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Fast Play Games

Posted by mr_orgue on 2013.06.04 at 09:05
(x-posted from Google Plus)

While driving today I was thinking about starting to play a new game. (Especially with new people; double-especially if they are new to gaming). A certain type of setup started to appeal to me.

(I'm dabbling in some online play and that has sharpened my attention; the lack of physical cues and general slow-down effect mean certain structures seem much easier to launch than others.)

I fixed on this, using a players + GM format:
* give the players clearly defined (but customisable) characters with relationships to each other
* put them all in a scene that goes to the essence of those characters and is interesting in itself
* twist that scene to raise the stakes somehow
* apply rules from here, but still, only lightly (at least from the player's perspective)

This kind of setup gets the shared fiction rolling, gives people a chance to try out their characters, and sees the emergence of story, and it gets there fast. That sounds like a good thing to me, especially when you have two hours and dodgy internet connections and you want to get something firing quickly.

Thinking about games that support this was trickier:

* Classic D&D - you get handed a character sheet that says "Dwarf" and "axe", then the GM says "you guys are at a cave entrance" and the girl next to you says "we cautiously enter the cave!" - boom. You're in. Rules come later and you don't need to understand them at all.

* Any traditional-style game with pre-gens and a predesigned adventure can do this, really. If the game would work in a convention setting, it would probably work for this context too. But these scenarios rely heavily on massive designer/GM investment beforehand, so they're an inelegant solution.

* Lady Blackbird - John Harper's game is a very close match! Characters, relationships, go! I haven't played this yet but I intend to roll it out soon for my next stage of online dabbling.

* Tonight We Slay A Dragon Or Die In The Attempt - Simon Carryer's fascinating new game, part of a broader collection of techniques he has cultivated. I'm very keen to play this with him and see exactly how he pulls the elements together at the table.

* City of Fire & Coin, for Swords Without Master - I read through Epidiah Ravachol's preview/playtest adventure yesterday and found it a pretty good match for what I'm thinking here, although I wonder how well the rules would resonate with the people I'm thinking of.

* Mountain Witch, by Timothy Kleinert - been a few years since I've played, but as I recall, it was quick to get this moving and to have players doing fiction-stuff.

Beyond that, I got stuck. As counterexamples - Fiasco and My Life With Master, which I think are both excellent games but have a setup phase that seems like a big imposition on my 2-hour-session online group of new faces (when setup is part of the fun with my 3-hour-session face-to-face crew).

So... any other suggestions, or comments, or whatever the hells?

[Over on G+ Hamish Cameron immediately suggested Dungeon World, which, OF COURSE.]


mr_orgue at 2013-06-03 22:09 (UTC) (Link)
EPOCH, of course! For some reason I wasn't thinking of horror games when I set this up, but there's a bunch that do this fairly well I think - Zombie Cinema is another.
grandexperiment at 2013-06-03 23:21 (UTC) (Link)
Golden Sky Stories does this pretty much:

* choose a type of Henge and one word from a list to describe your relationship each other PC (and the town where you are all located).
* as the PCs go about their everyday (and supernatural lives) the encounter a problem
* the PCs are free to react to the problem
* usually the problem has further complications and depth as the PCs investigate
* the rules are light overall and slowly build in complexity with as each scene goes by (mostly through further relationships with NPCs)

Edited at 2013-06-03 11:25 pm (UTC)
grandexperiment at 2013-06-03 23:25 (UTC) (Link)
Tenra Bansho Zero is a more complex game than GSS, but it does what you set out here to some extent:

* choose an archetype and roll on the Emotion matrix for each other PC
* play a Zero Act scene which is a rules free scene for each PC, and usually involves establishing the PCs goal for the session (via Destiny) as well as a relationship with a major NPC
* once Zero Act is over, there is a intermission where the players are able to modify their PCs to what happened
* normal RPG play and the rules then kick in with Act One.

Its an effective way to open any RPG game.
grandexperiment at 2013-06-03 23:27 (UTC) (Link)
John Harper's Agon also does this with the PCs being created from some pretty big choices and then there is a series of scenes with 2 PCs, establishing the basic rules and relationships between those PCs. Once done, the game starts in full.
(Anonymous) at 2013-06-05 07:20 (UTC) (Link)
A Taste for Murder, perhaps? It's inherently finite, but so are several of the other games mentioned. There is a setup phase where players have to create a web of relationships, but those relationships can and should be pretty basic. A basic appreciation for the rules is helpful though... although I'm pretty sure you could still have a good time just blundering through even if it did mean you lost a lot of contests. I wouldn't say it's hugely slower to get started than "EPOCH" or "Tonight We Slay A Dragon," though perhaps lacking the helping structure of predefined roles. --Ivan
mr_orgue at 2013-06-05 12:24 (UTC) (Link)
nice idea!
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