Half of a Game.

edited December 2007 in Story Games
I don't know what (if anything) I want to do with this; it just keeps sitting there in my head, pestering me. Has been for weeks.

A game for up to six players. Each player chooses one chess piece - King, Queen, Knight, Rook, Bishop, Pawn. This is their character; all characters are members of a medieval fantasy court.

On the table is a page with seven circles on it. Each circle is "a stage", except one, which is labelled "offstage". Each piece goes on one circle.

The king's stage is labelled "the throne room".
The queen gets "the gardens",
the knight (captain of the guard) gets "the castle wall",
the rook (the castle seneschal) gets "below stairs",
the bishop (local abbot or abbess) gets "the chapel",
and the pawn (the hapless squire) gets "the stables".

Rules:

1. Take turns moving around, most of the time. I think.

2. If you are on your own stage? You get no scene. You're too busy, holding court, dealing with the ladies-in-waiting, organising guards, whatever it is that you *do*. By entering your own stage, you automatically call an end to whatever scene is occurring there.

3. If you are on someone else's stage, you're in a scene. The person whose character 'owns' that stage? They're the GM, there.

.........

This needs a conflict (or group of them). And a resolution system. And maybe some other stuff. Hell, I dunno.

Comments

  • This needs a conflict (or group of them). And a resolution system.

    I smell some cows, let's have a barbecue.

  • edited December 2007
    Posted By: shreyasI smell some cows, let's have a barbecue.
    It needs some kind of action, then. Right now, it's a sort-of How. It's not a What or a Why.
  • eyebrow raise

    I think you mean, "I want this to have some kind of action."

  • I keel you with my brain.

    Okay, fine. Yes. Got any?
  • I think the setting constrictions are interesting. Intrigue and relationships seem like the most obvious types of conflicts, but you could have sieges, etc.

    As for resolution, I think it'd be cool if each piece (character) had different types of effectiveness in conflicts, much like how chess pieces move in different ways. Also, the status of the different pieces (king vs. pawn) would be an interesting thing to include in resolution. Perhaps the King can't lose certain kinds of conflicts, but can't even participate in others.

    I like this.

    Chris
  • Connect the circles in a line in order of rank, from King's court to pawn's stables. The further you are from your space affects your control over the scene/character competence/etc. Because the king is still relatively comfortable in the queen's garden, but woefully out of place in the stables. Mid level character like the rook and knight can go all over the castle with relative ease.


    If I were making this game, then everyone's effect on a scene would be measured in die sizes, because having the stables grant a king a d4, the queen a d6, knight a d8, rook a d10, bishop a d12 and pawn GM-ship has a bit of elegance. Just enough die sizes to fit the number of roles, if the GM never rolls anything.
  • edited December 2007
    Sounds like the boardgame-style scene framing stuff that I've been doing with The Good Ship Revenge, the Avatar game, Geiger Counter (warning, earlier draft), the thing we invented at GenCon, Mwaantaangaand, and Transantiago. So, yeah, this kind of thing totally works. I've been messing with it for the past 2 years, in a wide variety of contexts, and have had great results. Honestly, I suspect that Shreyas' familiarity with these games, most of which lack a conflict resolution system in a traditional sense, is what is leading to his being a smartass in this thread.

    One suggestion. I've found that it's more interesting if every piece can't move to every room whenever it wants. So I've been coming up with more complex maps so there's a tiny bit of maneuvering that goes on, pushing people towards more interesting choices that they wouldn't normally consider. For example, Transantiago uses maps that are generated during play, ending up with something like this:
    image
    So think about how cool it would be if there was actually a map of the castle, maybe even with different floors and stuff, like in Kill Doctor Lucky or House on the Hill. It wouldn't have to be complex (I mean, you're just talking about 6-8 rooms or something), but I think that might make for more evocative and interesting play. Then again, that may not fit your design specifications, but it's not clear what those are yet, yeah?

    So, yeah, you need something for the story to be about, otherwise you just have people wandering through the castle. What if it's like, Hamlet, or something? The old king is dead, his ghost (a white king, perhaps) is wandering the castle. In fact, maybe the previous royal family is all dead, so you have white ghost pawns and rooks and whatever wandering the castle. And perhaps the players playing the black pieces are trying to exorcise the spirits (with the help of bishops) or appease them by fulfilling their dying wishes or just plain old getting killed by them. And, when you did, maybe you play the ghosts or play your own character as a ghost or something.

    In any case, that's just one game idea. Seems like there's a ton of things you could potentially do with this.
  • Actually, Jon, I'm trying to encourage the precise and attentive use of language. If you want to pick a fight with me, please don't do it in the third person, kay?

  • edited December 2007
    Posted By: shreyasActually, Jon, I'm trying to encourage the precise and attentive use of language.
    So, are you in this thread to help or give real feedback to Levi, or are you in this thread to be smug and poison his effort?

    Because, honestly, we can't tell from the peanut gallery.

    -Andy
  • Posted By: Levi KornelsenThis needs a conflict (or group of them). And a resolution system. And maybe some other stuff. Hell, I dunno.
    This sounds really cool overall, but I'm not sure that it really needs to be its own game? I mean, it seems like a really tactile scene-framing hack that can be applied to everything from Savage Worlds to possibly Polaris. I love the concept behind it, but it doesn't seem enough to split into its own thing.

    Or, alternately, it could be used as a very very rules-light RPG: Can be played anywhere on the fly if there's a chessboard. If so, I'd love to see the final rules be able to be folded up into like a business card-sized pamplet and tucked in a wallet.

    Also: Jonathan's ideas on board gamey RPGs is awesome too, with limitations on movement and the like. The only thing is that a lot of playtesting is gonna be needed to make sure the emergent behaviors are what you're looking to get.
  • You've already got 8 rows on a chess board. That's more than enough space for six stages and an "off-stage"...
  • Is anyone else thinking of Long Live The King? ;)

    Zoatebix makes an interesting point: you have eight files and eight ranks; you got six roles; you want an RPG, not some weird chess variant.

    OK, how about this ultra-light system:
    * Expend a Resource (TBD) to advance (or retreat) a piece in rank by one square; spend A Bit More (TBD) to shift left or right in file. Narrate the event: What did the Knight do to advance his aims/agenda? Why has the Bishop left the Abbey to go to the gardens?

    * You can move any piece, but you are "attached" to that piece until your next move (relates to next point).

    * If a piece occupies the same square as another piece, each player--the currently moving player and the one who is attached to the attacked piece--expends Resources to frame facts about the encounter; use the file to determine the Stage, which provides a mechanical benefit (TBD; resource savings?) to the piece for whom it's the home rank (if any).

    * The victor in the conflict is the one who can best "ping" the facts of the scene: just tally up who pings more facts. Player not in the scene can reject a ping attempt by consensus, if they deem it Uncool. The loser must go down in rank OR go back to its file; but her or she receives Resources equal to the differential between pinged facts tallies.

    * The game ends when any piece is moved to the highest rank, with appropriate narration of the outcome to suit (a) the presumed setting--needn't be a court, now, eh?-- and (b) the piece which attains the highest rank:
    -- The King asserts his authority, crushing all opposition.
    -- The Queen becomes regent over her infant son, the successor to the crown.
    -- The Bishop stages a theocratic coup.
    -- The Knight stages a military coup and establishes a dictatorship.
    -- The Rook makes off with the kingdom's treasury.
    -- The Pawn... uh, I dunno... causes a democratic rebellion? :}

    And then it could work with gangsters, a corporate organization, whatever.

    Hope this helps to at least spur your thinking (as if you need it from me, but still);
    David
  • edited December 2007
    Your setup reminds me a bit of 1001 Nights.
    Posted By: Levi KornelsenThis needs a conflict (or group of them). And a resolution system. And maybe some other stuff. Hell, I dunno.
    You could be fine with just some sort of situation or an initial motive force. I can think of a few:

    * The outer walls have fallen to the enemy, and it's only a matter of hours before they capture the castle.
    * It is the day of/before the prince's/princess's wedding (though, each would have their own tones).
    * An outbreak of plague has just happened (either normal plague or, hey, zombies)
    * Assassination (or failed assassination, though if you treat the King as the Crown Prince, there could be something neat there).
    * Today is an uneventful day in the kingdom, so let us entertain ourselves.
    * Are these people who, perhaps, have no memory and woke up in this castle and in these clothes, with people treating them as though they are the person they're portraying?
    * Jonathan's Hamlet-inspired idea is tasty.

    One thing I'll say about map-based boardgame RPGs is that people had problems with why they couldn't leave the map when it would be otherwise well in character to do so. When it comes to RPGs, people like to challenge the game, so consider what it means to leave the castle (or wherever your game will end up taking place).

    The other thing to consider is *who* these characters are beyond their rank. Is the Knight in love with the Queen, and his deepest desire is to sweep her away? Does the Rook seek salvation from a crime he has committed, and the Bishop is exploiting this fact in order to have the Stable Boy silenced for what he has seen while keeping his own soul clean with God? Is the King a fool or a sharp man, or perhaps a sharp man playing a fool?
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinOne thing I'll say about map-based boardgame RPGs is that people had problems with why they couldn't leave the map when it would be otherwise well in character to do so.
    Really? I haven't had this problem at all. Huh. I just say, "This is a game that takes place in the subway."
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonReally? I haven't had this problem at all. Huh. I just say, "This is a game that takes place in the subway."
    I suspect mine has partly to do with the identity issues the game puts forth and the requirement of conflicts to progress. Some people wanted out, the artist drew what could potentially be an out (that I colored in to suggest isn't not an actual exit, but the suggestion was still in the minds of players), so people felt cheated when they couldn't leave. I'm not saying don't have it, but that if ones game is in a purely fixed location and you're playing with people who have come to understand RPGs as being a playground with freedom of movement (as I think is the baseline case, given the majority of gamers have play games like D&D), you need to make that crystal clear and not introduce elements that may feel like an out.

    Granted, when you play with people who accept this, you don't need to do as much -- but that's the case with any element of a game. What happens in your game, Jonathan, if, say, my character has a flashback due to some action in the game that causes me to feel panic at being underground, so I run out of it. Is the exit blocked off? Am I out of the game? Does this situation just not happen? Is there something that keeps the character in the subway when the player feels it's out of character to do so, beyond an unspoken social contract to not fuck everyone's fun up by breaking the game?
  • I get the feeling it's a spoken contract in this case which keeps the game going. It's a part of the rules, the same way that chess pieces can't leave the board if their feelings get hurt. You sacrifice RPG conventions for board-game consistency.
  • I think "Roleplaying means your character should be allowed to attempt any action you can conceive of," is yet another sacred cow.
  • In this particular case... it's because the characters are bodhisattvas sent into the subway to resolve the fetters that are binding it to this world :) More helpfully, yeah, based on what the game is about, that situation just doesn't happen. It'd be like playing a game of Dogs in which you journeyed to New York City to check on your cousin. The game just isn't about that. It's not that the players CAN'T do it, so much... it's that they DON'T.
  • Posted By: John HarperI think "Roleplaying means your character should be allowed to attempt any action you can conceive of," is yet another sacred cow.
    I agree. However, it's a cow that a lot of people would fight tooth and nail to keep alive.
    Posted By: Jonathan WaltonThe game just isn't about that. It's not that the players CAN'T do it, so much... it's that they DON'T.
    Ah, I got it. In mine, there was absolutely no "this is who you are" element, aside from "you have no memories." Thus, there was a lot less of "they they don't" element because they were defining themselves by their actions. So, I guess when the premise is open-ended, the character actions are likely to be more open-ended too. Maybe. Or maybe not.

    (Also, that game sounds interesting, Jonathan. I really should look take the time to check out your games. Which game is that one?)
  • I agree. However, it's a cow that a lot of people would fight tooth and nail to keep alive.

    You, or some hypothetical people that don't matter?

  • Posted By: shreyasYou, or some hypothetical people that don't matter?
    Neither. When I say this, I have in mind actual examples of situations where players in games where I have attempted to introduce such limitations have rebelled against them. When I try these ideas, Shreyas, I do actually try to playtest them. To say they don't matter is to devalue the experiences I have learned from games with them.
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinI agree. However, it's a cow that a lot of people would fight tooth and nail to keep alive.
    I agree, but isn't this true of absolutely everything? I mean, seriously. Some people won't be happy unless they're playing Red Box D&D, but it's still worth making games that are unapologetically not Red Box D&D. You can't MAKE people buy in -- they either will, or they won't. If they do, the game will work, and if they don't, the game won't, and all the handwaving in the world isn't going to change that.

    I say let's be as honest as we can without delving into Italian futurism. It's time to make games where you can't leave the goddamn subway, so don't even try. (I say it's time, even though this is actually a basic principle that you see in a lot of already published indie games, from Dogs to Polaris to Agon.)
  • I'm not saying make games that always fit this idea, guys. There is no implicit "Hey, so, like, let's not even try" there. I'm just agreeing with John's comment and adding that it's something I need to consider in any game I make (even if that consideration is "take that to some other game").
    Posted By: pigeonIt's time to make games where you can't leave the goddamn subway, so don't even try.
    It's time to make the game you want to make or you want to play with your friends. Anything beyond that gets into politicizing gaming, and that's a conversation for other people.
  • Posted By: Ryan Macklin
    It's time to make the game you want to make or you want to play with your friends.
    We are not disagreeing. My statement is a declaration of freedom, not restraint.
  • Posted By: Ryan Macklin(Also, that game sounds interesting, Jonathan. I really should look take the time to check out your games. Which game is that one?)
    (That's Transantiago. The linked draft is playable, but not quite up to date.)

    Now... back to helping Levi with his game?
  • edited December 2007
    Definitely, Jonathan. I know that from my end, I don't think I have much more to say without Levi unpacking what he wants out of his game, some. Though, I could ask a couple questions.
    Posted By: Levi KornelsenIf you are on your own stage? You get no scene. You're too busy, holding court, dealing with the ladies-in-waiting, organising guards, whatever it is that you *do*. By entering your own stage, you automatically call an end to whatever scene is occurring there.
    Why the latter part of that? If the king and queen are in the chapel, and the bishop enters, why does that scene stop? I ask this especially because of the rationale of being too busy. Also, what happens if you're already on your stage when others enter -- can no scene take place there?
  • Levi, this is a really cool idea.

    I also like the suggestion that they should all be lined up and the farther from 'home' you are, the less effective you are. (What if we reversed it, to encourage exploration?)

    It looks to me like what you've got is (the parts for) an engine for systematizing troupe play. I can always remember being fascinated by the idea all the way back to Vampire 1ed. This is an unusual method of dividing GM responsibilities. What if something happens that affects two stages? ("The catapult in the gardens fires accidentally, striking the tower!" says the gardens-player.)

    I actually see this as potentially being useful for a politics game. Say if instead of circles, you had a map of Washington DC listing different agencies' addresses?

    What if you had more circles than pieces?

    Good brainstorming material, I can easily imagine it.
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinWhy the latter part of that? If the king and queen are in the chapel, and the bishop enters, why does that scene stop?
    So that...

    ....Huh. Intuitively, I put that there as a way to hook up "you can't author and resolve your own stuff" bits to it.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyWhat if something happens that affects two stages? ("The catapult in the gardens fires accidentally, striking the tower!" says the gardens-player.)
    Your guess is as good as mine. The bits I have here, and the stuff people have been tossing around? That's everything I've got, and it strikes me as a really cool not-quite-a-thing.

    I'm shuffling around the ideas thrown out - the map deal is cool. David's "each character wants a different win", if taken in lots of different directions, is cool in all of them.

    I dunno. When I said I had this thing in my head, and no follow-up to it? Totally serious. So, people throwing weird crap in the air? Awesome. People making off with this idea like bandits to do their own thing? Awesome. Using it as a springboard for brainstorming? Awesome.
  • Oh, and something bizzare I'm toying with...

    What if all the characters are already dead, already ghosts, dead tragically and by one another's actions....

    And the point of the game is to find out How and Why?
  • WARNING! DRUNK POSTING AHEAD!
    Posted By: Ryan MacklinWhy the latter part of that? If the king and queen are in the chapel, and the bishop enters, why does that scene stop?
    Because now the bishop has arrived. He's just stepped onto his stage so now it's his scene. The king and queen are still there, but their scene is disrupted, broken, by the arrival of the bishop. Your stage is also your prison, your prison is also your stage.
  • Posted By: Ron HammackBecause now the bishop has arrived. He's just stepped ontohisstage so now it'shisscene. The king and queen are still there, but their scene is disrupted, broken, by the arrival of the bishop. Your stage is also your prison, your prison is also your stage.
    I'm not quite parsing that. Could you (drunk or sober) unpack that a bit with a little example?

    I think this also provokes the question of how mid-scene movement is achieves, since that suggests that movement actions will often interrupt scenes (at least enough to show movement, if not actually causing a scene to end).
  • I <3 bidding mechanics and physical objects in play!

    Okay - six files are the various character's home stages, the seventh is "off stage," and the 8th is where the resolution mechanic happens.

    For instance: When players/characters/whatever can't agree about what goes into a scene, they ante a number of tokens equal to or greater than the number of ranks each is away from her home stage. Each secretly chooses a number of tokens (between one and seven) to bid and when both are ready they place one token in each rank of the 8th file starting at "their" edge of the board. Squares with only one token have their tokens removed from play (i.e. unless one player bids enough tokens to reach the other player's across the board, they're all gone!). Tokens that remain on the board are returned to whoever bid them. The player who bid more tokens gets whatever stake she set, and the player who bid the less gets the other player's ante.

    The problem with this scheme is that each player needs to start with a lot of tokens to keep the game going for any amount of time. The non-zero-sum nature gives you a pacing mechanic you can play with, though.

    I though of other meanings for eight files - six are the player's "home stages", the seventh is "the countryside" and the eighth is "a foreign land". Bidding (if that's what ya go with) occurs in the file representing the stage in which the action is occurring, maybe?

    Now I really want to come up with a story game that use a checkered board but not necessarily chess pieces...
  • Posted By: Levi KornelsenWhat if all the characters are already dead, already ghosts, dead tragically and by one another's actions.... And the point of the game is to find out How and Why?
    Hmmm... so we use white pieces for the ghosts and black pieces for the "why" and the Resource-expenditure movement and fact framing mechanics (above). Start them at opposite ends of the board (1st and 8th rank) and then once a Ghost piece is on the same square as a Why piece, we have the opportunity to bid and then frame the resolution (the How), using the Resource mechanic. The Ghost and Why piece needn't even match (in fact, might be hard to do in most games)--if they do, it's a suicide, I suppose; if they don't, murder or disease or some other A v B interaction that leads to death (Amidala's "heartbreak," even... as cheesy as it was).

    Interesting. It's only one potential "story" (how did we all die?), which is somewhat off-putting (to me) as compares to being able to use a variety of settings and situations; but it might be fun for a few games.
    Posted By: zoatebixI though of other meanings for eight files - six are the player's "home stages", the seventh is "the countryside" and the eighth is "a foreign land".
    I like that... and those are one of (several) means to refresh one's pool of Resource.

    Hmmm... but suppose its 1st and 8th rank instead of 7th and 8th; the countryside is next to the Pawn's rank (he's "closer to the people") and the foreign land(s) is, say, next to the Knight's file (he's "got contacts from the wars"). Yeah.... Then you got two of the "weaker" pieces (if courtly status is to have any mechanical impact) who are closest to the Good Way to Refresh Resources®.

    ----------
    Anyhow... I'm just brainshowering here, now.

    Let us know if you bang together some amalgam of these ideas, Levi (or if you like some in particular but want to watch us pursue them). At this point, I'm spitballing into a vacuum, without some sort of "latching" process that works to incorporate and "finalize" elements of the system or setting to work towards a complete thing. While that's fun for a while, I've seen many, many instances where nothing results from such activity, as the wealth of options and tastes never reaches any consensus. (Not bitching or whining, just recognizing an "infinite thread" in progress--rife with temptations to tangency--unless there's some direction.)
    David
  • edited December 2007
    Posted By: David ArtmanLet us know if you bang together some amalgam of these ideas, Levi (or if you like some in particular but want to watch us pursue them). At this point, I'm spitballing into a vacuum, without some sort of "latching" process that works to incorporate and "finalize" elements of the system or setting to work towards a complete thing. While that's fun for a while, I've seen many, many instances where nothing results from such activity, as the wealth of options and tastes never reaches any consensus. (Not bitching or whining, just recognizing an "infinite thread" in progress--rife with temptations to tangency--unless there's some direction.)
    David
    Right now, I'm just mashing them together mentally, and letting them stew. I'm not at all in a hurry to produce something concrete - and if anyone wants to grab from the pile and make off with it to write something, I'm not going to feel "stolen from".

    If that strikes you as leading towards "no longer fun", don't worry. There's enough stuff as it is here to keep me mulling on it for weeks.
  • Cool, man... mull like the wind! I, for one, will be happy to help out whomever wants to push ahead with (most of) these ideas (a few are out of my "sweet spot" as a designer).
  • edited December 2007
    I love the putting "the countryside" next to the pawn and "foreign lands" next to the knight on the edges of the board! Thank you, David!
    -George

    PS - I don't think I specified what happens on a tie...
Sign In or Register to comment.