The coalition must hold (trust us!)

Francesco Zani is busy with lots of game designs, as you’ll see in the videos of my consulting sessions at Lucca. Dictat is a joint effort among him, Davide Cavadni, and Francesco Rugerford Sedda, whom (the latter) I met at Modena Play early last year. Dictat’s a card game that relies on LARP-like subroutines, “oh shit” card draws that demand attention, and voting, managing to represent and parody the (dys)functions of a distressed democracy at the same time.

To my delight it’s about a centrist coalition desperately attempting to maintain power, specifically how the two barely-left and barely-right factions try to jockey for dominance while allying primarily in their fear of whatever the actual humans in the populace may do to them when the house of cards comes tumbling down. My thoughts on that topic in real life may be found in the extensive comments here, proceeding from when my friend Tor asked me my thoughts on fascism and the United States. Suffice to say that although I’d certainly play whatever character and faction I was dealt, my heart would reside with those “Rivolta” cards that caught my eye as depicted in the first moments of the video.

This was actually my first consult at Lucca, so you’ll see some points emerge which I brought to almost all the others.

  • Stop listening to assertive playtesters and rely instead on your own judgments of what you observe them to do during play.
  • Let concerns about “is it really role-playing” subside in favor of having a good time with whatever this particular thing is doing.
  • Distinguish between designing, which relies on understanding the game, and writing, which relies on teaching it as procedure.

You may notice that I don’t demand a full manual of instruction of exactly how to play, nor am I acting as judge+jury regarding any particular piece of play. That’s not really what I do with Scorching. My interest lies mainly in keeping the process with the designer(s), identifying when they’re distracted by their own fears or by the interference of others’ priorities. I’m still finding a way to articulate this to people.

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