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

On 2008-02-19, Ben Lehman wrote:


I dunno. I can't totally help you with that. Most of the problems of expectations I come across in my own play are good old-fashioned GNS problems.

Ultimately, I know in a very personal way that as a designer I am powerless to overcome the expectation dynamics in your group without me sitting at the table and going "hey, guys, you need to play by the rules that I wrote in the book, rather than your own previously established rules."

That said, let me look at how I generally set that up in play. What do these things mean?

Okay, so in Polaris there's this thing where everything your character loves is destroyed and she ultimately dies or betrays her oaths. So that's just in the mechanics of the game.

I also made the decision to have the game text constantly reinforce that this was going to happen. It didn't necessarily have to be that way. I could have left the mechanics sitting there and had the decline and failure happen as a surprise, which for a different game may well have been the right choice. Why I made that choice was the build a particular expectation, because I think from previous games we have the general expectation that we are heroes, and thus we succeed, flat out, period no questions asked.

So basically I'm building into the social contract the idea that breaking the protagonist down into pieces is good, a fulfillment of the game. Why did I need to do this? It's because of the rotating GM system. A singular GM can carry the expectation of "being rough" to the players. But a collective contract draws on the party "we're all in this together" thing, where if someone makes your life hard it's a "screw." I needed to break that down in order to get the game to actually fire, otherwise it's just a love-fest, and the ending will splat suddenly and for no reason, so I included all the text about eventual failure.

Right now in Thousand Kings I'm struggling with creating the expectation that we're here for an experience, rather than for a story. Similarly, I'm trying to get people to interact with the world as a world, rather than a setting, and interact with the people in that world as themselves, rather than a pre-defined character role. Not sure how I'm going to do that yet.



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