The other night I and one other player began playing The Pool, but we skipped over the 50-word char gen part, and we did absolutely no game prep-- no setting in mind, no themes, no characters, nada.
I suggested that the player could buy traits with her Pool dice, like regular Pool. But the traits need not
apply to a PC. They could apply to the whole game, or any part of the gameworld; like Universalis components. So, she could have bought "Bollywood +3" with 9 dice. (But she didn't.)
She could also roll-for "anything", from her Pool. So she could have declared "Let's play in the Bollywood genre" and then rolled, say, 5 dice/ hoping for 1's. As gm, I could contribute 0 to 3 dice, depending on how much I wanted to encourage that choice to succeed. Then the dice would decide whether we were doing that or not, and she'd decide whether to Monologue the result, or defer the monolgue to me and get paid a die. Normal Pool.
Confronted with such a blank slate, she drew a blank. So I suggested we switch positions: I took her player dice, and gave her the gm dice.
I bought 2 traits:
"A story about small comforts in a harsh environment +2" and
"A brain damage epidemic left everyone behaving in exagerated, cartoonish ways +2"
We got into a long discussion about the specifics of the latter trait. And whenever we disagreed on what would be the best incarnation of the broad idea; we'd roll to decide. As the Pool-holding player; I was going to get my way alot, until my pool crashed.
Thus I prevailed in each character having their own trademark exaggeration; over her preference for everyone suffering the same symptom.
But when I gave her the Monologue, she got to specify that President Bush has Tourettes and shouts "I'm lying!" and "Bullshit!" during his speeches.
There were long stretches of conversation where we both agreed on everything, so no dice were rolled. The classic drift to Freeform. At one point she asked "Are we playing the game, yet?"
But the dice were there if we needed them, and they were handy to quickly sort-out certain decisions which we didn't feel strongly enough about to discuss at length: just pick a side, roll, and narrate. As well as sort-out decisions where we were strongly opposed.
Eventually, we reached a point where the gameworld was well established, and yet we had no PCs invented, or even any story parameters: at what scale would we be dealing with the gameworld? From within the POV of one helpless epidemic victim? Or from the viewpoint of an ensemble of active characters who have a chance of curing the epidemic? Or would we not follow the story of any individuals at-all; and just continue to describe the effects of the epidemic on society as a whole.
We stopped playing before we answered that, but it was nice to have so may choices supported by simply un-tethering The Pool from the standard-rpg constraint of a player having "my guy" to be in charge of.