Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tis better to give than to recieve

I had mentioned to James Wallace in an email that it might be a good marketing move to donate money based on sales of the game to the Humboldt Literacy Project, a non-profit in my area that helps adults learn to read. You know, the more I sell the more I give. And as a limited time promotion around the holidays to really drum up the sales.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I live in California. As in the state that is having a major budget crisis right now. Just last week, a special election for a few propositions that were deemed necessary to get the budget balanced this year (or next year, I'm not quite sure). All but one of them failed. Meaning that lots of cuts are going to have to be made and a lot of programs around the state are going to be hurting.

So now I'm looking to revise my plan. First off, it's not just a holiday promotion. It will be a regular thing. We've really got to break out of the whole "Christmastime is the season of giving" rut that keeps us from doing stuff like that at other times of the year. I might do something around Christmastime, but we'll see.

I also plan on giving within my local community, rather than to a state or national organization. This is because I think local giving has a bit more of a visible impact. Rather than dividing up your dollar into pennies (or less than pennies) to divide among the hundreds of projects, divisions, and people that they support, your dollar is more likely to go (more or less completely) to something that does an immediate good in the community.

The big challenge is who to give this money that I will be collecting to. Schools are an obvious choice and libraries tie in thematically, since I'll be selling books to raise the money. But police and fire services will be impacted as well, so giving to the Eureka Police Foundation would also be worthwhile. What do you guys think?

New on the Gallery: The Scarecrow by Brad McDevitt.

Edit: I read in my local paper yesterday that my local zoo may not be able to maintain the educational programs that it needs to maintain its accreditation due to the budget crunch. One more worthy cause?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I almost forgot

One thing that I keep having to remind myself of is that this is not an Oz blog or a gaming blog. I'm having fun blogging about both of those things, believe me, but it's not the only reason I'm here. I also came here to sell you something.

Adventures in Oz: The Roleplaying Game is coming soon. My target release date is August 21st, in order to correspond to Princess Ozma's birthday. While it looks like I've got most of the heavy lifting done, the little details are looking pretty scary right now. But then, I've got 3 months to go.

In order to drum up traffic and interest in the official Adventures in Oz website, I've started posting illustrations from the game. Every Thursday (same as the blog) I put up a new picture in the gallery. Some of it has already been featured here on the blog but there's also some fun new stuff, like the very lovely Red Reera the Yookoohoo. I feel particularly silly because I've been doing this for about a month and forgot to mention it here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum!

If L. Frank Baum had lived to see today, he would be 153 years old. If I had time, I would have something clever to say or do in this space. All I can really do right now is recommend you to Jared's blog for his always-fun birthday tribute. If anyone knows of any more fun sites celebrating L. Frank Baum's life, please feel free to link them in the comments.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Boldly Going... to Oz!

After reading Jared's blog, and then this one by Adam Dickstein, I am am now compelled to share this with you.

When my gaming group first consented to try Adventures in Oz, I was ecstatic. The rules would get a thorough playtesting by some of the best players I could muster. However, this meant that I had to come up with stories to put them through. Frantically turning to my Big Shelf O' RPGs (maybe once I get a working camera again, I'll take a picture of how big my collection really is), my eyes light upon my collection of Star Trek RPGs.

To my knowledge, I have every Star Trek RPG ever published. Not every supplement or adventure, but at least the main book for each. I've got the FASA RPG that came in a box. I've got each of the Last Unicorn Games Star Trek books. They did one main rulebook for the Original Series, the Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. They intended to produce one for Voyager, but the company collapsed before that could happen. I've also got the complete line of Decipher Star Trek hardcovers. There were some books that were published on PDF, but I'm not a fan of PDF in general.

Okay, now that I'm done with the bragging, let's get on with things. The thing that really ties the two franchises together is the idea of exploring the unusual. Star Trek does it intentionally, while Dorothy does it almost accidentally.

The Enterprise's mission is to "explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations", so it's no surprise that the beloved starship did just that. Each week was a new story with a new planet, a new race of people, or some new phenomena.

Dorothy's exploration was not because she was necessarily looking for it, but because so many things happened to be in her way as she was going somewhere else. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is just looking for a way home and find her way to the Emerald City. It's just that on her way there, she happened to make some friends and have some adventures. In The Emerald City of Oz, Dorothy wanders away from camp briefly and gets captured by the Spoon Brigade of Utensia. Once she is released, she then tried to find the camp again, but wanders into Bunbury and Bunnybury.

The crew of the Enterprise is a bunch of meddlers. Every episode, they try to fix something or solve some mystery or destroy the computer that was running a civilization just fine before they showed up. Dorothy and her friends, however, don't feel the need to meddle much. They will from time to time, but for the most part they are simply passing through on their way somewhere else. Once they get where they're going, however, they feel free to meddle away.

In The Scarecrow of Oz, Trot and Cap'n Bill did not try to reform Ork society, or solve the mystery of why it snowed popcorn in the land of Mo. But once they got to Jinxland, they staged a royal coup, changing the balance of power forever.

This is not always the case, as demonstrated by Dorothy's visit to Bunnybury in The Emerald City of Oz. Her interaction with the King of Bunnybury, though minor, was just enough to help the king be content with his royal lifestyle.

In a gaming scenario, I think the Star Trek model of one new place per adventure would probably work best. It's what I've done in my Oz playtest game. In part because when you introduce something into an RPG, the players are expecting to be able to play with it. Players have been known to spend half an hour on something that the GM has simply intended as a color detail. Putting an interesting person or community in the game and expecting the players to simply ask for directions or spend the night and move on the next morning is simply madness.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Railroad and the Sandbox

One of the "swear words" of the gaming hobby is "railroading". In a game where any action should be possible, being forced to follow a specific path (a "train track", if you will) can be highly frustrating. Especially when freedom of action is a big selling point for the game and character-based decisions are viewed as just as valid as game-based ones.

I believe the computer game equivalent is called "pixel-bitching" or "pixel-hunting", in which a player has to execute a very specific sequence of events or locate an item in-game that is only a few pixels across and therefore very easy to miss.

A related issue in gaming is "illusionism". Since the GM isn't a computer and can change things to suit his moods, he will sometimes do this to the detriment of the story and the play experience. There are situations where this is valid. For example, the GM may design his story so that the players need some background on the Yip Country and makes Frogman available to provide this information. But one of the players decides that he or his character is repulsed by frogs and doesn't want to deal with Frogman. So the GM decides that Cayke the Cookie Cook is visiting the Emerald City right then and is able to fill them in on what they need.

Sounds like the GM just saved the story, right? In that case, yes. For an example of how this can go wrong, let's consider the classic dilemma of the lady and the tiger. The players are faced with two doors. They know that one of the doors has a prize for them (the lady in the metaphor) while the other has a horrible monster behind it (our tiger). The GM could decide that the lady is behind the door on the left and the tiger is behind the door on the right and let the dust fall where it may. The illusionist GM could decide that whichever door they open, the players will get the lady (because they worked so hard to get to this point in the story, they deserve something good) or the tiger (because they were all a bunch of jerks who didn't chip in for pizza this week, or maybe just because they love a big fight scene against impossible odds).

This really weakens the drama of the story once the players realize that the choice wasn't really theirs to make. They will lose faith in the GM, lose their respect for setting, and overall not enjoy the game all that much anymore.

Now we get to play in the "sandbox". Made popular by "open-world" video games like the Grand Theft Auto series, the "sandbox" RPG encourages the characters to define and pursue their own goals. The "traditional" model states that the plot typically flows from the GM to the players, who respond to events as they see fit. The "sandbox" style of play gives players more freedom to create their own objectives in the game and encourages the GM to give these goals a reasonable chance of happening.

The GM has to be on his toes as well, as players will feel much freer to try things they would not otherwise do. Also, players will be much more interested if the GM puts some of the supporting cast in the way of their goals, giving them a challenge to overcome. It also creates the feeling that the world "lives" in its own way, rather than simply being a place where plot happens.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...