Thursday, May 5, 2016

Five or So Questions with Stephanie Bryant on Threadbare

The correct Kickstarter link is 
Sorry, working from mobile and can't update the links!

Today I have an interview with Stephanie Bryant on her new game, Threadbare! It sounds like a really interesting play experience, and it's currently on Kickstarter! I hope you'll take the chance to check it out.

Tell me a little about Threadbare. What excites you about it?

Threadbare is a stitchpunk role-playing game where you play a broken toy in a broken world, trying to get along, make the world better, and patch yourself up in the process.

What excites me the most about this game is what happens when I sit down at a table with new players. Every time I've run this game or watched someone else run it, there's been a player who came to the table with their favorite childhood toy, either literally or just in their memories, and they brought that to the party. They got to play their favorite stuffed animal or toy truck, and for a little while, they were visiting an old friend in a weirdly broken world.

What motivated you, and continues to motivate you, to tell a story about this concept - broken toys in a broken world?

I'm in my 40s, and it seems like everyone I know or meet is a little bit broken. You just don't get to this point in life without a few thousand scars. Sometimes, it feels like the world is also terribly broken. But Threadbare is a game with hope and optimism at its core-- you can fix things, you can make things work, sometimes better, and sometimes just different.

What base mechanics (modifiers, moves, etc.) are you using for Threadbare, and what made you decide on those mechanics?

I'm using a Powered-by-the-Apocalypse system for Threadbare because it's very clean, mechanically. I went through several other mechanical ideas first, including a dice pool that didn't work out, before hitting on PbtA. In the system, probably the most important move you have is the repair move, which you can use on yourself or on someone or something else.

But I streamlined so much in Threadbare, it's become its own game. For example, in a game so focused on material things, I got rid of inventory almost entirely. Whether or not you have the stuff you need to do something is a toggle-- you either have "Stuff" or you don't and need to go find it.

I also got rid of combat rules.

How do you create a real sense of danger or conflict in a game where all the characters are simply toys?

Any time they roll a 6 or less (on 2d6), or any time they try to fight, they lose a part of their body. In this way, every "hit point" is a named body part, and when they get damaged, they can literally lose a limb. (Of course, repairing them is relatively easy, too.) Since combat doesn't play out in mechanical rounds, they just lose a body part and have to deal with the consequences of the fight afterwards.

In terms of writing adventures, though, I try to pose questions that focus on something that they care about, something they're trying to protect. That gives me something that can be endangered besides themselves-- and then they can endanger themselves trying to protect or save that thing.

Do you think that the abstraction of character identity into toys can help explore emotional and imaginative parts of our experiences, and that this is reflected in Threadbare?

Yes, although I'd say that I'm currently working on improving the emotional part of the abstraction in Threadbare. It's the hardest part of the game at the moment (there's a problematic "mental health" component that I don't like in the game). Capturing a sense of nostalgia while still giving players room to explore ideas that are more current and mature for themselves is a challenge worth tackling.

Fascinating! Thanks to Stephanie for the interview! Make sure to check out Threadbare on Kickstarter, and let others know too!

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