Wir haben heute Abend in unserer Campaign:MontagInZürich Kampagne Zorceror of Zo gespielt. Zur Einstimmung spielte ich von der CD Hundert Jahr nur ein Tag – Walliser Sagen erzählt in Walliser Mundart – das Stück Der gefrässige Wolf (1:57). Die zwei Minuten Märchen am Anfang waren cool. Das hätte ich natürlich auch selber vorlesen können, aber den walliser Dialekt hätte ich nie hinbekommen.
Die Sage endet damit, dass der Richter unter Folter gesteht, zwischen Messe und Mittagessen als Wolf verkleidet Schafe zu reissen. Das tut weh und es setzte den Ton für den Abend.
Ich verteilte zwölf kleine A7 Karten mit je einem Charakter zur Auswahl. Hier vier Beispiele:
Das Herumreichen der Karten und deren Durchlesen hat schon mal Spass gemacht. Ich hatte mir extra ein paar «urchige» Namen und Berufe ausgedacht und dann die meisten Charaktere nach dem Schema 1×+4 und 4×+2 gemacht. Eine Gabe entspricht einem +2; ein magischer Stern (★) macht eine Qualität oder eine Gabe magisch und entspricht ebenfalls einem +2. Jeder Charakter hat für eine Qualität noch ein Spezialmanöver, welches nochmal +2 gibt.
Mir war klar, von den nicht gewählten Charakteren würde einer der wirkliche Werwolf sein. Zudem hatte ich mir eine kleine A7 Karte mit Abenteuer Ideen gefüllt. Das Herausholen des Richters, unter der Brücke ein Troll, eine edle Dame, die auf einer Schlange reitet, ein Drachenflug auf der Alp, ein verzweifelter, verliebter Zwerg und sein Gefolge, der Zug der Toten – ich hatte mir ein paar Ideen ausgedacht und aus meiner Schweizer Volksmärchen Sammlung herausgeschrieben. Schlussendlich haben wir nur zwei der Ideen in den knapp drei Stunden gebraucht: Der geschundene Richter auf dem Dorfplatz, der um sein Leben feilscht, und den Troll unter der Brücke, dessen Tod sich eine Frau als Liebesbeweis gewünscht hatte. Der Rest ergab sich aus der Spieler-gegen-Spieler Dynamik meiner Gruppe.
Gehört haben wir dabei Alpstein von Paul Giger, Jan Garbarek und Pierre Favre. Ohne Worte, leicht schauerlich und doch als typisch schweizerisch zu erkennen. Sehr stimmungsvoll.
Ich würde ein ähnliches Szenario wieder wählen.
Mit den Regeln bin ich weniger zufrieden. Gut, wir haben Zorceror of Zo zum ersten Mal verwendet, aber es war doch kein Vergleich zu Lady Blackbird. Hatte ich die Qualitäten zu schwammig gewählt? Vielleicht würde sich das mit der Zeit schnell ergeben. Und ich könnte an meiner Sammlung von zwölf Charakteren arbeiten, bis jede Qualität zu einer Abenteueridee passt, bis jede Beziehung eine interessante Verwicklung darstellt. Hierfür fehlt mir allerdings im Moment die Begeisterung.
Vielleicht wäre das ganze mit Risus genauso einfach gegangen, ohne dass man noch Heldenpunkte, Lernpunkte, magische Sterne (★) und Gaben hinein bringt. Die lange Liste von Verwendungszwecken für Heldenpunkten und Lernpunkten hat manche Spieler auch eher abgeschreckt. Diese Liste hätte ich für einen One-Shot sicher auch kürzen können.
One unfortunate aspect of the increased privacy Google+ offers is that by allowing you to share your posts with certain circles only many interesting posts end up being undiscoverable by new readers and hard to link to – I linked them below but if you haven’t seen them before, chances are you’re not in the circles of the the two respective authors and thus you will not be able to read them.
In You ate the sandbox, Stuart Robertson wonders how people run their Sandbox games. He argues that if you don’t have things set down before play begins – if you improvise everything – then the decisions players make don’t have significance.
In the comments there is a whole lot of debate on the wording: Does that make decisions by players meaningless? Is this really how improvisation works? I’m with Zak Smith, I guess. He says “That’s why in true sandboxes the GM gives the PCs information about what’s in what direction, and this information can be used to inform the PCs decisions and avoid railroading.” He linked to two excellent blog posts on his blog. One is a huge Ontology for sandboxes – it provides a shared vocabulary for anybody wanting to talk about sandboxes: Chokers And Chandlers. (I think my own games mostly fall into the “Sandbox With Triggerable NPCs or Plot Events” category.) Anyway, this is a super awesome post. Read it, if you want to write about sandboxes. Using the terms suggested by Zak will make it easier to understand for your readers.
The other article Zak linked to is Conan Knew More About Cimmeria Than Howard Did. The most important part of that blog post is that one of the techniques to make a sandbox entertaining is to emphasize the tension between two opposing ideas: the gameworld is defined as the players explore it and the players need information in order to make meaningful decisions about which way to go. There is a lot for players to explore, but there is also a lot of information that allows players to make meaningful decisions.
The other Google+ post that got me thinking was Authored role-playing and so-called "story games" by John Allder Stephens. He cites some conflicting definitions of Story Games. I liked Graham Walmsley’s comment, It's not meant to mean anything. It's just a label for "The games that people on the Forge and Story Games tend to like".
My impression is that most people seem to agree that there is no significance beyond a personal preference in the term. There is an interesting discussion in the comments comparing Story Now and Story After. Story Now is where the story happens right now, at the table. Play focuses on conflicts that would make a good story. Random encounters are a hindrance to the story unless they are immediately relevant to the character’s struggles. Story After is where events happen at the table and as players look back, they see a story has emerged. People make decisions based on their character’s goals, based on the imagined world, and as they look back, what emerges is a tragic road to failure and death, or a heroic sacrifice, or victory over ones enemies, etc. The important part is that nobody planned this. It just so happened and surprised everybody. As Stuart Robertson says, “that’d be a fixed game!”
Here’s an example of how I see it. Assume the old school D&D party is encountering four dwarves in the wilderness – a random encounter. In a Story Now game, this only makes sense, if the dwarves are relevant to the characters and their issues. Is one of them a dwarf? A fugitive running away from his obligations? Are these scouts that are trying to return a rebel son to his father? In a Story After game, the dwarves may have totally unrelated goals. They’re here to set up a copper mine. This adds a potential mine to the map. Do the players want to help or hinder this endeavor? It’s just another plot hook. Looking back, players might say, remember those four dwarves and their copper mine? Funny how that made us visit the dwarven king in the western mountains and break the sleeping enchantment… Story emerges later.
I think I prefer Story After games. I feel they encourage perpetual play. The campaign grows and turns and creeps and tumbles forward, the world expands, characters come and go… A game that is focused on the drama of a particular set of characters and their issues is basically over when those issues are resolved. I guess I’ll see for myself soon enough as I’m switching my D&D 3.5 game to Solar System RPG where characters have keys and get experience points when they hit those keys. Perhaps characters can keep switching keys and the campaign has the potential of going on in perpetuity. My suspicion is, however, that once those keys are resolved the campaign will automatically begin coming to a close.
Over on Hack & Slash, -C wrote a blog post called On How an Illusion Can Rob Your Game of Fun that reads like a manifesto. It belongs to a whole cross blog conversation that I haven’t really read up on. Maybe I will.
Basically, -C is ranting against a «quantum ogre» – a mythical encounter that happens no matter what. -C ends the blog post with the following:
In the comments, some people argue that the quantum ogre isn’t so bad. I disagree. Here’s why. The quantum ogre is only bad if the players have information that ought to help them evade it and they cannot. But in addition to that, having to make a choice without any information is also bad. Thus, we’re talking about two bad things.
An adventure involving the quantum ogre is bad because the players’ choices don’t matter: either they don’t have enough info to make a meaningful choice or the information they have is useless since the quantum ogre will show up no matter what they do. They have no agency – they have no capacity “to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.” Either they cannot make a meaningful choice because they lack information, or they cannot impose their choice on the world because the quantum ogre shows up anyway.
Update: A comment by Trey on the «On How an Illusion Can Rob Your Game of Fun» blog post wanted to know about the differences between a single quantum ogre encounter and the use of random encounters. Both of them remove player agency and yet the sandbox proponents don’t decry random encounters. Why not?
I think there is a way to improve random encounters because the quantum ogre and random encounters exist in a continuum.
(The following assumes that players have some sort of information allowing them to make meaningful choices.)
The quantum oger is at the one end. No matter which way you turn, the oger encounter happens. Next to it, we find random encounter tables. No matter which way you turn, eventually you will meet an item from my precious list. Next to that, we find differing random encounter tables depending on the surrounding areas. No matter which way you turn, eventually you will meet an item from one of the appropriate regional lists. Finally, the last alternative I can think of is having no random encounters and only lairs placed on the map. No matter which way you turn, you will meet the appropriate item for this hex on my precious map.
What I’m trying to do is increase player agency:
I’m sure there are more variations. For my own games, I try do #3 and #4. Players get to pick the important encounters by choosing to explore the mountains where they need to fight a frost giant (#4). In addition to that, there are rumors about a white dragons (also #4 with partial information). What players don’t know is that the icy glacier environment also supports winter wolves (#3). In addition, the trolls are on a war path and thus I have added them to the random encounter list (this starts out as #2 but eventually moves to #3 as players learn about current events in the sandbox). This creates meaningful choices: If players don’t feel like fighting frost giants and white dragons, they can avoid the area.
Thus, I agree with Trey’s comment. Simply having a random encounter list is only marginally better than having a quantum ogre. Basically you’re just having more of them. The key is introducing ways for players to make meaningful choices and have those choices make a difference.
Update: Courtney has written more articles in his series on player agency. I recommend them all.
Update: More recommended articles I found by following links:
Eugene takes little videos while he’s traveling. I haven’t seen anybody else do that. He just points his little plastic box at things and talks for a minute. Later, he uploads stuff to YouTube. I think I like it. I also like that the little plastic box he uses basically just has a big round red button to start and stop recording. Awesome user interface. 😊
Eugene has some work to do in Zürich and on Saturday, Claudia and I spent about ten hours with him, walking through Zürich. If you would like to see some summer impressions of Zürich, or hear me talk with my funny accent, go and take a look:
Check out some of his other video impressions. I think I like it. And a low-resolution mono-audio single-purpose video recording device makes more sense that using my HD camera with stereo microphone to record stuff, I think. Perhaps I just need to do this more often.
Naja, irgendwie war ich also auch froh, dass das Spiel nun zu ende ist.
Wer an alten Charakterblättern interessiert ist, findet hier einen dummen Krieger, der sich auf das Bogenschiessen spezialisiert hat:
Neu wird SL Stefan versuchen, uns HARP näher zu bringen. Ich bin gespannt – ich hatte als Teenager zwar jede Menge Rolemaster Bücher (Arms & Claw Law, Spell Law, Campaign Law, Role Master Companion I-IV – das nennt sich wohl Rolemaster Classic heutzutage?), aber ich konnte meine Spieler nie davon überzeugen. Von meinen paar Nachmittagen bei SL Bernie in seiner Reise nach Rhûn Kampagne ist mir unter anderem auch in Erinnerung geblieben, wie verdammt langwierig die Charaktererschaffung war. Davor habe ich immer noch Angst.
Wir fangen als Mitglieder eines Wanderzirkus’ an. Vielleicht spiele ich einen Elementalisten – einen Flammenschlucker? Oder vielleicht einen Luftmagier, der sich als Trapez-Künstler ausgibt.
I’m not sure what to do. I’ve switched the Sunday game from D&D 3.5 to Solar System RPG. At first I wanted to switch to Labyrinth Lord, but one player expressed his reservation and so I looked for something else. Having played Lady Blackbird and having played Solar System once, I knew that I was interested.
Coming Sunday will see the third session. I’ve used the adventure preparation method suggestion in the rule book: on a blank piece of paper, put the player characters in the corners, add two or three interesting abilities, skills, gifts or paths to help you remember, and fill the paper itself with events, locations, people – anything you feel like adding. Add connections between the various elements until every player character is directly connected to at least three things.
This is supposed to provide the support structure for your improvisation as “Story Guide”.
I’m not sure I like it.
I think the word “Story Guide” is giving it away. It’s not quite a railroad, but I feel like I’m preparing to railroad the game. I wonder why this doesn’t happen in my Labyrinth Lord games.
Perhaps—and I had not realized this before—I’m missing wandering monster tables! Why is that? I’m not sure. Perhaps the list of wandering monsters is too long for me to organize events into a nice little tree of four or five scenes.
We’re still playing on the same map, thus I am falling back on a lot of D&D lore. But this grounding in D&D is not helping. We have pixies and orks, goblins riding on ferrets and a red dragon. Perhaps this mixing of D&D background and Solar System rules is leading to my cognitive dissonance?
I feel like I’ve been thoroughly trained in the ways of D&D. I like not only wandering monsters, but numbers appearing, their stats, the treasure tables. All of these help me generate the world without feeling too responsible about it.
When I’m not using D&D, I feel like I’m designing everything. It’s a choreography. Every hex has one encounter at most. Every encounter is potentially significant for the narrative. In terms of the current adventure (“kill the red dragon”) this means that the temple of Set, the snake men, the pixies, the goblins—all of them are clearly obstacles to prevent the party from reaching the dragon. If they weren’t, then in terms of the Solar System rules, there’d be no need for conflict, no need to talk, no need to roll dice. That’s the vibe I’m getting, anyway.
What are the specific Solar System rules that generate this situation?
As I read over the list, none of these points seem too compelling. It seems to be all in my head. I wonder why I’m feeling unable to run the kind of game I’d like to run. I’ll report back next week.
When: September 28, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))
Moscow, 2013: Bunin, the Ukrainian President, has joined other heads of state in an open-air swimming pool to drink vodka and celebrate with Putin. During his rise to power Bunin has juggled formidable and eccentric political and personal challenges. His family and women troubles combine with difficulties with corrupt businessmen and demanding international allies, but it is his recent heart transplant that worries him the most. Since the operation, he has started to develop freckles, and the mysterious widow of his heart donor appears to have moved in with him … [From Amazon’s blurb]
Long time members will recall the name: We read Death and the Penguin by the same author some time ago. And found it entertaining enough to now put another of his books on the list. But while it may sound like a farce, it seems that reality has caught up with some of it since it was written in 2004! – Uli
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