For the past couple of years grandexperiment has been pondering a problem simply expressed: how do you run character-focused campaign?
Between us, I hate to think how many words we’ve spilled on this topic in various forums. Our blogs, gametime, NZRaG? And yet, at the end of the day, some people still don’t “get” what it is we’re on about when we talk about a character focused game – the “New School”. Mike Sands (et al) argue that it’s all just part of the game, an undifferentiated experience where IC/OOC is all the same. This seems to be a matter of intuition – no explanation I’ve ever proferred has seemed to “get through” to people who didn’t already understand what I was on about.
I don’t propose to go over those arguments again, let me just summarize the design objective:
– Players must be able to direct the story from an entirely IC perspective
This includes several portions:
– An initial character trajectory
– The ability to signal story direction changes over time
– Defining a “comfort zone” where the material presented by the GM is palatable to the player
Some GMs, near psychics, can do this in any game without particular system or “theory” assistance. Kudos. I’m not one of them: so I’ll need to develop a framework to think and communicate, which must be rooted in IC qualities.
We’ve talked a lot over the years about this from the GM’s perspective – what tools can they use to anticipate player needs. But there needs to be a quid pro quo: the players must be active in alerting the GM to their needs and must also be alert to the GM’s needs. The GM isn’t merely a passive facilitator: they have stories which interest them too.
There must be a dynamic give-and-take, where the GM takes an active role in PC stories, and PCs take an active interest in the GM’s stories.
To match with my personal preferences, there should also be a certain minimal level of group cohesion. They must be connected.
Add all that up, and you have a kind of Platonic Ideal for a “Character Focused” game. Perhaps imperfectly expressed, but perfect in conception. What I propose to do is go through all the steps for setting-up this game from when I would decided that I wanted to run a game, through the player-briefing, up to where I’d be when gathering players together for the character generation session.
Obviously this isn’t a real game – it’s a thought exercise about how I should be building the world and briefing the players. I’ll be doing this on my GMing blog gm_planescape, so if you’re interested, check in there. I would greatly value your input.