The Long Game

edited June 2010 in Game Design Help
A complaint that I have heard about a majority of Story Games is that, unlike traditional roleplaying games, they are not designed to be enjoyed over a long period of repeat play, i.e. a campaign.

I know that PTA is best played as a campaign situation, but are there other story games that can stand up to repeat play over a long period of time? If so, what gives them such a high replay factor? What about it keeps bringing you back to the table with a smile on your face as you look forward to playing it again?

In the case of PTA, I would say its appeal is to watch the personal plots of the characters play out as the series progresses, and how those plots change the characters.

Comments

  • Burning Wheel in particular is made for the long haul, a campaign that lasts for years, old school style.

    The Shadow of Yesterday and Dogs in the Vineyard are geared for solid long-term play without a problem.
  • I've been in two games of Apocalypse World, both lasted over six months. What keeps me coming back in this current game (and this is after one character I played died, and I made a new one) is desperate curiosity: what's the deal with EOS? How did Rose become a man? I wonder what's going on with the pregnant women? The way that AW works, with every NPC potentially being a threat, you've got numerous mysterious threads going on at once and it's impossible to resolve them all at the same time.

    Blowback's specifically designed for an arc of 3-5 "jobs": depending on your group's playstyle, a job can last between 1-3 sessions. The thing that really makes Blowback sing in long-term games is the slow unraveling of the mystery behind why the spies were burned, and the shifting, fraying relationships. (And the shifting, strengthening relationships, too.)
  • I have never understood this complaint, at all, period. There is nothing to say about it except that it is just flat wrong:

    Universalis (the detail generation system really comes into its own with a long-form game)
    In A Wicked Age (the game is not even a game without multiple plot arcs/chapters)
    With Great Power (long-term continuity)
    Burning * (nuff said)
    Sorcerer (I think?)
    Mortal Coil (campaign building is addressed clearly)
    Capes (long-form token economy is very distinct)
    Cold City/Hot War (yeppers)
    Dogs in the Vineyard (town generation rules connect)
    Don't Rest Your Head (yep)
    Don't Lose Your Mind (yep)
    Spirit Of The Century (super yep)
    Full Light, Full Steam (mega yep)
    The Shadow of Yesterday (see above)
    Houses of the Blooded (many rules do not even activate in less than 5 sessions)
    Shotgun Diaries (diary mechanic doesn't activate in short form)
    Passages (normal ole d20 mechanics)

    Anyone that says that "story games are only for one-shots or a few sessions" is completely wrong in every way forever, EVEN if they use the normal boring ole definition of story games that is wrong and silly. So pretty much anyone who says it, you can ignore them for the rest of their lives.
  • Complete agreement with you for once, Jason. The most that can be said is that techniques for short-form gaming have been successfully developed and formalized within the culture to an extend not seen in traditional design. This does not translate in any way into an inability to create and play longer games. It's a matter of design, simply.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyI have never understood this complaint, at all, period. There is nothing to say about it except that it is just flat wrong:
    Universalis (the detail generation system really comes into its own with a long-form game)
    In A Wicked Age (the game is not even a game without multiple plot arcs/chapters)
    With Great Power (long-term continuity)
    Burning * (nuff said)
    Dogs in the Vineyard (town generation rules connect)
    Spirit Of The Century (super yep)

    Anyone that says that "story games are only for one-shots or a few sessions" is completely wrong in every way forever, EVEN if they use the normal boring ole definition of story games that is wrong and silly. So pretty much anyone who says it, you can ignore them for the rest of their lives.
    I'm going to play devil's advocate with this. As you noticed, I've whittled the list down to those games I am familiar with. With many of them, you do have a point. Universalis does indeed have a great potential for long-term play. The kick I get out of it is being able to create things on the fly. In the Wicked Age game I have played in, the long-term draw was to see if I could get my favorite character shoehorned into a story. Dogs and Great Power have the draw of seeing the changes occur, as with PTA. Burning.. I am not sure of, because the Wheel reads very much like a traditional RPG. Spirit is treated as a Pick-up game, without long-term in mind.

    However, when most people criticize Story Games for having a low replay value, they tend to look at The Mountain Witch, The Fisherman's Wife, Dirty Secrets, or Zombie Cinema. These are all excellent games, but their focus is so incredibly tight that it kills any long-term replay.
  • edited June 2010
    Posted By: JDCorleyI have never understood this complaint, at all, period. There is nothing to say about it except that it is just flat wrong:
    I think people are introduced to indie games, and since some of them are geared toward one-shot or few-session play, and that's a new thing, people make this cognitive leap where INDIE=SHORT GAME. And then they don't do research and that sticks in their brain.

    And Jason, yes Sorcerer.
  • I don't quite understand the argument these hypothetical people proffer, Keith. Are you saying that by limiting your consideration to only one-shot games you can come to the conclusion that all games are non-playable in the long term? Sort of like if you decide to only look at fishes, you can conclude that animals can't survive outside water?

    I'm also seeing an interesting side-issue here in your last sentence in #6: it starts with "low replay value" and ends with "kills any long-term play". Then we have "campaign-play", which is again another concept. These three things are not equivalent, and they have complex relationships in different games! For example, there are games that do not have long-term play, but have a high replay value; many boardgames and quite many roleplaying games have this - one of my favourites of all time, The Mountain Witch, is rather replayable despite not having long-term play. Even more incidiously, there are games that have campaigns but no replay value, those that have long-term play without campaigns, lack of replayability despite having long-term play but no campaigns... these concepts can be combined in almost any way and still yield some game that fits the criteria.

    Also, replay value is in the eye of the beholder. I've never seen this complaint applied to a game that actually doesn't have replay value, interestingly enough; rather, it's just a veiled claim that if a game does not have variety in the ways the speaker is used to, then there's no point in playing it more than once. I usually hear this applied to the Mountain Witch, which is ironic for me when I remember the fact that I've played the game through what, a over a dozen times at least. So the claim of "no replay value" simply doesn't hold true in the simplistic manner the guy who's only ever played plot-based games thinks it does. I haven't heard many people say that Zombie Cinema doesn't have replay value, but the same goes for that game: I have not met one person owning the game who hasn't played several sessions, usually in quick succession when they get the game. (Some have said that they probably don't want to play it again for months afterwards, though.)

    As if that isn't enough, even something as innocuous as "campaign" can be a rather arbitrary concept. For example, a game like In a Wicked Age does not retain any sort of plot or character unity, but it does have what most recognize as campaign structure. Similarly it is relatively trivial to play a Walking Dead campaign with Zombie Cinema simply by starting each session with new character draws, bringing back old characters as desired and continuing play in the same setting continuity where the last game ended. Or take Shock:, which sort of has a campaign play mode, but of all the ten to fifteen plays of the game I've witnessed or discussed first-hand only one actually became a multi-session campaign - just two or three sessions, though, I seem to remember. Campaign is a matter of desire as well as system.

    I know that I'm just ripping apart your terminology, but now that I think of it, "Long-term play" isn't a very solid concept, either. The idea that the same group of people gets together regularly to play a roleplaying game works just as well even if you never play a campaign. It is entirely feasible for the group to start every session by choosing what to play and perhaps end the session with a decision of whether to continue playing the game next week, or whether to swap to a different game. Boardgamers do this sort of thing routinely, and Forge-style roleplayers tend to as well: most people I've met have no trouble at all with keeping in touch and arranging sessions with their friends long-term even if the individual games they play only last 1-3 sessions for the most part.
  • Eero,

    I really don't want to make this discussion about the argument that Story Games are for the short term only. I've put this in the Game Design Help category because it is about the psychology of the games involved. True, "campaign play" and "replay value" can be treated as mutually exclusive. Its easy to mix the two of them up. There are a number of games that I would love to play over and over, but they do not allow me to slip into a continuation of the same story. How many times can you go up the Mountain to kill the Witch? Can you do it week after week with the same group of friends?

    Traditional RPGs reward the players participating in long-term play by allowing them to collect cool stuff and become more Awesome as play progresses. There are some very interesting psychological hooks in the design that do keep players coming back. Recently, I found this video at Youtube that is about games and the psychological hooks used to keep players playing. I really want to incorporate some of these ideas into my own designs.
  • edited June 2010
    Posted By: HeraldicTraditional RPGs reward the players participating in long-term play by allowing them to collect cool stuff and become more Awesome as play progresses. There are some very interesting psychological hooks in the design that do keep players coming back. Recently, I found this video atYoutubethat is about games and the psychological hooks used to keep players playing. I really want to incorporate some of these ideas into my own designs.
    Hi Keith!

    If this is what you were talking about, I think that Eero was spot-on in talking about terminology: in fact, your use of different terms like "long term" or "replay value" is what muddled the waters in this thread.

    If this is what you were talking about, the issue is not long-term play, re-playability, or any of the other things people believed this thread was about. This thread should start over, from the beginning, to talk about what you REALLY wanted to talk about. The "open-ended campaign play mode with powering-up characters", or, in short, "D&D play".

    It's a very specific and enclosed way of playing, that absolutely doesn't fill the entire range of "long-term" play. And it's true that is less present in Indie Games that in the rest of the marketplace.

    Why? I think that the principal reasons are economic and creative. Creatively, it's a very limiting and derivative design. You can't really do a Narrativist game that way (stories have endings), and if you go for a gamist design, it's difficult already to balance a game with characters that have a limited range of power, think about doing that from 1st to 20th level... it's so difficult that, in reality, nobody ever did it: it's assumed that in these games the GM is the one who must "balance" everything (even retroactively, using rule zero), not the game. At the end you do a lot of work and people will say to you "all you did was a D&D clone" (or Rolemaster clone, or Vampire Clone, etc.). And it doesn't really make a lot of sense, talking money, trying to sell a D&D clone without enough starting capital (even if you had written Pathfinder, anyone would buy it if you would sell from your garage with no money for ads?)

    By the other way, the D&D Clone is the kind of design (the only one, really) where "traditional roleplaying design" excels. There are a lot of them, for every setting and for every taste. The market is not only filled, it's already overflowing, and it's shrinking because it's the kind of design that most suffer the hits from World of Warcraft and other online games.

    Some aspects from this kind of design are taken by some indie games, like for example Burning Wheel or The Shadow of Yesterday, but with enough differences to put them outside that design paradigm (for example, the game objective in both is NOT to get more powers and items. In tSoY for example getting too much "power" will make you lose your character). The question is: are these game retaining enough of what you like about the "D&D play" to be what you are searching for, or it's not enough?
  • Posted By: Heraldicdesigned to be enjoyed over a long period of repeat play, i.e. a campaign
    I did forgot another game that is made to be played in this long-term mode, with characters that star "small" and go to change the face of empires, but in a very different way from traditional role-playing: did you ever play "Trollbabe"?
  • edited June 2010
    Posted By: Moreno R.The "open-ended campaign play mode with powering-up characters", or, in short, "D&D play".

    It's a very specific and enclosed way of playing, that absolutely doesn't fill the entire range of "long-term" play. And it's true that is less present in Indie Games that in the rest of the marketplace.
    I still disagree:

    Sorcerer
    Mortal Coil
    Burning *
    Cold City/Hot War (I think)
    Dogs in the Vineyard (long-term consequences carried with character = powerups)
    Full Light, Full Steam
    The Shadow of Yesterday (perhaps not completely open-ended due to removing a character when they become too powerful)
    Don't Rest Your Head/Don't Lose Your Mind (maybe, I would have to re-review this to see if it has a TSoY character removal thing)
    Houses of the Blooded
    Shotgun Diaries (if you count supplies as powerups)
    Passages
    In A Wicked Age (times one million)

    And on the "other side" (ugh, gawd, why does this distinction persist after being shot in the face one thousand times), you have:

    Paranoia (character has limited lifespan)
    Call of Cthulhu (longer, but ditto)
    Pendragon (removal of character from play is part of play)
  • edited June 2010
    Jason, none of the games you list (not the indie ones, not the others) are "open-ended campaign play mode with powering-up characters": in short, none share the kind of "D&D play" where:
    Posted By: HeraldicTraditional RPGs reward the players participating in long-term play by allowing them to collect cool stuff and become more Awesome as play progresses. There are some very interesting psychological hooks in the design that do keep players coming back. Recently, I found this video atYoutubethat is about games and the psychological hooks used to keep players playing
    None of the game you list is based on coming back to have new powers, new items, new "toys".

    For example (I don't have the time to talk of all the games of your list), in Sorcerer you play to resolve your kicker, and when you resolve that the story is finished. You don't play to get new "toys" (demons): if you want a cool demon that has some power you want, you can simply bind him as the first action you do, the first minute of the first session. You don't have to play a long list of session to be able to have him.

    The same for every game in your list.

    I get the impression that you didn't really read my post (or Keith's post before) and you didn't notice that we are not talking anymore about every "long term game" or something like that...
  • Posted By: Moreno R.For example (I don't have the to talk of all the games of your list), in Sorcerer you play to resolve your kicker, and when you resolve that the story is finished. You don't play to get new "toys" (demons): if you want a cool demon that has some power you want, you can simply bind him as the first action you do, the first minute of the first session. You don't have to play a long list of session to be able to have him.
    Excellent point, as I said earlier, I question Sorcerer's inclusion on even the original list just for this reason. So I'm cool with scratching it off.

    I'm still right about the rest, though. I mean, advancement in Burning Empires is a huge part of the game. Managing it is more of a game than it is in D&D.
  • I think that the TSoY advancement system is pretty similar to D&D's. People cite the transcendence mechanic as this huge difference, but I don't really see how it differs fundamentally from the end-game of Mentzer D&D, to pick an example. All editions of D&D have had maximum levels in practice if not in theory, and most groups will call the campaign quits or retire the character when he's grown larger than the setting, becoming a ridiculous and unchallenged godly figure. Most will retire their characters sooner than that, in fact. And of course 3rd and 4th edition characters will end play when they hit the scheduled campaign-end at 20 or 30 levels, respectively. Of course there are vast differences in attitude of play and all sorts of things between D&D and TSoY, but D&D has always been played in many different ways; I myself played D&D in a very TSoY-like manner through the early years of this decade.
  • Posted By: Moreno R.

    If this is what you were talking about, the issue is not long-term play, re-playability, or any of the other things people believed this thread was about. This thread should start over, from the beginning, to talk about what you REALLY wanted to talk about. The "open-ended campaign play mode with powering-up characters", or, in short, "D&D play".
    I believe I may have actually muddied the waters with my second post. My first post is the target I wanted to hit, even though I was using "long-term" and "replay value" interchangeably.

    As I stated. I want to know what brings you back to the table to play the same Story Game instead of a traditional RPG. How is the game rewarding you by playing it long-term? What joy buttons is it tickling in your brain?
  • Well, the reason I return to "short form" games over and over is that very reason: because they have actual, planned endings that approach reasonably swiftly. Endings are badass. Endings are completely great in every way forever.

    For example, Dirty Secrets has an ending in which you wrap up the case - Fiasco has a denoument where you see what just desserts or unfair crappiness is meted out to everyone. PTA is not a go-on-forever game, it is made for discrete seasons (compare this to IAWA, which has mechanics that don't even activate if all you do is one story), the arc of each character's importance can only really be appreciated when we've closed out and addressed all their Issues. I return to these games because endings are great, 1000 percent great.
  • Posted By: Moreno R.Posted By: Heraldicdesigned to be enjoyed over a long period of repeat play, i.e. a campaign
    I did forgot another game that is made to be played in this long-term mode, with characters that star "small" and go to change the face of empires, but in a very different way from traditional role-playing: did you ever play "Trollbabe"?

    Heard about it. Haven't played it.
  • Posted By: JDCorley... these games because endings are great, 1000 percent great.
    This is exactly the type of thing I wanted to know.

    You see, Traditional RPGs have psychological hooks in them to keep you playing. I want to know what hooks Story Games have.

    In the case of endings.. I love them, too. This may seem to run counter to my stated desire to design a game that rewards the players for playing long-term, but it does not. In the movies, does the end of the movie end the characters? Not when you have sequels. You can always tell new stories about them. On TV, the characters may be put through their paces each episode, but there can also be a story arc threaded through them all to tie them together. And don't get me started on the Dresden Files. Plotlines that have been dangling for years were finally tied up in "Changes."
  • @Jason: I still have not played Burning Wheel (playing with an almost full female group means that you get to play more easily games like "the upgrade" or "doubt" than Burning Wheel...), but I suspect, from what I know of the system, that the answer would be the same as for Te Shadow of Yesterday: the new stuff is cool, but you don't play for it. (The advancement you get is not tied to new stuff anyway, and it isn't massive as in D&D: in tSoY you already start as a badass, not as a 2-HP weakling....). You play to get your character to the end of his story.

    As you said yourself in your answer to Keith, "endings are great".

    @Heraldic: that answer is good for me, too. But not only for "short" games. The anticipation for "new toys" is a pale shadow of the satisfaction that I get from a good ending of the story of my character. Really, I think that the importance of "new toys" for the character is overemphasized in this hobby because for most of its history was the only way to get the guys to show up again the next week. But it's really weak sauce, when you discover other more interesting ways.

    And this is another answer to your question, why most indie games (even long-term ones) use other way to get the guys back: because they are better.
  • Posted By: Moreno R.the new stuff is cool, but you don't play for it. (The advancement you get is not tied to new stuff anyway, and it isn't massive as in D&D: in tSoY you already start as a badass, not as a 2-HP weakling....). You play to get your character to the end of his story.
    Well, but as Eero pointed out, that's true of D&D too. It doesn't mean that you aren't playing for other reasons too. "New stuff" can be things other than a longer equipment list, it can be more relationships, more responsibilities, more character capabilities, etc. etc.
  • I'd just like to point out that, in D&D, the challenges scale right along with the PCs, so it's a net awesomeness gain of zero. You do, however, get more tactical options, so it's more like you start with a simpler game, and move to a more complex game.

    I think that model's actually pretty neat, and a good way to perhaps increase the complexity of a game without making the learning curve longer. I don't know of an indie RPG that does that.

    Shock:Human Contact, by the way, requires long-term play (unlike straight Shock: which merely allows it). You can't play it in less than three chapters, and it's probably going to usually be something like ten before you do something like found a new starship foundation or go/return to Earth. Even then, you'll probably be taking into account events of the previous expedition. But that's not to say that the team won't be all hot to trot to play Annalise or Cold City and run off to do that.

  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanI'd just like to point out that, in D&D, the challenges scale right along with the PCs, so it's a net awesomeness gain of zero.
    I don't agree - fighting a flying dragon while you're flying around, teleporting and shooting laser beams out of your sword may be just as hard as fighting goblins with regular old kung fu kucks, but it's definitely more awesome.
  • But, given the amount of setting hack most DMs do, there's nothing that stops you from fighting a flying dragon on your magical blow job unicorn whatever at level 1.

    I have an example:

    We're playing Spycraft. My character is a 1st level hacker, whatever they're called. I've decided that my dude is a Hmong, sort of a tough street kid. He's a communication system genius. He's good looking, and he shows off his wiry, Bruce Lee body with a tight tank top. Our challenge right now is to talk to a guy and find out the bullshit clue. I fail to get into the club because I'm wearing a tank top, and the GM doesn't think tank tops are sexy on boys. (He's wrong, for the record.) Later, we fail to find out the information again because we literally don't have a clue. We are seriously non-awesome spies. The GM says that this is like James Bond's first mission. I say, "No, it's not. James Bond is assassinating spies in his first mission." The mission is never completed, we're mad at the GM, and the game never reconvenes.

    Another example:

    We're playing Spycraft again. I'm a good sight less enthusiastic than at the beginning of the last game, but this is a different GM. My guy has a chameleon suit (having used up 90% his allocated resources to get it) and a silenced pistol (having used the rest of his resource to get the silencer, which is apparently a rare, hard-to-find piece of equipment in the secret, privatized, multibillion dollar spy organization we worked for). One of our team is a sniper. He's shooting bad guys in the airport from a mile away over the shoulders of the negotiator, who's gotten their guard down. I'm using that as a distraction to get the terr'ists one by one, sneaking up silently and shooting one every time there's a commotion from the sniping, then hiding the body before the next guard turns back to look.

    In both cases, we're level 1. In both cases, we're playing by the rules. In the first case, the GM wanted to give us room to become awesome later (Thanks, dude, I can be awesome later from home). In the second case, the GM wanted us to be awesome now, and if we were going to be awesome later, it's because we'd find new ways to be awesome.

    Tying awesomeness to level is making the players earn their fun by hazing them with deliberately unimaginative imagery.

  • edited June 2010
    Posted By: HeraldicA complaint that I have heard about a majority of Story Games is that, unlike traditional roleplaying games, they are not designed to be enjoyed over a long period of repeat play, i.e. a campaign.
    This complaint seems to be refuted here. I propose you point the complaintees in the direction of any of the games listed here, or towards the one of these long term games you believe will fulfill their wishes best.

    Other than that; tell them the complaint is totally off target. Modern role-playing designers have created a multitude of games in a rainbow of genres, covering almost any length players may wish for. :-)
  • Or, alternately, if you yourself are having a hard time trying to run the game as a long-term game, or not finding interest in a long-term game from others, feel free to start a new thread and we'll chime in with help: ("Hey, I want to run With Great Power as an 8+ session campaign, up until now I've only done one-shots. Any advice?" etc)

    -Andy
  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanTying awesomeness to level is making the players earn their fun by hazing them with deliberately unimaginative imagery.
    Point well taken. But doesn't this mean that awesomeness is orthogonal to character power?

    Levelling up in D&D unlocks new things to do, areas to go to, and things to mess with. That is something people want!
  • You know what I find really odd about this conversation?

    Pretty much every "traditional" (i.e. similar to D&D) long-term game I ever played in (with one or two exceptions) did not do this. The GM and/or the group very explicitly slowed down or removed as much of the "character growth" or "level up" elements of these games. They wanted to explore certain characters, certain situations, certain challenges, and the rapid accrual of powers and "leveling up" tended to ruin that. For instance, I played in a GURPS game where the characters were diplomats and policemen keeping peace on a difficult planet. The regular rate of advancement would have turned the characters into superheroes or supercompetent "adventures" much much faster than was a) believable, and b) would have made the situation we were playing out impossible to continue.

    Same in D&D: our characters were, say, knights in a small barony's court. Or something like that. We were attached to the local Baron, the local innkeeper, whatever--leveling up to the point where these people were so weak and pathetic as to be below the "heroes" did not appeal to anyone--rather, it would have ruined the game.

    Sometimes, this took the form of the GM simply "forgetting" to give out the XP awards.

    In the games where XPs and advancement points and such WERE given out (even if it was at a very slow rate), then the players usually "forgot" to spend them, except in cases where the character as written didn't match the character concept at creation ("I really envisioned Mack as handsome, but I didn't have the points at creation, so now I'm buying the 'Attractive' advantage"--but we all knew Mack was good-looking all along).
  • To add: I guess many of these groups found that regular "advancement" rules tended to move so fast that the characters pretty quickly outgrew the story, breaking the mold and making further play painfully awkward and hard to "buy" in terms of believability.
  • Conspiracy of Shadows is another game I'd add to the "made for long-term play" list.

    In Burning Wheel, the trait vote and the epiphany are the long-term game mechanisms (though Practice and Lifestyle Maintenance would also count, I suppose). Trait votes occur every 6 to 12 sessions or so and allow the other players to provide you with feedback on how you've been playing your character by giving them the ability to add, change or remove one or more of your character's traits. It's a recognition of how your character has changed over time.

    The epiphany is an even longer-term mechanism. It should take between 30 and 50 sessions of play to shade-shift an ability by regular artha investment. It's a huge reward and provides a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

    Re: Sorcerer: When you resolve your Kicker, you get to roll to advance your abilities in whatever order you choose, but must stop once you roll successfully. Then you write a new Kicker for your character and off you go again.
  • Levelling up in D&D unlocks new things to do, areas to go to, and things to mess with. That is something people want!

    Yes! It gives you new options. I think that's really neat. Ideally, a design like this would give the players all the options they could absorb at the rate they could absorb them, but it would never limit their ability to do cool stuff in the fiction.

    Paul, I had an issue with a game of GURPS around 2004, where, once the players got enough CPs to give their characters the abilities they would have bought up front for themselves, they stopped spending their CPs. I was in the process of figuring out how to turn them directly into authorial control when I saw a crack in the wall of the whole project and started designing Under the Bed.

  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanPaul, I had an issue with a game of GURPS around 2004, where, once the players got enough CPs to give their characters the abilities they would have bought up front for themselves, they stopped spending their CPs.
    Yeah, that's it, exactly. Seen that many many times, in lots of games and game groups.
  • (Insert obligatory mention of Riddle of Steel's suitability for long campaigns here.)
  • Interesting thoughts, everyone.

    Some illustrative examples of the "carrot and the stick" used to keep the players going. The promise of "you'll be Awesome next Level" is a big enticement.

    Now, let's shift our attention to stories. What can be used in stories themselves to keep players going on to that next episode? In stories, characters don't necessarily Advance. They tend to Transform shortly before the end of the story:
    • Aragorn learns that he can be an effective king, after suffering prior doubts. (Movie version. In the book, he has no doubts he will be king and acts more like a catalyst.)
    • Samwise gains the bravery to ask Rose out.
    • Frodo is so wounded by the experience, he must go to the West for a chance to heal.
    • Merry and Pippin become warriors. (Probably the only form of Advancement in the story.)
    • Gandalf the Gray becomes Gandalf the White.(Not certain this was Advancement, since Gandalf was already Awesome to begin with, and the old man was in the habit of keeping his level of power a secret.)
    PTA has this tyep of thing down precisely. I would think the hook for me is to see what happens to these transormed characters in another episode.
  • Again, with the Human Contact: you "advance" in the course of a particular chapter, but your resources reset at the beginning of the next (the converse of the D&D model, where the world increases with you, to the same net effect, without the numbers issues that such games often wind up with). What happens, though, is that you wind up with an increasingly intense sociopolitical situation that you care about.

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