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Posts Tagged ‘low-prep game’

How could one design an RPG that requires no (or minimal) GM prep, and that develops a screenplay-like or novel-like story through play, including interesting revelations and plot twists (things normally planned ahead by the author/GM)?

Perhaps a game could do in reverse what authors do: instead of planning plot twists and then revealing them, the players could invent plot twists during play and then fill in the backstory to explain them.  The backstory develops in parallel with game events.  Startling revelations don’t have to be surprises that someone prepares ahead of time; they can be realizations that occur during play.

I’m thinking of an Indie game: “system matters.”  In other words, the game mechanics should be designed to achieve that specific goal.  What would those mechanics look like?

Maybe all that’s needed is a critical mass of mysteries and characters.  During play, elements of the story evolve or appear randomly.  The players seize on the ambient and emergent elements, and make connections cooperatively.

Example:  The PCs question an NPC regarding one of the mysteries.  The GM rolls to determine whether the NPC was involved or not, was a perpetrator or a victim, is helpful or evasive.  Perhaps there could be a pile of cards instead, with suggestive 8-ball-like prompts for the GM (or the whole group), like “is keeping a secret,” “is desperate to tell their story,” “is in danger,” “is taking orders from someone else,” etc.  After the scene, the GM (or all the players) decide what that NPC’s backstory really is, and how it fits (or doesn’t fit) into the mystery and other ambient story elements.

Similarly, when PCs visit a location, randomly determine what they’ll find there: a trap, foes, an event in progress, a stash, evidence.  Relate it to an extant story element or two.

The sweet spot of this game is after a few scenes, when the players start riffing organically: “Oh!  Maybe the old lady is Orville’s grandmother, and she’s protecting him, and that’s why the bloody clothes were in her shed!”  “Yeah, and that makes Orville the werewolf!”  “Or he just thinks he’s a werewolf!  Maybe the anti-psychotics we found at Jennifer’s house were his!”  “Oh!  A secret romance between Orville and Jennifer!  It all makes sense now!”  “So, we need to find out how the deputy is involved, and where Jennifer is now.  I still think the weird lights on the hill have something to do with all this…”

Caveat: not all initial story elements will end up getting tied into the resulting narrative by the end of the game.  That’s okay.

Is there a game that already does this?

-J

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