How do you come up with cool cultures?

edited June 2009 in Story Games
Again it's me trying to tap into the collective mind of the Story Games community. There's so many great ideas here I'm sure you can help me.

I'm wondering if there are any good ideas/methods/techniques for coming up with interesting and unique cultures. I'm pretty sure a few of you guys have come accross this "challenge" before and come up with some great ways to do it. I know there's stuff out there like the Hard Boiled Cultures supplement for 4E. Anyone has some feedback on that one? Also if you've got some other products or ideas, let me know.

I'm primarily asking because I'm trying to think up "modern" (current day tech level-ish) cultures. There's a lot of material and inspiration out there on fantasy cultures but no so much on ideas in a modern context. Now I'm having some trouble getting started but I'm sure once I make a little progress it'll be a lot easier. So if you can help me, that'd be great.

Comments

  • So there are five different spheres of morality, right? Fairness, hurt, purity, loyalty and authority. In the western culture, we priotitize fairness and hurt (as in it's wrong to hurt people). We see it as wrong to give your brother a great job position because that's against fairness (others didn't have a chance). In many other cultures they prioritize loyalty to your family over fairness, and not giving your brother the job would be immoral.

    Purity is very interesting, as it can be coupled with many different things. Like sex in Victorian times, or jews in antisemitic cultures.

    So a cool way to create a culture would be to prioritize the different moralities (you could do this in different groups, like how in the US, conservatives value all of the spheres, whilst liberals tend to only recognize fairness and hurt) and then make it concrete by associating each shere with something.
  • You could easily come up with any grouping of categories of your own choosing like that: Prioritize women over men; prioritize competition over cooperation; prioritize conformity over individualism; prioritize craftsmenship over technology; etc.
  • Yeah, but mine's based on SCIENCE!
  • edited June 2009
    When I run Bleakworlds, I take a theme and generalise it. Start with "treehouses", for example, and you can instantly decide where people sleep, where they drink, what their weapons are like (wooden spears and crossbows, but they're effective). Also, through free association, you can decide things like what their societal structure is like: for me, it was kibbutz-like; for you, it might be a tree-like hierarchy; but, anyway, the imagery generates ideas.

    Also, there's factions, each of whom inflicts horrific cruelty on another faction for a very good reason.

    Graham
  • Just think of the potential of "Port-o-Potties."
  • Some of my best cultural inventions came from a writing trick I stumbled across: write a scene, pick someone's reaction, and reverse it. Then ask yourself why that new reaction is perfectly reasonable.

    i.e. A character introduces himself as 'Hi, I'm Eric Williams' (because that's his name). The reaction I'd expect would be a reciprocal introduction (my expectation is culture-bound, I know. I originally came up with this trick to force myself to think outside my culture). The other person would say 'Hi, I'm Ceridwen Tanner'.

    One possible opposite reaction was shock. Why are they shocked? Because he gave his full name to a stranger? I went with that, and wound up with a culture where blood relations are secret, nobody knows who is related to whom, and gave me all sorts of fun and a couple of good plot devices.

    IIRC, I did the same thing with "complain about the weather" and "buy a cup of coffee". No substitute for a fully realized culture, but I found it great for breaking my own bad habits.
  • Lachlan, that exercise might be a fun thread on its own. :)
  • Thanks everyone for the ideas so far! If I come up with something interesting enough, I'll be sure to post it here.
  • Lachlan, that's great!

    I usually do something like what Graham said.

    For the D&D game I'm setting up, The Hollow, I'm going an extra step—make a culture sketch, advance the timeline and do something drastic to the culture (relocate, split populations, or merge populations), and then make a sketch on top, so there are layers.

    As an example, the elves:

    The elves are descended from the second of the created races, the Children of Salt, who are 'small and quick-fingered', born by the seashore, and like all fey, adapted to a nocturnal lifestyle.

    So, the Children of Salt have a tapetum lucidum that makes their eyes light up like cats' at night, a fascination with the tides and moons, and they're assumed to be small and dextrous. Maybe when they come in contact with the Children of Clay, they become more conscious of their particular advantages (the ability to see well at night, particularly), and develop skills for moving unseen, fooling the human eye, and so on.

    Time passes. They become sailors, and many Children of Salt live out their whole lives at sea. Then there is a period of storms, lasting years, that sends them back ashore.

    Some of them overreact and take shelter with the dwarves, and we will speak of them no more.

    Some others are lost in the storms and do not return to the shores of the known world. More time passes.

    Then the lost ones return, generations later, and the hard life on unforgiving seas has made them tall and sinewy, and their material culture has changed completely—the necessities of living on the sea make them build their ships of whale-leather and bone, fish-skin sails, ropes woven out of seaweed and hair. They've still got the moon-magic of earlier generations, but they are characterized by an overwhelming hunger. Among the Exiles, nothing is thrown away or wasted. They gather rainwater obsessively. They make liquamen out of fish offal. Bone scrap from shipbuilding becomes small household objects, talismans, beads. Bone dust is charred to make makeup and ink. Driftwood is sacred beyond all things.

    Some of the Exiles return to the earth when they find it at last, and these become modern elves.

    They are still obsessively stingy, but again their material culture has changed—the unit of resource is the tree, rather than the whale. Fish sauce gives way to a variety of fermented vegetarian condiments. Elves become masters of food-preservation; pickles, cheese, and cured sausage are all (probably) elvish inventions. In the place of bones, they wear trinkets made of feathers, gems, cured pine resin, and carved shells from the seashore. Driftwood is still sacred, but less rare; by the seaside, elves build temples out of it, and farther inland, it is used to make altars, or sometimes a very grand piece is enshrined intact, a shintai of the sea.

  • Here's how it works in Xenon:

    Come up with your home culture and a bunch of things about it: An action, an idea, a thing, a color, a texture, a number, and five syllables that say what the language sounds like.

    Then come up with some relatives to them. Cultures they relate to. They have some of those things in common, and others are unique. Now figure out what their relationship is. Do they trade? What do they trade? Are they at war? Over what? Do they meet every year for a festival of champions, where the mightiest of the tribes mate with each other? Does one steal from the other? Is one subject to the other? And so on.

    I find that, since cultures can only be seen in contrast to other cultures (Viz. Lachlan, above), those relationships are the most fruitful indicators. The answers to those questions tell you not only what the culture's like, but how those cultures see each other.

  • You can create a culture the same way you might create an individual character. Take some of the questions you ask when you make a character and apply them to your culture.

    What do you value?
    What do you love the most?
    What do you hate the most?
    What do you fear?
    How do you present yourself to the world?
    How do you really feel about yourself?
    How do you make a living?
    What would you rather be doing?
    What is your biggest secret?
    Who are your parents?
    Who are your friends?
    Who are your enemies? why?
    What did you forget to bring?
  • Pick a cool idea, image or theme that the culture's creation is based around.
    Who leads?
    Who wars?
    Who labors?
    Who prays?

    What have they picked up for a neighboring culture and adapted to make their own?
    What bit of their own culture can be found in a neighboring culture?

    What do those who want to transgress or rebel against this culture do and how are they punished?
  • The ephemera of culture emerge from the challenge of living in a particular environment. Most modern cultures arose from the challenge of living in an environment with abundant, cheap energy (which poses more challenges than you might, at first, assume). So, for any culture to feel like it has real depth, you need to start with the ecology. Then, start coming up with ways that people would adapt to live in that ecology. Culture means nothing but the sum of those adaptations.
  • I feel I should point out that verisimilar anthropological culture and interesting gameable culture are two very different things.

  • edited June 2009
    Posted By: Simon_PetterssonYeah, but mine's based on SCIENCE!
    No. No it's not. This is a very common mistake people make in interpreting scientific investigation. That classification scheme for morality is arbitrary. As an arbitrary classification scheme, it can be based on grouping together things based on real-world observable data, or based on subjective properties. Many studies have been performed on human morality that have been rigorous. That means that you can potentially link the arbitrary categories to real-world observable data, but that in itself does not make them less arbitrary.

    There are very few classification schemes that we use that can defensibly be considered "real" and "fundamental to the natural world" rather than arbitrary. Some possible examples would include material properties based on phase transitions, and classifying things as alive or not alive, though the latter still lacks a completely rigorous definition (and thus maybe shouldn't be on that list!).

    However, just because something is arbitrary doesn't mean that it isn't useful. The periodic table of the elements is an arbitrary classification scheme based on several real-world properties. It is super-useful, despite the fact that you could have picked other properties and found other periodic trends. It's important to understand the box that you're thinking in - the periodicity of atomic properties based on atomic number says that the number of outer shell electrons should determine chemistry, and this is mostly true despite the fact that heavy water is poison even though it has the same outer shell electron setup as regular water.

    So, 5 sphere's of morality = arbitrary. Actual data = great. Actual data + language that makes it understandable = useful. But that doesn't make your classification scheme objectively real, even if it is based on data as objective and repeatable as controlled chemical reactions.
  • edited June 2009
    I thought this thread was pretty cool. It's about generating NPCs, but there might be something you can use there.
  • edited June 2009
    Posted By: EricSo, 5 sphere's of morality = arbitrary.
    Arbitrary SCIENCE!
  • Posted By: Simon_PetterssonPosted By: EricSo, 5 sphere's of morality = arbitrary.
    Arbitrary SCIENCE!
    ...well-played, rogue, well-played.
  • edited June 2009
    Posted By: shreyasFor the D&D game I'm setting up, The Hollow, I'm going an extra step—make a culture sketch, advance the timeline and do something drastic to the culture (relocate, split populations, or merge populations), and then make a sketch on top, so there arelayers.
    This is precisely what I've been working on with a cyberpunk game side-project. Cultures and subcultures are very noticeable when the patterns they've developed for one situation emerge in a different situation (e.g. diasporas, technological changes, environmental changes, etc.).

    One thing I think is important (and this is something I suspect you'll understand and agree with, Jason) is to not consider past behaviours as ill-adapted to new situations. Different cultural perspectives may present different solutions, even if there are some new adaptations incorporated. Even old and almost forgotten solutions may find new life and relevance.

    In addition to the patterns of adaptation, there is another factor, "propaganda." Maybe a particular pattern of sharing meals emerged from a time when food was scarce and people had to pull together, but quickly the practice will be justified using other reasons (community service, religious ritual, or whatever). This propaganda is created and reinforced through whatever pattern of authority the culture uses. This propaganda tends to carry over when the situation to be adapted to changes.

    It is from this combination of adaptation and justification that a lot of interesting cultural situations and struggles emerge, not only within the culture, but between cultures. Even if a culture's patterns adapt well to a new situation, the residual patterns of authority may clash with others (that's part of what I'm working on with in my side-project).
  • I pick three stats that might be interesting axes for defining a culture. Say SORCERY, SEAFARING, and LIBERTY. Then I roll some dice (I like Fudge dice for this because I get a negative to positive range centered steeply on zero -- you might want something more dramatic; d6-d6 is cool) for each one. Then I take a sip from my single malt and look at the numbers and think, "Whoah, what would THAT mean?"

    I write that shit down.

    Works even better with some friends over.
  • The ephemera of culture emerge from the challenge of living in a particular environment. Most modern cultures arose from the challenge of living in an environment with abundant, cheap energy (which poses more challenges than you might, at first, assume). So, for any culture to feel like it has real depth, you need to start with the ecology. Then, start coming up with ways that people would adapt to live in that ecology. Culture means nothing but the sum of those adaptations.

    Sing it, sister.

  • Posted By: shreyasI feel I should point out that verisimilar anthropological culture and interesting gameable culture are two very different things.
    I disagree.
    Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanSing it, sister.
    ... So ... mistake, dig, or testing my feminist credentials to see if I balk at being called a woman?
  • jason, is it your opinion that dogmatically repeating an opinion makes it a better or more convincing idea? I think you've made your stance on culture abundantly clear to everyone, without providing an iota of play-relevant advice.

    Thankfully, thinking about your insistent dogmatism made me remember a really important question I ask myself, so you're not totally wasting our time.

    My experience in play is that things that are useful to know about a culture vary widely based on the subject matter of the game. In a loot-focused D&D game, I'll pay a lot more attention to material culture, whereas in a relationship-heavy game of The Pool, I'll be a lot more interested in etiquette and personal/social boundaries.

    There's always a lot of cultural information that I think of as 'grass and rain' - meaning, "What species of grass grows here? How often does it rain?" These facts are worthless environmental details that add nothing to play and should be avoided.

    Thinking about what your game focuses on, and detailing the aspects of culture that interact relevantly with the subject matter, is what will make your cultures cool.

  • edited June 2009
    Wow, and here we were talking about how GNS doesn't matter when suddenly we stumble into a fight about if we should think in world sense or story sense when making cultures. (Adam, feel free to point out that this doesn't have to be N or S, but could in fact be some other variable of CA clash that's especially funny as it isn't even happening at a table over a real game, but online about hypothetical ways to play hypothetical games.)

    And with such vitriol even, Shreyas. My, my, must we make our opinions not just the thing we prefer but the universal truth?
  • edited June 2009
    Posted By: shreyasThere's always a lot of cultural information that I think of as 'grass and rain' - meaning, "What species of grass grows here? How often does it rain?" These facts are worthless environmental details that add nothing to play and should be avoided.
    Remind me to never invite you to a game where I include crafts (cooking food, making string or baskets from grasses, creating art, etc.) as part of play.
  • We could snipe at each other about how someone is wrong and someone else is right or we can give concrete, interesting examples of play where elements of fictional cultures added to play and the techniques we used to bring them to life and make them relevant.

    Or we could continue sniping and I'll just keep usign this thread to whisper funny, meaningless crap to Brand.
  • Posted By: shreyasThere's always a lot of cultural information that I think of as 'grass and rain' - meaning, "What species of grass grows here? How often does it rain?" These facts are worthless environmental details that add nothing to play and should be avoided.
    Shreyas, I love those worthless environmental details. For example, Joshua was talking, above, about associating a colour with a culture. I do this too. The facts that the grass is a dark red, that the sky is an ochre-yellow, that it rains in the night but not the day: those meaningless details are wonderful for firing the imagination and enriching the sense of place.

    Ken Hite (I think it's him) has a trick, in Cthulhu adventures, of being frighteningly specific about details. It's a trick you can use with cultures, too. So the drink you're offered isn't just soothing, it's a white cloudy drink, smelling faintly of hazelnuts, that makes you sleepy. Again, they're meaningless details, but I love them.

    Graham
  • edited June 2009

    Graham, you just eloquently described the difference between the bad detail (grass and rain) and the good detail. It's a bad detail if it's a boring fact about grass, and a good detail if it's interesting to your group - that's why I stressed that good details vary widely. No one can give you the perfect truth about what's cool and what isn't, 'cause it's so context-sensitive.

    edit, ps brand, don't put that GNS venom in my mouth. I am not one of those snakes who talks about that shit.

  • edited June 2009
    I, too, love the meaningless details, but they don't necessarily have to be logically derived from the environment and the response to it from the people that live there. Though sometimes that's awesome. If I do culture gaming, I want a rich, detailed and internally consistent culture with logical relations to neighboring cultures. But sometimes I do weird shit in space. Then I don't want that. When doing weird shit in space, I want a culture where people sacrifice their children to an eight-legged sun goddess by launching them into the sun. Just because it's cool.

    The big fantasy RPG in Sweden has for the last decade or so been Eon, which is insanely detailed and logical, with details on how people are dressed, demographics, that sort of stuff. And it's awesome for culture gaming. In the nineties, the big RPG was Drakar och Demoner, with a setting called Ereb Altor. It was all "This is the KNIGHTY kingdom and this is the EVIL WIZARDS and oh yeah there are these ducks that are totally funny!". And that was totally awesome, as well.

    So, yeah. I really shouldn't fan that discussion, but get back to the original subject ... But then I feel that has been pretty well explored by now. There are many awesome ideas here. But something I absolutely LOVE about cultures are local expressions and idioms. I have this non-published expansion for this game only availible in Swedish that's all about playing through a world's history, to create the setting to play in, yeah? And at certain points, when important stuff happens, you get to name a consequence of it, like "Ever since then, the Erlachi architecture is heavily inspired by dragon skeletons" (yeah, that's from an actual game!). The coolest of them is when you pick consequences like "And this is why people in this region still send others away on voyages with the words 'May the rivers rise to greet you on your journeys!'" It's something cool and it's connected to the history and it shows up clearly in games!

    So my advice is to make sure you add some interesting expressions to your culture. It really helps it come alive!
  • And at certain points, when important stuff happens, you get to name a consequence of it

    This is so fucking awesome I can't even tell you how much reading it improved my day. Can you maybe fork that off into another thread and tell us more about it?

  • The only issue I have with deeply derived cultures (those where we put a lot of energy into figuring out the origins and ramifications of all that will be expressed) is that this model that we choose to use is so deeply and intrinsically flawed by its incompleteness that the expression of it is not different than if you had just made up the expression and ignored the model. However, if you have a model (and if you share the model) then the inconsistencies become flaws. If you have no model and instead concentrate on the expression, then the model is a void that is hopefully fruitful. Players speculate about WHY something might be true and invent stories. These stories, whether or not they suit a rigorous anthropological or ecological model, automatically get a suspension-of-disbelief pass because they are INVENTED BY THE AUDIENCE. And, lacking so very much detail (by necessity -- we cannot reproduce a complete anthropology of a culture and even if we did, to modern scientific standards, it would STILL be incomplete) there is more room for story than for dispute.

    So while I appreciate the work and the intent behind deriving from a consistent model, I think the ROI is small compared with starting from an expression and offering the derivation as story to the players.

    I recognize, of course, creative agenda yadda yadda we're all different etc wtf bbq lol. But leaving space for story is so very powerful, and an incidental, seemingly unnecessary detail can inspire someone to things that are far greater than I as a referee/GM/story-commander am likely to come up with. And I don't have to sell the suspension of disbelief. Where the CA comes in, of course, is where the players DO NOT WANT to own that piece of story, and there you are stuck working from a model to build their suspension.
  • Posted By: shreyasjason, is it your opinion that dogmatically repeating an opinion makes it a better or more convincing idea? I think you've made your stance on culture abundantly clear to everyone, without providing an iota of play-relevant advice.
    Wow--I hadn't really thought that just saying "I disagree" counted as dogmatism. Nor did I think that it counted as sniping back and forth. Then again, I find myself in a particularly foul mood at the moment (perhaps you do, too?), so perhaps I shouldn't even try to respond to this right now--but, it won't even get on the list of the top five worst decisions I've made today if not.

    I suggested that to develop a cool culture, you should start from the environment, and build up the adaptations made to live in that environment. You responded (in entirety here, not excerpted):
    Posted By: shreyasI feel I should point out that verisimilar anthropological culture and interesting gameable culture are two very different things.
    I simply said that I disagree. Now it seems to me I've already provided really all the play-relevant advice possible on this point: I think a culture developed from adapting to an environment makes for a better culture, in play, than a random collection of traditions. For me at least, I want to know why these traditions emerged. Traditions don't develop in a vacuum, or arbitrarily. A culture that falls apart when you look at it too closely--as any randomly-generated culture would--doesn't just fail anthropologically, it fails at the table. Players will question the culture, they'll explore it. If it can't hold up to that scrutiny, then that will result in a bad play experience when you finally reach the point where the GM says, "Because I said so!" For me, that breaks the suspension of disbelief. It snaps me back into the realm of, "Oh, right, this isn't a coherent culture; it's just something the GM made up, so it's not entirely going to make sense."

    Now, I don't consider J.R.R. Tolkien a good writer, pretty much for exactly this reason, but he at least didn't try working his material on elven weaving into the Lords of the Rings. He saved it for its endless appendices. Yes, he still went way too far sharing endless, pointless details, and I dislike his writing for precisely that reason, but in play you might only engage a very small part of all the details you could say about a culture. To use your example, no, you probably don't want to run a game about grass and rain. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't think about the grass and rain. Those things determine who lives there: farmers or herders? The particular species of grass and the low levels of rain mean the people here herd horses, and since patriarchial nomads do better with pastoralism like that, you have roving families headed by fathers and grandfathers. That will have everything to do with the etiquette or personal and social boundaries. If you want to change those practices, you'll have to change the whole way these people live, maybe even where they live. You can understand why, living in this place, these people live the way they do. In most instances, you'll probably just accept the way they do things, even if you don't like it.

    On the other hand, let's say you put such a patriarchal society in the middle of a tropical hunter-gatherer tribe. Why? What keeps the women from asserting themselves? The tradition seems arbitrary, and that makes it easy to walk in and overturn it. You wonder what stopped these people from fixing this themselves long ago. It makes the society look like a bunch of idiots, and the social conventions seem arbitrary.

    Building up your cultures from the environment doesn't mean you have to "show your work" at the table. We can just deal with the issues of patriarchy here, without addressing how it goes back to grass and rain. But that work still comes out, in subtle ways; mostly, it makes the world feel real. And in that sense, I find it crucial to a good play experience.
    Posted By: HalfjackThese stories, whether or not they suit a rigorous anthropological or ecological model, automatically get a suspension-of-disbelief pass because they are INVENTED BY THE AUDIENCE.
    I can't say this has held true in my experience. I've played games of In a Wicked Age, for instance, with lots of setting created at the table. We try to dig into why these customs developed, but sometimes it gets to the point where it seems mutually incompatible, and somebody says, "Because it just does!" That moves the game for me from "serious" to "gonzo." Simon, above, talked about how he sometimes enjoys very consistent settings, and sometimes enjoys really gonzo ones. I do, too, but I get very different kinds of enjoyment from them. I get a more fulfilling kind of fun from the consistent settings. The gonzo ones feel more like the story equivalent of junk food. When this has happend in my IAWA games, it's always caused a click in my head, kind of like, "Oh, I didn't realize we were playing [i]that[/i] kind of game. Damn. Oh well. Guess I'll go kill me some savages, then!"
    Posted By: HalfjackAnd, lacking so very much detail (by necessity -- we cannot reproduce a complete anthropology of a culture and even if we did, to modern scientific standards, it would STILL be incomplete) there is more room for story than for dispute.
    You certainly don't need to go through a lengthy, exhaustive exercise to come up with a consistent culture. Let's start with grass and rain: lots of grass, few trees, very little rain. From that, we can get pastoralism, which gives us patriarchy and nomadism, it gives us yurts on the great sea of grass, it gives us bright-colored fabrics made from animal wool, it gives us feasts of meat, blood and milk, it gives us horseback archers and a raiding culture, a code of macho one-up-manship and constant competitions between the males to show off on horseback or wrangle the neighboring family's cattle. It gives us reprisals and revenge cycles, it gives us honored grandfathers and people introducing themselves with a long list of patronyms. That's off the top of my head, just something I wrote down in five minutes. You've got lots of details there that could really inform an interesting game, and it has a consistency that won't break when you start to play with it. So, I disagree that you have a dichotomy of "realistic but exhaustive" to "random but easy." You can create cultures that will really lend themselves to fun at the table, without sacrificing consistency. In fact, you could make a game out of developing the culture itself: something like Brand Robbins' Microscope seems perfect for this.
  • I really like this, Jason. I don't think it's The Only Way To Do It, but it's a good one.

    Graham
  • Thanks! No, certainly not the only way to do it. Lots of people have had lots of fun with the randomly-generated cultures, so obviously it works, at least well enough for lots of people.
  • Posted By: jason
    You certainly don't need to go through a lengthy, exhaustive exercise to come up with a consistent culture. Let's start with grass and rain: lots of grass, few trees, very little rain. From that, we can get pastoralism, which gives us patriarchy and nomadism, it gives us yurts on the great sea of grass, it gives us bright-colored fabrics made from animal wool, it gives us feasts of meat, blood and milk, it gives us horseback archers and a raiding culture, a code of macho one-up-manship and constant competitions between the males to show off on horseback or wrangle the neighboring family's cattle. It gives us reprisals and revenge cycles, it gives us honored grandfathers and people introducing themselves with a long list of patronyms. That's off the top of my head, just something I wrote down in five minutes. You've got lots of details there that could really inform an interesting game, and it has a consistency that won't break when you start to play with it. So, I disagree that you have a dichotomy of "realistic but exhaustive" to "random but easy." You can create cultures that will really lend themselves to fun at the table, without sacrificing consistency. In fact, you could make a game out of developing the culture itself: something like Brand Robbins' Microscope seems perfect for this.
    You and I are actually saying practically the same thing. The only difference is that I might suggest getting "lots of grass, few trees, very little rain" as a result of random rolls (GRASS 3; TREES -1; RAIN -3), and then perform exactly the same derivation at the table (in fact, your paragraph above looks almost EXACTLY like what we do in the first session of Diaspora when building worlds, with a random system generating the three assumptions). What I am saying that's different, though, is that letting that derivation happen in whole or in part during play rather than preceding it can be rewarding. Your experience of failure through gonzo is one I've seen too, but not so much that I'd abandon the principle. Maybe part of the reason we don't see it is because we're using the process in a fairly constrained system rather than something open ended -- there are clearly stated axioms of the game that preclude just saying whatever sounds awesome at the time (which I agree can spiral into some stupid territory in short order).

    It's also the case that in Diaspora specifically, there is substantial player investment in their pieces of the setting, and so the details added during play are usually a result of whatever model the player is using to derive facts about her system, and consistent with their vision and plans.

    In the end is the process the same (or similar), except for a split between "I do it" and "We do it?" If so, then these are just different games and not necessarily better or worse, I suppose.
  • I'm amazed by the amount of cool stuff pouring out here. Also I dig the spinoff thread!
  • So, you're saying generating the environment randomly, and then figure out what kind of culture would live there? Yes, I could see that. I am interested in figuring out ways to do that in play rather than before--though it seems like you might need a certain depth to start with, and then allow play to take it deeper and deeper.
  • Gah. Long comment lost.

    Essentially this:

    Gonzo bullshit -WTF!? (nerdrage) (/nerdrage)

    How do we encourage players to be ethnographers and not satirists?

    This a problem that vexes me to no end. Why do we get lazy and selfish gonzo bullshit and not thoughtful consistent additions to settings? Why mutant chinchillas? Why six-shooters? Why a large bucket?

    Two-fold answer: egoism or nervousness. Egoism: I know I signed up for sword-and-sandals but fuck you I want cowboys so I'm going to be passive-aggressive about it because I don't care if ruin everyone's fun. Nervousness: I am anxious about the strength and qualities of by ideas and I am concerned about being accepted and liked. Instead of providing thoughtful additions that will be taken seriously at the (imaginary) risk of being ridiculed I'll provided gonzo bullshit so that I cannot be judged for failing.

    Answers: screening and safety. Don't play with jerks and try to make everyone feel comfortable.

    Moral question? Ought we limit what sort of feedback the player give us, or should we trust with the responsibility to make the game fun for eveyone, not just themselves?
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