Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Five or So Questions on New World Magischola: House Rivalry!

Hi all! Today I have an amazing interview with Maury Brown on the New World Magischola: House Rivalry board game! It's currently on Kickstarter and just a really gorgeous project that sounds like a ton of fun. I hope you all enjoy reading Maury's responses below:


Tell me a little about New World Magischola House Rivalry. What excites you about it?

New World Magischola House Rivalry is our first foray into board/card games design and publishing. That's both awesome and scary! When we decided two years ago to open a wizard school live roleplay experience in the United States, we realized that to do it the way we wanted to required us to write a whole new magical world that was specific to North America and its history. We wanted to be both respectful and inclusive of the many peoples and cultures -- and magical traditions -- of North America, and to also honor and engage thoughtfully with our fraught history of Colonialism. While we originally set out to design a larp, we ended up writing a world, and now we have an intellectual property that exists beyond the larp, with stories that can be told in many media, including board/card games, RPGs, books, and more. 

So for me, I'm excited because we are opening up the world of the Magimundi and the experience of going to wizard school in it to a lot more people than those who are able to attend our 4-day signature wizard school events. They get to experience at the table some of the fun, whimsy, and magical mayhem of Magischola by taking courses, joining clubs, and using conjures to improve their progress or hinder a rival's. They get a feel of navigating school because you have to pass your courses with a B or better to get credit, and you earn more points for completion the higher your grade is. It's definitely a competitive game, since only one House can take the Trophy, but there are lots of opportunities for roleplay and fun engagement with your friends around the table.

There are two other things I'm pretty excited about regarding House Rivalry:

1. The deliberate design choices to be inclusive in the playable characters. Of the original 6 PCs, 2 are people of color and also have Hispanic names: Martín Spinoza and Soledad Reyes. We also designed Jax Slager to be deliberately agender or nonbinary, and we ensured our art showed different ages and body types or sizes. It is very important to us to not fall into the same sorts of fantasy art that we often see in posters, games, and comics. This is a diverse and inclusive world, and we want everyone to imagine themselves as being part of it. We have to do that through the fiction and the artwork. Of the five House founders of New World Magischola, there are two women of color (Tituba and Marie Laveau), one white male (Étienne Brûle), one white female (Virginia Dare) and one indigenous nonbinary (Calisaylá). We paid homage to the diverse peoples who form the history of North America: indigenous peoples, people from Africa & West Indies, British, French, and Spanish. All too often people have a tendency to over-simplify our history and our fictions, rather than showing the tensions and the multiplicities within it, and we wanted to embrace that instead. The Magimundi is for everyone, even though it's not a utopia.

2. I'm excited because this game is designed for mixed groups of gamers. All-too-often we can get into conflicts by identifying as *either* a "gamer" or a "hard-core gamer" or a "casual gamer" or a "non-gamer." We, as a gaming community, can gatekeep in these ways, subtly asking "are you one of us?" One of the ways we do this is by designing games that are more complex and have a lot of rules to master, or that take a long time to learn. Some gamers look down on casual games as not being challenging enough, and even make fun of these games and the people who play them. It can be difficult to prove your credibility as a gamer, and some gamers don't want to take the time to include newer gamers to their gaming groups. House Rivalry is designed as a bridge game. It's complex enough that the more hard-core gamers have something they can do and enjoy. There are multiple strategies and different tactics to manage your resources, choose your actions, and use the variable player powers of your character and House. However, the game is easy-to-learn, and there are lots of party game elements, especially in the Clubs. What this makes House Rivalry really good for are mixed groups of gamers: the hard core and the casual and the in-between. It's a great game to get people together and to play when you don't have the time to teach a complicated new system, but you want some strategy. It blends luck and strategy in a way that feels satisfying to all levels of gamers. For me, getting different groups of gamers of varying abilities and credibilities around the table is a great aspect of the game, and one I'm most proud of and excited about.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Five or So Questions with Quintin Smith on The Metagame!

Hey all, I know it's been a while, sorry. Grad school. But hey, NEW INTERVIEW!

Today I have an interview with Quintin Smith from Shut Up & Sit Down about the current Kickstarter for The Metagame: The Games Deck! I had never heard of The Metagame until this Kickstarter came out, but immediately bought it after seeing the Shut Up & Sit Down intro because I am a sucker for this kind of game. I asked for an interview, and Quintin obliged - see the responses below!


This pic is used for the "What the What" game on the game website. :)

Tell me a little about The Metagame. What excites you about it?

What excites me about The Metagame is something that a lot of games that Shut Up & Sit Down recommends have in common. It feels high-quality, and it feels different. Either in your hands or in play, it's like nothing else out there. For people like me who have dozens of board games in their collection, that's the first thing I'm looking for.

But it's also exciting because you just never know what's going to happen next. There are games out there where you never know how this particular match of it will play out. With The Metagame, even once you've decided which game to play, you have no idea how a given turn will play out. You might find yourself weighing up whether you'd rather have Saved By the Bell or Legwarmers while you're stuck on a desert island. You might have to argue why Email Spam is macho. The only consistent thing is that it's going to be entertaining, and you're going to learn a little something about your friends or family.

Check out this play video of The Metagame with SU&SD.

What have you experienced while watching & participating in the development of The Metagame & the Games expansion that you felt differentiated it mechanically?

Well, it's a spin on something that I really enjoy when I'm playing games, which is realising that I've miscalculated and suddenly I'm in hot water, and it's nobody's fault but my own. It's a bittersweet problem to be wrestling with, and for whatever reason I just love that.

The thing that differentiates a lot of games packed into The Metagame is that you can create an argument in your head for why a particular Culture card would make a good fit, but what you don't know is how other people around the table feel about it. So before you make fun of Moustaches, you have to weigh up whether your friends might like moustaches. If someone were to use "D&D" to try and win me over, they might be surprised that while I love games, I have some pretty complicated feelings about D&D. In this way the cards you're playing with aren't static, they're fluid, and playing involves considering your friends and being surprised by your friends. It makes it a very tricky game to play well, but one that it's fun to fail at.

I have so many ideas about how to have fun with these cards, no lie.

Who have you played The Metagame with, why, and what do you think made the game worth playing with them? (I swear, I'm getting at something with that! ;) )**

Hmm. You know, I don't wanna overcomplicate things, so I should just say "I played it with my friends, and what made it worthwhile was that we were laughing and talking excitedly for the entire time."
But it wouldn't be the whole story to describe The Metagame as just an engine for hilarious debates and conversations. It's also a real joy to draw cards from the top of the deck, since they're so varied and they're all so beautifully illustrated that you have no idea what you're going to get.

Games with a lot of spontaneity can put a little bit of cognitive load on shyer people or low-energy groups. Can The Metagame still be approachable for them? How? 

That's actually one of the reasons that we recommend this box so wholeheartedly. Spontaneous or high-energy games are just some of the games in the box! There's also perfectly placid games in there like Matchmakers, History 101, Think Alike and Special Occasion. Seriously, there are just so many games in this box. It's been pretty tricky getting people to understand that! I think some people see "10 games in 1 box" and assume that there's no one good one, but honestly- they're all lots of fun.

I love the card layouts, too.

You mentioned how fun it is not knowing what you're going to get - how did that aspect influence development The Games expansion? How did you come up with enough interesting content that you felt the surprise would still be there?

Oho, great question! Well, anyone who's seen my (now slightly old and embarrassing) Golden Age of Games talk will know that I think "gamers" have a slightly myopic view of this hobby. As well as Pandemic and Metal Gear Solid, we should be celebrating the 52 card deck, Twister and tennis. It's all play! It's all game design. And there are lessons to be learned everywhere.

Both the team at SU&SD and the designers of The Metagame agreed that the games expansion would benefit from this broad view of the hobby. So when you draw cards from it, you might get Dark Souls or you might get a tug of war. You might get Vampire: The Masquerade or you might get hot dog eating contests. Trust me, the surprise and playfulness of the base game is alive and well.

Finally, which games-within-the-game of The Metagame do you think you're looking forward to playing most in the future, and why? 

I mean, The Metaquilt is the centrepiece of The Metagame, and I can't see myself stopping playing it ever. Have you played it? A lot of board games know the joy of a tapestry of cards or tiles slowly being stitched together on your table. The combination of building something, while laughing, while being interested in what your friends have to say? That's just great.


Thank you so much to Quintin for this interview! I could hear his head in my voice the entire time, very impressive. Make sure to check out The Metagame on Kickstarter and share with your friends - I have a feeling that many of you would love this game, and I'm looking forward to playing the copy I just bought!

I couldn't wait for the Kickstarter!

**I admittedly DID hope Quintin would overcomplicate but that's because I'm a massive dork. However, fyi, this set me up for asking the second to last question. I promise, I have a plan when I do these things. :)

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If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, email contactbriecs@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Script Change: Official

Hi all!

As of today, you can download a PDF version of Script Change that is formatted and easily printed.

I started writing Script Change, from what I can remember and what Google Drive tells me, in 2013. I had started playing indie games a while before, and earlier that year, I'd written about how I'd used the X-card in a game of Monsterhearts. With the X-card, though, I used a secondary card introduced by Kira Magrann called the O-card, effectively a way to encourage people to do the thing that you were enjoying.

I have a lot of feelings about safety mechanics, trigger warnings, and so on. I really appreciated the X-card. It gave me some new freedoms, I could try things I wasn't familiar with. And the O-card was great, but I realized that I didn't need it if people already knew what I was looking forward to, what I wasn't sure about, and if I had something other than the X-card to show what way I thought the story could go.

Script Change has had many, many updates. Briefly, there was an applause function to encourage people to do things, but I felt it wasn't genuine enough. Thinking it through, I really thought the core things in it – rewinding to redo scenes for whatever reason, pausing to take a break and get perspective, and fast-forwarding to get over things that are too much or that we just don't want to bore ourselves with them – are more important than anything else. I've added some smaller things in the end, like the Wrap Meeting for debriefs, Instant Replay to reduce confusion, and the Highlight Reel to help keep people excited and enthusiastic for the game.

The biggest thing about Script Change is that it's supposed to be flexible. It demands a conversation about consent, and about what people want in a game. It reminds people that games are not set in stone. We aren't chipping into marble, here. We are telling a story as we go, and we can change things to make it more exciting, more fun, more of whatever we want - and less of what we don't want.

Script Change is not the only content tool out there, and there is a lot to be said about doing what works best for you. But, it has been a labor of love for me, because I want people to play games that they enjoy! I want them to have experiences of a lifetime with the chance to pause and get ready for more, or even just a chill beer and pretzels night where the tonal shift can be easily fixed with a "rewind."

I hope that you'll check out Script Change and if nothing else, just see if you can glean something new from it. Most of all, I hope you have a hell of a good time playing some games. <3

Download the PDF here!

This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

To leave some cash in the tip jar, go to http://paypal.me/thoughty.

If you'd like to be interviewed for Thoughty, or have a project featured, email contactbriecs@gmail.com.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Five or So Questions with Jack Berberette on DOTS

I found out about the DOTS GoFundMe that Jack Berberette is doing to purchase and use a Braille Printer to make braille games available for gamers through G+, and Jack was willing to answer some questions! Check his responses out below, and give the video he made about braille translation a view if you can!


Tell me about your Braille printer project. What excites you about it?

One of the things I've learned, after starting on this project, is that electronic equipment, learning materials, books, and more are beyond expensive for the visually impaired. The braille embossing printer, for example, is normally $3,500 to $4,000 dollars (it just happens to be on sale right now). The bottom of the line printer is normally 2 grand! I'm sure I'm not alone when I say, "I can't afford that!"

I translated (with some tweaks) The Black Hack RPG. The Black Hack is a FANTASTIC game system created by David Black. The game has been streamlined to a 6"X9" booklet with about 20 pages, give or take. A brilliant system put out there under the Open Gaming License.

Anyway, the braille translation weighs in at about 80 pages. Now if you went to an office store and had an 80 page book printed and spiral bound it would cost $5 - $8 bucks tops. I reached out to a few companies and they wanted over $200 to make 4 copies of the book (spiral bound)! Now let me put this in perspective...while the printing equipment is expensive, the paper only costs 3 cents per page, and no ink is used in printing braille. Their material cost is about $1.75 if you include the spiral binding and thick front and back covers. It would only take about 30 minutes to print all four books and let's ad in another 30 minutes to clamp on the spiral binding. Even if the person was making $15.00 an hour and we add in the $7 for the four books....the total cost is $22. AND...this is a "non-profit", braille printing company...other places had comparable prices.

What is so exciting about the printer, is that I will be able to print a duplex page for about 3 cents. This means that I will be able to afford printing a lot of things for free, or at cost depending on what's being printed. The Black Hack braille book, for example, I wouldn't charge anything but the few stamps it takes to mail it.

ALSO, and this is freaking awesome, the printer will print 8 levels of tactile graphics and comes with a full suite a translation and graphic design software. This means that I can translate D&D 5e character sheets, Pathfinder Character sheets...any character sheet in to braille with tactile squares where the values are placed (Ability scores, hit points, etc.). The plan is to glue felt into the squares and then print out number chips with Velcro on the back so visually impaired players can fully and independently manage their character sheet.

I can also printout dice labels and transform regular polyhedral dice into braille dice. I'm currently doing that but I have to, dot by dot, use a slate and style to create the numbers, then modge-podge them to each side of the die. With printed stickers, I could cut the out, slap them on then spray a poly protective coating. This would cut my time drastically and afford me the ability to make a bunch more sets which I give away for free!

With the graphics capabilities of the printer, we can even add in tactile dungeon maps for the GM. How freaking cool would it be for a visually impaired GM to be able to actually feel AND read a map of a dungeon?!

Here's a really cool video that shows how tactile graphics can be created/

What excites me more than anything though is the thought of being able to have the equipment to put a game book in the hands of a blind player. Giving them the same excitement of flipping through spell lists in that frantic time before your initiative comes up...just like a sighted player. Enabling gaming independence so a visually impaired player can experience the full range of activities a sighted player does.

LOL...I didn't realize just how excited I am about the printer until I typed all of that out. I'm very passionate about helping people and this printer will allow me to do wonderful things for the visually impaired community.

...(more inside!)