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Author Topic: Impossible Romance (Pyramid poll & rpg.net thread)  (Read 6257 times)
iago
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« on: February 17, 2004, 03:12:55 PM »

I've been having an interesting time chatting on this thread over on RPG.net:

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=102754

I'll quote what someone said as the opener:

Quote
..Looks like something that should be discussed here too.

The basic question is whether the Romance Novel genre, the biggest selling paperback type in the market, is something that could be done as a RPG.

Can it?

I'm going to say yes. One of the things WoD did was open up the hobby to a new market, people who wouldn't be caught dead NEAR a fantasy or SF book let alone GAME in those genres.

Given a good rules lite system, and an advertising/marketing strategy it could sell to the Romance novel crowd, or at least a good enough percentage of them to make it a financial success.


I got in a little late in the discussion, but towards the end, you'll see that I'm starting to evolve a notion that takes the "formula" of Romance novels (I still haven't seen a clear and distinct indication that the formula is as hard and fast or as narrow as some on the thread have been pushing) and works it into a sort of My Life With Master-style game notion, which to me is really the paragon of "formulaic" (not a pejorative!) RPG design.

I'm interested in discussion of this concept here or over on RPG.net.  Wasn't sure how many forgefolk had woken up to the thread, but it seems ripe for y'all. :)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2004, 03:16:27 PM »

Hi there,

Actually, Fred, it would be ideal if you could state the point of inquiry for this thread absolutely up-front, rather than basically "forking" a new thread from the RPG.net. Then we could check out the old thread for background, but all be on the same page about what this one is all about.

Best,
Ron
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iago
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« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2004, 03:27:13 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Actually, Fred, it would be ideal if you could state the point of inquiry for this thread absolutely up-front, rather than basically "forking" a new thread from the RPG.net. Then we could check out the old thread for background, but all be on the same page about what this one is all about.


Good point.  I should have a point of inquiry up-front, but I'm not sure I've felt my way to that yet.  I know for certain that part of my intention here was "hey, Forge folks don't seem to be speaking up on this RPG.net thread that much, perhaps I should contribute to their awareness of it."

That said, from a Forge perspective, I'm specifically interested in the whole idea of the mechanics of modelling the "formula" of a Romance novel, as presented in the RPG.net thread at least -- the PCs are women, each of whom have a Wrong Man, and a Right Man; they are interested in the Wrong Man, and haven't realized that the Right Man is the right man yet, and the storyline gradually progresses towards the realization and, from there, I imagine some sort of consummatory endgame.

Thus the questions would be... Does the idea work and, if it does work, what sort of attributes (ala MLWM's Fear, Weariness, Self-Loathing, and Love) should be incorporated into such a game (e.g., the Awareness notion that I put forth in a later post to the RPG.net version of the thread)?

Since this is just an "idea fragment" it doesn't seem germane to the Design board (at least as I recall its charter -- it's been a while since I posted here), but does seem like the right thing for Theory.

Apologies if I've mistargetted.
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Rob MacDougall
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« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2004, 04:53:25 PM »

Check out Bryant Durrell's beta draft of "Into the Sunset", a very clever attempt at a romance RPG. It's modelled on "big ethnic family romantic comedies" (like Bend It Like Beckham, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "Jewish mother" comedies too numerous to name, and uh, you know, that Chinese movie) rather than romance novels, but it's a nifty little exercise. Pity we've never had the chance to actually play.
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jburneko
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« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2004, 05:17:25 PM »

Hello,

Romance as a topic for an RPG has been a point of interest for me for some time.  I don't think "Romance" as a wide open topic is just a woman thing.  I'm a guy and it's true, I don't like a lot of "Romantic Comedies."  But to say I don't like Romances as a whole is far from the truth.  The french film Amelie is primarily a Romance and I love it.  The remake of the Thomas Crown Affair is primarily a Romance and I love that too.

I hate to bring up GNS but I think it's suitable because I think it's important for defining the "approach" to Romantic Issues.

Gamism: Personally, I think a cutthroat gamist approach to Romance would kick ass.  I'm thinking of something with a 17th or 18th Century feel to it ala Dangerous Liasons.  I'm imagining something that might contain different "win" conditions for male and female characters, different reward mechanics if the object of your affection is another PC or an NPC and perhaps methodolgy might count for something so low-brow seduction is worth less but pays off quicker than a longer above board courtship.  Notes passed in the garden and duals of honor are the kind of stuff I'm thinking of here.

Simulationism: This sounds more along the lines of what you propose in your post with lots of mechanics to keep things "on track."  The Theme is in place and the enjoyment comes from "playing out" the formula (woman rejects wrong man for right man through some kind of personal revelation).  A good starting point for this kind of design might actually BE the Harlequin formula guide.  Tying some kind of reward mechanic to introducing the elements listed in the guide at appropriate times would be a good idea.

Narrativism: This would be of course focused on issues of romance with no set answer in place.  Can I date and work for my boss in a functional maner?  Is it right to fall in love with the criminal I'm supposed to be investigating (Thomas Crown Affair)?  and so on.  This kind of design could still incoporate "formula structure" elements so long as they help reinforce the Premise rather than dictate a Theme ala My Life With Master.

So, my question to you would be, what's the game "about?"  Why are we playing?  What's fun about Romance?

Note: You could get REALLY funky and create the first RPG targeted at groups of couples.  Imagine the first example with different "win" conditions for male and female PLAYERS?  What about a mechanic that creates cross couple "teams"?

Jesse
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talysman
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« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2004, 08:50:01 PM »

I have sketchy notes for a game based on teen romantic comedies (think: Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Fast Times at Ridegmont High, Clueless, and so on) which I'm temporarily calling "Hughes High". of course, I'm not sure you can call it a romance RPG...

I don't have a write up anywhere, but here's the rules in a nutshell: same dice mechanics, talent system, and earning-steps-of-success system as Empedocles, but instead of the greek philosophy stats of Blood, Breath, and Strife, you have one stat called Score! (complete with exclamation mark.) Score! starts at zero. everytime you reach a minor goal that gets you closer to your major goal, your Score! goes up one point. first person to reach the target Score! ... scores; the winner narrates how she "scores" and also narrates how her rival "scores" (either a complete humiliation or a pity "score" with a lesser love-interest.) other players get to narrate their minor "scores", but the winner is allowed to make minor alterations. pure, totally GMless Gamist beer-and-pretzels play.

I kind of set this aside because it wasn't as important to me as other projects, but I've been thinking of writing it up as an example for the book.

funny, I'm not a big fan of those movies, although they're ok for quick entertainment. the kind of romantic comedies I actually *like* are '30s and '40s screwball comedies, especially those by Preston Sturges, but I don't see how stuff like My Girl Friday could be turned into an RPG.
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John Laviolette
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rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
iago
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« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2004, 09:05:00 PM »

One of the things that might be worth distinguishing here is the difference between romantic themes -- which is something the posters above have touched on so far -- and the "formulaic" nature of the Romance Novel, which very much (as far as I've been told -- see the RPG.net thread) follows a very particular development of story.  Which is why I was moved to start thinking along My Life With Master lines...
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Scourge108
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« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2004, 09:06:23 PM »

I think it's pretty easy to introduce romance in any RPG.  Pretty much any movie has at least a romantic subplot, and if you know the elements of a romance story, it's pretty easy to weave them into any story plot you have.  I can even picture a dungeon crawl romance...picture the heroine pressed next to a barbarian that looks just like Fabio, defending her honor from hordes of orcs coming down a 20' x 20' corridor.  I think the bigger problem comes in finding a way to introduce this to the players in a way that makes them feel comfortable.  I'm sorry, but if my 275 lb. buddy with asthma wants his cute anime chick character to start a romance with one of mine, I'm going to feel a little bit uncomfortable about acting this out (with an audience no less).  

Here's a thought:  one way to alleviate the discomfort factor is to engineer it so that no one PC is the destined mate for another (unless they are really a couple and want to to do it that way and agree beforehand and I am NOT at that game), but that they have a "soulmate" that they also create when they create their character.  This dual-creation system has been seen with the demons in Sorcerer and the Shadow in Wraith: the Oblivion.  This version is just a little less dark.
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Greg Jensen
Paul Czege
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« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2004, 09:07:36 PM »

Hey Jesse,

This kind of design could still incoporate "formula structure" elements so long as they help reinforce the Premise rather than dictate a Theme ala My Life With Master.

In what way does My Life with Master dictate a theme? On another thread, if you like.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
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talysman
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« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2004, 09:20:23 PM »

Quote from: Paul Czege
This kind of design could still incoporate "formula structure" elements so long as they help reinforce the Premise rather than dictate a Theme ala My Life With Master.

In what way does My Life with Master dictate a theme? On another thread, if you like.


not to speak for Jesse, but I think he's just missing a comma after Theme. I thought his point was that MLWM reinforced a formulaic structure.
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John Laviolette
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2004, 09:26:23 PM »

Hi there,

Wouldn't Nicotine Girls be a fine example of what you're talking about, Fred (iago)?

I mean, if Paul would play it a lot more, get more playtesters going with a beta version, and really nail down its reward system ...?

Best,
Ron
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iago
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« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2004, 09:32:21 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Wouldn't Nicotine Girls be a fine example of what you're talking about, Fred (iago)?

I mean, if Paul would play it a lot more, get more playtesters going with a beta version, and really nail down its reward system ...?


Yeah, I was thinking of Nicotine Girls a bit with this. Except I think the tone may be wrong ... but I'd need to personally come to better terms with the subject matter (romance novels)  to be sure of it.

Nicotine Girls is a challenging game.  Good kinds of challenging, of course, and I can smell the cigarette smoke around every dark turn and cranny of My Life With Master.  Both have those elements of formula and "preordained" storylines that really stood up and waved their arms as I was reading all of the objections of "you can't do this in an RPG" and had me saying, well fellas, you're wrong there, it's been done at least twice...
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artofmagic
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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2004, 08:16:09 AM »

First I have to say 'yyy' then 'yikes!'.

that said, Romantic games sound discusting, but I find it very interesting if there was a rpg designed for teen girls. I have seen one anime game that propably was designed for young girls. Based on one famous but unknown to me - anime series.

I promote any designer who tries to open up new genre/market for roleplaying games. And I would love to see women who just love romance on playing roleplaying games. Even would join one of these romantic games. Once. Not more.

Interesting.
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New rpg system per season.
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2004, 09:31:25 AM »

The Forge's very own Vincent Baker has penned a romantic comedy game called Matchmaker. The game can be found at Lumpley games

Check out Paul Czege's actual play of it was a double shot of my baby's love for a run-down of the game in action
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jburneko
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« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2004, 09:40:11 AM »

John has it right.  My Life With Master uses a formula to reinforce a Premise WITHOUT dictating Theme.

And I completely forgot about Nicotine Girls although I don't exactly think Formula Romance.  If you're serious about developing this further I suggest compling a list of elements that you believe make up the formula.  As I said before, see if you can get a hold of Harlequin's own writing guide.  Then see if any suggest game mechanics and go from there.

Jesse
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