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Monday, January 19, 2015

Embrasing The Meta

Embrace the Metta.
Warning: This is one of THOSE posts, that kind of swirls around and  helps me get my thoughts together in front of you fine folks. I apologize if you read the whole thing and thing "Well that went nowhere"

From the Oracle of knowledge known to us pathetic humans as WIKIPEDIA!
Metagaming: is any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed rule set, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game. Another definition refers to the game universe outside of the game itself.
Meta Being a prefix that means "Above or Beyond"
designating another subject that analyzes the original one but at a more abstract, higher level:
As in metaphilosophy; metalinguistics.
From myriams dic online.
This is not the same as some kid saying  "Dude That's so Meta"

Now all have the same starting place.

I think that every thing in an RPG that is not "role Playing" as in  talking as your character (to whatever extent your group does it,) is all meta game. I don't really want to debate that in this post but rather talk about  building a meta game to support the main game.

In the game I have been working on lately, nothing about the characters or the  setting is pre-loaded. The characters are not from "Neverwinter" or some other known location in a defined world. In-fact the characters have no history beyond whatever jobs they used to do before they decided dying in a cave somewhere with pockets full of gold is better then  dying in a hovel with pockets full of  plague.
Everything that will forge a connection between player and character, that bond that makes the player want to see that character get better will have to happen in game. Put another way the fighter that just got made is not some carefully crafted unique snowflake conforming to the players idea of cool. The Character is more like a one legged stool the player has to find a good use for.
   
Another Part of this is world building. If the  players directly build the  world they are adventuring in they will hopefully become more invested in what happens in that world. It's a bit like  Dungeon world, but not as high concept. Dungeon World approached this in a very narrative sense, leave blanks on your map use the players ides to fill them in, and this will lead to opportunities for adventure and so on. I'm taking a more constructive route. Players (note not characters) buy things for the  town with the gold they  hoist out of dungeons.
In a nut shell you have a sleepy rural are and all of a sudden a group of  adventure seekers find a tomb and start hauling  hundreds of  gold pieces worth of crap out of the ground, it's bound to effect the local economy. An adventurer fueled gold rush.

This is where I finally get to the meta game.
In  a game where the player investment in characters is fully future based and not baked into character generation, it's almost a necessity to have some form of  meta game that takes place between the  adventures.
The players should be given some way to leave their mark on the  world so that even a few sessions down the  road they can point to the  map and say "Yeah I did that."

AAIE "The town" is the second part of my AAIE game in which I'm writing up guidelines which allow players to invest in a town with the  gold they find adventuring. Buying / upgrading businesses and buildings that in turn grant them access to new skills, potions, equipment, NPC's Hench-people, and the like.

  • Characters pull a ton of gold and such out of some deadly maze. (keep in mind AAIE is designed for  dungeon delve one shots, I don't have to be any more complicated than "some deadly maze."
  • The Same Characters start spending that gold. Eating richly at the inn, buying new armor , fixing old armor, generally keeping  the nearest village busier and  more flush with cash than they have ever been.
  • Word spreads, the innkeeper tells his uncle who is a leather worker about these guys ho are throwing money around, the uncle moves to town to start selling  leather goods. The uncle tells an apothecary he knows form a nearby city about this town that's gold flush and attracting injured adventurers. 
  • Others seeking gold and adventure hear of this big find the characters made and they come seeking adventure (replacement PC's.)
  • And so on, the town grows.
How does this translate into a game within the game? Here is what I am in the middle of trying to do.
  • The  town starts as an Inn, with a set of general services.
    A place to take "home rests"
    some general supplies.
    An ink keeper and family as interesting NPC's.
  • Also present are some peasant farmers to be used as hirelings and bearers if the players want to hire them.
  • Once the characters have an adventure they can  come back after the game and use gold to buy  add ons to the town. These are not direct purchases by the characters but represent their economic pull in this small town.
  • Options include black smith, Apothecary shops, guards, banks, churches, caravans (not in our current town..long story.) and so on,
  • Each building has an NPC or NPC family that the  player who bought the building can name and the GM can flesh out.  
  • The NPC's should each  have a measure of their good will towards the characters .. this is still very much a work in progress,
  • New buildings make new one shot adventure seeds available.
  • Each building has five upgrade levels that cost gold and  make available more services that the players can take advantage of. For example a level three apothecary can  make better potions. A leveled up inn makes better hirelings available, a leveled up blacksmith  makes new weapons, barracks attract skill trainers and so on.
  • Players may buy houses that act as a sort of shared stash of found items that they can share among their characters, so that when a character dies (and they do), their cool found items don't have to die with them. This is very video game-ish and  hard for a traditional RPG player to agree with but it's very much in the spirit of AAIE where a player could expect to go through one perhaps two characters in a game.
  • There is a grave yard with an entry for each dead NPC and PC including funny epitaphs. 
Does something like this break the standard of immersion that RPG's tend to reach for?
Yes ....

The thought that a player who happens to have a fighter  character would drop some gold to attract a trainer to the  town so that the character would then have the opportunity to learn better fighter skills, seems to cross a line into  "meta gaming to create player advantage."

It is. I don't mind the players creating an advantage for themselves.

Given that there is a small chance every time the players cast the dice that they will accidentally kill their own characters, there should be some way to create advantages.


That's what I'm working on currently,

Any thoughts, questions, ideas?

Something you guys would love to see in an adventurer fueled boom town?

Thanks for reading,
Please leave thoughts and comments in the  foundation of the new bank being built below.

-Mark.