Everything is an inspiration for my games—but I can’t think of any one thing that’s particularly noteworthy or recurrent. Mostly TV shows and books—the usual suspects. I suppose the one thing that might be a bit odd is that I usually am more inspired by other genres. That is, when I’m running a supers game, I tend to look to every genre except supers for inspiration. When I’m running a space opera game, I’m likely to lift ideas from detective shows or fantasy novels. And so on.
I’m a huge fan of genre mash-ups, crossovers, and genre deconstructions, so I generally try to create something similar when I’m creating a game, running a game, or even, to the degree that I have the input, playing in a game. Looking to a genre other than the one I’m currently running (when I’m running a single-genre game) thus gives me inspiration.
The house rule that we most often add to a game is fan mail. It comes originally from Primetime Adventures, but the basic idea can be added on to most games.
Fan mail is basically hero points, but anyone can hand them out, for any reason. Any time a player does something that you think is cool or funny or awesome or clever, give them a fan mail.
For our latest weekly game, it was my turn to run, so I pitched some games that I thought would be interesting and engaging for our group. Mechanically, Smallville was one of the favorites, but 3 people vetoed supers, and the other 1 was only indifferent to the genre, so we decided to tweak it a bit for a different flavor setting. After some discussion, modern fantasy, somewhat in the vein of Lost Girl with a dash of X-Men: Evolution (we’re actively working to not echo Harry Potter, on several levels).
So that meant we needed magic, and probably some other changes. I immediately decided that the Stresses would need changing, and the others insisted that we change up the Values. So far, some of these changes have been more successful than others.
“A game of alienation and romance.”
The tagline I should’ve included in my Game Chef submission this year.
Last week was Game Chef 2014. My semester had just finished the week before, and I hadn’t been watching so I missed the announcements. The initial design period is Saturday to Sunday, 9-ish days, and it was already Monday when a friend asked me about it. I’d already missed an entire weekend, Monday night is booked, and I knew I was going to be busy all of Saturday. I looked at the theme (“there is no book”) and the ingredients (absorb, wild, glitter, sickle), and basically threw my hands up. I had no idea what to do with this. I figured I was going to be taking a pass this year.
Then Caitlin looked at the ingredients, and had an idea, I think mostly triggered by “absorb”. At first I rejected it, but it grew on me—and grew and morphed and evolved over the next couple days, until it took hold and I had to write something. The core of it was “aliens come to Earth and need to absorb the roles/auras/presence/charisma of famous actors in order to stay here”.
I was digging through some old notes I’d made to myself, and came upon this snippet.
What if you could always choose whether your character succeeded or failed at any given thing in your RPG?
And I’m not just talking about when you have narrative authority, or shifting the game mechanics to the level of gaining/losing that narrative authority. This idea doesn’t really make sense in games where character success isn’t a goal or currency–this is not for games like Fiasco (and Fiasco already does something a lot like this–but, even then, it’s tied up with narrative authority, so you only sometimes get to decide whether your character succeeds or fails).
No, this idea is very much for games that are about character skill and competence and success. Games in the vein of D&D or Fate Core.
Probably the central conceit of the dice part of the rules in Four Colors al Fresco is that it’s the step size between the dice, not the actual sizes of the dice, that matters. But is this true?
Four Colors al Fresco isn’t a number-cruncher’s dream system, but I still want the rules to actually do what they supposedly do and thus stay out of the way. I’ve played some “story-oriented” RPGs (and even some that were actually concerned with the math) which didn’t stand up to scrutiny, so I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. So here is where I show my work.
I was listening to a recent episode of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, and they got to talking about flaws for characters in RPGs. They give a good summary of the evolution of character flaws in RPGs, which reminded me of the way that Four Colors al Fresco handles character flaws, and I thought I would explain the reason it does it that way.