Games that exploit players being in diverse mind states at the table

During a game, players can and will be in different states of mind. RPG being about sharing a moment together, various attitudes towards and answers to this question have manifested.
Getting everyone on the same page.
Pacing everyone through the same steps.
Have a “neutral” information channel (numbers, map, etc.).
Reflecting on this, I began to notice a pattern (tip : it’s got to do with same-ness)

Of course, diversification exists too :
Classes and playbook make different things matter for different players (in-game currencies, values of sorts).
Information asymmetry, typically between GM (and GM chosen / perception checked player) and the rest of the table.
Some character roles (weapon / wielder, mage / familiar, AI / human, supers / ordinaries, Average / PoC, Girl underground / companion, etc.) and game roles (Gm / player) give different perspectives on the game.

I am looking for games or situations in games where the difference between players state is not only created but used for profit. Like, for an extreme example of state disconnect, one player is possessed (by Moyra Turkington scale of Puppet to Possessed) and the others hit them like a Canasta for content. Of course, this is what happens in GMed games, but how can it be done differently ? I think maybe in Penny for my thoughts, also in Lovecraftesque, and that’s about it. And what about the 6 theoretical (using Moyra Turkington’s scale) other lesser “state gaps” ? Do they even exist ?


There are definitely games that do interesting things with such design!

Braunsteins and wargames come to mind, where there is often a gamemaster of referee, as well as (sometimes) “messengers” who travel back and forth to communicate between the gamemaster and the faction players.

Does it matter to you if the “roles” rotate evenly through the group? For example, Polaris, where one player is your opposition and the other two are Moons (but it changes turn-by-turn).

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Rotating roles is a good solution, but it’s problematic if the rotation is rigid and compulsory. Now that I read about the Guides in Polaris, it strikes me how much it looks like the Neutral playbooks in Dream Askew. Also, it’s like the Czege principle deals with just one segment (competition) of a whole circle of possible roles, or “states of mind”.

I see Polaris also answers another question I had about dialogs and how they benefit from being backed up by real stakes. Polaris seems to have just the sort I like : made up on the spot stakes (the face of Doubt, Alsafi ang Algieba’s secret). Some dramatic goodness !

It looks like I need to get this game ! Thou art but a warrior is one hack, I wonder if there are less chivalric settings.

I’ve heard excellent things about “Thou Art But a Warrior”, but never played it.

There is also “How We Came to Live Here”, which has an “inside GM” and an “outside GM”.

I’m organizing a handful of experiments these days with a variety of player roles - often two GMs, and sometimes players with asymmetrical roles. It’s really fun, and solid, unexplored territory!

I’ll be tinkering with the “Moons” / Assistants to see what works, what works best, what is easier for the players. Themes as game roles.

As always, when you break some base assumptions (GM role here) you solve a lot of (now non-)problems, and get a whole nother set of them.
Like, the team of Protagonists becomes a cast with rotating focus and sometimes distant story lines. And this calls for special tools.

I found Tou art but it’s chivalry & tragedy all over again. The Salt Traders is more the dream travel community sort I like.

@Paul_T Go back and look at Paul’s two threads (one here and one on the old SG board) about the assassin, concubine and sultan. The comments had a lot of fantastic stuff. Maybe Paul can help with some links.

You mean “a thin crescent moon hangs sickly pale…”

It’s a bone I thought I left no meat on, but truth is, like in a Borges fiction, I now wonder if the words are being changed slowly over time in the thread or if, simply, the questions are being changed in me. Thank you for reminding me of the thread.

Some Guides (“Moons”, Non Character Players, GM-shard) in this thread remind me of other games : possible consequences and leading questions (devil’s bargains, really), motivations / psychological analysis (Imagine, sort of), description, pseudo-physics (weighed evaluation of odds).

There seems to be a “gradient of partiality” to take into account. Competition’s hungriness folds all aspects of a game into a two dimensional win/lose, while neutral “encyclopedic” content blooms in low pressure environment. I now need to get the right tool (role, track, map, dice, cards, etc.) for the right guides.

Here’s a little synthesis. Please add to the list…

win / lose : content weaponization, goal
character : 1/2 of win/lose, agency, psychology, memories (weaponized as internal obstacles or motivations)
encyclopedic content, per relevant domain (physics, meteo, geography, milieu, factions & NPCs, items, etc.)
descriptive content (clothes, scenery, lighting, sounds, tactile, scents, noise, etc.)
tone (epic, romance, tragic, etc.)
media (zoom in / out, tempo, Xrd person, etc.)
narrative relevance : narrative connexion, screen presence, cut scene

… and some ways that could work
reward the accepted proposal (Penny) VS force a deal ? (Fate)
fixed (My Toon), privileged (fixed but avoid conflicts of interest as in BoB), shared (slow consensus with veto ? or volatile anyone can go it ?), rotating (per scene or act), disputed (track race, worker-placement).


There were some more good ideas here, as well:

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I think this is really fruitful territory, in lots of ways. I’ve been experimenting with this a bit lately outside the scope of conscious design.

For instance, right now I’m involved in running a series of games which have the following:

  • Two GMs with different responsibilities.

We have tried role separation, for example, where one GM does scene framing and handles the rules, while the other GM plays NPCs. (In this case, it was me playing the NPCs, and, as an interesting twist, I wasn’t aware of the scenario or backstory, so I was just as much in the dark as the players!)

We have also tried two GMs with tonal separation: a Cthulhu-inspired game where one GM was the “Day GM” or “Milieu GM”, and handled everything about the mundane scenario, setting, and played NPCs. The other GM was the “Night GM” or “Mythos GM”, who handled everything creepy and supernatural or sanity-defying, whispered into players’ ears (so to speak; this is happening online), portrayed the monster, and took over any NPCs who lost their sanity. This worked really well.

Dual GMing works really well, in my experience so far, so long as you can get clear on who handles actual scene framing.

  • Occasional strange roles for players.

Like I mentioned, I was an “NPC player” in one game, which put me in a strange sort of middle ground between being a player and a GM. It was quite a lot of fun!

In the current game, we have two players sharing a character. One plays the character’s outward persona; the other plays their dead fiancé, trapped inside their mind.

I’d like to see more design explore these ideas.

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