jeregenest: (Default)
So I'm working on story trees for a variety of forgery related topics for this game I'm going to run for Jess. I have most broad areas of forgery but not musical forgery. So, public brainstorming powers activated!
jeregenest: (sandbaggers)
Games go wrong, fact of life. And hopefully people do post-Mortems on games, figure out what went wrong, why, and what they can do better next time. Frankly all the learning is on the wrong end this way, but what would happen if more games did pre-Mortem’s? This is something I do in projects all the time, because ideally team members, with all their collective experiences, can usually see the bad assumptions that go horribly wrong and the things that bring us off-track. And we can thus open a space at the inception to directly address the risks. This is similar, but different from the more formal risk analysis in that it is more designed to tap into experience and intuition. This probably raises the importance of an exercise like this to game groups, who usually have a lot of experience but few real formal risk management tools can apply easily to the decision (yes I want to do a FEMA on Fiasco).

So start with the simple question, “What will go wrong?” or corollaries like “What will lessen play.” This will allow the group to name risks or elephants lurking in the room. The exercise is deceptively easy and exists to deliberately create a space to share past learning at a time when the gaming group can best act on it. Closing the exercise it is probably good enough to do some social contract brainstorming to address the concerns or take other game based document decisions (house rules etc).

Peaseblossom and I recently did this for the game and it went well. The real issues were around grind, how depressing, the issues of victory, and content. There was also a good discussion on sexualization of NPCs. It lead to a great discussion, that I then was easily able to apply to my thinming and game development.
jeregenest: (sandbaggers)
Even in a game between partners there is a need for some set agreements, i.e. a social contract. Here's what we've been discussing.

Read more... )
jeregenest: (Kale mayhem)
[ profile] peaseblossom recently read "Mr. Humphries and His Inheritance" by M. R. James, a story that contains, amongst other things, a character who specializes in Hedge Mazes. At this point she carefully told me that she wanted to play this character in a forthcoming game.

So I’m thinking of a game, and I do remember that conversation. Me, being utterly predictable, I’m thinking of an occult spy game, influenced amongst other recent influences by the tv show Rubicon, which I pretty much loved (except for the last episode). And I start thinking hedge mazes.

I’m intending, to capture the feel of slow paranoiac buildup, to start from a position of little awareness of the occult and move forward. Which probably means hedge-mazes are move of a Chekhov Hobby than anything else. So now I’m pondering ways to do that in a fun, and story building way.
jeregenest: (Default)

Hedgemazes are originally there because [ profile] peaseblossom said recently "I want to play this concept" after reading a short story. Some digging shows there are lots of interesting chocies, and I really need to get a copy of Schafers, Fons. "A Catalogue of Labyrinths & Mazes in the Netherlands" Caerdroia 32 (2001), pp.28-35. (Catalogue of Netherlands hedge mazes).

Mind maps are usually useful for me to expose those areas aI need more work on. Unsurprising its in the area of chaarcters and places. So off I go to develop those.
jeregenest: (sandbaggers)
Working on my skill list for upcoming gumshoes game. Mostly esoterrorists with some changes.

trying to capture both the bureaucratic theivery and the abilities for special ops craziness. So comments are definitely appreciated.

Skill list for Gumshoes )
jeregenest: (Shazam)
The boy has asked me to run a game for him and his friends. He writes:

I would like my roleplaying game to be about Harry Potter.

I think the setting should be at Hogwarts and I think the characters should be very good at magic or not very good at magic.

I also think that the scene should be a mixture of quidditich and magic class.

Discussing it with him he seemed happy to choose a different school, perhaps in the USA. So I'll probably set it at the Salem Academy, which is mentioned very very briefly in Goblet of Fire. Probably for simplicity we'll end up with the same houses but need to ask the kids that.

From discussions with [ profile] peaseblossom it appears what he really wants is to focus on magic class and quidditich and he doesn't care about having a big bad. He also wants to go through all seven years. That seems to lend itself to a nice narrative arch of start of school, halloween, christmas break, quidditich cup, end of school. Which is pretty much how most of the books are organized.

Mechanics, well definitely will have to whip up something simple. [ profile] peaseblossom recommend using a class schedule to build skills, and that seems reasonable. Throw in some virtues and we're all set.

Now to invite his friends.
jeregenest: (Default)
Most of my stories fit into the longer-term aspects of a game. As such each is considered towards the wider stories and the thematic goals of the game. What I always try to do is figure out where a given story fits into the game. I have a fairly simple tool for this. I take a piece of paper and on the top I list the reasons for the story. What is going on and why it’s important. A brief synopsis or a few ideas really, nothing too detailed as there’s time for that later. Primarily what I’m interested is what in it for the characters. Why are they interested? What does it mean? In short, the character’s goals in the story.

Then I divide the paper in two and title one column “facilitating factors” and the second “inhibiting factors”.

The facilitating factors are those things that will help the characters reach their goals. Just short bullet points. Ideally most of these are NPCs (including places and sometimes things). Then I do the same with the inhibiting factors, the stuff that will prevent the characters from reaching their goals.

This list of facilitating and inhibiting factors then helps me determine what scenes I need to build.
jeregenest: (Default)
Continuing my thoughts on what I do in prepping for my games I’d like to talk about prepping for a session. Which is different then prepping a story or prepping a scene.

In my games I usually have 2 or three stories going on at once, on their own tracks that may mix and mingle. So its helpful to have an idea of what is going to happen in a given game session.

So I record the following information:

The objectives of the session. Is there smething that I want to see happen that game? What is it? What has to happen (or not happen) to see it happen.

The start. If I’m good I always have a starting scene all planned. A good way to start the action. I’ll be honest, if I don’t start a session this way its pretty clear that I haven’t done my prep work.

Activities. This is the list of scenes I have prepped. And other things that are going to happen that may draw the players in. Usually it’s a good list of stuff to look at when there is a lull and I need to figure out what comes next. This serves as my springboard section.

Then after the session I evaluate it. What went right, what went wrong? What are the ramifications of the various conflicts and the scenes ad the roleplaying. What does this mean to the world and all the various nets of relationships within it. And then I update all that.

Next, I tackle how I develop a given story. And then scenes. And then maybe my mapping techniques (and I don’t mean geographical I suck at that stuff)
jeregenest: (Default)
Often times there are specific scenes I want to start with. Or think will happen. For these I like to define a few things. First I get the target audience (especially easy for a 1:1 game). Target audience is more than the players that will be directly involved. Sometimes there are scenes that are meant to illustrate specific something to folks not in the scene. And so I want to know that out front.

Then I decide on the specific NPCs that are going to be involved in the scene. Remember for me an NPC is person, place or thing that has importance. When I have a specific NPC and I’m being really good about scene building I like to have before me three things: Do, Say, Resources.

Do are those things I want them to do, either before the scene starts or during it. I’ll usually list some expected contingencies.

Say are the key things, in voice, to remember. They might not get said but it helps me a lot.

Resources are the things they can bring to the table. Usually what the player is after, even if they might not be aware of it at the start.

All of this usually goes out the window in the first five minutes, but if I’ve done it I find that I’m better able to imprivse. The more work I do upfront thinking things through the better capable of improvising I become. This is good because that’s where most of a session happens anyway. These scene preps really just exist to up my confidence level going in and make it easier for me to think on my feet. I probably use about 25% of it even slightly as is. Which is why I get lazy and don’t do it, and when I don’t do it my sessions fall flat. The avoidance of prep is one of the problems I was having last fall and I’m trying a lot harder to get back into it.
jeregenest: (Default)
[ profile] peaseblossom thought it might be a good idea for me if I fleshed ou my thoughts on how I prepare for a given session. So I figured I’d start with what I do for an NPC.

When I develop an NPC I basically do the following:
  • Rationale
  • Objectives
  • Activities
  • Assessment
  • Voice
  • Mechanics

Rationale is the why. Why is this person (and I can use the term person very loosely, often applying it to places and even things) important. What impact does this person have on the player(s) and the world.

Objectives is a clear idea of what the person is doing and what they are supposed to do. I’ll often strive to get in the NPCs head and decide what they are doing to impact the setting ad the other actors (PC and NPC) within it.

Activities are the things they are doing or are going to do. I usually start with a few vague statements and the flesh them out from there. These are the things I can do to jump-start a given scene.

Assessment is how will they react to a given situation? What is their personality and what does this mean. I usually place them within the world/setting at this point.

Voice is where I give some stylistic things that I hope will make the NPC stand out as a separate person. As this is my weakest skill as a GM I really ned this to help me make better NPCs. Otherwise they all start sounding the same.

Mechanics, I hate mechanics, I really do but they do help so I give powerlevels or stats or whatever is appropriate. And some more stylistic flourishes for how they’ll use them.

And then every time I use an NPC I update this material with the status of the game. What I prefer to do is do a lot of work on these up front so I can coast by from session to session just make the NPCs more and more realized. What I’m finding in a Long Road to When is that due to its travelogue structure (something I rarely do as a gm) I need to do a lot more of this just to keep up. And since one of my objectives is to get better at NPC voice (and in using erotic content) it requires me to spend a lot more time working on my NPCs, especially voice.

Being the king of process flows, mind maps and concept maps I usually map the NPCs and the world out, but thats a seperate post. What I'm striving to do here is set the nodes.
jeregenest: (Default)
Perhaps the most critical event in playing a game is identifying the goals of the game. If done improperly, even elegant mechanics or fully realized characters may not serve the group’s or the player’s real needs. Without accurate goals the mechanics chosen or designed run the risk of offering solutions for which needs do not really exist. There are many ways to identify these goals; I’m just going to discuss the method I use.

Developing Gaming Goals )
jeregenest: (Default)
Frank Filz talks about game prep where he defines four different types of preperation:

  1. creative - generating ideas, situation, etc.

  2. mechanical - writing up NPC stats, determining obstacle DCs, etc.

  3. organizational - organizing and neatening up notes, e-mailing notes to all the players, updating a game Wiki, etc.

  4. research - reading National Geographic for ideas, searching in the library for information on power source efficiency or animals resource needs in the desert, reading novels in your setting or genre, or even browsing your module collection to find a suitable module, etc.

I think most games design really does a poor job defining these types of preparation, and as a result do a terrible job at providing tools on preparation. Since preparation is obviously what drives most gms to craziness and probably is a key defining mark between a god and a bad gm its something the hobby should be a lot more concerned about. Especially since I think tools can be developed and put in place here rather easily.

So what do I do? )
jeregenest: (Default)
[ profile] head58 posted on running conspiracies as games. I was originally going to reply as a comment, but I decided this was better off as a post of its on.

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