Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ocean as a game and a discussion

I recently reread Ocean, partly to get myself back into reading RPGs for fun. I first read it when I was just starting to explore indie games on my own. And I found that it not only held up well, I appreciated it even more.

Ocean is a story-telling RPG that is built on a very simple premise. You are all amnesiacs who wake up in a deserted underwater that has monsters in the shadows. You have to figure out who you are, what the base is and what those darn monsters are.

The game is a GM-free system, something I have come to be fascinated by. It uses a dice-based economy where your dice pool is also your health points and you trade in dice to solve the mysteries. However, you can't directly trade dice in to solve mysteries. Other players have to take risks for you to get the bonus dice you need to solve mysteries.

While it is a rules light system, I have skipped over tons of details of how the game works. One of the important factors is that in order to solve the mysteries, you have to take risks and take damage. The economy is tight enough up that everyone should be hurting by the time it ends. And there is a high level of interaction because you can't earn dice on your own.

But what really made me appreciate ocean was the lengthy section about the philosophy of playing the game.

Narrative  games, by their virtue of being mechanically light, can sometimes be opaque in the way to play them. The players have to do a lot of the work themselves. 

Which is not only fine, it's kind of the point. Particularly in games that don't have game masters, the players have to take on a lot of creative control. And when done well, it is an amazingly rewarding experience.

However, I know that that's not the easiest thing for some players. Including players that have spent years playing mechanically heavy systems, where do you have a very defined framework to work with.

Having a chunk of the book made up of a discussion on how these games work and how you need to embrace the freedom that comes with the narrative game is really nice and really handy.

The framework of Ocean, both the mechanics and the theme, would be enough to interest me. However, the real treasure in the book is the discussion on play. 

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