Game Changer

I’m late! I’m late! Maybe I’ll do a two-fer today or tomorrow.

Focusing on the “how you play” side of the equation, and since I already wrote a post recently about how my GMing changed, and finally please no ‘splaining that GMing “should” fit into the larger play bucket (ye gawds all these codicils, this is why I get worn out!): I want to talk about a game of Matthijs Holter’s Archipelago I played with Jason Morningstar at BigBadCon. Can’t remember when it was. It was right before Night Witches hit. 2014, then? Dunno.

For those who don’t know Archipelago: it’s a generic gmless/gmful storygaming engine that features cards and ritual phrases to introduce uncertainty and random inputs. Everyone decides on a basic premise for the game, and IIRC the assumption is that there’s a journey of some kind involved (actual or symbolic, I suppose). Each player is in charge of one broad aspect of play that everyone agrees on. So in our four player game (other players were Karen Twelves and Sophie Lagace) we settled on a little melodrama based on a cross-country foot race. I know stuff about how endurance sports events are operated so I offered up that bit of expertise to help flesh out the realism a bit.

I won’t get into details about how the game went down. It was totally a pickup game to fill a couple hours. But what really got into my head was how functional the game was, using nothing more than the cards and the magic words (try a different way, describe that in detail, that might not be quite so easy…shoot I’m forgetting a bunch). It was a super-important lesson for me in how to listen for “the conversation” that every RPG of every kind facilitates one way or another.

As part of illustrating how to listen for the conversation, I also picked up how to listen for folks who weren’t participating in good faith. That was only possible because the whole table was engaged in totally good faith! And it felt so different from, you know, any table anywhere that I’d participated in at home or at conventions.

Now, when I play, I’m definitely keyed into a different interpretive layer. Where I used to be largely focused either on my own prep or proper procedural execution, now I’ve got another channel open into how the players are engaging with me, each other, and the central experience. All I have to do is imagine what would be happening at that moment if I took away the dice and rules: would they still be GGG at the table? Are they using the dice and the rules in place of actual human communication? What would it take to get them there if they are?

Terrific learning experience and pretty fun, too. All credit to Jason for being such a strong Archipelago booster and facilitator.

Short one this time.

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

0 thoughts on “Game Changer”

  1. That’s super-interesting to me (and than you for the kinds words, BTW!) because playing in that mode (“the whole table was engaged in totally good faith”) is now my default experience, at least at my regular games and usually at Big Bad Con.

    It didn’t use to be the case when I was younger, and it continues to be variable at more traditional game conventions or game day events. But over the years, my husband and I have decided that was what we wanted to experience and we cherish the gamers that feel the same.

  2. Bad faith stands out like a sore thumb, that’s for sure. Mostly convention games. Occasionally games at home, if someone just isn’t buying into the game for whatever reason. There’s still, occasionally, an unpleasant little passive-aggressive “see, this is why this game sucks” thing that happens. Rather than, you know, just admitting that it’s not their jam.

    And I get it! It’s hard to be the outlier when everyone else seems to be digging it. I don’t have a good answer for that on the player side. On the facilitator side, I check in with alarming regularity and I think it kind of wears my players out a little sometimes.

  3. …how to listen for “the conversation” that every RPG of every kind facilitates one way or another.

    Do you believe that every game is a conversation? I remember having a conversation a while back where you said you didn’t.

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