[minis +] There needs to be more Barbie in this DNA

Miniatures use in RPGs descends from Toy Soldier Play.

But toy soldier play is limited, generally, in scope.

There are other types of imaginative toy play kids engage in, but that stuff doesn't make it into the miniatures use DNA of RPGs.

I'm going take the position that lack of those other types of toy play is a big part of what makes minis use in RPGs suck, and adding it back into the formula in some fashion would vastly increase the joy of minis use in RPGs.

More after work. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves this seemingly odd concept.

Comments

  • Yeah! This is a big part of my RPG legacy.
  • Totally. Great insight.
  • ...adding it back into the formula in some fashion would vastly increase the joy of minis use in RPGs...

    Yes. Fashion is the whole point isn't it? Minis with clothes you could change. What if it was something like Costume Fairy Adventures, where quick-change costumes are how your character gets her powers? In order to change your powers in the game, you'd have to change the clothes on the mini too. It's genius!

    Of course, for the minis to be able to change clothes, they'd have to be less mini, more "bigi". One advantage of being big is that they would be posable! but two disadvantages would be that they would be more expensive, and there would be less space for more of them on a table. You could play on the floor, maybe.

    Maybe the design of a game like Threadbare, by Stephanie Bryant, could include mini-play by making use of actual kids' toys on an actual floor in an actual house, with big tables listing stats and rules for all the different types of toys you find out there, from action figures to Legos to Transformers to Barbie to teddy bears.

    Fantasy environments could be represented by big, full-page printout versions of scenes and creatures you don't have toys for, like you have in Index Card RPG, but larger than index cards, obviously. Also, there would be no need for cutting them out because there would be no need to fit them on your table. Kids play on the floor. Why can't we?
    2097 said:

    Yeah! This is a big part of my RPG legacy.

    What? Really? Tell me of your legacy! What game/story/product is this with actual fashion dolls in it (or any other dolls)?
  • Language issues… I meant not the legacy I'm leaving but rather the baggage I have in the back of my head as I do RPG stuff.

    All our experience as kids playing with fashion dolls (we had a mix of Mattel Barbies and the British version Sindy + some action figures too (I remember we put paper turtle shells on our Sindys and a little "R" sign in front like the TMNT had)) is the same sort of imaginative play we now do in the RPG.

    It wasn't about story back then, it was about setting up a situation and playing through it. Barbie is a doctor but gets into a car accident in her pink cab etc. Building cardboard houses for them, using wrapping paper as wallpaper etc. Putting a broken wristwatch as the wall clock.

    Even designing outfits for the NPC:s is using skills I learned back then… but painting instead of sewing. For example I painted this fire genasi NPC, Ibiala, she is one of the PC:s daughter.

    image
  • To bring it back to the OP; one big difference between Little Wars style and the way we did as kids was... don't move the soldiers around statically like chess pieces. Wave them around a bit, like puppets. Tap them to the table as they're "talking".

    That's probably the easiest thing to do to start getting into it. Read The Indian in the Cupboard
  • 2097 said:

    Language issues… I meant not the legacy I'm leaving but rather the baggage I have in the back of my head as I do RPG stuff.

    ....

    It wasn't about story back then, it was about setting up a situation and playing through it.

    Oh I see, that's cool. Yeah, there should be some way to systematize that for grownups who've lost the ability to do it the way children do. We need rules, win conditions, and such things, or else we don't quite feel like we're learning as much as we want to.

    But if you think about it, a dungeon isn't really a story either. Neither is a board game. They're both very much situations to play through, so in many ways, that could provide a kind of model for this play also. What if the idea isn't necessarily to tell a story, but to play through situations that can then stitch together to form a story, like scenes or dungeons, or both.

    Even things like tapping your doll to the table while it talks could become significant to the rules, just like stabbing your character sheet with a knife is in Mist-Robed Gate. For example, having dolls and identifying which one is talking that way could mean that a single player could more easily manage a troupe of characters, because who is doing and saying what would be represented with this sort of tactile information. If they were exploring a dungeon, for instance, as mapped out with printed scene papers (Index Card RPG-style), then this would allow for 2 or 3 players to manage 6 or 7 separate characters in the situation. The number of times they tap the table while talking could even be significant in some way (or not), possibly like (for instance) the way that the number of details you describe for your action gives you more dice when playing Wushu.

    To take a different example, not a dungeon, suppose you had different scene drawings showing locations, like a cab, or a hospital, or whatever. Players could always move through three stages of every situation (problem - twist - solution), with the location drawing letting them know where they are and what sort of thing they should be doing in each stage.
  • In many Scandinavian languages, "pretend-play" like "let's pretend this floor is lava" is a different word from "gaming" like chess or WH40K or bridge.
    And, the noun and the verb is the same. So you "leker" a "lek" while you "spelar" a "spel". Instead of like in English where you play a game.

    For D&D, I don't know bout others but I usually say "kör". Sorta similar to "drive" or "run" or "have a go at".

    "OK, käften nu så kör vi lite drakar" = "OK, my dear friends. Please settle down quietly and get ready because the game of Dungeons and Dragons will commence shortly. Please enjoy yourselves."
  • edited July 2017
    I was going come in with a big post, but right now, I'd rather watch where this current exchange is going.

    Some of it is very much along the lines of what I was thinking.

    It does show me I should have name checked Barbie a long time ago in these minis+ discussions.
  • By all means please come in Bob! I was finished for the moment
  • Kayfall said:

    For example, having dolls and identifying which one is talking that way could mean that a single player could more easily manage a troupe of characters, because who is doing and saying what would be represented with this sort of tactile information.

    Yes.
    It's weird, when I play normal D&D I never ever use minis and kinda make a point of it too, but when I play on my own I do use them. Perhaps this is why? Never thought of that; good insight Kayfall!
  • edited July 2017
    If you took 2097's and Kayfell's suggestions, translated them for use with a table top and gaming miniatures, and made them 50% of the DNA of a minis using RPG ( the other 50% being toy soldier play DNA, no longer 100%), it would bee pretty much my personal perfect minis using RPG.

    "Minis and location toys...they're not just for combat anymore!"
  • [My follow up is a bit limited right now by a malfunctioning keyboard. Half my common keys aren't striking, and another half dozen keep striking twice, so have to go back and hand fix everything after I type it. It's a bit like using a really abused, old fashioned, non-electric type writer.]

    So, anyways, yes. You've been describing the sort of play I think f when I talk abut designing for minis use in RPGs.

    (Okay, slightly different for the fashion/clothing aspect, but there's even possibilities for a related concept. More broadly, the look of the minis actually is important).

    If you were starting with those methods, and leaving questions of combat until later, what would you write up? What is important?
  • First of all:

    • The map is the territory when doing toy play.

    To summarize previously stated points:

    • Puppets, not chess pieces.
    • Toy appearence & fashion is important
    • Set up situation rather than story
    • DIY / prep is play
  • That synopsis is a thing of beauty.
  • I appreciate that compliment very, very much. Thank you. Things like that mean so much to me.
  • I don't know so much about Mobile Frame Zero but what do you think about it Bob?
  • No clue. Is that the Lego Mecha game?
  • I only know a little about it, from when it was first being designed years ago.

    It seems like it hits some of these points, but is still about 98% toy soldier play DNA, the other 2% being Lego play DNA.

    Can I show you all a "collection" of stuff I already own ( or could add easily) and then have you all throw out ideas on how to use it to make a game/activity, coming from this more Barbie Play mind set?

    Keep in mind, I like some classic monsters. Think of this as Barbie Play (not necessarily Barbie herself) goes to Strahd's Barovia or (Hollywood) Transylvania.

    The Toy People:
    https://www.bluemoonmanufacturing.com/view_product.php?product=BMM107
    https://www.bluemoonmanufacturing.com/view_product.php?product=BMM101

    And maybe some spare wolves, or bats, or other classic movie monsters, like the wolfman or Frankenstein's monster.

    And these at your printable "dollhouses":
    The Count's castle
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/195414/Heroic-Maps--Giant-Maps-Schloss-von-Nachtherz?src=hottest_filtered

    The graveyard
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/126623/Heroic-Maps--Day--Night-Cemetery?src=hottest_filtered

    The creepy woods
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/160093/Heroic-Maps--Giant-Maps-Kittywitch-Woods-Night?cPath=10143_21946

    The old church
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/118884/Heroic-Maps--Storeys-Chapel--Crypt?cPath=10143_21946

    The much put upon village
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/125873/Heroic-Maps--Geomorphs-Village-Core-Set?cPath=10143_19585
  • Already the flat paper maps are feeling weird.

    But, first of all names.

    on BMM107, from top, I called them:

    Ophelia, Alice, Jack, Grets, Rudolf, Acht, Lise,
    Ashbaby, Farm Man, Grogs, Cruel, Peter, [this next guy I threw away],
    Ice, Vill, Sarah, Chief, [this next guy I threw away], Deliver, Hero

    Holding Ophelia and Alice dolls, one in each hand, I have the Alice doll say "Ophelia, don't worry. I'll protect you". And Ophelia replies "Protect me...? that's not what I asked!" And Alice says "No, but you asked me to stay in. But I can't do that. I need to go to the source. To the graveyard. We need to save the others".

    And then I'll move them over to the graveyard map where I would have the others (except the two I threw away). and some wolves or what not. And Alice is fighting the wolves, smashing the dolls together.

    Ophelia: "Alice, no! Be careful!'" And she swoops in, saving Alice. etc etc

    It writes itself really.

  • To create a Transylvanian landscape I think I'd crumple up some gray cloth, the same cloth I used in these photos, instead of a printed out paper map.
  • edited July 2017
    It was easier for me to link those things than take photos of the 3d stuff I already have built and in storage. It's very similar, conceptually, though.

    Expanding the concept beyond one person playing, what do you do procedure wise for 2-3 players?
  • Some sorta resolution protocol on the meta level when people disagree about a choice one doll would make or the outcome of an action one doll would attempt.

    I.e. resolution on the player level rather than on the character level. That's what comes to mind right away.
  • I tend too favor that approach with more toy play minis using approaches, too.

    Partly, because it is closer to what one did as a kid.
    Partly because it reduces books and papers in the play area
    Partly because it lets you define stuff during play, based on the players' ideas about how thing ought to work.

    Kayfell, if you're still reading ( and everyone else), feel free to chime in.
  • edited July 2017

    The fourth reason is because in non-toy play I’m like “OK, I’m attempting this, does this action work” and in toy play, I’m more… “channeling” what happens, feeling “OK this happens, then this happens, then this happens”; and when playing with others, often it’s just fine, but sometimes minds clash.

    Iow I’m more about “OK, then Ashbaby would obv do this”, a strong feeling about what Ashbaby would do. Often not even verbal, the outcomes in the toy play keeps surprising even me [again I mostly do solo; I think most of my friends would be completely weirded out by letting themselves “believe” like kids can].

    That’s why I started with the names in your example. I looked at the photos and just… tried to “remember” that they were “really” called in my heard.

  • Thread made me think of this. Would be interesting for a system to have articulated miniatures with little "snap on" points where you can equip things like swords, shields, backpacks, etc.
  • I'm mostly thinking about the way one plays with the toys, less the physical nature of the toys, if that makes sense. Although, one does impact the other.
  • Semi-related idea: paper doll character sheets. actually equip that loot you find!
  • I have to tell you that in 2017 SG forum gave me not one but two fresh and mindmending concepts, the Spicy roll and Doll play thing.

    I'm was experimenting with the idea of Troupe play in my Hungarian community and suddently I realized that doll play suits troupe play very well. Actually they seem to be two crystallization of the same playstyle originating from toy soldier playing.

    Our principles:
    1. The PC pool consits of 'dolls', definitely more than the number of players.
    2. The PC as RPG characters are consciously shallow (so everybody can play with them), they are mainly characterized by their 'doll's appearence, but active gameplay and shared memories can deepen this with invisible layers.
    3. Players have two hands so they can hold unto two dolls simultaniously any time. Interaction between two PCs held by the same player is OK here!
    4. Gameplay is structured by different phases (who goes to a particular mission, who goes adventuring, what happens with the PCs who stay at the base, etc.), so the story is not about an adventuring party or a team but about a community.

    This structure seems to work very well. The adorization of these dolls as eidolons (similar as in Swords Without Master) is so strong, that it even works without physically existing minis. We often play online without any kind of virtual table, only using imagination and google doc files, not real dolls!
  • I couldn't help grunting reading the first posts, but I think I like 2097 puppeteering approach. It stresses emotion and action over abstraction and negotiation. The rules would be : how many hands can be involved, because talking time is not as much an issue as handling space. (perdon my english).
    Some key elements : the various sets, the number of hands (active characters) each player has in one set, who opens the scene (like the one character already there has priority over the others and can choose to yield ), mostly argumentative conflict, so it's clear whose turn it is to speak, maybe a one step escalation signal (BAM BAM) (if the minis are not fragile). Moves : use scenery/item, combined moves talk/noise imitation+body/gesture. Maybe could use some LARP moves and materials. I think we can have nice drama / mystery / thriller adventures.

    In a nutshell : puppeteering x improv.
    I would drop the fashion - accessory part : having done a little puppeteering myself, it's THE love breaker in the hobby.

    To play, I'd recommend the hand puppets used to amuse little children (cheap, varied, soft, easy to use, naturally prehensile). With a different set of rule : one-finger puppets. More abstractly, any item can be used, in which case I suggest adding in music and lighting : this is called "object theater". Gameplay sessions on Youtube.

    Now I want these rules for pupils to run mini shows in the classroom (art x language) !
  • edited October 2017

    Thread made me think of this. Would be interesting for a system to have articulated miniatures with little "snap on" points where you can equip things like swords, shields, backpacks, etc.

    This sounds exactly like the German "Playmobil Knights" toys. They can wear helmets, hold swords and torches, etc. Kind of expensive, but they would be ideal for a medieval fantasy doll-play RPG.




    I suppose the limitation of this approach in general is that you are limited by what dolls you own. You wouldn't want to play a character that you didn't have a doll for, so it would change the way you would go about creating the characters.
  • Thread made me think of this. Would be interesting for a system to have articulated miniatures with little "snap on" points where you can equip things like swords, shields, backpacks, etc.

    This sounds exactly like the German "Playmobil Knights" toys. They can wear helmets, hold swords and torches, etc. Kind of expensive, but they would be ideal for a medieval fantasy doll-play RPG.




    I suppose the limitation of this approach in general is that you are limited by what dolls you own. You wouldn't want to play a character that you didn't have a doll for, so it would change the way you would go about creating the characters.
    I suggest exactly that, find a minis first you like, then create the character around it.

    I'd suggest the same thing to GMs creating adventures ( or at least pulling the pool/collection of miniatures together).

    With Lego, Playmobil, or something similar hat let's you kit out the toys in question, you have a bit more flexibility than with gaming minis. With gaming minis, having a largish collection helps.

    Eero did an experiment a while back using that general concept.

    IIRC, Eero's finding was that "weird" gaming minis tended to get picked and have a strong concept created related to the visual aspect of the mini in question, with slightly shallower additional personality creation involved. More "generic" minis tended to see players adding a lot more on the personality/background aspect of non-mechanical chargen.

    Which is really the sort of thing I would tend to expect.

    A goblin flying on a bat has a concept that strikes you right between the eyes when choosing the mini. Ditto a pirate captain. OTOH, a mini that is more "general fantasy medieval person" gives a whole bunch of open space to decide who that character is as it's created.

    I don't think one is better than the other, but I suspect the different miniatures types appeal to players differently, or maybe, different sorts of players.
  • Kids tend to mix and match, like in the Toy Story movies, so Transformers fight against LEGO minifigs or Matchbox cars with (invisible) machine guns on them.

    Adults are more self-conscious about this I think.
  • Absolutely. Adults being more self conscious explains a lot about things (good and bad) when it comes to minis in gaming.
  • DeReel said:


    I would drop the fashion - accessory part : having done a little puppeteering myself, it's THE love breaker in the hobby.

    @DeReel, please explain.

  • It breaks the flow of a scene. The less you manipulate accessories and clothes during play, the better for suspension of disbelief. Prepare as much as you like, but don't fumble the scene to a halt.
  • This thread has taken some drifts in far different directions than I'd imagined when I posted it so long ago.

    Between this thread and recent posts and the Spicy Roll threads, I guess I'm not the only person who is interested in the "play" aspect of gaming and exploring that further.

    Truthfully, I've always considered RPGs more Play than Game, even when the subject matter is very serious.
  • I don't really have time to type atm, but as a teacher I'm gonna follow this and see where this goes. I'm very interested.
  • Alright, here I am with a bit more time to type. I don't have a train to catch and it's about two hours before I need to leave the house again.

    My main question is wether kids and adults play for the same reasons. With this I mean that toddlers and primary school kids use role play mainly to practice skills/things they have observed, to make sense of their world and try to understand it. They learn to use words in certain contexts and learn what professions are, like bakers, doctors, ... and they practice social skills with it. Mainly. In fantasy play they also seem to just emulate what they have seen/heard on TV or during story time, though they might reverse the roles because "dragons are more cool than knights" or some such thing.

    In adults, it seems mostly to be revolving around escapism, though it can be used to resolve deep lying experiences or trauma's (same goes for kids in this case) but hat's more of a therapeutic thing than a nice evening of gaming.

    Should this context be kept in mind in trying to adapt child play to adult play? Do we even need to convert if we play for different goals?

    Anyway, these are my first thoughts on this topic. I hope I'm not derailing too much with this question, since some people seem to already be enjoying this kind of play.
  • Hmm, not sure about that last question.

    For me, when I try to put a minis not-wargame together, I'm not really doing anything terribly different from what I did as a kid at a certain age.

    Usually, I'm mashing together a couple of core concepts, pulling together a collection of toys related to that mashed concept, and then hopefully getting a couple of friends together who I suspect will dig that pairing, and running with it to see what happens when they add their take on the combo, and events develop through play.

    So yes, creativity, but also a call back to known "intellectual properties" or genres, etc.

    Really, just an older aged version of what Danny K was talking about upthread:
    Kids tend to mix and match, like in the Toy Story movies, so Transformers fight against LEGO minifigs or Matchbox cars with (invisible) machine guns on them.
    As kids, we'd get a few friends together and bring out our Star Wars action figures, and play at various kinds of new or untold adventures of those characters.

    They weren't competitive games in any way within the fiction, although there were certainly challenges, mostly involved with making everyone's story ideas fit together.

    When it worked, it was wonderful fun.

    Mostly, I'm just interested in methods to create a similar vibe for a similar kind of play, but for people beyond the age of 10 or so.

    What I often find though, especially among gamers, is that t is terribly hard to unlearn the idea that minis=wargame, both in terms of methods/mechanics/rules and in terms of goals of play.
  • edited October 2017
    What I do these days with story games doesn't feel that different to me than what I used to do playing with my "guys" in the sandbox at age 8 or so -- what I posted about the "Toy Story" setting was pretty autobiographical.

    Even at that age, I would make up more biographical details about my anthropomorphized Matchbox car than my little friends cared to hear about, so I learned to keep them to myself and develop them in my mind.

    When I was playing games like AD&D, Arduin Grimoire, and Twilight 2000 in the 80's (now I'm seriously dating myself), I would do the same thing, make up well rounded characters but keep most of the detail in my mind because my fellow players didn't want to hear it or engage it in any way.

    EDIT: The other thing I recall is that sometimes the most minor features would get seized on to differentiate the figures -- the cars or army men could be very similiar-looking but I'd interpret things in fanciful ways, like saying that the spoilers on the car meant that it could fly through the air or go underwater. Without a mechanical system to regulate these things, it just made the play more interesting.
  • Don't feel bad about dating yourself, DannyK.

    I was in a minis+ thread one time, and a comment by anther poster led me to suspect they were envisioning me as a very young gamer. I had to tell hem on the side that I have a college age daughter. :D

    Very often, when post these minis +, story game, dirty hippy mechanics related threads, it's more because some of my concepts have come in something of a circle.
  • @DannyK I'm ancient. Don't worry about it. A lot of the posters in Bob's earlier minis+ threads seem to be as well.
  • I wouldn't be surprised to find that participants in minis+ threads that were down with the idea all tended to be a bit older. Life circumstances tend to favor older gamers ( or at least past high school college age) when it comes to even considering minis use ( at least where gaming minis or alternatives like Lego are concerned).
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