Posted on Leave a comment

Mörk Borg – Conan – Non-Authoring Solo

I started today by building my new concordance. I combined all the Robert E Howard Conan stories into a single text file, and cleaned them up a bit in Word.

The text came to 1143 pages of plain text.

This is where it started to go wrong. Word doesn’t play well with very long documents.

The first time I tried to search it, it broke. Word has a hard limit on how many search results it can handle, and I obviously exceeded that.

So My idea of using Word was a non-starter.

Next, I installed AntConc. This is a specialist concordance tool. At first it appeared promising. It gobbled up the text without a problem and it is wonderfully fast to search it.

In this text I have replaced the name Conan with Cedric, which is my character’s name. I was thinking that any reference to Cedric would relate to my character, all the other named characters would be the NPC(s) in the solo game.

This is not really the output I was hoping for.

This raises a question. AntConc was recommended for exactly this, solo roleplaying, purpose. If I am not getting what I hoped for, are my expectations wrong?

In the meantime, I have sucked all the texts into Access. Using some simple queries, I have an inelegant but functional result. This is what I was hoping to get from Word.

I know that I could develop this concordance tool further, make the searching easier to use, rather than editing the query each time, or building up a body of queries for the most commonly used ones.

What I am lacking is a clear idea of how I am supposed to use this tool. Now I am on the cusp of being able to non-author solo, I realise I don’t know what I am doing!

Inför döden är vi alla ensamma (We die alone)

The contrast is that I smashed together a set of solo rules this week, just for myself. It took an afternoon to get some lists and tables together in Excel. Then over the weekend, I made it look kind of crazy cool, like the Mörk Borg core book.

I was still adventuring in the Hyperborean world, but I was up and running in a couple of hours. It is very easy to retreat into what you know, your safe place. I really want to give this non-authoring solo a chance. I am just not sure how to get going and at what point the Mörk Borg rules kick in, and how much is non ruled narrative.

My learning experience continues…

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.

 
Posted on Leave a comment

Non-Authoring Solo Mörk Borg

My first attempt at non-authoring solo was concordance based. My understanding of the concordance tool is that it pulls put keywords, with the reference/context from a text.

If you imagine your character looking down a valley, you could ask the concordance for ‘valley’ and it will show you a selection of references to valleys. You pick the once that fits, add it to your story and then you react to that, rinse and repeat.

I picked Mörk Borg because it is a wonderfully rich rulebook, game with every rule and reference dripping with lore and flavour.

I built myself a very simple concordance tool.

What I did was select all the text from the rules, paste it into Work. Replace all the carriage returns in the text with spaces, turning the entire thing in to one long paragraph. I then inserted a carriage return after every period, exclamation mark and question mark. This gave me a list if every sentence in the book.

To use it as a concordance, CTRL+F brings up the Find, and as you start typing Word returns.

You can see the concordance in operation in the attached image here.

This first attempt, technically successful. The concordance worked. I could see the context of each reference, and how many references there were.

As a play aid it as an unmittigated failure.

Although the Mörk Borg book is rich in style, the actual setting material is rather scant. There was not enough material or examples of play or descriptive material to make this work.

What I need is a mass text from which to draw references.

One the other hand, I made a quick set of oracles for Mörk Borg. The first iteration looked like this.

Just an ugly mass of random tables for me to roll against.

The nice thing about excel is that I can make rapid changes as I play. All my personal oracles start life this way. It is only when I get around to publishing them that I do all the writing, layout and arty stuff.

So this is an Excel vs Word battle for Mörk Borg.

There is an obvious bias towards my normal play style but that is what I am trying to overcome.

Below are a few screenshots of what my personal oracles look like now. The upgrade is all about making the oracles fit in with the core rules. If it all look and feels like the core game, the easier it is to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

My next step is to build a bigger and better concordance. There has been a lot of chat on the lone wolf solo discord about Conan recently. A lot of Conan stories are quite dark fantasy. So what I am going to do is grab all the Conan stories from Project Gutenberg, put them into Word, run the same macros to turn them into sentences, and then try again.

At the same time, I will use my own oracles to play the character using the Mörk Borg rules.

I hope to have a more successful playtest next time!

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Mörk Borg and Authoring vs. Non-Authoring

I chose Mörk Borg as the partner to my non-authoring experiments because I find the basic content of the game to be very rich in the lore of the setting.

I also find the game quite limited, and best suited to one shot games. You are lucky if a campaign lasts for even a month of your character’s life, so there is no point in getting attached to them.

Character creation is almost entirely random so here is no input from you.

This is the ‘authored’ play game, called that because using a Mörk Borg-esque oracle system, based on d20 and the variable DR, most of the details of what happens have to be made up by the player, as an author would have to create the action for a novel. Almost all solo tools say that they can be used as a writing tool, thus ‘authoring’.

Non-authoring, in this case using a concordance, the detail comes from outside of the player, from the solo system itself. The player then has to interact with that content, either selecting the most appropriate suggestion and/or bending the meaning slightly to make it fit the current scene.

In practice, this seems to lend itself to shorter, very specific campaigns. If the content comes from a closed system before long you will see the same things coming around again and again.

What I want to do is feed a concordance tool all the text from Mörk Borg and then see how I get on. Admittedly this is a limited text, but it is also a limited test. If it doesn’t work I will give it an entire novel to chew on and see if that makes a difference.

In the longer term I would like to marry up a true machine learning AI, all of the free works by Robert E Howard, and actual play transcripts from people playing Conan RPGs. With the intention of trying to create a very specific Hyperborea GM. If that works then it should be possible to make AI GMs for any genre of popular game.

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.

 
Posted on Leave a comment

A dalliance with Non-Authoring Solo

Nearly all the solo roleplaying I do, and my rules lean towards can be referred to authoring solo. The rules may give you a prompt, but it is down to you to filling the context and meaning of what the prompt means to you.

All these tools could be used by an author to write either short stories or even an entire novel. Non-authoring solo is different, the context and meaning is generated for you.

I have never done any non-authoring solo. I was looking into it, for a friend, and one of the techniques is called cutting up. You take a text that is in the style and genre you like and then cut it up into sentences. You then rearrange the sentences to tell your characters story. The difference between this and a literary exercise is the gamification, you are an active participant in the story telling. That last bit is one of the core parts of all roleplaying, being an active participant.

But what does that have to do with the yellow and black monster in the corner?

The friend, is into rather more narrative role play than I am. At the end of the game I like to feel I have played a recognised game. I like to be able to join in with conversations and share experiences of adventures. Narrative play denies me that camaraderie.

Despite all the hype and excitement around Mörk Borg, it is actually quite a simple game. The rules can be distilled down to a page, or little more.

Going back to the non-authoring solo, I visualised two ways of playing with this. The long answer could be to get an AI powered chat bot, teach it how to GM a game, give it a volume of books to consume and then get it to run your game for you. For example, if you gave it all the Robert E Howard books to read, the chatbot should take on the tone and style of Conan or other Weird Tales stories.

That was my first thought. My second thought was I bet that is a lot more work than I imagines, followed by, if that would work, why hasn’t someone else done it?

Overnight I had a think and the idea of cutting up came bubbling up.

I could take the text of all the Howard books and stories currently on Project Gutenburg, and then turn them into a database of sentences.

Then search those sentences for key words, like cut, stab, slash etc, and put them in a table of combat sentences. then look for movement style sentences and put them into a table. Then do the same for food and eating, and so on.

What you would see on screen would be a set of buttons for each category, and clicking button would randomly show five sentences from that table. You pick the one that fits your idea, and it gets added to a journal, as a rolling record. Maybe give you a text area where you can add your own content and add that to the journal as well.

It would not be as sophisticated a chat bot, but as there is a body of work already available in text format, it would be a much simpler task to complete this in a timely fashion.

As I said, I am not a fan of narrative play, but I am a fan of Conan, that can get pretty dark, Mork Borg is pretty dark. My challenge this week is to try and mash these two up, and see where it goes.

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.

 
Posted on Leave a comment

Into The Rad – Day 7… and Launched!

Seven days from playing a game during my lunch break to releasing an Into The Odd hack, Into The Rad.

I honestly believe that this was the fastest turn around I have ever had.

I don’t make any of the changes to the rules, or character creation, in this hack, which means that the years of playing and playtesting behind Into The Odd still holds true.

What I have added is setting, mutations and mutants. I then added on a setting in the form of random tables and a short chapter of setting ‘lore’.

I am really pleased with this game. In the screenshots above there are pink paragraphs. These are the solo rules sprinkled through the game. These solo rules are quite simple, but they are not specific to Into The Rad, meaning that you can use this as a solo set for any Into The Odd game.

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.