Monday, October 02, 2006

The Gripping Hand...

I've been busy, lately, but still thinking about games - how to get your players to really enjoy the games on every level.

As you know, sometimes I think about how to make players like your narrative, and sometimes I think about how to make players like your gameplay. However, my personal specialty is making the gameplay into the narrative, and sometimes visa-versa.

So I'd like to briefly talk about that. In this case, I'm talking various kinds of in-person games, rather than video games, but it should be applicable to both.

I've used a lot of techniques to melt play and narrative together. One of the most common for me is the "metaphysics" idea, where I make the underlying metaphysics of the universe drive the story and characters of the game. It does sometimes drive players insane, but that's a price I'll just have to pay. The real downside is that a story-centric player can easily fall too far behind on the power curve as the play-centric players discover new tricks to pull with the laws of the universe.

Another trick I use is the "reveal mechanic", where the reward for playing the game is to reveal a piece of the plot. This is generally not suitable for tabletops in anything but the most generic sense, because the "minigame for data" doesn't really fit very well into a "seamless" narrative. It's more for board and card games.

A very common trick I use is to give each player a different piece of the plot and some reason not to reveal it. Then, over the course of the game, they worry at it and try to get it to fit. Eventually, they start to come together and reveal info. While not explicitly play in terms of following game rules, social interactions are definitely a form of play.

Perhaps the most common trick everyone uses (and me, sure) is to adapt the plot to the actions of the players. I almost didn't mention it because it's so basic... but I've seen a lot of people who don't do it, so I went ahead and mentioned it.

Which of these tricks have you tried? Which do you like best? Is there a central idea that all these descend from?

You tell me. I've got some ideas, but I don't have them polished, yet.

1 comment:

Patrick Dugan said...

The social revalation model sound like a variant of the "massively single-player" idea that I'd been pawing around with. In that case you'd have a highly dynamic plot that different players would gain different insights into, so there'd be a communal drive to exchange notes.

If there's a central ancestor idea it is that both stories and games are created and given meaning through social interaction.