instead of realizing that potential, and the metaphysics doesn't really impact the gameplay much.

Interactive Fiction:

  • Spider and Web: an excellent story that takes advantage of its medium well and depends on the player being clever and understanding what's going on beneath the surface.
  • Counterfeit Monkey: a really fun and zany mechanic of word manipulation that I totally want to put in a LARP sometime.
  • Gone Home: the 3D-exploration-based presentation made what might otherwise have seemed like a pretty standard linear story much more impactful and personally-connected, for reasons that are hard for me to full conceptualize. Definitely unique.
  • Spelunx: it's hard to imagine a game that's had a bigger impact on me, in terms of being a large part of inspiring me into a life of programming. It's a shame that modern games don't make it so easy to look under the hood and see how the game itself was made.
  • Honorable Mention to Spellbreaker and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a lot of the classic Infocom games are really good. Those two are probably the ones I've played with the most conceptually interesting bits.


  • Braid: puzzle platformer with great exploration of different ways of doing time manipulation that holds together really well and ties in with the story well.
  • Link's Awakening: Link to the Past is probably my favorite Zelda game overall, but Link's Awakening is definitely the most philosophically interesting.
  • Ossuary: Most Discordian game ever!
  • Honorable Mention to Portal: I liked it a lot, and it's got great characterization. "But it's too mainstream."

kihou: (CHUN)
So, thinking about dice in tabletopping while dicelessly HGing Chuubo's has got me thinking about what I like about random dice roles in tabletopping. And I think it mostly comes down to interesting failures.

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kihou: (Most people end up believing they never)
In response to Zan's Spring Rebirth playlist. Some of these are just Spring-y and some of them are just wings-y, but it's all good.
kihou: (CHUN)
So, I talk up Apocalypse World a lot. One thing I like about it is that all the stuff that's specific to a character fits on a single sheet of paper. Not just your stats and stuff, but the definitions of all the special moves/key stuff you have, and the ones you could get by leveling up. Apocalypse World does this by having well-defined character types and having concise, focused moves and mechanics.

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The Lie

Mar. 30th, 2016 05:51 pm
kihou: (Journaling at Stonehenge)
Fanfic. Inspired by OJ's Beyond the Wall game concept.

“You are a slave, Neo. You, like everyone else, was born into bondage… kept inside a prison of smell, of taste, of touch.” Morpheus leans back in his worn leather chair. He smiles. His eyes are a night of falling stars.

“The Lie is everywhere, it's all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out over the lake, or looking up at the sun. You feel it when you go to work, or go to a shrine, or buy steamed buns. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the True Thing.”

“What True Thing?” Neo looks uncertain. The wind rattles a pane of glass.

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the True Thing is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Morpheus gives Neo two pills.

Neo falls through the static and the storms. The world around him breaks into fragments of violet and gold. He feels himself torn apart, torn from his dreams, his curiosity.

And then he lands, and he sees bleak and lightless gates, and beyond them ancient walls and towers made from stone and brass. The sky is sunless and alive with stars.

And Morpheus is there, leading a pale horse. "Welcome to the Bleak Academy, Neo. Here is the True Thing, beyond perception."

Neo follows him through the gate.
kihou: (CHUN)
So, a while back I talked about how I didn't necessarily feel it'd work well to add dice to a Chuubo's-like game. But for some reason I've still been thinking about it periodically, mostly in terms of a hypothetical Chuubo's x Apocalypse World game called "A Wish Chang'd World". But I hadn't really convinced myself of anything until I started thinking about something unrelated, namely "too many bubbles".

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Mar. 29th, 2016 07:31 pm
kihou: (Journaling at Stonehenge)
Inspired by a writing prompt from Sarah's Patreon

You hear the ice crack. You hear day and night pass in their endless dance. And you awake.

Things are different than you remember. Fewer trees to the north. The soil by your pond is drier, gritty. It is too warm by half, throwing all the rhythms off. And the pond is fuller. With mud, and other things.

Still, it's good to be awake, to be alive. The rabbits, as is their habit, have woken before you. They're already deep in their preparations for the season. The ducks and sparrows are eager to tell you the winter's news. Some geese have stopped to visit; you invite them in, ask of their travels, wish them pleasant winds.

The trees, the ones who remain, are slower to notice. For a moment you fear that too many have been lost, that they've been cut off. But no, not this year, at least.

You'd survive even then, you know, as long as the brook still flows. But their lot's plenty painful as it is, without isolation to compound it.

But no, even in the drowsy whispers you can hear the resonance, despite the losses and the cuts and the bitter air.

And you know, so long as you are able, that you will continue in your duties, do what you can to keep the wheel going a little longer.

But now, while those around you wake, you have a moment, at least, to just sit and enjoy the spring.
kihou: (All mimsy were the borogoves)
This one's for my incipient Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine campaign, a pastoral campaign set in the Fortitude neighborhood of Town. The only concise way I've found to explain Chuubo's pastoral is to compare it to Ghibli movies. ("You've got characters with great cosmic power, but the important things are living well and connecting with people.")
  • Simple Gift(s), The OK Factor. One of the region properties of Fortitude is “Things must have simplicity”, and coming from Shaker I couldn't resist including some version of Simple Gifts. This one's the coolest one I could find quickly.
  • Washing Day, Amber Rubarth. This song feels Fortitude-y to me, I think because I imprinted on that early story Jenna posted featuring laundry.
  • Streetcorner Paradise, Hiroshima. This at some point was in the aborted playlist for my old Dresden Files campaign, but it's totally better for Fortitude.
  • We Deliver, Kris Delmhorst. I dunno, it's weird and abstract and talks about the sun.
  • The Town on the Hill (丘の町), from the Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば) Image Album, because obviously I have that. (I know I got Whisper of the Heart impulsively my first time in Japan, but I don't remember if I got the image album then or if I got it at Tokyo Kid or somewhere after actually watching it.) It's pastoral but less Chuubo's-y than other Ghibli movies, but I like the feel and the story within the movie fitsish. The planetoids are converging!
  • Walking Home, Homunculus. Town canonically has buses, and it fits with the "you have to walk a long time to get places" part of Fortitude. Also, I like it and can't think of what other playlist I'd put it for.
  • Complimentary Me, Elizabeth & The Catapult. Lots of Chuubo's characters seem to have counterparts, and Kendra's character has a shadow.
  • Sleep Well, Mae
  • Forced Enlightenment, from CHRONOTORIOUS. Probably not strictly necessary, but the name makes me think of Jasmine getting hit on the head with a dodgeball.
  • My Baby The Sun, Coyote Grace
  • Today It's Raining On Just You, Broken Fences. Broken Fences has a bunch of surreal songs that fit well, and I ended up picking this one.
  • End Of The Summer, Dar Williams
  • Strange Familiar Places, The Filmographers. I'm not sure this reminds me of any character in particular, but this seems like someone who could totally be a Chuubo's character.
  • The Harbor(feat. Kawehi), Maximalism
  • Beyond the Veil, Lindsey Stirling. I guess this is the tie-in to Sam's character, with his Charon-defying and barrier-passing ways. Though the video is maybe more Kendra's character.
  • Like New, WWClub
  • A Mysterious Painting (神秘なる絵), from Kiki. I originally had "If Enveloped In Tenderness", but then I remembered this song and how Andrew's character has a painting bound under the Titov shrine, so I had to go with this one, even if it's way too mellow for under the Titov shrine.
  • Simple Mind, Allie Farris.
  • No Place Like Home, from Mako's Music Box. Another region property is "You have a home in Fortitude." And I still like these music box tracks, all these years layer.
  • Two Banks of the River, Jason Webley. I guess this is also related to Sam's character, running a ferry on the Twisting River, but also Jason Webley lyrics are totally evocative in the appropriate way, and I love this song.
  • World Begun, Hannah Sanders & Liz Simmons
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