Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs


In a post on his LiveJournal, Robin Laws talks about his experience designing the Shadowfist CCG and how he found it necessary to include text he called “unrules” into the manuscript to correct misconceptions about how the game should be played based on people’s experience with Magic: The Gathering. I think I’m going to need to do that with A Penny For My Thoughts, as the comments I’ve gotten on this and on previous drafts definitely indicate that I’m not doing a good job of demolishing the the assumptions I need to. These seem to be centered around four things:

  1. People want to be able to say no to suggestions from the other players. The point of the game is to remove this ability. I want to force players to accept input from others to learn how cool that process can be.
  2. People want to develop more a sense of their own character. The point of the game is that you have almost no control over your own character. I want to people to learn how to deal with their characters being defined by other people and to cope with the cognitive dissonance cause by the clash of their own ideas about what their character is like against other people’s ideas.
  3. People want to link the patients’ stories together. While that’s certainly possible, that’s not an important part of the game, from my perspective. The game isn’t about the narrative arc, it’s about the process of creating narratives in a collaborative fashion.
  4. No one seems to talking about the process of acting as a Psychopomp. In my mind, this is even more important that acting as the Traveler.

So, I’m wondering what sorts of unrules I need to introduce into the manuscript that would help with these problems. Thoughts?


June 18, 2007 - Posted by | A Penny For My Thoughts


  1. You and I have similar issues with our games. I’ve been thinking about the unrules as well (though not with that term in mind until now), and my thoughts are to talk about how this is not an adventure game. I think that’s the biggest bit — tell people this isn’t like nearly all other RPGs they’ve played, really bring that hope, and then the specific elements you want to highlight — accepting, character de-ownership, separation of character stories (which is something I keep coming to in spite of people wanting me to keep the characters together in KT) — can be strengthened by positive text in the rules itself.

    I don’t know how helpful that is, but since we’re hashing out similar issues, my hope’s that we’ll figure out a brilliant way to hash it all out together.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | June 18, 2007 | Reply

  2. I think you might find that people’s focus on being the Traveler ends up being a helpful bit of sleight of hand – if people don’t know that being a Psychopomp is hard, maybe it won’t be.

    Comment by misuba | June 18, 2007 | Reply

  3. Paul, I can tell you I would welcome such pointers. I only got the deprotagonization theme after I read your notes at the end, and I guess some of my comments are indeed ways in which subconsciously I am trying to get back my protagonist role. Consider me a good test subject, someone who wants to try new alternative ways of roleplaying, but doesn’t know how to go about them/needs some pushing in the right direction.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | June 18, 2007 | Reply

  4. So, this very issue is something I had to deal with from the two new Know Thyself players last night. One kept wanting the consequences of the Outcomes to have a mechanical effect in game — “So, who cares if I’m shot in the stomach, if it doesn’t have an impact on whether I’ll win or lose the next conflict?”

    After I said that “Okay, I hear you, and I’m thinking about it, but so you know this isn’t a sim,” one of my players took “This isn’t a sim” as a bit of a mantra.

    Hopefully the text I write up for this next draft will have something usable in it for you, regarding the Un-rules situation.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | June 19, 2007 | Reply

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