thread: 2008-02-19 : Willing, provoked, inspired

On 2008-02-19, christopher Kubasik wrote:

I think you're right.

I was just thinking about this very thing during three days of gaming at a Con this weekend.

I'm very aware of when the folks at the table are cutting loose with evocative color, situation, character details, gestures and traits.  Some games seem to encourage it, others don't.

I would say that In a Wicked Age did it better than any game I'd ever seen.  We were all stumbling over the resolution mechanic, but I tell you this: EVERYONE was inspired to great description and detail.  Not gassy descriptions, but real content that capture details and pumped conflicts in strong, visual ways.

I think the way play is structured, so that the group begins with the Oracles—evocative phrases that open out into more evocative details as described by the group—has a lot to do with this.  It starts everyone down the habit of saying, "This game is about this—growing more color from simple seeds."  It encourages, gives permission and empowers people to do this.  (Not everyone needs that permission or empowerment—but it's there for those who do.  And those who don't need it just get to go to town.)

I think HeroQuests's rules definitely touch on this matter of Willing, Provoked, Inspired.

I ran a game for three players this past Sunday morning.  One had played HeroQuest and knew Glorantha. The other two had not played HeroQuests and knew nothing about Glorantha.

So, I start laying out the world details, hammering down the situation between the Heortlings and the Lunar Empire.... And they're looking down at their blank character sheets, and I'm like, "And personalities can be a trait, and relationships can be a trait.... And it's all about family and connections and your tribe, blah, blah, blah, Glorantha."

And one player who had never played before said, "Okay.  How about if we're all family.  Like I"m the father and you two are sons."  I jump in really fast, like, "Guys if you like that idea, cool.  But right now we're just bouncing ideas, so know we're going to keep coming up with stuff and by the time we're done, it's going to be great.  Just keep tossing ideas.

But the guys like the ideas of being sons, so we go with that.  Then the first guy says, "Okay. My wife died a few months ago. And I'm already courting another woman."  The second guy jumps in with, "And I'm really upset about that." And the third guy goes, "What if she's secretly worshipping the goddess of the Scarlet Empire."  And the second guy goes, "And I'm in the secret organization getting ready for the revolt against the Empire and dad and my brother don't know."  And the first guy goes, "And the new girlfriend I'm involved with—she's already pregnant."

Okay. That rocked.  I was the happiest GM at a convention you could imagine cause I knew these Players were going to carry a lot of water.  But I also knew the game system was helping a LOT.  Because we had things like, "Ashamed of Son 13," and "Angry at Father 13" and all this stuff that HeroQuests system can handle and encourages—because look at those blank lines on that character sheet waiting to be filled in with stuff just like that!

Now, compare this to, say FASA's Shadowrun line.  Shadowrun might not have as much inked spilled describing the setting as Glorantha, but it has a lot.  A lot and a lot and a lot.  The setting stuff is good.  Jordan Weisman and his elves at FASA did a really great job of creating different groups in conflict with other groups, tons of societal detail, and all the stuff, frankly —of a kind—that you find in Stafford's work on Glorantha.  (The four pages history of the Awakening in the core book still strikes me as incredibly evocative and cool.

But—here's the thing.  When you've finished making your character sheet, and you look at your sheet, nothing you've filled in is tied to that setting!  You are adrift from all the color.

This struck me fiercely in contrast to HeroQuest on Sunday because I had never played it before, two of my players had never played it before—but they were grabbing setting details and situation details left and right and slapping them down onto their character sheets.  I encouraged it as best I could—but since I was new to the game I'm assuming a lot of their response to the setting and how they created their characters had a lot to do with the mechanics itself.

And then, of course, already encouraged by the game to write down situation/conflict/relationship details as functioning traits in the game, they only went further and started using them, driving terrific narrative content and conflict all on their own.

I'm assuming this is the sort of stuff you're talking about, and so when you ask, "What do you think?"  I think, "Yes."  This is the stuff I left the con thinking about—thinking about how to encourage it socially independent of the game mechanics, and how to have mechanics that encourage it in and of themselves.



This makes...
short response
optional explanation (be brief!):

if you're human, not a spambot, type "human":