Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Extension beyond the Gaming Table

In teaching, we like to talk a lot about 'extending learning beyond the classroom' by which we mean... well, homework. Stuff that the students take from the classroom and process on their own, then bring back to the classroom. This can be a worksheet, it can be a research project, it can be getting extra credit for going to the museum. Point being: as long as the classroom delimits the learning experience, the learning experience will be cut off from real life and have little to no real meaning to the student. It will be an exercise instead of an experience.

Today while copyediting Full Light, Full Steam (yes, I am working on it occasionally) it occured to me that roleplaying can do the same thing, and in fact used to do the same thing -- for one player, the Game Master. The 'real' play happened around the table, but the GM put in hours of work/play preparing the adventure and making plans. Most of the time, the GM liked that sort of thing -- but most of the time, the other players might have enjoyed that, too, but were not able to participate in that off-table play.

Sometimes we'd make characters on our own (which leads to problems -- much like making the adventure in a vaccum leads to problems), and I remember spending hours making vehicles we never actually used under the GURPS: Vehicles rules. My own game group has flirted with bluebooking a few times. But that's about the sum total of the non-GM game experience I've done outside of the 'actual game'. But given how much time I spend thinking and writing and obsessing about games all day long, and assuming that I'm not the only one like this, I think there's certainly an opportunity here for a style of play that includes 'off-table' play.

I just don't know how to implement it. Everybody arrives at the game session with an NPC to add to the masquerade ball? You can write out 'interstitals' of what happens between adventures, and get in-game currency for doing so the following session? But who says who writes what? Who says what is acceptable articulation/validation and what is not? I've heard of folks taking turns GMing adventures, which isn't exactly what I'm getting at. I want to distribute the GM-prep task among the players, to the point where it's no longer 'GM-prep' but simply world development. Does any such collaborative development require a group dictator, or can rules be written to make assignments and divvy up credibility in approving and stitching things together?

How can we extend the play experience beyond the table? And for that matter, do we want to? Is that an add-on to existing gaming practice, or would it entail rewriting the game experience from the bottom up, creating, in effect, a new game? Would that game be publishable?


At 1:00 PM, Blogger Brendan said...

I think the most common instance of this is a campaign Lexicon Game. If you relax the standard rules a little and add the caveat that you can't write anyone else's character into your entries, it works very well for enriching the game world and setting up interesting hooks for play.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Nathan P. said...

My initial reaction is that someone who wants to have their role play extend outside the "session" would be excited by that kind of game, and someone who isn't wouldn't be at all. Like any other game, I guess.

I'm not really down with the idea that we "have" to extend play beyond the table. I suppose it would be a whole different style of game, kinda like LARP and tabletop are different, and there's some people that like both and others that are only into one or the other.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

I'll look at Lexicon when I get home, Brendan. Thanks for the tip.

Nathan, I agree that it wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea, and we certainly don't have to include it in every single game. I'm not even sure I'd be that interested in how it would play out. I like self-enclosed gaming experiences, it's just -- I don't get many of them, these days, and perhaps this is a way to allow us 9-to-5 adults get that game-anytime feel we remember when we discovered gaming.

It's also, from a marketing perspective, a worthwhile -- or at least profitable -- goal. Penetrating the lives of your consumers is the key ingredient in building a reliable customer base.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger Eric Provost said...

Really interesting.

I'm thinking 9-5 plus homework. Situation design. Like...

During your work week write down one confrontation or conflict that you were part of, or even just witnessed, where human nature got in the way and drove out the tension. Something where an acceptable compromise was reached preventing anyone from having to make any tough decisions. Now eliminate the possibility of compromise and be prepared to present that tough decision as a situation for one of the protagonists in the story.

Like that?

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

Eric, what you are proposing sounds like an unholy marriage of sociology and gaming.

Keep talking.


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