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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Lee Short's LiveJournal:

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Monday, September 14th, 2009
11:13 pm
Houses of the Blooded
Tried to play this yesterday. GOD does that game need an editor. It's also screamingly unbalanced, once you really figure out how to play. Which is really a shame, as Wick can really write a setting. He should really hire out the mechanics, though. Um, and get an editor.
Sunday, May 10th, 2009
11:12 pm
Playtesting 4E baddies?
I've got a number of low-level 4E DnD monsters I need to get playtested. I'd love to hear from anyone who's interested in giving them a try.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2007
7:31 pm
JAGS Wonderland
Anybody read it? Other than Marco, duh!

After our recent Don't Rest Your Head game, I got this idea to do DRYH crossed with Wonderland with Star, Moon, and Cross mechanics. So: as a pure setting/advice book, how is JAGS Wonderland? What are the contents? Would it be easily amenable to a hybrid setting (some setting books are, some aren't)?

Enquiring minds, and all that. Marco is of course welcome to weigh in with his 2 cents.
Wednesday, February 7th, 2007
6:51 pm
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006
8:44 am
A political sideline
Stolen from lollardfish

You've already heard about the illegal DHS scheme that assigns a terrorist risk assessment score to any American who crosses the border by air. As you may know, DHS is trying to paper-up this nonsense by publishing a notice in the Federal Register.

I’ve set up an easy way for you to submit your comments without having to navigate the Byzantine labyrinth that is the Federal Register. Simply click here to be taken to a user-friendly submission form.


The comment period closes December 29th, so now is the time to have your say. Can you please help me get the good word out on this?
Tuesday, November 14th, 2006
8:48 pm
Old News
...to many of you.

Anyway, if you're at all familiar with the RPG theory forums/blogs, and haven't yet seen The Indie Gaming Scene, you're missing out. Big-time.
Tuesday, November 7th, 2006
9:18 pm
Reflections on Polaris
So I played in the Polaris game that jhkimrpg ran last weekend at AmberCon Northwest. Damn, it was fun. We had an awesome group of players, if I do say so myself.

It was the end-of-the-con Sunday slot -- usually when all the players' attention spans are at their lowest. Certainly this game was a bit over-the-top, but not all that much.

The odd thing about the game is that it never really felt like we were engaging with the mechanics. The basic mechanic of the game is that each PC has a player ("heart") and an opposition ("mistaken"). The Heart is supposed to further the cause of the character; the Mistaken to thwart the character's progress. This isn't really how it played out in our game. In many cases, the Heart acted the thwart the character just as much as the Mistaken did (you say I have to cut my arm to defeat the demon -- no, I cut my arm off). It never really felt like the Heart and the Mistaken were in any real sort of opposition.

So what did we take from the game book that made this game any different than "d20 Doomed Frostknights"? I think it mostly boils down to the vision of play.
Sunday, October 15th, 2006
4:54 pm
ACNW Game List
1 -- Revenge of the Babysat
2 -- NINF -- Horror Rise
3 -- The End of the World
4 -- Amber Shadows
5 -- Karm vs. Osric
6 -- AmberQuest
7 -- Polaris

Damn! I got nearly all my 1sts. Maybe all of them, even -- I'd have to look to see for sure.

I'm playing in 3 quite big games (1,3,5), 3 quite small games (including the 2 that I'm running) (4,6,7), and 1 that's probably in the middle (2). Mostly classic amberish. Looks like a lot of fun. My only regret is that I mostly ended up playing with GMs I played under before; I kind of wanted to give some of the new blood a go. I loaded up my 2nd and 3rd choices with them; I didn't count on getting so many of my first choices.

Sadly, there were no Ameer games this year. Happily, Rob D and Lydia L will be back for the first time in 2-3 years. With luck, Fred and Deb will be with them.
Friday, September 8th, 2006
10:14 am
ACNW, Part 2
Well, I've put up the AmberQuest (Amber done with HeroQuest) game. I've got to do 2-3 pages of rules adaptations for it, but they'll be fun. I'm really looking forward to character sheets with things like "Grayswandir 5w3", "Army of Dogmen 10w", "Pattern 3w7" and "Warfare 8w5". I'm thinking of using Endurance Points much like Hero Points are used in the standard game -- except that certain actions like Hellriding automatically cost Endurance Points.

I chose to go with a throne war because I think that will spotlight the system best in a 5-hour slot.

It sounds like there's a big turnout this year. I wonder how big? IIRC, the biggest ACNW has been while I've been going is about 110, and the smallest is mid-80s. I've seen some buzz online about ACNW this past year, and I'm wondering how much of an affect it has had.
Tuesday, September 5th, 2006
11:00 am
Well, I've submitted my 2 slots of Amber Shadows for this year. I also want to run a slot of Amber under the HeroQuest rules, but I need to sort out a thing or two before that game is gelled enough to write a description for.
Friday, January 20th, 2006
3:45 pm
Campaign Cartographer 2
For some time, I've been meaning to dig this out and put in some time coming up to speed again. I finally got to do it this afternoon. I'd forgotten how much fun this is to play around with. Not only that, but you get cool maps as a byproduct!
Wednesday, December 21st, 2005
9:50 pm
New Star, Moon, Cross Draft posted
...at the wiki. It's integrated most (but not all) of the feedback from the ACNW game, and the great feedback that ewilen sent me. I also posted the First Session Checklist (aka Gaming Preferences Discussion worksheet) to the wiki a couple weeks ago. I'm hoping to eventually expand this into something that might be more generally applicable.
Sunday, December 18th, 2005
9:30 am
The Lumpley Principle, Take 2
In this thread on Matt Snyder's blog, there is a discussion on "GM Fiat", and player authority in the game. This post will reply to some of the points there, regarding "GM Fiat" and who actually has authority in the game.

Theory wonks, read on.
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Thursday, December 8th, 2005
6:15 pm
ACNW Amber Shadows
This is a writeup of the Amber Shadows game I ran at AmberCon NorthWest. Let me know what you think about the format.

The players were John Kim (jhkimrpg), Emma Sansone, Pol Jackson (pjack), Kath Nyborg, and myself. Thaddeus Rice was slotted for the game but had to cancel from the con. That left 5 players. SMC has never been played before with more than 4; 5 was fine. With 6, I think the game would have gone too long for a round of turns (that would have pushed it to 2 hours between turns). Had Thaddeus shown up, I would have facilitated the game and not played. Probably experienced players could make a group of six work but the game is really designed for 4 or 5. We sat around the table in the order Pol->me->Kath->John->Emma, in clockwise order. The player to your left is your GM, so I GMed for Pol, Kath GMed for me, etc.

I had originally asked for 2 separated slots, 4 hours Thursday night and 4 hours Friday morning. I wanted the players to have time for the game's process to sink in after the first slot, so that we'd hit the ground running in the second slot. That didn't happen (no fault of the schedulers); we had one 7.5 hour slot instead (including time for lunch). One of the things that I dropped from the game was the Gaming Preferences Discussion. The place where I think this discussion would have really helped the game was in the pacing. There was once at the table when it seemed that John wanted faster pacing than Emma, who was his GM. There was another time where I figured out too late that I scene I was running for Pol was too slow for his tastes (right?). I had the impression that Pol wanted the fastest pacing in the group, and Emma wanted the slowest, with the rest of us in betweeen. From table feel, I had the impression that there might not be any compromise pacing that would really satisfy both Pol and Emma -- but that, with a little discussion about references, either one could have worked with the other 3 of us.

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Thursday, December 1st, 2005
2:56 pm
On (Freeform) Play, Part the Second
One of the keys to successful freeform is to communicate what your game is about. The reason why this is often more successful than you might expect is that all freeform players realize that they've got to clearly communicate what their game is about, because there is no default. They can't rely on "hey, let's play some Vampire." This latter form of communication relies on the fallacious notion that "Vampire" is a well-defined game and that the game is well-specified by saying "Vampire". The freeformer knows that he's got to communicate better than that if he wants to have fun with his game. So he learns how to do it.

That said, I once went to a freeform game at the local con here in St Paul where the event description was "Chris being arbitrary." I had never played with any of the players before (and haven't since, either). It was great fun , and I think the event description was an effective piece of communication. It said "don't show up unless you're willing to go with the flow." A number of the freeform games from my college days that I played in LA-area conventions were more hit-or-miss (but there were notable hits), I think largely because the communication was lacking. IME, if you show up to a freeform game and everybody wants to be in the game that the GM wants to run, you are 95% of the way to a great game. In fact, I think this statement holds for just about any RPG at all, not just freeform.

And I think it's this element that is the strength of games like Dogs in the Vineyard and My Life with Master. The game rules themselves specify quite narrowly "what game the GM wants to run" when he invites everyone over for a game of Dogs. This is also the weakness of those games: by specifying this narrowly, they become inflexible. If you don't want to play the narrowly-specified game that Dogs is, you're out of luck. That's why Star, Moon, and Cross takes a more toolkit approach: through the Gaming Preferences Discussion part of the game, it helps the players make their own game specification. This fails in a different way than Dogs fails: it fails when the players fail to communicate effectively with each other -- either through simple miscommunication, or because the Gaming Preferences section omits important items of discussion. IME, this approach fails most often through ambiguity in communicating the game's specification. Players with flexible game preferences will tend not to find that this is an issue; players with firmer game preferences will tend to have more trouble with this approach.
Wednesday, November 30th, 2005
9:47 pm
On Freeform Play, Part the First
In this thread on John Kim's LJ, Mark W raises this question about freeform play in general and ADRPG in particular:

the case, there's _something_ going on that makes play work. It clearly isn't anything about the publicly acknowledged rules. Unless you can give me a better explanation, I'm going to believe that it's a culture.

When you're saying "it's a culture" here, I think you really mean something like "it's because each of the players is mentored by an experienced player," because otherwise it has no relevance to the topics in the parent thread [newcomers may wish to view that thread to understand this]. Saying that "it's a culture" doesn't really answer any of the important questions, because "the culture" includes so many things (including the rulebook). Certainly ADRPG is a culture. But Ultimate Frisbee and Rockclimbing are cultures too, and those cultures can't produce satisfying freeform RPG play. So the questions we have to answer are: what are the elements of ADRPG culture that allow it to produce satisfying freeform RPG play, are they unique to that culture, and how can we communicate them?

It's clearly the case that the ADRP rulebook has none of these answers, and that a good guidebook for freeform games would have them. The ADRP rulebook consists of X pages of solid advice on how to create a character sheet for a freeform Amber game, Y pages of NPC background, and Z pages of haphazard "how to GM like I do" advice -- none of which answers these questions.

Your answer to those questions appears to be "because each new player is trained in by experienced ADRP players." I disagree with this. When white-box D&D came out, new players somehow figured out how to get functional play out of it, or the hobby would be dead today. The only thing that white box D&D had that ADRPG lacks is a functional combat system. That combat system doesn't address any of the issues you've raised here: those holes existed in OD&D, too.

When I got my white box OD&D in junior high, there was literally not a single other person in our junior high who played the game. There was no one to mentor us, but somehow we figured it out with the two kids from down the street. We loved it; we played so much our mom was sure our grades would suffer.

I've got a bunch more to say, but it will have to wait for tomorrow.
Monday, November 28th, 2005
4:25 pm
S,M,C Update
I've put up an updated version of Star, Moon, and Cross at the website. The only major change is the inclusion of mechanics for situations when more than one player character is involved in the action. There's a few updates with feedback from ACNW, but I've got some more feedback that I need to integrate. Thanks to both pjack and jhkimrpg for feedback (and for playing in the game). I owe ewilen (at least) an Actual Play report on that, too.

I'm more-or-less done with Chapters One (Introduction), Two (How to Play), Three (Character Generation), Five (Resolution), and Six (Other Mechanics). I expect that these chapters are not exactly finished, but I'd be surprised if there's more than one reorg left in them. Current body count is 64 pages, with 29000++ words (I say ++ because MS Word isn't smart enough to include sidebars in the word count).

That leaves untouched Chapters Four (Alchemy), Seven (The Circle of Antioch), Eight (The Crusades, Religion, and Culture), Nine (Politics and Economy) and the appendices (How to adapt SMC for other settings, Glossary, and Reading List)....so, lots of reading to do. I've gone through about seven or so books so far. Recommended: The Asssassins, Bernard Lewis, and Crusading Warfare, R.C. Smail (the latter is a bit dated but quite good). Disappointing: Science in Medieval Islam, Howard R. Turner.
Monday, November 14th, 2005
9:04 pm
Busy of late
I've done no writing for at least a month. I should be writing now, but instead I'm surfing...you should see this thread at rpgnet. It's too funny to miss out on.

On the plus side, things look really positive for moving out to Oregon early next year (Hood River, to be specific). Oh, and Ambercon Northwest is in 3 days.
Monday, October 3rd, 2005
9:34 pm
It's awesome to see some really good conversations catching on in ewilen and jhkimrpg's livejournals. We'll get critical mass yet.

SMC update: re-organized some stuff over the weekend. Hacked Chapter Two in half, put half of it in Chapter Three and half of it in Chapter Six (nee Seven). Chapters 1 to 3 and 5 are now done, Chapter 6 has about 4-5 pages (of probably 10-12) done. I posted a draft on Friday to the wiki so it would be available when the ACNW gamebook came out --- and now the text is already very different.
Sunday, September 25th, 2005
4:28 pm
I'm so tired of this sort of thing: In specific: If you disagree with Forge theory before reading this, it will likely not convince you otherwise. It will, however, allow you to argue from a position of knowledge, rather than a position of ignorance. (from Ben Lehman's blog).

The arrogance is tiring. The continued assumption that if you disagree with Forge theory, it is because you don't understand it. This is the sort of 'discussion' about theory that I refuse to have. It's an unhealthy, incestuous discussion. The same sort of 'discussion' that allowed Chris Chinn and Vincent to make blanket assertions about "what traditional games do" and have those assertions go unchallenged...rather, the readers all nodded their heads sagely and said "tis so, tis so." Frankly, I don't blame Vincent & Chris...everyone slips once in a while. But everyone who nodded their heads along with the crowd...can't say a lot for them. John (and I) called them on it, and they all told him he was full of it. Oh, well, I guess everyone is welcome to their opinion. It's just kind of funny that they seem to think that this is a healthy discussion.


On to positive topics. The Star, The Moon, and The Cross -- I'm nearly done with chapter 6. Just a few key examples to go. Up to 21000+ words (48 pages), excluding the sidebars. For some reason, MS Word refuses to tally them in the word count. The first big feedback change from playback is in, too. Can't wait to give it (in the guise of Amber Shadows) a spin at AmberCon Northwest.
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