Patrons will recognize Zac Porcu as the instigator and interlocutor in the huge discourse on role-playing that made available to them a few years ago, and viewers here may recall the Sorcerer Musik game that he and Jann played in. He and Jann are now working on a role-plyaing game composed of easily-used cards transported in a small, nice-looking box.
As a topic, it represents an ideal many of us have striven for: an attractive, small, one-shot playable device that introduces actual role-playing to people who aren’t familiar with it. You’ll see me refer to many prior attempts, some available and some not, some successful in design and some not, and I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that although some of the devices to date are good, the desired phenomenon has not yet been realized. We do not, yet, have the “try this” box simply to hand to someone, and be reasonably certain that they will return having learned what they needed in order to change from “not knowing” to “knowing.”
We discuss several aspects of overly-programmed vs. open-ended play, how Bangs do or do not emerge, and the ease or difficulty of teaching the medium.
4 responses to “Designing the introductory teaching game”
Learning as Doing
A great opening chat about this perennial problem of trying to teach people a new medium with, essentially, only the game as a teacher. In a sense, this is in direct defiance to the typical way that roleplaying is learned: as a sort of tribalized set of behaviors passed from group to group and requiring intense enculturation.
I think if I had to re-articulate the problem as I tried to make it in part 4 was this: there does seem to be at least an overt tension between (a) creating a fool-proof set of structures that are so concrete as to seemingly defy confusion and ambiguity in play (reasonably speaking) and (b) allowing for the unexpected, the creative, the emergent. I know there isn't, intrnsically, but the introduction of the humanities element ("it matters that it was me in this chair, and no one else, when I was playing Morgana") seems to also allow for the possibility of a breakdown more than just weak/bad fiction, which is something we have to be okay with, especially given that the aim of this game is as a teaching tool (i.e., no rules set stops immature players from "ruining" an experience).
Here's a simple take-away: if mechanics don't allow for personal contributions in narration to effect the ultimate outcome of play, then there is only thespianism (as you say), i.e., the imagined space sort of stops (or threatens to stop) being the medium at all. What makes Tales of the Round Table or any "baby's first RPG" easier to learn is providing a lot of support for how to make those contributions, including limiting them severely so that they are less overwhelming, as long as they remain possible and relevant. This is as opposed to the "GM says" style of gaming where one person has all of the pressure to make contributions of maximal impact at almost every second and upon whose competency the entirety of the fiction rests (I suspect this is not ultimately a valid mode of play, but the point is just as contrast).
PS. Apologies for the horrid sound and video quality on my end; it was very unexpected, and I'm not really sure why.
the introduction of the
My thinking on this is pretty extreme. I don't restrict it to "have to be OK with" or limit it to teaching devices, but instead, I insist that "the possibility of a breakdown more than just weak/bad fiction" is an absolutely requirement, or rather, that the possibilities for either of those are absolute requirements.
My thinking on this is pretty
I guess at this point I'm having difficulty seeing the difference between this any other activity, just in the sense that we could open a Monopoly set and use all the pieces to play incorrectly to the point of unrecognizability, or just do oragami with the paper money. Only a video game really constrains someone into a set of pre-determined actions, and even then, not if you have the expertise to mod it. How would you clarify this issue for roleplaying?
I don’t distinguish role
I don't distinguish role-playing from other activities for this issue. I describe my view as "extreme" because I'm comparing it to the view that a successful introductory role-playing game would deliver automatic fun and conversion to the hobby and hobby culture. I think that view is deluded and its goal unreachable.
But I also think you're mischaracterizing what I said. I'm not talking about simply diverting the objects into some other activity entirely, like origami with Monopoly money. I'm talking about doing the activity, just not particularly well or fully accurately (rules). We've talked about this many times and haven't disagreed. Specifically, this design succeeds by providing a positive experience with a learning curve, and that the curve itself can be perceived by the "student" as a good thing.