Dragon Tree – Fronts

All these ideas came pounding into my head this morning. I was thinking about my daughters “Dragon Tree” campaign and started wondering. Why are the dragons all locked up in a tower and gone from the Dragon Tree?

Here are some game facts:

  • The players (my kids) want to free the dragons and train/ride them.
  • The players characters are renowned for their climbing skills, and while they haven’t reached the top of the tree (where the dragons used to roost) they have gotten higher than anyone in recent history.
  • There was a great hero, Nadaar, who was trying to free the dragons, a process that involved a great quest, ending (or at least including) climbing the Dragon Tree with a ruby pendant. However, he fell from the tree and then was beset by agents of an evil vampire dragon (apparently the only kind that is free of the Red Tower), who stole the ruby pendant after killing him.
  • The king is unconsolable (due to a failed diplomacy roll) and will weep for his fallen knight for a year and a day, rather than take any action to avenge his murder.
  • The players wish to explore these places in game: Ghost City, Troll City Ruins, Dissapearing Lake, and the Red Tower.
  • The players failed a History roll to do research in the library, resulting in finding books that they knew were old because it held contradictory information (namely that all the ruby pendants were destroyed when they just saw one the day before)

Questions for developing Fronts

What if the dragons didn’t leave the Dragon Tree, but instead were banished? What if they were banished because they used to rule over men (that they kept as slaves) and the races of men (PHP playable races) eventually overthrew them?

What if all that was true, but it had been so long that people forgot, and instead remembered Dragons as mythical creatures of legend, diefying them? What if only the line of kings or some holy order, or what not still remembered the truth. And those people were charged with stopping anyone from releasing the dragons, lest they rule over man again?

What if it was someone in that line or order that actually pushed Nadaar off the tree, rather than just him falling. What if they were doing it to stop him from releasing the dragons. What if he was going there to free the dragons (or some of them) to help fight the evil vampire dragon Visceriath who had escaped (or perhaps was never caught)?

What if the author of the book they read, was an elf named Glessil, who had been cast out, killed, cursed or otherwise had to leave Dragon Tree, and now resides in Ghost City (as a ghost of course), where the rest of her (more accurate) works are kept. What if her name is on the text and it is known that the rest of her works are in Ghost City?

What if I ask the kids if the kings son is a good guy or a jerk. If he’s a good guy, he might say that there is more to Nadaar’s death than they know. That they should try and avenge him but keep quiet about it and sneak out of Dragon Tree to find out more in Ghost City? If they say he is a jerk, what if he banishes them because they are Dragonborn. He was the one that pushed Nadaar off the tree and wants them out of the city because he knows they were Nadaar’s allies. What if he sends them to the Ghost City as punishment?

What if, on their way to Ghost City, the Tanglewood forest presents many dangers but a specter in the woods encounters them with riddles. Easy ones like “how far can you walk into a forest?” The riddles, if answered incorrectly will lead to an encounter that shows them the answer, so they can be asked again later. If answered correctly, will grant them a boon in the form of avoiding some danger. Either way they will a) get them closer to Ghost City and b) answer 1-3 riddles which answers can be brought back in later in the game (if applicable) to help them or reinforce a theme?

Mature Content

I’m liking where these ideas might be going. I can see lots of turmoil between the people that want to free the dragons and those that want to keep them caged.  I wonder though if introducing slavery, and the possible redemption or forgiveness of the slavers is too mature a theme for kids? Also, how will they feel if the creatures they worship end up being slavers? Does that betray their original campaign concepts?

Reliance on NPCs

Lev Lafayette from RPG Review (and tcpip on LJ) asked me a few weeks ago to write and article for the journal. I had been talking with a friend about why players so often seek out NPCs for meaningful relationships rather than their fellow players and that discussion turned into the seed for my article.

The article was published in last month’s issue, which can be found here: http://rpgreview.net/node/29

Here it as well behind the cut

The Pedagogy of Playing Mouse Guard – A Crazy Circle of Life

The irony of the loop between (I hope I’m getting the order correct) Jason Godesky, Willem Larson, Zach Greenvoss, Justin Evans, and me (Sean Nittner) is just crazy.

This is really the first time when I have felt like the internet created meaningful connections between people with similar interests.

To hear the beginning of this story, and a great podcast about how teach games as you play them improves the flow of the game and reduces (or eliminates) those lulls in the game where the mechanics stop serving the fiction either because a rule is forgotten or misunderstood or because players (or GMs) don’t understand how to apply the mechanics; go listen to this: The Myth Weavers – Episode 13

Also, if you follow that link, it will give you links to all the pieces that have come so far. And now I’d like to spin the wheel a little further.

As my previous post indicated I ran my Mouse Guard game, implementing the pedagogy of play components that I had been discussing with Jason and Willem online. For the most part it was a success, but I learned two important things from it:

1. Any exercise of significant length that addresses only setting elements and not the mechanics of the game, should be revised.

Case in point. When we played Mouseball, the players tossed around a plush Liam and talked about elements of a mouse’s life. This was a lot of fun, got people thinking about what dangers a mouse would face, and took less than five minutes. No mechanics were taught here as it was meant to be a gentle introduction to the game. The second exercise, however, the “Epic Journey” also fostered creative juices without introducing mechanics, but it took a good 15-20 minutes. To the players this was a frustration. They wanted to be “playing” (i.e. acting out their character and rolling dice) sooner. When we got to the accomplishment, however, they were interested again (as it involved engaging the mechanics).

2. The rules I didn’t go over during the teaching exercises are the ones stuck out like a sore thumb.

As Willem said on one of his comments in my LJ “If ever the players look overwhelmed, overly hesitant, or unsure, you know you’ve missed a step. Don’t blame them, blame your teaching plan. You probably then need to find a game that will get them over that particular hump.” In this case I realized that when I introduced traits in the “I See” game, I didn’t talk about how they relate to “checks” and that is what fouled me up in game.

So I’ll recap the chronology as best I can:

  1. Jason and Willem talk and Willem writes this series, “The Pedagogy of Play” (parts 1, 2, 3 & 4)
  2. Willem ran a game with Zach Greenvoss as a player at Gamestorm
  3. Zach told Justin and Sean and then we did a podcast on Episode 29 of Narrative Control
  4. Jason heard the postcast and told Willem about it
  5. Willem got in touch with me over on the Narrative Control forums and told me about his process (see part 1 above)
  6. Sean comments about a pedagogy for Mouse Guard
  7. Sean’s starts cobbling things from Willem and Justin together to create his process
  8. Jason creates his own process which seems more tuned toward campaign play than one shot games.
  9. Jason runs a few sessions both over Skype and in person. He talks about them on the Burning Wheel forums and on The Myth Weaver podcast
  10. Sean has now run a play test using five exercises to teach the game and warm players up to the life of a mouse, which I reported on in my other Livejournal posts.

So, wow, it’s just cool to see all of this unintentional interaction due to a couple of strange not-quite coincidences and the internet. Neat.

Props on the brain

I love props. I think they are great. Wish I had pictures as they would do more justice. I posted this over at story-games but realized I wanted an archive of props used on LJ. Here are some that I’ve used recently.

“The Gift” – Burring Wheel

  • Start with an 8′ x 18″ table. Divided by race but everyone is very close to their opposition.
  • The center chair on each side is a throne. To do this just get two yards of fabric for each side and drape them over the chair. For the dwarves: Crushed red velvet. Elves: Silver and blue brocade
  • Following that color scheme, blue/red vis-a-vis pen for scripting, blue/red dice for the sides, with a giant black d6 in the middle of the table for and advantage die.
  • Dwarves enmbolded by dwarven nog (Sam Adam’s “Winter Ale” if you can have alcohol in the game, I.P.R. Root Beer if not).
  • Refined Elves have Mirrorwine (Navarro Vineyards Gewüztraminer or Sparkling juice)
  • A standard for any game with player resources. Poker chips to represent Artha.

“My Life with Joker” –My Life with Master

  • Started with an image of the Joker with blank caption boxes, stolen from the cover of a comic. Print that onto an iron on transfer paper and then iron that onto a white t-shirt (I tried purple and it wasn’t legible). During mater creation, as the players create the joker (Brain vs. Beast, etc), using a sharpie, fill in the caption boxes. Once complete, put on the shirt and become the Joker.
  • Die my hair bright green.
  • A set of gorgeous purple and green d4s from Chessex.
  • My masterpiece. With a digital camera, laptop and printer at the game, I took pictures of the players and printed them out. During the game, whenever the players would oppose me, I used a red crayon to draw red all over their lips and a purple crayon to draw their hair green. As the game progressed I pulled out a pair of scissors and started hacking away bits of the picture while I repeated what they just said in a mocking tone. That freaked people out.

“Exalted Unplugged” – Exalted/Wushu/Wuxalted
The game started in the 1980s as a battle of the bands where the two rival bands “White Fire” and “The Maidens of Mercy” were transported into “Creation” as Solars and Abyssals, both vying for the legendary artifact at the pillar of air – the Stratocaster! Hard core cheese here!

  • All the character sheets were built into cassette tape boxes. Name on the spine. Picture of the character on the front, stats, dice, and poker chips on the inside
  • As the game was a late night game, a six pack of Rock Star in the center of the table for the players to drink
  • Red and Black dice. Scarlet/Ebon and AC/DC
  • A music sound track of 80s rock.

“There is No Spoon” – Matrix Wushu Adaptation

  • Character sheets printed on as 4×6” pictures and then put in clear plastic (high tech looking) frames. Matriculated picture on front, stats on back
  • old sticks of RAM as tokens for Bullet time
  • Matrix score (not soundtrack) playing in the background

Three thoughts after listening to the Durham3

None of this is new. Just made me think.

  1. Secrets are more fun when all the players know and can drive towards the reveal. Practical application: When running the gift, and telling the Loremaster that he forgot the gift, I’m not going to take him aside. I’m going to tell him in front of everyone! Second application: In my Burning Warcraft game I’m going to ask the players why the traitors are betraying the alliance in the form of a warm up game (see below).
  2. Low trust comes from fear that another player or the GM will step on your fun if you make yourself vulnerable. I want to encourage the players to trust each other and me. Application: In the Burning Wheel game I’m going to have the players tell me an epic journey of one of their characters. Each player will say one sentence followed by the next player who will say “Yes, and…” and then build on the previous players ideas.
  3. A method of finding out what the players want: Ask them (PTA style) for a scene they want to play out. Where, who and what it’s about. As vague as “I want an introduction to Arthas” or as specific as “I want to seduce Jaina and convince her to lay with me in the moonlight”

An RPG wish list… in progress

Here is a wish list for my RPGs. It’s a work in progress as I’m still mucking through some ideas, tying to refine them through actual play and reflection. In no particular order.

Plot. I want a plot that every player (including the GM) invests in. The best way to accomplish this is to generate it as a group. “Find the source of the corruption in the City. Defeat the Joker. Save the princess. Survive the next 24 hours. Party all weekend and pass our SATs on Monday.” Those are all good provided the players are invested in it. Of note, I think it is fine (in fact prefer it) if the game gives that plot some direction. “Tell me a story” is a hard task to fulfill. Games that address this issue specifically (games that help you get a *):

  • My Life With Master*: The group collectively creates an evil master who has enthralled them to his or her service and the story plot is always to defeat the master.
  • Misspent Youth*: Like MLWM the players collectively create the Authority, and know that they will defy that authority while growing up.
  • PTA: Any PTA game starts with a pitch session where everyone collaborates to create not only the show’s plot but also the setting, cast, etc. There is no mechanic for figuring out the “plot per episode” however leaving it somewhat questionable as to what a “plot scene” really is.
  • Mortal Coil: Only on a technicality. As “Magic” is defined by the group and magic is a central piece of the game, Mortal Coil almost does this. It falls short of defining the antagonist but gets part of it.
  • Sons of Liberty*: Using a deck of cards elements are drawn and then “deciphered” by the patriots. All players contribute to finding the meaning of a Whist mad lib.
  • In a Wicked Age*: Like Sons, cards are used to create an Oracle, which is interpreted by the players. I know less about this because I’m just going from what I’ve heard about the game.

Story Structure. I want a story structure which increments the plot defined. See Episode 28 of Narrative Control (Engineers vs. Hippies) for more on story structure. Specifically I want to know how many sessions we’ll play and when certain things should happen. For instance, in a three act game put on by Paul Strack we each had dark secrets. In act 1 they could not be revealed, but could be hinted at. In act 2 they could be revealed but none of us could be incriminated for them. In act 3 they must be revealed and one of us would be incriminated because of one of them. In each act we knew what to push for. I want that direction in every session of game. Session goals if you will. Games that address this issue specifically:

  • Dirty Secrets: We establish the length of the game using a board game mechanic. After each scene we move pieces on a board and that determined where we are in the story progress.
  • Zombie Cinema: Like Dirty secrets, there is a board game mechanic that establishes how close each protagonist is to escaping and being devoured by zombies. The board also tells us the role of zombies in the each scene.
  • Montsegur 1244: A game with a fixed end, established in four (?) acts. Each act specifically increments the story timeline. I haven’t played it personally so this is somewhat vague.
  • Burning Empires: Players are given a “scene budget” to establish their goals on a micro level before the Macro level mechanics are engaged and the story is propelled forward.
  • Sons of Liberty: Each Objective is played out like a hand of rummy. Once enough cards have hit the table, someone calls the question and ends the scene. 5 scenes max, each one pushing toward the final objective.
  • PTA: The season is mapped out indicating when spotlight episodes will happen telling everyone to focus on one character and what must happen to that character (issue must change).
  • Burning/Mouse/Anything by Luke Crane: Deserving separate mention from Burning Empires because on a very micro level the Beliefs, Instincts and Traits should tell any character what they should be doing in this scene. This is the weakest form of engineering however, as it only address moment to moment decisions rather than the story structure as a whole (i.e. you may have a belief that you are to be the next king, but that means much less if you don’t know that the next king will be crowned in three sessions).

Stakes or Sticks. Either by setting stakes in advance or by passing a stick around to dole out narration, I want every player to have a say in how conflicts are resolved so that no roll EVER ends in “nothing happens”. Something always happens, whether it was good, bad or indifferent. I want to make sure the players have enough control to say nope, let’s negotiate that to be more interesting but still give the GM teeth, allowing him to really challenge the players.

Games that use stakes:

  • PTA: Is PTA going to be in every section? No, but probably most of them. PTA fails me however in not providing a consequence for failure. Instead it uses a stick model (who ever got high card) to narrate out both success and failure. This allows protagonists to be really hosed by a narrator.
  • Burning Wheel: Very clearly, every conflict has results spelled out on both sides. The downside is that this can cause a bit of “playing before your playing” when results start to be played out before the conflict is resolved. Something to be careful about.
  • Dust Devils: Limited experience here but it uses a similar stake setting mechanic to PTA.

Games that use sticks:

  • Wilderness of Mirrors: You’re simply rolling for narration. Winner gets it.
  • Houses of the Blooded: (noticing a Wick theme here) This is another combo of Stakes vs. Sticks. There is one roll determined who gets what they want but all the juicy narration comes from wagers, which use sticks.
  • In a Wicked Age: Again, going from what I’ve heard the narration passes around the table.
  • Polaris: A very ritualized form of stick passing as player starts narrating until contested by another player.

Mechanically interesting choices.Here’s an area where some of the games that score above fall down. I want enough options within a game to feel that each character is distinct in their abilities and that their actions aren’t just window dressing for an overly simple resolution mechanic. Games that give interesting mechanic choices:

  • Dungeons & Dragons. The king of tactical battles, this game has hundreds of pages devoted to cool options for characters.
  • Burning Wheel: Both because of the huge plethora of skills (which means people accomplish their goals in different ways) and options in conflicts (DoW and Fight! strategies) Burning Wheel if full of interesting choices for characters.
  • Exalted: Charms, Spells, Power Armor, you name it. Tons of choices here.
  • Hero System: Too much crunch for me, but I can’t know the variety of options provided.

Cinematic action where appropriate. I want nothing standing between my wire-fu martial artist and his high flying kicks, in fact I want his high flying kicks to make his that much better at ass kicking. I don’t however want a player to narrate a noir detective bounding from rooftop to rooftop, the player narrations must be confined to the bound of the genre. Note, these games sometimes are in specific conflict with the mechanically interesting one. Games that support cinematic action:

  • Wushu: At the onset this feels like the perfect action movie RPG. Each killer detains gives you dice (in fact they are the only source of dice) but it falls down for me somewhat when I realize that when you strip the color away the characters are nearly identical. Also, rules are dramatically less useful in anything but combat.
  • Exalted: Bonus dice are earned for flash descriptions and the characters are generally not limited in areas of movement and flashiness. The system however can’t keep up with game play and like a baseball game there is a few seconds of action followed by several minutes of waiting. Too slow.
  • Feng Shui: Also unconcerned with trivial details like number of attacks, or even number of foes you drop. Feng Shui, like Wushu rewards the over the top action appropriate to its genre.

Shared investment. I want a game where every character has goals that all the players care about. Read that again and make note of the word character and players. There should be things in game that everyone out of game is rooting for. Maybe the characters disagree, that’s fine (even good) but the players should all be working toward bringing the conflicts that matter to each other into the light. Games that do this:

  • <….>

Short list eh? Well I may be being overly rough, there are some games that encourage this like PTA which hopefully everyone invests in the plots and sub-plots proposed, but there is no guarantee. Other games like Mouse Guard and Dungeons & Dragons really encourage team play both in the spirit of the game and in the mechanical advantages of team work but choices them are often made as a matter of mechanical efficiency rather than actual player investment in other players’ goals. Free Market (www.projectdonut.com) might do this when it’s finished but I’m not sure as I’ve only heard tidbits of it.

This list isn’t done. In fact it’s only just begun. But this is a start. Please feel free to add suggestions, debate my points, add games to lists, or otherwise call my BS.

Conflict Resolution System Idea

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I think that the FATE/Dresden Files game has come the closest to what I want. Here’s the idea:

We stage a conflict… any kind of conflict of any size… a sword fight, a bank heist, a seduction, an intergalactic race, absolutely anything where there is tension between what one side wants and what might happen to them as they try to get it.

Each “round” each player can take some kind of relevant action. A swing of the sword, gathering intel on the building, putting on perfume, charging the warp drive, whatever. They are going to roll their appropriate skill and have that skill tested against as challenging difficulty (something that may require the expense of precious resources like FATE chips, etc).

Here’s where I’m still working on things. Success is made in degrees. Either they need a certain number of X level successes (for example, Great rolls in Fate, exceptional successes in WoD, etc) or the successes are all tallied up cumulatively. In contract the opposition is making rolls which are similarly tallying successes. In each exchange several things might happen. 1) if the protagonist rolls less than the opposition, they might suffer some consequence, hit points, stress, etc. 2) Regardless of who rolls higher each side will make some progress towards achieving their goal. 3) Momentum is possible (i.e. by winning roll #1, you might have a benefit on roll #2 (for example because someone is wounded, arrested, allured, or eating your jet engine smoke) but precious player resources could mitigate that momentum. For example, if a player rolls to sneak into the building, they may get caught and get arrested removing them from the heist, but the expense of a FATE chip might mitigate that.

In the end, the first side that achieves their goal wins, but makes concessions based on the successes of the opposing side(s). Along the way they are expending resources to aid in their rolls and mitigate their failures and with each roll consequences (on both sides) are being generated. By the end of the conflict, the individuals should be changed ins some meaningful (though not necessarily permanent) way as well as both “sides” having to make some compromises about their goal.

I’m not sure if this was a response to your post, but it’s been in my head for a while and seeing this thread helped it work its way out.

My Goal: A system where car chases, social conflicts, and bank robberies are just as dynamic, fun, dangerous and full of options as a sword fight, because in the “action/spy” genre that I enjoy they usually are.

Questions, comments, rebuttals?

More Fuel for the Fire

I’ve been reading the Burning Wheel forums and realizing that my approach to tests has not been as explicit as it should be. All tests should involve a task, intent, and a consequence for failing the test:

  • Task: How or what you are going to do (e.g. I go hunting with my soldiers)
  • Intent: What you want to accomplish (e.g. I want to take down a yeti)
  • Consequences: What will happen if you fail the test (e.g. Umm… here’s the problem, I didn’t specify the consequences, this is a big deal in BW and something I should have done)?
  • Once those are stated, there is a negotiation. The player can say opt to change his intent and or task in order to mitigate or change the consequences. For example, had I said, if you fail you will take a severe wound from the Yeti while you bring it down* the player could opt to say, “Hmm, maybe I’ll hunt for something safer, like mountain lions instead.”

After the stakes are settled, we roll and find out what happens.

I need to specify the consequences before the roll is made! So far I don’t think it’s been hurting the game, but I can see players getting very frustrated if they don’t know what they are facing on a failed roll.

* Note, I failing the test does not have to mean losing your intent. The classic example is the thief picking the lock which NEEDS to be opened. Instead of a failed die roll meaning the lock can’t be picked, it can mean the lock is picked but not before the guards come running down the hall, or that it is picked and trap is sprung, etc. As a rule of thumb, win or fail we always want the story to move forward, opening up more options rather than closing them.

Defined by Struggle

If I were to say to your character “what struggle means more to you than anything else?” What would he or she say? Or, if you prefer to answer from the player perspective, what is your character’s core issue that drives him or her?

I’ll start with the characters I can remember and rate how strongly I think the issue drove them. Here is the format:

Character Concept:
Driving goal:
Strength of that goal:
If the goal is strong, how far have you gotten with it:
How fun is it to play this character:

Name: Francois
Character Concept: Werewolf from the gutter
System: Werewolf the Apocalypse
Driving Goal: Francois is driven by a desire to create fashion, he wants to be praised for his skills and creativity instead of his brawn.
Strength of that goal: Very strong
If the goal is strong, how far have you gotten with it: No where yet, game is still young.
How fun is it to play Francois: Only played once. So far, very fun. 8/10

Name: Hin Won Chin
Character Concept: Reformed martial artist villain
System: Spirit of the Century
Driving Goal: Does Hin have a goal? Defeat evil doers and enjoy the finer things in life (watching opera, eating prize winning soufflé)
Strength of that goal: Pretty weak
How fun is it to play Hin: 7/10 – Fun as a shtick, fun because he can do zany gimmicks, not because of his goals.

Name: Drail (means “I am your friend”)
Character Concept: Court Gossip
System: Houses of the Blooded
Driving Goal: Learn gossip, incite others to violence, try to juggle as many balls as possible. Maintain gender anonymous
Strength of that goal: Moderate, Drail has other convictions as well. S/he is not defined by the goal.
If the goal is strong, how far have you gotten with it: Moderate success, definitely stirred things up.
How fun is it to play Drail: It was fun for the goof around factor, but I didn’t pull the strings as much as I would have liked to 7/10

Name: Elfton
Character Concept: Dumb as rocks Elf, a clown
System: D&D 4th Edtion
Driving Goal: Terrify friends with stories of his youth. Be useful when nobody suspects it
Strength of that goal: Moderate, it’s D&D, its mostly just about killing things
How fun is it to play Elfton: It depends on my mood. If I just feel like playing a shtick, or just want to kill stuff, good times, if I want story, it isn’t going to happen 6/10.

I’ve got others but those are all characters I’ve played in the last two weeks so I remember them well. Do me a favor, comment with your character’s information, especially if they are games that I have run.

All these game ideas that are falling out of my head

Here are some ideas that I keep thinking about, some I’m already doing, some I want to do more. Here are more things I want to be doing. Some of these are contradictory, that’s okay.

1. Players framing their own scenes
2. Backstory
3. Players controlling NPCs
4. Characters defined by their “issue”, whatever troubles them.
5. Experience Keys (Shadows of Yesterday)
6. Principal of Narrative Truth (Wushu)
7. Setting stakes for a conflict
8. Related to seven, assume any conflict that would appear to potentially stop the story (i.e. do I pick the lock to the door I need to get into) is not about success or failure, but about complications (i.e. I will pick the lock, but do I do it before the guards arrive).
9. Kickers (Sorcerer)
10. Bangs (Sorcerer)
11. Conflict resolution the DotV way. What will you give to win?
12. Plot is defined by character’s attachments. Threaten, challenge beliefs, but also support them and help them flourish.
13. Bring conflicts to Dice rolls, especially in the case of players disagreeing
14. Use pacing mechanics. Depleting pools, consequences, timers, etc. to increase urgency.
15. Wilderness of Mirrors style planning.
16. Mash up systems
17. Cowbell
18. Consider Setting vs. Situation
19. Storycrafting vs. Immersive play styles
20. Aspects
21. Props that triggers different senses (tactile, audible, etc).
22. Play a game to it’s strengths.
23. Duel of Wits
24. Consider Yes
25. Define what the game will be about before starting
26. Related, have a pitch session (PTA style)
27. Create games in games (Justin’s mini-games, 1001 Nights)
28. Sins and Virtues cards for NPCs
29. Give players a currency to author the world (Mortal Coil)
30. Related, make the players contribute to world building (Dresden RPG)
31. Thematic Batteries (Full Light, Full Steam)
32. Frame Scenes with each person having a part (Location, Action, People, Mood, Mystic) (Panty Explosion, Mage)
33. Frame Scenes letting players define aspects they want to see, interact with
34. Read character sheets as flags. This is what the player wants to see.
35. Provide simulation for the players who want to explore the GM’s world
35. Recognized exploration and discovery vs. Experiential play. Different players want different things.
36. Use oracles, aspects, whist codes or roach cards to drive the story (In a Wicket Age, Fate, Sons of Liberty, Shab-al-Hiri Roach)
37. The Jenga tower (Dread)
38. Port familiar Settings to other systems (Jedi in the Vineyard, 1001 Parsecs, My Life with Palpatine)
39. Web of Clues (Gumshoe)
40. Progressive degrades of sanity as aspects (like complications, mild, moderate, severe, etc) for horror.

Those are the 40 that I can think of off the top of my head. Now the trick is to employ them. I know I can’t do all of it at once, and several of these things I already do, but this is a means for me to keep all these ideas in one list so I don’t forget them. Please feel free to add suggestions to the list.