Letters to the Editor

Going With the Flow


In response to “The DM Is a DJ” from The Escapist forums:
I don’t actually go through the process of timing cues and changing songs for announcing crits and the like, but this is something I’ve been doing for a while now, anyway. I have several albums that are go-to albums for D&D sessions. I tend to use a lot of Hiromi Uehara, Philip Glass and Battles. I also have a few game and film soundtracks that I like to use. Puzzle sequences are usually punctuated with Thomas Dvorak’s beautiful work on the Machinarium Sountrack, where you’re more likely to find me playing tracks from the Beyond Good & Evil soundtrack to create a creeping, uneasy atmosphere. Other game soundtracks I use include: Shadow of the Colossus which has good sounds for most things you’d want in a campaign, Lost Odyssey which has a few gems, Chrono Cross, various Final Fantasy games (including the entire discography of the Black Mages). To be honest, though, I find that just having a good album that encompasses the general feeling of your campaign, works extraordinarily well for atmosphere. More often than not all I will play is: Philip Glass’ Glassworks followed by his Heroes and Lows symphonies, with Hiromi’s Spiral once that’s all done.



In response to “Ghosts of Juarez” from The Escapist forums:
I’ll never stand on the wrong side of the First Amendment… It outlines the five core freedoms essential to a free society and its centerpiece is the coveted freedom of speech, which translates into expression, which covers everything from art to journalism to political commentary and so on…

Ubisoft has every right to make and release this game.

And Mexico has every reason to take serious offense, and censor it in their own country where the standard of the 1st Amendment is not the supreme law of the land. Ubisoft, as far as I know from the story, missed a very important opportunity to define their game and their reasoning for making the game, and to make a case for games as a legitimate form of expression. But then, Ubisoft seems to handle most issues badly.

Another comment mentioned Traffic, which is exactly the movie I was thinking of as I read the article. Filmmakers have always been attracted to stories like these, sometimes thoughtfully, and other times in a more exploitative way. Books cover this ground. The news dwells on these stories. Politicians make speeches on this topic. There is nothing so fundamentally different about gaming that game makers shouldn’t enjoy the same freedom to explore and comment on these issues.


I played this game a little while ago along with two other Tom Clancy games. All of them uncomfortably mix silly juvenile sci-fi military power fantasies with real life silly juvenile military power fantasies.

All the references to the weapons and tanks were seemingly written by the Pentagon and were drooling over how powerful these new weapons are. My favorite description is boasting of guns “ease of use.” Um, pull the trigger? The tough guy dialogue and terrible rock music videos make the game seem like a recruitment for the military.



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In response to “Who Needs Friends?” from The Escapist forums:
That was an interesting read with some good points, although I do disagree with the claim that people will stop reading or switch off if your character is a loner who initially has no friends. That’s just not true. The Man with No Name in A Fistfull of Dollars, John Rambo in First Blood (the book, not the film), two examples of interesting, loner characters off the top of my head. The mysterious drifter is a classic character archetype for a reason.


Introducing old friends is a problem in games where you determine the personality of the player character.

Unless you make the friend so generic that they could be friends with just about anyone, conflicts will be inevitable. This solution only really moves the problem around, as now you have a generic boring PC who is friends with a generic boring NPC.

I cannot really see a way to give a RPG main character pre-existing friends with personality that feel real and interesting. Perhaps if you tracked the PC’s personality in the early game, and then introduced a “friend” from their past who made sense given the choices you had made?

If you say to the player: “This guy is your friend”, and you cannot stand the guy, and feel it would be in character for your PC to hate him, this will undermine whatever personality you try to give your character, rather than reinforce it. Of course, the situation you describe, a character who by all rights should have friends who does not is equally jarring.

Imagine if you were trying to play through Fallout NV as a Ghoul-hating Bigot, and the game insisted introduced a Ghoul character from your past as a friend.

RPG’s must allow the player to create the PC’s personality from scratch. Giving the PC pre-existing friends will define some level of canonical personality. This is why the “Mysterious Drifter” archetype is popular. It provides reasonable justificatiuon for the PC not having any connections with the game world, and allows the player to define their character however they please.

Where the PC has canonical personality, friends should be used to define and explore their personality.

Mr Jack


In response to “Myth-takes and Other Oddities” from The Escapist forums:
Funny sidenote, you know how the did the recall? They all took a trip to the factory and replaced the CDs by hand.


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