Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Choosing a Setting for GAWI

GAWI? Sure, that's my new shorthand for Gettin' Away With It. And what I've been thinking about for the game is the setting. My first instinct is to make it the contemporary Western city, but part of me thinks that's a little lazy. My alternative is to reskin reality, much like Durance. Durance is the game about colonising Australia, but set on another planet to make it more interesting.

At least with that in mind there's the option to distort reality for the sake of the game. I can give the police legal powers that they would otherwise have. I can set up new opposition for the characters, or just make today's opposition more difficult or pernicious.

There's more work in that choice and will lengthen the project a little, but I think it'll be worth it.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Good Aspect, Bad Aspect

Writing a good aspect for Fate takes practice. They flow easily from the short paragraphs and back story that arise during character creation, but that's not enough. As a GM for Fate games, I see aspects that don't get used. They're on the sheet. The player put them there, but never uses them.

My weakness as a GM is not yet seeing the potential use for them in a story. I remember a couple of convention games where people set down a list of aspects that were like a castle. They were crafted so carefully as to make them invulnerable. Clever. Nimble. Ambidextrous. They may as well have written Awesome.

Some of my current frustration comes from my current game of Diaspora. At the start of every session, everyone refreshes fate points. If they're frugal enough in the previous session they never have to be compelled to earn any more. If they're lucky with the rolls, it's even less likely that they need a compel.

To make the best of it I see a couple of options.

1. Make all challenges absurdly difficult, forcing the players to spend all their points and need more before the end of each session. This seems poor and vindictive. How did everything suddenly become harder? Did all the antagonists suddenly level up?

2. Lower the refresh to three instead of five. Maybe this is a balanced approach, more suited to the three hours sessions we play.

3. Abandon the refresh altogether. Harsh, man. Harsh.

I've some thinking to do about this. I'll do one of them and let you know how hard my players squeal.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Benefits of Game Design with Kids

I posted a couple of weeks ago that my kindergarten-aged son wanted to make a tank game with me. I enthusiastically started making it in my head with a view to guiding him along a path to a game that had toy tanks, a tabletop, some obstacles for the tanks to hide behind, dice, and the goal to shoot each other's tank/s.

Thankfully when he and I started on the game I asked him some important questions.

  1. What do the tanks do?
    1. Move
    2. Shoot
  2. What do the tanks shoot at?
    1. Cars
    2. Trucks
    3. Aeroplanes
    4. Helicopters
Now imagine the sound of me slapping my forehead at the mistake I narrowly avoided making. He didn't want a game that set players against each other; he wanted to be on the same side as me. We made an ambush game. Two tanks were going to ambush a convoy that was protected by aeroplanes and helicopters.

The game itself wasn't innovative. Move vehicle, choose target, keep a tally of the number of hits required to destroy a vehicle, remove destroyed vehicles. We had to find a mechanical way to represent the convoy and die rolls substituted nicely for those decisions: which vehicle enters the table next, what does it shoot at if it can shoot, how far does it move, and so on.

Most importantly for me was the initial exercise of defining the game. His idea of fun wasn't tainted by his expectations of what a game should be. My son has reminded me of the value of not accepting the methods and mechanisms of other games as the only way to design, as well as the value of accepting those same mechanisms as part of the toolkit.