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Other Games, Development, & Campaigns => Design, Development, and Gameplay => Topic started by: phasmaphobic on August 02, 2007, 11:37:40 am

Title: "Story" RPGs for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: phasmaphobic on August 02, 2007, 11:37:40 am
Hey folks, I'm kinda new here, and I admit I was drawn here by the loud ranting of RPGPundit, who I usually tend to disagree with rather intensely.  Usually.  Thing is, despite most of his vitriol, some of it really hits home and inspires just as much change in my perspectives of gaming as the stuff coming out of the Forge.  it's hard to describe, but I appreciate both sources equally.

Anyway, I have some ruminations that I think will pose some questions.  I've lately grown fond of some of the "story gaming" notions on role-playing, and some of the current mainstream systemic themes from that camp (conflicts, scenes, descriptive traits, etc).  I've even been designing a game system (hasn't everyone?) using some of those concepts, and so far the experience has been very rewarding.

My problem here is that while I'm enjoying the game design process, and enjoying using the themes and "story mechanics" in my games, I'm not sure I enjoy discussing it over on their typical gathering spots (Forge, Story Games).  For one thing (and maybe I'm wrong here), I constantly get the feeling that there's really only about 20 or so people over there patting each other on the back.  They're all really passionate and intense gamers, but sometimes I feel that they're only thus for the sake of being pretentious.  Heck, in a casual discussion of simple terms in games one of them, completely unprovoked, insulted me with the term "playstyle imperialist."  Seriously, what does that even mean?

This brings me to my question.  How do you design a crunch-lite, story-focused role-playing-game and target it at people who are not the typical "indie rpg elite," specifically so your target audience will actually enjoy it and not feel insulted by the terms and different perspectives contained within?

Thanks in advance!
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: The Yann Waters on August 02, 2007, 11:55:24 am
Quote from: phasmaphobic
How do you design a crunch-lite, story-focused game and target it at people who are not the typical "indie rpg elite," specifically so your target audience will actually enjoy it and not feel insulted by the terms and different perspectives contained within?
Hmm. Perhaps something like The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen would work, possibly with more detailed PCs?
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: phasmaphobic on August 02, 2007, 12:32:18 pm
Quote from: GrimGent
Hmm. Perhaps something like The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen would work, possibly with more detailed PCs?


Man, I had no idea this was even a game, and yet it is one of my favorite movies ever.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: The Yann Waters on August 02, 2007, 12:37:17 pm
Quote from: phasmaphobic
Man, I had no idea this was even a game, and yet it is one of my favorite movies ever.
Like Puppetland, it was part of Hogshead's "New Style" line. See here (http://www.story-games.com/codex/index.php?title=The_Extraordinary_Adventures_of_Baron_Munchausen) for some info and further linkage.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: phasmaphobic on August 02, 2007, 12:43:13 pm
Quote from: GrimGent
Like Puppetland, it was part of Hogshead's "New Style" line. See here (http://www.story-games.com/codex/index.php?title=The_Extraordinary_Adventures_of_Baron_Munchausen) for some info and further linkage.


Sounds interesting.  Involves alcohol and story-oneupsmanship.  Not much of a RPG, though.  I see my initial title was misleading, so I changed it to represent the RPG focus of my question.

Thanks for the link, I'll have to show this to some friends.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: Reimdall on August 02, 2007, 12:43:36 pm
Quote from: phasmaphobic

This brings me to my question.  How do you design a crunch-lite, story-focused game and target it at people who are not the typical "indie rpg elite," specifically so your target audience will actually enjoy it and not feel insulted by the terms and different perspectives contained within?

Thanks in advance!

Welcome, Phasmaphobic!

I think the first method is what you're doing right now, attempting to create dialogue and not posit an inronclad hierarchy of playstyle - that definitely starts the drums beating in this neck of the woods.

With regard to the rest of your question I think its pretty simple.  It sounds like you have gotten pretty far along with the game already, so I'd say the best way to go about it is post some goals, mechanics and examples and talk about what works and what doesn't.  If you've got some actual play stuff, that's great, too.

With regard to targeting an audience so they won't be [defended]* whoops, OFFended, I got some great advice when our game first hit the Big Purple boards about a year and a half ago (and got pounded because of some inflammatory marketing language).  Just describe it honestly and tell people what makes you excited about it and what sort of great, amazing opportunities it'll provide for players, without using negative definitions.  What it is, as opposed to how it "diverges from trad," or whatever.

Many of the people on this board are perfectly comfortable with all manner of mechanics and perspectives (though quite a few aren't, and they'll let you know about it).  I think the hackles raise when incoming discourse has a bit of the feel of missionaries coming to talk to the heathens about their barbaric and outmoded practices.  ;)

Trust the consumer.  Nothing gets people pissed more than being told they don't understand what they like, and that they don't even get to decide what they think is good.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: phasmaphobic on August 02, 2007, 01:01:50 pm
These are good bits of advice, thanks.

While working on the project, I've frequented a few other sites mainly to field ideas and see what else is being discussed.  It's often a bit difficult to not come from those places with an untouchable desire to turn the project into some grand scheme to not only change the face of gaming forever, but to make everyone understand that you (in the general sense) were the one who did it.

Yeesh.  It takes effort to bring the focus back down from "Create the most mind-blowing wank-session game EVAR!" to "Create a damn fun game and have fun creating it."
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: Reimdall on August 02, 2007, 01:14:25 pm
Quote from: phasmaphobic
These are good bits of advice, thanks.

Yeesh.  It takes effort to bring the focus back down from "Create the most mind-blowing wank-session game EVAR!" to "Create a damn fun game and have fun creating it."


Absolutely.  It's reeeealy hard to make something that is its own thing and has a real sense of focus if your first criteria is "I am going to make a work of genius."  We all do it - it's good to look at whatever that phenomenon is and recognize it, and then go back to making some stuff up that jazzes us.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: James J Skach on August 02, 2007, 03:11:54 pm
I'm just curious, Kent, as to what the language was that people so up in arms...
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: Reimdall on August 02, 2007, 03:49:15 pm
Quote from: James J Skach
I'm just curious, Kent, as to what the language was that people so up in arms...


There were a couple of things for us, Jim.  

The press release used the phrase "revolutionary mechanic" and also "next generation" rpg.  (Which I now see are like waving your already blooded junk in front of a feral grizzly. I know, right?  What were we thinking?)  We used those words in the press release because it's very difficult to distill a couple of adjectives from a longer series of things we were proud of regarding the game:

A traditional, pen and paper fantasy rpg aimed at long-term play with (we think) some rocking tactical mechanics that combine many things we like (simultaneous movement, dangerous combat even for heroes vs. mooks, real numbers advantage, integration of magic with tactical) into something that works well, has some great wrinkles, and yet is intuitive, a really excellent way of mechanically culturally acclimitizing characters, and a long-term skill-growth system that actually models different speeds of learning, as well as providing real choices for character growth and change that have mechanical impact on play.  

Not sexy.

And the locals lit into us for the "revolutionary" and the "next-generation." I certainly don't blame them for that, especially since they hadn't seen us on the purple and the forge boards, and because most of the stuff we do is more incremental than Big Flash.  Also, I suspect, because loads of us who post and lurk on various boards (I'm more of a reader than writer here) want to be Picasso, as opposed to just making games that deliver the mojo each weekend to a specific group of the paying public.  Also, there's a lot of ownership towards the idea that there's only one direction for games to go.

We don't use that marketing language anymore, because it really seemed to draw a kind of deep anger out of people.

Also, folks are always very excited to whip out the fantasy heartbreaker card, but I think that's going to happen pretty much any time someone introduces a new steel and magic system.  Another example: folks are throwing around that term on the FtA threads, just recently, jumping in with both fists before even looking at the product.

Before we jumped off the bridge into press release land, we certainly could have used some interested folks asking us what our goals for the game were, and how we thought the mechanics accomplished that goal, but we didn't and c'est la guerre.  :D  

We did get some great press and interest from those same threads, though. ;)
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: phasmaphobic on August 02, 2007, 05:15:14 pm
Quote from: Reimdall
The press release used the phrase "revolutionary mechanic" and also "next generation" rpg.


Yeah, I kinda picked up early on that terms along those lines would only get my game lambasted.  it helps that I don't actually feel that way, too.  I just want to create a good game with some "indie" concepts in it, but get it played by folks who aren't necessarily big on all the Forge and Story Games stuff.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: Reimdall on August 03, 2007, 05:12:54 pm
Quote from: phasmaphobic
Yeah, I kinda picked up early on that terms along those lines would only get my game lambasted.  it helps that I don't actually feel that way, too.  I just want to create a good game with some "indie" concepts in it, but get it played by folks who aren't necessarily big on all the Forge and Story Games stuff.


Indeed.  :)

Well, I think this might be a great place to give it some running room.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: phasmaphobic on August 03, 2007, 05:32:30 pm
Quote from: Reimdall
Indeed.  :)

Well, I think this might be a great place to give it some running room.


I hope so, provided the "anti-story" trend on this board doesn't get in the way.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: James J Skach on August 03, 2007, 09:40:25 pm
Quote from: phasmaphobic
I hope so, provided the "anti-story" trend on this board doesn't get in the way.

I would say, for your consideration, it's not anti-story...

It's anti-anti-non-story...

Break that down - I dare ya...
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: Abyssal Maw on August 04, 2007, 12:39:13 am
I think 'anti-story' is a mischaracterization, but it is the inevitable result of what happens when people try to redefine simple concepts like "story" into marketing language.

Everyone values story. What people aren't looking for is the story simulator, with predetermined canned Approved Moral Messages and artificialities like 'conflict resolution' as a special supremacist concept.  

But stories? Everyone loves those.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: -E. on August 04, 2007, 07:34:34 am
Quote from: Abyssal Maw
I think 'anti-story' is a mischaracterization, but it is the inevitable result of what happens when people try to redefine simple concepts like "story" into marketing language.

Everyone values story. What people aren't looking for is the story simulator, with predetermined canned Approved Moral Messages and artificialities like 'conflict resolution' as a special supremacist concept.  

But stories? Everyone loves those.


This is a good point

And I think traditional games are optimal for creating stories and facilitating immersion at the same time.

Cheers,
-E.
Title: Suggestion
Post by: dindenver on August 11, 2007, 11:21:30 pm
Hi!
  This is just a suggestion, but I think you need to highlight the elements that are familiar or appealing to that demographic.
  Like if you want to appeal to a D&D gamer, figure out why they play D&D and then highlight what the game has that they are already looking for.
  Maybe D&D gamers like flexibility in character creation and support for multiple power levels. If you game can claim either of these, express it in a clear and concise way. and not as a statement of gap analysis, but as a positive statement of the games features.
  Most non-indie gamers like to discuss their gaming and some love to do nothing more than discuss the games they love.
  Anyways, I hope that helps and ood luck man!
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: John Morrow on August 12, 2007, 01:58:12 pm
Quote from: Abyssal Maw
But stories? Everyone loves those.


What do you mean by "story"?  Defined broadly, that's probably true.  Defined more narrowly, I'm not sure it is.
Title: "Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
Post by: GoOrange on August 14, 2007, 06:23:16 pm
Quote from: phasmaphobic
Hey folks, I'm kinda new here, and I admit I was drawn here by the loud ranting of RPGPundit, who I usually tend to disagree with rather intensely.


I'm late to the show, but I think you've raised an interesting point or two. Welcome to the forums.

Quote from: phasmaphobic
I've lately grown fond of some of the "story gaming" notions on role-playing, and some of the current mainstream systemic themes from that camp (conflicts, scenes, descriptive traits, etc).  


As a matter of semantics, I'm leery of using the word mainstream in a sentence with "that camp" meaning indy RPGs. The story-now game movement is far from the mainstream, and not what the majority of gamers are looking for in RPGs. There is nothing wrong with story games or incorporating story elements into games, but I think some people tend to overestimate the appeal of "story" amongst the general RPG populace.

Quote from: phasmaphobic
I've even been designing a game system (hasn't everyone?) using some of those concepts, and so far the experience has been very rewarding.


This made me chuckle. I've got my own system in the works as well (but I only work on it sporadically, and most of my time is spent rewriting a part I thought long-finished. Seriously, is everyone designing their own system?

Quote from: phasmaphobic
My problem here is that while I'm enjoying the game design process, and enjoying using the themes and "story mechanics" in my games, I'm not sure I enjoy discussing it over on their typical gathering spots (Forge, Story Games).  For one thing (and maybe I'm wrong here), I constantly get the feeling that there's really only about 20 or so people over there patting each other on the back.  They're all really passionate and intense gamers, but sometimes I feel that they're only thus for the sake of being pretentious.  Heck, in a casual discussion of simple terms in games one of them, completely unprovoked, insulted me with the term "playstyle imperialist."  Seriously, what does that even mean?


I don't visit one of those sights at all anymore for very similar reason. I've even noticed a lot of invective aimed at fellow story-now gamers and designers (not just the non-story traditionalists). So, it's not just you.

Quote from: phasmaphobic
This brings me to my question.  How do you design a crunch-lite, story-focused role-playing-game and target it at people who are not the typical "indie rpg elite," specifically so your target audience will actually enjoy it and not feel insulted by the terms and different perspectives contained within?


Ah, an excellent question.

Firstly, you need a solid rule base. You need to work on the crunch. The basic system mechanic, combat, ability scores, skills, feats/qualities/whatever - figure out how the numbers work. Keep it simple. Savage Worlds is a good example of about the level of complexity I would start with. I would get rid of the card based initiative (stick to just one randomizer like dice for the sake of simplicity) and get rid of any use of minis. The SW system itself is relatively rules light. Another example would  be unisystem - there are too many add on rules and exceptions to rules in that system for my taste, but the core is decent.

Now the real key, after you've established a solid foundation, is in the details. Exactly what skills are available, what special qualities or disadvantages can character's take etc. Characters need to be different from each other and be able to focus on different things. SW falls short because it tends to focus on combat with many more combat edges than useful edges for non-combat oriented characters to take.

If characters are able to be well differentiated from each other and are able to specialize and excel in things other than combat, you're headed in the right direction.

The game itself needs to be solid, rules light, and allow for interesting and varied characters.

After that, the burden will fall onto the GM to exploit these various character descriptors and present opportunity for things other than combat.

Most GMs listen to players and overhear various player thoughts and ideas on who could be behind the latest mystery and such. I often use these ideas instead of what I had originally planned, because they sounded much more interesting. In this respect, I'm taking player input and using it to construct the story. Ideally, the players don't know that I'm letting them do the work for me, they feel like they've "figured it out".

At the very end, if you want more player directed narrative or story-rules, throw in something simple like action points or action dice. I don't mind giving the players access to something that gives them a bonus for critical situations, and it can be extended (like in the old Adventure! game) so that if players spend an action point, they can dictate a narrative detail. (In one of my games, I spent a point to state that there was an elaborate crystal chandelier hanging overhead in the main ballroom, which my character used to foil the villian).

Story oriented rules should be an option or a minor part, the most important part for traditional gamers will be the basic mechanic and core rules. I think a lot of indie games are designed around a story-game premise, and the rest of the rules are just thrown on top in a haphazard fashion. A better approach that might appeal to traditionalists more, would be to design from the bottom up starting with a very serviceable, non-crunch yet functional core rule set, and then adding in a few elements to facilitate story as needed.

So that's all I've got. Hope some of it was helpful.