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Ganakagok at DexCon 8 Actual Play

Started by Robert Bohl, July 20, 2005, 10:37:34 PM

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Robert Bohl

This thread jumps off from my DexCon 8 Actual Play thread.  Please also see my Capes thread for my long-winded, hand-wringing disclaimer.  Here I'm going to write about my experience playing Ganakagok.

Having Bill run this was a hell of a lot of fun.  I think even if I thought the game sucked (which I didn't) his enthusiasm and positive outlook would have carried me through and made the experience enjoyable.  Luckily, I enjoyed the game, too.  The Inuit tarot cards were definitely a strong draw for me.  It was fun to use them for inspiration and to try to constrain the outcome of a scene's narration within them.  That we would just ditch cards if they didn't work for the scene helped a lot as well.

I was frustrated a little in this game that I didn't get an opportunity to do the thing my character was good at--take crazy risks that inspire others--until the end.  And since I'd "lost", it didn't really "matter".  However, I did enjoy the poignancy of my denouement (acting as the village's hidden protector figure).  I felt like I wasn't involved enough with a lot of the game, and this again may be a "turns" problem.  I think that this game tends to encourage people doing stuff at different locations and maybe roping in one or two other PCs.  I tend to prefer games where everyone is usually "there" and together.  You get the most "play efficiency" that way and if you're not in on something, it's because you choose not to be or it doesn't make sense. 

One of the things DexCon and playing about a dozen indie games has taught me is a few things that I really value in role playing games:

* Being effective.  Not always succeeding maybe, but having a good chance at doing what you want that character to be good at doing--and sometimes that means you're good at failing and that's your fun comic relief role.  Basically, if I create an agile stunting character, I'd like to have him be able to do stunty agile stuff as long as it doesn't break theme or mood.  I don't need to win every time, obviously.

* In-character teamwork.  The games are all very good at player teamwork.  They introduced a whole world of player teamwork that has really been a breath of fresh air to me.  However, I really enjoy it when the characters are together, interested in roughly the same kinds of things, out to help one another or to try to achieve great things together, etc.  By no means should this be mindless me-too-ism.  Conflict is needed for drama.

* There was a third point but I can't currently recall it.

Most indie games are very good with the efficacy issue, but I have found that they seem to bring PC vs. PC to the forefront, encourage it, even be focused around it sometimes.  Even when that's not the case, if there's not an inducement to get together, cooperation obviously can't be achieved.

Anyway, back to Ganakagok.  In the session we played we were all over the place in the village, and often at each others' throats in-character.  This, along with a turn-based system, resulted in a lot more down-time than would exist in my Platonic ideal of a gaming session.

I feel like I didn't get the full experience of the game, since we only got to play a few Night turns, then had to jump forward because of time constraints.  I don't know if there's any way to fix this in a con game.  However, I wonder then whether the iconic game experience where all the turns get played out is intended to take place over several game sessions or over a "one-shot".  I took some Sun mana and didn't get to use it because of the way the game wound up being played.

Mana seemed pretty easy to recharge.  I found myself wishing I'd taken the "use anywhen" mana maxxed out, use it as much as possible, then recharge it often.  I don't remember what the recharge mechanic was now, though.

I remember having some specific system-concerns, but I am sorry to say I can't think of what they were any longer.  I know I mentioned them at the time.
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG


Rob --

Your comments point I think to a design issue and a game-running issue.  The design issue has to do with plotting:  how can the rules support the interweaving of multiple and disparate player interests and character actions into a seamless whole?  Clearly, they can't, but what I can do is provide more flexibility in terms of pacing and more transparency in terms of the consequentiality of particular choices.  In plain English:  the "metaplot rules" for handling how and when Dawn comes, and on whose terms, need to be fixed.  This has been the bugaboo of the game for its whole life, but I think I have a solution that takes advantage of the things the game does well.  What I have in mind will also fix the mana problem you observe.  Basically, each of the four kinds of mana (Ancestors, Ancient Ones, Sun, and Stars) is represented by a pool of "medicine" that can be drawn upon if you have the appropriate Gift.  But the overall size of each pool relative to the others is a measure of how powerful those spirits are, and each turn the most powerful spirits get to do something (as expressed by the draw of a card).  As a player, you can choose to use your patron spirit's mana--or you can use your gifts to strengthen your patron.

The game-running issue is this:  as GM, I know your change-hope and change-fear.  Why didn't I use them to frame the situation in which you found yourself each turn, instead of simply passing the story right from where the previous player left it?  So that's something that I can include in the game rules as directives to the GM about how to make the game work.


Robert Bohl

Well, if this has been helpful, I'm very grateful to have been so.  And once again, thanks for such a fun play experience (thank you, and everyone at the table who made it great).
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG