games I run

Noir World, An Update

I’m going to start blogging in 2015 by talking about something I’m really proud of and motivated by. I want to share some parts of Noir World with you. Noir World is a game I’m making. It’s always been a thing I’ve wanted to do, get my name on the cover as a creator, not just the editor or contributor. I really doubted my ability to do it until I started writing draft after draft, and now forty-something drafts in, I’m very proud to call this project my own. The fact that every idea on the page is what I’d want a game to tell me, and it’s told how I’d want to explain it to someone is a very sweet cherry on this sundae.

So here’s a quick Noir World Q&A

What is Noir World?

Noir World is an Apocalypse World hack, where people play characters (called Roles) based on film noir tropes and staples to tell stories of crime, passion, regret, tragedy and violence. It’s a game of high interaction, simple mechanics and collaborative storytelling for 3 to 8 players.

What kind of characters can someone play?

As of this morning, there are over two dozen possible Roles, and the book by default includes the basic six – The Good Cop, The Cop On The Take, The Private Eye, The Fatale, The Mook and The War Vet. What will likely be a stretch goal are other Roles like The Politician, The Girl Friday, The Gambler and The Socialite. Two Roles, The Vigilante and The Ripper, aren’t true noir, but they’re really fun takes on Batman and the Joker. Because seriously, how could I pass up the chance to do my own spin on Batman and the Joker?

I barely know anything about film noir. Does this mean I can’t play?

Anyone can play this game. One of the big important elements I wanted to do when I made my own game was the idea that you didn’t need to have a very deep or very specific knowledge. A lot of games seem to have two “depths” – you can be new and play the game and have a pretty good time, but to get full enjoyment out of it, you need to have some great amount of experience or awareness. I wanted to avoid that.

What are some things you can tell me about the game?

It’s set in The City, which is a City the players design but the vibe is anywhere from a movie version of an existing city all the way to the gothic sort of Gotham in the animated Batman series. You’re not limited to the 1930s through the 1950s, you can easily make this modern just by saying it’s modern. (This way you can get in your Andersen, Fincher, Mann, Taratino,  and Scorsese stories too.) Players build The City on their own, naming different Locations and the People who occupy them. Maybe you make Joe’s Diner where the coffee is lousy but everyone goes there anyway, because Joe’s secretly running a casino in the back if you know the password. Maybe you make An Empty Lot Near The Train Station where everyone dumps bodies and doesn’t think twice about it. The City is entirely up to the players.

Unlike other games where you have a GM, or someone who sits at the head of the table and tells you what’s going on so you just react, that job rotates around the table, so that everyone has the ability to contribute to the story both as a Role and as Director (in charge of the stuff the Roles aren’t). Since the story you’re telling is generated at the start of play, the story gets told from a variety of perspectives and no one gets left out. That was another big concept for me – I’ve played a lot of games where a few people seem to be doing everything and many of us are just sort squeezed into the peripherary or just waiting until we can do something. Avoiding that and getting everyone a chance to tell the story they want was one of the reasons it’s taken so many drafts to come this far. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I’m at a point now where I can say this game shares the spotlight pretty well.

The game hinges on complicated relationships that the players develop between themselves. Maybe you’re playing a Cop On The Take who’s been bribing a Citizen to stay quiet about something they saw you do while your partner The Good Cop has been trying to reform The Fatale as the Fatale’s ex-love interest The Reporter is desperate for the Good Cop to notice how he’d be a better choice for romance. Or maybe you’ve just convinced your best friend who just got back from the War to earn a little money on the side with you by ripping off a Mobster. Each Role has tons of possible Hooks to connect their awfulness to other peoples’ lives. By the time play starts, everyone’s mixed up with each other and anything could set it off … say a Crime.

But John, film noir is really gross and problematic. It has all this sexism and homophobia and racism and other stuff that’s a problem. Why should I play a game with that stuff in it?

You’ve found my biggest concern (no not just that you used “gross” and “problematic” in the same sentence and expect me not to make a face). Film noir and its genealogy out of hard-boiled fiction does have its problems when we apply what we feel and believe today to what they wrote. Yes. absolutely, there’s not a lot of LGBTQ or modern progressive thinking. And I’m not discounting any of that, because it’s relevant and important in what’s going on all around us. I don’t own a time machine, I can’t go back and change what they wrote 60+ years ago, all I can do is go forward and make sure that the focus of my game isn’t on perpetuating the -isms and phobias.

So, for example, all the Roles can be played by any player, regardless of race, gender, orientation, identification or other factor. And the relationships between Roles does not have to be heterosexual. (In fact, all the games so far have included some element of not-straight-white-dude-ness ranging from angry lesbian bank robbers to genderfluid war veterans and an incredibly complicated poly relationship built on crimes and lies.) Just because the game is built on a specific point of view and social context doesn’t mean we have to reinforce it. Anyone can play this game anyway they want.

When is it going to be done?

It’ll be done when it’s done, but I’m really feeling like 2015 will be the year it gets made into a book with art and printing and everything. At least, that’s my goal. I’m pretty well on track, I think. Everything I can think of it needing as foundation is done, then I shall hand it off to an editor or two and then get some nice layout and art done. After that, it’ll go to crowdfunding. I’m right now trying hard to not freak myself out about those things (it’s always easier when the project isn’t your own, right?), so I’m focused on getting the text out of my head and onto paper and playing it more to see how it works. But I’m doing work on it practically every night (it and Minecraft have become my two stress relievers after work), so there’s always progress.

Where can I get more information?

You can follow me on twitter (@awesome_john) and you can follow the game on twitter (@noirworldrpg).

I want to play! Where can I do that?

I’ll be at Dreamation on February 19 – February 22** in Morristown NJ running the game several times and I’d like to run it at GenCon this summer. Beyond that, I don’t have anything concrete scheduled, but it’s not hard to find me on twitter and ask to set something up. Yes, it can be played online too, so it’s great for Google Hangouts.

**bonus points if you wish me a happy anniversary that weekend. Double bonus points if you also mock Canada.

Thanks for giving me a few minutes to tell you about how things are going. I hope you’re writing and creating and doing well.

Posted by johnadamus in games I play, games I run, noirworld, 0 comments

My GenCon 2014 Schedule

August 14-17 fast approaches, which means that it’s time to put my GenCon schedule for 2014. It’s a great schedule this year, I’m doing a lot of stuff, and thankfully do most of it in the same room, so there’s little risk of me getting totally lost (as I did last year and was late to my own panel). I should point out that this is the first year my panels are listed under “Indie Game Developers Network” (of which I am a member) as part of the over 100 events the Network is running this year. So let’s get into it.


WHY DO YOU HATE YOUR READERS? ( Thursday 3p-4p Crowne Plaza: Hay Market B)

I’m spending 60 minutes explaining what it means to hate your reader (read: make it hard for people to read/understand/like/follow what you’ve written), and how to fix it. Examples will be provided, both good and bad. (Hint: I’m citing myself as a bad example)

UPDATE! I’m also going to be at BOTH Evil Hat Panels (State of the Hat and Look Under The Hat). Maybe I’ll be in the audience, maybe I’ll be at the table, who knows! (No seriously, I don’t know, you should come and find out along with me).


GETTING STARTED AS AN EDITOR (Friday 11a-12p Crowne Plaza: Grand Central C)

Do you want to be an editor? Not just “do you want to be able to edit your own work”, I mean do you want to be an editor for other people and companies? How does someone get started doing this? Is there anything special they need? Is it difficult? And what’s the big deal? I will explain what I do, how I started doing it and why I love it.

FREELANCING FOR FUN AND PROFIT (Friday 1p-2:30p Crowne Plaza: Grand Central C)

I make my living freelancing. It’s a good life: no cubicle, minimal dress code, high intensity, inconsistent paychecks, high stress, short deadlines. Learn about all the pros and cons about being a pro who goes to cons to talk about making game design and game writing more than something that just happens random on some Sunday afternoon.


SO YOU’RE MAKING YOUR FIRST GAME (Friday 3p to 4p Crowne Plaza : Grand Central C)

I’m getting together with Mark Richardson (and possibly others) to talk about how you produce your first (or fiftieth) game. You can come to this panel and learn how we got off the ground and have a good time doing this, also, this will be a great panel to attend if you want to watch me bait a Canadian into a playful argument and/or watch a man admit he’s really nervous giving a panel. (Hint: that’s not going to be me)


WRITING WORKSHOP Q&A (Saturday 10a-11:30a Crowne Plaza: Grand Central C)

It’s Saturday morning, so let’s talk writing. This panel is driven by your questions, so bring them. Ask questions, get answers. This is one of my favorite panels to do, and I love the questions people offer. I make an effort to answer every question, though I cannot guarantee you’ll like my answers. The questions don’t have to be limited to gaming, we can talk fiction, or screenplays or anything with words in it.

WRITER EDITOR RELATIONSHIP (Saturday 1p-2p Crowne Plaza: Grand Central C)

Join me after lunch for a panel where I hang out with a writer friend of mine (might be Brian Engard, might be someone else, or multiple someones else) where we’ll talk about what it’s like to work together, why it’s important to have a good relationship with your editor and why editors don’t actually want to ruin writers’ lives, just … fix them. Or something. This is a great panel if you’re looking to see what it’s like behind the scenes of a game company.

MENTAL HEALTH AND GAMING 2014 (Saturday 2p-4p Crowne Plaza: Grand Central C)

Here it is, the crown jewel of all my panels. My absolute favorite panel to give ever ever. Come spend 2 hours (!!) with me as I spill my guts out and share my story of anxiety, depression, self-destruction and my rebuilding myself over the last few years. Learn some strategies to help deal with whatever issues you’ve face (NOTE- I’m not a doctor, this is NOT medical advice), and in a safe environment, let’s talk about our lying brains, our feelings and our fears. Also, super bonus points if you ask me to tell the ‘crystal’ story. And triple super bonus points if you ask me to tell the ‘Ericka’ story’.

Just when you thought that was enough John for one convention, here’s more … I am running 2 games ON THE BOOKS this year as well!


A DRINK BEFORE DYING (NOIR WORLD) (Sunday 10a-12p Marriott Blrm 7)

Powered by the Apocalypse (Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, Headspace, and others), Noir World is my first game I’m actually producing myself, and this 2-hour session on Sunday will be the first public reveal/test of it. The year is 1944, and a wealthy woman gets killed at her own party. Anyone can be a suspect, anyone has a motive, who killed her, and why? Will they get away with it?

THE TROUBLE WITH 1908 (Sunday 1pm – 3pm Marriott Blrm 7)

Timewatch isn’t my game, it’s Kevin Kulp’s game, but it’s amazing, and I want to play it with you. Think Bill and Ted meet Doctor Who meet Quantum Leap meet Night’s Black Agents meet Terminator 2. I’m not sure the pitch needs any more than that sentence.

I love GenCon and look forward to seeing you there.


Come hang out with me, come play games with me, and let’s have a great time together.

Posted by johnadamus in games I run, gencon, gencon...ladies, living the dream, panels and seminars, travel plans, 0 comments

Where The Writer Talks About A Game He Played

I am a member of several gaming groups, some professional, some not. I guess there’s sort of this expectation that if you work in gaming, that you must play a lot of games, and while no one’s ever asked me, I guess I do spend a great deal of my time in the company of not-in-the-industry gamers playing a variety of things.

Now, the local-est of my groups, well they’re a different sort of people. For starters, it’s a two hour drive into the most Deliverance-and-meth parts of wild northwestern New Jersey. Many of them rather passionately believe that “Nobama” is “gonna take their guns any minute” but “not ’cause he’s black, just cause he’s a goddamned Socialist and we need to take back our government.” So yeah, you know, I hang out with that once a week.

They’re not a “flexible” gaming bunch. They prefer the traditional GM-ed experience, and enjoy a fantasy or sci fi game over a modern one. It took me a long time to move them out of the D&D to Dresden to Trail of Cthulhu to Night’s Black Agents to Fate Core. They’re still completely uncomfortable with a game of Fiasco, Dread, or Fate Accelerated. But we’ll get there.

So last night we played Timewatch, the forth-coming game from Kevin Kulp. I have a soft spot for Kevin, since he was my gateway into Night’s Black Agents, and sort of tangentially through that experience I’ve been lucky enough to do some writing for Pelgrane Press and he was kind enough to introduce me to the world’s most amazing character, Mace Hunter. Seriously, that’s an actual human’s actual name. Ask him sometime to tell the story, it’s great. Of course I love the character deeply, and have put him in nearly every system that isn’t Fate that I’ve ever worked on. He even has a hashtag #macehunterdoeseverything because Mace knows no fear and will embrace a challenge … and the ladies.

Right, so Kevin wrote Timewatch, a Gumshoe game where agents can travel through time and space and restore history and fight a variety of time-destroying enemies. It’s got all the action of Night’s Black Agents (the immediacy, the in-your-faceness) and the whodunit-whats-going-on of Trail of Cthulhu, only with time travel and paradoxes. I was super lucky to play it at Metatopia, and knew then I wanted to run it for my local group.

Confession: I like to think I’m a pretty good GM. I’m flexible, adaptable and crafty.

Confession #2: Timewatch tested me. For serious. Timewatch made me a better GM because it made my players step up and be better players.

See, my players come from a realm of competition and reward, where there’s an expectation that “if I killed the monster and she didn’t, I should get the reward and she shouldn’t” (and holy hell, you should hear our arguments about alignment). They don’t naturally work together, save for the couples: husbands work great with their spouses, and siblings work together, but crossing those lines barely happens. This is great when you need to turn players against one another, and less so when you need to get eight people to strategize together.

Timewatch’s primary conceit is that time travel is a thing, you can do it, you can go nearly anywhen and anywhere so long as you can justify it, and survive the stress of leaping around in time. Yes, you can go back in time to help yourself. Yes, you can go forward in time too.

My players are sharp, so immediately I expected them to say, “Well I go back in time and kill the antagonist when he’s young.” (We call this the Baby Hitler maneuver – they’ve done it before).  To avoid this, I stole from Doctor Who and created “Fixed Points In Time” where there are some moments that are so popular (Hitler’s life, apes walking upright, the Big Bang) that Timewatch has frozen them as is, meaning you cannot screw around with them. Thankfully, my players liked this idea, and I didn’t have to worry about them really colossally screwing with time. But I should have, because they did in spots where there were no Fixed Points.

I am a history nerd, and knowing that yesterday was historically significant, I didn’t want to be obvious and do anything Kennedy related. So after more research, I also found out that several centuries ago, Pope Urban II started the Crusades (more or less) on that date. So the Pope became at least one of my antagonists. Quick research on the Pope led me to general research on the Papacy and that lead to more research throughout the day. Eventually I had my plot pretty firm in my head, and brought the game to my players.

Timewatch is a game that, to my mind, rewards player knowledge and technology. I don’t mean player knowledge in the meta- sense of the word, I mean knowledge like what the player has learned outside of gaming. History. Dates. Relationships. Trivia. Timewatch is the chance to actually make use of the fact that people thought tomatoes were poisonous, that milkshakes first appeared in 1885 and had whiskey in them, and that FDR might be a balding white man in a wheelchair but he is not Professor X. I’ll recap some game highlights at the end of the post, but game specifics aside, this was the game where everyone put their phones, tablets and laptops on the table, and looked things up. This is the game where they did work together, at least to figure out who had to jump to what time to do what things to come back to the past and use them. Any game that equally rewards the 19 year old girl and her 52 year old father for figuring out that they could go back in time and each invent oil drilling technology AND Doctor Pepper is a game where you should be spending your time.

Sure, yes, my Night’s Black Agents campaign had a huge conspiracy in it, but the facts it drew upon only had about a century of time to manage, and even then it was only two or three time periods about a specific place. So, yeah, you can google what happened to place X in 1915 and then google what happened to it last week, but that’s not really taxing.  When you open the player to “you can do anything whenever”, you run the risk of paralysis, because freedom freaks people out, but here, because we had a goal (stop the badguys), they at least focused their plans on how to stop them.

We played for about 6 hours, and every single player asked where they could buy the game. This has only ever happened four other times: Technoir, Night’s Black Agents, Fate Core and Marvel Heroic. Timewatch is a game we’ll absolutely be playing more of.

Some highlights:

  • In order to persuade colonial soldiers to take her seriously, a character “invented” Doctor Pepper, in the mid-1700s. So that she could marry into the tribe and then years later be a legend and prophecy they could reference later when she had to return to the area two centuries later. Like you do.
  • Realizing that the plan involved building a clockwork and DC-current Death Star weapons platform out of the Moon (spoiler: Thomas Edison is a dick and there’s an Edison crater on the moon), one player went back in time to ask the Apollo 11 astronauts to bury a device on the Moon that would encase it in a forcefield …
  • Realizing that they needed to invent a forcefield, they went forward in time to ask someone how they’re made, then went back in time to ask that same guy to invent the process.
  • They accidentally introduced Edison to time travel, and then they were surprised that he used time travel to try and create the world to his liking.
  • Edison traveled back in time to kill Pope Urban II (the real guy) and replace him with a clockwork cyborg. The Pope-Borg later created The Papal Bull, a giant robotic bull. With flamethrowers.
  • Edison built a giant Jaeger-sized version of the Pope and demolished part of the Vatican. Because he’s a dick.
  • Rather than go into the future to get a “Jaeger deactivator”, the party decided they would also build their own Jaeger, and did: the giant robotic form of George Westinghouse. With shoulder missiles.
  • Edison narrowly escaped but not before coming back in time to rescue himself from capture and screaming, “I’ll get you next time, Timewatch!” before leaping into the timestream and vanishing …until next week.

We played it semi-serious until the third act when the giant robots showed up. It never got silly, but it was always lighter than other “get the clues, solve the puzzle” games. My players want more, so they’ll get more.

Timewatch will be out on Kickstarter soon, so expect me to say more about it then. For now, you can follow Timewatch and Kevin on Twitter.

Have a great weekend.

Posted by johnadamus in games I play, games I run, 0 comments

The Crunch of Conversion

Note #1 As I was typing this post’s title, my typo was “Crunk of Conversion”, which might shape up to be a whole different topic for a different day.

Note #2 This post comes on the heels of Ryan Mackiin’s post about Fate conversion. You’ll want to read his post too.

In his post, Ryan (who I may refer to only as Macklin throughout this post, but that’s mainly because how I refer to him in my head) identifies six problems when bringing new games to Fate flavors and, to some degree, the reverse of that as well. I agree with his six points, I just want to expand on a few and give my own experiences.

To start, I’ve done a lot of converting, though much of it has been for my own local gaming group, or to respond to something someone asks me for in a speculative way. The few times I’ve had to bring Fate to things professionally, I found it far easier to do a hard transformation of either one or the other, which has lead to a lot of questioning assumptions I had both of Fate and of the conversion process in general.

Recently I checked out Reddit, on the advice of clients who thought my writing expertise might be valuable there. Along my searches and attempts to learn the site and its mores, I came across the FateRPG subreddit (my apologies if I’m using the term incorrectly) and found quite a few posts penned by disenfranchised people who felt like Fate was lacking in some meaningful way, that Evil Hat should produce videos to explain the material, that this system sucks to some degree, etc etc.

I didn’t work directly on Fate Core’s primary book. That was handled masterfully by Ryan and Lenny and Brian and Mike and Jeremy, and doubtless I’m forgetting other people. I was just fortunate to be in the vicinity of that creative process. I was however, fairly central to the Fate Worlds books. I don’t say that because I want you all to know how big a deal I am, I’m saying this because my success today is tied very directly to the success of that project. That stack of files turned into two books and gave me numerous opportunities to work with people I’d not have the chance to otherwise, and I am so grateful for every second of that time and those conversations. So, Fate Core as a system is close to my heart.

And to hear these people, these people who were once explained to me as “4chan Lite, depending on where you’re looking”, tell me that this system I have my name (somewhat) attached to might suck or does suck or doesn’t blow their faces off, well, that bugged me. And I wanted to do something about it. But, I didn’t. I read their posts, I saw what they were talking about. I disagree with their premise and much of the (mis)understanding, but they’re totally capable of not liking a thing I like. So I didn’t comment. I fed no trolls. I refuted no linear claims that some system was superior to Fate because Fate didn’t expressly say what to do, or that it lacked tables and elements to produce specific play-results. It just got me thinking.

Then I read Macklin’s post. And I did more thinking.

The result is this post, where I’m now about speak more about conversions, and although I’m going to cite Fate as examples, my hope is that I can be broad enough in my writing as to talk more about conversion from A to B, rather than stay only in Fate’s arena.

I. Not every system will do the same things when you convert to it, or from it. This I think, is the largest hurdle I faced, and a huge assumption I made, that a conversion is just a new coat of paint on existing constructs. That’s no more true than saying a three piece suit is plate mail since they both come in shiny hues. When you have an existing system, like it or not, tired of it or not, that system does something. Maybe it really accurately represents … commercial transactions, or maybe it does so better than other things, if it’s not doing it perfectly. Maybe it doesn’t do gunfights particularly well, so you want to either infuse gunfights into this system (let’s call it X), or take what X does well, and graft it onto another system (let’s call it Y).

So we’re looking at (X + gunfights) or (Y + commerce). Let’s ignore the fact that we’re leaving the remnants of X or Y respectively behind. We’re building a piecemeal thing here, a beast fashioned of many different parts, and we hope all these pieces work together.

They may not. And that’s a harsh pill to swallow. Here’s an actual example.

I continue to do a lot of work on a Dresden Files LARP. I jettisoned the old system once i was brought onto the project and adapted Fate Core (which was sparkly new at the time) to it. I further included ideas for using a deck of specific cards (to be now replaced by the Deck of Fate). I felt pretty good about this, and thought “Oh, well now this should work, since basically, I’ve broken down Fate’s machinery into digestible pieces a LARPer can use, and I’ve tacked on a really nice resolution mechanic that will keep the game from dragging along.

If I had to assign percentages, I figure this build of the system was about 80% Fate Core and 20% everything else – some from this system, some from that. And I liked it.

Then it went out into the world, and we played with it.

It worked. Players loved it. But while I had pictured a race car, to my eyes I saw a Model T. Sure, it worked, but it was one a-wooga horn shy of being comical. I hadn’t planned on the fact that you can’t wholly replicate a system wholesale just under different paradigms and expect the same results. What works around my table does so because of the tacit understandings and conventions of my table, and that is not the same as 30+ people in a room with no tables, dice or regular peeks at character sheets.

So, I poked the system with a few sticks, and that brought me to the second concept:

II. Don’t confuse streamlining for alteration for improvement.

I saw Fate now as broken. I saw it not delivering to one group of players what it did for another group. It didn’t matter that one group was LARP and the other tabletop. Players are fundamentally the same at their core, they’re storytellers and enthusiasts of systems to tell tales collaboratively, so whether one groups gives a shit about costuming while the other is super concerned about whether or not we’re ordering Chinese, doesn’t matter. I was determined then to prove something to these people, because it’s not that the system failed or failed to live up to any expectations, I, as system designer for this LARP, failed. And I do not tolerate failure.

So I gutted Fate. I pulled out the Four Actions. I pulled out the fate point economy. I hobbled stunts. I made Fate not-Fate. I had some aspects, I had some resolutions, I had some skills. I guess I kinda made a gimpy *World engine.  I looked at Fate the way (and forgive me for this metaphor) someone with an eating disorder approaches food – that my original view sucked, that I had to be purging and starving the system until it was “good enough”. What I was doing was mistaking the working components of a system for bloat, and confusing streamlining for improvement. I had an image disorder over the system. I looked at it, and saw something inaccurate.

I don’t know if you know this, but when you pull the principle tenets out of something, it ceases to be that thing. A civilization without laws is lawless. A dinner without plates, forks and knives is just a stack of meat. A plane without wings is a metal tube. But I absorbed the false sense of failure and was consumed by it, I figure I lost whole nights to the alchemy of making one thing into another.

So I worked on it. And worked on it. And simultaneously worked on a lot of other projects, but was still stung by my perceived failure. I didn’t actually fail, no one told me I failed, no one said my work wasn’t good or that it wasn’t enjoyable. And the players didn’t know about the number of drafts or the amount of time I spent going over page after page, rule after rule. Their end result was positive – they got a new game, a good game and had a good time. I should have been pleased when they applauded and whooped and cheered. I should have felt satisfied by their continued mentions that they loved how things worked.

Eventually, I stopped working on it, because I was tired and didn’t know what else to do. I resigned myself to having created a mediocre-at-best thing, and that I was now really good at only creating mediocre things, despite my talent at editing. And I let the file sit untouched for months.

Somewhere in the time, I found the third element of conversion.

III. Things don’t have to be, and can’t always be crunchy, loose, cinematic, dramatic, procedural, fast, detailed, flexible, solid, inclusive, simple or tough to the same degree simultaneously, and certainly not to everyone’s appreciation. What you’re really doing in a conversion is taking a source material, adjusting, adding subtracting and torquing elements in and around it, but you’re doing it for yourself and the bigger picture audience, not just the one guy who complained the loudest, or the one you worry will complain the loudest later.

Once I put the document down for a while. I got to watch the game get played. I gave my little briefing up top, no one had any questions, then I got out of the way. I thought it was alright, I thought this would be … tolerable for people over a few hours. I had weathered some criticism that the game ‘should have’ this or ‘would be better if it had’ that, and caved too easily to those elements (only to later strip them out when no one was looking) so I was ready for more people to remind me of things I lacked or how I was mediocre at best, and I could slink back to my editorial castle and hide.

But they didn’t. People came and asked if they could read the rules. If they could try it at home. If they could do it again with more friends later. It wasn’t mediocre. It just was a different facet of a success experience, and one that changed the way I approach conversion, which let me to the fourth and final conversion note in this post.

IV. Conversion isn’t ‘fixing’ the system or even patching its holes. Conversion is all about transmogrifying one set of experiences so that it better meshes with other experiences. 

Look, Fate doesn’t do equipment the way D&D does. It tasks players to collaborate to tell the best story. It does not work all that well when the focus of the player is to accrue bonuses by the ton for some mathematically penile measuring contest. Fate isn’t perfect. Guess what? Gumshoe doesn’t do aspects very easily. And Fiasco doesn’t care about an economy of gold coins. Lots of games do different things, and don’t do others. Maybe, just maybe, the system does what it does, and it’s your idea that needs to change, not the system. Or maybe both have to meet in the middle, just like how players and the GM have to collaborate.

I can use a variety of systems and toolkits to tell the story I want. But maybe, if I really want to replicate a specific action in a game, I need to tweak some part of the system to do so. Or maybe I will relax my hold on that specific action, and I don’t need to be so fixated on having it be a certain way.

Yes, systems are there to serve the story. But they’re not subordinate to the story, anymore than the Allen wrench is your IKEA dresser’s bitch. Jettison what doesn’t work (but doesn’t cripple play), include and blend in what does, provided it’s not too jarring.

It comes to this: System + Story + Players (+ GM) = Good Experience.


Happy writing and gaming. Many thanks to Macklin for getting me thinking.


Posted by johnadamus in games I play, games I run, LARP, nefarious chapeau, problem solving, shout out, what I learned, 0 comments

My Dreamation schedule

One of my favorite conventions is next weekend. Dreamation, to me, marks the beginning of a long stretch of conventions and good times that stretches from now until November at Metatopia. I’ve been attending Dreamation now for a few years, and never had a bad experience, felt unwelcomed or generally thought it sucked.

So, I urge you to attend. Come to panels, come play games, spend four days embracing your inner nerd/geek and make yourself happy. Although my stuff is only on the weekend, I WILL be there all four days.

Let’s cover the big one first:
D814“The DREAMATION 2013 Writer’s Workshop” presented by John Adamus. A discussion and workshop of what’s needed to take your ideas and make them practical – turning your imagination into a real game or book. Join John Adamus in this discussion of what you can do to make your creation come to life, while avoiding typical pitfalls, stumbling points and roadblocks along the way. 
Sunday, 12:00PM – 3:00PM;

Okay, this is huge. THREE HOURS?! It’s going to be awesome. This year’s topic is

How to use Fate Core, Cortex-Plus, GUMSHOE and D20 To Write Your Story/Novel/Game/Whatever

Go sign up! You WILL NOT regret it.

This year I’m being more ambitious than usual – in addition to the Writing Workshop, I’m running two games. Here are all the details:

Game I: R248: Night’s Black Agents; “The Paris Sanction” presented by John Adamus. A deadly strain of the flu is up for auction, and plenty of terrorists have converged on Paris to bid. A week ago, a team of agents was dispatched to impersonate Basque separatists, but they haven’t been heard from. Now it’s time a replacement team to find out what happened, and hopefully stop the bio-terrorist weapon from getting into the wrong hands. Saturday, 9:00AM – 1:00PM

Why should you play in this game? How about PASSENGER JET CAR CHASE? It’s early, I know, but it’s going to be worth it.

Game II: R330: Night’s Black Agents; “The Budapest Disaster” presented by John Adamus.  There was a terrible accident in Budapest. Two trains collided, a tragedy of epic proportions, killing hundreds. Lost in the twisted wreckage though were some precious cargo – a suitcase full of diamonds en route to the Queen of England, and the launch codes for a portable nuclear device. A team of agents has been dispatched to recover at least one, and it’s up to the team to prioritize. Will it be the diamonds or the nuke? 
Sunday, 10:00AM – 11:59AM

Okay, I know the schedule on the website says until 2pm, but since I have not yet mastered quantum physics (Note that I go from Night’s Black Agents to the Writing Workshop, back-to-back), I can’t be in two places at once, I’m shortening this game. Also, this is more a playtest of some new mechanics I’m checking out, but I’ll explain all that on Sunday.

Other places I’ll be this weekend:
L040: The Dresden Files; “Dog Days” by Phoenix Outlaw Productions. The New York supernatural scene has been rocked by territory disputes, wars, and battles in the last few years. A great warlord, Raoul Ortega, has fallen and now his people are trying to put the pieces back together. Rising in the ranks? The werewolf and wereform population. Years ago there was nearly a were-form revolution and some believe it might be time yet again for people to be afraid of the tooth and claw. When the sun comes up, who will rule the streets? “Dog Days” is a live-action roleplay event set in the Dresden Files universe run by Phoenix Outlaw Productions. This event will also be the playtest of a brand new adaptation of a LARP adaptation of the popular FATE system. New players encouraged; previous players of the New York Dresdenverse games most welcome! 
Saturday, 8:00PM – 12:00AM

Shameless confession – I co-wrote the plot and mechanics. I’ll be on hand to make sure things work, and/or fix them on the fly.

I’ll be popping in on my other friends/clients/projects too (Project Ninja Panda Taco, Revelations, the Fate Core games, etc).

Also, I’ll be tweeting the hell out of things. You are following me on Twitter, right?

Hope to see you there, would love to meet you and say hello.

Posted by johnadamus in dreamation, games I run, Gumshoe, LARP, living the dream, nefarious chapeau, schedule, 0 comments