The System Monkey meets the Fruitful Void

Ahoy, πŸ™‚

Deepness!

Yeah, I’ve been looking for deepness to write about for a while, because, you know, I like deepness, but the fact of the matter is that, of late, my gaming sessions have been all fun and wholesome and fulfilling and whatnot, and as such, there has been no need for deepness.

And yet, it’s about time I try to come up with something deep to write about, and so this is it:

Think about the games you like to play, and about how you like to play them. Do you like to go all out and explore the hell out of the system, trusting that the game play will be satisfactory, or do you like to have your play be about something other than the system, trusting that the system will support you?*

Good System Monky games are games like TSoY and Donjon (and, hey, they’re from the same author? coincidence? maybe, maybe not, who cares… πŸ˜‰

Good Fruitful Void games are games like DitV or Sorcerer.

But here’s the thing. Any game can be played either way.

When I started out playing TSoY, it was all I could do to milk the Keys for all their worth, and wouldn’t you know it, the game play was great. But now, I have more XPs than I know what to do with, so I just go where the situation points me and try to play my character to the hilt, and guess what, the game play is still great.

Or, take D&D 3.x. I play with a group where there’s one guy that knows just about every possible feat combo and milks the system for all that it’s worth, and he has a blast with it. But other people in the group are content to have their character be effective and balanced and all, and are more interested in caring enough about the situation that they’re willing to risk their lives in combat, than in selecting just the right spell or the right tactical option.

Ok, before you read too much into what I’ve written above, this is not a Creative Agenda thing. What it definitely is, though, is a Technical Agenda thing.

Our TSoY GM, for instance, tells me that he hasn’t been enjoying the sessions as much, of late, because the characters having been taking as much initiative, and it’s all been on him.

To me, this is just a phase that play is going through. I’m still having as much fun as ever. Maybe he has something, though.

I’ll be thinking about this for the next couple of days, and I’ll post something about it afterwards. In the meantime, here’s something interesting to read about this:

2005-10-20 : The Fruitful Void

Cheers,
J.

(*) Well, there’s a third category, which is,Β you like to have your play be about something other than the system, trusting that the system will stay out of your way. If this is where you are, this post is about something altogether different. You’re still welcome to comment, but you’ve been warned.

8 Responses to “The System Monkey meets the Fruitful Void”

  1. Ralek says:

    Our TSoY GM, for instance, tells me that he hasn’t been enjoying the sessions as much, of late, because the characters having been taking as much initiative, and it’s all been on him.

    I’d really like to comment on this, since it is about me, but your paragraph came as highly difficult for me to understand.

    About fruitful void. I know I’ve said countless times that I don’t like play that centers around it – you know what? That’s not actually true. Fruitful void STILL stems from actively engaging and pursuing mechanics – it is the ONLY reason it exists AND I like any system where fun play comes from actively engaging and pursuing the mechanics.

    Now, let’s take your two examples, our TSoY and DD games.

    In TSoY, you say you are enjoying this fruitful void of seeing where the situation takes you and try to play your character – you know what? that’s not where your fun is and if you think that’s true I believe you are misleading yourself.

    Your fun (and the void) comes from finding out what happens to this rather colorful group of people fate as bunched together (the characters).

    And what do you think will happen if the rest of the group reaches your stage of play (stopping actively engaging the systems for its rewards and just living their characters)? The void will be gone, as there’s nothing to fuel it. I can no longer flag the players, play will die down.

    Transcendence is KEY! If you reach that stage, find something cool to say and do it FAST. If enough players are at that stage at the same time, the game will die out of lack of fuel.

    Now, let’s look at our DD campaign and why the last session was as dull as it can be for me.

    Our DD game was about tactical resolution – everything revolved around it. Still, I purposedly made conscious choices that were not so tactically minded (starting with character selection). Why?

    Fruitful Void! You created a beautiful world to adventure on – the first few combats and encounters were about solving this world’s legends and whatnot.

    The void (exploring and conquering this world’s legends) was directly fueled by active system engagement (tactical combat resolution). Even though I do enjoy the tactical aspect of the game, my major source of fun was “solving” this world, point by point – and as you kept adding more stories and enigmas, for a while it looked like it was on the right track.

    Then, it changed. Ever since that dreadful water elemental bash, the game died down for me. Combats stopped being either about the world’s stories and enigmas or adding more of them. They started being combats for combat’s sake. The fruitful void died down. The tactical resolution was still there but since it no longer fuels the void, it too lost meaning to me.

    And then there’s the last session. Not even tactical resolution. I understand you’re trying to shift focus, but man – the last session might as well be an handout. I felt like I was reading a book, not playing. There were some cool moments, as I do enjoy reading a book too, but that’s not why I am there at the table.

  2. joao-mendes says:

    Hey, πŸ™‚

    Ok, now that I’ve had a few days to mull this over, I’ve reached the conclusion that you may well be right, but there’s still something there.

    (Asides:
    Regarding TSoY, I’ve been thinking about transcending for a while, now, so we’re on the same track here. No surprise, by the way.
    Regarding D&D, interesting thoughts. I’ll try to get the game back on track after this little arc we’re playing through. That’s if the rest of the table wants it, that is. It may be that the campaign itself is sort of doomed, since, as you yourself put it, there’s no coherence at that particular game table.)

    Anyway:

    Fruitful void STILL stems from actively engaging and pursuing mechanics – it is the ONLY reason it exists AND I like any system where fun play comes from actively engaging and pursuing the mechanics.

    I see what you say. And yet, in games like DitV, where the void comes from actively engaging and pursuing the mechanics in support of the pursuit of making some kind of statement about the current situation, things don’t work as well.

    There’s two possible causes for this, that I can identify:

    a) The void itself is about a subject that just doesn’t move you

    b) If you momentarily ignore the void and just go for the mechanics, you’ll have… nothing (which isn’t true of TSoY and D&D and others)

    Or, it could be a combination of the two.

    But, the original point still stands. A game can be fun for the void, or it can be fun for the mechanics themselves. Even if the void is only there because of the mechanics (which it obviously is), it’s still a different kind of TA.

    I still need to think more about this, though. For instance, I need to see if Power Plays even has a void or not. (I don’t think it does, at this point, but I need to think more.)

    So, thanks for your thoughts, they’ve been good fuel, as always. πŸ™‚

    Cheers,
    J.

  3. Ralek says:

    I still need to think more about this, though. For instance, I need to see if Power Plays even has a void or not. (I don’t think it does, at this point, but I need to think more.)

    That’s kind of a strange question. Rules can push for a fruitful void, like DitV, but a void can exist without the rules pushing for it – like the one I was experiencing with DD. So, universally speaking, void existence will depend on the players and the specific game at the table.

    If the question was really about wether Power Plays RULES specific push for a fruitful void kinda fun, then the answer is a resounding no. Just think about what Power Plays is about – its about people with power gaining more power. Power, in the game is specifically definined as those four components (Wealth, Manpower, Clout and Reputation) and quantified – therefore, no void in what the game is about. Players can individually find a void somewhere else, but the rules don’t push it.

    If you look at DitV, play is about Faith and how far you are willing to go to defend it. Faith is the central component of the game and not quantified or mechanized in any way, so if you play what the game is about, it is all about fruitful void.

  4. joao-mendes says:

    Hey, πŸ™‚

    Agreed, on all counts.

    Cheers,
    J.

  5. RedPissLegion says:

    I’ve seen the link you posted and tried to get some sense out of it, but nothing came.
    What exactly is the fruitful void? is it the fun you get out of the game even if there aren’t any mechanics to pursue/reward it?

  6. joao-mendes says:

    Ahey, πŸ™‚

    The Fruitful Void comes from a combination of answers to the following two questions: a) what’s the game about; and b) what mechanics in the game are about that.

    In Dogs, for instance, the game is about faith and sin and passing judgement, but there are literally zero mechanics about faith, sin and judgement. However, the mechanics that do exist, when engaged, push the situation so that it ends up having to be about faith and sin and judgement.

    Thus, while there is a “void” in the game mechanics regarding its theme, it is a “fruitful” one because said mechanics allow/force the players to engage with the game’s theme.

    In other words:

    is it the fun you get out of the game even if there aren’t any mechanics to pursue/reward it?

    Yes. πŸ™‚

    Cheers,
    J.

  7. RedPissLegion says:

    Ok, I think I’ve got it, but just to drive it home, does every game have a fruitful void? if not could you share some exemples.

  8. joao-mendes says:

    Hey, πŸ™‚

    Emphatically no. As for examples, you and I have fightfully little gaming experience together, so I don’t know what games you and I both know well enough that I can make blanket statements and have a good assurance of being understood, so I’ll limit them to one: Capes.

    In Capes, you can either make the game about the resources or about the drives, (or rather, in Tony LB’s opinion, the game will always be about both of these), but in either case, the game has explicit mechanics for both. Thus, no Void.

    Cheers,
    J.