Sunday, 30 September 2012

Two Roads You Can Go By

I have a new game idea in the design sketchbook and I'm planning how to go about developing and writing it. What's surprised me is how I have two options clearly in front of me for how to proceed. Part of me wants to toy with dice rules because there are some interesting ideas out there (many of which were prompted by reading Daniel Solis' blog and tweets). The rest of me want to write scraps of fiction and setting to see if that's interesting first and then figure out how to bend the dice to create those stories.

I think the more disciplined method is to take the fiction first and force the dice later. I'll have to be more patient, but in the end I think I'll get the better result. So it's off to the writing desk with me.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Iconic and Dramatic

It took me too long to figure this one out.

I'm running a game of Star Wars using the FU RPG system. It's almost a no-brainer to run. The system is easily brought to bear on the universe and all I need to do as GM is continually develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe. No problem, right?

As it turns out, that's not what I had to do at all. I have two or three players, depending on personal schedules, and they've got their own styles of play. I tried several different categories to help me understand them and bring a good game to the table. At first I thought it was FU that was letting me down. I think what I wanted from FU was a Burning Wheel experience with character development and challenged beliefs. FU doesn't do that. It can approximate it, but it'll never be Burning Wheel.

No, the actual problem was not understanding my players. Robin Laws put it best (as is often the case) with his astute categories of iconic and dramatic characters[1]. In my words, the iconic character doesn't change but is perceived to change by virtue of their exposure to different environments and encounters, whereas the dramatic character changes regardless of whether they are in the same environment or a series of different ones.

What I have in my group is at least one player who wants the experience of the iconic character and one player who wants the experience of the dramatic character. I'm not sure what the third player wants, but I'll figure it out after another game session. When this penny dropped I immediately knew how to make the games more fun for all. I need to include elements of both in each game session, in order to let the players get enough of the experience that they want from the game.

And in the last game that's precisely what I did. And it worked.

1. I choose to believe that it was Robin who invented these categories, despite all evidence you may offer.