Thursday, May 3, 2018

"Wrong" Turn

So someone is playing Turn and I'm very excited about this, but they and a fellow player have both stated clearly that they don't think they're playing the game the way I want it to be played.

And like.

Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta strumming a guitar and screaming.
This is my favorite and most often used gif.
Okay, I would like people to play quiet dramas, and slice-of-life style stuff. That'd be cool. But quiet drama means different things to different people, and part of why I need playtests is to see what it means in people's interpretations of different types of towns and stuff. Not every play of a game is going to be the same, and I accept that.

So like, I'm struggling because I don't know exactly how they're playing, and I don't think it is "wrong" or anything, but I do think that the way they did setup and what themes they chose influenced the play, and that matters. But how do I even say that? Like, even if you're playing the game slightly differently than I expected does not mean it's not playing the way that is appropriate based on the way you've set up the town?

Like, here are the ways you can play Turn "wrong":
  • play it in a city or suburb, or a place with a large population
  • don't have shifters in it
  • appropriate culture to play it
  • violate the "don't do this in Turn" section of the essays (re: content)
  • pretend it's just a standard PbtA game and don't engage the mechanics
  • ignore identity and community as aspects of the game
  • don't emotionally engage with the narrative or subject matter
Lego Batman saying "no" over and over while flopping around Wayne Manor.
Yeah, I know, don't tell people not to do what they want with your game. *eyeroll*
All of the other stuff is interpretations of my design, which I can't control. Tempo, subject matter, etc. are all stuff that are different in a lot of games, like Fiasco can go anywhere from "wow, this is exciting!" to "wow, this is depressing!" to "wow, I am super confused" in one freaking session. Monsterhearts can go from dark and filled with examination of abuse and sexuality to a few kind-of-friends Scoobying around town trying to protect everyone. This is to say little of trad games like D&D and Shadowrun, which can run the tonal rollercoaster AND still let you explore the subjects the games promote. 

There are tons of types of small towns, all with their individual leanings and themes and politics. Small towns can have microcultures that make surrounding towns look at them like they're upsidedown in a teakettle, and that includes the way people deal with things there. It's complex, and that's why there are different themes and elements of the towns you create in Turn. The thing is, I haven't played all of the combinations! 

There are many ways you could combine all of the elements in Turn, and frankly, I don't have 4 hours every day for the next mumblemumble years to test it out fully. That's why I'm excited to see other people play it! Yes! Show me your thing you did with my thing! That sounds really weird but I don't care!

Queen singing "I want it all, I want it all"
Tell meeeeeeeeee
Now, I'll be real. There are a few things that bug me, and this is not a thing that this person did really because they highlighted at one point how my game was not doing this thing, but man, everyone calls it a Powered by the Apocalypse game. 

I freaking. Okay. PbtA is a great system and has a purpose. Vincent and Meguey made a really amazing thing, and a lot of people have done amazing things with it. Turn is not a PbtA game. It's inspired by it - and yes, I realize a lot of people think it's the same thing to be inspired by a thing and actually a thing, but it is not - and I designed the game purposefully to go against PbtA principles I have seen reflected in related design. First, there's no category of PbtA games. And second, here are commonalities between Turn and some games that are PbtA, and then some stuff that's just Turn or not in Turn:

1) 2d6 (also you have a third die sometimes)
2) Move-like structure (you are rolling to resist rather than to take action)
3) Character sheets with personal information on them (you have two, one of which is sometimes swappable)
4) Stats with smaller numbers (you have 8, one for each sheet, and they're absolute values)
5) Scaled results (you never fail in Turn, the results are to determine the consequences related to success)
6) No sex/intimacy move
7) No Hx, strings, etc.
8) Goals for Human and Beast that control advancement
9) Exposure tracked on relationships
10) Stress to measure turning from Human to Beast & etc.

This is not me saying "my game has nothing to do with PbtA," this is me saying there are differences, they matter, and we need to stop saying everything is one kind of game because it happens to use a specific dice roll or has moves (which could be like feats), small stat numbers (like a ton of games), and scaled results (which I think was actually a thing in Shadowrun too, just not framed specifically this way?). Things are different! One thing is not necessarily the other thing! Like! Friends! We need to be a little more forgiving with definitions, or make some freakin' new ones!

Tahani from The Good Place saying "and silently scream for the rest of time."
Turn was originally conceived because I came home from playing my first session I can remember of Monsterhearts (this one*) and felt off about it. Something wasn't right. It wasn't hitting the right tone. I spent the next... really fucking long time... trying to figure out what that was, and meanwhile flipped numbers around, took out entire things, mentally threw out tons of material, and settled on what Turn is when John made me finally write it down because one of my greatest fears is that people will look at it and go "huh, oh, just another PbtA hack" and my fucking opus will be washed away into nothingness because some dingus can't tell the difference between two different games that are wildly. fucking. different.


I'm a little...passionate today about this, and I think I always am, and always will be. But there's reason for it. We use categories, especially manufactured ones, to scoop quality things into the trash all the time. Oh, it's just another fantasy game. Oh, it's just another PbtA hack. Oh, it's just another Fate hack. Oh, I've seen so many games about zombies. Like come on. And the thing is, I rejected some of what I saw in PbtA work on purpose, and while some parts of mechanical structure remain, there are a lot of things I pulled from elsewhere conceptually. 

I would never dare to call myself original, but when you don't have your own ideas, storebought is fine, so long as you mix them up in a new way and it still fucking tastes good.

I want to share my game with people without having the ever-burning comparison to "oh but you're not as good as Monsterhearts and AW and and and" screaming in my face every time. I know you don't mean to do it, most of you, but it sure burns my biscuits that you think it's fun to tell me how much what I have labored so extensively over is Just Like That Other Thing. That's what this is. This isn't categorical. My game is different enough that it is reminiscent of PbtA work, but in part because of how many other games you could find similarities to, it is not the same. 

And that's what I mean about people getting Turn wrong genuinely.

A shot from Big Hero 6 of the Aunt saying "I had a point."
I think.
It's possible that I wouldn't play Turn in the way you're playing it, if you're playing it and think you're playing it differently than I intend. That's like, good though? Because I am not every player. I am not able to imagine all possible ways my game could be played and executed beautifully, still exploring the concepts of identity and community while doing things with more passion and intensity, because the town they built makes more sense for that. 

So basically, I want to hear about the ways people explore Turn. I might be surprised, or unsure, or need to think about how something goes. But if the game works? If it is telling those stories, asking those questions, and it's enjoyable? Then you're probably doing okay. 


*Shit, Turn is a year older than I thought.

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