liblarva
 member, 645 posts
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 02:58
Input/advice: Black Box games?
Iíve been considering trying a few games with a Black Box system, but Iím not sure how that would go over with players. Just in case, when I use the term ďblack box systemĒ I simply mean I as the GM would handle all the mechanics behind the screen. As a GM itís appealing to eliminate rules lawyering, min-maxing, power gaming, some metagaming, and having to teach a new system or having players turn down a setting theyíre interested in because the system is one they dislike or are unfamiliar with. Iím curious how players would react to this. Is this appealing to players at all? Would you have any objections or concerns as a player in a black box game?
Lavender_Green
 member, 9 posts
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 03:17
Input/advice: Black Box games?
sounds fine to me. I get confused by game rules, so I would prefer it done that way, in fact.
nauthiz
 subscriber, 670 posts
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 03:30
Input/advice: Black Box games?
Having played in a few games using such systems, it is a viable option.

The main thing, besides being up front in regards to your intentions when pitching and recruiting for the game, is to decide how much exposure (if any) you're going to give the players to the mechanics.

If you're not going to reveal the system to them at all, then you still need some way to convey what a character is capable of and proficient at, and ways to detail growth of said character.

You also need to carry that over to how the mechanics are discussed with the players, and in and out of character.

One such example in regards to what information a player was given in so much as a "character sheet" was concerned, was someone who used what was essentially the Roll for Shoes system, and utilized that games theme of descriptive actions becoming "skills" to give players feedback on what they were now "good" at.

Another went even more organic and each character had a little story written as they progressed.  It not only served to tell a history but highlighted significant events and milestones which narratively described progression and growth in a very non-mechanical way.

You could go completely opaque of course, and just have the characters role play and offer narrative descriptions of what they're trying to do and have the only feedback they ever get be through the gameplay itself as you describe their successes and failures.

Whatever you decide the key is to have it thought out ahead of time, and be able to convey it in a clear and concise way so that players will understand the structure and style of game you're intending to run, what is expected of them, etc.
OakMaster
 member, 126 posts
 "Choose you this day
 whom ye will serve..."
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 03:34
Re: Input/advice: Black Box games?
Lavender_Green:
sounds fine to me. I get confused by game rules, so I would prefer it done that way, in fact.

+1!  :)
dparasol
 member, 25 posts
 looking to uh have fun
 and destroy civilization
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 04:32
Re: Input/advice: Black Box games?
In reply to OakMaster (msg # 4):

I'm in a wonderful Esoteric Enterprises game that works like this, and about to go into another game where I take it anything mechanical will be largely on the DM's side of things.
OakMaster
 member, 127 posts
 "Choose you this day
 whom ye will serve..."
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 05:48
Re: Input/advice: Black Box games?
I have played in black box games, and I have enjoyed them.

I have found them to be particularly effective in scenarios where the player is discovering capabilities in character, such as waking up with amnesia, acquiring superpowers, etc.  :)
Gaffer
 member, 1649 posts
 Ocoee FL
 45 yrs of RPGs
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 20:25
Re: Input/advice: Black Box games?
So the players get pre-gens? Or do they have some generic input for their characters? Do you use the dice roller or roll off-line?

It does seem you'd have to give people at least general descriptives for their various attributes and skills, like weak, average, above average, normal, professional, esceptional, excellent, etc. Or even just a 1-6, or 10, or 20 (depending how granular you want to get) ranking. Real people have a pretty good idea how they stack up even to strangers with just a little evidence.

I'd be good with this for short form games like a 4-8 hour tabletop (probably several weeks or months in PbP), which would mean not having to deal with character development at all. Of course, setting then becomes paramount.

And the story has to be really good.

This message was last edited by the user at 20:25, Tue 15 Sept.

OakMaster
 member, 128 posts
 "Choose you this day
 whom ye will serve..."
Tue 15 Sep 2020
at 23:11
Re: Input/advice: Black Box games?
I have seen it done a few ways.  Players can be asked for qualitative specifications or preferences.  Depending upon player and/or GM preferences, such answers have be more specific ("I'd prefer powers along the lines of Archetype X or Archetype Y") or completely generic ("Surprise me!").  In fact, one game gave players lower power levels for player-chosen powers and higher power levels for GM mystery power choices... :)
AegisGame
 member, 52 posts
Thu 8 Oct 2020
at 21:54
Re: Input/advice: Black Box games?
Yeah. It could work. Especially for more complicated games. Itís a good idea and would streamline and probably speed up a lot of posts.
csroy
 member, 139 posts
Sat 10 Oct 2020
at 10:30
Re: Input/advice: Black Box games?
I've been running a OSR solo sandbox black box game since last February.

In my game the PC have a sheet with all the stats but they have no idea how much exp and HP they have, this add to the gritty feel of the game (IMO). Chargen although based on classes and all was rather open in which player described what they wanted to play and together we found the best rule representation with me adjusting the system as needed.

The main reason I chose the black box is to focus the game on RP and not on rules. There are a few caveats you need to consider:

It put a lot of work on you the GM, everything mechanical is on you. You got a lot of work on your part and it increase dramatically with each additional player.

The system you play with is also important. A lot of the modern system have a Fortune mechanic (meta game resources to alter result), in my experience this doesn't work in black box games. I found that old school systems work the best for black box.

On the other hand, it make the game fluid, you don't have rule arguments and each player just post their action without having to handle an array of rules and rolls which tend to bog down the game (I've been in a game that a single action took a couple of weeks of rule debating).

You get more freedom to choose how much you are "slave" to the system that runs in the background.

I suggest you'd choose a simple system with a very clear advancement method. I chose OSR not cause I am fond of the type but because it is very common and most players got expose to it one way or another. Chargen and advancement are also simple so it was easy to use as black box.