Efemeros

10 October, 2008 at 8:43 pm (game mastering) ()

Sami Koponen‘s Efemeros is a collection of four articles and a small extra.

First article

The first article, by Sami, is about thematic roleplaying. Main point that I remember still: Thematic roleplay is unlikely if players only care about the success of their characters, so make (potentially) conflicted characters. Every player should know the themes of a game to some extent and make characters accordingly. A setting with thematic content or social commentary is not a sufficient condition for thematic play. Characters must have a measure of depth to be engaging. Rules can be used to focus a game around specific theme, but are by no means necessary.

Notes: Sami’s bias is evident here; he clearly likes story games, uses such as examples and recommends some. There is a small sidebar about GNS (most relevantly, about the sim/nar divide). Given this point of view the text is pretty sensible material.

For me, the contents of this article are not news. One idea I did get from reading: Build rules such as the player can clearly designate which qualities of a character are there to be challenged and which to be reinforced. Overall, I consider this the weakest article in the publication.

Second article

Shinobi no mono, again by Sami Koponen, is a description of several roleplaying techniques. There is a narrative about Japanese students of roleplaying written as if they were studying martial arts or such. There is a total of eleven techniques. Personally, I found the article useful; I had not considered some of the techniques as that. The narrative was occasionally useful, occasionally awkward to read. I’d say this is the second most useful article.

Third article

Author is Wille Routsalainen, article is called Building adventures. For me, this is mostly a useless article, not because it is poor, but because it is not relevant to my playing style (any of them). Overall, third in usefulness.

One good idea I did pick up: Ghost sheets for player characters. Such a sheet contains goals of the PC, what NPCs want of her, the contacts the PC has and things the player does not know about the character. This is likely to be very useful tool in longer games with several NPCs and no forced overarching story.

Fourth article

Designing campaigns by Eero Tuovinen is the absolutely strongest article in the collection. It connects such diverse resources as 1st. edition D&D’s DMG, fruitful void by Vincent Baker and social footprint by Tony Lower-Basch.

A particularly noteworthy part of the text is elaboration on the difference of campaign and scenario (and scene). Building an entire campaign simply to bring a particular scene or situation to play is a waste of resources that leads to railroading; better take what makes that particular scene or situation so interesting and apply that more generally.

Eero Tuovinen’s method of campaign construction is to first take a conflict, then make it nontrivial (merely talking won’t solve it unless one side sacrifices something), make characters as persons, define arenas of conflict, don’t build an end; solving the big conflict is ending the campaign.

Arenas of conflict are a smart idea: They are essentially the means to change the outcome of the campaign. Combat is the traditional arena. In my current BW game the sympathy of the people and summonings and lizardfolk and what they symbolise are also arenas of conflict.

All in all, the big insight this article gave to me is that designing a campaign is like designing a game, and many same principles apply.

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