Secrets of the City: a hack of It’s Complicated?

1 03 2008

So, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to express setting for It’s Complicated. Currently, it’s going to be represented by a haphazard photo album in the back of the book, but here’s the intial idea I had for setting. It turned out that it altered gameplay in a fundamental way, taking the emphasis off of the interpersonal interactions and emotional issues of the characters and putting it on to the wackiness of the setting. I think this is an awesome game, but it’s also not the game I’ve written. So here’s the hack.

Secrets of the City

The City is under quarentine; no one can enter or leave. The reason for this is up to the players; there can be some sort of exotic contagion going around, or maybe no one ever leaves and it’s not for any particular reason. Any reason is an acceptable reason.

The City has issues. These issues include Oddities and Dysfunctions! If you’re playing a Buffy-inspired game, a Dysfunction would be something like “Corrupt Government officials” and an Oddity would be “Hellmouth.” Or for a more realistic game, a Dysfunction would be “very little petty crime,” and the Oddity would be “Extremely powerful organized crime family.”

Instead of the last person to frame a scene placing their traits and line first, the City always places first. The City can be run by a GM, or if a group prefers, the City’s traits can be decided by consensus. When you cross the City, your character declares feelings towards it– The City never declares relationships. When you touch one of its traits, you become involved in some of the City’s intrigue– in the previous examples, you get absorbed into the crime family, or get blackmailed by a corrupt official.

Other than that, play is as normal.

Let’s talk setting

26 01 2008

I’ve gotten a lot of advice in the last two days from people who think it would be a good idea to include a standard setting for It’s Complicated, instead of explicitly making it a settingless game. It’s interesting to me, because some of these people are friends who told me early in development, “No! This game doesn’t need a setting!” Anyway.

Reasons not to do a standard setting:

  • The game doesn’t need it. The concept is of a genre that isn’t tied to a time period or a particular place; it’s all psychological and emotional.
  • It really lends itself well to all kinds of wacky settings. We’ve played modern day to Mushroom Kingdom, a pulp-action thriller to burnt-out superheroes.
  • There are games that do well without settings: Breaking the Ice and Primetime Adventures are two, and both share roots with It’s Complicated (romantic comedy and television).
  • Example scenarios in the back of the book could easily provide hooks for people too overwhelmed by possibility.

Reasons for a standard setting:

  • Settings sell books. Who doesn’t like setting? I don’t know, but it’s probably the same person who hates puppies and rainbows and ice cream.
  • Settings make books easier to understand. Rules make more sense when they’re in the context of a specific world.
  • There aren’t a lot of settingless games that are popular beyond Breaking the Ice and Primetime Adventures.
  • People love to hack and tinker. Adding a standard setting won’t stop people from coming up with their own: just look at Dogs in the Vineyard.

So, yes, I don’t know. What do you think, dear reader?