Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Inner Roleplaying & The Central Library

So my previous post has generated some amount of comments :). (And no, Tim, I never thought you were attacking persona :) ). I thought I'd respond in a post, and also include a game description for one of the games I'll be running at AmberCon NW

The thing that seemed to spark the most comment was the remarks I made about looking for a more inwards focused game. I think I'm not describing myself well with that description. I feel like the games we've been playing, while very fulfilling in terms of scope, epicness and plot, leave something to be desired when one considers internal character strife. But even that doesn't really describe the problem... Closer would be to say that when you're stunting on such a large scale, and with the persona system, character individualization becomes meaningless.

This of course begs the question, how could one setup mechanics or a game to make the differences between characters more important. Just asking that question, though, isn't that useful. We see differences all the time flavor and inform the stunts that occur in game. This might be the real issue: I feel like there is no interaction. We sit down at the table, and no one's characters talk. The GM gives several challenges to the players, and the players think of some awesome things to do and stories to tell. What doesn't happen is the players rarely interact in character, in meaningful ways.

So, what do we need to make this more apparent? Bliss Stage is a great example of a system that won't allow you to get away with that style of roleplaying. Every scene in Bliss Stage is interaction between characters, and it rocks. Now, I think you loose the epicness of the thing and also plot is extremely difficult to come by. So I think what I'm looking for is closer to a middle ground. Something as free and flexible as persona but requiring you to interact like Bliss Stage. This might be as simple as making fragments purchased through character interaction... I'm not sure of the details of that, but if you had to have some past scene roleplayed in order to take a fragment, that might work. Even going so far as having the other players take the roles of NPCs in that scene, a la Polaris... I worry that that won't get the characters together though, just have more roleplaying in the discovery of their own character. A slight modification of that idea would be to have the scenes only take place between PCs, but I think then the PCs have to have a history together for that to make sense.


Anyway, I thought I'd also include the description of a game I'm running at AmberCon NW. I've already run it for the sunday crew, and it went very very well. I'm planning on running 3 games at this con, and I think I'm most excited about this one...

--- Game Description ---

Adventure / Heroic -- Non-Amber

To Leaders of the Houses of Literature

I hereby summon your representative to the Written Court. The Great
Scribe Jules Verne has petitioned me to engage a expedition to the
Central Library to bring the Librarian back from that most sacred place
and bring a new golden age to the world. I am commanding all of the
Houses to send a companion for Sir Verne to assist in this greatest of
quests. There will be much danger but also much reward, as those who
journey to the center of the world will have their names live forever
in the Word.

The High Wordsmith
Great Wordsmith of the House of Horror
Queen Mary Shelley


What if the world really did revolve around books? What if you could
journey to that fabled Central Library and see what it contained? What
if lived off of reading books? What if you gained magical powers from
reading the greatest of novels or becoming widely read? Journey to the
Central Library with Jules Verne and find out!

--- Setting ---

Set in a quasi-historical victorian setting. A world where reading
books provided sustenance and all the librarians are a little pudgy. A
fantastical world of literature and magic, all driven by the
imaginations of the Wordsmiths.

The system will be Persona, a very lightweight and fast system detailed

Persona System


So if you think that sounds interesting, you should come to ACNW in Portland in November! Its the best con I go to all year!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Dying of the Light

We played a great game last night. Ok, so I'm biased, especially since I ran the game, but I thought it went well in any case. But first things first; the title of the game was "The Dying of the Light". Which you should recognize as a quote from a famous poem, right?!? 4 intelligent players last night, and not one of them were familiar with Dylan Thomas' famous poem! Anyway, I will refrain from continuing to rail against my player's erudition.

The basic idea for the game was that we lived in the final stages of the universe. Somehow Humanity has survived the trillions of years necessary, and but a whisper remains of both the universe and the human civilization that spanned it. The sky is dark, because all of the stars have burned themselves out. The final members of humanity huddle in their Dyson Sphere huddled around the last stars. The remaining stars have been frozen in time, and strung in a line. The death of the old star is used to power the un-freezing of the next star, and we join the PCs at this change over.

Of course, given the title of the game, there was no way that star was actually starting up. And in fact, humanity gave all of their remaining stored energy (it was essentially a golden age post-singularity civilization, so the only thing you could lack for was energy) in a useless attempt to help the new star restart. Instead the PCs followed a crazy guy into the new star, armed with devices he claimed would transport them back in time to fix the issue (there was some evidence that the star had been sabotaged billions of years ago).

So they travel back, and emerge at the birth of the star they went into. As it turns out I had already made a big deal that the Final War had started right after the last star was born. So, of course, this star was that last star born and they emerged to see an entire dyson sphere of humanity watching the last starbirth. As they emerged from the star, the Final War between the nihilists and the continueists began. Giant planetoid warships rampaged across the stars. Also, the PCs gained the power to time travel in any way they wished.

Well... That was basically the setup for the game, I'm sure you can agree that it was quite epic. But that doesn't really give you the scale of things. Soon the villain of the piece (who I made the mistake of making understandable and a little sympathetic) was flying around in a literal Starship (with a star completely inside of it!) and causes galaxies to collide so that they would tear each other apart and deny their energy to the end times. After the PCs saved the milky way, we upped the ante to all the galaxies smashing together and eventually to trying to rob the big bang of its energy. This was great for the most part, extremely epic and awesome.

So, that was great, but I've begun to worry that we're getting into a rut of just stunt after stunt, without any real character interaction. Stunting is very good and fun, but I've begun to feel that our games are becoming just stunt strings with nothing else. There needs to be character interaction and acting-roleplaying, or at least my heart of hearts things that. I sorta think we've really explored the whole epic side of adventures, which I've had issues with in the past, but it may be time to turn the games inwards and see what kind of roleplaying will result from that.