Mulling over a ‘tapestry’ style throne-war game

So I’ve been reading the George R.R. Martin books. They’re good, and if you haven’t read them and like fantasy stuff, you probably should read them.

Just don’t read any other fantasy book right after reading one of Martin’s — you will not do that following book any favors. Switch genres.

Also: man Martin likes to put his character’s through a wringer. Wow.


One of the things with these books is that every chapter switches to a different POV character. Each book gives us about eight or nine or so. A lot of them are the same from book to book (so far as I’ve read, anyway), and it’s worth noting that all these ‘main’ characters1 are (almost all of the time) geographically separated from each other.

It makes me chuckle, because reminds me a lot of some of the games (especially Amber and, more recently, Galactic) that I’ve run, because every chapter reads like “Okay, what are you doing? Fine, let’s play that, and now for the roll, and ooooh, you didn’t roll that well, did you? Well, here’s what happens — sorry about that — now who’s next?”

And it seems like that would be a pretty fun thing to do with a game when you have a good supply of potential players, but a limited window of play time each week AND players who may not live anywhere near you. I mean, we have google hang-outs (and a pile of other voice/video options), free virtual tabletop software, and about a zillion ways to collaboratively take notes, regardless of where you are. Some of it’s face to face, some of it’s not, but it’s all part of the tapestry of the story, yeah?

My goal with something like this would be to make sure it didn’t end up being a Play-by-Post for some folks and a normal game for everyone else; partly because that’s not fair, and partly because I’m terrible at maintaining participation-level interest in play-by-post games. In short, you make sure everyone gets the same number of chapters, whether they are at your table online.

Anyone done this much? I know Constantcon is a year-long successful thing, and probably indicates that it’s possible, whether or not it’s possible for me.


1 — Calling only those characters a main character isn’t very accurate. There are lots of characters who are hugely central to the story, but simply aren’t POV characters.

In a game like this, I think every player would have to have secondary characters they can switch two who are near the new POV characters. When it’s Jon Snow’s turn, everyone pulls out their Black Watch guys. Sansa’s turn means everyone grabs whoever they’re playing down at the Red Keep. Maybe these secondary character work more like the crew from Galactic, or maybe they’re (eventually) full-blown characters in their own right. Dunno.


  1. I’d think you’d want a Galactic-type mechanism, otherwise you’re really GMing X^2 “full-blown” characters (where X = players, and each player has a character with each other player).

  2. Possibly a hassle, for sure, though a game like Burning Wheel (my current preferred system for something like this) benefits in that it’s not my job to award points or advance skills — that’s a player’s bookkeeping.

  3. Worth noting — a game like this is going to be long anyway, and stretched further by any weird format stuff that makes things go slower. If the format is unavoidable, you can (and might have to) reduce scope on the premise of the game itself to compensate. Something like that Spring Fountain game I ran once upon a time might work, provides lots of angles for people to hook themselves into the setting, and wouldn’t require players have nearly as many (if any) secondary characters (at least not permanent ones) since the setting is a smaller barony, not a whole continent (or two).

  4. There’s a couple of different ways I’ve been involved with that might at least start the conversation…

    1) Each group provides a different perspective of timeline. Your Lexicon group handles the far history. Your play by e-mail/post group handles the far history-to-present, and your in-person group plays the present.

    (Think carefully on the mechanics of, “Is there something that this group can do that will destroy the effects of this other group?” The obvious is, “The Ti’Ti’navak was burned to the ground by the hordes in 1000 BeforeEvent, but they’re visiting it in the present.” It could be as easy as, “E-mail group – who rebuilt the Ti’Ti’navak? Why?”)

    2) Commitment of limited time and contributions. Everyone involved commits to a particular level of contribution to be compiled by the leader of each group in a stable format. (Wiki, whatnot.) The catch to this one is that every contribution has an agenda created before the meet-up, be it in-person, in Hangout, or what. “We’re going to use the two hours on Thursday’s hangout to tackle what happened with the Ti’Ti’navak, and also the relationship between Zig and Percy. Everyone in that group needs to attend or explain what they’re doing in the meantime,” so that you have the most bang-for-the-buck. “We’re going to spend a week in e-mail tackling what happened to Percy’s Mom after the Ti’Ti’navak incident. All events need to be entered by Sunday.” I’ve done this one, and it’s hard but the process and what you get out of it is awesome.

    1. That may be something other than what I’m thinking of (albeit cool) — in my head, all the hang-out and at-the-table people are playing the same game and the same timeline, but (at least some of the time) getting their turns in asynchronously.

      The hope, of course, is that everyone cares enough about the events elsewhere in the setting that they’ll still pay attention to the after play report from ‘that other guy’.

  5. The problems I generally have with asynchronous play are:

    1) Timing has to have rules. “If Zig blows up the Ti’Ti’navak in e-mail, while we’re exploring it in the Hangout…” This kind of thing thankfully doesn’t happen often, but if there are Exciting NPCs to bother I’ve rubbed against it badly. (There was this time where there were three Corwins, see… [grinning])

    2) Usually having people exploring completely different parts of the world helps, but what’s the plan if there ends up being a concerted effort? “The Armies of the Grand Poohbother of Archester send their greetings and interest in alliance with the Guerillas of East Worthnothington against the Evil Empire of Eee.” Something with this scope should be able to handle it even if Archester is the province of Team 1 and EW is Team 2, and Andy running the Grand High Poohbother isn’t able to make it to Wednesday Team 2 sessions.

    Those are both avoidable issues, of course… it’s just that I’ve run into them enough that they’re what cautions me every time I think, “Oh wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to limit them to one character?” Otherwise, my favourite AD&D characters came out of a troupe-style campaign.

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