Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Agile-Style Gaming

Agile development has been a thing for a while now and if you know what it is you don't need to hear anything more about it from me, and if you don't you probably don't care. That said there have been some interesting parallels between work and hobby recently so bear with me.

We've had a lot of talk here about games we'd like to play more and the downside of being locked in to a set game for every available session time. I had a new plan but as it turns out we're only really following about half of it so far.

The first weekend of the month is Mutants and Masterminds. That's held steady. I was originally thinking we would rip through Time of Crisis in a few sessions and get on to the "main" campaign. My players though are having a ton of fun with the adventure which means more RP and talking and more deliberation over choices and also means it's just a really meaty campaign. So I have stopped worrying about when we will "get through it" and just started enjoying the journey instead. That's kind of the real goal, right? I have it! Right here! So all is well with that game.

We also planned to run Deadlands on the second weekend each month. That worked for January. For February, one of my three players was going to be out that weekend so I opened up the conversation about what to play. Apprentice Who was going to be around  and based on the past that meant Marvel Heroic sounded like a good idea. Then Apprentice Red ended up coming home that night while Apprentice Who had a school dance to attend. We didn't have a pre-existing "default" game for that particular combination of Paladin Steve, Apprentice Blaster, and Apprentice Red so now it was really open.

I ended up running Runequest, second edition to be specific.

So now our "gaming matrix" looks like this:

  • Two of the boys usually means ICONS
  • All three of the boys is Star Wars d6
  • Steve + Blaster + Who = Marvel Heroic (Red has played in this too)
  • Steve + Blaster + Red = RQ2
  • Steve + Dave + Blaster = Deadlands
  • Steve + Dave + Tsai + Lady Blacksteel = DCC
So instead of having a set game I run all the time and drop players in and out of - or have them ignore because they are not interested - I pretty much run a set game based on which players are available. Now this does mean I have a ridiculous number of campaigns that are technically "live" but they may not have been touched for 2-3 months. 

To touch on the "agile" parallel this is my backlog: Each system is an Epic, each specific campaign is a "feature" (because theoretically I could have multiple campaigns in the same system, like I sort of have with Deadlands and do have with M&M). each session is a "story". It's not a perfect analogy but I needed to call it something. It's not a traditional campaign setup. It's not really an open table/west marches type of game. It's really its own approach in my view. It just kind of developed over the last year or two and now I'm embracing it as an actual plan rather than happenstance.

How do I organize it? well, each campaign has its own binder with notes on prior sessions, ideas for future sessions, comments on using some published material where I can, and probably some character sheets. I keep a folder with material on the computer too, from notes to HeroLab files. I'm also playing around with some online resources for the players too - more on that if it becomes a real thing. My memory hasn't completely failed so once I skim through some notes it's not difficult to pick up where we were when we ended last time. I have started having the players tell me what they remember first, going around the table, and then I sum up with what I have noted myself. It seems to work and gets everyone's wheels turning about where the game is right now. 

One of the side benefits: this helps handle any "Gamer ADD" I am feeling by ensuring that we rarely play the same game three times in a row.

Of course the maximum flexibility approach here means that we may only play some of these a few times a year. No one seems to mind. Yet. It's something I will be watching for, and I have no problems with trying to "force" a session on occasion - "Hey, I have an open Friday night coming up and we haven't played X in a while - can you 3 make it Friday night?".

Anyway, that's how things are going around here.


Jeremy said...

"Two of the boys usually means ICONS
All three of the boys is Star Wars d6
Steve + Blaster + Who = Marvel Heroic (Red has played in this too)
Steve + Blaster + Red = RQ2
Steve + Dave + Blaster = Deadlands
Steve + Dave + Tsai + Lady Blacksteel = DCC"

That's really clever! It keeps you playing in almost every situation, it deals with your need to utilize more of the systems you have cravings for, keeps you from burning out on any one story, and sets the expectation we are going to play so if one person cancels it doesn't snowball to everyone cancelling.

And the west marches side benefit of people just being able to show up and play a game based on which combination of people you have on a non-regularly scheduled open day is really neat too. Great post!

thekelvingreen said...

That's an interesting approach. It seems so obvious in hindsight and yet it's clever and solves so many problems with erratic attendance.

My group tends to slot a board game night in when someone's not available, but I may try this method.

jbeltman said...

as it turns out we're only really following about half of it so far

That sounds like Agile to me!

jbeltman said...

But seriously...

designing a campaign in an Agile manner is a great idea. It is such a versatile tool. I think I might do it more like the following:

Your world or game would be like your product. So Start Wars, D&D, etc. You could break it down into different worlds if you want, like if they don't connect. e.g. Monday night D&D, Thursday night D&D, etc.

A campaign would be an Epic. This is the main goal for the campaign, or idea it is based around.

The stories are things that you, as the product owner, want in the campaign. The players might want things as well, so you can include ideas from them. You can prioritise these in importance to the campaign. You don't necessarily need to get through all of them in this Epic. e.g. a player who wants a castle but it is an introductory campaign.

High priority ones are ones that fit the theme of the Epic really well and are the most fun. e.g. Ewoks on Endor, pod race or dealing with a Hutt on Tatooine, etc. Low priority stories would be general colour encounters, meeting not plot critical characters from the movies, seeds for future campaigns, etc.

The sessions are more like Sprints/Iterations I think. i.e. they will follow a lead (pick a story) and complete it over a number of sprints. They can skip low priority/optional stories but there are some they will be forced to deal with (hopefully the most fun!).

So you might get something like this:

Product = Star Wars

- Escape from drudgery (intro campaign)
- Freedom for Endor
- Bounty hunting
- Space battle for Coruscant
- Destroy the Death Star
- Evading the Empire

Freedom for Endor Stories
- Get a space ship
- Hear about Endor
- Light speed
- Run the blockade
- Meet Ewoks
- Speeder chase through the trees
- Encounter with Vader
- Make rebel contact

1. Start and finish Get a space ship.
Start on Hear about Endor.
2. Finish Hear about Endor.
Finish Light speed.
Ignored Make rebel contact.
3. Finish Run the blockade.
4. Next session...