Thursday, September 15, 2011

Realistic Representations

I have written in the past about various ways to represent things that can't be done easily in real life, like picking a lock. In games where you need a skill to pick the lock, it might be better to use something that doesn't require the OOG skill to do it.

However, there are some circumstances where we tend to go to far when trying to find an alternate way to represent something, especially in modern or near modern games. And I think it's important to take a step back and ask yourself why you don't rep it in a realistic way.

In the Knutepunkt 2011 "DO" book, there's a description of a game called Babylon. The write up on this game is amazing. If you wanted to be a techno guy, they actually taught you how to do that before the game started. So when you had to solder something in the field while being shot at, you knew exactly how to do it.

And to rep soldering... you soldered a wire. Pretty novel, right?

I think we could use a bit more of this in the games we run. If you want someone to fix an electronic puzzle, put something simple together and have them mess with wires or solder something. The same could hold true for a number of other tests being made at games.

What are some of the most memorable tests you've had to perform? How realistic were they?


  1. There are some pretty good ones in the airsoft LARPs (the name of the company/game escapes me) run at Origins and Gencon. They involve plugging banana plugs into terminals, and referencing pattern cards they give you that correspond to different locks you encounter. Their production value is high enough that they actually have servos that swing the doors open.

  2. I think two of the major limiting factors are cost and skill. I think most such reps are purchased by the person writing the mod - and who wants to spend a ton of money on a one-time thing? So it would need to be something repeatably useful, and be done by someone with the money to spend on it even so.

    Second, skill. Not everyone knows how to wire up a light bulb, or do welding, etc. So that makes it harder to set up a mod using anything like that when you don't know how.

    Third and fourth factors would be time and space. Most plot people tend to wait till late in the game to make their reps, and at that point they don't have time to learn new skills or make anything too intricate. I mean, I know YOU, Bill, would never do that and be making your reps out of whatever you could find at the game at the last minute...cough cough :) Though a note that that mod went over really well even without accurate or really intricate reps for technical acts.

    And for space, well, obviously you're limited to what will fit in your car :)

    Anyway, I'd be interested in examples of ways to do what you're saying in this article. Especially if said examples were something your average, working, non-engineer could do!!

  3. @Austin

    I was actually thinking about TerrorWerks by PST Productions for some of the wiring stuff. As you said, they had people connecting up various RCA plugs in order to bypass a door. Not real engineering, no, but is somewhat realistic as the person is actually bypassing circuits.


    Cost is a factor, but there are some basic elements that can be done on the cheap. In the Babylon game they taught the players how to solder, which is extremely easy if you're working with large components and don't care about the quality of the connection. However, it is a real activity that takes a real amount of time.

    A cheap soldering iron is about $10 and can be reused pretty easily, and is rather easy to store. The downside is that these irons require a power source, so if you're without electricity, it won't work (unless you get a generator, but now we're taking up a ton of room and a fair amount of cash). The other issue we run into at boffer games is the fact that soldering irons are hot, and can be dangerous if the person performing the action is being struck in melee. So you'd have to avoid that from happening for whatever reason.

    There's also basic wiring (like speaker wire with lugs on the end and a terminal strip), but I don't want to go into that too much as it might be used in the near future :)

  4. Bill: Will nifty, I'd be stressed about burning myself or others in combat. I get testy enough when I think someone's cigarette is going to burn me.


  5. So you mean next event you need to have a cattle drive in we're getting the cows again? 0:-)

  6. Heheh... RCA plugs aren't engineering, I agree, but banana plugs really do look esoteric. ;)

    The funniest part of that module, though, was having to find an XLR cable inside of a stuffed rat...

  7. To Stephen's point: nearly every tavern-style boffer LARP I have ever attended has an open fire. I really think soldering is probably less dangerous than a firepit, and way less likely to light up a weapon.

    To Bill's point regarding power, easy: ColdHeat cordless soldering irons!

  8. It seems like I mentioned this on some other thread, but Rise of Aesther at GenCon had puzzles that involved arranging pieces of copper pipe on a sort of peg board. It didn't "do" anything, OOC, once correct, but it still did have a good steampunk feel (rather than, say, a totally abstract thing, like building a garden-variety, off-the-shelf puzzle).