David Artman

Descent 1E Condition Checker For Android

 Application, Design  Comments Off on Descent 1E Condition Checker For Android
Feb 212011
 

Motivation

Descent Condition Checker ScreenPlaying Descent: Journeys In The Dark (1E) can be an exercise in confusion, especially when one has several conditions in play, is a Necromancer, and is wandering through a trapped dungeon. My second app for Android, built using App Inventor, is designed to make such checks fast and error-free.

The Application

Here is a link to the APK file for the application:

Descent Condition Checker For Android

Descent Condition Checker QR Code

The Logic

The app is simple enough: click the condition button and it checks against one of three subroutines, as appropriate to the particular condition: rollBlank, rollSurge, or rollPowerEnh. Based on whether TRUE or FALSE is returned by the subroutine, a specific message is displayed in the results area at the top of the screen.

Problems

The following code is supposed to delay a bit and show some text after a button press, to confirm the press for the user:

Descent Code Block Problem

The RESULTS text change, however, does not work properly, no matter where I call for it (even if I make the text change its own procedure). I have to assume that this is a bug with App Inventor, because the exact same calls are used to make the results area change its text based on check results, as well as its background color (green for good-for-the-user results, red for bad-for-the-user results).

Credits

Descent: Journeys In The Dark is ™ and ©2011, Fantasy Flight Games, all rights reserved.

Descent Condition Checker For Android app is ©2011, David Carle Artman, CC-BY NC 3.0.

IAWA Oracles For Android

 Application, Design  Comments Off on IAWA Oracles For Android
Jan 312011
 

Motivation

IAWA Oracles ScreenI decided to try out Google App Inventor, being invited to the Beta. I wanted a simple enough project to get a feel for the process without becoming bogged down in complex logic or user interface (UI) design. It occurred to me that a random Oracle generator for the In A Wicked Age role-playing game by Vincent Baker would be interesting enough and maybe even useful to others.

The Application

Here is a link to the APK file for the application:

IAWA Oracles For Android

IAWA Oracles QR Code

The Logic

App Inventor uses OpenBlocks as a visual programming environment. Very cool for beginners, but also very mouse-intensive when one has repetitious tasks (like pasting in 208 lines of text!)—I’d have liked to be able to edit a TXT or XML file to populate the Oracles lists.

Here is an image of the basic logic for the Blood And Sex Oracles button:

IAWA Oracles Logic Blocks

Nothing too fancy going on here:

  1. Copy the set-specific list to the OraclesCurrent temporary list.
  2. Call the generic procedure that populates the Oracle labels:
    1. Populate the first Oracle label element’s Text with a random Oracle from the list.
    2. Set the second label’s text to the same value as the first.
    3. While the second is the same as the first, populate the second with a random Oracle from the list.
    4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for the remaining two label elements, checking them against all preceding labels.
      Put another way, an Oracle label element can not contain the same Oracle text that is currently in any preceding label element.

The rest of the app is a simple UI of buttons for choosing an Oracle set (the BloodAndSex.Click event in the logic shown) and, of course, four global list variables (one-dimensional arrays) to hold the Oracle-set-specific text (the OraclesBloodAndSex in the logic shown).

Credits

In A Wicked Age is ©2007, Vincent Baker, all rights reserved.

IAWA Oracles For Android app is ©2011, David Carle Artman, CC-BY NC 3.0.

Facebook Events In Google Calendar

 Technology, Writing  Comments Off on Facebook Events In Google Calendar
Jan 202011
 
Google Calendar - Other calendars panel

Google Calendar - Other calendars panel

Folks who know me know I’m irritated by Facebook closing the native interfaces to Google apps (specifically Calendar on Android). Turns out, there’s Another Way:

  1. Go to any Event that you are Attending.
  2. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.
  3. Click Export.
    A pop-up will offer you two options for that single Event: Download or email.
    It also shows a link under “Export all of your upcoming events.”
  4. Highlight that link and copy it (or right-click it and choose Copy link location).
  5. Open Google Calendar in your web browser.
  6. Under “Other calendars,” click Add > Add by URL.
  7. Paste the Facebook URL into the pop-up’s URL field.
    Note: You probably do not want to check the checkbox to make it public.
  8. Click Add Calendar and then wait a moment. A “Firstname Lastname ‘s Facebook” calendar should appear on your “Other calendars” list.
  9. Sync with your Android device or other Google Calendars client and enjoy!

FREEDOM!!!

Food Bank Coordination

 Application, Design  Comments Off on Food Bank Coordination
Jan 072011
 

Challenge

Municipal food banks depend upon food donations to serve the hungry. Coordinating donors with bank locations becomes a logistical challenge:

  • Picking up donations in a timely manner, without disrupting donor business
  • Distributing donations to banks that need them most
  • Accounting for the storage space of banks
  • Transferring food between banks, if actual numbers do not align with projected needs

Use Cases

A donor registers what they have to donate on a Google map, and chooses a range of pickup time (e.g. a restaurant will usually want it to be between 2pm and 4pm; a grocery store might prefer 10pm to 2am). Options to schedule recurring pickup days, dates, and times.

A recipient registers current stock (one-time, upon setup), storage maximums by volume or weight or other? (one-time, upon setup; and if storage increased), pickup minimums by volume or weight (below which it’s not worth the bank’s costs to pick-up; adjustable as needs change), and projected need (daily, weekly; based on history, once sufficient data is accumulated).

A bank’s delivery drivers are given a “traveling salesman” shortest route to pickup donations equivalent to the bank’s projected need. When they commit to the route, those donations are not made available to other banks unless released later by the receiving bank (to be re-distributed where most needed).

Architecture

Initial setup form, as donor only or recipient/donor.

Site (donor or bank) location definition, via manual text entry, push-pin on Google map, or GPS.

Secure verification of valid bank via server check against state or municipal registries.

User deletion of “bad” donor locations -OR- “bad” donor location reporting and server-side banning.

Multiple location support, for owners of several donor businesses or managers of multiple food banks.

Route navigation interface, once a bank’s delivery drivers commit to best-route pick-ups.

Option to use less efficient routing, if necessary to deliver more balanced meals at a given bank or system-wide.

Historical data storage, server-side or locally, for need projection for a given distribution period (day, week, month?).

Optional automatic application of need projections based on historical data, with ability to adjust before submitting to server for distribution.

Costs

Application development and maintenance – Open source community? Grants?

Validation of food banks against municipal or state charters – Possibly manual labor; possibly automatic with connection to government systems.

Server-side data accumulation and re-distribution to apps – Possibly a function of a public Google map; more likely hosted via grant or by government servers.

License

Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SAThis work is distributed by David Carle Artman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Jan 272010
 

Penalty Pool is a billiards game with a twist: players do not accumulate points for making shots, but rather they try to avoid accumulating penalty points for missing shots and for fouls.

Objective

Be the player to accumulate the fewest penalty points during a match comprised of a predetermined number of games (usually three).

Setup

Position fifteen object balls at every intersection of imaginary lines drawn between opposite spots, excluding the three intersections at the head and foot of the table.

Penalty Pool Setup

Determine who will shoot first; that player takes the cue ball in hand and may place it anywhere on the table to begin play.

Rules Of Play

On every shot attempt, the shooting player must:

  • hit any object ball,
  • pocket any object ball,
  • avoid hitting any rail with the cue ball, and
  • avoid hitting any other ball with the cue ball.

Failure to accomplish the above shot requirements results in one or more fouls, with associated penalty points accrued by the offending player:

  • Miss all object balls = 3 penalty points and end of turn.
  • Fail to pocket any object ball = 1 penalty point and end of turn.
  • Hit a rail with the cue ball = 1 penalty point per rail hit (does not end turn).
  • Hit any other ball with the cue ball = 3 penalty points per ball hit (does not end turn).

Score penalty points as they occur. It is possible to commit multiple fouls on a single shot, accumulating penalty points for each foul. For example, if a player failed to pocket a ball, hit a rail with the cue ball, and also hit another ball then he or she would accumulate (1 + 1 + 3) 5 penalty points and his or her turn would end. Had the player pocketed a ball, however, he or she would only have accumulated 4 penalty points and would be able to continue shooting.

The player that pockets the final ball on the table reduces his or her penalty points score by 5 penalty points and is awarded 1 game point. All fifteen object balls are repositioned according to the setup diagram above, and that player’s turn ends.

The cue ball is not repositioned unless it would be touching or overlapping an object ball after setup; in that case, the next player takes the cue ball in hand and may place it anywhere on the table to resume play.

At the conclusion of the predetermined number of games, players compare penalty points. The player with the fewest penalty points is the winner; if the penalty points scores are tied, then the player with the most game points is the winner.

Strategy

Penalty Pool encourages a soft touch, spin control, and careful risk/reward management. Early in a game, it is of primary importance to pocket a ball and avoid penalty points. Late in a game, one may risk accumulating penalty points in the hopes of pocketing the remainder of the balls and reducing one’s penalty points by five. Accumulating penalty points, in general, takes the pressure to avoid fouls off of one’s opponent, which can easily give him or her the latitude to pocket all of the remaining balls.

Aug 122009
 

Basic Mechanic

In any given conflict–be it over a particular exchange of blow in a melee or an extended exchange of dialog resulting in a social skill check–each participating player reveals one of his or her Uno cards. Highest card wins; ties are broken by color, with the winner being the most appropriate narration of the color in use (color ties are actual ties: stalemate… for now!).

Color Designations

Each of the four colors of Uno cards is associated with a particular set or class of capabilities, as appropriate to the LARP genre. For example, a spy game might use these associations:

Blue
Coolness; useful when the situation favors a poker face, steady hands, or nerves of steel.
Green
Wealth; useful when the situation is best handled by greasing palms or being best dressed.
Red
Fury; useful when the situation is best handled with violence, scathing words, or sheer stubbornness.
Yellow
Caution; useful when the situation favors the soft pedal approach, discretion, sneakiness, or fleeing in terror.

Winners and Losers

The winner of an exchange trades cards with the loser. In the case of multiple participating players, the cards are rotated in a highest-to-lowest manner; for example:

  • Player A won outright, with an 8. Player B got middle ground, with a 6. Player C lost outright, with a 2.
  • Player A gives his or her card to Player B. Player B gives his or her card to Player C. Player C gives his or her card to Player A.
  • As a result, the winner gets the worst card, the loser gets the next best card, and the middle ground gets the best card.

Character Creation

The fundamental system for creating a character involves distributing cards of color and value appropriate to the character concept and build. The specifics exceed the scope of this basic system idea, but one could design a game such that descriptive “Traits” grant a set of cards; or perhaps limited-use “Powers” could allow for adjusting a card value or color upon reveal. For example, a spy game might have these “Traits” with the associated “Points Costs”:

Martial Artist
Red 5, 7, 9. Blue 6. (28 Points)
High Society
Green 6, 8. Yellow 7. (21 Points)
Thug
Red 4, 6. Yellow 7, 9. (26 Points)

Note: Whether or not a game uses Traits or Powers (or Points Cost for custom building characters), all characters must be created with an equal number of cards, so that the zero-sum card-exchange process results in someone always having the same number of cards to reveal and exchange.

National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To NPCs

 Fiction, Writing  Comments Off on National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To NPCs
May 012009
 

What if the NPCs that gamers so wantonly destroy got organized…?


I was a wreck, a shambles… nerves shot, I tell ya! Without the kind ministry of the NSPCNPC, I couldn’t even tell you this horror story without a belly full of the hard stuff and a half yard of linen for snottin’ on.

Me and me lads were just having a piss-up ’round the pub, when in walks this weird group of richies and their hulking bodyguard. Never seen such armor and fine, shining steel. –And who wears armor to the pub, anyway? But I digress….

So’s anyway, the tart of the group–a fine-enough looking wench dressed like she’s planning to work upstairs at the Speckled Hen, if ya ken–sidles up and asks me and the lads if we’d like a bit of work for a few days. Yeah, right, we’ll “work” for ya–nudge, nudge. The bodyguard didn’t much take to our little jokes, and we were about to tell ’em all to sod off, but this skinny, shifty-eyed bloke in the group drops a heavy looking sack of dosh onna table and tells us to be ready to leave at dawn. Fair enough–we could drink until dawn, easily; done it most week’s ends.

And so it’s now dawn, we’re a bit the worse for drink but can still shift the packs we’re given to haul, and the group leads us up into the hills. And then into a bloody cave–no, really, they did, I’m not takin’ the piss! We din’ even know there was caves in the hills, ’cause most good folk know better than to muck about up there, what with the wolves and bears and such. But, hey, we’d drank half our pay already, so it wasn’t like we could pay these barmy blokes back and leave! And the bodyguard woulda likely skewered us on his improbably sized sword, if’n we’d just tried runnin’ off. SO… Some torches, a bit of roping together, and we become speelunkers.

That when the first horror struck–some fell beast or such, like we’d never seen… and poor Barney–the fella with the big jowls and rheumy eyes that used to live over west?–that’s when he was took. Split right in two, like a sausage for pan-frying, and there’s blood all over everyfing. I was set for quittin’ right then, but the beady-eyed bastard what paid us starts waving around a nasty little pig-sticker, and it seems we’re in for the long haul. But, hey, at least our shares in the pay had just gone up! Gotta find the silver lining, not to pun ya.

It never got any better after that, though. Freddie the Fisher was told to open an odd-looking door–don’t ask me why there’s a bloody fooking DOOR in some old caves!–and he lets out this sort of soft sigh and just slumps to the ground, deader’n last years Christmas goose. Turns out some right bastard had hid some kinda thorn or some-such, with a narsty poison onnit, behind the door pull… and it was Freddie’s day in the barrel, like they say.

Should I go on to recount, in gory detail, how Stew was disemboweled by some kinda bear with the head of a fookin’ BIRD? Or how Little Mark was made to lead the way down a corridor and got pin-cushioned by bleedin’ arrows flying outta the damned WALLS?! Or Frank from Bogend being crushed under a cave-in when he was told to poke and prod at some squiggle-marked wall with a stave?

I still hear their screams, though I can at least sleep through the night, now, thanks to the NSPCNPC. But I don’t think I’ll EVER get over the fact that the bastard “adventurers” raked in a haul of lucre enough to feed a family of ten for 50 years, were lauded as heroes by the smallfolk back in town, and ended up shagging every virgin left in the county! It’s a bad world, I reckon; and the worser the crew, the better their lot. Here we’d lost six of our stoutest lads–all with families to feed and plots to work–and I’d’ve been left in that pit with them if I hadn’t been just a wee bit lighter on my feet than Little Mark. Want to see my “share” of the take…? Here, take a long look at the right arm I ain’t got anymore!

It could happen to you. Support the NSPCNPC.


I am known as Hallal, The All-Devourer! [not real name] Kneel before me and beg that I might merely make you a slave!

Before the NSPCNPC, my glorious fortress was incessantly broken into, pillaged, and sometimes even woefully damaged by thrill-seeking, greedy miscreants! Swine in clattering armor and crackling robes! Sure, some would profess being begged to assault my property and person because of… minor disagreements with some of my neighbors in the village in the vale. But who are these foreigners to dictate terms to Hallal?!? Who are they to meddle in mere internal politics and issues of proper sacrifice schedules, availability of virgins, and eminent domain?

Well, as it turns out, they’re foreigners with extensive resources, rather advanced educations, and apparently some contacts with deities. Err, that is, deities LESSER THAN I, THE ALL-DEVOURER!!!

And, so, unbelievable as it may seem, I was made to suffer discorporation and the painful and time-consuming degradation of finding a new vic–um, assistant–to enjoy the hospitality of their mortal form. I treat such host forms quite well–after all, su casa me casa, no?–and I even entertain petitions from what’s left of their minds, every fourth full moon. It’s an amenable relationship to all concerned: I live, they don’t get devoured.

Then I must make my way back to my desmense, COMPLETELY restaff, effect repairs to my walls and internal security measures… the costs are atrocious, and an All-Devourer KNOWS what that word means. Just for another pack of interlopers to muck it all up again!

But all that ended when I joined the NSPCNPC. Their attorneys have issued restraining orders on the local villagers and sued the village’s mayor for slander and libel, which provided me with a timely leg-up on expanding my labor base to better-patrol the grounds surrounding my fell keep. And should yet-another wayward party of murderous ideologues come around, the NSPCNPC provides temp solutions for a variety of pest-repellent professions.

My home has never been safer, nor more peaceful. Well… for me, that is. You, not so much….

“LitRPG” – Game Text As Literature

 Criticism, RPG  Comments Off on “LitRPG” – Game Text As Literature
Jan 072009
 

From a post at Story-Games.com


David Artman  Jan 7th 2009 edited
First, thanks for backing off terms… so let’s back off “what is art” as that’s never been answered by even Rhodes Scholars. 😉

Posted By: TomasHVM– And let us discuss how the games-format may influence the reading.

  • What kind of qualities are present in a game-text, and in the reading of it, that makes it a strong communication device?
  • How can we make really readable game-texts?

NOW, we’re cooking with gas: something we can attempt to enumerate, techniques of writing and what they accomplish. *puts on dusty old Lit Crit hat and robes*

OK, one thing RPG manuals tend to have is a structure which is influenced by the procedural nature of play: when do you do what and why and what’s next? Other than technical manuals (in all their forms, from “How To” books to IT manuals), no other “genre” of writing does that. What does that buy us? I’d say it brings a sort of formalism and pacing: aside from authorial voice and varied diction, they are going to give a sort of “march” feel to the work. Maybe even meditative, as the pace is felt and matched by the reader.

They also tend to present information in referential manners, be they summaries of procedures, or just your typical charts and graphs of laundry lists of shit. This referential format strips out every nuance, dictional curlicue, and “voice” to present the bare facts. In that way, they can be like the “HALT!” shouted by a drill sergeant, to continue to (ab)use my marching metaphor–the cadence breaks as we rattle off a list of terms or numbers or both, like presenting arms. Compare that to, say, those statistics list one reads that convey a message, e.g. (stats not real, but close):
* Billions spent on heart disease research in 2007: 45
* Number of American death from heart disease in 2007: 500,000
* Billions spent fighting terrorism in 2007: 300
* Number of American deaths from terrorism in 2007: 16

The point is made crystal clear (above: our government spending priorities are FUCKED), but with nary a jot of expression or style. Editorialized by the timing and choice of what is listed, not by the tone or mood conveyed in the writing of the list.

I’ll stop there, for now, to see if I’m spring-boarding the right way (or hieing off into the trees). For obvious reason, I won’t bother to address “game fiction” or “setting fiction” at this point, as it uses all the same devices of a novel or short story, and that’s of minimal interest to me (mainly because there’s already a HUGE body of work that addresses how to do those forms). Readability, I’d say, falls into the same camp: a readable game text has the same qualities as a readable magazine article, novel, or biography. Clarity, diction, etc (or the opposite, if you’re going all deconstructive on us). Become a decent writer–poetry, prose, manuals, whatever–and you will be a good game writer.

– And measured against “ordinary” literature:

  • Is it possible that a games-format is a stronger read than say; a novel, in certain aspects?
  • Could a book of game-texts be as good a read as any collection of short stories?

Stronger? hard to say–what’s the point, what’s the theme, what’s the message? Every format suits some deliveries more than others. I want to woo a woman, a poem is going to go better than an 800-page novel. I want to explore a nuanced and complex theme, through the agency of several interrelated characters? I’m at the least going novella.

As for the second question, I’m going to go cheap and just say, “Sure.” Particularly with game text of the type you’re most suggesting: the RPG Poems With A Message. Time and tastes play a big part in that, though: a book of fan fic shorts about Star Wars will probably bore me FAR more than some witty, thought-provoking, or saddening RPG Poems that hit me square between the eyes with issues current and near and dear to me.

So, really, the better (or more interesting to me) question is what things can RPG Poems do BETTER than existing formats; and I believe I begin to explore that above, by unpacking a bit what an RPG format is and what that does to the reader’s expectations and reading behavior. And, as I said above, I’d like to be sure we want to go there before I do that heavy lifting–being a game writer AND editor AND technical writer, I can go into a fair bit of depth about atonality, neutral (AKA common) diction, procedural presentation and structure, projecting attitudes, and “writing between the lines.” Hell, you’d be amazed at the sort of shit a Major Corporation has me do, to “write around” flaws of design without admitting them–that’s, basically, the exact tack, flipped, that Somalian Children takes.

(Sorry so long, but that’s what you get for intriguing me.)
[edited for clarity and corrections]

TomasHVM  Jan 7th 2009 edited

First out: David; this is pure gold to me! Really interesting discussion of the topic. Your thoughts on “the procedural nature of play” is good!
This is really good: This referential format strips out every nuance, dictional curlicue, and “voice” to present the bare facts. I see what you are aiming at here, and it tingles my brain! I would very much like to read your thoughts on atonality, neutral diction, procedural presentation and structure, projecting attitudes, and “writing between the lines.” ALL of it, and more, if you would … please!

David Artman  Jan 8th 2009

Shit, I had to offer. KINDA busy, today, but I’ll get us started.

Baseline writing and what’s left unsaid

So I’m going to write a “LitRPG” (I need a shorthand). I can approach it like Somalian Children, with an essentially neutral tone–no rants, reads like a tech manual–and let its very starkness carry my meaning. Here’s a chart, roll your d10s, consult the chart to see your fate. BUT, if you know anything about math, you see that you’ve got a 1:1000 chance of surviving–that’s not said in the text, that’s left for you to realize. And the realization of the unsaid carries the message and theme and impact. Now you can re-read and the whole tone is changed; the cynicism just drips off the page. HOW? The text hasn’t changed. The tone is still there, sill consistent and neutral. But now, having “got it,” you can imagine the author staring balefully at you, accusingly, his voice so flat he sounds like the dead. Becasue isn’t that the REAL point: what have YOU done to help these poor children? Isn’t that the takeaway message, the unsaid?

Projecting attitude

That neutral tone, however, needn’t be the whole bag… in fact, more and more “RPG texts” are conveying a strong authorial diction and style, moving away from (and even mocking) the neutral tone of a tech manual. So our LitRPG can take that tack, and present a seeming “game,” but with an editorialized voice that shows it’s clearly not meant to be played and, rather, is meant to carry a message or cause a change of thought. I’ll bring up HoL, here, as an easy and obvious example of this (IMO). Yeah, sure, the game is somewhat playable, with a lot of rule repair and addition (or a freeform-loving play group), but it’s REALLY suppose to be a screed. It’s a punk zine disguised as a game which (it seems) takes the piss out of all the “structure” of gaming–could they be one of the first “system doesn’t matter” writers? Are they trying to say, “look, just have fun and fuck the details,” or are they actually MOCKING those gamers or that gaming culture which get so buried in stat and crunch that they get twenty minutes of WOW for every four hours of play? (Sound familiar? HoL authors as first Forrgites?!?) Or am I bringing my own experiences into the mix; am *I* the one projecting meaning and attitude onto the book? For the record, I’d say no in this case: I read HoL when it came out, WAY before exposure to all this theory, and I still saw it as taking the piss out of many contemporary RPG systems. But another LitRPG could well work with ambiguity, leaving each reader to project onto it their own interpretation and intent, just as much poetry does.

Atonality

So above we have the two poles of a tonal continuum: writing between the lines and bitch-slapping with editorializing. But there’s a third path, an orthogonal axis: one can use shifts in tone in a LitRPG to really hammer a point. If I have you lulled into the meditative march of neutral tone procedural writing and then, WHAM, start off on a screed about how this fucking chart is WORTHLESS if you don’t have a heart to care about the children, you fucking DICK!

Well, you sort of snap to attention, no? Where did all THAT come from, what did I just miss? Is this guy schitzo? Etcetera. You, as a reader, have to engage different mental gears to address this shift in tone… and then engage still more when I drop back into a staid and steady, neutral tone again. Done poorly, this atonality will seem like Tourette’s Syndrome (just as bad atonal music sounds like folks in different rooms, tuning up or adjusting their synthesizers). Done properly, it can underscore the moments of consistency AND convey a message, via contrasting tone, with the moments of insanity (just as the completion of an atonal music progression can make all the disjointed notes attain a sort of “metaharmony”).

Structure

This one is the big one, because for all the talk of tone, it’s the order of presentation which carries at least half the weight. In a typical RPG, we often see a color piece, to establish the mood of play for the game, followed quickly by a series of definitional sections, so that one isn’t totally lost as to what to do when the procedural stuff starts using the game jargon. Suppose that was tossed out the door? Suppose an RPG was written like A Clockwork Orange, with immediate total immersion in a nearly thoroughly different language? What is said, by that? One has to read it twice, just to get the sense–or jump to the glossary in the back of some editions, to try to get a baseline. A LitRPG can do the same thing, by eschewing the standard structure of a typical RPG.

But what is said by FOLLOWING the typical RPG structure: intro, define terms, establish character, present procedures of play, flesh out setting (again, fiction or reference material or monster lists or whatever). That goes back to tone and diction: is it homage or satire? Or is the fact that it’s hard to answer that question part of the exploration of the LitRPG?

Or, rather than eliminating common structure or following it to convey additional meaning, what about a disjointed structure? Cart before the horse stuff–all the procedures of play presented before you even know if you are a character or in author stance or what; absolutely no information about setting in the presentation of what is clearly NOT a generic system? Can a LtRPG carry surprises, nestled in the sequence of presentation, just like a novel can use flashback to clarify what was, prior to the flash, a very ambiguous or downright confusing scene? What is meant when such structure conventions are violated? A whole branch of “LitRPG Theory” can grow out of just the considerations of structure and how it informs the piece, just has been done with conventional (and, moreso, experimental) literature.

David Artman  Jan 8th 2009

(Damn, a BIT too long….)

Anyhow, just another nudge–that’s why it’s mostly questions and not a list of rules. There’s more LitCrit tools we can bring to bear, as either measures of a LitRPG’s merits or as guides to creating an effective one (I prefer the latter, but that’s also the only reason I studied LitCrit: to be a better writer, NOT a good critic).

David Artman  Jan 8th 2009

One more note on atonality, in conventional RPG (meaning non-LitRPGs):

We game designers use atonality all the time, but it’s to reinforce STRUCTURE, not theme or intent.

There is the cold and clear, neutral tone of a process or rule statement, highlighting its importance or canonical nature.
Then you get the more authorial and looser sort of writing which is, like, in sidebars or advice chunks or those little “talking head’ icons folks use to say, “Hey, now I’m just talking to you, to let you know what’s going on under the hood here.”
And, yeah verily, there be in-fiction tones that put thee into a mind to portray the shining heroes and scurrilous villains in a way which is meet.

See there? Three tones, each with a functional role in the text, but none of which is intended to layer on nuance of the overall book’s INTENT… because it’s only real “intent” is to teach you to play a game the way the author envisioned it. EVEN IF proper gameplay enables the underlying intent of a game to educate or inspire (think Grey Ranks, here).

But using atonality in a LitRPG would (should? could?) drive at the message, at the theme, at the takeaway of reading the text itself, without ever engaging in whatever “rules” or “procedures” are presented as carriers for that message.

OK, ’nuff for now. Your volley….

TomasHVM  Jan 8th 2009 edited

Baseline writing and what’s left unsaid

Posted By: David Artmanyou’ve got a 1:1000 chance of surviving–that’s not said in the text, that’s left for you to realize. And the realization of the unsaid carries the message and theme and impact.

Clear point, and very good!

I love the idea of readers discovering such content in the text, due to the instructive format. to have a table convey the central point, like in Somalian Children, is something I find very intriguing.

Projecting attitude

Posted By: David Artmanan editorialized voice that shows it’s clearly not meant to be played and, rather, is meant to carry a message or cause a change of thought.

An alternative, yes. Texts with attitude is nothing strange to ordinary literature either, of course.

To write games that are spitting at you, or teasing you to try them, or plainly have a laid-back stance to both you and itself … it is an idea that carries lots of opportunities.

Atonality

Posted By: David ArtmanDone properly, it can underscore the moments of consistency AND convey a message, via contrasting tone, with the moments of insanity

I like this. It could be very effective in a text dominated by the neutral tone of rules.

As a game text is ordinarily broken up in more or less stand-alone elements, there is no saying how far you can go with this, both in the deconstructive and constructive way …

Structure

Posted By: David ArtmanCan a LtRPG carry surprises, nestled in the sequence of presentation, just like a novel can use flashback to clarify what was, prior to the flash, a very ambiguous or downright confusing scene?

I do think so! To play around with the structure in such a text can dig up many hidden effects, I think.

I really love the idea of going for instructions “in medias res”, and then informing about what this is all about. There is vast fields for fruitful misinterpretations here! I love misguided players!

David, I believe you have made a nice overview of the main elements at play in a literary game text. And you have made some very nice and thought-provoking speculations on what kind of tools and effects to be had for the avid writer.

Thanks to your analysis I now feel even more fired up on this idea! A thousand thanks to you for making the effort!

Mind you: I am not equaling this kind of game-texts with role-playing poems. The poems are made to be played. As such they are both interesting in themselves, with their narrow timeframe, and interesting as tools for research by designers. Writing role-playing poems are a great way for designers to test specific game-tools, and a great way for them to test how their writing in general translates into games.