Yesterday I talked about the “Big Three Questions,” as they are known, espoused by game designer Jared Sorensen (see my last post for a link to his site). Specifically, I was talking about these questions in regards to my current project Children Who Play With Monsters; I tried to create or show an understanding of what my answer would be to each of the design considerations put forward by Sorensen and John Wick, partly as a mental exercise, partly as good practice for the future, and partly to help steer me through a designing rough patch I feel like I’m passing through. Today I’m looking at a few more questions, this time from a different source.

Vincent Baker’s “Insights”
Vincent Baker is a game designer responsible for a number of independent properties with a lot of really interesting ideas churning right underneath the surface. His contributions to the hobby include Dogs in the Vineyard, Apocalypse World, In a Wicked Age, Poison, and others (not linked here because, honestly, you should just look them up. Really! Go do it!)

Vincent Baker maintains a webpage by the name of anyway where you can find a lot of talk about game design in general. The man thinks and writes big. That is the only way I can describe it. I enjoy what he writes, and a part of me aspires to be able to identify and discuss the elements of play with the insight and verve that this guy does. Well, deep in the recesses of his blog he has a blog post that can be found here — the long and short of the post goes like this: when you design an RPG, you are making three statements specific to your game. If you didn’t have something to say, you wouldn’t be making the game! You are saying something about your subject matter; you are saying something about role-playing in general; you are saying something about human behavior, too. He calls them “Insights.” Go read the initial post of Baker’s blog if you’d like — it’s interesting to read how he applied these ideas to his own game. I’m not going to repost his entry here because it’s just one internet hop away. I’m just going to go at it.

My Insights — What Am I Saying
1. Subject matter: My subject matter… It’s about monsters, fantasy lands, and children who need someone who understands them — it all goes together as far as I’m concerned; it’s about escapism, and that’s where you see them intertwined in spades. You know, I once heard a study that suggested that when children are growing up there are typically two “classes” of fantasies that they engage in. One, more popular in girls apparently, is pretending that their surroundings are different, or that they come from a different family altogether; in boys, it is apparently instead a fantasy of being someone else altogether. I’m saying that the ‘monstrous best friend’ genre appeals to that sense of childish belonging deep down in the belly of someone’s being.

2. Roleplaying as a practice: What am I saying about role-playing as a practice? Part of me thinks that part of the reason for role-playing is to play the game, play out the story, to find out how it ends. It’s about discovery. You don’t really want to know how it ends… until you get there. You don’t want to orchestrate the ending, you want to set it in motion and let the dominoes fall and watch for the patterns. That’s something I want to aim for… the pieces of the game to move together, towards the eventful final moments when you discover what the world(s) have in store for the Child.

3. Real live human nature: Everyone likes telling stories. Everyone likes escapism. The people sitting at the table are going to be getting into trouble and trying to get out of trouble, and they’ll get out of it by running from it further (More Trouble, the Fable) or by falling back on when things were simpler… using something they already know (Flashbacks). When people run from their problems, that doesn’t guarantee that things will get better… Everyone needs that someone to rely on. Everyone needs that one person. And you’re probably going to hurt that person. You’re probably going to hurt them a lot early on, until you get your head screwed on you and figure shit out. You’re probably going to be hurt, be cramped, be drowned out by them — going to feel smothered, maybe. But they’re that someone you need, and they need you.

So Hey, That’s Interesting
I found this post so much easier to write than the previous one. So that’s actually kind of exciting! Even if I may or may not have a perfect grasp on the framework (the about, the how, the behavior) I’m building my game in, I do know what I’m thinking about when I try to make these decisions. Or at least, I do now. Some of the stuff I wrote above were thoughts I’d had all along — and some of it, especially the third question, occurred to me as I was writing and I tried to just go with it and see what I was trying to say.

And I liked what I was trying to say. I really do. It even works with some of what I’ve been saying before! (Like the idea of how success and failure interacts with the well-being of your Monster.) I have a bit more of a vector on what I want to do with this idea, and I think that will help me.

What’s Up Next
Can’t give a  forecast as to what is coming next this week. Nothing else has really caught my attention at this point; I’ll be playing some more Houses of the Blooded this week, so I may talk more about ideas I get from that. Honestly, that game has inspired some thoughts about another game of mine that I haven’t spoken about yet on this blog — although, that idea may have to be finally trashed (sadly), as I can’t see anything new I can bring to the project in light of games such as Houses and Apocalypse World. Maybe I’ll write about it anyway! We’ll see how it goes! I do, however, have a vague plan to put together a testable module for Children Who Play With Monsters by the very end of next week/end of the month (whichever comes first)! Maybe I’ll accomplish that. I’d like to.

What do you think? Have any thoughts on the idea of role-playing games sharing three “insights” on gaming, content, and people? Do you see any of this in the games you play? Do you see how it doesn’t work this way? Want to give it a try like last time and construct another set of answers? Have fun!

As always, any thoughts and comments on the ideas espoused here can be left below, and I look forward to reading and responding to anything the readers may have to say. I can be contacted, of course, at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com. Thank you for reading, as always!