Monday, 10 September 2012

Ambient random

Here's a quote that jumped out recently, from a text I linked to at the panspermia post.

Cosmology in the oldest lands radiated from the priestly classes, where, charged with religious power, the priests and magi who were able to understand the patterns politicized space to a great extent, often deciding public policy using one or another astrological method.

It got my attention for a different reason than you might expect. Not for the changing role of space agencies or the secret space missions or the contenders, or the recent big SF on the silver screen, even if all of these seem to make space a source of power now too.

Using dice or maybe a deck to produce so-called random numbers is, when you think about it, a bit weird. Why such artificial, physically complex systems? And building on the interview with Loquacious, when there's so much deep intricacy out there, they're a real sledgehammer. And impractical: they help to limit tabletop games to the tabletop, even without miniatures or other components, and maybe mean ever more components.

And why play so many games indoors, or sitting down, or in a fixed location? Moderate physical activity is healthy, oxygen too, and sunlight. In rules-light games in which the dice or cards are the big hindrance, why not ditch them and look for another system?

As an alternative, that study of the stars is probably out, unless of course they are out when you actually want to play. There are clouds, but even on blustery days they might change too slowly. Movement of leaves and litter also needs air movement, but it could also come from traffic. Maybe animal activity, birds? Or people? How about snatches of sound? Is activity or change necessary? What about simple arrangements of objects?

Any or all of this?

Why not all of the above? If a DM/GM can improvise in-game, why not outside it too? If we do think gaming has a timeless essence, beyond the ever more baroque extensions through new editions and supplements, maybe a more ambient random is a part of that?

As an aside, an ambient random doesn't have to mean a higher random, or even the D1.

But how to interpret the information as the values our games need? It could be a simple as gauging appearances, expansions and sizes in the space around a game, using one prompt to jump to another and taking in the tonal influences too, or even specific ideas.

Where games are played in parks, means of transport, museums, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, or near a street, or even by a window with a good view, it could work.

There's a lot going on out there, but we need to look past the familiar surfaces to see it.


Trey said...

Heh. Interesting. It would be a game unto itself finding things to use to generate random numbers.

Porky said...

It could get very creative. At this point more detail and a suggested system might be useful.

John Till said...

The outdoor system could use qualitative randomizers - nature's trumps, so to speak.

Porky said...

I'll definitely be bearing that in mind as I work on the idea more.