We played The Name of God - a strange 'nanogame' in which you play gods who have come to be confined in mortal bodies, having forgotten their True Names.
I felt throughout that the way we built and contributed to scenes was relevant to my game design - there is a sweet spot in GMless games when it comes to scene authority and player/character autonomy. This game straddled the line between group creativity and that awkward push-pull of people adding aspects to others' scenes (and they are still shown as having scene ownership) and therefore distorting a player's vision for their character.
The game did not strongly enforce a cohesive vision between the players, and we should have solidified our idea for what the setting was before we started. If we had done so, perhaps people's ideas would have gelled better and the setting would have been less surreal. As it was, the real meat of the game came from this creative challenge of expression versus antagonism - not fictional positioning antagonism, or tactical, but of disparate cohesive .
This is not a failure in the game. I think we came to a very colourful, expressive, thoughtful place, because of the spaces the game left us and because of the nebulous growth of ideas and objectives. However, this is not what I want to see in Or The Whale, because I want an overarching consensus.
So what I think I've learned is that there are weak spots in GMless scene-framing, and this is something I've come across to some degree in other GMless games - Fiasco, Lovecraftesque, Downfall. Not so much in Microscope, however. There is a clear reason for this. Microscope formalises the setting and does not allow players to encroach on each others' scenes. It does this at the cost of 'flow' and roleplaying however, which are aspects I would like to include in Or The Whale., at least there will be more roleplaying in scenes than Microscope.
Setting - strong, solidified, formalised before the scenes begin.
Scene Framing - Does not compromise a player's ideas of their character. Engages something the player would be interested to see from their character. This could be a wonderful feeling of us working together to achieve the story.
Playing the MC - Needs to be focused, not too many free ideas, controlled/reasoned influence.
The game worked conflict resolution by having one of the 'Eyes' (the non-protagonists of the scene having MC roles), declare that an action was 'difficult', 'perilous' or 'both', which lead to a dialogue-based resolution system. With more practice this system would be much smoother, and it doesn't seem inherent that one would falter at this step. Though we did a bit, I think because we didn't confirm the setting more at the beginning. I think that as long as the point of a scene, its stakes or the character's aim are clearly apparent, resolution coming from a player's judgement that an action is worthy of resolution would be acceptable in a scene.
I have some bristling and excited feelings about all our characters and their stories but that's for another time.
The game is about goals, relationship and power, in the backdrop of a modern day Japan in the midst of a secret ninja clan cold war. 3-5 competent shinobi characters aim to take control of an object of power, meanwhile they pursue unique hidden goals that may lead them to cooperate or compete with each other. Often there is an antagonist non-player character with monstrous goals that must be stopped (though even as they do so, the cooperation and competition between the shinobi continues). Forming relationships puts you at risk but also opens you up to learn more secrets and information. Everyone’s secret goal is unique and often puts the characters into conflict with some of the others, or perhaps drives them to protect or love others.
Last night we played an Alpha version of the new translation of the Japanese RPG Shinobigami.The dynamic online was hard work - a lot of interruptions and mic noise., and a general unfamiliarity with the rules led to distraction for the first half.
As we grew to understand the rules better, we eventually became more comfortable and the game flowed in what seemed the prescribed structure.
It was fun! A light-hearted anime-themed PvP. The group seemed to agree at the end that the game was mechanically heavy and therefore had the tendency to lapse in to a more boardgamey style. I would say 'mechanically-heavy' rather than 'rules-heavy' as it's not the number of rules but the way the mechanics are so overt and constant.
The story felt quite railroaded, in that there were a number of exposition scenes leading to the final battle, in which all the PCs fight each other. This is perfectly normal for this genre, however it was a little unsatisfying knowing that everything I did had so little consequence leading into the final battle.
Some of the mechanics were quite fun, even if they did not lead us to a style of play I am used to. I think if we played this game again we'd be able to use the mechanics at the anime-battle-pace they feel like they could go, which would help the feel.
One thing I noticed is that the amount of mechanical movements meant that there was simply not enough time to narrate or explain how each mechanical part coloured the fiction or affected the characters, above the mechanical effect. This is probably the greatest divergence from the games I'm currently used to; one roll changes the fiction, by design, but we take time to move the fiction around it, rather than rolling and then moving on. I think the rules try to get the GM to push the players to describe things in this way but that would slow the game down so much if we were to stick to it.
so far, every time i roleplaying game i feel like i learn loads more about How To Roleplaying Game.
Hopefully this won''t stop