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Kavita Poduri

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A member registered Mar 03, 2016 · View creator page →

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right, but the problem i was having is that in story games you also very much play a role! obviously in OSR you do this too, but i'm trying to figure out what separates them, rather than what they have in common

yeah that makes sense! bringing the strength of roguelikes and tabletops together

i was trying to work this out in a discord server and i basically ended up summarizing it like this; would you say this is an accurate description?


factions are pretty much the same! i am trying to break away from the downward spiral by being really generous with teamwork maneuvers so that you don't have to burn through quite as much stress; basically trying to make sure that teamwork can bear a lot of the load that used to just crumble under the weight of doskvol.

1. ask yourself what it takes to create a more just world

1a. this means material justice

1b. shoot fascists

2. try and do those things

2a. be as kind as you can, esp. towards the marginalized and facing injustice

3. femininity is good

yeah that's super true, and a big part of why i play games is to follow specific characters, so swapping them out doesn't interest me as much. "go on a bender and play someone else" isn't an option in my game for this reason...i might end up tying entanglements to something else. chaos, maybe? we'll have to see

so the essential change here is that you make the GM create custom-tuned complications based directly on the players' actions? that's an interesting angle...i like the randomness of complications as is but i might see if there's a way to include more customization

damn, true

Songs for the Dusk

A post-apocalyptic science-fantasy tabletop RPG about trying to build a better future.

On Twitter here and on Itch here, featuring a preview edition you can check out for free.

i'll just copy the pitch from the game's itch page:

We have no idea how long it's been since the cataclysm.
Once, we lived at the peak of an era of unbridled human Radiance. Then, everything came crashing down. The cataclysm tore down our cities, broke our machines, and rearranged the very continents beneath our feet. The societies of old Earth are gone. This is a new world, littered with the wreckage of what came before and run through with a strange new physics that feels almost like magic.
The world is littered with ancient machines running haywire, strange and exotic new life forms, and petty tyrants big and small vying for power. But for once we have a chance here: a chance, for once, to build something good, something better than all the human flaws and oppressive structures of the old world. And this is how we do it.

if you like socialist/materialist science-fantasy, give it a shot!

i'd love to hear how you implemented heat and complications! heat feels very much grafted in for me right now and alternatives would be useful

oh, yeah, i definitely get that impulse as well. even so, it's always clashed with the second impulse which like...a practical example of this is that i was raised Hindu (atheist Hindu but like, culturally Hindu) and i really don't know anything about Christianity? and i've to some degree actively resisted learning because i think my work will be stronger for operating completely without reference to Christian symbolism and symbology! and sure, i don't recognize that symbology as easily in the media i consume, but it's nice to have a personal and thematic aesthetic that exists entirely orthogonally to that throughline in most Western media. part of what's often frustrated me about PbtA games is that because the moves themselves are codified tropes, it makes it really tough to push the limits of the genre that a given game captures in a satisfying way, so i'm interesting in not laying that out in my work and seeing where it takes people. i think playtesting will probably have a lot to teach me about whether that's effective, but i'm very interested to try it out and see how far i can get on a minimum of that kind of information.

i don't think this was the first thing but i think one of the biggest changes i made was to RADICALLY shift the nature of claims: i renamed them foundations and instead of runnings ops to steal them from people, you just build them in your own space during downtime. i think that was the biggest change for me, and the one that most represents what Songs for the Dusk is.

i also...ended up cutting the healing clock and the reason i did that was mostly bc i think healing is boring? i think my general policy is you shouldn't make shit both boring and slow. healing is boring (because it doesn't add any fiction) and it's slow (because it's unreliable), so i just made it fast and reliable since i didn't want to spend time twisting healing into something interesting, and it's just more fun if your character can go home for a weak and that's all it takes for a stab wound to scar over.

other than that i ended up cutting "gangs" (bc i think experts have more character) and...that's it, most of what distinguishes my game from Blades is in its tonal adjustments, not in outright cutting stuff out. i probably should go through the game with a pair of garden shears tbh but i feel wary of doing that without playtesting. probably it's the wrong impulse to design your game with too much to start instead of too little but that's who i am ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

there's a really cool thing Blades in the Dark does where it hits you with the punchy setting description of "You’re in a haunted Victorian-era city trapped inside a wall of lightning powered by demon blood." but then immediately follows it up with an explanation of why that is:

The point of all this is to create a pressure-cooker environment for our criminal escapades. Traveling outside the lightning barrier is a very bad idea, so it’s impractical to “leave town and wait for the heat to die down” after you pull off a score. Everything the players choose to do has consequences for their characters and shifts the balance of power around in the city—driving the action for a sandbox style of roleplaying game.

i think this is really sharp, and it's a good example of what Blades is trying to do, which in some ways is to present the most elegant tabletop version of an open-world video game. the city's big and stuff goes down without you, but you're playing in a limited space and can't leave. it's why factions happen for the most part without player input, and it feels right for the kinds of story Blades is willing to tell.

more generally, i think one of the things that makes this difficult is that it's such a tough thing to implement story beats because it feels like it'll end up constraining creativity. i'm fine laying down gear because i'm confident if people want start calling my sparkshot guns like, boltspitters or something, they'll just do it and won't feel like they're playing the game wrong, but if i tell them "your story should integrate these tropes and these themes," they'll feel constrained by those beats? and i think the emergent narrative structure of play can be more interesting than the structure of a conventionally-told story, and i worry that sending people in aiming to capture those story beats might stifle creativity or limit people.

nobody speak is such a good pull

GOTTA be the dhoom 2 theme song, which for some inexplicable reason was written almost entirely in english

("dhoom machale" roughly translates to "make some noise")

this rules actually

downtime downtime downtime -- especially the relationship between downtime, stress, "vice," & trauma. those mechanics are SO so good at developing character, at giving space for arcs to grow and develop, and for providing mechanics for character change that i've seriously considered hacking stress back into a pbta game where pushing yourself gives you a +1 to a 2d6 roll or something. crews are also a really big one because i think they let you paint with a really broad brush, and i like position/impact a lot too.

"yo, it's yr girl, you already KNOW who it is!" -- dj who is not your girl and who you do not know at all

hey! i'm kavi (she/her) and i make Songs for the Dusk with quinn bleiler. you can find me on twitter at yrgirlkv and the game's twitter at songsforthedusk.