Monday, June 20, 2011

Tabletop games on the internet, taking advantage of what you've got

You know what I hate? ARGs.

I remember back on an old website that's probably still famous called Neopets, it would occasionally run over-elaborate mysteries for advancing its plot. This picture if you use MS paint on a seemingly solid colour block spells out a URL, which redirects you to another URL with a strange message, if you then delete every second letter you get something telling you about this little pixel you can click on on the main page... It was a mess. In this age of twitters and wikis and obsessive people willing to pay employees to anonymously leak out secrets, they've gotten even worse, now spread across multiple websites with false trails and jobs dedicated to sabotaging efforts to decode them, and when its all said and done, you get things like video clips of people dying to the monster that will be in this upcoming movie without any clearer a picture of what it is.

But, seeing how usable the Internet is, I can see a strange appeal in using it to present something that facilitates immersion into the world.
I've seen a lot of people lament a lack of real life groups that they can play tabletop games with. This makes sense if you want friends or something stupid and insane like that, but that's about it I can see.

Maybe it's my lack of experience, I've not played in real life with people who've played RPGs for more then a year or two longer then I had at the time, but the closest we went above and beyond for making a game more then just the conversation and rules was passing notes between us for inevitable betrayals and freaking players out by rolling dice and not mentioning why.

I know more can be done, music, mood lighting, voices, but I've seen none of these and don't know how they work out. The most drastic I've heard was a game done in pitch black, save for penlights to read character sheets while the DM moved around to mess with them by whispering. Which sounds like good fun, but something that'd get very old after one session.

For a brief period of time where I was attempting to run a game of Adeptus Evangelion, I made a list of the Angels faced, with their names, descriptions, attempted art and provided in character summaries of how the fights went. This seemed very appreciated by my players and added a lot of fun to development.

Making Psychoka enemies, with further inspiration originating from Madoka and its detailed information on the Witches provided in Japan, I've settled on taking an even more drastic approach then either of these examples. Attempting lavish descriptions of the Eidolon's lairs where the world becomes like a collage or takes  on the style of Rider-waite tarot cards and showing pictures being just the beginning of it. My minimum requirements are that all enemies are all set to music, and their attacks may follow the strange concepts they embody, inspiring me to try my best and find these things in the process of creating them. Is it a waste of time? Probably.

I especially expect issues with my idea that what is 'deep and meaningful' and thus tied to these aspects of the enemies depends on them in characterly, and whereas an artist may have something full of niche and subtext, but when they lack any subtlety as a person, things may be so much more overt.

But this is still only the start of what I think is possible with the internet, and have always wondered at the possibilities of how far this could go before it became too bothersome. Its easy these days to create a small internet hosted blog, wiki, youtube channels or forums. Fill them with content, how much more would it add to a monster hunting campaign to include some sort of fake forum, where NPC peers offer advice and talk about various monsters, be it earnest help from NPCs that live but cannot be interacted with for some reason, or secret bad guys sabotaging plans, or a spy game where you email players hidden messages things that contacts owe them or that were say, encoded messages that have been intercepted.

These run the risk of becoming over elaborate far too quickly as I've said in my last post, and impossible to decode, but I always wonder if you could find a sweet spot, would this sort of thing add to a game?


  1. This is a person who is still figuring out how to make a fake message board about a fake show in a game with 26+ planed NPCs with about a paragraph of information each and a reading of their fate. You gotta do something fun and hope it works out as the players completly ignore it, otherwise you just end up doing a lot of dancing and running out of materal. I'm good at the dancing as fast as I can but when I dont' have a stage it's danm hard. A new fleshed out charcter can be a stage, a subplot I have roaming around can be one, or even a damn tower which I made at least 5 things up about as you went through it is a good one. The more you thought about it the better you can react when your plans fall apart in my opinion. ARG stuff may be amusing but I'm not quite sure how worthwhile it would be to play such games with players, granted I'm doing just that with Meguca site~.

  2. I had actually forgotten you were doing that. There are a fair few free BBS style hosts you could use. Though you're right, it could be very wasteful, I'm eager to at least see it in action and possibly try myself.