thread: 2011-06-27 : The Dice & Clouds series from 2009

On 2011-06-28, Tyler Tinsley wrote:

So as I read these I realized pretty quickly what you were talking about, having not been exposed to this before I earlier termed these ideas as "flows".

The flow of play through rules and story, I call rules like "high ground" an uphill flow and rules like "roll 10+, you hit me" a downhill flow.


<--Box = Downhill


Box = Uphill

I like games that are almost entirely downhill flow, with just enough uphill to provide friction for the fiction (teeth). But more importantly I think each flow should only be used for certain play tasks.

When flowing uphill your asking players to make game design choices, this is ok if the choices have no wrong answer (apples to apples) or really easy answers like fan mail. But if the choices are high level game design then it's really hard, does the game master understand how that +2 high ground bonus is going to effect the tension of the die roll and the color of the resulting story? Unlikely, he deploys a fictional ruler and judges based on fiction not on game design. Is deciding if that bonus applies potentially an uncomfortable moment where players could argue? Certainly.

When flowing downhill your asking players to interpret game results as a story, given there is a natural source of inspiration for the narration (game results) telling the story is not terribly difficult, there are still pitfalls but in general people can tell the story they want to. When this is out of balance the story can indeed become toothless, there is a need for a little uphill flow. When it's done too simply the story can become like Frank's quote "like reading a good book way too fast." there is a need for granularity to make the story resemble something other then cliff notes.

I think striking this balance is good. I would say the vast majority of games and structured play flows downhill, narrative is a runoff or waste product. If you look at sports or abstract games these forms of play build abstract narratives but ESPN and the sports page are huge! In Korea there are two TV stations that cover GO! These are powerful narratives and yet the narrative it's self is never allowed to touch the rules.

There is just something about our expectations of a game that dictate stuff should be procedural and solid. The most hated person in sports is the referee for a reason. Centering a game around the referee is a way to drive off what I'm guessing is the majority of players.

I feel it's necessary to share this point. There is a way to structure the narrative concept of "highground" as a downhill flow and that's largely regarding when you introduce the rule. For My project almost everything mechanical is resolved before the narrative is allowed to exist, "high ground" is picked from a list and then worked into the narrative. almost any rule that flows uphill can be reversed to flow down hill if the game provides the proper context.


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