Archive for July, 2006

Push is Go for Launch

2006 Jul 25

I am very pleased to announce (having just recieved the final, beautiful copies from the UPS man) that Push vol 1 is now available. Copies can be purchased from the fine folks at Lulu for $17 (it’ll probably be around $20, with shipping). You can find a link to our Lulu site on the menu bar of the new Push webpage.

I’ll try to mail off a copy to Ken Hite and Paul Tevis today, to start the hype machine running.

Contributors and commentators! You folks get free copies. Let me know how and when you want them. If you send me an address, I’ll mail one to you. Otherwise, you can either pick them up at GenCon (where I will be bringing a stack of at least 50). Or in some other fashion of your choosing.

We did it, folks. Booyeah.

Character at All Costs

2006 Jul 23

Finally getting around to reading Jess’ recent post on 20×20 has gotten me thinking about the fetishization of character in roleplaying, something nearly as pervasive as the fetishization of story. It’s really strange how much these two common tendencies are operating from opposite assumptions. The following is a generalization that is not applicable to individuals but may still help explain these often-competing ideologies.

The fetishization of story arrived, as far as I can tell, as a reaction against the fetishization of rules. Following the rules to a T sometimes leads to unfun things happening. The key, story proponents declared, is ignoring the rules or anything else when it doesn’t serve the best interests of the overall story. The story approach tries to always look at the big picture, not worried necessarily about how the rules should play out or what certain characters should or shouldn’t do, but how these forces serve the larger narrative. It’s about looking at a roleplaying session as if you are a stage or film director, trying to pace things and plot the action in a way that creates an entertaining play experience for everyone. This is a very GM-centric approach to viewing roleplaying.

The fetishization of character is a player-centric approach. Yes, it’s partially mixed up in all that messy talk about immersion, but really it’s about pursuing the rewards of character consistency and the pleasure of playing a role often at the expense of rules and sometimes at the expense of the larger narrative. Character proponents are often annoyed by rules that affect their ability to decide what their character does or feel or forces them to think out-of-character (i.e. they enjoy more “low-impact” mechanics), but, also, they are not as concerned with what’s happening in the overall story, at least during play. After play is over, they may be more than welcome to reflect on how the story is building, but during play they are often more concerned with the situation of their own character. Some may have enough sense of how the narrative is developing that they can have their character act in ways that support the larger story, especially if such things have been discussed beforehand, but often they are more interested in watching the narrative emerge, seeminging unplanned and hap-hazard, from decisions made by individual characters.

Recent tendencies in design have, I think, made things more difficult for those who tend to fetishize character, since most indie games (and most roleplaying games in general, honestly) are written by folks approaching play and design from the GM’s chair. I don’t think it’s especially surprising, then, that we’ve seen a steadily increasing breakdown of the traditional GM/player divide (described, in great detail, by Emily Care Boss in Push vol 1!) and an increased push by designers to take advantage of the brilliance of their players to drive and sustain interesting play. Players, new design trends have suggested, should have a good feel for where the game is going and have plenty of good ideas about what should happen next. Putting these ideas into practice, and not simply relying on the GM to create structure and plot, is a key goal of most contemporary designers than I know of, even ones who still preserve the GM role to one extent or another.

Part of what led me to look at “low impact” mechanics in the first place was reading a bunch of blog posts where people were saying “I don’t want to deal with X, Y, or Z during play. It interferes with my ability to really enjoy myself.” Some designers seemed to take this as a rejection of the cool new stuff they just finished designing, which is understandable. We made all these cool new tools for encouraging new types of play and now some people are saying, seemingly for ideological reasons, that they won’t use them. That sucks. Maybe they’re just being stubborn and resistant to the future of roleplaying. More likely, though, there’s something else going on. And I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what they something else is for a while. I keep circling it, but I still can’t quite put my finger on it.

Interestingly, John Kim’s Push article describes a style of play tailor-made for people who are all about character, which makes it an ideological opposite of the Emily Care article that comes right before it. Interesting how I’m just noticing this now or I would have mentioned it in Push. John’s piece is about creating a play experience in which each major character is seemingly the protagonist of their own story (one of the chief goals, arguably, of the character-centric approach and immersion).

One of the things I’m trying to do in my current Avatar design project is harnessing player’s decisions about their character, which are gathered and collected to create “character development arcs,” in the service of building a larger narrative about what these characters are doing and why it matters. We’ll see if this does anything to address the different ideological assumptions of the character-centric and story-centric approaches.

Push Countdown

2006 Jul 16

So the new Push website is done. I built it from scratch today in a few hours (well, I hacked one of the sample WordPress CSS packages, but whatever). Dreamhost is apparently simply as pie to set up. I’ve never had webhosting that was this easy. It’s astounding why I was putting up with such crap before (NOTE: All the webhosting I did through Clinton & The Forge was boss. I’m talking about other commercial outfits).

The Lulu proofs looked really sharp overall, but the cover turned out a bit darker than I expected. I’ve lightened it up and made a bunch of final tweakw, so I’m just waiting on a second proof now. Then we’re open for business. How exciting.

Lulu is magic. It’s unbelievable how easy printing books with them is. You honestly don’t have to know jack-shit about printing. I’ve done a fair bit of research over the years, checking out my options and so forth, but, with Lulu, you just throw up a couple PDFs and you’re good to go. I kept wondering if there was some stuff I forgot to do. But no, it’s just simple as dirt. Astounding. And they’re perfect for a journal like this one, where I really have no clue what the sale numbers are gonna be like. So I can always sell copies and don’t have to worry about managing print runs.

Life is good.

I’m already thiking about my project for Volume 2. Do I finish When the Forms Exhaust Their Variety, probably the most ambitious thing I’ve ever started writing? Do I do a varient on the Avatar game, which has a mind-blowing concept at it’s core but is still super-accessible? Do I just put my nose to the wheel and wrap up Vesperteen in a shorter format that originally intended, to get it off my plate and free up mental space for new projects? Whatever it is, it’ll rock. And I’ve already talked to a few people involved in the first issue, who also have nefarious plans afoot. And I know a bunch of new faces are interested as well. Rock.

Lulu Proofs on Their Way

2006 Jul 12

Your Lulu Order Has Shipped
Shipped on Wednesday, July 12, 2006

All items in your order have been shipped.

In This Shipment
3 of Push: Volume 1 by Jonathan Walton (Printed)

Thank you for shopping Lulu!

Chris Ware on Comics…

2006 Jul 10

Which I find highly relevant to roleplaying:

    Comics aren’t really misunderstood either, they’ve just been mostly silly for the past century, and those genre-centered stories have found their way into the movie theaters over the past couple of decades because a generation who grew up reading them has, well, grown up. Yet there are more artists doing good work now in comics than ever before, and I think some readers sense that there’s something about the disposition of the person who wants to grow up to be a cartoonist that somehow allows him or her to be able to see and comment on our world in a way that’s maybe a little more clear-seeming (or, in its most immature but still valuable form, judgmental). Also, it’s a way of literally experiencing someone else’s vision with a purity that I don’t think any other medium offers; there are no technical, electronic or financial limitations; one only has to work harder to improve. Lately I think a new attitude has prevailed that comics aren’t inherently an Art form, but that some cartoonists are genuinely artists.

Oh, also, Push is finished. I’ll have ordering details soon.