Thursday, June 22, 2017

Five or So Questions with David Schirduan on Clink

Hey there, friends! I have an interview with David Schirduan on Clink, a coin-based RPG on Kickstarter right now! I hope you'll check out what David has to say.

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

The official pitch: "Clink is a coin-based non-linear RPG about mysterious drifters". However to me it is a balm for GMs.

I've GMed a lot of games, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Too many games offload most of the rules and burden of play onto the GM. They design the story, the dungeons, the encounters, the monster, remind players of the rules, etc. As much as I love that stuff, I'm always on the lookout for games that give the GM tools and make their job easier.

I've played in games where the players will write pages of epic backstory, but contribute very little during the game. Some of this can be solved with good communication and helpful guidance from the GM. But that's just one more thing the GM must initiate and work through. Clink simply cuts backstory out entirely. The game requires players to make a blank character with no history and discover their character as they play.

Everyone discovers it together. The players get the spotlight to come up with interesting tales, and the game automatically works it into the narrative. In fact, the GM doesn't even need a good story. A cliched plot will still offer chances for the players to tell interesting stories and have fun. I love that.

Clink is a game I want to play, sure, but it's mostly a game I want to GM. It takes a lot of the narrative burden and expectation off of my shoulders. I get to sit back and watch players come up with their own interesting stories. And after playing, I've found that players carry those lessons into future games of other systems. They are better about speaking up and contributing to the story during the game, rather than waiting for GM exposition.

The western/noir/shonin theme is perfect for this sort of mysterious history roleplaying. It's like a movie; you learn the characters as you watch. You don't need to read a novel before watching Fistful of Dollars; things are explained during the movie itself. Clink aims to replicate that same method, and I've seen it succeed wonderfully during playtests.

I'm excited for people to try it out, and I hope it provides some much needed relief to GMs and players who struggle with backstories and narrative.

How do characters start in Clink? You say they are blank, but what do players and the GM know to start with - names, skills, etc.?

Every Drifter begins with:
Name : This probably isn't their real name, but something that reflects their appearance or personality (Dusty, Pearl, Gruff, Hope, etc)
Creed : A driving goal or motivation. Creeds are shared by the entire group. They can be simple like, "The Dusty Riders will pay", or more complex like, "We will defeat Mordin to close the portal and save Haven."
2-3 Mementos : Special objects from their past that can be used to inspire memories later.
2 Triggers: These are personality quirks that can get your Drifter into trouble. For example: "When someone tried to reward me, I rudely refuse, mumbling something about honor." or "Whenever I enter a new town, I head for the bar and get a drink before doing anything else."
As they play Drifters will gain Flashbacks (helpful memories or skills) and they will gain Scars (Dark moments, trauma) to describe their past and define their Drifter further.

What are the base mechanics for action like?

Clink's mechanics revolve around coins. This is partly in keeping with the western theme, but also means anyone can play it, anywhere.

Players can spend coins to gain helpful Flashbacks, and then use these flashbacks to automatically succeed at difficult actions. The danger of using Flashbacks is that they will sometimes remind your Drifter of the darker parts of their history, giving them a Scar.

If your Drifter doesn't have a useful Flashback then the coinflips involve escalation. Situations often begin simple and straightforward. Your Drifter is trying to talk their way past the guard. They flip a coin. If successful, then they get past the guard with little trouble. If the flip fails, then another player describes how the situation gets worse and your Drifter flips again with this worse situation.

There's a little more to it, but the coin-flips can trap your Drifter in an ever worsening situation until a resolution is chosen. This escalation keeps the action moving and lets everyone contribute to what's happening.

You call Clink nonlinear. Expand on that - how is it nonlinear? What does that look like at the table?

Clink is a game of telling stories; not only as a group but also individually. Inspired by classic campfire tales and spaghetti westerns, Drifters often gain Flashbacks and Scars from their past. Whenever this happens the player gets the spotlight and tells a short tale about what happened and why.

As I mentioned earlier this takes a lot of the narrative weight from the GM and lets each player hog the spotlight and tell some fun stories. I love all of the chances to tell stories of my own and hear stories from other players.

Finally, what responsibilities remain for the GM? How do they influence the game?

The GM's primary responsibility is to provide obstacles for the players. Drifters can't die, they don't have HP, so a traditional dungeon crawl/resource management gameplan doesn't really work. But Drifters do have a timer. When Drifters have gained more Scars than Flashbacks, then they are in danger of losing their Creed.

The more obstacles the GM adds, the most Flashbacks, coins, and Scars will be spent and gained, bringing Drifters closer to their limit.

The coin-flips make it easier to determine the outcomes, and the escalation mechanic provides dangers and obstacles automatically.

(Okay, finally-finally) What words of advice or encouragement do you have for players sitting down to flip a coin in Clink?

Let the coins fall where they may. Don't plan ahead. Backstory and character content can be extremely fun and addicting, but Clink promises a different kind of fun. You may not end up with the character you dreamed of playing, instead you'll end up with a character you didn't fully expect; that's fun!


Thanks so much David for the interview! I hope y'all will check out the Clink Kickstarter and share the interview around with your friends. Enjoy!

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