Episode 124: Triggering the Mechanics

Hosts: Todd, Megan, Timo, Joe

Important Links:
Chicago Game Day
Walking Eye Con

What did

we play (10:20)
Apocalypse World, In a Wicked Age…: Todd, Megan, Joe, Timo
Defenders of the Realm: Timo

Main topic: Triggering the Mechanics (23:00)
Deciding how and when the mechanical aspects of a game should be used can be a complex topic. Even with newer games providing clearer guidelines as to what should trigger mechanics, there’s often a decision to do just that. We hijack this episode with a discussion of how that choice shakes down, and how different games provide different guidance and methodology

Rants (1:09:00)
Timo: I dream of Demon Ninja’s.
Megan: Dear Food, let’s just be friends.
Todd: People, don’t be dicks about religion.

You have been listening to The Jank Cast, copyright under the creative commons license. You can find out more about us at jankcast.com. You can send comments and feedback to feedback@jankcast.com We are sponsored by Chicagoland Games, and encourage you to get in touch with us via our Facebook page, Spooky Outhouse Forum (it’s a little quiet, but we’d love to get it going again), Twitter or Google+. You can also listen to us via Stitcher Radio. Now go out and roll some


7 thoughts on “Episode 124: Triggering the Mechanics

  1. I think I’ve got some of the same issues as a GM as you guys talked about, especially coming from a trad gaming background. I’ve been trying to expose people at my local FNGS to different stuff by running a “story game” series (different game every other week) – so far it’s been pretty awesome, but I have the sneaking suspicion we’re still sort of doing it wrong. The whole “when do you trigger the mechanics” thing is probably a big part of that.

    How do you suggest trying to get out of the trad mindset of “fiat” engagement? Or getting people not to rush to the conflict? Do you have any tips or tricks?

    (Also, y’all made me realize that the one time we tried to play In a Wicked Age we were doing it completely wrong. Maybe we should get Zombie Cinema and practice on that a bit before I try it again.)

  2. Good question! For me, and I think we sort of talked about this in a roundabout way, the most important thing is THINKING before I call for a roll (especially as a GM) and avoiding saying “roll the dice now!” if there’s not REALLY a reason to. Heck, even if there IS a reason to, but it’s not interesting or necessary, then maybe don’t.

    It’s a totally hard thing, though. It’s like the episode of Itchy and Scratchy where they bring in Poochie and Milhouse is going “WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO GET TO THE FIREWORKS FACTORY?!” Engaging the mechanic is the fireworks factory and all WANT to get there, so when we don’t, like Timo said, sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re “playing the game.”

  3. In a Wicked Age is a tricky, vicious beast. Don’t worry if you think you got it wrong, I played it wrong right up to this last go around. And we still might be messing EVERYTHING up.

    That said, if there’s a need for a judgement call on when to engage the mechanics, I’m still trying to figure that out. Lately I’ve been reading some advice along the lines of “Don’t play towards the conflict, just play your characters.” So even if the game demands that PC’s be in conflict with each other to move forward, what the players should really be doing is just playing out their characters desires and urges and when those naturally come to a conflict, throwing down. The suggestion seems to be that other systems than the direct conflict one will ramp up the tension in such a way as to force a reaction. For instance: in zombie cinema, it’s perfectly fine to have conflictless scenes, it just makes it more likely that everyone will be eaten. Eventually the stress that you might be eaten by zombies and nothing you are doing is stopping it from happening will get to the characters, and they’re likely to turn on each other.

    Just a thought.

  4. I should also add that the story game series you’re doing sounds awesome, Dave, and is kind of in the spirit of what we’re trying to do with Jank on Demand. You should keep us posted on how that’s going!

  5. If I had game designer genes, I’d rip out the core conflict mechanic of IAWA and replace it with something simpler. Love the setting and character generation, love the stats, love the owe list, love the separate but interconnected stories. It’s just that annoying mechanic in the middle…

    The dark side of just playing your characters until they naturally get to the conflict is that you may never get there. The flatness of conflict-too-soon gets replaced with the flatness of conflict-never. In Zombie Cinema, the pressure of the zombie escalation can only lead to conflict if there’s a conflict to be had.

  6. Just stumbled across this post and wanted to point out that the link to Chicago Gameday is broken. It looks like the URL was pasted three times in the HREF attribute. Just FYI!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *