IWaMD – an outsider's impressions

edited September 2006 in Story Games
I've got a friend, Simon, at work, whom I've known for a few years. We have a mutual friend there who got us the jobs.

I want you to imagine a regular working-class Aussie bloke: crude, blunt, funny, smart, capable; 42; likes women, sport, computer golf. He's been curious about my roleplaying, as he's curious about anything and everything to do with other people. He's heard of D&D, but knows nothing beyond that.

So, having recently received It Was a Mutual Decision in the post, I took it along to show him. He looked it over, with intense interest, and asked if he could borrow it to "get a handle on what it's all about". That was Monday, and he wasn't rostered again till Friday.

Come Friday, he's read it and gives me his thoughts.

1. He's highly intrigued. He sees the potential for entertainment. He also sees the potential for entertaining trouble with the wrong people at the table, eg "That's an arsehole of a thing to do!" "What?"

2. He says that the whole thing is completely foreign to him. He'd never imagined that people could be doing something like this. "And I thought to meself, I should get a hobby."

3. He's a bit overwhelmed by the system. "I got a bit lost with three dice and four rats or whatever."

4. He wants to play. He is, in fact, keen.

Colour me gobsmacked. I offer this as a tidbit of marketing research. I spent last night looking very closely at the games I have and the games I might be able to offer to people like Simon.


  • Rock on, man. It's really curious what kinds of people one can find in unlikely places.

    Throw them gaming seeds, water that gaming mulch.

  • Okay, neat thing with your friend and all, but all the aussieness of that post was awesome. ;)
  • Posted By: AndyThrow them gaming seeds, water that gaming mulch.
    Heh heh heh... pick those gaming buds, dry them carefully, and smoke them in a pipe...
  • I just remembered something else Simon said: he asked me if I'd got a "team" together for the game. It struck me at the time that it was an interesting choice of words.
  • "Team" is an excellent choice of words.

    A live fiction team. Huh.

  • Huh is right. That's cool.
  • We're already putting together Jersey's for the various geographic posse's.

    Yeah, Fiction Team.

    Ithaca Fiction Team.

  • For what it's worth, these are my further thoughts:

    Ron (& his minions) did a great job on this book as physical product. The moment I got it I could see it at chain bookshops, somewhere near the front counter. Impulse buys. However –

    These are rules that would cause the Pundits to shout "Not an RPG!" They are simple and structured – any gamer I know should be able to play the game within half an hour. Yet it's still a bit much for an intelligent newbie. Comments?

    I've been taking stock of games, with an eye to potential for 'normal' people who might like to play something. It's astounding just how recently a few games have broken out of the geek-fetish ghetto, and how small that movement is in the context of the RPG hobby. It's astounding how few game texts are accessible to the non-gamer. It's astounding how inbred we are.
  • edited September 2006
    Hi Jeff,

    I agree with all your comments. This is the kind of stuff that emerged for me during the Infamous Five threads at the Forge.

    Regarding the complexity of "It Was a Mutual Decision," that's a work in progress, regarding the games I'm working on now. There are several variables within "complexity;" it's not one thing you can just dial up or dial down. For instance, many mainstream games (by which I mean real mainstream, nothing to do with RPGs - cards, boards, sports with real cultural and commercial presence) are extremely complex and typically bewilder newcomers. Apparently that's OK ... which means that "understand it in ten minutes' read" may not be the crucial variable.

    The question in my mind is how to introduce the new medium (a general issue) as well as the new specific game (local). I think I did a pretty good job with this game, and the hope is that the excitement of the new medium will fuel the necessary effort to pick up enough of the rules to play.

    It's interesting to think of Mutual Decision's rules as "complex" when one has been using RPG standards for that term for about thirty years ... from that viewpoint, a reasonably friendly or learn-able RPG in RPG/gamer terms (Call of Cthulhu, Blue Rose) look not only complex, but insane.

    Jeff, if you haven't looked over the Infamous Five for a while, I recommend it. There's stuff in there about "mainstream" and "accessibility" which explodes our common use of them, within our hobby, to smithereens.

    Best, Ron
  • Ron, I read you crystal clear. What you say makes sense to me. Thing is that I recall reading those threads and nodding along and thinking you were on the money. But the talk with Simon jolted me into a mental state where I was looking around at the spaces I visit online and thinking that they were populated by aliens. It's like one last piece fell into place or something.
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