Archives for posts with tag: dungeons & dragons

“Snuggle Up and Get Real Sad, Up-Ins”
It’s a thing my friends and I say, specifically in response to the The Tales of Ba-Sing-Se episode of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” That episode will make you bawl and if it doesn’t, everyone is entitled to question whether or not you are — in fact — a Cyberman. It has evolved since then as a catch-all response to an episode or situation we expect to be emotionally taxing. It has been used to describe episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” and more recently “Being Human.” To a degree, it’s a phrase that gets used when we know we’re going to see a lot of intra-character drama… not exclusively, perhaps, but we expect that for the most part we’re going to have character’s exposing their hearts to one another and revealing their internal strife. This is fine and dandy and highly effective (in my opinion) when presenting a narrative to an audience. There is a question to raise here, though: how does this practice — of revealing internal drama to other characters for the benefit of the audience — jive with tabletop role-playing?

Illusion of the First Time
It’s a thing my girlfriend the Theatre Major/actor/director/stage manager has brought up before when discussing actors’ performances. The phrase is apparently associated with William Gillette according to a quick and dirty Google search, but I can’t guarantee that — it has to do with, no matter how many times you stage a scene, it should always appear to be the first time that your character is making discoveries. This can become tricky immediately in role-playing games. Infamous scenes come to mind — scenes of a split party reunited, and since the entire party was at the table when events happened they simply gloss over the story to told. Not necessarily a problem, unless one of the characters is supposedly learning some pressing information from this.

That said, the exact opposite is equally possible — I’m sure many Game Masters and players out there can whip up impressive stories of emotional bombs dropped and revelations had: the villain was your father all along, you’ve been concealing your real class/race/identity from the party all along, and so forth. I’m sure they work and are fun for everyone. I can specifically recall, from my own experience, a stretch of Dungeons & Dragons in which I played a Monk whom everyone regarded as a monk. He was primarily a pacifist, and the game did not last long enough to warrant the complete unhinged fury of Flurry of Blows… but my point is made, I think. Secrets are fun. Reveals are fun.

Aristotle had plenty to say on the subject: basically, we feel really clever when we think we’ve figured something out or when we think we’re understanding.

No Such Thing As Filler
So, what am I trying to get at: the idea of the game-as-conversation or conversation-as-game; having something to talk about when you sit down at the table and sit down into character. The great and forever-lovable Apocalypse World specifically refers to the event of role-playing as “conversation,” with the players’ and Game Master’s duty being to speak when it is his or her own turn. It even considers most of the Game Master’s job to be as “simple” as preparing interesting things to say.

On the surface, this is a simple idea: do your prep work and you’re ready to go. What does this mean? Have your dungeon maps so you can talk about positioning; your aesthetic, so you can talk about pungent mildew collecting on skulls; your stat blocks, so you can talk about claws and venom; your sketches, so you can reference claws and venom sacs; have your NPCs ready, so they can say things that matter. This all seems to be on the Referee though… what about the players?

Well, theoretically: players should be ready to detail the super awesome stylings of their characters. That is, they should be ready to rogue it up as the Zorro-in-residence or hack up some baddies in a truly wizard Conan impression, etc. They should be ready to play their characters… shouldn’t they? Just as players would probably feel a little disheartened by a Ref who scrawled the night’s dungeon on a Cheetos-stained napkin, shouldn’t a Ref be entitled to feeling blue about players who don’t care about playing up their character? Or is that unfair and inappropriate? Or, worse, is it automatically indicative of the Ref’s own failings? I don’t really think it is… I believe a shoddy Ref can put a damper on anyone getting deep into the story and having things they want to say, but I don’t think players without interested in characterization scenes are automatically a result of a bad Ref.

I would hazard a guess that people get really into their characters when they believe they have something to say… by extension, I would assume people do not get into their characters if they believe they have nothing to say. Characters in vacuum receive less characterization than those in a context, I think.

Distill this down: The “problem” — if there is a problem, and I don’t know that there is — is that these scenes of downtime, these scenes of conversation, these scenes of personality bubbling up from beneath your character’s mechanics are what separate the role-playing game from the board game or the war game. Without characterization, you seem to be playing from fight scene to fight scene with nothing of any worth, story-wise, to sink your teeth into.

Cue Characterization Scene: I Apologize
To clarify, I’m not saying this model of moving from fight scene to fight scene or what have you is bad or doesn’t produce good stories; I’m wondering how to give teeth, to give really gravitas to personal scenes of individual discovery or interpersonal exploration, or quiet moments spent together. Is that impossible? Is this idea simply contrary to the constraints of the medium that is “Cooperative Mechanized Fiction,” or whatever title with which you want to saddle role-playing games? Well, I can think of a few that I hold in high regards because of the intelligence that has gone into giving “quiet moments” a real place.

My Life With Master stands out specifically in the way it mechanizes “things to talk about” through a back and forth, escalating dice mechanic. More simply put (because that sentence, in retrospect, looks tedious): MLWM will give you bonus dice of increasing size if you, in order, bring up physical or intimate contact – emotional overtures – true, genuine sincerity. The intrinsic message is “You will have the chance to roll more successfully if you have characterization right now.” Pull on someone’s lapels, discuss a meal, appreciate music, weep uncontrollably, and so forth. Here is your bonus die.

I suppose Primetime Adventures is worth mentioning, given that its mechanics are simplistic and applicable enough to elevate even casual conversation to hyper-relevance. I blush from its inclusion however, in that it specifically wants every scene to be a conflict — this is good for it. It is emulating television and that is good design, but it disallows the “quiet moments” or scenes of which I’m talking. Breathing room. Emotional space.

What about my current one and only, Apocalypse World? Surely it must no I’m going to stop this sentence right here, no it doesn’t. It offers legitimate mechanical incentive to get to know one another, yes I will admit — but this has actually only offered headaches to my group, as they rarely feel they have learned about one another. The only times they feel like their intimacy has changed have been: meeting the new PC in a bar fight, and attempts on one another’s followers’ lives. They have shared scenes before, they have shared agendas before… but by and large, conversation is not a thing that happens. Sitting and sipping seagull wine on the fence is not a scene. The players don’t need to make scenes to report information to one another, because all too often they’ve been sitting at the table the whole time and it feels silly.

(The easy response here is “invent bad news for one player to give to another!” but I feel that falls to closely on the “ref is at fault” mentality that I don’t think is fair in discussing quiet moments in gaming).

My friend has a hack of AW that is coming together, called The Boy and the Girl, which is relevant to this discussion at least slightly. It is a two-player game meant to emulate Person A saves Person B and is on the run fiction… your Princess Brides and your ICOs. In the game, the relationship between the characters can become strained, and for the most part it takes these kinds of quiet moments I’m talking about to calm it down and keep it manageable.

Monsterhearts
Most recently, in playing Joe McDaldno’s fantastic Monsterhearts, the moments of ‘relationship talk’ have been prevalent… and I would hope so, as that is the aim of this product: to create interpersonal moments for characters to be involved in and react to. I’ve observed a couple of really interesting things about the way it handles this. For one, within the mechanics, one can stick other characters with Conditions that can be used to great benefit when rolling against someone — and that can be automatically removed when actions have been taken to deal with them. There are no mechanics behind this rule specifically; the removal of Conditions is completely up in the air, with specific cases for when other mechanics bring it up.

Okay why does this matter: because it suddenly gives teeth to the pep talk, to crying it out, to getting a make-over, to getting a haircut, to going on a date, to going on a camping trip, to watching the sun rise, to … all of these are questionable scenes. Some gamers would scoff at spending time on them when “nothing is happening,” while others would play them to their heart’s content knowing that, honestly, nothing is happening. In Monsterhearts, if I have the Condition “Workaholic” then I want to narrate that social scene that reveals to the players no, I’m not, see? By design or not, quiet moments have impressive power to transform the advantages and disadvantages facing your character.

Before I forget, this sort of thing extends also to Healing in the game. You can heal one point of Harm simply by saying so (and probably by explaining how it happens). However, you can heal an extra point of Harm but only through the tender, intimate care of another person… possibly with sensual subtext. I read that as someone patching you up with no regard for you doesn’t particularly count; I read that as you need someone who treats you emotionally as well as physically. I especially read it as a small challenge to the player-in-question, in that the Ref can offer an extra point of healing on a string if the character accepts/reciprocates their healer’s advances/innocent interest.

Quiet moments with teeth. The moments in your book, TV show, or movie where suddenly, instantly, its become about a real person with quirks and decision-making and fallibility whom you care about. It isn’t just movement and action anymore. It’s that and more.

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Never Before Has Grammar Been This Annoying
As an English Major (as can be observed in the tagline at the top of this page), I don’t mind working with grammar. Honestly, I love it. Syntax, grammar, and word-choice are each a fun game I like to engage in — though I maybe less than fantastic any of these things, and I may stumble over my words with frightening regularity.

I think it goes without saying at this point that I do certainly love games.

As a result, there is a frequent form of common ground between my many distracting hobbies (besides being linked frequently on this blog), and that is: rule books. Interpreting dangling participles and garden path sentences is the rule of the day when I first crack open the box of any given game and start digging in.

I know that doesn’t sound awfully exciting. It really isn’t.

When I get the opportunity to read through something or write something for class, I can enjoy perusing the piece and dissecting it to ascertain its inner-workings; examining the ways the sounds and the bits of the sentence play off of one another. It’s play, and it’s fun. When I get the opportunity to play a game or make one up for myself, I can enjoy messing around with the bits of ideas and mechanics; seeing how rules interact or play off of one another. It also is play, and fun. When I am reading a rule book however, it is a strange no-man’s land between the two: I am not reading for leisure, necessarily. I am certainly not playing. I am preparing myself — arming myself! Trying to figure out how to make a given game work like clockwork, and wring every drop of entertainment out of it that I can. I’m a busy college student with papers to write, a fraternity to participate in, classes to get behind in…

I do not have the time to wrestle with rule books at the table. 10 minutes of silence when someone tries to do something and I don’t know how the game handles such a situation is unacceptable — by that point, the others have already checked out and it’s an endeavor to get everyone on track again. Now, imagine this situation expanded to encompass the life of a married couple, a family with children, or a family worried about its car payments, etc. There is no time for trying to understand whether or not you meant the game piece on this side or on that side of the board, especially not in games of social complexity that rely on deception or in-depth interaction.

Diplomacy
On that note, I found a new game this week! It’s called Diplomacy and it’s a war game simulating the conditions of European powers on the bring of World War I. In a lot of ways, it seems like Risk but it differs in a lot of ways. To start, if you’ve ever played Risk then you know that it is a standard board game through and through — by which I mean, there is almost no player to player communication whatsoever through the game. This isn’t necessarily an attack on that game… lots of games fit this model. Connect 4 can be played with no communication, Battleship involves one-way communication and process of elimination (curiously very similar to Guess Who?). Risk consists solely of rolling dice, moving pieces, and occasionally pointing to whomever the territory you’re invading belongs.

Diplomacy, meanwhile, is a highly complex game of social maneuvering as players take on the roles of Generals and Party Leaders in 1901 and build up their nations territories and capital immediately before war breaks out. Sounds about identical to Risk, right? Except that everyone’s turns are performed simultaneously (unlike Risk’s turn structure) and in secret (not in the open for everyone to see). Furthermore, before every round, players allot time to meet and mingle with fellow players to coordinate and plan their actions this turn — to betray friends and support enemies! Tricking players into hating one another, and feigning victim to garner support.

Not dissimilar to the social psychology angle of Werewolves, Diplomacy approaches the tension in a different way. It’s not that you don’t know who to trust (as in Mafia or Werewolves), but that you know you can’t trust any of the players — everyone is trying to manipulate everyone against everyone else. It’s a beautiful pile-up of plans gone horribly awry.

And really complex, you can imagine.

So, you’d hope they’d keep the instructions in the rule book simple and clearly written.

Yeah, about that… This is just a reminder to myself to be more clear and well-spoken in my writings so that one day, long down the road I won’t be the guy being written about for his rule book’s bad examples.

When I finish cutting through all of the poorly rendered grammar and understand this game, I’ll give it a play and write about it! As always, I can be reached at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com with any comments or questions! Please feel free to leave a comment below with a board or role-playing game suggestion for me to check out some time! Feel free to tell me about your nightmare time trying to understand some party game, etc.


Let’s skim past how bad I am at keeping a blog, shall we?

Hey Look I’m Talking About RPGs
Pre-built adventure modules, a popular idea at one point are — if you believe the word on the internet — basically a cash-sink and not profitable enough to form any part of a sustainable business model.

This is what Green Ronin typically says in response to fans of Mutants & Masterminds when they start asking for more iterations of the Time module series (featuring the two fantastic adventures Time of Vengeance and Time of Crisis). I’ve also heard this as an explanation of why pre-built adventure sets are less common, if not rare, in the modern age of Dungeons & Dragons. If it for some reason actually needed disclosure, here it is: I don’t know how true these claims are, but I’ve heard it from the source itself in terms of GR, and I could certainly believe it in regards to D&D based on what I’ve seen at my local game store. If all of this is true — that pre-built adventures are not a sustainable business practice — what does this really mean? It should be a simple answer, but I personally don’t think it is.

What is meant by pre-built adventure? Or Adventure module? I guess what I mean is a document, book, or file containing the overarching notes or beats of an adventure, with necessary rules to implement any new “moving parts” the module is introducing. It should also include information detailing the important non-player characters of the adventure. Simply, it should provide the people, places, and things you will be interacting with — and the best adventure modules detail them sparsely enough that you may redetail them as necessary for your group.

A 4e D&D adventure I’ve purchased fits these specifications. It has NPCs mentioned in passing, with names and details. It has enemies and rules for them. Rules for how to work the MacGuffin, a new moving part for my game. It gives me the overarching beats of the adventure… the parts that have the plot relevant details in them. Okay.

And Here’s The Point
I also just described My Life with Master — it doesn’t name its NPCs, but it gives you a fantastic almost literary analysis of the major one (the Master) and mentions the use of Innocent NPCs in your game. Similarly, a very in-depth breakdown of beats, set pieces, and NPCs is given for Bliss Stage by Ben Lehman — again, the exact details are up to the GM to nail down, but the broad strokes are there. I’m going to include Poison’d too for its very specific story of piratical drama.

And this interests me. Full games that are focused on specific scenes; specific stories to tell. And what interests me more is the idea that adventure modules are not a sustainable enterprise — while a significant number of indie games are built on the premise of telling highly specific stories. It honestly feels a lot like purchasing theatre exercises, or Roman closet plays… or something of that sort. Picking up a particular type of story to tell, gathering the friends and seeing what characters people would like to see get up to what kind of shenanigans tonight. It’s very Commedia dell’arte, with our particular masks and beats to hit in different ways every time. Yeah, that is actually exactly what it feels like!

And I think that’s really cool.

Just thinking out loud in this one. Nothing ground-breaking. Not dissecting anything, and I haven’t in a while so I probably will soon! I’ve been bad at maintaining this blog as the summer got busy and I got very burnt out on lots of gaming stuff. Just a whole lot of work and feeling like I kept hitting walls – but I’m back to work and getting into the groove of things again. Current things in the pipeline to find their way to this blog:

  • Let’s Talka game of awkward confessions and coffee-colored dice, a silly idea cooked up over my plethora of mocha-colored dice.
  • More information about my martial arts/sci-fi game [preston], a game of underworld heroes and nature spirits.
  • Some actual progress on Children who Play With Monsters (Yay!), my game of children runaway to a fantasy land with their monstrous best friends.
  • An announcement about an additional blog (because really… I need another given I’m bad at keeping up with this one?) meant specifically to house actual play reports, short fiction, gaming anecdotes… a place for things that aren’t quite design-oriented.
  • Maybe photos from my production of Of Dice and Men — if my director lets me!

After my last post regarding going silent for a while, I of course did the mature thing and didn’t post for a while. Good excuse this time! I flew out of my hometown on Thursday evening, arriving in Atlanta that same night — and through a carefully orchestrated escapade of breaking speed limits, stalling a birthday party, and sneaking into a game of Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow I surprised my girlfriend with an unannounced visit meant to alleviate the soulcrushing job she is stuck in this summer. I stayed in town for the weekend and enjoyed some fantastic times including…

  • playing Werewolves with the friends
  • sitting outside of a pub on a warm night and talking game theory as it relates to independent publishing and Children Who Play With Monsters with her and our mutual friends
  • going boating/swimming on Lake Lanier with the friends
  • seeing Georgia Shakespeare’s The Tempest with the friends
  • enjoying some simple Amazon/NetFlix relaxation with the friends
  • playing Crow’s Hoard with the friends
  • playing Kemps with the friends
  • reading Sorcerer while the friends were cooking
  • eating delicious lasagna made by the girlfriend
  • playing L.A. Noire with the friends
  • getting drowned by surprise midnight sprinklers like a true hero
  • discussing with the girlfriend her upcoming staging of Of Dice and Men

Overall, it was a really fantastic and amazing weekend. I had fun! And that is why I have nothing to say about games today.

Okay, No, Not Really
So I was reading Ron Edward’s Sorcerer for a few reasons while I was down there. For one, it could be argued that Edwards’ game of Faustian bargains  is as critical to the entire concept of “independent publishing” as Dungeons & Dragons is to role-playing in general. Obviously, not everyone will agree with this — and that’s fine — but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Edwards went from an unformatted ASCII file that he would e-mail out to people upon request for free, to receiving $5 bills in the mail for the quality of the game, to now being (arguably) the figurehead/idol of “indie” role-playing games and their designers. So, it would behoove me to have a passing knowledge of the games that some may argue “defined” or at least instigated a generation. The other reason is that after a cursory glance, I saw some elements that could very well help me out in my work on Children Who Play With Monsters! I’m going to continue reading through and seeing what I can glean from it that might patch some holes.

Sorcerer is an RPG that revolves around protagonist who have begun to master the abilities to contact, summon, and bind demons to the physical plane. They may be commanded, directed, chided, persuaded, or whatever method your sorcerer thinks appropriate — all to get them to perform as you desire, to accomplish your aims in this life. As a sorcerer, you are definitively arrogant; self-absorbed to the point that no amount of harm or injury short of death itself can keep you from acting to accomplish your designs. However, you must beware — as every step you take is no doubt beset by the legions on all sides, and they will lie and manipulate with every trick they possess to hold sway over you or abandon you for one greater. And this does not even address the risk posed to your Humanity by tampering with things best left untouched.

It’s like World of Darkness but I feel like I could actually play it without a degree in gothic literature.

Specifically, it’s impossible to ignore the central concept of “person who is bound to a monster” that resonates between Sorcerer and CWPWM. The works are different enough, though — there is always a level of enmity between the protagonists’ and their bound demons in Sorcerer, an element that is intentionally absent overall from CWPWM… also, note the plurality of demons, and the intentional decision for the Child to only have one Monster ever. This isn’t Pokémon. But yeah… the demon and sorcerer are created together, they’re critical to one another, there’s a stat tracking the end game, and the game is system lite. It’s comparable enough that it is good reading to at least see how someone else addressed the parameters.


Disclaimer
To begin: I am the worst at my own design blog. Ok, now that we’ve addressed that.

Never More Deserving Of The Category “I Probably Should Have Been Working”
It’s been a while since I have posted here, and the time spent away has been split between a few pursuits: I’ve been reading through and playing a little bit of Houses of the Blooded (mentioned in a previous posting) and just generally being impressed with the — in my opinion — incredibly tight focus the system has on exactly what it is trying to do. It’s a game of blood opera, tragedy, courtly prestige and courtly betrayal, as I may have mentioned before, and to this end players will find the extremely simple conflict resolution mechanic* embraces everything necessary to fulfill the associated expectations. Systems, all of them just minor variations on the baseline mechanic, exist to handle Romance, Insults, Debate, Duels, Mass Murder… “The system is impressive” is the only way I can put it, and it’s not because of any particular depth or complexity; rather, it’s the breadth of the system and the way it adjudicates the necessities of the storytelling.

That is what I want out of this. I want my system to be able to handle exactly what I, players, and narrators need it to handle. I think that is a pretty reasonable goal, honestly.

And so I was reading this book and playing it with my friend Adam, thinking to myself about how to accomplish that with Children Who Play With Monsters. I have my ideas, as previously posted, about how to create the Child, how to create the Monster, and the rudiments of conflict resolution* — and even the first building blocks of an end game! But “how does it all come together” remains an unanswered question and it will be one that I have to contend with for a while more before I know the answer.

*Which on reflection, author John Wick is correct, sounds about as sexy as washing machine instructions

Something Wicked– Wick-ian? Wick-ish. Sorensenian.
Now, following my discovery of John Wick’s Houses of the Blooded, and the realization that he also is responsible for Legend of the Five Rings — possibly the most popular samurai role-playing game, period — I went ahead and I did a little digging around. And, hey! Seems the guy has a youtube account by the name of LordStrange and, while waiting for art for HotB to get in, he posted a series of videos that went by the title “Game Design Seminar with John Wick.” Seems like it would be exactly up my alley, maybe. I’ve watched it through Episode 2 as of this writing, and in that episode John Wick brings up Jared Sorensen‘s “Three Questions.” Listening to what Wick and Sorensen were saying, and absorbing their meaning (hopefully), the Three Questions seem to come down to how to implement the game in your head, and communicate it to other people — in the presentation, mechanics, even just the blurb really; to be able to explain it, period, and make it sound exciting and feasible.

Given that I’m having some difficulties overcoming some obstacles in working on this game, I figure why not go ahead and see if maybe my problem lie with the very concept I am bringing to the table. If you’re curious, the John Wick video talking about the questions I am about to answer can be found here. With that, I’ll try my best to answer these as straight-forwardly as possible — if I can’t explain simply, maybe I’m missing something. And I can’t answer simply, then I’ll learn how to answer simply.

The three questions are: “What is your game about,” “how is your game about this,” and “how does the game encourage this behavior?”

1. What is your game about?
As Wick explains in the video linked above, ‘what is your game about’ is not the setting it is attached to. Rarely is your game about the post-apocalypse or Orwellian dystopias that you think it is — instead, it is about the struggle for Hope in the face of Despair, or illustrating Control and how far you’ll go for it. Things of that sort — what you may be trying to talk about while playing around with your game. Some games are very straight-forward with this, admittedly. Two very different games are up front with this: Dungeons & Dragons and Dogs In The Vineyard spring to my mind immediately. D&D actually is about slaying monsters and getting treasure, and everything about it focuses on this objective… and Dogs In The Vineyard is about judgment — morality in the face of adversity — and its parts all point towards this, with players even simply being told that their judgments on the situations in the game are above reproach… the Narrator cannot tell them their decision was wrong.

John Wick is simplistic with his answer to this. Houses of the Blooded is about Tragedy, he announces at 3:17, by which he means a response to typical games wherein characters continuously get better as time goes on, getting better indefinitely. It’s about not being invincible.

Children Who Play With Monsters is about… what? Friendship? It’s not about the fantasy lands, though I want players to be able to create that themselves. It’s not even about the monster, although that was partly what caught my attention originally and the players are able to create it and play it in the game. “Growing up?” I had a Russian Literature course where the class argued for weeks about the nature of “childishness” versus “maturity” and the dichotomy was damn near impossible to qualify for our arguments. I see the question (and I’ve written on this before) as a matter of benevolent selfishness and learning to understand other people. Children Who Play With Monsters is about… what? Monstrous Best Friends, exactly what I billed it as? Is my aim really that perfect (unlikely)? “That individual person in your life that can invigorate you, stonewall you, piss you off, elate you in a single day; that will forever mark you in life even/especially when they leave your life (and they will, and you will scream and cry and bleed to stop that); that will teach you and rely on you; and you will rely on, and that you will teach. Also, they’re a monster.”

It’s a game about your Best Friend being everything you need, and also a Monster.

It doesn’t sound astounding or incredible or even particularly interesting when boiled down like this. But then, it’s about as straight-forward and ethereal as “Hope,” “Control,” or “Tragedy.” So there’s that.

It’s a game about that Best Friend that defines your life.

2. How is your game about that?
In talking about this question, John Wick cites purely from HotB so comparisons to anyone else are sorely lacking — but it’s not so bad. He explains that every Aspect a character has can be used for both bonus dice, and be used as a weakness by other characters to their advantage. How does he make his game about Tragedy, as defined in opposition to the constant upward climb to perfection in most RPGs? He makes every helpful perk of your character a weapon that can and will be used against him; you accumulate weaknesses as you play.

How is Children Who Play With Monsters about “that Best Friend that defines your life?”

In CWPWM, your Monster is treated as an extension of the Child — they both are created in the same process, share the same character sheet, and are assumed to be working together and making trouble for one another throughout the story and during all die rolls. Very literally, you create both and they influence one another (Allowances dictate what you can get away with; Problems at Home dictate your Wish-Fulfillment as granted by the Monster) — and in gameplay, the Monster will always protect the Child when he gets them into trouble and take harm on his behalf when he is in danger, and could even be driven off by you so you can get your way; conversely, the Monster can get into trouble of his own making or be reticent to perform things the Child needs, and there may even be incentive for the Child to protect the Monster (instead of vice versa) and he may drive his best friend off as a means to save him.

That seems like a very big answer, but I think it’s exactly what is needed here. How is this game about the Best Friend that defines your life? It’s not because of any reason that could fit for another game — it’s not because you fight other monsters (D&D) or because you are playing at being monsters yourselves (World of Darkness). It’s because throughout play, the core game-play opportunity should be for the characters to influence, improve, enjoy, interact with, and suffer for one another.

That means I need to cover those bases in design.

3. What behavior does this reward/how does your game encourage this behavior?
John Wick implemented Style Points to influence players to show off their character’s weaknesses, lining themselves up for Tragedy as he defined it — and giving them access to cool things in the meantime. As he says, Style Points really, really do run the entire game system. So I should be able to construct something similar to his answer for this question.

Children Who Play With Monsters encourages an interaction between the Child and the Monster, ideally making them near inseparable. I encourage this by letting the Monster exist entirely within the confines of the player’s design and control except for situations where the actual game takes over; that is, the player will not be stuck with a Guilty Spark or a Wheatley/PotaDOS (for whatever value of annoying these may have been to the reader). I encourage the Monster to matter to the player because the Monster is one-hundred percent their creation.

Is there any rewarding happening? I don’t think so — not at this stage. This seems to speak to the idea I had recently, regarding a transforming Relationship die (or dice). The shifting of this die type or die pool could certainly act as a reward incentive for players, with it growing in response to in-genre behavior, or behaviors that move the game forward. John Wick mentions his Style Points being a reward for exposing your weaknesses — really, he is rewarding your for moving the game forward towards its “theme,” as it were… TRAGEDY.

Similarly, I could see the transforming Relationship dice acting as response/incentive for reaching the endgame/theme of Children Who Play With Monsters. Extra dice flowing into the game whenever the action contributes to Best Friends defining one another — I see this as what is represented by Flashbacks and Trouble/The Fable in the current build. At least, that’s how I view it at this moment, but it is certainly worth review at this point.

Bring It Together
1. What Is This Game About?

It’s a game about your relationship with that Best Friend that defines your life. Also he’s a Monster, so that’s cool.

2. How Is It About This?

The Child and the Monster are inextricably linked in the game, from character design, to how conflicts are handled. The give-and-take of their relationship is a central component to game-play, and their mutual influences for better and worse inform the entire way dice rolls play out. The world of the game for the Monster and for the Child are each individually expanded and defined by how these characters cause (or solve) problems for the other.

3. Incentivize This Behavior – Go.

Bonus dice I guess. Bonus dice bonus dice.

Like Greek Happiness or any well-laid plan to conquer Australasia in Risk, you cannot consider it a success until you reach the very end — so, you cannot consider the theme of “your relationship with the Best Friend who defined your life” until the last dice drop. So, these Bonus dice will have to feed back into the above and keep propelling the game towards this final focus.

Wow That’s a Lot of Text
Yeah, I admit that it is. That seems to be par for the course of this blog, and so I thank anyone and everyone who reads my work and is nice enough get through all of it. I promise there are kernels of interesting though all throughout.

With some effort, I was able to answer all of these questions put forward by Wick and Sorensen’s camp — and it helped me focus my sights a little more on what I need. It may mean a brief overhaul of what I have, but that’s not even a problem honestly… I have so little to start, anyway. So, I need to invest some though in honestly achieving the things I outlined in response to the Three Big Questions. While I do that, I’m also going to be keeping my mind on a different set of three questions…

Y’see, while writing the above, I thought I had read these questions elsewhere on the internet before. However, it turns out I was wrong. From a game designer by the name of Vincent Baker, I found a completely different set of Game Design questions that he feels need to be answerable by the designer. I’ll be trying my hand at answering those tomorrow.

As always, please leave any questions, thoughts, or comments in the space below! I love receiving comments, let me tell you, and I enjoy responding to them if I can. Feel free, in the comments below, to try and break down any card game, computer game, or role-playing game by the three questions I’ve been discussing above! Sounds like a fun thought experiment to me. Tell me What They’re About, How They’re About That, And What Behavior Is Incentivized!

I can be reached, as always, at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com for any further discussion. Thanks as always!