Tags: roleplaying

Essays on roleplaying

There have been two great new essays on roleplaying published this week.

Ron Edwards talks about a process for playing games in highly detailed settings such as Glorantha, or the worlds of Earthdawn, Wraith: The Oblivion, and Tribe 8. He recommends choosing a location inside the setting that's rife with problematic situations, then making characters that belong to that situation (rather than a group of adventurous outsiders wandering in to fix it), and finally: destabilising the situation with immediate and simmering threats.

Setting and Emergent Stories by Ron Edwards: http://adept-press.com/wordpress/wp-content/media/setting_dissection.pdf

Raffaele Manzo analyses the role of the GM in tabletop games and LARPs. Drawing off several years of essays and articles, he describes the various roles that comprise what the GM does, including:

• social organizer
• host
• rules-owner and introducer
• creative leader
• social/procedural leader [regarding the application of game rules]
• audience member
• authority over content, plot, situational elements
• narrator of events
• cleaner-upper of the leftover of sexual encounters of lavatories of the hired facilities where LARPs are held.

The article isn't online, but it can be downloaded from Dropbox:

There is No Such Thing as a "Game Master" by Raffaele Manzo: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/38479421/LF_2_14_Manzo.pdf

In other links:

- Elizabeth Sampat posts about how a game design emotionally affected her
- Will Hindmarch describes the call and response columns going on between Monte Cook (D&D) and Sage LaTorra (Dungeon World)
- (via Luke) Vincent Baker discusses the clash of expectations he experienced when prepping to run Lamentations of the Flame Princess


Role-playing games as performance

Found this great paragraph in "The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art" (Daniel MacKay, 2001). It neatly hits some points that I've been thinking about for a dozen years or more.

"That the roles of performer and audience are played by a single group at different times rather than by distinct groups at the same time does not jeopardize the role-playing game's status as a performance form. Instead, it further supports the work of theater and performance theorists and practitioners such as Bertolt Brecht, Richard Schechner and The Wooster Group, to name a few, who have complicated, blurred, and confounded these traditional categorical distinctions. This trend, in fact, extends well beyond performance forms and extends into literary reception theory, cognitive psychology, and cybernetics, where work emphasizing the reader or receiver's control of the message indicates a movement in thought meant to confound the lucid, rational distinctions and divisions of labor that separate sender and receiver. Now - in the age of multimedia workstations, postcolonial economies, and postdisciplinary academia - artists, theorists and researchers are attempting to reconfigure our inherited social, artistic and cultural roles (e.g. performer-audience) in a knowing return to premodern structures, where those roles are blurred (e.g., role-player = performer-audience)." (p58)

Posted here for interest. I intend to return to this subject once I'm through Heck Month.

Interview: Vanessa B Baylen

On Friday night I went to Death By Chocolate, an interactive murder mystery show that won an award at the Melbourne Fringe and sold out with great reviews at the hugely competitive Edinburgh Fringe. (My review of the night is here.)

In the show, guests take on the roles of detectives and mingle freely with the suspects, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. It's an experience that has lots in common with role-playing games, but creator Vanessa B Baylen arrived at this show by a completely different route.

After the jump, Vanessa answers my questions about where this show came from, and about the specific techniques and processes she's used with the performers to create the experience.

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Thanks Vanessa for taking the time to answer these questions!

If you're in the Wellington, I strongly recommend the show - it's an excellent experience. It's on this Thursday through Sunday. Find out more here!

Love, roleplaying, and waves on a beach.

A couple of days ago, my (straight male) GM seduced one of my (straight male and married) co-players.  In-character, of course.  It was a very entertaining scene: a walk on a beach, and stars, that boggling moment when one character got sick of hinting and made an unmistakeable proposition and the other character had a brain freeze and gave the impression that he wasn't interested.  There was a brief slightly embarassed discussion about logistics, and there was a tasteful fade to black.

The thing is, that particular in-character relationship between a protagonist character and a GM character had been going on for months, in game and in the real world, of two people dancing around each other wondering what the other one is thinking.  It struck me as quite convincing in a real world, this is what people are like and how they deal with each other kind of way.  I was wondering, what are other people's experiences of roleplaying relationships, both as protagonists and observers?

Starting at the Begining

I've signed up to play in Ivan's Elizabethan SF game. The pitch:
The plan is for an Elizabethan-era science fiction game based around the comet of 1572. To quote Benjamin Woolley's biography of John Dee, "[The appearance of a new star] went to the heart of the cosmological, and ... by implication political and theological, order, and did so at a time when, across Europe, that order was facing innumerable other destabilising challenges. If this was a new star, it meant that the great outer orb of the Universe, unchanged since the moment of creation, which in its very pattern ordained the arrangement of earthly powers, had somehow altered." Of course, if the new star were actually the spaceship of technologically advanced star-faring aliens, well, that would kind of upset the arrangement of earthly powers too.

The game would probably run about 8-10 sessions. It will be relatively low-action (it’s not going to be a bug hunt with longbows), more about the interaction between the humans with their various agendas and relationships (personal, political, military, philosophical, theological, ecclesiastical, etc.) and the aliens with theirs (friendly, hostile, neutral, incomprehensible?). My idea is for the PCs to be based around of the court of Elizabeth, but the exact structure is up for grabs e.g. they could be a cross-functional (ahem) team of the brightest and the best, or they could be the court astrologer or spymaster plus retinue, or whatever. There is the possibility to accommodate people who can only make it irregularly.
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