Hey everyone, I’m running an experimental Kickstarter. The goal is a bit different than most where you receive a finished product. I explain it all in the Kickstarter so drop by and drop in a dollar or more to the project.
I’ve been asked “How do you win” an RPG a number of times. This is closely adjacent to “Why play an RPG”, A question I’ve thought a lot about. I’m stealing from the book Finite and Infinite games for this description.
How do you win?
An RPG can be played in two different ways.
You can play a finite game with one win condition in mind. A way to reach the end of a story and everything hinges on that goal. It is some condition agreed to by everyone at the table but often suggested by the GM.
Or you can play an indefinite game, where much like life, there are many finite games along the way. Here, you win as long as there’s more ground that the players want to explore.
There is a big difference in tone in each option. Finite games are powerful, focused and serious. They are played within boundaries, time matters, they are played to be won. It’s not fair for the goalposts to move in a finite game. Players should not be surprised in that way. The conditions of play are controlled.
Indefinate games are dramatic, playful, exploratory, they’re about curiosity. The game’s boundaries will shift and even break, the reason to play is to be surprised by the results of play.
In Robert McKee’s book – STORY he says “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature”
He’s talking about character arcs, but the thing that struck me about the quote is this is exactly why I love to GM. Only I’m not so much interested in the character arcs, I’m more interested in learning how the player will guide the character. It’s almost like a laboratory to find the essential core of the players.
That’s why I think I’m less interested in constructing a “Story” and more interested in how the player interprets their character. A good story helps to do that, but arriving at the story isn’t my end goal. It’s to know that essential element of the player’s personality, to see who they are inside, revealed by that pressure.
It’s really only then I feel like I know someone. So while I like exploring fantastic worlds and finding out how they work, those fantastic worlds allow me to explore the people I’m playing with in ways I can’t in everyday life.
In setting and adventure design, include one minimally counter intuitive element in a scene. This will produce a feeling that the world the characters are in is not their mundane world and there are things to discover.
I’m consolidating some of my far flung posts in different places. This is one of them.
I’m going through some basic business advice on making allies and as I read thoughts are popping out that I’d like to track. So here’s my disjointed notes so far.
Be strategic – Think about who you would like to have as an ally. What skills might they have? What resources? This might sound cold but running around asking everyone to be your ally is probably not going to be helpful.
Be a fan – You’ve heard the advice “be a fan of your players” that’s very similar to being a fan of other designers. Maybe they’re not making what you want to make (and that’s good) but find things in their technique or some other aspect of their work.
Compromise – Try it their way. It might not be the direction you wanted to go but try following their suggestions and see what happens.
Communicate – Ask people what they need to start a project on an idea they’re talking about. Ask them what they need to finish a project. If they ask for something you can’t offer, say so and then counter offer with any skills or resources you think could help. This doesn’t have to be you doing work. If they need a skill you don’t possess, do you know someone that does?
Give dignity – Even if you’ve been doing something for fifty years and they’re brand new, treat them as an equal. Talk about what you think they’re doing right and ask for more.
Respect Input – Even if you won’t use what someone is telling you, thank them and let them know you’ll keep it in mind.
Spend time – If they’re local or if you’ll be at the same con, make the time to at least say hi and have a chat. If you do end up working together, possibly meeting up on hangouts or Skype, is a good option for being friendly.
Your allies’ allies are your allies – That’s it I just wanted to write that.
Give credit liberally – Don’t hold back. Strive to have your next title page full of credits. Look for opportunities to credit people even if it’s just a “Thank You” section.
Don’t drop an ally – Maybe you hate their new project. Don’t give up on them yet, even if what they are currently up to just isn’t your cup of tea.
Reciprocate – When you’ve been done a good deed, do what’s practical to return a favor.
Say no politely – There will be times where you can’t help and things you can’t do. Say no politely and let them know what to expect from you in the future.