Edited to add: I don’t much talk about the mechanics of the game in this post. If you want, I can expand in the comments. It’s pretty short and sweet.

Last night, we played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, by Daniel Solis. It was a blast.

Earlier that day, Daniel had tweeted saying that Do isn’t a role-playing game. And he is exactly right. It’s what it says on the cover: a collaborative storytelling game. And it makes that clear, and does it well. The game shows the kind of elegant simplicity that is the result of the years of work that have gone into it. The basic randomizing mechanic gives you a constrained choice in a larger choice-space, with enough factors going into it that it can be interesting, but enough of them deferred or non-obvious that it doesn’t slow you down. The story emerges from that randomness and the strong initial situation[1] well. There’s a little learning curve to pace the story right, and it requires the willingness to bend things occasionally, and you can get a little flatness out of getting in trouble right before the end, but it’s strong.

But it’s not an RPG. All the theoretical structure and models that I’m used to kind of don’t apply. I think that the most I can say is that there’s a game much like it that I’d like to make, a more RPG-like hack of it. Let’s call it R-U-N-N-O-F-T, and say it’s like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, where the characters are a little older, a little more selfish, and the world is a little harsher and grittier, but ultimately not less magical. Do the following:

  • Make letters appropriately for the setting, and reframe them as episodes; it’s not about helping someone, it’s about getting through something unscathed.
  • Move the “how I get into trouble” and “how I help myself” from the name to just general descriptors.
  • Make the white and black stones more like Fiasco‘s aftermath—you might even roll them as dice, and consult that table, when your adventure is through.
  • Make it into a role-playing game with one simple tweak: don’t write a sentence, but frame a scene, and then play it out.

That might be interesting. I’ll have to play it at some point.

Ultimately, I think that the game is a thing you do with stones that happens to spur you to produce a windy story. And does it really well. It says some interesting things about how people apportion blame, and it allows for a casual and fun evening of chat, punctuated with this interesting story.

  1. The choose-a-letter-to-respond-to thing is fantastic. It tells you where you start, and what to do subsequently. I’m increasingly feeling that “what do I do now” and “what do I do first” are different questions. []