Sean Hillman and I met to talk about his game, or proto-game, just notes really, Empire of the Dragon Lotus. For me it’s a callback to about … fifteen years ago, into the hothouse of the Forge and Sean’s participation there. I think his original notes on the game from back then are in one of my stacked piles of papers. This isn’t nostalgia; it’s relevant, because I didn’t have to explain even a tiny bit of where I was coming from and what the consulting would be like, and this familiarity allowed us to get straight to the point.
We started simply by playing, or sort-of-playing, and our discussion from there remained grounded in what we’d done and observed.
You’ll see a hard look at a dice pool, from someone who typically quite likes them, especially in light of whether failure has any effect on either a character or an emerging plot.
The question of overall chapter structure: is it fixed? And if so, do outcomes actually accomplish anything?
Finally, I raised the issue of orientalism, which is a much broader concept than “Asian,” although in this case that term applies too. It’s straightforward: to what extent does a depiction arise from the creator’s prejudices and stereotypes? Critically, it’s not just negative portrayal, as the fictional people and situations are often projections of the creator’s own urges or guilty imaginings. Is it even possible for a pop fantasy fan to do “Asian! Fantasy! Adventure!” without orientalist content – is it not, perhaps, intrinsic to any such attempt? So we talked about that too, with any luck, pragmatically.
For a few pages of notes and arguably a system in need of overhaul, it certainly prompted a whole book of discussion topics. I’m interested to see what others think.