Archive for the ‘Good Ship Revenge’ Category

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Fun with Counterpoint

May 15, 2007

Over at Story Games, I wrote:

    So I was having beers with Chris Lehrich on Monday. We were talking about the state of RPG theory. And Chris was bringing up a comparison to early (say, late medieval, early renaissance) music theory, since he’s been reading a lot about music semiotics.

    So then I go, “Yeah, in RPG theory, we haven’t even gotten to Bach yet.”

    And Chris was like, “Yeah, think of all the great madrigals that were written. Great stuff and important for what later developed, but it was all rendered much less important by things like counterpoint.”

That got me thinking about the equivalent of counterpoint in roleplaying, having multiple narrative threads dancing around each other, sometimes juxtaposed in harmony, sometimes juxtaposed in contrast, but interesting and powerful for being simultaneous and providing a more complex experience of play — with your attention constantly shifting between them — than a single narrative thread.

Which brought me to an improv technique that’s sometimes called “split screen,” where you divide the stage into different sets in your mind and have different events take place in different imaginary “locations” at the same time, all on the same stage. This is actually a theater technique in general, not just something limited to improv, and is used a lot in plays like Equus to do flashbacks or to contrast or compare the distinct experiences of different characters. And I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t work in roleplaying, especially in games where players have the power to frame their own scenes and don’t need a GM to do so.

So, I think, in Good Ship Revenge, there’s a certain order that players frame scenes in, where, say, Player A goes first, then Player B, then Player C, etc. However, Player B can start framing their scene before Player A is finished with theirs, creating overlap or even a “scene within a scene,” because Player B’s scene might end before Player A’s.

I think, at this point, we need an example, to make sure I’m being clear:

    Player A (Anne): So Jack and Mary, who’s disguised as a handsome young man, are pondering a fat merchant ship that just appeared off the starboard horizon.

    Player B (Jack): “Finally, a bit of luck! You, boy, look to be a sprightly lad. What say you scramble up the mast there and run up our colors so those Spanish dogs will be sure to shit themselves rotten as we pursue them all the way to hell!

    Player C (Mary): “Aye, sir.” Mary checks the chest that normally carries Jack’s trademark flag, a white skull with crossed sabers. “Cap’n… where be the colors?”

    Player B (Jack): Simultaneous Flashback: Anne seeks out Mary in the hold, where Mary is counting the most recent plunder. Anne has a sheet of familiar looking black cloth draped over her and something wicked on her mind.

    Player A (Anne): Anne opens up the flag to show that handsome young lad that she’s not wearing anything underneath.

    Player C (Mary): “Oh… God,” Mary groans.

    Player A (Anne): Framing scene continues: Jack is frantically searching his cabin for his flag.

    Player B (Jack): “Of all the moldy whores in Singapore!” He throws several expensive looking vases to the deck, where they shatter. “When I find the man who stole my colors, I’ll cut him a new mouth in his middle and feed him a steel sandwich directly into his innards!”

    Player C (Mary): Before, in the hold: Mary and Anne are having a grand time wrapped together in Jack’s flag. Right now the only thing that’s visible is Anne’s head, because Mary is doing unspeakably pleasurable things to her underneath the black cloth.

    Player A (Anne): Now, on deck: Anne finally wonders up from the hold, dressed but a little disheveled, since she’s put her clothes back on in rather a hurry. “What’s all this racket about, Jack?”

Something like that, anyway.

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The Broken Wheel

May 14, 2007

Check out the Broken Wheel (jpg).

The central framing mechanic of The Good Ship Revenge is similar to the ones in the Avatar game and my Exalted hack. There is a game board that has a cyclical shape and there is a piece — in this case, a chess piece — on the board for each major and minor character in the game. The arrangement of pieces is used to determine the foundational content of a given scene — in this case, what general type of scene it is: Spoils, See, Social, Sword, Slay, or Sex (all the core things that happen on our pirate ship).

In its own way, this mechanic is similar to what Vincent’s doing in Afraid with Conditions, though I have no idea if my design projects inspired him at all, because he also does something similar in one of his fantasy games (In A Wicked Age, maybe?), where the scene framing mechanics help determine which characters are in which scenes. We may just be doing parallel development here, both thinking about pacing and developing interesting guidelines for scene framing.

Interestingly, my Afraid hacks — Craven County and Giger Counter — mix Vincent’s Conditions with my own board game inspired set ups, leading to a new combination of pacing mechanics that are different than what either of us would have come up on our own. It’s just a pity I haven’t gotten to test them out yet.

In any case, there’s the most recent version of the board. Next time, I’ll try to explain how it works.

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Yo ho ow! Emo Pirates!

May 11, 2007

I always wanted to write a game about the fascinating and sexy relationship between the renowned pirates Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Calico Jack Rackham. Their story is amazing. Here’s an overview from Wikipedia:

    Once while drinking in a local tavern, Jack came across a woman who went by the name of Anne Bonny. He decided to court her and after a while, asked if she would like to come along pirating with them. She agreed and dressed as a boy so the crew would take little notice in her…. A while passed and all went well with keeping her identity.

    One day they decided to raid a small merchant vessel near the West Indies. Most of the crew had been killed and they had one person cornered. They asked if the person would join their crew rather than be run through with a cutlass. With some apprehension, he agreed. Once brought aboard, it seemed Anne had taken a liking to the young man. Jack saw them always together and became very jealous. One day he decided to confront the man. He asked what was between him and Anne, and he swore it was nothing. Jack didn’t believe him. So to prove nothing was between him and Anne, he decided to give Jack his true identity, which happened to be not a ‘he’ at all. She [Mary Read] told him she was a women and showed her breasts so there was no mistake… Throughout the course of their pirate years Jack, Anne, and Read all had relations with each other.

    Governor Woodes Rogers had caught wind that Jack was behind the stealing of an anchored ship named ‘William’ in Nassau harbor. He sent two large ships with 45 men to find Jack. At this time, Jack was busy attacking fishing vessels near Jamaica and for the next month, not knowing of his wanting, continued to do so. In early October near Nigril Bay, Captain Johnathan Barret caught up with the stolen ship that Jack was on. Jack immediately set sail trying to escape, but by ten o’clock that night, they had finally been overthrown. By now Jack and his crew were very drunk. Barret asked them to surrender and in response, the crew shot off a pistol and shouted foul words. A duel began but was hardly fought. The drunken crew was overthrown and surrendered soon after. The two women on board however were sober and fought hard not to be captured. In the end, the whole crew was caught.

    On November 16th, Jack and eleven of his crew men were sentenced to death by hanging in St. Jago de la Vega, Jamaica. On the 17th, Jack was hung. The women were tried as well but they stated that they were both pregnant. It has never been proven if this was true or not, but nevertheless they were sentenced to remain in jail until they had given birth. Anne witnessed Jack’s hanging and had reportedly said “she was sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a man, he need not have died like a dog”.

From this tale comes my game, The Good Ship Revenge.