Tag Results

Nail Your Setup

One of my game design theories is that if you nail the setup, the rest of the game flows even if there aren’t a lot of constraints telling you what to do. Conversely, if your setup is wobbly, you can have all the structure in the world and it won’t save the game. You’ll be […]

Ben Robbins | January 18th, 2021 | ,

“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! http://arsludi.lamemage.com/static/eccc-2017-gmless.m4a (or download the file if you prefer) There’s a natural tendency, when examining GMless […]

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

“If you like role-playing games, you have to like people” (GMless RPGs, PAX 2015)

When I saw the slot for my talk about GMless RPGs at PAX, I was pretty skeptical whether anyone would be there. Friday morning, an hour after the doors opened? Would the crickets even show up? I think the first few seconds of the audio should answer that question… http://arsludi.lamemage.com/static/pax-2015-gmless.mp3 (or download the MP3 if […]

Ben Robbins | September 1st, 2015 | , , ,

GMless RPG talk (Norwescon 2013)

“Imagine a third kid there who’s very quiet, who never says anything” Now imagine me standing in front of a room full of people, talking about GMless role-playing games for an hour. Too hard? No problem! Like magic you can just listen in as though you were there… http://arsludi.lamemage.com/static/norwescon-2013-gmless.mp3 Fifty-four minutes of anecdotes of human […]

Ben Robbins | April 15th, 2013 | , ,

Defining Story Games

But first a caveat. Nailing down definitions can turn into a horrible quagmire, particularly when we’re tackling words that lots of people already use but define differently, or use without an actual definition just a case-by-case “I can’t explain it but I know it when I see it”. But without definitions words can be treacherous. […]

Ben Robbins | October 29th, 2012 | , , | 10 comments

“How is this possible? How can I enjoy role-playing games without a GM?!?” (ECCC 2012)

The GMless RPG workshop at last year’s PAX was so much fun that when Emerald City Comic Con was looking for gaming panels, I decided to pitch it again. I expected a handful of people to show up, maybe five or six at most. After all, this was a comic convention with almost no previous […]

Ben Robbins | April 17th, 2012 | , , , ,

GMless Role-playing Games (PAX 2011, part 6)

The big finale! You thought we’d never make it. We’re continuing from part 5, but if you’re just arriving (because you’re seeing the last post first) you probably want to jump straight to part 1 and start there. Indie 306 So… we’re just about done, unless people have questions? One thing I want to point […]

Ben Robbins | September 27th, 2011 | , , , | 2 comments

GMless Role-playing Games (PAX 2011, part 5)

Continued from part 4. Don’t Fear the Reaper & Antagonism Face Ben M: One of the initial fears I had the first time I was approaching GMless gaming was “oh shit, if Xander doesn’t like me, he’s going to spend the entire time killing character. This is going to suck.” But what actually happens… Right. […]

Ben Robbins | September 23rd, 2011 | , , | 1 comment

GMless Role-playing Games (PAX 2011, part 4)

Continued from part 3. We’re halfway through the workshop. We started off by making a list of all the things a GM does, then condensed that list into a few core activities. We’ve been going through each item and looking at how games with no GMs get those same things done, or in some cases […]

Ben Robbins | September 20th, 2011 | , , | 3 comments

GMless Role-playing Games (PAX 2011, part 3)

Our workshop continues from part 2. Who Gets to Talk Okay, so we were talking about world creation in Shock. One thing we kind of hinted at is that each of these games approach these critical questions in ways that are sometimes extraordinarily different. Like world creation. If you’re playing Fiasco, which is a massive […]

Ben Robbins | September 16th, 2011 | , ,

GMless Role-playing Games (PAX 2011, part 2)

Continued from part 1. In case it wasn’t clear, the section titles weren’t in the talk. I added them to make it easier for you to follow the conversation. Which Things Do We Need? Okay if the GM does all of those things, what’s the next question: Do we need these things? Morgan: Without antagonism, […]

Ben Robbins | September 13th, 2011 | , , | 5 comments

GMless Role-playing Games (PAX 2011, part 1)

Friday, PAX 2011. About a dozen people piled into a tiny room to talk about GMless Role-playing Games. This is the transcript of that workshop in all its unexpurgated glory. Instead of a rigid lecture, I opted for a lot more audience participation. More chaotic, yes, but did it pay off? In spades, I would […]

Ben Robbins | September 12th, 2011 | , , | 8 comments

Movie Kisses

Framing scenes. Conflicts. Story arcs. Main and minor characters (or PCs and NPCs if you prefer). The characters don’t see it but the audience does. Fade to black. Roleplaying games imitate media. More and more they model themselves after movies, television and (to a far lesser degree) books. The thing of it is, movies, television […]

Ben Robbins | September 15th, 2010 | | 13 comments

Competition Likes Precision

Here’s a simple maxim: Competitive games need clearer rules than cooperative games. The reasons should be pretty obvious: in a competitive game, the participants are motivated to interpret rules differently, because each person wants to interpret the rules in their own favor. In a cooperative game, the participants are motivated to interpret the rules the […]

Ben Robbins | May 10th, 2010 | , | 1 comment

The Past is Never Closed, and other data storage problems

Remember that game five months ago, when you met that guy who got you that forged visa? Y’know, during that adventure when your ship was smuggling medical supplies past the blockade? Shifty little guy? Wore a monocle? He wasn’t an important character, and he wasn’t the interesting part of the game, so maybe you remember […]

Ben Robbins | May 14th, 2009 | , | 6 comments

The Thesis: Practice and Escapism

Years and years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I did a psychological study that looked at the relationship between gamers and the characters they played. I had two phases of questionnaires, one asking a lot of standard personality index questions and the second asking what kind of character the person played, how their character […]

Ben Robbins | March 5th, 2009 | | 11 comments

Boredom & the No-Prep Game

I’ve been playing a lot more indie games lately, which is great, but I’m finding they have one big problem: boredom. Not boredom during the game — the games are fun. But lots of indie games follow a model where the GM (if there even is a GM) doesn’t prepare anything ahead of time. Everything […]

Ben Robbins | December 16th, 2008 | | 8 comments

Widen the Fun

Games don’t always work. A game might be too ambitious to really be feasible, or it might just be too much for the people involved. In the middle is the range of games that work, the successful game, the fun zone. There are two ways you can widen the fun: 1) you can push the […]

Ben Robbins | May 23rd, 2008 | | 4 comments

Game vs World

For many, many years I ran games as a way of expressing the worlds I had built. I ran different campaigns, with different groups of people, all in different places or different times, but the vast majority were all on the same world and in my mind all connected. Not connected in plot, just connected […]

Ben Robbins | April 20th, 2008 | | 4 comments

Choosing New Games: the Character Sheet Test

When I’m struggling to decide whether a new game system is worth trying out, there are lots of different things that can influence my decision. But when in doubt, I find I fall back on the character sheet test: 1) Open the book 2) Flip through it until you find a character write-up 3) Read […]

Ben Robbins | May 24th, 2007 | | 2 comments

Rules Influence Style

When I was 19 I got in an argument with an older and (as it turned out) wiser gamer. He was talking about using Bushido to run a samurai game, and I was saying how I didn’t like having to learn a new system for every different kind of game. If wanted to play a […]

Ben Robbins | February 27th, 2007 | | 2 comments

Bottling GM Skills

I just released Evil Genius #1: World Domination, and it occurs to me that I come up with much (much) more ars ludi material while working on games for publication than I do while working on games that I’m just going to run. It makes perfect sense really: as a GM you may do all […]

Ben Robbins | December 11th, 2006 | | 2 comments

Computer Games vs Tabletop Games: Learning Curve

Why is it easier to get someone to try a computer game than a tabletop game? And by tabletop games we're including them all, board games on up to RPGs. Ignore the fact that you need a group of people (in the same place, at the same time) to play a tabletop game, and ignore […]

Ben Robbins | November 27th, 2006 | | 4 comments

The Second AI

Problems with video games can highlight what is right with tabletop role playing games and vice versa. When a player goes up against a computer opponent in a game, that opponent is controlled by an AI. The AI is supposed to simulate the tactics and decisions a real opponent would make. The orcs might be […]

Ben Robbins | November 25th, 2006 | | 6 comments