Thanks!! I designed it to play with anyone; glad you had a good time!
Meguey & Vincent Baker, et al
Recent community posts
Hello all! This is Meguey and I love everything about this thread!
I'm neck-deep in Under Hollow Hills prep, and LARP Club started at the school today, so I'm mostly just a very enthusiastic by-stander in this jam. Thanks for being here!
Hi, I'm Vincent (he/him). My design partner Meguey and I have been publishing our own tabletop games since 2001 or so, as lumpley games and Night Sky Games. We have a hit in our catalog, but most of our games are small and experimental. I'm happy to be here.
[From Twitter, somewhat edited]
So you have a whole bunch of stuff in a game's design, right? You've got characters, fictional setting, dice, rules, abilities on character sheets, player roles like "player" and "GM"...
...And you have the moment of play, four friends talking together, live, right now.
It's tempting to say that the design-stuff "constrains" the moment of play, that the moment of play "enacts" the design-stuff. But I think that's backward. In the moment of play, you reach into the design-stuff and choose what of it you'll bring to bear. Better to say that the moment of play draws on the design-stuff, that the design-stuff is there as a resource for the playgroup to use.
Especially as a designer, I'm always tempted to take the view that game design, like, causes gameplay, but I don't think it's so. The live interaction of the players, that's what's real. Designing a game means winning the playgroup over to doing things your design's way, again and again, moment to each individual moment.
Now, PbtA games are pretty good at this. Moves are evocative, high-impact, high-color little bundles of game design. They're easy to read, easy to remember, and they're easy for a designer to lay up for those moments when the playgroup is likely to be uncertain in play. Consequently, at that moment of uncertainty, it's easy for the playgroup to reach out for a move and bring one into the game.
When someone attacks someone, for example, a playgroup is likely to want some rules to draw on, and moves make it easy to place some rules there for them to reach for.
#2 is design-stuff that gives a particular player a conversational benefit when the playgroup remembers it and brings it into play. PbtA games are pretty good at this too.Take for example, from Apocalypse World, the Maestro D's move just give me a motive. Whenever you want, you name a character who could conceivably eat something that you've handled, and maybe you've poisoned them! Ha!
This move isn't designed for a moment of natural uncertainty or awkwardness, it's designed for the player to remember it and bring it into the conversation opportunistically, precisely for the benefit it offers.
Here's a fun nuance of this idea. A rule like this can offer you a benefit as a player, and/or offer your character a benefit as a fictional person.
In a game where your goal as a player isn't to see your fictional character to victory, these can be completely different things! And this, I think, is one of the hidden keys to designing good moves in PbtA games: on a miss, you the player still get a conversational benefit, even if your character suffers.
Conventional wisdom says, "a miss is never 'nothing happens,'" and I think that's not the whole story, it's just the starting point. From there, additionally, even on a miss, you as a participant in the game have asserted yourself positively upon the live conversation.
You've said something interesting, and the conversation continues in full respect of it.
A good move validates your idea and takes it seriously, affirms you as an active and positive contributor to the conversation, encourages the other players to build on your idea, even when it has to give grief and hassle to your character. In other words, it makes sure that punishing your character IS NOT the same thing as shutting you out of play.
And what this means, of course, is that you as a participant in the live, urgent, unstructured conversation of play, you are willing and eager to reach out opportunistically for design-stuff to bring into action. You're willing and eager to roll those dice, secure in the knowledge that it'll matter, and it'll be good, and you won't regret it even if your character does.
So that's what I've got. You reach for moves (a) when the conversation hits a moment of natural awkwardness and you want a little bit of structure to get you through it, and (b) when you remember a move that will give you some leverage on the conversation that you want.
What do you think?