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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Roll for Funky Tableware

Let's say your character's facing down a truly formidable adversary: the breakfast table. No, I'm not kidding. Playing through a game of A Wanderer's Romance, I posed my friend's character the following dilemma: there's a bunch of people who you're eating breakfast with. They have these weird half-spoon eating utensils with pointy tips. Roll for etiquette.

It was one of my more enlightening moments in my brief career of GMing.

A Catalogue of Rolls
Here's what we've rolled four, over threeish sessions. (Fourth one doesn't exactly count. We were doing it late at night over chat, and I fell asleep near the start. Erm...)
  • Befriending a little kid
  • Figuring out how to eat politely
  • A bunch of combat rolls
  • Getting a rather smitten young man to calm down and communicate clearly
  • Haggling

I'm going to take a little time here to discuss AWR's specific mechanic. Your character has four ability scores, one for each classical element. Water...Earth...Fire...Air...


Sorry. Got distracted there a little. Anyhow. The GM designates two abilities to be used for the roll; the character rolls two dice and adds those ability scores. This is compared against a standardized difficulty. That's all there is to it.

System and Story
I've observed that because of this dynamic, the course of the game itself (and the underlying experience) is very organic. If I feel like a situation calls for a roll, I can figure out what sort of roll to ask for within moments. I can even easily designate different approaches to the same task. Part of this is due to the clarity of the system, and another part of it is due to its elegant flexibility.

A Wanderer's Romance knows exactly what to do, what its players need. They're telling a story that's almost ethereal in ways, drawing on larger natural motifs, bringing them into the specific situation. They need a system that they can draw into the action, and then release back out on a whim. The game provides just enough solidity for the players to rely on, but it's not so heavy that there's trouble getting it out of the way.

Wrapping Things Up
Every game does something different, and it bolsters the story in different ways. Burning Wheel thrives in the details; its heavy reliance on a rules framework makes for heavily-charged, directed stories that engage unexpected aspects of the characters. FATE encourages creativity on the part of all, by relying on subjective Aspects that are open to interpretation. Marvel Heroic Roleplaying gets players to engage their characters and the setting by requiring you to rely on certain narrative elements.

If you're a game designer, always have this principle at the front of your mind: "What do these rules do for the story?" Keep it right next to "What do these rules do for the player?"

If you're a gamemaster, always ask "What can these rules do for my story?"

And if you're a player? "What can my character do with these rules?"

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