Not everything is a puzzle

May 19, 2009

Ask for actual play, get play advice?

Sigh. As I’m looking at doing serious schedule shifts and having a life again, I’m rereading through some games, thinking about what would be good to play.

Along the way, I’m thinking about the ways in which setting serves as a inspiration tool- it gets people already imagining stories in their heads, even before they play, it serves as a tool to get everyone on the same page, and to let people know what kind of characters fit with the game.

And the new part for me, is thinking about how this also fits into long term play- the heavy setting books generally encourage long term play by two things- one, you’ve already invested time in reading the setting, so you want to get maximum play value back from the time, and two, you probably just imagined a few dozen possible situations, characters, etc. in the process of reading through it.

Still, I’m curious about how light setting games deal with player investment and interaction with setting, and if they have some other method besides doing genre shortcuts – that is, you don’t have to write a setting for the Wild West because everyone’s already absorbed tons of cowboy movies, so you can just nod to it and people will do the rest.

This is probably why online discussion for design fails- there’s too much misreading of intent, too much social jockeying – I’m probably better off calling folks up and asking about -their- specific experiences and finding the 2-3 that have what I’m talking about and trying to hear their stories directly.

Just… agh.



  1. Iā€™m probably better off calling folks up and asking about -their- specific experiences and finding the 2-3 that have what Iā€™m talking about and trying to hear their stories directly.

    You are.

    • Maybe if -you- asked the question, they’d give you a straight answer, since I’m all inscrutable and cryptic šŸ˜›

      • Hahahah. Not on Story Games. Getting a straight answer w/o a cockfight there is … well, it’s not the point. You go there for the cockfighting.


  2. I tried to help, but the only real advice I can give about the way it works for my group is something like “The Characters are the Setting.”

    So yea, here is me, not useful.

    • Hey Brand, part of the reason I’m asking for AP is because there’s something I feeling is there that I don’t recognize, and odds are, no one else has recognized it yet either, or we would have already spoken about it in the Forge Diaspora. That’s why I’m looking for AP and not advice- I need to see the pattern for myself to pull it out.

      • Yea, I get it.

        Part of the problem I have, however, is that I’m not willing to go there unless I’m pretty sure I’m on track with what you’re looking for. Mostly because I hate AP — they’re mostly bogus outside of a narrow context, and writing up an AP that shows the evolution of setting in a game over a year and half that isn’t complete crap is a massive amount of work.

        So I say “Characters are Setting” in reference to the two year long superheroes game I played, because if that sounds useful to you then I can break it down more, show a few specific places where it happened.

        But writing out the emergent details of a game that involved more than 400 man hours of play? Yea… that is actually asking for some considerable effort. And considering my experience with writing AP is that folks see mostly what they want to see….

        So thus the reason I tried to clarify. Not to give advice so much as to try to figure out if its worth the time — both for me to write it and for you to read it. Because if we aren’t going the same way….

        (And this is the kind of thing you can figure out face to face or on the phone in a few minutes, but that’s hard as hell online.)

        • And yeah, whether it’s worth your effort is a valid place to be. I’m not actually interested in the specifics of the settings (“There’s this evil empire…”) either before play or as a result of play- I’m interested in HOW it helped play or HOW your group, specifically, rolled with it and became invested and further invested.

          And I totally get “Characters are setting”, because yeah, the results of play produce more setting (ideally, anyway).

          • Sorry if I was cranky. I should not go to Story Games, it robs me of my humanity.

            I’ll think some on this, and see about getting you some AP stuff in the near future. You are, after all, one of the few folks who generally listens to things.

          • Hey, no sweat. I mean, I’m asking for stuff for free. My irritation is more with people doing the gamer thing. (The gamer thing being talking about something completely different for the sake of talking)

  3. I did think it wasn’t entirely clear from your initial post what kind of response would be helpful, but that’s why I responded by asking questions first, instead of brain dumping stuff that was probably useless.

    But calling or emailing folks specifically would be a lot better. Or maybe posting on Cultures of Play instead of SG.

    • I kinda laid out a specific 1, 2, 3 of what I was looking for. If folks wanted to nitpick over which games are setting light/heavy, that’s fine, it’s when people give “How to play advice” minus the context of what game or their group that I kinda headdesk.

  4. Story Games makes me sad sometimes.

    Probably because it’s on the internet. It made me sad this morning.

    For what it’s worth, I like what you’re after in that thread. It got me thinking about it too.

    • I don’t buy “internet” as a valid excuse anymore. The internet might be the perfect medium to dickwave at the world, but it doesn’t make the stupid -for- you.

      Anyway, I think there’s a big difference in play between games where the group makes the setting upfront (Sorcerer, PTA), makes it through play (Universalis, Burning Empires), modifies it/fills in through play via narrative control (Inspectres, Houses of the Blooded), and games where you only modify it through fictional positioning (Heroquest, most trad games, etc.)

      I’m kind of mostly interested in the last kind, but I recognize the other types of play might be helpful in better understanding it as well.

      • I’m not saying it’s an excuse. I think it’s the other way around. The internet often sucks because there are people on it.

        • Oh, I just saw what made you sad. Typical. What I love is that it always comes back to the same questions and the same answers are still available, and it really comes down the same attitude, “Why should we care about you?”

          And I just remember not everybody gets to be “people” in everyone’s eyes and stop wasting time.

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