Calling All Streamers

Want to stream or podcast a game of In This World? I would love to jump on and facilitate a game, or just send you the rules so you can play it, or just talk about this weird little game and how it works.

I suspect In This World is particularly well-suited for streaming, because it jumps in fast and showcases a lot of player creativity. And since you’re making several bite-sized worlds instead of one big creation, viewers can get a whole picture out of watching just a chunk.

Drop me a line at info at I’ve already got some things lined up, but the more the merrier! I think In This World is a game that speaks to a broad range of people — gamers and non-gamers alike — so I want to give a broad range of people a chance to try it.

Ben Robbins | May 7th, 2023 |

In This World Prepares to Launch

The Kickstarter prelaunch page for In This World is up. Click that notify button!

This is temporary art while we hammer out the finishing touches on the cover. It will be glorious.

Since we’re getting closer to release, it’s also time to officially wrap up the playtest. I tend to let these things simmer to get as much good feedback as possible, but the playtesters have already outdone themselves.

If you’ve got any more feedback, end of May is the deadline!

Ben Robbins | May 4th, 2023 |

In This World vs The Trident of Progress

I realized I haven’t posted anything about In This World for a while. But I’ve only not been talking about it because I’ve been busy working on it instead.

The three prongs of the trident of progress have been:

1) Integrating all the playtest feedback and refining the presentation of the game,

2) Seeing what amazing cover art Al Lukehart can make, and

3) Gearing up for the kickstarter

If you had “In This World kickstarter in May” on your bingo card, you win the points.

Ben Robbins | April 29th, 2023 |

The Shackles of Precognition

In the past few years I’ve had a lot more regular weekly games than one-shots. Mostly games with no GM, so no one is writing a story for us to follow. We are all just playing in the moment and seeing what happens.

I love it. Except for one thing, which I’m doing to myself.

Sometimes I come to the session with an idea for a scene already in mind. It usually happens when I know my turn is next and I want to be ready to leap right in and frame a scene to get the game started quickly — can’t waste precious game time!

But it always feels like cheating. It doesn’t feel genuine to show up with a scene already baked. Even if it’s a great idea, I feel bad because it doesn’t feel like I’m playing in the moment. I’m reciting a bit of story I already wrote, even if it’s just a premise for a scene.

And it’s a slippery slope. Once you have a starting point, and a whole week to think about it, you start imagining what you’ll say and how it might play out. Soon you have a whole mental script of what you want to happen. Even if you remind yourself that these are only things that could happen, you’ve got a whole agenda looking over your shoulder. A script monkey on your back, interfering with your spontaneity.

It sucks, and it goes totally against the principles of these games. And the irony is that the more fun the game has been, the more tempting it is to think about all the things that could happen, because the game is fun to think about!

Once I get past any planned material, everything is fine, and the game becomes natural and fun again. I’m just reacting and improvising, listening to what the other players are bringing and running with it. That is true, in-the-moment, play. And when I make scenes mid-game, they’re spontaneous and often even better, because they’re hot reactions to the vibe at the table, right now.

This trap of planning ahead only comes up a fraction of the time — usually only when my scene is next, and even then only some of the time — but I’ve been wrestling with different ways to fight it. Sometimes I’ll jettison a pre-planned scene idea at the last minute and make something else up on the spot. Or I’ll ask other players involved in the scene questions so they help shape it. “Would your character have been following me, or is this just a chance encounter?” etc. That immediately starts to make it something organic and interactive, freeing me from my preconceptions.

Either way, I try to get the pre-planned bit out of the way as quickly as possible so I can get back to playing in the moment and seeing how the other characters respond and react. Outrun my own precognition to escape, Muad’dib-style.

I see other players pre-plan scenes too. Honestly it happens all the time, I assume for all the same reasons. But ironically it doesn’t bother me when other people do it, probably because I’m still playing in the moment so I’m having a normal game experience. It only bothers me when they go too far and are clearly laying out a whole story line they’re attached to, trying to GM the game from within.

Are they burdened with guilt the way I am when I roll up with a scene idea in a wheelbarrow? I do not know. I’m guessing some yes, some no.

Ben Robbins | March 31st, 2023 | , , | 4 comments

Where the Ball Lies

We play these games together to be surprised and satisfied by ideas we wouldn’t have created on our own. How all our contributions combine is something no one of us can predict. For that to happen, we have to let go what we individually *expect* or *want* and just see what *does* happen.

We had a great sequence in our Cars+Clouds kingdom game that really reminded me of that, of why it’s so important to not get hung up on what you expect or want, and instead just go with that is happening. To play the ball where it lies.

In this one session, there were *multiple* spots where some player was expecting things to go a certain way, but was then stymied by another character doing something that upended their plans. This was a culmination of six months of play, the big finale, so people had *thoughts*. And we talked about it as players, but instead of going back and cleaning things up to fit people’s expectations, we just embraced the situation and went with it. We followed the procedure and stayed in the moment and had the characters react to the things that happened as they happened.

The result was a richer and more intertwined story than I think any of us would have predicted if we just sat down with a blank sheet of paper and planned it out solo. We confounded each other but in doing so made each others’ stories so much better.

This even extended to the player / scheduling level: we thought we were going to finish the Crossroad that session, and were watching the clock to make sure we could get everything done, but then as more action unfolded and characters escalated, there was no way it could all get done without another session. And it was clear to us that that was the right choice, because the added story we were packing in was The Good Stuff, and our game was far better with it, even if it didn’t fit the schedule we had expected.

We went with it and we were rewarded for it.

Ben Robbins | March 30th, 2023 | , , , , ,

“Ooh, let’s be bad!” Microscope player says before Breaking the Rules

“People playing a Microscope game over brunch were heard saying “let’s be bad,” as they began to break the rules of the history-building RPG. “We’ve had a rough week!” Elizabeth Nelson said loudly. “I just finished up a month-long assignment, and Nadine’s boss has been a super dick, so we’re treating ourself and playing a Scene out after we’ve answered the question! Whooo!””

“Ooh, let’s be bad,” Microscope player says before Breaking the Rules

This is the gaming satire I never knew I needed. In the immortal words of Caroline: “finally some good content on the internet. Five stars, no notes”

Ben Robbins | March 26th, 2023 | ,