So, we’re not going to finish Dragon-Guarded Land by tomorrow. Looks like May is when it’ll be out. We’ve finished the text except for a few small edits, but we’re still waiting on some art and then I have to do layout. Then to get proofs from some print-on-demand services, and we’ll be ready to go.

But there’s one more important point: we don’t like the name. The name of this game has given us trouble since the beginning. We started with Destiny, which was too generic and, we later realized, too much like FATE. We used Loom for a while, but that was opaque and also a LucasArts trademark. We moved on to In a Dragon-Guarded Land, which we’ve lately shortened to Dragon-Guarded Land, because we liked the poem “The Realists” by W.B. Yeats. That title is misleading, opaque, and pretentious. While we love pretension, the other two are deal-breakers.

So we’ve been trying to come up with a better title.

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This is a really quick thought, that just came up in conversation with Austin:

There are two (relevant) axes to consider when comparing RPGs to other media: interactivity vs. passivity, and visual vs. verbal. Here’s a chart:

Media Types Chart

Figure 1

So, there are certain properties that visual media handle better than verbal—spectacle, small details being hidden in the background. There are also certain things that verbal media handle better than visual—internal monologues and that sort of introspective analysis of motivation.

Interactive vs. passive is a slightly different kind of axis—it’s more about how you desire to experience a story. But it also alters the landscape of what you can tell to a degree—interactive stories have a hard time with certain kinds of reveal and inevitability, but interactive stories can gain a kind of plausibility through avoiding certain “we have to split up in the haunted house, it’s required by the genre” stupidity.

Now, there are two important things I want to ask: what other properties of these categories am I missing; and where does theater fit on here? Traditionally at least, it’s passive, but I’ve been to some experimental theater events that strain that boundary, and it’s a lot more verbal than comics or movies, but hardly wholly so.


We’ve not been posting much lately. We’re working on finalizing Dragon-Guarded Land, and that’s taking a lot of our time. I hope to get back to more frequent posting—and of course, more frequent thinking!—about games soon, though. But what will be really exciting is getting this book finished and out there! This is going to be our first release, and there’s some palpable excitement around here.

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Unfairness in stories, heroic stories in particular, is the point of those stories. To defeat overwhelming odds in the name of good is dramatic and interesting. Specifically though, heroes in these stories need to overcome the ways the opposition is unfairly better than them. In Tolkien’s tale, the humans fight back against huge armies of orcs by defending themselves in citadels, by gathering their own huge army, and by a neat if ill-advised metaphysical hack against the big bad.They apply their strengths to the weakest points in their opposition, and so counterbalance the unfairness they’re up against.

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Some talk on Twitter the other day (ending here) got me thinking about the best game I’ve ever played. Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps understandably, it violated a lot of the common assumptions about how to play role-playing games, but for at least two of us who played—me, and Austin—it changed the way we see role-playing games and what we felt that they could do. What follows is an anecdote, hopefully interesting.

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We here at Transneptune Games have had a breakthrough. There’s been a lot of talk on this blog about things like “story” and “narrative”. We’ve talked about moral choice, the feel of a mechanic. We’ve even talked about, dare I say it?, fun.

But we’ve realized that none of this is sufficient to make the game we want to play.

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