Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts with the label Worldbuilding

Restless Dreams: Horror, Fantasy, Gaming, and Emotional Logic

The calendar tells us that it's October, and while it may not feel like it outside, this is officially the season for spooks and scares. Given the time of year and the twenty-year anniversary of its release (and also of my owning it) the next game in my backlog playthrough was obvious: 2001's Silent Hill 2 . Much has already been written about this game (there's a reason it's on so many "Best Games of All Time" lists, after all), so this post will be neither explanation nor analysis, but rather a exploration of the way horror blurs the lines between the world that we know exists, and the way we feel it exists... and the way that games, both electronic and tabletop, are uniquely capable of embodying this dichotomy. Given my love of horror and all things surreal, it's kind of surprising that it's taken me this long to actually finish the game. At the outset, it was because I felt obligated to play the original Silent Hill first, even though I was va

Fun With Murder: The Narrative Ethics of Assassination Games

It's funny. As someone who views "detective" as an integral part of their personality , I sure have a lot of crime games. Well, crime media in general, especially movies, but games have certain... implications. You're the one committing the crimes , not watching other characters do them or following a protagonist as they piece together criminal events through evidence and investigation. You're right there, doing all the bad stuff yourself. Recently, in the ongoing quest to tackle my massive game backlog, I've been playing the first Tenchu game, released in 1998. I bought it because the creators would later go on to make my beloved Way of the Samurai series, but if one looked at my shelves, they could easily assume I chose it thematically, as Tenchu 's neighbors include numerous Hitman , Assassin's Creed , and Dishonored games - a subgenre we'll call "assassination games." I've seen it remarked that there's an irony that, while

RPG Sports: Combat Without the Danger

There may come a time in your campaigns where you want the fun of combat without the stress that can bring. You probably want something a little heavier than pure roleplaying, possibly a team challenge featuring the thrill and random chance of combat, but less dangerous for the Player Characters. Enter... sports! (Something many of us into tabletop games haven’t been good at.) Sports offer an opportunity to include a game within your tabletop game. You can frame it as a local game regularly played wherever your players are currently visiting, a touring exhibition, or your universe’s very own Olympics. No matter what route you take, players love opportunities to test their luck, their character’s skill, and get a chance to win prizes or accolades without (too much) danger involved. It can be a great break if your campaign has been full of tense moments, and makes a good pause between major story arcs. The Olympics of our own mortal plane present a ton of great examples: protected, monit

Risus Burger

Food disagreeing with you lately? The summer holidays are often full of greasy burgers and hot dogs. I know I’ve been grilling more than usual. That wasn’t what I was referring to, though. Does your food want to make hamburger out of you ? Then perhaps you need help from Peter Pepper. You might be asking yourself, “who?” Don’t worry, we’ll cover that in a moment. First we have the "how." We don’t need IntelliVision’s arcade-like super graphics for this post. We need Risus: The Anything RPG . What is Risus ? I won’t bore you with all the details here. (Besides, you can read our very own Introduction to Risus post.) In short, Risus is a rules-lite, versatile, and down-right fun “anything” TTRPG. In previous Risus posts , we have looked at converting the characters from Gauntlet , and taken inspiration from the Pole Position properties for an arcade themed setting I’ve been working on. In actual play, the game world would look something like Wreck-It-Ralph or ReBoot . For

I Am Camp Incarnate: Trash History and Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Today is V-E Day, and earlier this week, by sheer coincidence, I declared victory over Return to Castle Wolfenstein - specifically the Playstation 2 version. I'd started it a while ago, but picked it back up both to try and cut down my gargantuan list of  “in-progress” games and to build up to playing the more recent titles in the series with Andy. Playing RtCW in 2021 was certainly... an experience . I haven't chosen the games I've played during the pandemic specifically because of their relation to current events, but an eerie number have featured infectious disease plots ( Metal Gear Solid V , Dishonored , and Marvel's Spider-Man ), so gunning down Nazis at least gave me a chance to engage with a different aspect of our unfortunate times. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is, obviously, an "historical" game, but in more ways than might seem obvious (or intended)., The era it conveys is not the 1940s in which it was set, but the way that period was conveyed in

Tales from the Grove: Storytelling in San Andreas

Recently, Andy and I found out that we had each started new run-throughs of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , a game that both of us have loved since its original release, but neither had ever completed. We took it as an opportunity to play together (even while apart), keeping track of each other’s progress throughout. Now that we’re both done, we thought we’d discuss some of the game’s storytelling and characterization, and what San Andreas can teach writers and gamers looking to tell stories from the more… complicated side of the law. - B B : It’s appropriate that San Andreas starts with CJ’s return home, since picking the game up again felt a homecoming for both of us. My story (far less exciting and tragic than Carl’s) is that, now that I’m satisfied with my current hardware setup, I’ve been using the PS2 a lot more often, which meant returning to a complete Grand Theft Auto series playthrough I had started some years ago. Thanks to the lockdown freetime, I burned through Grand Thef

Details: The Power-Up Mushroom for Your Narrative

Many of you may be aware already, but March 10 is Mario Day! Maybe you’ll break out one of the 200+ games featuring Mario (no doubt Nintendo will have deals on a few), watch the Super Mario Bros. Super Show or read some Super Mario Bros. comics . No matter how you celebrate the day, you’ll be spending time with a character who has a long history and background. Your first experience with our favorite plumber may have been in Donkey Kong , Donkey Kong Jr. (the only game where Mario plays the villain) or the original Mario Bros . My first Mario experience, as is probably the case with many of you, was with Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Mario had already appeared in 21 games by this point, but it wasn’t really until Super Mario Bros. that audiences saw the character we recognize today. To celebrate the character of Mario, in true Never Say Dice fashion, let's talk about the story within that game. Think about the first time you sat down with that legendary game: Super Mario Bros.

Control and the Alternate Reality of the Workplace

This week, PlayStation Plus subscribers got access to one of my favorite recent games of recent years: Remedy Entertainment’s Control With its fusion of cosmic horror and comedic bureaucracy (not to mention "what if gunfight... but with Jedi powers?"gameplay) this is a game that might have been custom-made just for me. Control takes the tired “secret government organization overseeing the paranormal” trope and shifts the focus towards the first part, presenting the headquarters of the titular Federal Bureau of Control (known as the “Oldest House”) as a Brutalist maze of filing cabinets, typewriters, water coolers… and twisted hallways folding in on themselves, a Ritual Department, and a power system that may be running off an imprisoned elder god. It’s a setting defined by contrasts, blending the dull familiarity of the recent past with the nightmarish and otherworldly. But what’s really unique is the care the designers took to make the Oldest House feel like place people a

The Phantom Plain: Storytelling through Landscape in MGSV

I’ve recently come to the ending (such as it is) of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain . I’d been putting it off for a while, with a whole range of reasonable excuses. I need to play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance first! I need to make more progress in Peace Walker - sure, I’ve made it to both endings, but not the Monster Hunter missions! I can’t hog the PS3, it’s our main household media device! And I don’t have the time for a game that size, anyway… Maybe I was scared by the reviews and references I had come across - did I want to delve into the final installment of my all-time favorite game series and be disappointed? One by one, though, they all fizzled. We got a PS4, so I was able to spirit its predecessor off to my desk for solo gaming whenever I have a chance… which meant I was able to play Revengeance ... and plow away at Peace Walker until I got sick of failing to take out that damn Attack Chopper (Custom) over and over. And finally… there was COVID. I should mention an a