Day 29: What indie game tech do you most keenly miss when you play something more mainstream? And then do you denounce the game in person or do you save it for a social media rant?

Obviously I intended this question to start a lengthy and impenetrable turf war discourse on the bright line between indie and mainstream. Obviously.

So we all know what we’re talking about right? Excellent, we can skip over the unpleasantness.

I have actual answers for this one! Minimum navel-gazing today.

Circles from Burning Wheel, or really any player-facing “take a chance on adding stuff to the world” mechanism. Circles, specifically, oh how I missed that. To those not in the know: it’s basically a stat that lets you add an NPC to the world. Might be useful, might be an enemy, doesn’t matter: if you feel like you need to add an NPC to the game, you make the test. If it fails, the best practice is typically that the NPC shows up anyway, but with a complication. That alchemist you really need to brew up a shapeshifting potion is also an informant for the Cardinal’s secret police. The sympathetic captain of the guard will totes let you through the gate but only after you’ve saved her son from the witch in the woods. Whatever. Enmity Clause ftw.

Another: relationship-making Pre-Play Questions. First I saw it so explicitly spelled out was Apocalypse World. It’s great for games with a good dose of intraparty action, especially backed up with some incentives so you keep reincorporating the stuff you said in the beginning. In Mutant: Year Zero, it generates the Ark’s relationship map and situation, and earns you XPs as you help an NPC, hinder another, and protect your PC “buddy.” I really do miss that process when it’s not available. I think Fate (FATE? (F.A.T.E.?)) has a similar pre-game “what did we do together and what aspect is derived from that experience?” thing. It’s neat. Good tech.

I miss PbtA style Moves when I’ve been playing a lot of PbtA/AWE games. It gets into my head and I shift my mode and method. The surest proof that moves are not skills is to try to treat one as the other in back-to-back games. Very different engagement and use and vibe. But the majority volume of my play isn’t PbtA so missing Moves is a temporary condition only.

I know I’m missing a ton but those are the three that jump to mind.

One more day! Anyone else excited?

11 thoughts on “Day 29: What indie game tech do you most keenly miss when you play something more mainstream? And then do you denounce the game in person or do you save it for a social media rant?”

  1. 1. This is old hat (more than 10 years old), but having some kind of robust conflict resolution mechanic which is NOT based on character abilities can be tremendously helpful.

    Sometimes you just wanna know whether your character falling over into the mud could solicit sympathy from the Princess, you know?

    You can’t get that kind of thing from a to-hit roll, but in many games it can spice things up and help us move past a disagreement and back to the game.

    2. Clarity of Creative Agenda in the game itself. Whether it’s the design of the game rules or just the orientation provided by the text, some games are maddeningly un-self-aware, and refuse to tell you the point of playing the thing. (“You can be anyone you want and do anything you want! Game X allows you to do it all!” That gives you very little help when you’re trying to figure how to make your game better, or which bits to focus on and which bits to leave out.)

  2. Paul Taliesin​, can you give an example(s) of mechanics that do the first (resolution not built on player ability)? I’m sure I’ve been exposed to several, but I’m having a hard time thinking of examples.

  3. John Bogart: sure. The aforementioned ‘Circles’ ability is one very focused application. ‘Last Breath’, from Dungeon World, is another hyper-focused application (only for when you’re dying). But those are VERY specific.

    The ultimate example of a generic application, in my opinion, is the game The Pool. However, conflict resolution systems in many other games, like Primetime Adventures or Otherkind dice do this, as well.

    Like anything else in gaming, you can always “come up with a custom move” on the spot (or just pick some dice and roll them), but some games make it interactive, easy, and “fair” (or at least make it feel that way) by giving you a good framework for it.

  4. Indeed. Ideas are worth something. Just because you had a good one once doesn’t mean everyone else can at the drop of a hat, nor that you will be able to again the next time.

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