Getting the unexpected to happen [question]

What are some tools that a designer can use to get the unexpected to happen in a game? What I mean is, what are some things that can be added to the design that are baked in to the system that will cause the unexpected to happen?
Thank in advance for your help.

Comments

  • edited March 18
    Assign goals to players or teams. The goals link them but also push them in different directions.
  • Rolling a die, is the most used one, and also social contingency.

    List of Contingencies
  • Ask a player to have their character do what their character would obviously do, without getting input from other players. Repeat many times with a different player each time.
  • Let me throw a question back at you (which will hopefully lead to some further answers) – unexpected for whom? The players? The GM? Everyone at the table?
  • edited March 19
    Everyone at the table. This for an oracle-style, play-to-find-out, fortune-in-the-middle, narrative story-game, along the lines of Ghost/Echo. In the end it might also be GM-less. The genre is fairytale fantasy, heavily influenced by Lord Dunsany (if that makes any difference I think that makes a difference).
  • Background reading: Vincent Baker's stance that rules should create the unwanted and the unwelcome http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/360
  • The unwanted and the unwelcome is quite distinct from the unexpected... (for example, Mad Libs produce the unexpected but not the unwelcome). However, I was also curious how the two might relate in this case.
  • DBBDBB
    edited March 20

    Everyone at the table. This for an oracle-style, play-to-find-out, fortune-in-the-middle, narrative story-game, along the lines of Ghost/Echo. In the end it might also be GM-less. The genre is fairytale fantasy, heavily influenced by Lord Dunsany (if that makes any difference I think that makes a difference).

    Cool! So why not lean into that oracular/magical aspect and adapt some divination tools to generate unexpected outcomes? Ouija boards, reading tea leaves, tarot cards, astrological signs, etc. These could be customized with interpretive tables or lists to fit the game.

    I also like the Ghost/Echo question lists – what if you build lists of questions for the group to answer based on the situation at hand?

    OR, what if you roll dice not to *resolve* actions, but to determine how characters approach a problem/situation? Randomize what people in the game do, rather than the outcome?
  • Always do the obvious next thing. That will be unexpected by most others. Also it will make your game flow better because people will not be busy trying to be clever.
  • Agree that "do the obvious next thing" is great. But... it doesn't satisfy the "Everyone at the table" request, just "Most people at the table, and explicitly never everyone".
  • When an uncertainty is resolved by chance, have it create specific outcomes. I'm thinking of PbtA moves that force you to choose from a limited list, or the cards in the Quiet Year, or the oracle for drawing stones in Follow.

    The creative work of making a specific outcome align to the fiction so far often produces unexpected results.
  • edited March 21
    I call these interpretation-heavy procedures "Tarot". The quiet year and Archipelago have them as core.
    Basically, any success test is that : what does it mean - in this instance - to succeed or to fail.
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