I’ve been wrestling with an apparent discrepancy between an old school approach – allowing the GM to improvise using random factors – and one in which the players are given clear mechanisms by which to affect the outcome of the story. I’ve decided to move some of these decisions to the epilogue, Black Dog, which will be next.
Sridat helped me with some of my wonky pseudoscience and agreed with James that the conflicting agendas among the characters (PvP) were insufficiently supported by the way I’d hacked the system. James preferred the survival horror set-up to the quantum flim-flam climax. Tom said he said felt adrift at the end because characters had to spend attributes to act: yes, I’ll change that. And Christel made the point that the first half of the story felt like the book and the second half like Tarkovsky’s film adaptation, becoming “a bit too metaphysical”. Spot on.
We’re hoping to get together for a sequel using new characters.
The consensus on Stalker seems to be that the setting is great but the system difficult to apply. I like the system: I think it’s a case of using its toolkit to develop the playstyle you want. This is easier to say than to achieve, as I’m no kind of game designer. The game has me in its grip, however:-
Language, just like thought, proceeds from the binary arithmetical functioning of our brain. We classify by yes and no, by positive and negative. The only thing that my language proves is the slowness of a world limited to the binary. This insufficiency of language is obvious, and is strongly deplored. But what about the insufficiency of binary intelligence itself? Internal existence, the essence of things, escapes it. It can discover that light is continuous and discontinuous at the same time, that a molecule of benzene establishes between its six atoms dual relationships which are nevertheless mutually exclusive; it accepts it, but it cannot understand it, it cannot incorporate into its structure the reality of the profound structures it examines. In order to do that, it would have to change its state, machines other than the usual ones would have to start functioning in the brain, so that binary reasoning might be replaced with an analogical consciousness which would assume the shapes and assimilate the inconceivable rhythms of those profound structures.
It was a tough year. On the one hand I made the acquaintance of several outstanding people, took part in our best ever campaign of Mighty Empires and began submitting entries on film to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. On the other there was the hospital, the worsening political climate and the continuing trouble I had integrating into any of the various cliques and factions of the roleplaying community. That may well be for the good.
I expect several projects to come to fruition in 2016:
Leaving Frisland will be a setting-cum-scenario for Lamentations of the Flame Princess based on the (fraudulent) depositions of Venetian explorers Antonio and Nicolò Zeno. I’ll need to persuade our current group to play a version of Vornheim in order to get a game of Lamentations beforehand.
We were never born. My sister and I were made by a machine. She is not my sister, but she is nearer than a sister and we belong together by machine rules. A lot of these things were taken out of my memory by a professor. The machine is called the ‘Body’. We do not know how it works. We do not see the machine. Sometimes it changes to a person then back again. Sometimes it becomes a light and we see the light sometimes.
The players at Concrete Cow last month pretty much rocked the first playtest but the system I used was a bit meh.
The collaborative set-up worked well but asking people to conduct challenges by stacking narrative elements seemed counter-intuitive. It slowed up play. I reckon I’ll run the next one using the Flow system in the Stalker rulebook and use a revised version of the cheat sheet to prompt players interested in shaping the narrative.
I like it when players have agency in the story as people as well as characters.