Archive for September 12th, 2010

Beyond the Master of Ceremonies

2010 Sep 12

This is my response to Ewen Cluney’s response to my response to Will Hindmarch’s response to Apocalypse World. This conversation just keeps giving and giving.

In Ewen’s words, one of the things that AW does is attempt to address that problem that…

…we don’t really have the vocabulary or techniques that we probably should for discussing (much less modifying) what exactly the GM does.

And that’s totally true. However, when I ponder that a bit further, I think about Vincent’s interview with Clyde and their assertion that now we can finally talk about how to design games, since we’ve won the battle about there being different valid ways to play, etc.

But where does that come from? What vocabulary do we have to talk about how to design games? And when I think about the MC again, and the new vocabulary we have to talk about GMing, I say to myself: Look, the GM is just a player, or maybe a specific kind of player role. So what we have is a new vocabulary for talking about how to play games.

Is that the same as a new vocabulary for talking about how to design games? Not yet, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what we’ve had previously. And in attempting to build on and explicate how to play, maybe we can figure out how to talk about design along the way.

Chasing Jason: Fiasco, Danger Mtn, & Geiger

2010 Sep 12

Since the internet was dead this morning, I finally got around to reading most of Fiasco. I’ve had a mostly finished pre-publication PDF sitting on my hard drive for a while, but had been waiting to find it for sale in print, which I finally did at the Dreaming on Friday. I’m not sure how they still had copies left from PAX. Maybe a new shipment.

Having worked on Geiger Counter for 3+ years now, I found it super fascinating to watch Jason try to do many things in the text of Fiasco that Geiger attempts to do, but in very different ways. The games obviously have a lot in common: movie-inspired, single-session, short run time, gm-less (or -ful), non-traditional player investment in characters (you love them but you make bad things happen to them), two act rise-and-fall structure (in Geiger, the “Tilt” happens when the Menace hits 8 dice), dice-based pacing, characters with ambition and poor impulse control (that’s what Goals are about), etc.

Honestly, if I had to describe Geiger Counter to folks who’d played Fiasco, I’d say: “double the number of characters, add a Menace that’s trying to kill them, make the action more tightly location-based, and end the game when most characters are dead.” Boom: Alien, Jurassic Park, Vertical Limit, etc. Especially now that Jason’s working on a disaster movie game for Game Chef, I’m thinking I can probably just wait around twiddling my thumbs for him to write my game for me.

Things Jason Gets Oh-So Right
– playsets
– the replay, though it’s sometimes hard to follow
– the filmography
– the visual style of the book
– the tone of the writing

Things That I Think Could Be Better
– really weak guidelines for playing dead characters, something early drafts of GC are guilty of too
– it’s not clear what giving the outcome die away signifies, if anything; feels a bit arbitrary
– the fact that Steve (the player) isn’t playing Stephen Carney (the PC); really a bad choice, easily fixed
– Page 9; I’m not sure this adds more than you lose by opening up the identity politics thing
– for my tastes, the rules text (not including playsets) is still about 50% too long, since it’s definitely not made for being played right out of the booklet, without having read it before (though some folks tried at PAX)
– until you get to the replay, there’s very few words on how to actually “play a scene” (what you actually do, how to deal with NPCs, what a scene looks like, how do you know it’s over, etc.)
– the cover curls something fierce

All in all, though, a fantastic product and very inspirational, especially for Geiger Counter, since it operates in a very similar footprint, as far as play experience goes. And I’m watching Danger Mountain too, to see if Jason comes up with any super clever ways to handle disasters (a Menace if there ever was one). Apocalypse World has already given me great insights about how to make it clear what the Menace is supposed to do, so I feel like I’m making gradual progress here by stealing from everybody else.