Really enjoying the Skeleton Code Machine and another great article! Definitely agree that Kingmaking can be a problem but isn't always, especially when it comes to TTRPGs.

While reading I was considering that there might be some other techniques not considered in Alex's 4 categories, though might be consistent with his framework:

'Roads'?—paths, tools or supports to help players navigate the overlapping spaces of conflicting promises to deliver the game's core experiences e.g. guidance, advice, strategies or comms in the product, supplements, support, promotion, communities etc. These are different from carrots, gates and barriers as they're not incentivized or mandated in play, can exist outside gameplay but still influence or interact with it and with player expectations. This may be more effective in TTRPGs & other games where winning isn't the main objective.

'Modes'?—offering players rule variations allowing them to choose which promises they wish to prioritize for (or even during?) any particular game i.e. customize experience to meet individual expectation.

The King's Poisoner is a TTRPG about Kingmaking, which I'm crowdfunding right now, that uses these additional techniques as well as the others Alex & Cole described. Although not included in the one page core rules freely available, the accompanying King's Poisoner Survival Guide provides 'roads' necessary to facilitate collaborative storytelling, while accommodating the in-character political intrigue and player competition during each hand of cards. The guide also offers 'modes' of play allowing you to emphasize a story, strategy or luck-based play experience.

It also uses a flavor of the 'smores' technique—low stakes. By reducing time & effort required (to learn & play), and increasing variance and replayability, conflicting experiences become less relevant because you can quickly & easily play again with fun & different results.

If this sounds relevant/interesting, you can find The King's Poisoner on my website at v2sgames.com (crowdfunding ends May 31st). Thanks again and I'll definitely be nominating this blog!

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Love the idea of Roads and Modes (and also they rhyme). I know not everyone loves alternate game modes, usually protesting that the designer should design the game. :) Roads, on the other hand, seem to imply that players can choose paths as they play, which is a really interesting idea!

The King's Poisoner sounds cool! Good luck with the crowdfunding!

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May 21Liked by Exeunt Press

Fight me: The big cursed problem in ttrpg design is mechanical depth. The promise of ttrpgs is "tactical infinity", where you can do whatever you imagine. The promise of mechanical depth is that you have a carefully constrained and "balanced'" set of options. You can't get both.

"Trad rpgs" like Pathfinder solves this by removing the tactical infinity from combat. OSR games solves this by not promising mechanical depth. Etc. If you discuss any of them, you'll find plenty of people making hacks to "fix" then by trying to introduce the missing piece.

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I could see that being a cursed problem. The promise of "you can do anything" and the promise of "mechanics and rules to guide your play" can be at odds. You'd need to renegotiate those promises, diminishing one or the other.

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