[1000-Year Game] The Rule of Three: A simple storytelling game

edited July 2011 in Game Design Help
I've made several attempts to write a simple storytelling game for beginning gamers, with a mind to entering it in Daniel Solis' Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge.

One of these prototypes was Hearth & Hunt, but it had some glaring problems. Already there, however, you can see the seeds for this game:
  • Ritual phrases to control conflicts between players.
  • 'The story within the story': The players play storytellers who tell stories about characters. This abstraction is important, I think, for allowing the storytellers to bicker, compete and contradict one another without the players needing to bicker, compete and contradict one another.
  • The use of oracles of some sort.
It was in that game, too, that I expressed my motivation to create the game: to create a game that could be played in prison. That seems simple enough, but I think there are a number of assumptions that flow out from that:
  • The rules have to be memorisable: If a document gets lost, confiscated or stolen, there's no easy way to replace it.
  • It has to be free or cheap.
  • It has to be short and simple. A prisoner cannot duck into the local brick & mortar to be taught how to play.
  • It cannot have a game master. The presence of an authority figure was one reason why D&D gets confiscated in prisons.
  • The rules have to be consensus-based. A language of mutual respect and self-expression (embodied in the ritual phrases) hopefully encourages this.
  • Components have to be replaceable.
  • It has to be customiseable and easily added to. That game might be the only one people have access to for months.
So these are my attempts. A short document (it needs to be 1000 words or less to qualify for Solis' challenge) and a longer one explaining and expanding upon it. There's also a sample oracle, The Life Domestic, although oracles are optional.

The Rule of Three PDF (5 MB)
Breaking the Rule of Three (4 MB)
The Life Domestic (>1 MB)

What you can do for me, if you'd like to

Read it and tell me what you think.

Specifically, tell me if you think it adds something that other games don't.

Specifically, play it with your friends and families and see what they make of it.

Specifically, test out the ritual phrases and see if they come naturally to you.

Comments

  • The rule of three seems to be left out in your links (two links to the cards).
  • Praxis would be a good place for this, Chris. I keep doing this nitpicky thing, but if we ever want Praxis to be a place that more than 5 people go to for game design stuff, people will have to post their game design stuff there instead of at story games.
  • Posted By: TomasHVMThe rule of three seems to be left out in your links (two links to the cards).
    Woops! Thanks for the catch. I fixed it.
    Posted By: Hans c-oPraxiswould be a good place for this, Chris. I keep doing this nitpicky thing, but if we ever want Praxis to be a place that more than 5 people go to for game design stuff, people will have to post their game design stuff there instead of at story games.
    Hi Hans,

    I'm happy for a mod to move it to Praxis, but my understanding from when Praxis was launched is that Story Games is always considered an appropriate place to post anything related to story games, with Praxis as an optional place you could post instead if you met specific criteria. If I'm mistaken, I'm very happy to move :)
  • edited July 2011
    I'm intrigued - I'd be tempted to bring it to story games night if I didn't already have a backlog of half-a-dozen games I wanted to try out. But typically anything we bring to story games night works, because story gaming vets make anything good ... what I really should do is try it out with my family, though it's tough to talk my wife into joining sometimes.

    The closest thing I've seen to it is *Pass Around Storytelling* - I don't know if you've seen that one, but it's a bunch of rules for improv storytelling combined with a bunch of story seeds. It tends to go silly, even though there's an explicit authority role, and I'd expect this to do the same.

    Do you hope that some non-roleplayers could pick up your pamphlet and play the game as you want it to be played? (How *do* you hope it to be played?) My experience blindtesting *That's Drama*, a game I hoped rookies could pick up and play, was that their play came out silly and expositional, lacking in descriptive detail and dialogue ... so it failed, in a word - two of my favorite things about this kind of gaming, imagining I'm *in* the story and actor-stance, missing. I'd expect that to happen here, as well, but if you're okay with the play being expositional, cool. And I could easily be wrong, the only way to know for sure would be to blindtest.

    You may be serving two masters here - a game for the Thousand Year challenge and D&D for prisons - it might be tearing you apart.

    But I'll definitely try and play it with my family at some point.

    (And I'd just as soon you kept the thread here rather than Praxis - I never check Praxis.)
  • The presence of an authority figure was one reason why D&D gets confiscated in prisons.

    This is really interesting. Tell me more about this!

  • edited July 2011
    Posted By: Sanglorian

    Hi Hans,

    I'm happy for a mod to move it to Praxis, but my understanding from when Praxis was launched is that Story Games is always considered an appropriate place to post anything related to story games, with Praxis as an optional place you could post instead if you met specific criteria. If I'm mistaken, I'm very happy to move :)
    Yeah, don't worry about it. It's just my axe to grind!
  • Posted By: shreyasThe presence of an authority figure was one reason why D&D gets confiscated in prisons.

    This is really interesting. Tell me more about this!

    In the States, a prisoner banned from playing D&D pleaded his constitutional rights. They were rejected on the grounds that they encouraged 'gang-like' behaviour, specifically: "during D&D games, one player is denoted the 'Dungeon Master.' The Dungeon Master is tasked with giving directions to other players, which Muraski testified mimics the organization of a gang." (from Fox News)
  • If you have a goal of easy memorization, you can get rid of a lot of your ritual phrases. The only ones that seem necessary are "I know not the rest," "it will become known," "I know this one best," "I know the rest," possibly "I am uncomfortable" (I'd probably use "do it differently" from Archipelago instead, but really people just need to know they have permission to do this) and maaaaaybe "and then." All the others are signalling things that don't need signalling; you can always tell when they're going on. There's no need to pin a phrase to them.

    Also, I urge you to make a mnemonic that includes or denotes all the phrases somehow.
  • Thanks Mike, that's interesting feedback.

    With phrases like "I need a moment", I took inspiration from WAYK, which for example has a gesture for "I'm sinking" - a general cry for help and particularly a break. I think ritual phrases are important for giving people permission to say things they're thinking but might be afraid to say. Do you think that these things would be said without the ritual phrase giving people 'permission' to do so?

    I can see how, for example, "I have something to add" isn't needed if players just leap in and add it off the bat - but I'm not sure that they will. Those phrases are there to show audience members that they were not passive participants. Perhaps these 'basic' ritual phrases could be retired as threers gain confidence?

    I like the idea of a mnemonic - I'll give that some thought.
  • Thing about a thousand-year game is the training wheels tend to fall off. The stuff that people need in order to learn the game doesn't stay a part of the game. Time selects for users, not learners.

    I'm not sure what the solution is for this. Bikes have training wheels, but games seldom have anything so official and recognized. Except coaches I guess.
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