24 hour RPG Challenge

24 hour rpg challenge

Back in April of 2003, Phil Reed (who had just left Steve Jackson Games at the time, and was running his own game design studio which was rapidly overtaking the established PDF RPG Publishers in the market) discussed the idea of a 24 hour RPG challenge on the well known (and often reviled) indie-RPG forums, the Forge.

From this post evolved the 24 hour RPG challenge. The goal of the challenge is to develop, write and produce a full pen and paper RPG (with a target size of 24 pages) in 24 hours. Designers can take the challenge at any time as long as they stick to the rules – typically a designer will post to the 24 hour forum or to the Yahoo mailing list when they start the challenge and post their final product to the site when they are finished. In the early years, there was also a Grand Event every year where the challenge was taken by multiple people during a one or two week period in order to produce a “batch” of products in one push.

Several of the projects originally launched as part of the challenge have gone on to be refined by the authors and then published – one by Phil Reed himself and another by Joe Prince. In addition, Ron Edwards of the Forge added a new twist with the Ronnie Awards – a series of 24 hour RPG contests that required participants to work from a set of “ingredients” for their game, much like the Game Chef contests but with the addition of the 24 hour time limit.

These days, the 24 hour RPG challenge has moved from it’s original site to the new site and forum at 1KM1KT (1,000 Monkeys, 1,000 Typewriters) where they take the uploaded games and post them (as well as thousands of other free RPGs well worth checking out). The rate of release has declined in the past few years, but there was even one posted this month, so the challenge is not quite dead yet.

And yes, I’m looking at heading out into the world of the 24 hour RPG challenge in the next week or so – just have to find 24 hours to do it in and make myself a few pitchers of iced tea for the trip.

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Exploring Catan

AsoBrain Explorers

AsoBrain Explorers

For many, many years now I’ve been a fan of the 1995 Klauss Teuber game, The Settlers of Catan. It was the first “EuroGame” to break into the North American boardgame market and has changed the way we play and design games – distinctly for the better.

However, one of the problems with Settlers (unlike my other favourite, Carcassonne), is that it doesn’t play well (ok, it doesn’t play at all) for two players. For a couple of years now, however, I’ve been keeping my skills honed in this fine game courtesy of the programmers and players over at AsoBrain.

This site runs in-browser Java versions of the game (along with your choice of the two expansions – Seafarers of Catan and / or Cities and Knights of Catan). On average there are nearly a thousand other players out there looking for people to play with, or playing on their own.

Playing on their own.

Yes, the AI on the website is actually pretty effective. You can play a solo game or three and actually expect a decent amount of competition from the “bot” players (who are all named after the characters from Friends, much to my chagrin – because I really needed a reason to dislike Monica any more). Overall, the programming is excellent and I recommend the site as a great way to introduce players to Settlers with less setup time than at the dining room table – although I wouldn’t recommend trying to learn Cities and Knights through this site without having someone else to teach you the rules (or having a copy of the actual expansion yourself).

I waste far too much time on AsoBrain. I’ll probably see you in the “Non-Ranking 2” lobby when you check it out.

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Generation X, Homosexuality and the 90’s

Last night before dinner, playing Rock Band 2, Dima and I were making fun of a character wearing a classic 60’s or 70’s fringe jacket when Dima pointed out that while we have plenty to make fun of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, there isn’t anything to make fun of in the 90’s. My first response was of course “Grunge” – thinking back to my dreadlocks and goatee, wearing long shorts, plaid shirts around my waist, and a variety of punk t-shirts; but today I decided to look up the 90’s overall to check them out in retrospect from another viewpoint than that of an aging Gen-Xer.

I had a few surprises reading up on the 90’s (including a general consensus that Grunge was the most visible mainstream fashion of the decade), but the big shocker for me was that the World Health Organization removed Homosexuality from their list of diseases in 1990.

1990.

No wonder we were (or are) so cynical about the world.

Somehow I thought that organizations like the WHO would have been more aggressive regarding homosexuality especially after the true “launch” of the AIDS pandemic in the 80’s and the public mistreatement of even straight teenaged AIDS victims like Ryan White.

I keep finding myself surprised by how recently things have changed. To this day it boggles my mind that the American Civil Rights Movement occured partially during my lifetime and is not a piece of ancient history.

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Facebook and Creativity

Last week I was discussing how our brains function differently if we change what nostril we breathe through (according to an old study that I haven’t looked up since the early 90’s).

It comes as no surprise to anyone that our moods and brain activiites are affected by colours – from experiments with alternate lighting to provoke feelings of ennuie, excitement or paranoia to the various nearly feng shui colour schemes for our trendy homes to provoke just the right feeling in each room while accenting the imaginary expanses of space available to us in our downsized living environments.

But in today’s Globe and Mail, there’s a short article about six studies performed by DrĀ  Juliet Zhu and Ravi Mehta on UBC students involving task performance linked to the colour of the desktop background of the computer they were doing the tests on.

At least in North America, it seems that our learned responses to the colour red have us making cautious decisions when confronted with it in our work environment, whereas blue backgrounds produced enhanced creativity and less caution – more freedom as we link it with open spaces and waters. Which brings us to Facebook, the social networking site that is almost entirely blue. It encourages us to be creative and discourages us to think twice about the potential openings our micro-blogging, photo-spamming and rampant commenting leave into the privacies of our lives.

So, when it comes time to pay attention to detail instead of soaring off in creative pursuits, switch your desktop to red.

However, I just changed the colour of the dashboard for posting to this blog to blue. After all, caution is boring.

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Pepsi attacks the editorial / advertising divide.

The Pepsi Logo

The Pepsi Logo

There was a bit of fuss over the MacGruber Pepsi spot during the SuperBowl this past weekend. At the heart of it, Pepsi bought advertising airtime during the SuperBowl and used a spot that wasn’t produced by their own advertising team, but rather a spot developped by the Saturday Night Live team that had the look and feel of one of their “fake ads”.

Here’s the MacGruber Pepsi ad in question (Youtube link)

It’s interesting in that it makes fun of the source material as well as almost making fun of the product itself. But the issue isn’t about Pepsi using the SNL team and SNL ads to promote their brand – the issue is what happened the night before. A change in our media paradigm.

If you were watching Saturday Night Live last weekend (and I don’t know many who still do it seems), then you might have noticed the recurring MacGruber spots – one of which was used during the SuperBowl. They were inserted into the television show exactly like the usual parody ads run on SNL, but were not during the show’s run-time, instead being shown during paid-for commercial airtime.

While the network (NBC) Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman’s claim that the ads are distinct enough to not be confusing to the viewer during the SuperBowl can be believed, this is definitely not the case during the Saturday night running. On Saturday night, they felt like (typically unfunny) parts of the actual show, effectively in-show product placement.

When an advertiser tries to imitate the style of a newspaper or magazine article for print advertising, the print publication in question always encapsulates the ad with a “paid advertisement” block around it to distinguish editorial material from advertising. This seperation was not present in the MacGruber ads on Saturday night.

I’ve never claimed that Lorne Michaels hadn’t sold out already, but product placement already blurs the lines between editorial and advertising content, and this is definitely a step over that line.

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