kilroy: (Default)
I'm having difficulty finding words for a feeling I'm having just at the moment, but it goes something like this:
I am so very, very lucky to be telling these stories-- to be able to live in this world and to be with these people that I've grown to care so much about. It is a wonder, and it is a gift. I love it.
kilroy: (Default)
Getting this down before I lose it. 

Roleplaying games exist at a unique intersection of three elements: triumph, immersion, and collaboration. 

Triumph: Roleplaying games allow players to take actions to achieve their goals against some opposition. They are games-- they inherently limit the options of the players via the system and setting, which makes the players' success meaningful. 

Immersion: Roleplaying games allow players to be part of another world and to inhabit new lives. Where other fictional pursuits require the suspension of disbelief, roleplaying requires the active construction of the fantastic; every player is responsible for making up a person that doesn't exist and deciding what they should do in a world that also doesn't exist.

Collaboration: Roleplaying games allow players to interact with other people to create a shared experience. They exist at the intersection of multiple viewpoints and have a life outside of any individual-- the constant parallel streams of input and feedback from the participants mean the game is always changing.

You can have Triumph and Immersion without Collaboration-- it's called a video game. 
You can have Immersion and Collaboration without Triumph-- it's called acting. 
You can have Collaboration and Triumph without Immersion-- it's called a board game. 

For a player to enjoy roleplaying, they need some level of buy-in for each element. Individuals will focus more on some elements than others, but a complete lack of any one will result in a very frustrated player. 

kilroy: (Default)
Roleplaying is being  someone you want to be doing things you want to do in a place you'd like to see.
kilroy: (Default)
I find it amusing and humbling that on my very first night back GMing after a six-month hiatus, my players threw me a perfect "why don't we fly in the top of the volcano" moment. And not only did I not see the obvious coming, but I didn't roll with it. Instead, I pretzeled the plot back to something resembling my original intention... when with a half hour's hindsight, I'm already figuring out ways that rolling with it would have been fine.

I hear you, roleplaying gods, and I appreciate the reminder: this is not a novel. It's a good thing to be whacked upside the head with after six months of crazily intense planning.

Tomorrow, we pick up the pieces again and see what new pictures we can make. :-)

Sandboxing

Nov. 30th, 2011 08:13 am
kilroy: (Default)
So I haven't been posting a whole lot recently because I've been designing and running my new game for the last few months. We're building the world from the ground up and it has a loooooong history, so it's taking up most of my spare mental cycles.

But I wanted to pause and remark on something here. In my last campaign-- Nobilis-- my episode titles were usually "Something Something, Parts 1-3." Stories were generally discrete entities with a clear beginning and ending revolving around dealing with one central problem, and I named the stories in advance. But in this campaign I've been naming episodes after the fact; stories bleed into each other and there's always multiple strands going at once, so I don't know what the common theme of an episode is until after we've been through it.

Partly this is because we're still in early days and don't know clearly what story we're telling, but I get the feeling it goes deeper. This is in some ways the most open storytelling game I've ever run (Anomaly was more open but wasn't a narrative.) My job is mostly just to let the players run and make sure the consequences are entertaining and consistent.

It's different. I love it dearly, but I'm having to build whole new GM-ing muscles and skills for this one.
kilroy: (Default)
There's a bit in the GM-only section of one of the Amber sourcebooks which basically says "If a player wants power, throw it at 'em with both hands." It's something I've striven to live up to for the last few years.

Last session, out of the blue, one of my characters ended up fusing herself with an unknowable magical creature of great age and power to prevent her own death. This was session five, mind you, not even two full stories in. I just spent the last hour talking to the player about how we want to explore it and the possible ramifications.

I'm not sure if what I'm doing is "giggling" or "cackling," technically.
kilroy: (Default)
So, my new game starts tonight in earnest. We're playing a modified Fate System game, which revolves around players having Aspects that describe their characters. Between our players we have Aspects including:

Smarter Than You Are
I Know Which Fork to Use
I Was Right All Along
Can't We Just Talk About This?
My Mount Is the Sensible One
and the classic It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

I'm excited as all hell-- a little nervous too, but with these players I really don't think I can fail to have a good time and tell a good story.

Time to take a deep breath and jump in the pool again. :-)
kilroy: (Default)
Out of eleven players, one survived-- and just barely.

There will be many stories told.
kilroy: (Default)
Amber auctions were surprisingly painless this year. Not a lot of fuss or drama, things just worked.

I will take this victory.
kilroy: (Default)
I'm starting to get that electric feeling again about my new game coming together. My players are uniformly awesome, and every time I finish talking to them I have this enormous grin on my face.

It's going to be a lot of work, but man, life is good.
kilroy: (Default)
I have an amazing girlfriend who brings out the best in me, makes me laugh, and will always be there for me.

My good friends just gave birth to a lovely baby girl with an absolutely fabulous name.

I get to go visit my closest friend-family tonight and have tea and play with their wonderful kid.

I'm making plans on visiting other out-of-town friends instead of waiting for them to come to me.

I'm buying a sexy laptop.

People want to play in the games I run, and tell me so.

White Collar is back today.

The book I'm reading is good.


So BUGGER OFF, depression. My life is pretty awesome right now.
kilroy: (Default)
The two fundamental tenets of roleplaying games as a player are:
1) I have control over what my character does
2) The game should be fun for me

"Dramatic" behavior in the classical sense frequently violates either or both of those rules.
kilroy: (Default)
So, almost every story with any dramatic traction revolves around some character doing something that's against their best interests. This is extremely difficult to arrange in roleplaying situations-- people are extremely protective of their characters and are generally there because they want to "win." They don't react well to bad things happening to their characters and they don't usually choose to do it on their own.

There are ways to try and get around this. Classics include:
Withholding Information: The GM stacks the deck so that the character & player don't know enough to make the best decision. It's true to life, but players hate it; part of the draw of the game is that it's "fair" and their decisions matter, and this damages that illusion.

Gordian Knot: Give them a situation that can be solved, but not cleanly. They get to retain their sense of agency, you get a strong negative consequence to build some drama from. You also run the risk of them coming up with some creative and valid solution where they get to win free and clear. Players get rapidly disenchanted if you use too many of these.

Unintended Consequences: Take a good thing and make it bad by adding context. In its favor, this method doesn't require the players to do anything additional-- the GM can invent whatever circumstances are necessary to make the victory Pyrrhic. On the other hand, if you do this often or with a heavy hand, you're poisoning the well by essentially ruining fairly-won player victories.

Falling Masonry: Bad stuff just happens to characters through no fault of their own. This method is by far the easiest to implement for the GM, but can offend the players' sense of justice and fair play and doesn't have the same emotional resonance that actual mistakes do.

All of these methods are essentially storytelling sleight-of-hand, though-- they're attempts to get something into the story that the players don't want there. The real and more pressing question is how do you get players to want to make dramatic mistakes? Can that even be done in a roleplaying game?

Any thoughts?
kilroy: (Default)
"Granted, the time differential would be enough to set up one hell of an attack... I'm imagining wheeling a ballista very quietly into position."
kilroy: (Default)
Roleplaying is a weird creative pass-time because it's so ephemeral. You can spend hundreds of hours over a period of years building a world and performing stories in it, but there are usually no artifacts to show for it. Even live theater frequently has videos, but we get nothing-- at best some records that are about as useful as the liner notes on an album but without the album itself.

I suppose another way of looking at it is that roleplaying is an internal thing. We don't do it because we want to show it to anyone else, so why create artifacts? But sitting here tonight and thinking about ten years of campaigns run, I wish there were. My memory is insufficient to hold the stories, or the moments, or even the names.

Final Tally

Sep. 5th, 2010 11:25 pm
kilroy: (Default)
Seven out of fifteen dead; a clear (and deserving) winner at more or less the right time; a lot of actual roleplaying, risk-taking, and backstabbing; a double helping of stunts; a triple helping of crazy shit; and a lot--a LOT--of good stories.

I declare victory over the Throne War. Not flawless, but still pretty damn awesome overall.

My players are amazing. :-)
kilroy: (Default)
Throne War is this weekend. I have 15 players, a solid plot, better rules than ever, a bid app that works, a good assistant gamemaster, all necessary photocopies and props, and a backup place to play. I am more or less as ready as I can possibly be for this. I can't entirely eliminate the stress, but hopefully this year I can maximize the fun.

Now if people would stop playing it as PVG ("I found an exploit! But I'm not going to tell you, because if I did you'd close it and I couldn't use it to win!"), I'd be over the moon. :-P
kilroy: (Default)
What would you call...

...a group of people who endlessly reincarnate, seeking out all that it means to be human and preserving that which would otherwise be lost?

...a group of people who by birth, accident, or choice are becoming something other than human, and who gain extraordinary abilities but gradually grow apart from everything they know?

...a group of people who live on the edge of fate's coin, constantly beset by trouble but somehow always managing to triumph by the narrowest of margins?

I'm looking for good faction names here, essentially. Something euphonious and relatively short. And something other than "heroes" for the third one. :-P

Turns

Apr. 30th, 2010 10:34 am
kilroy: (Default)
Anyone know any roleplaying systems that don't use the traditional "turns" besides Exalted 2nd ed. and Feng Shui (which both use the same system)?