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Opinion: The Man in the Arena

black box movement

This is one of two posts I’ve written today on Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Citizenship in a Republic” speech. It’s also known as “The Man in the Arena”. You can read the other post over on my personal website.

I’ve had this quote hanging up in my workspace for years. Should I ever get an actual office, I think I want to commission a mural of Roosevelt and have this painted on the wall. I think it’s something that every creator needs to remember.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, April 23 1910

The Man in the Arena

If you are involved in tabletop roleplaying games, you are the person in the arena. It takes guts to put yourself out there and play a character, in character. Running a game has a lot of moving parts and requires improvisation, so a lot can go wrong. Being a game designer or publisher means standing up and saying “I am going to share this with the world” even though that world is full of hateful trolls that live to tear other people down.

We know we might get beaten up, metaphorically, emotionally, sometimes physically if you’ve ever had to deal with anti-nerd culture. We do it anyway. When we get beaten up, we keep going. No one can stop us. That’s not failure. That’s persistence.

As a creator, not everyone is going to agree with your design choices. They will defend their own preferences, lean into their own experiences, push their own agendas. What’s great is that there’s room for them in the hobby. They can go create their own game. Nothing is stopping them from playing whatever system, setting, or genre they choose. The fact that you did something is an accomplishment. Their complaints about what you did, not so much.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

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This Week’s Hottest Titles: May 10 2020

Dancing Lights Press

Here are the Top 10 Hottest Dancing Lights Press titles this week, as of May 10, 2020:

  1. Building Worlds [Second Edition]
  2. Building Characters [Second Edition]
  3. Bullet Journaling for Gamemasters
  4. hippogryph ttrpg zine: issue four
  5. hippogryph ttrpg zine: issue five
  6. hippogryph ttrpg zine: issue six
  7. Setting Design [Black Box Edition]
  8. Story Structure [Black Box Edition]
  9. hippogryph ttrpg zine: issue three
  10. hippogryph ttrpg zine: issue two

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

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DoubleZero: Weapon and Vehicle Statistics

doublezero

There’s an elephant in the room that I need to address. The system that inspired DoubleZero leans heavily into weapon and vehicle statistics. Fans love writing up stat blocks detailing the unique benefits and drawbacks of real-world cars, guns, airplanes, and so on. That’s cool. I won’t be doing that in the Core Book, and I wanted to take a moment to explain why.

  1. The book is going to be 96 pages, digest sized. I know that The British Secret Agent Game was only around 160 pages. Obviously, some things need to be cut. My goal is to keep the content tight and essential.
  2. The system will be released under the Open Game License, so if you want to develop and publish weapon and vehicle statistics, go forth and prosper. I look forward to seeing it, but it’s not where I feel I need to put my “line development” efforts right now.
  3. I don’t think the granularity of the system supports that sort of subtlety and nuance. The difference between 1d6 and 1d8 isn’t that substantial. So I’m going with one 9mm pistol being the same an another, and a sports car is a sports car is a sports car.
  4. My design choices lean toward lifting up the characters over their gear. It’s important to know that a Chrysler Town and Country minivan is slower, and doesn’t handle as well, as a Ferrari Roma. It’s more important to know a character can be victorious in spite of equipment limitations.
  5. The follow-up books that I want to write and release are worldbooks. They will have setting-specific weapon and vehicle statistics in them, but will focus mainly on characters and story hooks. My passion isn’t in writing a whole book full of equipment right now.
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Hippogryph System Info Page

hippogryph system

There’s now an official Hippogryph System info page. This is a foundation. I haven’t started work on it yet, other than the version in Issue Zero. First up will be an expanded, 96-page core book, the Hippogryph Codex, followed by a System Reference Document.

The Hippogryph System is a d20-based character-focused tabletop roleplaying game. Like the fantasy creature, it is a mixture of two different influences. It was inspired by both legacy systems and modern story gaming. The system will have an Open Game License, so a System Reference Document will be made available after the Codex has been released.

Hippogryph System Info Page

The info page will be the central repository for information about the system and related releases. This includes articles, where to purchase the game, and frequently asked questions. Over the coming week or so there will be info pages added for all of major active product lines.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

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Why DoubleZero is Skill-Focused

doublezero

There are three reasons why DoubleZero is skill-focused. Hopefully this insight into my design choices will show why it’s a good solution for a lot of campaigns.Hopefully it will provide some additional insight into the game, and why it’s a good choice for a wide variety of campaign types.

It’s Inspirations are Skill-Focused

This is the obvious, and least compelling, reason. The foundation of the system is build off of GORE™, which is inspired by Basing Roleplaying, which is a skill-heavy system. Part of the reason I selected it, in addition to having the percentile framework I needed, was because of the existing skill system .

The system that it’s meant to emulate-slash-pay homage to, that out-of-print 80’s game about the famous British secret agent, was also skill-driven. Even though it’s not a direct retro-clone, and does many things a bit differently, you need to keep the heart of it intact.

The Lack of Paranormal Elements

There are no magic spells, no superpowers, and no psychic talents. At least, not in the hands of player characters. If you want to play The X-Files, Twin Peaks, or Batman, you can do it. The core concept, though, is to be able to play more realistic characters. Maybe turned up to 11 in some cases, but still reasonably plausible in the context of the real world. How do you do that? Place the emphasis on skills.

Skills Offer Character Variations

Here’s the real answer, for me as a designer. To make the system as broad as possible, the solution was a flexible and expandable skill system. With the same rules, I want people to be able to run super-spies, police procedurals, political thriller, and a whole range of dramatic movies, television shows, and novels. You can easily add skills that aren’t covered in the core rules. The Fields of Experience system allows you to tweak the skills that are already there. It’s easy to tailor the game to be what you need it to be. That’s why it’s skill-focused.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.