Game theory (or close enough)

January 27, 2008: 3:20 pm: Game theory (or close enough), GMing

Over on Knife Fight, Vincent “Lumpley” Baker offered some advice for how to change the way a group plays to a method that resembles the set-up that’s used for towns in Dogs in the Vineyard. It’s pretty cool stuff, and I’m going to reproduce it here so that you can see for yourself without having to join Knife Fight.


March 7, 2007: 9:02 pm: Game systems, Game theory (or close enough)

Here are a couple of fairly recent items that may be of interest to Amber players/GMs (though the topics apply to other games too), in case you missed them.

Rob Donoghue talks about applying tags to Sorcery (and maybe other things too):

But suppose when the character picked up sorcery (or some other power – sorcery’s just an example) they chose a keyword like fire, shadow, travel, tarot, art, thunder, elemental, alchemy, atlantean, infernal or anything else. Maybe that keyword is picked from a (hopefully long) existing list, maybe it’s totally freeform, maybe it’s a player-built list, maybe there’s a whole set of sub-rules for keywords, like elemental dominance. Doesn’t really matter, though it definitely helps if the list of keywords is accessible.

So now they have a sorcerous style. They’re a fire mage, or an alchemist, or a demonologist or whatever. That’s color, and color is cool, and if we just left it at that it would be a nice reminder to players to choose a style. The real value comes, however, when we start introducing plots. Take something as mundane as a locked door. If it’s magically locked, it’s bypassed pretty quickly as we look up sorcerer’s in the yellow pages. If, however, we say that it’s trapped with Fire magic or bound with atlantean runes, then the number of people who can help is reduced. On some intuitive level that may seem like a dangerous thing, but practically it is far more motivating and it gives the guy whose keyword came up a much more clear-cut opportunity to be cool.

Tony Lower-Basch starts a Story Games thread about Amber and the tyranny of the blank page:

Then I took a break from it, and coming back I notice things. The very first thing I notice is that the game system says “You have the freedom to create any character, from anywhere, ever! Make the world from which he comes, and all of his supporting NPCs. The power is finally in your hands.”

God, I find that unhelpful. And, from the evidence of people I’ve played with, they find it unhelpful too. They immediately latch on to the few things that are rigidly defined in the setting, and build from there. Who is your character’s parent? Which of the elder Amberites do they know, and what are their relationships with them? Where do they stand relative to Amber, the Pattern, the Courts of Chaos, and so on?

Now … potentially … the freedom to create anything includes the freedom to create rigid anchor points that the other players can latch on to, as starting points for their own characters. But in practice, I find that people look to the GM to do that, no matter how much the GM asks them to do it themselves.

Both are worth a look.

February 26, 2007: 9:01 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

I’m a big fan of story games, and of the communities that to some degree center around both Story Games and The Forge, but there are times when the discussions start to sound far too much like arguments that take place among the various factions of socialism or communism. A few people seem to be more interested in calling others out for not adhering to some version of doctrinal purity than they are in working together to advance the cause.

February 12, 2007: 8:45 pm: Game theory (or close enough), GMing

Better late than never (my link, I mean, not her post), I give you Mo’s Relationship Web Builder:

So I thunk this tool up a while back, and am looking to develop it further. It combines the Blood, Violence, Sex, Money ties that Brand tells me are from Sorcerer Soul into a process not unlike Dogs Town creation. I tested it out on Dave Cleaver, and he came up with something kinda nifty. For now it can be used to create a web in any game that has no explicit tools to build such a thing. Maybe at some point I’ll actually build it in to one of my games.

You can get some really interesting relationship maps by following the steps she lays out, and be sure to read the comments for even more ideas (and maybe offer some of your own).

And you should probably read the rest of her posts while you’re there.

November 25, 2006: 9:33 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Over on Story Games, Andy starts a thread by quoting Mike Holmes:

I’m not saying we should stop making RPGs. Or even stop having design competitions and the like. But, “Hey, you there, with the cool actual play – make some rules around that!”… that’s where I think you’ve crossed a line from RPGs as an artifact meant to be played several times, and RPG as something created to be played once, by one group, ever.

I think that’s fine for people to create true “one shot” RPGs (that is played once, ever by one group). But I think that publishing them all could create a situation where to get the game you want to play, you’d have to pour through so many RPGs that finding the good ones might become nigh impossible.

There are a lot of interesting points bought up in the rest of the posts, ranging from some talk about the risks of glutting the indie RPG market to the idea that some people rush to publish games so that they can be seen as part of the in-crowd. Go and read it!

September 11, 2006: 8:54 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Catching up on interesting things from around the RPG blogs, Chris “Bankuei” Chinn suggested a one sentence character concept maker:

A (personality trait) (profession) is (personal goal).

For example:

A forlorn air pirate is seeking the City of Gold.
A vengeful princess is engineering the downfall of the Empire.
A nebbish superhero is trying to get a date.
A compassionate necromancer is experimenting to raise the dead, in the good way.
A remorseful god is hoping to undo the tragedy he has wrought.

It’s something that can work across a variety of systems (as Chris points out), it creates characters who are already “in motion,” and it’d be great for NPCs too.

September 3, 2006: 7:59 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Ben Lehman (creator of Polaris) talks about designing RPGs in terms of social context.

It’s also important to realize that these are, explicitly, design concerns, reaching through creative and technical agendas and operating at all levels of a text. This is not a simple case of going “okay, this game is going to be outreach to non-gamers” and then feeling good about yourself. To function, your social context level goals have to completely suffuse every game design decision you make. And even then it might not work (more about that later.)

It’s interesting stuff, whether you’re designing a game or not.

: 4:23 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

I finally got around to reading the “Big Gencon stakes discussion” thread over on Story Games, which is based on things Ron Edwards had to say at the con about the idea of “stakes.”

As is often the case with things Ron says, it’s the comments and questions from others that really help lead me toward understanding just what he’s talking about, and in this case there are especially illuminating contributions from John Harper, Nathan Paoletta and a few more. I had some definite “Oh, I get it now!” moments while I was reading.

If you’re at all interested in setting “stakes” in RPGs, either as a player or a game designer, it’s well worth the time it’ll take to get through.

ETA: There’re also some good points on the same topic in this Forge thread.

August 7, 2006: 8:59 pm: Game systems, Game theory (or close enough)

Thor Olavsrud has posted an excellent behind-the-scenes series of posts about the making of Burning Empires, the new sci-fi game from the creators of Burning Wheel that’ll be available at this year’s Gencon.

Last week I posted about Brennan’s description of his process for writing Mortal Coil, and promised that I would give Burning Empires a similar treatment. Well, here’s where I start to deliver. It was such a long, intense process (I’ve been gathering notes and consulting with Luke about it for the past two days) that I’ve decided I need to break it down into multiple posts.

The series starts here, and it’s pretty interesting.

June 5, 2006: 8:42 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Over on Story Games, Christian Griffen said:

Some games like TSOY have goals that, when fulfilled, allow for character development; they give XP. However, those are single things; imagine what you could do if you had story arc elements that people can earn and chain together in different ways to then trade for character development!

It’s a really excellent concept, with lots of potential for generating great play.

Next Page »