10 January 2013

Blackbird Dice

A few months ago I played John Harper's beautiful little story game adventure Lady Blackbird. The game is a marvel: in sixteen pages it delivers character relationships, a vivid and interesting setting, a simple game engine with a novel dice pool mechanic that plays swiftly and encourages good roleplaying, and an adventure setup that is open-ended but has a strong narrative drive. (It's a little like a very streamlined version of Fate, if you're into that sort of thing.)

My tabletop roleplaying group wrapped it up in an evening — Lady Blackbird was happily reunited with her lover, the Pirate King — but it was obvious that we could have done a long campaign with just those rules. The game is a marvel.

It left me with an itch to use that rules engine again. Then game designer Will Hindmarch ran a Kickstarter for his cyberpunk roleplaying campaign Always/Never/Now; the Kickstarter video was incredibly seductive to a middle-aged geek like me.

Hindmarch's Kickstarter updates have been tantalizing. He's late on the project, but I'm kind of glad, since it's obvious that it's a result of him obsessively refining and expanding the project. I know the feeling, so I'm happy to wait.

In the meantime, I've done a little preparatory project to be ready for when the game is published and I gamemaster it. The Blackbird dice mechanic has you count odds and evens on your dice. Essentially you're just flipping coins, though rolling dice is more fun and convenient than flipping coins. But spotting odds and evens is a tiny bit of cognitive load in this deliberately simple game mechanic, so I've made the dice you see pictured. Since Always / Never / Now is a cyberpunk game, I've taken blank dice and painted half of the sides with shiny silver nail polish and half with matte black.

Roll and count the chrome.

Because yeah, I am that kind of geek.

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