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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

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Scurra
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I've been developing some of the notions I had over the Christmas break and ran into an interesting problem, which was that I couldn't think how to implement some of them without involving an "external" player (usually called a Gamesmaster or something) who is not playing the same sort of game as the other players, although they are certainly a player.

I've been trying to think of games which feature such a role, other than standard role-playing games, as I'm obviously concerned that it isn't a viable proposition - who wants to be the "administrator" of a game, even when they are participating?

I suppose the obvious example is Scotland Yard in which one player is "Mister X" and the others are the detectives, and that seems to be a reasonably popular (and good!) game. But being Mister X doesn't require anything like the sort of input my design would need...

Do you think you'd play a game like that? Or would you be put off by the notion completely?

Anonymous
Games with "Gamesmasters"?

My group STILL plays HeroQuest from time to time...
... and I STILL create my own modules for it.

I'd play Orcs at the Gates any day of the week... and one person plays BA.

Tyler

Torrent
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

The Buffy Board Game is another of the MisterX versus others. One player plays the Evil side with hidden information, while it is easy to split up the good side among several people.

What kind of administration are you thinking about. I would guess that if there needs to be another person, it would have to be some sort of hidden information from some or all of the players. Or is it some sort of environmental stuff that shouldn't be affected by player decisions.

Sort of a different idea is American Megafauna notably the rules on how the Biomes move. I was reading a review that mentioned that there was a game of plant evolution runby the game mechanics below the players game. Maybe this helps in what you are talking about.

Andy

zaiga
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

HeroQuest comes to mind, which is basically an RPG turned into a boardgame. The Dungeons and Dragons boardgame is similar to HeroQuest. Lord of the Rings with the Sauron expansion is another example of a "one against many" boardgame.

In all of the above examples the "Gamesmaster" is more than just an administrator, he has an interactive role, trying to defeat the other players or at least trying to create an interesting setting or atmosphere for the other players (much as in RPG's).

An example of a game where one player is purely an administrator and does not interact with the other player(s) in one way or the other is Mastermind. Another example would be Black Box, although there is some "skill" in the setup phase.

If it is a long multiplayer game, then I think you need to make the role of "administrator" interesting by giving him or her the opportunity to participate in the game in an interactive way, otherwise it won't be a lot of fun for that player, I think.

- Rene Wiersma

IngredientX
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

Two smaller games: Falling, by Cheapass games; and Zendo, by Looney Labs. Both require an independent person to act as referee, acting outside the game. Both games are fairly short, so they may not fit your example.

One of the rewards of GMing an RPG is the creativity you are given. In a board game, I'm not sure how you can replicate this creative environment. That's probably your biggest obstacle; offering something rewarding about the GM experience. If you have problems with that, you may want to consider "rotating" the GM responsibilities across all players, or even figuring out a way to play without a GM.

Good luck!

jwarrend
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

Diplomacy is probably the best example of a game that works best when one person fills the role of a "moderator".

Other than that, a game like the Sauron expansion feels sort of like what you're doing that. The one time that I played Sauron, I didn't feel like I was competing with the players so much as trying to enhance their adventure, make it more challenging/interesting. The 6-player "pirate variant" of Pirate's Cove is similar to this, I think.

I had a similar dilemma with the "Indiana Jones" game I'm working on, because I wanted a "relic hunt" feel, but it's hard to figure out a setup algorithm that doesn't involve an "all wise" intelligence to "know" in advance where things are going to be. But, I found a way around that, and if this is your dilemma, I'm sure you can too.

On the other hand, you might consider something like King Arthur where a computer supplies the role of "moderator".

Basically, I think that if you do go with a moderator, you should either think of a creative way to involve that person in the game -- like in Sauron, for example -- or, make the game very short so that a "full game" consists of each player being the moderator once. Other than that, I think it's potentially going to be a tough sell if one player must sit around and moderate. I do that sometimes when I'm playtesting, but I wouldn't want to do it as a regular part of game play. As always, though, the devil is in the details, and you need to identify why your game really needs this. If it's just because the game plays better with someone doing the bookkeeping, I think you should try instead to simplify the game engine. If, instead, it's that the game plays better if one player is "all wise", and is influencing the game of the others without himself being subject to influence in the same way, it could be interesting, but you need to think about how best to implement that.

Actually, an interesting game along those lines could be built around a system of nested hierarchies, where each player has some "role" and their actions influence a subset of the rest of the players. So, maybe in a simple example, one player is the president, one is the governor, one is the mayor, one is the commoner. The president's actions influence the governor, but the governor doesn't really influence the president. The governor influences the mayor who influences the commoner, but then the wheel comes around and the commoner can influence the president. This is obviously a silly example, but if you could think of a theme where such a hierarchy of your ability to affect another's position could live, you could have this kind of an effect without anyone being a moderator.

Just some thoughts...

doho123
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

I guess Werewolf/Mafia could be long depending on how people are playing it.

IngredientX
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

jwarrend wrote:
Actually, an interesting game along those lines could be built around a system of nested hierarchies, where each player has some "role" and their actions influence a subset of the rest of the players. So, maybe in a simple example, one player is the president, one is the governor, one is the mayor, one is the commoner. The president's actions influence the governor, but the governor doesn't really influence the president. The governor influences the mayor who influences the commoner, but then the wheel comes around and the commoner can influence the president. This is obviously a silly example, but if you could think of a theme where such a hierarchy of your ability to affect another's position could live, you could have this kind of an effect without anyone being a moderator.

I believe Junta used this mechanic. It would be a cool way to sidestep the "moderator" issue, by letting politics and diplomacy select who is in "charge" of the game. Also, Twilight Imperium has each player representing a different "race" in some sort of galactic congress. You actually vote on the rules of the game. It's another great meta-device that can give the players control of the game while avoiding a single referee.

Anonymous
Games with "Gamesmasters"?

I'm working on a game right now that uses "Event Cards" to overcome this issue. Basically I needed a mechanic for moving NPCs around the board, so an "event chit" is given to one player at the start of the game. When that player begins his/her turn they draw an event card that shows the location of the NPC and the route the NPC is going to take on the board (specifically by calling out the start and end locations for the NPC).

The player then places the NPC on the board and passes the chit to his right. Turns pass to the left. So there will be a new event card drawn every X-1 turns (where X=number of players).

The event card is kept next to the table until a new one is drawn or until the NPC reaches it's destination (not all event cards have NPC routes), and each turn starts with a global "upkeep" phase where NPCs are moved and resources are updated, etc.

This way all players feel at least somewhat involved in the process of the neutral "board owned" peices.

It's a very random solution of course. I'm working on another game where there are a hoarde of monsters that a group of players have to fight off (zombies to be exact). This one I'm toying around with some ideas, but basically I think it's going to come down to a shared NPC movement scheme where at the start of each players' turn they move one zombie in addition to their own movement. Each different type of zombie will have different movement types and values. The idea will be to decide if you want to move a zombie closer to your opponent, or away from yourself.

This way it feels like a hoarde of randomly impulsive undead who don't exactly make logical decisions and players are directly competing with each other while a neutral element remains on the table.

Probably not ideas you're looking for though.

Scurra
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

Bandecko wrote:

Probably not ideas you're looking for though.

Hey, that's almost beside the point :) I raised the issue because I was interested to hear how other people might have approached the "problem" in the past.
As it happened, I think I've found a way to approach my game that won't require an external GM, but it loses some of the key elements of the original idea - which is almost inevitably the case.

That doesn't make the discussion redundant, of course; there are some great ideas about how to approach the whole divergent goals issue, with some games I'd forgotten about and some that are not quite what I was after (I was counting stuff like HeroQuest as being an RPG experience, for instance, so I already knew about them.)

But basically I was looking at a deduction-game in which there was no obvious way of determining which of a large pool of characters were the players and which were other imposters and so on. The easiest solution seemed to me to involve an external player who knew this information and could therefore answer the players' questions. However, then they simply became an infodump mechanism, which was rather clumsy, and it was tricky to involve them in the game since they knew almost too much information to be able to participate properly.

In the end I have opted for a much more standard deduction-game mechanics (asking other players for particular cards for instance) although I think I've added enough new twists to it to make it interesting. But it's lost some of the complexity I was hoping for. We shall see (if it ever makes it to the playtest table!)

Nazhuret
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Games with "Gamesmasters"?

i've been kicking this topic around in my own skull for a few months now...

i want to make a quick playing, relatively simple "double blind" strategy boardgame that two people can play without the use of a ref to report their units' moves to.
not like I would mind.. i get off on games that take an hour or more for a turn to commence but the people i would design it for hate that kind of thing.

so i came up with an idea of using counters on the board corresponding to a sort of screen in front of each player. in this screen are slots for small cards with the information of each unit on them. you could place dummy or false intelligence counters on the board so the opponent never really knows where to concentrate the real forces....

but again, this gets quickly complicated and nothing like the simple little game i want to make.

one sollution is to require at least three people (or more) and report your moves to one of the other person but not the third .... like you're always allied with the person on one side of you as long as it's not your turn... or something...

i think that has some potential but i can't grasp it right now.

anyway, there's some ideas for the arbiter player query.

Anonymous
to game master or not...

Much like Nazhuret mentioned I once co-designed a war/strategy game that had a moderator/gamemaster(GM).

The game was a lot of fun because like in an RPG the GM would add random events and try to add to the fun of the other players as well keep tabs on everyone's movements and the economies involved, BUT the downside was the time it took to play, we never finished a game, and in fact it was so complex that we left the board out for a week (thus making a dining table unusable for anything else) just because to re-place everything would have been a chore in of itself. Turned into a roleplaying game where one didn't assume a single role, but administration of feuding empires.

The other bad thing was the GM not being able to experience being a player, which takes a certain personality type in my opinion to be fun.

I like the idea of having the GM rotate amongst players, which might make for an interesting mechanic in of itself if the GM was given certain discretion or ability (if they push it too far maybe the next GM will do action x instead of y? Or maybe break down into chaos on the flipside of that?).

Anonymous
Doodie!

So advanced..... :lol:

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