Stay in the moment. Make me believe it!

So there's this whole... thing with systems that I really don't like. It's referencing a book, or a handout page.

Because when we're about to throw down, emotionally or otherwise, and we're all starting to have that collective experience... even if it's seeing a solo effort by someone whose character is having a pivotal moment... that's what I live for. That's why I play these games.

So if, on my way to diving into the demon's mouth, I have to do these things:

1) Flip pages
2) Open books
3) Read
4) Wonder which rule applies
5) Negotiate out of character
6) Allocate pools

I feel like "you just ruined it, game. You just ruined it."

Comments

  • RyRy
    edited April 2016
    But here's the thing. The way to stay away from that stuff is to have simple but powerful rules, right? Sure.

    But I'm looking for play materials that are powerfully simple - Here's my stupid incremental idea for index cards, whatever - that use color in a smart way.

    If I have 6 apocalypse world stats, and have to look up the move sheet, to see which stat works with which. Why not have 6 color-coded cards, each with the move written on it and my bonus? That way I know "hey, I'm getting pretty aggressive," and looking at the red card is just a natural thing my brain will do while I'm thinking in the imagined space.
  • I'm not holding that up as some supreme example - just trying to say I'm lately seeing very little that's really developing along those kinds of lines. Trying to take out the tiny speed bumps of unnecessary out-of-character thought. All the colorful cards and custom dice seem to be relegated to sprawling rulebooks, whereas the truly excellent games rely so very heavily on text.

    But I haven't really been "on the scene" watching this stuff closely.

    What great games and nearly-invisible designs have I missed in the last few years?
  • edited April 2016
    This is a great idea. I use some cards with moves on them for Monsterhearts, and actual coloured strings for, you know, Strings. Having those lying around the table has been helpful, though not quite to the extent you describe.

    For Mature Audiences (hopefully I'm getting the title right) had a pretty evocative rule where you defaced or cut up your character sheet when your character suffered harm; not quite the same thing you're going for, but an interesting idea. Perhaps the identification of the doll/character sheet with the persona you're presenting is stronger enough to make the link there very real.

    But, even if it's not, looking down at your mangled character as you ponder how you're going to get out of this alive... now that seems to match what you're describing in this thread very well.


    Edit: Ry, since we both know that you're an IAWA fan, I should mention that this is one of the things that's always bugged me about IAWA - specifically, the out-of-character negotiation phase. It's almost always a little awkward.
  • RyRy
    edited April 2016
    Yes - the character sheet. Can also be done other ways; say you've just got 6 cards each with a move and a bonus on it.

    What about damage?

    What if I handed you an ugly, bloody card every time you took damage?

    Again, your animal brain looks down at the bloody mess and you've got a touchstone into the moment.

    I'm not *completely* card-obsessed here. But let's say you had some 5-piece puzzle representing your soul in a Sorcerer game, and instead of marking on a sheet you handed in a piece each time, keeping that broken-ass soul in front of you. I'm saying we're not doing enough
  • But let's say you had some 5-piece puzzle representing your soul in a Sorcerer game, and instead of marking on a sheet you handed in a piece each time, keeping that broken-ass soul in front of you.
    Sort of like how SAGA (Dragonlance Fifth Age, Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game) use your hand of cards as your life? The more damage you take, the smaller your hand gets. I mean that's also equally visceral and mechanical, since the cards in your hand represent what you have to work with at any moment, so it's not just a superficial way of representing something.

    I was toying with the idea a while back of a "paper doll" based character sheet, where you would physically slot in your equipment and abilities and what not, with everything you needed to know about using them included right there. It was in part inspired by the satirical dungeon crawling game Meikyuu Kingdom, where all of the games fungible objects (skills, items, equipment, monsters, traps, etc) are all stat-blocked out on little (illustrated!) cards that you can photocopy and cut out, and whose character sheets dedicate about half of their space to an overview of the game's turn structure and how to resolve different actions you can take, repeating rules for status effects, and things like that.

    I'd probably only call it a half measure as far as how radical one could get with the idea, but "breaking the rules out of the book" I think helps a lot with, if not immersion specifically, the problem of it taking too long to look things up. That's sort of the idea of a GM's screen, but extrapolated out to all of the players, I guess. Please stop me if I'm going in the wrong direction with this though!
  • OMG someone else played the card-based SAGA. Those were hugely influential on me. I think we are friends now yukamichi.

    (No, not the d20 Star Wars: Saga Edition).
  • Have you heard of thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman ?
    I'm reading his book and it seems quite relevant to your quest for staying in the moment.
    That being thinking fast :) intuitive with ease and a sence of familiarity.
  • I reduced my system to a single AW-like move: to make anything (important), roll the dice and add the pertinent skill bonus against the difficulty set by the GM.
    -On a fumble, a everyone is threatened by something.
    -On a low roll, the GM threathens your character or you lose a resource
    -Equal or better, a consequence applies in your favor, an opportunity appear for you or another player or the challenge loses a resource /becomes easier to beat.
    -On a critical, an opportunity appears for everyone.

    So whatever the players roll, something interesting happens. There's nothing to reference through the game.
  • WarriorMonk's example is actually a good one:

    Lots of people gravitate towards rules-light roleplaying (or even freeform) for these reasons.

    So what are the advantages of more rules-heavy approaches which we can try to make more direct at the table through the use of tools/visuals/procedures?
    I'm saying we're not doing enough
    Oh, hell yes!

  • let's say you had some 5-piece puzzle representing your soul in a Sorcerer game, and instead of marking on a sheet you handed in a piece each time, keeping that broken-ass soul in front of you.
    That's what Puppetland does! Well, blacking out rather than handing in, and it's for physical harm taken rather than Humanity lost, but still.

    The Puppetland character sheet is good overall in the "not ruining" department -- all abilities are "rated" simply with adjectives, so there are no numbers to parse or fixate on.

    I've considered compiling Delve character materials as follows:
    - Atmospheric POV photo with a few speech prompts on it ("I look for...", "I try to judge if..." etc.).
    - The back of that sheet will have reference factoids for Just In Case (no book for those).
    - A separate sheet will have a diagram of your backpack where you write down what's in it and then consult it whenever you forget what you have.
  • So if, on my way to diving into the demon's mouth, I have to do these things:

    1) Flip pages
    2) Open books
    3) Read
    4) Wonder which rule applies
    5) Negotiate out of character
    6) Allocate pools
    Good list.

    We can address 1 & 2 by not having books. I still wonder why this is the default medium, and once you go past 300 pages the book becomes as much a focus of the game as anything else. Sadly gamers are very attached to their artifacts.

    We can address 3 by using fewer words. Seriously, most RPGs are full of filler when all you really need are a few clear examples, impressions, and bullet points. This is one thing the OSR and Apocalypse Worlds do really well, and the creative density tends to be much higher in those games. We can also replace words with symbols whenever possible to avoid engaging those higher brain functions which are a distraction here.

    We can address 4 by having a few clear rules. If a rule is clear you don't need to wonder where it applies, and the fewer there are, the easier it will be to adapt them all on an intuitive level.

    We can address 5 by having rules with predefined stakes. The rules to D&D and Apocalypse World more clearly define what's at stake before a roll is made, while Fate and the new 7th Sea require much more negotiation at the table.

    We can address 6 by less distracting language. Vincent Baker once said something to the effect that he knew he'd gotten Dogs in the Vineyard right when one of his players reflexively reached for the dice before a conflict. Now dice in DitV are allocated in a way similar enough to Fate Points, but didn't feel as 'distant' here because they weren't called out by name. Same happens if you just slide a FP over within the flow of the narrative as opposed to explicitly asking "I'll give you a fate point if..."

    And while we're at it we can also ask fewer questions. Nothing is quite as disruptive as asking a player to consider things they weren't already doing so in the moment. Questions also reveal the man behind the curtain and force a player to engage the GM as opposed to using their character to engage the situation.
  • Instead of cards, you could all have your phones on the table and hit the right button on the game app when you're trying to do something.
  • edited April 2016

    We can address 1 & 2 by not having books. I still wonder why this is the default medium, and once you go past 300 pages the book becomes as much a focus of the game as anything else. Sadly gamers are very attached to their artifacts.
    I'd still keep books to explain how the game works, since books are still unbeatable at that. You need something portable you can pass on to other players once you got the hang of it, you need to keep that material in order to help players understand the whole deal little by little. But, as reference sources for quick use during the game, books definitely won't do. Looking up for something in a book disrupts the conversation, breakes the GM-players connection, creates a void that players fill with distractive conversations and a large etc.

    As a GM you can delegate book searching to another player with better memory than you, which makes the disruption less important. GM screens that facilitate quick access to reference information also help a great deal, as well as apps and the use of formats with quicker searching functions than your memory, a book index and quick page flipping. Cards help a lot when you want to piece up the information to give it for players to use, and as a object it can be turned over, rotated hide and put on sight to accomplish or signal different things.

    We can address 3 by using fewer words. Seriously, most RPGs are full of filler when all you really need are a few clear examples, impressions, and bullet points. This is one thing the OSR and Apocalypse Worlds do really well, and the creative density tends to be much higher in those games. We can also replace words with symbols whenever possible to avoid engaging those higher brain functions which are a distraction here.

    We can address 4 by having a few clear rules. If a rule is clear you don't need to wonder where it applies, and the fewer there are, the easier it will be to adapt them all on an intuitive level.
    Totally agree. Seeing examples like Tenra Bansho and Delve as well as using them myself, I'd recommend using comics to explain how the game works. APs help a ton, but even then there are lots of gestual signals missing from APs, that convey even more things and that totally change the game experience. One example: reading an AP doesn't give you a real clue of how fast the conversation progresses. Whenever I see most videos of people playing RPGs I'm always surprised at how slow they are. While comics aren't still a perfect method for giving readers an exact measure of time, they definitely have more resources at giving hints about this.

    We can address 5 by having rules with predefined stakes. The rules to D&D and Apocalypse World more clearly define what's at stake before a roll is made, while Fate and the new 7th Sea require much more negotiation at the table.
    While I had a relative sucess at GMing with the less amount of negotiation via GM fiat of the obvious I've been recently trying to design a game where players can decide some of those stakes on their own and reduced those stakes to a small list of keywords. It was meant to give players a tactical decision game element: adding a positive condition to an action increased the difficulty, but then adding a stake implied by a single word could reduce it again. In testing it made the game go slower at that point, and I'm not so sure yet if players enjoyed such options; so I'm wondering if I shouldn't be back at leaving the stakes up to GM fiat, since it seems quicker that way.

    Also, I'm not too keen on all predefined stakes, lot of times both as a player and as a GM I like some surprises. I mean, I do like to know that my healing spell will consistently heal my companions, even if theres a small chance (that I'm aware of) that it may siphon my own HP. But for things like a special sword technique working the same way always, disregarding the opponents special defense conditions I'd prefer to see that stakes defined on the moment by the GM. Well, perhaps is just my perception.
Sign In or Register to comment.