Archive for December, 2004
I had lunch with Narrative Guy (whom some of you may remember from a previous Lunchtime Poll) a few days ago, and he posed the question “Why are people who are role-playing for the creativity of it not writing novels instead?” Good question, I thought.
There are two major reasons, I think.
First, gaming is an inherently social activity, while writing a novel is usually a solitary one. Yes, a writer can be in a crit group or collaborate with another writer, but most of the time it’s just one person sitting at a keyboard typing.
Second, writing a novel is hard work. Really hard. My best friend for the past several years is a literary agent, and thanks to her I’ve learned a lot about writing (and publishing) and met plenty of writers. This has given me more insight into the whole process, and a heck of a lot of respect for those people who can sit down and write an entire book (and one that isn’t a piece of crap). It’s a demanding calling that requires a whole host of different skills to do right, and those writers who are actually good have dedicated countless hours to honing their craft. In my opinion, asking someone who likes RPGs for the creativity involved why they aren’t just writing novels is akin to asking someone who enjoys riding their bike down to the corner store why they don’t just join the Tour de France.
Recently there was some discussion over on the Amber mailing list about adding a Social stat to the Amber Diceless RPG, in order to better reflect the abilities of people like Florimel. As discussions on AML so often do, this one descended into a flame war, with some people deciding that having social abilities was somehow akin to mind control, or that it replaced roleplaying.
Over on his Livejournal, Matt proposed what I think is a way to make such a stat workable:
What would I do with a “social” stat? I’d use it as a superior version of “Allies”, for one; the higher the social stat rank, the more likely the character is to have an ally in the right place at the right time. Additionally, it affects reputation. If Flora uses her Socialise stat to attack Benedict, her player has to describe what she’s doing (start a rumour that he was the one who swiped Random’s favourite drums), and how (have it whispered in court, and in taverns). If Benedict has a high enough social stat, he can find out about the attack in time to do something about it (his spy network might be sensitive to this kind of thing; he might send soldiers to intimidate the people telling these rumours or seed dozens of conflicting rumours to defuse the whole thing). If Flora outranks Benedict, his defence fails. If she outranks him by a lot, he doesn’t even realise its going on until it has become “common knowledge”.
While it may need to be refined a bit, I think this basic idea is a great way to go about adding such a stat. It doesn’t trump roleplay, it’s not much use for directly controlling another PC, and it has the potential to let characters shine in a new area. If I ever actually run another game using the ADPRG rules, I’ll be giving serious consideration to adding it in.
I am now officially registered for ACUS 2005, which means I should probably be giving serious thought to submitting games too. Right now I’m planning on running Nine Losers in Akron, the Kill Puppies for Satan game I ran at TBR earlier this year, and I’ve been threatened with all female players this time. We’ll see how it works out. I may also be co-running a new game with Jenn, if we can get the idea we’re talking about to coalesce into an actual game.
Matt Snyder recently posted an interesting piece he calls How the sausage is made, in which he takes a look at his game design process.
This is the sexy life of a game designer, folks. Within that increasingly bent and beaten little notebook are my raving chicken scratches. This is how I design. I carry on a bizarre dialog with myself, writing myself questions which I answer in writing. Or, I’ll sketch numbers and ideas vertically along short passages. Snippets here, circular questions and answers there.
Eventually a game emerges from this mess. I have similar volumes for Dust Devils. Nine Worlds spanned several, and it was a messy affair. It’s a bit of personal archaeology to go back through those notebooks. On some pages I can remember just where I was when disjointed inspiration hit. For Dust Devils it was on a jetliner somewhere over Tennessee after a business trip.
Worth a read, especially if you’re a fan of Matt’s games. I’m definitely looking forward to the release of his new game, Dreamspire.