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Author Topic: [GLASS] Setting or No Setting?  (Read 4168 times)
David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« on: February 20, 2006, 11:08:42 AM »

The original GLASS v1 release deliverable was planned as a book that is almost all System (a la TriStat) with some "micro-settings": Genre chapters with common Abilities (Skills, Powers, Spells, etc), Attribute ranges (min, starting, and max), and packages (sets of Abilities that are made free by coupling them to Disadvantages).

I have, however, given some thought to the success of Champions—a System-heavy SIM game with a fairly substantial Setting included—and I have asked myself this question, which I ask now of The Forge:

Should GLASS be released with a complete (or even "canonical") setting: a ready-to-play game world with setting-specific character creation rules, a backstory, developed factions and NPCs, an ongoing metaplot, and all of the other accoutrement of a complete "source book"? Please explain your answer.

Thank you for reading; thank you a hundredfold for posting;
David "Czar Fnord" Artman



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StefanDirkLahr
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2006, 11:47:32 AM »

If you're looking for a wave in the dark, i can toss in a bid for each point:

Ready-to-Play game world: No setting, no matter how detailed or allogorical, is ready to play without a solid, interconnected set of Situation Creation system & Character Creation system. Better yet is Creation systems that are foced to pull stuff out of the setting to function.

Setting-specific Character Creation: I'd say this is a must, otherwise you're not helping the players get into as much as you could be. "Specific" could still be fairly broad, however!

Backstory: These things can be scary & dangerous, unless you keep it to a history/myth/just-so level. I'll assume you mean History or Background Info, and say i'd go with it. Background supports all the other components that make up setting - chek out how elegantly Dogs or Polaris or Shab-al-Hiri roach use just enough background to set you in the right frame of mind to generate your own "foreground" story.

Developed Factions & NPCs: Once again, this is an issue of balance, but i find that a handful of VIPs give the players something to build a relationship web off of - either in prep or play. This could be as simple as "The Celestial Empress" or Dogs' constant combination of Faithful, TA, Mountain People, Stewards, Elders, & Blood. It is probably a good idea, however, to keep the level of definition of the setting in line with the scale of play - if you're game is one of manipulating the fates of nations, you don't concern yourself with anyone less than a head-of-state!

Ongoing Metaplot: Scary & dangerous! Plots belong in novels, not games. That's just my instant reaction - games that are actually built around a defining plot, like Web of Shadows are probably great.

Complete "Source Book": I like source, but i think what really makes an ideal worldbook complete is making it full of interesting hooks - potential situations - that want to grab the player's attention and suck them into the game.

Is that the kind of commentary you were hoping for?
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David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2006, 06:50:23 AM »

Thanks for the reply... but I think you may have misunderstood the scope of my question. Are you familiar with TriStat or Champions? (I will assume you are not familiar with GLASS, by your reply.)

Basically, both games are System-heavy and "universal.": they are designed to be highly scalable and, thus, usable for nearly any genre of Setting, with nearly any Agenda (except, probably, NAR). Color is squarely where it belongs: irrelevant to game effect. TriStat had NO Setting, but is the foundation for several Setting-specific games (Mekton, BESM); Champions was based on the Hero System (which originally had no Setting), but it was a book of all the Hero rules with about a third of its pages dedicated to a superhero Setting in the modern world.

GLASS is the same as those two Systems: it is a System product, first and foremost. So, what I am asking, put another way, is:
Which is better as a product: a universal game engine that is just the engine, with a lot of examples of application; or the same engine presented with a full Setting, complete with that Setting's particular choice of PC power level, success odds, and all the elements of a "game world" (whatever the domain might be for that: town to galaxy).

One answer might be "Yes, create a Setting because it gives your universal System a grounding in a Setting which most of the System's players will recognize, when they meet and play GLASS. It gives everyone a common sandbox, which a universal engine needs, lest folks quickly develop so many house rules that the engine isn't 'universal' between play groups, just within a particular play group's choices of genres." (This reply would be "pro-Champions" and "anti-TriStat.")

Another might be "No, don't 'fool' buyers into thinking they are getting a thick book with a universal System, then have them find that over half the book is a Setting they won't ever use." (This reply would be anti-Champions and pro-TriStat... and was my assumption until I began to question it, thanks to another thread here on The Forge.)

Am I more clear, now? Your reply seems to take it as given that I will provide a Setting, and it uses my laundry list of Setting components--meant only as a summary of Setting--to address the relative merits of each element. That's just not what I was asking. It's definitely valid info; it's just not germane to this thread.

If I choose to provide a full Setting with GLASS v1, of course I will thoroughly consider each of those components; that is what makes a Setting. I might even include elements of Situation (i.e. metaplot, factions, etc) in conjunction with that Setting. What I'd like to poll The Forge readers about is whether I should include a Setting (and some Situation) at all, given the goals of the GLASS System and The GLASS House and so forth (refer to the thread links in my sig).

Care to address that question? Thanks again!
David
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StefanDirkLahr
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2006, 11:46:18 AM »

Sorry! I was trying to explain, point-by-point, my response to the question/topic - it doesn't really do much good to poll people on a yes or no question, modern politics aside, without first stirring up the issues behind that question.

(Aside: i hope i don't come off as too snarky here; I'm trying to understand how these things work and what i think, as much as, or more than, i am replying to your query. My goal is only to stir up ideas, i have no authority to create definitive answers...)

My gaming background is almost entirely with GURPS, but i've only played in one (MET) LARP, so i'll be trying to stick to general principles, rather than presuming to tell you what is best for your game.

GURPS falls down because it is nothing but a Character Generator & a Task Resolver, but that doesn't mean that other "open setting" games are neccessarily so incomplete.

What does an "open setting" game need? My guess would be: Situation Creator, Character Generator, Scene Setter, Conflict Resolver, Reward System, and a way for all of those things to be tied up with a chosen setting.

So, you have to ask yourself two things:
How easy is it for a group of players to tie your universal system into a setting of their choice? Can your system *really* handle every setting that your targeted player groups are *likely* to employ?

GURPS, in my experience, not only lacks alacrity, but also cannot handle a wide array of settings & styles of gameplay. I find it highly unlikely that any game system could handle the full range of dramatic potential that could be presented before it (eg. "System Does Matter" controls my brain); And i notice that you have universal in scare quotes, so i'm guessing you believe that too, to some extent.

And thus another question: 
Aside from *setting*, what styles of gameplay, what themes or types of drama can your system actually handle?

I'd guess the answer here is actually going to be: Exploring & Immersing yourself in Setting...

To actually get to the specifics of your question:
Quote
Which is better as a product: a universal game engine that is just the engine, with a lot of examples of application; or the same engine presented with a full Setting (with defined rules support)?

This is hard to call: If your product is intended to be an emulator, then i'd say it would be best to present the raw engine with examples of how to apply it to emulate a setting *at every point*. While you would also be doing this if you made up a "full setting", by using a diverse array of examples you are setting the players in the mood to emulate, and, more critically, showing how far the system can bend. Bonus points if your provide several examples of "opposite emulations", where the chosen setting examples are at extremes.

Treble bonus points if the game contains a section of rules that walks people through the creation of any (usuable) setting of their choice; but that is a hard thing to do. A relevant Story Games thread.

However, like Champions, it is much easier to meld system & setting right in the game book, and that makes it easier to get into. It also makes the game harder to be played with any other setting.

GURPS 4th attempts to have it both ways through the use of a Sliders-esque "multiple worlds" meta-setting; A more determined design might be able to really run with that idea.

Hope that in some way helps you come to a conclusion, but i have to say that i have begun to believe that the "universal system" ideal is not a good idea for game design, both in terms of (honest) play & (cynical) publishing. That is the thought that drove my earlier reply, just so you know.

Excuse the long and rambly-ness...
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Graham W
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2006, 04:32:03 PM »

David,

Should GLASS be released with a complete (or even "canonical") setting: a ready-to-play game world with setting-specific character creation rules, a backstory, developed factions and NPCs, an ongoing metaplot, and all of the other accoutrement of a complete "source book"? Please explain your answer.

I've just read through GLASS. I think that a "default" setting would help the game enormously: it would provide useful context to the rules. For example: the "Sense Invisible" special ability has a very different meaning, depending on whether it's a spy setting, a fantasy setting or a cartoon setting. At the moment, I find the rules very general, and a setting might help focus that.

Having said that: that doesn't mean the game needs a backstory, developed factions and NPCs. I feel that backstory would make the players more interested in following the "canonical" story, rather than developing their own stories.

So, to summarise: a setting (in the sense of a default genre and world) would be useful. A full backstory would be less so. In my opinion.

You posted an earlier thread, with a very specific rules question about cost balances. I'll reply to that shortly, if that's OK with you.

Graham
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Keith Sears
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2006, 06:52:42 PM »

My thought on this is: Go with a complete setting.

Why is this? From my experience, Sim players tend to be concrete thinkers, and many of them don't really care for games where they have to put together the settings themselves. They like a lot of the work done for them ahead of time so they can get themselves mentally into the game world with as little effort as possible.

Trust me.. Even Tri-Stat began with a setting. It started out as BESM. I've even created my own system without a setting to go along with it. That is a mistake I will never make again.
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Keith W. Sears
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2006, 05:53:21 AM »

Heya,

Quote
Which is better as a product: a universal game engine that is just the engine, with a lot of examples of application; or the same engine presented with a full Setting, complete with that Setting's particular choice of PC power level, success odds, and all the elements of a "game world" (whatever the domain might be for that: town to galaxy).

-There's no real answer for such a question.  A setting does not make a game good or bad.  It can only add or detract from what is already there.  Now that being said, looking over your game and what you've said in other threads, my views line up with Graham's.  I feel your game would be better with a specific setting in place.  I don't think any of us are saying "Make the setting the point of playing your game."  Please don't do that.  But adding a setting in will help, IMHO, the players get a better grasp of how their characters would act and interact with the world.  I.E. what their place and purpose in the world should be.

Peace,

-Troy
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David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2006, 07:45:56 AM »

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to post. Yes, this is a bit of a "poll thread," but that's why I also asked for explanations; I am learning from your explanations more than from the "poll."

It looks like the general consensus is:
PROsCONs
SituationnoneConstrains player story creation.
Wasted effort when most players will not want to follow "canon."
A totally separate product from a generic system.
SettingProvides a deep and robust example of applications.
Gives SIM players a running start.
Provide a common ground for cross-game play (ex: cons, game groups meeting).
Can inaccurately brand the game as genre-specific.
Any given Setting will not serve all players (except genre-crossover settings, which just feel like artifice).
Folks who don't like the Setting's genre will feel that those pages are a waste of their money.

Perhaps I can redirect, then, now that my poll has illuminated the pros and cons:
What percentage of the book material should be devoted to the Setting, for a universal game like GLASS?
Please take into account the above *cons* in particular: I am still very nervous about mis-branding the product or alienating the customers. (Background: I was a bit scarred by the Champions 3(?) release as a youth: not knowing that Hero was coming down the pipe, I felt "screwed" by Hero Games for having half a book of Setting foisted off on me, when all I wanted to do was steal use the system for my own sci fi games.

And finally, one follow-up question, if I may:
Sempiternity - What is a "Situation Generator" or a "Scene Setter"? GLASS already has the other things that you mentioned (though, if by Character Generator, you mean some way to quickly randomize an NPC or something, no it doesn't have that yet). Also, why do you think a universal system is a bad publishing call--taking into account that there is no such system yet for LARPs and that most (boffer and projectile) LARPs are run by GMs who (in my experience) want to create their own Setting and Situations? Further, do not disregard the overarching goal: a standard system that allows character portability from game-to-game (imagine a LARP equivalent to Living Greyhawk: that's The GLASS House in a nutshell).

Thanks again, all!
David
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2006, 09:06:19 AM »

Heya,

Quote
What percentage of the book material should be devoted to the Setting, for a universal game like GLASS?

IMO, if you're not going include a setting, you'd better give the players specific explicit tools for creating their own.  It should be quite similar to a character creation process.  However much space that takes up is how much you should devote to it.

Peace,

-Troy
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contracycle
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2006, 02:19:58 AM »

Also, why do you think a universal system is a bad publishing call--taking into account that there is no such system yet for LARPs and that most (boffer and projectile) LARPs are run by GMs who (in my experience) want to create their own Setting and Situations? Further, do not disregard the overarching goal: a standard system that allows character portability from game-to-game (imagine a LARP equivalent to Living Greyhawk: that's The GLASS House in a nutshell).

The issue of portability seems to be a red herring to me, as far as tabeltop gaming goes.  I suspect this is very rare, and the logic of doing so is dubious.  even with a single system, the actual implementations used at a given table canb vary quite widely; if I were in suvh a situation, and I have been, I would rather start from scratch with few assumptions than simply expect that all my experiences still apply.

That aside, the general concept here is that system in large part determines how polay will go and what will be important to play.  So the rough rule of thumb is that a systemn that tackles a fairly limited situation is more likely to be able to well represent that situation than a generic system.  One of the classic problems of such designs is opting out of design for situation entirely and defaulting to physical causality, the physics simulation systems.  Which can never really work completely becuase of the limits to doing math at the table.
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David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2006, 08:34:00 AM »

Quote
The issue of portability seems to be a red herring to me, as far as tabletop gaming goes.  I suspect this is very rare, and the logic of doing so is dubious.  even with a single system, the actual implementations used at a given table can vary quite widely

I have to disagree. For evidence, I give Living Greyhawk and D&D in general. Yes, there are house rules--but a good GM can recognize them and offer the players alternatives that suit the game.

Conversely, current LARPs are all homebrews that don't map to each other in even the most fundamental ways: Rewards, the use (or not) of levels, success levels. GLASS will provide a common metric; The GLASS House will organize specific implementations and characters for those implementations. This makes for portability: GLASS variants will be--at worst--some house rules that the incoming player must learn and accept (or even buy into, by selling off past Experience that is no longer germane).

But that's not the issue at hand. This thread has gotten to the point that it's a matter of percentages:
Original PlanCurrent Persuasions
System30%30%
General Theory (of System)20%10%
Micro Settings (no Color, many genres)50%30%
Main Setting (lots of Color, one genre)--30%

And I haven't been persuaded yet. The general argument for the Main Setting seems to go something like this: "A customer won't be able to figure out how to implement the System without a deep example." OR "Most players want the game world made for them."

Yet, what about customers who hear about GLASS via The GLASS House? Say a new player picks up a copy of the rules--to play in a Cthulhu game--and discovers 30% of them are for a Color-rich fantasy Setting in which he'll never play? Or suppose a long-time fantasy LARP GM decides to become a GLASS Cutter and use GLASS in his game; wouldn't he find all the Color of this other Setting a waste, especially when he has a deep Setting already for his game?

Basically, all I see being gained by a Main Setting is (a) a "canon" which might or might not be adopted by the bulk of players (i.e. enhanced portability of characters) and (b) a ready-to-run world for folks totally new to the style of play. The costs, however, are (currently) 30% of every book printed or downloaded.

And speaking of Color-rich: is it REALLY critical for new customer adoption that I have finely detailed races, cultures, religions, and laundry lists of spells, items, and racial abilities for a given world? After all, I will have a TON of examples--and a General Theory section--that they can mix and match or life wholesale to start forging a Setting. As we have pretty much eliminated Situation as worthwhile for the core rulebook, how can we still justify consuming pages with Color or with "major" NPCs?

And how do I avoid branding, if I have all this Color in the book? I am not making a fantasy game--I am making a game engine. But surely if I go with a Main Setting, it will impact the cover art, marketing, etc (like Champions), right?

I await persuasion;
David

(P.S. The spelling checker suggested "Catholic" in place of "Cthulhu." Is it just me, or is that spooky?)
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2006, 09:31:16 AM »

David, I think you might be drawing the wrong conclusions from what's being said here.  That's probably happening because we're throwing around things like Setting and Character and such that doesn't necessarily match with how you're thinking of the word.

So I'll try to be more direct.  Its ALL about Situation.  Situation is what you get when you have characters in a setting poised to begin doing stuff.  Color is all the trappings that go with that that serves as touch stones for players to identify what kind of doing stuff is most appropriate (i.e. the difference between the same plot played Noir vs. 4 color comics is Color).

If you don't have Situation you have nothing.  You don't even have a game.  You have a collection of mechanics which serves no purpose.  That's why in my own game Universalis the very first thing you do at the table is define the Tenets of the game which will provide the framework for the situation.  Without that, you have random meanderings.

Setting is irrelevant EXCEPT as a vehicle to drive Situation.  Situation REQUIRES setting to exist, but setting by itself does not create Situation.  You can have all the Setting in the world and still have an empty book without a point.

There is no roleplaying without Situation.  You therefor MUST have situation in order to play.

There are 3 ways you can get situation.

1) do nothing about it in your book and expect the GM / players to invent their own situation.  This is the traditional method of universal systems like GURPS and CHAMPIONS.  I personally find it lazy design.  Anyone can write a collection of mechanics and throw them into a book...that's why almost all gamers have stacks of notebooks full of house rules and have designed mechanics.  Mechanics are easy.  If all you are delivering as a product is mechanics you don't have much of a product.  GURPS and HERO made it work because they were more or less first.  Now there are scads and scads of mechanics systems lying around.  Whether you're talking Tabletop RPGs, LARPS, CCGs or miniatures wargames there are more rule sets floating around out there than you can shake a stick at.  One more rule set thrown into the sea isn't going to garner much attention.

2) Build the situation directly into your mechanics and game so they work together in concert.  This is the most powerful, most thrilling, and most rewarding way to go.  It can range from fairly broad loose ties like Pendragon, to very very narrow and specific ties like My Life with Master or Dogs in the Vineyard.  This can, at first, seem to be "anti Universal".  If you tie your game to a definite range of situation then its not universal any more, right?  Well, yeah, but that partially depends on what you're definition of universal is.  When people typically say "I want a game that can handle any setting" what they really mean is that they want it to handle a range of Color. Situation goes far beyond color.  There are tons of variants out there for both My Life and Dogs that take the exact same specified Situation but apply it to a vast range of different color.  My Life has been played using everything from Santa Claus and his elves to British politics.  Dogs has been played substituting Jedi.  So even with a specified Situation, you can still have very nearly universal options for setting color.

3) the third way is to leave your game mechanically open to any situation but build into it explicit tools for creating situation by the GM/Players with those choices being required for play to commence.  This is the route Universalis took.  Its also the route Sorcerer takes.  Sorcerer is pretty devoid of setting, but by the time you get done with the relationship map, the character kickers, the definition of humanity, defining the available traits, and filling in the back of the character sheet, you've created a setting a full bore primed a Situation. 


I STRONGLY recommend you give some serious thought to #3.  IMO filling a book with setting detail is a waste of time.  There are even more books filled with setting then there are books filled with mechanics.  Tying the rules to a specific situation like #2 doesn't sound like what you're looking for at this point.

But rules for your players to follow to create really cool situations...which they can then play out using your game mechanics, is HUGE value add.  I'm not talking just rules for customizing setting...lots of games (like FUDGE) already do that.  I'm talking customizing situation...much more powerful and useful a thing to give your players.

I recommend taking a hard look at Sorcerer and how the steps for prepping a Sorcerer Campaign (like in the old Art Deco Melodrama threads) when carried out by a play group creates Situation.  I also recommend looking at town creation in Dogs in the Vineyard...not so much as rules to create towns...but as steps in the process for understanding and creating situation.  Then build something of your own, that accomplishes the same thing and put THAT into your game.

That would rock.
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David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2006, 11:02:08 AM »

Quote
Now there are scads and scads of mechanics systems lying around.  Whether you're talking Tabletop RPGs, LARPS, CCGs or miniatures wargames there are more rule sets floating around out there than you can shake a stick at.

I find this to be a remarkable statement. I have yet to see a universal LARP engine; providing one is half the motive for GLASS. Do you have references?

Quote
Setting is irrelevant EXCEPT as a vehicle to drive Situation.  Situation REQUIRES setting to exist, but setting by itself does not create Situation.  You can have all the Setting in the world and still have an empty book without a point.
...
But rules for your players to follow to create really cool situations...which they can then play out using your game mechanics, is HUGE value add.  I'm not talking just rules for customizing setting...lots of games (like FUDGE) already do that.  I'm talking customizing situation...much more powerful and useful a thing to give your players.

It seems to me that, in LARPs, Situation must be emergent. It's a factor of the number if individuals who are "on staff" to provide world details and of the highly Simulationist and Gamist agendas of (most) LARPs. It is patently abashed to provide, say, means of assigning credability to players (i.e. not GMs). What point is there in developing a balanced mechanics of effects and costs, if the challenges in the game world that are external to the character can be defined and ajudicated by the players? Who's going to purchase, say, Unlock, if they have some means to circumvent the existance of locks?

Or let's scale it up some: as a provider of a rules system, how can I provide Situations that are of any use to a creative GM, beyond highly generalized notions (e.g. game-world-reinforced factionalism, the notion of a world threat, the mysterious and dangerous location)?

From a THEORY perspective, sure, I will address a lot of this in the "GM section." For instance, I will suggest that a Setting include a certain amount of factionalism, to prompt inter-player conflicts and stimulate the formation of alliances. It is also a good policy to inject a finite resource into the game world, with clear means to aquire it and an obvious efficacy, and let the players sort out who will go for it and how and when. At the simplest level, this is Currency (which requires reasons to spend it that are external to the player; otherwise, players can run their own economy for inter-player trade).

Hmmm.... It has occurred to me that there is an element of Situation that I would be including in a Main Setting: politics. In short, the principle factions and their reasoning behind how they act for their best interests (and what those are). This sort of Situational material would not be in the Micro Settings: those will be primarily customized Ability Lists and archtypal Packages.

So I guess I have been a tad sloppy with terms: I have used Situation to mean something closer to "time line, specific entities in that time line, and their motives and goals." That's the sort of stuff that I fear is worthless to 90% of potential customers, yet it seems to be what is advocated by those in favor of Situation content.

Quote
I STRONGLY recommend you give some serious thought to #3.  IMO filling a book with setting detail is a waste of time.

And my confusion compounds. That's precisely what I have been saying all along in this thread. Of course I will advise GMs (game creators) as to how to develop hooks for conflict, self-managing plotlines, and challenges that will engage their player base (and not be missed or ignored). I have called that, variously, "the GM section," "General Theory," and "game design." Further, I also see a venue for the totality of Situation: The GLASS House. Every registered game would have TONS of Situational, Entity, and Color details: that (and some game-specific Ability rules) is precise all and only what defines a GLASS game. ('Cause, ya see, the System is universal and so, without game-specific details, there's nothing to "register" about a game.)

So what arre you encouraging, exactly? Some mechanical method to frame game worlds so that GMs arrive at useful Situations without having to think about their game world and their player base and what folks have been "into" so far? OK, I got one: attach fifteen nouns and five verbs to each wedge of a dart board and throw three darts blindly.

Or are you advocating some kind of Theme-focussed tool to guide GMs to "worthwhile" plotlines? How does that serve the other 66.6% of players in the game?

Or do you propose some kind of player auction of plot lines and their influences, so that a group can democratically generate a game world that serves their Creative Agendas? Might work with twenty players--I wish you luck when you have 200. I suspect you will quickly have your "cooperative storyline" developed... and about 70 players left willing to play it.

Could it be that, perhaps, you have such a tabletop bias in your theory of "good game design" that you can't see the fundamental issues with LARP management? Do I have such a freeform, act-first-simulate-begrudgingly bias that I can't see an entire mode of LARP play, one which I do not serve in the current design?

Should I just stand up and say, "This is a SIM/GAM game; leave your Theme influences at the door"? I don't think such play is patently impossible in GLASS... but I also have trouble imagining NAR play which does not give any credability to players (and GLASS is pretty darned strict about assigning credability).

Thanks for the input, but I don't know any better how to proceed now than before... and I now have reason to doubt any concordance that HAS occurred in this discussion, as it seems that I am so woefully incapable of understanding the lexicon of The Big Model;
David
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Valamir
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« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2006, 12:11:39 PM »


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I find this to be a remarkable statement. I have yet to see a universal LARP engine; providing one is half the motive for GLASS. Do you have references?

How about QUAD, or HIT, or POLY.  I bet if you did a Google Search on LARP and Universal and waded through the results you'd find a dozen more no problem.

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It seems to me that, in LARPs, Situation must be emergent. It's a factor of the number if individuals who are "on staff" to provide world details and of the highly Simulationist and Gamist agendas of (most) LARPs. It is patently abashed to provide, say, means of assigning credability to players (i.e. not GMs). What point is there in developing a balanced mechanics of effects and costs, if the challenges in the game world that are external to the character can be defined and ajudicated by the players? Who's going to purchase, say, Unlock, if they have some means to circumvent the existance of locks?

Hold on there now.  Who said anything about providing power to players to circumvent locks?  I didn't say anything about granting any meta level anything.  Maybe you jumped to some inaccurate conclusion here?  Maybe we talked past each other with how we're using the word "player".  Its typical here to use "players" to mean "everyone who is participating in the activity".  Replace "player" with "person you expect to gain value from using your rules set" in the above if that helps.


Lets start here..."Situation must be emergent".

Right.  It emerges from Setting + Characters...like I said.  You have characters in a setting, poised to do something, you get situation.  You have characters in a setting, poised to do nothing, you get boring crap.  The art of achieving that "poised to do something" status is creating Situation.  NOTE:  "poised to do something" is not the same things as "poised to do this specific thing I preplotted in advance".  It means "poised to do something that winds up being more interesting than doing nothing".

Where do the characters and the setting come from?  People aren't showing up to your games with characters they made up at home with one player saying "this big chair is the throne of the ice king" and another player saying "no its the command chair of the enterprise" are they?  Somewhere along the line someone created characters and settings...they didn't create them at random...and ideally (if the game isn't going to suck) they created them with an eye towards the situations that can emerge from them (i.e. poised them to do something)...right?  I don't care whether the people doing those things are the folks in costume acting out their characters or the folks with ultimate power wandering around rendering judgements or a different group of folks altogether...nor do I really care what you happen to call those people.  Whoever you envision performing this duty...that's who I recommend you writing the Situation creation rules for.  NOTE: "I don't care" here means "the answer, whatever it is, is irrelevant to the issue at hand".

That's what I'm talking about in my list of three things.  You can either 1) do nothing and let the people who purchase your game do all that themselves as with GURPS or HERO, 2) do most of it for them so the only thing the people who purchase your game have to do is fill in the color as with My Life with Master or Dogs in the Vineyard, 3) present a systematic method for the people who purchase your game to follow that if performed will result in characters in a setting poised to do something (i.e. Situation) as with Universalis and Sorcerer.

#1 I'm saying is a bad idea because, and this is even more true with LARPs, most of the work in prepping the game is coming up with the Situation.  If you're only offering mechanics, you're letting the players (organizers, GMs, whatever) do 99% of the work...so what do they need you for again?  You have 2 basic market demographics to appeal to:

A) people who already do all of the Situation development themselves.  Raw mechanics offers them nothing to help them, make it any easier for them, or do anything for them. If they've been doing this long enough to be good at creating their own LARP Situation they certainly already have their own favored rule set. So, aside from the few who are in the market for some new mechanics and aren't already just creating their own, what are you offering these people?

B) people who'd love to run / organize / present LARPs (small scale or large) but aren't very good, or very experienced at doing all of the Situation development themselves.  Raw mechanics offers them nothing either.  They can get mechanics easy enough.  What they can't get easily is the Situation.


#2 would be hugely helpful to group B...basically you could do "How to Host a Murder" sets that are true LARPs and not lame dinner party games.  But they wouldn't likely appeal much to group A, nor is it what you've currently been working on (but a neat idea for later).


#3 gives you the best of everything.  Done well it offers Group A some great support making their life much easier.  It gives them a tool they can use to save time and effort and that's way more valuable then just a raw generic resolution system.  Its a godsend to Group B who now have some help in creating Situations that will be interesting to play.  And you've just distinguished yourself from 99% of the other universal homebrew LARP rules sets out there.  Now you have a product with a competitive advantage...a reason to use it.

But it has to be done well.  This goes way beyond a section of GM advice and tips...group A already knows that stuff and Group B isn't ready for it.

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So what arre you encouraging, exactly? Some mechanical method to frame game worlds so that GMs arrive at useful Situations without having to think about their game world and their player base and what folks have been "into" so far? OK, I got one: attach fifteen nouns and five verbs to each wedge of a dart board and throw three darts blindly.

Yes, exactly, just like that one...only good and not intentionally snarky.  But its not a way for the GM to arrive at Situations without having to think.  Its a way of thinking that reliably arrives at Situations.

Again, to see the concept in action done well see:  Sorcerer game prep, Dogs in the Vineyard town creation (boiled down to essentials), or PTA series creation and issues (hell you could practically play PTA as a LARP right out of the book).

Is that more clear?
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David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2006, 01:31:17 PM »

OK, we're getting closer, now. I think part of the issue is that I am using GLASS terms for many things... and I guess you haven't read it, yet (there'd be no confusion about "player," for instance).

This point is particularly relevant:
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People aren't showing up to your games with characters they made up at home with one player saying "this big chair is the throne of the ice king" and another player saying "no its the command chair of the enterprise" are they?  Somewhere along the line someone created characters and settings...they didn't create them at random...and ideally (if the game isn't going to suck) they created them with an eye towards the situations that can emerge from them (i.e. poised them to do something)...right?

Almost. Folks could show up with characters that they made at home, even with no knowledge of the genre of the game. Their Attributes and Abilities would have a total cost (and Up Costs), and if that cost is under the Starting Experience for the game (and Up Cost limit), they can play. As GLASS effects are Colorless, there's no problem with doing it that way. BUT, most GMs will provide "game guides" or write-ups of the world that would provide character creation guidelines to conform to their Success Level, Power Level, and genre. This game info could also include reams of Setting and even meta plot, character-specific conflicts, and schedules for game events (for the rigid, scenario-style of LARP).

As for "poised to do something": this comes from game world factionalism, faction goals, inter-character relationships, resource scarcities, and Agendas of players. A baby is not "poised" to act in the world, but it has (a) Attributes, (b) Abilities, and (c) a connection to the world. Parents and society (i.e. GMs and Hosts) provide (c).

Your "this chair is a ___" and "no, it's a ___": that is credability. And players aren't given credability (usually). But I think you were objecting more to the fact that--generating in a vacuum--different players could arrive with different expectations. Sure. They'd be quickly corrected. Yet--here's the key--no game-mechanical aspect of their character will need adjustment. Harm 3 is Harm 3. Duke Skyscraper thinks he's gonna swing a lightsaber; Tarragon thinks it's some elf tart's broad sword. Same Prop, same Ability, same effect. Everything else is Color.

If, however, you are trying to suggest that I make a "Situation Generator" or a "Scene Setter" (Sempiternity's point) then I ask you what I asked him: any ideas? You suggest Dogs--yet Dogs is a one-off game; almost a board game. How does that float for, oh, let's say 10 years? You also suggest MLWM. I haven't read the rules, but it seems that they are focused on serving that game's general tone. How do I take its method and apply it to a "golden age" game--or realistic game--or any tone other than bleak (you know, if the players are no one's servant?).

Look, we aren't getting anywhere.

I am in a defensive posture--trying to justify my product concept to you--as you claim it to be worthless to most consumers, derivative of "dozens" of existing products (I couldn't find any you listed except Poly--and it uses DICE?!?), and following the path to failure of GURPS and Hero (uh, OK... I'll take 10% of GURPS's "failure").

Further, it is pointless for me to offer reassurances that I will provide game design General Theory to GMs and Hosts, to enable them to use elements of my Micro Settings (or, maybe, a Main Setting) to get a game running quickly: you are sure that I will fail to write this section effectively and, as such, it also will be worthless to most consumers.

In essence, if I don't come up with some system for situation--a mechanical way for GMs to build game worlds that will use GLASS action and resolution methods--then I have nothing to bring to the table. I should just burn it all, eh? Just another heartbreaker on the Forge *yawn*.

Thank you for your opinion;
David
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