Anakin, Daenerys & Math

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way – I love Star Wars (including The Last Jedi) and have enjoyed the Game of Thrones novels and television series so much that I analyzed the contents of the books to predict the series’ future. The following article addresses major plot points from the final season of Game of Thrones, so if you’re somehow not up-to-date on the final season’s details… congratulations on coming out of that coma and welcome back!

Anakin Daenerys

I’ve had this article in my mind since Dany’s ill-fated destruction of King’s Landing because I lived through many – and let me say again, many – discussions and debates about the adequacy of a prominent fantasy character’s heel turn. Fourteen years ago, the world finally learned what it was the pushed Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side of the Force, and the response was, “Wait, that’s it?” Ken Tucker at New York Magazine phrased it this way:

Worse yet, after all these years, Anakin/Vader turns out to be a petulant wuss, a brat who chooses evil because he didn’t get the Jedi promotion he wanted. Instead of meaningful anti-heroism, we’ve got this bitter fellow gulled by the ego strokes and patently false promises of Ian McDiarmid’s Senator Palpatine.

TPM Teaser PosterFor many in my circle of friends back in 2005 (before social media got its clutches into all of us), Anakin’s turn immediately felt – for lack of a better word – lame. We grew up with Vader being the end-all, be-all of menacing villains only to see him ultimately redeem himself by saving his son, Luke, and destroying the Emperor (or so we thought). We were then introduced to the premise that we would see Anakin well before he turned into Darth Vader, and the possibilities of watching him become Darth Vader were intoxicating. The theories about how and why Anakin turned into Vader provided endless hours of speculation for my friends, which were fueled by one of the most-effective movie posters in recent decades.

The Phantom Menace did not give fans much of an answer about why Anakin ultimately chooses a path of evil in his future, though I never understood why the Jedi could not rescue his mother! Attack of the Clones gave Anakin some scenes to demonstrate that he feels misunderstood and held back; not to mention the anger that he unleashes after finding his mother murdered (again, why couldn’t the Jedi help her out?).

I remember talking with friends about “that look” that Anakin gives before murdering Tusken Raiders. That felt like Vader; the scene indicated that Anakin was capable of terrible things, and the relationship with Padme demonstrated his willingness to break rules and keep secrets. It set the stage for his transformation into Vader in the next film.

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Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 42 – François Alliot

Francois-Alliot

François Alliot, designer of the Reigns series of games, discusses his Tinder-inspired approach to probabilistic narrative game design. He talks about his quest to find a great “flow” for his games and how he wants to surprise players. We delve into the design of Reigns and ponder how adaptive game design might develop in the future. François shares his influences regarding the focus on emerging narrative games, and he also provides some news about what he is working on next – including a tabletop version of Reigns!

 

Enjoy the 42nd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

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New episodes are (typically) released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month!

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Clear Boundaries for Improvisation

I recently had the good fortune to play a session of Game of Thrones using Dungeon World rules. The experience was quite differently from playing or running sessions of Dungeons & Dragons because the Game of Thrones’ setting brings a different atmosphere to the game. In addition to traditional fantasy elements, the Game of Thrones’ world features a high level of political intrigue, tangled relationships, and short lifespans. It is entirely possible to run a Game of Thrones-style campaign in the Forgotten Realms. However, sitting down and inhabiting characters in Westeros a few years before the events of Game of Thrones take place forces the players into a different mindset than the average D&D session. Our game featured numerous social interactions, a brief flirtation with a combat moment, and a bevy of characters being introduced into the story.

Rey_Robb_HBO
“I’m not sure of my next move.”

Cooperative storytelling is a part of every roleplaying game session, and it requires those around the table to be willing to jump in with ideas to shape the events. Many articles have been written about improvisation in roleplaying games, and Mike Shea’s interview with designer Steve Townshend really speaks to some of the points I discuss below. There are two approaches to shaping events in any given session. The first is to plan ahead of time what a character will do in a certain set of circumstance. The person running the session could prepare a specific quest to move the players in that direction while players can build characters that always respond to situations in a prescribed manner. For example, a Cleric in D&D may always take action to help those in need; it’s not so much a choice at the table as it is a personality trait that is created before the session begins.

 

The second approach is to improvise as a session goes along to take the story in an infinite number of directions. The person running the game gives an outline of the setting and situation, and the players can respond how they like. It requires all players (including the GM) to be creative, spontaneous, and accepting of the contributions and ideas of each player. Every session I’ve experienced of a tabletop roleplaying game has featured elements of preparation and improvisation. I learned through my Game of Thrones experience that I need to bolster my improvisation skills, and I imagine others out their struggle with this aspect of RPGs as well. The following article offers some ideas to increase the entire group’s willingness to accept and engage in improvisation, and how to improve individual improv skills.

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Game of Thrones: By The Numbers

SPOILER WARNING: The following post contains massive spoilers for the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series of Game of Thrones novels in the form of an analysis of the books’ content. As such, it also contains massive spoilers for future seasons of the television adaptation of Game of Thrones seen on HBO. Anyone who is not interested in learning about major plot points and the progression of the characters from the series should not read the post below. You have been warned.

You Know Nothing, Id DM

Original art created by Grant Gould. Arya Stark is awesome. Carry on.
Original art created by Grant Gould. Arya Stark is awesome. Carry on.

Numerous friends have encouraged me to read George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones novels for several years. After holding out, I picked up the first novel leading up to Season 1 of the show appearing on Netflix (we do not have HBO). I enjoyed the writing and some of the characters although I could not believe that Eddard was killed – off camera no less. I kept waiting for him to reappear later in the book – perhaps the execution blow was a literal feint (keep this sentence in mind later). But poor Ned did indeed die and I ventured on to the sequel, A Clash of Kings. The second novel followed the same basic template and culminated in the riveting Battle of Blackwater. However, by the time I got to the third novel, A Storm of Swords, I was in the midst of moving cities and changing jobs.

The following conversation actually transpired about one year ago:

Grant Gould: So did you finish the books yet?

Me: No, I’m on the third one. It just got really boring.

Grant: Boring? That is the best book in the series!

Me: I dunno. I stopped reading a while ago. They were at some wedding and it was just dragging on and on. I lost interest.

Grant: <private heart attack>

Me: Are you there?

Grant: … yeah, just trust me and start reading again. The second half of that book is insane.

Yes, I stopped reading A Storm of Swords for several months because I was bored about 66% through the Red Wedding chapter. When I finally did pick up the book again to read it, Robb was executed maybe a page or two from where I stopped reading. I find that hilarious, and I can only imagine Grant was secretly dying inside when I told him where I stopped reading. He was kind enough to allow permission for some of his artwork to be included in this post. Please check out his latest sketchbook featuring a terrific Game of Thrones mash-up cover, Djorah Unchained.

I devoted the last few months finishing the series and concluded A Dance with Dragons while vacationing in South Dakota last month. I was able to enjoy the books spoiler-free but I after I finished the series, I had numerous questions and challenges regarding commonly held assumptions about the series.

When in doubt, compile data! What follows is numerous charts breaking down the content featured in the Game of Thrones novels. The data demonstrate how the structure of the story has changed over time, and how George R. R. Martin’s reputation for killing major characters is completely inaccurate.

And seriously – if you want to avoid spoilers – STOP READING NOW!

Continue reading “Game of Thrones: By The Numbers”