Darla & David's Game Thread

Started by Darla Shockley, September 11, 2010, 05:02:56 PM

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Darla Shockley

AKA D&D's Game Thread.


My partner and I are working on a distributed game, where each session is played by two players.  Every player has a Traveller character, and a City.  In each session, one player uses his City, and the other plays a Traveller visiting that City.  Each player has sessions with various other players at different times (so a single Traveller will visit many Cities, but there is no need to organize a large group at once).  It will be no problem to add new players at any time, or to intermix with other "groups". We want to design a game that is friendly to online play.

One of the main issues with this approach, is that it will be difficult to tell coherent stories when play is so fragmented.  We envision that each Traveller, and each City, will have its own coherent story, and of course these stories will be intertwined.  Towards this goal, we are giving each Traveller several motifs related to cities (such as "Old Buildings" or "Prostitutes").  Then the City player can get some sort of bonus for incorporating those motifs.  That adds some coherent themes or touchpoints to the Traveller's story, and has the added advantage of helping the City player flesh out his City in an interesting and unexpected way.  The City will also have similar motifs (but related to Travellers, like "Childhood Trauma").

We are obviously using the City ingredient.  We've considered these cities being desert cities, but we're not really sure how much that actually adds, and haven't really worked in any of the other ingredients yet. 

David Shockley

Recently I moved to Germany, where I don't speak the local language at all. My only play of rpg's has been online, with a friend from back in the US, and with Darla. I've wanted a game I could play online, with my friend, and separately (We only have one computer) with Darla. But have it all be part of the same game. I had no idea how to make that sensible, until Game Chef posted its theme of Journey.

Ben Lehman

Hey! This is really need. I like the idea of widely distributed games, where not every player must show up at every time. I'm really interested in how you handle that social aspect.

Jason Pitre

Very neat.  One idea that might work out is if each character gathered important locations and cities gathered important people just to further the interaction of city and traveller.

What would the participants generally be doing during the course of a session?  Exploring?
Genesis of Legend Publishing
Telling New Stories around the Digital Fire


Neat. Really like the asynchronous thing you've got going on. Have you thought about each player being responsible for both a City and a Character? I'm thinking that maybe that each player's wanderer is from that player's city. This way you have each character coming along and adding to the story of the city while simultaneously writing their own story. The game finally ends when each of the wanderers return home, only because of all the things that have changed while they were gone it isn't the home they left behind (the whole you can't go back trope).

I think that this way you create kind of a chain story for each city and a more personal story for the wanderer. If you make the wanderers very powerful, or otherwise influential, their visits in each city could have huge influence.

Darla Shockley

Jason:  honestly, we don't know exactly how play will go yet... we've been hashing that out today.  We do know that Traveller characters will have a goal they are working towards (which is the reason they left home to begin with), and this will partly drive play in some way (we have some ideas how, but it's not solid yet).  Also, the Traveller player will create ahead of time an idea for adversity for the City from outside the town (originally we conceived of this as something he sees on his way in, but now we're disagreeing on whether this is best--we will see where it ends up).  We also want some adversity for the City from inside the City (for example, faction conflicts, etc.), and of course the Traveller player will play some GM roles here, but we're really not sure at all how that will work yet.  As we work through this, we will post more specific stuff here and ask/hope for specific feedback. 

dmckenna: yeah, we did plan for each player to have both a City and a Traveller (though not play them at the same time).  We did not consider, though, that the player's character would be from his own City, and that's an awesome idea.  I think this gives the player a lot more to draw on when he is playing his Traveller (without requiring some elaborate backstory or whatever), which is cool.  We are definitely using it.  I don't think a possible outcome will be for the character to go back home though--but I think we kind of do have the possibility for the "can't go home" trope in a way.  One of the things we've added to our setting is this idea that the cities are in this terrible, terrible desert where time works kind of differently, and people pretty much never come back (and, for color, we may say that there are stories of people sticking their arms over the edge into the desert and bringing back nothing but bone, for example).  So the Travellers need to have a really compelling reason that they went out there... one of our examples is a Traveller whose wife went out into the desert many years ago, and he decides to go after her.  One possible outcome for this guy would be that he actually finds her, but she's really old and has settled down in another city with someone else (because time is slower in the desert, and she's been here for a long time).  So, he gets his goal (which is kind of "home"), but it turns out to be something terrible, and he's left having gone through this horrible ordeal for nothing.

We do expect that the travellers will have huge influence on the cities... this is where the time moving slower idea came from.  It makes more sense if huge events only happen every once in awhile in a city, so it might be 50 years between travellers arriving.  We plan on the traveller being able to make permanent changes to the city, probably during an epilogue, based on the events from the session.

Darla Shockley

One thing we've been thinking about which we could use feedback on is this: one way of sharing content across sessions is for characters to literally tell stories--stories from their past, or stories they've heard (characters being both Travellers and characters in Cities).  Another way of incorporating this without literally having story-telling is flashbacks (though obviously then it's only your own stories, not stories you've heard).  A cool thing about stories, to me, is that they evolve and change over time, so conceivably you will end up hearing different versions of the same fantastical story (probably more fantastical than how it actually went down in play).

However, we're both really worried about how this will break up the flow of play.  Is there some way of making this interactive?  Is it ok to break play up, like that, into a huge chunk where only one guy is talking, because the stories will be interesting (...we hope)?  Is it a terrible idea and we should just stop thinking about it?


Have you ever looked at De Profundis?

Essentially, it's a play-by-mail (or I guess you could do it by snail mail) game where players recount their experiences with Lovecraftian horrors via penpal-type correspondence (like Lovecraft's characters often did).  It's been years since I've looked at it, but it's the sort of thing where players created information whole-cloth, and then other players drew upon that to fashion their stories.  I could see doing something like that here; Travelers would write about (perhaps keep a public blog of?) their stories, and so that stuff could all be shared outside of the game proper, but perhaps drawn upon as a resource during gameplay itself? 

How do people in the real world share their stories of travels these days?  Via blogs, text, Facebook, etc.  Maybe there's something to be culled from that.


I think you're going to want to do a kind of journal type thing to keep track of the stories. Shotgun Diaries has players write a few sentences at the end of each day and one thing which they write is true. Maybe you can play with something like that, only the next visitor to the city decides which things are true and which things aren't. The Aspects in Fate games are also created from stories. You could do something like that too, maybe each visitor's story has a specific thing associated with it that becomes a permanent part of the city.


Darla Shockley

David and I haven't discussed this yet, so he very well may disagree, but I want fairly strongly to avoid broadcast sorts of messages (like Twitter). Part of what I like about the idea is exactly that limitation, of having to find other ways of sharing information between people who may never meet.  One thing we talked about early on was the idea of having this be a forum game to solve information sharing issues, and, while there is nothing wrong with forum or play by mail games, I want this to have a much faster, realtime pace.  That's hard in online play, but not impossible (I hope).  One of the reasons we are working for short sessions is this--short, fast sessions should be less prone to the distractions that often cause problems in online play.

So, the ultimate question is, can we get telling stories to work as a part of a fast-paced system? I hope so, but I'm not super-optimistic.

PS: please excuse any typos or other such issues in this post. I am at work, and our tech guy is on vacation, so I am waiting forever for his boss to get around to figuring out why I can't log in. Meanwhile I am responding from my phone.

David Shockley

What we would really like, is to create a sort of miniature oral tradition, spread by the travelers. So that even though everyone isn't ever playing at the same time, they still have something that ties them all together. The reason we prefer an oral tradition to a written one, is so that the stories can change over time. Being adapted to the needs of the cultures they encounter, and the events surrounding their telling. (Ok, so technically its not Oral, if your playing in a chatroom, or IM, but.. you know what I mean.)

Quote from: dmckenna on September 12, 2010, 11:28:55 PMShotgun Diaries has players write a few sentences at the end of each day and one thing which they write is true. Maybe you can play with something like that, only the next visitor to the city decides which things are true and which things aren't.

I don't think we will do this, exactly, but it was a very helpful comment. Before I read this my brain forgot that the mechanism by which the person listening to the story interacts doesn't have to follow in game causality. We had been planning to end every session with an epilogue, where the traveler and the city player work out how the session has a long term impact on the city, and maybe how it impacts the traveler as well. But maybe this step should be done the session after, with the next traveler/city.

I've been having a hard time connecting to the travelers, in terms of color, so I've been thinking about how to flesh them out and give them a more specific focus. If we want to make the story sharing thing a major part of the game maybe they should be Bards. On the other hand, they could be the kind of characters who stories are told about, like mythic figures or folk heroes.


   As to flashbacks, I think it is a great idea that involves storytelling, without the onus of "telling a story"...
  Have you ever read 3:16? The strengths and weaknesses in the game are flashbacks that the player can tap into for huge mechanical bonuses. In this system, you start with one open Strength and pne open weakness slot. If you use a strength, you tell a flashback of how your character learned something cool, then, we return to the conflict and your character immediately wins it for the whole squad using that knowledge. Weaknesses work the same way, except you only save your character and you leave your squad in the conflict to fend for themselves... Because they have mecanical "oomph" it acted as a strong incentive for the players to add to the depth of their character and the setting without feeling forced.
  It feels like your game would benefit from a similar mechanic.
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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I'm glad my comment was helpful.

When I read the initial post I got the feeling that the real characters in this game were the Cities and the Travelers were more like a force of nature that blew into town and turned everything upside down. I was really getting a folk hero mythology kind of picture in my head where the travelers leave behind all kinds of tall stories and it is difficult for someone to tell the fact from the fiction.

As far as travelers go, I think what they need is some kind of driving force or quest. This could be something that is unique to each traveler, or it might be something that they are all searching for to do with your overall setting. Something that explains why each person is traveling and might also reveal something about them. I'm not sure how you would work that in exactly, but I think it is probably the most important thing.

Finally, I just want to point you at something called Hobo Code. Hobo Code is/was a series of symbols that hobos would leave places for others to find. They would communicate things like where a good place might be to sleep or if the owner of a house was friendly. You could maybe draw some inspiration from this as far as communication goes between travelers.