The Aging Gamer

Story Games for Everybody – Designing for the 25-35 Demographic

3) I have disposable income, better than I had at an earlier age, but I need to be more selective with it.
I can spend $50 on a game, or I can spend $50 on a movie or beer. I _know_ I’m going to drink the beer or see the movie. I’m not as surre about the game, no matter what I’d like to have happen.
4)If I can get 4 people together for 4 hours, 2 of them are going to be kibbitzing. It also might only happen once a month.
If we end up playing a game, something had better happen. 4 hours of chargen? I think not. 4 hours of a single combat? It’d better be an epic battle, not two rooms and a couple weedy goblins.

Good stuff, and more good stuff down thread, notably:
1. There’s no point in capping the age range at 35.
2. Related to number 3 above, TIME is just as much if not MORE of a resource allocation problem than money.
3. Chargen shouldn’t take a four hour session… but what if chargen itSELF is fun… what if it’s ALSO play?
Good thinking juice.


  1. This is the challenge (as we’ve seen) with multi-session games. Getting more than three people together on a regular basis is a huge challenge. Time (to play, to be flexible with, to prep) is a huge issue.
    Now … I actually *like* character generation. Especially when it’s fun. But if it ties up a whole session, that ties into the Time thing.
    Which then gets to the getting 4 people in a room and getting them to focus on the game. Way too many other things in life to distract and chat about, even if the kids weren’t on the other side of the room sticking peanut butter into the DVD player.

  2. My personal opinion is that, with school schedules and work schedules and the like, it’s must easier for adults with families to line up two months of gaming (six sessions), and then reevaluate and see what to do next. Do something else? Do more of the same? Biweekly, six to eight sessions can take nearly 4 months to pull off during a ‘bad’ part of the year (which we’re already approaching).
    I think it’s a bad game design that takes five sessions before people really get into character. A third proper session should be the one that’s really firing on all cylinders — if you have a system that (a) has you build your important issues into your character right off the bat, and then drives the scenes to explore EXACTLY THAT, you don’t have to screw around with intervening cruft, trying to get the campaign to acknowledge your interests before your can finally “play”.
    That’s all getting into character is to me — getting the campaign moving in the direction of story you’d actual enjoy.
    Take Sorcerer for example: you build into the character generation the thing that is going to immediately start your character off in a direction you find interesting, then you turn to the GM with the game-given right to say “my guy is going to start HERE, with THIS, going THIS DIRECTION.”
    That’s why those games play through a whole interesting story arc faster.
    Now, CAN you run a long campaign with those games? Heck yeah! The Kingdom of Ba is a TSoY game that ran eight months and over 30 sessions.
    You know what makes me envious of them? It’s not that that had a cool 30-session story — it’s that the players involved actually managed to hold together a reliably regular gaming schedule for eight whole months…
    That’s fucking DECADENT.

  3. “For those of us who have a life …” … oh, wait, that line got me in trouble the other day …
    There is definitely something to what you say. On the other hand, I think of some of the most memorable characters I’ve had, and they’ve tended to come with time and age and experience — a zillion little things accumulated over a campaign.
    I will never get into Capt. Janeway Galactic’s head as much as I got into Sian’s, or Edward’s, or Shishiko’s, or Dag’s, no matter how many kickers or plot hoohahs I pre-pick for her. In a sense, the character stuff that we had to develop perforce in the narrative, despite the game mechanics or overplot, made the characters more organic than playing to 3 pre-selected Virtues or pre-establishing a Relationship with 1 crewman and 2 NPCs.
    That said, the chances of coming up with a dozen-session campaign any time soon seem passingly slim. And those other mechanics can do a decent job of hot-house “forcing” some of that characterization, though it feels a bit … well … forced.
    Ah. Here’s a distinction. As you know, I tend to go overboard with writing backstory to establish my (traditional) characters. What I’ve found is that after several sessions and “growing into” the character, what I end up with is usually somewhat (even significantly) different from what I’d written. The interaction with the story and the other characters, plus the backstory, have allowed for an organic development. Whereas a system that hardcodes relationships and character traits into the character sheet casts that person in stone (and, yes, most systems have a way to change those, but in some ways it’s exchanging one PostIt Note on the Forehead for another one — it becomes a game mechanic, not a character development).
    The key seems to be coming up with a system that “acknowledges interests” without ossifying them or making them a simple mechanic. D20 makes character description (except for alignment) irrelevant, and thus ironically *allows the most freedom*. The more a game ties the character into the system mechanic itself, the more the character feels like a puppet in some ways. It’s not, “You know, Bob is going to do X because I feel like that’s what Bob would do here, because he loves Amelia and wants to stand by her,” but “Bob is going to do X because that gives him an extra D6 for his Romantic Interest and three Intervention Tokens for using his Underappreciated Virtue once a game.”
    That all said, again, one does what one can, and there’s something to be said (regardless of the above) for a system that *doesn’t* treat all “fighters” as being alike, regardless of how they’re being played. Because the flip side to that scenario is, regardless of why Bob is doing this, he’s still going to try and roll below 12 on a D20 and then do 1D8+3 cutting damage, whereas the latter example, though the motivation is more forced, rewards him for it by modifying the buckets of dice being assembled.
    I dunno. I just work here. 🙂

  4. Some good points. I think some of the observations might be off a bit due to skewed perception-without-play or (for, say, Galactic) the fact that everything feels clunky and non-organic because we just don’t know the system very well yet.
    I mean, d20 is ‘simple’ becuase we know it… ‘just roll a d20’ is simple compared to ‘buckets of dice’ I think, only becuase we know the 15 modifications to the roll of that lone d20 by heart.
    Heroquest I think might be something you’ll just dig. Hmm. Sometime.
    Personally, I think (hope/believe) that there’s a very good place between the ‘irrelevant freedom’ of a d20 system and the ‘system enforced’ play you’re feeling.
    I think that comes from familiarity and internalization of the system, so that you don’t think about it.
    What does that look like? I think it looks like this:
    1. I envision a guy with a lot of Family Drama. I make him up and give him all the game-widgetty goodness that should in theory reward me for engaging in the kind of story I find interesting. 1a. HeroQuest: I take a lot of relationships with my family and so, in scenes with my family, those relationships are really pushing my game-effectiveness one way or another in an observable way.
    1b. TSoY: I take certain Keys that will reward me for scenes involving the complications that my Family will bring to me.
    1c. Galactic: I take personality traits that, likewise, reward me for playing to them in those situations. Different facets of the same Family Jewels, if you will.
    1d. Dogs in the Vineyard: see Heroquest.
    2. The story unfolds.
    3. In conflicts, I either (a) think about what the character would choose or do, and choose or do that, or (b) think about what this will do with the story, and go that way with it… it depends on how I think of the game. NOTE: I don’t reference those particular stats OR FEEL CONSTRAINED by them in my play.
    4. Conflict resolution happens. I look at those fancy game widgets. No matter what I chose to do, the game is now openly acknowledging what happend as important and significant to play… maybe I did something totally true to form, and my gamey bits on the character sheet are firing off and doing their thing, or MAYBE I did something very unexpected, and those same gamey widgets are emphasizing BY THEIR SILENCE how significant that choice is.*
    5. Continue play.
    * – This is different from, say, d20, which is going to be silent on your personal choices in any kind of mechanical way simply because they aren’t built to acknowledge them — they are ALWAYS silent, no matter what you choose.
    … All of which is a really long way of saying “if we get a little play down and get used to the system, we’ll be able to ‘just play’ and let the system reward that play without getting in the way.
    I think. IMO. Et cetera.

  5. Some good points. I think some of the observations might be off a bit due to skewed perception-without-play or (for, say, Galactic) the fact that everything feels clunky and non-organic because we just don’t know the system very well yet.
    That is certainly quite likely. As much as I find all the varying system possibilities fascinating, there’s something to De’s (or maybe Lee’s) “Something we can run with to the bitter end” (or at least for a while — which has not been your fault, to be sure).

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