16 October 2013
The Hard Sell
How on earth do you sell a domain-level game to your players?
"Oh yeah, you guys don't play as adventurers or detectives or knights or anything, you play as noblemen and Barons and Dukes, see, and you give commands to other people to solve problems, and build walls, and levy armies, and elect people from the populace as reeves and sheriffs and magistrates. That still sounds fun, right?"
And to the right person (me, for one), it does sound pretty fun. I remember using the excremental 3rd edition D&D rules to whip up some quick conversions and figure out how long it'd take any given group of craftsmen to construct a wall, for example, or how much gold some miners could dig up. I even ran it once, for my brother, although that abortive campaign really went nowhere fast for some reason. I can't remember why, honestly, because it started out pretty well.
But I digress.
Part of the problem is that the players are no longer working directly together. Instead, they are directly pitted against each other in a sort of ethereal board game, or perhaps they form a sort of cooperative ruling class where the main gameplay is arguing about stuff and waiting for their underlings to do things. The best case scenario I can think of is that one player is a sort of king, and the others are ministers of a certain part of the government (like the general of the armies, or the Head Reeve, or maybe the Lord of the Merchant's Guide) so that each player has a separate job, and they have to decide how to partition out their money and time and experts so that each person is accomplishing plenty of things without stepping on each others' toes or feeling useless...
But, really, at this point we're playing a really huge kingdom simulator, and I don't know if I'm able to simulate an ancient-worlds kingdom from a high level. It's a huge job, and would probably require a lot of reading and memorization and knowledge if I wanted to avoid the typical fantasyland boringness of "nothing ever changes unless something Named and Powerful does it," which I do.
The other part of the issue is that the genre as a whole is heavily skewed towards playing as an exceptional individual doing individually exceptional things. It's all about personal glory and personal belongings and very rarely about doing anything for one's society or even group. Maybe I've been reading the wrong games? Who knows.
Still, a man can dream.