Archive for the 'Mwaantaangaand' Category

Thing That Hit Me on the Subway

2009 Feb 2

So you have one stack of cards that’s labeled “complications” on the back. On the fronts of the cards (there are at least 30 of these, maybe more) are listed things like:

  • Unprepared: You lack something that you need.
  • It’s Locked: Your access is forcibly barred.
  • I Don’t Think So: Someone important is unconvinced.
  • It’s a Trap: Someone set you up.
  • Your Mistake: You did something wrong.

Whenever you face a mundane obstacle in the game, you or one of the other players should draw one or more cards from the complications deck (more cards for a tougher obstacle) and narrate them into the current situation. Complications that you draw and narrate can be overcome, but not in this scene. Place the complication in front of you to remind yourself, discarding it in a later scene when and if you overcome the obstacle. Complications that other players draw and narrate can be overcome in the same scene, but only once you’ve satisfied the narrator of the obstacle.

There’s also another set of cards, which for simplicity’s sake I’ll call “monster cards.” Monster cards come in sets of multiple cards, with each set representing the various complications that a single monster creates. Once the group decides that a monster has appeared, it places the set of cards for that monster on the table and also draws a number of mundane complication cards. Perhaps the number of mundane complications is listed on the back of the monster cards or, even, when you draw a monster card it tells you to additionally draw 0-2 mundane complications. The monster card descriptions are much more vivid and less general than the mundane complication cards. For example:

Kayongo (Card #3 of 6)
Kayongo is a the spirit of an ancestor who was gifted with the power of divination. Twisted by dark science, Kayong blast a horrid vision of the future into the mind of the target character.

Monster cards are implemented in play just like mundane complications, but with their associated mundane complications occurring when the target character attempts to overcome the monster card. For example, if my character screamed and shook his head frantically in an effort to clear the vision from his mind, he might draw the complication “It’s Locked,” which could be interpreted to mean that he’s stuck seeing the vision until someone figures out how to stop it. Or, if my character had tried to fire his gun at the monster, maybe it jams.

There’s also probably room for “monster” style complications that aren’t monsters, but since I was pondering this in relation to Mwaantaangaand, that’s what came to mind first. On the whole though, this seems like the makings of a pretty cool diceless, GMless, pacing-based, low impact system.

Bay of Tigers

2008 Mar 7

This book is incredible.

In Cuando Cubango, where it is believed 45 percent of Angola’s mines are located, mines outnumber people. There were not a lot of people to begin with, and in recent years many have died.

“To the left at that tree…” We hope the copilot knows the terrain well. That his mask of youth conceals the face of a seasoned veteran of war. That he knows the minefields because he helped plant them.

– Pedro Rosa Mendes, Bay of Tigers: An African Odyssey, 1999, trans. from Portuguese by Clifford Landers. Harcourt, 2003.

Child Soldiers in Angola

2007 Nov 25

Just picked up a new book today, Child Soldiers in Africa by Alcinda Honwana, on the involvement of male and female children in the civil wars of Angola and Mozambique. While this material is really upsetting and I wasn’t originally going to include it in updates to Mwaantaangaand (the Angola civil war is disturbing enough), I feel like it’s important stuff that people should know about. Also, after playing in Emily’s A Day in the War at JiffyCon, I feel like war roleplaying games (like the best war movies) are a great opportunity to educate people about conflicts and terrible circumstances in a way that is still… for lack of a better word… fun. Fun in the same way that watching Saving Private Ryan or Letters from Iwo Jima is fun. And, as Gregor Hutton pointed out, “We need more games about, and set in, Africa,” because few people in the West know anything substantial about it. Roleplaying games can be a teaching tool through their setting content as well as through encouraging problem solving and experimenting with social interaction.

Angola Today

2007 Oct 14

The NYTimes has a neat article about present day Angola for Mwaantaangaand fans who might be curious.

Cold City: Shutting Down, Session 1

2007 Sep 26

I’m running Malcolm Craig’s Cold City for Adam Flynn, Robert Ahrens, Eben Lowe, and Nathan Paoletta. It was actually planning for the game that gave me the ideas that became Mwaantaangaand.

Last night was the first session, which Nathan unfortunately couldn’t be at. The four of us spent the first hour or so talking about the style and tone of the game. We decided:

  • we wanted some Hidden Agendas to be “open” (general knowledge to the players) and some to be “closed” (secret, discovered in play),
  • we wanted the GM to have some secret Hidden Agendas of his own, though we didn’t really talk about how to implement these (maybe I’ll just make some major NPCs with Hidden Agendas, since they seems like what I’m supposed to do),
  • we wanted the game to be kinda noir-y and realistic without worrying too much about the actual details of history (Eben, with loads of German experience, will be sitting on his hands),
  • it may, in the end, be unclear if there’s really any supernatural happenings going on at all (since the Nazis did some horrible things to people that might render them disturbed or inhuman, but not necessarily undead or alien or whatever),
  • and some other stuff, which I don’t really remember.

Adam‘s playing a young Russian officer who missed most of the war because he was involved in other things. He was a snappy dresser, loved the Party but hated Stalin, was hoping to uncover proof that the Americans were misusing Nazi secrets, and was incredibly unsubtle in trying to recruit people to the Soviet side (possibly because he was working in German, which wasn’t his native language). A fairly recent arrival to the Reserve Police Agency (the setting’s multi-national secret-hunting task force), he was reassigned because his superiors suspect that the German members of the RPA may be covering up Nazi secrets instead of exposing him. He’s here to fix that. Adam’s character was in two initial scenes, which is why we know more about him than the other characters.

Robert‘s playing a former German sapper whose devil-may-care attitude led to the loss of his arm fairly early in the war, before everything turned South. After having been stuck at a desk job for most of the remainder of the conflict, he started working in the central office of the RPA, mostly filing paperwork and handling other administrative details. He’s originally from Wiemar, which means he’s an old-school German nationalist who thinks of the Republic fondly and has not yet realized that that world will never return, but be washed away by Cold War divisions.

Eben‘s playing a highly assimilated Brit of South Asian descent, so assimilated that he’s been Church of England for a couple generations. Most of his family was killed during the war and, with few attachments, he was an attractive recruit to the RPA. Though a technical officer in the Royal Air Force, he’s also a pencil pusher in the central RPA office, but has extensive knowledge of the various records that have been inherited from previous German agencies.

The overall premise of the game, we decided, was that the RPA is in the midst of being gradually shut down. Many of the active units have been disbanded (or killed, it’s not entirely clear), but there are a few administrative details that need to be taken care of. The paperwork has to be processed. The files of various units need to be organized and boxed away for safekeeping. The central RPA office has to comb through the various units’ operational bases to make sure nothing incriminating, secret, or important is being left behind for others to find.

In the first scene, the Russian and German characters were sent to the former headquarters of an American-led RPA unit that had closed (the Russian there largely to make sure the German didn’t cover up anything). They bickered a bit amidst the remnants of a converted bunker before the Russian stumbled across a list of regularly-collected blood sample data that had been taken from (after a conflict to piece the data together or be in immediate danger; he succeeded) a minor German actress that the American-led unit had under surveillance. While he was glancing over his find, the German (after a conflict to see if the Russian noticed; he didn’t) pocketed a unknown file that had the Nazi state seal on it. Cut.

In the second scene, the Russian was attempting to track down other information on this actress, enlisting the assistance of the Brit. As they walked down the street to the archive where the former SS surveillance files were kept, a Russian artillery lieutenant, recently arrived in Berlin, stepped out of a car and entered RPA headquarters with his entourage. The Brit raised an eyebrow. There was no luck finding the original paper files of the actress in the archive, but when they checked the microfiche records, it showed the files had already been put on film, presumably because someone thought they were important. However, when they opened the box that supposedly contained the appropriate films, there was nothing inside. (Here there was kinda a wishy-washy conflict where the Russian tried to get the Brit on his side; he succeeded). Sighing, they began to search the boxes near it alphabetically, hoping that it had simply been misplaced. Cut.

All in all, a slow but good start, I think. I really like the idea that the game is going to start with minor administrative errands and build to all the secrets that the RPA is going to leave unsolved once they shut down. I’m also thinking that, perhaps, the characters won’t even be part of any official unit, but be uncovering this stuff together, as part of their larger responsibilities in various RPA subunits. In any case, I’m really excited for the next session and to see how Nathan injects more awesome into what we’ve already established.

Mwaantaangaand Quickstart

2007 Sep 24

Matthijs asked for Mwaantaangaand in a more easily printable format, so I’ve posted the shortened, 4-page contest PDF in case anyone wants something to print out, read, and/or playtest.

It has much less information about the various Angolan factions and ethnic groups, but all the rules are there. With the brevity of coverage on Angola in the current version of the game (since it’s not like the Angolan Civil War is common knowlege, unfortunately), I kinda hope people do a bit of research on their own, learning more about the MPLA if they’re gonna play an MPLA character, etc.

There’s some interesting tidbits that are going to make it into future drafts too, like the MPLA controlling all the oil reserves in Angola while UNITA controlled most of the diamond mines.

Mwaantaangaand v0.1

2007 Sep 23

Just posted the final intial draft of Mwaantaangaand, a game that seeks to bring the fun developments that I’ve been working on in various other design projects to people who don’t care about Avatar or Exalted.

The game is heavily inspired by Malcolm Craig’s Cold City, but it runs on a largely “structured freeform” system that has a bit of strategy and resource manipulation involved in the way corrupted spirits are fought.

The premise of the game involves a coalition of soldiers from the various factions of the Angolan Civil War descending into the land of the dead to destroy the horrors created by Project Coast, South Africa’s biological weapons program.

P.S. I wrote it for Jason Morningstar’s game design contest.