Mark Diaz-Truman talks with us about his upcoming game Cartel, issues with mixing too much reality into gaming, and the differences between designing Powered by the Apocalypse games as opposed to using the Fate system.
Cartel is currently available in ashcan format through Magpie Games. It's a narco-fiction game, drawing inspiration from Breaking Bad, The Wire, Traffic, and The Departed. narco-fiction is the antithesis of noir. Noir tends to be serious and about uncovering a hidden truth while narco-fiction can be a black comedy with no mystery, just people living and dying in a terrible world. It ends ores to separate the legality of a character’s action from the more interesting question of its morality. Inspired by Sagas of the Icelanders, it also tries to immerse players in the cultural realities of Mexico. The playbooks in Powered by the Apocalypse games can do this by highlighting what is interesting and uncertain in a setting. This allows Mark sees this as an opportunity to create games that tell the stories of minorities that otherwise might not be told, to create games in which being white and male must be a choice rather than the default. However, The world of Cartel is not a perfect mirror of Mexican life. It is more realistic than most games, shedding the tropes of magic and superheroes, but it diverges from reality in subtler ways. This abstraction to an exaggerated, mythic Mexican landscape allows player to tackle harsh issues in a way that is still entertaining and emotionally safe. There are not many games that sit so close to reality (14 Days and Fight Fire being other examples) because it becomes difficult to guarantee excitement and drama, an issue that Moore passive storytelling mediums (like novels and movies) don't share.
Apocalypse World and Fate are two major open platforms for aspiring designer to build on, but they are very different. Fate is a generic system that can be tweaked and adjusted into a new game. Apocalypse World, on the other hand, simply offers playbooks, which is more of a way of formatting a game than a system. Apocalypse World could never be generic as the setting is interwoven with each playbook’s moves. Also, Fate has a welcoming community of designers who support each other, while Powered by the Apocalypse designers seem more likely to work independently. Ultimately, Mark believes that Apocalypse games are much harder to make.
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I wrote my first game Anything Helps for the 2015 Golden Cobra Challenge. Give it a try and tell me what you think.