Monday, August 31, 2009

Be obvious: your first idea is the best one (and much more so as the clock is running fast)

I want to design a single-scenario game, mostly suitable for convention one-shots and fully compatible with the Flying Circus format: this way, it'll be easier to get some real playtesting done (reduced mental overlap with my other design projects, including huge, multi-scenario Trame and campaign-oriented Il vizio della spada, is a nice plus). Knowing that already, I checked the theme and ingredients today...
"Dividers", "Seabird" and "Star" immediately suggested a sailing ship for a backdrop. Obvious, of course, but so much better than going game-chef-cruft. "Fleur-de-lis"? It's probably depicted on the ship's flag, meaning it's like a French ship or something. Le quart livre springs to my mind (or, rather, it was already sitting there since yesterday evening, for no particular reason).
Then there's the Cerberus Award: "make a game for three players" - a nice number, indeed, and a way to give my chances to run playtests a little boost. Gotta take a shot at that one.
"Intrigue" as the theme, though... I can well conceive intrigues taking place onboard a ship at sea, but I won't be bothered to design just another game in which players keep secrets from each other and scheme behind each other's back toward some kind of victory. Don't hear me wrong: it'd be a nice sort of game, but it's been done to death already (being the oldest hat in RPGs, actually, if you accont for Braunstein) and I have friends who are so much better than me at designing that sort of thing, so no, not my cup of tea, thank you.
I want the intrigue of this game to be out in the open, instead: something players collaboratively spin on a "metagame" level, then fit into the past by ret-con. Retroactive continuity! Yes, this one's been on my mind for a long time: designing to support and promote retconning.
Now, I "just" need to set a few more points in my mind and write down a draft. In English. Despite the too many things I'm supposed to do this week (mostly game-related things, thankfully!). Well, that, or I'll just pass on the first deadline and go for the 2 weeks mark (Mark Twain? Gosh... let's stop with the Owlbear related in-jokes at once!).


  1. Designing for ret-con? Awesome. I look forward to it. "Clearly she's *always* known..."

    Random thought: could the *entire session* be played in reverse, each scene before the last? Gradually explaining how they *possibly* got into such a state?

  2. Random thought duly noted for further consideration.
    My first skin reaction, though, is like: the whole experience would sorta resemble "Until We Sink" (despite you *don't* play scenes in reverse in that game).