Monday, September 25, 2006

Yes... but does this Gamist clockwork tick?

I do not know whether I read this somewhere or thought it up myself, but I consider The Shadow of Yesterday to be a Narrativist game containing a Gamist clockwork that makes it run. Consider: you have all these cool skills and secrets, and you want to get more and better ones. The way to do this is to get XP. The way to get XP is to hit and resolve your Keys. Hitting and resolving your Keys is almost guaranteed to generate a good thematic story. See? Never mind my liberal use of the GNS terms here.

Last week, I finished a satisfying game of The Shadow of Yesterday with Jasper Polane. During the six or so sessions of this game, I noticed the following phenomenon: in the first sessions I really wanted to increase my skills, and actively worked towards my Keys for that reason; but as the game progressed, my interest in getting Advances dwindled, and in the end I was only hitting the keys because that fitted into my story.

Although this doesn't really hurt the game, it nevertheless cannot be the aim of the rules. Surely, advances are supposed to be enticing. But are they? Better skills may make your character succeed more often, but nothing in The Shadow of Yesterday appears to encourage aiming towards character success, instead of character failure - in this respect, it is unlike My Life with Master, where the growing hatred of the Master character really makes the player want their character to succeed. And then there is the question whether better skills actually do make your character succeed more often: given that there are no rules for the strengths of NPCs, nothing is stopping the GM from scaling the important NPCs of the story with the PC's skill levels.

So, I am thinking that this gamist engine is not ticking as it should. That may be due to something I am doing wrong, or it may be because you cannot power a game by an engine that taps into a different Creative Agenda than the game itself. What are your experiences with The Shadow of Yesterday, concerning this issue?


  1. Hoy, :)

    Wow... blogger maimed the hell out of my comment...

    Attempt number two:

    A seemingly unrelated conversation that converges onto that same topic is here:

    An account of what I did is here, and you should follow the link to the AP at the Forge for a related conversation: