Sniffen Packets

With a name like Sniffen, it's got to smell good.

Kurt Vonnegut was not a gamer

But he might have been. In the wake of his recent passing, a number of folks have discussed his rules for short stories. They seem excellent descriptions of the sorts of games I want to run:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Certainly, this rule has to change. The players are not readers. Our friends are not strangers. So we as GMs don’t have to work quite as hard here. Players also contribute to spending the time wisely.

  1. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

This is easy: each player has his own character to root for. But he should be also able to root for one other player character, and one GM character. This prevents consideration of the GM as a pure antogonist.

  1. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

True for PCs and for NPCs.

  1. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action. (which is to say, create or resolve tension)

If only we could be so sparse in play! I think it’s enough to say that every scene must serve these purposes for each character present in it.

  1. Start as close to the end as possible.

And certainly, we should do this for each scene. I need to learn better techniques for doing so at a campaign scale: not wasting time in a long slow middle, but cutting from an opening series of sessions to interesting plot.

  1. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

This generates the most interesting games for the players.

  1. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  1. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The Lumpley model: investigation games involve out-guessing the GM. This is almost impossible. The fun part of detective stories is what you do after you have the facts: Watson’s role, not Holmes.