Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Excuse me while I whip this out

Just a couple of things I wanna get off my chest and out of my system. I know that over at Secret Wars they feel okay about hopping back and forth between different systems, because there are only two people there and if everyone’s working on three games it’s still at least manageable. Well, there are five of us and I don’t know about y’all but I am already feeling the hurt. So! Just throwing this out there so I can get back to OM.

First: nine months ago I had a dream. In this dream I was talking to a couple of friends and I was inventing a game for them. I drew a box in ballpoint pen, scrabbling lines one on top of the other for maximum weight, on a sheet ripped out of a spiral-bound notebook. In the first box I wrote “Main Hall,” and added a crude cartoon crown. I drew a line connecting it to another box, labeled “Hall of Students.” Connected to another box, “The Garden,” and another, “Meat-Cutting Department.” All connecting back to the Main Hall.

Well, then I woke up, but it must have been a weekend because I lazed around, half-dreaming for a bit, and before long I knew what the game was about. Within a couple days, I wrote this:

All player characters are boys at the Boys’ School. It’s in England, and it’s sometime in the past, or maybe just feels that way. You are part of a secret club which has met at midnight in the Main Hall to see who is the new King. The King will be crowned before dawn.

In addition to your character’s Innocence and Shame, write down which of your Meat Cutting Dept.-issued knives you have brought with you to this meeting. Also your boy’s name.

Normally I get the titles for things almost before I get the things themselves, but this time it took me a few days to get a name I was happy with: Bloody Subjects. I did do a rules draft, but it isn’t very good. Never been tested, of course.

Then today I’m rooting around in Vincent Baker’s archives at, just looking through ’em, oldest posts first. And as I’m rooting I find this truffle right here. It’s a long thread that goes off the rails then back on, but the gist: never think about modeling the fiction to make your mechanics – always think instead of the players and what they’ll be feeling, how they’ll be interacting.

It got me thinking about Bloody Subjects again… if only because Outside Men has always been going after a fairly detached and ironic perspective on the players’ part. (Its original conflict mechanic was supposed to model a TV show like Lost, where things are constantly overturning and intrigue is always building and getting weirder, but everyone knows it’s not going anywhere purposefully.) BS, though, that’s a little more nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw, more pretty-boy anime and fan-fiction. Hell, I actually had the thought while on the bus that to get the players going after each other right, I was going to have to make the characters collect each other’s blood and/or other fluids.

So, I guess my point is just that. Also, go rummaging around in Vincent’s attic because there’s all kinds of good shit back there. (Like also this.)


June 19, 2007 - Posted by | Outside Men


  1. I have these sorts of nuggets happening in my head pretty often as well. Should we build in an outlet for our proto-ideas like these?

    My most recent was for Flood: Apocryphal Roleplaying.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | June 19, 2007 | Reply

  2. I read about Flood on your LJ and you have me salivating, but I’ll comment about that over there…

    A proto-idea category wouldn’t be a bad idea, as long as we declare which game is it we are working on and make that the main effort. For example, if Mike wanted to switch from Outside Men to Bloody Subjects, that would be fine, but he’d have to declare it, and then we’d need to have some sort of rule as to how often switches like that can happen so we don’t have a ping-pong effect.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  3. I just want to add: boy, there’s nothing Freudian about my design work at all, is there. Jeez, schoolboys with knives collecting fluids from each other, huge Injectors shooting data into the earth to make something rise… and lastly let me say PENIS

    Comment by misuba | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  4. PENIS: Potentially Exciting Narrative Immersion System

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  5. Sold!

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  6. […] So, Mike’s brought up a good point with his last post. How do we want to handle little idea vent posts like this? Maybe tag them with some other […]

    Pingback by Idea Venting « Master Mines | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  7. […] are people too… wait, I may have that backwards So, that thing of Vincent’s I read yesterday, which somehow got me to realize what should have been obvious: that every time you build a game […]

    Pingback by Concepts are people too… wait, I may have that backwards « Master Mines | June 21, 2007 | Reply

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