Bring your flares to the ‘derby disco’


Welcome to the ‘derby disco’…

With all the furore being raised against idiots who light dangerous flares amongst the crowds at sporting events, it is clear that the spectacle those same idiots are seeking is in fact a spectacle that the media are all too happy to pick up on, because the media know that it also looks like a spectacle to the media’s own audience (see the image on the left above, readily available in the media.)

There is nothing wrong with spectacles, per se`. They are by definition spectacular!

But what if there was a way to assimilate (subvert?) the illegal use of flares, and even and noise devices into the mainstream of the game?

Obviously this could not be done using dangerous flares and detonators, and although electronic flares and electronic noisemakers may be safer, but they would still be ‘owned’ by individuals and thus be prone to being misused in the heat of the moment.

Consider events like the Superbowl, who understand well that a pyrotechnics display can create a great spectacle. Even the NRL has made good use of pyrotechnics.

Of course raw pyrotechnics do not fit the current vibe or image of ‘soccer, and I am not advocating anything as gauche as fireworks on top of the goal posts.

But just imagine for a moment what the RBB would look like (when the Wanderers score) with the whole block lit up in billowing red glowing smoke, perhaps pulsating with a bit of synchronised bass accompaniment! Even more spectacular?

The venues themselves are the solution. They are able to install smoke generators, colored lights, and possibly noisemakers under the seats in the active supporter areas, to be triggered each time their team scores a goal. With the correct artistic design, it would create a true spectacle but keeps the party firmly where it belongs… off the field.

And who doesn’t love a good disco ; )

There are a few implementation points that can be debated, such as the duration of the lights/smoke, and the volume of lights/smoke compared to, say, ticket sales in the active supporter area… but consider who benefits in the following situations:

  • What active supporter would not enjoy a celebration that went off (even more) like a party?
  • What casual fan does not enjoy seeing their active supporter group in their full glory?
  • What players would not enjoy watching their fans ‘go off’ even more than they already do?
  • What club would not love something that encouraged more supporters, particularly active supporters?
  • What club would also not love the fan engagement around the design of that spectacle?
  • What venue would not love a value-add that increased demand for tickets… potentially for ALL sports?
  • What FFA administrator would not like to remove some of the impetus and incentive for people to make their own mischief, when it could be done safer, and better?
  • What broadcaster/advertiser would not love something that added to the spectacle of the game?

In short, let not talk about active supporter areas as if they were battlefields, let’s make sure they are parties!

HIGH-SPACE has funded!

I am rather chuffed today to be able to say that my High-Space Kickstarter campaign has funded, and quite quickly as well. We must have awesome backers! : )

It makes an amazing amount of effort to put a decent Kickstarter together. I have been slightly shocked but it, but maybe we will streamline the process for the next one…

Thanks go to the rest of the Storyweaver team, particularly Joe Sweeney. Also, I must thank Jamey Stegmaier and his awesome ‘kickstarter lessons’ posts (I think I have them all memorised now!!)

High-Space-Kickstarter-Full-Spread v1 FUNDED

My Kickstarter MISTAKES

As the title of this post suggests, this is a very humbling post (but sometimes I still laugh at what happened. Read on…)


After months+ of preparation for Storyweaver’s first every Kickstarter for High-Space, a typo that  occurred during a last-minute, under-the-pump change has left the project with a very odd, and incorrectable end date.

Here’s what happened… we had been aiming for a 29 day Kickstarter duration. All looked good, and I pressed the ‘Launch’ button with a very dramatic flourish… only to find myself presented with a second confirmation page/check-list.

So I ticked all the disclaimers, and clicked the ‘Launch’ button again… only this time to be prompted that there were discrepancies in the Shipping details of several Rewards (later, I wondered what the ‘official’ KS review process actually checked?)

If you have ever set-up a Kickstarter you will know what a clunky interface the Rewards section can be, especially the Shipping costs… and it took an hour to fix everything… so know we were an hour behind schedule and people were already waiting on-line for the launch.

Here’s where things went horribly wrong (okay, it’s not that dramatic.)

I had been using the ‘days to run’ option for setting the end date, because I understood that Kickstarter will end a project exactly when it started (time-of-day) if you simply set the number of days for which it runs.

However, I really wanted a specific end time, and we were an hour behind schedule now! So I took the opportunity to make a last minute change and switched to the ‘scheduled end time option’ where you configure an actual date and time (not just a duration.)

At that moment it did not click with me that when the interface changed from a text box in which to enter a duration, to a date-control field, that the new control defaulted to the date that the previous numeric value was projecting. I thought it was showing the start date, and that I had to pick a new end date.

One more thing went wrong (another human error)… you’d think I’d notice the name of the ending day displayed as being different to what I intended, right? But being a February -even with- 29 days, there was one day of difference, and I was so used to mentally shifting a day in my calculations because I was computing between local (Australian) dates/times and US dates/times, that it all ‘looked right” to me (did I mention I was rushing to meet an expired deadline?)

Some lessons for you…

  1. Find a way, any way you can, to run the Kickstarter in the currency/location of your key market. Maybe you need to find a ‘sponsor’ there you can trust to handle the cash?
  2. Check the items that cannot be changed. HERE is the current list. In a nutshell, as of this date, they are:
    1. Funding goal
    2. Project deadline
    3. Kickstarter profile name
    4. Rewards tiers that have already have a backer
  3. Get someone else to eyeball the same items, independently.
  4. Never change non-changeable details while under the pump. See Jamey Stegmaier’s “Lesson #68”

Where to now for the High-Space Kickstarter?

For me this poses an interesting question. Is this an opportunity to do something clever with this mistake? Is their an ounce of lemonade in that one big lemon of a mistake? Time to think hard (but not rush), and then make an official project update…

The drama of resource management in RPGs

spotlightYesterday I was listening the GrimDark Podcast again where James and Mike were doing a dissection of the new ‘research’ rules in Dark Heresy 2nd Ed.
Essentially the rules seemed to be designed to quantify academic research, and give intellectual characters/players more to do. An interesting idea, but it made me wonder that the FFG designers had not missed the point that plot information is best used to develop or progress a ‘story’ and not a character sheet!

However, there were a few key ideas that I took away from their discussion, and one was about the option for the researching-character to burn personal fatigue/resources in order to speed up the time between each research skill test. That’s useful, and thematic.

The second idea was about giving the players some control over the ‘speed of the game’. You know the problem… one character is doing research that takes a year, the other character has a burning grudge that needs bullets to be expended NOW!
While two such extremes are difficult to reconcile, there are a lot of Skill tests, and indeed just plain character actions that involve time, but not a hideous amount of it, and here there may be scope to introduce a new resource…
Consider a character sent on a scouting mission while the rest of the heroes sit around. As a GM I would be tempted to play out the slightly longer mission, at the expense of the characters who do not have the spotlight on them now.
But what if one of the un-lit characters had something they wanted to independently achieve? Normally, that player has to play second-fiddle to the storyline of the majority – even if it makes perfect sense for them to do something while everyone else waits.
So… what if a player could spend a ‘token’ for no other result than to shift the spotlight onto them? All characters would have roughly the same capacity for doing this, and thus it would become a truly democratic process. Plus, because it requires the expense of a token resource then it would help to allocate that spotlight where the players most want it (I’m taking the analogy of money being used to allocate resources, as driven by the market.)

Could this introduce a new player.v.player conflict into the game? Not really… it might give a name to that conflict and give it mechanics, but the conflict is already there – the difference is that currently that conflict is resolved by a mixture of passive-aggression and the tyranny of the majority. However, it might turn that unspoken conflict into a ‘token-driven arms race’, which has its own pros and cons.

And this need not be entirely player-centric, or limited to GM-less games. Imagine a game where the GM acted like the ‘house’ in a gambling game, and had their own (geometrically larger?) stash of tokens to spend…

Which leads me to this question… when you play <insert your game of choice>, would you, and if so when would you choose to use your tokens/bennies/fate points/karma to ‘grab the spotlight’ like this?

P.S. There is also a Savage Worlds specific discussion of this point on my HIGH-SPACE DEV SPHERE, as n element of the Kickstarter for the second edition of H-S.


Alphasmart on the kickoff!

Look what arrived in the mail today… a band new (ahem!) #Alphasmart #NEO2… yay!


And before you ask, no, this little puppy is not for #NaNoWriMo.

I wrote most of #HighSpace on an Alphasmart 3000, so ‘does that mean that an update to HighSpace on the cards?’ I hear you ask.

You bet! HighSpace v2.0 (‘Uplifted’? ‘Upgraded’?) will launch as a #Kickstarter just after Christmas.

There is also another cracker of a game that I have been developing for about two years now that is nearing rough draft, and will also be graced by the beautiful keyboard action of the NEO2.

Drop me a line if you love your Alphasmart (and who doesn’t! I own four of them now 🙂 The only viable competitor I have seen is the King Jim out of Japan, and if you have one of those I’d like to know what you think of it?


Environmental Threats v. Riddick

Recently I listened to another good podcast from The RPG Academy on ‘re-skinning’. Specifically these are about re-skinning a ‘monster’ as an environmental threat (E.g. a Storm Giant, as a literal (magical) storm). They also reference the Fate Fractal mechanics, in the manner of giving hostile environments mechanical values (Stress tracks) to overcome. This was a good podcast, and it gave me some other ideas about how this could be done…

The podcast/Fate rules are using the word ‘environmental’ in a literal sense. As a writer (including screenplays) I immediately thought of an environmental threat as simply a way to say that a threat is no longer immediate and in-your-face, and that it has now been confronted, and at least partially understood, to the point that understanding it is now your best defence against it. Also, it hasn’t gone away, it has… melted into the environment.

Consider the first and third movies in the Riddick series – ‘Pitch Black’ and ‘Riddick’. In both instances Riddick confronts the ‘monster’, develops an understanding of it, and then can deal with it as environmental threat that can be out-thought, not just out-fought.






There are no gaming rules out there that I know of that handle this evolving scenario in this particular way – once a threat, always a threat! is how most games tend to operate.

Using D&D 5e as an example, consider this alternate statblock for a generic monster, which has the following components:

  • Standard statblock (numbers)
  • Environmental skin (text)
  • Understanding threshold (values)
  • Environmental defence (Stat or Skill)

In the immortal words of Grandmaster-Flash ‘let me break it down for you, sir…’

Standard statblock (numbers): Your standard 5e statblock (or any other game system for that matter)

Environmental skin (text): A short description of how the monster will operate/look/feel once it has been understood. Fluff mostly, but still very important.

Understanding threshold (values): The mechanical requirement that has to be met in order to understand the monster. It can be listed in terms such as ‘number of encounters’, and/or ‘numbers faced’, and/or ‘numbers defeated’, and or a Skill degree-of-success requirement (e.g. Lore/Knowledge[Monster] 3 successes). NOTE that each character will have to come to their own understanding of the monster; although those who already have that understanding may assist the relevant Skill checks of their friends.

Environmental defence (Stat or Skill): This is the Stat or Skill that is used to ‘manage’ the monster once it is understood. This need not be tested each combat-action, but on an expanding/contracting timescale where relative success expands the time until the next test is required, and relative failure reduces the time until the next test. A relative failure also indicates that the monster gets to make all its attacks, and inflict damage as per normal.

‘What about defeating the environmental threat?’ I here you ask… Well that is where my definition of an environmental threat differs from the podcast/Fate Fractal version. You cannot defeat it as an environmental threat – it still must be faced and defeated as a monster!


  • Will give added weight to Lore/Knowledge based characters, while not detracting from the monster.
  • Lingering threats can sustain the mood/feel of the game very well.
  • All the mechanics is vested in the players, not the GM, which incidentally creates a micro-reward for each monster that is mastered!


  • I’m perfectly fine with the concept of an un-killable threat, although traditional ‘hit it until its dead’ players might balk at the idea.

I would really like to hear your comments and feedback, and as always, your mileage may vary…

Football scores v. Chaos theory

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, because it combines a couple of things I love… football (aka futebol, soccer, kurat, jalkapallo, etc.) and theoretical physics.

How many times will you watch a post-game analysis, or even hear people talking about a game in hindsight, and they say “yeah… and if we had scored that goal in the 20th minute we would have been 2-1 and won the game!”

Sorry, but the theoretical physicist in me has to chuckle. Every action is a product of the mechanics of every action preceding it… until you analyse it to such a granular (sub-atomic?) level that the cause-and-effect breaks down and you have to statistics!

Sure it may be ‘likely’ that even if your team scores a goal and the whole complexion of the game changes, that they still go ahead and score another goal.

But there is no guarantee.

It’s not a case of 1:1+1 = 1:2.

Even removing the psychological factors involved, the players will simply not be on the same trajectory in the space-time continuum as they would be if the event had not been changed. Nuff said!

Now… pass me the ball… so I can have a chance at scoring that goal I missed five minutes ago…


NPC Aaron goes solo… and gets a win!

Fans of the NPCCast podcast would have noticed a drop in the number of hosts. The several regulars missing, @npcaaron was faced with skipping an episode, or going it alone. To his credit, he put together a great podcast and was able to single handedly cover all the angles of ‘Big Picture’ plot design. Well done, sir, and big ups on your first solo flight : )

So if you are looking for some succinct, expert advice on how best to construct the meta-plot/story-arc/big picture for any game, give this historic Podcast a listen at:


Ah, just kick a goal will you!!!

Another great weekend coming up… another chance to have my hopes crushed by my favourite sports team!
BusquetsThis is what it feels like to support the Western Sydney Wanderers FC.

RPGs and game psychology are not the only things that weigh on my mind! For about 4 years I have been a fan of the Western Sydney Wanderers, a relatively new team to the Australian A-League.

Now, I don’t live in Western Sydney, but when I became re-interested in football (and signed up to play for the first time since I was a kid) I looked around my home city for the options, and there was a clear choice for me. There is nothing wrong with Sydney FC (besides their fans ; ) but when the Wanderers kicked off they deliberately tried to re-introduce the more ‘tribal’ culture that had (necessarily at the time) departed from football in this country.

The ‘Red-and-Black-Blok’ as they are called have a deserved reputation as the most passionate fan base in the country; in fact their aim is the be the most passionate supporter group in the world! A lofty goal, and what makes it heaps of fun to go to a home game!

Also, because the Wanderers started as financially smaller that Sydney FC, and they started with a smaller home ground. The Wanderers stadium only holds about 25,000, compared to Sydney’s stadium which holds over 100,000. The difference is what I love – Wanderers games are up-close and personal. Pirtek stadium was designed for NRL (dont bother googling it!) so the seats are right along the boundary line, and you will never get a seat that is too far back. Also, they do NOT serve alcohol, and as a dad with kids who like to see the games this is a BIG plus in my books!

For years the Wanderers played ‘fightball’ – what we in Australia degradingly call the very physical, low in technique, high on endurance style of playing. That did serve them well for a few years, and added to the passion of the crowd when they did well, but in recent years the A-League teams that have switched to a Spanish-style of possession based football have started to dominate (as they have all over the world). So, after a cellar-dwelling season last year, the Wanderers have switched up their game and playing style too!

However, this has come at a huge cost in terms of familiar faces – there are only two starting players (two!) who were in the team last year. Kind of leaves me wondering who I am cheering for… the players? The team? The club? My kids and the other supporters? The sport itself?

Of course that would all disappear if/when the team starts scoring goals, and we start hearing the names of the play-makers being mentioned. But, two games into the new season, it hasn’t happened yet.

Which brings me to the conundrum of this coming weekend’s local derby against Sydney FC. I guess the only thing I can say at the moment is ‘Come on…. Team? Wanderers? Ah, just kick a goal will you!!!’