[game brainstorm] guess what the GM is thinking

edited June 2013 in Story Games
A game idea:

SET-UP:

GM, come up with a conspiracy plot. Some scheming faction is up to no good. They're doing many things to further their plan, some of them suspicious. Come up with something you're excited about and think is cool, something you're eager to share.

Now come up with a bunch of red herrings and deceiving appearances. What does it seem like the bad guys are doing, but they're doing something else? What's going on that seems like their fault, but is actually someone else's? Who else out there seems like a menace but could help, or vice versa? Again, come up with stuff you like and want to share.

Players, you're playing characters who have to get to the bottom of this, no matter what, because they're that kind of hero. They also have a lot of other things they care about, which the badguys will threaten or destroy, lending angst and tension to the mission. Come up with 5 categories of stuff you care about and rank them 5 (most important) to 1 (least important). Example: 5-son, 4-spouse, 3-body, 2-job, 1-gold watch.

IN PLAY:

GM describes everything except what the player characters think and attempt to do*, including the outcomes of any attempts. GM can even position player characters via scene framing. GM's goal is to show players enough fictional happenings that they can form theories about what's going on. For this, you will have to be a good storyteller. Use all your best tricks!

GM, once per scene, you should also introduce a situation that threatens to damage (subtract 1 if value >1) or destroy (if value = 1) something each character cares about. If the players doesn't block this, it happens. *GM cannot damage or destroy these valued things beyond the "once per scene if not blocked" rule.

Players, you earn the following points for doing the following things:
1 - sharing a theory with the other characters on what's going on -- not a quick and idle mention, but a strong argument
2 - sharing a theory and taking action based on that theory (if you don't know what action would work, just state your intent, and the GM will tell you how to pursue it)

Players, you can spend points on the following:
- block harm to the things you care about, 1 for 1
- win the final showdown at the end of the game; once you've uncovered the plot, foil it -- each point becomes a die to roll vs the GM's 10 dice

GM, every time the players act in pursuit of an incorrect theory, reveal one of your red herrings and then show them more of your plot. Every time the players act in pursuit of a correct theory, reveal some truth about your plot. When you're all out of small truths, it's time for the final Big Reveal and then the showdown!

Optional:
GM, if you are stumped and it's ceasing to be fun to push your planned plot, just throw in random ominous occurrences, wait for the players to theorize, and then decide that one of their theories is true. Repeat as many times as needed or desired.

Comments

  • edited June 2013
    Very meta. :) Although I think what you have written is more true to how mysteries and intrigues are played out. I'm guessing the game idea is about writing how to play a game - a structure of play - instead of giving out tools that the reader then must use to puzzle together in order to figure out how the game works (like in ordinary roleplaying games)?

    You've left some holes here and there, but I assume that is mostly because this is just a draft. :) For example, you haven't given any directions for how many scenes there are to be played out. I'm guessing it's around fifteen scenes (the sum of what the character cares about), but that will mean that the game master must create at least fifteen clues and red herrings together.

    Another thing is that the players are the ones who are figuring out the conspiracy theory, but the characters are the one's who suffer for it. That is totally OK, but you don't say anything about how the characters are involved so that creates a gap between the player and the character. Are they getting involved, because they will automatically suffer damage in the first scenes? Perhaps they are all FBI agents? You could also have a an act structure where the characters are getting information and being involved in the first act. It then moves on to the second act where things in their lives are getting hurt. The third act is how they are trying to stop what happens in the second act from happening (blocking). The fourth act is adopting to what happened (accepting/changing to the damage or taking a move to reveal the plot). Repeat. (Yesss, this is the typical dramatic curve.)

    One thing I thought about was the golden watch. Why is that important for the character? I started to think about how you can create affection by spending time with something. The more time spent, the more you feel for it (this is a reason why it's good that it takes time to create a character). Perhaps the players have to write X number of sentences about what they care about by explaining why they care about it. It may be an event, a faint memory, something that changed the character's life, or something that defines the character. For the most important thing, you have to write five sentences, to increase the player's affection for it. For the golden watch, you only have to write one sentence. I don't know how this works in play, but it's an idea.
  • edited June 2013
    Come up with 5 categories of stuff you care about and rank them 5 (most important) to 1 (least important). Example: 5-son, 4-spouse, 3-body, 2-job, 1-gold watch.
    I really like this, as a nice succinct way to get at what the characters care about.
    You could also have a an act structure where the characters are getting information and being involved in the first act. It then moves on to the second act where things in their lives are getting hurt. The third act is how they are trying to stop what happens in the second act from happening (blocking). The fourth act is adopting to what happened (accepting/changing to the damage or taking a move to reveal the plot). Repeat.
    I like this suggestion. I wouldn't say that the GM should completely refrain from hurting the characters in the first act, but maybe it can only be up to a certain level (1-2? Or 1-3?), so that there's some built-in escalation.
  • edited June 2013
    Actually, my intent was to take advantage of a dynamic that exists in many play groups -- one person wants to tell their story and get their audience to care about it, while a bunch of other people want to be taken on a fun ride but have some control over their fate -- and provide a few tools to help everyone do that together.

    This game strives to be an antidote to all those games where the only player having fun is the one who's latched onto the GM's plot, because the other players were led to believe they'd be doing something else.

    "You get rewarded for caring about the GM's plot" is pretty much the core of my game idea. The rest is just a way to make those rewards matter and to give the GM springboards for advancing the plot, hopefully without distracting from it.
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