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Ingenero Part 3, Story Phases

posted Feb 28, 2012, 1:28 PM by Good Idea Games

Another way Ingenero is unique among interactive narrative engines, is that it works to reduce the amount of dice rolling by empowering players and GMs to provide more direct narration to peripheral obstacles.

Throughout the game, players are allowed to set Goals. These are specific ends (rather than means to an end) that are recorded on the character sheet. These Goals can be set (almost) any time, and it’s only when they are directly contested that the dice come out.  

For example, in Bogeymen, the players try to escape the mansion, and are being attacked by wolves in the forest. Bruce, a ten year old boy with early onset puberty sets a goal of Beating up a wolf. Wyatt sets a goal to Escape from the wolves. Both of these Goals are directly contested the moment the boys are attacked.

During this challenge, the boys’ stats and abilities come into play, dice are rolled, and risks are taken. Let’s assume that the boys win their challenge, but they do not come out unscathed. Bruce was not able to beat up a wolf. He did scare them off though, but in the process he was hurt, and will walk with a limp for a while. Wyatt was able to escape back to the house without injury. The boys are awarded Reward Points (essentially XP) for their accomplishment. Wyatt receives a couple for his successful accomplishment, and Bruce, who was unsuccessful, drops the goal altogether. Beating up a wolf is no longer important to him, and this little realization earns him a reward point as well.

After the challenge phase, Ingenero returns to the Story Phase, where the players and GM are able to freely narrate the action. The boys return to the house, and abandoning their hope of escape, they explore some more rooms, looking for their lost friends. They set *new* goals, Find Lost Friends. While in Story phase, both the GM and the players are encouraged to actively contribute detail to their character’s actions (rather than the standard format where a GM will provide the majority of the narration). As long as a goal isn't being contested, Ingenero allows players to succeed at peripheral challenges. The idea is that this will speed the action along. 

For example, if Wyatt is trying to climb a broken ladder to get to the roof of the Mansion to look for his friends, there is no real need to force a roll. The ladder isn’t particularly high, Wyatt isn’t being attacked at the same time, and a Goal isn’t being contested. Narratively there is little at stake. Ingenero will just allow the player to succeed so the story can move on. The GM is allowed to make a character fail, to break the ladder, or to knock them off of the roof if necessary, but these sorts of forced maneuvers are discouraged, in favor of giving the players more control. If they want to go up on the roof, shouldn’t there be something up there after all?

Rather than defaulting to complete success, Ingenero suggests that a GM require player characters to make tough choices during story scenes. Wyatt isn’t proficient at climbing like Chester was, and he slips and falls off of the roof! Hanging onto a gutter with one hand, he has the option to either drop his favorite toy, and climb back onto the roof, or drop onto a small ledge, where he will have to climb into an attic window, and face alone, whatever lies in the darkness.

Ingenero is based around the idea of improvisation in narrative gaming. It has a system and table in place to help dynamically write-in additional story seeds and conflict on the fly. This is the bit I am having a hardest time with. It’s the piece that makes Ingenero most unique.

I’ve always run my role-playing games fast and loose. At one end of the spectrum, I play Paranoia, whose plot would often consist of little more than a series of opportunities for players to kill each other. At the other end, there is Evil High, whose entire structure is based around planning and execution of plots. Those were the two ends that I thought I had, but Ingenero throws itself a ways past Paranoia, suggesting that a GM start a game with little more than a stable of strong characters, well studied, and prepared to be more than just narrative devices.

It feels less like a replacement for traditional narrative game systems, and more like a unique game in itself.