I Made A Thing

I Made A Thing
Robot Park/West World

A draft of a game fell out of my head this weekend. Give it a read, play it or ask questions, whatever, I’ll keep doodling on it until it provides a tight and consistent experience.

I like to use pop-culture prompts to experiment with design ideas that have been bumping around up there. So in this case: GM-less asymmetrical PbtA! (Yes, I’ve read and have Dream Askew; my thing does it a different way.)

This is also my first complete Scrivener project! It’s very small and I barely used any of its functionality, but sure enough, it was very easy to organize my thoughts and move stuff around.


0 thoughts on “I Made A Thing”

  1. I like this a lot! I’m not sure PBTA would have been my choice, but it seems like it would work okay once people have a handle on the moves. I’d have to play it to have more comments, but a great first draft!

  2. I’d play it. The only way a Staff gets the Get Your Way outcome is to die? What happens if the player doesn’t choose to have been a robot all along? Make a new Staff character of the same type?


    But not, like, give-me-money serious. I think there’s something cool in here and I want to explore it with people. Buuuut: no art, no layout, just a reading draft. And a late-Sunday post, which is the deadest of dead social-media-wise.

    Dollars to donuts if I reposted this as a series of ready-to-play PDFs with a distinctive font in the headers, it’d get some reading traction, at least.

    No complaints, just an observation w/r/t certain current topics on the Plus.

  4. Thoughts as I read, having never seen Westworld:

    – Seems like this could also do Jurassic Park (robots=dinos, more voyeuristic needs, etc)
    – Tenets and crossing them off globally is a cool idea. I’m sort of curious about how that works fictionally (Robots might transmit some data, but how are all Guests suddenly aware that they can’t do ANYTHING to a Robot?).
    – Locations: I like the hard list for scenes. Super cool, and solves the “too much freedom” thing that makes people draw blanks in scene framing games
    – Can Guests die? It’s not explicitly stated, while Robots and Staff have explicit death rules.
    – Second Staff:Suit move +1 should be -1, I think

    Having not seen the show, I don’t exactly get what Staff scenes look like or what they do – if I’m a Guest with a need for violence, and go out to beat on some poor women Robots off churnin’ butter. We’re gonna do some rolling and maybe the Robot spazzes and fights back or something. But what does the Staff do here? Sit in the bushes and watch?

    I wonder if a “crash a scene” addition would be neat, maybe for Staff? Show up at an (in)opportune time to get their scheme on? I dunno.

  5. Interestingly (to me) as of episode 3 the staff never actually interacts with guests. I think there’s a scene where one of the robots has gone wildly off-loop and is freaking out guests, and security goes in to turn everything off and hand out vouchers. So it’s kind of unexplored in the show, and it looks like that showed up in my draft.

    I think staff probably needs to tie their agenda to a guest or a robot.

    Robots are the obvious pivot so far but I want it to be more of a perfect triangle.

  6. I haven’t read it yet (can’t atm) but my very First thought after having watched the first episod was “I want to play this Mise en abyme RPG”.

  7. Yeah, I noticed that about the draft, that the staff are kind of isolated. What if you make it a park tenet that the staff can’t have contact with the guests? Does that make it an interesting thing to create stories around?

  8. So a couple counter-thoughts to the staff thing:

    * Sorta-kinda deliberately, I’ve tried to give the Staff players more GM-ish “so what happens now?” missed-roll authority. I’m thinking of juicing that more. So like…Staff characters are less diegetically (!) involved, but the Staff players have a little more authorship.

    And I could probably further divvy that up between the Grunt and the Suit. Or not, and just let the players hash it out among themselves.

    * Contemplating making the generic Workshop move a bigger deal, kind of their go-to to do anything/everything, and that the “requirements” portion of that must involve a Robot or a Guest.

  9. I think if you sell the staff as that, it will appeal to some players. “Play a staff if you want to create the life loops of robots” is not something that’s clear from reading just the staff playbook, but because of the way you’ve integrated the roles it’s a part of why you’d choose to play a staff.

  10. Paul Czege yeah, that’s something I want to see at an actual table. Will that be a meaningful draw? Gets back to your “pick X if you want Z experience” advice further up.

  11. Note — I haven’t seen this “westworld” thing, so I’m just looking at this as a game.

    The shifting tenants thing is fascinating and I really want to hear how something like this works in play. I’d be worried (based mostly on gut instinct and my experience with Nobilis larps where characters modify the real world) that the Tenants lists would get bloated and cumbersome.

    That thing? The thing where a guest or staff member reveals that they are, in fact, a robot?

    Tremendously scary and really evocative.

    I wonder what would need to happen to have a long game where you start with a good mix, and at the end there’s only one human left…who loses half an arm and discovers wires and smoke coming out instead of bone and blood.

  12. Jesse Cox yeah, so the Tenets. I like them too! And I’m working on a list of suggestions. Hopefully the suggestions will soft-constrain what all folks do with them.

    My intent, dunno if it’ll work, is that they’ll a) do the heavy lifting of setting-sharing and continuity that a GM would normally do and b) kind of work like “Innovate” in The Warren, that is, it’s a move that makes moves (of a sort).

    That’s the design brief. I need to see if it works that way.

    I’m glad you haven’t seen the show. I mean, if I do anything with this longer-term it needs to have the serial numbers firmly rubbed off.

  13. Got back to this, now that I have a bit of time on my hands, and it’s really cool. I’d definitely want to try this out. I do think that, not having watched the show, I might feel a bit lost on what we’re getting into. But maybe that’s great and surprising! 🙂

    It did take me a second reading, after thinking “you really need two or more staff members to make this sing,” to realize you already built this in. That paragraph on choosing playbooks could probably be clearer by stating something like “There are six characters that you distribute among the players…” Because “have access to” sounded like a choice to me, rather than a definite distribution. But I know, drafts and wordsmithing and all that.

    Quick note: you’ll get a lot more failures with this than with regular AW due to the lack of stat bonuses.

  14. Yeah, I weighed, like, just putting six characters into circulation and then anyone can pick any two, as long as all six are accounted for. And I may yet do that. But I think then I’d need to be pretty explicit about precisely which Staff and which Robot has 6- authority in each question. Which is maybe not a bad thing. Dunno! It’d also make inter-character connections more compelling.

  15. I was thinking that pursuing a staff agenda is really most fun if another player controls a staff member with a competing agenda. But that’s me. 🙂

    And it already says “ask a staff member”, so I figured that choice is up to the player. Which sounds serviceable to me.

  16. This is so so rad. Also, take this “suggestion” with a huge grain of salt. I wouldn’t have staff interact with guests at all, and I would only have them interact with robots as interjected memories. In a way, the staff would act as a moderator to the game, tweaking the dials. Scenes of the staff interacting with each other are cool, but in a way, a different game. The motivations are too different.

    I’m weird though.

  17. Aaron Griffin yeah,I may do that.

    But I’ve got those “add the number of marked-off emergences” type moves, which I’m mechanically in love with.

    Dunno, I’m really torn.

  18. Paul Beakley​ considering the Sundered Land style is basically shifted down by 1, it could still work fine if it capped at +2. Looks like that’s around a +5 or so, though.

    Hmm, what if it was just “+1 if your need was denied in the same scene”? It changes the move mechanically, but not too much fictionally. I dunno, I kinda like the idea of getting +5 on some rolls in a PbtA game 🙂

  19. I’m three days into my next draft and I’m so stoked. Thanks everyone for the thought provocation and good comments!

    Hopefully next version will be something you can print out and use, too.

  20. Okay, I’ve got a new draft of this thing ready for readers.

    I’m posting the note in here and not in its own thread because it seems like folks who commented here were interested in seeing more. LMK if you can give the next draft a read and I’ll email it to you.

    Version after this one will be the one laid out for actual playing.

  21. Aaron Griffin I’m actually very interested in what you have to say.

    Like, I can’t sell a Westworld game. I can make a game, I can give it away as a lark, but here’s that seriousness conversation again, right? So my game has a limited reach, even if it’s rad and innovative, if I keep it tightly wed to emulating this show. Buuuut if I can modify and twist and tweak it a bit, push it around, make it something different even if it is clearly inspired by Westworld (like The Sprawl is inspired by Neuromancer) then, you know…a less limited reach, maybe.

    And I can’t know if it’s even recognizable or fun or “fun” to non-watchers. That’s where you come in.


    Scrivener isn’t correctly rendering the file, and I didn’t notice ’til Christian Griffen commented on it.

    Throw away Alpha2, it’s no bueno. Trying to figure out Scrivener’s problem now. Please stand by.

  23. I finally got a chance to read through this. What an exciting and ambitious concept!

    I’d love to see the newer draft.

    I wonder if you can get any mileage out of the interviews hosts have with the Staff. It seems like a nice scene to have, and a way for the Staff to get input into events in the Park. (Almost like a dramatically ironic version of GMing: revealing your plans to the other players before putting them into motion.)

  24. Paul Taliesin Mischa Krilov​ I’m fiddling with one more draft. Paul, I’ll get you that one and as you to the reader list.

    Hangouts maybe! But unlikely. It is so hard to get time/space carved out here.

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