I am trying to get better at the habit of grabbing bits of Facebook, and sticking them here with a few more additional thoughts, so I can find them later. Here’s another.
Once upon a time in Facebookland, Mr Andy Raff said….
When creating a fantastic setting it is okay for some of your elements to actually *be* fantastic; that is, not everything in a fantastical setting needs to be able to be reduced to a set of mathematical rules that are known to the players. Sometimes, magic is magic and miracles are miracles.
And Tom Butterworth wisely responded:
I *think* you’re talking about Wonder. It can be created in Lrp, and in other role-play, and when it happens it beats the pants off any other part of the experience.
I can think of two ways it happens to me. The first is total suspension of disbelief as I/the player perceives something and goes “how is that possible?”
Bill Thomas‘s Dragon and Rhino are good examples of Suspension of Disbelief Devices, creating the possibility that as you encounter them you have a moment of wonder, of total “WTF?”
The other way it has happened to me in LRP is when a very skilled NPC behaves or interacts with me in a way that slots so neatly into my desires and thoughts and yet take me completely by surprise…i find it hard to explain but I bet seasoned larpers here will be able to think of their own examples.
Both are hard to create, fleeting and ephemeral. How – or even if – you can account for or engender them in a game setting or set of rules I am uncertain.
I would suggest creation of these moments is more related to the culture of your game creation team, how giving they are and how much they strive to engage with its players. Tough to quantify but important to strive.
I think as both players and creators those moments are what all we all chase in our games.
So over here this got me to Just Hitting Publish on some thoughts about what my most memorable stories are. I was saying that “one of these days, I’ll get round to drawing out the common elements of the stories I treasure and see if I can identify any themes that make’em so memorable.”, and up pops Mt Ian Thomas later on in the thread Raff started, and says this…
‘give em a whole bag of the Right Conditions for something amazing to flower’.
Yes, absolutely. The hole in my tooth is “What is “Right Conditions”? What kind of organiser decisions led to the stories I treasure most, the ones that are about the stuff me and my mates did, the ones that are so memorable for me?
Ian answered first:
From my PoV, a whole bag of Emotional Fertiliser. Stresses, strains, personal crises, interpersonal drama, atmosphere.
I reckoned: “Conflict, shared adversity, physical or emotional danger, risk…”
“Oh, and sleep deprivation, obv.” Then Ian carried on with…
(Depending on genre, obvs. With Pulp, it’s a whole lot of situation setups. e.g. ‘pass yourself off to this outpost of Germans wearing this unconvincing disguise’ or ‘pretend you don’t understand the language being spoken’ or ‘the only Jew who’s forgotten his papers’. Seeding opportunity.)
Now, that struck a chord. “Seeding opportunity”.
‘pretend you don’t understand the language being spoken’ refers to a piece of absolute genius from the legendary game “Dick Britton and the Voice of the Seraph”, which I had the great good fortune to crew. I was only involved in a couple of the bits of beauty it caused, but… The rule was this:
If you have a skill in a particular language, then you can both speak it, read it, and write it.
By default, everyone talks in English. Please adopt whatever accent is appropriate.
To speak in German, prefix whatever you’re about to say with “Achtung!” So – “Achtung! Mein Hovercraft iz full of eels!”
To speak in French, prefix whatever you’re about to say with “Zut alors!” (zoot a-lore!) So – “Zut alors! Mon ‘overcraft eez full of eels!”
To speak in Arabic, prefix whatever you’re about to say with “Effendi!”. So – “Effendi! My hovercraft, it iss full of eelss!”
Please play along – if you don’t have the skill to speak German, ignore whatever is said after the word “Achtung!” and so on.
So when my bazaar salesman started a line with “Effendi” – the English-speaking customer couldn’t understand a word, but the spy who was posing as a translator could, and the conversation went something like:
Customer: “How much is this statuette? It looks jolly ancient”
Spy: “Effendi: How much for this?”
My salesman: “Effendi: I don’t know, my uncle’s mother in law’s family makes them by the dozen, how much will the idiot pay? Tell him it’s tenth dynasty… I’ll cut you in.”
Spy: “He says it’s very valuable. Tenth dynasty.”
Customer: “I say, marvellous…”
You see where it’s going. The customer’s player knowing exactly what I was saying, and the simple delight of three people performing their little hearts out to an audience of – oh, I dunno, maybe half a dozen at the time? It carried on for a while in the same vein. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told that story. Si Childs was the spy, I wish I knew who the Customer was. (I imagine it was Jules Fattorini, but actually I am pretty sure it wasn’t.) I vaguely remember something about a Hitler Youth commander I played at the same event; I ranted on in “German” about the Fatherland and the glorious Party for ages, and got the deadpan “He says ‘Yes'” from my translator as played by Nick Meredith. Something like that… Happy times. And I bet you a Shiny Pound these two stories aren’t all the goodness that came from Language rule.
There’s a marvellous example of a rule that exists because of the play you can feel it creating. A beautiful piece of story fertiliser. I don’t think this is done enough. I read a load of rulesets, and the impression often is – “Does this game need this? Really?” Listen sometimes to the wisdom of Bill Thomas…
I reckon it’s just fekkin around in fancy dress. Needs more explosions…
Before you add any rules to the feking around, think very carefully about the kinds of play you think will happen as a result, and whether or not a rule is really needed.
Now, I wasn’t really involved in the actual writing of the Empire rules, but I was involved in some of the forum stuffs that made some of the raw material for them, and I one thing made it through that I’m really pleased about…
But Harry! Why do we need calls? They get in the way of the roleplay!
They do if unlimited. Free-to-use. But if they _aren’t_ then all of a sudden two things:
1) You get to choose when to be extra-cool – which is a whole heap more meaningful than just being super-cool all the time.
2) They have a value. And if something has a value, it’s the focus of _yet more_ roleplay as outside of the actual fight they’re used in, you have something meaningful to exchange – whether as a trader or a lover, or a friend, or a leader, or… or… Well, or any number of roleplay moments which are more meaningful because they are *for* something.
(I digress a bit more – at one point it was all “Oh, Hero Points” – I think we might have called them Chi at the time – “Spells for fighters. It’ll never catch on.”. Well, it has, and I’m glad about that too.)
I am not sure that this was the thought process; there’s another set of reasons about phys-repping the unphysreppable, and rock-paper-scissors fighting too, but I bet it was in the mix somewhere.
Does a combat system need calls? Nah. Not a jot. Plenty of games, notably the smaller, aren’t helped by a decision when to be extra cool, or that kind of locus for roleplay. Not even all the kinds of games I like need’em. But there’s possibilities that come from calls that are dead handy, particularly in larger games.
Anyway. I’ve digressed a lot. I haven’t actually got round to “drawing out the common elements of the stories I treasure and see if I can identify any themes that make’em so memorable.”, which is where I started this, but hey. 1000 words or so. Just Hit Publish.