Saturday, June 22, 2013

Techniques of the Rules Author

I make sporadic attempts to write something good enough charge people money to read. So far these have not resulted in a published work, though they have made me a rather brutal literary critic at times.  Over the course of these various attempts I've amassed a little writers bookshelf.  Some of the books seemed good but I've never gone back to while others have become standbys that I refere back to and re read all the time. One of these standbys is Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight Swain What has struck me is how much of this book I've seen in RPG rule sets recently. So much so that it seems to be the unsung hero of rules wrting, unlike Hero of a Thousand faces which gets mentioned all the time.

Two systems in particular stand out in this regard. Marvel Heroic Role playing1, which has an explicit structure of Scenes and Sequels, and even calls them this in the rules. And the various games derived from Apocalypse World. Apocalypse World and its derivatives, of which I'm most familiar with Dungeon World, have  the interesting idea that the Dungeon Master does not roll dice, only the Players do. And based on the role they either fail, succeeded at a price or succeed outright. IF success is not outright the Dungeon Master gets to make a Move in response which may involve just dealing damage, or a host of other things. End result is that every dice roll matters to the story.

The standard rules in Dungeon World is present the situation, the looming threat and ask "what do you do?" The player then responds and probably rolls their dice. In Dwight Swain's terminology the chunk of converstation between the Dungeon Master and Player is a Motivation Reaction Unit. Indeed go to any example of play in the Dungeon World manual and you will see a seqnece of prefect MRU's strung together into a scene. And that accounts for everything the game calls a basic move.

Then we have special moves, which could just as well have been called sequal moves. They are things like making camp or making an entire perilous journey through the wilderness, and other such bridging details that go to make a smooth narrative wihout getting bogged down.

I've also being playing Mythic RPG both in whole (Pokemon inspired game with my sons) and the Game Master emulator subsystem (solo play dungeon world on the train). What has struck me in the last day as missing from Mythic is any mechanic for dealing with sequels. The system as it stands works very well for scenes but I can't seem to get it to frame sequels at all. At the table with my sons we just narrate them, while in my solo play they are quit conspicuously missing, mostly because I'm not motivated enough to type them in on my tablet. That said The Mythic GME is a great product, and has worked very well for me both at the table and solo. Mythic as a generic system not so much though, but thats a post for another day.
  1. What? Marvel Heroic Roleplaying has been pulled. I went looking for the link only to find that the entire product line is gone from the Margret Weiss Website. I'm assuming their relationship with Marvel soured for some reason, but man I didn't see that coming,

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