Tags: lords of gossamer and shadow

Far-Horizon Fable

I have developed my Lords of Gossamer and Shadow scenario idea called Far-Horizon Fable further, and I think that I will have it ready for Kapcon. Given how busy my schedule is, I am not sure if I will run it then but I will keep that option open. I am hoping to have written everything up over the next week or so and playtest it over the Xmas break.

I am enjoying taking the same approach to the scenario as I did my Tenra Bansho scenario, which was pretty successful. Rather than my previous extensive plotting and writing, I plan to put together a handful of pages of notes and character sheets without portraits and short backgrounds. My hope is that I can reduce my effort to output ratio and make things easier for me. To that end, I have also started keeping a journal with my scenario seeds, so I don't forget them, allowing me to return and expand them as the mood strikes.

The scenario itself is inspired by Cloud Atlas, the Fountain and the Fall in terms of story. The substance of the game draws on the likes of Dr Who, Gormenghast and Matrix (or even John Carter). It has some strong ideas in it, but will be quite open in terms of its flow and even more so in terms of its resolution. Again, this follows my experiment with Tenra Bansho. Given the diceless system and the power level of the PCs, this kind of freedom is kind of necessary.

Diceless Roleplaying - Old meets New

I have almost finished reading Lords of Gossamer and Shadow and it has me intrigued. As posted previously, I am finding several factors at work and they are not factors that I expected to find in the same game:

1. 90s White Wolf Storytelling: As previously noted, this approach to RPGing is my preference as it takes traditional RPGing and applies it directly to replicating stories. The problem with this style is that it jumps to the end result and kind of ignores various issues in doing so. The consequence is an increased burden on the GM. LoGaS is no exception to this and in some ways puts even greater strain on the GM by removing the dice system as an impartial arbiter. On saying that, there is also a benefit in that the players and GM are expressly placed on the same page in giving the GM greater power and discretion, making trust obviously the key.

In the 90s, I would have struggled with this as there was an underlying antagonistic relationship between player and GM, which the dice played an integral part of. However, with more modern RPG ideas, I am more comfortable with the approach and find the idea of freeing the GM and players from the dice to be one with interesting new potential.

2. *World Gaming: I don't claim that *World is the progenitor of the kind of storygame ideas that I think make LoGaS better, but it has been a both prominent and successful movement of introducing these ideas back into traditional RPGing. In particular, I have found the concept of approaching RPGing as a conversation rather than a board game and also giving the narrative itself power to be inspiring. IMO I see both of these at work in LoGaS, even if the text doesn't seem to be explicitly aware of it.

Without dice, the players more obviously have to narrate their PCs to their advantage. Failure as a consequence is diminished as a necessary result of the removal of dice, and the GM is generally encouraged to build on what the players are narrating rather than stop it. Some of the GM advice in LoGaS reads remarkably similar to Dungeon World, with a focus on finding out what happens as a result of the PCs action rather than a underlying story. I think this approach is well tailored to the power level of the PCs in LoGaS, with success being almost a given except when in conflict with another PC or NPC.

I also think that the "giving the narrative itself power" is an important aspect of understanding how to player without dice. It allows the GM and players to understand what's fair and acceptable and what is not. If focus can be maintained at the in-character level, as Dungeon World strives to do too, then it all works as everything said in the conversation gives context for what comes next.

3. LARPing: This is probably due to the fact that this form of roleplaying advanced considerably from factor 1 through Minds Eye Theatre. However, I think the removal of dice will impact on the play experience in a manner that is similar to parts of the LARPing experience. In LARPing, mechanics tend to deal with conflict and special abilities. The rest is left to roleplaying. If a player wants to do something or gain an advantage, they need to do so as their character and to the strengths of the character. This can create a greater focus on the character for the player. LoGaS' diceless approach should have similar effect in that the focus on the character grows as it is the only variable under the players influence.

Again, I am finding LoGaS not so much ground-breaking, as its a 20 year old game design. But it does combine various factors in a way that I think will be interesting to experience. I think the approach only real works at a very high power level but I am also tempted to see how the approach plays out in such games, such as Exalted.

Diceless Roleplaying

I picked up Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, the spiritual successor to Amber Diceless RPG. I had heard about Amber previously and knew it was diceless. I had also seen the LoGaS KS and failed to penetrate the description. After reading some reactions about the PDF, I got interested enough to grab the PDF.

What I have found is interesting, though I am unsure what it is or how it will play. The good is that the new Amberless setting is great and at a concise 160 pages, with all the rules, hits my sweet spot. The premise is that there are "god-like" PCs who exist in and around the nexus of a vast multiverse, hopping from one realm of existence to the next. Though divine in power, the PCs aren't incomprehensible which is something I have problems with in Nobilis. Also, the setting remains firmly rooted in fantasy and isn't incomprehensible like I find Dr Who even with its technobabble sci fi. Aesthetically, the PCs seem like something of Gormenghast or Carcosa, antiquated and full of anachronisms.

The more difficult is the diceless system. There isn't even a pool of points style system of Nobilis. There is a lot of advice on how to run such a game, and in some ways it feels contrary to modern game design, distilling the 90s White Wolf approach to storytelling games and viewing rules and dice as somewhat the enemy of roleplaying and narrative. I could actually see the system feeling almost LARP like in effect, as players influence the game play most through their roleplaying and choice of approach, then through a mechanical effect. The promised effect is players who focus on playing their PC to get what they want from the game, rather than system mastery.

Despite this contrariness, and somewhat surprisingly, my recent experiences with Dungeon World helped me grok the gameplay. In essence, LoGaS boils down to each player permissively building onto a growing group narrative and the system only really kicking to decide who wins when two PCs or a PC and an NPC come into conflict. The narrative itself has power in determining and restricting what other players can add to the narrative, rather than mechanical effects. I learned from DW that RPGs don't need the underlying wargaming/board gaming model of turn taking in order to manage narrative and balance contributions. Conversation itself can do that, and in many ways it is more ingrained on us than the equity of taking turns. I think this interplay is key in turning the common concern of LoGaS's diceless play from being the GM simply adjudicates the outcome to the players are able to forge their PC's own fate from simple narration.

The other interesting aspect is that I actually think the diceless system could work very well in a Con scenario. As others have observed, dice and randomness can be problematic in a short run Con scenario as they have such tight parameters. Though I have experimented with direct tactical conflict in Con scenarios for good effect (Tea Garden and Vykyris), most of my scenarios are very character drama focussed and often do not resort to the use of mechanics (except to indicate to the player their PC's respective strengths). In many ways, LoGaS embraces how I run my scenarios and is upfront and transparent about it.

As such, I kind of want to run this at Kapcon, at least as an experiment of bringing together my recently learned skills from Dungeon World with my now tried and tested skills of Con scenario writing. With this Kapcon being kind of full already, I am not sure if I can fit it in, but I will start working on a scenario called "Far-Horizon Fable" which draws heavily on Cloud Atlas and Gormenghast.