What's the state of the story-game scene?

Or is there a scene? I keep seeing a lot of trad-ish PbtA games and Freeform, but little else.

By story-games, I mean GM-less and weak GM games, where the system is driving the story instead of the GM. The post-Forge stuff in general.
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  • I think we're doing pretty well here in Finland, at least. There are about half a dozen noteworthy post-Forgite designers here, which isn't bad for the size of the country. Everybody's got plenty of people to play with, and artistic accomplishment occurs. We meet occasionally face to face, and play regularly with our own local groups.

    Apocalypse World and freeform influences aren't even dominant in the scene I'm familiar with here, locally. Rather, the cutting edge with us is something I like to call neo-forgite design: dynamic combinations of formalistic systems, particularly pacing and structural rules, with carefully considered fruitful voids. Some people putter about with AW variants and similar hybrids, and I imagine that there must be some freeform work somewhere as well, but maybe I just don't meet those people as often as I do the neo-Forgites.

    Considering the wider picture, I've personally found the international scene a bit fractured this decade; I read Story Games out of habit, but it seems like I have my hands full with the Finnish stuff, and only rarely designers from farther out attract my attentions. It's not like there isn't people out there interested in the same things, but it doesn't seem like we need as much mutual interaction as we used to, either. I feel like there's often more energy and ambition in the Finnish scene than the international one, but that might be because I'm seeing more games done to my taste locally, while the international stuff often seems sort of blase in comparison - endless AW recycling, and not as much technical flair as I like.
  • Although there has been a lot of attention given to PbtA hacks, I see great new games cropping up all the time. (And some of the hacks are very interesting, too, like Bluebeard's Bride, which breaks new ground in terms of premise and execution...)

    Here's the thread just for things people at Story Games bothered to post about this month:

    story-games.com/forums/discussion/21137/may17-new-games-thread

    From my (somewhat limited) perspective, I see a LOT of new "guided freeform"-style story games appearing. Games like Kingdom, Follow, Downfall, Fall of Magic, and so on.

    It appears to be a bit of a trend recently, and, while I find such heavily-freeform games occasionally disappointing in play, there are some really good ones!

    Dialect sounds very interesting, as well.
  • It's slow, player-interest-wise, even here it Toronto, where there's a lots of people interested in playing indie games. But even if it's slow, that's better than pretty much non-existent.

    There needs to be more hit games like Once Upon A Time, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen or Fiasco. The most reliable way to create a hit is to try, see the response, adjust, then try again.

    One problem that keeps rearing its head with these sorts of games is that they usually handle the beginning and the middle parts of the story well, but don't have rules governing how to create good endings.
  • One end of the interest spectrum - the end that minimizes mechanical resolution and constraints and privileges player agency and free narration, generally - has been getting into live action play over the last five years. Everything from structured freeform to 360 degree immersive larp. That's certainly been a big theme in my design work, and I've brought a lot of stuff from 'story games" with me. I see others doing this too.

    Sign is a great example of this design trend and it is a profoundly beautiful game.

    http://www.goldencobra.org/pdf/2015/Sign-KathrynHymes-HakanSeyalioglu.pdf
  • edited May 2017
    What I find encouraging is that the traditional mainstream players who were very sceptical are gradually opening up to story games. In the local scene, it's been mostly the influence of Fiasco, some small indie games especially of the horror/cthuloid genre and player empowerment in games like Fate.
    Also, the rising popularity of small "nano games" via 200 word contest, golden cobra etc have made bite-sized story games more accessible.
  • edited May 2017

    One problem that keeps rearing its head with these sorts of games is that they usually handle the beginning and the middle parts of the story well, but don't have rules governing how to create good endings.
    Another issue is that the way people play these games is just as important as the mechanics. They often don't have good advice for how to create good stories and good endings. They also don't have good advice or mechanics for when people incorporate story elements that are discordant or destroy verisimilitude. Instead they say, no matter what the other player says is it's a good idea and not to have any method for arbitration. Archipelago has a fairly good mechanic to address this called "try a different way." Still, I don't think the reason to go a different way is made explicit enough in Archipelago and certainly not in other games. Games need to emphasize that how you play is as important as the mechanics, and they need to integrate mechanics to back this up. They must value the contributions of others foremost; you don't just veto an idea because you had a different idea for the story or don't like the idea creatively. But sometimes having a conversation about what is been introduced in the story is important; it's important to care about the story on a whole because it affects the whole game for everyone, and if it a discordant idea ruins it or an element makes a coherent ending impossible it's to nobody's good. Also, the advice for how to end Games is just as important as the mechanics. Games now are very lacking in good mechanics on how to wrap up Games and they're lacking on the good advice on how to create a satisfying ending and even how to structure a satisfying story. Some games don't require as much advice because the mechanics work so well that they take care of the problem largely on their own. I believe that Fiaco is one of the games with a single caveat, which is: when you decide whether a character gets what they want, you always frame what they want from their character's perspective. A character could want something that is disastrous or stupid, but from their perspective it looks good; I have never had an unsuccessful Fiasco game when I framed whether the character gets what they want from the character's perspective, and I played tons of Fiasco. Also, when you do this, players most often choose the yes or no option that is best for the story and creates the most interesting and satisfying story, Fiasco also has the advantage of putting players on the same page because the type of story you tell in it and the type of tone it has is made explicit. This is the other area where Story Games often fail. People often want to tell a different type of story from one another, and the tones clash. Someone wants to tell a story which is funny, silly and whimsical; and someone else, wants to tell a story that is dark, serious, and intense; and the result, is that because they started with different expectations everyone ends up unsatisfied with the story. I believe it is absolutely essential that players get on the same page regarding what type of tone the story will have and what type of story they are going to tell. I am creating mechanics and advice to rectify these issues in my game of courtly intrigue, [House Of Spiders], and I believe I will be successful. Anyway, that's my two cents. BTW, Story Games Seattle and Story Games SLC only play GMless, collaborative Story Games. There are also other Story Games (city name) that follow the same model. There are hundreds and hundreds of these games, and I believe that they are actually fairly popular right now; especially, if you know where to look. Thanks.
  • Metatopia, Dreamation, and (to a lesser degree) DEXcon (all in Morristown, NJ) have a pretty strong indie gaming presence. GenCon generally gives Games on Demand (an indie gaming event) its own giant area now. Wil Wheaton is gonna play Misspent Youth on his show, Tabletop. I'd say the "scene" is good.
  • A really good post, Jeff.
  • Jeff,

    I agree with you in full! Lots of excellent points there. As much as I like games which require skills and experience, I get frustrated with designers leaning on that so heavily - I think game design could use a big pinch of... well, how to better orient players to the right way to play them, and how to use the right rules in the right ways (best practices, in other words).

    When it comes to "ending games", I wrote a pretty well-liked post on the subject (detailing one technique) back in 2008:

    Ending Games Without Endgame Conditions

    It was chosen for the "Best of Story Games" category, so I hope it's still useful to someone.

    It's intended for campaign play, but the techniques could still be useful for one-shots, if taken carefully.
  • Thanks Rickard and Paul :smile:
    Paul, thanks for sharing the thread. I will give it a read :smile:
  • Interesting discussion, carry on.

    For what it's worth, I've never seen the lack of ending mechanics as a popularity problem, as trad games didn't have them either.
  • Or is there a scene? I keep seeing a lot of trad-ish PbtA games and Freeform, but little else.

    By story-games, I mean GM-less and weak GM games, where the system is driving the story instead of the GM. The post-Forge stuff in general.
    As far as I know the Italian scene is pretty active, with lots of indie games that have little or nothing to do with "the usual suspects" of the past few years (Fate & PbtA mainly).

    Most are active in the GameChef and various other design contests.
    Plus a bunch of others that work on ongoing projects, supported by Patreon or the occasional Kickstarter.
    And then there are plenty of others, but those mostly fall closer to the Trad area of rpgs, although even them are starting to show signs of more modern ideas and game concepts.
  • Games now are very lacking in good mechanics on how to wrap up Games and they're lacking on the good advice on how to create a satisfying ending and even how to structure a satisfying story.
    Sounds like a failure for a "story game" movement. Isn't it?
    Rob
  • edited May 2017
    I think there should be a distinction between "open story games" like i.e. Archipelago and "specific story games" like i.e. Jeepform games. The first one opens up possibilities wherever players want to go whereas the other evokes a very specific gaming experience.
    People often want to tell a different type of story from one another, and the tones clash. Someone wants to tell a story which is funny, silly and whimsical; and someone else, wants to tell a story that is dark, serious, and intense; and the result, is that because they started with different expectations everyone ends up unsatisfied with the story. I believe it is absolutely essential that players get on the same page regarding what type of tone the story will have and what type of story they are going to tell.
    Fully agree this is essential. In my Directions system, I cover this with a setting sheet using "Story Margins". This is what all players have to agree on prior to playing:
    image
  • edited May 2017
    Games now are very lacking in good mechanics on how to wrap up Games and they're lacking on the good advice on how to create a satisfying ending and even how to structure a satisfying story.
    Sounds like a failure for a "story game" movement. Isn't it?
    Rob
    I wouldn't call it a failure so much as a challenge. Many of these games have met this challenge to different degrees. These are things that can be improved upon. These games are innovating all of the time, that's what is appealing to me about indie games. All Story Games SLC plays is Story Games, so I personally love these games and think they have great value.
  • On the solo scene, I see good interest in nano games like Lady Blackbird and Gost/Echo. Some people have also tried their own hacks, re-skins and mashups of these games.
  • I like it how now corebooks are using more ritual phrases, explaining necessary viewpoints to get into the game mindframe and including procedures that finally cover the the vacuum between rules, mechanics and execution. I like that games are more efficient now and help the players create conflict instead of waiting for it to happen admist all the mechanics minutiae or throw the full responsibility of creating conflict to the players. It's certainly the best direction story games could take on their evolution.
  • Games now are very lacking in good mechanics on how to wrap up Games and they're lacking on the good advice on how to create a satisfying ending and even how to structure a satisfying story.
    Sounds like a failure for a "story game" movement. Isn't it?
    Rob
    I wouldn't call it a failure so much as a challenge. Many of these games have met this challenge to different degrees. These are things that can be improved upon. These games are innovating all of the time, that's what is appealing to me about indie games. All Story Games SLC plays is Story Games, so I personally love these games and think they have great value.
    Sounds reasonable.
    I agree with you.
    Rob
  • I think the game can help only so far with tone clashes. Many roleplayers consider straight genre stuff too limiting or are not familiar with most genres. If I miss something from strong-GM games, it's the ability to control the tone of the game effectively.
    On the solo scene, I see good interest in nano games like Lady Blackbird and Gost/Echo. Some people have also tried their own hacks, re-skins and mashups of these games.
    Those games are pretty old, though. Are the hacks fresh?
    Sounds like a failure for a "story game" movement. Isn't it?
    Rob
    But what is "games now"? What games are we talking about? Do we have games someone is inspired to read and criticize? @Jeff_B_Slater

    We have a thread where people track what they're playing. I guess I must check it out.
  • Hum, it seems like people are still making games, but the new ones are sort of obscure when it comes to publicity.

  • Those games are pretty old, though. Are the hacks fresh?
    I've never taken the originals or the new mashups/hacks for a spin so I'm hesitant to make that judgement. My cop out answer would be "As much as a mashup and re-skin can be expected to be."

    https://exposit.github.io/katamoiran/2016/12/14/6-hours-to-midnight/
    https://exposit.github.io/katamoiran/img/posts/2017-02-20/TheCalypsoCompendium.pdf

    Unrelated to these, I have also noticed some interest in Lasers & Feelings and hacking it.
  • edited May 2017
    Oh, I just meant "new". :)
  • edited May 2017

    But what is "games now"? What games are we talking about? Do we have games someone is inspired to read and criticize? @Jeff_B_Slater
    Here are some of the games I own that I'm talking about. I own a lot more of these games than I provide in the following list and I can provide more if you are interested, but these are the the type of GMless Story Games I'm talking about. Some of these games address the issues I talked about above, and are successful to a greater or less degree, at dealing with them; however, on a whole these games, which I refer to as Story Games, could be greatly improved in regard to these issues. For clarification, I define Story Games the same way the Ben Robbins does; if you are interested in this definition please see the link below:
    http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/460/defining-story-games/

    Again, these games are my favorite type of games, and they are all we play at Story Games SLC. These games, on the whole, are innovative and they are wonderful; I love these games—and when I'm talking about improvements I'm talking about Story Games as a whole, not these games in particular; these are just examples of the types of games I'm talking about. Some of these games do a good job at handling these issues; for example, as I mentioned above, Fiasco. Here's a list of the type of games I'm talking about:

    Fall of magic
    While the world ends
    Swords without master
    A taste for murder
    Mobile Frame Zero: Firebrands
    Intrepid
    The King is Dead
    Left Coast: the Short Story edition
    The Deep Forest
    Archipelago II
    Archipelago III
    Amidst Endless Quiet
    House of Reeds
    Geiger Counter
    Preserverant
    Nicotine Girls
    Sign in Stranger
    Nod
    Dog Eat Dog
    1001 nights
    Kagematsu
    Serpent's tooth
    Life on Mars
    Eden
    Shinobigamy
    Mars Colony 39 Dark
    Mars Colony
    Ribbon Drive
    Steal Away Jordan
    Contenders
    The Shan-Al-Hari Roach (& The Roach Returns!)
    Hot Guys Making Out
    Love in the Time of Seid
    A Penny For My Thoughts
    S/lay w/me
    Agon
    Shock: social science fiction
    Lovecraftesque
    Annalisa
    Puppet land
    Universalis
    Inspecters
    Polaris
    Dread
    Kingdom
    Microscope (& microscope explore)
    Durance
    Carolina Death Crawl
    Follow
    Fiasco (& Fiasco companion and Fiasco playset ontology volume 1, 2, & 3)
    Mountsegur 1244
    Remember tomorrow
    The society of dreamers
    Downfall
    Zombie cinema
    Okult
    FateLess
    Serpent's tooth
    Life on Mars
    Primetime adventures
    The quiet year
    The hour between dog and wolf
    Showdown
    Faith
    Our last best hope (& OLBH expansion)
    The Drifter's Escape
    Spione
    Shahida
    Companions' Tale
    Bacchanal
    Escape from tentacle city
    Norwegian style guide
    Hell for Leather
    Conspire
    Witch: The road to Lindisfarne
    The republic
    Home by dark
    Final Hour of a storied age
    Sweet Agatha
    Karma
    The Impostors
    Sign in stranger
    Love in the Time of Sied
    Love in the Time of Khvareneh
    What you wish for
    My daughter, the queen of France
    Mind of Margaret
    Tall Pines
    Dialect
    Meridian
    Lost in the Rain
    Something to hide

    For a longer list check out my "Ultimate List of GMless Games" post here:
    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/20920/the-ultimate-list-of-gmless-games

    Again, there are many more games than in the list above and the post above; if you would like me to provide more examples, to get an exhaustive list of the games being developed and played in the scene, I will be happy to do so. To learn more about the scene you could go to Story Games Seattle's website, which is probably the best exemplar of the scene, they have 754 members; so there are places where the scene is definitely thriving. Ben has created something that is very impressive and admirable and done a lot to bring more exposure to these games and to get people playing them. Story Games SLC, which is my group, is modeled on Story Games Seattle, but is currently a much more modest gaming organization; but, as they say, from small beginnings come great things. I plan to purchase a specific Meetup for Story Games SLC, as Ben has done with his organization, instead of piggybacking off of another Meetup group. I'm also creating a website, and the Story Games SLC press (for games designed and published by the members). I think that doing the things I discussed above, as well as some other things, will enlarge the scene in Salt Lake City, which I am very dedicated to doing. I also think that if the games I'm currently developing and will publish in the future—for example, [House of Spiders]—gain traction and popularity, I may be able to use this to draw more people into SGSLC. I think the popularity of Ben's games has certainly contributed to the success of SGS.

    Anyway, I'm getting a bit off topic. I hope I've answered you question correctly :smile: Thanks :smile:


  • edited May 2017
    Ah, no, sorry. I know what story-games are. I just imagined your "games now"-criticism referred to some more recent games. I've been inquiring about those, specifically.
  • edited May 2017
    I was just looking at the Indie+ G+ feed to see what they were playing lately, and was sad to find they said their goodbyes.

    Went to the unstore as well, but the recent games link has a lot of older ones too, so maybe you're right. One of the newer ones I know is Fateless (2016), which is GMLess.

    A search of "GMless" on dtrpg, sorted by date, shows a few games added in 2017:
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php?keywords=GMless&test_epoch=0&page=1&sort=4a

    It's an imperfect data sample, though.
  • edited May 2017
    Ah, no, sorry. I know what story-games are. I just imagined your "games now"-criticism referred to some more recent games. I've been inquiring about those, specifically.
    Oh, got you :smile: I think it is a problem with both old and newer games. I'm not going to point to any specific games but I think the problem is handled to some extent in some games and not at all in others and this applies to new games as well. Thanks for clarifying :smile:
  • To you as well. :)
  • I’m part of the crowd who don’t play these games as much anymore.

    I found what I wanted in the style, and took it with me when we… sorta… reinvented trad?

    For me what I enjoyed in story games were the clear instructions, clear structure, coherence, no “GM cult”, no “every GM worth their salt has these secret tricks” stuff. Instead, it was “1. Do this. 2. Then do this, 3. Then do this”. Clarity.

    And, and, and…. one more thing I really enjoy in story games. There’s often some tension that the rules create and enforce.

    I found these things in the OSR too. To a lesser extent, but an ahistorical OSR with a strict “referee ethos”, everything rolled openly etc… it also gave me those two things. The clear instructions (“Roll for wandering monsters every second turn”), the mechanically created tension (HP, encounter checks).

    What I’m playing now is a mashup of Dramasystem and D&D. With one GM. Except the mashup makes sense to me, unlike the old trad which, to me, was confusing, incoherent and full of “impossible things” and contradictions. I’m thinking of this as “rediscovered trad, but no onion in the varnish”. Playing in a game that shares the adventure game, “first person” feel of trad but that has been careful to keep the recipe and the reproducibility at hand. A codified practice rather than something that was passed on through osmosis and older siblings and secret cargo cult tips.

    Because as I’ve said before, when I first started trying to learn roleplaying games, I didn’t get it. So the first couple of years was just pure confusion, then I just started improvising and freeforming, and then I finally discovered story games and lastly came full circle with an OSR that has kept giving me “Aha, so that was how that thing was supposed to work”–experiences.

    All that said, I’m still interested in exploring some of these classic story games (or new ones) to elaborate on setting detail for our main campaign. (I’ve mentioned before the example of using Microscope Chronicle to tell the story of that one dinar with the chipped edge.) I’m calling the project “1001 Nights Off”.

  • edited June 2017
    I am playing more "Story Games" than ever, because of all the reasons they were created: Time, commitment, etc. It's still way easier to make a game of Fall of Magic happen than it is to to spin up some sort of GM'd oneshot, even in an OSR system, even if I were remotely interested in the OSR mentality, which I am... not. Even an ultralite GM'd game like Lasers & Feelings is more "work" than a good GMless game.

    This should not be interpreted as me saying I'm not playing lots of GM'd games, because I am, but "Story games" are really stepping up.
  • I think OSR is very different from the post-Forge story-game movement. It's very macho and pro-GM, even more than Apocalypse World and its legacy of tactical, GM-driven quasi-trads. I hope I'm not sounding too negative - this hobby was founded on wargames. Freeform, I think, quite completely abandons the wargame legacy OSR seems to embrace. Is there anyone who plays both freeforms and OSR?
  • Yeah, my OSR-group has a couple of freeform larpers and dorks. Including me

    Freeform, to me, embraces the free Kriegspiel-ish decreased codification of OSR

    The macho and the pro-GM of OSR culture online, I agree with T_T

    But. Compared to 90:s secretive "cult of GM" games, it's much better, it's less pro-GM, it's much more agential.

    the whole player agency / "against quantum ogre" thing in relation to trad games came from the OSR
  • Nicely put. I have a sort of an anti-GM/strong leader phase right now, which colors my readings a bit. :D

    I'm not sure if it's fair of me to call OSR macho. I certainly don't mean that the movement is hostile to women. Rather, I feel OSR emphasizes self-reliance and despises weakness, while post-Forge story-games are interested in community building and making everyone feel welcome regardless of player skill.
  • I think all three communities have their issues when it comes to inclusiveness and successfully making people feel welcome.
  • edited June 2017
    Yeah, but I think there's a big difference between emphasizing player's skills and responsibility and, say, Microscope's careful preservation of player agency.
  • edited June 2017
    My copy of Microscope arrived late last night so I can finally talk about this. It's a perfect example of putting people on the spot, creatively. When it's your turn to talk, you've got to deliver. Collaboration is not allowed. There's also the matter of not playing wrong (in Microscope's case, accidentally introducing contradictions). It's definitely a game that appears to have a high player skill threshold.
  • edited June 2017
    I mean, take this

    "While making smart strategic choices is an excellent skill to have here, I think that simply having some handle on the group debate dynamics would be even better: first train yourselves to act and decide things intelligently as a group, so as to avoid herd stupidity, and then perhaps there will be some room for actual strategic brilliance." (from Eero's herd stupidity thread)

    and this, from Rickard:

    "Somewhere along the line, story game designers must start to realize that it's important to build up a safe environment (no judgement) so people can be creative together. Guess why I'm not a fan of fan mail, to bring up an old discussion...

    The Swedish word for collaborative storytelling is samberättande. "Sam-" can mean tillsammans - "together" - but also samhörighet - "togetherness". Sure, we all play roleplaying games together but we shouldn't forget to build that feeling of togetherness. You don't do that if you're competitive or even have to judge your fellow players."

    It's like different worlds, and I think story-games are going to Rickard's direction, with all the talk about inclusiveness and safe spaces.
  • Rickard is an exception♥♥♥
  • I've been burned in trad groups, story-game groups and OSR groups.

    All three communities have their own way of convincing themselves that they're the inclusive ones.

    And there are points of light
  • edited June 2017
    I view Microscope differently. While it puts people on the spot, there is no high skill threshold: you don't need to make up anything smart or good, it's still valid. The game is giving power to people who, in an OSR game, would be evaluated based on their performance and who would give in to the experienced/alpha players. The ban on suggestions liberates the weak/the shy/the newbs to speak up without being forced to compromise with the overbearing alphas. The game even protects their contributions by making them visible to anyone and hard to ignore. Even the simultaneous voting mechanism forces everyone to think independently. Microscope is definitely not a game about consensus, but it's a game very heavy on collaboration.

    I dislike consensus building in RPGs, personally, it always seems to end with the most abrasive player getting his way. I dislike it even when that player is me.

    Granted, Microscope is not the cuddliest game in the world either, but it's much more protective compared to OSR. Many people want their game tougher, obviously.
  • MOD VOICE:

    I think trying to hash out "the [OSR/story-games/trad] community is like this" is an exercise that's going to be both full of large, probably unfair, generalizations, and also lead nowhere good.

    So let's not continue in that direction.
  • edited June 2017
    Thank you James

    Edit: Whoops, didn't mean for that "Thank you" to come across as a dig against Upstart. I was on the brink of going into the territory that James warned against and I'm glad he stopped me in time
  • edited June 2017
    My apologies.

    Edit: No problem, 2097. :)
  • Cultural toughness/inclusiveness and how performance-oriented a game is are somewhat connected issues, but they're probably not the same thing altogether.

    I am, for instance, somewhat sensitive to "cuddliness" (it annoys me as a social protocol), but e.g. Microscope doesn't give me that vibe at all - it's a serious story game, requiring focus and skill to achieve good results. There's no attempt at inclusiveness in it as a game text, at least not of the sort that I would notice.

    Despite that, it is also true that a game like Microscope is more decorous and covert about its goals than the sort of hardcore D&D that Upstart's thinking of, above. (I should note that he's probably thinking of the sort of D&D I and some other people here in Finland play - I understand his experiences with OSR D&D are mostly in that scene.) For instance, a rule common to games like Microscope is that the players take turns to contribute, which is something that macho D&D militates against in the interest of letting the best players lead. It is not wrong to say that Microscope is more egalitarian and people-respecting than the blood-thirstiest sorts of D&D out there. (I hope I am being clear that this is not all D&D that I'm describing - there's plenty of fluffier varieties as well.)

    It's an intricate field of issues, and lumping them all into one continuum of machismo is probably not the way to get a clear sense of it all.
  • I'm all about that Taschenlampenfallenlasser
  • I think this whole discussion is a little off kilter (Well, as usual, except for Eero, who seems to hit it with that last post) You can't make a game inclusive any more than you can make a game that forces people to play by the rules. At the end of the day, inclusiveness or lack of it is about the people.

    All that said, there are a few things that can help; Microscope's choice to not allow other people to give you suggestions means that people have to cooperate in a way that doesn't involve just telling other people what to do - which is a big problem in cooperative games with any sort of mastery involved (See Pandemic, where games with experienced players and new players usually devolve into the experienced players just telling the new players what to do.) People can mitigate this, but in a highly skill based and punishing game, they can hurt their own game experiences by doing so, when the newbie sets off a trap that mangles half the party. You can mitigate THAT by being nice and supportive and not taking things too seriously. I kinda get the feeling OSR takes itself pretty seriously overall, however. At least, based on the scorn it tends to heap on other types of games.

    You can also make the penalties for "lack of skill" less punishing - OSR does the opposite of this. If you're a dumbass and set off a trap and it kills you, go sit on the couch and play Xbox for a while until a point comes along where you can add a character back into the game. Storygames don't tend to sideline a player in this way, which can be more supportive. The downside is that a person can still drag down the experience for everyone involved by doing discordant stuff, but in general I find that is something that's more easily compensated for by a conversation - "Hey, you just introduced and that seems kinda jarring and doesn't really fit in; How can we make it work?" - rather than "well, you just killed half the party because you didn't listen to Alex when they told you what to do." which is pretty much not reparable, and you just have to grin and bear it.
  • We play with the rule that you get your new character right away
  • That helps a lot, but can be jarring to a lot of people. "Wait. Where did this new guy come from when we're in the depths of a lost tomb that we only just figured out how to enter, and is three weeks from the nearest town." It also potentially causes the issue that it undercuts a lot of what I suspect OSR wants to be about - if Fred the Fighter dies, and Bob the Fighter spontaneously appears to replace him, the party hasn't really lost anything. They haven't been weakened by the decisions that caused Fred to die.

    FWIW, I agree with you, but that's only because when I am playing OSR-ish dungeon crawly games where I'm likely to be in a lost tomb miles from nowhere, it's because I want to kill some monsters, I don't really care about the lost "verisimilitude" of having a new character appear when one dies.
  • Yeah… we're doing pretty post-OSR OSR :sweat_smile:
  • As a sidenote, Airk:

    "The party hasn't really lost anything" is only true if the characters haven't leveled up or otherwise improved their abilities. Losing a 3rd level character and replacing her with a 1st level character is painful! Equally so if the dead character was carrying the map...

    If the characters dying are unusually good (e.g. really high stats, good hit points, etc), it's also painful to risk a new, arbitrary character. And this is often the case in OSR games with high lethality: the ones who survive tend to be (over time) the ones with good combinations of stats, hit points, levels, and so forth.

    Finally, it's still a blow to the party if the new character has been with them all along. For instance, if Bob the Fighter is one of the henchmen, the party size has still been hurt, a vital member lost. In this style of play, the number of people on the expedition becomes its hit points, in a certain way!

    So, there are ways to balance that kind of thing and still let people play continuously. (With rare exceptions, of course!)
  • As a sidenote, Airk:

    "The party hasn't really lost anything" is only true if the characters haven't leveled up or otherwise improved their abilities. Losing a 3rd level character and replacing her with a 1st level character is painful! Equally so if the dead character was carrying the map...
    Wait, wait, why would the map spontaneously vanish just because the character carrying it was killed? To me this makes no sense. Just because one impossible thing happens before breakfast doesn't mean another does.

    And honestly, if you're replacing 3rd level characters with first level characters, you're back to punishing people for bad play, which is fine, but leads back into the "You should damn well listen to Alex, newb" problem.

    If the characters dying are unusually good (e.g. really high stats, good hit points, etc), it's also painful to risk a new, arbitrary character. And this is often the case in OSR games with high lethality: the ones who survive tend to be (over time) the ones with good combinations of stats, hit points, levels, and so forth.
    But the reverse is equally true - you may have just strengthened the party by removing Fred, whose high stat was 12, with Bob, who managed a 15 con.

    Finally, it's still a blow to the party if the new character has been with them all along. For instance, if Bob the Fighter is one of the henchmen, the party size has still been hurt, a vital member lost. In this style of play, the number of people on the expedition becomes its hit points, in a certain way!
    This is true, but it didn't sound like what 2097 was doing.

    So, there are ways to balance that kind of thing and still let people play continuously. (With rare exceptions, of course!)
    I am not entirely convinced.
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