I love Actual Play recordings. Mostly because I despise error.
Anyway Shaun Hayworth provided one after I posted about playing Burning Wheel the other day. Because Shaun is a kind, generous and helpful soul.
So, some notes on this here Burning Wheel actual play.
-It's long so I randomly skipped ahead to around 0:27:00 and started watching.
-It looks like they're having a blast. A thoughtful and deliberatively paced blast but a blast nonetheless. Interesting things happen: the one general tells the other she'll follow him until he touches another drink (a duel-of-wits compromise), a foe is taunted, a bridge gets fried, there are trolls under it, etc.
-The following comments apply to this session as GMed by Shaun for these people and should therefore be taken not as assumptions I make about all of Burning Wheel or all games of its ilk and anybody so busy breathing through their slack drooling fish-textured dork mouth that they believe I am assuming all or even most Burning Wheel play works like this just because I saw a single video should move as quickly as possible to distance themselves from text-based media of all kinds and then be poked with sharp pencils by bad men.
-Shaun the GM basically said most of the following observations seemed legit to him.
-At first it seemed like the rolling and social mechanics were kinda chopping up the role-playing of the conversation in a way I wouldn't like, but I thought that maybe stopping to roll gave them time to think of what they were gonna say next.
-However: Cole pointed out:
It seems to me that it's less about "giving them time to think" and more like working in the subtexts and the stakes they want the players to get across to the NPCs and vice versa. Which feels choppy to me too - I'm just to just throwing out dialogue off the cuff. But it seems like they're into it and it makes sense to me how. Feels very tactical from what i'm seeing.
"A game of chess...is like a
"A game of chess...is like a
-Totally. Cole also said it was much less Drama Club than he was expecting. (P.S. Cole is a completely awesome member of the RPG Drama Club in the best sense of the word.)
-It also seems like the sort of:
"mechanic kibitz""actual line of dialogue"
"line of dialogue"
"line of dialogue"
...functions to keep the tension high but the actual emotional energy low. (Obviously doing it via G+ hangout also contributes to this).
Like players don't just say shit and the conversation doesn't ascend into heights of D&Dish lunacy partially because people have to keep stopping and thinking all the time.
This characteristic may or may not be desirable in all games, but it's definitely there.
-This is in direct contrast to the way almost all games I run go when I GM them with my group. (Typical session. Typical instance of NPC negotiation.) The rules are fast and should be after-the-fact descriptions of what eveyrone knows is going on and players don't necessarily have to know them and the part where I explain them should be fast and end quickly because the whole game runs on the pinballing of energy within the group. The breathless pace of the game cited in yesterday's post seems very familiar to me. Shaun's session here is much more: We are all watching an interesting situation develop and it is ok if I don't have a turn or even talk for 1o minutes. Definitely not for everybody but interesting to see how other people like to play.
-This system is really crunchy and Shaun is obviously a capable GM and still does not and is not expected to be able to handle all the subsystems with immediate facility. However, what Shaun does, and what the players also do, is almost use finding and describing the crunch _as exposition_ "Ok, he has a mail coat, that adds +1, the distance is..." etc. The crunch is narrative detail. Again, not for everyone, but interesting to see.
-Here is what the game pace and the kind of fun on display remind me of most in my own experience: A wargame. Like 40k or something. The stuff on each player's character sheet (skills, beliefs, etc) are the troops and the point is to organize and corral them effectively. Meanwhile you talk about doing it ("I put my Ultramarines...here...aaaannnd...") Now there are obviously important differences, but the way the game moves and the relationship of players to the game mechanics feels very similar.
-I've noticed this wargameyness in other StoryGamey/Indie designs and it always seemed odd (and by "odd" I mostly mean "kinda at odds with both impressions you get from the outside and from descriptions of games people inside the community give to each other".) Another example would be Marvel Heroic.
Like: in D&D the way I run it, the crunch is just there to give mechanical force to what you intuitively know your PC can do and the world will do back. I assume it should not take up time at the table (you should, for instance, rarely just notice something on your character sheet "Oh yeah, I have diplomacy", all that stuff should basically fit in your head) unless I am deliberately creating tension. In BW and MSH, I gather, people spend way more time just looking at the numbers. Which is in stark contrast to the usual "pass the stick drum circle taletelling fest" impression the word "storygames" usually summons and the community gives an impression of promoting. Now that element is totally there, but it kinda has this strange economy: marshall your math resources effectively (perhaps even narrating the process of marshalling them while you do it), then use them, and if you win at that part, you get to control the story. It is a very GM-y way to think.
I was talking to someone about Marvel Heroic's math-a-little-then-make-up-stuff-about-Spider-Man's-teen-angst-a-little economy and he was like "Oh I really like it, I can use it to get my wargaming friends to role-play." This feeds into other parallels between D&D's parents and D&D's children that seemed to have skipped a generation, but that's another post.
-Since I am talking about a game other than one I usually do, I, unfortunately have to remind people to not act like gibbering lunatics in the comments: Remember this rule. You are not allowed to be outraged about this post or anything anyone says in the comments without checking with the author to see if your outrage is justified.