Friday, 5 April 2019

Game Sketch: Earth Superleader Macrofortress

Characters play various world leaders who know each other and have both domestic and international concerns.

One: Scenes

  1. Conference calls. These are calls between the world leaders petitioning each other for help, admonishing behaviour, demanding love, and so on. Game model is Dramasystem with a relationship map, dramatic poles and emotional concessions etc.
  2. National issues. Each world leader has a political concern which they have to address, and to do this they need to take certain political actions; they can do this by using Drama Tokens earned in Conference Calls. Their handling of their situation will determine their ranking amongst their peers.

Two: Interdimensional Threat

As the game progresses the threat of a malign alien intelligence looms over the world. This is signified by a Threat Counter which increases over time (similar to the Doom Track in Arkham Horror). Furthermore all National Issues stem from this alien threat, and the characters will balance solving their National Issues with the greater good; fixing national problems to remain in power has an adverse affect on the Threat Counter.

Three: End Game

At some point, all of the world leaders will have to band together to fight the alien menace. Here they will literally merge into one entity, the Earth Superleader Macrofortress (ESM) and do battle with the entity in time-honoured fashion.

  • Their national standing will determine which part of the ESM they occupy. The most prestigious is the head which makes all the strategic decisions in the fight. After that the limbs make many of the tactical decisions under the direction of the head. The least prestigious is probably the gut, which exists only to power head and limbs and generate waste with no decision-making in itself.
  • Each PC therefore has a decision to make: increase their national standing to ensure the highest prestige in the endgame, but at the cost of making the final threat stronger.

Four: Fluff

The actual fictional basis for the ESM can be decided by the group. Examples:

(a) consider world governments constructing their ESM platforms in space; at the end of the game the world leaders are brought up to their respective platforms via space elevator, and will pilot their individual craft and merge them into the ESM to do battle. At the end of the battle they may or may not have enough power to return to Earth.

(b) the world leaders will at the point of crisis be biologically shaped, enhanced and fused together into one monstrous giant which can do battle with the alien threat in a remote desert area. Assuming the fused leaders prevail, they are then fused together for the rest of their days (and may or may not be functionally immortal); and given their gross collective body, they can no longer exist on land for long periods of time. Instead they must wander into the ocean so their massive form is supported (consider the undines in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun) and become a new Leviathan. They may in time encounter other Leviathans, fused world leaders of previous ages, now doomed to haunt the depths, becoming legend to a population with all too short a memory.

This idea inspired System Mastery 144: Cyborg Commando and the concept of five world leaders assembling to form Voltron. I used to own Cyborg Commando; I bought it in a sale in the late 80s for £4.10. It is utterly horrible.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

EU VAT and the Consumer

I don’t really do politics here.

What I do is write about RPGs and other things that interest me. And while a portion of that is about theory and design of games, a good portion — at least when this blog started — is just about things I like to consume.

So this piece is about me as a consumer. Yes, it’s slightly political, but only because politics are getting in the way of my decisions about what I can and can’t consume.

VAT MOSS and Digital Sales

A lot of what I consume these days comes in digital form — without that I’d be unable to sample many, many games and ebooks from other countries. I’m a believer in the digital marketplace.

I’m also a believer in the small press, indie RPG and ebook scene. It’s easier than ever to write your own game, put it into a pdf and just sell it. That’s a great thing — not only are individuals wholly in control of their own creative content, they don’t have to content with logistical issues of printing and shipping.

(Some day I may be one of those small press publishers, but for now I’m just noodling about, writing drafts and enjoying other people’s content.)

Now, from Jan 1st 2015 there will be a change in the EU law that means VAT is levied at the country where the buyer is, not the seller. This is a measure to prevent big corporations like Amazon paying low VAT rates by locating themselves in member states with low VAT rates. Unfortunately it’s likely to have a devastating effect on small businesses who sell electronic goods. Not only could it affect the VAT threshold in the UK requiring registration, it also would require sellers to keep two identifying pieces of information from each customer they serve — identifying the country where the customer was when the purchase was made — securely for 10 years, on an EU-based server. Furthermore the measures that the HMRC think will help sole-traders — selling on platforms — not only divert profits from sole traders to those intermediaries (e.g. Amazon, the irony), but may not even be compliant or willing to comply.

There’s more information in various places. There’s a UK Facebook group, a petition directed at Vince Cable and another one directed at Pierre Moscovici, and several other great articles about why #VATMOSS is going to be a #VATMESS:

I’m sorry I don’t have time to curate them all, but they should be easy to find if you look. Last but important link is this survey:

I don’t have a digital business, but if you do, please look at it.

But anyway. Let’s set aside the concerns of the small business owner, even though I really feel for all my creative friends who are being affected by this mess. Let’s ignore the effects on the culture of creator owned and sold works, even though they’re my kind of people. Let’s just think about me, the consumer. What does this mean?

It means less choice. Projects never seeing the light of day. People unable to make a living doing creative stuff, therefore having to do much less of it in their spare time while they do a “real job” during the day. All because it’s so confusing and such an administrative burden that, for the individual creator, the joy at creating and selling their own work becomes ever so slightly less than the massive inconvenience they suffer to get it out to the public.

I’m not saying it will definitely be this bad. But there are people considering stopping digital sales at the start of next year because of the uncertainty around compliance and the fear of fines from EU states. Whether it’s because the administrative burden is real or just that this issue has been badly communicated, we’ve already lost out.

That’s why I’m boosting the signal here. I expect the handful of people who read this blog are going to be consumers like me, so you need to know. And you should support the creative people around you.

EU Flag