My 4-hour con game still has no system

edited July 2013 in Story Games
I have the game quite well planned out: ready-made characters gather in a country manor to love, scheme and indulge in vices 10 years before the French Revolution. I've studied the period a bit, and I'm quite satisfied with the characters I have created. I originally planned to run this with PTA, but I'm afraid the conflict-oriented story-telling mode isn't quite right for this. Most story-games I've played have been a bit too fast, too zany and too much about winning conflicts for my tastes, those with most GM authority have been most fun to play. I don't have a pre-planned story that the players could break, but I have a mood in mind, and I'd like to have more GM power than the PTA producer is given. I'd still like there to be some sort of mechanical encouragement for players for playing their characters in a (mostly) serious and interesting way.

Comments

  • Try FATE - the mechanical encouragement thing will be based on you getting across the seriousness of the situation in Aspects.

    PS "Serious" con games never are.
  • PS "Serious" con games never are.
    I have played in two! I'm not going for a deadly serious tone, but I still want to avoid outright wackiness.
  • If the reason why you want GM authority is because you're worried about tone, then I think this sounds more like you should have a tone and goals discussion with your players at the start, and then, if you like, use an x-card, and let people (including yourself) invoke it if the tone starts slipping. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by too focused on winning conflicts. Does that mean you want something that encourages people to play to lose?

    Or you can run it in the Lady Blackbird III: Blood-Soaked Feathers system. I hear that's super serious.
  • If the reason why you want GM authority is because you're worried about tone, then I think this sounds more like you should have a tone and goals discussion with your players at the start
    It might help to have a single sentence that says something like that about the tone in the blurb for sign up too.

  • edited July 2013
    If the reason why you want GM authority is because you're worried about tone, then I think this sounds more like you should have a tone and goals discussion with your players at the start, and then, if you like, use an x-card, and let people (including yourself) invoke it if the tone starts slipping. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by too focused on winning conflicts. Does that mean you want something that encourages people to play to lose?

    Or you can run it in the Lady Blackbird III: Blood-Soaked Feathers system. I hear that's super serious.
    So do you suggest using PTA after all? I'm not clear on that. Also, I didn't really get the Lady Blackbird III joke. Or does the game really exist?

    I'd rather not give the players any narrative power beyond their own characters, if I have to be wary of them for making the game zany. I had a veto-based system in one homebrew, and it felt hard to veto without hurting anyone's feelings.

    I don't like it when the game's just about who gets what. For me, the scenery, the dialogue and the little gestures are important too, and I think focusing on conflicts can result in players overlooking that stuff.

    It might help to have a single sentence that says something like that about the tone in the blurb for sign up too.

    Um, like what exactly?


  • What about something like Archipelago II? It has distinct mechanics (ritual phrases) for asking people to do things another way, but without shutting them down entirely, and it's focused on exploring character through things like dialogue and little details. I haven't had a chance to play it, but it's a free download that may be worth checking out while you're looking for systems.

  • It might help to have a single sentence that says something like that about the tone in the blurb for sign up too.

    Um, like what exactly?
    "I'm not going for a deadly serious tone, but I still want to avoid outright wackiness"

    Your own phrase should work just fine as-is. Just slip it into the description of your game wherever and however people are doing the sign ups for the games.

  • edited July 2013
    To quote from another game's blurb:

    This game includes themes of isolation, body horror, romance, desperation, and survival.

    That gets across pretty clear expectations as far as theme.

    As far as system goes, alas, Lady Blackbird III exists in the super-secret forums only in my heart, but I think you'll be fine with a lot of options. There are a lot of systems out there that by default limit player control to just the character in front of them, and don't have conflict-based resolution. If I had to pull a system out of thin air, I'd choose Fate (Accelerated). It's free, it's simple, and it lets you reward and compel players according to their aspects (which can easily be strong in reinforcing your tone).

    That said, I think system and blurb are less relevant than getting the players on your side. It's important to you*, so have a nice long *conversation* with the players at the start of the session, about what you're hoping for, what they're hoping for out of the game, what you and they enjoy. I think you'll find your players surprisingly willing to help you out if you're explicit about what you want, but if you find any obvious mismatches, then it's much better to figure out whether they should go join another game, or what compromise you can make, rather than docking them repeatedly 1 fate point for refusing your compels.


    * Tone is important to me too: I try to always make sure to have this conversation, even if it's short.



  • edited July 2013
    Thanks for suggestions and good advice thus far, I'll check Archipelago II and Fate Accelerated out. Even though I've run many con games, it's always useful to have new points of view.
  • Have a look at Montsegur 1244. It sounds like it's doing what you want -- it's got a limited cast of pregenerated characters within a constrained environment and the tone is serious. No GM, though.
  • I would suggest hacking Cthulhu Dark and making the sanity dice into something like a vice dice or some sort of social standing dice or some such. You won't have to teach a system and can just get on with playing.

    If you want the players to have specific goals based on the leverages they have over each other, you could have a list of leverages that each player has on the other and let players exploit them for extra dice. Then you might hack in a mechanic that allows these to be lost and gained. (A bit like strings I guess)
  • I would suggest hacking Cthulhu Dark and making the sanity dice into something like a vice dice or some sort of social standing dice or some such. You won't have to teach a system and can just get on with playing.

    If you want the players to have specific goals based on the leverages they have over each other, you could have a list of leverages that each player has on the other and let players exploit them for extra dice. Then you might hack in a mechanic that allows these to be lost and gained. (A bit like strings I guess)
    This could work, but it'd basically mean designing a new game. I guess I'm going with freeform, as combining an auteur-GM scenario with a story game system now seems like a futile exercise.
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