This is prompted by both Sam’s “Late Night Post on New Players” and Ron’s “Back then, sonny, let me tell you”. Also everything at Adept Play since oh, November of last year, when I started seeing great stuff that made me think, but the rest of life seemed to keep me from engaging.
I am generally a happy participant in RPG play. There was a big bump – running into the (for me) brick wall that was RPGA-play made me extra-cautious post-1982ish. And starting to participate vigorously in the 90’s required dodging White Wolf auteur STs and their pet thespians*, who sometimes showed up in very NOT White Wolf games. But overall, I was lucky to find some good friends through roleplaying, move through a bunch of (often somewhat interrelated) groups, and enjoy it.
But I am also an intermittently ambitious and experimental roleplayer (that ambition being absent since shortly before lockdown, but perhaps re-awakening recently). Especially as a GM. Surely we could do this thing somewhat better? It must be possible to advance understanding, technique, the likelihood of those “that was really GOOD” games? Talislanta (2nd Edition briefly, but mostly the 1992 Jonathan Tweet 3rd Edition) was one of my big gateways back into playing, and (generalizing) the Talislanta mailing list** led to usenet Threefold and/or Gaming Outpost, which led to the Forge. And The Pool.
Which (filters off) I tried, but hated. As of right now, still hate. I concede it has educational merit, but … that doesn’t matter for my point here.
The point is that partially out of that hatred, partially out of an ambition to make a generic Story Now game for first time RPGers, my game design attempt SNAP was born. And that’s the long prologue to this Actual Play report.
For SNAP, I designed until I thought I had something usable, then ran some game sessions with my normal group(s). I also had two non-gamer couples I’d met who I ran the game with (each couple their own group). They were what I REALLY cared about here.
In SNAP there are 3-6 Traits (what characters DO, or more rigorously tags players invent to label the kinds of things their characters might do in play) and 1-3 Characteristics (who the character IS, or again more rigorously what the player says that character – consciously or unconsciously – considers of high import, in personal value). As play unfolds, Traits can get damaged/suppressed, increase in value, get dropped and maybe new ones added, etc. All that is consequential, but not deeply meaningful (if that distinction is unclear, let me know – maybe it’s NOT distinct, but it seemed so at the time). Characteristics, however, are placed (by player choice) “at risk” during play, and as they grow and shrink it’s meant to have impact and meaning for the character. Active Characteristics are valued (CV8, CV19, etc) between 2 and 19, and dropping to 1 or rising to 20 is a major life event, of which “death” and/or “fulfillment” are examples.
The player has pretty absolute control over risking (decreasing) CV in play, and over how increases are applied. My observation was (admitting to small samples of both people and length of play) that the new gamers looked at driving CV “all the way” up or down as a key point of play, while my gaming group(s) strategized to avoid doing that.
EPILOGUE: Back to SNAP… The two couples both went through acrimonious splits, contested divorce with huge money upset for one, and the angriest both-angry breakup I’ve ever seen for the other, with associated friendship circle disruptions and all four scattering across the eastern half of the US (I was, and am, in California). Actually, probably the most interpersonal upset I’ve ever seen, before or since. I lost drive to do anything with SNAP, and … I’m not sure I regret it? Still, I think I’d try running it WAY before I’d try running The Pool. Most recently, I watched the anthropomorphic frog sessions, and it didn’t change my opinion. I know there’s a BUNCH more Pool sessions here now, and I ought to give a few a listen/watch. “Ought to” vs. “will” … since I respect Ron and participants here, best I can say is “probably will”. That’s not a call to “convince” me about The Pool or anything, just trying to be honest in my dislike.
*Maybe everyone else was totally OK and having fun in those games. Not me, is all I’m saying.
**Fun fact – where I first electronically met John Harper