Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play

  • 7 Replies
Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« on: January 11, 2018, 06:23:07 AM »
An experimental move about embodying tabletop roleplaying ever so slightly:

  When your character opens her brain and has a vision, close your eyes while it is narrated.
  All other players close their eyes too, especially the MC.

Note that the experience of opening your brain need not be visual and even when
it is, need not involve a dream-like vision separate from what is around the
character. I don't want to assume that. This rule would not apply to such

Note also that this is a rule that directly specifies player behavior
out-of-fiction following from events in the fiction.

In a sense, we already have these rules.  They say things like

"Roll+Hot. On 10+ Pick 3 of the following..."

But this might be different because it isn't telling players to follow a
resolution mechanic that effects the fiction, it's just directly changing their
experience of play.  Their experience of their body.

LARPs play tricks like this all the time, but we seem to do it less in tabletop

(I don't know, maybe this only *sounds* fun. Maybe it would actually be
annoying and contrived. Let's try it!)

What other such rules sound like they might be fun?

Re: Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2018, 06:24:55 AM »
Argh, OK. My brain insists on barfing forth this scene fragment from an imagined
game where this rule has become habit and players close their eyes without
prompting when an maelstrom vision starts:

  ... She takes your hand and leads you upstairs to the roof of a tall building
  surrounded by other tall buildings. It is night and the lights in the buildings
  are going out, blocks at a time. She turns to face you and takes your other
  hand. She's crying. She looks you dead in the eye and says

You can open your eyes now.

Re: Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2018, 04:37:08 PM »
It's funny that you're posting about this here, because Vincent Baker - in my experience - is one of the people who has been fooling around with this the most.

Many of his more recent game drafts have elements along these lines.

I played "In Dreaming Avalon" last night, and the game had us all kinds of subtle little things like that (though, oddly enough, not closing your eyes, which would have been quite fitting).

Re: Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2018, 04:35:03 AM »
Wow, that looks amazing.  How did it go?

Re: Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2018, 03:52:56 PM »
We had a blast playing it.

I'm not particularly savvy with the whole "faerie" genre/Colour, so I was a bit out of my element. Playing a knight made it easier - I was effectively the outsider.

The other players really brought it, however, with colourful and engaging fearie/mystical/magical narrations and choices. It was definitely my most successful game using that kind of system/ruleset.

Re: Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2018, 05:40:55 PM »
A more extreme experiment:

  When XXXXX happens, every player except the MC moves one seat counter-clockwise.
  This is your new seat.  This is your new character.

What is XXXXX?  How often should it happen?  "Never" is the sensible answer.  What are others?

Can our group drop the "except the MC" clause?

Perhaps the rule is retired once we have cycled back to our original places?

Is moving to a new chair important?

Re: Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2018, 09:53:24 PM »
I like that a lot.

Some variations:

The "chairs" aren't characters but they are roles (like the MC role). Perhaps one is the troublemaker, one is trying to keep war from breaking out, and so forth.

For Apocalypse World, the "roles" could by playbooks, too. At first, the Hardholder was running the place, but now that Brainer is. How will they be different? And the Hardholder... is now the medic/healer in the place of the Angel.

I have no idea what game would find this an appropriate design, but experimenting with stuff like this is usually fruitful in some fashion.

There was a one-shot at gaming club I was a part of once where there was one PC and four GMs. The GMs switched places on the hour, for a four-hour session.

That's not the way I would have organized things (each GM player is inactive for 3/4 of the playtime, for starters!) but apparently it was still a lot of fun for everyone involved, and included lots of surprises for everyone. (The GMs were not "in" on a certain plot or storyline, so each had to interpret the previous GM's input and decisions into a larger story.)



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Re: Rules for Embodied Tabletop Play
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2018, 04:01:50 PM »
I once ran a freeform game for some friends during a camping trip, I think there were 5 players. I had each one create a character (high concept framework, one great "attribute," one poor "attribute," and three "skills" or things they were good at). So for example, the "Xenobiologist" was and inquisitive bookworm with good intelligence and poor courage, who was good at bio-science, computers, and math. Easy.

I then had each player come up with a character secret and tell it to the person on their left, including how that person knew their secret. So the Xenobiologist was herself an alien-hybrid, and the Cyborg knew because he had been her bodyguard since she had started working for "The Lab."

Finally, once they were all finished, I had each person pass their character to the person on their right, at which point we began play.

Everyone loved that twist, and we had a blast.