I played two games of Follow last week and by tooooootal coincidence we picked the Rebellion both times. When I’m playtesting, I often sit back and see what quest the other players choose, because: playtesting. What quests people choose or reject can be very informative.
The same quest, twice in a row? Boring, right? Nope, because even starting with the same quest the results could not have been more different…
“You don’t join a cult to make friends…”
For the first game, our group had been playing quite a bit of the Eldritch Horror board game, so we thought, why not play a Follow game with the same concept? Save the world from the awakening, unspeakable horror, as you do?
But then we reconsidered: we keep losing at Eldritch Horror, so why not side with the winners for a change? Our fellowship was the cult awakening the elder god. Yep, our Rebellion was against humanity. All of it.
We set our game in the 1920s, because that’s always a classy era for some Call of Cthulhu action. Our cult called itself “the Lighted North” in reference to the idea that Kanaguk would descend upon the Earth from the aurora borealis at the North Pole. We were a young cult and our org chart was in beautiful disarray. Lots of vying for authority and disagreement about exactly what the theophany of Kanaguk would entail. Would all humanity perish? Would the Chosen be elevated to thrones of power beside Him? It? Whatever. We each had our own vision of that future and were utterly certain the others were wrong:
“You are not the Chosen One!”
“Fool! Kanaguk chooses no one. We are all dust before Him.”
A pivotal contribution was our second “what makes our quest difficult?”: we introduced the Order of Julian, a Templar-like secret society that has been around for centuries and was completely on to us. Our first challenge was to uncover their mole in our cult, which we failed. That set up the idea for the rest of the game that the Order still had a spy in our ranks and was always a step ahead of us. Basically screwing us at every turn.
Our other difficulty: The Time Was Not (yet) Right. Yep, the stars have not aligned. Are we journeying to the Arctic to do the ritual anyway? Even if we lack the critical component and even if the Order of Julian knows exactly what we’re planning? Oh yes we are, because you don’t join a cult to make friends, or to learn patience either.
Lose/Lose/Lose. The world is saved, from us. Yay!
Next up: cars and crowbars.
Ben Robbins |
September 27th, 2016 |
This is a simple trick we’ve been using at Story Games Seattle for years. It may seem trivial but it’s not.
Your physical environment has a huge impact on your social interactions, and a role-playing game is just one big social interaction. In the kind of games we play — story games with no game master — the ideal seating arrangement is as close as possible to a circle.
Why a circle? Because it’s easier to communicate if you can see each other. If you aren’t facing each other it’s much harder to read all the unspoken social cues we use as human beings. A slight frown or raised eyebrows can reveal tons about how the other person is reacting to what’s happening. We do it constantly.
Unfortunately, the world is full of tables like this:
Ah, the rectangular table! Our old enemy. It’s too long to put people at either end like you would with a square table, so the players sitting next to each other are in the social danger zone. They have to turn 90 degrees to face each other, so they will miss a lot of social cues. I will lay down cash money that they will have a harder time interacting or will simply interact less.
But there is an absurdly simple fix. When you sit down, just have everyone angle their chairs to face the person diagonal to them.
Instant round table. The key thing is that the angle of your chair to the edge of the table (i.e. the way we normally orient ourselves) is completely unimportant. Your angle towards the other players is what matters.
For other numbers, just position everyone to face the center of the imaginary circle. If you have three players, you can put someone at the end of the table and angle the chairs that are facing each other. Same with five: put someone on the end and alter the angles. The two chairs near the seat on the end should scoot back slightly so the other two players have a clear sight line.
When in doubt, imagine there is no table. Just position your chairs to face the other players.
Ben Robbins |
September 20th, 2016 |
how to play
| 2 comments
“We came. We saw. We gamed.”
Once again, crack squads from Story Games Seattle, Story Games Olympia and other parts Pacific Northwest, descended on PAX to bring the story games to the people. From Friday through Monday, our expert facilitators were on hand, offering games to anybody who wandered up and wanted to take them for a spin. And wander up and game they did!
There are 81 games in the log, plus probably more pickup games that didn’t get recorded. A whole slew of different games were played, but the hands-down winner was Downfall, which got played in at least 14 slots. What’s even more impressive is that at least six different facilitators decided to run it: that’s a huge vote of confidence.
Salutes and kudos to all the tireless facilitators and organizers who once again made the gaming possible. And cheers and applause to all the great gamers who showed up, took a leap of faith, and tried something new and exciting. Let’s do it again soon.
Ben Robbins |
September 18th, 2016 |
In story games, a character can defy everyone else and succeed entirely on their own.
A player cannot. Big, important distinction.
Ben Robbins |
September 15th, 2016 |
how to play
“fall of league of supervillains creates world war”
“outlawing of experimental drug unleashes social inequality”
“rise of psi talents unites terrorists”
The special bonus superhero Oracle from the Microscope Explorer kickstarter is ready to go! You can use the PDF and roll the dice or use the oracle online.
There a lot of societal issues, justice and world politics in the mix rather than just four-color rock’em sock’em, but that’s just my personal preferences showing through. And also because when you summarize a whole history, it’s trends like that which shine through, even if there are a lot of death-rays and kill-bots along the way.
As always, with 46,000 possible combinations per oracle, some results are going to be weird or outright nonsense. If you don’t like what you get, just roll again or tweak it however you want.
Now go punch injustice in the face.
Ben Robbins |
September 11th, 2016 |
microscope explorer, microscope tools
“That moment in Follow where everyone holds their breath as you draw the stones… and then everyone screams. Priceless.”
Game designers make the games they want to play. We’re selfish like that. But it’s a good thing, because it means we want our games to work (selfish) and we love what we make.
But for the game to be useful to anyone else, it has to work when you, the designer, aren’t at the table. And that’s the definition of an unknowable / black box kind of thing, because, well, you aren’t there! That’s why moments like this are music to mine ears:
I walked up just as they drew and cheered, so I asked them to strike a victory pose so I could capture the moment. I have no idea what was going on in this game except that it was Follow, the last game slot of PAX, and they had won their last challenge. And I know that face.
But you know what’s really interesting? The face when you draw and lose often looks exactly the same, but maybe with more screaming before the smiles.
Because good story is good story.
Ben Robbins |
September 6th, 2016 |