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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 57 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: "Gateway" game  (Read 899 times)
ChrisLane
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Posts: 16


« on: September 25, 2007, 06:48:27 PM »

I've been thinking about RPGs and the desire to be entertaining vs. the desire to be entertained.  For clarity, I do recognize that one can entertain onesself by entertaining others.  I also recognize that this is a sliding scale (nobody in an RPG session is strictly 'giving' or 'receiving' fun.)

These are my opinions...

1.  Most mainstream games best serve groups where a GM is there to 'give', and the players are there to 'recieve'.
2.  Most indie games best serve groups where all participants are seeking to 'give'.
3.  First time role-players are usually most comfortable in a 'recieve' mode.
4.  Most people who are 'in to' roleplaying become annoyed when they don't have the chance to 'give'.

My #1 design goal is to create a 'gateway' game. I define gateway games as games that are likely to appeal to newcomers to the genre, and continue to be fun as people replay them (at least for a while). I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with German style boardgames, but I consider Settlers of Catan to be an excellent example of a gateway game. I've had a lot of people who "don't like gamer games" try Settlers, and they've all loved it. Over time, some people grow to dislike the amount of luck in the game, but even they continue to play (it's just not their first choice.)

So here's a set of mechanics I think supports that goal.  The players each of ownership of their character.  The GM has ownership of all other aspects of the game.  All participants, including the GM, get a set number of poker chips.  Any participant can give any other participant one of their chips and say "thanks" to reward something they enjoyed.  Any participant can give any other participant one of their chips and say "please" to take liberties with the piece of the game world another participant owns.  (After narrating with the liberties taken, the owner is free to say "no" and give the chip back, undoing that narration.) Just scene or NPC narration shouldn't require a chip go to the GM - this is really to interrupt the GM's 'flow' / throw him a curveball.  Any participant can remove one of their chips from the game to reroll a die roll.  Advice to players = Try to have fun. You'll have more fun when you help others have fun too.  Advice to GM = Your primary objective is to let the players be entertaining and drive the story. Your secondary objective is to be entertaining and drive the story when they don't.

Technically, the GM has fiat and can dominate the game, but with their advice this is a safety net. New / timid / low energy players use them to tell the GM and the more active players what they like. Experienced / outgoing / high energy players get more control if they're entertaining other players.  The total number of chips in play will go down as the session goes on - and people using them for themselves will run out before people using them for the good of the group / good of the game.  As rerolls, or liberties, they are shortcuts for the GM, and he gains them when the players create extra work ("please" to a GM generally being a curveball for the GM to deal with.)

If the group is mainly in a 'recieve' mode, the chips act as a diagnostic tool for the GM, showing what is working and what is not. In this scenario, I also thinks the chips would tend to gravitate towards the GM over time. In this mode, the GM is entertaining the players, which he is better enabled to do by having more chips.  If the group has a lot of players relatively new to RPGs, spending for rerolls will probably happen quickly - getting past the feeling that your character has to 'win' can take time.

If the group is mainly in a 'give' mode, the chips will probably fly around pretty quickly.  In this mode, it's easy to imagine this scenario happening a lot - Chris gives Pat a "please" chip to describe both sides of an interaction between their characters.  Pat immediately gives Chris a "thanks" chip because that narration was better for Pat than anything Pat had come up with.

I'm not shooting for the ideal 'newbie' game, or the ideal 'into RPGs' game - I want to build a 'gateway' RPG. Do these ideas support that goal?
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2007, 07:26:19 PM »

I've been considering a similar system for experience point rewards in my roleplaying game.

Each player starts with a number of "karma" points, or whatever you want to call them. These points are represented by tokens of a specific colour unique to that player. The GM would probably have twice the number of tokens.

Players can distribute these "karma" points to other players when they think the players contributed something really cool to the story, or if they provided some kind of extra entertainment to the players. There would probably be some kind of mechanic where players who bring their flaws into play get some kind of bonus for this.

Players would be able to use tokens to gain one off bonuses on skills, or they could save them up for permanent experience gains on skills/sttributes/powers/etc. I'd also use the concept of handing the GM tokens in exchange for the chance to throw "curve-balls" into the storyline. If the introduced plot twist was good, I'd expect the first player to spend their tokens and then the other players would probably give him back a couple of tokens because their enjoyment of the situation has been increased.

The key here would be that players can't use tokens of their own colour, so they have to get the approval of their fellow players and the GM before they get to use the bonuses associated.

I'd be interested to see where else your thoughts lead on this matter.

V     
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2007, 09:11:40 PM »

Hi Chris,

With Settlers of Catan, what qualties make it a gateway game? What qualities are you taking from it for use in your own game, if any?
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ChrisLane
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2007, 09:40:45 PM »

Hi Callan

I think a couple of things make Settlers work as a gateway game.  Keep in mind, this is a boardgame, so not everything directly translates to RPGs.

No matter who's turn it is, there's something for players to think about in the game, and normally something for them to do.  Each turn starts with production, you roll the dice on your turn, but getting stuff is based on the board - just because you rolled, doesn't mean you get anything.  So, your options can change on anyone's turn.  Also, everyone is able to trade with the active player.  This keeps you from waiting for your chance to do something, as you do in many games.

Normally, somebody wins very soon after the players 'layer' out into obvious contenders and non contenders.  When you play enough, you spot the layering sooner, but new players never have to feel that they've already lost and they are just waiting to see who will win.  You often lose when you feel like you were about to really start advancing, which makes you want to play again.

The level of strategy is enough for most people that want that, but it's light enough to hold a conversation while playing it.  At the risk of sounding sexist (just observation based on my own experience), that seems to often be a line between games that only men will like vs. games men and women will play.  If the game requires so much your attention that you cannot hold a conversation while playing, women will rarely like it.

At the start of each game, the board is constructed from tiles and markers.  Under hard analysis, this really doesn't make the game all that different each time you play, but it feels like it does.  The perception that every game is so different has a strong appeal for new players, but again, this fades as you play a lot of games.

I'm probably missing some things.  A lot of 'serious' gamers love to criticize Settlers for the power luck has over strategy.  But, as a tool to get people to try other boardgames, the design is genius / tremendous / a work of art.  I have yet to see a game that does for RPG's what Settlers does for boardgames.  I don't expect to hit dead on, but that's where I'm aiming.
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ChrisLane
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2007, 11:28:47 PM »

Callan - don't think I really answered the question

Settlers is a gateway game because it makes players new that genre of game want to play it again, and more open to playing other games in the genre.  When people 'get in to' German style boardgames, it's rarely their first choice, but they still enjoy it.  This lets it act as an ambassador for the genre.

I want to make an ambassador for RPG's. Because Settlers has one clear winner each time you play, and I don't feel that is the best style of RPG to highlight the fun in RPGs to new players, I don't want to copy that.  This makes porting over the points I listed above problematic.  What can I learn from Settlers to use in my RPG?  I thank you for posing that question, I can't think of a better thing to ponder right now.
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Current project: Adversaries (working title)
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