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General Forge Forums => Publishing => Topic started by: greyorm on November 15, 2002, 11:00:52 AM



Title: The Store
Post by: greyorm on November 15, 2002, 11:00:52 AM
Over in Mainstream: a revision (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4223), Ron says specifically it isn't about the store.  I'm in some disagreement about this...after reading everything being said about turning things around, attracting a greater number mainstream shoppers to the hobby via new, non-alternative material instead of what currently dominates, I have to wonder: if we start producing for these clients, how do we then sell to them?

That is, create as many mainstream-appealing games as you want, if you don't have a proper venue for targeted sales, you won't sell or change a thing, thus making the entire exercise ultimately futile...and you might as well go back to making niche games and competing for niche dollars.

Simply, I don't care how much you develop and package things for a mainstream audience, if that product isn't displayed to that same segment of the public in an appealing, open manner, it won't change a thing.  
You'll have a lot of good ideas and lots of dusty packages on the shelf.

It IS about the store.
Imagine: page 45 goes ahead and prints this "mainstream vs. alternative" letter in Cerebus...but turns around and keeps selling the SoS ("same old shit") because it is more profitable, because the majority of a comic seller's business/profit comes from the SoS.

Where is the power in the distinction now?  Nowhere.
Even if they're right, even if it IS backwards, they haven't put their money where their mouth is.  The market appeal might be there, but the market isn't.

However, here's the thing, YOU CREATE THE MARKET...as a business owner.  Your business decisions and presentation target a specific subset of people, and you had better be in charge of targeting that subset instead of leaving it up to fate and whim.

Currently, the comics market targets pre-teen/teenage fanboys, but by changing their presentation and altering the product appeal to attract and service a different clientele, say typical older female shoppers, that's who their clientele becomes.

Chris (Pramas) claims the model given won't work, that a store which tries to do this would fail; but if the model won't work, then neither will this grand vision of the future, where RPGs (as a whole) break out of their niche and gain a wider appeal through the creation of more mainstream product.

I refute this, and have over in the other thread, pointing out page 45 as an example of this whole idea successfully at work, along with the other stores pointed out by various individuals.


Title: The Store
Post by: talysman on November 15, 2002, 01:59:15 PM
I agree... it's certainly possible to break out of the niche feeling RPGs currently radiate and aim for a wider audience.

examining from the retail side, I mentioned one chain of stores that actually almost has a Pg45 model: a chain of mall stores called Gamekeeper. they emphasize puzzles and traditional boardgames, but carry rpgs. as I mentioned, I don't think they market the RPGs quite right, since they concentrate on exactly those marginallized games we're talking about... plus, although the rest of the store is nicely done, the rpg display is sloppy; unless you are looking for rpgs, you wouldn't know they had 'em.

you can basically tell that the store is not interested in promoting rpgs, but I say it's possible to carry this idea further: have a larger rpg section, stock more mainstream rpgs, maybe even arrange the inventory by subject instead of by game type.

this would work with some hobby stores I have visited, for example. again, these stores mixed more mainstream non-rpg products with rpgs, but tended to concentrate on the big rpg names. what I would like to see is, for example, a store with historic games, novels, and nonfiction books in one section. that way, someone looking for models of WWII aircraft or coffeetable books about D-Day might bump into GURPS WWII or Godlike.

examining the issue from the publishing side, I do think RPG publishers try to market games to the D&D/WoD crowd, even for games that aren't clones of those games. in many cases, it may be subtle: bragging about how many different kinds of spells you can cast in system X, which is really meant to be a game about characters making decisions between walking the path of the magician versus living a normal life. also, Ron mentioned the fetishism involved in superhero comics; I think there's something analogous going on in rpg art as well. why don't more medieval fantasy games focus on artwork that resembles medieval woodcuts or tapestries instead of pictures of half-naked chainmail babes?


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 15, 2002, 02:24:19 PM
Raven,

Durned if I can tell what you're asking in your post, or if you're not asking anything, what you're presenting for discussion. Can you help me out with that?

Best,
Ron


Title: The Store
Post by: MJ Stahl on November 15, 2002, 04:46:30 PM
I used to live in Cincinnati, OH where we had a store called 'Games People Play' and it held many of the items previously discussed in this thread.

But I see a major problem with this type of store layout. Offering more mainstream games is a great draw, but not offering and upsell potential and widening your market as well as your sale poses a problem.

For example. Let's say you have 'Medival Merchant' (a merchant strategic board game from Rio Grande Games) shelved, or on a tombstone with some added POP (as if it was just released)... why not display maybe a Venitian merchant RPG next to the board game product? Why not educate the employees on sales techniques for games of immersion (RPG's) and games of strategy (board games) and how they fit together.

Everyone one fantasizes so that is a reason to sell.

Of course there are probably a multitude of factors that play into this... like margins, exclusivities of display, etc, etc.


Title: The Store
Post by: greyorm on November 15, 2002, 06:31:49 PM
You're right, Ron, it is muddled and directionless.

I think I realized that when I posted it...Had I thought about it, I would have waited to post that until it was more concrete.

Once my sleep-deprived brain kicks in I'll give you know something more meaninguflly coherent (I haven't slept more than 8 hours in the last three days, I think...hence I'm noticing my thinking/decision-making is a little fuzzy).

Apologies, I'm normally more careful than this.


Title: Re: The Store
Post by: Pramas on November 15, 2002, 10:58:50 PM
Quote from: greyorm

I refute this, and have over in the other thread, pointing out page 45 as an example of this whole idea successfully at work, along with the other stores pointed out by various individuals.


Page 45 is an interesting example to be sure, but I stand by pessimism that this model could work for RPGs. Page 45 sells something entirely different than RPGs, a point which can't be overstated. No one needs to teach you how to use a graphic novel, whereas most people learn RPGs just that way. I'd also point out that Page 45 was able to capitalize on the rising tide of the graphic novel. There was, in other words, something happening within the comic industry that made their model more viable than it would have been previously. I do not see anything happening in RPGs of similar importance.


Title: Re: The Store
Post by: Le Joueur on November 16, 2002, 06:11:20 AM
Quote from: Pramas
I'd also point out that Page 45 was able to capitalize on the rising tide of the graphic novel. There was, in other words, something happening within the comic industry that made their model more viable than it would have been previously. I do not see anything happening in RPGs of similar importance.

Unless we create that (which is what I thought Ron was suggesting).  As designers, we could create the "rising tide;" if not us who?

Fang Langford

p. s. I freely admit I thought all the store talk is premature, but the design talk isn't.


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 16, 2002, 08:53:54 AM
Hi everyone,

Let's all shut up until Raven tells us what he's talking about. Until that happens, this thread will be one of those bullshit "Well I think" muddles that won't accomplish anything.

Best,
Ron


Title: The Store
Post by: greyorm on November 17, 2002, 11:09:01 AM
After twelve hours of sleep, my head's a little clearer this morning.

Simple, here's the deal from above, short and sweet:
A venue of distribution is necessary for any idea; if that venue is either not the point or unworthy of serious discussion, or if it is not economically viable, then why are we discussing the original idea?

Doing so is a waste of time because theories are all great and fine, if -- and only if -- they actually hold true in practice.

Practice, in the case of this theory, is the display and promotion of works created by the theory, to test and see if the terms are confused and different designs will appeal better, as theory states.

So, it isn't really a question as much as it is a refutation of points about "what it is about" and viability.  If there is a question in all of it, that is directed towards Ron as a query of how to actually engage in meaningful practice of the theory?

Note that I do not consider meaningful practice of the theory to occur in the design stage...that is, while you can design a game to be mainstream instead of alternative, the test of whether the terminology holds true and mainstream buyers will latch onto the product does not occur during design, it occurs during and after purchase.

If we do not discuss the store or viable marketing alternatives to the current model (which fails to  target the necessary clientele), or if we ignore such "for the moment," we may end up with a great deal of work done and no or little result.

Thus, why AREN'T we discussing the store?
The store, IMO, quite obviously appears to be what it is about, in the long-run, or from a view of practical application.  What is the current reasoning behind avoidance of talking about a store/the economic and distribution aspects of the theory?

If it is "getting ahead of ourselves," why?  (Considering it is ultimately the litmus test of the entire exercise)  If it simply doesn't matter, why and how?

It was maintained that "the Store" isn't important (because that isn't what "it" is about), and that "the Store" is not viable economically...but in both these cases it makes pursuit/time investiture in discussion of and design with the theory ultimately futile and meaningless.

So, if we are not dicussing it because it is not considered to be an important part of or worthy of integration into the main body of the theory, when its importance cannot be understated, why is that?


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 17, 2002, 05:44:43 PM
Hi Raven,

Your concern is addressed, I think, by the following points.

The "It" that seems to have bugged you refers to the topic of my previous thread, Mainstream: a revision. The topic of that thread was not the game store. That does not mean that a game store (or "the" game store) is an irrelevant topic, but it does mean that discussing it in that thread was off-topic.

That's especially important to the mainstream/alternative issue, because of people's tendency to confound several important issues. I listed some of them in a related thread, specifically stuff like independent/non-independent ... and most especially, mode of distribution.

Clearly the mode of distribution is a crucial, major, central issue in discussing role-playing. That's basic economics and values in tandem, and it applies to practically anything produced and used.

I am completely convinced that several related variables interact in such a way that most people involved in the role-playing hobby cannot think clearly about them. We need a clean sweep, regarding all of these variables in isolation, in order even to begin discussing things like stores and packaging design.

Three of those variables have been raised by me in the last few days: (1) examining the term "mainstream," with special emphasis on the idea that the answer includes what we, the hobbyists, tend to call "alternative;" (2) the role of the primary venue for role-playing culture, the game store, in the actual practice of the hobby, phrased as a constructive suggestion; and (3) a look at how we actually, in real life, construct our hobby in social terms.

Two more variables exist that need to be worked through in terms of shared impressions and debate, before I even begin to think of asking questions about stores, packaging, promotion, and similar issues at this website. I have endured hundreds, if not thousands, of posts of pure repetitive, directionless, gut-reaction noise regarding these issues since I began publishing Sorcerer and other games, back in 1996. These five topics I am in the middle of raising are the barest, baby-step beginning of my attempt to change this incredible wall of static into some meaningful discourse.

Until I get all those five topics articulated here, until people have had a chance to work through their preconceptions and (in my view) badly-warped values regarding them, and until we can all look at all five active threads at once, I am not going to get rolling about "the store," or "the cover," or the "reach the customer" or whatever.

Best,
Ron


Title: The Store
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 18, 2002, 07:15:18 AM
Raven brings up one of the two points why I have not chimed in on any of the "Fantastic Five" posts by Ron (three thus far, correct?).

My own game, Dust Devils, has been discussed by some in a thread about how a "mainstream" game would be packaged (i.e. marketed). But Raven has nailed why I haven't chimed in on that discussion. It's because I don't see the practicality in discussing the matter. Yet.

I could be that I'll see plenty of reason later to discuss it. But right now, even if I did win the lottery and have the means to actually print / package Dust Devils for the mainstream, I've not idea where to even begin. There just isn't any obvious means I can see to pursue.

Perhaps Ron will change my conservative mind about that. Ron brings up the second of two points why I have not yet chimed in here. That is:

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Until I get all those five topics articulated here, until people have had a chance to work through their preconceptions and (in my view) badly-warped values regarding them, and until we can all look at all five active threads at once, I am not going to get rolling about "the store," or "the cover," or the "reach the customer" or whatever.


See, Ron's already admitted that the jury's still out on the real meat of these matters, and posts are just missing the whole point. Because it doesn't exist yet. The one that really bugs me is the Social Context thread, which wasn't supposed to be a "profiling" kind of thing. And yet, it is . . . at least until Ron chimes in again. I just don't like the feeling of "set 'em up, knock 'em down" on that thread (and, yes, I KNOW that isn't Ron's point or intention -- just that the whole thing seems like pissing in the wind to me until Ron chimes in again).

Ron, I really want to read all of these things, and I can only sympathize that you've not yet had time to get to all of them. Until then, my thoughts -- especially those concerning Dust Devils, which you've cited as a good "mainstream" candidate -- are fool's gold.


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 18, 2002, 08:03:16 AM
Hi there,

Matt, although I am playing the "Godammit, there's a big picture card," I can't say that big picture is entirely clear to me yet. I know what questions I'll be asking at the end of the five threads, and I know where I stand on them currently, but there's a reason why I put all these things out as threads rather than as an essay. People's input on them is very important; I am learning a great deal from all of them, and the fifth thread's content depends heavily on substantive interactions within the preceding four.

I agree with you about the Profiling aspect of the Social Context thread, but that should change soon - I hope, internally, rather than directed by me. In fact, I'd appreciate it if someone like you (i.e., deliberately going for a point-based approach rather than a descriptive one) would contribute to it and provide a comparative conclusion for us to discuss.

Raven, with any luck, my recent "money shot" post on the Actual play in stores thread should provide some insight relevant to your inquiries on this thread. As you can see, however, that post raises more questions than it answers.

Best,
Ron


Title: The Best?
Post by: Le Joueur on November 19, 2002, 07:02:58 AM
The Store

So I turns to the wife and says, "What would the ideal game store be?"

"Caribou Coffee?"

We got into a discussion about the differences between all media and gaming.  Ancillary to that, what kind of retail facility would be necessary to support that.  One thing you must know is that we live just down the street from The Source, Hobbies and Games, home of Atlas Games, so our perspective is skewed by familiarity with that.

See our main thought is that gaming isn't about 'story' presentation (at least not in the linear media form), so a theatre doesn't work at all.  Gaming isn't about rulebooks, so a bookstore model isn't a good fit either.  What is gaming then?  Our answer is 'a set practices centered on an imaginary model performed by a group.'  So the ideal store would not only offer the merchandise, but also instruct the practice somewhat.  If anything the martial arts studio strikes the best cord, but 'teaching gaming' probably wouldn't pay the bills.

So then what?  "Caribou Coffee?"  One of the things we liked best about Barnes & Nobles stores when first encountered them was those comfy chairs.  I heard some commentary that they were bad business sense that the store should focus, like Disney, on getting them in, getting them through, and getting them out.  I disagreed; I felt giving people a place to 'fall in love with reading' or more specifically, 'fall in love with the product' was a great idea.  (They love it; they buy it.)

So, in order to best vend gaming, a set of practices, would be to provide space to practice them.  (Remember the martial arts studios?)  Even though it was originally a space for sand tables, then card games, The Source, Hobbies and Games has evolved just such a space.  In fact, even now, this long after the original Magic: the Gathering push, you can still see them in there after closing still playing (I haven't taken the time to see what).  The Wizard's of the Coast store at the Mall of America has a similar space for computer games (they even run network game tournaments) and I think it configures to play card game tournaments too.

So what would be the ideal role-playing gaming shop?  Take one measure, function space, add staff mentors, retail product support, and probably just a tish of coffee shop (perhaps host a Caribou emplacement like some grocers do), mix well (and with more retail experience than I have) and voila!  (Or at least, that's our idea.)

Fang Langford

p. s. Certainly staff/product selection is important too, but until you get past the intrinsic differences between gaming and books (or board game/toy stores), you're just fine-tuning potentially the wrong model.


Title: The Store
Post by: quozl on November 19, 2002, 07:31:39 AM
Well since this is turning into a "fantasy store" thread, I may as well offer mine:

Call it Eclectic Entertainment or somesuch.  In addition to the ideas already mentioned previously, stock videos that relate to rpg's such as Hong Kong fantasy martial arts, anime, obscure sci-fi and other stuff not easy to find in other video stores.  Sell pizza in addition to rpgs and other games and do what other pizza places do, DELIVER!


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 19, 2002, 07:32:16 AM
Hi Fang,

Beauty. This is why this "store" thread, which sprung off from the Mainstream: a revision (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4223) thread, was a tad premature when it began - it's linked to the topic of the Actual play in the stores (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4253) thread, which is precisely where your post brings it.

I agree with you - as I read it, the point is, if the store is selling role-playing games, it must also be a venue for role-playing.

All sorts of counter-examples spring to mind - people don't watch videos in video stores, for instance. However, I think the basic approach is sound insofar as the activity of role-playing is necessarily social. I'm thinking also of some interesting supporting examples ...

- modern bookstores provide space to hang out and read, as well as to socialize
- record stores play music all the time, and in some cases permit people to listen to music privately or semi-privately
- both of the above often provide coffee/etc and provide some social space

Best,
Ron


Title: The Store
Post by: James Holloway on November 19, 2002, 08:01:09 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards


people don't watch videos in video stores, for instance.


I used to live near a really really good movie store. And I rented films because I saw them playing on the screens in there. So, you don't really watch movies per se, but the movie-watching experience is part of a good store.

That was kind of a pointless and irrelevant example, huh? It's just that I was so jazzed about my good movie store. When I moved away, I still went there every chance I got. They were very much the video equivalent of The Store.

I'll shut up now.

- James


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 19, 2002, 08:10:01 AM
Hi James,

Boink! That's right, isn't it? Many video stores do show movies. It's not like anyone really sits down and watches them all the way through ... and granted, in the big ol' Blockbuster type stores, they're pretty much just background noise ... but in the hip stores, you're right, people do always look at them and chit-chat about them with the store people, and at some, blessed moments, with one another.

Double boink. So what we're talking about is bite-size samples of the activity in the store, accessible to the casual customer.

Whoa, people! James hit it - I wanna know, really, what kind of bite-sized role-playing experience could happen in that store or semi-store environment!

The GenCon Forge booth was geared exactly toward this goal, and in my opinion was amazingly successful, but its target was the in-gamer audience. Same goes, at least at first, for my in-store club notion.

But if we shift it more toward this bite-sized video store or record store mode ...?

Best,
Ron


Title: The Store
Post by: quozl on November 19, 2002, 08:16:23 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Whoa, people! James hit it - I wanna know, really, what kind of bite-sized role-playing experience could happen in that store or semi-store environment!

Best,
Ron


"What would you do?" scenarios.

Here's an example I used for some people who wanted to know what RPG's are like.  It only takes 5 minutes and you could have a few of these type of things for every emplyee on 3X5 cards or something.

"It's the Vietnam War.  You're an American soldier walking through the jungle, cut off from the rest of your platoon.  You hear a 'click' behind you."

When they turn around:

"It's an old woman with an assault rifle pointed at you.  She starts shouting in Vietnamese and starts fumbling with the gun.  What do you do?"


Title: Renaissance Festivals
Post by: Le Joueur on November 19, 2002, 08:16:27 AM
Hey Ron, James,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Whoa, people! James hit it - I wanna know, really, what kind of bite-sized role-playing experience could happen in that store or semi-store environment!

...But if we shift it more toward this bite-sized video store or record store mode ...?

How about those Renaissance Festival booths where the employees just out and get everyone talking in a British accent and acting 'all medieval?'  Or the players (often paid atmosphere) who engage people 'in character?'

Not exactly where this should go, just futher examples to ponder.

Fang Langford


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 19, 2002, 08:21:05 AM
Hey,

I dunno, guys, those sound a lot like "play-acting" to me, i.e., what people tend to think of when they hear about role-playing. Just like the instant assumption made by many when they hear about comics is that they must be humorous ("the funnies") or adolescent/arcane (superheroes).

Funny accents and "playing a role" are not actually what we do when we role-play, not fundamentally, anyway. The fundamental is shared Exploration, socially mediated, with a group goal (GNS). Any bite-sized notions for that?

(And I'm getting ahead of myself; fourth thread, fourth thread!)

Best,
Ron


Title: The Store
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 19, 2002, 08:59:02 AM
Hmm. Determine GNS preference before the player buys.

Run a D&D combat to test for Gamism.

Run a Fading Suns noble gala to test for Simulationism.

Run an OTE scene about whether or not to assasinate Dr. Nusbaum to test for Narrativism.


Make it interactive. Rarely are there enough employees present to make a reasonable presentation. So grab some of the regulars lying around, or even the customer in question, and have them participate. That displays that anyone can do it, and that the presentation isn't "scripted". Just ensure that the GM is an employee so that he can cut off the presentation at the right moment, and can pause it to step out of play just long enough to explain some salient or inobvious point of play.

Then, once the customer decides on a particular style they like, the Personal Gaming Representative can direct them to the sorts of games that they might enjoy, discussing genre with them, etc.

Did I mention that I want to work in this store?

You know, people pay for dance lessons (quite a lot, actually), a form of recreation. Even writing classes. I've often wondered why I'm not a pro GM, and I don't teach gaming full time. The Gaming Dojo would have tables with those comfy chairs where people could recieve personalized instruction or participate in classes about improved RPG play. Probably a pipe-dream, but then it can't become a reality if it's not at least considered.

What, is GMing so easy that we each couldn't learn from lessons?

Mike


Title: Who are We Talking About, Again?
Post by: Le Joueur on November 19, 2002, 10:48:29 AM
Hey Ron,

I think we're jumping down each other's throats over a few assumptions we don't hold in common.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I dunno, guys, those sound a lot like "play-acting" to me, i.e., what people tend to think of when they hear about role-playing. Just like the instant assumption made by many when they hear about comics is that they must be humorous ("the funnies") or adolescent/arcane (superheroes).

Funny accents and "playing a role" are not actually what we do when we role-play, not fundamentally, anyway. The fundamental is shared Exploration, socially mediated, with a group goal (GNS). Any bite-sized notions for that?

You hint at my disagreement.  I do think that "playing a role" is what we do when we role-playing game, but that's about the most misleading way of putting it.  I tend to refer to it as having to "Think in Context" (TiC).  You aren't just talking funny or acting out a role, you TiC.  A good magician can get this out of an audience member; a hypnotist almost depends on it.  My belief is that 'social mediation' and "group goal" are merely icing on the cake, the good stuff, not something you need in a sampling.  Giving them something to "Explore" is good, but if they don't TiC, I don't think they'll get it.

Can this be done in a store with people right off the street?  Possibly, but you'd need well-trained performers to pull it off consistently.  Can you be more specific about the target audience?  All we've got right now is some vague idea of the guy standing over in the drama section looking up at the screens (and yes that supports both gaming and video, if you read it right).

Fang Langford


Title: The Store
Post by: James Holloway on November 20, 2002, 02:55:38 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I wanna know, really, what kind of bite-sized role-playing experience could happen in that store or semi-store environment!

The GenCon Forge booth was geared exactly toward this goal, and in my opinion was amazingly successful, but its target was the in-gamer audience. Same goes, at least at first, for my in-store club notion.

But if we shift it more toward this bite-sized video store or record store mode ...?

Best,
Ron


Well, the problem with that is that of all the products you see in an RPG/game store, RPGs look the least like anything and (usually) take the longest. So you can play a game of Mordheim in an hour, and with all the little men and the little houses and the rulers and stuff, it looks really great . CCGs and board games, same deal.

You'd have to get a method of making the game look fun to the customer, and have scenarios specifically designed to be run in a very short time, with no fat on the bones. Short little Twilight-Zone-episode things, like eentsy weentsy little con games.

Mind you, I think certain games have already addressed this wellish. One Shots for UA, while intended for con games, has a lot of demo potential, and very much resembles the "think in context" problems mentioned above:

You're breaking out of jail, and you've wound up in this crazy old man's house. What do you do?

You're on a plane, and some nutcase tries to hijack it. What do you do? (well, maybe not this one)

You wake up one morning, and everyone else in the world is gone. What do you do?

Some games would take more work -- Mage for example...

OK, see, you're a Mage, which is like ... well, OK, reality is mutable, and what people believe is real, but not always, only on certain subjects...

So something with a low explanation time, and possibly something humorous -- cause if people see the players laughing and stuff, that looks more inviting.

The last problem is that RPing looks like a private experience. At cons, people walk up to minis games all the time -- there's just something about 'em that makes you want to watch and ooh and aah, and sometimes you'll get handed a sheet and told that you're in. RPGs seem more like a private conversation -- you don't want to butt in. So how do you make them welcoming?

So, no real answers there. Sorry.


Title: The Store
Post by: greyorm on November 20, 2002, 07:26:46 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I wanna know, really, what kind of bite-sized role-playing experience could happen in that store or semi-store environment!

I had no answers, none at all...none, complete blank...then suddenly this morning it hit me like a ton of bricks. There's this scene written in one of the Dark Sun novels by Simon Hawke, in "The Nomad," starting on page 116:
Quote
There were even several tables where a game was played that Sorak had never seen before. They stopped on their way through to watch one of these curious new games.

The first thing that they noticed was that no cards were used, nor were there any playing pieces. There were no wheels or boards, and the players were in teams. Instead of a dealer, there was a sort of gamemaster who directed the play. Each player assumed a character at the beginning of the game and rolled dice to determine the character's abilities. The gamemaster then presented them with an imaginary scenario through which they had to play, as teams, supporting one another with therir respective skills.
...
Sorak and Ryana noticed that they were not the only ones who had stopped to watch and listen. A number of other people were standing around, observing the play with fascination. It was, in a way, much like watching a small, informal theatrical production of an improvisational nature. The players had to improvise, because they had no idea what the gamemaster would present them with next. He was the only one who had a script.
...
The players glanced at one another uneasily. The gamemaster had a deep, mellifluous and dramatic voice, and he knew how to use it to its best effect.
...
The gambling element entered the game with each new dramatic situation that the players were presented. Before they rolled the dice to see how the scenario would progress, depending on their characters' strengths and abilities, they would first wager on the outcome. It was a game in which the players were pitted against the house, represented by the gamemaster. And even though the gamemaster knew what was coming up next, he had to work from a prepared script, and he could not control the roll of the dice that determined a character's strengths and abilities, and the outcome of any given confrontation.
...
"Player Number Four, you have passed through successfully and won your wager. You are now richer to the tune of ten ceramics. My congratulations."
...
Player One, the templar, had also passed through successfully, won her wager, and would continue in the game. That completed the round of the diverging streets scenario.

"There is now room at the table for two more players," the gamemaster announced to those who had gathered around to watch. "Would anyone care to try their luck on the quest for 'The Lost Treasure of Bodach'?"
...
Before the game proceeded, Sorak and Valsavis chose their characters and rolled the dice for their strength and ability scores. Valsavis, not surprisingly, chose to be a fighter, and his character was a mercenary. Sorak followed his example of playing close to home and chose to be a druid. Valsavis rolled high on strength and only average on ability. Sorak rolled high on ability and average on strength.

"Very well," the gamemaster said, when they were done. "Let us now proceed. You are all past the pit, though Players One, Two, and Four have accumulated more experience points, which will count towards their winnings if they successfully complete the quest..."
...
Do you choose to go inside the stone tavern, with the barred windows and the stout front door, or do you proceed to the towered house of the aristocrat, surrounded by the thickly walled enclosure? Only one will afford safe shelter for the night, but which? You must decide."

The players discussed their options.
...
"Is there anything in the rules that says we must all make the same choice together every time?" Sorak asked...

The gamemaster raised his eyebrows. "No," he replied, "there is not, unless I have specified it in setting forth the situation."
...

Anyways, this scene lasts for 16 pages, detailing the choices of the protagonist and two companions who join the game, their wagers and their rolls.

Take all that as you will...in my long experience, that has got to be the most definitively cool example of game-play I've ever read.

The game was in a a gambling house. Players paid a fee to create a character, and good rolls resulted in them gaining coin, while bad rolls resulted in their deaths and losing their wagers.

Now I'm not suggesting anyone do this at a gaming store, but there are some excellent pointers in the text for things to do in such a game and ways to handle it.

Of course, the example in the book wasn't perfect, but its a great start.
The positive points of it all I've tried to quote above, and to recap those more clearly:

A simple system; in this case, two pre-game rolls: ability and strength. I imagine choice of race/class in this case gave a couple simple abilities you could use when making choices, or a bonus/penalty to a particular stat. Ability and strength would provide a bonus (small or large) to your rolls, depending on which is called for.

It can be explained in ten seconds. Roll this; Roll this and add this; Roll over this number to succeed.

Clear-cut goals...the gamemaster always stated what the choice was and what the stakes of the choice were. Simple as choosing the safest street to go down, and which establishment would be the safest to spend the night in.

One-choice then one-roll comprise each scenario: after the above choice was made, a roll was made to check the results of the choice...did the characters fall into a hidden pit on the street they chose? Did the door of the establishment they chose to hide in hold against the prowling undead through the night? Etc.

This makes for easy scenario-branching, you know the possible outcomes of each choice, and the two possible outcomes of the test (roll) for each choice.

Gamemaster interaction with players...Simple, straightforward, to-the-point, bereft of terminology that needed to be explained. Where explanation was needed, it was quick, easy and to-the-point...and the gamemaster always explained the game itself as it was occuring, for benefit of both player and interested watcher. When open seats were available, he asked immediately and professionally if anyone would care to try their luck. He congratulated successes and gave sympathies to failures.

Inclusiveness: A player could step out at any time, taking their winnings with them, and new players could step in at any time. You could create a new character the moment your old one died and continue playing. Characters were referred to only as "the Thief" and "the Cleric" and so forth...no names, no background and history beyond what was provided by the script (ie: treasure hunters in a ruined city).

This, along with GM interaction above, also made it possible for anyone just watching to immediately understand how things worked and what was happening.

Gamism: No convoluted explanations as to why the characters were together, how the new characters appeared, or so forth. This wasn't hard-core realism...it was blatantly, utterly gamist. It was a game and was treated like a game...it was an introduction...purists need not apply. Easy to understand AS A GAME by a newcomer, while providing an excellent introduction to the basic idea.

Teamwork element: yes, the GM is pitted against the players in this scenario, which I maintain is a GOOD thing for something like this. It showcases the hobby as a game, as something involving the teamwork of players, and has the same elements of a card-game like blackjack the mainstream can latch onto (a dealer, players, wagers and winnings, simple rules and player skill).

Remember, the above is something for the casual shopper...it is not meant to be a definitive experience of RPGs, only to spark interest, nothing more. Store personel or other gamers could introduce those interested to other games and less basic ideas about play...but for the average customer, it is a draw, a picque.

I know this isn't really "bite-sized," at least for the gamemaster, but it is for the player or casual shopper who only has a few minutes to spend.

Comments? Ideas?


Title: A Suggestion
Post by: Le Joueur on November 20, 2002, 08:52:39 AM
Hey Ron,

One quick suggestion...

Quote from: Ron Edwards
What kind of bite-sized role-playing experience could happen in that store or semi-store environment?

How about a quick game of Survivor (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4291)?

Fang Langford


Title: The Store
Post by: talysman on November 21, 2002, 12:09:01 AM
I like the idea of "bite-size roleplaying" in the stores as a way to get people interested in the games. and, strangely enough, my first thought was to somehow restrict it to character design, something which is sort of in line with what raven suggests.

but the store is going to have staff problems, so what about an interactive character design computer? find out how a character looks in a couple different games. you could have an RPG review database on the same computer (I believe I suggested that once before.)

that's still not targeting nonroleplayers, although I'd say a number of non-comicbook readers went to the flash website where you design a comicbook character... it might be interesting enough to make someone want to try it out.

another idea is the small-scale simple rpg concept, sort of what Fang is hinting at... another good selection might be Toon, or a horror game, or Dust Devils. anything that looks easy (sure, if they watch Toon or Dust Devils and get excited, they'll be disappointed if they buy D&D, but hopefully the store staff will be smart enough to tell the customer "D&D isn't like those games...")


Title: The Store
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 21, 2002, 08:13:03 AM
Hi John,

My take, at first thoughts anyway, is that computer interaction approaches Arcana for the new-person to role-playing. Not that people don't know about how to deal with computers and customer interfaces - but I do think that what any game is really selling is a mode of and context for some kind of specific social interaction. If that can, itself, be perceived and experienced in a sales context, then we're moving toward what I, at least, was hoping to get to.

Best,
Ron


Title: The Store
Post by: Valamir on November 21, 2002, 10:00:34 AM
I got it!

You want to have actual players in the store playing so that people can see what play is like.  But actual gamers are rude, more interested in their own game than in helping observers understand, not always available, and are not necessarily the most attractive or hygenic spokes models...

Solution...

Animatronics.

An entire table of animated gamers who all look like J-Lo and Brad Pitt chatting it up and rolling dice in the game store window to the sound of "Its a Small World After All"...

Hey, it worked for Country Bear Jamboree...


Title: The Store
Post by: greyorm on November 21, 2002, 10:42:41 AM
After nearly swallowing my own tongue laughing at the idea of a jerky, animatronic Bradd Pitt gaming and fake-throwing dice (computerized voice: "I rolled a twen-ty.  Whoo-hoo.") to the tune of "It's a Small World After All" I think I have sufficiently cleared my head to post an addendum to my last idea.

How about not in the store, how about on the street?
Go the "shell game" route!  Get a card table, some dice and solicit passers-by.

And heck, make some money while you're at it. A buck to play a character, increase your wager each roll if you want...if you last until you pull out of the game, you get two bucks (or double whatever you've wagered).

I mean, seriously, those "shell game" guys (the good ones, at least) are masters of socialization: chatting up the crowd, explaining the rules, talking it up with the customer.

And hey, it wouldn't be so hard to do...you could even set it up in the park, instead of on the street. All you need are a table, some dice, some scratch paper and your script. No books or anything.