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Subject: Using a Story Model to build Board Games? rss

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Just wondering what you all think of this concept:

1. Select who the protagonists will be in your game. In Campbell's terminology: the Heroes. In Taj Mahal the players take the role of "Maharishis".

2. Decide what the overriding problem is. Campbell: the Shadow. In Taj this is "the Grand Moghuls' yoke over Rajastan".

3. Create the game's journey or plot; this is how the protagonists deal with the problem. Campbell: the Hero's Journey. In Taj "the Maharishis slowly establish their power bases by gaining control over the land's political, military, social, and religious forces".

4. Establish the theme, or how the conflict in the journey will be handled. In Taj this has "the Maharishis fighting individually to establish their dominance over Rajastan".

5. Create the inner (and outer) conflicts for the protagonists to overcome; aka, the obstacles. Campbell: wounds (inner); Threshold Guardians, Tricksters, Shapeshifters (outer). In Taj the inner conflict focuses on "building a large enough hand for a big fight versus trying to gain a little influence in a lot of provinces", while the outer conflict is one of "reading the other players and deciding when the right time to withdraw is".

6. Provide the resources that the protaganists will need to solve the problem, and make those resources have to be earned. Campbell: allies, Mentors, Heralds. In Taj "the cards are the main resource and there are a couple of way to get additional ones, with a 'static' card draft rewarding those who withdraw early; with the other resources being the 4 types of Resources and the Special Cards".

7. Create the rewards to be gained for overcoming the problem, including an overall reward. Campbell: the Elixir. In Taj these are "the Resource Token, the Connections, the +X Point tokens, the +2 Card, and the 'longest suit' of cards at the end; the point scoring track makes a race of the overall reward, with the winner being the most skillful gainer of all the other rewards".

As I was working on a couple of ideas from Joseph Campbell, it struck me that this might be a good model/toolbox for building board games. I do not think the order of these is all that important, but do feel that using them might lead to some satisfying games.

Let me know what you all think.
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Justin
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I like the model, but really, I think it's already used subconsciously. Still, it's a good layout for beginning designers or even just people looking into how designs are made.

When designing a game you essentially have to fit all these points into it or else the game won't work.

When I've got an idea the theme (4) usually comes from it. From the theme comes the protagonists (1), the antagonists (5), the problem (2), and the mechanics (3)(6). By using the mechanics I can then come up with an endgame solution, or in other words, rewards (7).

Sometimes things like themes (4) are skipped over and the the game is done by using mechanics (3)(6) which, in turn, lead up to an endgame (7). The game still has protagonists and antagonists they're just abstract.

Hope that made some sense Mr. Geek of the Week laugh!
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I start out with a High Concept which combines the first four in some way. These give me an idea of what I want to do and what types of mechanisms I might try to employ. Once I know the Story, everything else starts to fit into place. If you start out with a problem, then I think the potential solutions (the game play aspects) will present themselves.
 
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Gary Simpson

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You might be able to go farther and add a PERFORMER/AUDIENCE component for gamers that play as a social experience. It might not be easily visible in some board games but RPGs show it off in spades.


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gsimpson wrote:
You might be able to go farther and add a PERFORMER/AUDIENCE component for gamers that play as a social experience. It might not be easily visible in some board games but RPGs show it off in spades.


Simpson


Could you elaborate on this. I think I know what you mean, but how can it be implemented.
 
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Follow your Bliss...
 
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Dylan Kirk
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I'm currently hard into the research for my next game and this model might be an interesting experimental framework for conceptualizing the full extent of the idea. It's a political game about the period in and around the Hogen and Heiji Rebellions in the late Heian Period.

The issue with the use of the Hero's Journey is that it seems more applicable to cooperative games. In many games, after all, the players are certainly protagonists in their own stories, but the other players become part of the shadow. Perhaps an analysis of Shadows over Camelot or LoTR: The Fellowship of the Ring with these ideas would be fruitful?

In my game, a problems that arises is that different power bases have different objectives that are solved in the same way, and no one group (or in the generally accepted scholarly term, kenmon) has the same goal or vision for the future of the Japanese state. The Imperial house is trying to break the back of the Uji and re-install itself as the rightful overall ruler of the land, it is using the Warrior Clans (the players) as a hammer to smite the Uji and the Temple complexes if necessary, and the Temples are trying to maintain their power base by monopolizing rituals for the Imperial House and holding on to their sources of wealth.

All of these issues revolve around shoen, or "tax-free estates" that the Imperial Family, the Uji, the Clans, and the Temples are all trying to monopolize. So, the problem or "object" that is sought by all groups is more or less the same, it's just they all have different visions of who the "protagonists" are and what their aims should be.

An interesting model, though!
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A few years back, while I was doing research for a novel that was meant to take place in Japan, I had the good fortune to watch a Japanese multi-week serial about one of the Shoguns of Nippon. I think it was called "Hideyoshi" and focussed on his life and the crises of his Shogunate. Most of the scenes were done with the Court, and dealt with the reactions and actions of the man and his advisors. It taught me a lot about Japanese culture. It might well be worth picking up if you are focussing on any time period close to this one.

BTW, the Hero's Journey model can be used in non-coop games quite easily. All you have to do is make the players the Heroes of their own stories, or have them competed for shares of the carcass of the Shadow. In fact, the example I used, Taj Mahal, is not at all a cooperative game. Though I can now clearly see that the model would work very well for the latter types.
 
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