Interview 26: Jason Pitre, The Spark RPG

The whole crew sits down with Jason Pitre, designer behind The Spark RPG, to discuss our playtesting experience. We talk about changes that are being considered, and how challenging yet informative playtesting can be. Enjoy!

Relevant Links

Crunchy Bits!

7 Responses to “Interview 26: Jason Pitre, The Spark RPG”

  1. Jason Pitre Says:

    Thank you very much for the astounding playtest and interview. I really apppreciate it. :)

  2. Erik Weissengruber Says:

    Amazing work in playtesting and discussion.

    I have a suggestion to get more actor stance, improvised dialogue, etc.

    * a scene is set using extant procedures (platform/tilt/question)
    * in the course of that someone uses one of the key ritual phrases like “Face-to-Face” or “This is a showdown.”
    * Everyone at the table is waiting to see how the dialogue unfolds.
    * Participants in the showdown are restricted to speaking in character
    * In comes a steal from Fiasco: players & GM use Currency to tie the results of the improvised interaction to the unfolding story
    – whoever set the questions gives currency X (Fate point?) to the participant in the dialogue who has answered the questions
    – whoever established the platform gives currency Y (maybe activating a Rise condition) to whoever’s input seems most appropriate to the setting: so someone who is being polite and reserved in some sort of public Victorian setting might merit this.
    – whoever has the Tilt gives currency Z (maybe a combination of a Fall Condition and some Spark bonus) to whichever character seems to have exerted the most change on another character. So if you watch a character go from bluster to conciliation, that character would be on the Tilted one and get dinged.
    * Once all three tokens have been handed over, the “Face-to-Face” is over and the other procedures take over
    * I like Fiasco’s approach of simply moving the dice forward or handing them over and then letting the scene proceed. Someone might have picked up a die and informed you that your scene will end badly for you, but you can still play it out a little more, make it seem like your Mr. Cool is still in charge, and then have him end face-down in the mud IN THE WAY THAT THE RESOLUTION SYSTEM SAID IT WOULD. The players have all sorts of actor- and director-stance input to make despite the overall narrative arc being sealed by the decision of another player (using the available currency at the table, not random dickishness or GM fiat).
    * The actor-stance moments in Spark are set within larger scene mechanics. So I wouldn’t want player or GM input to say “your dialogue will end this way” given that the whole scene will have such a resolution.
    * I see an IMMEDIATE REWARD for COMMITTED (acting like a real improviser and pushing for your character’s goals/pushing to take charge of the Tilt), PLAUSIBLE (taking into account the Platform/setting during your performance), and THOUGHTFUL (keeping the Question in mind and character beliefs) role playing.

    On GMs
    * Keep it: the one who has access to the currency to maintain the consistency of the setting, to evaluate or condition the results of a “Face-to-Face” should rest in the hands of a centre of influence who does not have a protagonist at stake
    * Steal from Apocalypse World: The GM’s job it to fuck with (not fuck over) player characters (not players). That is why a GM-less game of factions wouldn’t work. The GM should be able to fuck with the faction that a particular player has selected
    * Frex: Someone is playing the Nazis in a WWII game. Someone could be running the Hitler-type character. If one player is in charge of the Western Allies and the other the Soviets, what role does the GM have? Fucking with all of them. GM should be able to throw out a Valkyrie plot to trouble the Hitler figure. The GM could throw in a McArthur who wants to push victory over Germany into a push against Communism. And the Soviets could be faced with … I dunno … some defector who wants to sabotage their nascent nuclear weapons program.
    * Players who choose high Spark are angling for Gm-like/Setting-influencing/Proxy-wielding power. But the ability to persistently fuck with/question the beliefs of any player should rest with one person. The GM in your game cannot railroad but can introduce complicating factors that do not limit player effectiveness vis-a-vis other players. You don’t harm them or drive them out of play. The GM makes the game interesting.

  3. Erik Weissengruber Says:

    I like the silence in the Fiasco set up. The die gets pushed forward and you have just been told that the scene will end will or poorly for your PC. You aren’t told how or why. And, possibly, the other player just got pissed off at you and is being passive aggressive. Whatever. You now have a die that will help you later, but you gotta suck some failure now. But once the votes are in, the dialogue has to come to an end … soon-ish.

    These are very rough thoughts. But I would stress that whatever moves are made to get more actor stance and improvisation into your game, it be mediated by currency. Maybe the three “voters” could distribute different kinds of REWARDS and not penalties. Perhaps it is all just Fate Points and the distribution of the 3 points is a simple signal that “we, as a table of players, want this little improvisation to come to an end.”

  4. Erik Weissengruber Says:

    I tried to make the actor-stance improvisations part of the whole “think like a writer” model you have suggested in the text.

    Dialogue can enforce the setting, reveal character, provide a short address of the theme, or have plot implications.

    The currency you use to reward the “role playing” isn’t being handed out for acting skills. It is being handed out for carrying out the creative agenda that players are carrying out at other parts of the game.

    And, if you look at my suggestions, you will see that it is possible for people to set the scene to have one of the triggers to ending a Face-to-Face scene. Sobeit. Maybe people will vote for themselves or be honest if another player really took charge of the tilt during the Face-to-Face. After the 3 votes have been made, the improv can go on, but the rewards have been handed out.

    You could break out portions of the system and provide them as mini-games:

    Spark: Faction War! (a GM-less version where all characters are proxies and the focus on play is the clash of factions)

    Spark: Genesis and Eschaton (a Microscope-like world creation game that takes the setting-creation mechanics and adds a “end of the setting” mini-game)

  5. Erik Weissengruber Says:

    A rethink for the Tillt: The person who forced a change gets a Fate point, the person whose agenda changed the most gets a fall condition and some kind of spark bonus. Wait’ this is all getting too fiddly and abstract.

    Finish the game however you want, it looks fun as it is.

  6. Jason Pitre Says:

    Thank you very much for your extensive comments Erik! You make an excellent point with regads to the GM advice I need with regads to fucking with PC’s rather than fucking over players.

    I will absolutely link the currency system to the roleplaying and character portrayal. I have a proposed fix in place for the next version of the game which should also fix the “who goes first” problem in collaboration.

    It will be tough to fix the underlying problems without adding too many fiddly bits and unecessary mechanics. I usually prefer to remove / simplfy mechanics rather than add them, but I fear I need some additive solutions here.

    Your idea of both a Faction War game and a World Building game are compelling. I will likely follow your suggestion and publish those as well, with some modifications to make a stand alone game.

  7. Christoph Says:

    I heard a telling statement by Jason in this interview, “I wanted to avoid…” I have to agree with Jen; Jason needs to determine his design goals as positive statements, such as “In Spark, I am modelling ____ sort of play” or “I want to Players to ____ in Spark”

Leave a Reply