Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pangea (Or What Is Narrative)?

For those who may not know, our Blood of Pangea game has finally been released, with abundant thanks to those brave souls who've supported the title so far!  The game is a bit of an experiment, but not quite as radical as some may think.  Yes, the term narrative carries baggage in gaming circles, suggesting something new-fangled and far removed from old-school principles.

But think again!  It's true that many "narrative" games involve players having a hand in devising the plot.  A shared responsibility between the players and the judge, often, with the intention of creating "cinematic" scenes rather than taking part in a simulation with an uncertain fate.  This "story-gaming" is derided, perhaps unfairly, as fluffy, pointless fare.

This isn't the case here.  Shared narrative is very consistent with old-school ideas, and if done properly, might just be the oldest school of all!  In fact, we argue that the most traditional of games actually WERE a "shared-narrative" experience...

Sword and Sorcery was literature, NOT simulation!

Consider original Dungeons and Dragons:

(1) A traditional division of labor is preserved, with the DM creating the setting and running supporting characters, and players taking charge of a main character or hero...

(2) This IS a cooperative narrative, as everyone is "in charge" of some SPECIFIC part of the story...

(3) In other words, everyone STAYS IN THEIR LANE!

(4) That said, if players want to guide the outcome of events or otherwise shape the story, they need to make good decisions and use their skills and abilities as best they can.

This is a point of division between old-school games and certain modern forms.  The newer stuff has considerable overlap, with players and judges sharing responsibilities and, alternately, having mechanics that promote the creation of dramatic scenes within an evolving gameplay narrative.

A clear division of labor is what separates "old-school" narrative creation from "new-school" styles of play.

Blood of Pangea is described as a "narrative" system because the players write a narrative describing what their characters can do in the game, but also because spell casting is free form and not reliant on any formal spell-list.  That said, character creation is done the same way that the great pulp writers did it!

Does it really matter HOW you know your character is a tracker as long as you KNOW?  Especially when there's otherwise some system for determining success or failure and mechanics to limit individual power (and to preserve challenge) within the game? 

Blood of Pangea preserves the traditional division of labor and requires that players make good choices and use abilities as wisely as possible.  And the outcome is uncertain.  Death and/or ruin happens routinely, but smart playing can prevent that.  At the same time, it recognizes the role of writing plus fluid and free-form storytelling within certain boundaries...

How else might one recreate a purely literary genre?  Sword and sorcery was writing, not simulation.  But gaming IS simulation, with the aim of offering a challenging experience.  Blood of Pangea is our little experiment in how far one can go mixing styles while preserving the best of both - and we hope you enjoy savage Pangea!  


  1. I just bought Blood of Pangea and after a quick read through I like what I see. Is there an example of character creation anywhere? It seems straight forward but an example always helps.


    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      Character creation is easier with the following steps:

      (1) Determine name and gender...

      (2) Decide, in general, the character's background and what sort of things you want them to do, consistent with the rules...

      (3) Write your narrative (per the rules), noting that you may need to consult with the judge for things like languages or locations...

      (4) Strive for a balance of background and abilities...

      (5) Determine money and buy equipment, checking with the judge to see if they want to determine costs or just let you roll...

      Put it all together in the format shown and, by Crom, you're done!

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