Yoon asked about collaborative roleplaying games and how they work.
Overall, these are my favorite kind of rpgs. They have consistently created the most interesting stories, most intense roleplaying, and general fun for me.
Most tabletop roleplaying either creates events by: a) preparing/creating combat encounters or b) preparing a set of events that players must be "guided into" enacting. In contrast, the kinds of games that I like to play have no prepared story- interesting stories aren't created by prepared events, but rather as an emergent point of play.
So how do they work? Many have a classic rpg set up- you have a GM, each player has a character and so on. Usually the two big differences are what players are rewarded for and how they can affect and shape play.Rewards
Many games use what I call "Flags". A "Flag" is something on your character sheet that explicitly tells the group what you want to do with your characters' story. "Loyal to the King", "Secretly in love with the Queen" are Flags...
Flags make things easier because they get everyone on the same page about what the story is going to be about in a general sense - even if no one knows how it will turn out in the end. A lot of games set it up so that your Flags create conflicts and situations- my example, obviously, is someone who's on a quick road to drama. You can also create Flags that conflict with other player's Flags, or, a "Flag" for an NPC.
A lot of games work with Flags by giving you points to improve your character, extra bonuses to succeed, etc. when you chase a Flag. In other words, if you pursue this thing, you get points and that starts pushing everyone in play to start chasing them.
This isn't the only kind of reward system, but it's a simple, common one that works well and can be found in several games. The Shadow of Yesterday
, Lady Blackbird
, Primetime Adventures
, The many Burning Wheel games
, are some key examples.Player Input
Most traditional roleplaying only gives a player power over their character and nothing else. Many games have started playing with that- giving players more power.
Such as being able to narrate the results of success/failure is a common one - for example, winning a fight against a foe, you might say, "We rush each other, and strike... and then his head falls off", or, perhaps, "It's a long drawn out battle, and I knock away his sword, and before I can swing the killing blow, he says, 'So, is this how it ends, brother
Obviously, different games have different restrictions, but by opening things up, players can drastically affect the imaginary events- and the GM -cannot- railroad or ram a story at the players. Giving players the ability to declare facts, actively, or retroactively, allows the players not just the ability to resolve conflicts, but to set up new ones in interesting ways. (Houses of the Blooded, which has plenty of examples of that).
Mostly, though, the minimum required is that players are guaranteed some form of input- that the GM can't railroad. At the other end of the spectrum you have games where anyone can input as much as a GM, sometimes divvied up based on dice rolls or spending points to make facts about the game world.
A key thing to notice about a lot of these games is that, when the problems are scaled up beyond something like, "Can we kill this monster?" or "Can we follow this clue trail?", giving players more power to resolve those things trivially is no longer an issue.
Games that do this include The Pool
, 1001 Nights
Together, what happens with those two elements is that:
a) It's clear on from the get-go what the game is about, what people should be focusing on.
b) The input rules allow players to take it there, or shift it to new, meaty story space if they need to, and not wait for the lumbering movement of "the story" to find it's way to them, if ever.
Here's some links to the most recent game of Primetime Adventures I've played: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
Hit me up with questions!