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[Engle Matrix Game] Jack the Ripper PBEM
Topic: [Engle Matrix Game] Jack the Ripper PBEM (Read 579 times)
[Engle Matrix Game] Jack the Ripper PBEM
April 27, 2007, 01:46:50 PM »
We've been playing a game of "Jack the Ripper: The game you play before the game" on the MatrixGame2 yahoo group. This group has been around in one form or another for nearly ten years. Over time, due in part to my posting on forums like this, we have built up new players. The Jack game combined old and new Matrix Gamers.
In Forge Game Theory terms the premise of Jack the Ripper is "Who gets the blame."
The game consists of six characters and their actions during the height of Jack the Ripper's crime spree. The characters are: Jack the Ripper, the Inspector, Lady Coverup, Lord Brutal, Mr. Revenge, and Pretty Nell. This is a beginners EMG so each turn players make an argument, another player acts a referee and players can counter-argue. All arguments get a chance to happen rating that sets the roll. Given that this is a play by email game we used a centralized referee (who was not running a character).
The Players were as follows.
Referee: Chris Engle (me) the author of the game and creator of Matrix Games (yea me!)
Jack: Dylan - who has played MGs 10 years and run a few on line games.
Inspector - Paul - who has played MGs longer than ten years and ran the first on line EMG.
Lady Coverup - Annabell - a new player - not a regular gamer but very enthusiastic.
Brutal: Dorian - another 10 year MGer over in South Africa.
Mr Revenge: Eric - who has played a couple of years.
Audience: Vincent - who didn't play but actively joined in the discussion around the game.
Unfortunately Eric started experiencing computer problems right after the game began so his participation was limited.
Every day players sent in arguments. In a face to face game we would have gone around the table. I had thought to set up an order of play but didn't do so before starting the game. When several people sent in arguments the first day I decided to not fight anarchy and run with the player's energy. Each player could send in a primary argument. I then gave them a day to counter-argue one another. The energetic jumped in immediately. Eric did not because of his computer problems. When everyone but Eric had made an argument I sent a message out asking specific people to jump in. they got a day to do so, If they didn't we moved on to the next turn. Everyone got to make their next round of arguments.
Dylan's arguments made the gambit that Jack was a random psychotic killer who was just a working stiffe and thus VERY hard to find.
Paul's gambit was to flesh out the Inspector (creating a side kick and giving himself a reputation for competence) and start ruling out suspects.
Annabelle tried to infiltrate the investigation by seducing the Inspector's side kick so she could influence the case and protect Jack - who she defined as her lover.
Dorian made the most interesting move by saying that Lord Brutal thought he knew who Jack was. His self made dilema - Should he tell?
Eric only made one argument and it said Revenge had a score to settle. Unfortunately he was unable to further elaborate it.
The way the game works is that each player's argument is a gambit for what happens next. All arguments move the game closer to the end by adding facts. Players naturally don't agree on where the story should go so they challenge one another's gambits with counter-arguments. As referee I generally rule most arguments as pretty strong (so they happen 2/3rds of the time). The dice gods determine which gambits happen so some players saw their plans crash. When this happens they have to think on their feet to reshape a new plan on the newly revealed facts.
Thinking on your feet is one of the things that is fun about Matrix Games. (While running this game I was playing in an 1815 Waterloo Campaign Matrix Game where my less than effective plans nearly lost the war for England!) A lot of new data pops up each day. As referee I could walk into my office and face ten arguments a day. I cut and pasted them into a word file along with my dice rolls and a running log of what had happened in the game (so far). I was out sick a few days so some days were harrier than others. It all worked out though.
Observations: The old core of gamers (all of us in our 40's or 50's) had no problems dealing with the anarchy of play. This was no surprise. We've been doing these games for years. Annabelle was shocked by the speed of play and number of arguments put forward. I think she was thinking that everything people said must happen (but it couldn't since player's arguments were by their nature in conflict.) When playing a Matrix Game it is important to look at what you want to happen and ignore a lot of other arguments. Wait till the turn report comes out to see what actually happened and then focus in on your next turn. When you see what other people say - think "How does this help me?" If it doesn't then say "Counter-argument: No.... Actually this happens..." Then let the dice gods fall as they may. Holding onto preconceived notions isn't needed and isn't helpful. Annabelle stuck with it and I think in future games she will make this mental shift and be a great player. Her arguments were very entertaining this game and did shift the course of the story.
Annabelle has already written two compete Matrix Games of her own. This is very cool. She learned of the game, played, and is now doing her own creations. This is exactly what I think MGs can do for people. They say "Make up what happens next." I think we will play one of hedr creations next. Probably "The Mansion" a game about sexual intrigue and blackmail in a lewd millionaires hill top retreat.
Game Theory Observations: I'm of the belief that Engle Matrix Games are not tied to any one style of play. Many of the players are old time wargamers who like competition. In this way trying to actually catch the real killer did give them a goal to work on. These players also tend to be pretty left wing politically so a healthy dose of anarchy and liberal critic were expected. They like a good story so they imposed their characters into interesting conflicts. Annabelle's games have a strong sexual tension to them which she brought into the game to gain position of power. I thought it fit well with the other player's style of play.
Matrix Games don't really work like a lot of other games on the Forge. They don't rely on task resolution but arguments are like the gambits of task resolution. Arguments are kind of like conflict resolution but instead of doing the resolution narration after the dice are rolled it is done before (in the text of the argument). In effect player's narrations compete with one another over what happens. The referee's role is also different. Many games I've seen on the Forge suggest that the GM should say yes to everything the players say. They do this to reward player's creativity and increase their energy and ownership of the game. EMGs use the referee as a speed bump. If an argument builds the story it has a good chance of happening. If it doesn't it has a lesser chance of happening. As people play, a story emerges. In this game it begins to point the finger at one player. That player is forced to take every more difficult gambits to redirect blame. Eventually it is too much and the police move in. What this does is allow the players to form a defacto consensus on what happens by the arguments they make. Far from forcing the game down one line the referee speed bump gives the players the time they need to really come together around a plot.
Shared Imagined Space: In PBEMs players are by the nature of play not face to face. They are imaging London in the 1880's. I think they are imagining different Londons. Their arguments reveal the world they imagine and slowly move people toward's a consensus vision. It fits with the nature of the game. They start with a matrix of little information and move towards a fuller matrix.
Points of contact: EMGs are a dirt simple game. They have few points of contact and thus work well on line. Player's control the text of the game so all the information of the game is open to all. Because there are so few decisions and dice rolls I was able to handle running a game full of anarchists while playing another game, having a nasty sinus infection and running an Alcohol Abuse outreach event on the college campus I work at.
Ending the game:
The game is not yet done. We are doing the final argument this weekend. The players have established that Jack is actually Lord Brutal's son. Brutal had gotten the police to drop the investigation and is on the way now to confront his heir. The question is "What happens at that meeting?"
Here are the events of the game so far... (This is a summary of the arguments - which tend to be around a page long.)
1. Inspector Eustace Clitheroe and his side kick Sgt. Truelove are on the case. He appears competent, pistol armed, and knowledgeable. Truelove is inconspicuous.
2. Lady Coverup knows who Jack is and wants to protect him. She gets close to Sgt. Truelove.
3. Jack is a nondescript random killer, probably psychotic.
4. Lord Brutal thinks he knows who the Ripper is. Should he tell?
5. Mr. Revenge has been following the Ripper case and has gathered evidence that if found at a crime scene would incriminate his enemy(ies).
6. Lady C is not Constance Devere, is not known in Whitechapel, doesn’t know any Montague twins but has heard of Dr. Stubbs of Bedlam Hospital.
7. Coverup gets Truelove but the Inspector is not got. Victorian hierarchy protects the integrity of the case!
8. Lady Peachum confirms to Lord Brutal that there is an anarchist plot on the crown. Lord Brutal is not Lord Montague.
9. Inspector Clitheroe questions anarchists (Magda) and learns Jack may be one of their fellow travelers.
10. Lady Coverup recruits Pretty Nell to stage a mock Ripper attempt.
11. Jack encounters Pretty Nell before Annie and spares her… for the good old days. He then goes on to kill Annie ten minutes later (ie close by).
12. The Ripper strikes again! Poor dead Annie… Of course no one saw anything.
13. Nell knows Jack is Lord Brutal’s son. She is kidnapped by the anarchist Magda and put in Bedlam Hospital with Dr. Stubbs.
14. Clitheroe under pressure from the home office drops the investigation
into Lord Brutals son.
15. Lord Brutal knows who Jack is and has threatened to expose him. Jack is trying to blackmail Lord Brutal. Lord Brutal is in Whitechapel. The parties are coming together for one final confrontation, to finish the case!
What do you think? I'd love to hear people's game theory comments and critic.
As a parting shameless plug, this game is available for sale on RPGNow.
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Game
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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