A few creative and writing things have happened since my last post, but all of them are to do with tabletop roleplaying games. The most important in a global sense has to be that my first two published games – “Goals And Goals” and “Starship Bodge-up” – are included in the bundle TTRPGs For Reproductive Rights that has been set up in response to the leaked draft ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States about overturning the previous finding that access to abortion is a right covered by privacy and bodily autonomy. It’s encouraging to see how much has already been raised, and to see how many people have already downloaded one or both of the games. If you haven’t yet a) bought the bundle and b) downloaded my games, click the link and do it now, then come back and carry on reading!
~ * ~
As the heading of this post suggests, I have also released a new TTRPG, Finding Styles, and my feeling is that it is the most Queer game of the ones I have written or am writing. It’s inspired by An Abomination by kumada1, and attempts to mediate a combination of several different TTRPG styles into a single system or mechanic. It also does a thing I’ve been pondering for a while, which is to use tokens as a form of stats in their own right.
What I’m intrigued by is why it is that this game immediately felt more in tune to me with LGBTQ questions, compared to the other games.
While I have always taken effort to ensure that the text of my games allows or encourages people to play as whatever gender and orientation they want, the subject matter and style of the games really don’t to my mind have anything that leans away from the cultural norms. Pivotal Destinies is in many ways a traditional High Fantasy setting, with the same kinds of tropes. I’ve arranged the system in a different way than many, but in terms of the general feel, it is fairly normative. Goals And Goals is a game about sport, and again, while you can absolutely play as a gay or trans footballer, the core of the game doesn’t do anything to reflect that. It’s about playing a football match, and while you can make that gay, it is still a game with the standard “Here’s a GM, here’s a setting, here’s your character constraints, here’s your enemy. Have fun!” structure. And Starship Bodge-up is almost entirely about the situation the characters are in, and having fun making up solutions. The characters can be all manner of nonconforming Queerness, it’s just, they’re not likely to be focussed on any of that while they’re trying to mend a spaceship in danger of blowing up.
Finding Styles, on the other hand, handles everything through the other players and keeps the style of play shifting. There is no single focus. I leaned hard into the idea that it’s a combination of styles, so you build your characters collaboratively, using three of the different gameplay styles to choose the three dice-roll attributes. That in turn makes your characters a collaborative effort, as much as the gameplay will be. The pattern of opposed urges, or perhaps a cycle of steps, drawn out by the logo I made for it also feels like it lends itself far more to questions of relationships and social situations. “Testing or Trying” versus “Feeling or Expressing”, and “Learning or Discovering” versus “Knowing or Deciding”. Alternatively, a cycle from Trying something, leads to Discovering something, leads to a new Feeling, leads to a Decision, which can then be Tested, leading to a new discovery, and so on. (It can also work in reverse: Trying something leads to Deciding on a course of action, which will produce Feelings that lead to me Discovering something about myself, that I can Test in the real world…)
This is not, of course, a real suggestion of an approach to life or therapy or whatever. It was just the sort of vibe I got from the concepts as they laid out and played out in building the system from the influences. Please do NOT treat any of the ideas in the previous paragraph as a self-help guide, it is a game, nothing more!
The other part that felt to me intrinsically leaning in a Queer direction is that there is no way to increase your own power on your own. The tokens you have allow you to Decide things about the game world, but you cannot gain more tokens by your own gameplay decisions. Tokens are gained when someone else wants you to decide something about the game, and thus are determined by your fellow players. That sense of being united in supporting each other felt to me strongly like the vibe I get from Queer spaces online.
So when I came to thinking of scenario suggestions for the dice-roll lists I included, I ended up needing to work to find versions that weren’t necessarily about being Queer. I am sure LGBTQ players will have no trouble using the system and the suggestions to tell stories they find meaningful, if they choose to do so.
~ * ~
The last piece of news is that my first draft of the text for Pivotal Destinies is completed, and I have completed a cover design for the itch-funding release (I want to get the money for some proper illustrations). I am busy putting the text into a Desktop Publishing app to create a decent-looking layout, but I wanted to share the cover design I did in the DTP now.