Dogma 99, Part 3

4. All secrecy is forbidden.

This one interests me in an abstract sort of way.  I’m not sure it’d suit the needs of a serial game, because I think/hope that part of the enjoyment for players in games I run is finding out what’s going on in play, and reacting to it in the moment.  Additionally, I often change things (from small to large) because a player says something that gives me a better idea – I would regard it as failing the players not to do that, in fact.  And it’s not that I mind admitting that I’ve changed things, but it’d be kind of weird to be constantly going to players saying “that thing I said was true three months ago isn’t any more – I’ve had a better idea”.

That said: I am definitely enjoying the less-secret more-collaborative design process for this game.  Honestly, it’s not even that my previous design process was secret so much as I just didn’t make things as clear and explicit as I could/should have.

It’s also a bit weird coming to this one, when I’m reading stuff written four and five years later, when Immersionism is clearly seen as a primary goal for a lot of people, because actually, I think it’s a very Dramatist device, rather than an Immersionist one – players knowing any plans that might exist in advance will, I think automatically cause them to shape their playing to the plans, rather than having the plans change in the face of their playing, which is my preferred option.

That said, for a one-off type game, I think it’s an interesting idea.

5. After the event has begun, the playwrights are not allowed to influence it.

I really don’t like the term “playwright” here, but moving on…

It’s a very interesting idea.  Restitution definitely increased my comfort level with the notion.  Again, a difference between the one-off events this is largely concerned with, and the serial games I run, is that it’s hypothetically possible for one or two players to take actions that render the setting unplayable – the narrative equivalent of setting off a nuke in the middle of play, and in the past, I’ve seen it as part of my responsibilities as ref (the rather less grandiose term that I prefer) to prevent that from happening.  At a certain point in Restitution, I decided to simply say “it is completely possible that someone will do something that will end the story/game tonight”, and roll with it.  And of course, the game did not end (in fact, it ran a few months longer than I thought it would).

I came to see the action of yelling “time in” as an act of surrendering control over the overall narrative.  “Anything could happen in the next three hours!”  And in a serial game where the ref is more or less “in charge” of everything that happens in downtime, that’s quite a powerful thing.

This would all probably surprise many of the players, because I know I played a number of NPCs that loomed pretty large, but 80% of the time, I just tried to play them as them, rather than use them to steer action, and honestly, I hated it every time I felt the need to use them to “steer”.  So I intend to be more relaxed about this in the next game.

That said, I don’t think I’m going to go without a “host” NPC.  My reasoning is partly that I personally find it weirdly inhibitive, when I’m playing, to have someone in the IC space who is not a character who can be interacted with, and I find that even a token NPC role solves that.  The other thing is purely personal: it’s actually quite boring to just sit and watch, unable to interact with anything.  The interaction doesn’t need to be meaningful or game affecting, it just needs to be on the level of “able to open mouth, speak, and be heard”.

Key ideas to consider for the next game:

  1. Advertise my willingness to answer most questions during the span of the game, to anyone who wants to know (and who has a reason beyond “I’m just curious”, maybe), but reserve the right to keep some things up my sleeve?
  2. I like having a host NPC to play, but I’m going to design a very different style of NPC for the next thing – a subservient, service-staff type role, I think.  Something that exists to be given instructions.

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