Saturday, March 26, 2011
C is for Challenge
"Good evening. Me Alistair Cookie. Welcome to Monsterpiece Theater.
Today we look at big deal in literature. Conflict. Yeah. It major part of story. For example, Me want cookie. How Me get cookie? What if there no cookie to be had? What if someone have cookie but not want to share with Me? What if other monster challenge me to game of Go Fish! over right to get cookie?
Me don't know about you but Me on edge of Me seat wondering what outcome will be!"
How does a Director create Conflict and Challenge in a Sesame Street RPG?
While I have my own ideas, I have looked to Japan for inspiration.
There is a very cool Japanese Tabletop RPG called Yuuyake Koyake, which Ewen Cheney of Yaruki Zero Games describes as follows on the website J-RPG Talk,
" Yuuyake Koyake ("Vivid Sunset") is a game about henge, animals that have just a little bit of magical power, including the ability to take on human form. The creator specifically wanted to make a game that eschews violence and accumulation of power, and in YK these henge mostly help out ordinary people with everyday problems. The henge come from Japanese animal myths, though needless to say they've been toned down for the game's more heartwarming portrayal."
I highly recommend reading up on this particular game but the key element of it that I found most interesting was the development of a role playing game that had, at is heart, a system for doing things other than beating up monsters and stealing their stuff. The Conflict in Yuuyake Koyake is best described, as noted by its author, as " someone is troubled by something; no evil intentions involved."
That is the same basic adventure, conflict and challenge design parameters for a Sesame Street RPG. Now and then you can throw in a bit of 'evil' in the form of a melodramatically nasty villain but even they are often just misunderstood or in need of something to not be so nasty anymore.
When creating an episode of Sesame Street for the RPG, it's best to start by setting up a situation where an NPC needs something or doesn't understand something. Present the PC's with an opportunity to try to figure out what the NPC's situation is and then how best to help them. This can be used to teach kids by creating an adventure in which you discuss things like how to find clues, look up information, talk about ideas in a group setting and many other elements most gamers take for granted. These important skills need not be directly related to the item or situation but they do show how you find a solution to a troubling situation.
"Me all over this like chocolate chips on a chocolate chip cookie. Me demonstrate."
"Really? OK. By all means."
"Monsterpiece Theater presents, World According to Carp."
"Uh, the book is Garp. The World According to Garp."
"You demonstrate your way, Me demonstrate my way."
So one day a Carp, you know, the fish, comes done Sesame Street in a large fish tank on wheels. Maybe it's in a wagon. It is being pulled by a turtle or similar amphibian. The Carp is describing what he sees to the turtle and several smaller fish in the tank. His descriptions are a bit off. Never having been out of the lake he lives in for long, he doesn't know as much about the surface world as he thinks he does.
He'll say, "And over there is a tall, hard and rough, brown thing with small leaves on the top. Birds live in it. You sometimes see those at the edge of the lake."
A small fish says, "What are they called Mr. Carp?"
"Those are...Big Hard Bird Home Plants."
As the PCs listen it gets more and more made up with some of the descriptions being way off and all the names being wrong. The PCs must figure out what he is referring to, what it's really called and how to teach the fish the right names and info without make Mr. Carp look bad in front of his students.
Something like that.
Now remember this idea is aimed at younger kids. Grown-ups playing the game can create and partake in much more in depth and complex stories. I'll address some ideas for those another time.
"Thank you Alistair Cookie. Here is a Snickerdoodle."
"Mmm...if it all the same to you, Me not like friend Grover. Costume or not, Me Cookie Monster. SNICKERDOODLE! Om-nom-nom!"
" Hey, You know what?
A round cookie with one bite out of it looks like a "C"
A round donut with one bite out of it also looks like a "C" but it is not as good as a cookie
Oh, and the moon sometimes looks like a "C" but you can't eat that
"C" is for Cookie that's good enough for me,
"C" is for cookie that's good enough for me,
"C" is for cookie that's good enough for me,
Oh! cookie, cookie, cookie starts with "C"!
Cookie Monster, Sesame Street
Here's a Sesame Street News Flash!
It was revealed in an episode of Sesame Street that Cookie Monster is his nick name. Before he ate his first cookie his name was Sid. A twitter tweet confirmed this something later. Cookie was born Sidney Monster.
I have a lot more to say on the subject of Sesame Street adventure design but I doubt I will get to it all this month. I actually think that a long term Muppets campaign is best achieved in a Muppet Show meets Sesame Street format that we haven't really seen the Muppets produce. There is some sweet spot between Sesame Street and Avenue Q that would be awesome to explore.
If you don't know what a Snickerdoodle is, may the heavens have mercy on your soul.