The Trouble With Drama Mechanics

Role-playing games are all about characters, otherwise they wouldn’t be role-playing games. And what really gets someone invested in a fictional character, whether they’re playing the character or watching or reading the character, is the character’s personal journey. We love to see it in books and movies and we love to see it in RPGs, but in RPGs we typically aren’t given additional rules to support these sorts of stories. This is in part because these stories haven’t been the focus of most RPGs, well, ever, but it’s also in part due to the belief of designers that characters’ inner lives should be governed by the people who play them, not by rules.

The issue with this is that mechanics are what provide richness for games. We want PbtA games to have a palette of different moves, and we want each playbook to feel different. We want a military simulation to differentiate between all its guns and vehicles. So why would we not want rules that help us look at and play out character drama? When I looked at Hillfolk a few weeks back, one thing I thought it did very well was stake out three necessary drivers of dramatic conflict: character desire, character internal conflict (the ‘dramatic poles’), and character external conflict (‘fraught relationships’). What was missing was the next step, which was to provide structure and guidance to build and play with those drivers.

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Crowdfunding Carnival: May, 2022

Welcome back to the Carnival! Here at the beginning of May it’s a momentous time to be looking at crowdfunding. Well, that’s partially true. If you’re interested in the high profile campaigns earning hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, it’s a momentous time to be looking at crowdfunding. If you’re another indie fellow trying to get by, it’s another month. If you’re looking for those indies who have broken into the big leagues, though, there’s a great example of that going on right now. We’ve got co-marketing, we’ve got little old ladies solving murders, we’ve got Tarot cards, and, of course, we’ve got Free League. Let’s take a look.

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