Monday, August 01, 2005

Games, Instructions, and the Lack Thereof (Constructive)

So after going on at the mouth about the subject, and flying off into the heady heights of abstraction, I thought I might come back down to the ground with some concrete examples. My current project, Full Light, Full Steam, offers some rules for the disposition of power around the table, and gives direction (Lumpley calls it credibility) to different players through its game mechanics. It says that players are responsible for their characters, and the Game Master is responsible for everything else -- responsible, but able to delegate tasks to other players. It does not have rules on who says what, it does not have rules on who is in charge, it does not have rules on how a specific instance of play works. It's up to the players* around the table to decide that, and the power to make those decisions is explicitly put in the players' hands.

While FLFS does not offer rules, it does direct the players to sit down and discuss what they want out of the game before anybody makes characters and before the GM prepares the adventure. It offers some talking points about what people expect from the game; it does advise talking about comfort zones. It outlines a few variants of play including troupe play, multiple GMs, solo play, online play, bluebooking, and the like. There are no rules about how this discussion happens -- players don't take turns adding one statement to the list of game expectations or suchlike -- cause call me idealistic, but I assume my players are able to hold a civil conversation with each other. I also assume that players can and will enjoy the "First Session" as the chapter is called. I believe that the First Session, even if no player ever acts in character, is still part of the roleplaying experience -- just as the pitch, script-writing, and casting call are as much parts of the moviemaking experience as the filming and acting.

What I've got isn't the same old traditional set-up, but it's not revolutionary, either. Take another look at your GURPS book sometime and you'll notice sections on the Antagonist, who is sort of a GM-player hybrid that runs the opposition for the players. You'll find suggestions for troupe play, and for sharing GM tasks. The primary difference between that game and mine is that GURPS is not explicit (as of 3rd Edition) whereas FLFS will be. Otherwise, the design aesthetic is the same: "Hello! Thanks for buying this book and giving my game a try. You can play it however you like; here are some pieces and tools that you can use to build whatever you can imagine. Have fun!"

* By "players" I mean everyone around the table, including the Game Master.

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