Book of Threes Alpha Test Recap

Okay, sorry this was a bit later than forecasted, but I wanted to collect some thoughts from the first playtest of “The Book of Threes” done on Google Wave.

First off, it taught me a lot about Google Wave, and while I think it’s far superior to a standard forum for RPGs, it still has some shortcomings compared to ‘the real thing’ of sitting at a table with your friends and talking it out in person. That being said, I’m currently participating in 3 Google Wave RPGs, so I would still recommend it if you’re hungry for gaming and the internet is your only outlet.

In the case of Bo3s though, it created some issues with the clan creation section (the only part we did). Turn taking is awkward in an ansynchronous environment where ‘order’ is arbitrary. Also, different people updating at different speeds created a disparity of expectations in how quickly to post. But I’d say the big thing that hurt the clan creation process is that a lot of the back and forth collaborative stuff that would be happening in person was constrained in the online format, making each person’s contribution more self-contained and final, rather than being malleable to fit in with the overall creative vision, which is what the clan creation process was supposed to foster.

On that note, the clan creation rules are too lengthy. I got so caught up in worrying that there would be enough material for a compelling situation off the bat that I forgot my whole inspiration of “In a Wicked Age” and my desire for the setting to come out in play. I think what I will do is make a *much* shorter clan creation process as the standard, and then offer an optional detailed clan creation process for people who really want to flesh out the world before they step into it or to refer to when things come up in play (for example: “I dunno guys, what is the neighboring clan like? You tell me, or roll on this table here”).

Another point about the creation rules that my friend Adam pointed out is that certain aspects of it (like one player naming a type of community and another player fleshing it out) made the whole collaborative process be *too* collaborative. Individual players didn’t feel like they had ‘ownership’ of anything, and maybe other players took what would have been an idea that got them fired up and went in a totally different direction. My goal was to force the players to accommodate each other’s points of interest and to create a world that everyone had buy in with, but I think that I shared out the ownership too much.

One solution to that problem can be gleaned from Archipelago II by Matthjis Holter. This is a great game that I’d love to give playing a try, but reading through it really opened my eyes to some different ways to approach RPG design. And you can get it for free at that link! Seriously worth checking out. At any rate, in it there is the concept of ‘ownership’ since there is not a traditional GM. One player is given authority over an aspect of the game world (like ‘geography’ or ‘religion’ – typically things the group decides will be important to the game) and anybody can suggest things about the world, but the player with ownership can veto ideas relating to his domain.

So, let’s say you have authority over ‘geography’ and I’m like “Man, there are these giant floating mountains, with like plants and stuff growing between them”. You could go “Floating mountains? I don’t think so, all of the terrain has been really harsh and mundane, so let’s not do that. How about some normal jungle mountains that go up really high?”

I think a few areas of ownership, or at least the concept that certain things are ‘owned’ by certain players might go a long way towards supporting buy-in to the collaborative creative process. So, maybe each player gets final say over details about their family members (even if the GM gets to control their actions in play) and one guy gets to detail the religion of teh clan, and another guy gets to have authority over the crafts (or whatever). I’m gonna poke around with these ideas and streamline the clan creation process in a lot of other ways. I’ll probably look at character creation again, since I realized taht most of the ‘initial situation’ generation happens from the Character creation already, so I may fine tune that and make the clan creation a subtle background.


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