What game was that?
Wednesday, September 28, 2005First, go read Chris Chinn. If you're not reading Deep in the Game, you're missing the boat.
Now, remember Godlike? Brother, I do. I ran about 20 sessions of it, most of those with a stable group of players in an ongoing campaign. We had so much fun. I was going to say, "Godlike is a fun game," but you know what? I really don't know if that's true or not. Because I'm really not sure if "playing Godlike" describes what we did in a meaningful way.
Let me put it another way. We were all looking at Godlike character sheets. And we used the game system constantly. It told us if bullets hit, and how much damage was done, and what effects the talents had, and if someone broke under the pressure of war. But the game that we were all enjoying? That was something else.
See, the system in Godlike behaves like any fine sim-supporting system should: it resolves actions taken by the characters in the imaginary world. But that's all it does. There's really nothing else in the book, other than some awesome color text and stats for all kinds of gear. But, like, what happens when we play? What's the point of the game? What are we doing together, as players? Nothing explicit about that.
So, like any good GM, I made all that stuff up, based on my own interests and the feedback of my players. We designed our own WWII simulation game, using Godlike to resolve the tasks. I know for a fact that this is what every other Godlike GM did, too -- since instructions for how to play the game are not in the book.
I can't tell you that we had fun playing Godlike. We had fun playing the game we created together, using the Godlike engine. If you pick up the manual for that engine, and make your own game for it, I can't guarantee that you will have an experience that was anything like ours.
The fun, you see, was in the stuff not in the book. The game we made together. Sure, the Godlike system supported our game, but it was not "the game." The real game was an elaborate simulation exercise, pitting the combined brain-power of the players against the German army, as portrayed by a sophisticated AI (me, the GM). I did tons of research on the real world units, and used their actual historical deployments to determine unit strengths and positions. I ran the bad guys using period fix-and-flank tactics. I was the objective, uncaring "world" around them, ready to snap its steel jaws and devour them if they screwed up.
In short, it was as close to war simulation as you can get without wearing a costume and getting rained on. And, most importantly, it was a battle of wits. The wits of the players against the cold, hard facts and some situational awareness provided by the GM.
"Godlike," as a published game, was not the game we were playing. It was a jumping-off point. A skeleton that we built a complete game on. I know that everyone in that game would agree that Godlike was important to our play, but we could have flipped coins or done RPS to check bullet hits and the overall play experience would not have changed much at all.
So... what game was that? I look at the Godlike book, and there's nothing about our play that contradicts it. Our game was certainly Godlike, as we understood it. It was also a unique instance. It's not portable. That's why I can't tell you to go buy Godlike and play it because it's fun. Only 20% of the fun came from what's in that book. The rest was me and my players, and I don't think you can purchase us at your local game store.
But what if I wrote down what the players and I did to make our game. What if I wrote out all the steps as procedures that you could follow to make your own functional WWII simulator. And what if I left out any system for determining bullet hits or morale checks and just told you to flip a coin or do rock-paper-scissors or something. Would that be a complete game that you could play to get an experience similar to ours?
I submit that the answer is yes. Which begs a question. Comment away.