Archive for January, 2005

Costikyan: Game Development Lexicon Wiki?

January 31, 2005

From Greg Costikyan’s blog

I’m considering launching a wiki to provide a lexicon for game developers.

Backstory: There’s been considerable discussion over the years about the need for a shared vocabulary for game design (see here f’rinstance), and its starting to emerge. UT/Austin has a project to develop such a lexicon, but it uses traditional research principles, which strikes me as extraordinarily retro–a wiki seems like a much better approach. And there is a game design wiki, but it takes a game design patterns approach, which is too narrow–that is, game design patterns are one useful way of approaching game design, but essentially they’re a laundry list of possible game mechanics, rather than a more formal approach to understanding games and game development. As I see it, a proper lexicon should certainly include the vocabulary developed by the game design patterns folks, but that should be only a part of the whole.

January 31, 2005

Posted for Thor:

Day one and I’m not sure how I want things to proceed. I thought when I started this course of events that I knew what I wanted to do to the game and how I would go about it. But in the intervening 24 hours I have questioned those assumptions and added to my wish list. I would like to keep the system light, but give it a little more 3-dimensionality. But there are three areas I have a good idea I want to try to improve.

1. I want character generation to reflect a more 3 dimensional sort of system. The characters in both versions were good at every COO skill as any other; which cuts off one way people like to develop their characters. I want the characters to develop as the game goes on. Stats are the least of my concerns lately I have been writing a lot of games without them but it is possible that there will be some sort of stats they just won’t be STR, COO, KNO these just don’t seem real to me anymore. There are two possible stats that I have been thinking about. They are attention and cool Attention reflects how many balls you can keep in the air at once and Cool reflects how badly you crack when one of those balls hits the ground. In my mind the players are all capable of great things as long as they keep their cool and don’t do more than their attention will cover. The question is what things will affect either.

2. I want the skill system to reflect my current obsession with quality of task resolution. If the character just barely gets the wiring rigged on the alarm system bypassed will there be time to get in and out before the guards notice that the loop that is feeding to the camera is hiccuping every 49 seconds. To this I thing that there is a place for the players to have more control of the outcomes of the situation through some sort of hero point system

3. I want to bring in a system where the experiences of the characters feed back into their abilities. The excellent Comic series Queen and Country has dealt with the battlefield stress of the characters and I would like to reflect something of that sort in the system. It might be that certain things the character experiences bring psychological damage to the character causing a loss of cool or of attention. There are long slow methods of dealing with this that might get you pulled from the field, but there are also “Band-Aids” that can cover the needs like booze or bravo the players can choose what they want to do.

4. While I enjoy team play I think that the rules should be able to accommodate play where the players have different agendas

5. I have always appreciated the political infighting that existed in Queen and Country as well as that in the George Smiley books by John LeCarre. I would like to include rules for playing the politics of the office as well as the fight in the field.

6. There was a post some time ago, on the Forge, about using the game sorcerer to reflect running field agents. This was such a wonderful idea that I want to steal it whole hog if I can fit it into the system and make it play nice with my game.

See that doesn’t look like much to do. I am going to try to stop writing now because my brain hurts and I want to think about the things I have said so far Tomorrow I will try to decide which of these parts I will tackle first.

More free and open games

January 31, 2005

Another posting from BoingBoing about Creative Commons licensed games.

We’re going to need to add a blogroll to this blog soon, and I think Countermoves needs to be on it.

The Tiny Spies 14-Day Makeover

January 27, 2005

Back in the 1980’s I wrote a set of rules that would later become my first game Tiny Spies. There was a later version produced in the 1990’s, and now I will attempt in two weeks time to rebuild the game for the 21st century. I know that two weeks seems like a long time in this era of the 24-hour game but I have about that much attention and want to focus more on the process than the rules. Hopefully this series will address both. Without further ado I present version 1.0 of the tiny spies rules

Read the full rules in the permalinked article

Tiny Spies1.0
This story actually began one dreary summer day about five years ago. A friend of mine and I were sitting around with nothing much to do. None of our friends had been able to show and the scenario I had ready was part of a large campaign which needed a lot of players the only thing he had was in incomplete spy scenario so instead of playing we sat around talking about playing. We had long ago decided that the quest for the ultimate game was a useless one. The more rules you had the less able to play a simple game we wanted something you could sit down and be ready to play in fifteen minutes.
Tiny Spies was born from this discussion. It was a simple game, which could be taught to anyone familiar with gaming in about fifteen minutes. The initial rules took up 5 type written pages in outline form and for the next two years we used these rules to play almost every other type of scenario we could come up with. There were many additions and changes for dealing with some of the scenarios. It is not the intention of this article to give you all the information we had after two years of play but the initial framework upon which we built a lot of enjoyable play. And so for your dining and dancing pleasure I present TINY SPIES

Tiny Spies was created to give you a lot of flexibility without a lot of stuff. So all you need to play is this booklet, two standard dice, a twenty-sided die, and some paper and pencils. The rest you already have time, imagination, and friends.



There are Three basic characteristics in Tiny Spies: Strength – which refers to both your characters physical strength and ability to take damage, coordination – which is how well your character can control his actions, and knowledge -which governs how much you know and how many skills your character can use.
Each characteristic begins with an initial level of eight points. The player then rolls 2D6 and divides the total among the three characteristics any way he wants.
For example if a player rolled nine on the two dice she could allocate up to nine points to any one skill and none to the others, or she could allocate say, five points to strength and two each to coordination and knowledge. Well you get the idea.


Once The Characteristics have been determined, the player will choose the characters skills. The skills in Tiny Spies are broken into two categories the “C” or Coordination based skills and the “K” or Knowledge based skills.
The skills are further divided into “single “,”double “, and “triple” as to the relative amount of knowledge they require. With a “double” counting as two “single’s” and a “triple” counting as three ”singles”.
The abbreviation “s” is for single, “d” is for double, and “t” of course is for triple.
The designation “pre-” another skill means that the skill in question requires the other skill as a prerequisite in order to has it.
A character can have a number of skills equal to his knowledge with doubles counting as two and triples counting as three.

Base chance

The Base Chance (BC) for a character to accomplish a given task is equal to the character coordination for a “C” skill or knowledge for a “K” skill.
A bonus of +1 will be added to the BC for each additional relevant skill with the GM as final judge of relevance.
The GM to reflect conditions, which inhibit or encourage accomplishment of the task, will then add positive and negative modifiers to the BC.
A roll less than the BC on 1D20 is needed for the character to be successful at the task.
If a character does not possess a relevant skill, to attempt a task his BC becomes 1/2 his coordination for “C” skills or 1/2 his knowledge for “K” skills

Acrobatics C/D Gunsmith K/S
Agriculture K/D Hypnosis K/S
Animal Science K/D Interrogation K/S
Archeology K/D Knife Combat C/S (pre-Melee)
Architecture K/D Language K/S (each)
Archery C/S Law K/D
Astronomy K/D Linguistics K/D
Biology K/D Lip Reading K/D
Board Games K/S Lock-picking C/S
Boating C/D Martial Arts C/S (pre-Melee)
Bribery K/S Math K/S
Ballistics K/S Medicine K/T (pre-First Aid)
Card Games K/S Melee Combat C/D
Chemistry K/D Metallurgy K/D
Computer Science K/D Mimicry K/D
Concealment C/S Military Science K/D
Criminology K/D Missile Combat C/D
Cryptography K/S Mountaineering C/D
Demolitions C/S Outdoor Survival K/D
Disguise C/S Persuasion K/S
Diving C/S Photography K/S
Driving C/S Physics K/D
Economics K/D Pickpocket C/D
Electronic Surveillance K/D Piloting C/D
Engineering K/D Pistol C/S (pre-Missile)
Aeronautical Political Science K/D
Civil Psychology K/D
Electrical Rare Collectible K/S
Hydraulic Religion K/D
Industrial Riding C/S
Mechanical Safecracking C/T
Transportation Security Systems K/D
Evasion C/S Seduction K/S
Finance K/D Shadowing C/S
Fine Arts K/S Skiing C/S
First Aid K/S Stealth C/S
Forgery C/S Tracking K/D
Gamboling K/S Torture C/S
Geography K/D Toxicology K/D
Geology K/D Zoology K/D


Combat, in TINY SPIES, is like any other skill except that it is more regulated. The order of events is predetermined, the skills have all been accounted for, and the outcome of successful tasks is already set up.
The order of events in combat are first to tally up the BCs for the weapons to be used, then determine who has advantage through whatever means are most appropriate: surprise, readiness, highest coordination. Get movement out of the way and have at it with the dice. When the smoke clears determine the damage and check for casualties.
Characters move at three rates walking, jogging, and sprinting. In combat terms a character can walk five feet per second as long as he wants but, can only jog at fifteen feet per second for a number of minuets equal to his strength and sprint for a number of seconds equal to his strength at thirty feet per second.
For missile combat roll less than the characters modified BC to hit. If a hit is successful roll the appropriate damage and subtract the result from the opponents strength. If a character goes under half his strength, roll 1D20, if the result is less than the currant strength the character remains conscious otherwise the Character becomes unconscious for 1D20 turns.
Statistics for missile weapons can be found on the missile weapons chart.
A character will bleed to death at a rate of one point per five minutes without medical attention.
Melee combat is the same as missile combat except that the opponents must be within three feet of each other. There are three forms of attack in melee combat punch, kick, and attack with a weapon. Anyone can punch with their full coordination level as their BC but anything else requires a melee combat skill.
A character can attempt to dodge a blow by rolling his coordination or less if the character has melee combat skill or half his coordination if he does not. This cannot be done in the same turn as an attack.
Damage for melee weapons can be found on the melee weapons chart.
Additionally characters with a current strength greater than 14 receive a bonus of +1 to his damage in melee combat. And an additional +1 for strength over 18.
Characters with martial arts skill receive +1 to their damage rolls.
Damage from grenades or dynamite are based on the amount of explosives and the distance from the blast, The initial damage from a grenade is 4D6 and for dynamite it is 2D6 per stick. This is the damage at ground zero but 1D6 is subtracted from the damage for every five feet from the blast. And remember that everyone in range takes damage.


.22 revolver 6 1 1/2D6 6 50
.22] 5 1 1/2D6 4 125
.22 Auto 10 1 1/2D6+1 8 275
.22 Mag BG 4 1 1D6 5 150
.25 Auto 8 1 1/2D6+1 6 150
7.65mm Auto 8 1 1DD6 8 325
9mm Auto 12 1 2D6 11 500
.357 Mag Rev 6 1 2D6+4 11 375
.38 Special 5 1 1D6+2 8 250
.380 Auto 8 1 1DD6+2 9 350
.44 Mag Rev 6 1 3D6 13 275
.45 Auto 8 1 2D6+2 11 525
.223 smg 30 10 1/2D3+1 14 450
7.62mm smg 35 11 2D6 x 500
7.65mm smg 20 13 1D6 14 400
9mm smg 30 9 3D6 x 600
.45 smg 30 13 2D6+2 x 600
.22 Rifle 4 1 1/2D6 x 200
.30 Rifle 30 40 2D6+3 x GI
5.56mm Auto 40 60 2d6 x GI
.303 Sniper 10 1 3D6+2 x 800
7.62mm Auto 20 60 3D6 x GI
Shotgun 2 1 4D6 x 150
Assault Gun 8 2 4D6 x GI
Harpoon Gun 2 1 1D6 x 100
Crossbow 1 1 1D6 x 100
.50 MG belt 100 4D6 x GI
Elephant Gun 4 1 4D6 x 750

Mag = Magazine S/T = Shots per Turn Dam = Damage
Con = Concealment modifier $$$ = cost



Punch 1/2D6 x
Kick 1D6 x
Knife* 1D6 20
Broken bottle* 1D6-1 cost of beer
Fencing sword* 1/2D6+2 50
Ax* 2×1/2D6 35
Billy Club 1D6 20

Dam = Damage $$$ = cost * causes bleeding see rules above

Motorcycle 20 100 45 1/2D6 15
Sportscar 20 140 50 1D6-1 40
Compact 10 80 40 1D6-1 40
Sedan 15 110 45 1D6 50
Limousine 10 90 45 1D6 60
ORV/van 10 80 40 1D6-1 45
Small Truck 10 90 30 1D6 60
Large Truck 5 70 20 1/2D20 70
Motorcycle and 15 80 40 1D6-1 20

ACL = Acceleration MSP = Maximum Speed (MPH)
MCS = Maximum Cornering Speed
DAM = Damage To Target / 10 MPH
STR = Strength ORV = Off Road Vehicle
This section still needs to be done.

Authors notes

The initial playtest of tiny spies was conducted about fifteen minutes after we wrote the game (which in itself took less than an hour). There was only a character creation system and a crude system for missile combat (all the weapons did 1D6 damage). We did not use a GM but rather both took turns adding to the plot. The game played from start to finish without any major hitches. A miraculous turn of events I can only attribute to the simplicity of the system.
The game was made simple because we felt that we were good enough to play the game without the rules and only wanted a system to keep things in place and make it predictable.
When we sat down to write a very simple game we had two things in mind: First get rid of all the characteristics, which never get used and use one simple system for task resolution. We arrived at strength, coordination, and knowledge as the three, which would give us the most mileage at the least cost. Strength and coordination started out, as constitution but that wasn’t very useable. Then we got rid of strength altogether because there were no strength based skills (hit points were originally the sum of coordination and knowledge of all the dumb things), but it came back when we needed it in the scenario (to break a door down).
The skill system started out with the belief that we wouldn’t use a skill system but roll for a saving throw based on each and every encounter. This did not last long. But the idea of the saving throw against a characteristic did seem to fit what we wanted in a universal task resolution system.
There are still some things that TINY SPIES does not handle well but they fall into the category of nuance. The game served us well while we used it and if you approach it with the same belief that you already are fairly good at this story telling thing it will work for you.

Boy that was it. All I wrote and thought that people could play this game. If I can find them I will be glad to post the earlier versions of the game.

Here is version 2.0. actually it was more of a version 2.1 because sometime in the 90’s I had started to take another stab at it and added some goofy stuff like the Height and Build info which led to a derived strength and speed. I’m not sure what I was thinking but we’ll go from there.

Tiny Spies 2.0

The game of espionage role playing

Created By
Thor W. Hansen

Michael Mabry, Peter Moore
and Roger Thorm

Edited By
Paul E. Cales and Roger Thorm

Cover Art By
Rob Prior

Production By Tiny Games
and Agent X-844

Tiny Spies and all associated imagery, symbols and concepts are copyright ©1992
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the publishers.

Any comments or questions concerning this book should be directed to:

Tiny Games

If your question requires an answer, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

Tiny Spies is, by design, a simple system: easy to learn and easy to play. We think that it has rules to cover most of the situations, which are likely to arise in the genre. What Tiny Spies is not, is rigid.
So many other games have taken some movie or television show as their paradigm of play, as a result, they always play like this movie or that television show. Tiny Spies is a skeleton on which many scenarios or styles of play can be fleshed out. It allows you to develop the style of play that you want.
The rules are pared down to an almost atomic level to be learned easily. There have been sacrifices made, but always with explanations. The Weapons System, for example, is quite generic by industry standards without all the brand names one usually finds in espionage role-playing. There is a reason for this, when we started working on this game system, we sat down with the intention of measuring all the guns we could find against each other. We made a chart to show the impact energy for a wide variety of guns based on muzzle, velocity, slug weight and cross section. And much to our amazement, the pre-existing calibers of guns clustered so closely together on the chart that they could only be taken in clumps. The results, as you can see on the weapons chart, reflect these findings. Guns are also fairly nasty, doing a great deal of damage, and should be handled as such. Too many games allow a character to take so many hits as to be laughable. People do not stand around after being shot except in unusually heroic circumstances.
Very little space is given over to Equipment because any list we could provide would be hopelessly incomplete or hopelessly long. There is just too much which could be included. Many specialty magazines are available today for getting ideas for styles and prices. To get an idea of what spy clothing costs for freelance spies, turn to GQ. To get an idea of the cost of those neat fast cars, look to European car magazines. To find the cost of neat gadgets, look to one of the mercenary magazines. All this stuff is out there if you look, and you can usually find enough information to use, including a picture you can show to your players during a game. Agency spies will operate differently, getting their equipment from the Agency, but remember; this is the nineties, and responsible government spending Starts With You. Break too many Ferraris and they might make you drive a Volkswagen.
For scenario inspiration, we highly recommend both I Spy and Mission Impossible for everyone. They both have very playable character models and better situations than Robert Ludlum’s overly complicated and paranoid stories or Ian Fleming’s lone wolf James Bond, but as always, it’s your game do what you will with it.


Tiny Spies was created to give you lots of flexibility without a lot of equipment. All you need to play is this booklet, two standard 6-sided dice, one 20-sided die, which can be found in most toy and hobby stores these days, and some pencils and paper – more of each will make things easier. The rest you already have Imagination, Friends, and Time.
A word or two about notation…When we refer to a situation where dice are rolled, we notate the instance with the number of times, then a “D”, then the number of sides on the die. So 3D6 would be the sum of three rolls of a standard die, and 1D20 would be one roll of a 20-sided die. Also note that pluses apply to the sum of the dice rolled, so 2d6+2 would be a number from 4-14.
When we refer to a turn, in combat or when using a vehicle, it is about 6 seconds long in game time.
When Tiny Spies was created we wanted the game to be run by all the characters cooperatively, but this did not work as well as we had wanted. As a result, one of the players should take on the role of Game Moderator (GM) to design and present the scenario that will be played. In effect the GM will play all the other characters in the world. At the end of the book is a special section to give the GM scenario ideas.


As in most role-playing games, creating a character is much easier if you start with a solid character concept. You might want to decide your character’s sex, age, background and experiences, as well as notable areas of expertise. With these thoughts in mind, you can more easily decide how best to apportion the characteristics

There are three basic characteristics by which characters are measured against each other in Tiny Spies: Constitution (CON) – which refers to both a character’s general health and fortitude and also a measure of the amount of damage a character can withstand in combat, Coordination (COO) – which is how well a character can control his or her physical actions, and Knowledge (KNO)- which governs how much a character knows and how many skills a character can have. In addition a character will choose a height and build from the chart below. There are two characteristics that are derived from CON and COO they are strength (STR) and speed (SPD). A character’s strength is based on CON plus height and build modifiers. Speed is likewise based on a character’s COO plus height and build modifiers.
Each characteristic begins with an initial level of eight points. The player then rolls 2D6 and adds 2 to the total then the player divides these points among the three characteristics and assigns points to height and build the cost of which can be found on the height and build chart to create the character desired.
Height and Build Chart

Pts Height St Build St
Short -1 Slight -1
Medium 0 Average 0
Tall +1 Large +1
Very Tall +3 Extra Large +2
Gigantic +5 Huge +3
Pts-points St-strength modifier

Initially a Characters strength is the same as constitution plus height and build modifiers and speed is coordination plus height and build modifiers. Both characteristics can be raised through skills acquired by the character.

For example, take a character; let’s call him Bruce Bravo. If the player rolled a total of nine on the two dice, with the addition of the two points the total would be eleven and could be allocated two to Constitution, four to coordination, making the character fairly good at physical skills, and two to knowledge, with one point Height and two points to build which would be large framed or any other possible way So we wind up with:

Bruce Bravo
Constitution 10
Coordination 12
Knowledge 10
Bruce is a man of medium height with a large build. His initial Strength would be 11 and his initial Speed would be?????

Once the characteristics have been determined, the player will choose the character’s skills. The skills in Tiny Spies are broken down into two categories. The “C” or coordination-based skills and the “K” or knowledge-based skills.
The skills are also marked with the relative amount of training they require. A character has the potential to take an amount equal to the characters knowledge.
For example, computer science is a K2 skill and thus would take two of the character’s knowledge points. Bruce Bravo from the example above with 10 points of knowledge could take the following skills:

Missile Combat C2
Driving C1
Pistol (pre: Missile) C1
Security Systems K2
Stealth C1
Language (Russian) K1
Outdoor Survival K2
adding up to 10 points.


Acrobatics – C1 – Trained in tumbling and the ability to perform leaps and falls, as well as high wire walking. Characters with acrobatics skill can roll to avoid damage in a fall with a modifier of -1/ 10 feet of fall. This skill also adds a +1 to the character’s speed.
Animal Handling – K1 – Experience handling a variety of animals and their training. Characters with Animal Handling skill will lower the chance that an animal will attack by 5 points if a successful roll is made for the skill.
Archaeology – K2 – Acquaintance with the skills of archaeology and knowledge of past civilizations.
Architecture – K1 – Knowledge of building design and building materials. The character can recognize styles of buildings and will have a better than average chance of finding his or her way around inside.
Archery – C1 – Skill in using bow and arrow as well as crossbow and bolt.
Athletics – C1 – Athletic training with special knowledge in areas such as track & field, cycling, marathon running, team sports, tennis, etc. a +1 to the characters strength and speed.
Biology – K2 – Basic knowledge of life forms and life functions.
Boating – K1 – Proficiency in piloting both sail and powerboats.
Body Building – C1. -.Increases the characters strength by one point.
Chemistry – K2 – Basic knowledge of chemical reactions and properties.
Computer Science – K2 – Ability to program computers.
Concealment – K1 – Ability to hide equipment on one’s person and create concealed compartments in objects with the proper tools.
Contortionist – C2 – Ability to perform feats of above average flexibility.
Criminology – K2 – Knowledge of law enforcement operating procedures and criminal justice systems.
Cryptography – K1 – Knowledge of codes and ciphers and ability to decode them.
Customs – K1 – Knowledge of the customs laws of foreign countries.
Demolitions – K1 – Knowledge of explosive devices and their use, this skill is essential to using explosives to blow something up well, not to mention safely.
Disguise – K1 – Ability to alter a person’s looks with make-up and prosthetics. A character with perception can roll to see through a disguise.
Driving – C1 – Proficiency in driving various motorcycles, cars and trucks in extreme situations.
Electronic Surveillance -K1 – (pre: Electronics)- Knowledge of electronic systems of detection and counter measures to those systems.
Electronics – K2 – Basic knowledge of electrical systems and circuits. Includes basic repair of broken electrical equipment.
Engineering – K2 – Basic knowledge of construction and design.
Evasion – K1 – Ability to lose a tracking agent.
Fast Draw – C1 – Add 2 to the character’s speed in an initiative setting when a draw is used if roll is successful.
Fine Arts – K1 – Knowledge of and ability to produce works in one of the following mediums: painting, sculpture, writing, music, or dance.
Flying -C1 to C2- Ability to fly fixed wing aircraft. Taken at C1 the character can fly light aircraft, taken at C2 the character can fly multi-engine and jet craft.
First Aid – K1 – Ability to render basic emergency medical care.
Forgery – K2 – Ability to produce credible copies of items or documents with the proper tools.
Gambling – K1 – Knowledge of, and skill at games of chance.
Gun-smithing – K1 – Ability to build and repair firearms with the proper tools.
Hypnosis – K1 – Ability to induce a trance states in another. A character can block hypnosis with a roll against Constitution.
Heavy Weapons – C2- Knowledge needed to handle large military weapons including mortars, tanks, and howitzers.
Helicopter – C1- Knowledge needed to fly rotary wing aircraft.
Knife Combat – C1 – (pre: Melee Combat) Hand-to-hand training with knife. This skill also provides a +1 defense for unarmed combatants against a knife-wielding attacker.
Language -K1 to K3 each- Knowledge of a foreign language.
K1 – Basic level
K2 – Speak and read fairly well
K3 – Perfect fluency
Law – K1 to K3 – Familiarity with the statutes of law. at various levels of familiarity.
K1 – Policeman’s level of familiarity
K2 – Lawyer’s level of familiarity
K3 – International law familiarity
Linguistics – K2 – Understanding of the process of language and language history, and can identify unknown languages.
Lip Reading – K1 – Ability to understand what people are saying just by seeing their lips move. The character must have a clear view of the lips and speak the same language fluently.
Lockpicking – C2 – Ability to manipulate locks with the proper tools.
Long Distance Running – C1 – Increases the amount of time the character can run to 5 x CON number of minutes. (A normal character can run for up to CON number of minutes.)
Martial Arts – C2 – (pre: Melee Combat). – Training in advanced combat techniques. Character receives a +1 to damage rolls as well as attack rolls. The character also receives a +1 to speed.
Mechanics – K1 – Ability to service and repair standard machinery.
Medicine -K3- Familiarity with general medicine and surgical techniques.
Melee Combat – C1 – Training in hand-to-hand combat.
Mimicry – C1 – Ability to make ones voice sound like another persons.
Military Science – K2 – Knowledge of strategy and tactics, understanding of military operations.
Missile Combat – C1 – Basic training with firearms.
Mountaineering – C1 – Ability and knowledge of technical climbing and rappelling.
Navigation – K1 – Knowledge of plotting courses and using navigational equipment.
Outdoor Survival – K1 – Skills involved in surviving with minimal supplies in the wilderness.
Perception – K1 – Training to make the character more aware of his or her surroundings. Characters with perception skill receive a bonus when searching an area for clues and a -1 die modifier is applied to anyone using stealth on them.
Photography – K1 – Ability to take photographs and develop film.
Pickpocket – C2 – Ability to remove objects from another persons clothes. If two or more pickpockets work together add +3 to the attempt.
Pistol – C1 – (pre: Missile Combat) – Advanced firearms training in pistols, includes knowledge of weapon maintenance.
Political Science – K1 – Knowledge of world politics, political figures and political organizations.
Rare Collectibles – K1 – Knowledge of pricing and grading antiques.
Riding – C1 – Ability to ride and care for horses.
Rifle – C1 – (pre: Missile Combat) – Advanced firearms training in submachine guns and rifles, includes knowledge of weapon maintenance.
Safe Cracking -K3- Ability and knowledge used to enter safes.
Security Systems – K2 – Knowledge of the various types of anti-entry measures and knowledge of what it takes to defeat them. This does not necessarily give the character the ability to defeat the systems, only the knowledge of what must be done to get around them.
Shadowing – K1 – Ability to follow a person without being detected.
Silent Killing – K2 – (pre: Stealth)- Knowledge of fast killing techniques. Character must first make a skill roll for stealth to sneak up on victim.
Sky Diving – C1 – Training for sky diving with standard and parafoil chutes.
Stealth – C1- Ability to sneak up on a person without being detected.
Tracking – K1 – Ability to follow the trail of someone by the tracks made.
Toxicology – K2 – Knowledge of the effects and handling of poisons.
Underwater Operations – C-2 – Training for snorkeling, scuba diving, underwater sleds, mini-subs, etc.
Yoga – K1 – Knowledge of meditation and relaxation techniques.


The Base Chance (BC) for a character to accomplish a given task is equal to the character’s coordination for a “C” skill or knowledge for a “K” skill.
A bonus of +1 will be added to the BC for each additional relevant skill. The GM will be final judge of whether a skill is relevant to the situation.
If a character does not possess a relevant skill, the characters BC to attempt a task becomes 1/2 the characters coordination for “C” skills or 1/2 the character’s knowledge for “K” skills.
The GM to reflect conditions, which inhibit or encourage accomplishment of the task, will then add positive and negative modifiers to the BC.
A roll less than the BC on 1D20 is needed for the character to be successful at the task.
For example, Bruce Bravo wants to sneak up on the bad guy Agent X-844 so he rolls against his coordination. Bruce has a Coordination of 12 so the player must roll under that number on 1D20 for Bruce to accomplish this task. Let’s assume that the player rolled a 14 this means that Bruce has slipped up and Agent X-844 has heard him. Agent X-844 wheels around and…


Combat, in Tiny Spies, is like any other skill except that it is more regulated. The order of events is predetermined, the skills have all been accounted for, and the outcome of successful tasks is already set up.
The order of events in combat are first to tally up the BCs for the weapons to be used, then determine who has advantage through whatever means are most appropriate: surprise, readiness, highest speed. Figure out who is shooting at which target and have at it with the dice. When the smoke clears, determine the damage and check for casualties.
In most situations where there is no suprise the player with the highest speed shoots first and then the character with the next highest speed and so on. If a character has a speed twice or better than any of his opponents the character attacks twice in a round.


For missile combat, roll less than the character’s modified BC to hit. Statistics for missile weapons can be found on the missile weapons chart.
A character can fire a weapon up to 10 feet with a modifier of +2, up to 1/2 the range at +1, and to full range with no modifier. Beyond the range of a weapon the character receives a -3 modifier


Melee combat is the same as missile combat except that the opponents must be within three feet of each other. There are three forms of attack in melee combat: punch, kick and attack with a weapon. Anyone can punch with their full coordination level as their BC, but anything else requires a melee combat skill.

A character can attempt to dodge a blow from a melee weapon by: 1) rolling his coordination or less, if the character has melee combat skill or 2) half the characters coordination if the character does not. Characters of Extra Large build receive a -1 to their dodge and characters of huge build receive -3. A character cannot dodge if he has already attacked in that turn.

If a hit is successful, roll the appropriate damage and subtract the result from the opponent’s Constitution. If a character goes under half his Constitution, roll 1D20. If the result is less than the current Constitution, the character remains conscious, otherwise, the character becomes unconscious for 1D20 minutes.
Damage for melee weapons can be found on the melee weapons chart. Damage for missile weapons can be found on the missile weapons chart.
Additionally a character with a current strength greater than 14 receives a bonus of +1 to his damage done in melee combat, and another +1 if his strength is over 18.
Characters with martial arts skill receive +1 to both their skill rolls and damage rolls.
Damage from grenades or dynamite are based on the amount of explosives and the distance from the blast. The initial damage from a grenade is 4D6 and for dynamite is 2D6 per stick. This is the damage at ground zero. Subtract 1D6 from the damage for every five feet from the blast. Remember that everyone in range takes damage.
A character that has been wounded by a missile or edged weapon may bleed to death without medical attention. A wounded character will loose one point per five minutes up to the original damage amount. Unconscious characters, who are bleeding, continue to bleed unless treated.


.22 revolver 6 1 1/2D6 6 40
.22 Boot Gun 5 1 1/2D6 4 25
.22 Auto 10 1 1/2D6+1 8 40
.22 Mag BG 4 1 1D6 5 50
.25 Auto 8 1 1/2D6+1 6 50
7.65mm Auto 8 1 1D6 8 100
9mm Auto 12 1 2D6 11 100
.357 Mag Rev. 6 1 2D6+4 11 100
.38 Special 5 1 1D6+2 8 100
.380 Auto 8 1 1D6+2 9 100
.44 Mag Rev. 6 1 3D6 13 150
.45 Auto 8 1 2D6+2 11 150
.223 smg 30 10 1/2D6+1 14 200
7.62mm smg 35 11 2D6 x 200
7.65mm smg 20 13 1D6 14 200
9mm smg 30 9 3D6 x 250
.45 smg 30 13 2D6+2 x 250
.22 Rifle 4 1 1/2D6 x 150
.30 Rifle 30 40 2D6+3 x 500
5.56mm Auto 40 60 2D6 x 300
.303 Sniper 10 1 3D6+2 x 1000
7.62mm Auto 20 60 3D6 x 500
Shotgun 2 1 4D6 x 100
Assault Gun 8 2 4D6 x 350
Harpoon Gun 2 1 1D6 x 50
Crossbow 1 1 1D6 x 100
.50 MG belt 100 4D6 x 3000
Elephant Gun 4 1 4D6 x 2000
MAG = Magazine S/T = Shots per Turn DAM = Damage CON = Concealment modifier RNG = Range in feet

Punch 1/2D6
Kick 1D6
Knife * 1D6
Broken Bottle * 1D6-1
Fencing Sword * 1/2D6+2
Ax + 2×1/2D6
Billy Club 1D6

* causes bleeding, see DAMAGE


Any character can drive a vehicle up to 75% of its maximum speed without bothering to make a skill roll. A skill roll is required to take the vehicle to full speed and a die modifier of -1 is applied for every 10 mph over full speed. The same rule applies to cornering. If the skill roll is not made, the driver loses control and the car skids out with a one chance in six for every ten miles over the maximum cornering speed that the vehicle will flip over. Roll for damage on the VEHICLE TABLE.
Vehicular damage is done in dice per 10 mph. If two vehicles strike each other the damage is rolled for both and applied to each. The strength of the vehicle takes damage before the passengers. Any remaining damage is first assigned to the passengers on the side struck and then to the remaining passengers.


Motorcycle 20 100 45 1/2D6 15
Sportscar 20 140 50 1D6-1 40
Compact 10 80 40 1D6-1 40
Sedan 14 110 45 1D6 50
Limousine 10 80 45 1D6 60
ORV/Van 10 80 40 1D6-1 45
Small Truck 10 90 30 1D6 60
Large Truck 5 70 20 1/2D20 70
M.cycle w/sidecar 15 80 40 1D6-1 20
ACL = Acceleration (MPH/turn)
MSP = Maximum Speed (MPH)
MCS = Maximum Cornering Speed (MPH)
DAM = Damage to Target/10 mph
STR = Strength ORV = Off Road Vehicle


Ok, so now you know all there is to know about running a character in Tiny Spies, now you need to know what to do with them. In this section we will give a sample spy organization and some ways of developing an adventure.
There will be two ways that the game can be set up. Either the players are working for an agency, or they are free agents.

If they belong to an agency, then they will have to follow the rules. To aid the beginning GM we have included the agency of the Strategic Command Operations Liaison or SKOL. SKOL is a loose knit group of agents drawn primarily from the security forces of the members of the NATO alliance with other countries lending aid on occasion.
The agents of SKOL are drawn from the incoming ranks of the agencies of the member nations. They are then trained at the SKOL headquarters at Fort George in Scotland. SKOL agents are then sent on missions of importance to all the member nations. The agents keep independent covers and lead normal lives until they are called up for a mission.
SKOL has a long-standing record of fine work and high standards. They are responsible for small missions where several countries benefit from the operation but none would trust a single security force do it. There are often multinational teams though that is not always the case.
Agents are told in advance what their mission priorities are and what prerogatives they may take toward its completion. The teams are required to follow the law in most cases and are forbidden from using the mission for personal gain. SKOL agents are not allowed to use extreme force in most situations and there are penalties for embarrassing the host countries. The team is then given an opportunity to discuss the mission and formulate a plan. SKOL has very tight funding and little can be given to aid the characters beyond what the mission directly calls for.
During the missions there is no contact between the agents and SKOL directly. This is to aid the host country in disavowing the mission in case of disaster.
After the mission the agents are debriefed and the mission is reviewed. If the mission is rated a success then the agents will receive points toward promotion. After the debriefing, the group is disbanded until another mission is called for. The agents then resume their covers until they are called upon again. FREE AGENTS
Some characters will be played as free agents. These characters may work on their own, collecting information from police band radios, connections in law enforcement agencies, partners in the field, or from other concerned sources. It is also possible that a free agent will work for a company or, on rare occasions, work on individual cases with an agency or law enforcement group.
When a free agent takes a mission, it is usually for love, money or revenge – not simply because the agency gave him the mission. This provides a great potential for variety in scenarios. It also provides for a number of different end goals. Rather than a promotion, like the agent from an agency would get, the free agent might get money, a woman, satisfaction or any combination of the three. Or he might get nothing but the experience.


The easiest way to create a scenario is the same way you prepare meals for when company arrives unexpectedly. You prepare things ahead of time. As you read the newspaper, keep an eye open to spy things, then clip them out and put them in a folder. When you read about a neat character in a book make up a game character that is like that character and stick it in the folder.
Then when it’s your turn to run the game take a couple things out of the folder and mix them together. Think about what you have and sure enough there you will find a setting and some characters. Sometimes this will be enough to get an adventure going but if it isn’t, use the charts below to generate the mission parameters. You will be playing in no time at all.
To use the chart, get a deck of cards and turn over the cards to answer the following questions: Who? What? and Where? If the cards give you some ridiculous combination just keep drawing cards until you get one that works out or change them to something else. By using the characters you have in your file and the ideas from your readings you should be able to whip up a good adventure in no time.
For example, to generate Bruce’s next assignment, let’s say that the cards drawn were: Q-(Noble), J-(Find), 6-(Ship), 5-(Jewelry). This gives the GM such possibilities as sending Bruce to capture Sir Sidney Scott, who is smuggling jade on his yacht in the South China Sea; or sending Bruce on a cruise to find the woman wearing the diamond necklace (though whether she’s a defecting enemy agent or a courier with information or something entirely else may yet need to be decided…); or having Bruce recover Queen Elizabeth’s crown before the opening of Parliament. The possibilities are endless.


Card Who What Where Things
K Doctor Kill Dock Microfilm
Q Noble Steal Airport Formula
J Explorer Find Museum Blueprints
10 President Kidnap Office Video Tape
9 Actor Smuggle Warehouse Code Word
8 Teacher Exchange Opera Floppy Disk
7 Scientist Substitute Police Station Name
6 Assassin Destroy Ship Map
5 Spy Debrief Embassy Jewelry
4 Dissident Rescue Restaurant Animal
3 Merchant Slander Public Bath Weapon
2 Cleric Copy Lodge Suitcase
A Vagabond Pass on Military Base Pictures

The cards can also be used to create characters that you had not planned on. By using the suits of the deck to represent the alignment of the new character to the agents. If the suit is hearts then the new character is secretly on the players side, if the suit is diamonds the character is amicable to the agents, if it is clubs the character is hostile to the players, and if it is spades the character is from the other side, and will attempt to ruin the mission if it is possible.
Regardless of the method you use to create your scenario, try to develop a set of objectives for the agents. This will give the game a distinct sense of direction and will make it much easier to calculate …


Animals can be very unpredictable and are often a match for unprepared players. There are four statistics for animals: Attack Factor (ATT) – the number, under which the animal is successful in a melee situation on 1d20, Constitution (CON) – the amount of damage an animal can endure in combat, Damage (DMG) – the amount of damage done by an animal in an attack on a number of d6, and Temperament (TEM) – the chance that an animal will attack if provoked on 1d20.


Alligator 14 15 3 7
Bat (50-1000) 12 5 1pt 10
Bear 10 25 2 12
Dog 17 8 1 10
Horse 12 15 1 12
Lion 15 20 3 15
Python 8* 8 2/turn 5
Rat (1-40) 15 2 1pt 18
Scorpion 12 2 V 14
Shark 10 20 2 15
Tiger 16 17 3 17
Venous Snake 12 5 V 15
Wolf 15 15 2 15
* If a python strikes it is considered to have the character in its grasp. The character must roll below his or her STR to break free.
V Venom causes 5D6 damage if not treated with anti-venom within 15 minutes.

Animals can be very unpredictable and are often a match for unprepared players. There are four statistics for animals: Attack Factor (ATT) – the number, under which the animal is successful in a melee situation on 1d20, Constitution (CON) – the amount of damage an animal can endure in combat, Damage (DMG) – the amount of damage done by an animal in an attack on a number of d6, and Temperament (TEM) – the chance that an animal will attack if provoked on 1d20.


Alligator 14 15 3 7
Bat (50-1000) 12 5 1pt 10
Bear 10 25 2 12
Dog 17 8 1 10
Horse 12 15 1 12
Lion 15 20 3 15
Python 8* 8 2/turn 5
Rat (1-40) 15 2 1pt 18
Scorpion 12 2 V 14
Shark 10 20 2 15
Tiger 16 17 3 17
Venous Snake 12 5 V 15
Wolf 15 15 2 15
* If a python strikes it is considered to have the character in its grasp. The character must roll below his or her STR to break free.
V Venom causes 5D6 damage if not treated with anti-venom within 15 minutes.

At the end of each adventure the player receives one point of experience. When the player accumulates enough points, he may use them to raise a primary characteristic one point by spending as many points as the new total for the characteristic. Thus if Bruce Bravo was to have accumulated 11 experience points, the player could opt to raise his knowledge one point, from 10 to 11. This would allow Bruce a new skill and take his experience back to zero. The player could also wait for another couple of missions and then raise Bruce’s Coordination.
If you are running a group of agents from one of the agencies you should also debrief the agents. If they meet the primary objectives of the mission they should be rewarded by the agency either through promotion or bonus. If, however, the team misses it’s objectives, the members should be moved back to simpler missions and sanctioned accordingly. Similar closings for missions will apply to free agents, but failing to achieve the objective of a mission could have more significant personal ramifications.

But for now I would like to outline the steps I wish to take to make this a more modern RPG.

1. I would like the rules to reflect a less all or nothing conflict resolution sort of thing.

2. I would like the Characters to be a little less one dimensional

3. I would like to bring more play into the examples

4. I want it to be a game that could be played by someone who is not me.

5. I think that there should be better examples of the skills and difficulty modifiers

Big Ideas

January 27, 2005

Roleplaying in Sterlings Shaper/Mechanist future

If ever there was a setting that called out for the simple tratment this wasn’t it. But it had me thinking about how to do justice to the enormity of futuristic RPGs.

I have allways maintained that the best roleplaying comes from good old fashioned dungeons where nobody thinks about what they do for a living and there is only a tissue of plot to hold it all together. Somewhat like Kabuki where all of the movements and costumes and plots are prescribed, the fun comes in using those elements in a unique way. The further we come toward the present day and a world we understand there are so many other things to think about that we sometimes get lost in the other things. I had a wonderful Spy Scenario back in the day that fell apart because one of my players had this nifty idea he got from one of his economics classes to hold money from a kingpin he was supposed to be fighting and didn’t want to. He was an economist his character was not and had no economic skills to speak of and I didn’t know enough to figure a way around it. I was more brittle then, and things quickly fell apart. I can think of a couple of ways to keep the game running now but the point is that we game in a shared imagineation space and it get tricky to keep everyone on the same page in the present. A wide open future is going to be a harder thing to do. One of the concites of the Cyberpunks is that everything works like it does now except they are all jumped up and armed.

The Shaper/Mechanist future is a really big place where people have very different ways from ours and everyones worldview would be quite different from everyone else. I have been trying for years to find a good way for characters from different backgrounds to have unique knowledges as well as enough shared info that they can work together, But in the S/M future you have a world where the characters don’t see the same things in the same object. And the players being the little info vacumes that we all are have read the rules and know all sides at the same time. What this game needs is a way for the different factions to develop away from each other. seperate wikis might be a way to do this that way the players can develop a world view that would be seperate from each other and give them access to differnt skills or techniques or weapons that the other factions wouldn’t know about. by controlling the lists and having a generalized system to create new skills/Tech/Words/ideas the parts would be controllable.

I take back what I said earlier. Maybe in a game about the Shaper/Mechanist future we have an opportunity to build a new thing. A game that exists on many levels and develop rules to cover what the players can add and what they need to know and how to hold it all together.Play on!

Help Rescue Orphan Works

January 26, 2005

From a BoingBoing article titled Tell US Copyright Office to let you use orphan works!

The US Copyright Office is investigating whether it needs a system to clear the way for people who want to use “orphaned” copyrighted works that have no visible rightsholder. They’re seeking public comment on this. It would be great to submit your own stories of orphaned works you would use if you could — old RPGs, software, books and photos and paintings and such.

This has the information from the Federal Register along with the email address to send your comments.

SUMMARY: The Copyright Office seeks to examine the issues raised by “orphan works,” i.e., copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public. This notice requests written comments from all interested parties. Specifically, the Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.

DATES: Written comments must be received in the Copyright Office on or before 5 p.m. EST on March 25, 2005. Interested parties may submit written reply comments in direct response to the written comments on or before 5 p.m. on May 9, 2005.

This pertains to all kinds of intellectual property, but lots of RPGs, especially, are prime candidates for a potential rescue with this. Lots of old, small games with good bits in them are out there, languishing because the copyright provisions are stifling, rather than encouraging, development, marketing and innovation.

I’m especially interested in this because of my own involvement with DragonQuest, the old RPG put out by SPI in the early 80s. The ownership of the rights to the game are murky, since SPI went out of business and was acquired by TSR, who were, in turn acquired by Wizards of the Coast, who were themselves acquired by Hasbro. Think anyone at Hasbro has any clue at all about what SPI was, let alone the disposition of their intellectual property?

This could be a very good thing if it is adopted and implemented in a sane and reasonable fashion.

DRM-Free Electronic RPG Publishers

January 24, 2005

Boing Boing has another posting about
Another RPG publisher who uses DRM-free PDFs.

These include:

  • e23 – from Steve Jackson Games.
  • RPG Now – which has a lot of stuff in their catalog.
  • 1KM1KT – Write an RPG. Post it on 1KM1KT. Profit. (free downloads)
  • Anvilwerks – whose publications are all under a Creative Commons license of one sort or another.

How to TrackBack

January 21, 2005

Bryant from 20′ x 20′ Room sent me some info for using the TrackBack to reference postings there when I write something.

The URL (for reference) is:

Steve Jackson Games e23

January 21, 2005

Steve Jackson Games has launched e23, their own digital content sales site.

They have good and reasonable policies for managing this. They are selling non-encrypted PDFs, and trusting their customers to behave reasonably. Furthermore, if you later have a media failure, you can access their site to restore your copy. Free insurance for your digital media! (Of course, it also means that SJG is keeping track of who bought a copy of ‘GURPS Tinfoil Hat,’ so when that shows up on the terrorist watchlist and the Secret Service and the FBI and the other black masks raid them, your name will be conveniently available to them, too.)

Why blogging isn’t lame

January 20, 2005

In response to Why blogging is lame, found from this article at 20 x 20 Room:

Having just fired up my own blog (here) for public viewing this week, I’m on the other side of the ‘blogging is bad’ argument. I think Sandy Antunes misses the many-to-many aspect that allows blogging to be something different from older, more-traditional forms of publishing.

The benefit of blogging stems from the micro-level of interest that it (as well as other resources that utilize the Internet) can tap into. To use my own interest as an example, there aren’t that many people who still remember, let alone still play the old SPI game DragonQuest. But I’ve been a part of an online community for DragonQuest for more than 10 years now. It’s far too small an interest group to be worth publishing in a mainstream publication. But there are enough people who are interested that there are a number of resources for it. Blogging allows communication to a narrower interest group.

Yeah, I’m probably not up to William Safire’s level with language, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be writing or communicating with others. And if what interests me and what I choose to write about doesn’t interest you, that doesn’t invalidate it as a useful medium. Move on to some other blogger whose writing is more to your taste.

Yes, there is lots of mediocre content served up in blogs. But I would rather read a weakly written article that pertains to a topic I am deeply interested in than a well written, professional piece about something I’m only passingly interested in. Blogs may not give us the greatest prose, and they may not be of the widest interest. But for those who are interested in a particualr topic, and in contributing information on that subject, they are an excellent tool.


January 19, 2005

Feral Cities

Is this a gameworthy concept?

It isn’t nearly as interesting as the title might suggest. It seems rather
thin overall. This is a document out of the Navy War College, so it has some particular slant to it.

Still, the concept does resonate. And I think that it has real traction for
gaming purposes. It just needs to be developed a bit further in that

This is the kind of thing that needs to be better supported in gaming, though.
To have a city that works in this way to use as a gaming setting needs a lot of
support for the GM so that it behaves in somewhat predictable ways. Even if it
has parts that are predictably unpredictable.


January 18, 2005

Further Thoughts on GM Description

My reaction to the Enhancing Your Descriptions article was fairly negative. But, if I’m going to be critical, then I ought to come up with some better ideas of my own:

There was one point of really good advice in the article. Keying in on essential details when providing information to the characters can be vital. But there are different circumstances when different information should be conveyed to the PCs.

The GM should be aware of being the avatar of the PCs, and should relay to them the information as their characters would interpret it, and not in a neutral fashion. A character who is a military officer will look at a field and see defensive locations and terrain to avoid and the best place to stage an ambush. Another character who is a hunter will see game trails and plants that certain animals like to eat. Telling them the field is “sunlit” or “breezy” or “blue” doesn’t convey much to these characters (and thereby their players). This kind of description needs to be addressed by each individual GM for each individual set of characters.

This information needs to be conveyed by the GM, addressing what the characters know. The GM is not just a set dresser who needs to read off the description. The GM needs to present the most important information to the PCs. General descriptions are fine for setting the tone for the players. But there are some points where a long general description can be useful.

All description from the GM is not necessarily presentation of clues. The GM may be introducing the campaign setting, or the setting for the particular adventure, or otherwise trying to provide flavor description for the players. In those cases, extensive description is more useful. An extensive description, as “the curtain parts” and the scene is introduced, serves to provide an opening description that should be evocative. Everyone will gravitate to different elements, so a more thorough description can only help. The more detailed the description is at this point, the more there is to catch each individual player’s interest.

One player will be captured by the description of gargoyles along the battlements; another may be taken by the dark-cloaked figure holding a torch, standing at the highest point of the castle; and another may be concerned by the heavy, metal clad gate that sits before them at the end of the road. All of these elements are presented, but each player constructs the scene in their own mind.


January 17, 2005

The Metagame blog is going to become more public.

It has been a private forum for game design ideas for a while, but one of the things I’ve been thinking about doing is starting to blog regularly about gaming and the things we are working on in a more regular and public fashion.

I’ve changed a couple settings to make this blog public, and we’ll see where it takes us.

I’ve also enabled comments as part of the public face for the blog. Commenters who are not registered with Blogger can send email to rthorm AT gmail DOT com.


January 17, 2005

The 20 x 20 Room has a posting which cites an article on Enhancing Your Descriptions.

My thoughts on this article are not as positive as Neel’s:

My first impression of this article was pretty negative.

The extensive discussion about color (spectrum) is totally misplaced. A textual description (GM narrating a description to a group of players) does not convey visual information in the same way as actually seeing the scene would. Actual visual contrast is one thing. But when conveyed in speech, “red” or “green” or “yellow” or “orange” or “grey” are all equally different from “blue”. We do not convert verbal description to visual imagery so automatically. The GM telling me “You walk into a green room” does not have the same effect as the GM showing me a picture of a green room (and even less so my actually walking into a green room in person)..

I would ignore all but the last section (The Mood), and even there, it can be pared down considerably.

To pay attention to the important elements, and give descriptions in that way is useful. I think the author makes his case better in the “murder-scene” example. What is important, to use his own words, is to portray the forest, rather than to describe the individual trees that are present.