[Do] Letters to Heaven

This is an introduction to letters in Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Whenever there is a problem that can’t be solved, a worldly person can call in the Pilgrims of the Flying Temple to help. Each letter describes the situation on this world, any relevant characters and a bit of back story to give some context. Your Pilgrims visit this world and help solve the problem as they see fit, hoping not to cause trouble in the process.

Instead of a giant infodump, you can choose which parts of the setting you find important. You do this by choosing the letters that your Pilgrims will answer. You only respond to the letters you find interesting.

Letter-writers are unreliable narrators.

Each letter reflects the letter-writer’s particular, sometimes skewed worldview. Some overestimate how much a Pilgrim can accomplish, thinking them to be angelic beings of divine omnipotence. Imagine their disappointment.

Pilgrims try to abide by local beliefs. If the letter-writer believes the universe is an inky void and Pilgrims are aliens, a Pilgrim will act the part if it makes her job easier. If she’s on a world where people don’t like the temple meddling, a Pilgrim won’t mention it.

On a more personal scale, a letter-writer’s description of her problem comes from her side of the story. When a Pilgrim arrives on this world, she knows she only has half the story and will keep an open mind to any other viewpoints. 

Still, there’s a limit to every Pilgrim’s pragmatism. Faced with prejudice or injustice, you get pilgrims teaching small town bigots a lesson through the judicious application of kung fu dinosaurs. Depending on the scope and mood of your stories, kung fu dinosaurs might cause more problems than they solve.

So, when in Rome, just put on a toga.

Letters are story seeds.
This chapter presents letters written by people from around the universe. (Actually, they’re written by real people who were kind enough to contribute their creativity to this game.)

Each letter offers you a fruitful beginning for a fun adventure and plenty of opportunities for your Pilgrims to get into trouble. By picking a letter, you decide how a story will begin, but neither you nor the other players knows how the story will end. You will have a letter written by someone on a distant world asking for help, but that only sets the stage for your adventures there.

From that starting point, you and your friends will create your own story together. You could even play the same letter with different groups of players and it would result in a different story.

Letters have Goal Words.
Each letter has a list of words and phrases called Goal Words. As you play the game and tell the story of your pilgrims, you will use Goal Words in that story. Your goal is to use all the Goal Words in your story before a player gets eight stones. (You can see more about how to play in the basic rules.

There are eight kinds of trouble.
When you browse through the letters, you will see some symbols on each one. The symbols stand for a particular kinds of trouble your Pilgrim might find on this world. Use these symbols as rating system, so you can tell whether this subject matter is appropriate or fun for the group.

Book represents affairs of tradition, law and custom. These are troubles involving tradition and laws. There may be times when your Pilgrim acts against accepted norms, either by defying a cultural taboo or outright criminal intent. Expect encounters with local authorities. Arrest is the most common and immediate trouble.

Example: Fed up with the local governors, Pilgrim Anointed Tree declares herself new emperor of this world. Suddenly, Pilgrim Anointed Tree is whisked away to the “special jail” for “special criminals.

Flag troubles involve relationships and politics between nations, towns or whole worlds and empires. Worldly diplomacy impacts large groups of people, usually ruled by some kind of noble. Pilgrims’ meddlesome irreverence makes them quite infamous among the ruling elite. Pilgrims are only tolerated if their unorthodox methods work in the nobles’ favor. Well-intentioned Pilgrims may accidentally instigate border disputes, break treaties, and spread rumors.

Example: In dark of night, Pilgrim Electric Glass flies to the demilitarized zone between Cobar Province and Five-Peak City to parley between the generals. Unfortunately, both sides mistake her flashing static charge as a signal-flare for surrender.

Heart troubles in which your Pilgrim is in love or is involved in worldly love lives. Love is a delicious problem. Sometimes the “trouble” with love is that it is forbidden by some cultural taboo. More often, the trouble is the other emotions that might come with the romance, including jealousy, attachment, and vulnerability. Your Pilgrim may find herself falling in love with a worldly person, or vice versa, which is definitely a distraction from her duties.

Example: Struck by her thorough understanding of philosophical treatises, Pilgrim Sage Hook falls in love with Xieu. The only problem is that she’s already betrothed to the prince of this world.

Knot troubles are anything involving families and their peculiar manner of getting on each other’s nerves. Family connects people across the universe, like invisible strings waiting to ensnare an errant Pilgrim. Tread around family affairs lightly. A cunning word can’t erase years of bad blood between rival heirs. A swift kick can’t sweep away tension between a stepparent and her new child. Pilgrims sometimes get personally involved in family troubles when they are mistaken for long-lost sons and daughters.

Example: Pilgrim Witty Pen cheers up a sick child by writing a funny poem about being raised by wolves. Rumor spreads that she is one of the long-lost wolf-people who left this world long ago, promising to return with new medicines.

Lotus troubles in which the Pilgrims interact with gods or their followers. The gods embody aspects of the human condition, yet are endowed with superhuman abilities. This is a volatile mixture of insecurity and power. Gods break promises, and then direct their flock’s rage against another god’s people. They can cause wars, famine and demand devotion. Their moods are fickle and can be enraged at impropriety. Unfortunate pilgrims have been cursed, turned into toads and otherwise just been messed up.

Example: The arrogant Pilgrim Glorious Rose comfortably assumes the title and duties as figurehead of the local religion. Angry at the pilgrim’s insolence, Thaderelius, local god of vengeance and wine, floods the world in grape juice.

Pen troubles are generally academic or investigative. These troubles are a challenge to the mind, testing a Pilgrim’s ability to deduce the root of a worldly problem. Your Pilgrim may find herself wrapped up in a labyrinthine mystery, uncovering dangerous secrets. A Pilgrim might also be forced to hide from scrutiny, trying to keep a secret. Pen troubles may also be distracting tests of mental agility, like puzzle rooms and riddles.

Example: Pilgrim Diving Banister discovers a conspiracy is afoot when she notices a false bookcase along the wall. The bookcase falls forward and a rush of wind sucks her into a room full of mathematical puzzles.

Sword troubles involve warfare, violence and weaponry. These troubles are the most straightforward, but carry the worst consequences. When punches are thrown, a Pilgrim failed to keep the peace. A Pilgrim should solve problems without violence, but all are trained to use their flying talents to defend themselves and escape danger if necessary. Still, sky ships, nets, weights or other contraptions may overcome the best flyers. Even the threat of violence may be troublesome enough.

Example: Pilgrim Limber Brush deftly strides into battle, acrobatically dodging the hundreds of spears lobbed at her. That is, until she realizes those spears actually formed a cage, leaving her trapped and unable to fly away.

Tree troubles have the environment itself challenging the Pilgrim. A Pilgrim could be caught in a dangerous storm, hunted by wild animals or disoriented after being puffed by a strange mushroom. These troubles also manifest as spirits, embodying aspects of the natural world. Using nature spirits in your story lets you turn the environment into a worldly character with whom your pilgrim can interact.

Example: Pilgrim Bookish Scrolls has a dozen different nature spirit languages in his supply of scrolls, so begins the negotiation with the river spirit. Unfortunately, this is technically a spirit of tributaries and is offended by the association with those degenerate river spirits.

Here are some letters that you might like to use in your game.

  • “Swallowed Whole” by Ben Lehman
    [ Flag | Tree ]
  • “Excessive Elves” by Peter Aronson
    [ Book | Tree | Lotus ]
  • “Worlds Collide” by Colin Fredericks
    [ Flag | Tree ]
  • “Is it Safe to Allow Cabbages on Roller Coasters?” by Peter Aronson
    [ Sword | Pen | Flag ]
  • “Once Upon a Time” by Peter Aronson
    [ Knot | Pen | Flag ]
  • “Spun of Crystal and Gold” by Sophie Lagacé
    [ Knot | Sword | Pen ]

Pebble Rebel is out of the lab!

Pebble Rebel
I’m happy to announce that Pebble Rebel is out of the lab. Pebble Rebel is a two-player strategy game where each player has very different goals, but still get in each other’s way. Check it out here.

» Official rules for Pebble Rebel

[Embargo] App for Android Beta (0.9)

Mark Sherry demos the latest version of the Embargo Beta for Android.

» Download: Embargo 0.9

  • Proper support for smaller (and larger) screens.
  • Easier to select stones near the edges.
  • Unlimited undo and redo.
  • Undo no longer bound to the Back button. Instead, use the Menu button to access undo and redo.

After Mark gets back from vacation, we’re going to try out a 8×8 or 7×7 board to make it easier to select your stones and make your moves. For now you have to press very firmly to get your presses to register.

Free Painted Mural Textures

My wife says these look like the Martian skies in an old pulp paperback cover. Just one idea for how you can use these high-res textures in your projects.

» Download: Free texture set on Flickr
» Released under Creative Commons attribution 2.0 generic license.

The Leftovers

The Leftovers is a slapstick fantasy storytelling game. You tell the story of The Leftovers, the unlikely surviving lackeys of an ill-fated adventuring party. Stuck in the middle of a dungeon, The Leftovers must find their way out room by room and avoid The Monster at all costs. With luck, and the sheer power of cowardice, they just might make it out alive. Remember: Never fight The Monster. That’s a sure way to a glorious hero’s death – And these guys are not the heroes.

» Illustrations courtesy of Crazyred.
» Lots of ideas and help from Adam Dray
» Development Status: Beta, Slightly Tested.

What You Need to Play
10-15 Robot Dice

  • These are special dice first used in Happy Birthday, Robot! They have two blank sides, two sides saying AND and two sides saying BUT. You can substitute with regular six-sided dice or Fudge dice.

Several tokens or chips
A Pencil or Pen
A Dungeon Map

  • The Spleen
  • The Pit
  • The Bunnies’ Burrow
  • The Room of Spiky Things

A Leftover character for each player, with a name like:

  • Step
  • Clik
  • Ohno
  • Aagh

Storyteller and Allies
When it is your turn, you are called the Storyteller. The players to your left and right are called your Allies. As a Storyteller, you begin a sentence about your character. The Ally on your Right continues that sentence. The Ally on your Left concludes that sentence.

Turn Order
The youngest player takes the first turn as Storyteller. Turns continue clockwise around the table.

How To Play
Step 1: Push Your Luck
Roll up to three robot dice at a time as many times as you want. Keep any BLANKs. Pass any ANDs to the ally on your right. Pass any BUTs to the ally on your left. If either the ally on your right or left get four or more dice, this is called busting. If you busted this roll, see the section titled “The Monster.” For now, let’s see what happens if you don’t bust.

Example: You roll three dice and get BLANK, BLANK, AND. Great. You decide to roll again and get BLANK, AND, BUT. That gives you three BLANKs. The ally on your right has two ANDs. The ally on your left has one BUT. You decide not to push your luck any further and continue to the next step.

Step 2: Begin a Sentence
Write a sentence on the map. This sentence describes your character moving through this section of the dungeon with extreme caution. Some would say cowardice. But then again, your character is one of the lucky survivors, so a little paranoia is understandable.

As you write this sentence, remember that The Leftovers never fight The Monster. They run, hide, distract and do everything possible to avoid The Monster. Other creatures may make an appearance in the map, but these creatures are not The Monster.

Anyhoo, you can write one word for each BLANK you rolled. You can use your character’s name as a free word, if you wish. When you write on the map, write one word in each space.

Example: You have three BLANKs, so you write three words on the map, plus your character’s name, Pudd. Yes, Pudd. You write: “Pudd flings his torch”

Step 3: The ally on your right continues the sentence.
The ally on your right continues the sentence you just began. Usually she’ll add some small details about what else your character is doing. Remember again, Leftovers do not fight The Monster.

She can write one word for each AND you rolled. She can use the word “and” as a free word, if she wishes.

Example: The ally on your right has two ANDs, so she has two words to continue the sentence. She also has the free word “and” at her disposal. She continues: “Pudd flings his torch and peeks inside.”

Step 4: The ally on your left ends the sentence.
The ally on your left ends the sentence. Usually this is some complication or funny punchline to what you and the other player have written so far. This complication like slipping on a puddle of slime or creating a lot of noise while trying to sneak. Your ally may mention The Monster, but it’s best to keep these complications focused on low-stakes slapstick or some minor creature living in this part of the dungeon.

He can write one word for each BUT you rolled. He can use the word “but” as a free word, if he wishes.

Example: The ally on your left has just one BUT, so he only has one word to add to the story. He also has the free word “but.” He writes: “Pudd flings his torch and peeks inside but flinches.”

Step 5: Collect Tokens
For every word you wrote from a BLANK die roll, collect one token. Each token you possess gives you a free word when you begin a sentence. This bonus does not apply when you are continuing or concluding someone else’s sentence. Also, you do not collect tokens for using free words.

Example: You rolled three BLANKs and wrote three words to begin your sentence. So, you get three tokens. Hooray! Next time you begin a sentence, you’ll get three free words.

You may also give tokens to other players, which may become necessary so you can buy time for the group to get out of this map. (See “Endgame” for more about what happens when you collect too many tokens.)

Example: At a later point in the game, you decide to give a token to another player as she begins her sentence. She can now say one more free word.

Your turn is now complete. Everyone returns their dice to the pool and the ally on your left begins a new sentence starting from step 1.

Filled-In Words
Occasionally you will come across spaces that are already filled in. When you come across these spaces, try to work the word into the sentence you are writing. If you do so, they will prove useful later.

Pink Words
These are words describing useful items that you might discover in the dungeon, like provisions and tools. Unfortunately, these scrounged-up belongings rarely have much life left in them.

You can use a pink word as a free word when you are beginning a sentence. The drawback is that pink words can only be used as a free word once. Fortunately, they can be carried over into future maps.

Example: You’re writing for the character named Crud. As you plan your sentence, you see a pink word already written in a space. That word is “food,” so you write “Crud finds food.” So, at some point in the future, you can use “food” as a free word.

Black Words
These are words describing obstacles or other aspects of the dungeon. They all generally follow a theme for that particular map. The Spleen has lots of slimy stuff, the Pit draws on volcanic imagery, and so on.

You can use a black word as a free word for the rest of the game in any situation (whether you are beginning, continuing or concluding the sentence). You can only use it once in a sentence and you only have it available to you in this map. Once you are out (if you can make it out), you cannot use these free words in another map.

Example: Another player is concluding this sentence. He sees the word “slime” in a space ahead. He concludes the sentence: “Crud finds food in a pool of slime.” So, for as long as The Leftovers are on this map, he can use “slime” in a sentence as a free word.

If you cannot use a filled-in word in your sentence, simply cross it out and move on to the next available space. It’s not as good as getting a free word, but at least it jumps you forward one space.

The Monster
If you busted your roll, you and the players next to you will write a sentence just as you would otherwise. However, this sentence will be about The Monster lurking in this map. Follow the same steps as written above, except instead of your character’s name, your free words are “The Monster.” (Those are two words, so they take up two spaces.)

Example: You are rolling for Pudd. After several rolls, you get BLANK, BLANK, BUT, BUT, AND, AND, AND, AND. Aww. That’s four ANDs, meaning you busted the roll. So, this sentence will be about The Monster doing monster-type things like snarling, chasing, stalking, that sort of stuff. Together, you write: “The Monster smells meat and hungers for fresh dinner but is sleeping.”

Also, at the end of your turn, any tokens you would have collected instead go to the Monster.

Example: You rolled wrote two words from the two BLANKs you rolled. So the Monster gets two tokens.

Endgame, or “Why must I be made of meat?”
If a Leftover or the Monster has ten tokens at the end of their turn, the game is over.

If your story does not reach the exit of the map, then your characters perished in a deadly death. Next time you play, you’ll play different characters who may have better luck with the whole “surviving” thing.

If your story reaches the exit, congratulations! You and the other players may continue writing that last sentence as much as your dice will allow. Your Leftovers survived another section of the dungeon. You can play these characters again, along with any pink free words they collected in this map.

Designer’s Notes
In developing Happy Birthday, Robot!, I got to thinking about slight variants on the basic storytelling system. This, like HBR, is mostly an engine for writing short sentences as a part of a larger silly story. There are more spatial tactics here, as you plan out your sentence to pick up items and generally try to write your way out of the dungeon. The essential elements of co-operation and creativity are still here, with a new coat of fantasy paint.

Replaced “coin” with “token” to make it clear that they always give free words. Because this is based on Happy Birthday, Robot!, it’s easy to assume that the same Heads/Tails coin rules apply. However, that restriction makes getting through the dungeon a little bit too difficult. Note that you still have incentive to share tokens because that will buy more time to write your way out of the dungeon.

[Do] “Excessive Elves”

This is a letter for use in playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Guys, you got to help us!

We got elves everywhere, and I tell you, they’re driving us all around the bend! And I don’t mean two-foot-tall little cute Christmas elves, either, but the six-foot-tall variety, complete with wise gray eyes, pointed ears, silver hair, billowing cloaks — the whole nine yards.

They showed up on a Monday (which kind of figures, somehow). It was a pretty ordinary Monday with too much traffic, too much work, and not enough coffee or sleep. You know, Monday. Then, they came walking out of every wood on the world at the same time. Except, you know, these guys don’t exactly walk anywhere; they stride or they glide or appear silently, but Heaven forbid they should do anything so ordinary as just walk like normal people.

At first, they just stood around in little clumps, looking calm and all-knowing. Then they started frowning in disapproval at normal stuff, like cars and smokestacks and garbage cans. Then, dear god, they started to share their “wisdom” with us. Like about how we were abusing nature, and that they could “hear” the trees calling out in grief and the grass crying in pain other gruff like that. And if they just kept it to stuff like that, it’d been bad enough. But they didn’t.

They started walking into people’s homes, practically uninvited. Oh, they’d ask first, oh so politely, but they’d do it in a way so formal, old-fashioned and confusing that by the time you’d figured out what they’d said you’d already let them in. And once inside they’d start giving suggestions about everything, and I mean everything. They’d tell you how to rearrange your house to make it look better, they’d tell you what to feed your cat to make her happier, they’d tell you what to teach your kids “to improve their spirits” whatever that meant. And while they’d be doing this, they’d be standing there, drop-dead gorgeous or handsome, looking at you with those ancient, wise gray eyes, expecting you to do just what you said. And if you didn’t, they wouldn’t do anything but look sorrowful and disappointed. But you see, they’re really, really good at that looking sorrowful stuff — they could give guilt causing lessons to my Aunt Matilda, and let me tell you, until these guys came, she was world champ in guilt!

So, most people pretty much started doing whatever the elves ask to avoid those looks. And it be fair, it’s a healthier life you get in return. But it ain’t much fun: all that walking and singing (those elves are real big into singing), no meat, no cigars, no whiskey, no sleeping around, no football, no drag racing, and definitely no fun. It ain’t a big surprise that people are pulling up stakes and moving to other worlds to get away from those pains in the rear. Why last week, my best bud Frank had to go and fix something in his hunting shack in the North Woods (not that anyone hunts “our furred brothers and sisters” any more). While he was out there, he had the bad luck to run into one of the chief elves, meditating out in the woods. Well, before Frank could get away, he had a life and a half’s worth of mystical hooey transmitted directly into his skull and now, this big, tough truck mechanic wanders around town talking to flowers and birds with a really weird smile pasted on his mug. It’s enough to make a man cry into his beer (except all we got to drink now is wine, which while it has a kick, is just spoiled grape juice if you ask me), and Frank’s wife is taking him away to another world to try to get him cured.

You might wonder why we don’t grab our guns and baseball bats and chase these pointy-eared yahoos off of our world. The trouble is, if you try something like that, they just stand there looking noble and long-suffering and stuff and you end up feeling just like a puppy that just piddled on the rug. On the other hand, if things get bad enough and people get desperate enough, then maybe things will get down and dirty. That could be bad too, since these elf boys and girls all have long silvery swords and these curvy bows and I bet they know how to use them. Things would pretty likely get really ugly if things go that way.

So, if you guys could send some pilgrims and get rid of these elves before everyone moves away or things get real violent, we’d appreciate it. I’m going to throw this letter in the trash bin behind O’Malley’s Bar — that’ll get it to you pronto, and those elves wouldn’t look back there in a million years.

Bill Smith

Goal Words
“Aunt Matilda”
“cars and smokestacks”
“frowns in disapproval”
“hear the trees”
“mystical hooey”
“no meat”
“O’ Malley’s Bar”
“our furred brothers and sisters”

[Do] Want to play Do on Skype?

I’m looking for three players to play three sessions of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple over Skype with in the coming weeks. Preferably a weekly series before mid-October.

Some details: I want to kick the tires on the game as-is and get some more material for the Example of Play chapter. In other words, this is not a playtest. Each session should be ~1.5 hours, with the first one probably taking the longest as we get coordinated. If there are enough interested players (and I have enough energy), I can facilitate multiple series at the same time. As I said, I’m looking for more raw material for the Example of Play. More play, more material.

If you’re interested in playing Do with me over Skype, leave a comment here with the days/times you’d be available, your email address, and we can figure out a plan from there.

SageFight T-Shirts!

By Kevin Weiser’s request, here are shirts to show off your support for SageFight.

If you want to make your own merch, here are the vector EPSs and transparent PNGs for your own use. (Creative Commons licensed, as usual.)

» Cafepress: SageFight Logo Shirt
» Download Logos: SageFight-Logos.zip

[Do] Monday Night Group – Episode 2

Actual Play of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
This is a story created by playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

» Previously, Episode 1

The Pilgrims

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass gets in trouble by stepping on things and helps people by thinking clearly. (Jenn)
World Destiny: 2
Temple Destiny: 2

Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie gets in trouble by talking too much, and helps people using his wide variety of baked goods. (Mark)
World Destiny: 1
Temple Destiny: 3

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot gets in trouble by being knocked around a lot and helps people with his indestructible boots. (Daniel)
World Destiny: 2
Temple Destiny: 2

The Letter

“Excessive Elves” by Peter Aronson

The Story

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass listens to the elves signing incomplete songs and helps them figure out a beautiful melody.

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass steps on the elves’ toes during a solo, accidentally creating an even more catchy and annoying ear worm.

Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie stuffs a scone in Pilgrim Clumsy Glass’s mouth before she can reach the chorus about our furred brothers and sisters.

Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie screams the wrong ending to the song and the lead elf frowns in disapproval at him.

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot blunders into O’Malley’s Bar, putting his boot through a wall exposing the hidden supply of booze to the elves.

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot uses his other indestructible boot as a door stop, keeping the elves from entering the bar and confiscating the secret stash.

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass spits out the scone, grabs Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie and runs away from the Head Elf

Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie hands each of the elves a sample of a highly processed, but sublimely delicious cookie.

As Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie hands out the treats, he talks about how much Frank  is beginning to start looking like an elf, causing the group to rise up in an UPROAR

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot becomes a courier for the humans, smuggling out bottles of beer past the elves.

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot spills some bottles of beer, enraging the elves as the beer despoils nature.

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass steps on a twig and can hear the trees swear at her.

The elves begin to use their Wisdom to start turning Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie into an ELF!

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot gestures with his foot at the cars and smokestacks that are the real destroyers of nature, thus redirecting the elves’ anger.

The elves point out that as bad as the cars and smokestacks are, they’re not nearly as bad as the spilled rotgut, which has already killed a six foot circle of vegetation.

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass notices the six foot circle of death grow towards the scary trees and jumps away from the impending doom

Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie takes a bite of a mass-produced, preservative-laden cookie, which shocks his mind free of the elves’ spell.

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot digs a protective trough with his boot around the expanding circle of dead vegetation.

Aunt Matilda starts screaming at Pilgrim Bouncing Boot, who just dug the trough through her garden plot of prize petunias.

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass cries out “You are just upset you have no meat woman!” and grabs Pilgrim Bouncing Boot’s arm to run away

Pilgrim Clumsy Glass steps on Frank’s toe during the escape, breaking him from his spell and angering the sword-bearing elves.

Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie blocks the sword of one of the elves using an exceptionally stale baguette.

All the elf guards turn towards Pilgrim Loquacious Cookie as he screams out that their swords are made of mystical hooey!

Pilgrim Bouncing Boot swings his indestructible boot by the laces like a nunchuk, destroying the elves’ swords in a dramatic flourish.


The elves whip out their curvy bows and start chasing the Pilgrims and Frank away

The humans seize on the elves’ partial disarmament and start attacking the elves.

As Pilgrim Bouncing Boot lies away, dodging the thrown bottles and smoke bombs, he wishes he kept a bottle of that good beer.

New Names

Pilgrim Clumsy Mirror gets into trouble by falling down on things and helps people by creating an illusion. (Jenn)
World Destiny: 6
Temple Destiny: 6

Pilgrim Pugnacious Cookie gets into trouble by picking fights, and helps them with his selection of tasty baked goods. (Mark)
World Destiny: 5
Temple Destiny: 6

Pilgrim Revolting Boot gets in trouble by rousing rabble and helps people with his indestructible boots. (Daniel)
World Destiny: 7
Temple Destiny: 6

Reminder: Quantum of Solis 2010

On Friday, November 5, let’s all get a big table at Tyler’s Taproom at around 7pm. We’ll have some food, drinks, laughs and maybe some gaming if we’re not too beat.

Looks like we have at least five or six people who have RSVPed. If you’re coming, leave a comment on the original post.


SageFight is a dance-like game for three or more people. It’s fun to do in a playground or park. You don’t need any special equipment besides your body and a willingness to look silly. You can find out more about SageFight on the official Sagefight website.

SageFight: Melee

Rule 1: You have to tell everyone about SageFight. More people make it more fun. One way to do this is to document your SageFights – in photos, videos or text – and share them with others.

Rule 2: At the beginning of a SageFight, everyone gets around in a circle at arm’s length from each other. It’s best to have everyone’s hands overlap a little bit.

Rule 3: Take your most awesome martial arts stance. Do not move.

Rule 4: A time keeper will give a signal at regular intervals, either by calling it out or clapping. Think of it like a metronome. We like to use the stomp-stomp-clap from Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Rule 5: On the signal, you switch to another stance, but must keep your balance and must not move after switching your stance. When you switch your stance, you can move your arms, torso, head and/or one foot. The other foot remains rooted in place. A well-executed SageFight has each SageFighter flowing between a series of stable, static poses.

Goal: Try to tap another SageFighter hand with the palm-side of your hand. If your hand is hit, you are out. If your palm touches someone else’s palm, you’re both out. If you are the last person standing, you win SAGEFIGHT!

SageFight: Clan vs. Clan

When you have a large enough group of SageFighters, split them up into two rival ninja clans. The two clans line up and face each other in a tense stand-off. Each clan has a MASTER. When the master of a clan gets tapped out, the whole clan loses. Remember: Protect your master!

SageFight: Duel
Also Known As: “Masters without Swords”

Rule 1: Fencers take stances along a straight line. For example, a line of tiles along a hotel lobby floor or the stripes on a basketball court.

Rule 2: Begin by touching arms in a mannerly fashion, like crossing swords.

Rule 3: The timekeeper will tell the fencers to break. Then the fencers take their most awesome fencing pose.

Rule 4: The timekeeper will start keeping a rhythmic beat, just like in regular SAGEFIGHT.

Rule 5: Score one point by touching your opponent’s torso with the palm-side of your hand. If you step off the line or lose your balance, you’re out and your opponent scores one point.

Goal: After scoring a point, stop keeping time, back away, strike a new pose, and start again. Be the first to score 2 points.

There is a lot of jostling and crossing “swords.” You feel very much like a jedi knight.

The SageFight Handshake


Femme Gamer reviews Happy Birthday, Robot!

Femme Gamer posted an overview of gaming-related generosity over the past few months. From the indie game bundle benefiting Doctors Without Borders to the video game bundle benefiting Child’s Play. Auspicious company to say the least! And our little game managed to find a mention!

Back to the tabletop scene, Daniel Solis has been working with donors for his [Happy Birthday, Robot!] game on KickStarter It’s a brilliant idea! Again, donors can contribute to see the game published and receive special perks depending on the level of their donation. However, Daniel took it one step further. He decided to donate copies of [Happy Birthday, Robot!], to different gaming organizations, schools, and libraries across the world, because his original goal was exceeded very quickly. Once the book is published, he will be donating 3 books to the organization Kids Need to Game . He will also be spending copies of the book to ten different libraries and schools to help foster role-playing and storytelling in the classroom. This entire project has been backed by generous gamers across the world, and thanks to them as well as Daniel, students will be given the chance to play this game in their classroom.

Thanks for the post, Cassie!

[Do] Saturday Night Group – Episode 1

Actual Play of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
This is a story created by playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

The Pilgrims

Pilgrim Delicate Brick gets in trouble by being frail and helps people by build stronger relationships. (Written by Matt)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

Pilgrim Red Shirt gets in trouble by having a bad temper and helps people by drawing away danger. (Written by Daniel)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

Pilgrim Marvelous Mollusk gets in trouble by being overly-dramatic and overdoing things and helps people by polishing things up. (Written by Raven)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

The Letter

“Swallowed Whole” by Ben Lehman

The Story

While the whale remains startled from Mollusk’s approach, pilgrim Delicate Brick goes down the whale’s blowhole, looking for MELANIE.

The blowhole seems to narrow as pilgrim Delicate Brick crawls down, until finds he can only push his head out to look around inside the WHALE.

Pilgrim Red Shirt draws the whale’s attention away from Pilgrim Marvelous Mollusk and calms it down.

Pilgrim Red Shirt succeeds too well at getting the whale’s attention, and the whale decides he is another tasty morsel and EATs him!

Pilgrim Marvellous Mollusk gets the whale to spit out pilgrim Red Shirt because (and reveal with a flourish) he has a giant plate of the most incredible COOKIES ever baked!

Because they are the most delicious cookies, the whale swallows Pilgrim Marvelous Mollusk and he crashes into the Melanie’s trees.

Stuck in the whale’s blowhole, pilgrim Delicate Brick strains and strains until POP! he goes flying out of the blowhole and lands on some…trees?!?

In the branches of the trees, Pilgrim Delicate Brick finds himself facing a vicious, hissing CAT that he most certainly can’t defend himself against!

Pilgrim Red Shirt flies to the Pilgrim Delicate Brick’s rescue, catching Melanie’s cat as it leaps at him!

Unfortunately, trying to fight with an angry cat and flying at the same time sends Pilgrim Red Shirt careening towards the HOUSE!


Pilgrim Marvelous Mollusk dusts himself off and floats down to the ground as the whale burps from the cookies, and out pops Melanie’s planet.

Pilgrim Delicate Brick negotiates between the whale and Melanie, so that the whale will protect her and her planet (and cat and trees), in exchange for more cookies.

Upon returning her cat, Pilgrim Red Shirt suggests that the whale protect her world from anything else that would try to eat it.

New Names

Pilgrim Delicious Shirt gets in trouble because he looks like food and helps people by drawing away danger. (Daniel)
World Destiny: 2
Temple Destiny: 2

Pilgrim Marvelous Candy gets in trouble by overdoing things and helps people by baking treats. (Raven)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 2

Pilgrim Reckless Brick gets into trouble because he can’t control where he’s going and helps people by building stronger relationships. (Matt)
World Destiny: 2
Temple Destiny: 1


This is the last of the first episodes for any of the groups. From here on out, each group chooses their own letters to answer and thus choose the direction of their journey.

Looking back at how the different groups approached this letter, I can say with some certainty that I the whale’s blowhole is about as well protected as a Death Star exhaust vent. Dude needs to watch that orifice better. 😛

Game Ideas

I’ll occasionally post random game ideas on my Twitter. This is a collection of some of the most recent ideas over the past several months. Some of these may become full games, some not. This is just a sample of where my brain wanders.

  • Idea: Lowering the coin trigger in HBR and adding a story goals before deadline might encourage more coin-sharing.
  • RPG Idea: Each player says “I’m in love with ___.” Then plays a character another player just described. Makes a quick relationship web.
  • Idea: Draw two clauses. Choose one. Unchosen clause gets +1 point.
  • Idea: Index cards, each w/ a clause. Split deck. On yr turn, reveal top card of both decks. Choose one. Unchosen card remains, gets +1 VP.
  • Possible add-on to previous idea: Target Number is whatever you rolled last. Ex: Roll 17 on 3d6? Cool, but that’s your TN for your next roll
  • Idea: Dice pool. Target number. Roll over: Gain Resource A. Under: Gain B. Endgame Trigger: A or B over X. Any emergent behaviors? Hm…
  • Idea: RPG starts w/ blank protagonists+setting. Play defines Aspects for both/either. Exploration+definition instead of conflict resolution.
  • Idea: Chess-like game. Use any object as game piece as long as it fits in a board square. Mechanics based on width/height?
  • Idea: Long scarf made of smaller scarves tied together. Each scarf-bit is like a merit badge. Wearable character sheet? Randomizer somehow?
  • Game Idea: RPG: Actions phrased in who, what, where, when, why, how terms. Some of these are random d6, some not. (Idle Wildlings thoughts.)
  • [Game Idea] Reiner Knizia dice pool + ORE. Roll xd6. Gain action points equal to lowest result, but all results feed into long-term engine.
  • Game Idea: Players give each other chips in small boxes. Game involves guessing how many chips you received vs. how many you really got.

Seth Ben-Ezra reviews [Happy Birthday, Robot!]

Game designer Seth Ben-Ezra reviews Happy Birthday, Robot! after playing it with his kids. It’s a pretty in-depth review, covering the basics of play but also a lot of thoughts on the game design itself. I’m glad the instructions and presentation all made Seth feel confident in being able to teach the game to others.

At GenCon, I realized the great joy of designing “teachable games,” or games that could easily be passed on by literal word-of-mouth or simple example. That’s a subject for another post though. Meanwhile, check out Seth’s review!

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] Mega Man vs. Dresden Files

Anders Smith just posted two Happy Birthday Robot stories he created while playing in 2-player mode with his brother. The first is sort of a prequel to Mega Man:

“Happy Birthday, Robot!”
“How are you feeling?” asks Dr. Light.
“A little nervous,” replies Cut-man.
“What if the others all laugh at my blades?”
Dr. Light shakes his head, smiling in ignorance.
“You are a perfect creation – the ones who laugh just don’t understand!”
“You’ll show them all!” he concludes, “Just ask Dr. Wiley!”
“He has a wonderful present behind this door.”
“With his help, and mine, why, you’ll change the world!”
So Cut-man stepped through to meet his destiny.

And the next story is based on the Dresden Files, using a new opening sentence.

“I need help, Harry Dresden!”
Harry sighed, “Why did it have to be gnomes?”
But Harry was certain they must be stopped.
Chicago’s lawns were doomed to wilt otherwise.
Bob told Harry gnomes were afraid of flamingos.
“Real ones aren’t cheap,” said Harry. “Where can I get them in January in Chicago?”
“You don’t want real ones, harry; plastic ones work best – living plastic.”
“Wouldn’t that create a scourge of demon flamingos to menace Chicago?”
“Of course not – that’s what the Celtic black dogs are for, afterward!”
“Now once you’re done with them, you’ll probably need a hag…” Harry stopped Bob at this point.
Harry wondered if the lawns of Chicago weren’t better served by inaction, and sighed again.
Michael suggested calling a gopher-removal expert.

I love how silly these stories can get while still being somewhat coherent. Thanks for posting them, Anders!

A Bear Swarm would be very noisy.

Interviews with Daniel Solis
Apparently, word didn’t spread far enough at GenCon that I can spew forth ad nauseum. Rob Justice of the Bear Swarm podcast also interviewed me during that magical weekend. You can listen to the interview here.

During this interview, I mention a sign language fluency game called Where Are Your Keys? Jen Dixon of the Walking Eye recorded our session of WAYK, facilitated by James Brown. I’ll post a link to the video as soon as it goes up and talk a little more about it then.

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] Review on Critical-Hits!

I am squeeing over Gerald Cameron’s review of Happy Birthday, Robot! Definitely some of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about the game.

“Simple Rules – Made for Anyone to Learn From”
“A Thing of Beauty – An Invitation to Creativity”
“All in all, the game would fit into any child’s book collection, and doesn’t seem that out of place in a collection of roleplaying games, either.”

You can read the rest of Gerald Cameron’s review on Critical-Hits.com. Squee. ^_^

[Embargo] App for Android Beta (0.8)

» Download: Embargo.apk

Embargo is a strategic board game of breaking barriers. Move your pieces any distance horizontally or vertically. If two pieces share the same row or column, a wall is formed between them that no pieces can pass through. Your goal is to get all your pieces to your opponent’s corner. See complete rules here.

Now Embargo is available for Android phones! This is version 0.8. Consider it an open playable beta. Two players can play by passing the phone back and forth. Hit the ‘back’ button to undo your last move. It undoes one move only. Online multiplayer and vs AI will come in a later version.

This app comes to you thanks to Mark Sherry. You may recognize Mark Sherry from the credits in Happy Birthday, Robot! He was very generous with his math/programming skills during HBR’s development and that generosity continues here. Thanks so much, Mark!

Here’s a QR code for your camera phone:


First free book to Kids Need To Game!

Thanks so much to the most recent backers and pre-orderers (including the $1 backer ^_~ )!

Because of these generous folks, we can send the first free copy of Happy Birthday, Robot! to Kids Need To Game. There are two more copies ready to send to this great cause as soon as we reach the next pre-order milestones. Each pre-order gets more free games to kids in need.

Thanks again and spread the word about Happy Birthday, Robot!

[Do] Pilgrims of Justice League and Star Trek

In response to my call for pop culture-inspired pilgrims, Marc Majcher posted his take on the cast of classic Star Trek:

Pilgrim Randy Conductor gets in trouble by chasing after girls, and helps people by getting everybody to work together.

Pilgrim Stoic Owl gets in trouble by holding back his feelings, and helps people by dispensing wisdom.

Pilgrim Grumpy Needle gets in trouble by making sarcastic remarks all the time, and helps people by making them feel better when they’re sick.

Pilgrim Confident Wrench gets in trouble by overestimating his abilities, and helps people by fixing things for them.

Liz Hooper offered her interpretation of Batman and Robin:

Pilgrim Lonely Gadget gets in trouble by trying to do everything by himself, he helps people by using his clever inventions.

Pilgrim Lonely Gadget’s compatriot, Pilgrim Cocky Tumbler gets in trouble by thinking he can handle things he can’t, he helps people by using his gymnastic skills as a martial art.

And Jonathan Korman went the whole nine yards, creating the entire Justice League:

Pilgrim Noble Stone gets in trouble by being too earnest, and helps people by being strong.

Pilgrim Spooky Toolbox gets in trouble attracting crazy people, and helps people by always being prepared.

Pilgrim Haughty Shield gets in trouble by ignoring what people expect of her, and helps people by getting them to tell the truth.

Pilgrim Goofy Wheel gets in trouble by joking around, and helps people by rushing to where he’s needed.

Pilgrim Fierce Wing gets in trouble by jumping in without thinking, and helps people by fighting monsters.

Pilgrim Serious Ring gets in trouble by ordering people around, and helps people by making things they need.

Pilgrim Lonely Smoke gets in trouble by feeling out of place, and helps people by being thoughtful.

Thanks, peeps!  Got any pop culture pilgrims of your own? Share them in the comments. 🙂

Quantum of Solis 2010

I’ll be working in Durham, NC the first week of November. There are a lot of folks in the Durham area who I’d like to hang out with. This is a fortunate coincidence!

On Friday, November 5, let’s all get a big table at Tyler’s Taproom at around 7pm. We’ll have some food, drinks, laughs and maybe some gaming if we’re not too beat.

Comment if you can make it. Hope to see you there!

Free Games to Libraries and Schools

We’re giving away a free Print+PDF bundle to the first ten libraries, schools or after school programs who sign up.

If you know a US library, school or after school program that would like to have a free copy of Happy Birthday, Robot!, send me a message through kickstarter or on twitter @danielsolis. (You can see examples of HBR in the classroom here and here.) In your message, please include:

  • Shipping address for your library, school or organization to send the book when it’s printed in a few months (Sorry, this offer is only available in the US for now.)
  • Email to send the PDF when it’s available in May.
  • Whether your organization would prefer to remain anonymous.

There are only 10 offers available right now, so it’ll be on a first come, first serve basis. I’ll update this post as soon as I get signups in my inbox.

1: Children Youth and Family Collaborative – COVERED!
2: Derrick Thomas Academy – COVERED!
3: [Anonymous] – COVERED!
4: North Plainfield School District – COVERED!
5: Nacogdoches Public Library – COVERED!
6: Oklahoma City Public Library – COVERED!
7: Norman Public Library – COVERED!
8: Lab School – COVERED!
9: Highline High School – COVERED!
10: New Orleans Center for Creative Arts – COVERED!

Each of the next ten print+pdf preorders will cover the costs of producing and shipping a free bundle to each library, school or after school program. When a pre-order comes in, I’ll note the institution as “COVERED” in the list above.

Flying off the Shelves!

That is Happy Birthday, Robot! On an actual game store shelf! Not just any game store either, but Endgame, which consistently sets a high bar for what a game store can be. Now here’s the big news: All copies at Endgame sold out on the first day.

The proprietor, Chris Hanrahan, was kind enough to send along some info about the buyers.

– People buying it for there “as too young kids” so they could play it when they were older.

– People buying it because this was a “first in class type of game, and they wanted a copy of it.” (Meaning, they had never seen anything like it before, and wanted it in their collection.

– One person very specifically interested in taking it to use and advise other people who home school their kids. It sounds like he worked for some type of collective who researches this type of thing, and then shares the information with other homeschool teachers.

– People buying it as gifts for friends with kids.

– People with kids old enough to play it with,

It has HUGE wide appeal as you can see 🙂

Apparently so! 😀

Free Font: Marain Script

Here’s a new free font for you to install: Marain Script. It’s my first one! I’ll be using it in Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

I used a web service called Fontifier, so the quality works best at small sizes. At large sizes, you see the slight pixelated corners the web service creates. At small sizes, those pixelated corners just look like a grainy texture that fits an alphabet written by a brush. Hey, happy accidents!

The letterforms are based on the Marain alphabet, from Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels. In those novels, the spacefaring Culture use the Marain alphabet because each character is unique and can be read in any rotation. That seemed to make sense for use in Do, since the monks and pilgrims are not bound by gravity either.

» Download MarainScript.tff Creative Commons License
Marain Script by Daniel Solis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

» More about Marain
» More about the Culture novels
» More about Fontifier

[In the Lab] Belle of the Ball

The Belle invites you to attend a most festivitous, celebratious, ostentaneous party! All guests should be on their best behavior! Seriously. Behave. Belle of the Ball is a saucy Victorianic tile game. Invite guests to a grand party and score points by entertaining the Belle.

» Development Status: Definitely Alpha. See notes at bottom of post.

Stuff You Need
2-4 Players
Download and cut out these tiles and tokens.

You’ll also need a 7×7 grid like this (Click to embiggen):

Lastly, you’ll need a paper and pencil to keep track of each player’s current score.

The Guest Tiles
The Belle enjoys inviting both peasantry and nobility, delighting in the culture-clashing mayhem that ensues. Some guests are loud boors, others are known to get into fights, and more than a handful are known philanderers.

On each Guest tile, you’ll see the distinct family crest for the Goatsbury, Lordhurtz, Richminster, Dundifax, Boarbottom and Crawhole families. On the lower left or lower right, you’ll see symbols representing what that guest is doing at the party.
Flirt: Eat: Dance: Snub:

The Belles
There are five Belles, each with their own effects on how you play the game.

Lady Lara Lately’s Libatious Luncheon
If this is your first time playing, use Lady Lara as your Belle to learn the basic game.

Sally Swansea’s Saucy Soiree
On your turn, inviting a Guest with a [Flirt] earns you 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Flirt] earns +1 point.

Felicia Fawsley’s Felicitous Feast
Inviting a Guest with a [Eat] earns the player 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Eat] earns +1 point.

Ruby Rosen’s Receptious Riot
Inviting a Guest with a [Dance] earns the player 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Dance] earns +1 point.

Alexandra Avendale’s Aloof Affair
Inviting a Guest with a [Snub] earns the player 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Snub] earns +1 point.

How to Play
Set Up
Step 1: Choose a Belle to be in the center of the Ballroom. Each Belle favors different behaviors at her party. In play, this means some tiles will be worth more points than others and some slight tweaks to the rules may be enacted for this game. Set aside all other Belles for the rest of the game.

Step 2: Shuffle the Guest tiles and keep them face down. If you are playing with only two players, remove the tiles marked with a star at the bottom. If you are playing with three or four players, use the full deck. If you are playing with two players, the guest deck will have 36 tiles. With three or four players, the deck will have 66 tiles.

Step 3: Deal four tiles to each player. Do not reveal your tiles to the other players.

Turn Order
Play proceeds with each player taking a turn, starting with the youngest player and continuing clockwise around the table.

On your turn…
Step 1: Draw a Guest Tile from the deck.

Step 2: Inviting a Guest: Take a tile from your hand and put it on the board. Your tile must be next to another tile that is already on the board, either vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally. If you’re playing a two-player game, you may only place tiles in the lighter spaces of the ballroom. If you’re playing with three or four players, you can place the Belle on any space in the ballroom.

In this example, the green checks note places where you may legally place a tile on your turn in a two-player game. The purple checks note places where you may legally place a tile in a three- or four-player game.

Step 3: Score Points: If your Belle is Lady Lara, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you score points by inviting guests with symbols noted by your Belle.

For example, in Felicia Fawsley’s Felicitous Feast, you will gain one point whenever you invite a guest with [Eat].

Honored Guests
Throughout the game, you use the family tokens to keep track of Honored Guests of the ball. The Honored Guests are the smallest group of guests for each family. A group is comprised any tiles from the same family that are next to each other horizontally, vertically or diagonally. A group may be as small as one guest.
 Keep the family token on the smallest group of guests for that family.

For example, the Honored Goatsbury Guests are currently a group of three Goatsburys highlighted below:

You put down another Goatsbury on the board, completely separate from that group. That single tile is now the smallest Goatsbury group, so it is now the Honored Guest. Move the Goatsbury token to that tile.

If at some point this new group grows to three Goatsburys, they will still be the Honored Goatsbury Guests.

If the new group grows to four or more Goatsburys, then it is nor longer the smallest group on the board and the token would move back to that first group.

If this situation occurs and there are multiple groups that tie for being the smallest, then the current player chooses which group to Honor.

End of the Party
The game ends when the ballroom is full of guests.

Step 1: Determine each family’s point value: Each family is worth a different number of points, based on the number of Honored Guests from that family. For example, if the family has 1 Honored Guest, that family is worth 1 point. If the family has 2 Honored Guests, that family is worth 2 points, and so on.

Step 2: Reveal the tiles in your hand and score points for the Honored Guests if you have a tile of that family in your hand. If you have multiple tiles of the same family, score those Honored Guests again. 
In other words, you get points equal to the size of the smallest group multiplied by the number of matching tiles in your hand.

For example, the game has just ended. The players currently have these scores:

Player 1 has 3 points.
Player 2 has 2 points.
Player 3 has 4 points.
Player 4 has 4 points.

The board at the end of the game looks like this:

Boarbottom is worth 3 points, because it has three Honored Guests.
Lordhurtz is worth 1 point, because it has one Honored Guest.
Richminster is worth 3 points.
Dundifax is worth 1 point.
Crawhole is worth 2 points.
Goatsbury is worth 3 points.

Tallying up each player’s tiles and points:
Player 1 adds 8 points. New Total: 11
Player 2 adds 8 points. New Total: 10
Player 3 adds 8 points. New Total: 12
Player 4 adds 4 points. New Total: 8

Step 3: If your Belle is Lady Lara Lately, you can skip this step. Otherwise, your Belle makes some tiles more valuable.

For example, in Sally Swansea’s Saucy Soiree each Honored Guest with a [Flirt] is worth an additional point. Let’s look at the board again:

Boarbottom is worth +1 point, because one Honored Guest has a [Flirt] symbol.
Lordhurtz is worth +1.
Richminster is worth +1
Dundifax is worth +0.
Crawhole is worth +0.
Goatsbury is worth +1.

Player 1 adds 3 points. New total: 14
Player 2 adds 4 points. New total: 14
Player 3 adds 2 points. New total: 14
Player 4 has 1 points. New total: 9

So yes, all that rigamarole just to produce a three-way tie. I think adding one more card to each family will reduce the chances of this happening, though.

In the current distribution, no players had any Crawholes or Boarbottoms. That significantly reduced the chances of there being wider point spreads in the endgame.

I also think making the Belles more persnickety will help. Perhaps decoupling the in-play point scoring from the endgame point scoring. That seems less of an issue than the basic distribution of tiles, though.

The Big Announcement

Now that we’ve reached 100 backers, it’s time to lift the curtain on something we’ve had in the works. When this project first kicked off, Evil Hat Productions (www.evilhat.com) offered to sponsor whatever amount we fell short of our fundraising goal by. Thanks to your enthusiastic generosity, that just wasn’t necessary. But Evil Hat has stayed interested since that point, looking at ways we can work together to make sure Happy Birthday Robot reaches as many fans — and kids — as it possibly can.

Today, I can confirm that with Evil Hat’s help, Happy Birthday Robot’s first printing will run over 500 copies, making it possible for the game to have a broader reach — getting into game stores, schools, and libraries as well as direct to fans on the web. Once the book is released, copies will be available for purchase through Evil Hat and through Evil Hat’s distribution partners (Indie Press Revolution, Alliance, Esdevium, and others).

As far as branding goes, Happy Birthday Robot will still be under a “Smart Play Games” label. From one perspective, Evil Hat is stepping in as an “angel” partner, covering any remaining financial risk and making sure that the book stays in print. From another perspective, Smart Play Games is hiring Evil Hat to do the publication job, handling all that messy business stuff so I can focus on supporting the game and the fans.

So that’s the big surprise! Happy Birthday Robot will be on game store shelves, thanks to the help of Evil Hat Productions.

[In the Lab] X.O.K.O. – SageFight as a Scott Pilgrim LARP

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Huh. You know what? #SageFight could be an engine for a Scott Pilgrim LARP.less than a minute ago via Echofon

So yeah, about that…

Tentative Title: X.O.K.O.

Inspiration: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Premise: Epic love and silly fights among the youth of an unnamed city. Each player’s character is trying to be in a relationship with another character, but is thwarted by their exes. Each player is assigned to another player as their love interest. Each player also has two other players who are their exes. (So, in total, you have pre-existing relationships to three other players.) No one can fulfill their romantic ending until both people engage in two fights. (I’m sure I’m missing some serious bugs in the logistics of this relationship map.) If you have already done your fights, you can team up with your SO to complete their fights.

Situation: A big going-away party for a mutual friend. All the characters’ baggage and lingering history will be settled tonight. Other party guests who are not involved in the drama will serve as timekeepers and referees during the fights.

Names: In the spirit of “Knives Chow,” “Ramona Flowers,” and “Scott Pilgrim,” every character has name like that. Find random objects in your house, add a normal first name to that. Julia Pen, Graham Book, Quinn Cup, Emily Bat, Kevin Curtain, etc.

Structure: The game begins with a few minutes of free RP, but quickly the fights begin. A fight begins with one player calling out a character’s name and challenging them to a fight. (For example, “QUINN CUP! I CHALLENGE YOU TO A FIGHT!”) The challenged player responds by deciding the type of fight, of which there are several including Duel, Melee, Clan vs. Clan, etc. (For example, “I ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE, KEVIN CURTAIN! A DUEL!”)

One Fight at a Time: Only one fight happens at a time. When a fight is over, neither of those players may be called out until another pair have had a turn to fight.

Power-Ups: Somewhere in the middle of all this, it would be cool to introduce a number of meta-fight coupons like “GET A LIFE: Turn in this coupon to re-do a fight.” or “IN A MINUTE: Turn in this coupon to postpone a fight.” or “MY WAY: Turn in this coupon to set the terms of a fight when you challenge someone else.”

BOSS BATTLE: I love the idea of all this drama leading up to an epic boss battle of some kind, between all the players and a big baddie’s gang of minions. Dunno what those minions would be doing in the rest of the party though, so it might not work.

There are plenty of logistics to work out in general. As Graham notes below, when fights actually matter, the stakes are raised. However, I hope this is mitigated somewhat because everyone is trying to achieve their romantic ending by engaging in two fights. It’s simply getting into those two fights that matters, not necessarily winning them.

This is one of those odd projects because I’m not so much into LARPing, at least insofar as I’ve experienced the “LA” in boffer LARPs or the “RP” in Vampire LARPs. Boffer stuff feels so cumbersome. Speaking in-character is sooo awkward. (Again, these are all my own perspectives.) This comes close to a happy middle ground for me, at least in my head.

Sent these ideas to other people and they came back with a lot of good advice.

Quinn immediately tossed out a bunch of ideas:

–An achievement system (most duels, last one out, first one out, win a 2 versus 1)
–XP system (maybe just a ticket punch system for duels won, withe XP letting you purchase perks)
–perks sytem (modifiers to a combat, that let you alter the rules of a combat in some way)
–factions and faction goal system (a few sides to the conflict and allow players to chase overall goal to increase faction reputation)

And HM posted a TON of ideas on the official SageFight page. This one seems to have potential:

Ninja Vanish: pose — legs together, standing straight, arms down, wrists crossed in front of waist, head bowed; effect — you are invisible and cannot be touched. On the next ‘fight’ freeze, you may exit the scene without losing.

Graham cautioned about transitioning SageFight into a game where the stakes matter:

Who determines when a move has ended? Let’s say that I accuse you of moving, suddenly, after your move finished and tapping me on the back of the hand. You thought you were just completing your move. How do we resolve that?

What happens if I am very tall? Can I avoid fights simply by holding my hands in the air?

I run up to you when you’re having a conversation with someone else and tap you on the hand. Did you just lose a fight?
What happens if I am very tall? Can I avoid fights simply by holding my hands in the air?

I run up to you when you’re having a conversation with someone else and tap you on the hand. Did you just lose a fight?

These questions probably sound stupid, but that’s the problem: there’s a difference in perspective. When you make fights matter, either to a narrative or to a competitive player, the rules start to matter too.

Kevin advised stepping away from past LARP models:

LARPING in America has gone on undeveloped since people started doing it in the 70s. Seriously, there has been zero innovation. People are still using the first draft of thirty year old rules. It’s like the dark ages.

Europe did the opposite, it evolved the form so far that it’s another activity entirely, and now is unrecognizable from it’s origins. Just another beast entirely.

I think the less you avow yourself of those forms the better off you’ll be. And that’s not usually my advise to any creative, but in this case a knowledge vacuum might be helpful.

By contrast, Emily had recommended some references:

Neat! It seems like it would make a great mechanic. Esp. since it works for big groups, which can take a long time and be a hassle. Lisa Padol was involved with writing the Ghost Fu game. She’d be another good person to talk to about this.

Julia also suggested GhostFu: The Jade Emperor’s Celestial Tournament:

Check out some of the larp descriptions at Intercon this year. Movement, dance, singing, scavenger hunts, etc., are all possible in parlor larps. I’m working on a larp now about secret societies and cannibals that incorporates food (vegan meat substitutes dressed up as human meat and personalized fortune cookies) as part of the mechanics. Parlor larps are often mechanics light, and improv heavy. There are stricter ones, of course. I played in Vampire: The Requiem based larp that was not quite just the table top game with costumes, but it was close. It was successful if you liked the system, which ultimately I didn’t care much for, but I had fun until the system drove me nuts.

So yeah, this is a huge can of worms. 😛 For me, the toughest part of designing a tabletop RPG is the RP. I can handle the G pretty well, but it’s the fluffiness of RP that gets me every time. With LARP, it seems to be even MORE focused on that fluffy, ill-defined type of non-mechanized interaction.

Cover Concept 3

Click to embiggen.

Getting closer to the final cover design. I just haven’t settled on that back cover text. Am I selling the right things? Should I be highlighting other aspects of the game more prominently?