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FF Sparks (Casual)


My DSL went down yesterday. Speakeasy, Qwest and Covad are all at a loss as to /why/ my DSL is down, and are still looking into it. Also, apparently, sometime last night, Snafu went offline. I dialed in this morning, found that, and submitted a reboot request to ServerMatrix. The ServerMatrix folks rebooted snafu... which promptly locked up again. And since I'm stuck on dialup, I can't really do a lot to track this.


So, now on top of being mopey and brooding over recent family events, I get to be frustrated by a seeming curse of all technology around me. I want my server back. I want my DSL back. I want connectivity, so that I can do my work and so that I can be distracted. Being distracted is very, very important right now, or else I sink back into brooding and moping around. I was in a pretty bad place at one point the night before last, and while I put a shiny veneer on it and distracted myself for a fair chunk of the day, it lasted through most of yesterday.

On the plus side, I've worked out more of the setting, culture, and story of Slipstream, a world I've started to design in hopes of running an online tabletop campaign in. What I've learned is that the worlds where I try to contrive them, make them balanced, make them feel 'crafted'... my players are bored, and disinterested. A world like the Basin from Othernight, where I took several elements, came up with a broad worldview and fleshed it out as the players went along, letting their interests and actions determine what I added more details to... those, the players get really into. And I think it's because they're more organic, more 'alive' somehow. And the world for Slipstream is one of those where, like Othernight, I tossed a few ideas together and have come up with this sort of organic not-quite-fully-formed world, which I think I'll flesh out and add detail to during the campaign.

I gave kieri a bit of a spoiler/teaser of what the situation in that world is, what the political setup is and so on, and she's pretty psyched for it all to be ready. Which is neat, because it's the first of my campaigns since Othernight she's been this enthusiastic about. So, I'm gonna work a little on writing for that this evening.

I've also decided this time, I'll have a package of media -- songs I've selected as a 'soundtrack', maps of the world and of cities, drawings and images of the world in general -- when the campaign's really going. I'll have the media accessible online, I think, and also as a big downloadable image that the players can just install locally.


Sounds like cool stuff.

Top-down vs. Bottom-up

I switch between top-down and bottom-up design when I'm creating a fantasy world. On one hand, you need to do top-down design to make sure that certain thematic elements merge together neatly. On the other hand, the devil is in the details. Players are focused on things that are relevant to their play experience. Most players don't care about intricacies of the cosmology; they want to know what kind of characters they can play, where their characters grew up, and who their characters can meet. Bottom-up stuff. I find a nice blend of the two produces a fun game world.

Re: Top-down vs. Bottom-up

I try to run with a specific cosmology in mind, but I don't want the cosomology to end up being the center of the story. The PC's are the Heros - or at least, the main characters. Some kinds of literature are really about the ideas (Starship Troopers comes to mind), and the characters are just moving through them or doing exposition on them. Maybe that's OK for some books, but tabletop RP needs to be more focussed on the immediate cast.

At the same time, I like games that have an internally consistent logic, and that makes the players think. My favorite kind of game is one where the players (not the PCs, the people running them) are exposed to new ideas, or new ways of thinking... the old dungeon crawl doesn't amuse me as much anymore.

Therefore, I try to come up with themes that will be interesting to discover. The players sitting in Ye Old Dragonne's Breath Tavern probably won't suspect what's going on in the world at first, they may only discover bits and pieces of the theme over time... but if they pay attention, I want them to be able to see that there's something going on, and that there's a particular cosmology at work.

It's not easy to accomplish, but it addresses both the high and the low level needs of game design. I'll be testing this method in a hard-science space game that I'll be running soon. Hopefully, a good time will be had by all.

And if not? Well... 'Rocks fall, everybody dies.' [vbg]

If there's anything I can do to help, either technologically or emotionally, let me know.