Part of hobby mythology concerns role-playing’s origins as bringing tighter focus into table-top wargaming, such that within this or that battalion, or aboard this or that vehicle, the group can look closer and see Sergeant Bob or whoever running around, being a character, having opinions, and doing things.
If that’s so, then one would think role-playing as we know it would have a good vocabulary concerning many well-developed procedures for zooming “in” and “out” among scales of action during some kind of massive confrontation. Imagine a battle or complicated, violent situation with many different groups across locations, with incomplete information of different profiles scattered around in different places, and with some kind of understandable range of potential outcomes at that scale. Imagine within it, in one or more places, people with names and opinions and fates we are about, doing things in that context.
My problem? I know some role-playing games that have rules for such play, but I don’t have a sense of order concerning the range of such rules across the hobby, or a strong sense of which sets or types of rules work best relative to other procedures and priorities of play.
It’s immediately relevant to me because I’d hit upon the design questions regarding my game in development, Dreams of Fire. I knew why I hadn’t included battle rules in Circle of Hands, but they do fit into this sister design. I’d been combing through the rules I had and realized I didn’t have a good conceptual framework even to decide my angle of attack. However, that’s not why we hit upon this topic for the Lab; that arose from two current games of Sorcerer (& Sword), neither including me, which apparently feature many a gaudy gory battlefield.
Some of the issues we talked about include, but aren’t limited to:
- Resolving battles, especially whether “you’re in it” contributes to resolving the bigger conflict (indeed, whether you “matter” at that level at all)
- Sequential vs. nested resolution, e.g., whether you play “big” and see what happens, then play “small” for events that set up the next “big;”or you play the “big” as an environment for the “small” events and experiences within it
I learned a lot from this discussion, and I think I’m much better oriented to work on Dreams of Fire.
Many thanks to Aleksandra for bringing much research during the session!