Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ganakagok - A Not Review

Let me start out by saying that I love Ganakagok. I do. I love the fact that the storytelling is awesome. I love the fact that everything you do is always there in character, either by helping people through your character's past and present actions or by being in the scene at that moment. I love how you can tell a disjointed story and that it's okay to do that. I love how the cards give you something to work off of, it plays perfectly into the style of GMing that I love which is just go off the cuff and see how you can make it work.

However, I do have a small little problem with it. This problem went away long enough for me to buy it after talking to some people but now it's back. You see, Bill is pretty awesome. I've talked to him at Dreamation and I've read some of his critical work and it's really good. My problem is still a little bit on the apropriation end.

When I first heard of the game my appropriation hackles went up. Why? Well, it's a very Inuit flavoured game and Bill isn't an Inuit. Whenever you do something like that it's pretty damned tricky. The key thing to doing anything like this is to make sure that you did your research and that you treat the material with respect. And it's there, but not as much in the book. Out of the references there are only two references that are from original sources. By original sources I mean from actual Inuit people. The Inuit Myths page is run by the Nunavut Artic College and Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is a movie by Zacharias Kunuk, an Inuit film maker. However, that's it. The rest are from white authors who have written about Inuit culture. Not that this is bad, but it's kind of a lacking list.

I'm personally going to feel better, for the three people who actually read this thing, if I provide a list of additional material for reference when looking at Ganakagok.

There's another film by Zacharisa Kunuk, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006). A portrayal of the lives of the last great Inuit shaman, Avva, and his beautiful and headstrong daughter, Apak. It's based of off the works of a Danish ethnographer.

Here's a list of a group of books you can look up for a non-exhaustive bibliography here. There are suggestions on the site to get a greater list of books but this is a good place to start.

A couple other books you might want to check out are Thomas King's Green Grass Running Water which takes several creation stories and mixes them with real life of many people on an Alberta reserve. The second is Drew Hayden Taylor's Me Funny which is a colleciton of essays on Native Humour.

These two are big suggestions because they deal with the one thing I've run into the couple times I've played Ganakagok (well run it because I'm the only one with a book) we've run into the situation that it plays a bit more like a Skald than a myth. There were little chances for humour, few moments that turned into something that could be funny. It doesn't need to be full of belly laughs but once you read a couple stories you get that there's a sense of humour that's missing. Maybe it's the way we played it, maybe it's the way that it's written, maybe it's a combination of both.

There's a quote that gets used in the "Running the Game" section that I think should be pointed out. It's from Songs of the Dream People and it sounds:

I want to laugh, I, because my sledge it is broken.
Becuse its ribs are broken I want to laugh.
Here at Talaviuyaq I encountered hummocky ice, I met with an upset.
I want to laugh.
It is not a thing to rejoice over.

When I read that in the book it felt more like it was a fatalistic view of what was happening. I feel that what it is that it could be more of a sense of laughing against the world. What I want to try the next time I play is to infuse a sense of humour to the game, just to see what happens.

NOTE: Mistakes addendums: The first is that I gave a non Inuit source in Thomas King's Green Grass Running Water. Still a good book, go read it, but it doesn't really apply as well as when I thought. I just like telling people to go read that book.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ableism in RPGs

What is Ableism you wonder?

That's fine I can give you a quick run down on it. Basically, much like the -isms it follows, ableism is the act of discriminating against someone because of a disability. This disability may be physical, it may be mental but it is not what is treated as "normal."

Why do a post on this you ask?

Well, it just hit me when I was reading the description of a free RPG on the free rpg blog. It was titled "Glorious Multiple Personality Disorder with Joe in Ten Persons." Now, the game itself has nothing to do with DID (the actual correct way to say what was called in the 80s MPD but is still alive and kicking thanks to television and movies) and it looks pretty cool. However, the tag line got me thinking of all the crap that's been put into roleplaying games when dealing with mental disability it's not even funny.

Much like sexism and racism and all those -isms that try to shock us out of our privilege, able-ism is right up there. We have to understand that when making a game that there are people who are going to be playing in it. People who may, just may, have the disorders that are listed as "character flaws" in a game. If we want to be inclusive then maybe taking that crap out is worth looking at, even when we review things.

This isn't really a huge in depth post in regards to something. Just something that set me off on a late night working on other projects.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Faery Game

I have decided that the best games are the ones that come to me on the streetcar. They just seem to come out and then they're good ideas, much like any ideas they're things that are rooted pretty deep in you.

I want to do a Faery Game. Not something like Changeling, or anything thing else out there. I want it to be mean. Really mean. Almost disturbingly mean. I don't know where this is coming from but it was just something that dropped on my shoulder.

Here is the basic premise.

You all play people who have willingly, or unwittingly, made a deal with a Fae to try to achieve your goals. You play your character and a Fae who is busy trying to own as many people as they possibly can. So you want to make sure that you keep the other players at your beck and call, and at your beck and call not the other faeries.

I'm going to try to get more of it down later, but that's the first idea I've got in my head.

Monday, September 14, 2009

DCG - Faction 4 - House Aan

House Aan was one of the two houses promoted to Great House status during the year 170. House Aan was considered because they were the largest shipping House in the Galaxy. If you wanted to get goods somewhere, it was often safer to send it with House Aan than any other organization. Space is a rather large place, so there are those who feel that piracy is still the better way to survive rather than deal with the Houses and their Rules.

This led House Aan not only to control most of the routes but to be able to defend them from the various bands of pirates who would make their livlyhoods by attacking any ship that looked plump and poorly defended. Some of these Pirates were even backed by various Houses who would, almost with a mark of writ, would gladly allow the pirates to sell any goods that belonged to another House at any planet the controlled. House Aan has fought this kind of privateering in space for ages and still continue to fight it to this day.

Currently House Aan is led by Her Imperial Magesty Angelica Aan who is in a tough spot. Her grandfather Casey Aan was considered one of the best Emperors to grace the throne. He negotiated the peace between the LaJoies and the Ndebeles over loans given and repayed or not. He negotiated the end of the expansion wars between many of the smaller houses that tried to expand quickly, often at the expense of each other which then blossomed into armed conflict and wars that threatened the fabric of the empire. Casey didn't just make peace, often times he understood when and where the hammer needed to fall in order to ensure that what was best for the Empire was done.

Angelica's father, Byron Aan, took all the good work that his father did and nearly destroyed it. He was linked romantically with several people, who in turn used him to get what they wanted from the Imperial Throne. He put out edict after contradicting edict all while wasting away the Aan fortune on food, sexual adventure, exotic objects and anything else that tickled his fancy. Thankfully he died soon after Angelica turned twenty, there were some mysterious circumstances surrounding his death but the Aan family took the "natural causes" death as a sign that the lifestyle had finally caught up with the former Emperor.

Now Angelica is left with a difficult task. She must rebuild the Aan reputation of Imperial quality all while the sharks are beginning to circle the throne. The mysterious Campbells have returned from their self imposed exile. The Zhangs and the Ndebeles are starting to fight again and her allies are few and far between. She needs to show that she can lead the empire with a strong and steady hand before someone takes the reigns of power away from her through House edict or by force.

Boardgame Geek - Or why I make games for me

I make games that I like to play.

That sounds like a simple statement but in reality it's not. With a lot of focus on marketability and the next big thing sometimes the fact that you can make games that you like to play. With a lot of people yelling at you about what they think makes a good game, you can forget to make games that you like to play.

I make games that I like to play.

I felt the need to say that because I was over at board game geek and I was reading the comments that people have left for games. Not for any of my games, Suitors has had ten comments about it for the past two years and it might seem like whining. This isn't whining, this is more getting at the point that I make games that I like to play and I don't see Suitors getting any more comments any time soon.

However, there are a lot of people on board game geek who seem to feel the need to comment on games that they patently won't like. As if this is some kind of badge of honour or something.

"I hated this type of game, but I played it anyway and now I'm going to complain about it."
"I hated this game so much that I'm going to play the sequel and then complain about it."
"I hated this game so much that if they come out with another expansion I'm going to give it a 1 without actually having played it."

I read this and all I do is shake my head. I don't really get that mentality. It's like saying you played a game that you hate just so you can complain about it to your friends, and that you're completely right that the game is horrible even if a lot of other people think that the game is great. Is life so horrible that you feel that you have to increase your misery so that you can complain about more things?

A review tells you what's both bad and good about a game. Usually this is also the case after you've played the game a variety of ways. Not just one way and then having given up on it. If I don't like a game, I'm willing to at least give it another shot. I'm also willing to look at the positives of a game because there's no game that is completely bad (even Munchkin, which I hate with the passion of a thousand suns but I can admit that is sells an experience that a lot of people are interested in and that's why it's popular).

Example. Flying Frog Productions has a Zombie game called "Last Night On Earth" which we played as a six player game and my experience with the game wasn't great. The production value is amazing, the pieces are great and the actual design is pretty good. Where it fell flat for me is that we always got stuck in the school, and each turn for the players consisted of the following steps.

1. I search
2. I grimace that the card I got sucked
3. I passed

And we did this, all of us, while the zombies got to do cool things and killed us dead. This happened twice.

Now this game might be better played if I wasn't exhausted and if it had less people involved. I bet this would be spectacular at 2 or even 4, but at 6 it didn't float my boat. What does that mean? I'd probably end up giving it a try with 4 or 2 people. That also means I'm not going to pass judgement on the game as a whole because I had one bad experience with it. Certainly I grumbled about it to friends, but I didn't post my "OMG BAD TIME HAD" on the internet and try to bring the game down for it. There's a difference between a conversation and something in type.

I know that felt like a digression into how to criticise things but I will bring it back to my point. The point is that the world is full of these people, who only seem to be happy when they're complaining about something. You can never make these people happy, so ultimately you should make things that you're happy with.

Make games that you like to play.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

DCG - The Galaxy -

As per request from David I'm gonna go over how the Universe is set up.

The Galaxy is pretty big. Each House has their own territory within that galaxy. They have their solar systems, they have their planets and they have their own absolute sovereign rights within that territory. No one else can come in and tell them what to do on their land, as it were. That means that what's legal in one isn't necessarily legal in all. In some, like the Zhang and the LaJoie territories slavery is outlawed while the Campbells still practice it.

One of the reasons why the Imperial House was set up was that while each House can pretty much do what it wants to do in its own turf, things get murky when they try to trade between these places. That's what the Emperor is supposed to do. They are supposed to define the relationship between the Houses. So what can be traded, what the tarifs are, what the relationships happen. The Emperor is the judge and ombudsman that helps the houses settle their differences and can enforce any edicts as are deemed necessary.

There is a capitol planet where the Empire rests. Each House sends representatives there to push their interests to the emperor and keep an eye on each other. Factions takes place on that planet.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DCG - Faction 3 - LaJoie House

The third of the three original Great Houses is House LaJoie. House LaJoie may not have had the largest army, or the most influence but what they had was the most money. They had found various deposits of precious metals on the various worlds that they controlled which allowed them to gain wealth faster than the other houses. Then, instead of sitting on it, the LaJoie family used it to help others with interest. They started forming banking organizations, and they are the only family that has territory all over other Houses territory. All banks are considered to be LaJoie property.

The LaJoies are quite happy to stay in the background and fund those who they want to see succeed, or those who might bring in the most profit to them. Sometimes these goals were at odds, but ultimately it was the LaJoie's who ended up being the deciding factor in many conflicts as they simply stopped funding the people who they didn't want to win. This behaviour is what caused the Campbells and the Zhangs to include House LaJoie in their discussions and it was House LaJoie that caused the Zhangs to come into power first.

When the civil war between the Zhangs and the Campbells happened the LaJoie's were split. There were those that saw increasing the number of Great Houses as a good thing, it gave them more people to trade with who could work on a grander scale, and there were those who thought that more Houses would mean that there were more people to watch out for in the future. Ultimately the first faction won out and they helped the Zhangs defeat the Campbells and then because there really was no other choice the leader of the inclusive faction of the LaJoies, Henriette, become the next Emperor. Her first edict was to welcome the newer houses into the fold. There were only two that had survived which were House Aan and House Ndebele.

The reign of Henriette LaJoie was very short. While the Emperor is able to get a lot of gifts and bribes from the various houses who are looking to influence the arbiter one way or another, there is also a large head ache that comes with this type of power. The LaJoie's had to raise an army, and pay them, for the length of the Lajoie tenure, which was only three generations at 75 years. Then and there the Lajoie's decided that the last thing they wanted was the Imperial Stewardship. Let the others play with games of power, they would control the purse strings behind the throne.

Over the years House LaJoie has been known as the hedonistic House. They have the money to afford what they want and the money to cover up any indiscretions that might come to light later. Love Affairs, Dueling, High Romance or Secret Passions usually have their root with the LaJoies. Some within dislike this reputation that the House has and do their best to live in austerity, but there are enough young LaJoie's running around the place who like to fulfill what they view as their role in society that there is a great tension developing between the generations.

Forum is back up!

My forums are back up!

yay! Ugly as sin but up and usable. I'll take that!

Friday, September 4, 2009

DCG - Faction 2 - Campbell House

The Campbell House was one of the original three Great Houses that founded the empire. They believed that it was their right, as in the right of the great houses, with all the resources available to them to lead the lesser houses. In part it was the rule, but the other idea was that they wanted a certain level of control to prevent any other players from moving up the ladder. There was a wish that they could do it on their own, but the Zhang and the LaJoies were too big to be handled without a large war that would devastate everyone.

Then things didn't go as well as they had hoped. While making the arrangements necessary to build the Empire the Campbells did their best to instill a sense of ownership to the process. They desired to lead the Empire for many years and Asa Campbell believed that he could deal with all the rules that were put in place to try to check the dynasties and made sure that when one fell the whole Empire didn't tumble with it. However, when it came time to choose the emperor Zhang Hui was chosen instead of Asa Campbell. This pricked Asa's personal sense of honor, but to complain now would undermine the entire enterprise and when the time came to take the Power from the Zhangs it would be a house of cards and it would crumble at the first sign of wind.

The Campbell House spent the next 130 years living out Asa's personal insult. They were abrupt with the rest of the other Houses and kept up their desire to be the next in line of the three for the throne. They did it through their influence as the largest of the Great Houses, they did it through blackmail and backroom deals and through peddling their influence through out the other Houses. Buying a person there with cash, with threats in another place when needed. It was all set for when the Zhangs would fall, and the Campbells would see that they did. Then Zhang Hui did the unthinkable, he wanted to add some of the up and coming smaller houses to the ranks of the Great, to allow them to be considered for the Imperial Throne. That was too much for Adrienne Campbell. This must have been an attempt by the other Greats to push the Campbells out of their rightful place. This started the first "civil" conflict between the Zhangs and the Campbells, with the Lajoies witnessing on the sidelines.

It was a brief conflict with the Zhangs coming out on top more often than not when the LaJoie's did something to end it quickly. They sided with the Zhangs which caused the Campbells to backdown rather quickly. Fighting a losing war on two fronts wasn't their ideal situation. However, they did call for the Zhangs to be replaced and that's what the Lajoies were made the Imperial house by general decree for "saving the Empire."

The Campbells, affronted by the fact that they were not made the next Imperial House mixed with the new Great Houses (since the LaJoie's upheld the decision to add new houses) caused them to retreat into their own territory. They have been absent for the past 500 years. Their estates being cared for by staff, but the whole family stayed within a self imposed exile in their own little section of space. Some thought that they had vanished, and tried to grow at House Campbell's expense only to meet a strong and dedicated military force destroying any attempt to encroach on their space.

Now, in the year 650 IHE there is activity in the old Campbell dwellings. It seems that a diplomatic ship is coming to the Capitol to take command of the Campbell holdings. What it brings nobody knows but who ever comes will be cloaked in absense and legend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

DCG - Faction 1 - House Zhang

Joe, who is desiging the look of the cards (interestingly enough he's got his own company and he does this design stuff too) wanted a run down on all the houses so he could get a feel for them. I figure why not just let everyone know what's going on with them so that there's a little bit of material already there.

The Zhang house was one of the first three founding houses. They are the only house to have been the Emperor twice in the past four hundred years with their last pass as emperor being only just 75 years ago. They are known far and wide as people who propose peace and stability instead of open conflict. It's why they were drawn to the idea of the Imperial Ruling House accord that started the current timeline. They were drafted in -8 IHE and were signed on 0IHE which marked the start of the Imperial House. The Zhang house was chosen to lead the Empire during that time and led for 150 years.

That dynasty fell when Zhang Hui introduced new great houses to the original three. War broke out between the Zhang House and the Campbell House. Ultimately this led to the ascention of the LaJoie House which upheld the Zhang decision. In part this was done because the LaJoies felt that if they ignored the Zhang Hui edicts then other emperors would ignore that which they didn't see fit their reign. It created the precedent that anything a previous emperor had done couldn't be rescinded, modified certainly but nothing ever left the books of law.

The last Zhang Dynasty was much shorter than the first Dynasty. It only lasted two generations as Zhang Yi died childless, she had decided that she didn't want to have children, and so the Imperial House fell to the current Nasra House. In keeping with being first they were the first House to lose their Dynasty through a lack of successors. Yi felt that dynasties that were in power for too long frequently feel to corruption and the loss of the house through a peaceful process would be less damaging financially to the family than if they lost it through war.

The Zhang House, being one of the founding houses, is not known for anything in particular. They do a little bit of everything, from running trading ships to making weapons to manufacturing products to arts and culture. In fact, if there is one thing to be said, the Zhang House has more artists in their space than any other. That doesn't make them weak, far from it. The Zhangs have the most skilled military minds in all the galaxy. They're known for being able to take victory away from the hungry jaws of defeat using unorthodox and sometimes insane tactics.

This skill will be put to the test as the Ndebele House feels that they need to expand their territory a little bit and their first target is the Zhang House. There is a solar system with a couple of high resource planets that have yet to be fully explored by the Zhangs and the Ndebele want, almost need these resources to keep their militarism and their expansion going.

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