Tag Archives: Theory

The Big List of GM-less Games – Now as a Table

10 Sep

The Big List of GM-less games has now gone on Google Docs. I am trying an embed here. If it doesn’t visualize and you are reading via a feed reader, then click to the original post.

We have now got an incredible 230 games and I need advice on how to divide them up in taxonomies. The $$ column is ticked when a game has a commercial version.

Rotating GM between different sessions.

How do I define a session? It is a period of game-play that offers closure on a number of events. Therefore the GM has full control on the unfolding of those events and doesn’t have to negotiate them with other players.

  1. In a Wicked Age (GMs rotating between different chapters/story-arcs, commercial)
  2. Beowulf (In a Wicked Age hack, published, commercial)
  3. Labyrinth and Lycanthropes (commercial) [GMs rotating between different dungeon adventures] {Dungeon Crawling, Fantasy}
  4. Bliss Stage (commercial) [The group of player characters forms a resistance cell. The GM plays a central character in the cell: the authority figure, who issues orders and plans missions. If another character takes over that role, in any number of ways, then their player becomes the GM]

Suggested GM-less play

  1. Panty Explosion Perfect (commercial)
Board-Gamish GM-less play
  1. Traveller (commercial, suggested both Solo and GM-less style, but little advice given)
  2. Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition (commercial, See page 195: Playing without a DM —  This might seem to be strange advice for a Dungeon Master’s Guide, but it’s entirely possible to play D&D without a Dungeon Master. If all you’re looking for is fun and exciting combat, with no more than the barest hint of plot or purpose, a random dungeon with a random encounter deck is all you need. Someone needs to prepare the deck, and someone needs to run the monsters during the game. They doesn’t need to be the same person. All the players can decide together what the monsters do, and let the player who’s the target of an attack make that attack roll – or have the person to the left roll for the monsters. A random dungeon with no DM makes for a good way to spend a game session when your regular DM can’t play. It’s also a fun activity over a lunch hour, as long as your school or office is forgiving of a group of people rolling dice and shouting battle cries! — Pages 190-195 detail how to create random Dungeons and Encounters on the fly.)

Surprise by Complexity Principle

2 Apr

How can you surprise yourself in a solitaire story game? After all you are generating the adversity and you are solving it! Can the Czege principle be violated?

The Surprise by Complexity Principle claims that: when you create the adversity, you should not be sure you can solve it.  The act of attempted resolution should be complex enough to leave you with doubt about the outcome.  It should take time, reasoning and fiddling with your various game props and notes to find out how (and if) the adversity can be solved.  The act of finding a way by going through the complex activities, elicits surprise, happiness and fun!

I noticed this for the first time when I created a card-based solitaire story game. Every character and every scene had a number of Locks that could lead to some evolutions.  Every Lock could be triggered only by a specific Key, that could be related to a character, a scene, an item, etc.

The relationship map between Locks and Keys was associated to playing cards, randomly generated and quite complex.  I had to keep track of the meaning of the cards and the web of keys and locks on different pages of a notebook.  Sometimes a Key needed to solve a situation could be acquired only by Unlocking a certain character or situation, bringing to more adversity and negative consequences for some of the characters.

When a scene was generated it could carry some kind of adversity with it and only going through the web of characters, keys and locks could lead to a potential solution and when it did.. it felt like fun 🙂

More Ritual, More Drama Principle

31 Mar

More observations from solo games..

I noticed the Principle of Immersive Actions at work: doing something during the game (writing, rolling, sketching, etc..) anchors moments of fiction in your memory and your emotions.  If you don’t do it the experience feels somehow muddled.  You don’t recall the scene, you don’t care about it, and you feel generally detached from the fiction.

The More Ritual, More Drama Principle states: the more ritual actions and crunch you perform, the more the fiction becomes detailed, with twists and turns, despair, recovery and elation.

I noticed this several time.  If a conflict can be resolved with a single action, it gets done quickly and you associate it only to a short piece of fiction in your mind.  If the conflict is multi-roll and calls for some decision making in the middle (use hero points, change action type, escape, etc) then your mind will automatically start building a narrative around it.  I find this is interesting, as it is somehow counter-intuitive and goes against the trend in minimising the crunch in story-games.

Principle of Immersive Action

31 Mar


courtesy of th5 at deviantart

In the past 6 months I have been experimenting with solo story-game techniques, and I was happy to see the story-games community also moving in that direction with the RPG Solitaire Challenge.

These are some notes on what I saw working for me.  They might apply only to me, but I’ll state them as principles, making it easier to quote them and challenge them.

The Principle of Immersive Action states that: all the normed, explicit actions that you perform within a game, make you feel more immersed in the game and make it more real and emotionally connected to you as a player. Short, easy, obvious actions with a minimal amount of player-generated-content work better than long actions requiring creative engagement.

When playing solo games, you are often asked to imagine a situation or a dialog. Well, it doesn’t work for me.  If I am asked to write it, it works though.  If I am asked to write it in generic terms, either I don’t do it, or it doesn’t work.  If I am asked to do it within a very specific format and I don’t have to put too much imagination into it, then it works.  When I am asked to perform some ‘ritual writing’, even if it is something simple like ‘give a title to the scene’ or ‘give a one-line description of a character’, then my imagination is engaged and it fills the gaps with narrative emotional elements.  If I am asked to directly engage the imagination like in ‘write 200 words describing the character’, then it doesn’t work and it feels heavy and contrived. It feels like I am writing literature and not playing a game.

Have you played solo story games? How does it feel for you?