Any news from the pretend play front ?

edited February 2018 in Story Games
Great ideas have been suggested on the forum about pretend play with action figures or hand puppets that I think could apply either to very specific medium (object theater, collaborative paper animation, competitive cartoon drawing) or to a general understanding of RPG.
My problem is I benefit hugely from these discussions but I don't feel I know enough to ask the right questions.
So all I can come up is a flat What's cooking ?


  • Years ago, I hacked Inspectres into a system for running games based on TV shows with a significant lead character, e.g. Doctor Who, House, Blackadder, etc. The rules allowed any player to take control of the spotlight character and portray them, as well as playing one of the supporting characters the rest of the time.

    My advice in the rules was to use a puppet to represent the spotlight character, as I did myself in playtesting the hack, much to the chagrin of some of the volunteers I enlisted! :-D
  • edited March 2018
    Ugh the link in the thread is dead.
  • OK. Thank you.
  • edited March 2018
    thanks, I've updated it
  • edited April 2019
    So after some experimenting, I can't go past a wargame / story divide inherited from tradition, which I can now formulate in terms learnt from 2097.
    1) Little standing plastic figures are good to occupy space in 2D1/2. We care for line of sight, zones, with a bit of verticality. Dialog is static and rational by comparison.

    2) hand held or finger puppets make stories more focused on dialog with predicate (theatrical) space, much like improv. Actions are flashy maneuvers and close combat.

    Maybe we can break the stereotype.
    Or maybe run with it. As Lego games already exist, and there's a millenial culture of puppeteering to draw from, I'm looking for puppet play ideas.
    - We've already got predicate space.
    - Fingers and counting sets (pools and gauges) go together well. And fingers are widely available.

    Any ideas welcome, this is a case of blowing on embers...
  • edited April 2019
    In just the last year or so, @komradebob has been working in this area. His examination has been on many aspects of the doll/mini/pretend play gaming form. He's covered a lot of ground and his thinking-out-loud has been both theoretical and practical. Look for threads with minis+ in the title. There should be about two dozen.
  • edited April 2019
    I went on a rest break as everything had seemingly been hashed out in those discussions already.

    I never really pulled it all together in one spot, so those threads can get a bit hairy and somewhat redundant.

    At this point, costs of gaming minis have just plain shot up past the point where I, with a big ass collection, feel comfortable trying to evangelize the concept anymore.

    I think there's room to explore on that topic, but the prices of goods need to be more accessible on one hand, and on the other, there need to be gamers who have extensive experience playing with dolls as children involved in the design of any such games.

    And specifically dolls, or at least non-soldier people toys. Cottage Critters, dolls, Breyer horses, Smurfs, whatever, just something largely non-military in nature. If they don't have that experience, discussion of toy people in RPGs immediately defaults to wargaming assumptions.every.single.time.

    And very specific wargaming assumptions at that.

    Edited to Add:

    Also, not sure about puppets, but where it comes to toy people or gaming miniatures, in general, the fun is no from 1st Person, in-character play.

    If that is the a player's personal definition of the core fun of RPGs ( 1st person, in-character), the best that came out of those conversations were ways to make miniatures-use *slightly* less grating.

    [This is done by inverting part of the common RPG Order of Create Character Backstory>Create Character Mechanically> Choose Miniature and replacing it with Choose Miniature> Create Backstory> Build Character mechanically.]

    Better fun with miniatures use really does seem to come from less-directly-attached stances.
  • If they don't have that experience, discussion of toy people in RPGs immediately defaults to wargaming assumptions.every.single.time.

    And very specific wargaming assumptions at that.
    Would you please expand on that thought.

  • Sure.

    Just like D&D tends to dominate most conversations about RPG mechanics, whatever the dominant game for minis is at a time, that tends to dominate all thinking about minis at the time. Usually this is some Games Workshop Game ( or a closely related, Reaction-to-GW game).

    Essentially you then run into the same kind of problem that dirty hippie gamers have when they try to talk about something like Fiasco, or Archipelago,or Microscope or whatever. Yeah, the person on the other end of the intertoobs is fairly well informed on RPGs, in the sense that they know 4 other games than D&D, and, by their standards, those games are pretty different from D&D. But the other games are, I dunno, VtM, Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu, and Boot Hill ( yes, I am showing my age!). And they're open-minded and curious, that's how they're in the conversation at all with you.

    But there's inevitably that moment , when the person suddenly falls of the conversational cliff.

    "But wait...How do you level up in Fiasco?"

    "Yeah, but how do you defend yourself from attacks in Archipelago?"

    "Okay, yeah, but how does the GM convey the setting info in Microscope?"

    So similar things will happen with minis convos.

    There is a sort of general lack of knowledge about the broader spread of mechanics outside of a very small selection of related, commercially-oriented minis games. And here, I really mean the difference from the big, glossy boxed stuff you commonly find at the FLGS and the large number of small company or even cottage industry games that are out there. I'm not even talking about the barely commercial stuff or fan/homebrewed convention stuff, which is another tier entirely.

    And that's before even getting into questions of " what does it mean to use minis in an RPG/SG when it isn't a wargame, even if the setting and content is adventurous/violent"?

  • Here, let me throw up a quick link to some free stuff. I'm going to assume that if you follow these links, you probably have some basic background in some popular form of minis wargaming. It doesn't need to be an in depth background.

    What I want you to see is the contrast between mainstream, commercial rules sets and common mechanics, and a couple of freebie sets that are getting away from those common mechanical ( and playstyle) traditions.

    Both are from an Australian company's website, Eureka Miniatures. They're essentially freebie rules sets to encourage to play with and buy more of their products. They are in no other way commercial.

    ...And all for one. A Three Musketeers minis game decidedly different from your usual measured movement by inch or square. All about swashbuckling. Still a wargame, but stylistically and mechanically very different from mainstream commercial games.

    A weird, experimental game about 1930s Hollywood and competing film crews and actors, called A Cast of Thousands. An odd attempt to smash mechanically mainstream-ish wargame rules into something else entirely. It almost makes no sense at all, until you consider the likely unwritten behavior of players, who presumably fill in non-mechanical story background concepts and dialog while playing the game. Mostly an excuse to get out all of your favorite toys and put them out on a table when you've got a tasty big collection.

    Neither of these are terribly close to something like Age of Sigmar, WH40K, or X-Wing even.

  • edited April 2019
    Great synthesis ! And atrocious game. The "stand up and be counted" poster really made me cringe. DIY Sesame street, Winter steele and finger RP can't survive in that ideological environment. The 3 musketeers is a nice game, but "open" in the sense you said : within a combat framework. Also, dice rolls stop the action. I suppose these "open games" represents a hairsplit of the player base.
    Politically, pupeteering appears as the exact opposite.
  • You're losing me.

    Can you expand on what you mean?


    I think the trick is to get away from thinking of anything involving toys as "games"* and start thinking of the toys as tools that the group uses to create an evolving story .

    Mechanics/methods are another set of tools that are used in conjunction with the toys for the same overall purpose.

    *Game here is being used in a very limited sense of the word, and focusing on competition and single player ( or team or faction) victory. In my experience, if you want to have game mean something broader or different, you have to end up explaining that to your audience as well, at length, at least to people that I talk with here in the US. It isn't that a non-competitive game is incomprehensible, it's just that competitive is the default assumption unless otherwise stated. Game isn't as flexible as variants of Jouer or Spielen.
  • edited April 2019
    Rephrasing : Cast of thousands is an atrocious game. Ideologically, it's like the opposite of any pupeteering game. Like war is to theater.
    Musketeers doesn't have this problem. Still, it envisions actions as "anything non-combat", which shows the war-game paradigm is still strong. And dice : they are not compatible with animation.
    I am surprised you didn't understand because I am mostly rephrasing your argument that wargamers are not the player base for a "play pretend" game.
    (For me, a game is a time and rules, and it is for some Wikipedia contributor too. I'll follow your hint and specify "Doll game")

  • Ah, now I understand better.

    One thing I've noticed, over time, is that there are miniatures gamers who do try desperately to make non-wargame miniatures games, but have a limited tool set to work with, so fall back on what they know. A Cast of Thousands is very much the result of that situation.

    Part of it, I suspect, is that there has never been a real discussion community that sucked in miniatures game designers for protracted conversations in the way places like The Forge did for RPGs. For miniatures game designers, it's still 1000 Monkeys on typewriters for a thousand years, everyone trying their own direction with little in the way of communicating ideas to others with similar interests.

    Without that sort of communication, there is little in the way of collective breakthroughs that then get built upon and built upon further.
  • Maybe it will come like for RPGs : older player, less time, lighter mechanics, more story based decisions...

    (Let's not stop at the first bump : what minis mechanics are portable to doll games ?
    Princess playing prominent character of course.
    Terrain zones and buildings preventing sight, giving advantage, etc. I think ?
    Mini game of skill for conflict resolution, as in throwing marbles at legos, Rochambeau, red hands... maybe ?)
  • All of those could be explored. Some of them are explored in two classic HG Wells books about toy play from about 100 years ago.

    One is a very basic toy soldier game, using skills for combat resolution called Little Wars.

    The other is more of a toy people story game with no real mechanics at all (outside of some suggestions for starting play and creating the world setting and early game/campaign solo play prior to group play) called Floor Games.

    In my opinion, to really get the idea off and launched in such a way that it then generates imitators and homebrewers in the same vein, it really needs to be something that is attached to an inexpensive toy line and is largely free.

    It would be like, say, someone who works with a decent toy company ( I always imagine Papo or Schleich) somehow gets introduced to Archipelago and decides to translate it into a form usable with their toy lines. It wouldn't be terribly hard to do at all, not really.

    Then take the thing, pretty it up and just use it as a download or advertising vehicle for your products. Or print it up in an inexpensive format (or heck, even a glossy softcover book at a low price and sell it at shops with your toys. Whatever.

    It's once the public gets access to it that the wheels of evolution begin to turn on their own. It's giving those 1000 Monkeys their typewriters.
  • edited April 2019
    On a related thought, one thing that also might help is for people interested in the possibility to step back and figure out what it is they want out of the whole thing, at the real world, real person, human level.

    ( And in this case, people=me. But maybe you, too)

    By that kind of self examination, then groups of people sharing that self-examination, it may become clear what sets of tools best aid in the broader, real world human-level goals.
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