Archive for January 31st, 2008

That Nixon Fellow

2008 Jan 31

If you’re like me, you may have missed that Clinton R. Nixon has a newish blog and might not have it in your blog reader yet. As the quieter half of what made the Forge work for the first 5 years (before Clinton passed on the reigns to Vincent Baker), Clinton’s thoughts on roleplaying as a medium and a teeny tiny industry are not as well known and publicly discussed as Ron Edwards’. This is unfortunate, I think, because Clinton is in many aspects more of a revolutionary than Ron.

In a recent post, Clinton claims to not really be a game designer and to have “gotten lucky” once, which I assume means with his game The Shadow of Yesterday. While his “Keys” are, I think, one of the most valuable and generally useful roleplaying concepts of the past 5 years, it’s true that his real strength, as a designer, is in pulling together dozens of ideas from disparate indie roleplaying projects and distilling them into something that does what he wants. I still think this is a pretty cool gift, all told, and I am definitely looking forward to his upcoming projects, like Inuma.

Clinton’s thinking is especially potent and innovative in the area of game publication, where he is focused on creating a community around free games and developing ways in which to get free game content into the hands of players. I suspect that he is influenced by working in the software industry and thinking about issues of open content and Web 2.0 kinds of issues, but he is the first person I met who was thinking hard about applying those concerns to roleplaying. The few times that I’ve been able to sit down and chat with Clinton over a meal, I’ve felt like I was in a different place than he was, but over the years I’ve found myself drawn closer and closer to his position, wanting to get out of selling roleplaying games and back into sharing my ideas with people who will appreciate and implement them in play.

Having just discovered Clinton’s newish (since October) blog, I ravenously read through the whole thing in one sitting. As I suspected, it’s full of really great stuff, including thoughts on several issues that are much more articulate and thought-through than some of the things I have been trying to articulate lately. Check it out.

Ice Castles

2008 Jan 31

I’ve been sick since Friday at noon and been home the first part of the week because of it, barely being able to think because of lots of sinus pressure. I’m feeling pretty solid today, so hopefully I’m through the really bad stuff.

While I was home, I managed to finish Ico, the brilliant video game that is the main inspiration for my future game based on The Snow Queen. While I thought the last section of it was fairly anticlimactic — I expected the game to be longer, exploring the rest of the castle, and wasn’t expecting actual combat to be at the focus of the finale, given the relative lack of violence in the first sections — it was good to see the entire scope of it.

In the imaginary Snow Queen game in my head, there is a GM who plays the enormous ice castle and the players, however many there are, play Gerda and Kay, the two children trying to flee the Snow Queen’s palace. Ideally, I will be able to eventually work something out with Tony Dowler, who will draw a giant poster-sized ice castle with hundreds of rooms.

To give structure to the castle, I am imagining that the rooms will probably be broken down into sections, like the aerie, the catacombs, the crystal chapel, the wolfen kennel, the snowflake factory, etc. In most sections there will be one or two main puzzles that the children must solve — working together! — before they are able to move on to the next section, but the puzzles will probably require doing things in multiple rooms or moving objects around the section. I’m imagining that the game will often be played with actual children as the players, right before bedtime, instead of, say, reading to them. So the children might play through one section of the castle and then go to sleep, tackling the next section on a subsequent night.

In my mind, the game consists of a laminated poster of the castle and a small booklet that explains how to play. It might even be possible to put the text of the game — both the instructions and the short descriptions of various rooms — on the poster as well, in the white space around the outside of the castle illustration. That would be cool, but if it doesn’t all fit, the rest of the text could go in the booklet.