[minis +] Collected thoughts on some broad categories of Hippy Minis games

edited June 2016 in Story Games
Note: As with previous [Minis+] threads, I will ask that any participants accept as a given that we'll be talking about minis use in a positive way. A core assumption is that you dig minis-use, you like them as toys as well as (or more than) as markers, and that if you aren't a minis using, you'll still be welcome to participate, but with the understanding we'll be looking for positive suggestions. Also, our look is at least a bit more for "dirty-hippy"/story game approaches, rather than the more classic, wargames type approaches, even if moving and playing with the toys is an expected part of the thing.( I have access to about a millionzillion wargame approaches already).

Okay, so there have been lots of these threads and I've gotten some great feedback and suggestions. I've seen a few broad types of approach, and I wanted to pull them together here. I'll ask the folks who originally posted stuff related to these to forgive me if what I describe next doesn't fully convey the nuances. My categories are based on my take-aways from those posts, not necessarily the original posters' points.

The minis rollercoaster adventure ( aka Eero's Sipi game)
As I understand this approach, it's a bit like a more traditional voluntary rollercoaster. Eero states this upfront to his players and gets their buy-in first. The adventure designer/GM has distinct locations in mind, a broad outline of the sequence of events, and motivations for the NPCs. I'm guessing there's a good bit of leeway for exactly how things turn out, based on what the characters do during the course of events, but it's still largely a river flowing in one general direction.

Creativity of players and constraints at the start of play
Players have a pool of miniatures to choose from to make their characters, but a major constraint is that any character must in some way be a friend/minion/employee generally loyal to and attached to an NPC ( Sipi, a rogue who gets them into adventures and trouble. Sipi is the hook and the tie that binds them together). Eero reported that players who chose weirder looking characters made a point of emphasizing the obvious, visual and physical characteristics when building the characters based on them, while players who chose more general miniatures used them as a more blank canvas. Character creation was broad and general, verbal descriptions perhaps with some quick notes, although some mechanics existed to describe a handful of characteristics that had some mechanics paired with them.
The other major constraint Eero used was a "genre" one: It was understood from the outset that play was based on the feel of fairytale style stories.

During play
Players had a lot of freedom to portray their character and develop personality through interaction. Base mechanics used were broad, and, in keeping with both dirty hippy leanings and Fairy Tale feel, success or failure of the characters was based more on player level rules than an attempt to create hard measures of capability and compare them in some fashion.

Characters went through a series of scenes at locations, based on the GM's preplanned concept. Locations were limited to prepared spots, although my impression is that the order that those location+scene combos took place in was somewhat flexible based on players' actions with their characters. The broadly planned sequence was maintained, however.

Thoughts on the advantages of this approach
While Eero mentioned there was a great deal of prep work for this, that may be partially because Eero was staring from almost scratch with this style of play! OTOH, there was also a fair bit of prep that needed to be done by the GM in terms of thinking about that sequence of scenes, mapping/drawing the locations and having them ready, and coming up with the broad story and NPCs.

On the upside, this seems from his description to be a great approach when you have a limited pool of miniatures and limited space. Eero largely stuck with 2-D environments, iirc, and of limited size. With this approach, a group using the usual "play RPGs at a kitchen table of modest size" can easily do this sort of thing. 2D maps/drawings of locations are fairly easy to transport and to swap out, in a way that 3D terrain is not.

Having noted that things were going to be a rollercoaster storywise ( the positive version of a railroad!), players could be a bit more focused, less meandering, and put their creative energy into portraying the characters and showing their creativity in those areas ( for the fun and amusement of all the participants).

Campaign potential:
With that core set up and some locations that undoubtedly could get re-use, there's a pretty solid potential for Sipi and his pals to continue on to other adventures. 2D terrain, whether printed out from a commercial pdf or hand drawn, allows for a whole gob of freedom in what that could be, while staying on a decent budget. It may also allow for a slow build of miniatures in an overall collection, dictated by interest on the part of the GM/designer in putting them in future stories.


  • "Make this movie from an Elevator Pitch and Some Design Notes!"

    This one is where I'm at. It's the one I've asked for advice on in the past, calling it a Narrstein. Maybe better, a Film Narratstein, or semi-constrained Story Narrstein. It's one I'm taking some cues on from Secrets and Goals LARP set ups.

    For this, I'm just plain running with the problem that some folks have with minis-use, identifying with their character because of a feeling of distancing, and trying to turn this to a positive. This brad style is waaaaaay out towards the Author/Director Stance end of things for participants.

    What it is, roughly
    For the scenario designer, it's a chance to grab a gob of minis and do the Big Layout style associated more with model railroading or wargames. It's big on toy fun. Get your collection and share it with your pals.

    Preliminary work for the scenario designer is mostly about coming up with an "elevator pitch for a film concept", seeing how much stuff you have available that works with that, coming up with some general concepts/background that fit with that ( events, genre tropes, etc) and putting that in a sharable format for participants.

    What the participants do
    The goal for the participants is to take that preliminary stuff, both the physical stuff and the idea stuff, and then knock it into a story that is completed in a limited amount of time ( hours or sessions).

    The secondary goal is harder to describe, but has to do with Celebration of Source Material. Can the group manage to take ideas and set ups that refer to other media, remix it to give it their own unique spin, but also stay true in some way to the inspirational source material? Alternatively, can they up-end that stuff and create something a bit different with it?

    Campaign potential?
    More limited, as I was really looking at this stuff as one-shot ( although perhaps multi-session) event play. Some possibilities for re-use in sequels. More re-use possible if the toys used have a distinct genre tie, so possibly a TV show episode approach?

    ( Ack! Time to run to work! When I get home, I'll check your comments and respond, and then talk about some more open-ended approaches with setting creation more in the hands of the whole group!)
  • edited June 2016
    The promised follow up post.

    The other Broad category I've been starting to see the shape of, is one a bit more open-ended than the previous two types.

    As quick recap, here's how the other two were a bit more constrained creatively:
    Eero's Sipi Game
    The GM has a general flow of an adventure/plot in mind, with some leeway to alter things based on character action, but a limited number of locations and NPCs for the players to interact with in scenes. It's the good kind of plot railroad, a rollercoaster, with clear mention of this and player acceptance of the style at the outset.

    My film game
    A broad outline of a type of story by way of the elevator pitch and choice of toy collection, as well as some preliminary notes for players to use or not use as they see fit.
    Restricted by instructions to players to take this all and make it into a complete and wrapped up story, putting their own mark on it, balanced against genre expectations. Basically, the Barton Fink Conundrum.

    Can there be more open form minis dirty hippie play?

    WarriorMonk and Simon_Petterssen in the thread on Narrstein info-dumps both began to suggest ways that they build up a fictional universe for different games by running their players through a series of questions in stages. I've seen similar kinds of pre-game group setting creation in other games, and it's part of Archipelago ( a game I love to an embarrassing degree and feel could be a great basis for a type of minis play). It reminds me a bit of the paired Chargen+Setting Creation system in Beyond the Wall, something I consider one of the more fascinating things to come out of the OSR movement.

    Blending some of those concepts, I offer this next form of minis play:

    Village Play
    Unlike the first two types, Village Play involves a different sort of preliminary work by the person putting things together. While that person is still going to gather the collection of toys to be used, thus implying a certain type of setting, they're job isn't really to come up with too much of what could happen in terms of story.

    Instead, they must also come up with some kind of questions procedure to develop that once the play group is together, also building the nature of the setting at the same time. The questions eventually should, as with Simon's Outpost game procedure, end up suggesting characters that will end up being developed as the core player characters ( and NPCs) in the actual play. They aren't there at the outset however.

    Constraints and conditions present in minis-use in this set up, not there in verbal only games of a similar sort
    As with the other types of play, the emphasis is one working with what you have and using that as inspirational material. That isn't really as big pf a deal with the character toys. Eero's game test pretty much proves what I've long suspected. Players are perfectly capable of coming up with characters they'd enjoy playing even with these sorts of constraints in place, provided that choosing a miniature (among a pool of miniatures) prior to developing the character is the standard order of things.

    The tricky part is: What about the setting (physical terrain) toys?

    Mostly this boils down to a practical question, of whether the Presenter/GM creates the table layout first and players interpret it and develop it through their answers, or if the players create the layout as part of the proceedings. Or is it something of a hybrid process?
  • So, only coming back to this slowly.

    With the preliminaries out of the way, here's what I'm really interested in: How to develop that last style into something functional.

    It isn't where my own emphasis has been, so on that one there's much more open space to explore.

    I think it has a lot of potential, and maybe more potential for some type of ongoing play than my "film" game.

    I know there were also people in a previous thread talking about using LEGO rather than gaming minis, and I think this style may have a couple of advantages for that sort of story game toy play as well.

    To make this whole discussion less hypothetical, I personally have the following to work with:

    1) A large amount of space
    2) Several portable, foldout tables measuring 2 1/2' x 6'
    3) A load of gaming miniatures, as I invested in all three Reaper Bones Kickstarters + all the fantasy stuff I've accumulated over time.(Pretty much everything human-ish sized and then some)
    4) The 2DWardenhale collection from Heroic Maps, printed up and glued to foam-core sheets. I could easily add to those with other download sets, but I want to stick to those as core.

    So okay, great! I've got that stuff, what can I do with it and how can I make it into procedures?

    I like fantasy city stories along the lines of the Thieves World stories, and I'd like to keep coming back to this thing since it exists already and needs to see use.

    I also like the idea of scene based play, Author/Director stances, and character non-monogamy ( or at least multiple, non-team mate characters for players to use).

    Starting from that, and liking the idea of group setting creation/threat creation/then character creation, what can I do with all that?
  • Hey Komradebob - I've been reading through your minis threads beaming with excitement. Your design ideas for creating a game that uses miniatures for story games and not combat focused wargame play have crystallized and clarified what has always excited me about miniature play for years now. I was starting to worry that nobody else was interested in this type of game - more story focused games have always fallen to the tabletop RPG genre, and everything else into wargames or board games. I've taken your manifesto to heart and have started designing my own game to experiment with some of these ideas.

    I think this idea of "village play" interests me the most and seems to have the most potential. This whole structure you're talking about seems comparable to theater, where most of the action is confined to a sound stage. The movie Dogville also came into my mind, where an entire town is rendered on a tabletop like space and scenes and characters interact within that space.

    Many plays and musicals often have detailed dioramas created to help work out staging, blocking, etc. I've always been compelled to act out scenes on these dioramas, wondering what the limits of miniature play are.

    But enough of my excitement. To address your point about who should setup the terrain, I definitely think it should be put in the hands of a single player who is in charge of designing an interesting space. No story yet, no cast, just a captivating space. The space could then be given meaning and backstory by all of the other players (saying that building is the Inn, or that's the building where the monster lives). After that step, having everyone choose a set of minis to be their main characters - and then designing characters based on the minis seems like a good way to go. All remaining minis could be left in a pool to be drawn on as the game progresses as extras or secondary characters.

    Anyway, I've finished the minis game based on the manifesto you have written. If you're interested in taking a look at it for inspiration for how procedures and structure might work in this type of village play game, let me know and I'll post the link here. Otherwise, I'm extremely interested to hear more of your thoughts on this type of game, and to look at some of the games you've attempted in this minis play genre.
  • Just saw this!

    Yeah, if you've got a link to share, especially with everyone, I'd love to see it.

    Running to work right now, but will try to post some thoughts tonight or tomorrow.
  • Here's the link to the google doc with the design sketch in it:

    A Miniature Walks Home Alone at Night (working title):

  • I'm still digesting your game, but my first thoughts:

    1) I really need to watch that film. It has been in my Netflix Queue forever.

    2) I'm very jealous you knocked out the concept in 6 pages, as I was babbling on forever in my attempt, which is how it got abandoned partially finished.
  • I don't believe I've read a game outline from you, if you posted one I missed it. I'd love to compare ideas!

    Thanks! Yeah I mean i didn't go into a whole lot of detail though so this will probably get stretched into a 30 page document if I end up liking how it plays.

    Your ramblings as you call them were so beneficial though because you really got me excited for this new game genre, basically, and you outlined it so well. I'd encourage you not to give up on it - the idea breaks a lot of new ground and has a lot of potential. I can see film and theater people getting really into this sort of thing.

    Anyway, love to hear your thoughts!
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