Dirty Princesses

A Game about Expectations and Danger

Rings and Circlets April 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 11:23 am
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It’s time I told you about the remaining two Virtues of a Máran Princess, which are also the remaining two suits in a traditional Máran deck of cards.

Previously I talked about Swords, which represents strength, might and military prowess, and Shields which represents faith and compassion. Now I’ll be writing about Rings and Circlets.


Rings represent Leadership. Each one is a unique ring that carries the symbol of the Princess in question, a symbol that would be recognisable to anyone who saw it. The rings themselves are not particularly valuable in terms of their material components, but whoever carries one has the ability to command, lead armies and ask for almost anything. But they are not all gift. They also represent that the wearer is someone to be trusted, relied upon and turned to in times of trouble. A Princess who has been noticed wearing her ring (not that they wouldn’t be asked anyway, the ring is simply an excuse, or perhaps a promise) can be expected to be called upon to solve problems and to help those in need. It is a symbol that she can be counted upon to lead, but also that those around her who are loyal can be counted upon to follow. It symbolises confidence and decision-making ability.

As a suit of cards, Rings represents rulers, leaders, wisdom, patience, generosity, military forces and militia (in the sense of people gathering, not so much the violence that comes with them), towns and stability.


A Circlet sits upon the brow of each Princess, a diadem with a single jewel centered on the brow. It is elegant, simple and beautiful. The Circlet symbolises intelligence and education. It shows that the Princess is a person of learning and erudition, that she knows many things and is wise in many matters. The lorekeepers of Mára are considered to be the greatest in the land, their libraries are the most complete and deepest. Many say that if they do not know something, it is not worth knowing. Princesses are not truly expected to carry such prodigious knowledge, but they are certainly expected to be more learned than the average person and always keen to learn more.

As a suit of cards, Circlets represents intelligence, education, knowledge, mystery, secrets, whispers, travel and books.


Personally, Princess December 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 8:03 pm
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At first, Dirty Princesses was just an adventure game, about adventures and perilous quests and kick-ass chicks running around killing stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it still has those things in it. It just isn’t ABOUT those things. What it’s actually about is a whole different kettle of fish.

At it’s heart, the game is about expectations, the fear of disappointment, the transition into adulthood and about struggling to be the person that you think you should be. It seems pretty obvious to me now, but it was a sudden realisation of something unexpected.

So first you’ve got these Princesses, still in their teens, going out into the world after years of education and training. So they’ve graduated high-school and now they have to ‘make something of themselves’.

Then the expectations begin. They are expected to be warriors, tacticians, scholars, priestesses, leaders, generals, riders, artists, musicians, poets, diplomats, and so much more. They are presented with this impeccable and unapproachable image of Queen and Mother, a figure they are expected to emulate. Many of these expectations are contradictory. They are peacemakers with bloody blades, sincere advocates of a many-faced goddess who have to be aware of the use of religion as a political tool. They are expected to embody the four cardinal virtues, Strength, Wisdom, Faith and Leadership. If it’s not clear, these are things that I personally worry about my (possibly entirely self-perceived) lack of. These are the points of the Princesses’ moral compasses, the direction from which challenges will come. So the pressures on these four Virtues are both internal (fear of failure and inadequacy) and external (monsters, bandits, puzzles, the derring-do stuff).

Then, sitting right there in what is currently all of character creation, you have this question:

“What does my mother want me to be?”

It’s a big question. It shapes things. Regardless of whether they embrace it or reject it, this is something they have been aimed toward from a very young age, and it wasn’t even a choice. There’s no question of what you want your Princess to be, because that will be worked out in play. It’s not a question of whether you accept it and roll with it, that comes out in play too. It simply forms the beginning of the path, a prior influence that’s going to sit there glaring at you until you acknowledge it. Sure the other Princesses help shape your character, but that doesn’t seem as weighty or vital to me. The expectations of the Queen are heavy.

The quest isn’t really about the quest. It’s about the Princesses discovering themselves, who they are and what they want to be. Exploring a dark forest and exploring their own ambitions, it all happens at once. By the time it’s all over, they will have learned where their strengths and weaknesses lie, they will have been tested. They will experience failure, for sure, but they get to find out what that failure does to them. They grow up.


Cardinal Virtues December 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 9:01 am
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There are four Virtues that every Máran Princess is expected to embrace, display and embody. The Queen is considered an equal paragon of all, regardless of her actual capabilities and inclinations. The Princesses, however, are expected (but not encouraged) to favour one over the other, as is appropriate to their age and limited experience. Associated with each of these Virtues is an item, an artifact, that the Princesses carry out into the world as they prove their worth. These items are rich with significance, each having been passed down from mothers and aunts, each with a history. In turn, each item is associated with one of the four suits used in the deck of cards. The Princess and The Queen have particular titles and significance.

The Four Virtues are:


Might is several things at once. It is the strength of a sword-arm and skill in battle. It is tactics and strategy, the realm of the warlord and the general. It is feint, attack and defense. Might is fearsome and awe-inspiring, acts of physicality, strength and agility.

Obviously, Might is physically represented by the Sword. But not just any sword. A sword crafted by Máran metallurgists of the finest Máran Steel. The term means something more than just a simple metal, it means a willingness to shed blood for the greater good, it means a mastery over the sword, it means only drawing it with intent to use it. Máran Steel is guts, drive, determination and willpower. Every Princess carries Máran Steel, at her side and in her heart. Each sword is unique, elegant and above all practical. They are intended to be used, not to sit as decoration. Nobody would take up Máran Steel unless they were willing and able to use it.

The suit of cards, Swords, is symbolic of violence, conflict, blood, war, conquest and strength as well as sex and romantic love. The Queen of Swords is also called The General and the Princess of Swords is known as The Warrior. In less polite or formal company, The Queen of Swords is called The Bloody Bitch or The Destroyer and The Princess of Swords is called Ravager or Slayer.


If the sword and military prowess united the tribes, it is Faith that keeps them together. Before, they worshipped a variety of gods and goddesses, each embodying a different aspect of the world. Now they have been given a new, singular face. They are all aspects of the one Goddess, her masculine and feminine sides, creator and destroyer, love and all part of the same thing. This proved enormously successful, allowing all to continue worshipping Her in their own way, but bringing them together like never before. The Princesses are expected to lead the people in faith and piety, leading by example. They should not favour specific aspects of Her (that is not to say that they don’t), but rather worship the Goddess as a whole. This can make things confusing, as some of the requirements of Her aspects can be prohibitive or even contradictory, and she is known by many different names. The Princesses must walk a tricky path in showing faith.

The symbol of their Faith is the Shield. The shield is polished until it is almost reflective, elegantly and beautifully made, as well as solid and protective. The outer face is inscribed with a personally chosen symbol of the Princess’ faith and belief, the inner face inscribed with prayer and litany to see them through times of darkness and fear.

The suit of Shields is one that symbolises protection, faith, belief, piety, loyalty, platonic love, life and birth. I’m still working on specific meanings and names for The Queen and Princess of Shields.

That’s all for the moment, I’ll cover the other two virtues at a later date.


New efforts November 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 12:17 pm

I’ve been neglectful of my game, of Dirty Princesses. I’ll admit it. I made all sorts of goals and plans and set time limits and then just sat back and tried to ignore them as they whizzed on by. I cannot keep doing that if I wish to ever get this game into print. I also cannot wait around for Inspiration!!! to strike. I need to actively work on this game and to facilitate that, I need to break it all down into steps and goals. Simple steps, so I know what I have to do next.

Step One: The Rules

I can’t expect to get people to play this game if the game isn’t playable, can I? Obviously not. So first of all, before anything else I need to sit down and figure out how this game works. Collate all the different ideas, make some decisions, and put it down on paper. But there are two sub-parts to this.

What is the game about? I need to figure out the goals and themes, what I’m trying to do with this, what kind of feeling I’m trying to evoke and what I see the game being like in play. I need to visualise the complete thing in some vague way to give my brain a path to follow.

How does I enable that? Once I know what the game is about, I need to figure out how to build a skeleton around those ideas, how to give it the strength and flexibility to achieve those goals without flying too far off the rails (I’m mixing metaphors, I know). I have some things in mind already, such as using cards, the Straight that is built throughout the game and the campaign, but they’re floating in the abyss. There’s no structure, and I need that.

Step Two: Playing

Once the rules have taken form and once the game is playable to an acceptable degree,  I need to find ways to play it. This will be tricky, as my current gaming situation doesn’t really leave me with a group. But there are always options. I can find people who are willing to play it for me, I can run games via skype, I can rope the people around me into playing whether they like it or not. There are ways of getting it played, even if it won’t be as robust a playtest as perhaps I would like. I can’t let this step stall me. At the very least, get as many people as possible to read it and point out all the flaws they can find, tell me what they like and don’t like, pull it to pieces.

Step Three: The Revision and more playtesting

Once I’ve played it, ironed out the kinks, figured out what works and what doesn’t work, I go back over it again. Anything that didn’t work I fix. The things that did work, I polish. I rewrite, reconsider, rethink and redesign if necessary. Look at where it went in directions that I didn’t expect and see what interesting things I can pull out of that. I playtest more, I revise more, until I run out of things to fix.

Step Four: The Document

At this point, I have a game ready to play. But I need to write it up so that it’s the final document, make sure that I explain how to play the game in clear terms without any ambiguity. I want to go beyond the very basics of showing the game.

Step Five: The Product

At this point I’m trying to think of the fact that my game will be a product. I intend to print and sell it and at least break even when I sell it. I have some ideas about the style and design that I would like to explore, which are taking me in different directions than the ones I previously looked at. Previously, I imagined it as a somewhat generic game, supporting many different setting concepts. I stripped away my original idea, of the kingdom and the queen and the princesses. Now I’m reclaiming that, stronger than ever. The book will look the part, it will include maps and setting information, it will be dripping with flavour. I want it to be a pretty book as well as a practical one. I want it to be beautiful, themed and to evoke the feelings I want it to evoke. There’s no reason for me not to do this.


So that’s it, that’s my game plan laid out there. It all seems so simple sitting here looking at it. It’s like making bear soup. The soup itself is easy to make, but first I have to kill the bear.


Eureka! July 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 4:51 am

So I figured it out. How to work the basic card system came to me and I realised that I had to pull the guts out of the game before I could work on the skeleton.

Gone are points and values and stats and winning with high cards.

Now, throughout the course of the session you’re trying to build a Straight, a run from Ace to Queen. In each scene/conflict/whatever, whoever can play a card to the Straight first decides the outcome of the scene. Black is negative, Red is positive. There will be variation within each colour due to the suits but let’s worry about that later. There might be some other high-card cardplay to figure out who gets narration rights but it will be ultra simple.

There are no more Attributes, only Traits. Traits are activated and used in the fiction to let you draw cards, swap cards with other players and play cards.

It removes all the complicated concerns about a system that ‘works’ and has many moving parts. It restores narrative simplicity.

In short, I’m now happy with what I have.


Cardycardcards July 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 1:15 am

I’m really struggling with coming up with a mechanic that uses cards. Everything I’ve thought of so far either seems like a fully-fledged card game that wouldn’t allow for the whole roleplaying thing, or needlessly complex and convoluted and head-hurty. I’d abandon it and go
back to dice but the cards concept seems to make so much sense and fit so well.

The other thing is, I’d like to have some sort version of this ready and playable by Saturday next week, so that I can show the people who turn up to Go Play Brisbane, and make some serious steps towards having something, ANYTHING, in print by GenCon OZ in September. In fact…

I, David Pidgeon, do hereby declare that I will have some version of Dirty Princesses in print and available to people at GenCon OZ.


So on one hand I’m stalled in that area. On the other, I’m thinking about it and working on it so that’s good.


Floundering and treading water June 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 5:06 am

So I haven’t made any progress on this game in a while, that much is apparent. There are a few different reasons that I can see. One is that once I’d written that proto-draft and put it out there I was just waiting for people to read it and possibly even play it and then get back to me. There was also a switch in the back of my brain that flicked over, saying ‘well you’ve written something and put it out there now, this game is done’ no matter how much I knew to the contrary.

So I really need to start working again. I’ve set myself the goal of having some print copies ready for GENCON 2010. But what I need first is a major rewrite. The rules as written just do not work and I’m going to need to address some of those issues. So what I’ll be putting out at GENCON 2010 is going to be a non-playtested draft of the game that has been written as well as I can write it. It won’t be fancy, it won’t be complete, but it will be another step in the journey and it will be visible progress that I can wave in people’s faces and be all “hey check it out I’m designing games!” which is good, right?

So one quick thing is… if you’ve read the game and haven’t given me the feedback can you give me some, at least in regards to things that really just don’t work mechanically? And if you haven’t read it, could you give it a quick look over and see what you think? I’d appreciate it very much and I’ll even give you a credit (which I know isn’t exciting but it’s all I can offer at this point).

Thanks in advance if you can help and furious fist-shaking at you if you can’t, you scoundrel!