People vs. Furniture
Thursday, October 20, 2005First, Stranger Things is late going into the edit phase. This is entirely my fault (though I do blame Blizzard somwehat). I'm going to send the current draft to Phil tonight. We're not going to hit my dream-date of Halloween for release, though. Oh well.
Now, to the point of the post. Ron has posted a very tasty little thing over in Vincent's forum on the Forge. I'll quote him here:
Basically, divide up everything the characters deal with into "people" and "furniture." The tricky part (to a gamer) is that sometimes things like "the door" or "the pit" or "the mountain" are people, and sometimes things like "the soldier" or "the messenger" or "the chambermaid" are furniture.
But once you have that distinction down, then it's easy: when a player-character has a conflict of interest with a person, then it's time for dice, or more properly, for resolution.
"We must get past this terrible mountain" is not a conflict ... unless the mountain is a person. Do we ever call it a person? Nope. But if it plays that role in our minds, then you're going to have great conflicts. If the conflict of interest with it can be thought of in human terms, as in "this mountain is a dreadful, ruthless place," then great! Or more subtly, if the mountain's features prompt what is called, in Primetime Adventures, character issues, then we're all good to. In play, you (we, I) should be asking the same questions of ourselves regarding the local lord in the local castle.
But if the mountain is furniture? Then it doesn't matter what you roll, how many times, or what risks to the character sheet's numbers it poses, applying the resolution procedures is horrible and boring for everyone. The same applies if we're talking about the local lord in the local castle - because he might be furniture, and if so, then I'd rather go wash the dishes or clean out the shower trap than spend one minute applying the resolution procedures to interacting with him.
If you're ever unsure about which might apply in a given situation during play, simply do a little Color for the relevant person or thing, and see what the other people at the table say. Their responses will tell you, straight-up, with no ambiguity.
Oh man... do I ever know what he means. I bet you do, too. How many games have we played in which our characters were forced to make endless climbing rolls just to get to the gorram adventure? Or wander around for hours talking to furniture NPCs? Yick. Thankfully, those days are pretty much over for me. I just don't put up with that kind of thing in my play anymore. But as a GM, I still have to really be on my A-game to keep this crap out of the game. A clear reminder like Ron's is like gold to me.
He also has a follow-up which is pretty good, too.