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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: iago on February 17, 2004, 03:12:55 PM



Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: iago on February 17, 2004, 03:12:55 PM
I've been having an interesting time chatting on this thread over on RPG.net:

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=102754

I'll quote what someone said as the opener:

Quote
..Looks like something that should be discussed here too.

The basic question is whether the Romance Novel genre, the biggest selling paperback type in the market, is something that could be done as a RPG.

Can it?

I'm going to say yes. One of the things WoD did was open up the hobby to a new market, people who wouldn't be caught dead NEAR a fantasy or SF book let alone GAME in those genres.

Given a good rules lite system, and an advertising/marketing strategy it could sell to the Romance novel crowd, or at least a good enough percentage of them to make it a financial success.


I got in a little late in the discussion, but towards the end, you'll see that I'm starting to evolve a notion that takes the "formula" of Romance novels (I still haven't seen a clear and distinct indication that the formula is as hard and fast or as narrow as some on the thread have been pushing) and works it into a sort of My Life With Master-style game notion, which to me is really the paragon of "formulaic" (not a pejorative!) RPG design.

I'm interested in discussion of this concept here or over on RPG.net.  Wasn't sure how many forgefolk had woken up to the thread, but it seems ripe for y'all. :)


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2004, 03:16:27 PM
Hi there,

Actually, Fred, it would be ideal if you could state the point of inquiry for this thread absolutely up-front, rather than basically "forking" a new thread from the RPG.net. Then we could check out the old thread for background, but all be on the same page about what this one is all about.

Best,
Ron


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: iago on February 17, 2004, 03:27:13 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Actually, Fred, it would be ideal if you could state the point of inquiry for this thread absolutely up-front, rather than basically "forking" a new thread from the RPG.net. Then we could check out the old thread for background, but all be on the same page about what this one is all about.


Good point.  I should have a point of inquiry up-front, but I'm not sure I've felt my way to that yet.  I know for certain that part of my intention here was "hey, Forge folks don't seem to be speaking up on this RPG.net thread that much, perhaps I should contribute to their awareness of it."

That said, from a Forge perspective, I'm specifically interested in the whole idea of the mechanics of modelling the "formula" of a Romance novel, as presented in the RPG.net thread at least -- the PCs are women, each of whom have a Wrong Man, and a Right Man; they are interested in the Wrong Man, and haven't realized that the Right Man is the right man yet, and the storyline gradually progresses towards the realization and, from there, I imagine some sort of consummatory endgame.

Thus the questions would be... Does the idea work and, if it does work, what sort of attributes (ala MLWM's Fear, Weariness, Self-Loathing, and Love) should be incorporated into such a game (e.g., the Awareness notion that I put forth in a later post to the RPG.net version of the thread)?

Since this is just an "idea fragment" it doesn't seem germane to the Design board (at least as I recall its charter -- it's been a while since I posted here), but does seem like the right thing for Theory.

Apologies if I've mistargetted.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Rob MacDougall on February 17, 2004, 04:53:25 PM
Check out Bryant Durrell (http://popone.innocence.com/)'s beta draft of "Into the Sunset (http://www.innocence.com/games/Sunset.pdf)", a very clever attempt at a romance RPG. It's modelled on "big ethnic family romantic comedies" (like Bend It Like Beckham, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "Jewish mother" comedies too numerous to name, and uh, you know, that Chinese movie) rather than romance novels, but it's a nifty little exercise. Pity we've never had the chance to actually play.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: jburneko on February 17, 2004, 05:17:25 PM
Hello,

Romance as a topic for an RPG has been a point of interest for me for some time.  I don't think "Romance" as a wide open topic is just a woman thing.  I'm a guy and it's true, I don't like a lot of "Romantic Comedies."  But to say I don't like Romances as a whole is far from the truth.  The french film Amelie is primarily a Romance and I love it.  The remake of the Thomas Crown Affair is primarily a Romance and I love that too.

I hate to bring up GNS but I think it's suitable because I think it's important for defining the "approach" to Romantic Issues.

Gamism: Personally, I think a cutthroat gamist approach to Romance would kick ass.  I'm thinking of something with a 17th or 18th Century feel to it ala Dangerous Liasons.  I'm imagining something that might contain different "win" conditions for male and female characters, different reward mechanics if the object of your affection is another PC or an NPC and perhaps methodolgy might count for something so low-brow seduction is worth less but pays off quicker than a longer above board courtship.  Notes passed in the garden and duals of honor are the kind of stuff I'm thinking of here.

Simulationism: This sounds more along the lines of what you propose in your post with lots of mechanics to keep things "on track."  The Theme is in place and the enjoyment comes from "playing out" the formula (woman rejects wrong man for right man through some kind of personal revelation).  A good starting point for this kind of design might actually BE the Harlequin formula guide.  Tying some kind of reward mechanic to introducing the elements listed in the guide at appropriate times would be a good idea.

Narrativism: This would be of course focused on issues of romance with no set answer in place.  Can I date and work for my boss in a functional maner?  Is it right to fall in love with the criminal I'm supposed to be investigating (Thomas Crown Affair)?  and so on.  This kind of design could still incoporate "formula structure" elements so long as they help reinforce the Premise rather than dictate a Theme ala My Life With Master.

So, my question to you would be, what's the game "about?"  Why are we playing?  What's fun about Romance?

Note: You could get REALLY funky and create the first RPG targeted at groups of couples.  Imagine the first example with different "win" conditions for male and female PLAYERS?  What about a mechanic that creates cross couple "teams"?

Jesse


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: talysman on February 17, 2004, 08:50:01 PM
I have sketchy notes for a game based on teen romantic comedies (think: Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Fast Times at Ridegmont High, Clueless, and so on) which I'm temporarily calling "Hughes High". of course, I'm not sure you can call it a romance RPG...

I don't have a write up anywhere, but here's the rules in a nutshell: same dice mechanics, talent system, and earning-steps-of-success system as Empedocles, but instead of the greek philosophy stats of Blood, Breath, and Strife, you have one stat called Score! (complete with exclamation mark.) Score! starts at zero. everytime you reach a minor goal that gets you closer to your major goal, your Score! goes up one point. first person to reach the target Score! ... scores; the winner narrates how she "scores" and also narrates how her rival "scores" (either a complete humiliation or a pity "score" with a lesser love-interest.) other players get to narrate their minor "scores", but the winner is allowed to make minor alterations. pure, totally GMless Gamist beer-and-pretzels play.

I kind of set this aside because it wasn't as important to me as other projects, but I've been thinking of writing it up as an example for the book.

funny, I'm not a big fan of those movies, although they're ok for quick entertainment. the kind of romantic comedies I actually *like* are '30s and '40s screwball comedies, especially those by Preston Sturges, but I don't see how stuff like My Girl Friday could be turned into an RPG.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: iago on February 17, 2004, 09:05:00 PM
One of the things that might be worth distinguishing here is the difference between romantic themes -- which is something the posters above have touched on so far -- and the "formulaic" nature of the Romance Novel, which very much (as far as I've been told -- see the RPG.net thread) follows a very particular development of story.  Which is why I was moved to start thinking along My Life With Master lines...


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Scourge108 on February 17, 2004, 09:06:23 PM
I think it's pretty easy to introduce romance in any RPG.  Pretty much any movie has at least a romantic subplot, and if you know the elements of a romance story, it's pretty easy to weave them into any story plot you have.  I can even picture a dungeon crawl romance...picture the heroine pressed next to a barbarian that looks just like Fabio, defending her honor from hordes of orcs coming down a 20' x 20' corridor.  I think the bigger problem comes in finding a way to introduce this to the players in a way that makes them feel comfortable.  I'm sorry, but if my 275 lb. buddy with asthma wants his cute anime chick character to start a romance with one of mine, I'm going to feel a little bit uncomfortable about acting this out (with an audience no less).  

Here's a thought:  one way to alleviate the discomfort factor is to engineer it so that no one PC is the destined mate for another (unless they are really a couple and want to to do it that way and agree beforehand and I am NOT at that game), but that they have a "soulmate" that they also create when they create their character.  This dual-creation system has been seen with the demons in Sorcerer and the Shadow in Wraith: the Oblivion.  This version is just a little less dark.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Paul Czege on February 17, 2004, 09:07:36 PM
Hey Jesse,

This kind of design could still incoporate "formula structure" elements so long as they help reinforce the Premise rather than dictate a Theme ala My Life With Master.

In what way does My Life with Master dictate a theme? On another thread, if you like.

Paul


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: talysman on February 17, 2004, 09:20:23 PM
Quote from: Paul Czege
This kind of design could still incoporate "formula structure" elements so long as they help reinforce the Premise rather than dictate a Theme ala My Life With Master.

In what way does My Life with Master dictate a theme? On another thread, if you like.


not to speak for Jesse, but I think he's just missing a comma after Theme. I thought his point was that MLWM reinforced a formulaic structure.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2004, 09:26:23 PM
Hi there,

Wouldn't Nicotine Girls be a fine example of what you're talking about, Fred (iago)?

I mean, if Paul would play it a lot more, get more playtesters going with a beta version, and really nail down its reward system ...?

Best,
Ron


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: iago on February 17, 2004, 09:32:21 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Wouldn't Nicotine Girls be a fine example of what you're talking about, Fred (iago)?

I mean, if Paul would play it a lot more, get more playtesters going with a beta version, and really nail down its reward system ...?


Yeah, I was thinking of Nicotine Girls a bit with this. Except I think the tone may be wrong ... but I'd need to personally come to better terms with the subject matter (romance novels)  to be sure of it.

Nicotine Girls is a challenging game.  Good kinds of challenging, of course, and I can smell the cigarette smoke around every dark turn and cranny of My Life With Master.  Both have those elements of formula and "preordained" storylines that really stood up and waved their arms as I was reading all of the objections of "you can't do this in an RPG" and had me saying, well fellas, you're wrong there, it's been done at least twice...


Title: Teen girl games
Post by: artofmagic on February 18, 2004, 08:16:09 AM
First I have to say 'yyy' then 'yikes!'.

that said, Romantic games sound discusting, but I find it very interesting if there was a rpg designed for teen girls. I have seen one anime game that propably was designed for young girls. Based on one famous but unknown to me - anime series.

I promote any designer who tries to open up new genre/market for roleplaying games. And I would love to see women who just love romance on playing roleplaying games. Even would join one of these romantic games. Once. Not more.

Interesting.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Michael S. Miller on February 18, 2004, 09:31:25 AM
The Forge's very own Vincent Baker has penned a romantic comedy game called Matchmaker. The game can be found at Lumpley games (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/resources/index.php?count=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.septemberquestion.org%2Flumpley%2F)

Check out Paul Czege's actual play of it was a double shot of my baby's love (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6635) for a run-down of the game in action


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: jburneko on February 18, 2004, 09:40:11 AM
John has it right.  My Life With Master uses a formula to reinforce a Premise WITHOUT dictating Theme.

And I completely forgot about Nicotine Girls although I don't exactly think Formula Romance.  If you're serious about developing this further I suggest compling a list of elements that you believe make up the formula.  As I said before, see if you can get a hold of Harlequin's own writing guide.  Then see if any suggest game mechanics and go from there.

Jesse


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: jrs on February 18, 2004, 09:45:24 AM
I'm not sure that I would be interested in a game that is patterned after romance novels.  That won't stop me from throwing my two cents into the pot.  I suggest the wrong man, the right man, and something else.  That is, the option to reject romance.  I know that this doesn't follow formula but it would provide more variety to any endgame scenario.  And, it would allow the game to address the stereotype that every woman must end up with a man.  

Julie


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 18, 2004, 09:47:37 AM
Hello,

I will modestly point out that Trollbabe works just as well for primarily romantic conflicts and themes as it does for violent or mystical ones. A couple of games I've run have gone in this direction with no pain or need to push for it on my part.

Best,
Ron


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Lxndr on February 18, 2004, 09:49:13 AM
I'd also be strongly tempted NOT to require a specific choice of ONLY one individual.  Polyamory is just as valid a choice as mon-amory.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Scourge108 on February 18, 2004, 11:48:50 AM
Depends on how closely you follow the genre.  In typical romance novels, while the heroine may well go through several men, it's traditional that there is one man she's destined to be with (and it's usually the one her family hates).  Of course, I don't particularly like traditional romance novels, and probably wouldn't play such a game regardless.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 18, 2004, 12:35:49 PM
We've been over this before. I can't remeber if it was in this thread:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=932

Or in another. But we've hit this hard previously.

Mike


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: John Kim on February 18, 2004, 11:39:49 PM
Well, my Vinland RuneQuest game has featured an awful lot of romance.  However, my experience has been that in-game romance works best (in fact only works at all) when it isn't explicitly planned.  Thus, for example, when I talk over with a player about how her PC will have a relationship with someone and try to foster that, it falls flat.  But if I have a bunch of NPCs and there is various personal interaction, then romances often result.  

Thus, even though I have gotten a lot out of the romances, I don't think I'd be into a romance novel genre game per se.  I would definitely consider something like a genre where romances are important but not the whole point, like soap operas (cf. Soap) or lost-world romances (cf. Aaron Allston's Lands of Mystery).


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: M. J. Young on February 18, 2004, 11:44:46 PM
Quote from: Jesse Burneko
If you're serious about developing this further I suggest compling a list of elements that you believe make up the formula.  As I said before, see if you can get a hold of Harlequin's own writing guide.  Then see if any suggest game mechanics and go from there.

O.K., if I can suggest something mechanical for this
  • The win condition has to be that the girl winds up with the guy;
  • The obstacles have to be such that she can't get to that win condition directly;
  • Therefore there should be some sort of resource accumulation (call it "wisdom of experience" perhaps?) that acrues through the "wrong guy" events;
  • There should probably also be some chance factor, such that at any moment a player can decide to parlay the resource into taking a chance for the right guy, which means either winning the game or going down in flames.[/list:u]
    Well, it's a sketch. Any thoughts?

    Matchmaker is very interesting; I'd really like to try it sometime.

    --M. J. Young


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: M. J. Young on February 18, 2004, 11:48:49 PM
Addendum: I've had a lot of character romance in games, too. I did a Game Ideas Unlimited article on it long ago, but since most of you don't have access to Gaming Outpost anyway I won't dig up the link right now. Maybe if we're still talking about this in a few days I'll go find the article, read it over, and summarize some of what I learned.

--M. J. Young


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Tomas HVM on February 19, 2004, 01:00:42 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young
O.K., if I can suggest something mechanical for this
  • The win condition has to be that the girl winds up with the guy;
  • The obstacles have to be such that she can't get to that win condition directly;
  • Therefore there should be some sort of resource accumulation (call it "wisdom of experience" perhaps?) that acrues through the "wrong guy" events;
  • There should probably also be some chance factor, such that at any moment a player can decide to parlay the resource into taking a chance for the right guy, which means either winning the game or going down in flames.[/list:u]
    Well, it's a sketch. Any thoughts?
I have the game. It's all written, but for two of the start-adventures. It's called Romanse!, wich is Norwegian for "Romance". The game is written to make romances in the great romantic tradition; where all depends on love, and the right love is only ONE, and the obstacles are mandatory.

It is set in a fantasy Spain called "Marmadura". Kings, nobles, knights and very flirtatious women. Both setting and system has great emphasis on sex, to the degree that male and female players have different character-sheets, reflecting their different upbringing, dominating temperaments and possibilities in society.

Servants come with a unisex charactersheet, as they are not to engage in romantic endeavours. However; they are free to engage in sexual relationships, and may enjoy much of this while the rest of the party strive to reach the high romance!

No more time at the moment. I'll have to come back with more info on it.


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: Tomas HVM on February 19, 2004, 04:10:53 AM
More info on the RPG
Romanse!
(Norwegian for "Romance")

The game is written to make RPG-romances in the great romantic tradition; where all depends on love, where only one love is the right one, and the obstacles are grave.

It is set in a fantasy land called "Marmadura", a land with a spanish feel. The setting is ripe with royals and nobles, heroic chevaliers and lurking charlatans, powerhungry cardinals and pious monks, cynical bankiers and lusty traders, and women both silly and smart. It comes with a fully developed fantasy world, based on european cultures (both spanish, french, german, italian and polish flavour may be chosen), all depicted in a beautifully detailed atlas. The culture is dominated by a monoteistic religion based on the cardinal virtues and deadly sins of the medieval christian church (easy for players to relate to), and of course with a holy land ready to be saved from the Demons of the desert (and they are real demons, of course, riding on fire-spitting demonbirds).

Ordinary gameplay is based on three pillars;
- the friendship between the main characters
- the romance between main characters and their chosen ones
- the intrigue of the nobles.

The game come with ample advice on how to develop all three pillars into rich and playable drama, within the context of one campaign. The friendship is meant to be played out with subtle means, in a low key tone of drama, building from variable alienation into real loyalty and respect. The romance is meant to be high pitched and melodramatic, bound by flaming desires, and destined to bring divinity or disaster to the character. The intrigue is meant to be an elegant display of cynical machinations, played out in a setting of polite conversations and blending scenery, focusing on people of substance, celebrating the game of power itself, and ruining all thoughtless players of the game.

The three pillars of the game is designed to fill the campaign with a multitude of opportunities for good gameplay. At the same time the pillars are meant to contrast eachother, to create interesting twists and turns in the game, bringing players from romantic escapades, to cool conversations and subtle signs of friendship, within a single game session.

Both setting and system has great emphasis on sex, to the degree that male and female players have different character-sheets, reflecting their different upbringing, dominating temperaments and possibilities in society. It also offers some unusual rules for play, such as;
- restricting the players to play characters of their own sex
- establishing one "first-lover" for each game session
- the formal use of all other characters as "helpers" for the first lover
- making the players act in accordance with a strict social hierarchy
- defining the different modes of play, and adhering to them, for each pillar in the game

Servants come with a unisex charactersheet, designed to be crude in comparison to the elegant noble sheets, to reflect the servant status, and to reflect that no servant may be first lover. However; servants are free to engage in sexual relationships, and may enjoy bedsports in abundance while the rest of the party strive to fulfill their emotional desires.

The game has been tested for the last two years, and have proven to stand up to both female and male players with a wide range of motivations for such a theme. Most players who've had a chance to try the game, are convinced of it's qualities, and more than willing to engage in romantic endeavours again.

Only problem is; I've recently started work on a series of five novels, and did not finish the game before this work started, so now the game has to be finished in my spare time. And I will not publish it before every detail is perfect.

PS: any serious game publisher inclined to pay me for a two months break in novel-writing, are welcome do so, thereby giving me the time to finish the game, and also securing the rights for themselves, to publish any english version of it... :)


Title: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)
Post by: talysman on February 20, 2004, 01:33:55 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young
O.K., if I can suggest something mechanical for this
  • The win condition has to be that the girl winds up with the guy;
  • The obstacles have to be such that she can't get to that win condition directly;
  • Therefore there should be some sort of resource accumulation (call it "wisdom of experience" perhaps?) that acrues through the "wrong guy" events;
  • There should probably also be some chance factor, such that at any moment a player can decide to parlay the resource into taking a chance for the right guy, which means either winning the game or going down in flames.[/list:u]
    Well, it's a sketch. Any thoughts?
that's sort of similar to the "Hughes High" game I mentioned above, except that since I'm taking Teen Romantic Comedies as a model, there are no restrictions on whether the player characters are male or female. I analyzed the structure of the typical Teen Romantic Comedy as:

[list=1]
  • one or more characters express a desire for sex/love/prom date/popularity;
  • simple obstacles (usually rivals, but often unrequited love, clique/peer problems, or mundane school problems) are introduced;
  • multiple scenes with the various characters attempting to overcome the obstacles occur;
  • the hero(ine) "hooks up" with someone, sometimes the person they desire, sometimes someone else -- and usually one or more minor characters also "hook up"; almost everyone wins in the typical Teen Romantic comedy, except sometimes the rival or very mean teacher.
  • [/list:o]

    one thing I left out of this analysis is the usual movie gimick of the reversal of fortune: two-thirds of the way through pretty much any hollywood movie, there will be some kind of "false ending" where the main character seems to have succeeded by his/her own standards, although it's not the ending the audience is hoping for. then, there's a sudden dramatic setback -- and only after this does everything finally work out.

    I could probably emulate this formula by conceiving of "Hughes High" in two parts, normal game and endgame; once a player's Score! reaches a certain minimum, the player can opt to cash in a significant chunk of points to trigger endgame. no one can win until someone reaches the needed number of points during endgame.

    my only problem is figuring out what the difference between normal mode and endgame should be.