“I just like saying ‘overthrow the government'” (GMless RPGs, ECCC 2017)

Delving into the secrets of GMless role-playing games at Emerald City Comicon. No that recording is not speeded up, that’s just how fast I talk about these things. I’ve got just one hour and a lot of ground to cover!

(or download the file if you prefer)

There’s a natural tendency, when examining GMless games, to focus on how the functions performed by a Game Master are divided up and replaced. But I think that’s the wrong question to ask. The real question is, what entirely new ways could we be role-playing if we don’t start from the decades-old assumption that we need a GM at all?

Ben Robbins | April 10th, 2017 | game theory | 2 comments

Emerald City Comicon: A Full House of Story Games


There is a secret trick to organizing a great con: great people. Great facilitators who step up and make people welcome and bring the awesome to the table.

Then add to that: more great people. Great attendees. Soooo many fantastic people who wanted to come out and try these games.

We had five tables for Story Games, but in the very definition of “above and beyond the call of duty” we foraged for space and ran overflow games shift after shift. And even then, we still had to turn a bunch of people away when all our games were full. I wept that they didn’t get to play, yet huge demand is, as they say, a good problem to have.

Top three games were Fiasco, Follow and Downfall. After that it was a five-way tie. A grand total of 18 different systems, 49 game sessions, and countless thrilled gamers. (Okay, not really countless. We counted them. There were a lot.)

Special thanks to Eric Portney and all the other ECCC volunteers who put on such a great con. And mad props to the tireless facilitators who made the Story Games area happen. Ace, Alex, Andy, Ashley, Caroline, Corinne, Drew, ET, Grey Pawn, Heather, Joe, Justin, Kevin, Marc, Max, Miles, Nick and Ross — I was proud to work with such a stellar team.

Ben Robbins | March 13th, 2017 | events

Emerald City Comicon: The Game Schedule

Coming to play story games at Emerald City Comicon, but looking for a particular game? Want to know when you can get a spot at the table to play it? Check it:

Emerald City Comicon Story Games

These are the games our volunteers will be offering to facilitate in each slot. Only some of these games will be played depending on which ones get selected first. So if there’s a game you really want to play, you should get there early to sign up for it. And all games subject to change, of course.

Ben Robbins | February 27th, 2017 | events | 3 comments

Emerald City Comicon: Attack of the Story Games!

Going to Emerald City Comicon? Want to play some story games? Well, once again, we’ve got you covered. Our team of crack facilitators is setting up shop in WSCC 208 to bring the fun. Straight from the schedule:

Story Games

Come play story games! Build a world or epic drama together… and then watch it burn. Try games like Fiasco, Microscope, Downfall and Fall of Magic. Never played a story game before? No problem! We have skilled facilitators on-hand to show you how. Everyone is welcome. No experience necessary.

WSCC 208 is the second floor of the main convention center, right off from the central escalators. We’ll have sign-up sheets for the games for each slot. Start times are:

Thursday 3 pm, 7 pm
Friday 11 am, 3 pm, 7 pm
Saturday 11 am, 3 pm, 7 pm
Sunday 10 am, 1 pm

That’s when games *start*, so if you want to play you should come earlier and reserve a spot. Look for our big green sign:


I’ll also be giving a talk to dig into what’s so great about all these GMless games anyway:

Secrets of GMless Role-Playing Games

Role-playing games without a GM? How is this possible?!? Good game masters are awesome but you don’t need a GM to play an awesome game. Join game designer Ben Robbins and explore the world of GMless RPGs like Fiasco and Microscope. Whether you’ve never played a GMless game before or you’re already an expert, come learn what makes them tick and expand your gaming horizons.

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM, Thursday March 2nd, WSCC 210

Yep, that’s two doors down from the gaming area. Come chat and afterwards take a short stroll and sign up for some games!

Since my talk is on Thursday, I have no idea if anyone will even be at the con yet, let alone the gaming area, so it might be a very quiet room. If so, that just means the people that show up get to have an intimate fireside chat. Which actually sounds kind of great.

Ben Robbins | February 18th, 2017 | events

The Scarlet Letter: Microscope in the Classroom

Keenan is killing it bringing story games to the classroom. His latest post is about using Microscope scene structure to explore the Scarlet Letter. The kids’ feedback is stunning, once again.

Scarlet Letter: Microscope Scene Building and Reflections

Other educators are starting to share their experiences on the new “games in the classroom” G+ community, like this post about adapting Mars Colony to large groups. These first-hand reports are so informative. If you’re bringing games to the classroom, or gaming with kids in other capacities, jump in and share your experiences!

Ben Robbins | December 19th, 2016 | microscope kids

Lord of the Flies: Kingdom in the Classroom

Over the past few years, I’ve heard from a lot of different educators who have experimented with Microscope, Kingdom and similar games in the classroom. They were each trying different approaches, but didn’t have a common forum to share what they’d learned.

So when Keenan Kibrick contacted me and we talked about creating a new G+ community for story games in the classroom, I was all for it. He just posted the results of using Kingdom to have students explore Lord of the Flies. Kids role-playing Lord of the Flies? That is about as daring as it gets.

Kingdom: Lord of the Flies in the Classroom Reflection and Quick Start

How’d it go? Read the feedback the kids gave. It is spot-on.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the cross-pollination of ideas we can get going between educators. There’s a lot of exciting and unexplored potential for story games in the classroom.

Ben Robbins | December 12th, 2016 | kingdom