Archive for July 18th, 2008

Rules for Generating Rules?

2008 Jul 18

Roleplaying designers generally concern themselves with generating mechanics: specific methods by which players negotiate a collective understanding of “what happens.” It’s up to individual groups how to implement these methods in play and fill in any holes or make any adjustments that think are necessary, but we generally don’t concern ourselves with how people generate negotiation methods in the first place — whether as designers or group members plugging holes or making changes.

There are only two games that I can think of that give players guidelines for generating negotiation methods: Universalis, as ‘Rules Modifications,’ and the card game Mao. In both cases, the guidelines they give are “when X occurs, make up a new rule or modify an existing one,” which, honestly, is only slightly more useful than not having any guidelines at all, because it doesn’t help you figure out what a new or modified negotiation method might look like or how to ensure that it accomplishes what you want it to do.

The thing is: mechanics are fairly disposable. This mechanic, that mechanic, who cares? We have bucket loads for different purposes. We switch them up all the time. A mechanic can be really neat, but it’s only useful in so many circumstances. However, if we can get at methods for generating mechanics, if we can set up guidelines that allow players to generate their own negotiation methods, but tailor the guidelines to fit the style of play we have in mind… then we’d be playing with power.

Insight? Madness? Worthy of ridicule?

Evolving Interaction Methods

2008 Jul 18

Cross-posted from Story Games.

I feel like there could be a really potent mechanic that combines ritual negotiation (like the blade method or Polaris‘ ritual phrases or Mridangam or Waiting/Tea or Kazemaki Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan) and character evolution (like Keys in TSOY), but I haven’t quite put my finger on how that might work yet. Like, how cool would it be if each player could develop their own ritual negotiation method and have it change and grow over time, as a metaphor for developing your character’s fighting style and learning from others through training or fighting with them? Figuring out how different negotiation methods could interact would be the hardest part, but that would be totally boss. If we could do something like that, it would open up a world of different design and play possibilities…