What Is The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze?

The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze is a highly social roleplaying game for creating stories of passions and desire; a little like Conan and a little like The Illiad; a little like Dying Earth and a little like Torah or the Epic of Gilgamesh from the Enuma Elish. You can play it with two, three, or four players. It takes about a half hour per player, so a four person game will be about two hours.  You can keep playing, of course! Take your companions on further adventures and see what destiny their lives hold for them!

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The Name of Bronze

About a year ago, I posted a roleplaying game based on my story, Lover of Jet & Gold about the Namedealers of the setting: those who speak the secret Language of Names to all the phenomena of the demon-haunted world in which they live. For the most part, they’re the “sorcerers” of the Sword & Sorcery setting.

This game, now called The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze, is now available to subscribers to the xenoglyph Patreon and is for sale in the xenoglyph store!

You might want to read Drash, before you play, too!

Namedealers are like Mosheh, Thetis, and Merlin. But they’re also not all that far from Bugs Bunny and Cugel, all of whose power comes from their ability to perceive and tell truths, but whose weakness in overestimating their importance to rather more direct individuals at the wrong moment. In a recent game, the inestimable Quinn Murphy equated his namedealer to Wile E. Coyote, fleeing the consequence of each overreach by putting himself in a slightly more desperate debt.

It was, and I quote a player at PAX East 2015 here, “The most fun I’ve ever had being eaten by a crocodile.”*

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The Dreidel Reconstruction Project

Dreidel is an awful game. Every Jewish game designer knows  that they’re doomed, come the 25th of Kislev, to bite our tongues or be branded the enemy of fun — fun that, for some reason, the adults all decline to participate in.

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Kodrek: Now in a Volume Near You

I’m very pleased to say that all Kodrek sets have now been sent! Some folks may have already gotten them.

I’m really looking forward to hearing about peoples’ games — video some and show me! — and how they house rule the game. It’s designed with some deliberate flexibility and commentary on what taking advantage of each piece of flexibility does.

Thank you, Human Contact backers, for encouraging me to finish this game. I’m really thinking about publishing it for real now.

Want to see how to play Kodrek?


Hurricane Irene really set me back on finishing up Kodrek. But I managed to get a video of play up in time to get it into the Thousand Year game Challenge!

Also excitingly, I’ll be printing up booklets and sending out games in the coming week!

Kodrek rules, version 1.0

The 1.0 rules of Kodrek are complete! I’ll be sending boards out to all the Kodrek-level Kickstarter backers just as soon as printing is complete.

The timing means that I’ll also be entering the game in the 1000 Year Game Challenge. It’s got some stiff competition!

Kodrek is a game with a funny background. It comes from an actual game of Human Contact. Because HC is about cultures and their expressions in contrast with other cultures, we needed a game that summed up the part of the culture we were soaking in during a particular scene. In this case, it was an Academic (a bit of a dick, that guy) who was gambling. Now, keep in mind, the Academy doesn’t have money; its members trade in ideas because of their post-scarcity environment. So the guy was gambling with money that he was manufacturing. But he considered all the marines and pirates around him murderers, so he figured it all came out it the wash.

My specification was that it be a three-way game with shifting alliances. Vincent wanted it to be a game where you committed to plans in secret and then revealed them to each other, then dealt with the consequences. You can actually see the scene in Human Contact on page 84. We described the triangular board, the move-slapping, and that was about it.

After the game, Rob had to go home and Vincent and I went for a walk. We kept going back to the board game idea and rough-sketched play. I’ve thought about it for a few months and have come up with these final rules.

The game has a lot of variables and the rules discuss some of the things you might do differently if you lived with a different clan. I look forward to seeing the variants that players come up with!

I’m considering publishing the game. For the time being, it’s Creative Commons, Attribution, Noncommercial, Share-Alike though I might loosen it up a little bit, allowing commerical products and derivatives once I’ve decided.

Download the rules here!

Game Design Studio: Doors (forced) Open!

I forgot to open up the doors to the Game Design Studio, but young rowdies are already cramming in there, helping each other, so who am I to stop them? If you’ve got something to submit, read the How to Critique post, and join the rest of the class!

Kodrek, A Game of the Kotaht Archipelago

A Kodrek board
A game of wrestling spacecraft

During last night’s game of Human Contact, there was a scene in a rough ‘n’ tumble bar where there was a gambling game going on between a couple of background characters in the Kotaht Archipelago. There was some hustling going on, so we wound up describing the game a little bit. Vincent wanted there to be stuff you hid under your hand. I wanted there to be a board where you made your commitments based on your hidden hand.

After the game ended for the night (Rob had to go home), Vincent and I talked it out a bit. We came up with Kodrek. The people of the Kotaht have a clan structure and they fight over stuff all the time in a fairly ritualized, low-casualty, high benefit form of spacecraft warfare. This game is to their warfare the way Chess is to ours: grossly abstracted to the point of being a poor simulation, but much more fun, really.

There are a number of local variations to the game, of course, but these things remain constant:

  • It is played on a triangular grid
  • Each player has two pieces: a Craft and a Speaker. These represent spacecraft and the Speakers on board who have access and the mathematical skill to plot a course. The big piece is the Craft. The little one is the Speaker.
  • It’s a gambling game. Everyone antes the same amount into the pot at the beginning of the game, then takes their money back out turn by turn.
  • The object of the game is to do one of the following:
    • Fling another ship off the board on your turn, in which case you win the pot. Some variants have the pot split between the remaining players.
    • Impact another craft on your turn (some variants say you must end a turn on top of another craft, some say you end a turn within one “point” of another craft, some say that you merely cross paths in a turn) which gets you money from the target immediately. If the target doesn’t have enough, you take the balance from the pot.
    • Get off the board on your turn, in which case the game starts anew. Everyone pays an equal amount to get the pot up to full strength.
  • You have a number of coins, (5 to 8, determined by the local variation, which also determines the size of the board). You turn coins Heads up to draw ships closer to you and Tails up to move your ship. You cover the coins with your hand and reveal them, then make your moves based on what you see revealed in others’ hands.
  • You play a bunch of games in a row. In some places, you play a set number of games, and in some, you quit any time, dividing the pot three ways. If anyone leaves in the middle of a game, the remaining players split the pot in half. If there’s a remainder, it goes to the barmaid.

We’re gonna sketch up this game and get the numbers ironed out. Then we’ll do something or other with it if it’s as fun as we think it is.

Science Fiction Language

Over at io9, there’s an article about languages in science fiction, using as an example how much ours has changed since Shakespeare’s time. It’s neat, and timely, as I’m working on the language section of Shock:Human Contact next. If I do another Preview Edition, it’ll be about language and war.

I’m also drawing on The Language Construction Kit, an indie publication by Mark Rosenfelder. The website is good, but the book is more comprehensive. It really twiddles my linguistic fun center and I’m looking forward to reading the book really thoroughly when I’m done laying out Human Contact. It covers syntax (how words are assembled with each other), lexicon (words and what they mean), morphology (how spoken words are formed), and alphabet construction. I’m also wrestling with the nonfiction Writing Systems of the World and the (comically dense) World’s Major Languages.

If you’ve played Human Contact, you know the placeholder rule: you come up with a handful of syllables, then make names for people and places out of them, adding to the syllabary as needed. The primary function, though, is not just to make proper nouns (and certainly not to replace words we already have with alienish ones), but make words that really represent the way a people thinks. When a society has a concept that we, as players, have a word for, we use that word.

In our game right now, there’s a clan structure in the colony. Clans have made up names (Jun and Bri, for instance, which are added to one’s name, and changed when one changes clan, which happens rather a lot), but the word we use for clans is “clans”. On the other hand, those who serve in a clan military are by definition men, whether or not they’re male. It is scandalously impolite to point out that a marine or spacecraft crewman is female. But one’s biological mother might very well be in the military. The society can’t abide homosexuality, though, so they have a word for one’s female father: drokun. It sounds close enough to the word for “father”, drokung, that you can get the idea across without having to be explicit about it. Everyone can make believe that they heard “drokung” when you said “drokun”, but you’ve conveyed the requisite information. Likewise, I’ve got some stuff about the Academic language, Kepho-Rn, in the wiki, covering a few useful Academic concepts and their pronunciations.

My intention is to have a system that floats at a LeGuin level of language construction, where there are words or phrases to describe particular culturally unique phenomena. I also want to give optional rules for broad language construction for those who, like me, get excited about the linguistic-anthropological  aspects of the game.

Academy Law

There are several parts of Academy law that will be broadly applicable to the interstellar expeditions that will be the core of play in Human Contact. I’m interested to see how these are interpreted (and ignored) in the course of play — after all, it’ll be years, or maybe decades (or maybe never!) before contact is made with the rest of the Academy again.

Those things listed as crimes are subject to investigation and are dealt with by subjecting the perpetrator to psychological treatment.

For legal purposes, a “meme” is “a unit of information expressed through symbols”, e.g. writing, speech, body language, or pictures. It is to distinguish direct manipulation of another nervous system without passing through the ethical, cognitive, and self-aware aspects of an individual’s mind, thereby removing their choice in the matter.

Note that Academics keep a record of their experiences. When on trial, specific parts of that record can be subpoenaed, but there is no law preventing one from deleting parts of the record. An accused individual is assumed innocent unless proven guilty. However, even a not-guilty result in a trial can damage one’s reputation.

  • Professional ethics
    • All Academics are expected to keep an objective mindset in their scientific careers with regard to their fellow explorers.
      • Preferential or detrimental treatment of individuals (and particularly their work) according to one’s relationship, rather than the value of the work, is a crime subject to censure (the reduction of one’s formal reputation, including the likelihood of publishing again
  • Hominin rights
    • Torture is a crime. This includes rape and coercion.
    • Killing another person is legal (but subject to investigation) in the following circumstances, and illegal in all others:
      • Defense of an individual from torture or murder
      • At that person’s memetically expressed request
    • Deprivation of an available necessity (water, food, air, choice, medicine) is a crime.
    • Prevention of the dissemination of memes (i.e. censorship) of an individual’s voice is a crime.
    • Directly affecting the nervous system of another (that is, outside of memetic modes, such as by drugging or tampering with their network wetware) without their consent is a crime
  • Interactions with colonies
    • If the colony is deemed dangerous by current standards for contact by a starship crew, a low-impact envoy mission must go first, with the starship taking a stealth route.
      • Envoys must make every effort to preserve the nature of the colony for study
      • Envoys must make the colony ready for the approaching starship in a way that will:
        • reduce the risk to the starship
        • reduce the risk to the colony
        • enhance the understanding of the society to the Academy at large
    • Interactions with other hominins are judged by the same standards as interactions within the Academy.

Things that are legal, but differ from many of our laws:

  • Any consensual activity between individuals. Consent must be transferred memetically.
  • Recreational drug use
  • Suicide (though depression is treated medically)
  • Any harm, experimentation, and modification of one’s self
  • Abortion (very rarely applied within the Academy, since conception is consciously controlled)

I’d love to hear some opinions on these matters. Some of these elements directly contradict each other, as they represent different schools of thought in Academic culture, such as the rules for envoy missions as regarding colonial culture.