Much reading and little playing

September 28, 2009 at 9:00 am
filed under Roleplaying
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That’s the situation right now: catching up on my backlog of books and not much actual game-playing. Life’s been a little crazy for the last month or two, what with PAX and my parents visiting from the east coast, among other things. I feel like this is the first weekend in a while that I’ve gotten to sit down and relax. It’s wonderful, and I’ve had some time to do some thinking and planning.

Specifically, I spent some of the time trying to come up with ideas for a Geist game. It’s a little tough.

Obviously the first problem is that coming up with “ideas for a $game_name game” is a tricky proposition without any PCs to speak of. Surely it can be done — that’s precisely what modules are, right? — and I think for games like D&D it’s a bit easier.

What’s that on the horizon? Why, I think it’s a tangent!

Party vs. {throng, cabal, coterie, etc}

For White Wolf games, well. This reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend of mine about Promethean. He said something about each Promethean throng or game being a special case. Most prometheans are probably looking for humanity, but their individual quests are unique. So each throng is kind of a special case, in the sense that you have to design how everyone encountered one another in a way that’s not generic.

Aha! But that’s how I think all groups in strongly character-driven games should be designed, for my preferred style of game. There’s more work involved but I find the kind of interaction that results more satisfying in general.

This isn’t to say you can’t do the same setup with D&D. I tried something similar with Er-Eret. D&D’s default story is, however, a bit different (“default story” isn’t really the term I’m looking for and I can’t remember the actual term). I think someone phrased it as something like “adventurers explore dungeons, kill monsters, and take their stuff.” That’s a bit reductive, of course, but it gets the point across.

Geist’s default story is considerably different. I prefer to phrase it as a question: “You died, but now you have a second chance. What do you do?” (I suppose one could do something similar for D&D: “You’re extraordinarily skilled in a dangerous world. What will you become? Hero or villain?”)

How the players answer that question, explicitly or implicitly, is really the jumping off point for the sort of game I prefer. If I can’t design personal plots, and designing regular plots can be problematic, that leaves me with setting.


I took a copy of Mekhet: Shadows in the Dark with me on vacation with my family. Incidentally, although the clanbooks are months old by this point, they still consistently impress me. I went on to finish reading the other clanbooks, specifically Daeva and Nosferatu.

Reading these books has driven home how solid a game Vampire: the Requiem is and how, in a way, it’s by far the most flexible of the big three. If it’s not obvious why, maybe I’ll write a bit more on that some other time.

By this point, I feel like I grok Vampire pretty well and at this stage in the game’s lifetime, there is so much to draw on. I mean, shit, there’s a 400 page monster of a book on how to build a setting.

This is actually one of those dilemmas of White Wolf games: you can play without the supplements, but I pretty much can’t. Granted, this is one of those problems that, for me, is a nice one to have: too many enjoyable things to read! Oh no! Still, when it comes to a game that’s likely to see fewer releases than previous ones, if the release schedule so far is any indication, it’s a bit frustrating.

This is all just a long-winded way of saying I don’t really feel fluent with Geist yet. Oh, sure, I’m just bellyaching. I think it’ll be fine. The vision for the game is remarkably clear. The Book of the Dead will fill in many gaps re: the underworld. And there’s plenty of other ghost-related stuff either from other games, or places where Geist logically intersects with other games. For instance, the first chapter of Immortals describes a group of people remarkably similar to abmortals.

Planning. Always planning.

So where does this leave me?

Yesterday, I spent a bunch of time jotting down ideas, exploring possibilities for plots, different threats or antagonists. That worked reasonably well, and I think I might be able to borrow ideas from other games to get a sense of conflicts another step up, in a non-Geist specific way that I can still use.

Next is coming up with some krewes that I will ultimately use in a setting. Most likely I’ll pick a few themes, maybe start pretty basic by looking at how a krewe centered fairly closely around a couple of archetypes might look.

Wish me luck!

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