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Author Topic: "Story" RPGs for non-Story Gamers?  (Read 996 times)

phasmaphobic

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"Story" RPGs for non-Story Gamers?
« 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!

The Yann Waters

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"Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
« Reply #1 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?
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phasmaphobic

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"Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
« Reply #2 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.

The Yann Waters

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« Reply #3 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 for some info and further linkage.
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phasmaphobic

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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2007, 12:43:13 pm »
Quote from: GrimGent
Like Puppetland, it was part of Hogshead's "New Style" line. See here 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.

Reimdall

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"Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
« Reply #5 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.
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phasmaphobic

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« Reply #6 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."

Reimdall

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« Reply #7 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.
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James J Skach

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"Story Games" for non-Story Gamers?
« Reply #8 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...
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Reimdall

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« Reply #9 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. ;)
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phasmaphobic

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« Reply #10 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.

Reimdall

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« Reply #11 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.
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phasmaphobic

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« Reply #12 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.

James J Skach

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« Reply #13 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...
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Abyssal Maw

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« Reply #14 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.
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