Gameplay Video: In This World

Trying something new! I’ve uploaded a gameplay video of one of our In This World sessions. The topic for our worlds: Vacations!

I’ve never tried posting video of our sessions before, but a lot of people have asked to see what all my games look like in action, so we’ll see how this works!

It is, of course, totally unscripted. You get to see the whole process, from sitting down to picking a topic for our worlds to hashing out all the details. Real gaming, warts and all! Big kudos to Caroline, Marc, and Al for being willing to take the plunge!

Like and subscribe and all that jazz!

Ben Robbins | May 30th, 2023 | , ,

In This World, In Your Head

or, “Can you play this game solo?”

Ever since I starting working on In This World, it has been slowly taking over my brain. I don’t mean I’m working on it all the time, I mean it is working on me!

I’m just going about my day, minding my own business, and then something crosses my mind, some topic like Toys or Museums or Weather. And immediately I start thinking of statements: common and obvious things that are true about that topic. Things we don’t even normally think about. Things we take for granted.

And then, naturally, because In This World has a hold on me, I think “hmmmm, well, what if that wasn’t true?” And before I know it I’m imagining new worlds and questioning everything.

Like just now, after dealing with social media, I imagined an alternate world where people leave each other secret notes in the woods. The most adorable social media!!!

But let’s be clear: the game is designed to be a group activity. It’s not built for solo play. And yet… I find myself playing it solo all the time. I start applying the method and suddenly I’m interrogating the world and percolating new ideas.

And that’s not even counting cases where I play a normal session, and then walk around afterwards thinking of even more ideas (yeah, ask me about my Dating world where instead of “people have a wide range of expectations of dating” there are Five Schools of dating philosophy and everyone adheres to one of them, like a 70s kung fu movie).

It’s a compulsion! I can’t stop myself!

And you know what? I like it.

Ben Robbins | May 24th, 2023 |

In This World, Story Games Are Joy

“We started by changing “Story games aren’t about winning,” to “well, actually they are…””

Caroline and Marc took In This World for a spin on a lovely and leisurely Sunday morning. Their topic? Something near and dear to us all: story games!

Less Than Three Games: World of Story Games

“But what I most appreciate about In This World is how it makes me feel that the magic of each and every game is us — people getting together and sharing our unique perspectives to make something new.

“In this world, story games are joy.”

See? Caroline gets it.

Ben Robbins | May 20th, 2023 | , ,

It’s Raining Mechs

Alien mechs fall from the sky like shooting stars. Their technology is so advanced that even after smashing into the Earth they still work. And just one is advanced enough to change the balance of power. Governments and militaries around the world race to be the first to secure each mech as it falls…

For this session of In This World, instead of a real world topic, we decided to take something fictional for a spin.

Our topic: mechs.

We had Greek warriors laboring to turn gears inside towering Trojan Horses that actually fought and conquered cities. And another world that was more like “Leave It To Beaver”, but with a mech in every garage instead of cars and cartoonish robot battles as common as songs in a musical (“Fred, your dog pooped on my lawn again!” *mech fight!*).

The whole game was great, but the third world we made, the “it’s raining mechs” world, was a particularly great example of how each player’s contribution builds and bounces off the last. Our players? Mike, Haskell, Jem and me. Everyone had played In This World before.

One of our starting statements — things that are normally true about the topic but might be different here — was “people build mechs” and that change was the starting point of Mike’s world: in this world, people don’t make mechs, they fall from the sky, alien artifacts of some unknown origin. They hit infrequently, usually one at a time in some random part of the world, and there are maybe a hundred here so far.

As the starting player, Mike also got to pick two other statements he wanted to stay true: “militaries deploy mechs” and “mechs fight each other”, explaining that these alien machines are so much better than conventional weapons that if one nation fields a mech you either field a mech to counter it or you lose. Even a minor nation that gets its hands on one is suddenly a force to be reckoned with. The old international balance of power is thrown out of the window.

So that’s all Mike’s turn, player 1. I would say the rest of us sat back and went “hmmm” with our thinking caps on, but that would not a total lie: we were all chomping at the bit, because we all had ideas.

Jem, throws a smoke bomb to distract us and jumps in next. One of our statements was “mechs require fuel”, which honestly I didn’t expect to come up a lot. But oh no, Jem says yeah that’s true, they totally do. But it’s alien fuel that we don’t understand and can’t produce. So every single mech has limited use. You might get three or four major battles out of one and then it’s dead.

Oooooooh, tasty! That throws a massive wrench in the cost-benefit analysis of mech battles. I love it. Haskell decides to add some detail and make us feel bad by saying that if you didn’t fight and instead hooked up a mech as a power source, you could produce vast quantities of clean energy. Yes they would run out of juice eventually, but not before they did a lot of good, if we were willing to use them for peaceful purposes instead of war. Which no one does, because they’re too valuable as military assets. Now we have guilt.

Another of our statements was that “mechs vary”, meaning there are all sorts of different models and so on, but I throw in a relative softball that no, in this world every mech is the same. I like it because it makes the balance of power crystal clear: one mech equals one mech, all the world over.

That’s round one done! For round two we put away the remaining statements and focus on just adding detail to what we’ve already established.

The second half really drove home the ‘one mech equals one mech’ idea and removed any romance from the situation by adding that pilot skill doesn’t really make a difference, because the mech control systems are really doing the work. You control the mech but it’s not like being an ace pilot gives you an edge. This is not your heroic anime story.

But even more importantly, the whole situation is veering towards a zero-sum game: when a mech falls from the heavens, everyone can see it coming and decide whether to try to grab it, but you have to deploy mechs to capture mechs, which uses up fuel. If you’re unlucky the cost might be higher than the reward.

In the blink of an eye, we had made a juicy and nuanced world, teeming with tension. I would play a whole campaign exploring that setting.

Careful readers will notice that at no point did we discuss *why* there were alien mechs falling from the heavens. It never came up, because that’s not the part of the setting we were curious about. And that’s a core principle of In This World: you dig into the stuff that the people at the table are interested in. You make the world you want to explore.

Ben Robbins | May 18th, 2023 | ,

In This World Kickstarter Has Launched!

The kickstarter for In This World is now live.

I pressed the button and unleashed the flood.

Ben Robbins | May 16th, 2023 |

One Week Until Launch

The date is set. The kickstarter for In This World is launching on Tuesday May 16, one week from today. That’s my plan, anyway! Because the sooner I launch, the sooner you all get to play the game.

I’m also going to be chatting with folks at the Foresight Games event this Wednesday (tomorrow), talking about In This World and how questioning our assumptions about the world we have now is fundamental to visualizing a different future…

Ben Robbins | May 9th, 2023 |