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Title: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 01, 2009, 01:27:54 AM
Bumping from the S/lay W/Me playtest forum, I've decided to take another look at designing my own ideal RPG from a different seed. Instead of asking myself "what would my ideal D&D (or Runequest or whatever) game be?", which is the shortest path to design a fantasy Heartbreaker, I've decided to start with "how would I render my idealized play experience if I were to?". Using of Rawl's whole original position idea, meaning pretending no other RPG has ever existed, I've asked myself what were my best role-playing sessions and how I would spin them again with a game that would concentrate upon this result. What came out is pretty odd and here it is, it's called Tales of the Dragon Lords :

There were Elric of Melnibonť and Moonglum, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Conan and Red Sonja, Frodo and Samwise, Vainamoinen and Ilmarinen and now, there's you and your friend. Tales of the Dragon Lords is about weaving sagas of high power in a sword-and-sorcery-ridden world, sharing them on the fly as they go with one of your friends or with your partner. Explore catacombs, forbidden cities and dark castles ; master eldritch artifacts and rise to glory in a world of your very own design, giving it shape and reality through your dreams and passion only. Feed it as you wish and enjoy your creation but tread carefully because no publisher will ever weave this story for you : the Tales of the Dragon Lords are yours to spin together.

What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss.

Joseph Campbell

Now, looking at it, I realize that I've maybe just taken another twist at designing a Heartbreaker (no opinion here, I consider way cool to design a Heartbreaker). Feedback?


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 01, 2009, 01:52:27 AM
Thought I should provide Tales of the Dragon Lords' subtitle as well, here it goes :

A munchkin story role-playing game for two players


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 01, 2009, 01:08:36 PM
My questions:

  • Is the two-player element an inherited trait from it's S/Lay with Me inspiration - if so, is this intentional?
  • Is a game only for two players really your idealized experience?
  • Is Sword-n-Scorcery synonymous with Fantasy Heartbreaker? (My answer: 'Noooo!')
  • What's a munchkin in this context?
  • Are you going to post any mechanics?
  • Do you feel annoyed at such persistant questioning!?

Thanks,
Mike.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 01, 2009, 01:32:23 PM
1. No, it's not intentional, that's the weird part. I just laid back somewhere and wondered what would my idealized play experience be, from actual play memories. And yes, the result is a two-players game. Why? Because as far as I can remember, I have two sorts of great RPG memories : long sagas involving mainly just a friend and me plus a good deal of players that came and went about the saga we were weaving together (I've played these kind of 2-players driven sagas with a score of different people over the course of years) and massive parties in which I was GM-img teeming groups of over eight people (up to 14 or 15). I just picked the most frequent aspect : the 2-players saga. I aim to begin with 2-players and slowly build the game to open it up to more players. That's my plan.

2. I'd rather say it's my idealized teen gaming experience. I stumbled into that because of the remembering part of "idealized play experience".

3. Of course not. I was just wondering if I hadn't just found another and more devious way to design a heartbreaker with the whole "idealized play experience" thing. I picked swords-and-sorcery because that's what I like, that's all, no connection at all with swords-and-sorcery.

4. That's trickier. I think one of the core elements of these teen sagas was that they all involved a massive build in power at some point. In order to show off (I don't want to use Forge rethorics here at this stage of the post), knowing that with 2 players you can't possibly show off to the others, you have to show off with the level of challenge that you face (I mean if what you like is showing off and challenges). such an increase quick leads the saga to world-wide events, overthrowing gods and the like. Munchkin is an option here, and it's consistent with my teen play experience. I know there are others and I still need to explore them a bit before going ahead.

5. I will, but in a distant future. I definitely won't begin with the mechanics, but I'll feed the post as my idea grows.

6. Sure not, it's great!


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 01, 2009, 01:52:07 PM
I'd suggest posting some ideas about where you'd like this game to go and how you'd like it to get there. So far we have a blurb and not much else to comment on.

'Munchkin' is a specialist, oft-pejorative term in the gamer's lexicon whose definition still lacks absolute clarification. My second suggestion is to drop it. Something like "A manful Sword'n'sorcery epic for two players!" might be a more exciting and viable option?


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Abkajud on July 01, 2009, 03:16:01 PM
"Manful" is an interesting term - not the same as "adult", although there's probably lots of blood and sex and stuff. Not the same as "munchkin", although there's probably a lot of killing and looting.

Would anachronistic, bygone gender relations be a feature of manfulness, Mike? I say this as a "hey, that could happen", not a "ew, better not!"


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Vulpinoid on July 01, 2009, 03:33:59 PM
This is a really interesting way to look at designing a heartbreaker (actually, "heartbreaker" is such a loaded term in these parts so I'll change my statement to "...interesting way to look at designing a game").

[WARNING: ANECDOTE]

It reminds me of my first encounter with anything oriented toward "roleplaying" or at least, what I thought was roleplaying.

When I was really young, I saw the move ET when it first came out in cinemas. In one of the opening scenes, the kid's older brothers are playing something that involves maps, dice and figures. They are using exotic terms like "Death Spells" and "Ressurection", which were pretty weird in the context of a game for a kid who'd grown up in a highly religious family (...that's me).

I really wanted to play that game. Maybe not the actual game that they were playing (which most commentators think is D&D), I wanted to play the strange and esoteric game that I thought they were playing. I couldn't find anyone who played anything similar during my early school years, so I made up my own games with the rolling of dice and using plastic soldiers or knights to take the place of "proper" metal miniatures. I even played a couple of these games with my younger sister when she showed an interest in what I was doing, and I had a couple of friends who took part every now and again.

I next encountered "Fighting Fantasy" gamebooks, and I figured these would be as close to the experience that I'd get in my home town. Then found the first editions of "Dragon Warriors" which I thought to be just another style of "Fighting Fantasy" Book. It wasn't my imagined game...close, but only a pale imitation of what I thought the imagined game should be. Eventually in high school one of my friends had a boxed copy of Dungeons and Dragons.

I finally got to play the game that everything thinks was being played in the movie "ET", but in my mind, they must have come up with some amazing house rules...or they were playing another game entirely that exists only within the fiction of the movie. I can't say that I was sorely dissappointed, it just wasn't the game I had hoped for.

[END ANECDOTE]

It's a dream I've chased based on a minute or so of screen time in a movie that's over 25 years old. Many times I've given up on the trying to find the magical game, especially when I realise I've probably been playing something just as good with various groups of friends over the past 20 years.

But every now and then I get the urge to recreate the ultimate game of my youth..something that involved strange polyhedral dice, carefully painted miniatures, maps,  with strong enough fiction that players can really sink their teeth into the their characters, and easy enough to be played while eating pizza and drinking carbonated beverages.

Monsters and the exploration of ruins or dungeons would probably also play a major role.

Sorry for the ramble...but I think that if you've got a game inside you, then go design it. Especially if it's that ultimate dream game that you've always wanted to play bit haven't been able to because other games just didn't get it right. The idea of creating a new game from first principles is just a cool and certainly a step along a similar path.

Good Luck.

V


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 01, 2009, 04:38:21 PM
It's a dream I've chased based on a minute or so of screen time in a movie that's over 25 years old. Many times I've given up on the trying to find the magical game, especially when I realise I've probably been playing something just as good with various groups of friends over the past 20 years.

But every now and then I get the urge to recreate the ultimate game of my youth..something that involved strange polyhedral dice, carefully painted miniatures, maps,  with strong enough fiction that players can really sink their teeth into the their characters, and easy enough to be played while eating pizza and drinking carbonated beverages.

Monsters and the exploration of ruins or dungeons would probably also play a major role.

Sorry for the ramble...but I think that if you've got a game inside you, then go design it. Especially if it's that ultimate dream game that you've always wanted to play bit haven't been able to because other games just didn't get it right. The idea of creating a new game from first principles is just a cool and certainly a step along a similar path.

Good Luck.
V

I can't tell how much you've got it. That's why I've not titled this message [Tales of the Dragon Lords] or whatever but [Another look at heartbreakers], because the real underlying subject is not my game, it's my catch. As you've read, my catch is "what would my idealized (okay let's say "teen") play experience be? Since I've taken J.Rawls in it, it also gains another dimension which is "pretending none other would have existed before, nevertheless knowing very well it's false".

And yes, as far as my idealized teen play experience goes, it involves a lot of pizza, carbonated beverages, weird maps, strange dice, a lot of killing, a lot of nonsense, a lot of random things and a monty haul of looting. That's where this munchkin word comes from. It also comes from the way I look at this game blurb/idea, in a rather ironic and deadly serious combination of mixed feelings. Sure, heartbreaker and munkchin are very loaded words, but hey, why not play with them? I've taken from a wiki this bit of definition of what a munchkin is :

It can be expressed in an aggressively competitive style of play, getting the most enemies killed and the most loot taken, with no thoughts about role-playing, the storyline, fairness, logic and, the most importantly, the other players' fun.


Now, if you're a couple of collaborating munchkin, it changes the definition a bit. But I take the point, the word is maybe ill-chosen, as is heartbreaker (but there's no way I put "manly" in a game title though). But Oh the joy of putting "munchkin" and "story" in the same sentence *sigh*.

Since you're also asking me the classical "where" and "how" questions, I feel I have to try to answer them but I must stress the fact that this message's theme is more the way to think at designing a game than the game itself. What I want is to take 2 players in a great saga, or series of sagas of their own collaborative design. They design it together as they go, they sort of publish it for themselves as they play it. As they discover the saga's content, dungeon after dungeon, city after city, warring state after warring state, they get to give it its color all along by their own common choices. They get to design their universe and, to an extent, their game. And they play it, just the two of them, together. And they'll eventually get dozens of maps, whole series of dungeons, and a Monster Manual I and II of their own (come on, it's mostly a joke) and if their saga is powerful enough, they'll take their friends in it.

That's where I want the game to go.

Now "how" *cough* is another question entirely.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Vulpinoid on July 01, 2009, 05:57:45 PM
I'm pretty sure I get what you mean...I just took things off on a bit of a tangent to show a bit of my own perspective, then tried to bring myself back to topic with stuff that I thought might be more relevant to the topic at hand. I wasn't too successful in this regard.

Playing with loaded terms can be fun, but dangerous. Especially when different people have loaded different meaning onto each of the terms in question.

I get where you're trying to head with the "munchkin-ism", and the last post confirmed this for me.

As for the...

Since I've taken J.Rawls in it, it also gains another dimension which is "pretending none other would have existed before, nevertheless knowing very well it's false".

...that's exactly what I meant when I said 'creating a new game from first principles'.

It's the idea of developing a game from scratch, knowing full well that dozens of people had done the same thing before you, but trying to work things out for yourself rather than simply follow in their footsteps. You might end up with something identical to another game in existence, you might come up with something completely unique. More likely though, you'll come up with something interesting that is very similar to what other designers have achieved but it will have your own special spin.

It's an interesting mental exercise to aim toward a point that others have aimed at, and see where you end up compared to their results.

Before I get overly clinical again...

I'm intrigued by your notion of 2 players. Is this a single traditional player and a single traditional GM? Or is it a pair of traditional players and a GM?

From my experience, some of the best games have occurred from 2 players and a GM because you get to feed off another player character's presence. The two players share their exploration of the GM's world. There's an extra random element involved. I've never really had that sort of experience from a 1-on-1 game.

I'm just asking because our experiences may have been different in this regard.

V


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 01, 2009, 06:04:46 PM
I'm hesitating between a pair of players and no GM as such and a pair of players, both playing their own characters and taking the GM role as well on a switch basis.

Cheers.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 02, 2009, 01:11:59 AM
I think there's a difference between 'Manly' and 'Manful'. The only reason I bring this up is that what you want out of the term 'Munchkin' is a sense of barbarian-style machoism: kill everything, leave nothing, hear the lamentations of their women... etc, correct? Besides, do you really want a game of competitive murder, or is a game of collaborative murder and storytelling more the idea?

I started a thread here in First Thoughts called 'Content and Conflict Generation for Instant Narrative', in which I suggest that the work of the GM, and indeed, nearly all game preperation work by any player, can be done in a few swift rolls on a series of tables to produce Location, Identity, Motivation and Conflict.

This mechanic could be useful within a two-player game: both players take turns to randomly select scenes, ememies, treasure, nubile sorceresses etc. and perhaps add some colour to the description, then play begins with both players describing their actions as they progress from through the locations to the final there the 'goal' rests.

The players would be in the strange possition of being both protagonists and antagonists - in that only they can generate the obstactes on their quest, perhaps with a ABAB 'yes, but!' dialogue between the two. Maybe a series of thread-counters, all of which must be expended or overcome befor the treasure can be obtained?


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 02, 2009, 01:27:50 AM
That's really close to what I'm aiming at. The players design their own setting and challenges as they face it, using both random generation and story mechanisms. That's why I consider the GM as an option, without being really sure I'd need one or even a GM role. I'm currently thinking about how the game could involve both a random gaming system and a narrative (not Narrativist!).

Right, munchkin is maybe not the right word but I'm not satisfied either with manly, it's a bit... Too much evocative and thus constraining. The idea is totally a game of collaborative murder and storytelling based upon a power play-oriented action. Think sagas involving a pair of heroes like Elric and Moonglum, Conan and BÍlit or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 02, 2009, 01:44:04 AM
I think you have your subtitle then! 'Tales of the Dragon Lords: A Game of Collaborative Murder and Storytelling for Two Players' (or something) is much more accessable to all (gamers and non-gamers alike).

Have a look through my thread if you have a moment, I make some suggestions on how the results could be callibrated to produce a narrative. Your example 'buddy-sagas' are very manful though!


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 02, 2009, 01:54:35 AM
I did. And I've played IAWA as well. I'm not going in the same direction here, mainly because I want to leave the color in the player's hands so I'm careful about NOT providing them too much impulse in color. I'm taking a stab at it the other way round : provide a skeleton and let them fill the color, let them multiply it as they play it. Concerning the GM, I might end up with a solution mixing a little my two options : no GM but a few secrets. The players would each be responsible of a series of secrets and reveal them timely during the course of play. Secrets about this artifact you possess, about what the princess expects of you, about the foul ambush awaiting in room 1ó12, about the Kingdom of Whatever, etc.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: brianbloodaxe on July 02, 2009, 02:27:45 AM
I think you have your subtitle then! 'Tales of the Dragon Lords: A Game of Collaborative Murder and Storytelling for Two Players' (or something) is much more accessable to all (gamers and non-gamers alike).

'Murder' has a few negative connotations, how about 'Destructive Heroisim?'


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 02, 2009, 02:31:53 AM
Sounds good to me. I respect you for wanting to push in new directions.

I like the idea of each player having knowledge about certain elements, but what if it was just that the players had creative authority over them? The two split the elements of play between them (or take it in turns when they come up) and, at the appropriate time, have the responsibility to describe them in any fashion that is enfitting with the style of the game sofar.
So, it wouldn't be that there's a chart of 'secrets' for this or that object at the end of the book - but that the players have split authorship of everything. I'm currently musing over a pick-up-n-play narrativist game where authorship is determined by the drawing of lots in each scene or conflict, but this between only two would be easier to run and produce a more dramatic creative dialogue.

Anther idea Iíve been toying with: perhaps each session could have a Ďskeletoní scene structure?

Quote
[The Meeting of Our Heroes]
|
V
[The First Fight and An Invitation]
|
V
[A Quest is Embarked Upon, A Path Chosen]
|
V
[Across the Wilderness]
|
V
[Challenged by Beasts or Men]
|
V
[The Path is Made Clear after a Great Obstacle]
|
V
[Into Dangerous Lands, a Maiden Approaches]
|
V
[The Outer Walls, a Puzzle]
|
V
[The Inner Rooms, the End in Sight]
|
V
The Ante-chamber, a Great Foe Manifests
|
V
[The End, We Hold It in Our Hands]

So here we have 10 or so scenes, each with a conflict that, while being non-descript and ambiguous as to interpretation, provide a structure of play and emulate the classic barbarian quest adventure. I'll be willing to explain more if you find this interesting. The above is possibly a 'first tale' structure, but others could be made to fit ongoing campaigns.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 02, 2009, 03:39:23 AM
 1. Yes, I have to make a clear choice here. Will I have it lay upon a massive number of random tables and leave a few bits of content and the cement of it to the players together or will I use a creative system in which the players share the defining of the adventure? As for the GM-less question, I'm currently going for something in-between, maybe using a few web resources in the process. That's where the whole munchkin thing maybe conveys a bit of meaning...

2. Your structure makes me think about Vladimir Propp, it's very interesting (though not being what I'm aiming at for this game). Could you find a way to get this kind of structural analysis into a game, still leaving enough creative freedom to the players? With such a precisely defined structure, where would the player's creativity find space to express itself? It's actually meeting point 1 of this answer as well.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 02, 2009, 04:18:08 AM
2. Your structure makes me think about Vladimir Propp, it's very interesting (though not being what I'm aiming at for this game). Could you find a way to get this kind of structural analysis into a game, still leaving enough creative freedom to the players? With such a precisely defined structure, where would the player's creativity find space to express itself? It's actually meeting point 1 of this answer as well.

Ha ha, the document this chart is save in is entitled 'Proppian Play'!

 It just strikes me that, in my idealized game experience, I always want to emmulate the fairy-tale/movie structure - so why leave it up to the players? This thread's helped me greatly in formalising my thoughts towards my own game - you'll be duely credited. :)

Reguarding your question: The structure is defined, but the content is not. Creativity is only inhibited with a single minor proviso, with the aim of creating greater entertainment. It's a give-take relationship between the two: I impose a small demand from a scene and the players receive a more structured and compelling story.

For example, '[The Meeting of Our Heroes]' stipulates that the only thing that must happen in this scene is that the player-characters meet one another. Who Our Heroes are, where they meet, why they're together, what motives they have are all at the player's liberty to create. Similarly a greater creative-curtail such as '[Into Dangerous Lands, a Maiden Approaches]' means that the introduction of a dangerous land and a young, female character are the only two requirements. Where the land is, why it's dangerous, how it is enterted and traversed, who the female is, if she's friend or foe, her intentions, her permancy in following scenes - all these questions are answered by the players. The players may go any place and may introduce any elements they like otherwise. So much for constrictions on creativity, huh?

'Murder' has a few negative connotations, how about 'Destructive Heroisim?'

I like to call a spade a spade.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 02, 2009, 06:14:49 AM
Hi Patrice,

I am far less interested in any of the terminological points (munchkin, heartbreaker, murder) than in the idealized play experience. You described it briefly, but a bit bloodlessly. What - actually - makes it attractive to you? Tell me that and it's likely that for me, or if not for me then for someone else, it'll be attractive too.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: MacLeod on July 02, 2009, 08:09:38 AM
Having a subtitle like that makes me giggle for some reason... I think its a fine thing. I'm sure anyone offended by the use of 'murder' probably won't be capable of enjoying a game about killing stuff anyways.
.
..
...
At least it isn't 'Collaborative Genocide', yeah? @_@


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 02, 2009, 09:54:30 AM
Giggling is good, it's what it's meant for :).

Hi Patrice,

I am far less interested in any of the terminological points (munchkin, heartbreaker, murder) than in the idealized play experience. You described it briefly, but a bit bloodlessly. What - actually - makes it attractive to you? Tell me that and it's likely that for me, or if not for me then for someone else, it'll be attractive too.

Best, Ron

I've been almost waiting for this input to get into it, thanks Ron.

In order to describe it (and Is suspect it's maybe part of what your question is aiming at too), I have to describe the process of finding what my idealized play experience is. I just sat somewhere with a Chai Tea


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 02, 2009, 10:38:53 AM
No it's not a Zen story, I've just hit the return key by mistake.

So I sat somewhere and asked myself what would my idealized play experience be. Or rather, what it has been. What provided me the most wonderful and enthralling gaming experience. I instantly discarded whatever would my ideals for a RPG be. That issue doesn't interest me at all. So I had to get to the nuts of it. What did I love? And why? Why was it ideal?

I realized that it encompassed many things : creating bits of color, settings, plots, wonders. Spending class hours adrift dreaming of my City of Brass, my City of Thieves, my Crypt of the Lich Queen, Shadow Mufti or whatever. That's the creative part. And I love it. And it takes its root in all a lively published and subcultural background. It almost felt as if we were all designing thingies together, publishers, customers, players. Thingies that had a somewhat similar tinge. I don't want to label it in depth, suffice to say it's what I call sword-and-sorcery. It involves heroes, magic, blood, murder, thievery, lust and power. It has catch sentences, mottos, everything.

I also realized that it seldom happened that in my roleplaying experience, the game would turn like that. There's always had been sort of a repressed feeling in most games I've experienced, including the very first and most famous. Okay, they say you are heroes, above the stock, powerful, waw. But deep down, it's a fake promise. Why? Because they also want you to get balanced by a system that would'nt allow you to kill gods and shake the setting, that would'nt allow you to shape your own story. they prefered to sell their own, and to leave you some secondary and heavily rewarded secondary role to play in. As I was struggling with people around who were looking for cohesive play, similitude or even realism, I was trying to play REAL swords-and-sorcery. I wanted to kill gods. To shake worlds. To matter that big. I wanted to play the hero of the story, not some kind of hero-like-all-the-others around who weren't playing heroes but ordinary people pretending to be heroes.

And hell, I realized that it had happened. And several times. It went like this : I met some player's group, club or whatever and began to play there. Compete a bit with others, show off, triumphed in a few games. And soon, everybody got back to class, work, anything, except me. Me and another loonie that also stood there, still hungry for the sword-and-sorcery he didn't get. We wanted to play real bad, but weren't satisfied by what was happening around. That's usually the point I was saying "okay, let's break the rules".

It began like that, me playing my hero character and him playing his. As I grew up, the him sometimes was her and that was all the better. We didn't use any published setting as such, we just played, one of us taking the GM's role + his character and us two keeping switching DM/player sides. And we played high stakes : gods asunder, half-planes sent boiling into oblivion, drifts in time, armies, everything. Man, that was something. And as we played, mostly using whatever published adventure we found and twisting them up to the absurd, we shaped our world together, involving new NPCs, cities or kingdoms when we felt inclined to.

And soon, we began to shape our own sword-and-sorcery. And of course, people knew it and they murmured about our saga. So we've invited them. All of them. And we shared our creation entirely. Some of them scorned us as utter munchkins (we were killing gods you know, and yes, looting them sometimes), some stood in awe and just joined the story. It eventually went into shaping full 4 or 5 players parties. the legend had begun, getting back full spiraling circle to the starting point.

Now, as I was thinking about it almost 15 years after my last saga of this kind, sipping my Chai Tea Latte, I realize that what I loved was the cooperative sharing of both the creation and the enjoyment of the creation of our own sword-and-sorcery and I wondered about what sort of mechanisms, what sort of game would render that, would turn the roleplaying into that. I've realized that the only option would be a game in which the players would all be the players, the designers and the GM. At the same time. On the fly. And of course (but that's just because I like REAL sword-and-sorcery), a game that would involve power, blood and amoral heroism. A cooperative game. Is the two players a mandatory limit? I don't think so, it's like novels. In some fantasy novels, you get half a dozen or so heroes. In sword-and-sorcery novels, mostly one or two. It's more a matter of genre than a matter of choice in design. But then, 2 might eventually become 12. Still, I consider important to start just with 2.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: whiteknife on July 02, 2009, 01:08:13 PM
I really like a lot of these ideas. I think that your ideal play experience is actually pretty close to my own, with the two players and then more and the god killing high adventure and all that other stuff. I'm not sure if it'd be possible to make a game that could replicate that on its own without the benefit of a verys specific player set, but if you could then that would of course be hella awesome to say the least. In any case, know that you're not alone in your idea of a good time!


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 02, 2009, 04:20:31 PM
Thanks a lot. I've noticed, of course, the very specific player set issue from the start. And yes, it's a big issue. There's one little pleasure of these times of high adventure I've decided to take away from the game : the meta-gaming that allowed us to twist whatever system we used into our shared design. I've decided to deliver an already twisted player set. On the other hand, the whole idea still suggests a lot of potential materials. Why not give the players power over this? I've got embryos of solutions for most issues (or so it seems, actual writing and playtest will tell) about going GM-less, resolution, character creation and progression in my initial brainstorming but I'm still a bit stuck with the content design part. I've got solutions, but they either are really heavy or too much free-form for what I'm aiming at, I need to find a balance here. Or to make a radical choice.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 04, 2009, 12:27:13 AM
Sorry to self-bump it, but I've got major issues to raise here. I'd like to escalate.

What strikes me is that, in this case, the truth has never been closer to the lie (or the contrary). I can see how high is the risk of designing a heavily dysfunctional game with the direction I choose, things like Oui-ja play, Karaoke and the bitterest role-player in the world immediately come to mind, especially the really crippling Oui-ja example.

1. Oui-ja : there is a high risk of designing a game set that contains no specific way to yield story and yet, aims at it, hoping for the story to emerge more or less spontaneously from a Setting slanted Simulation. At the other extreme, the game could involve monster bashing and facing challenges with no derivated goal as far as Step on Up is concerned. This is also really dysfunctional.

2. Karaoke : the Story Now essay says

Quote
Let's say you have a game that consists of some Premise-heavy characters and a few notes about Situation, and through play, the group generates a hellacious cool Setting as well as theme(s) regarding those characters. Then, publishing your great game, you present that very setting and theme in the text, in detail.

In the Tales of the Dragon Lords case, talking from the very simple ideas I've got here, you eventually have to do it. To publish this Setting and Theme. But you do it for yourself. Except... Except when it comes to multi-player, except when you take your friends in, as they won't participate so directly in its building, they will play Karaoke. This is a bitter issue for me. I have either to accept it and to say "over 2 people, the players in excess are all bound to be secondary" (and who would possibly accept that?), to reject the possibility to play with more than 2 people or to open the game to whatever number of people from the start. I must stress that I consider all three as potential valid choices.

Now, from that point on, it's very difficult to consider a workable game without choosing a clearer Narrativist CA. If you're playing Gamist, you know very well what's a GM-less 2-players game : it's either a wargame or a boardgame. And of course, this is not what I'm trying to design. On the other hand, Simulationism would lead the game to Pastiche : there's no GM and thus no illusionism, no pre-defined story as such and the game is about Situations shaping a story. Great, the result is thus bound to Oui-ja or to follow and mimic the genre standards in a very basic way at best.

Moreover, the detailed description I've given of my "idealized play experience", who quick became the description of my "idealized teen play experience" falls very, very close to Oui-ja play. So this all brought me another issue : I don't have to just embrace that teen, I also have to kill him.in the same move.

Yet, with all the risks at stake and the delusion to clear, the idea contains what I consider as among the most powerful and fascinating I've come about. There's a thin line here with major dysfunctions on either side, but I trust the path just as well as I do identify the dysfunctions.

More about mechanics as your questions/reactions will raise the issues.

What I'd like is people familiar with the GNS, who might have a much clearer grasp of it than me, to comment my hard look at my own game and correct my possible fumbles and mistakes with the GNS. I take that maybe, at this point, I would need mechanisms, playtest and actual play examples but as you've read, this idea is really fresh. I just hope to get a bit of these issues sorted with your help before throwing myself in the design/writing part. If this works out fine, you'll get actual play examples as soon as my schedule allows them.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 04, 2009, 02:47:57 AM
All very well for theory, Patrice, but there comes a point where you have to create before you analyse.

I'd gladly take a hard look at any game mechanic, tool or social dynamic you suggest - only, you must first suggest it!

Saying that, I am going to be constructive this morning and suggest that, as far as I can see, you currently fall more to the side of Karaoke than Ouija. You've a list of archetypal, example character pairings (Conan/Sonja, Fafhrd/Mouser etc) and a genre; you stipulate that it must be for two players and there may or may not be deicide before breakfast.

In my mind, to move away from the silent orchestra and onto the righteous path, you must be sure of:
  • How characters are created and what encourages the dynamism between them.
  • Whether each play-group creates the setting/situation afresh to their tastes, or whether there's a setting canon.
  • Who has authorship thereafter and how does that dynamic work.

Sorry to be hard, but it means I'm genuinely interested.
Cheers,
Mike.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: MacLeod on July 04, 2009, 09:28:09 AM
All very well for theory, Patrice, but there comes a point where you have to create before you analyze./quote]
I want to second this notion. The only way I have ever moved any closer to my own design goals is to create, analyze, criticize and improve. With a healthy dose of reading in between all of that.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 04, 2009, 10:34:30 AM
Okay, if you've got not enough to chew upon at this stage for that :

Quote
I take that maybe, at this point, I would need mechanisms, playtest and actual play examples but as you've read, this idea is really fresh. I just hope to get a bit of these issues sorted with your help before throwing myself in the design/writing part. If this works out fine, you'll get actual play examples as soon as my schedule allows them.

I then suggest dropping this until I really come about with a written design, preferably with actual play reports. Given the schedule ahead, that will most probably get into an entirely new post. Thanks anyway all of you for the input so far!


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: M. Burrell on July 04, 2009, 04:25:21 PM
Don't give up on this thread, just accept that we aren't feeling so high-minded today and throw out some ideas (as vague as ya like) for mechanics or setting and we can riff away on those; then we can suggest if the potential game falls off the path or no.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 04, 2009, 04:41:34 PM
I totally accept your feelings. I'd like to give up the thread (as such) because I've taken your point and set myself to design the mechanics first. I was maybe outing too much an internal creative process, hence a bit difficult to follow without a firm base to be talking about. Don't worry, the topic will be back soon enough (though I suspect under another form) as the system is under fast construction. I actually never built a system that fast, it's almost intuitive, don't know it's a good or bad sign, time will tell but I don't want to be discussing yet ideas I might abandon or make evolve in the process.

Meanwhile, I you or anyone feels like bouncing upon what's already been displayed, I'll be happy to pursue about that here.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: noahtrammell on July 06, 2009, 05:20:43 PM
  I could see the whole idea of 1 player having secrets working really well.  I'm minded of when the Grey Mouser wasn't sure if their travelling companion was a woman or a man.  The Fafhrd player would be responsible for the secret and might even want to oppose his partner finding out.  I have very few friends who RP, but the idea of a GM-less game that I could play with my brother sends shivers up my spine.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: JoyWriter on July 06, 2009, 06:28:11 PM
Ok here's a super gut-reaction, and implications from that:

Two players show off with power, but not too each other, to the strange social metaphysical background that borders play. Like the punks who don't quite show off to each other, but they bust through ceilings in their mind, saying we are here, and we are strong! That brazen declaration that the strong one can be me, that I can take the world in my hand, that is a revolutionary statement, but a revolution occupied by total fantasy.

So as people scale up, and they go off the deep end, like a DC "mythic" crossover, does that lead to another type of response? Does that pure power condense into anything? Into "what shall we do with this world now"?

I hope so, I hope that the social; the stratified, cogged and interlinked, starts to appear, as a game board and not an obstacle. The pair making and remaking that world start to build peoples and cities and stuff.

This process sort of stabilises the setting and perhaps makes opportunities for the other players to do something, underneath all the events you have made: I wonder whether this is the 52 to your infinite crisis, with the little dudes getting to stand up for a moment or day. (Can you tell I'm in a comics mood?) Making a gap in your setting, pulling something out that makes it it's two-player self and cramming all the other players into that. Such players will not be playing the full world-changer dynamics that have been mentioned, but they can be something else, and there are players who will be interested in taking that role. They will instead play with all the secondary stuff, which to you is coloured by satisfaction at your past victories and epic-ness, but to them is just the baseline for the world.

So how does that fit with the whole punk thing that fired up the whole world? Well perhaps you can see it like generations, with subcultures that become the culture. In other words, when players get frustration of running in the constraints of your world, they fire that straight into the same system, and start again with their own private games, even while participating more restrainedly in yours.

In other words the game could be explicitly designed to work in generations, learning subtlety in one as you blow the roofs of in another. What do you think?


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 08, 2009, 02:03:40 AM
Totally.

One thing that hit me as I was thinking to the "2-players then more" thing, is that the "then more" would be confined to rather secondary roles if the saga is still going. Take a look at it: you have 2 players who are co-GMing at the same time and a bunch of players who contend with just "playing" their characters within. Furthermore, these two players play their super-characters at the same time. Isn't that biased? What would keep the other players from being frustrated from the start?

This is an option. You have a pair of players sharing full GM power and standard players at the same time. This isn't satisfactory to me. Except if this multi-player option would disallow them to play their characters at the same time. Their characters would become NPCs during this multi-player phase. This is acceptable. Now, as you've coined it with the whole "generation" thing, this multi-player game would be a different Setting-based game. For the players of this second generation, the two original players ARE Setting, as well as everything they've designed on the way is. The second-generation group of players would play with a Setting-based Sim CA. They would play a different game entirely. I quite like this idea.

Yeah, Noah, I wish the game turns like this. That would rock.


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: noahtrammell on July 08, 2009, 05:39:24 AM
  If it even turns out anything like what we've been describing, I'm totally buying it.  Where are you planning on going with it publishing-wise?


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Patrice on July 08, 2009, 07:53:02 AM
Haha,

It's been what? less then a week I've had this idea. It's not even written yet and I'm still pondering about the system. But hey, you'll be informed about its whereabouts anyway.

Thanks a lot!


Title: Re: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 08, 2009, 08:34:02 AM
It's time to close the thread here, as Patrice suggested a while back. It's his idea and thing to develop, so let's let him do it. No more posting, please.

Best, Ron