Game Designer Workshop: Live at Gen Con 2015

ruin-previewThe RPPR crew is back from Gen Con and we have a lot of podcasts for you! Caleb and I gave six panels and we recorded them all. The first is a new Game Designer Workshop episode, where I talk about my progress in Ruin and Caleb discusses his new beta for Red Markets. RPPR: making mistakes in game design in real time, for your entertainment!

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  11 comments for “Game Designer Workshop: Live at Gen Con 2015

  1. August 3, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Wow, quick turnaround! I’m starting to feel glad that I’m sick and have taken tomorrow off work. 🙂

  2. August 4, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Awesome episode. I really want to know what the Awe and Labyrinth skills do now.

  3. redroverone
    August 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I feel a bit of shame that my question started a bit of an argument, but I do love that Ross kinda validated my question. 😀

    As I mentioned in the other podcast thread, I did video about half of it, if you guys (Ross and Caleb, that is) want a copy for posterity or something.

  4. jtfburgess
    August 4, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Hi Ross, if you’ll allow me to channel the force ghost of Robin Laws for a moment, it sounds like some of the problems you’re having with Ruin might be that you’re using a procedural mechanic, where what matters is succeeding or failing in a task, to tell a story that sounds like it’s mostly about dramatic relationships and the existential dream that occurs when boundary between self and other is blurred. What makes your game really interesting are the dramatic beats where something weird happens to force a normative definition of self, other, or world, and what happens when we have less than complete ownership over our ability to make those definitions.

    With that in mind, I wonder if building off of the drama system, with its system of pitches, might be a way to relieve some of the burden of creating a unified system of Carcosaness. It’s possible that one player could play Carcosa like other players were playing Jane Smith. In that way, the players at the table might all participate in the initial story pitch (Stranded travelers trying to escape a hotel, sewer workers encountering underground multiverse, archaeologists find a gate to the underworld, etc. ) be able to consent to the initial conditions and theme of the weirdness, but the player who was in the role of the architecture could the stat out the unique details setting in the same way as the players were statting out their characters, complete with the ability to assign points to other characters.

    This has been a *really* egregious instance of co-designer syndrome and I’m sorry for giving in to the impulse, but it sounded like you were only dropping the unified system approach to Ruin because you’d hit a brick wall, and I think Ruin has the potential to set the bar for Carcosa roleplaying if it can find a way to be that broad framework.

  5. August 4, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks to the glory of podcasting, I can listen to your panel today, and Ken and Robin’s panel on Friday. I do think it’s funny how much those two guys have influenced the RPPR game design style.

  6. KenR
    August 4, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    The comments are now also just for discussion of Watchers in the Sky. What I think is interesting about that adventure is that it puts the players and the characters on the same footing; it’s impossible for either of them to put the pieces together into a coherent whole.

    This is different from most Cthulhu adventures and games, where the characters might not know what those horrible necrophagous things are, but the players recognize a ghoul cult when they see it.

    I suspect (but am only guessing) that Watchers is therefore more frustrating for players with tons of knowledge of the Mythos, as they run through possible culprits and none of them fit.

    Anyways! Great panel, I was sorry that we didn’t have just a couple more minutes and not just because I had the last question. The little trip momentos and notes for each character in Ruin sound extremely interesting and like a clever way to reveal backstory in play.

    Another question I had for both of you:
    Given how * World games in particular let the players just show up, check a couple boxes, and start playing, how do you see your games working for players the very first time?

    With Ruin finishing the characters in play, it seems like the players can come to the table and start playing immediately – this also fits with the New Game + idea. How about Red Markets? How much will players have to carefully plan out their retirement plan from the start?

  7. Beej
    August 4, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    GenCon panels! YAY!

  8. August 5, 2015 at 12:31 am

    @redroverone I definitely want that footage – PM me on the forums or email the rpprpodcast account.

    @jtfburgess I’ll have to play Dramasystem before I can judge it – the problem I see with a carcosa player is that I would have to write out how that should be played, which is basically the unified theory of Carcosaness, which is my original problem. I can only define the aesthetic by describing a particular setting.

  9. redroverone
    August 5, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I will send you the Dropbox link to my account, you should be able to grab it there, Ross.

  10. crawlkill
    August 6, 2015 at 1:03 am

    I found Ross’ point about Monsters and Other Childish Things being hard to write for because it had no stock setting interesting. I love Monsters as a book, but being a non-player, I never really had to think about the troubles of playing in it; inasmuch as I’d ever given it any thought, I think I thought that “what monsters are” was almost supposed to be a non-question that only adults would ask, and who cares about their opinion?

    it’s an interestingly blind-to-the-darkness cosmic horror moment: the nightmares are normal to you, you’ve adapted to them. it never occurs to you to ask if your pet shoggoth had been locked in Antarctic ice for thirty million years. if Lovecraft was right, and no scary answer can ever be better than a scary question, I’m not sure it’s valuable to engage with. but I can definitely see how, when you’re writing a campaign, it’s one of those things you might be tempted to concretize a bit.

  11. KenR
    September 17, 2015 at 11:53 am

    One of the things that was interesting about this one was when Ross said that he had abandoned the “universal theory of Carcosa” I immediately started having some story/campaign ideas. Maybe the same hotel appears in a different place for the New Game+ (players recognize it, characters don’t). Maybe the Ruined places are linked together somehow. Maybe the Ruin spreads if no one notices it. Maybe people are its carriers.

    So while you certainly could approach it from a number of angles, I think it’s interesting that *not* making a “set in stone” setting truth both engenders creativity (for the GM) and helps preserve the sense of strangeness and unpredictability that Ruin seems to be about.

    If you do include any sort of explanations, I would say the Trail of Cthulhu model of conflicting rumors and tales would be best. But I really like the idea that there is no back of the sourcebook explanation at all.

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