Game Chef 2011 – Props to my Boys from Oz

In the midst of my reviewing duties I forgot to check out my fellow Stockaders’ work:

Blood Tragedy by Timothy Fergurson is interesting. It’s a competitive storygame that seems like it could be played very quickly – like in twenty minutes, which is nice. Players choose a way they will die, a fatal flaw and who they might be in the royal court, and get 10 points in their stat. Each Act they have set duties – reveal a plot, have it foiled, build a new one etc – that they must complete, and basically one scene each to do it in. Each person gets to set a scene and if he doesn’t put your character in it, you have to roll to get there, and if you come on stage late, you’ll be at a disadvantage. So you’re generally going to want to pitch up your scenes as being all about you. Then you basically talk until somebody says or does something you don’t like, at which point you can roll off your stats plus a d10.  There’s some complex rules about modifiers that I won’t go into and could use a table (it gets fiddly on the details), but you get the idea.

I like the idea of trying to kill yourself, and nice strict acts, in these regards it reads a lot like a theatresports game (and you’d need that kind of creativity to keep the momentum going). Unlike theatresports, however, it rewards blocking, because you win by denying your fellow players a way to die, or to die as they wished, or to get a word in edegways in a scene, or to not have their plans confounded. Some of these can be broken with die rolls, but since losers lose the stat they add to these, I can see a downward spiral leading to not much fun. I could be misunderstanding the rules though, I had a bit of trouble pushing through the middle.

I really like the concept of this, especially the idea that the setting and characters are disposable but the act structure is inescapable, and the inclusion of a simple scoring mechanism to build a winner, but the execution isn’t quite there. As it stands I think it might just collapse under abuse – but on the other hand, I’ve never liked competitive RPGs because they always tend to encourage blocking (like Robin D Laws’ Pantheon) and that just seems a way to kill story. I may yet be convinced, and I’m glad Mr Fergurson put the idea in my head again.

As an aside, many game designers were very very big on act structure, and while I’ve always love Shakespeare’s strucutre, I’ve always also liked how invisible it is in action. I find it interesting how many people chose to take the act structure and case it in stone as meta-rules. Does that come from reading plays more than watching them, or an emphasis on his act structure at school? Did everyone read the same wikipedia article?  Curious.

3 thoughts on “Game Chef 2011 – Props to my Boys from Oz

  1. I think the Acts Structure comes mostly from laziness. Did you notice how many of us basically wrote As You Like It or Measure For Measure? We need Nature and a Daughter as ingredients, so clearly women are getting marriedi n a forest! Hurrah!

    That was my first take on the competition too, until I looked at it and went “That’s just…that’s just a Mills and Boon novel. There’s no competitive aspect to this.” I don’t want to criticise the people who went for this theme and had fun with it, but it’s kind of obvious from the original ingredients.

    So too, the Act Structure. People say “Make it Shakespeare” and you get the Act Structure as a sort of genetic element. I did it myself. I think it reallt is because having a couple of eventings to write doesn’t give you the time to refelct on the times you are just taking the path of least resistance inyour writing.

    • Yeah, I certainly thought that with daughters and nature everyone would be writing about marriages in forests, and I was right, and I did it myself. And yes, I made a similar point in my own design process description – faced with a tight deadline, you have to just go with what you know. For me, Shakespeare is language, so I wrote it in his tongue. For others, the “go-to” was Acts. Laziness? Sort of. It can also be getting comfortable with what you can do. Design is a skill, there’s no reason it has to be hard, after all!

  2. OK, “laziness” is harsh. Lack of dedicated time perhaps?

    I did it myself after all. Looking at it again, if I redid it, I’d certainly rework that element, so that there was rule structure which aided play in the acts, rather than just making them mandatory.

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