Platonic Mastery

So the #threeforged voting is over, congratulations to Joshua, Shreyas and Grant for Field Work (details at http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_winner_and_everything.html). Now that the veil of anonymity is lifted I can take some time to talk about the games I worked on, the first of which has to be Platonic Mastery. Not only was it my stage one game but it’s also the one that needs the most discussion.

Download here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/16294442/%23Threeforged%202015/15107s3.rtf

Firstly, @lumpleygames, I totally knew you were one of the collaborators for this. Your voice is so loud in the text, it’s ridiculous.

Secondly, I was absolutely blown away with the third round product of this little thing. When I started threeforged I dredged through my mind for vague recollections of abandoned RPG ideas and recalled a fancy I’d had about doing an ATLA themed game using the elements to dice mapping from the Timaeus Dialogue. If I were following the advice going around a bit more I would have been a bit looser than what I ended up throwing together but after days of agonizing over the dice mechanics I ended up with a playable round one game. We playtested it and the dice mechanic worked. I submitted it and put it out of my mind as I continued work on the other games.

When all the stage 3 games were released for voting I opened up Platonic Mastery and I think I cried a little while reading it. I was so unsure about the original piece I had submitted and to see it all grown up, transformed in ways that were totally beyond what I could have imagined and so evocatively written, I was blown away. So I definitely need to say, thankyou so much to Vincent and Mark for giving me that.

Thirdly, My only disappointment was that one line got removed from my original text and had nothing to replace it. This rule is super awkwardly worded but losing it makes the dice mechanic fall apart and it’s one of the first things we’ll need to address if we put further work into the game:

You‭ ‬may‭ ‬roll‭ ‬as‭ ‬many‭ ‬of‭ ‬your‭ ‬live‭ ‬dice‭ ‬as‭ ‬you‭ ‬wish‭ ‬but‭ ‬you‭ ‬may‭ ‬never‭ ‬use‭ ‬all‭ ‬of‭ ‬your‭ ‬live‭ ‬dice‭ ‬of‭ ‬any‭ ‬single‭ ‬kind‭ ‬on‭ ‬a‭ ‬roll‭ ‬unless‭ ‬they‭ ‬are‭ ‬of‭ ‬the‭ ‬same‭ ‬element‭ ‬as‭ ‬the‭ ‬action‭ ‬being‭ ‬performed.

It’s a pity because there were a couple of reviews that pointed out the flaws in the mechanic raised by not having this limitation.

Fourthly, It wasn’t until some of the voting period reviews raised the issue that I really noticed the social justice implications of the current state of the game. The problems were obviously not intentional on the parts of any of the creators but I think privilege gives you blind spots. Reading the text I was just impressed that the player characters were addressing social justice at all. As a transwoman seeing trans characters not being an outright joke or villain is the bar that media has to meet for me at the moment. I think getting the tone right here is going to be the trickiest part of fixing this game and it might actually be the hill too steep to climb but I desperately want to see a game that both retains the amazing evocative world we see in the republic and still allows for empowerment of the oppressed within it. I think it will probably need a lot of community discussion to get that right. I’m so fucking glad that the anonymity period is over now and I can talk about this stuff directly because hiding my thoughts in a review and not being able to join in other comment threads was a seriously hard time for me.

I’m really looking forward to working on this further because it’s already so far along and so engaging.

#Threeforged1523 – Timelines – Microscope meets Primer? Sign me the fuck up. Tgis is definitely in my top five if not number one.

You play as Jamie Titor a great gender neutral reference to John Titor, a time traveller who appeared at the turn of the century. The players initially set up a life for Jamie filled with regrets that lead up to Jamie eventually discovering the secret to Time Travel. Thr first player then goes back in time to fix something which then changes the circumstances of Jamie’s time travel discovery creating another Jamie. This continues until there is a Jamie for each player at which point the timeline begins to crystalise, which I love.

I love the image of the multiple Jamies all trying to make a perfect life for the Jamie that never discovers time travel but all having different perspectives on what that means and how to achieve it. This really captures that important time travel question: evennif you can,from your perspective, change the past, can you actually make it better. This is reinforced further with the dice mechanic.

The timeline is set out as scenes on index cards that get played out ala microscope or fiasco, leading the scene to certain conclusion and answering questions of how things got there. But this is time travel so scenes can be over written and after each scene has played out dice are rolled based on the contents of the scene to see what ripple effects will carry over and which other scenes in the timeline will change. Mire sixes means better things for Jamie more ones means things get worse. The great trick here is that often d4s get added to the dice pool making the chances of things going poorly ever more likely.

I love to collaborative sharing of the Jamie character and the way they are different based on their experiences. I also love the tragedy baked into the mechanics and a lot of the weird existentialism that I can see leaking out of play.

This game asks some really powerful questions about the world and about your experience within the game and I love it for that and I really want an opportunity to play.

If you want to checknout a bunch of RPGs and maybe vote for some check out: http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged15107 – Platonic Mastery – Ancient Greek Avatar? Rad.
Robert Bohl really likes this game and his enthusiasm is infectious. The tone writing does an amazing job of pulling you into the setting and the mechanics are tied into the narrative in really interesting ways. The regrets and callings systems are SO evocative and while I agree with David Rothfeder that the fact that the players are priveleged figures saving the unpriveleged in the ways they think best could be problematic, I actually think its cool to have a game talking about the importance of those with privelege using it to fight for the underpriveleged. I feel like the initially black and white nature of the moral issues makes that work a little better. Bonus points for that fighting being done by element bending kungfu masters.

Dice-wise I like the way you can look at the pile of dice infront of a player and instantly know their stats. The dice sizes are all platonic solids mapped to elements by Plato which is really cool. I was trying to work out why you wouldn’t always take as many d20 water dice as possible because rolling high is good. The only things I could find is that when you deal damage you want to roll low rather than high which kinda makes dice choice more of a Lasers And Feelings sliding scale choice? The different actions also have elements listed next to them. Are you only allowed to roll that die type or is there some kind of other relationship there? If so, cool.

The GM NPC construction rules have an interesting looking tag system but its still a bit wobbly at the moment but could be cool if it were a little clearer.

One of the things I would really like to see more of is the Avatar elemental bending stuff. What does that look like in the republic? Are the old men masters of a mystical martial art that is forbidden to the lower classes? Are there hybrid animals in this world? I want my grumpy old man to fight a platypus-bear.

Wait this is basically a game about a hellenised version of the order of the white lotus. Sick.

Excuse my random Avatar fangirling. I’m just excited at the thought of playing Iroh.

This game has me super excited but I definitely want to see version four when some of the questions about the dice grit have been answered.

If you want to check out a bunch of RPGs and maybe vote for some check out:
http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged1540 – To Return a Wallet – Is a great setup for storytelling with an interesting inversion of player roles but could maybe use an extra mechanic to push play along. I actually got to playtest this with Mischa Krilov and David Rothfeder on one of Mischa’s Threeforged discussion hangouts which have been super rad. During our playtest we had a lot of fun with the characters that naturally appear with roleplayers just riffing freestyle and the content produced by the setup system that To Return A Wallet gives you is great theres an interesting halting point in the complication mechanics. Traditional RPGs have a power dynamic where one person with few limitations is played “against” many people with more limitations and the pendulum swinging between the sides drives story forward. In To Return A Waller there are many GM-like figures and only one player character but the limitations are still on the side of the many in the form of complication tokens that must be spent by the GM-like players to creat conflicts for the single player character to resolve but the single player character is limited only by the fiction and cannot be hindered by the GM-like players without complication tokens being expended. I feel like if there were a couple more mechanical story propellants it would help avoid the few stutters we fell into. We did have a lot of fun playing out discussions of Rebecca’s gastric achievements and the Regular Tony’s plight to be recognised for his own merits rather than being compared to the other Tonys.

I’m actually really keen to play this with BlackwoolHoliday because we’re both Murakami fans and I feel like this system does a great job of creating a Magical Realism setting. I just want to see the system leaborated on mechanically a little.

If you want to check out some more Threeforged RPGs and maybe vote for some check out: http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged1596 – Friends Of The Venom Spider – This has the potential to be a really intesting game about toxic social circles if it can pull itself a together into something a bit tighter. There’s a cool idea with the relationship scores that doesn’t quiet land yet. Although its pretty rough at the moment it would be cool tonsee this developed further.

To see more games and vote on them see: http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged15119 – The Red Token – Understated but powerful game for exploring atrocities and redemption. Sensitively written with hints of microscope and fiasco. Was initially unsure about not having a single canon setting or setting genre for the game but the designers do a good job of explaining the value of being able to play out the emotional topics in a fictional space you feel safe in. Plus the layout is simple and clear to match the rest of the game. Best use of card deck I’ve seen so far, nice and subtle. Top job all round, already want to play a Post V For Vendetta themed game.

To see more games and vote on them see: http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged1550 – MUSCLE WIZARDS VS LASER DINOSAURS:‭ ‬TURBO VAMPIRE EDITION – The best thing about this is definitely the writing. The tone and examples given are excellent and really get you amped up but the mechanics are about as generic as you’d expect for such a do anything nonsensical game. I really wish there was something here mechanically that rang true to the bombastic nature of the text. Maybe rolling ridiculous piles of dice? Literally throwing tokens at one another? I don’t know. All I know is that I love the words “Get Out Of My Way,‭ ‬I’m A Cathedral” and want the gameplay for that to be something more than spending tokens to talk about how I imagine things happening. Did the phrase “exploding dice” get lost in the design here? I think the designers can probably make something sicknasty out of this but it needs a few more rounds of work yet.

To see more games and vote on them see: http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged15135 – The Book Of Armaments – A fairly loose mechanical structure for resolving arbitrary narrative conflicts but an interesting format as far as twisting the standard GM/Player model. Would like to see a bit more crunch as far as how weapons work and why that weapons is so effective in the world. The arbitrariness of the card system and the low value of the reward tokens makes me think it might be a bit hard to get invested in the story.

To see more games and vote on them see: http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged1565 – Spiral Star – This is a rad looking little party LARP about a yacht with some mysterious properties. The moderator spiel at the start does an excellent job of setting out the play of the game and how the mechanics work and the individual cards are great content and prompts for play. I would be excited to play in a game of this and will probably recommend it to some people who’ve asked about games for larger groups in the past.

To see more games and vote on them see: http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

#Threeforged1530 – Q – Conjures up some good post apocalyptic fireside storytelling imagery but finding the game in here is tricky. We have some character sheets and some dice rolling and a scene structure but I can’t see the flow of the game clearly enough to want to play it. It doesn’t help that it’s all set out on a blurry pixelated image of a torn page.

#Threeforged1566 – untitled – This is a neat little setting but it’s not a game. It’s a description of scene based roleplaying and a conflict resolution mechanic that has players choosing at random who has narrative authority for the scene. Would have been really cool to have mechanics around how elementals work, what being a scientist entails and what they do with the elementals or keeping the whole thing a secret. Really this would be better as a Fiasco playbook.

#Threeforged 15124 – untitled – It’s about wizard cops from the magic dimension hanging out in our dimension trying to basically keep on top of magic things that shouldn’t be here. I like the stuff here about the way your character kind of degrades over time but honestly this whole game feels unfinished and all over the place. The mechanics are weirdly arranged or absent to the point where I don’t really understand how you actually play the game. It’s also losing points for being about wizards without putting a particularly interesting spin on it. There are a LOT of wizard games in threeforged that they all kind of get dragged down by that for me. If there’s a wizard game that does something really interesting with the concept then I’ll look closer but “they’re wizards but also kind of secret agent cops?” doesn’t do it for me.

The #Threeforged RPG design challenge has all it’s entries in and it’s time for public voting:
http://halfmeme.com/threeforged_voting.html

I’m not allowed to tell you which three I worked on yet but I do have to say thankyou to the people that worked on my stage one submission. The end product is an amazing and beautiful evolution of the crazy ideas I started with.

I’ll be going through some and doing some small short form reactions/reviews of the games I read. If any really pique my interest I’ll try and organize some oneshots for serious reviewing.