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Sidney Icarus @ActionEconomy
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Gimmie something to do tomorrow:
1) A lot of RPGs give an unsatisfying play experience because there's no tangible stakes. Or the only stake is counting down hp until death. There's no threat that we'll have to engage with the consequences of our actions.
2) Actual Play is an incredibly difficult slog because RPGs are paced so poorly. By design, they consume large amounts of time in making decisions and less time engaging with the results of that decision. To me, they have an unsteady, uncertain flow.
3) Character generation is like a video game tutorial or a novel protagonists backstory: to have it presented on its own is the worst but most functional way. Rather we should aim to integrate it into play, because right now it feels like administration.
4) like 80% of PbtA games are to game design what mountains of author-insertion fanfic is to novels. You've got all the composite parts, characters, plot, etc, but you've got no heart. It's written to reward the writer, not the reader.
5) We have a pedestal system where designers are seen as most important, then GMs, then players. There isn't enough respect for the really good players in our community who just don't want to design a game.
6) RPGs are much more explicit about their themes than film, theatre, and novels. Part of it is no built up language of metaphor, as a new medium. And part of it is that a film is a bounded experience. When I watch Romeo+Juliet it's always the same content.
6 cont) how I feel about that content may change, but the experience is bounded. Every time I play through, say, Curse of Strahd, or Night Witches' duty stations, or Blood in the Chocolate, the experience is wildly different. So we dictate... Out of fear.
7) One of the reasons actual play is taking off is that it's one of the few mediums that pairs well with just voice. No text, no visuals. The age of actual play is linked inextricably to the age of podcasting.
8) RPGs have traditionally been obsessed with how we engage in conflict ("I shoot him") than in why we engage in conflicts. The stakes have been "can you overcome them" rather than "should you overcome them". In my life, I am faced with the latter far more than the former.
9) Fiasco is not a good introduction to roleplaying. It demands so much of its players and offers so little feedback into the play system. It's good for improvy people, but not good for people who need more guidance.
10) smaller groups are better experiences. About 3 or 4 people seems to be a sweet spot.
11) the future is GM-less
12) there is a distinct amount of labour that needs to be done in a RPG. Systems that proclaim themselves "rules-lite" are often, but not always, just offloading that labour from the rules to the players.
13) System doesn't matter that much. That's why a bunch of people can make D&D or Pathfinder work for their murder mystery. Buy-in and communication is so much more important than the rules.
14) which is why the best games are the ones that facilitate that buy-in, that help to maintain tone. Cf Monsterhearts 2 and/or Stay Frosty. Both v good at reminding players what space they're playing in. That's why MH is so popular, it's amazing at facilitating good table play
15) The "rule of cool" and "ignore this rule if you want" strictly benefits Wizards of the Coast because it creates a culture where "hey man, this game is for everyone telling every story". Indie RPGs aren't perfect but at least we encourage people to play other games.
16) Apocalypse World isn't Vincent Baker's best game and y'all are sleeping on In A Wicked Age so hard.
17) RPGs need to tackle consent and they need to do it soon. At the moment there's a lot of "the dice, the rules, my character stats, give me permission to do this to you". It works when it's two enemies locked in combat but fails everywhere else.
18) Stats are boring. Strength, intelligence, hard, hot, sharp. All boring. Yknow what interests me? "I fight better for revenge" "I can notice things better when I'm lonely" "I can run faster when I'm in pain". I wanna know about your heart, not your proficiency in athletics.
19) most RPG communities are so opaque and closed off. We're really bad at being welcoming. The whole community feels invite-only. Especially because play is in groups, which means individuals or pairs can find it V V difficult to get involved.
20) OSR and Indies have more in common than apart, and our issues with tribalism are ruining our ability to learn from each other. (tip this is why @wiegraf_ is so cool)
21) D&D's reward systems have more in common with Skinner-style drip feeding than anyone wants to admit.
22) D&D 4e was the most honest edition of the game and people hated it for that. They didn't hate it because it was bad. They hated it because it was the edition that held people to tightest to a rule set. And the fans rebelled because they have always ignored structures of play.
23) when was the last time you reached out to a designer and told them you enjoyed playing their game? Not like, playtest feedback, but just thanked them. Our world is very small, try making it a bit smaller.
24) Our games are played almost entirely in the literal space. Except for like, maybe Monster Hearts (and Mutants in the Night though I haven't played it yet) we have very little thematic metaphor. That's the next step in our storytelling.
25) Storm King's Thunder is an horrific adventure that pads its page count like nothing else. The first six months playing the campaign was like trudging through slow fantasy molasses. Dwarf-treacle.
26) That thing I was saying about a lack of metaphor? Trad fantasy settings survive almost inherently off ignoring any layer of metaphor and just being like "it's just a dungeon crawl, man!"
27) Stories are about change. That the only arc we have is "hero gets stronger" or "hero dies" is criminal. Frodo's story isn't about actually throwing the ring away, it's about how carrying a burden changes who we are. Goal-bound xp = increasing strength is just so boring.
28) Your Villains are best when they're reflections of your player's characters. Gollum is a great villain because he's what Frodo could become if he fails. He's a great villain because he speaks to the heroes fears and weaknesses. That's why Sam hates him so.
29) I'm a big fan of games that let us step away from the diegesis of our games. That offer us a tool or mechanic that gives us the chance to step away and play storyteller for a bit. To acknowledge the fiction from outside it, and to turn the subtext of our play into text!
Examples! Swords Without Master's thread/motif mechanics let's us talk about what we as players enjoy about each other's fiction.

Lady Blackbird's buying off of keys allows us to flag subtextual changes of a character as a textual change in their mechanical presentation.
30) Cards aren't always a better decision than dice, but they do require you to be much much more intentional about those parts of your design. A lack of either is doubly so. That's why Fall of Magic reads like it is exceptionally, intentionally, playtested.
31) Building a game off tarot cards doesn't make your game inherently interesting. You still have to, yknow, build a game around that. Not subtweeting anyone in particular, just the general cultural puuuuush.
32) Stories are obsessed with strict chronology because dungeons and dragons got wrapped around the axles of "resting" being the physical characters resting, rather than a beat in story. Again tethered to the literal idea of "playing a person" rather than "playing a character"
33) Someone needs to make a "The Room" RPG we were play hammy fucking characters doing dumb pointless shit intercut with beautifully described images of San Fransico.
34) I would also back any game that hit the tone of those old Red Alert 2 cinematics. The ones with Ray Wise and Nicholas Worth just munching on thenmotherfucking scenery.
Ray. Motherfucking. Wise.
35) There are political groups out there intending to use games to make you see the world they way they want you to. And that should put you on your toes.
36) +1 forward is the worst result you can have in your game. It's hard to track, it always gets forgotten, it's disconnected from the fiction in at least half of cases. PbtA shouldnt be driving players to do what will succeed, but to do what advances interesting fiction.
37) Blades in the Dark's focus on the GM representing "truth" rather than, yknow, the immutable nature of fiction is disingenuous and serves only to alleviate responsibility for decisions the GM makes. It's the equivalent of "but it's what my character would do"
38) Act Under Fire, Defy Danger, and other "when you do something risky" moves violate the whole premise of negative design space in PbtA moves and it makes me actually so frustrated.
39) an unexplored element of games is when the stakes are really petty to us as players, but huge to characters. Monsterhearts does this. Good Society is amazing at it. Any Harry Potter game should do this (actually my experience with Thornwood does this well! @rhysmakeswords)
40) Harm is the least interesting part of Night Witches. With marks on the sheet it's so obvious that harm is a worse version of the same kind of pacing mechanic. Don't @ me.
41) if you game says "to negotiate, roll X vs their Y (or vs target number)" you're not negotiating, you're fighting. Negotiation is a win/win structure, conflict is win/lose. Have conflict if ya want, just don't pretend it isn't that.
42) World of Dungeons and Veil2020 are the Mumblecore of gaming. I rate it.
43) The reason we've struggled so much as a culture to get safety tools working really well is that the idea that we as participants can have any agency over the media in which we engage, including to hold it to a reasonable standard of care is unheard of in other media.
(This degree of "Death of the Author" is beautiful, and both easier and more important in our media because of the synchronisity: we create the content as we consume it)
(Y'all keep adding to this list!) 44) Urban Shadow's corruption system is one of if not the best XP systems that's been written. Urban Shadow's XP system is one of the worst XP systems that's been written :D (it's not that bad, but hyperbole for the poetry)
45) Monster of the Week's Luck system as a rejection of failure is such a massive misstep in PbtA. As per my +1 Forward opinion: Games shouldn't teach players to be averse to failure, and offering them a "get out of jail free" card on limited resources is a mess.
46) Monster of the Week is legit the best PbtA game at genre emulation, and only struggles because it's trying to do so much. Cut out half the moves and strip the game back and I'd snuggle that game 5eva.
47) Lady Blackbird should be where everyone starts writing RPGs. It's incredibly hackable, easy to understand, and becomes 100% playable off the bat. LBB demands you answer about your characters: Who are they, What do they want, How do they plan to achieve that?
48) My first read when I see your new PbtA game is your fiction interrogation moves. They're my "things to do when you don't know what to do", and consider that is your players desperately asking how to engage with your system, it should be your priority to get right.
Y'all keep adding likes and I'm really having to dig deep for meaningful opinions at this point. Catch ya on this tomorrow.
49) "Sci Fi" is not a genre for PbtA. Firefly and Star Wars are as different in tone, pacing, plot, and structures as La La Land and Bojack Horseman, even though both are set in Hollywood. "Every game set in France is the same genre". That's what we do with space.
50) There are 14 Air Bud movies, including core Air Bud, Air Buddies, and Santa Paws Extended Universes. It's a crime that you're not designing a game about it right now.
51) Kickstarter as our main funding system rewards homogeneity and established connections over innovation and quality product.
52) RPG design has a lot more opportunity for growth toward emulating film and prestige TV than toward emulating computer/console games, even the role playing ones.
53) The smallest unit of play is not the "session". Your session should be built of several acts, between which players are given the chance to breath, and the group is able to realign their storytelling.
54) The RPG Rulebook as 350+ page tome is a relic, and it's also a barrier for entry for a lot marginalised and/or less wealthy authors.
55) The Bite is the best zombie game that has ever been written. And is an amazing litmus test for whether people are compatible with me for games.…
56) Books of text are to games what Instruction Booklets used to be. They're great, and I love the art, and I'll miss them dearly, but their days are numbered as the primary way of conveying information.
57) There are two layers of safety tools and neither can be neglected. The first is table-level safety: X-cards and consent petals. The second is built into the game: How is authority exchanged? Who decides consequences? They're separate items, but both critical to safe play.
58) Imagine if every film started with a short course on what film is and cinematic language? I think it's time to just expect a level of medium-awareness from players.
59) That some people enjoy RPGs as a fleeting power fantasy and some people enjoy them as deep explorations of the human condition is a beautiful thing. There's room for Bay and Ebert
60) There's an important line between "encouraging cathartic emotional experiences" and "demanding people explore trauma of themselves and others". This is a really important line.
61) Positive feedback mechanics are as important as safety valves. How does your table encourage each other?
62) Bookmark your pdfs please. It's a tiny quality of life improvement that makes things so much easier :) Hyperlinks in pdfs are like..gah I love you.
63) I'd love to see some remakes/reimaginings of games from 10-15 years ago. Veil2020 is a really good example of this. Bring modern design sensibilities to cool old shit. Someone rewrite Red Hand of Doom with modern flow.
Determined to finish this tonight.
64) If Kale Arkham can do magic, that means they have noble lineage. Kale is a disguise, and is just as much running away from their problems as Lady Blackbird is. DON'T @ ME!
65) The first person to organise distribution of a Stranger Things licensed version of Psy*Run will have enough money for unlimited frozen cokes.
66) Games could use a way for players to bring themselves into the story. The example I like from Liberte (actually I like it more in my PbtA hack but that's a progress piece so we won't talk about that). Player can put tokens in front of themselves as a request to get called on
66 Cont) And get called on in a big dramatic way. It's like "okay, Jeremy, you've got so many power tokens! What's the worst thing your powers could do right now? Roll to see if it does that!" The player consents to getting invited, The MC invites, and they come in hot!
67) There is more demand for analysis and theory into RPGs than there is establishments to support it. The risk is homogeneity of thought. Some great stuff came out of the Forge, but there was also a lot of intellectualism that was designed to shut out other thoughts
67 cont) It's the Internet Argument again. It's's a competition to be WON. I know I've spoken to film crit a lot in this thread, but imagine if every idea or review in film crit was like "THIS IS THE ONLY VALID INTERPRETATION!"
67 more) It's lensing, again. I am playing a game through this lens, I am viewing the world through this lens. That both Night Witches and Red Sisters, Black Skies can be writing about the same damn SQN of women but say different things (and both be great!) is proof of lensing!
68) this is my second last opinion. So here goes: If you find anything I said interesting, wrong, provoking, whatev, follow this incomplete list
69 ) Nice.
And that's where we wrap. With a great big thanks to everyone that was a part of this. I'm so proud of what we've made and I wish twitter wasn't the worst for having these discussions. If anyone wants to rap more about any of these, just HMU and we'll chat!
Don't forget that the people with whom we play are always more important than the game that we play.

And use your emotionality as a radical tactic against a society that teaches you that emotions are weakness. I love you.

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