We’ve been talking a bit about games without GMs, particularly as we work up Lucid for the con. (Quick teaser: it’s an RPG about lucid dreaming. We think.) In so doing, it’s exposed an interesting point. The idea of what a “game master” is depends on the system you’re playing. Adversary? Guide? Prompt? All plausible roles. All different in how they play. The part that has me going is that this is a different distinction than who has control over which elements of the story. It’s not concerned with how, but why. Why has always been a more interesting question to me, if a bit troublesome.

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There are many qualities that are advantageous when developing games. An understanding of mathematics. A background in drama and philosophy. Historical perspective. Innovative ideas on play. The list is as long as my arm. But one that I have become keenly aware of is unity of vision. It’s more of a concern when you have multiple designers all struggling to form ideas around the kernel of a game, as we tend to have. But concerns over unity and coherency are ever-present even for the single developer.

Do Not Go Gentle has been causing us fits to design primarily because not one of us has a clear idea of what we want to do with it. We know some things that will be true of the game when it’s done, but without some central shared vision to build on, we’ve been at a loss to make significant headway. It started off as a zombie panic game, but then transmuted into a game about the last days of one’s life, and then loosely to something inspired by Ghost. Without a firm idea of what we’re trying to write, we can’t construct mechanics or even really know if it’s worth building.

Which is not a problem we had with In a Dragon-Guarded Land.

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