I realised I’d do well to describe a game procedure – I’ll call it open plan gaming. This is a rough layout – it’s hard for me to remember all the components.
To start off with, there’s a stark understanding at the table that people are just going to be adding story fragments, for the majority of play. Story fragments are like the toitoise beats the hare, because slow and steady rules – or even that if you have sex, the psycho will immediately kill you. They don’t have to be particularly rational or coherant. Often they will be a chinese whisper version of another story – just a warped fragment. That’s okay – mistakes are another way of looking at things. Also sometimes you’ll just make up story fragments from wholecloth – be careful not to get too attached to these. They probably do deserve center stage in their own story, but this is open plan gaming – it’s not there to nurture your gentle inner creativity. It’s more like making soup by throwing in whatever sounds good. If you’ve got a fantastic ingrediant, I’d suggest keeping it away from the pot or putting some in the pot and making your own recipe with it latter.
Second; other people are going to riff off of those components and bring in their own. It’s really just riffing – don’t get too excited (or unexcited) about any links you can get going. If everything seems to be fitting together in some amazing way, that’s great. But it’s doesn’t make or break the activity whether it happens – it’s adding components that’s the activities key. That it fits together is nice, but it’s just bonus points. Make sure you don’t get so excited that bonus points become the point of the activiity – they aint, even though they can be exciting.
Third, you all deliberately try and push for whatever direction you want as an individual. It’s like everyones hand is on an ouija board, but everyone knows everyones going to give it a little nudge towards various letters. No one pretends the ouija board moves itself, but they do know that since it’s a mixed up combination of everyones hand pressure, it’s slightly random and slightly guided. Also everyone knows its quite possible to utterly take over the board as everyone else just gives it nudges – don’t do this, not because it’s bad, but because you could do this at home already. The semi randomness of the ouija board is a special thing – if you want full authorship control, that’s understandable, but you can get that at home or you can even call us all over and well sit around cheering you on, drinking your beer, while you brainstorm with complete solo control. That’s a note for the desperate authors out there – their understandable. Some people will just take over because their jerks – potentially even people you know well (bad week at work, control issues, whatever and bam, they grope for full control) – now you know, you decide what a take over is and when to walk out. No one else can really tell you, without being a take over merchant themself. Just remember, whoever silently respects you leaving was likely sharing power as best they could – silence says alot here; remember the quiet people.
Frankly all of that is usually pretty intuitive – usual folks off the street don’t get mad, they’ll just make a face and cease participating. I suppose I’m saying it, because if you need too much instruction on it, it’s probably not an activity for you.
Okay, now you have this ouija board thing. Basically you aim for the ending you want – everyone else does, as you know, and you’ll end up with some kind of wacky hybrid ending of what you want and what they wanted. It probably wont make alot of sense as an ending (or maybe it’ll make a ton of sense, who knows).
Here’s the odd bit – I don’t expect it to make sense just in terms of what story was cobbled together. What makes sense to me is that everyone contributed bits of story that are somehow important to them – these people added what is important to them. These people I care about. That make some sort of importance in the whole mixed up ouija soup, because its made of the important parts of people that I care about (note: if your intending to play with people you don’t care about, not even in a faint way, oh dear god…). At the very least, the whole great lump tells me more about these people, and I think the lumps I added tells them more about me. So at worst, it’s like a meandering conversation – which isn’t worst at all – meandering talk is great to share. And occasionally it’ll shape into something coherant story – my god, that tells you something about all these people AND it makes history amongst them as a repeatable part of them and what is important.
And that’s it. That’s the raw, McGuyver version, making it up with whatever components you have around.
When you actually bring this into contact with a system designed to influence the ouija board, its…it’s like another hand on the ouija board, but one utterly inhuman. It can also be granted the absolute fik’n power I talked about before, if you’d trust it, to actual interesting effect. Alot of current designs would take absolute control, but due to shit currency design, someone at the table can mechanically take it over and you get that crap effect I talked about above. The usual RP denial is that they are bad to do that – which begs the question, why do you guys keep using a system where what they can do is bad, if its so fik’n bad. Or the other denial is to discard the dice, which raises the question why bother owning a system. But that goes on forever, that crap – here I talk about an actual activity and how its fun, rather than harp on about broken, broken activities.
Anyway, letting system get its paw on the ouija board is a whole different thing – that’s what makes it potentially worth buying a game system. After all, if it did the same old thing as before, why bother? So, since it’s a whole nother thing, I’ll take a stab at describing it in another post. I’m not even sure I do raw open plan gaming justice here – it might need a few more posts itself.
Hope you try open plan gaming sometime – for some of you, it’s probably nothing new and your wondering why I took the time to describe something which is about as new and different as breathing. Well, I hope I described it a bit more than that – there is yoga breathing, for example – there can be more potential technique involved with a day to day activity than first meets the eye. 🙂