Conflicts and Outcomes as Genre

January 4, 2021

For years I’ve been saying that part of what you’re trying to do when you start up a game is for the group to understand the what kinds of conflicts and outcomes make sense for this game you’re trying to run, and I only just realized the easiest analogy is to consider genre in movies or books.

Think about it this way: the kinds of problems that show up for protagonists are very different in a horror movie, a political thriller, a rom-com, and an action movie. In the same sense, the ways they go about dealing with the problems they face, are also very different. And finally, what kind of outcomes you can expect, are different as well.

Because everyone in the group is contributing to the events in play, even if they’re limited to only controlling one character, having everyone make sure their ideas, actions, and narration fit within that general category is critical to avoiding weird situations in play.

Now, sometimes genre is a perfect stand in – for example, if you have a book, comics, tv show, or movie series that the game is based on, you can use that to reference for what kinds of things fit or don’t fit. However, most of the time “genre” by itself doesn’t work because it tends to be too broad and you can have vast differences within it, or, for example, a media series that has gone on a very long time and changed tone repeatedly.

A well designed game will generally stack these things into the mechanics on some level, or at least give good procedures so the group can converge on the ideas appropriate for their game.

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