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Undercard #3: No Idea

March 7, 2011

I had decided that if I can save the local team competition from extinction, I want to do that. But I really had no ideas and starting point. I knew I couldn’t revive the current format, but I just didn’t see how the Story Games I’ve been into over the past few years could be adapted to work for team roleplaying competitions. So I knew I need to brainstorm and reach out to others for ideas.

In order to do that, I had to create some parameters for what I was looking for. That was actually really good work because it helped me see what I did and didn’t want in the game and forced me to boil it down to the simplest terms I could muster. Here’s the “requirements list” I came up with as a result:

  • Must support competition between two to six teams.
  • Team size between four and six players.
  • There must be a means to clearly determine which team won (including tie-breakers if necessary).
  • From start to finish, the event itself will take less than four hours for all involved.
  • The teams will not need to prepare before the competition begins.
  • If GMs are needed, no more than one GM per team.
  • If a genre needs to be specified, the genre should be fantasy.
  • The event will take place indoors
  • Must have the potential to appeal to a broad table-top role-playing community.

Lots of room to play within the constraints and, of course, requirements are meant to be redefined and I quickly did just that with the team size (currently three to four). But with this list I could start to see how a Story Game might fit into these parameters, so that in and of itself was encouraging. But I still had no clear picture in my mind.

I set this list loose on the Internet, first in the dying Google Wave and then in less satisfying Shareflow. Thanks to a Twitter friend named JJ, my thoughts started to take shape. He’d propose something and I could either see why it wasn’t what I was after or it would launch me off into new directions and trains of thought. But I still wasn’t getting a complete game out it; at least not one I was psyched to design and run. Still, it really helped me focus on what I want out of the game beyond the requirements above. I want teams to directly compete, in the same space, at the same time, while creating story. I want to bring the thrill of the awards ceremony into the event itself. I want four hours of unforgettable awesome shared by 20 to 40 players. I want this game to be an EVENT!

So when I met with RP (my co-author) to discuss the game, I was ready to really explain what I want. Not having any experience with the team competition and very limited time for Internet brainstorming, he hadn’t really understood all my flailing about on the Shareflow. But once I explained the goals more clearly, he had the solution! Out of that conversation, I had a very clear picture of how the game would flow and feel. In short, RP had led me to the vision I needed. Now the real design work would begin – making a rules set that could deliver on that vision.

And that’s what we’re doing and the rest of the blog will be about. No more undercards, it’s time for the big fight!

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