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Monday, August 26, 2013

Art history, Things that will never happen, and One Shot games:

Art history, Things that will never happen, and One Shot games:

One of the guys in our group has been floating playing the “Red Dwarf” role playing game. This will happen, we have some characters and it’s going to go down eventually.

Red Dwarf the game, and more to the point the setting got me thinking.
I found myself musing in my head about an absurdist RPGs.

The thing about Red Dwarf the RPG is that it’s OLD, and being old it is written in an old RPG style. It’s written for the players to write a character and play that character for a while, over the course of several games even. The player gets to know the character and how he/she/bot/it/space slug interacts with the absurd Red Dwarf universe. Why is that important?
You'll see by the end.

Now, The things that will never happen…

I have been kicking around an idea for a short one off game called “Yeah it‘s Like That!”

The player first starts out describing their characters actions and the other players can the interrupt the current narrator by saying, “It’s like” whatever.

If the initial narrator can work the new idea into his narration he keeps going, if not the player who interrupted would continue the story.

That’s the un-popped kernel of the idea.

Dice mechanics, chip economies and all that other butter can be worked out some time down the road. (Not saying that those kinds of things are not important just I have not gone there yet)
For example:
Player 1 “Lord Orangpendek pounces on top of the T-Rex with a shout!”
Player2 “It’s like when Will Ferrell was riding the T-rex in that crappy Land of the Lost remake.”
Player 1 “Yeah It’s Like that, My character is totally surfing the head of the Angry T-Rex..”

That brings me to setting:
A setting that would support a T-Rex flying a F-14, fighting a warrior who wields his 1967 Gibson SG sonic lance while riding a winged tiger that shoots lasers out of its eyes? Yeah it’s like that.

That brings me to character creation and setting creation:

The characters will define the setting, obviously any game that has such off the wall characters just need a pile of dirt to run around on and raise clouds of awesome.

In other words I would hate the setting to get in the way of the characters.  It would have to enhance the idea.
So I was thinking a generic setting for with words left out mad lib style. The players could then write words on slips of paper put them all in a bowl(s) and draw them randomly to create the world.
That way you could end up with the “Flying” island of “monkey” faced “lizard” gods.

Character creation would work in a similar fashion:

I think I would have a character sheet written madlib style, and players would write-up some random cards. (Even use the same ones as from the setting phase)
I would just rip off the system form Cards against Humanity / Apples to apples.

Each player will read a phrase from their charter sheet.
Sir Roger is a Knight of (BLANK) in the order of (BLANK)

Each of the other players would then put in two cards and whatever the player making the character thinks is funnies, coolest, wittiest idea uses those terms to fill in the character.

The player who put in the cards which are chosen would be granted some in game boon for being the funniest, coolest, wittiest person at the table.

It’s a fun idea for a one off but would players want to play these absurd characters in an absurd world for more than one or two sessions? (Perhaps they would, if the game supported it mechanically.) I don't think I will ever write it up properly. (But then again those who know me Know I will …I have a real problem in the brain joint.)

So why all this stupidity? IS there a point good sir?

This is like Dadaism for role playing, the game Idea has an “it’s an RPG because I say it is” attitude.
I think this is what a lot of very short run games are moving towards without so openly embracing the chaos.

Ninja Panda Taco is great fun; it invites us to heap silliness on the poor fellow to our left.  “Hell For Leather” tells you to make a fatally flawed character, and then play until either they die or enough blood has been shed. There are more examples that could be provided, by those more widely played than I am.

These are not the style games that make you as a player want you to invest in your character. These are not the kinds of games that make you examine characters. These games want you as a player to live in the scene, examine each scene as it comes up as its own entity.
Even our own Game Phase Abandon has no real track for becoming a more powerful character. Characters come out of the box ready to kick ass. (Though in truth Phase Abandon is happily the single best game I have played from growing and changing a character over time.)

I don't know why I see so many quick or one off designs lately. Is it lack of time to play longer games? Is it shorter attention spans? Is it just players wanting to get to the good stuff faster? Groups not being as common and more people are playing one time games with strangers? I just don't know.

Not that there is anything wrong with one off’s every now and again, a bit of light hearted fun + chaos can be great at the game table.

With that said, I also think that players who focus on the quick set up quick play games are missing one of the intrinsically interesting and rewarding aspects of RPG’s

I suppose it’s just the current direction of the hobby. I enjoy the heck out of, Ninja Panda Taco and Hell For Leather when we play them.
Sometimes I even feel like Walter Serner typing “Art is Dead, Long Live DaDa.”