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Role playing - Queue — LiveJournal
April 27th, 2003
06:11 pm

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Role playing
So I've been considering trying to run a role-playing game, but what I want to do is a bit different.

I would have the players write up something about what they want their character to be like. Personality, job, hobbies, family, whatever is important to them. These would be modern-day characters. Then I would give them back a fairly detailed character history. And that's all they would get. No character sheet. No knowing what's going on. No dice.

The characters would have different abilities and such, but they would be unknown (or mostly unknown) to both the characters and the players. They would have to discover what they can do and what's going on through game play.

This is a ways off, if it ever happens, since I would want to do a lot of prep work for it. However, is anyone theoretically interested in a role-playing game where you wouldn't ever see a character sheet or role any dice?

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From:prog
Date:April 27th, 2003 04:33 pm (UTC)
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I have not played like this, but it reminds me of what the GM is supposed to do for players who choose the "Amnesia" disadvantage for their characters.

Would you roll dice, or would this be more of a freeform work of multiplayer interactive fiction?
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From:prog
Date:April 27th, 2003 04:35 pm (UTC)

...the amnesia disadvantage in GURPS, I meant.

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From:queue
Date:April 27th, 2003 04:38 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I would keep character sheets and roll dice. I'm not sure what system I would use, but I certainly wouldn't tell the players.

Of course, having me do all of the rolling and such would give me a bit more leeway in bending rolls to fit the story, if I chose to do that.
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From:jazzfish
Date:April 28th, 2003 05:50 am (UTC)
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I find this rather appropriate. "Not only does God play dice with the universe..."

On a more serious note, I as a GM am a big fan of messing with players' minds. I'd love to hear how this all works out. (And if I were in the area I'd be jumping up and down and shouting "Ooh! Pick me! Pick me!")

One thing you might want to consider is having the players roll the dice and tell you what they get, and then you interpret it. Keeps them a bit more involved.
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From:queue
Date:April 28th, 2003 06:03 am (UTC)
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Yeah, having people roll dice might be okay. Of course, I wouldn't necessarily want them to know that they're rolling dice for a certain situation, so I'd probably just have them roll dice at random times, so they couldn't tell when I care about the results and when I don't.
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From:magid
Date:April 28th, 2003 03:44 am (UTC)
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game where you wouldn't ever see a character sheet or role any dice?

Theoretically interested, as long as I wouldn't have to play any dice ;-).
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From:queue
Date:April 28th, 2003 04:02 am (UTC)
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It's been a while since I've had someone make fun of a dumb typo :-)

Are you actually interested, or was that just a way to make fun of me?
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From:magid
Date:April 28th, 2003 04:20 am (UTC)
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The first part of my comment was accurate.
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From:majes
Date:April 28th, 2003 07:40 am (UTC)

From my experience

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Players like to roll dice. Dice are pretty; they add a fun tactile experience to the game. They introduce that "dice rolling tension" which folks enjoy. They also give the players the perception that their fates are in their own hands, and that, somehow or other, them tossing the random number generators makes things more likely to turn out their way (or at least be their fault when it doesn't). Finally, dice act as a neutral party in the determining of how events turn out. The players can't typically "blame" the gm if they have a series of bad rolls that gets them either in trouble or killed. Its less likely that they will say that the GM just didn't want them to do something so he forced them to fail or that the GM was "out to get them." Mind you, you see this kind of behavior less from mature players who have played with fair game masters. This is a trust relationship though. I've certainly felt before that a GM was forcing events to go a certain way, and wasn't allowing the characters to go any other way, regardless of rolls, skills, logic, etc. Nothing induces a feeling of hopelessness and pointlessness more in players than the feeling that the GM is heavy handing them down one particular path or other.

As far as not allowing people to see their character sheets - well, they are still going to need some mechanism to let them know what they know, know what they are good at, and what they are just ok at. In real life, for example, I know that I'm a good cook, I know that I can solve OS and software related computer problems with a high frequency of success, I know I am an effective leader, and I know a great number of random facts about science; likewise, I know that I only know a little about programming, a little about networking, a little about gardening, and a little about social psychology. I don't know anything about Ancient Asia, anything about African Languages, or anything about how to get around in Brazil. Now, you could address this by writing very extensive character backgrounds ("When you were 17, you got a job in a restaurant, preparing French and Italian dishes. Due to your natural leadership skills and talent with cooking, you were soon advanced to head chef, then night kitchen manager.") That would put it on the character's heads to go through their background, highlighting things that seem like skills they would possess, and they would have to make some sort of a guess as to how good they were at such skills. The only problem would come when the character disagrees with your assessment of how skilled their character should be ("I've been driving in this crazy New York City traffic since I was 16 - I should be an expert driver!") This could translate into a lot of negotiation time during the game, where the players will be asking about "how good am I at this?" or saying "I think I'd be really good at this." If you feel comfortable acting as an arbiter in that way, then that might not be that much of a problem.
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From:queue
Date:April 28th, 2003 07:57 am (UTC)

Re: From my experience

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Thanks for the data point about dice. I think the idea of letting them roll dice is good. I'll just have them roll more dice than is necessary.

See, my basic idea is that they will have regular modern-day characters, but those characters will be thrust into a different environment, one where the laws of physics/magic are different than the normal world. So, they might think all they're doing is trying to lift a fallen tree trunk, when in actuality the trunk is made of a type of wood that weakens their character in this world, but doesn't necessarily affect other characters (kind of like an allergy), so a big buff person might not be able to lift it while a weaker person might be able to. Not that this is a specific thing, but more a type of thing. So, most of the "neat things" they can do will be unknown to them at the beginning, and they'll have to be discovered by trial-and-error.

And, yeah, thanks for the nudge to do really detailed character histories, because that's what I'll want to do.

Something that should make things a bit easier (in terms of players arguing about how well they should be able to do something) is that their skills in their original world won't necassrily map to the same skills in the new world they get put into. Knowing how to cook will only be useful once they learn what's edible and how things taste. Knowing anything about computers won't do them any good if there are no computers, but it might translate into good problem-solving skills. Knowing several different African languages won't do them any good, but it might translate into an ability to pick up the local languages a bit faster. Stuff like that.

And, yes, this will take a lot of prep work on my part. Probably at least several months before I even start collecting players.

If you end up not wanting to play, I'd love to bounce ideas off of you. Even if you will want to play, I think it still might be useful for me to bounce ideas off of you in a general way once I've done a bit more work on this.

Thanks much for the input.
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From:scholargipsy
Date:April 28th, 2003 02:01 pm (UTC)
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My answer to this sort of question is the same as my answer to just about any question regarding someone starting up a campaign: "Sure, if the GM and the players are bright, committed, and creative."

What you describe sounds potentially interesting, sure, but for me the major determinant of a campaign's value isn't so much premise as execution. It might be tougher to pull off the sort of high-GM-trust game you imagine, but then the rewards might be that much greater too. You'd need players who were serious roleplayers, good at playing off each other and at working with what you gave 'em.

I'm in a game right now that's fun but less RP intensive than I'd like sometimes. I've been thinking about switching into a new one for a while now, so let me know where these thoughts lead you.
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