Games without a Fruitful Void?

edited January 2011 in Story Games
Regarding the idea of the Fruitful Void, are there any games that are conspicuously lacking a fruitful void? Or (and maybe this is more likely) games that inadvertently filled their ideal void with mechanics, causing the void to slide elsewhere.

Comments

  • Something like My Life With Master, perhaps? Paul often uses mechanics to directly represent the thing the game is about.

    It's all arguable, though, and perhaps My Life With Master has a fruitful void that isn't about Sincerity, Weariness, Love and so on.
  • Here's one way, for D&D:

    The Wandering Damage System

    First there was the wandering monster. They serve well when applied in hordes, but why not cut out the middleman and just deal out damage to the characters directly? It makes for a smoother, faster-paced game, and if you want to kill off characters quickly, it can only be beaten by divine intervention by Cthulhoid godlings.

    Instructions: Whenever a player annoys you in any way, by wearing tasteless clothes or eating the last corn chip, ask him to roll a d20. He may become worried that he's rolling a saving throw. Ha, ha!!! Little does he know that he just rolled on the Wandering Damage System matrix!!! Repeat the roll as often as desired.

    The Wandering Damage System Matrix

    Roll Result
    1 Your character has fallen down a flight of stairs; roll his dexterity or less on percentile dice, or else consult Limb Loss Subtable.
    2 The monster your character just killed gets up and attacks him, doing 8-80 points of damage.
    3 Your character smells smoke; his right arm is on fire. Take 14 points of damage and save vs. gangrene.
    4 Your character cuts himself while shaving; consult Limb Loss Subtable.
    5 Your character's nose hairs catch fire and he dies of smoke inhalation.
    [etc...]
  • The whole idea is that the Fruitful Void is where the players makes a meaningful impact on the game. So a game with no Fruitful Void isn't really a functional game.

    Sometimes you get Game Chef games and other experiments that over-define things, negating any Fruitful Void. Or you get a misdirected Fruitful Void: the mechanics define the central premise of the game so that the player's real decisions and impact are in some other area.


    (My Life with Master is cited there by Mr. Baker as having a fruitful void in that there are no mechanics for the player or PC's decision to defy the Master.)
  • I've always wanted to write a D&D-type game that had mechanical functions like "roll to earn XP" or "roll Tactics to defeat the dragon." Just to see where the void ended up.
  • edited January 2011
    I will venture a guess that most games without a fruitful void got buried in the ruins of history. There are perhaps many that define it in a bad way or don't really have mechanics driving play around it, sure. I can't think of any off the top of my head. Often the group itself will inadvertently fill the void, hamstringing themselves, unable to make meaningful decisions about whatever's going on, this can partially be the game's fault.

    My Life With Master's Sincerity, Weariness, Love are all tangential to the void that's "defiance". Perhaps it's over-defined a bit.

    D&D fails to have a fruitful void if there's one obvious, overwhelmingly optimal tactical choice to make. (surprise)(positioning)(initiative)(hp)(ac)(bab)(spells)(skills)(gear)(actions)...all about "beating the monsters", but there's so many options and factors pulling along that the decisionmaking is up to the player. To obliterate its void D&D would need a "Overcome challenge and gain treasure" roll.
  • Posted By: GrahamSomething like My Life With Master, perhaps? Paul often uses mechanics to directly represent the thing the game is about.
    MLwM is actually a pretty good example of the Fruitful Void, as it's so well-known a game. The common wisdom is that the game is "about" the Master-minion relationship, which might be interpreted as symbolic of abusive relationships in general. The game does model certain key power interactions, but it is conspiciously silent about the best interests and motivations of the player characters, which is where the real game is at: why is your character obedient to this monster, given that we a priori know that he is? What causes him to turn against the Master? That sort of thing.

    Mostly games without Fruitful Void are so extremely boring that they don't gain much notorierity. It's easier to name games where the Void is in a surprising place. For example, Contenders is a very interesting thing in that it's like MLwM except that it mechanizes everything and has no real player-to-player interaction; the Fruitful Void in that game as I understand it is in the way you choose to depict your character as it's being moved along by the mechanics.
  • [aside]
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenContenders is a very interesting thing in that it's like MLwM except that it mechanizes everything and has no real player-to-player interaction; the Fruitful Void in that game as I understand it is in the way you choose to depict your character as it's being moved along by the mechanics.
    No player-to-player interaction? Not if you aim at each other, which is how I'd figured it should be played (setting up fights with NPCs is so... low-stakes).

    I'd say its FV comes from how pathos (or contempt) is felt by the players as they make highly mechanical, resource-driven decisions. Playing "to win" is totally possible, making sure your fighter gets a happy ending. That's investment, just as much as if I invest in my fighter becoming the scum of the Earth, from his downward spiral of poor decisions and short-sighted management. Or Amy might invest in tearing down your sanctimonious pretty boy, or punishing my scumbag.

    But no where in the RAW does it say something like, "Decide how you want your fighter's story to turn out, and drive towards conclusion that with the scenes that you choose and with the resources that you accumulate vs. those that you eschew." Nor is there something like "define a bad relationship with the fighter to your right and a good relationship with the fighter to your left," which would work to steer players towards particular resource expenditures or thematic agendas. The characters, according to the RAW, are not just "moved along by the mechanics" because every scene choice and every round strategy hooks offers ways to shape the narrative and, thus, the characters' fates.
    [/aside]
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