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Author Topic: Idealized play experience : another look at Heartbreakers  (Read 6352 times)
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« on: July 01, 2009, 01:27:54 AM »

Bumping from the S/lay W/Me playtest forum, I've decided to take another look at designing my own ideal RPG from a different seed. Instead of asking myself "what would my ideal D&D (or Runequest or whatever) game be?", which is the shortest path to design a fantasy Heartbreaker, I've decided to start with "how would I render my idealized play experience if I were to?". Using of Rawl's whole original position idea, meaning pretending no other RPG has ever existed, I've asked myself what were my best role-playing sessions and how I would spin them again with a game that would concentrate upon this result. What came out is pretty odd and here it is, it's called Tales of the Dragon Lords :

Tales of the Dragon Lords is about weaving sagas of high power in a sword-and-sorcery-ridden world, sharing them on the fly as they go with one of your friends or with your partner. Explore catacombs, forbidden cities and dark castles ; master eldritch artifacts and rise to glory in a world of your very own design, giving it shape and reality through your dreams and passion only. Feed it as you wish and enjoy your creation but tread carefully because no publisher will ever weave this story for you : the Tales of the Dragon Lords are yours to spin together.

What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss.

Joseph Campbell

Now, looking at it, I realize that I've maybe just taken another twist at designing a Heartbreaker (no opinion here, I consider way cool to design a Heartbreaker). Feedback?
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2009, 01:52:27 AM »

Thought I should provide Tales of the Dragon Lords' subtitle as well, here it goes :

A munchkin story role-playing game for two players
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M. Burrell
Member

Posts: 50


« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2009, 01:08:36 PM »

My questions:

  • Is the two-player element an inherited trait from it's S/Lay with Me inspiration - if so, is this intentional?
  • Is a game only for two players really your idealized experience?
  • Is Sword-n-Scorcery synonymous with Fantasy Heartbreaker? (My answer: 'Noooo!')
  • What's a munchkin in this context?
  • Are you going to post any mechanics?
  • Do you feel annoyed at such persistant questioning!?

Thanks,
Mike.
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2009, 01:32:23 PM »

1. No, it's not intentional, that's the weird part. I just laid back somewhere and wondered what would my idealized play experience be, from actual play memories. And yes, the result is a two-players game. Why? Because as far as I can remember, I have two sorts of great RPG memories : long sagas involving mainly just a friend and me plus a good deal of players that came and went about the saga we were weaving together (I've played these kind of 2-players driven sagas with a score of different people over the course of years) and massive parties in which I was GM-img teeming groups of over eight people (up to 14 or 15). I just picked the most frequent aspect : the 2-players saga. I aim to begin with 2-players and slowly build the game to open it up to more players. That's my plan.

2. I'd rather say it's my idealized teen gaming experience. I stumbled into that because of the remembering part of "idealized play experience".

3. Of course not. I was just wondering if I hadn't just found another and more devious way to design a heartbreaker with the whole "idealized play experience" thing. I picked swords-and-sorcery because that's what I like, that's all, no connection at all with swords-and-sorcery.

4. That's trickier. I think one of the core elements of these teen sagas was that they all involved a massive build in power at some point. In order to show off (I don't want to use Forge rethorics here at this stage of the post), knowing that with 2 players you can't possibly show off to the others, you have to show off with the level of challenge that you face (I mean if what you like is showing off and challenges). such an increase quick leads the saga to world-wide events, overthrowing gods and the like. Munchkin is an option here, and it's consistent with my teen play experience. I know there are others and I still need to explore them a bit before going ahead.

5. I will, but in a distant future. I definitely won't begin with the mechanics, but I'll feed the post as my idea grows.

6. Sure not, it's great!
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M. Burrell
Member

Posts: 50


« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2009, 01:52:07 PM »

I'd suggest posting some ideas about where you'd like this game to go and how you'd like it to get there. So far we have a blurb and not much else to comment on.

'Munchkin' is a specialist, oft-pejorative term in the gamer's lexicon whose definition still lacks absolute clarification. My second suggestion is to drop it. Something like "A manful Sword'n'sorcery epic for two players!" might be a more exciting and viable option?
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Abkajud
Member

Posts: 188


« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2009, 03:16:01 PM »

"Manful" is an interesting term - not the same as "adult", although there's probably lots of blood and sex and stuff. Not the same as "munchkin", although there's probably a lot of killing and looting.

Would anachronistic, bygone gender relations be a feature of manfulness, Mike? I say this as a "hey, that could happen", not a "ew, better not!"
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Mask of the Emperor rules, admittedly a work in progress - http://abbysgamerbasement.blogspot.com/
Vulpinoid
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Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2009, 03:33:59 PM »

This is a really interesting way to look at designing a heartbreaker (actually, "heartbreaker" is such a loaded term in these parts so I'll change my statement to "...interesting way to look at designing a game").

[WARNING: ANECDOTE]

It reminds me of my first encounter with anything oriented toward "roleplaying" or at least, what I thought was roleplaying.

When I was really young, I saw the move ET when it first came out in cinemas. In one of the opening scenes, the kid's older brothers are playing something that involves maps, dice and figures. They are using exotic terms like "Death Spells" and "Ressurection", which were pretty weird in the context of a game for a kid who'd grown up in a highly religious family (...that's me).

I really wanted to play that game. Maybe not the actual game that they were playing (which most commentators think is D&D), I wanted to play the strange and esoteric game that I thought they were playing. I couldn't find anyone who played anything similar during my early school years, so I made up my own games with the rolling of dice and using plastic soldiers or knights to take the place of "proper" metal miniatures. I even played a couple of these games with my younger sister when she showed an interest in what I was doing, and I had a couple of friends who took part every now and again.

I next encountered "Fighting Fantasy" gamebooks, and I figured these would be as close to the experience that I'd get in my home town. Then found the first editions of "Dragon Warriors" which I thought to be just another style of "Fighting Fantasy" Book. It wasn't my imagined game...close, but only a pale imitation of what I thought the imagined game should be. Eventually in high school one of my friends had a boxed copy of Dungeons and Dragons.

I finally got to play the game that everything thinks was being played in the movie "ET", but in my mind, they must have come up with some amazing house rules...or they were playing another game entirely that exists only within the fiction of the movie. I can't say that I was sorely dissappointed, it just wasn't the game I had hoped for.

[END ANECDOTE]

It's a dream I've chased based on a minute or so of screen time in a movie that's over 25 years old. Many times I've given up on the trying to find the magical game, especially when I realise I've probably been playing something just as good with various groups of friends over the past 20 years.

But every now and then I get the urge to recreate the ultimate game of my youth..something that involved strange polyhedral dice, carefully painted miniatures, maps,  with strong enough fiction that players can really sink their teeth into the their characters, and easy enough to be played while eating pizza and drinking carbonated beverages.

Monsters and the exploration of ruins or dungeons would probably also play a major role.

Sorry for the ramble...but I think that if you've got a game inside you, then go design it. Especially if it's that ultimate dream game that you've always wanted to play bit haven't been able to because other games just didn't get it right. The idea of creating a new game from first principles is just a cool and certainly a step along a similar path.

Good Luck.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2009, 04:38:21 PM »

It's a dream I've chased based on a minute or so of screen time in a movie that's over 25 years old. Many times I've given up on the trying to find the magical game, especially when I realise I've probably been playing something just as good with various groups of friends over the past 20 years.

But every now and then I get the urge to recreate the ultimate game of my youth..something that involved strange polyhedral dice, carefully painted miniatures, maps,  with strong enough fiction that players can really sink their teeth into the their characters, and easy enough to be played while eating pizza and drinking carbonated beverages.

Monsters and the exploration of ruins or dungeons would probably also play a major role.

Sorry for the ramble...but I think that if you've got a game inside you, then go design it. Especially if it's that ultimate dream game that you've always wanted to play bit haven't been able to because other games just didn't get it right. The idea of creating a new game from first principles is just a cool and certainly a step along a similar path.

Good Luck.
V

I can't tell how much you've got it. That's why I've not titled this message [Tales of the Dragon Lords] or whatever but [Another look at heartbreakers], because the real underlying subject is not my game, it's my catch. As you've read, my catch is "what would my idealized (okay let's say "teen") play experience be? Since I've taken J.Rawls in it, it also gains another dimension which is "pretending none other would have existed before, nevertheless knowing very well it's false".

And yes, as far as my idealized teen play experience goes, it involves a lot of pizza, carbonated beverages, weird maps, strange dice, a lot of killing, a lot of nonsense, a lot of random things and a monty haul of looting. That's where this munchkin word comes from. It also comes from the way I look at this game blurb/idea, in a rather ironic and deadly serious combination of mixed feelings. Sure, heartbreaker and munkchin are very loaded words, but hey, why not play with them? I've taken from a wiki this bit of definition of what a munchkin is :

It can be expressed in an aggressively competitive style of play, getting the most enemies killed and the most loot taken, with no thoughts about role-playing, the storyline, fairness, logic and, the most importantly, the other players' fun.


Now, if you're a couple of collaborating munchkin, it changes the definition a bit. But I take the point, the word is maybe ill-chosen, as is heartbreaker (but there's no way I put "manly" in a game title though). But Oh the joy of putting "munchkin" and "story" in the same sentence *sigh*.

Since you're also asking me the classical "where" and "how" questions, I feel I have to try to answer them but I must stress the fact that this message's theme is more the way to think at designing a game than the game itself. What I want is to take 2 players in a great saga, or series of sagas of their own collaborative design. They design it together as they go, they sort of publish it for themselves as they play it. As they discover the saga's content, dungeon after dungeon, city after city, warring state after warring state, they get to give it its color all along by their own common choices. They get to design their universe and, to an extent, their game. And they play it, just the two of them, together. And they'll eventually get dozens of maps, whole series of dungeons, and a Monster Manual I and II of their own (come on, it's mostly a joke) and if their saga is powerful enough, they'll take their friends in it.

That's where I want the game to go.

Now "how" *cough* is another question entirely.
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Vulpinoid
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Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2009, 05:57:45 PM »

I'm pretty sure I get what you mean...I just took things off on a bit of a tangent to show a bit of my own perspective, then tried to bring myself back to topic with stuff that I thought might be more relevant to the topic at hand. I wasn't too successful in this regard.

Playing with loaded terms can be fun, but dangerous. Especially when different people have loaded different meaning onto each of the terms in question.

I get where you're trying to head with the "munchkin-ism", and the last post confirmed this for me.

As for the...

Since I've taken J.Rawls in it, it also gains another dimension which is "pretending none other would have existed before, nevertheless knowing very well it's false".

...that's exactly what I meant when I said 'creating a new game from first principles'.

It's the idea of developing a game from scratch, knowing full well that dozens of people had done the same thing before you, but trying to work things out for yourself rather than simply follow in their footsteps. You might end up with something identical to another game in existence, you might come up with something completely unique. More likely though, you'll come up with something interesting that is very similar to what other designers have achieved but it will have your own special spin.

It's an interesting mental exercise to aim toward a point that others have aimed at, and see where you end up compared to their results.

Before I get overly clinical again...

I'm intrigued by your notion of 2 players. Is this a single traditional player and a single traditional GM? Or is it a pair of traditional players and a GM?

From my experience, some of the best games have occurred from 2 players and a GM because you get to feed off another player character's presence. The two players share their exploration of the GM's world. There's an extra random element involved. I've never really had that sort of experience from a 1-on-1 game.

I'm just asking because our experiences may have been different in this regard.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2009, 06:04:46 PM »

I'm hesitating between a pair of players and no GM as such and a pair of players, both playing their own characters and taking the GM role as well on a switch basis.

Cheers.
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M. Burrell
Member

Posts: 50


« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2009, 01:11:59 AM »

I think there's a difference between 'Manly' and 'Manful'. The only reason I bring this up is that what you want out of the term 'Munchkin' is a sense of barbarian-style machoism: kill everything, leave nothing, hear the lamentations of their women... etc, correct? Besides, do you really want a game of competitive murder, or is a game of collaborative murder and storytelling more the idea?

I started a thread here in First Thoughts called 'Content and Conflict Generation for Instant Narrative', in which I suggest that the work of the GM, and indeed, nearly all game preperation work by any player, can be done in a few swift rolls on a series of tables to produce Location, Identity, Motivation and Conflict.

This mechanic could be useful within a two-player game: both players take turns to randomly select scenes, ememies, treasure, nubile sorceresses etc. and perhaps add some colour to the description, then play begins with both players describing their actions as they progress from through the locations to the final there the 'goal' rests.

The players would be in the strange possition of being both protagonists and antagonists - in that only they can generate the obstactes on their quest, perhaps with a ABAB 'yes, but!' dialogue between the two. Maybe a series of thread-counters, all of which must be expended or overcome befor the treasure can be obtained?
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2009, 01:27:50 AM »

That's really close to what I'm aiming at. The players design their own setting and challenges as they face it, using both random generation and story mechanisms. That's why I consider the GM as an option, without being really sure I'd need one or even a GM role. I'm currently thinking about how the game could involve both a random gaming system and a narrative (not Narrativist!).

Right, munchkin is maybe not the right word but I'm not satisfied either with manly, it's a bit... Too much evocative and thus constraining. The idea is totally a game of collaborative
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M. Burrell
Member

Posts: 50


« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2009, 01:44:04 AM »

I think you have your subtitle then! 'Tales of the Dragon Lords: A Game of Collaborative Murder and Storytelling for Two Players' (or something) is much more accessable to all (gamers and non-gamers alike).

Have a look through my thread if you have a moment, I make some suggestions on how the results could be callibrated to produce a narrative. Your example 'buddy-sagas' are very manful though!
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2009, 01:54:35 AM »

i]Whatever, etcWhatever[/i], etc.
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brianbloodaxe
Member

Posts: 34


« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2009, 02:27:45 AM »

I think you have your subtitle then! 'Tales of the Dragon Lords: A Game of Collaborative Murder and Storytelling for Two Players' (or something) is much more accessable to all (gamers and non-gamers alike).

'Murder' has a few negative connotations, how about 'Destructive Heroisim?'
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