Bronte play formalization and craftiness

edited September 2012 in Game Design Help
OK, following on from this thread and this comment:
As an aside, I'm down for Bronte play formalization and craftiness coming more into play in games.
how about this...

a story game for people who like to fidget with their hands while they roleplay

Before the Game
4-6 players
A large piece of paper and some pens
A variety of crafting materials (things like wool, scraps of fabric, knitting/crochet needles, paints/crayons, figurines to paint, coloured card, glue, glitter, buttons, lego bricks, moulding clay, anything you like, really)

Set up:
Draw lines on the piece of paper dividing into a board of evenly sized squares - each square will be controlled by a player. If you have an odd number of players, the final square will be 'neutral' and be controlled by popular acclamation of the player group.
Have a conversation with the players about genres that they're interested in, and 'game ratings' that they're comfortable with (eg Gen, PG, R18).
The starting player is the person who brought the most craft materials to the game.
Each player takes a turn to write the name of a location in the square that they control - it can be anything, but it should be something that they find evocative (eg "The Glass Castle", "The Volcano Lair", "The Killing Fields", "The Laboratory"). If there's a neutral square, the whole group should decide what it's going to be called.
The group should then take turns selecting one of the crafting materials and writing down a character somewhere on the board (in any square). Each character should have a name, an adjective, and an archetype (eg "Balthazar, the Wicked Uncle", "Andrew Hartfield, the Cunning Scientist"). Keep doing this until everybody has passed on making a new character, or there are no more crafting materials to share out. The materials that people have selected are going to be the basis of the craft project that they will work on during the game. If there is a neutral square, put any left over materials next to it.

Playing the Game
The starting player selects a character in their square to be their protagonist, and defines what that character's problem is. (Ideally, it should be something that requires the character to take action to deal with the problem.) They start to tell that character's story, using a mix of 3rd person and 1st person voice as appeals to them. When they want their protagonist to interact with a character in someone else's square, they should ask for a material that the person controlling the square has.
Each player controls all the characters in their own square, defining their actions, or roleplaying out scenes as is relevant. If there is a conflict between characters controlled by two different characters (physical, emotional, something else), both players suggest a way that that conflict might be resolved. If both players agree with one option, they should roleplay out that scene; if they disagree, the other players in the game decide amongst themselves which they prefer.
The starting player continues the scene until they've reached a good stopping point (maybe a cliffhanger?) and then passes play on to their left, for the next player to do likewise. When play comes around to the starting player again, they pick up their protagonist's story where they left off and so forth.
Characters in the neutral square are free for anyone to control as they like - if there are disagreements, ask for a group vote on what would happen.
While the stories are being told, people should work on their individual craft projects. If they've acquired a material from someone else that doesn't really suit their project - for instance, wool, when they're painting; or coloured pencils when they're knitting; they can use the new material to decorate the square that they control instead.
When they feel that their protagonist has resolved their story in a satisfying way (happy ending, unhappy ending, weird arse strange ending, whatever they like), they should use their craft project to cover their square to show that they're finished. No new characters from this square can be introduced into someone else's story, but any existing characters can continue to be used.
The game continues until the last player covers their square.

After the Game
Take a photo of the board and post it in this thread so I can admire it.
Clean up.


(If anyone actually tries this, please let me know how it goes, I'm kinda interested if it would work now.)




  • edited September 2012
    Have you seen Rafael's Grail Epoch game?

    This idea and his are awfully close to one another, with yours being being a very crafty version of a similar idea.

    I like both a whole lot, especially since there's an artifact left to show at the end of each.

    Edited to add:
    Did anyone else know there's like a zillion different types of awesome halloween related fabric available? Lots of it with different squares of themed pictures?

    Because I didn't. I was just looking for stuff for my gaming minis halloween village. Man, there just must be something crafty and gaming related that could be done with that type of stuff.
  • edited September 2012
    No, I haven't heard of Grail Epoch, but thanks for the tip - I'll check it out.

    EDIT: That looks really nifty. Thanks!
  • A few other crafty ideas, not tied to a particular game:

    Make your own minis from polymer clay
    The website Cerise talked about doing this and it's kind of a great idea. Polymer clay can be pricey, but using armatues made from wire and aluminum fil reduce a lot of the cost. Plain white polyclay is cheaper and nice if you have craft paint handy. If your whole group is making their own minis, no need to try to match that itty-bitty 25mm gaming scale, so a bonus right there. There are all kinds of resources online for doing some relly great stuff with polymer clay figures, including really creative ways to use scraps of it to create an effect like patterned fabric. Not only can folks make their own characters, but people can keep adding on and have a unique menagerie of characters and monsters ( as appropriate).

    Scrapbooking and idea troves
    I don't know a whole lot about scrap-booking, but I do hit that aisle in the craft store when i'm looking for cool bits for minis gaming. I'm shocked scrapbooking hasn't already made in-roads into gaming, with all the books we use and make. A campaign scrapbook, a blue-book book, an individual character journal- all of that stuff could be a base for scrap booking. In addition to those things, people might also make an "idea trove", especially if the book iself is hand made with the ability to add more pages. Get some extra standard sized sheets and a whole bunch of scrapbooking goodies. Let players make decorated pages, maybe with lots of phrases or random/themed words on them, but leave open spaces too. Those pages are around to act as an inpiration pool for the fiction for the GM ( or everyone in GMless games). When a session has wrapped up, or even during the session, people can add their own accounts or other snippets related to the session, then add it to the book as the campaign goes along.

    Table top collage/Quilted maps
    Okay, again, I don't know a whole lot about quilting, though I saw my Gran do it when I was a kid. Usually, when someone trots out the minis, especially when they set up a big table layout in the wargamer style, it becomes important that everything has a scale, and movement rates , and ranges and blablahblah.

    Okay, howabout skipping that and getting a little more abstract-ish and crafty?

    The table top is covered in some sort of surface- cloth, paper, posterboard, whatever. You also have stuff you can affix to it, probably 2d, and maybe some cool pens like paint pens or gel paint bottles for clothe.

    You'll end up making a big "map", but you aren't shooting for a direct representation. Instead, your regions/locales/spaces are going to be decorated in ways that are more about giving a feel for the moods and fiction-generating ideas attached to them. That block of space over there is supposed to be a forest, right? You could go for tree related images or clothe, but you could also go for something that sets the mood, either in images, colors or textures. What kind of place is that forest? Creepy and haunted? Homey and happy? Weird and unearthly? Choose appropriate comboes for that, without regard to trying to make something more directly representational. Use the colored paint pens to write on the space or around the borders of the space, just using evocative words or phrases, or references to characters associated with that space.

    Connections between those spaces could work the same way. Bridges, rivers, roads could all benefit from the same approach tying it all together. Words on or bordering that stuff can likewise give hints at desirable fiction. A road borderd by words like "a crowded thoroughfare" in a certain color/texture/pattern combo just plian gives a different idea than one bordered by scary handwritten warnings like "Never leave the forest path!!!"

    I mentioned Grail Epoch, and that could work really well for that game. Another approach might be to create the whole thing first, and only then decide what it all means and how it is a basis for the fiction. If you have access to the boardgame A Touch of Evil, look at how that uses space and think about how you might do something similar, but more crafty, abstract and collage-y.

    People could also make their own smaller sections that are meant to be re-usable and can be positioned differently, puzzleboard style, from session to session, tied together by a common base surface fabri table cover. The closeness or distance play into meaning, just as the contrasts and complements of the colors and textures start to imply meaning when combined.

    Group built, ever expanding, Not-Tarot idea deck
    Make up some standard size, but large blank cards, and let people decorate their faces however they want, with images and words. Here the idea isn't to systematize necessarily, but give grist for ideas. Archipelago uses a couple of different sorts of cards, and that might be a basis for getting going on how to use them in-game. Ditto everway. Let people keep making cards, and build up a big deck over time. They might be used for resolution mechanics, or just idea starters. Maybe they're laid out in a pattern as the story develops, or modified, or glued to some poster board to create a permanent artifact a bit like a narrative, visual record of past events.
  • Stephanie, this is just wonderful! I've been thinking about making some kind of play surface out of fabric -- I've done a bit of sewing/crafting, and was contemplating the idea of uploading a dungeon-crawl map (or maybe the top-down image of a castle) to Spoonflower and turning that fabric into a battlemap. Seems like that approach might also work here!

    If I were to run a game like this for craft-inclined gamers, I would probably try to combine forces: have all players work towards a specific conceit or motif while knitting or painting or assembling legos. Perhaps having all persons work on a garden, producing different flowers in each square...? Not sure, I'd have to mull that over.

    Regardless, Patchwork is a really cool idea!
  • What is spoonflower???
  • edited September 2012, a cool site where you can upload your own pattern and print your own fabric. Kinda like Lulu for quilting/crafting.

    It's about $15 a yard, which isn't too bad -- a custom fabric battlemat that covers my entire dining room table for $30? And if it gets beer on it, I can lob it into the washing machine? Yes, please!
  • That is brilliant. thanks for the pointer!
  • A few other crafty ideas, not tied to a particular game:
    Those are some really good ideas.
    Group built, ever expanding, Not-Tarot idea deck
    The Amber diceless game built this into the mechanics - you could get extra Good Stuff (character build points + the Universe Likes You) for signing up to do a regular creative activity for your game. Maybe designing Trump cards, or writing an in character journal or whatever. It was fun.
  • edited September 2012
    Spoonflower may be my favorite new site to learn about. Holy cow!

    BTW, what is the best way to affix fabric to something like wood, foamcore or card board other than a hotglue gun? Spray adhesive maybe? Is it even possible to do without making the fabric look terrible?
  • I would use 3m spray adhesive to glue it to foam core, personally. That's an awesome site, btw! :)
  • If you can afford to, get a large sheet of 1/4" or 3/8" acrylic to put over it. Easy wet erase marking!
  • I think it is interesting that traditional (as opposed to mass market and pre-packaged) wargaming is awash with crafting opportunities. That is perhaps one thing that was lost in the transition to RPGs.
  • UserClone speaks the truth. Spray adhesive is the best choice for this. You can also stretch the fabric across the board and staple to the back or use heavy duty rubber cement to secure around the edges (if the back isn't going to be seen).
  • Using scrapbooking techniques to make a campaign journal sounds crazy fun. The biggest challenge would be the lack of photos (unless you played with lots of sweet minis and such, in which case you could take pics of them as you play). But you could build collages and stuff instead, maybe.

    I've been wanting to get a Dungeon World campaign together. And adding this to it would be really neat.

    It would be amazing to start each session by reviewing the previous few pages in a group-built scrapbook. And making bits to put on this session's page would be a great way to keep players engaged while they are out of focus.

    I can see it working really well for a relatively lighthearted game where occasionally being distracted by "oooh, look what I made" midsession would be a positive rather than negative feature.
  • I think it is interesting that traditional (as opposed to mass market and pre-packaged) wargaming is awash with crafting opportunities. That is perhaps one thing that was lost in the transition to RPGs.
    To be fair, the "theatre of the mind" certainly has it's benefits. It's much easier to jump around from one location to the next and allow for deep level creative contributions by all players when you aren't tied to physical prep.

    Larp struggles with this. It's awesome when you can set a scene and make it engaging and complete and stuff. But it means you have to know in advance what the potential settings are and bring lots of props for each location. And there's only so many times in a campaign that you can use various means for limiting freedom of time and/or travel before they start to get old and repetitive.

  • I can see it working really well for a relatively lighthearted game where occasionally being distracted by "oooh, look what I made" midsession would be a positive rather than negative feature.
    It could also be a great excuse for a break time. I'm becoming a big believer in creative changes of direction and pacing breaks for the real people in a game. I think it rejuvenates creative juices, allows a cooling down period from intense scenes, and gives a forum for out-of-character game idea spitballing. Having some semi planned game-related crafting time before/mid/after game might do wonders for that.

    Also, scrap books are just kinda cool on their own.

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