Game Design

Why It's So Hard To Make a Video Game - by Dylan Moran Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 7:35am
To get into video games development, it is best to find your passion, focus on it, and learn the needed skills.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Homeless Game Developer Week 2 - by Jonathan Neves Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 7:34am
In need of a career boost, follow game designer and producer Jonathan Neves as he takes a journey from one location to the next in pursuit of job placement and professional satisfaction. Part 2
Categories: Game Theory & Design

'Unintuitive action at a distance' in video games and explorable explanations - by Hamish Todd Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 7:26am
Mechanics in video games rarely have "action at a distance" - two objects in view affecting one another without somehow colliding. Yet this happens a lot in science - and in educational games!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fantasy Flight Games Previews Legacy of Dragonholt

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 7:00am
Legacy of Dragholt lets you adventure around the world of Terrinoth in new and exciting ways. The game is less of an experience where you’re looking to win or lose, and much more about trying to create a story within the world you explore around. But how all is that supposed to work? Well, that’s […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Running a Solo Game GM-less

Gnome Stew - 16 October 2017 - 6:59am

Tell me if you’ve heard this one: It’s Thursday night and you want to play a game. But everyone in the party is across town, and it takes too long to set up, so they’d need to leave half an hour into actually playing. So you look over at your significant other, and they want to play too, but you can’t help but notice the dishes are piling up and the trash is full. Just then, your kid walks up and you have no idea what they got into, but it’s all over the walls now.

While my wife is going through grad school, we have almost no time to play. This is a huge change for me; for the last decade, I was running games twice a week for my FLGS. I was in withdrawal, to say the least. Even online play still requires scheduling with a whole party, and grad school, full time work, and a toddler make that hard. We also thought about running a solo game, but that meant one person on each side of the GM screen. So, we needed a tabletop RPG we could both play and share GMing responsibilities with, as well as be able to set up and walk away from quickly.

What we decided to do was take a rules light RPG that was something we were familiar with, Mircolite 20, and pair it with a system to help us run the game, a GM emulator. GM emulators are something special, and fall into their own, unique category of gaming, mixing tabletop RPGs, storytelling, and a whole lot of chaos.

What’s a GM Emulator?

GM emulators seek to help solo players answer questions their chosen ruleset can’t answer. A ruleset or system like Dungeons and Dragons does a fine job handling questions about conflict resolution. Is my character talented enough to open the locked chest? To bamboozle the mayor into giving me the keys to the city? To sumo-wrestle the tarrasque? The GM Emulator can help you answer questions about the state of the game world. Rule sets are not capable, except usually in a rudimentary fashion, of telling you if the town guard prepared for the orc raid, or if the planet your crew finds has sentient life. You could arbitrarily decide on an answer to that question, or you could ask the GM emulator to generate your answer.

CRGE is one of many GM emulators available on the market. You can find it as a Pay What You Want item on DriveThruRPG. The core of the system works like this: you ask a yes/no question (“Does this city have any sweet magic item shops?”), roll a percentile die, and compare the results against a chart that will help explain what you find.

Most answers result in a binary yes or no. “Yep, the sweet magic shop is near by.” But the closer you go to 0 or 100, the results begin to change for to “yes/no but”, then “yes/no and”, and finally “yes/no, and unexpectedly“. “But” results diminish the results. (“Yes, but it’s closed because a errant Robe of Many Things got loose.”). “And” results augment your answer. (“Yes, and there’s a buy one-get one sale on empty potion bottles!”).

Narration In Your Hands

Once you know your result from the chart, it’s up to you to interpret it. Whatever makes sense to you, and the story you want to tell, how your characters see the world, or whatever other factors you want to think up. And then go with it. The system provides just enough structure to move the story along. Not define it, but guide it. You get the pleasure of filling in the details.

All of that can still become too comfortable though, so “Unexpected” results throw you a curve ball. These spots sit on the extreme ends of the chart, and there is a separate list of unexpected things that may occur, such has characters (good or bad) showing up unexpectedly, or scene changes that force you to move the current event along quicker than you expect. These work well to keep the players on their toes, and can be a lot of fun to handle creatively. How do you explain the arrival of a new character in a locked room, or when the scene has to wrap up before you’ve accomplished what you wanted?

There are some other optional rules than can help the game along as well. Surge counters get added anytime you roll a simple “yes/no” answer, and each counter adds +2 to your next roll, resetting once you roll something other than a simple “yes/no”. It’s a simple addition that forces the game to keep things interesting, so you aren’t stuck taking vanilla answers for too long.

Optional Rules and Downfalls

Another optional rule is story threads. Threads represent story elements that you are interested in focusing the story on. It’s important to have a running list of current threads as some unexpected results ask you to change focus from one thread to another. These can be closed and opened as you feel that they reach resolution, depending on your character and what they consider the end of their stories to be. CRGE also provides three different probability charts to use, depending where you believe the story is heading, either to knowledge, to conflict, or to ending, with each chart progressively becoming more final (less “and” and “but” answers). Story threads are a great way to keep major plot points in mind as you try to weave your story. Roll something on the chart and what to put it in context? Grab a thread that makes sense and tie things together.

In practice, not every question about the game world needs to be answered with the emulator. A good rule is that you should only roll to answer questions that help move the narrative along. If you decide that something makes sense, or is very likely, a roll isn’t needed. No need to check what’s in every room you enter or village you plunder. Or, should you just come up with an interesting answer instead of rolling- go for it. The emulator is there just to provide a framework when you can’t fairly answer a question, but should be left by the side in the interest of good storytelling.

If all of this seems complex, the whole PDF for CRGE is 32 pages long, and mostly filled with examples and references. And keep in mind, it can be scaled to be as complex or simple as you feel appropriate for your game. My wife and I felt that, after the first couple of rolls, it was easy enough to manage the whole system during our game. The option rules do a lot to help guide the story, but players who feel natural at storytelling might find them restrictive. GRGE also recommends you keep track of threads, story developments, and your surge count by using index cards. This also makes cleanup a breeze. No need for journaling, just tuck your index cards away for the next game. This works especially well when our two year old decides to wake up from her nap in the middle of one of our gaming sessions.

When we feel that we can’t fill in a story element, or need help generations character or place names and details, we move over to donjon’s suite of online generators. If you haven’t played with the plethora of tools on his site, you should give them a try.

Choosing A System To Use With A GM Emulator

For our rule set, we choose Microlite20 as we are most familiar with d20 systems, so it’s easy to come up with content on the fly, or pull from the uncountable masses of existing stuff on our shelves. Also, with Mircolite, we can easily keep the folder of rules for the system, plus the rules for CRGE, index cards, and our dice, in a convenient place on our book shelf, meaning we can pick up and start a new game quickly.

Since the GM Emulator can help you answer questions about the game world, we intentionally left our setting open to grow during our sessions. We did make a number of starting assumptions about what we wanted from the game: for instance, we wanted non-human races to feel very special, and decided that we would not create non-human characters for now. With just the simple assumptions, we asked some questions of the emulator as we played to begin filling the details, occasionally using donjon to generate names for places and people.


Our impressions so far is that while CRGE works very well for us, there are some pros and cons in using a GM emulator. I enjoy tactical combat, but the CRGE doesn’t work well to handle the depth of tactical situations. You would have to ask the emulator too many questions to get reasonable responses to do things like move troops and choose targets. There are though a number of alternatives systems written for that purpose (I like The Solo Wargaming Guide by William Silvester).

Another concern is deciding how to manage odd results like “yes/but” or “unexpected”. There have been times where it seems that the question doesn’t need more information than a binary answer. When the system begins to fault or leaves you unsure – just drop it, make a decision, and keep the game going.

One final note: this isn’t going to feel exactly like your normal experience with a full group. It’s definitely different, but that’s not a bad thing. If you hope to make a bigger narrative impact on game, using a GM emulator liberates you from convention and give you some new space to explore.

What other solutions have you used to be able to run small games without a GM. What other systems do you recommend in its place?

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Day 27 of 100 Days of VR: Adding New Bandit Enemy - by Josh Chang Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:35am
Our goal today is to create a new enemy. Specifically, for practice, I want to create: A lower health, but faster unit and a higher health, but slower unit With these new enemies, we’ll have a more diverse and interesting experience in our game!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Interview with Maxime Durand on Assassin's Creed: Origins and Discovery Tour Mode - by Bob Whitaker Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:34am
Historian Bob Whitaker talks with Maxime Durand, Ubisoft's resident historian, about Assassin's Creed: Origins. Topics include historical research, Ancient Egypt, and using games for education.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Bringing Galaxy on Fire 3 to Vulkan: Vulkan on Android - by Johannes Kuhlmann Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:34am
Blog series on how we brought our game to Vulkan. This is post 4 of 5 where we cover a few Android-specific peculiarities.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Music (Obscurity), Hurrah! Milestone #1 Reached, Squishing Magical Bugs, What's Next, Name Change - by Jake Jollimore Blogs - 16 October 2017 - 6:29am
Some new music from Mika, and an exciting update (for me at least) on the game's first milestone!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Games Workshop Taking Pre-Orders For Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire

Tabletop Gaming News - 16 October 2017 - 6:00am
Games Workshop has started taking pre-orders for the next of their board games. This time they head to the world of Age of Sigmar with Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. The city of Shadespire’s rulers were so powerful that they told death that they weren’t really going to be doing that anytime soon. Nagash, however, had other […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Stocking up in Town

RPGNet - 16 October 2017 - 12:00am
Fuzzy rations.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: On Color Cycling Morty & Divinity

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 15 October 2017 - 7:39pm

Some of this week's longform article/video highlights include the making of Rick & Morty's VR game, a classic 2D game art podcast, & discussing Divinity: Original Sin 2's success. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: On Color Cycling Morty & Divinity - by Simon Carless Blogs - 15 October 2017 - 7:36am
Some of the highlights include the making of Rick & Morty's VR game, a classic 2D game art podcast, & discussing Divinity: Original Sin 2's success.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Review Roundup

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 October 2017 - 11:00am
Saturday night’s alright for gaming. Saturday afternoon’s alright for gaming. Saturday morning’s alright for gaming. Pretty much all of Saturday (Saturday, Saturday) is good for gaming. I’m… not currently gaming. I’m baking (yes, again), getting ready for an early Halloween party later. So, while swapping out pans of cookies in the oven, I’m also getting […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Argent Faction for Tech Dusk Announced

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 October 2017 - 3:00pm
I wouldn’t mind being a cyborg. I mean, having some robotic limbs or a cybernetic eye or something cool like that. The Argent faction in Tech Dusk is all about enhancing themselves through machinery. The first part of the faction is available now, with the rest coming soon. About the faction: Argant is a technocratic […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Z-Man Games Posts Majesty Preview

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 October 2017 - 2:00pm
The king is dead. The hunt is on for the next person that will be seated on the throne. The nobles vying for the spot can’t just run in and sit down. They’ll need the people’s support. There’s more than one way to get the people’s favor. And looking at such options is what you […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Wyrd Posts Friday The Other Side Preview

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 October 2017 - 1:00pm
Friday checklist: Friday shirt| Check Forge World update| Check Friday Snippets| Check Friday Wyrd Preview| Check Murmaider! Murmaider! Murmaider! Murmaider! In this Friday the 13th preview, we get a look at the Karkinoi. From the post: Friday the 13th can mean bad luck to some, but over here we hope to supply some good luck! […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Amazon SmasHers Fantasy Football Team Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 October 2017 - 12:00pm
The American football season continues along while I’m sure many of you are in leagues for tabletop versions of the game. If you’re looking to branch out to a new team, I might suggest checking out Fireforge Games’ Amazon SmasHers Kickstarter. It’s a set of 16 figures, all different, that are ready to hit the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Friday Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 October 2017 - 11:00am
Friday is here! Woo! Gateway to the weekend. I’m hoping yours will be filled with all sorts of gaming. I might get in some Guild Ball on a brand-new gaming mat this evening. Tomorrow, I’m gonna be hanging out with friends for an early Halloween party. Should be a good time filled with tasty things […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

PEGI is leaving the verdict on loot boxes up to gambling commissions

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 13 October 2017 - 10:56am

The ESRB may have said that loot boxes don't qualify as gambling, but the board's European equivalent is deferring its judgment on the topic to the national gambling commissions themselves.  ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design


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