The way forward

Manu’s Finding Haven began as a contest entry and runner-up in the 2013 Iron Game Chef, and the accompanying tale is familiar to me. Briefly, these contests degenerated quickly into a takeover process in which game designs disintegrated. I have a fairly reliable procedure in my pocket for this situation. The underlying logic goes something like this.

A person began with X or rather “X,” a notion or hope regarding some topic and/or way to play it. In handing it over to others’ review and participation, “X” disappeared to be replaced by a kind of stew of claims and suggestions. That led to changes to please those persons but which were then encountered by others, which only led to more claims and suggestions. So now the person is looking at a sheaf of procedures which purport to be “baked by playtesting” but which are really more like a kitchen that was overrun by several waves of fratboys, all of whom snacked, none of whom paid attention to what the kitchen might have been initially set up to do, and each of whom left a particularly individualized and disturbing wad of detritus scattered after them..

My job at this point is simply to reconnect with the initial “X.” I’m not necessarily stating that it will be exactly what the person wants or needs now, but there was most likely some kind of inspiration at work there at least to describe and remember. Better to work from there instead of roaming around the kitchen mess pretending that it is a recipe in progress. Maybe “X” is beautifully set up to become a real X, or maybe it’s a good springboard for realizing that one would like to begin again with “Y.” And, worst-case scenario, if there wasn’t an authentic inspiration, e.g., if the whole thing was a moment of pastiche or vanity which has bobbed along on fumes ever since, then we might as well know that now, pop that bubble with a pin, and be done with it.

Sometimes a person is a bit surprised to discover that “X” is still there, having been told so many times what to change and having been blinded by all this alleged fun the fratboys had in the kitchen doing what they do there.

4 responses to “The way forward”

    • From session 2

      Great discussion – I'm looking forward to #3 … tomorrow, I hope. But the "mitigation" discussion, combined with Battle Play, reminded me of a mechanic from wargames I've always wanted to see used/find a way to use in RPGs. It's the "reinforcement roll", where starting on a particular turn, you get a roll to see if reinforcements arrive. If you fail, the next turn you roll with a better chance, and so on, until eventually you just get the reinforcements without a roll. All kinds of complications are possible (different commanders start rolling on different turns, likelihood over time increases more quickly/slowly based on casulties, exact reinforcements get better or worse on later turns, etc.) but as a base for "system to mitigate luckiness without eliminating consequence", I find it appealing.

      What the discussion here makes more obvious to me is the contraints that make it work/appeal in a board game (e.g, limited # of turns, specified victory conditions) aren't so easy to map onto an RPG. But … well, I'll be thinking about it.

    • Hi Gordon! My original design

      Hi Gordon! My original design did have something like that in it, but upon reflection I think I had it because I was too scared to let play go where it needed to go; I was too afraid that people would be upset if they rolled poorly. I'm not saying it's a bad idea for every game, but for what I want to do it doesn't fit. It's interesting to think about though. 

  1. Session 3!

    We focused entirely on how activity inside scenes, or to most of us, "play," affects and constrains the larger situation that contains the scene, or even the wider backdrop of play in general. Manu conceived of this as a key feature of the game, so it needed a close look.

    To do that, we played or kind-of played a little bit of two games, The Hour of Dog and Wolf and DeGenesis, both of which share this feature in very different ways.

    Here's the direct link to it inside the playlist.

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