Hell/Heaven is other people

Game Chef – boon or curse? I’ve been wondering since its very first days as a one-off “hey why not” by Mike Holmes at the Forge. So far, in official consulting, when someone shows up with “this was in last year’s Game Chef,” or even more so, “won last year’s Game Chef,” my count is about 50:50 between that’s-cool/oh-fuck.

Anyway, Weighting Room is one such, and it’s avoided the main pitfall already, which is to consider the game pretty much done because, you know, Game Chef judging and all that playtesting, so let’s slap covers on it. Robbie and the rest of the team evidently get that all that is past, and it’s still just a bunch of ideas and notes that have a whole process in store for it.

I like this video. The first third shows – um, with respect, Robbie, please don’t get mad – that it’s really hard to ask, “so, what happened in the fiction,” when I’m looking for story-stuff like conflicts, drama, plots, outcomes, and the other person thinks you mean what genre or setting was customized for a given session. Note to self to find some really pointed way of asking that.

But after that, our gears meshed better and I was able to hit my whole checklist of “uh ohs” that I’d built when looking through the text: winning/losing story creation, so that as far as Scorching is concerned, the conversation really got somewhere. I’d like to try this thing now after the next phase of revisions that Robbie talked about.

I wouldn’t mind following up on a number of points in detail. Paul, Michele, Moreno, and I kept the win/story question in mind as we played the hell out of a bunch of “make a story! board! cards!” games which are evidently very much the rage lately, yielding mostly a lot of head-shaking on our parts, especially when a given example was very very good at what it does do (honorable mention especially to Fog of Love). I was prompted to review some of the borderline-therapy games that I mentioned or pictured, and that led me to find/remember more of them on my shelves, so that’d be good to round out too.

Less confidently: mostly out of cowardice, I left out a couple of snips in the publishing discussion that mentioned titles and names which everyone knows are Indie Industry Greats but which feature dreadful, amateur, unforgiveable rules-and-printing problems … I’m not sure if I’ll grow enough spine to bring’em up in the comments.

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2 responses to “Hell/Heaven is other people”

  1. Moving forward!

    I had a chance to review the consulting session today during Thanksgiving preparations. I'm an inveterate note-taker, but even so, looking at the video helped remind me of some key points. In particular, that core question of "what happened in the fiction?" (which you rightly note I sometimes stumbled over) is one that needs to be front and center as we take this forward. That question seems so fundamental, but in the rush to pull the game together and to handle the various demands, that issue sometimes got lost in the mix. Now that the competition is over, we can hopefully give that question its due and also look afresh at the game without the constraints of Game Chef.

    I also appreciate the perspective of other games (Once Upon a TimeFog of Love, etc.) to alert us to the history of the type of game we are engaged in and to warn us of the pitfalls. One thing I find exciting is that we are coming at some of these issues with a perspective that seems genuinely different. For example, the game as it stands develops a narrative that is fractal and non-linear: This places added demands on the players to develop a cogent story, but it avoids forcing a preconceived framework on the players. One other game to put on your radar is For the Queen by Alex Roberts which is soon to be released by Evil Hat Productions: It is a card-driven story game which has some elements in common with ours, though most of the interpersonal relationships concern those between the player characters and "The Queen" (and the Queen is a fictitious construct not played by anyone).

    As for Weighting Rooms, I'm putting together an extensive list to direct our overhaul of the game. My dream right now is to strive for a more intense and demanding version than the one we have currently. You have helped to clarify some of the ways that I can push the game into some territory which it was previously only timidly dancing around. As a general timetable, I'm hopeful that I can get a reworked version together by the end of next month and then see what happens in live situations. That may be ambitious, but the December/January holiday break will give me some free time to devote to the project. I'll let you know what the actual play results are (hopefully with some video).

    One tangential issue: I've been doing a fair amoung of gaming online with The Gauntlet, and I'm thinking of how Weighting Rooms would work in an online environment. I have some viable ideas that could be implemented (for example, using a Google Form for the players to assign Karma Tokens and also to tabulate the final results for the weighing). I think Weighting Rooms will work best in a face-to-face situation, but given the state of gaming today, it seems like some consideration of how the game would look and operate in the online environment seems wise.


    • I’d be happy to join some of

      I'd be happy to join some of that playtesting in January.

      Relevant to that, I have discovered my views about screen-based play: that tools adapted to the interface are not helpful. Dice rollers, most shared-edit documents, battlemats … just about anything actually. I've been watching this carefully for a while, and the best enhancement and authenticity of play are simply that we roll the dice for real, person by person, and keep our sheets in real space, person by person. In other words, play as usual, and the screens exist only for talking and occasional necessary image/file sharing.

      (That's not to say there haven't been some obvious cheaters on dice rolls. But that's the same as with face-to-face play.)

      I can imagine the utility of highly specific single tools (e.g. a Krater app for The Clay That Woke), but that discussion is not yet possible, because, so far, the assumption is already borked that such a thing would be embedded inside a much larger generalized play environment, play table et cetera, that we're supposed to "need."

      Therefore I suggest that playtesting Weighting Rooms via screens, as we did in the Gauntlet game and you've seen here at Adept Play, should be treated exactly as if it weren't. The developing rooms map should be treated as if it were paper insofar as possible, and if it's necessary that more than one person draw on it, then it can be shared-edit.

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