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Thursday, March 8th, 2007
3:20 pm - World creation game turn
Please post your arguments as comments to this entry and post referee judgments and rolls as comments to comments.

Have at it!

Chris Engle

(3 comments | comment on this)

3:06 pm - World Building Game: Viking Creation
World Building is something Matrix Games were made to do. A couple of members of the yahoo group MatrixGame2 are interested in trying one out so I thought - Why not do it on live journal? So here it is!

Viking Creation Game 3-07

 

 

The objects: To stir interest in further gaming; to have potential players

contribute to the creation of a setting that they would later play

characters in; (for me) to gain more experience leading games and bounce

around an idea I've had ever since reading the Poetic Eddas.

 

The framework: Players "champion" or play a character who survives a

Norse-Style Ragnarok. (I noticed the Eddas use a past-tense when speaking of

the end, and it made me wonder if it was a reflection of a type of certainty

in the character of the Norse people, or if perhaps the poets were trying to

explain how the present world came about.) After surviving, the characters

find that they are exalted, and now inhabit Gimle', the golden-roofed hall

of the gods.

 

The hook: These new 'Gods' find that they have a task before them, and they

can not go forward untill they complete it together. The task is to recreate

the entire universe.

 

The rules: 'Days' do not advance untill the 'agenda' for that day has been

formally agreed upon by a 'majority', and formally spoken out-loud beneath

Gimle's golden roof. (Each 'Day' would have specific items on the agenda,

old-testament style) No one may die while under the golden roof. Outside

however... No one diety is more powerful than any other. This means that it

takes a conspiracy to commit a murder. Preventing a diety from being present

at a vote is also an option. The rules are not explicitly known, only

alluded to in vague poetry engraved upon the pillars of the hall.

 

By Bryan Mullins

 

RULES: This game will be played on my Live Journal. A player will put in an argument. It will be first come first serve. ANYONE can step in as referee. If you do this, give a fair ruling and then roll a six sided die to see if it happens. Write your results in to the journal. Other arguments may come in in the mean time. I believe the way Live Journal works they don’t have to be in sequence but I could be mistaken. The basic background rules though will be the Engle Matrix Game.

 

It looks to me like we will do a lot of wild world creation for a while. The prediction on such games is that they die out rather quickly because they lose focus. This experiment will test that.

 

Chris Engle

 

XXX

 

I'm always game for an experiment. So we are in the golden hall of the

gods and we want to recreate the world just wrecked by the old gods. There

are no set rules except that we are of equal power and in some what must

agree on what happens.

 

I will call my Champion "Christi the Warlock" Here is my first argument. I

want you to be my referee.

 

"Look one and all, the sun rises outside the window onto a new world."

 

Result: The world is born - let there be light.

 

Chris Engle

 

REF: VERY STRONG! (Whats a new world without some light?)

Roll: 6

 

Result:

The first rays of sun fall upon the Golden-tiled roof of Gimle'. Through the

smoke hole in the center of the hall the new glow brings glimmering morning

to the gardens, groves, and wild fields beyond the great long-house. The

oaken posts of the hall are gird with bright bands of copper. To the side of

the fire-pit a long, white table of wood stands ready. At the end of the

hall is a great post above the empty doorway. As the light begins to rise

these words appear, carving themselves into the lintel.

 

~

In this sacred hall must the long-thinkers declare.

To span the empty gulf,

to give the distance measure

Else always here they will stand,

Without pain or pleasure

 

To fill the void, speak your will

Only descent will stop you

How can one whole be made

if the masters will not be united?

 

[This is something new. The referee is giving a poetic retelling of the argument effect. I don’t mind it in thins kind of game but it if was a competitive military game I wouldn’t like it as well.]

 

XXX

 

I choose as my champion: Edras the meekling.

 

"Lo, beyond the orchards fields, and streams is a great divide. My eyes can

not pierce the veil that separates that gulf from this place."

 

Effect: Though Gimle' and its environs are whole, the rest waits to be told.

 

Bryan

 

REF: I see no reason not to rule everything verys trong right up front. We

have no reason to believe anything about the world so why not a garden

outside? I rolled a 3. You argument happens.

 

XXX

 

My hero is "Christni the Warlock"

 

Argument: I walk into the garden and hold up my hand. Out of thin air a

bird appears and lands on it. I bring it down and pet it. As my hand

closes, it disappears. "I can create and destroy by my very thoughts. I am

at GOD!!!!"

 

Result: Gods can create and destroy.

 

Chris

 

REF: Verry Strong:  4

 

God's can create and destroy with their minds!

 

XXX

 

This time I choose Thundaarr of the Horde:

"Stand aside Meekling! This new world is not for the likes of you! It is for

the strong!

Thundaarr of the Horde picks Eddras up and snaps him like a twig, but this

does not hurt him. He just gets back up and looks astonished.

 

Result: Even though they seem to be Gods, they don't seem to be able to do

permanant physical damage to each other.

 

 

>Bryan

 

 

REF: Very strong. I roll a 4. It happens.

 

Gods apparently can not be killed. At least by one another… yet!

XXX

(comment on this)

Friday, October 28th, 2005
12:50 pm - The Great Matrix Game Debate: Turn resolution and the art of contradiction
The Great Debate: Turn resolution and the art of contradiction

An interesting debate has come up from the latest Play by Email Game – “Zulu.” The game is based on the 1964 movie of the same name. Players have taken on roles of various characters in the movie to get a feel for what they want to have happen in the game, then they make one argument a turn to make that happen.

The problem that has come up is about a sequence of arguments that describe the qualities of the wall built by the British soldiers at Rorkes Drift prior to the arrival of the Zulus.

The arguments are as follows. Players took turns making arguments so they were resolved one at a time.

LT CHAD AND BROMHEAD: Made by Peter Lloyd-Jones

Lt Chard returned to the camp and in acordannce with Spaldings
instruction took command. He had been trained at the Shop, and so had
a good understanding of Fortifications and realised that improvments
could be made. He used his Sappers (who were also trained engineers)
to supervise the other soldiers in making barricades between the
houses and preparing firing slits. The marerials he used were grain
bags and biscuit boxes?

He also had numerous explosives in his Engineers supply wagon, how
could he best put those to use he pondered.

Lt Bromhead could see that the preperations for the defence were well
under way. He thought back to his training at Sandhurst. Check
fields of fire. This he did and was concerned that the Bush to the
North came quite close to the base. If he burnt it this would achieve
two objectives, 1, better fields of fire, 2, stop the ZULUS firing it
when the wind was blowing from the north, not the south, as it was
now. He therefore gave instructions to burn the bush.

REF: I decided to combine these two submissions into a single argument. I could have made Peter wait to do the second lieutenant’s task till next turn though because they were submitted separately. Anyway I see this argument as really strong. It builds on prior arguments, fits the scene, does not do too much, makes sense, and I like it. I rolled a 5 so it happens. Had I missed the roll I would have used Peter’s failure token. As it is he keeps it for later.

[NOTE: In this game were are experimenting with a new rule, where by players whose arguments fail get a “Failure Token” that gives them a second roll the next time they have a failed roll. The purpose of this roll is to moderate the effect of bad luck. Some players just can’t roll well.]

ZULU: Made by Marcus Young

The British troops are labouring under the hot sun piling up boxes and
sacks to construct makeshift fortifications. Although the barricades are
rising, the work is going slowly. With no news from Isandlwana and no
real sense of danger from a woefully underestimated froe, the troops
hearts and backs are not in the work, and even the officers think of the
work as a precaution rather than a necessity.


593 Jones: Why are we stacking all these boxes, boyo? We've got a whole
army up at Isandlwana between us and any Zulus hereabouts.

716 Jones: I don't think there will be any real fighting. You know what
they say: Kaffirs never stand under fire. The problem in this war is
finding the bastards, not killing them.

593 Jones: That fellow de Witt is just listening to wild rumours. Let's
take another break. Anyway, if any Zulus do come it will be pleasanter
shooting them than doing all this heavy work!

Colour Sergeant Bourne: Get moving, lads! The Lieutenant of Engineers
has ordered the building of this here barricade, so it's getting built!
It don't matter about the whys and wherefores: if an officer tells you
to make a sugar candy ladder to the moon, that's profound military
strategy handed down from heaven by the Almighty himself as far as you
are concerned!

Joneses: Yes Sergeant!

716 Jones: (Whispers) Just wait till the Sergeant is out of sight.


A sound reminiscent of an approaching freight train is heard, steadily
increasing in volume.


Bromhead: What's that sound?

Witt: That's the Zulus. Their regiments make that sound when running
to a battle.

Bromhead: Running to battle? Most enthusiastic, those chaps.

Witt: This is no light matter, Lieutenant. There are thousands of
them coming. You should have abandoned this place hours ago.

Bromhead: This can surely be no more than a raiding party that avoided
our main army. Rumours have a way of being exaggerated, and soon a pair
of Zulus and their dog becomes an entire impi of warriors! We've
constructed a barricade, we've cleared our field of fire - it's all by
the book. You are quite safe, Reverend.

Witt: That barricade doesn't look too high or sturdy to me...


Just then a frantic man on horseback appears, riding hell for leather
towards the Mission. He is wearing the uniform of the Natal Native
Contingent. He is lightly wounded, very dirty, and both himself and his
horse look about to drop from fatigue. The man is Lt Adendorf.


Bromhead: What is that man shouting?

Adendorf: (Shouting) They're coming! They're coming! You must flee!

Bromhead: (Shouting) Steady on!

Adendorf: (Shouting) They've killed everyone. The whole army. Almost no
survivors.

Bromhead: (Shouting) What are you talking about, man?

Adendorf: (Shouting) The Zulus have destroyed the army at Isandlwana.
Now they're coming here. They're going to kill every last one of you.
You must start running NOW!


As Adendorf's horse staggers the last few yards towards the mission
station and he collapses from the saddle, the entire Zulu force appears
over a rise behind him. Six thousand warriors gaze down on Rorke's
Drift. A single cry of uSuthu! bursts from the ranks. After only a brief
moment's pause, the horde runs forward, spears rapping on shields,
sprinting towards the Mission- a seemingly unstoppable wall of warriors.


The attack has begun!

REF: I brought the most recent version of Engle Matrix Game rules to work so I’ll apply them. Are the characters mentioned together (at the start of the argument)? No the Zulus started on the other side of the river. Is it logical? Yes. Does it fit the genre? Yes. Does it build on past successful arguments? Yes. Does it appeal to emotions? Yes (lazy soldiers). Do I like it? Yes. So that adds up to a very strong argument. I rolled a 3. uSuthu! It doesn’t look good for the boys in scarlet.

END OF TURN:

Let me see, all the characters are at the mission. The Zulus are on the Natal side of the river. They can attack this turn. The British have build a barrier so there is a wall around the mission linking the two buildings. They also have prepared a nasty bomb to fling at the Zulus. I see a problem though, how will the wagon get out of the wall? They may have just made a bomb that will only hurt them!

Fighting will start when one side or other argues to start the fight. Anything that does this will trigger a conflict round. I already adjudicated Rev Witt’s argument for the turn and it failed. Had it happened there would have been a conflict round to see what happened when he set the bomb off.

Things are definitely heating up!

PVT WAYNE: Made by Peter Lloyd-Jones

"Steady Lads Take Post".

As once years of regimental tradition and steady training came
together. The Sgts, took charge, thankful they had laid out their
range markers.

The soldiers lined their strong, well prepared positions (what does a
missionary know about it! these were made under RE supervision).

One of the Engers looked for private Wayne,

"Wayne, I want you to take some men and set the explosives in that
cart, and when the enemy attack, to drive the cart among them and
explode it in their midst." This will upset them and deter further
attacks.

John replied that he had a lot of experience of such tactics, and was
bound to succeed.

REF: Peter is trying to redefine the wall of bags as a strong wall, something the British must have to survive the attack. Here goes with the evaluation. Character’s together? Yes (with the addition of Pvt. John Wayne.) Is it logical? Yeah, good enough. Does it fit the genre? Hum…John Wayne…sorry that is too cowboy. Does it build on past arguments? Yes. Does it appeal to emotion? Hum…not really. Do I like it? Yes, in my heart of hearts I do want the British to win (even thought the Zulu’s sing much better.) That adds up to 4 which makes it a strong argument. I rolled a 6. The wall is strong and John Wayne has a nasty surprise waiting for the attackers. I think I hear country music surging up out of nowhere but where is the cavalry?

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE WALL?

The sequence of turns had the wall’s quality switch from poor to good, since this wall is vital for the British to have a chance to survive this flip flop of status stirred up the great debate.

THE GREAT DEBATE

Marcus Young

I must say that I find it a little strange that the principal
established fact from my last Argument- the fact that the British
barricades were not well-built due to a serious underestimation of the
Zulus given lack of knowledge about Isandlwana- can be so easily
overridden by a casual assertion to the contrary in a new Argument.

I am not sure how this new system of adjudicating Arguments is supposed
to work exactly, but I gather that nothing is taken into account apart
from the factors Chris lists at the bottom of his adjudication. Nowhere
does there seem to be any penalty being applied for the Argument
directly contradicting and largely nullifying a previous Argument.
Indeed, the only reason that the Argument seems to be rated Strong
rather than Very Strong appears to be the unfortunate choice of name for
the garrison's new hero.

As a Zulu player I am perfectly prepared to lose the battle (that being
both the historical and movie result after all) but I need at least to
seriously challenge the British players for the game to have any point.
If, however, any hard-won fact established by my Arguments can be easily
overturned by any following British Argument (and there are 3 of these
to every one of mine, so that means 3 chances to reverse history) then
it makes it difficult to make any ground. Indeed, it is almost pointless
to submit Arguments at all, because any gain is purely ephemeral. For
example, if my next Argument involved the Zulus charging in and wiping
out half the garrison in one almighty charge, and then I was lucky
enough to succeed on that Argument, would the British then have 3
chances to Argue that actually those men were not injured at all and
indeed the Zulus had never attacked?

I think it might be useful to spell out the system by which this game is
being judged so its merits can be more closely considered. After all,
this is in the nature of an experimental game- it doesn't much matter
how this game turns out, but if there is a major flaw in the
adjudication rules something needs to change before the same system is
used in a more serious game. It may be that I'm just getting the wrong
end of the stick, but it may be that this is a major problem- I'm just
not sure.

Chris Engle

Sorry you were on the short end of that stick. Events developing too
quickly or not sticking is frustrating for players.

In the past I've just looked at arguments as made up what I thought the
strength was. This time I was trying out a list of questions approach like
John used in "Green and Pleasant Land" it obviously has flaws. The wall
strength being a perfect case in point. Was it logical that the wall would
be better built due to the presence of engineers, yes. Is it logical that
the wall would be weak due to them not thinking it urgent, yes. Should the
pre-existence of the weakness make the second argument weaker? Yes. I
should have not given that argument the point from building on past
arguments. As it is both arguments succeeded so the wall is both strong
and weak. As a referee this is the matrix I must consider for future
arguments. Looks like I need to be more explicite on what "building on
past arguments" means.

As to how the Zulu attack argument would be handled...It would be Very
strong that they would attack. If the argument succeeded then I would say
it triggered a conflict round. The wall is there so I think I'd give the
British first shot at resolving that wave of attack. If they failed then
the Zulus would have a go at it. Say the Zulu's conflict argument was "We
kill half of them." If it happened I'd give the British a single trouble
argument to save themselves or mitigate the disaster some how. I'd make an
historical argument. "Sure we lose half our force. The Native Levies run
off, just as they did historically." If this went through then the boys in
red would be safe. If they failed though and the men died, could a later
argument bring them back to life? At best I'd give that a "roll six sixes
in a row" chance. It doesn't fit the genre - so sometimes violating genre
expectations should completely nix an argument's chance of happening.

Hum...

Any departure from the list of criteria should be able to screw an
argument. This is subtle. I'll have to think about how to teach people how
to do that.

Marcus Young

Any major departure on certain criteria (such as consistency with past
Arguments) should sink an Argument completely, and not merely lead to a
downgrading of an Argument by one level- say from Strong to Average.

Peter Lloyd-Jones

I think the problem here is what comes first.

The Brits argued they were building good defences under RE supervision.

The ZULUs then said they were not well built as the squaddies were not
motivated.

Then Brits then argued, hang on, that can not be true, what does a missionary
know!

I would say
I must say that I find it a little strange that the principal
established fact from my last Argument- the fact that the British
barricades (Delete - were not well-built due to a serious underestimation of
the Zulus given lack of knowledge about Isandlwana - Delete)(INSERT were well
built due to RE supervision) - can be so easily overridden by a casual
assertion to the contrary in a new Argument.

I suppose the Brits should have argued that, historically they had won, game
over.

Perhaps we have a problem?

John Kantor (referencing Chris Engle’s response)

“In the past I've just looked at arguments as made up what I thought the
strength was. This time I was trying out a list of questions approach like
John used in "Green and Pleasant Land". It obviously has flaws. The wall
strength being a perfect case in point.”

No, there's nothing wrong with using a rubric - as long as it's designed and used appropriately. Both the Zulu and British arguments are absolutely proper. The Zulu argument about the wall relied on an opinion about the wall by a bystander, as well as on the level of the soldiers' efforts. The British argument refuted the opinion by questioning the bystander's qualifications and overrode the point about the soldier's level of effort by referring to the excellent oversight of the Sergeants.
The result isn't a wall that is both weak and strong. For game purposes, it was a Weak wall until the British argument made it a Strong wall that had initially appeared weak. The entire point of a matrix game is the ability of arguments to trump one another - changing the game "reality" at some level - but at the cost of spending an argument to do so.
The Zulus could easily trump this again - say by arguing that gaps left in the wall for ingress and egress make critical weak points - or that it is extremely flammable, and so on. The point is that it costs an argument to do that. The crux of a matrix game is that arguments create matrix elements which amplify or trump previous matrix elements.
From an historical standpoint, the only question is how effective a makeshift barricade could be - or in fact needs to be - given the type of combat involved. This is no siege. The wall is merely a barrier to impede a Zulu charge to contact. As such its "strength" is pretty much irrelevent - only its presence is. In fact, that is an alternate British argument. (Unless, of course, the Zulus capture the explosive-laden wagon and drive it through the barricade!)

Graham Evans

The wall debate is not unusual, and is a common criticism of matrix games, - that they can fall into he said/she said type of arguments.

My take (and I admit that the version I play has much more simplistic arguments) is that once a fact has been established it can't be changed unless there is a material change to events or new circumstances arise.

I feel this is important. If you allow direct contradiction then players can sit around waiting for other people to make a move then say "no it didn't because". I'd rather the players who have the initiative to take the game in new directions are rewarded for it.

So, for the wall in the Zulu game, - I'd say it's a good 'un. If the Zulu player wants it weakening he's got to think of something new or original, - eg he produces an argument about there being a thunderstorm. He follows that with an argument saying the wall is undermined by the torrential rain. Just saying the first guy is wrong, - once adjudication has taken place - is not really on I'm afraid.

Tom Mouat's view is that contradictions are allowed, but that once both arguments have been made and succeed you then roll off and the highest die roll argument stands. I'm not a fan of this, but it works.

Peter Lloyd-Jones

Perhaps PBEM is the problem. I feel if one was sitting at a table doing
argument, counter argument it would not be so bad. Indeed the other player
would be challenging one of my premises (spelling?).

I argue my squaddies under RE supervision make good walls. Before the umpire
resolves the argument the Zulus jump in with the counter argument. I then
counter the counter, and then umpire adjudicates.

But I can not see how we do this with PBEM if it is to remain fun for us all,
Chris included.

Graham Evans

Only by arguments being posted to the umpire and not published until after adjudication. Then the umpire can adjudicate in turn.

Alternatively, players could self regulate and not play a counter argument until something has been adjudicated.

Jim Owczarski

What I guess suprises me most here is the receipt and
resolution of arguments in sequence.

I had thought (and I observed Chris run Scotland the
Brave at GenCon years ago) that MGs ran simultaneously
a la Free Kriegspiel.

If the arguments in question had been simtaneously
revealed (and run through the resultant conflict
arguments) I think all these problems might have been
avoided.

And, in conclusion, I still want the wall to be blown
up.

Chris Engle

Ah - Scotland the Brave (my 1995 Gen Con game) - I still have that terrain
board molding up in the barn along with all my other terrain - only the
toy soldiers live in the house.

Taking turns making arguments is a recent invention. Mike Underwood did it
at Gen Con around 2003. John Kantor did a game run this way this summer
and I'm trying it out now. I think it is simple for new players to learn
so I'm using it in some of the games I publish but I personally like
simultaneous arguments because it really does stop a lot of logical
conundrums.

Chris Engle (referencing Graham Evans)

“ My take (and I admit that the version I play has much more simplistic
arguments) is that once a fact has been established it can't be changed
unless there is a material change to events or new circumstances arise.”


This sounds like a good rule (I seem to always say that!) One could run a
game like that or the way we did here. Players could bicker if they wish
but normally they move on to more crucial matters - like blowing up the
wagon bomb. either way in the end the dice gods pick the winners. (I love
passing the buck this way.)

Me things the Brits are in a bad way - they aren't just facing the Zulus
but also the Swedish fifth column!

David & Robin

If we are to allow for all players (and non-players) in a PBEM game to read all the arguments before they have been adjudicated then players must show some restraint in their counter arguments. I don’t think it should be a problem to allow for the posting of a counter argument and possibly a rebuttal, but I think at that point players should wait for the adjudication before moving on. I think that if the string of argument-counter argument-rebuttal is allowed to continue for more than three posts it would become a nightmare for the Umpire to adjudicate and for players to keep track of what had and had not been adjudicated. It also would require arguments to be kept on the short side. Three posts the length of Marcus’ excellent description of the British shirking their wall building duties would be a bit much.

Marcus Young

Plenty of games have been run in a PBEM format on this list and have
proved completely successful. I thus cannot see any problem with the
format. It is the rules being adopted that instead need scrutiny.

I know that face-to-face games have their fans, but my personal view is
that PBEM is far superior to the live game. A player in a PBEM game has
got plenty of time to think, to research his Argument, and to properly
compose it. The referee can then give the Argument mature consideration,
can check back through the texts of old Arguments to spot any
contradictions, research any dubious points, and then be in a position
to deliver a properly considered adjudication. This procedure could not
be adopted in a live game without the likelihood of the players all
walking out in boredom at the long delays. In live games everything
needs to be fast and dirty. In such a game one is unlikely even to have
a written record of past Arguments, so any subtleties in Arguments are
likely to be soon forgotten and thus quietly drop out of the Matrix as
players and Referee remember only the grossest of facts.

Marcus Young (referencing Peter Lloyd-Jones)

“I think the problem here is what comes first.

The Brits argued they were building good defenses under RE
supervision.

(INSERT were well built due to RE supervision)”

This would be a valid point if the British Argument had indeed
established that the defenses were either "good" or "well built". As can
be seen from the British Argument in question (reproduced below for
convenience), all that is materially known about the barricades is:

1. That Chard had a good understanding of fortifications;
2. That the construction was supervised by engineers;
3. That the barricades were constructed "between the houses";
4. That the construction materials were grain bags and bicuit
boxes; and
5. That preparations for defense are "well under way".


In the above there is no assertion that the fortifications are in any
way strong or otherwise of superior quality. Indeed it is clear that the
fortifications are nowhere near complete at the time depicted in the
Argument.

It was thus open for me to make an Argument about the slow progress of
the work and the lack of sturdiness of the ultimate product without in
any way contradicting what had been established by the preceding
Argument.

Graham Evans (referencing Marcus Young)

“I know that face-to-face games have their fans, but my personal view
is that PBEM is far superior to the live game.”

I couldn't disagree more, - around the table all sort of other factors
come in to play, and you get real tension. I introduced an argument
record sheet into DMB so that the umpire could keep track of what was
being argued, - it helps doing the action/result/3 reasons format which
is a bit punchier than what we see in the PBEM games.

In the UK, - in my experience - arguments are always sequential not
simultaneous, so we've probably had to deal with the contradiction
issue more thoroughly.

John Kantor (referencing Graham Evans)

“My take (and I admit that the version I play has much more simplistic
arguments) is that once a fact has been established it can't be changed
unless there is a material change to events or new circumstances arise.”

That's what every argument does: postulate a new set of circumstances. There are
no "immutable" facts in a matrix game.

It is hard enough to have simultaneous turns in an online matrix game. It is
completely impractical to have multiple conflict rounds. And having simultaneous
turns doesn't change anything anyway. Further arguments will always be made that
change the "facts" of previous ones.

A matrix game should consist of rules to create, expand, and modify a matrix of
terms which make up the game "reality." If you don't have that, all you have is
a game where players argue - and then the ref imposes his will based on an
arbitrary strength rating of his own creation. Not a matrix game and not fun.

Graham Evans (referencing John Kantor)

“That's what every argument does: postulate a new set of
circumstances. There are no "immutable" facts in a matrix game.”

Well, no. Each argument helps to define the game world, - rather like
filling in a map as you explore a country. I didn't say facts were
immutable. I said there must be a material event to change something
that has succeeded as an argument. eg I argue a battalion of 600 men
marches out and succeed. You can't argue there were only 500, but you
could argue that 100 ran away as soon as the left the fort. If you
wanted to argue the battalion had a smaller size in the first place
you have to get your argument in first. It's all about prioritising
what you do with you limited resources, - ie your one argument per
turn.

“A matrix game should consist of rules to create, expand, and modify
a matrix of terms which make up the game "reality." If you don't have
that, all you have is a game where players argue - and then the ref
imposes his will based on an arbitrary strength rating of his own
creation. Not a matrix game and not fun.”

I don't disagree, - I just feel that the matrix game should move
forward. You can't go back and modify the past; you have to mould the
situation to what you want in the future. The umpire has to regulate
the game, and if he's any good you'll understand why he judges your
argument to be stronger or weaker (see my article on use of playing
cards in either Nugget or DMB). It is is a matrix game, and it is
fun. A statement that a form of the game "isn't fun" is just a value
judgement that doesn't help further the argument.

Chris Engle

Once the debate reaches questions about what is fun or not it is time to drop the debate at get back to the game. I will review the rules as they are written, summarize them and as the referee of the game decide how we will proceed.

I want to thank everyone for their contributions. A lot of interesting things were brought up. We have not reached a consensus on what is right but that is okay. I believe that different takes on Matrix Games will answer this differently.

For now, we know that a wall has bee build, that the squadies were slacking, and that Lt. Chard of the Royal Engineers supervised them.

SUMMMARY OF ENGLE MATRIX GAME RULES

First the simultaneous method – which is featured in Hamster Press MG books.

1. Players make arguments one at a time going around the table.
2. The referee rules on argument strengths as the arguments are made.
3. The referee decides which arguments are in competition. They will be resolved in a dice rolling contest.
4. Player roll for their own arguments. If they are not in competition then they succeed and fail on one roll. If they are in competition players keep rolling till only one argument is left.
5. Arguments can trigger conflict or trouble argument rounds.

Round Robin method – which is featured in Hamster Press MG Folios.

1. Players take turns making arguments.
2. The referee rules on arguments and the player rolls for them immediately.
3. The referee can allow players to make counter-arguments to other players arguments. These situations are resolved in a dice rolling competition.
4. Successful arguments can trigger conflict and trouble rounds.

In addition to this I was using a suggested way of deciding argument strength based on a set of criteria. An argument gains one point for each of the following.

1. The characters are together.
2. The argument is logical.
3. The argument fits the genre.
4. The argument builds on past successful arguments.
5. The argument appeals to emotion.
6. You personally like it.

The criteria does not mention reducing strength if the argument contradicts past arguments, or punish players for doing too much. The old rule on refereeing is that the players make up arguments while the referee makes up argument strength.

HOW COULD I HAVE DONE THINGS DIFFERENTLY?

Based on the rules as they are written I ran the game correctly (which only shows that the letter of the law is foolish). Based on the round robin rules I could have asked players to make counter arguments to any of the three arguments. I didn’t do that. I could also have declared any one of them triggering a conflict to slow the game down and moderate the effects of big arguments. Finally I could have granted the British player a trouble argument to say why the Zulu argument wasn’t correct.

Interestingly, the arguments as written could be viewed as doing all of the above. For instance…

If I had allowed counter-arguments to the first wall turn then all the arguments would have done a dice rolling competition to see which one happened.

If I had declared the first argument triggering a conflict “can they get the wall built in time?” Then the Zulu argument could have been the first attempt at resolving the race, with the second British argument being their first attempt.

If I had allowed the Zulu argument to go through then the last British argument could have been the British player’s trouble argument – which mitigated the effect of the Zulu turn.

Each of these alternatives could have been done within the rules. None would have been wrong. All would have looked different and made for a different dynamic in the game. As it is I took the simplest approach and had each argument roll independently. Obviously this was not the best way to handle this issue. The wall is all important for the game. It deserved using one of these other approaches to give it more gravity.

CONCLUSIONS

If I was a first time Matrix Game referee, I would not see all the options I mentioned above. With practice I would learn them and realize how I could use them to tweak the game the direction I want it to go in. Even with that though, the game is working and could continue working, even with simple minded refereeing like mine.

While there is nothing in the rules that says players can’t engage in “He said/She said” arguments, they are pointless since they don’t advance anyone’s goals. It is a pointless exercise. I trust that players would soon tire of it and move on to other arguments.

So we are left with frustration. Someone is going to win, and someone will lose. In the end the dice gods are to blame because they pick the winners and losers.

Ain’t life grant.

Chris Engle

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Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
12:55 pm - The Matrix Gamer Newsletter Fall 2005
The Matrix Gamer No.31
Fall 2005

Editorial
Description versus Prescription and beyond
Matrix Game Chess
Solo Matrix Games
Ritter 2nd edition in the works (Diceless miniature battle rules)

EDITORIAL
By Chris Engle

Hum…It looks like it has been three years since I put out a Matrix Gamer.

What happened?

It’s simple really. In 2002 I started writing game to publish for the general audience. My poor limited brain can only do a few things at a time so I had to let the Matrix Gamer drop. Now, years later, I’m putting my first Engle Matrix Game products into general distribution. I have a healthy backlog of material and thus have time to return to newsletter writing.

Matrix Games have come a long way in the last three years. Thrust and Parry games and Cinematrix, are providing new was to run a Matrix Game. While my Engle Matrix Games have moved from paper back to hardback versions – and now into pseudo boardgame versions in Folio MGs.

Another thing that has come along are a slue of new RPGs that focus on narrative games rather than hack and slash. Though these games are not Matrix Games they are similar and are helping make Matrix Gaming more mainstream.

So…the Matrix Gamer is back.

DESCRIPTION VERSUS PRESCRIPTION AND BEYOND
By Chris Engle

In the early 1990’s I ran a small newsletter called “Experimental Game Group.” One subscriber – I can’t remember who now – talked about descriptive and prescriptive games. This article takes that idea and applies it to present day game design.

First some definitions.

Prescriptive games tell the players a set of procedures to follow. The mechanical actions are done (moving counters/figures, adding up numbers, rolling dice, consulting tables and the like) and the rules tell you what the outcome is. There is the idea that you are “simulating” the event and that the game gives some insight into how that action works. To some extent this may be true but it is also false since the mechanical actions done bear no resemblance to the mechanical actions of the actual events. The player gains no insight into these steps. If the game taught cookie baking – this method might list the ingredients but leave out how they are mixed or cooked and just jump to the eating.

Descriptive games by contrast use different procedures. Rather than skip the middle, they ask they players to “describe” what happens. Matrix Games do this by player’s arguments, narrative role play games do it by passing control of the game around between players. The method lacks the mathematical rigor of proscriptive games but has the advantage in allowing players to see how and why events happen.

From the late 1980’s on I’ve always felt I was fighting against prescriptive games, trying to establish the legitimacy of descriptive games/Matrix Games. I was unaware of narrative RPG ideas at the time. Matrix Games grew out of war games rather than role playing. War games are notoriously prescriptive and making things up as you go along is definitely seen as cheating.

Descriptive games still seem like cheating – or at least as not simulating events. Prescriptive games try to find mathematical formulas that recreate in numbers the same patterns observed in nature. In a perfect rigorous world game would be science. In our imperfect world they are art. Napoleon’s maxim of “defense is to offense as three is to one.” Which games have interpreted as it takes three to one odds before an attack is assured of success. This may produce a “correct” outcome but I rankled at not knowing how it happened.

Matrix Game arguments seemed to me a way of getting at the lost data while still having a fun game. Since they allow people to use their imaginations to come up with arguments they are mechanically closer to real life action since brainstorming is a part of planning. The conflict between competing visions of events is played out in the dice rolling of the game (which is prescriptive and not at all how real life events happen) and is in fact a form of communication between the players about their perceptions of how the world really works. It is not mathematical science but it does give good solid qualitative data.

Now my crusader zeal for conflict with “mainstream games” has ebbed, largely due to Matrix Games moving closer to becoming mainstream.

Around 2000 a body of independent role play game writers began publishing narrative games. As I said earlier these games use various mechanisms to pass the authority of the game master to make things up in the game to the players. My sense is that these games play and feel different from Matrix Games but they are similar and as they gain acceptance they move Matrix Games out of their spot on the fringe of gaming towards the mainstream.

Interestingly narrative games make Matrix Games seem more restrictive. I say this because in a matrix argument the player has to keep the referee in mind and not do too much or be too extreme lest the ref give them a crumby change of succeeding. Narrative games pass power between gamers with the only check being dice rolls or bidding to keep control of events and resolve s dramatic conflict. Narrative games seem to have grown out of a rivalry with D+D like prescriptive games that use dice rolls for everything and which seldom create the tension found in a good short story or book. Similar to my self made struggle but different in that they had no desire to create a simulation game.

Narrative role play games and “Indie” RPG’s in general have developed a language to describe what they are doing which is well developed and now difficult to follow to the uninitiated. “Gamist” applies to people who play games to win them. “Narrativist” applies to people who put the story first and who favor rules that allow them to do this easily. “Simulationists” applies to players who want to get into their character’s psychi and be true to it even if it means wrecking the game for everyone else. Rest assured that those initiated in “Forge Speak” (from the Forge web forum) will say I’ve got all this wrong and that I should read half a dozen forum threads so I do get it. I’ve read them, you can to if you like or you can skip it and get back to this article.

Indie game jargon has lead to a lot of new games that have similarities to Matrix Games and though we don’t speak the same language I think we are saying essentially the same thing. Descriptive games are good. Descriptive games are valid.

My crusader quest of winning a kingdom for Matrix Games in a world of prescriptive games seems to be won. Now I find a bunch of other small kingdoms near by to compete with.

One of the big mental shifts the gaming community has made in the last 18 years is to accept that making it up as you go along is not cheating. Now the debate is how to best do that.

Matrix Games can be used to tell stories but that is not what they were first made to do. In their simplest terms Matrix Games are a set of procedures on how to decide which player argument happen and which don’t. I only started applying this to stories around 1995, prior to that they were just war games – no story just fighting. When I did come to the idea of plot – I saw it as just a set of suggestions on what players might want to do. If they wanted to fight they still could – or they could fight over politics, fight over finding clues, recruiting agents, stealing treasures etc. It is all very boardgamie. I even have a mental geography I use in games that looks like a loose area map board game like diplomacy.

Matrix Games use a referee who acts as a sort of weak game master. Play moves from critical event to critical event rather than from scene to scene. It can be done very competitively.

All so different from narrative RPGs – or at least that is what my rivaling brain tells me.

Narrative RPGs grew out of role play games in the late 1980’s, at the same time I started work on Matrix Games. They were not as connected to war gaming and it does not seem they were at all interested in simulation. They wanted good story telling from the get go. We both opted on verbal techniques (arguments for MGs and scene descriptions for RPGs) but they had the idea of plot there from the get go.

If plot is going to be developed actions need to be focused on that. If players had permission to make up scenes and say what happens in them (just as D+D game master have done for decades) they could move the plot forward in ways undoable in prescriptive RPGs. Rather than do twenty separate rolls on small tasks they would do one big roll after a build up description. Fail the roll and someone else would describe how you fail. This speeds up play and focuses the action on the dramatic conflict rather than all the details of how things happen.

We are so close but so very far apart.

This growing body of descriptive games will confront small differences in personal preference and intent that will make these games heretical rivals. “Look, that man has no soul! See how he rolls the dice wrong.” I suspect our jargon will keep up from understanding one another just as prescriptive game companies have disagreed over the best way to do a simulation game. I’m sure the market will pick the winners and losers. Until then we will market to our individual strengths move fully into the mainstream.

I’m biased. I like the way Matrix Games work in games more than Narrative RPGs. MGs be they Engle Matrix Games, Thrust and Parry Matrix Games, Politics by other means miniatures MGs, feel more like a game. A funny thing about MGs is that depending on how they’re packaged they can look like a boardgame, role play game, miniatures game, play by email game, or a type of game all by themselves. Narrative games may be able to do this but so far they haven’t. So far they’ve only been used as role play games, since they grew out of RPGs that makes sense.

I look forward to an interesting set of rivalries developing over the next few years as we compete for market share over the growing descriptive game market. I think a new crusade has begun. Not one about us versus them but more of us versus us and aren’t those always the nastiest?


MATRIX GAME CHESS A THOUGH EXPERIMENT
By Chris Engle

Ah ha! I’ve found the key difference between Matrix Games and narrative RPGs. They looked the same because when MGs are applied to a narrative task they look the same but applied to different tasks and they look very different.

Imagine you are sitting down to play a game of chess. Before the first piece is moved, you and the other player decide to run two games, simultaneously. One will be run by a Matrix Game. Each turn the moving player will make an argument about what happens next. The other game will be run using narrative techniques – control of the narrative shift from one player to another. The game begins and almost immediately the look different.

In Matrix Game Chess the player makes an argument about what move or attack happens that turn. For instance, “All my pawns move two squares forward.” An outside referee might use the following decision matrix to decide how strong arguments are.

Legal chess moves – Very Strong
Non-standard move or attack – Strong
Multiple piece moves – Average
Multiple stand attacks – Weak
Weird shit – Very Weak

The arguments are used to resolve what moves and attacks happen. They step into the position of the rules of chess – ie what a legal move is. Play still focuses on taking the king because though the “how to play” changes, the goal of play hasn’t. It is still chess.

Meanwhile the narrative game goes off in wild directions. The goal of a narrative game is to find conflict and build up to a dramatic showdown. One player starts describing the game being played. Since watching chess played is about as much fun as watching grass grow the player has to choose – is the conflict in the game itself, is it between the players outside of the game, is it between the chessmen (ala “Through the looking glass”) or somewhere else?

First assume the player decides it is between players. The description launches into a scene about why they are playing the game and what stakes they are playing for. Say it is a knight and devil playing for his soul or some other Swedish plot. The actual moves are mere plot devices. The game could almost be ignored.

Next assume it is a Lewis Carroll fantasy game. Everything is allegory. It has even less to do with chess.

Now assume it actually is about the game. The narrator might decide to have it be about radically changing rules of play and thus be like a Matrix Game but more likely to keep the theme of “chess game” consistent they will stick to the rules of chess and just focus on legal moves.

No mater which type of game is played, the actual game of chess is a foil for the plot rather than a game in itself. The side that dramatically needs to win will win rather than the one who plays the best game of chess.

Narrative games need a story with conflict to structure them.

Matrix Games can take story or leave it alone. Arguments are just a means to resolve which actions happen. They do not have to care which arguments are move dramatic.

I can imagine Matrix Game Chess being fun to play – I doubt a narrative RPG game of chess would be.

SOLO MATRIX GAMES
By John Kantor and Dylan Alliata

I think one area that should be explored more is that of solo matrix
games (either pure or in conjunction with board- or roleplaying games).
Dylan reported on at least one a while ago that worked well. The big
advantage of solo games is that they eliminate all the controversy that
can arise between players and ref or among players.

Two Hour Wargames has a number of great skirmish games which include
rules for generating scenarios and solo campaigns (check out All Things
Zombie and Nuts!) - as well as an rpg (Legends of Araby) that is
designed to be run completely solo.

Matrix game rules would provide even more options for games like this
(and would make a great way for Hamster Press to work together with
other companies).
*
Thank you John for the comment. I played several and I would agree
with you that you avoid those messy disagreements about the strengths
of arguments, unless you are extremely competitive, like arguing with
yourself, dress up like Santa Claus and wander around the Chicago Loop
in August. The system THW uses relies on a pretty nifty reaction
system. I am not sure how this could be accommodated by a matrix game.
The four games I played used different approaches to arguments. One
was a straight colonial war game with all arguments made with matrix
arguments. The second was a Medieval Balkan battle game, but I stuck
fairly close to the historic goals and objectives of the forces
involved. Another was the relief of the Rutbah airbase in Iraq, during
WW II. The last was for a fiction assignment. All of the games had a
pretty tight scenario and well defined goals. If you are going to do a
solo game that's your best bet. The more explicit the matrix as John
would say the better. For arguments, the best rating system was to
judge most of the arguments as average unless reason dictated
otherwise. It speeds up the game considerably. Another obervation is
that conflict rounds generate the chaos which makes the games
interesting to play.

RITTER SECOND EDITION IN THE WORKS
By Chris Engle

In the atrium of Ballentine Hall on the campus of Indiana University Bloomington is a huge globe – done in relief. I always wanted to game on it. Matrix Games grew out of those musings. I’ve always had a weakness for sculpted terrain – I’m a miniatures gamer at heart I guess, but the bug did not stop there. Oh no…the weakness led to becoming a terrain maker myself. In 1995 I ran a “Brave Heart” Scottish military campaign game at Gen Con on a 4x6 foot relief map of Scotland – using 6mm figures, it was very cool. The Matrix Game rules covered the big picture of the campaign but I wanted a quick miniatures game for the battles. The design goal was that a major battle would take no more than 15 minutes and a skirmish around 5. The game I made was called RITTER.

This was a tough goal. To reach it I had to rethink how a miniatures game could be run. What I realized was that dice were what slow down games. They are also frequently pointless because rules weight outcomes so you can predict them before the first roll is made. So I dropped them. Combat results are determined by running down a “Combat Matrix” that tells outcomes. The first result that fits the situation is what happens. Since players can read the matrix before attacking – they only attack where they win. The other feature of this game was that losing a combat does not kill. Losers just run away. The goal is to herd them into places where they can’t run. If anything gets in the way of the rout (enemy or friendly unit or any terrain feature) the unit is destroyed. It is very elegant and very fast.

I published RITTER in a booklet format in 1996 and kept it in print in a minor way ever since. Along the way I added a fantasy version (Jabberwocky) and a horse and musket version (Fusilier). Well – I’m down to the last couple of copies of my print run so it is time to redo the game.

Unlike 10 years ago, now I can make color laminated maps and have been experimenting with “folio games”. Folio games allow me to make board game like games that look good and can be put out for a low cost. So RITTER is undergoing a face lift and coming back as a board game.

The new game will be called “Ein Ritter Spiel” and will feature a major historical battle with map, unit counters and the rules on the back. An army list of forces on that period is included so you can use the map to play other armies (with home made unit counters).

The rules are simplified so that they fit in 5 pages (complete with a lot of pictures.) I expect to have it ready sometime early next year. I’m thinking I’ll put out Hastings, Bannockburn, and Crecy. Later I’ll jump back into Ancients with Roman and Greek stuff.

Ritter was never a Matrix Game but it was made to work with them.

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Friday, June 10th, 2005
4:49 pm - Cthulhu on Campus - Seventh and final turn results
TURN 7

The sheriff fired again, silence decended on the room, it all went
blank. In the distance he could hear children talking about the Civil
War, but such strange children. The there was talk of War, organised
War, as A Game.

What horror had he fallen into, had he lost all touch with reality.

[Very strong. I rolled a 6. It happens.]

*

The jibbering rants of the Sheriff distract Vera and Bill von Meister as Dr. Mulligan comes into the room. He immediately sees what is happening. Without a moments thought he dives at the book!

The Dexter Kabbala is knocked out of Vera’s hand and drops to the floor. Mulligan and Vera grapple and struggle to grab the book. With great effort, and in the nick of time, the Doctor slams the books shut.

All the lights go out.

Vera wails in terror.

When the lights come back up, Milligan sits up. The Sheriff is in the corner still mumbling to himself. The others are gone but the book remains.

Mulligan picks the book up and helps the Sheriff out.

[Very strong. I rolled a 3. It happens.]

*

The story closes with a book being returned to a locked cabinet. The key is pocketed and the camera pans out. Up and up it goes looking down on an ever growing maze of book shelves. It stretches on to the horizon and beyond. The picture is the reflection in someone’s eye. The eye of Vera Von Meister who then screams…Fade to black.

[Very strong. I rolled a 4. It happens.]

*

This concludes this game. I noticed that it was beginning to lag so it needed to end. Please forgive my Twilight Zone ending but it seemed to fit.

Now we move on to “A Green and Pleasant Land.”

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Thursday, May 26th, 2005
11:46 am - A Discussion of an Educational Matrix Game
On Tuesday I have the opportunity to run a matrix game with one of my seventh grade
classes. The class has 24 students (boys and girls) with a wide range of abilities
- very low to very high. The class will only be 40 minutes. The game needs to
finish in that time. The students have recently completed a unit on the American
Civil War, and before class they will attend a demonstration by some civil war
reenactors who will show the students their uniforms and equipment, talk in the
first person about what it was like to fight in the civil war, and the visitors will
fire off a cannon and muskets. So I'd like to do something involving the civil war.
I'd like the students to work together in teams of three or four when making their
arguments. The students have no experience with matrix games, so I'm looking for
something suitable for beginners. Ideally the game would be fun, would reward
students that can use their knowledge of the civil war support their arguments, and
would get the students thinking about what life was like during that time period.

Any suggestions for what sort of civil war matrix game I should try? Should the
kids be actively competing against each other, or all working together to overcome
some challenge, or each group sort of writing their own story? Should the game
involve politics, or a battle or campaign? I'll be coming up with a plan for the
game this weekend and, hopefully, trying it out on Tuesday. All suggestions are
welcome.

Matthew Fritz
Junior Generals Web Site
matt-fritz@comcast.net
http://www.juniorgeneral.org/

Dear Matthew

I looked over the games you have on your web page and see that straightout
wargames are okay to do. So I'm thinking, What lesson do we want the kids
to come away with? "War is Hell?" "Southern nobility didn't stand a chance
against Northern Industry?" "What caused the Civil War?" More?

Here are two game ideas that follow this up.

WAR IS HELL

The game is set in Virginia. We have the two capitals. The goal is to end
the war by capturing the capital. Have an area move map. The players are
divided into teams each given a role/mission. Let's say "The Army", "The
Navy" "Will to keep on fighting" and "Supply - We've got to have food and
bullets."

The military commanders have stands of troops, and ships. Obviously the
Union has a lot more than the Confederates. The map has the rail lines
marked on it.

The players are told "You have a half hour to win the war."

Each turn the players make arguments to move troops, start battles, or
solve problems that arrise.

The military commanders are moving men around a fighting while the will to
fight and supply players have to make a trouble argument to keep their men
supplied and the populous willing to keep up the fight. If they fail a
trouble argument then they loose a chit that represents their side. The
South has more will to fight while the North has more supplies. If a
battle is lost then the will to fight guys must make a second trouble
argument a turn.

Players will need some education on what caused the war, why people
fought, and how men were supplied (rail roads, foraging, etc.)

They can use their arguments to do non-military things (propaganda etc.)
Have a provision for the South to invade the North to hurt our will to
fight. They can argue for raiders (to hurt supply or will) They can even
argue for campaigns to gather supplies (such as the Valley Campaign.)

Allow them to run through as many arguments as they can make in the
allotted time - have them read out loud and you judge them and they roll.
This will make a very quick moving game where people see that thinking
fast and staying alert are vital in war.

When an argument calls for a battle then have the side with the most
advatage say how they win the fight. Advantage is determined by will and
supply. The one with higher combined score of will and supply is most
advantaged. They say why they win and roll. If they fail their argument
then the other side gets to say what really happens. If they fail then the
battle was inconclusive. The winner loses no one, the loser loses two
units. If it is inconclusive then they both lose one unit.

The game will undoubtedly end inconclusively - "Okay, the war still goes
on. The Civil War lasted four years and remains our bloodiest conflict."

In the debriefing have each team say what they tried to do and how well it
worked. Point out how their choices parallel history. Especially stress
how supply and will to fight are important. It is not just having bigger
guns it is about psychology.


THE CAUSES OF THE WAR

If you want a political game here is an idea. The players are formed into
teams that represent members of Congress. Each team represents a political
agenda. I can see the following teams, but the list is not exhaustive.

1. Maintain the Union
2. Maintain Slavery
3. State's Rights
4. Abolition of Slavery
5. Manifest Destiny - open up new states
6. No new Slave States
7. Something about Northern Industrial policy - maybe over immigration?

Each turn the teams make an argument to get their policy into congress.
They say what law they want to have happen, or what act they do. (this
will require a lesson in the Kansas Nebraska act, the beating of the anti
slavery senator, Bloody Kansas and John Brown.

The arguments are presented openly and you judge them. They players roll
and the winners move on into Congress. Here they do a dice rolling contest
to see which one is adopted into law. Have the players give input on which
arguments they think are strongest. Remind them of their politcal agendas
when they talk. This way they see political debat and how agenda's effect
world view.

When a policy passes ask the players if they can live with it. If half of
the players say they can't then the Civil War has begun.

Do this for a half hour and then debrief. Have them tell the class what
they tried to do in their group and how they responded to the changing
situation.

TEAM PLAY

Make certain that each group has a good student in it. This student will
naturally take charge of the group. The weaker players have to agree to
what the group argument is so they will participate but not be put on the
spot to be original themselves. They learn by seeing and voting, while the
better students learn by doing and leading.


I like these ideas much more than the ones I threw out yesterday. What do
you think? Will either of these ideas work for your class?

Sincerely Chris Engle (MSSW ACSW LCSW - yes I actually do have the
credentials to make lesson plans!)

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11:44 am - Cthulhu on Campus Turn 6
TURN 6

As winter creaked wearily into spring, the police escalated their search
for the killer stalking our eldritch town. With increased police patrols
at work up and down the lonely banks of the Miskatonic and townsfolk
increasingly taking to heart the warning to stay abed during the hours
of darkness, the aim was to give the night-stalker no further
opportunity to strike without being seen. The plan appeared to work- no
more victims were found, and once again I slept soundly.

But the period of my return to peaceful dreams, dear Elliot, was of all
too short duration, as it had been little more than a month after the
last body was found that I had the most fearsome nocturnal visitation of
them all. Unlike previous nights, I dreamed not that I was abroad in
some dark and lonesome coppice, but rather in my very own room, but it
was as if I were detached from my body and watching myself slumber
fitfully. I seemed to approach my body slowly, but not like a ghost
looking down from above but rather with the familiar and loathsome
perspective of one who crawls or slithers along the ground. Then, as I
looked up at the flesh of my own throat from mere inches away, I
realised with bone-chilling clarity that my dream had fallen into the
perfect pattern of my previous precognitive visions, all of which had
culminated in a murder most hideous. This time, however it appeared that
I myself was to be the victim. Despite my fear, I seemed paradoxically
to be slavering for my own blood, as if I were starved for many days and
desperate to feed at any cost. Was my own death now inevitable?

It was there, however, that the vision ended, for at that very moment
there was a sharp sound at the door- subsequent enquiry revealed it was
my fellow boarder Hawkwith tottering unsteadily back to his rooms and
falling against my door in the semi-dark- which suddenly jolted me
awake. Even my return to the waking world, however, was insufficient to
dispel the dread that had come over me, so instead of attempting to
return to sleep I lay awake stroking the arched back of Mr Claw, who it
appears had been close beside me all the while, seemingly my constant
and trusty companion. As I patted his jet-black fur, however, I could
not help but notice that Mr Claw seemed in less than the best of health,
having lost some weight. I resolved next morning to consult Professor
Armitage, a known amateur authority on matters feline, the very next
morning.

[Very strong. This builds on Ferguson and describes an evil that may well be embodied tonight in the moldy corpse of Crawly. I rolled a 4. It happens.]

*

The sheriff glanced around the room, the chanting grew louder, more
intense. In the courner he saw a pile of robes, quickly pulling one
on he moved forward to invetigate what horrors were unfolding in this
subterranina den of iniquity.

[Very strong, the Sheriff is nearly in position. I rolled 2 so it happens.]

*

Vera slowly unwrapped the eldritch mummy-like wrappings that encased
Crawley's head. The chanting rose in intensity. She felt again the enormous
presence of a vast subterrean force rising within the room. Bill stepped
forward from the robed-throng and helped her uncover the still life-less
body.

Vera raised the Dexter Kaballah and started chanting, over and over again.
The power grew. It was working...

Crawley's eyes suddenly opened. But instead of bewhilderment, there was
intense fear and pain. Something was wrong! Something hideous was there!
Something wicked, and evil, something beyond Vera and Bill, and all their
Wheatleyesque coven, something from the world beyond, something too powerful
to control, something too ancient, from before the world of men.

"No," cried Crawley "No!"

[Oh, very strong. This moves the game to the edge of a cliff. I rolled a 5. It happens.]

*

Dr. Mulligan rushes through the darkened campus to the location mentioned in his books. “I have to get there in time. This abomination must no be allowed!”

As he reaches the spot he hears chanting. Not far off he sees the Sheriff approaching gun drawn!

[I think my argument is very strong. It brings Dr. Mulligan to the coven and makes him likely too late to stop what is about to happen – in the argument above. I rolled a 2 so it happens.]

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Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
5:03 pm - Cthulhu on Campus Turn 5
TURN 5

The Sheriff looked around the building, how could he gain access? He
tried the door, it opened soundlessly. In distance he could hear a
low murmer, a chant. His Colt ready in his hand, he followed the
sound to its source. The sound lead him to another door, the
chanting, getting louder and more frenzied was comming from the other
side. Bracing himself for whatever horror he may find (Thats to try
and get a save v madness or whatever Chris) he eased open the door......

[The Sheriff, our protagonist, is moving ever closer to the edge of the abyss. Very strong. I rolled a 2. It happens!]

*

"Bill," whispered Vera, allowing her eyes to feast upon his ashen face.
"What Crawley managed all those years ago...I've also..I've also....."
Bill von Meister stared, gaunt and beyond comprehension. So recently
lifeless, now called to life once more. Nothing seemed real to him, so hard
to feel anything, anything at all, even for his beloved Vera. Yes, he
recognised her. Vera, Vera. Crawley! Yes, he recognsied that name too. But
why had he been resurrected now. For what dread purpose? Why?!
Bill," Vera's hand reached out hesitantly. "Bill. We must. You know we
must. There is no other way!"
Bill stared, uncomprehending at first, and then with a spark of knowing.
Yes. Yes. Far beyond the purpose of this moment lay a thought, planted long
ago. Yes. It must be...
"Can you?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied.
"Then it is fated. Is the coven still active?"
"Yes," answered Vera.
"Then call them here. Call them here."

In chanting and in incence shall you find the words to summon forth the
master, the key that was written that will open up the door. Gather then and
chant, chant words wikth power to heal.

[This builds on past arguments and moves us closer to a confrontation. Very Strong. I rolled a 2 so it happens!]

*

Biff crouched in the darkness of the tomb shivering. The dank had long since
crept into every part of him, chilling even places that he knew not to
exsist physically. The waiting game had begun. As Rory had said the recent
student deaths compounded with the other mysterious events had brought
seekers with various interests into this situation. Many of them had only
begun to grasp the dire situation on the cusp of which they all were poised.
Rory had tasked Biff with protecting his work until it could be completed,
and faced with the alteratives Biff could not have said no.
The servitors had passed through the antechamber only minutes earlier
causing his breath to freeze in his chest. Now, from his hiding place inside
the antechamber of the crypt, Biff could hear again the shuffling of feet.
There was a faint light beyond the old but well oiled door where the dying
of the day produced a last deep blue gloaming. As the door swung inward the
dark outline of a man was framed inside the doorway. An anticipatory shudder
began in Biffs legs as he saw the shadowy man wielded a shiny gun in front
of him as a talisman against the darkness of the tomb. Crossing into the
darkness the man paused in front of the door to the crypt proper. The sounds
of Rory's work were plusing beyond the door, his incantations growing
louder. The gun wielding shadow hesitated for only two breaths before
pushing in on the portal. Biff leaped, twisting for a grip on the shadow's
gun arm. The report and flash of the shiny pistol was a thunderclap inside
the antechamber.

[Okay, this puts Rory as the big bad, which has not been the trend in most arguments. I’m going to rule this very weak. Sorry! I like Biff jumping in as a minion of evil but he needs to tie it to Vera von Meister, Crawly, Mr. Claw, Ferguson, of the professor mentioned investigating. I rolled a 2 so the dice gods killed this argument.]

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2005
4:47 pm - Cthulhu on Campus Turns 3+4
TURN 3

Dr Mulligan stroked his goatee with increased vigour, a sure sign he was
alarmed by what he was reading. The Dexter Kabalah, Crawley and Bill von
Meister. My-my! Quickly he rose from his chair and poured out another
cognac. His eyes went again to the coffee table where the Tarot cards were
still stacked neatly. He cut the deck for the second time that evening and
drew a card. Major Arcana, The Tower, reversed.
Returning to his chair he sat unblinking for several minutes, the cognac
untouched. A thought was stirring in his mind. Crawley, Crawley! What was
the link? Vera? Surely not! But, she might know the location of the Dexter
Kabalah. It must have crossed her desk. She had told him she had never seen
the book, that the Purse Papers had been sealed and deposited in a bank
vault, but, Crawley, yes, it rang a bell now. Bill and Crawley. My-my!
Picking up the year book once more, Dr Mulligan quickly found the place,
the boat club, founded 1898. Twenty-five years ago. His eyes scanned the old
pictures depicting the history of the club There it was. Two smiling
under-graduates posing rather self-consciously for the camera. One held a
pair of skulls, the other sat upon the hull of the boat, grinning like a
Cheshire cat. The date underneath 1904. A row of spectators behind, cheering
the champions. Dr Mulligan, lifting his magnifying glass once more, ran his
eye across the faces. Aha! There is was! Vera, Vera, Vera! Her eyes turned
adoringly towards the young skullers.
"But which one," mused Dr Mulligan, "for which one does Vera's bosom
heave?"

[REF: Okay so the story is zeroing in on Crawley and Bill von Meister. This new character Dr. Mulligan may be some one who will try to stop what may be happening. He might enlist the aid of Biff, Armitage, or even Vera (though I think she’s in this up to her eyeballs!) I’ll call this very strong. I rolled a 3 so it happens.]

*

Sheriff Engle eased his body into a more comfortable position as he
surveyed the cemetery from his place of concealment. There had already
beet two incidents of grave robberies. In this day and age this was
unthinkable, and he was going to be in serious trouble if nothing was
done. The mist rose from the Miskatonic, and drifted across the
moonlit, morbid scene. The moonlight caught one grave, was it his
imagination, or was it open! A cold chill ran down his spine as he
eased out his Colt Police Positive .32 and approached. The grave was
empty. He read the inscription with the light of his cigarette lighter.
"In loving Memory of Bill von Meister - You will return".

[REF: This builds on the Bill von Meister line and brings in a character with a gun. That might come in handy pretty soon. Very Strong! I rolled a 3. It happens.]

*

In a darkened room three bodies lay on slabs. The hiss of electrical current runs through machinery in the background. A cloaked figure moves between the bodies making preparations.

Preparations? Preparing for what?

Then the sound of low chanting is heard in the darkness. Many voices, speaking in a strange tounge. Only one work is understandable. It is repeated often – “Bill…”

[REF: I’m throwing this one in to begin to move the arguments toward here and now actions. I know this is very un-Lovecraftian of me so I’ll rate my argument as average even though it does build on the von Meister line. I rolled a 3 so it failed.]

TURN 4

The sheriff switched off his lighter and looked keenly around. Barley
discernible a trail led across the fresh dew. Following this he spotted
in the distance two people moving with slow stumbling gait, carrying a
long box towards the science block, lead by a hooded figure. At last!
He would get to the bottom of this business.

He doubled around the building to get a closer look! He hears the
hissing breath of the stumbling pall bearers. Looking at their faces he
sees their unseeing eyes and stumbles, frozen with terror, back into the
darkness as he recognises the corrupt remains of the two exhumed
students.

[REF: Okay, this could tie back into what has happened and does show why the Sheriff is in this story. I think it is strong. I rolled a 5. so It happens. I think this will cause trouble for the Sheriff so I want Peter to make a trouble argument about why the Sheriff doesn’t have a mental breakdown. I’ll give him a good chance to save the Sheriff from the status “Crazy” but it could happen.]

Fortunately the sheriff was a very pragmatic, down to earth man. He did
not believe such things could happen, therefor they cannot. In a second
he recovered.

[REF: What can I say, Very Strong. I rolled a 3, the Sheriff is good to go.]

*

1 October 1904

My Dear Bill,

What can I say that will ease your pain? How fickle you must think me, how
monstrous, how harsh! Please believe me when I tell you I never meant you
harm. I will not insult you with might have beens, but, Bill, what might
have been between us is now in the past. Alastair has made me see things
clearly. He's made me see this life in perspective. What we discussed last
fall in the old windmill, I believe the things I said, every word.

What has changed since last we spoke? Nothing in my heart, but Alastair has
found the key. It is as we suspected, Rabbi Liebemann, yes, but he was
hiding what he knew. When you receive this note, Alastair and I will have
passed beyond the veil of this life. All I can say is that I am sorry for
what might have been, and sorry for what will not now ever be. But I embrace
my new life with joy and serenity. I wish the same peaceful acceptance of
what is inevitable for you.

Death is not the end, it is the beginning - that is Merlin's curse.

My love, adieu!
Vera

* * * * *

Dr Mulligan folded the letter and put it back in his pocket. He
shivered. A vast sense of loneliness from beyond the grave quite overwhelmed
him and he sought respite in the warmth of the cognac.
"Rabbi Liebemann said true love resides not in sophia...."
"Of course!" exclaimed Dr Mulligan. "Crawley combined the Kaballah with
the Chakras. Not in Sophia but in Kundalini! Is that the Key? Crawley's base
sexual magick! Is that all it was, lust, pure lust?! And, if so, whose lust,
and for whom?"
The clock ticked while Dr Mulligan pondered his dread thoughts.
"But what if they succeeded? What eldritch force might they not have
conjured up?"

[REF: Dr Mulligan is clearly sitting in a study somewhere doing research that is bringing him closer to knowing what is going on. Meanwhile the Sheriff is moving closer in a more physical way. I see these two threads coming together. Very Strong, I rolled a 5 so it happens.]

*

As the winter drew to a close, dear Elliot, I found that I was
increasingly troubled by fearsome nocturnal visions. I would fall asleep
and drift into an unnaturally deep yet uneasy slumber, whereupon I would
see in a preternaturally lucid dream some inhabitant of Arkham, such as
Miss Winsdale or Old Mr Peasley, abroad in a lonely place after dark.
The image of the subject would appear ever closer, but from a strange
angle as if I was not walking forwards but rather crawling low across
the ground. The subject would sometimes seem oblivious to my presence,
and sometimes look down towards me in a kindly manner. Moments later,
however, I would find myself staring the man or woman directly in the
face as if from a vantage point only inches away and slightly below,
with a look of absolute screaming terror now replacing the earlier
neutral or beneficent expression! Then my vision would be clouded with a
red mist, and only dimly would I perceive the subject of my vision to
fall to the ground, with his or her throat and the upper section of the
chest ripped clear away, as if by a flurry of some prodigious talons.
The vision would then fade, and I would then drift away into a long and
dreamless sleep.

Although the very nature of my visions was disturbing enough by itself,
worse still was the news, subsequently learned, that on the morning
after every night I had a dream of the type in question, the person of
whom I had dreamed had been found not only deceased by horribly
mutilated in an all-too-familiar fashion and in surroundings not strange
to me. It appears that these were not mere dreams, but precognitions of
the rampages of some blasphemous entity! At such times I would huddle up
close to Mr Claw, and give thanks for my studies in wardings, for I knew
that no malign agent could ever gain entry to my chamber without being
first invited in by myself, which was an event most unlikely to occur...

[REF: These are the further insane ramblings of Vera Von Meister. Are any of them based on what we mortals would call reality. Probably not but they are very strong. I rolled a 5. It (whatever that is) happens. Thank you Mr. Claw…]

*

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Wednesday, April 27th, 2005
9:49 am - Cthulhu on Campus Turn 2
TURN 2

Mrs von Meister's fingers struggled to part the index cards age and
water damage had fused together. She hated this part of the job, going
through old boxes, throwing stuff away - so difficult to throw away.
"Good gracious!" she exclaimed. "The book Professor Armitage was after!"
She glanced at the stack number and gritted her teeth. Mis-filed all along.
Still it was probably boxed with the Purse papers and deposited in the bank.
Worth a look, though. Returning to the stacks, her eyes quickly found the
space. There it was. So, it had never been boxed with the rest of the Purse
papers, probably because it had been mis-filed and misplaced on the shelves
She took it down and blew off the dust.
"Professor Armitage will be pleased!"
Off in the distance a window suddenly slammed, giving her a great
fright. The book slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. She stooped
to retrieve it. Her eyes widened. "My god! Could it be?"
The library closed early that day as Vera von Meister hurried off into
the night, clutching her bag with unusual tightness. Head bent, she saw
no-one, and noticed nothing, a phrase repeating itself in her brain,
chanting, chanting, a threnody of fear and longing....

[REF: I think this is very strong because it appeals to my emotions. It stirs the blood and makes you wonder what happened and what will happen next. It is still early in the game so this is still story building. I rolled a 4. It happens.]

*

Although the truth became known to the public at large on in the
following May, for me, dear Elliot, February 1923 brought a clear
foretaste of the horrors to come. Some months earlier I had taken to the
practice of consuming certain herbs in the late evening before retiring,
which caused me to descend into a deep reverie and pass through the
gates of dream into a land seemingly tangible yet not of this world. It
was there in a place known as Ooth-Nargai that I encountered a certain
cat that came to adopt me in that shadowy world. Although he had an
alien-sounding name in his own tongue, I was unable to master it, but
was pleased to learn that he was prepared to accept as a substitute the
more mundane appellation "Mr Claw".

Soon I learned, however, that Mr Claw did not only exist in the
dreamworld, but had real corporeal existence in our own. This discovery
I made when one day the cat I immediately recognised appeared on the
threshold of my dwelling, where I later found him on my return to my
rooms. From the start it was apparent, however, that Mr Claw was no
ordinary cat, for he eschewed all regular feline feeding habits, but
would easily be satisfied by licking a few drops of my blood from my
hand or arm. This sanguine repast he regularly extracted with the aid of
his razor-like claw, whereby he was able to make an almost surgical
incision whenever he wished to feed...

[REF: Strong I think. It introduces a new character – Mr. Claw. Not certain what will come of it. I rolled a 6. Mr. Claw is in. I think we can safely say that a character like this needs to fit into the story. Arguments that do that will be stronger than ones that ignore or exclude him. The story is beginning to narrow – but only just.]

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Wednesday, April 20th, 2005
12:47 pm - Raising the Dead Turn 1.1
TURN 1.1

Few slept soundly in their beds that winter, for the events of the
preceding April were still all too fresh in the minds of many of
Arkham's citizens. Whatever the coroner might say, there was no surety
that what had come in the spring might not come once more in the winter.

To ease my nameless fears, I had some time before turned for solace to a
small, untitled and ancient-seeming book on wardings I had incorporated
in my modest personal library after a visit to the antiquarians
booksellers of Boston some years previous, such things being the
stock-in-trade of folklorists such as myself. I had long held the belief
that amidst the manifold superstitions contained in such lore, there
were some few genuine pearls of wisdom, and much of my time left, after
delivering the guest lectures that my contract with Miskatonic
University mandated, was spent in winnowing the wheat from the chaff.
One of the various items I had more than an inkling was of value was the
warding known as "Ye Olden Sign". Engraved on a door or similar entryway
it was said to bar certain malignant forces from entering the chamber
within. With this Olden Sign emblazoned on both door and window frame of
my lodgings, I thus felt more secure as I lay down to rest each night.


[Looks strong to me. I rolled a 6. It happens. I’m sorry I missed this. I had to reconstruct the list of arguments due to the computer eating them. My bad.]

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Tuesday, April 19th, 2005
1:24 pm - Raising the Dead Turn 1
TURN 1

February 20, 1923

Dear Diary,

After last night's Magical Circle, rose quite tired. Tremendous energy was
generated. The new chants are most efficacious, and we all sensed the
presence of some great being. Some element though is missing, some word or
invocation, to break through to the other world. It seems as if The Book has
a deliberate error written into the Greater Chants to prevent ill-thought
out use. Some key, some code, some reversal or insertion we need to uncover
to complete the rite.

That Professor Armitage was at me again today for information on some book
he's after. He pretends as if it is no matter, but I sense the desperation
in him. His interest in the Caballah makes him a candidate for our little
group. I'm not sure whether or how to approach him. He's a funny little man,
but not unattractive in a strange sort of way. He has an intensity, a
certain piercing quality that reminds me of my Bill. Hadn't thought of Bill
all day till he turned up. He came at me in the stacks with his clutch of
request cards. Very nervous he was, almost as if he was on the point of
asking me out or proposing or something. I had the feeling he was about to
go down on one knee. He just mumbled something about the books he wanted, no
hurry that sort of thing.

Next Wednesday is the annivesary of Bill's passing. I think I will tell
Professor Armitage about our group. A letter would probably be best. I could
slip it in with his books.

Vera von Meister

* * * *

"How odd," said Mrs von Meister, peering over her bifocals, "You're the
second person today to ask after the Purse papers. But as I told Professor
Armitage. Oops! I suppose I oughtn't to have said that. Well, no matter, I'm
sure it doesn't matter. As I told him, the Purse papers were sealed by the
late vice-Chancellor shortly before his death. The box is no longer here, I
think...yes, I'm certain it was removed and placed in a safety deposit box
in, well, a bank - I don't know the name, I'm afraid."

[REF: At the start of the game I generally rule all arguments strong – unless they are just horrible! I do this so you players have a good chance of defining what is happening in the story. After this turn arguments that build on the story stay strong while arguments that go off on tangents will grow progressively weaker. I rolled a 5. This happens!]

*

Professor Armitage's Argument

Diary

The Book of Unspeakable Truths.

April 20, 1923

I know with the recent murders that Miscotonic University is the home
of the book of the Dexter Kabalah, the anti-Kabalah Aleister Crawley
described in his letter to me. He is the only one besides myself who
know about the Dexter-Kabalah, the tree of life inverted. He had been
searching for it for years, he last traced it to Germany, but I knew
he was wrong, The book was sold at an auction to C. Everrett Purse,
Miscotonic University's most important alum. I moved here under the
cover of being a mathematician to do one thing destroy the book.
Purse thought it was an old manuscript that was in Hebrew and had
weird drawings in it. Being a rich, crass commodity trader he had no
idea what he had purchased. When he committed suicide his fortune and
the manuscript went to Miscotonic.

I don't really know how to describe Crawley a morphine addict, mad
men or the most powerful mage of modern times. But I never should
have listened to him about creating the Golem. It must have been one
of his pranks. My poor graduate assistant helped me dig up the bodies
and perform 'The Rite', to create the Golem, but failed, failed
horribly and now what was sent to protect the campus from the Chtulu
has only played into its hands. My assistant lost his sanity when the
remains rose from the grave, he turned white with terror and has
never been the same. They found him a few days later locked in his
room, babbling dehydrated and totally mad. I pray the new electric
therapy brings him to his senses. And now the students are being
murdered was it the Golem or the Cabal in the grips of the Dexter
Kabalah. I must find the book and destroy it.

[REF: This sounds strong to me. As I said before at the start of the game I have no reason to rule arguments weak – we are just finding out what is going on. I rolled a 5. It happens.]

*
[REF: The next two argument compete with one another because the suggest different time lines. One suggests the two missing corpses died a while ago, the other suggests it was only a few days. Both are strong. I’ll do the dice rolling contest at the bottem.]

April 18, 1923

Dearest Betsy,

It is good to hear that things are well for you in Boston. Just as I
told you when we were children you were born a big city girl. I pray
that you'll stay away from those jazz people, but it would be naive of me
to think your persuits won't take you into places decent people ought not
to be. After all your sweet voice warrants an audience, no matter how
undeserving.

But you must forgive this letter and me for I am all out of sorts today
and I can not contain my anger. You see I went out to the cemetary this
morning to visit Sean and Hazel. I fear that what I beheld there may
cause me to do some evil thing. Four days since that terrible loss of
such friends. Four days the earth barely settled upon their graves, and
I found their resting places disturbed. I can not explain my
mortification. Suffice it to say that I've heard from Professor Armitage
that there was some sort of ballyhoo raised at an alumni lecture last
week and I think I may know who has done this awful thing. It was that
no good Rory O'Darby or I'm a cobbler's son. When I find him you can bet
we will have a discussion he's likely to remember the rest of his life.
Ah, but do not trouble yourself about me. By the time this letter has
reached you I will be a much happier fellow for confiding in you.

I remain your loving brother,
~Biff

*

From: Tom Post
c/o Peabody Hall
Miskatonic University
Arkham, Massachussetts


What ho Corky!

Things have been quite a bore around here since you transferred to Oberlin.
I hope you find the art department to your liking there.

There was a bit of a gas last month when Algy found an old pump organ, which
he fixed up. He got lots of complaints when he played it late at night in
the dorm rooms, so he's had to move it into the basement of the Liberal Arts
building. Most nights, you can hear the strains of his organ rising from
depths off of College Street like something out of the Phantom of the Opera.
Assuming, of course, that Lon Chaney was playing ragtime. (And since you
never hear it in the film, maybe really was!)

Apart from that, there's been a bad business lately over at the cemetary.
Seems someone dug up some recent graves. In fact it was those two students
who died in that unpleasantness I wrote to you about last time. Believe it
or not, the dean had the whole gang: me, Wendell, Algy, and Trevor, come
over to see him, and made us swear up and down we weren't involved. I mean,
really! It's not at all the sort of thing we'd get involved in.

Even Biff Masterson was coming around and making accusations, until we all
accounted for our whereabouts on the night in question. He then went off,
grumbling something about Rory O'Darby. Now, Rory's a queer old bird for
certain, but Algy says he saw the light still on in Rory's lab in the
Science Annex when he finished his organ playing about midnight that night,
so we all figure he was busy with his interminable graduate project. I'd
love to know who did dig up the graves, though, if only to clear our names
once and for all.

Sorry to hear your cousin Lawrence is doing so poorly. Beth told me to say
hello to you for me.

Sincerely,

Tom P.


to: Corky W. Worple
c/o Baldwin Hall
Oberlin College
Oberlin, Ohio

[The contest is between Biff and Tom. Both arguments are strong.]

Biff Tom
1 1 Both out so I’m going to start over. I want one of these to happen!
5 2 Biff stays in while Tom drops out. Biff is the winner!

TURN 2

Get your arguments in by next Monday. Until then please feel free to email one another with role plays and quibbles.

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Monday, April 18th, 2005
5:02 pm - Raising the dead: Turn One
From: Tom Post
c/o Peabody Hall
Miskatonic University
Arkham, Massachussetts


What ho Corky!

Things have been quite a bore around here since you transferred to Oberlin.
I hope you find the art department to your liking there.

There was a bit of a gas last month when Algy found an old pump organ, which
he fixed up. He got lots of complaints when he played it late at night in
the dorm rooms, so he's had to move it into the basement of the Liberal Arts
building. Most nights, you can hear the strains of his organ rising from
depths off of College Street like something out of the Phantom of the Opera.
Assuming, of course, that Lon Chaney was playing ragtime. (And since you
never hear it in the film, maybe really was!)

Apart from that, there's been a bad business lately over at the cemetary.
Seems someone dug up some recent graves. In fact it was those two students
who died in that unpleasantness I wrote to you about last time. Believe it
or not, the dean had the whole gang: me, Wendell, Algy, and Trevor, come
over to see him, and made us swear up and down we weren't involved. I mean,
really! It's not at all the sort of thing we'd get involved in.

Even Biff Masterson was coming around and making accusations, until we all
accounted for our whereabouts on the night in question. He then went off,
grumbling something about Rory O'Darby. Now, Rory's a queer old bird for
certain, but Algy says he saw the light still on in Rory's lab in the
Science Annex when he finished his organ playing about midnight that night,
so we all figure he was busy with his interminable graduate project. I'd
love to know who did dig up the graves, though, if only to clear our names
once and for all.

Sorry to hear your cousin Lawrence is doing so poorly. Beth told me to say
hello to you for me.

Sincerely,

Tom P.


to: Corky W. Worple
c/o Baldwin Hall
Oberlin College
Oberlin, Ohio

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Thursday, April 14th, 2005
1:46 pm - Argument from Dylan Alliata
Professor Armitage's Argument

Diary

The Book of Unspeakable Truths.

April 20, 1922

I know with the recent murders that Miscotonic University is the home
of the book of the Dexter Kabalah, the anti-Kabalah Aleister Crawley
described in his letter to me. He is the only one besides myself who
know about the Dexter-Kabalah, the tree of life inverted. He had been
searching for it for years, he last traced it to Germany, but I knew
he was wrong, The book was sold at an auction to C. Everrett Purse,
Miscotonic University's most important alum. I moved here under the
cover of being a mathematician to do one thing destroy the book.
Purse thought it was an old manuscript that was in Hebrew and had
weird drawings in it. Being a rich, crass commodity trader he had no
idea what he had purchased. When he committed suicide his fortune and
the manuscript went to Miscotonic.

I don't really know how to describe Crawley a morphine addict, mad
men or the most powerful mage of modern times. But I never should
have listened to him about creating the Golem. It must have been one
of his pranks. My poor graduate assistant helped me dig up the bodies
and perform 'The Rite', to create the Golem, but failed, failed
horribly and now what was sent to protect the campus from the Chtulu
has only played into its hands. My assistant lost his sanity when the
remains rose from the grave, he turned white with terror and has
never been the same. They found him a few days later locked in his
room, babbling dehydrated and totally mad. I pray the new electric
therapy brings him to his senses. And now the students are being
murdered was it the Golem or the Cabal in the grips of the Dexter
Kabalah. I must find the book and destroy it.

(comment on this)

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
12:52 pm - The Cthulhu on Campus player roster so far.
People can email one another at MatrixGame2@yahoogroups.com If you are not on the list you can join. People can also quibble on my live journal page http://www.livejournal.com/users/matrixgamer/

Cthulhu on Campus

The following game is a cut down version of a story from the Hamster Press book "Cthulhu on Campus". I plan on running this as a play by email game on the MatrixGame2 yahoo group and on my live journal page. I want people to pick characters over the next week and submit their first turn arguments next monday. I will resolve them on Tuesday and we can do conflict arguments on Thursday.

The game is set on the campus of Miskatonic University in the early 1920's. As with all horror Matrix Games, something odd has happened that the players need to investigate. The players do this by making up arguments about what they find. These clues usually add up to some supernatural plot. Once the plot is uncovered the players can either 1. stop it ans save the world, or 2. Help it happen and get a front row seat at the rising of Cthulhu! As long as the story telling is good I don't care what the outcome is.

MEET THE CHARACTERS

Professor Armitage (Dylan Alliata)

My guess is the two students weren't stolen for reanimation experiments
but were probably recycled for the student cafeteria as the Meat
Surprise dish. As for my area of expertise, the most demonic one I can
think of is mathematics. I'd like to half a hunchback and a wooden leg
in honor of a couple of my math professors if that's okay with Chris,
might as well add poor social skills and awful hygine for
versimilitude. I am sure a most of them dug up their dates from a
graveyard.

Mrs Von Meister - The Librarian (Dorian Love)

As a long time library residivist it's time my conscience got its own back!

Coach Bell
Rory O'Darby - the twisted graduate student
Mrs Krumpkie - the janitor

Biff Masterson - start quarterback (drlucky)

Biff is somewhat manly fellow who likes converstation, co-eds, and
problems that he can put his hands on. He has a severe fish phobia, and
finds mathematics to be a bore. He does like to read Samuel Taylor
Coleridge when practice and studies do not conflict.

Dick Mathers - the reporter
Tom Post - the joker (Eric Lindberg)

"Tom Post's the name! Tom as a Turkey, Post as in 'Thick as a...'. Woah!
That one went over Biff's head. Hey, Biff! Wouldn't want you injured for
next week's game, so don't strain your brain! Of course, I hear that Rory
has some spares back at his lab. Ha!"

Let's see . . . insufferable, oblivious . . . yeah, I think I can do this.

Dorothey Lewis - young coed
Helen Peters - debate team
Beth Post - Tom's kid sister
Lou Lou - party girl

Sheriff Engle
Hans Burger - barkeep
Betty Boop - working girl

Ferguson - town drunk (Marcus Young)

I cannot presume, dear Elliot, to describe the true depths of horror I
experienced that day- the day I met the Thing on the Hill. Now they call
me "Ferguson the Town Drunk", but if only they knew truly what my eyes
have seen, they would not be so hasty to judge.

It all started in the frosty New England winter of early '23, a winter
that seemed to sap the very life from a man's bones. Back then I was
not, of course, in my present state, but carried on the existence of
everyman, sequestered in the Gable House perched precariously on the
banks of the Miskatonic within cry of the University grounds. Little
then did I realise the blasphemies I would soon encounter...

Unspeakable EVIL
The Book of Evil Magic
The Ghost of Cane Anderson
The Zombie Lewis Bentley

TAKE A TOUR OF CAMPUS

Student Union
Fraternity
Sorority
Administration building
Liberal Arts Building
Science Building
Library
Stadium
Graveyard

Movie Theater
Five and Dime
Malt Shop/Pharmacy
Curiosity Shop
The Gables Restaurant
Speak Easy

THE OPENING HOOK

Raising the Dead...

Last month Herbert West gave a guest lecture on the reanimation of the dead. He made several animals walk again. When someone asked if the process worked on people the lecture was abruptly ended. Now two corpses are missing from the graveyard.

The two missing bodies were friends of your's. You want to stop any evil being done to them (or maybe you are evil and want to do it yourself - you sick bastard!)

ARGUMENTS

Email your arguments to me at hamster@io.com at the yahoo group or post on my live journal page. Make your arguments no more than one or two paragraphs long. Beyond that, go to town!

Chris Engle
Hamster Press

(comment on this)

Monday, April 11th, 2005
8:38 am - Cthulhu on Campus: A Horror Matrix Game
Cthulhu on Campus

The following game is a cut down version of a story from the Hamster Press book "Cthulhu on Campus". I plan on running this as a play by email game on the MatrixGame2 yahoo group and on my live journal page. I want people to pick characters over the next week and submit their first turn arguments next monday. I will resolve them on Tuesday and we can do conflict arguments on Thursday.

The game is set on the campus of Miskatonic University in the early 1920's. As with all horror Matrix Games, something odd has happened that the players need to investigate. The players do this by making up arguments about what they find. These clues usually add up to some supernatural plot. Once the plot is uncovered the players can either 1. stop it ans save the world, or 2. Help it happen and get a front row seat at the rising of Cthulhu! As long as the story telling is good I don't care what the outcome is.

MEET THE CHARACTERS

Professor Armitage
Mrs Von Meister - The Librarian
Coach Bell
Rory O'Darby - the twisted graduate student
Mrs Krumpkie - the janitor

Biff Masterson - start quarterback
Dick Mathers - the reporter
Tom Post - the joker
Dorothey Lewis - young coed
Helen Peters - debate team
Beth Post - Tom's kid sister
Lou Lou - party girl

Sheriff Engle
Hans Burger - barkeep
Betty Boop - working girl
Ferguson - town drunk

Unspeakable EVIL
The Book of Evil Magic
The Ghost of Cane Anderson
The Zombie Lewis Bentley

TAKE A TOUR OF CAMPUS

Student Union
Fraternity
Sorority
Administration building
Liberal Arts Building
Science Building
Library
Stadium
Graveyard

Movie Theater
Five and Dime
Malt Shop/Pharmacy
Curiosity Shop
The Gables Restaurant
Speak Easy

THE OPENING HOOK

Raising the Dead...

Last month Herbert West gave a guest lecture on the reanimation of the dead. He made several animals walk again. When someone asked if the process worked on people the lecture was abruptly ended. Now two corpses are missing from the graveyard.

The two missing bodies were friends of your's. You want to stop any evil being done to them (or maybe you are evil and want to do it yourself - you sick bastard!)

ARGUMENTS

Email your arguments to me at hamster@io.com at the yahoo group or post on my live journal page. Make your arguments no more than one or two paragraphs long. Beyond that, go to town!

Chris Engle
Hamster Press

(2 comments | comment on this)

Thursday, April 7th, 2005
8:07 am - How to succeed at business without really trying: Turn Seven
#1

John looks at the data he has collected. He sees the following facts.

1. Lyle is a womanizer who has a history of pursuing women inside the company.
2. Old Man Smithers looks like he would disapprove of moral turpitude - especially if it hurt business.
3. Lulu Smithers-Nogood does not appear to know what is going on but probably does. What does that say about her?
4. Lyle is clearly mismanaging the company. His leadership style has shut down everyone's initiative.
5. Jenny Socialclimber has her eyes set on Lyle but she would aim higher if she could.
6. The company probably can be turned around if new management is put into place.
7. John, himself, has Lyle's trust and is seen as a rising star.

"I need a strategy."

REF: All of these are suggested or directly stated in the story so far so I think the argument is very strong. I rolled a 2 so it happens.

#2

John thinks of strategy. "The first person who gets negative will lose this fight. If I am the hatchet man I will not get promoted. The person who will get promoted will be whoever is doing the pilot - I'm management material - project. Lyle's womanizing and vindictiveness is his weakness. He is a hunter. He will pursue bait. Maybe he can be made to go off a cliff?"

Just then Jenny Socialclimber comes in. John immediately sees the threat. "Jenny, I think Lyle is looking for you."

She falls for the lie and immediately loses interest in John.

REF: Again, all this follows from what has come before so I think it is very strong. I rolled a 3 so it happens.

#3

Jenny Socialclimber hunts Lyle down as says "You were looking for me?"

Lyle knows he wasn't but doesn't say so. Instead he thinks "Hello? Hey, she's hot." So he says outloud. "Yes, yes I was. We need to discuss the new ad campaign...over lunch."

REF: This fits both Lyle and Jenny but I think it is only a strong argument. I rolled a 1 so it failed.

#4

I repeat the last argument.

REF: This time it is average. I rolled a 1. It fails.

#5

John teams up with Jack Howyadoing to purpose a test project in the Texas market. The project will keep Jack on the road a lot. John is his in office anchor. Lyle approves it because if it succeeds he can take credit - "Because Smith's my man."

REF: I think this is an average argument. It has to happen for John to move up but I don't see strong preparation arguments to make it happen now. I rolled a 1. Boy! Not much is happening this turn!

(comment on this)

Thursday, March 31st, 2005
10:22 am - Post from the MatrixGame2 yahoo group
An interesing thing is happening in the superhero game being run on Live
Journal http://www.livejournal.com/community/world_of_titans/ The players
are jumping in as junior referees and adjudicating one another's arguments
for themselves. The new turn started after I left work yesterday and this
mornin I find there are 30+ posts on arguments and judging. Wow! It is a
game in hyper drive.

This game is using a round robin approach to arguments. Mike Underwood
came up with this method a couple of years ago when he was running a
Cthulhu horror Matrix Game for me at Gen Con. In this approach making
arguments passes around the table so there is not need to worry about
competeting arguments. It give the game a more RPG feel. It is also fast
and one upmanship like. This is not my preferred flavor but boy! is it
working on line.

The neatest thing is that so many new players are gaining experience being
referee. I always try to pass referee tasks off to players when I'm
running the game but never has is caught fire like this time.

You should check this out.

Chris Engle

(2 comments | comment on this)

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005
1:03 pm - Politics by other means - A Miniatures Matrix Game
There are free rules on my web page http://www.io.com/~hamster for Politics by other means (PBOM). I've used them for years as a convention game. I just got a post about them on the MatrixGame2 yahoo group that I'll share here.

Alan Saunders wrote

Welcome back me. I used to lurk on the old Matrix Gamer group until
a couple of years ago, then left and forgot about them. Until the
other day when I came across Chris's site again, started reading
and ...

Here I am.

I played my first game of PBOM last night, and enjoyed it so much I
wrote a post about it for my blog:

http://kaptainkobold.blogspot.com/2005/03/politics-by-other-means-
politics-by.html

(The URL will need to be re-assembled. Sorry)

One thing I did find was that there weren't enough arguments
available to make things happen. For example, if on the same turn I
charge my cavalry in for the first time and, on another part of the
field, make a surprise flank attack, I want two arguments - one to
say that cavalry score hits on a 5-6 on the first round (which would
become a general rule affecting both sides for the rest of the
game), and another giving some kind of bonus for the flank attack
("The enemy turn and flee without a fight!"). I shall have to think
out a way to do this without overloading the game with arguments.

We did allow for future bonuses when we gave something increased
effectiveness. It *was* argued that cavalry get a combat bonus when
they charge in, but instead of stating it as "They hit on a 5-6" it
was stated as "They add one to their die roll to hit". This meant
that if another bonus was gained - "+1 if you have lances" - it
added to the earlier bonus. We were quite pleased with ourselves for
spotting that :-)

Wording of new rules was interesting. I argued that it took a half
move to unlimber artillery. Catherine rolled a '1' for its movement,
getting a move of 0". Since, however, it took a half move to
unlimber and half of zero is zero, she could unlimber on the spot.
Next time it will be a 2" penalty ...

Alan Saunders


I replied thus...

I've been trying out an idea I've seen in other games, drama chips. In
other games they allow players to add things to the game (I wonder
how/if/when Matrix Game ideas lead to this. It might be completely
independent - which is also cool.) Anyway when I ran Mongolian Goat Rodeo
(which is essentially modified PBOM) I gave the players six plastic coins
that they could use at any time during the game. So they could make both
of the arguments you listed (a cavalry charge and a flank attack). Giving
out arguments as cash seemed to make people more careful with what they
said. They didn't want to waste them. I also like using cash because
matrix arguments are really the most valuable commodity in a Matrix Game.

I will have to put these rules out in some commercial form. For now though
I'm still tied to finishing the books.

Chris Engle

(3 comments | comment on this)

10:08 am - How to succeed at business without really trying: Turn 6
TURN SIX

#1

John settles into his new job in Accounting by thoroughly familiarizing himself with the flow of money and information in the company. He is a smart boy and sees weaknesses and inefficencies. He then keeps his mouth shut. I does not serve his plans to fix anything till doing so will help him move up.

REF: Very strong. Everyone should do this when they start a job. 6, it happens.

#2

John makes a point of becoming friends with Jack Hawyadoing. They start going out to lunch together and of course play golf. John constantly jokes with Jack and makes humorous sales pitches. The result is that Jack knows John understands sales and is not just a stuffed shirt like Nobody.

REF: Average. This is a good move but it puts thoughts in Jack’s mind. We want him to think this but is he so easily sold? The dice gods will tell us. I rolled a 5! The Dice Gods have spoken! John is cementing his position and gaining an allie.

#3

John doesn’t forget Lisa. They continue going out. John checks and learns there is no policy preventing this. Everyone in the company knows that they are a number. “What a cute couple. They’ll go far.”

REF: Again average, now I’m putting thought into everyone’s mind. I rolled a 4 so once again the dice gods have blessed John’s advancement.

#4

John institutes an internal audit on the QT. He now is collecting the data that he will later use to bring Lyle down and then turn the company around.

REF: This is very strong. It is well within his job description to do this. 3, it happens.

#5

John created secret files on everyone in the business. He learns what they do on line – and documents when they violate policy. He then sees how that feeds back into the companies failure. He finds that people are discouraged. Nogood’s management style has been predatory. He has destroyed people in every part of the business. Initiative is dead. He also learns how Catbert has been Lyles loyal servant in this destruction.

REF: Strong. It seems likely that all this would be true. I rolled a 5 so it happened.

(1 comment | comment on this)

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