Friday, October 13, 2006

An Indirect Chat With Professor Curtis

We are very fortunate and honored to have Professor Kory Curtis himself online today to field a few of your questions. He won’t be able to stick around for comments, as he really cannot afford to be late to Philosophy 102 again.

Our first question in the mailbag comes from a Joshua A., of Comstock, California:

Dear Professor Curtis,

Help! My group and I are stuck on the meaning of “story”. Do we need to actively mold our game to produce story, or can we simply expect it as a byproduct of good gaming? For that matter, what would you consider the playstyle of a group playing an immersionist game of Shock set in the Serenity universe that discarded the social combat rules in favor of the “give” mechanic from Dogs In The Vineyard? I’ve read everything I could find on what you, Ron Edwards, Vincent Baker, and Clinton R. Nixon say on the matter, and I’m hopelessly lost. Plus, most of the G/N/S essays seem to conflict one another halfway through. Tell me what to do! --Joshua


I would love to have this conversation with you, but I must first ask that you read the following discussions:

-The Index of this site

-Alexander R. Galloway’s Gaming, Essay on Algorithmic Culture

-Is Director Stance Real?

-The Fetzer Vineyards Mission Statement (read between the lines on this one)

-“Mildly Disappointed” thread at the Forge’s HeroQuest forums

-The fact that Sorcerer is nothing like Rifts

-Paul’s Letter To The Ephesians

In addition to these, I will assume you are already familiar with the main body of my academic work. I really must insist that we continue this discussion after and only after you are well-read and flawlessly proficient on all those subjects. –PKC

Dear Professor Curtis,

My group is trying to decide what game to play next after completing an extremely successful Warhammer 2e campaign. We’ve gotten our choices down to Star Wars d20 or Star Frontiers. Any advice on which one to pick? --Jim B., Watseka, Illinois


I sense a lot of social conflict in your group. Sadly, I believe this all stems from your group having played Warhammer 2e, which I can assure you in a professional professorial manner is responsible for the bed-wetting problems that no doubt have plagued you since you started playing it. From your letter, I can gather that you are all desperately unhappy playing outside the Correctionist fold, which is where I think you want to be. If you are fixated on playing Star Wars d20 or Star Frontiers, my advice to you is treat it as you would the latest novel for a book club: instead of rolling dice and actually playing the game, have everyone read the text and come back the next week ready to go around in a circle telling a story inspired by what they read. I think you’ll find this much more fulfilling, but be warned, using Star Wars d20 even in this approximately Correctionist manner may still result in fetal damage to any children you or your spouse plan on having. –PKC

Dear Mr. Curtis,

I’m having trouble getting my independent game off the ground. I suppose it is what you’d call traditionally rules-heavy fantasy game, but I’ve worked very hard on it, and feel that it has something to offer people, and I’m especially proud of my scale percentile dice mechanic. However, the Forge won’t give me a forum for it, and every time I ask for feedback at RPGnet, I’m told my game is a “fantasy heartbreaker” and therefore worthless. Why can’t I find support out there? -- Darren Fowler

Mr. Fowler,

First off, I would thank you to refer to me as Professor Curtis. I didn’t get accepted to community college on my first attempt to be referred to as “Mr.” Curtis!

Your problem is a very common one I witness among those would-be indie game designers attempting to garner support for their game. You see, designers such as myself, the good learned men at the Forge, and the esteemed professional gaming hipsters at RPGnet have to be very careful as to what we endorse. Simply put, we have yet to see nearly enough of you posting profound italicized passages in favor of our work on gaming sites and blogs. Until we can be certain you will not poison the Movement with Wrongist and Bankruptist alternate theory, you will have to peddle your gaming in the opium dens and tarnished backwaters of gaming society. As the forefront of independence and individualism in gaming, we must be certain we are in lock-step at all times concerning theory. –PKC

Lastly, a question from the self-identified “RPG Pro”, Chuck Spindler:

Professor Curtis,

Despite your arrogance, I think it's time to give you a second chance. I understand that since you aren't yet an insider, it's natural that you would lash out against the gaming industry. You haven't had a chance to meet Steve Jackson, or have a beer in the same bar as Monte Cook. It's clear that you're jealous…


Just stop right there, “Pro”. You’ll get nowhere with me by bandying about key figures of the Bankruptist school of non-thought. I suggest you follow the links I provided young Joshua above. Indie game design is a harsh mistress, and I really need you conditioned for the journey. Now, I could easily take you down to mere nothingness using the intense skills I learned playing Breaking the Ice, but that would be entirely like shooting monkeys in a barrel, so to speak. We’ll speak further soon, my new acquaintance. (Oh, and if I might make a small suggestion, perhaps you could start your newfound path to the heights of gaming excellence by ceasing to post far-fetched threads every other day on RPGnet regarding D&D 4th Edition acting as though you have insider knowledge on the topic? That’s 1 down, 247 to go…).

By the way, is there any way you can get some of my products into the ENnies? Because that would be super. -PKC

I’m afraid the Professor has to run for now, but I think we’re all a bit wiser after that intense Q&A session!


Anonymous Unscrambled Mage said...

You are fortunate indeed to game with a man of such insight. I'm very jealous, in particular (even more following the Q&A) of your experiences re the sexuality of your Venezuelan limbo king ... Exploring themes like that correctly is a dream so few can ever realize, especially with a man such as the Professor.

5:12 AM  
Blogger MDK said...


I'm distressed that I missed out on this Q&A with the Professor. Will we have another chance to pose questions? I wanted to get his insight on FATAL- all 900 pages of it.

Perhaps he (or you) could weigh in with a special post on the game and it place in the continuum?


9:26 AM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

mdk: The Professor is very busy with PSYCH 102 just now, but I am very happy to (briefly) review any game you can provide a pdf for or link to (if free). I haven't heard of this FATAL, but the capital letters might quite the statement! What an evocative title! Is it firmly rooted in the narrativisit or correctionist tradition, I imagine?

As we get more letters, I will see about Professor Curtis possibly gracing us with more of his invalubale insight into gaming, art, and the human condition. I would also be happy to answer questions--after all, wouldn't you say I've had a fantastic mentor?

9:44 AM  
Blogger The RPG Pro said...

Do I know anyone who runs the Ennies? Of course. The year I won one, my statue broke and they had to replace it. You could say that they "owe" me one.

Perhaps if you're looking for a freelancer to do some work for you, we can make arrangements. I have an exciting new game called SHARING FRIENDS that I think can make some waves.

SHARING FRIENDS was all capitalized long before FATAL, too. I'm a little distressed that someone stole my idea. Is FATAL a Wizard$ of the Co$t (that's NOT a misspelling) game?

10:09 AM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

"Wizard$ of the Co$t"! LOL! Brilliant!

I cannot wait to see what sort of game you come out with, Pro. So long as you are willing to subsrcibe to Professor Curtis' directions in game design mastery, such a well-connected individual as yourself could be our ticket to expand gaming into non-traditional markets! Blue Rose had partial success with marxist-feminists, Dogs in The Vineyard with psychotic Mormons, and Breaking The Ice with people who can't get real dates (ok, so the last one overlaps with the traditional gamer crowd).

10:22 AM  
Blogger The RPG Pro said...

You think I could help you? You think I could be important to you?

Thank you.

SHARING FRIENDS is an RPG aimed at children. In analyzing my sales, I've seen that since 1999, I've barely sold any games. Clearly, World of Warcraft is to blame for this downturn. I think that, by pursuing younger children, I can exploit a new market.

Right now, I'm still thinking of mechanics. I'm leaning toward a die pool system, to go after White Wolf's market share.

What sort of game should I design so that you and the professor would like me?

10:31 AM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

Well, why not something centered around a heavy social theme? Anything will enable breakdowns at your table is excellent promo fodder in RPGnet threads.

10:34 AM  
Blogger The RPG Pro said...

SHARING FRIENDS is about the theme of making friends with other people, even the kid that nobody likes, and doing good deeds to help others.

The big issue I have with the game right now is that it is set in the modern era, and I'm having trouble thinking of ways to make M-16s and AK-47s really different in the game. They sound really different in the movies, and I think they used different types of bullets.

Do you like my ideas so far?

10:36 AM  
Blogger CATPISS MAN said...


10:42 AM  
Blogger The RPG Pro said...

catpiss man, I'm STRONGLY considering bringing you in as a consultant. What sort of industry credits do you have? Have you done any work with children? Have you met JONATHAN TWEET (I have)?

10:44 AM  
Blogger CATPISS MAN said...


10:58 AM  
Blogger CATPISS MAN said...


11:01 AM  
Blogger The RPG Pro said...

To demonstrate my insider connections, notice how quickly jumped on the D-Minus system and covered the story:

12:24 PM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

Congratulations! Well done! Of course, while "mainstream" recognition might be nice, "indie cred" is vitally important. That is why I hope (for your system's sake) you will maintain a working relationship with this site.

12:31 PM  
Blogger The RPG Pro said...

Of course! Connections are everything. I've been investigating the Forge, and it seems like it might be a good place to go to ask about my M-16/AK-47 conundrum.

Also, since the PCs in SHARING FRIENDS are all six years old (the game is set in an elementary school), it would be useful if anyone has any data on the benchpress, dead weight lift, and drag weight capacities of small children. I can't find anything!

12:38 PM  
Blogger zoombaba said...

What a sad example of Geek on Geek hate. I'm just really appalled. If you think this little blog experiment is funny, you're sadly mistaken.

How can we ever grow our hobby into the mainstream if we spend all our time bashing each other?

BTW, consider one copy of SHARING FRIENDS sold. That's money in the bank, Yo. I'm there opening day like George Lucas.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

@ zoombaba: I certainly don't think anything on this blog is funny! This is cutting-edge theory, and if you find you are enjoying the application of our theories in your gaming instead of gaining a measure of maturity and graveness, I believe you are doing something wrong.

If something has been said on here to offend you, and you are not Bankruptist troll, I truly apologize. Could you tell me precisely what offends you here? Oftentimes, people are frightened by what they don't understand, and I would love to refer you to several excellent essays that would make digestion of these weighty ideas much easier.

You ask, "How can we ever grow our hobby into the mainstream if we spend all our time bashing each other?" I ask you, don't you want a perfected hobby worthy of academic critique and study before that day comes?

3:15 PM  
Blogger zoombaba said...

Gosh, there's so much to talk about what's offensive here. First off, people should be allowed to create baseless rumor threads on both Enworld and RPGnet for D&D 4th! If they didn't do that, what would they do with their time? Play games? Pshaw!

Second off, I've been a long-time advocate of Warhammer 2e for years, and only have a minor bedwetting issue as a result.

And Bankruptist troll? Who you calling Bankrupt?

But that's just cracking the crust on my ice cream. I could go on for days how this site is a disservice to fat, smelly roleplaying geeks everywhere! But I don't need to because claiming that I can is good enough.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Alan Kellogg said...

Mr. Curtis,

I have been informed my your instructors that you are showing up to classes in a distressful state. Your clothes are filthy, near rags, and often revealing portions of the anatomy one rarely sees in a cheap porno. Not only that, but you often bear a miasmic air that is known to kill vultures at 30 paces. Were that not enough, the spores from your body fungus has clogged up the toilets once too often.

A warrant has been issued for your arrest on charges of public health violations. I have been informed by the courts that you are now under permanent conservatorship, and placed under psychiatirc treatment on a permanent inpatient basis. Henceforth your instruction shall be through distance learning.

BTW, I thought you'd be interested to know that your penile tumor is the first example of the successful transmission of Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor from dog to human.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

Filthy lies, and you know it! There are no vultures in this part of the country!

2:26 AM  
Anonymous Disappear! said...

I am deeply thankful to you, Mr. Richardson, and to the work you do to advance Correctivist play.

It is a pity that so few can look within and see the deep psychological scars that cause them to cling to the worst, flimsiest elements of RPGs.

I have, if I may advance my own accomplishments in Correctivist thought, improved my games immeasurably through the shearing away of that element that most insults the human spirit: socializing.

If we, as human beings, wish to tap the deep reserves of trauma and conflict that fuel all Correctivist play, we must do away with this crutch! Why must we weaken our transcendant roleplaying with "conversation"?

We will never achieve true transcendent Correctivist play while there exists the element of "sociliazing" at the table! I ask my players, for whose sake I labor thanklessly, only three hours of their devoted attention. Three hours! Yet they insist on the telling of jokes! Jokes! The theraputic nature of my Correctivist narratives is sundered by the braying laughter of these heathens, week after week!

But I struggle on! I know the day will come when the glorious truth of my "adventures" (as those uncaring beasts insist upon calling them) will take root in the thin soil of their damaged brains. Then the rich harvest of Correctivism will lead them to a wonderland of escalation and personality pools!

2:28 AM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

@ disappear!: How wonderful to hear from you! One minor quibble, though: it is "Correctionist. No need to worry, it sounds like you're doing wonderful work. I suggest that if your group continues to be unreceptive to your overtures that you not burn out trying to convert them, but instead cease gaming for a while, regroup, and post, long wailing threads on various internet forae in regards to it.

2:36 AM  
Blogger Cornell Richardson said...

Sorry, I should have added "Correctist" is also valid. A minor, but potentially vital point.

3:00 AM  
Anonymous disappear! said...

I stand corrected. (Forgive the pun.)

12:51 AM  
Blogger Alan Kellogg said...

"Cornell Richardson said...

!1Filthy lies, and you know it! There are no vultures in this part of the country!'"

Not since you moved here.

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