Lessons from an Ars Magica table-top… A Kingdom-sim. Immersionist-simulationist in style.
An epoch game!
15 real years in the playing. Three players, one GM, “all three to become king and die. ” , in three eras of kingship, with players returning as important advisors to the realm.
The “GM” is more of an artistic director than a “Game master”, he is reading patterns in the cause and effect of that they are doing and letting them know the “most likely” outcome of what they have done. The themes are power and the outcomes of power, the ephemerality of life, aging and its outcome.
Playing on campaign.
With the scope of a came like like comes epic campaigns, and sieges. The difficulty of faithfulness to the genre: and resisting the lure of narrartivism; cf the Trojan Horse.
In epoch-larp: “There’s no right way to roleplay, but there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to roleplay in this lrp”
Playing at court
The King is in control (and the king is a player) and there are tedious bureaucratic plots, and meetings. (Oh, this sounds familiar)
How do meetings make a scene?
Take them out of the room – into a hunting scene, or a religious scene, or in a corridor (Which is how the West Wing does it.)
The limits of the form
Gamemaster intervention is required to maintain the theme, while responding to player agency.
Unbearable slowness – letters travel for weeks, the scope of the game is 50 years. Turning the clock is a challenge. (Also a problem for TV.)
Bookkeeping – 175 supporting cast alive, 100 supporting cast dead, all on Excel, update on a public website. What would they all do IC? Based on character models – “This is is basically Commander Adama.” How do you keep track of them all? Of their lines of succession? Their IC positions? Sometimes – this actually helps, and plot emerges from random evcents.
Creative agency in the sandbox.
Playing a second life from cradle to grave. (Like, more than decade real-time)
Does it still work?
You might miss five sessions after an injury, because it’s pretty much real time.
Storylines sometimes crash and burn for no reason.
“It gives me very high quality roleplaying moments.” In a simulationist world, you know the character, and you know their impact in the world. And Ars Magica delivers over this long a timeframe, in a way in which indie games do not – not through XP, or themes.