6. Gaming

1

What elements of the book could be used at the gaming table?

Are there specific games that would suit these elements better, or worse?

Comments

  • 1

    Reading this I was struggling a little with this question. What can we use? Certainly the world-building elements are all useful and that would be my main takeaway. LeGuin manages to create a sense of place, of culture, of history, with only the lightest of touches. She also avoids being trite - even today the setting elements in the book don't feel trite, and it's what - 50 years old!

    The scenario itself clearly works for a two-person game and it would shine in one-on-one gaming. Here's a set-up in which two people meet in an isolated environment. One is worldly, but the other has the upper hand in the local environment. The goal is to converse to convince the other to change or renounce something.

    That could probably work with more than two people as well, but it would take more work to make it seamless.

    Mechanically, I think there are lessons in the flow of conversation between Arha and Ged, and maybe between Arha and the other priestesses, that could be applied to social combat rules. I'm not really a big fan of social combat rules, but I can see some applicability. I'm not that keen on two-player games, either, so I'm at a loss to suggest an existing system to use, here. Maybe Bluebeard's Bride?

  • 1

    I think this could have been played with the Amber system.

  • 1

    Maybe. I've never played Amber, but I've read it. It trades on the notion of a web of influence, in which each character is best at something, but weaker at other things. That's true of the Arha-Ged pair, but I suspect Amber would struggle with a one-player/one-GM game, and really wants three players or more to get that rock/paper/scissors effect.

  • 0

    As an extreme novice at this, and very much open to correction, I wonder if this exposes a difference between gaming and reading? Surely when gaming there is a sense that each time you play, the result might come out quite differently? You might have chosen this route instead of that one, or chosen to negotiate rather than fight, or whatever. Different players on a different occasion might end up with a totally different experience of the same scenario.
    When experiencing a story (reading, watching, listening, whatever) there is a sense that events had to play out the way they did, and that any other way would be less pleasing. Of course, the way events play out in the story might frustrate your expectation, or lead to ruin rather than success, leave the character you most identified with out in the cold - but part of the enjoyment is experiencing the way the author has picked out a single option out of all possible ways that the story might have been?

  • 2

    @Apocryphal As to reproducing it, I could see Ged and Arha both being played, and a GM. But what I meant is that this book could be a report from a game - where the plot was initialised. I read somewhere that role-playing was an aspect of making the Amber books. However I cannot see say D&D5e making a plot like this. The persons it produces have quite different motivations.

    @RichardAbbott I think both are similar in giving us being who we are not. The difference is of learning through listening, and learning through doing.

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Of course, the way events play out in the story might frustrate your expectation, or lead to ruin rather than success, leave the character you most identified with out in the cold - but part of the enjoyment is experiencing the way the author has picked out a single option out of all possible ways that the story might have been?

    As a reader, I usually find it difficult to predict how a book will go, and have no expectation that the author is choosing the path of greatest pleasure. An author picks a path, but just how they pick that path is usually enough of a mystery that it seems random to me. What makes sense to the author is a result of their life experience which could be wildly different from mine. But do authors not sometimes make events turn in their books on a whim, or on the suggestion of a third person. PK Dick used the I Ching when writing The Man in the High Castle. There is intelligent design in a novel, but the intelligence is more than likely to be inscrutable to us.

    In games, the plot evolves more naturally - a result of various people making decisions for their characters that make sense at the time or that seem like exciting twists, without necessarily taking the big picture into account. And there's a lot more randomness to the game - though I should note that the Amber system @BarnerCobblewood is talking about is diceless, and so perhaps less random.

    But even if you accept that one medium unfolds according to intelligent design and the other according to evolution, the processes are so chaotic that I think it's hard for most people to distinguish between the final results.

  • 1

    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    I think both are similar in giving us being who we are not. The difference is of learning through listening, and learning through doing.

    This is an insightful observation. :smile:

  • 1

    The difficulty in translating it into a game (and perhaps translating the story to other media, such as TV/film) is that much of the meat of this story is internal to the character of Tenar. It's really a story of her growth and realisation of the world being bigger than what she was told. That kind of character growth is difficult to model in RPGs, which are about external, portrayed action and "growth" is generally equated to "extra kool p0werz".

  • 2

    @RichardAbbott You have zeroed in on one of the great discrepancies between improvisational fiction (like games) and planned fiction (like literature). While a log of an improvisational story might be indistinguishable from a planned story, the act of making them is not. In story-producing games, the act of making that story is the point, and the record of it is rarely kept (other than in one's memory), so the structure of that conversation between the player-authors is vital, because it tells them what to value when making their moment-to-moment decisions.

    @Apocryphal I've not played it, but Bluebeard's Bride might be a very good fit, as it dramatizes the internal struggle within a single character's mind, which is exactly the heard of this novel, as @NeilNjae points out. I could definitely envision a game where faithful Arha was one player's "character" and free Tenar was another. That could be pretty interesting.

    @BarnerCobblewood I have strong feelings about Amber, that I'm not going to get into here. I guess you could set something up with Kossil, Arha/Tenar, Ged, Manan, as characters, but it would be taking it pretty far from baseline Amber.

    Of course, there is Archipeligo which was designed with Earthsea in mind. Or something like In a Wicked Age, which sets up players against one another. The Nameless Ones would almost certainly be a character in that game.

  • 2

    Oh! Sparked by a discussion of the Nameless Ones, I think they could totally be ported over to a much more traditional fantasy RPG. They have an oppressive presence in the dungeon. There could be rooms where light is forbidden and those who defy that rule will face consequences. Those that enter the dungeon unwelcome will need to make saving throws to ward off their anger and the psychic damage that comes with it.

    If you really wanted to make them scary, tell the players that they can't be fought (and therefore can't be killed), but once the players rouse the anger of the Nameless Ones by stealing their treasures, the spell-casters of the group need keep expending spell-slots to keep the caves from collapsing on top of them. Can the adventurers get back to the surface with their wizards and clerics drained of magic and the rest of the party forced to make saving throws to hold their fragile psyches together?

    Put that way, it sounds perfect for a game of Torchbearer.

  • 1

    @Michael_S_Miller Sounds like a good set-up for an old-fashioned tournament dungeon!

  • 1

    @Michael_S_Miller said:
    @RichardAbbott You have zeroed in on one of the great discrepancies between improvisational fiction (like games) and planned fiction (like literature). While a log of an improvisational story might be indistinguishable from a planned story, the act of making them is not...

    That's a really helpful piece of terminology, thanks!

  • 1

    Maybe Ron Edwards' S/lay w/Me would be a good fit. (HORRIBLE name for a game, but an interesting concept.) As I recall the game focuses on three forces – arrayed in a kind of lovers' triangle (though not necessarily sexual in nature). I agree that it would be most interesting as a two player game (which S/lay w/Me is).

    Oddly enough, I have never seen a maze work well in gaming. It quickly becomes a logic problem instead of a truly bewildering/frustrating experience. I think you could make it work with a highly narrative system like S/lay w/Me.

    And yes, I am kind of conflicted about suggesting this game as it is a bit prurient and comes from a controversial figure in the gaming community. (Though probably less so than was once the case.)

Sign In or Register to comment.