Fast Play Games
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
* LET THEM PLAY
* twist that scene to raise the stakes somehow
* LET THEM PLAY SOME MORE
* 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.]