Narrative Control – Episode 85 – Bluebeard’s Bride

Narrative ControlHi, and welcome back to the show! This week I’m speaking with Whitney Beltrán about her just released kickstarter for Bluebeard’s Bride.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Whitney Beltrán

Length: 29:55

We discussed the origins, the goals, and the play experiences of Bluebeard’s Bride. Check out these links:

Bluebeard’s Bride Kickstarter
Bluebeard’s Bride G+ Community
@BluebeardsBride on Twitter
@the_strix on Twitter
Sean’s AP Report from Origins

Direct download: NC_Episode_085.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 84 – Language in Games

Narrative ControlHi, and welcome back to the show! We’re talking to Kate and Hakan about how awesome language is and how they use it in their games!

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Kathryn Hymes and Hakan Seyalioglu

Length: 51:05

Inspired by listening to Alex Roberts (Backstory)

Game we talked about:

Sign – A game about being understood
Dialect – A game about language and how it dies

Gushing about Dialect:

Truckers on Mars – a game that’s structure was built around the language we made! Not what I expected.
Procedurally generated scenes that were very compelling.
Secret Sauce: mayonnaise in the sun… actually, it’s “can you tell a story while building a language?”
Language creation as a window into people and identity.
You pick the things that are important to you and build off them.
Friendship as a byproduct of games.
Sean’s hypothesis: Any subject that people are passionate about could be turned into a game. Discuss!
Game as non-dogmatic, non-prescriptive way to share your passions.
People who your game connects with are kindred.

Responsibility of the Designer

Making sure that you’re respectful to the subject matter of your game and the communities that identify with the subject matter.
Lessons learned from sharing sign with the deaf community and getting feedback.

Conventions we’ve just been to or are going to soon:

Origins (Hakan and Sean)
Go Play Northwest (Kate, Hakan, and Sean)
Gen Con (Kate, Hakan, and Sean)
Big Bad Con (Kate, Hakan, and Sean)

Panels at Gen Con Kate and Hakan are on:

Gaming community

Welcoming new players to the community.
Nurturing a fledgling community and new players.
Mouse Guard is a great game for new players.

Language in Design

Fundamental to identity and relationships.
Uniquely human.
We absorb a ton of information through language.
Ritual Phrases for the win!
Hopscotch, the Larp. Kate and Hakan’s next game!

Direct download: NC_Episode_084.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 83 – What would John Do?

Hi, and welcome back to the show! Over a year later and we’re back! John Harper came on the show to talk to me about how his gaming style affects his design and all the pieces of the venn diagram that make for a good times at the game table.

Note: There is occasional profanity during the episode, but nothing so egregious that I would add the explicit tag. Also this is a long one, over two hours. We’re making up for all the time we missed!

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: John Harper

Length: 2:12:35

Inspired by Alex Roberts (Backstory) and Marcelo Ferrari (The Curators) to start recording again.

The Nuke
Trust in Me
Judd Karlman – The Githyanki Diaspora
The “What would John do?” direct play for John’s GMing advice for my game starts at 01:33:50!

Games we talked about:

Blades in the Dark
Apocalypse World
Burning Wheel

Games we referenced:

Blades in the Dark – Bloodletters (Actual Play | Youtube VODs)
Blades in the Dark – Doskvol Spectral Society (Actual Play)

Products we’re plugging:

Undying (Buy | Discuss | One Seven Design Hangout)

Cons we’re attending:

Origins (Sean)
Go Play NW (Sean and John)
Gen Con (Sean)
Big Bad Con (Sean and John)

Direct download: NC_Episode_083.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 82 – Iterative Development

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have Rob Donoghue and Vincent Baker on to respond to episode 80 and discus their thoughts on the current state of design.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Vincent Baker and Rob Donoghue

Length: 45:14

[00:26] Introduction to the show. Welcoming Vincent and Rob.
[01:46] Vincent’s reaction to episode 80.
[08:00] Rob’s reaction.
[09:13] Defining Design. Where I get it all wrong.
[15:40] Distinction between GMing, Expansibility, and Hacking.
[19:08] Seeking authority on “how to do it right.”
[23:32] Design intent for Fate and Apocalypse World.
[24:50] Impact of Fate and Apocalypse World on the design sphere.
[38:36] Adding to the influences available in design.
[40:37] My roast of Luke. I am not Stephen Colbert.

Direct download: NC_Episode_082.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 81 – Sincere Emotions in Play

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode was recorded many moons ago (June 2014), lost, found, and released! A bunch of fantastic perspectives on sincere emotions in games.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Matthew Klein, Avery Alder McDaldno, and Shaun Hayworth

Length: 47:52

[00:27] Intro to the show. Amazing experiences gaming with Avery McDaldno, Shaun Hayworth, and Matthew Klein.
[03:26] Do you seek to get an emotional response consciously in game, or do you let it occur as a result of the action in the game?
10:40] Does this ever backfire and force an emotion that is artificial?
[12:30] How does it happen? How do you know that your group is ready to play an emotional game?
[20:25] Prime your emotional responses upfront. Example: Bliss Stage, Monsterhearts, Ribbon Drive.
[25:47] Finding the safety valve – looking at the system and playing good faith.
[28:20] Game length affecting emotional capacity. Intensity wearing you down.
[33:02] When is this a detriment to game? Being mindful of triggers. Using X-cards. Taking breaks.
[43:30] Check yourself.
[46:16] Gamers needs changing with age.

Direct download: NC_Episode_081.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 80 – Conversations in Design

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode sparked from a twitter conversation between Luke Crane and I about design intentions. To hack or not to hack, Conversations in Design. Luke had thoughts. An hour of thoughts. Check em out! Note: This is an explicit episode.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Luke Crane

Length: 1:08:21

[00:28] Intro to the show – Interview with Luke Crane.
[01:16] Luke prepared for an interview and to say things he probably shouldn’t.
[03:03] Design process. Different when you’re working on a game and when people are playing it.
[03:35] Luke’s History of Hacking.
[07:40] Part of the hacking culture is the belief that games don’t work as written.
[08:01] Difference between expansibility (developing products for a game) hacking (changing the rules)
[09:35] Design intent for Burning Wheel – Make the system shoulder the work.
[14:37] “If the game can do the heavy lifting, it should.”
[15:04] The anatomy of Burning Wheel – See diagram below:

[16:27] Burning Wheel Refined – A very compact and tight game. “If you find a place in Burning Wheel where you’re fighting with the game…you’re playing it wrong.”
[18:08] It’s very difficult to have a conversation with Burning Wheel.
[21:05] Nobody has thought about Burning Wheel as much as Luke has. Three people made sudden insights that helped the system: Ralph Mazza, Kenneth Hite, and Thor Olavsrud. And those prompted the change form Classic to Revised.
[26:16] Burning Wheel path to expansibility – Trait votes!
[27:57] Burning Wheel is a heavy brick of game design… Apocalypse World was designed to be hackable! Fate has the same ethos. Designing for the culture!
[30:15] But… they have captured the audience so well that it stymies design.
[31:52] People are still making D&D clones… so making a product that is hacked isn’t anything new.
[32:30] Apocalypse World and Fate Core raising the bar for fledging game designers, but also creating a paper ceiling.
[38:20] Vincent Baker designed all those game.
[39:39] Discussion about the playability and enjoy-ability and good that has come out of Apocalypse Engine and Fate games.  Not about whether it is fun to play or not.
[41:28] The state of RPG design in the aftermath of Apocalypse World and Fate in 10-15 years. Right now were playing with the new bounty we have.
[42:47] Frustration of developing in the shadow of Vincent [and Fate].
[44:18] The games have given Luke a new perspective on Burning Wheel and a new appreciation for it. BWHQ manifesto includes that we’ll never make a popular game and that’s okay.
[46:40] Fate*World. Yep, it exists. Ryan Macklin posted it.
[47:30] What is Luke looking for in the future from other designers?
[49:54] The secret history of why this podcast is named Narrative Control. #notasecret
[50:19] Value of expansibility content. New adventures, settings, new systems for specific uses. A plug for my own development of Stone Dragon Mountain
[55:05] A gift for Vincent from Luke. Two soaring birds.
[55:12] Board gamers are very good at articulating the components of their games. RPGs aren’t distilled down that quickly.
[57:17] The political discussion about games is counter-productive.
[58:08] RPGs are hard to talk about. They are on the cutting edge of “what is a game”?

Direct download: NC_Episode_080.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 79 – Character Driven Play

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have three awesome gamers that have played in some extremely character driven games with me. I brought them on to discuss what’s needed in a game to give players the tools they need to drive a game, how do you keep player antagonism safe at a table, and what external threats are necessary to keep the action moving and prevent the game from turning into a soap opera.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Jon Edwards, Regina Joyner, and Karen Twelves

Lenth: 30:47

[00:27] Intro to the show
[00:53] Welcoming my guests Jon Edwards, Regina Joyner, and Karen Twelves
[03:13] What is needed in the game to give players enough direction to drive the game forward themselves?
[08:20] Unstable situations with no status quo, and characters determining where the power would go.
[10:54] What maintained the tension mounting between the characters?
[15:04] How many external threats do you need to prevent the game from becoming a soap opera?
[18:03] Handling player versus player conflicts in a satisfactory way. No hurt feelings, but no pulling punches either.
[21:10] Keeping the game conformable and safe for you fellow players. Playing at the edge of your comfort level.
[27:23] What you needed to keep your attention on the other player characters.
[27:48] Ending with a satisfactory resolution that still leaves plot threads opens for another story.
[29:59] Gratuitous self-congratulatory discussion of previous games (kept short to keep my ego from leaving the atmosphere).

Direct download: NC_Episode_079.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 78 – Pillars of Prep

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have two phenomenal GMs, Leonard Balsera and Todd Furler, on to talk about the rationale for running games either with low/no or very high prep, as well as their techniques for doing so.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Leonard Balsera and Todd Furler

[00:26] Intro to the Show
[01:06] Introducing my guests Todd Furler and Leonard Balsera
[02:10] Todd and Lenny represent pillars of best practices for different methodologies for running games.
[03:10] Why choose one method or another? Reasons for high prep. Todd’s answer.
[09:33] Reasons for low/no prep games. Lenny’s answer.
[13:50] What the GMs get out of it.
[16:55] How it all happens? What are the techniques each GM uses?
[48:17] Dodging pitfalls. What to do if you find yourself unprepared in a low prep? How do you prevent high-prep games from railroading players.

Direct Download: NC_Episode_078.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 77 – Gaming Close to Home

Hi, welcome to the show! This week I’m reflecting on the emotional impact of a particular LARP I was in at GenCon, how to facilitate that kind of play in general, and how to port those experiences to tabletop. My guests are awesome LARPers, and other players in the game Lizzie Stark, Emily Care Boss, and Jason Morningstar.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guest: Lizzie Stark, Emily Care Boss, and Jason Morningstar

Length: 54:10

[00:27] Intro to the show
[01:30] Introduce the guests to the show
[02:20] Premise of the show, a very moving game. How did it happen?
[03:30] Always have a debrief at the end of a game. Time to discuss what people got out of the game. How it impacted them.
[07:38] Establishing buy-in and setting expectations early on.
[09:23] Transparency at the beginning of a game.
[11:07] Model that your willing to use the tools your suggesting. X Card, Cutting, Breaking.
[13:00] Start with a sharing circle. Talk about something that relates to the topic of the game. Get people comfortable with the subject matter.
[16:18] Management techniques. Raising your hand.
[17:08] Sharing an experience, doing silly things together or sharing part of yourself.
[18:51] Starting with a high-trust environment.
[21:03] Discussing physical boundaries.
[22:39] Meta-techniques: Fist Bump, Monologues, etc.
[25:51] Handling players that are not buying into the premise. How to help them engage.
[32:59] Lowering the stakes through game design.
[34:08] Debrief ideas for RPGs (Games on Demand). Other people doing debriefs.
[36:31] As a game designer, think about entry points and exit points for your games.
[37:15] Verify the players feel that their input is important and needed.
[38:06] Meta techniques allow GMs to add there enter the game and check in with players. Tools for talking about the game in the game.
[41:20] Players will get lost from game if they don’t feel valued.
[41:39] Character non-monogamy.
[44:27] Jason is running The Upgrade at Big Bad Con!
[45:10] How these techniques apply to tabletop

Direct Download: NC_Episode_077.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 76 – Talking Torches

Hi, welcome back to the show. This week I’m talking torches with Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo. We discussed GMing and playing Torchbearer!

Host: Sean Nittner

Guest: Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo

Length: 1:35:16

[00:23] Intro to the show
[01:36] Introducing the guests: Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo
[03:48] Keeping suspense in the game. Setting player expectations to expect and enjoy the grind.
[09:40] The system is definitely a <em>game</em>. Keeping focus on fiction instead of the mechanics are driving play.
[15:27] Signal to the GM that stakes aren’t high enough? Bigger rewards, more consequential actions.
[17:03] Counterpoint. Putting constant pressure on the characters prevents the players from exploring other options (camp, town, pursuing belifs/goals). Deciding on how hard to push.
[21:23] Reluctance to back down. Player skill to recognize when it’s time to cut losses and run? GM and Player skill.
[27:38] Torchbearer teaches you how to play it, but there are some growing pains. Signpost things of significance.
[29:29] How beliefs function in Torchbearer, compared to Burning Wheel. Beliefs as signals to the GM, and as aspirations for a better life.
[37:22] Tracking moving parts (Conditions, Light, Turns, etc.) Gaining mastery over time. Comparing playing in person vs. online.
[41:08] Role of party leader. Doling out tasks (and conditions) to the other characters and giving the GM some time off as the players discuss their options among themselves.
[47:47] Resource management for the GM. Tracking light, tests, etc.
[49:19] Managing real estate on the table (players deck cards, fate/persona/loot/checks tokens), dice, character sheet, etc.
[52:53] Tokens for check to signal to the GM when they have/need checks. Finding locations for check and setting Ob levels accordingly. Tokens in person, Roll20 online, etc.
[55:04] Pacing, when to use make test, a conflict, and when to continue pushing forward with narration.
[1:03:22] Another conflict litmus test, applying a broader scope of consequences. Using conflicts when that granularity is needed.
[1:04:26] Burning Wheel HQ games and Apocalypse World (and hacks) both direct you to keep having the conversation of what happens until the fiction demands you go to the dice.
[1:05:49] The game atmosphere is heavily curated by the GM. The more energy you put into describing the world and talking about what happens in the fiction, the more invested the players become in the fiction. Don’t be a tired, lazy GM!
[1:11:02] It takes time to learn the game. Give that time for people to learn.
[1:15:06] Keeping the fiction in front during conflict (where mechanical choices are made before the fiction is described).
[1:24:02] The skills I want to see players develop are based on patterns in the fiction instead of a mechanics to engage. Learning strategy in the fiction by asking over and over “What do you do?” Good idea!
[1:28:59] Best twists come from following the player’s lead. Knowing that they are doing makes it easy figure out what could go wrong.
[1:30:07] Miscellany – Final thoughts. 2D cash dice right here!

Direct download: NC_Episode_076.mp3