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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 43 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Romance, love, friendship - emotional stuff  (Read 3798 times)
Osmo Rantala
Member

Posts: 33


« on: August 17, 2007, 01:29:58 AM »

This would be my first post on Forge then, which is why I am still a bit unsure about whether this is the right place to post this.

Anyway, my name is Osmo Rantala. I have been doing some game designs of my own, for tabletop rpgs and board games, but they have mostly sucked, or there has already been a game out there that does the same thing, but better. Now I have a game mechanic in mind that I think would work, but that is not what this post is about (I'll post about it on a different time).

After all the babble I think I should just go ahead and ask what I came here to ask today:

I know of Emily Care Boss's (hope I got the name right) games Breaking the Ice and Shooting the Moon, which are, as far as I know, romantic games. Although I don't know more than that about them (which is a pity, I think), I thought I should ask about your experiences when it comes down to "emotional stuff", love and romance being just one axis on that topic, in games. What games have incorporated mechanics related (closely) to emotions, love, friendship, caring and all that and how has it worked out?

I think that this kind of, well, stuff gets overlooked all too often. Or maeby I just hang in the wrong circles. Whatever the case, I thank you in advance for reading this far and for your possible reply.
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2007, 12:38:17 PM »

I can not really give any good answer to you question, but since there is no one else who have responded to this, I will try to give just some feedback.

I have played in a few games where strong emotions like love and friendship have been very important, but it have not been with systems which have directly supported this. I agree that there should be more games which support these themes, and make these kind of emotions important for the game. I do have some ideas for how this could be done, but I do not think they will be very helpful for you out of context, and they are not well developed yet. So before I can give any help I need you to explain something about the game you want to make and how this emotional stuff is important to the game. It is always easier to give feedback when there are some context.

 - Anders
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KeithBVaughn
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2007, 12:53:53 PM »

I have a section in my game: Planets of Peril" that is entitled: "Love & Romance, Sex & Babies." Since my game is "gamist" I throw a lot of numbers and dice rolling along with some decisions and role playing by the player characters. One other thing that I've done to make it more relevent to the game is the idea of histories; where gains and knowledge can be passed down through generations to a new generation of heros. If a player character never has children, his next character will never benefit from his last character.

So much for beating my own drum.

In your game how important is romance and friendship? i.e. how does it affect the player characters and help them. In most games romance is treated as a sexual encounter and friends as bait for traps. Your game will have to transcend these cliches. Like the other person who replied, I'm not sure of what you're asking for. Could you clarify the question and your end result so we can answer something specific.

Keith
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J. Scott Timmerman
Member

Posts: 164


« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2007, 01:05:00 PM »

Likewise, I wasn't going to post this because it isn't a particularly good example, but if you're just looking for a starting point...

Exalted 2nd Edition has mechanics for a system of Social Combat.  It's pretty gamist, in that characters make social actions versus each other, in order to get other characters to change their beliefs or feelings.  You can "make" someone fall in love with you with enough effort.  I think it works for Exalted because you can treat NPCs like chess pieces in your schemes.  

Some other games, like BESM, just try to make suggestions for the GMs when running romance-style games.  It's not really written in the game mechanics.

It's only been a day yet.  I'm sure someone who has actually seen Breaking the Ice or Shooting the Moon will reply soon.

-Jason T.
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2007, 03:48:42 PM »

Everybody is at Gen Con at this moment, the forum is almost empty. I think you will have to wait at least until monday for the forum to return to normality.

About your question...  from what I see, it's not a question of "romance mechanics".  In modern rpg design, usually there a conflict about love is played with the exact same mechanics you use in any other conflict. For example, I have played some PTA sessions where romantic relationships were the most important thing happening, but PTA doesn't have "romance mechanics": it does have a mechanic to resolve a conflict based on the character's issue. This can be "I am deeply in love with my best friend's wife" for one character, and "I am a serial killer" in another. The game allow both kind of character and both kinds of premises.

It's not the old lie "with this game you can play what you want" written in most rpgs manuals from the '70. These new games give you the SAME support for playing a romance that they would give to play a fight (in the PTA case, I would say that it give you more support for the romance...), but they are not specifically about "romances"

This was the first answer, about "experiences with playing romantic relationship in games".  But some games have specific mechanics about this stuff because thay are more "specialized" on a specific premise. Breaking the Ice and Shooting the Moon are two of those. But keep in mind that if the games (like PTA) I talked above allow you to play any kind of romantic story, these others are VERY specific.  In Breaking the Ice you play the first three dates, period. It's a much more precise focus on a specific premise, not a generic "romantic mechanic"

I remember now these examples (but I am sure I am forgetting a lot of games)

- "My Life With master" di Paul Czege:  the characters are in a dysfunctional relationship with their Cruel Master. To beat him, they have to beat their own self-loathing and wearyness with love. To get Love, they have to create and maintain an emotional connections with people, who often go to a very sorry end (if the master discover them). The game has a specific "love mechanics" but the tone is always dark and tragic. It's possible to have an happy ending, but it's not easy. And it's never happy for everybody.

- "It was a mutual decision" by Ron Edwards: (I am not sure it can be classified as a rpg, but who cares?) there are only two characters (all the male players play, together, the female protagonist, and all the female players play the male), that are in the process of breaking up. One of the two can be a were-rat (to give you some idea of the tone of the game, the were-rat thing was added to be a saferty-valve, a little fantasy horror to get away from the real horror of breaking up...)

- "Nicotine Girls" by Paul Czehe, a rpg on hope and desperation, and going outside to smoke. It's freely available on Paul's website (you can find the address in Paul's profile)

- "Bacchanal" by Paul Czege (mmm...  I am noticing a pattern here...), sex and debauchery a Pozzuoli, in the old Roman Empire, when the Gods visit the city. A lot of Sex and Debauchery, but there is someone you have to protect lost in the city... (there is a free downloable version, but you can buy a very nice book version instead)

- "Bliss Stage" di Ben Lehman: I don't have this yet (Ben is selling a few copies of the "ignition" book at Gencon, but it's not the commercial definitive version, that will be out in december), but from what I know it should have mechanics for the relationship between the pilot characters and their loved ones...  to be destroyed during the game.

Other games to cite are "Best Friends" of Gregor Hutton (the players play a group of girlfriends, that secretly hate each other. Even if it doesn't have specific love mechanics I can't see how you can leave love out a session of this game...), and the "trust" mechanics of Games like The Mountain Witch and Cold City.  And the "connections" mechanics of "contenders".   And the supplement "Sex and Sorcery" for Sorcerer would be a useful reading.

And, are you familiar with Jeepform? This is an actual play report, written by me, about a Jeepform based on love and doubts:
DOUBT, a Jeepform Narrative LARP
This specific jeepform scenario has A LOT of rules about love!
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Osmo Rantala
Member

Posts: 33


« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2007, 03:32:21 AM »

The reason I am asking you about "emotional stuff", is that I am looking for meaningful ways of enforcing emstuff in the game, while at the same time trying to avoid love, friendship, trust, lust, hate and all the spectrum of feelings and emotions and related issues turning into just numbers and "meaningless" statistics.

About the game itself: at the moment I have in mind a fantasy setting (but not high fantasy), which propably ends up using conflict resolution instead of task resolution, with rotary GM duties (players take turns handling GM duties).

And Moreno R.: I have heard about jeepform, it's a subform of freeform, right?

Hope this helps any.
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Seth M. Drebitko
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Posts: 304


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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2007, 04:08:29 AM »

Quote
I am looking for meaningful ways of enforcing emstuff in the game, while at the same time trying to avoid love, friendship, trust, lust, hate and all the spectrum of feelings and emotions and related issues turning into just numbers and "meaningless" statistics.

Ever read the old WoD game wraith? Each wraith was held in the shadow by "fetters" things which the wraith cared about in life. If these fetters were completely destroyed the wraith would enter oblivion. They acted to enforce character development and exploration, by making the characters take a keen interest in the game.

Now wraith takes things to the extreme in that players flat out die when they lose their relationships, so you would have to find something else the players lose assuming relationships are compromised.

Just my 2 cents
Regards, Seth
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Osmo Rantala
Member

Posts: 33


« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2007, 08:22:56 AM »

Ever read the old WoD game wraith?

I don't think I have, but the mechanism you described does sound intriguing.
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Adam Riemenschneider
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Posts: 81

I also go by Capulet on other Forums.


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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2007, 02:39:31 PM »

Sounds like a tricky tightrope.... You want to include these emotional layers in a mechanistic way, but don't want them to lose their impact in a bunch of mechanics. Hmmmmm.

Well, the first hurdle I'd think would be to identify the mechanic areas where you want this kind of emotional weight to have an impact. What areas of your game will these things come into play? Do you have something akin to Willpower checks, or social checks between characters, etc.

With these mapped out, you can get on to how much affect you want loyalty between husband and wife (for example) to matter when it comes to them resisting a seduction check from someone else.

I think it'd be important to make sure your mechanics be A): simple, to help keep the real emotional context meaningful (don't want to pause for 5 minutes to make a dozen rolls and consult a dozen charts), and B): to make sure most of the "emotion rules" are to the character's benefit. I think players will be more likely to play more socialized, normal, emotional characters if they have powerful, positive emotions be a reinforcement. Everyone wants to love and be loved. Now, give the game some numbers to back this up.

Cheers!
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2007, 03:52:18 PM »

I am still not quite sure what you are going for, but here are some ideas I have though about.

The first thing I think are necessary is to represent the emotion on the characters sheet, or rather, what I think should be represented is the relations the character has to other characters. This can be written down in small sentences like:

* "I am secretly in love with character x"
* "I will do anything to keep my friendship to character y"
* "I would die before letting any of my family come to harm"
etc...

Of cause these can be written in different ways. For instance they can be static (which emotion the character have) or dynamic (what the character want to do with an other character), they can be longer to provide more context, or shorter and more abstract. All this really depends on how you want emotions to work in the game.

There is also the question of how they should work in the mechanic. Can they get bonuses to roll which are related to the relation? Maybe they are just there to let the player express his character's feeling, and they really do not have any mechanical effect.

Another thing is how they change throughout the game. What should happen for an emotion to change? Or should this just be completely up to the player (which is the option I probably would recommend).

So in general what I need to know to help you is: In what ways are emotions important in the game; in what situations are they used and to what effect? (I am not talking about exact rules here, more something like how you imagine they are played in the game).

 - Anders
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2007, 04:21:10 PM »

The reason I am asking you about "emotional stuff", is that I am looking for meaningful ways of enforcing emstuff in the game, while at the same time trying to avoid love, friendship, trust, lust, hate and all the spectrum of feelings and emotions and related issues turning into just numbers and "meaningless" statistics.

Mmmm... thanks for the clarification, I didn't get the context of your question when I gave you that list of rpgs (that I still think you should read, by the way, for some examples of tecniques) and I didn't address the underlying creative agenda you are seeeking to promove in your game.

You say "enforcing emstuff in the game". This phrase can mean different things: do you want to enforce a specific kind of behavior in the character? Or do you want to push the player into "emstuff" territory without forcing their behavior?

I will make an example: let's say that a group of players, playing your game, create a story about love and heroism. And you want a game that create a game experience where "love conquer all". In this case you, for example, use a mechanic that simulate the "power of love", that give a very strong advantage in any conflict to the character who love more (so you need a kind of "love gauge" to measure this love).   In this way, you strongly promote a specific theme ("love conquer all") in your game.
This kind of design is very known in the hobby, and a good example is the game "Pendragon" with its traits. In "big model" terms (I don't know how familiar you are with this terminology, if you have any problem with it let me know about it) this is a kind of "simulativist" design, in the sense that simulate a specific kind of thematic story and THE GAME SYSTEM TELL THE PLAYER HOW THEY SHOULD PLAY THEIR CHARACTER, in that specific thematic sense.

But, let's say that you don't want to force this kind of pre-made answer on your player, but you interested instead about what DO THEY THINK ABOUT IT. In this case, if you want to address Love and Heroism in your game, you need to have a game that doesn't TELL "Love conquer all!", but a game that instead ASK "do love conquer all?" letting the answer to come out in play, created by the player.
To get this effect, you need to NOT measure in any way the specific quantities that are to be measured (so, no "love gauge"), but you need rules and quantities that address something around, that push the players into this kind of decision.  It's the concept of the "fruitful void"
This kind of game design in Big Model terms is called "narrativist". Another useful link about it ie this: "Creating theme"

Now, this second way to adress "emstuff" should resolve your problem with numbers and statistics, but I am not sure you really want to use the second kind of design. I think that both kind could eventually solve it, but it would be much more difficult in a simulativist design without using numbers or checkboxes, because it would still have the need for SOMETHING to use to measure the emotion.

The games I listed in the last post are all narrativist games, so the ones that have a number for "love" (as in My Life With Master) or for any other emotion, aren't about it. And the ones about it, don't measure it with a number.

To the list I would like to add "Trollbabe" di Ron Edwards because it has a different kind of mechanic that influence the characters relationship. In brief, the relationships are... consumable. They can be put at risk to save the main characters (or even for helping her win a conflict). The main characters, by the other half, have to decide if getting what they want is worth risking their relationships. This without giving any number to the relationship: is the choice the characters do that show how strong is the relationship

Quote
And Moreno R.: I have heard about jeepform, it's a subform of freeform, right?

Yes. It's a way of saying "this freeform game is made in this manner" (a jeepform is a freeform, not all freeforms are jeepform), but it's all explained much better in my actual play thread where you will find the links to the original material, games and scenarios, too.

(cross-posted with Anders. I agree with him about the necessity of some game example of the way you would like to play emotions in your game, because without it, all what I wrote above could be useless because you already know it or because you want a completely different kind of design)
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Osmo Rantala
Member

Posts: 33


« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2007, 03:32:48 AM »

(cross-posted with Anders. I agree with him about the necessity of some game example of the way you would like to play emotions in your game, because without it, all what I wrote above could be useless because you already know it or because you want a completely different kind of design)

A game example... Hmm...

I'll try to bring out and shape into words and sentences what I have fluttering in my mind, although I am myself a bit vague on the details at the moment:

The characters are assistants of a wizard who keeps his reign far in the Outern Lands where magic has twisted all beyond recognition, where all life is mutated and, most would say, horrible. Here only powerful inviduals with the ability to shape and direct magical forces, wizards, as they are known to many, can keep the magical maelstrom ever present at bay, carving themselves patches of land where things are moderetely normal, but subject to the wizards whims.
  These wizards, then, keep assistants around themselves, inviduals with the same potence for manipulating magic as wizards themselves, but weak enough of Gift that they can be kept in check easily, to help keep their domains intact and run magical ceremonies.
  However, these assistants are a constant threat to the wizards rule: assistants are usually weak of Gift, but emotions feed that Gift and so if they were to fall in love, have absolute trust in someone, or simply be filled with hate and/or rage, their Gift would be strenghtened, possibly allowing one of them to overthrow the wizard and take on his role. But the wizard is always watching and so his assistants have to be careful in their doings.
  The price to pay for ascension is steep: you will propably wound up losing all you care for and turn into the same kind of hollow thing your master was before you. So, which is more important to you, power or love? Yourself or your fellows?

There you go. Now, this is just a draft of what I have in mind at the moment, but it should give you something to base your answers and suggestions on. I also am not trying to make another My Life With Master, regardless of what this early example would convey.

Moreno and Anders: you had some very good answers. I don't know the terminology in use around here very well, but especially those links of yours, Moreno, were helpfull.
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Osmo Rantala
Member

Posts: 33


« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2007, 06:15:46 AM »

I also think I should mention that I have actually two games going at the moment: the one I mentioned in my last post and a more "tradtitional" (one GM, task resolution mechanism), which is why I was initially so generic in my inquiries.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2007, 12:28:20 PM »

Hi Osmo, welcome to the forge!

In terms of enforcing, for the people who don't give a crap about emotional stuff, you can't enforce it.

For the people who are excited about emotional issue exploration, they will be looking for ways of bringing in emotional stuff themselves - again it's not about you enforcing it cause their already busy with it.

However, if they have no means of bringing it in, that's where you hit a wall. Since numbers will likely come into how they bring it in, does it all become 'just' numbers?

Well, think about your friends and the number of boyfriends or girlfriends they've had rough split ups with. Look at that number - is it just a number? No, it's a symbol, a symbol of difficult, emotional times. So when another player puts three points in their characters 'rough break ups' score, are you going to just think it's numbers? Are other players just going to think it's numbers - they've seen rough break ups too, haven't they? The name you give to the number, like 'rough break ups' is extremely evocative. Just as much as your friends break ups hasn't turned into 'just a number', nor will this. Though I will say for some people, their friends rough split ups are just a number, and if they don't feel much about them in real life, I think you'd agree any notion of enforcing it in game is foolish.

Also on that note, I'd strongly advise to avoid like hell any stats like 'strength' or 'dex' or 'con'. They completely lack emotional texture and just serve as a distraction.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2007, 02:48:20 PM »


Quote
  However, these assistants are a constant threat to the wizards rule: assistants are usually weak of Gift, but emotions feed that Gift and so if they were to fall in love, have absolute trust in someone, or simply be filled with hate and/or rage, their Gift would be strenghtened, possibly allowing one of them to overthrow the wizard and take on his role. But the wizard is always watching and so his assistants have to be careful in their doings.
  The price to pay for ascension is steep: you will propably wound up losing all you care for and turn into the same kind of hollow thing your master was before you. So, which is more important to you, power or love? Yourself or your fellows?

So just to be sure I understand you right. The wizard are trying to get rid of the people the character has strong relationship with, to prevent the character from getting too strong. So if the character fall in love he have to keep it a secret, or he may risk that the one he love will be kill by the wizard.

There seems to be an interesting conflict there, but you should be careful about how you set it up. For instance, why would the players go for the more complex situation with love and friendship when they can get power from rage and hate?

I am not sure about this, but it seems like that there is no direct connection between getting the power, and have the relationship destroyed. Is it possible to keep the relationship secret and in this way protect it? Or is it so obvious when you use your powers that it will create problems?


I have a few suggestions:

One of my own main design principles is: "when in doubt try to do things as direct as possible". I would say that this apply to how you should set up relationships in the game. Don't just set up the possibility of relationships, and then hope that the player will go these to get power. Because relationships are so important for the game you should make sure, already in character creation, that the players will go for some interesting relationships. this can be done by asking the player questions like: "What relations do your character want, and why?"

The next thing you should think about is how the consequences of the relations will become a part of the game. Will the person the character love die, or is it possible to protect him/her? How is this person threatened? This is really an important part to get right, because this is where the drama of the game will be.

The really important thing is player choices. The system should not force any choice on the player, because then there will be no drama in the choice. One thing the system can is show the consequences of the choices made, for example: If you go with love you will lose your power, if you go with power you will lose love.


Well, that's my thoughts for now.

 - Anders
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