Games using narrative components as the framework for play?

I’ve started sketching out a vague idea for a game that takes some of the ideas in games I’ve been playing and reading ( various PbtA and FitD games ) and ties them in even more to narrative structure. It’s somewhere between a vague concept and a plan, and I’m trying to figure out whether it’s worth persisting with. At core I’m thinking about having playbooks that tie into narrative tropes as markers for progression, and a game that plays out through a structure of scenes where the players take part in framing the scene - defining their character’s goals, possibly having the option to roll moves that allow them to adjust the opening or give themselves some advantage during it - and then the scene is played out or narrated with any in-action moves rolled as they come up until the character goals have been met or some complication or failure provides a fitting closure.

It feels like it might fit together into a fun game but I’m very conscious that there are very few original ideas so I’m interested to know whether there are existing games working along these lines? I’m definitely inspired by some of the Lame Mage games and Fiasco which play out in a very scene-based way, so I’m wondering what games there are with more of a dice rolling/GM-led approach that follow this kind of strategy. I can think of Swords Without Master, but that’s about it from my -very limited- experience.

Any suggestions?

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I’m not sure that either PbtA or FitD design tools will be very helpful for you “as they are”, but this is a worthwhile and interesting experiment, and I’m sure you’ll find yourself somewhere interesting further down the road with this as your starting point.

You might consider looking at story game designs that predate PbtA games as a great source of inspiration. Games like My Life with Master or A Taste for Murder, or even Polaris come to mind.

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I’m kind of getting to that idea, but there is something about the personality and shape of moves and the way they are triggered that I like a lot and facilitate a dynamic and fun kind of play. I want to keep that spirit and sense of fun, but within this idea of playing with form as game structure.

I think it’s a great starting place, like I said. I’ll be curious to see what you come up with! (And would encourage you to do your development on public, to draw eyes and create hype.)

I have a draft of a PbtA version of In a Wicked Age… somewhere, so I do understand the appeal. I should dust that off someday and put it together!

oh please do, I would love to read it!

Thanks! It was just a proof of concept, but I think it had potential and I should get back to it sometime. The basic premise was that I reversed how “moves” work: instead of triggering when you do something, you decide to roll a move when something happens to you.

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Rowan, Rook and Decard’s HEART has its character advancement tied to narrative beats that players foreground and push towards.

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One idea I am toying with is having players roll when framing a scene ( I can see this making sense using a Veil style “roll what you are feeling” principle ) and that roll giving them the “currency” they can spend during the scene so that in-scene moves have a price for a mixed success and a price for a full success ( maybe 2 and 4, for example ) and then the game rewards ending the scene having spent them all. I think that’s the kind of thing that will take a bunch of playtesting to validate whether it works and is fun or just confuses the heck out of everyone or creates situations where people end up doing nonsensical things to spend their hold. The balance of having a limited resource and needing to spend it seems like it might be fun and make for interesting plays, as might going into a scene knowing you can’t pull the move you originally planned.

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I had never heard of that before, I’ll look into it directly, thank you.

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This sounds like a really interesting project.

Hillfolk DramaSystem turns several aspects of narrative theory into mechanics.

There’s also Primetime Adventures, which is a television drama emulator which (sort-of) alternatives between the players acting like they’re a writers room and scene-style roleplaying.

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I’ve been meaning to get Hillfolk for a while, I guess this is a solid excuse!

This is how you would do a PbtA OSR game!

Having now read Hillfolk that is very much along the lines I am thinking of, but different enough to be worth continuing to experiment, I think.

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Christopher Grey’s Great American Novel is essentially this, in PBTA (mostly) form. Just had a successful kickstarter.

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Also Hillfolk put me onto Hamlets Hit Points which is pretty great!

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Assuming I didn’t misunderstood what you’re going for (apologies if I did!), I think it’s really worth your time to check out Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish Granting Engine. It’s written in a style that some people love, the author is brilliant but has a very very distinct way of writing rules books…but still, it’s a pretty unique system. It’s a real inversion of most RPG systems…instead of focusing on simulationist, character-based mechanics, it focuses on narrative tools as action. Your actions are basically about expressing what you think is interesting to the narrative, and players get experience for telling the story they want to tell (roughly speaking). It can be sort of hard to wrap your head around at first but the thing that cracked it for me was realizing that it was all about making the actions you declare literally be storytelling, sort of…declaring the sort of storytelling you want, constrained by available actions. It’s really interesting! But it can be really hard to get people interested in playing because it is so far from what people generally expect from an RPG, especially if they’re just used to D&D style games with generally “adversarial” DM/character dynamic.

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It sounds like a combination of divergent evolution of PbTa and Burning Wheel completely divested of its DnD inspirations.

So does Zombie World and Uncanny Echoes. This is definitely my favorite new thing!

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I missed the kickstarter but I am obsessed with what I know about this game!

I’ve played Great American Novel a few times and I’m also in the Kickstarter video, along with @Kurt_Potts. It’s a very interesting approach; all of the playbook moves are meta moves.

Swords Without Master is actually closer to your original ask, as it also concerns itself entirely with narrative elements and is tied directly to die rolls to frame/resolve scenes in their entirety.

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