[Cranium Rats] Identifying What is, and What Can Be?

Posted: October 6, 2007 by Guy Shalev in Cranium Rats, Musings
Tags: , , ,

I had understood what the “problem” with Cranium Rats was a while ago, but I needed to let it sit and stew for a while more.

First, I’d like to thank Filip, who tried to break the system as hard as he could, and showed me the gravity of the problem.

So, the problem is this: There’s friction between Story and Competition, and it is such that one not only comes at the cost of another for you, it can come at the cost of the other for everyone. If you choose winning, mechanically, you may make choices that will make less sense to the story, or will make for a weaker story, and I wish the story to be significant at the same time as there being unrestrained competitionl. But I guess the lesson is that you can’t have both.

I will now explore similar cases in other RPGs that sadly do not apply to my case, but I want to show that I am looking at other cases, and if someone manages to solve this issue, I would be there, ready to jump and grab it.
Capes: Capes doesn’t have an end-point, which limits the competition; there’s always a next time. Nothing is finite. Another possibility is when competition is not really there, you want to “Win” for Resource A, and he wants to “Lose” for Resource B. In CR there’s an end point, there’s a definite winner, and so, definite losers.
The Shab-al-hiri Roach: In the Roach you have a roadmap, it’s very much like a boardgame in that respect. You know where you’re going, you have a limited number of stops on the way, and you get there. It requires the game to be built in a specific manner, which I didn’t choose for CR.

So, what can be made of Cranium Rats?
One option is to remove Story, and have it as a board game, or nearly one, but this option is the least appealing to me.
Another option is to remove competition, to make it a game about Choice and what makes a Human. Heady stuff. If I go down this route, I’ll also be able to take out much of the current system, which is complex and fiddly, because the system is there to regulate the resource flow and ensure no one is “Downspiraled” to a point of insignificance. This is an option I think I will pursue, and that will lead to an interesting result.

If you people have any ideas of how to mate competition and story successfully, please share.
Or if you have thoughts/ideas/feedback/suggestions or whatever regarding the above, especially option #2.


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