Master Mines

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Nailed it.

So its been two weeks since I realized I need to completly retool my system. The mechanics have gone through a lot of transformations since then, but I really feel like the dice are doing what I want them to, and the system is saying what I want it to. You can tap Despair to help your temporary situation, but it completely screws you over in the long-term. Every conflict you enter you need to invest part of yourself into. The more you invest the easier it is to win, but the more you stand to lose. Its using some elements of craps, but from the feedback I’ve received its pretty easy to pick up and understand.I’ve played the system a few times now in this incarnation, and its holding up pretty well. It takes some time before the roll goes down to figure out the penalties and bonuses, but this has heightened the drama of the roll itself. Also the fact that other people can help out by Sparing Some Change really keeps everyone emotionally invested in what’s going on. Having Coins representing Survival and Lucidity that you can stand to lose or win gives the conflicts more weight. In short, all the frustrations I went through in tearing everything down and starting again left me with a system that mechanically works better and speaks volumes more to what the game is about.This is the last draft I’m posting before I head to the printer. I have a few friends editing it for clarification and spelling. Two weeks ago I wasn’t sure I’d have a draft ready in time for Gencon, but I’m really glad I went through all the crap I did. I can’t thank you all enough for all the advice and help I recieved on this forum. Its where it is in a large part thanks to you guys.Its still not done though. I’ve got a very clear idea of what I want it to be doing and its closer than its ever been before to achieving that goal. It was essentially written in two weeks though, so there’s going to be a lot of adjustments I’ll have to make. Please take a look at it and feel free to tear it apart. Here’s the draft


July 31, 2007 - Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing


  1. Okay… you have a mechanic called Sparing Some Change?

    I haven’t known how to ask this, but I think I’ve got to: with respect to what your system is trying to say… what are you trying to say about homeless people with your game?

    Because, as I’m sure you’re aware, most homeless people have neither a strange magical ability nor any special mystery to why they’re on the streets.

    It might be worth spending a little time thinking about to what degree you’re exoticizing a group with no cultural voice of its own, and maybe writing up something on your conclusions in time to go into the ashcan edition.

    Comment by misuba | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  2. I’m not sure if this is a rhetorical question for me to think about or not, but I’ll answer it anyway.
    I’ve given this a LOT of thought throughout the writing of this game. I don’t feel that this game exoticizes homelessness in any way. It is a fantasy, yes, but to look at it just as homeless people with magic powers is completely ignoring huge sections of the game. These are people plagued by their inner demons, constantly weighted down by despair.

    Sparing Some Change (and Alms Tokens) aren’t meant as a jab against homeless people. They’re there to represent generosity, and how it can help someone out if they’re in a desperate situation.

    I’ve always felt that fantasy works best as a metaphor. Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings as a way of dealing with what he saw during WWI. Was he exoticizing that? I don’t think so.

    Regardless, this game is not saying as much about homelessness as much as it is about escapism and alienation. Homelessness is a bigpart of it, but more in the sense that they’re people who are completely alienated from society. Because of their social standing they become invisible.

    My intention was never to exoticize or pick on homeless people, and in my opinion, I didn’t. I do realize this is a very sensitive social issue however, and some people might take offense to the very idea of a roleplaying game about homelessness. That’s okay with me. People are entitled to their opinions. At the end of the day,its okay if people are offended. At least they’ll be thinking about the issues I brought up.

    Comment by jhimmelman | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  3. Jeff, the draft looks great; at least visually, you have a stunner right here. I’m working my way through the text, and so far it all seems well explained, though I’ll try to have something more concrete than that for you soon. I did notice one (possible) typo: page 6 of the PDF draft, do you mean Forward (as in ‘we’re moving forward’) or Foreword (as in ‘a word before we begin’)? I’ve a feeling you mean the latter, but I don’t wanna be pretentious and assume so rigth off the gate.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | August 1, 2007 | Reply

  4. nice catch Daniel. I did mean foreward, which I’ll change in the ashcan

    Comment by jhimmelman | August 1, 2007 | Reply

  5. I don’t feel that this game exoticizes homelessness in any way. It is a fantasy, yes, but to look at it just as homeless people with magic powers is completely ignoring huge sections of the game. These are people plagued by their inner demons, constantly weighted down by despair.

    The thing is, that is exoticization, of a kind (and to a degree). When we present the homeless as being on the streets due to big, dramatic issues, we’re contributing in small part to the trivialization of the plight of people who are homeless for reasons that don’t make exciting, high-drama stories.

    Now, I’m not telling you not to have high-drama stories, or not to be into the streets as a setting. What I’m saying is that your core themes – escapism and alienation – are actually much better served by the whole Neverwhere deal than they are by straight-up “the PCs are homeless people.” The homeless aren’t trying to escape from or un-escape from anything, as a rule; they’re trying to survive, which is a very different story. If you take your Neverwhere-esque figures, your comparatively rich and entitled who are entirely incongruous on the streets, there’s a chance you can actually tell your story better and more believably.

    Consider a little strategic Neverwhereization. I think it could do a lot for you.

    Comment by misuba | August 1, 2007 | Reply

  6. I can see where you’re coming from, and I think it was really good you brought this up, but I respectfully disagree with most of what you’re saying.

    Let’s look at war. This is a relevant social issue that destroys lives and minds. Yet no one looks thinks twice about telling fantasy stories and playing games about war. Does the act of telling a fantasy story about war trivialize the lives that were lost? Sometimes, yeah. But there are a lot of stories that can really portray the intensity and horror of war using magic and monsters to illustrate their themes.

    My point here is that the act of making a game that has fantasy elements does not in and of itself trivialize homelessness. Ignoring the whole issue in fear of people taking it differently than I intended would be worse in my opinion, especially to make the game more similar to something that’s already been done.

    Comment by jhimmelman | August 1, 2007 | Reply

  7. something else I thought about on the way home from work; you’re not just playing a homeless person, you’re playing one of the Lost. This is an intentional separation. I don’t think that homeless people aren’t trying to escape from their situation as a rule, but aside from that, the Lost are. They don’t represent all homeless people, only some.

    Even if I was trying to represent the homeless, stories thrive on drama. I don’t think there’s a single person out there, homeless or otherwise, who wouldn’t have some interesting dramatic stories in their lives. There’s no reason groups can’t make characters who are just victims of circumstance, and many times in the playtesting, this has happened.

    Comment by jhimmelman | August 1, 2007 | Reply

  8. […] as exoticizing the plight of the homeless by adding monsters and magic (this is a paraphrase…read the post for his exact words). I still stand by my feeling that fantasy is often used to deal with relevant social issues in […]

    Pingback by balancing social commentary with urban fantasy « Master Mines | January 7, 2008 | Reply

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