Sunday, September 26, 2010

Inspired by Robin Laws

I finished two books this week, and they have inspired several ideas for my games and for my classroom. The first book was Hamlet's Hit Points by Robin Laws, published by Gameplaywright, a slim volume that lays out his ideas for analyzing three classic stories - Hamlet, Dr. No, and Casablanca - and the insights this analysis can give us for our games. I found his examination fascinating and rich with possibilities. Robin uses a system of beats, derived from theater, to explore the emotional ups and downs of a story. I was familiar with his his work from playing Heroquest, but this extended analysis opened my eyes.

I certainly want to track the beats in my own games and my players' reactions, and look forward to my next session! More than this, though, I can see myself thinking in terms of beats when I run games with kids and then discussing it with them as another way for them to view a story. I also want to use this beat appraisal in my non-game classes, such as literature groups, to help students make deeper connections within what they are reading and studying. This may be old hat to many of you, but it's novel for me, and since I like to intermix games, storytelling, and writing, it looks like fertile ground.

Robin is also a gifted writer and humorous writer. He's been in gaming for a long time and can refer back to the days of the blue book version of D&D. I'm still chuckling over the peryton reference.

Also, this last week I received my copy of Nameless Streets, published by Cubicle 7. It's a guide for running games of Urban Noir Fantasy using the Heroquest System. I enjoyed Charles Green's interpretation of the general rule system for the purposes of evoking and interpreting his creation. He creates templates, structures, obstacles, MacGuffins, and rules modifications to encourage the genre. I was most fascinated by his seventh chapter, "The Anatomy of a Mystery," which breaks down the elements of a mystery-based game and how to plan and organize them for scenarios and extended games. Again, this may not be a new idea for some, but I found the explanations particularly accessible and applicable.

It's been a treat to have so much fun gamer-reading to digest. Has anyone else read these? What did you think? How might you use them?

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