Tag Results

Only Say Yes to a Yes

“Say yes” is a fundamental principle of just about every shared creative process. “Yes and”, “yes but” — either way, say yes. And it is absolutely good advice for role-playing games. Accept what other people contribute. Embrace what’s been said as established truth and build on it. Don’t contradict it. But there’s a big caveat […]

Ben Robbins | August 19th, 2021 | , , , | 1 comment

A Careful Balance of Agreement & Disagreement

Any role-playing game is a careful balance between agreement and disagreement. We need agreement because the game world only exists in our minds. If we can’t agree about what’s true, we’re going to contradict each other. If you think there are walls around the city and I don’t, our game will crash. Since agreement is […]

Ben Robbins | July 3rd, 2021 | , , , ,

Rewriting Your Game From Memory

@lamemage gives hard advice. Rewriting Downfall from memory suuuuucks.   There’s a thing I do when I design games — this is real secret squirrel, behind-the-curtain stuff — which is that after I’ve written a draft or two and playtested a bit, I take everything I’ve written and just put it away. Make a new […]

Ben Robbins | May 6th, 2014 | , , , | 5 comments

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

Our Ground is Level and Our Table is Round

A lot of people have asked me to talk about how we do things at Story Games Seattle. We’ve had a lot of luck getting hordes of people to sit down, play games and have fun. What’s our recipe? If you’re bringing new people into gaming you could say there are actually two phases. The […]

Ben Robbins | May 1st, 2012 | , , | 5 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 | , , , ,

We Are Here to Game

Next weekend is Fabricated Realities (the “I’m sorry, did you say gaming inside of artwork?” con) and the awesome folks putting it together asked me to say a few words for the zine. They’d heard tall tales of the welcome spiel from our Story Games Seattle open game nights, cunningly crafted to help people shake […]

Ben Robbins | May 28th, 2011 | ,

Antagonism 101

or, being the right kind of mean “So, you’re trying to expose government corruption. Well, a car drives up, and a bunch of guys jump out. With guns! And… they shoot you! Uh, dead! Conflict!” “Allll-right…” We play a lot of story games where there’s no GM, and each character has an arc or agenda […]

Ben Robbins | December 2nd, 2010 | , , | 6 comments

Pitching New Game Systems, or “Let’s play Star*Axe!”

Back in the day, if I had a new game and I wanted to get other people to try it, I might have said something like this: “Let’s play Star*Axe! It’s sci fi, kind of buzzmetal-grunge-future. You play space vikings sacking colony ships and planetoids, killing lots of stuff under the watchful eye of your […]

Ben Robbins | August 28th, 2010 | , | 11 comments

You Will Miss That Really Cool Game

Go Play NW is coming up. If you’re going, here’s a shocking statistic: you will miss 95% of the games. It’s basic math. A hundred people, with an average of five people per game (or less) means twenty games per slot, and because of those pesky laws of time and space, you’ll only be in […]

Ben Robbins | June 14th, 2010 | , , | 6 comments

Character Monologue: Tell Us What It’s Like To Be You

Our heroes have just come back to town after exploring the wastelands, and the GM asks Fred what his character, Skark the scavenger, is doing. “He’s looking around to see if he can buy some more shotgun shells, then he’ll check in at the weather tower to see if they picked up any new radio […]

Ben Robbins | October 13th, 2009 | , | 20 comments

Shippensburg Adventure Game Camp

Nearly thirty years ago, there was a summer camp for D&D. Yes that’s right, a summer camp where instead of basket weaving and archery, you played Dungeons & Dragons. I went all five years it ran, three years as a camper and two as a councilor. And yes, it was awesome. There is about zero […]

Ben Robbins | May 20th, 2009 | , , , | 8 comments

Benefits of Tyranny

If the internets are to be believed, the world is filled with tyrannical “behold my works ye mighty and despair” GMs, game masters who dominate the table and tell their story with the players as witnesses or minimally free-willed participants. They go by many names: storytellers, railroading illusionists, social puppet masters. Tyrant GMs. There are […]

Ben Robbins | February 11th, 2009 | , | 21 comments

Making the Party: Wedge Issues

“You’re playing a grizzled veteran detective? But I’m playing a grizzled veteran detective!?!” Simple stereotypes are great starting points for character creation, but it also means it’s super-easy for two players to wind up with character concepts that look identical. Increase those odds by an order of magnitude in class-based rule systems (“but I’m playing […]

Ben Robbins | October 6th, 2008 | , | 5 comments

Braunstein: the Roots of Roleplaying Games

In 2005 I was standing near the registration booths at GenCon, flipping through the event catalog while the posse debated where to go first. I had already scoured the listings online, but as I glanced across the pages I spotted a word I had somehow missed before: Braunstein. I knew what Braunstein was (sort of) […]

Ben Robbins | August 6th, 2008 | , , | 61 comments

Treasure Tells A Story

If you’ve played in any of the basic dungeon crawling analogs, you’ve experienced that magical post-combat moment: treasure anticipation. There’s loot — you know there’s loot — but you don’t know what it is yet. Your brain is awash with the endless possibilities, visions of the shiny wonders that could be stashed in the ogre’s […]

Ben Robbins | June 26th, 2008 | , | 23 comments

West Marches: Running Your Own

Alarming fact: brave GMs all over the place are taking up the torch and starting their own West Marches games. Scary isn’t it? I’ve already had some private email conversations about how one would actually build and run a West Marches of their very own. Maybe you’ve got the bug too. Early symptoms include a […]

Ben Robbins | May 12th, 2008 | , | 315 comments

Bad Trap Syndrome (part 2), Curing the Bad Trap Blues

You are in a room. Before you are two doors. On the floor are ancient runes that say beyond one of these doors you’ll find the cure to the bad trap blues. Choose wisely! Door 1 — Writing a language of traps To make more and better interactive traps we would need a language for […]

Ben Robbins | March 20th, 2008 | , | 16 comments

Bad Trap Syndrome

“We approach the door.” “Half way down the corridor you step on a trap and darts fly out of the walls! The first character in the marching order takes” (roll roll roll) “7 damage!” (scribbles damage on character) “Okay, we keep going. Someone open the door.” I’m willing to bet that in all the hours […]

Ben Robbins | March 20th, 2008 | , | 21 comments

Be Interested

When you look out from behind your GM screen at all those beaming faces, there is a natural human tendency to focus on what is interesting. Chuck is doing cool stuff, so you pay attention to Chuck. You react to what he’s doing, which means the game world does too. The other players aren’t doing […]

Ben Robbins | February 27th, 2008 | , , | 5 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 4), Death & Danger

As I’ve said before (and any of the players will tell you) West Marches was dangerous by design. Danger encourages teamwork because you have to work together to survive. It also forces players to think: if they make bad decisions they get wiped out, or at least “chased into the swamp like little sissy girls” […]

Ben Robbins | December 9th, 2007 | , , | 35 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 3), Recycling

Did you read part 1 and part 2 already? No? Go do that. Running frequent on-demand games is a lot of work, but because the campaign was set in a fixed region there were ways I could maximize the reusability of some material I prepared. Recycled Maps: Evolving Dungeons Maps were a good example — […]

Ben Robbins | October 26th, 2007 | , , | 10 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 2), Sharing Info

Players sharing information was a critical part of the West Marches design. Because there was a large pool of players, the average person was in about a third of the games — or to look it the other way, each player missed two-thirds of the games. Add in that each player was in a random […]

Ben Robbins | October 22nd, 2007 | , , | 17 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches

West Marches was a game I ran for a little over two years. It was designed to be pretty much the diametric opposite of the normal weekly game: There was no regular time: every session was scheduled by the players on the fly. There was no regular party: each game had different players drawn from […]

Ben Robbins | October 17th, 2007 | , , | 206 comments