Monthly Musings: Are we having fun yet?
Notorious quick review and convention news!
"Is this fun?" is a question that I've found myself asking a lot recently. While this could be a rumination on either being a member of the tabletop hobby or the indie game industry for a change I've actually been asking it about an actual game. Specifically a possible solo entry into the Dyson Eclipse called Final Intercept. The premise is quite simple - after contact is lost with Earth the citizens of Tau Ceti send out probes to do fast fly-bys of Sol and the stars nearest to it to try and discover what happened and if any other generation ships set sail from Earth. The player plays each of the probes in sequence, drawing cards to determine what has been discovered and then writing a log to be transmitted back to Tau Ceti.
The problem is that its current format makes for an extremely dry game, especially if the probe fails to discover anything of interest. Solo games often rely upon the use of evocative, thoughtful prompts that require the player to reflect on the emotions and experiences of the character. A prompt that asks you to describe the atmospheric composition of an exoplanet's atmosphere doesn't achieve that. It might make for an interesting world building tool but it also makes it difficult to engage the player. It's especially frustrating when I've already worked out a framework for the mechanics. It's also not an unusual position to be in but I'd really like to avoid this becoming just another unfinished work in progress. I think Final Intercept could play an important role in developing the wider setting of the Dyson Eclipse without taking the focus away from the mystery of the Arrays.
So what am I going to do with it?
Nothing. At least nothing that requires active development for now. I'm going to park it, focus on Hopes and Dreams of the Orbital Bound and just let it bounce about in the back of my mind for now. It’s a process that I find works fairly well for me and has helped me just mull over ideas on a number of projects.
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Quick Review: Notorious by Jason Price
What is it? A solo bounty hunter RPG with a heavy Star Wars inspiration that tasks you with chasing down your quarry and ultimately deciding whether to take them in or let them walk away at the cost of your reputation. Along the way you'll cross paths with factions, hostiles and locals as you build the setting of each planet from a barebones outline to a fully fleshed out world.
Why should you play it? From the first page to the last Notorious has a clear, well defined focus that is backed up by an elegant set of mechanics that help you tell your story. You're a bounty hunter trying to follow a code while being confronted by the inevitable truth that nothing is as black and white as it may first seem.
Where many solo RPGs focus on purely narrative based prompts, asking you to reflect on a specific event or emotion, Notorious builds a clear journey supported by a distinct game cycle that helps drive you towards an inevitable final confrontation. All of this is supported by wonderful, stylised art and a clear layout presented in a ring bound book that makes it stand out compared to a typical zine.
While the game is set up for a Star Wars style universe filled with multiple species and planets I was able to adapt it to the Dyson Eclipse without issue and, drawing on material I developed as part of the ongoing Dungeon23 / Space23, was able to tell a fun little story during my quick playthrough. The game has also helped with working through a separate issue I've been struggling with - how to present lore from the Dyson Eclipse. I am going to try and write up a short 2-5 page data sheet about Shan, one of the planets in the system that includes material specifically designed for use with Notorious. In this case that will include tables for factions, prominent locations and one or two alternative destination entries.
Convention season is kicking off here in the UK so I wanted to share details of a couple I have already confirmed for this year (hopefully with more to come). In June I'll be attending UK Games Expo at the NEC in Birmingham and while I'll be there as a visitor I will be spending a lot of time at Games on Demand as a GM. Games on Demand is one of my favourite parts of any convention as it lets me try out a range of systems in shorter slots. It's also where you'll find offerings of many of the indie games that I tend to focus on in this newsletter.
This year I plan to offer at least three games - Project Cassandra, Paris Gondo and Stealing the Throne. I think each of these are not only fantastic games in their own right but perfect for the 2 hour tasters that Games on Demand offers.
Come December (yes it's a long way off) I will once again be exhibiting at Dragonmeet in London. I'm really excited to return as a vendor as I had a great time running my first stall last year. It's obviously many months away but I'm hoping that this year I'll be able to showcase not only my own games but a wider range of indie games from fellow creators who are unable to make the show.
There's a big gap between June and December and I'll hopefully get to at least a couple of other events during 2023 so if you see me at anything please say hello!
The Round Up
That’s all for now but I just want to say thanks as always to everyone that has signed up to this little newsletter. Over the last couple of days the arse in charge of the bird site has once again decided to try and screw with competitors, going so far as to effectively block searches for substack. It’s a frustrating position to be in as a small creator so each and every subscriber really does mean a lot.