Sin Aesthetics

In which Mo explores the social pathology of roleplaying and begins to experiment with game design.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Agenda Affirmation

I saw this over on Deep in the Game and thought it was a really useful exercise, so I yoinked it. Thanks Chris!

• I like it when people approach the game with a commitment to social responsibility.
• I like it when players make firm emotional commitments to game and allow themselves to move and be moved by the game, by the story, by their characters and/or by each other.
• I like it when everybody around the table is adult enough, sensitive enough and friendly enough to be able to have games where strong, brutal situations can happen and we can be affect by but not destroyed by the impacts.
• I like to make falliable characters who can sometimes make bad choices without the other players assuming that I am stupid because I am not making the "correct" strategic choice.
• I like to make strong opinionated moves in character that say much about my character without the people around the table assuming that the choices my character is making are the choices that I personally believe are right. (Eg. I might have a Dog that believes in capital punishment for capital crimes, and I don't want the players to assume Mo feels the same way. I know that I am making a statement about religion and capital punishment, but it doesn't mean that it would be my real life choice because I am not in the situation nor of the religion.)
• I like to play with folks who I genuinely like out of game too.
• I like playing with folks who have a similar sense of cultural reference.

• I like to have the freedom and support to go *way* outside of the box.
• I must be able to immerse to fully enjoy any long term game.
• I must be able to make characters that are dynamic and able to change with the support of the system.
• I like to explore the psychology of characters.
• I like powerful conflicted characters that clash head to head with other powerful conflicted characters often with elements of romance, sexuality, politics or strong, unique visions of the world.

Overall, I'd say I'm pretty Vanilla:
• I like games that let me learn as we go rather than having to "take a course" up front.
• I don't like games that have a lot of modifiers, reference charts or lots of pre-determined or group determined difficulties and conditions.
• I don't like to have to fiddle with a lot of crunchy math.
• I like it when games nest task resolution inside conflict resolution (i.e. Dogs) rather than being all one or all the other.
• I like being able to throw rules out the window when they impede the dramatic quality of the game.
• I like optional mechanics that allow me and others in the game to be able to tailor to the style and comfort of individuals at the table. (1000 Stories aims to do this)
• I am stressed by systems that require me to perform a lot of resource management (e.g. Nobilis, extended contests in Heroquest).
• I like games that reward players for being socially responsible and supportive to each other.
• I don't like hidden target numbers. I especially hate it where death is involved. I like knowing death is on the line and choosing to go there if I want to.
• I don't like (what Bankuei refers to as) "bunk choices" (things that look like choices but aren't really choices at all).
• I like multiple paths to success.
• I don't like mechanics that interfere with the process of play, because they interfere with my ability to immerse.
• I like my rewards as instant reinforcement (Fan mail in PtA, Hero Points in Truth & Justice, Drama points in Buffy or 7th Sea, Bonus Dice in BtI)

• I have real problems with mind control or possession plots that usurp my sense of protagonism. (I.e. Polaris might be OK because I still play my character when she is posessed, but "You are now a Nazi" is not fun for me).
• I don't want my personal plot to be in competition with the group's goal (I often don't like big group goals anymore). I would like my personal plot to affect the game, but not in a way that undesirably puts me at odds with another player(s) , unless it happens by agreement between the players.
• I like having rich and colourful settings that serve as backdrops to the story.
• I do not want to have to keep track of time, logistics, and other Simmy details, especially where they conflict with our ability to concentrate on the story or on character interaction.
• Although I like strong, dynamic stories, I do not like to push, push, push endlessly towards conclusion. I need to have interludes of reflection and interaction to keep sane and to make a more "literary" sense of pace.
• I am not so interested in one shots, as they don't allow me to immerse and so don't let me plug in and get what I like of game.
• I HATE when games just die without resolving. I like campaigns long, or mid length, but with good, satisfying conclusions.
• I really like solo games.
• I like kewl powers and colourful abilities when they serve to enhance the human drama, and generally lose interest in them when the focus is on them in and of themselves.
• I can be entirely happy playing real human non-metanormal characters so long as they are set up in a suitably dramatic fashion.
• I like either a certain degree of fantasy wish fulfillment or strong feelings of dramatic catharsis, and when they come together it rocks my socks.
• I am fetishistic about character sheets and handouts. I love good art that helps to illustrate characters and places in very visual, beautiful ways. I keep all my character sheets in a binder (a.k.a. "the menagerie") which has come to look like a gallery of my gaming exploits over the years. I love to draw my characters and the other PC's or NPC's in the game. Note: its not that I fetishize the numbers on the sheet. Instead, graphic design, visual image and layout on the sheets is almost like a ritual for me that allows me to express the character on multiple levels. Dogs would still be Dogs in Times New Roman on a stapled pack of 8.5 x 11 white bond, but there's something between the funky Dog's coat picture on the front, through the dimestore novel, bibletext-font finished final product that makes it come much more alive to me. Same goes with my character sheets. (If you are interested, look at Amalkau, Ravi, Deja Vu, Eva, Morgan, Katya, or Liz. )

Feel free to comment on mine, or share your own.


Anonymous Claire Bickell said...

Oh yeah. I should do this myself, but I'm nodding along here.

1/09/2006 04:53:00 AM  
Blogger DevP said...

That is some damn fine design on those character sheets. That's *precisely* the sort of thing to pass to someone to hook them on a game right away.

1/09/2006 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Mo said...

Thanks devp!

1/09/2006 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Shreyas said...

Do you design your character sheets yourself? They're very cool.

1/10/2006 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mo said...

I do indeed!

I spend much too much time on them, to shich Brand can attest.


1/10/2006 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mo said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/10/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Mo said...

I should say, to those of you that admire my character sheets, that some of the stuff on them is theived, theived, theived. I yoink images of people, places, things off the net and store it in a folder for inspiration for when I need ideas. Sometimes a character gets strongly attached to one of them. Sometimes I build a character off an image entirely.

But I design them and make them myself. I am in the process of learning to draw, too.

1/10/2006 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...

I should also say that I did Morgan and Katya. Mo and I do so many things colaberativly that it's hard to keep track sometimes.

1/11/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mo,
I've been following along here for a while and really enjoying it. I'll have to do Chris' agenda affirmation myself (that's a lot of self analysis there...)

I just wanted to say to you (and Brand) that those character sheets rock so much it hurts! They make me wish I lived in Toronto and knew you guys (I already wish I lived in Toronto for other reasons, but you know what I mean). Is Amalkau a Wushu character, and if so, what was the setting? You made my day with these (particularly hers).

Sorry for the shallow post and late response, but it sounds like your gaming style and mine are similar and I'll try to weigh in on more serious theoretical issues eventually.

John Marron

1/12/2006 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Mo said...

Hi John,

She is indeed. :) It was a short lived campaign that was an Indiana Jones/Mummy kinda game. The other character was a two-fisted archaeologist with perfect timing who found himself in competition over an amulet with Amalkau, the last scion of a dynasty that had been the ushers of the Godswife. The amulet had been stolen generations before, and her family had been cursed, their number decreasing like an hourglass over the centuries.

You have a blog/site/home somewhere?


1/12/2006 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's cool. I've been on a Wushu kick lately and that presentation of a character brought home to me evertything that I like about simple systems and all of the power of imagery and graphic presentation to get people into and excited about a game.

I have a LJ at

I'm afraid I don't post as much as I'd like, and it's mostly me whining about my disatisfaction with my recent gaming, but give it a look if you'd like.


1/12/2006 11:51:00 AM  

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