Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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Best Friends… in Spaaace!

Last Wednesday, the indie table at Empire’s Wednesday RPG Night hosted Best Friends, by Gregor Hutton.

In Best Friends, you play a woman (always a woman– that’s how the game is set up) and your character stats are based on what the other characters hate you for.

“I hate Missy because she’s richer than me.” Missy now has +1 in her “Rich” stat. Depending on how many other Friends hate Missy for her wealth, Missy might end up driving a Porsche in this game. A 0 means you are below average at something. A 1 means average. 2 is really good. And 3 is the super-bestest. You then invent, based on nothing but your stats, some Stuff and Nonsense that makes sense for you.

We started with 4 players and had 2 late additions, so we ended up with 6 players and everyone got to hate everyone just once. It was pretty cool, actually. We decided on the outset that we were in a failing space station that may or may not have hostile aliens on it, and that the story ends when we safely reach the escape pod.

My friend Jennifer and I had the same stats, so we came up with some backstory. Both of us were in science– she was the software engineer, while I was the station’s medical officer. She said that my Friend was her rival. I said that mine “always repeats her plan as if it were my own.”

Although we were running it “GM-less,” I kept us focusing on obstacles. I reminded everyone that we are in a crisis, so nothing can go completely right or be uncomplicated; when we ran into a new situation in the adventure, I asked “ok, do we want something dangerous to be up ahead?” Usually the answer was yes.

We had some highs and lows while our characters backstabbed each other to get out of the station (making a space walk on the outside of the ship, since the interior hull was decompressing). We “rescued” (kidnapped) a space alien baby, which had sticky acidic mucous that burned through the captain’s gloves. Just as we got back into the station, we ran into the alien baby’s mother, who was not pleased to see us.

I think we filled her with lead and then continued to the escape shuttle, where we discovered our last obstacle– only enough oxygen for 4 people.

We all looked guiltily at the two happy-but-dumb characters (Smart: 0). “Um…. hey, I left a lab experiment running that’s growing diamonds. Anyone want to go get them?”

With those two gone, the remaining 4 of us hopped into the shuttle and escaped. The two remaining ones shared their shoe collections with the space aliens, were adopted into the hive, and became the aliens’ new queens.

The game was remarkably fun, only slightly problematic (it’s a game written by a man about women who hate each other!), and really lent itself to a very over-the-top storyline. I can imagine playing it with a smaller-scale story, something closer to the heart, but this particular iteration went full gonzo, and we loved it.

6 Months, a Dragon, and a Hellish Kidnapping

My, where does the time go?

This is a journal entry from Lt. Gwenn Jade, from the Harriers.


We freed a dragon. On Wulthros, while questing for a sword for Tris…. there was… we. Tris went through a portal and, when he disappeared completely, I followed. Emilien went after, though thankfully Ordune and Firiel actually followed my orders and stayed behind.

There was a dragon, one of the original children of Tiamat, trapped there for all time, to serve as a hungry and bored mouth, eating sacrifices from Tiamat’s followers, but otherwise…. decidedly bored.

We freed him, by Tris’s alchemical knowledge. Perhaps we could have escaped without making that deal, but I doubt it. When the dragon came through, we called everyone to stand aside before he leapt from the window, taking flight, free.

Ah, unfortunately, he rampaged over a town with a sizeable temple to Tiamat. I don’t doubt we’ll have to deal with him later, but… hopefully not soon.

Continue reading 6 Months, a Dragon, and a Hellish Kidnapping

Thoughts on Being a Woman and Trying to Make Games

UPDATE (Nov 9, 2014): I’ve written a follow-up post with a bunch of helpful resources that came out of the discussion prompted by this post! Please check those out! 

I’m going to write about some of the obstacles I see as a writer and creator of games. These are in no way representative of the obstacles other people have experienced, and I acknowledge that my obstacles are unique to me, as a middle-aged, well-educated white woman from the middle class. These aren’t even obstacles that I have necessarily faced, so much as ones I can see even through my own experience’s filter.

This post is spurred by something a trollish person said a couple of weeks ago in a Google+ thread about gatekeepers and exclusion in gaming. The thread started with a thinly-veiled metaphor about exclusion in geek culture, but it expanded in the comments. Most telling about the comments was that, for the first several hours at least, they were all from men. Probably white men, but I don’t know– this is the Internet.

But back to the trollish. He remarked that it was very easy to make games, if you want to have games that reflect you or your experience, or just games that don’t limit women to virgin/whore/victim roles.

“All you have to do is have something to write in. You can make a game for less than $1000.”

This speaks of a privilege that is so invisible to the speaker, it astounds me. Anyone wondering about why this statement blows my mind should please go read Virginia Woolf’s excellent work, A Room of One’s Own, which is entirely about women not having a safe space to write. In the broader sense, it’s about anyone who lacks a space to write due to lack of privilege, but Woolf was a feminist of her time, so it’s written from the perspective of women’s issues (much like this post).

But anyway. Here are some of the obstacles to making games that I see, as a woman who is starting to make games. This is limited to tabletop games, and I use the phrase “game creator” here because “game designer” is not always what a game creator does– if you write an adventure for a pre-existing system, you aren’t really designing that game, though you are creating, and share many of the same obstacles as a designer.

Video games cost much more money and have even more obstacles, including “you will get death/rape threats just for daring to exist.” I’m not going to address those, since they don’t happen as much or as visibly in tabletop gaming. Yet.

Continue reading Thoughts on Being a Woman and Trying to Make Games

Epyllion, session 3

I ran Epyllion on Sunday for Dad, Mom, and Kiddo again.

Our second session of the game was over a month ago, and didn’t go so well. We had a problem with saying "no" a lot to the 8 year old, and I wasn’t super happy with the results.

For this session, we started out by me explaining that I wanted Kiddo to feel comfortable adding to the story, so we were going to rewrite the "visions" move so her dice would determine if I got to tell the vision or if she did– and in either case, the other one would be able to ask 3 questions. She agreed, rolled, and got a 9.


Continue reading Epyllion, session 3

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