How the heck do I build and run a "Braunstein" ???

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DeadBob

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Alright, here's the deal.

I'm looking for some conversation about making and running a Braunstein, so a couple of preliminaries.

What is a "Braunstein"?
For my purposes, a "Braunstein" is a multi-player one-shot scenario game.
Variants are certainly possible. Linked games, games that do not have pre-gens as normal, and ongoing campaigns are all possible, at which point, you're pretty much rolling into early game club RPG play.

Common characteristics of Braunsteins. (Not all need to be present, but a preponderance of these is common)
  • There are often a large number of players (8-24 or possibly more)
  • Characters are often pre-gens with some established goals or motivations, which players choose from or are assigned to players by the person running the game.
  • Some characters are more central to the core of the scenario, while others are more peripheral. Often there is a complexity of goals/motivations differences. This is often a matter of having back up characters for late joiners or players whose initial character gets removed from active play in some fashion.
  • Each character tends to have their own motivations/goals, which may be at odds with larger character groupings they are a part of such as preliminary alliances or social groupings.
  • Characters may have multiple goals which are either conflicting with one another or hard to achieve, so prioritization and taking advantage of opportunities through play are part of the experience. Often these personal character goals create friction within initial groupings or even suggest the possibility of temporary alliances with members of apparent rival groupings
  • Characters are often non-military or have goals that are not simply accomplished by violence. Often some kind of trading of goods/services/favors/social clout is considered a core part of the scenario.
  • Individual goals are almost never directly accomplishable by the character alone and their personal resources.
  • There are very few Referee-played characters, and those that do exist are often very minor and mostly to provide color. The primary interaction is geared towards player character-to-player character, including opposition.
  • Very often physical artifacts, especially maps, markers, miniatures, and terrain are used in these games. This isn't a requirement so much as an indication of the interests of the players who design these things. Despite that, the relationship between miniatures skirmish wargames and Braunsteins is somewhat ambiguous. They are certainly not merely straightforward miniatures games as are generally played, and combat is not usually a constant, ongoing part of play.
  • Some sort of attempt at dumb humor is also often an element. I think this is perhaps more important than people realize.
  • Actual mechanics in the hands of players are usually very light (due to often being a limited time, convention-style set up), with only core important mechanics to that specific scenario being covered. Everything else can be spackled over with rulings or ad hoc mechanics, Frei Kreigspiel style. This is generally not seen as a problem in one-off affairs (if you think the GM/Ref or ref team member is a tool or fool, you just never play with them again).

Where does the weird name come from?
It was the name used by David Wesely for a town in the first game of this type created by him, then became a more general-purpose term for some people (me, for example :grin: ) akin to the way people use Kleenex to describe all kinds of facial wipes or people outside of the hobby often use D&D to describe all RPGs. Wesely had designed the first Braunstein game as a kind of preliminary "appetizer course" for a far more traditional Napoleonic Era miniatures battle game, but the participants got into his (primarily) civilian-centered, single character-per-player appetizer course, had fun (he considered it a failure for his purposes, which apparently was mostly to influence how, where, and when various military units would arrive for the 'real game'), and demanded more games in a similar vein.

A later game involved a "banana republic" scenario. One of the players was Dave Arneson. Arneson went completely off-script in method while trying to attain his character's goals and managed to pull off a weird dramatic win. Arneson and enough other players apparently considered this hilarious enough to start developing the concept further with games of their own when Wesely went off to the military.

Where does it fit in the RPG Evolutionary Family Tree?
It's an inspiration to Arneson who makes his own variation(s), including campaign play and non-pregen charaters. One variant of this his variations is then demonstrated to Gary Gygax.

Isn't that just a _________?
With enough ingredients common to Braunsteins being present in a gamer's personal mental toolbox, and with enough other players being available, it's almost inevitable that something like a Braunstein will be conceptualized eventually, whether coming (usually) from a starting point of miniatures war gaming or an RPGs. Braunsteins certainly have common elements found in other types of games like LARPS, some forms of large group wargames, MegaGames, and even some more modern boardgames. Further, often people create something very close to a Braunstein, with no awareness of the original game or the name I've associated with it because of those fairly common expansions of another game sort. The direct connections between anything Wesely created and these other games may be a case multiple degrees of separation that the designer is unaware of, or even simple parallel development/evolution.

Okay, but what is this thread about and what do I want to discuss?
When I've found people who create and design these kinds of games, they're often, well, frankly terrible about explaining the designer/facilitator/referee side of the thing. They don't mean to be. Often they're absolutely great people who'd really like to have people participate more in these kinds of games.

What I'd like to extricate and detail are some common methods/principles/tools to actually run these things. designing them I don't seem to have to much problem with, at least at the level of creating pregens with all sorts of spaghetti bowls of crisscrossed motivations/goals. Or even creating a ( probably somewhat silly) overall scenario.

My problem is figuring out how to actually organize/run/facilitate the thing on the actual day in question, and how to keep that large number of players actively engaged in play for the majority of that time.


With that, I'm off to work. The floor is open.
 

sharps54

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Man, you just missed DaveCon in Minneapolis where Dave Wesley ran one! If you can swing it or another con where Dave attends that would be your best bet. DaveCon is small enough for you to have pretty good access to the guests.

There is a good interview with him here if you haven’t seen it.

I look forward to reading the other responses.
 

DeadBob

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I will check out the video when I get a chance.

You do hit a key point (and one I alluded to when ffilz ffilz mentioned something similar with regard to RPGs), this seems to boil down to apprenticeship, even if the apprenticeship is only participating in a single game, and then only as a player.

Which is pretty frustrating to me. For Braunsteins, I don't even think any really basic texts exist, although some artifacts from games in this style exist, like player handouts and such. Some games. like those by Howard Whitehouse exist, but even with those, the practicalities get somewhat rushed past in favor of discussing resolution and move/maneuver mechanics.

I had a fairly lengthy time drawing out some key mechanics from Chirine ba Kal that he uses in his games, but only when I really drilled down and asked some very specific sorts of questions ( his answer to how to do initiative with a dozen+ players really was pretty clever and inspired some ideas of my own, for example).

That seems to be a recurring theme for me, however. Experts or trailblazers in this particular style simply overlook that they need to even describe or record the broader parts and preliminaries important to play. (Notably, this is also true of early D&D versions).
 

sharps54

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I will check out the video when I get a chance.

You do hit a key point (and one I alluded to when ffilz ffilz mentioned something similar with regard to RPGs), this seems to boil down to apprenticeship, even if the apprenticeship is only participating in a single game, and then only as a player.

Which is pretty frustrating to me. For Braunsteins, I don't even think any really basic texts exist, although some artifacts from games in this style exist, like player handouts and such. Some games. like those by Howard Whitehouse exist, but even with those, the practicalities get somewhat rushed past in favor of discussing resolution and move/maneuver mechanics.

I had a fairly lengthy time drawing out some key mechanics from Chirine ba Kal that he uses in his games, but only when I really drilled down and asked some very specific sorts of questions ( his answer to how to do initiative with a dozen+ players really was pretty clever and inspired some ideas of my own, for example).

That seems to be a recurring theme for me, however. Experts or trailblazers in this particular style simply overlook that they need to even describe or record the broader parts and preliminaries important to play. (Notably, this is also true of early D&D versions).
Yep, I really think the thing to do is play in the games with the creators and pick their minds, as well as those of long term players. I also have some of Whitehouse’s games but unfortunately the one time I was able to sign up for one of his games at a HMGS convention the session was canceled for some reason or another.
 

DeadBob

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Yep, I really think the thing to do is play in the games with the creators and pick their minds, as well as those of long term players. I also have some of Whitehouse’s games but unfortunately the one time I was able to sign up for one of his games at a HMGS convention the session was canceled for some reason or another.
Let's assume for this thread that playing with these guys isn't practical for most folks.

What can we collectively work out instead?
 

ffilz

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I really don't know much about these, though if you could find a collection of The Wild Hunt to peruse, you could look for write ups about Mark Swanson's MITSGS Summercon/Wintercon games which I suspect touch on this. I played in a Paul Gazis Traveller scenario that was in reaction to one of these, but despite each character being given goals, I don't think it reached the Braunstein style. It does point out one kind of humor though as Paul Gazis's game was in reaction to Mark Swanson including one Ensign Pazis DeGaul in his scenario which Paul Gazis took offense to. Among other things, Paul's scenario featured a ship, the Karman Snow and numerous other digs at Mark Swanson (also Goree, Mark's D&D campaign figured in there somewhere). I never played in Mark's scenarios, but they featured the multiple characters each with their own goal and lots of political maneuvering. I don't know if Mark had any contact with David, though it seems possible at least some transfer via fanzines was possible.
 

Black Leaf

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The easiest way in is probably via megagames. That's easy for me to say (we have loads) but there's a lot of resources online. Note that I'm assuming there's not a hub near you; if you're living in somewhere where there's an active community obviously it's a lot easier.

I'm looking more at those resources with practical tips than the more abstract theory stuff at this stage.

Megagame Assembly has a blog. They generally focus on the nuts and bolts of actually running games.

Megagame Maker also have a lot of really useful blog posts. Of particular interest is their series on how to take inspiration from elsewhere to create megagames.

BeckyBecky has a personal/hobby blog. Of particular interest are the megagame and game design headings. (I was in her game Trope High and it was excellent).

Honestly, failing direct access to Major Weasley's games, I think people interested in this are likely better off piggybacking in on a very similar hobby rather than try and recreate a game form that is mostly mythical at this point.
 

arjunstc

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If you can get ahold of Wargames Illustrated #114...


There is a medieval skirmish wargame scenario called Pigswill which describes what you are looking for. The whole things is just 4 pages.

The author gives a scenario featuring 17 pre-generated PCs, 6+ NPCs, and 8 Random/Timed events.

The key, as you have rightly stated, is in having characters with conflicting goals. I have been meaning to try this, but I haven't got enough players to make it the riot that it deserves to be.
 

DeadBob

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If you can get ahold of Wargames Illustrated #114...


There is a medieval skirmish wargame scenario called Pigswill which describes what you are looking for. The whole things is just 4 pages.

The author gives a scenario featuring 17 pre-generated PCs, 6+ NPCs, and 8 Random/Timed events.

The key, as you have rightly stated, is in having characters with conflicting goals. I have been meaning to try this, but I haven't got enough players to make it the riot that it deserves to be.
Can you describe a bit what that is like?
I might actually be able to run a copy of that down .
 

arjunstc

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My problem is figuring out how to actually organize/run/facilitate the thing on the actual day in question, and how to keep that large number of players actively engaged in play for the majority of that time.
I think the way to do this is to start with the tabletop, as in the "terrain".

The set-up for the game will resemble more of a wargame than an RPG, as in it is a site-based scenario/adventure. You need a suitably impressive and crowded table with enough features for the characters to explore and interact with to keep everyone engaged.

Break up line of sight, have linear obstacles that present choke-points, like rivers with crossings or walls with gates, and crossroads, making movement meaningful and at the same time allowing players to corner/catch their target/s.

Have loot counters/cards scattered in the terrain, and make their locations known - this allows you to 'pre-dump' some of the GMing instead of having to constantly supply the players with information.

I would argue that the terrain you have in your possession determines to a large extent what kind of theme and what kind of scale the game will have.
 

DeadBob

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I think the way to do this is to start with the tabletop, as in the "terrain".

The set-up for the game will resemble more of a wargame than an RPG, as in it is a site-based scenario/adventure. You need a suitably impressive and crowded table with enough features for the characters to explore and interact with to keep everyone engaged.

Break up line of sight, have linear obstacles that present choke-points, like rivers with crossings or walls with gates, and crossroads, making movement meaningful and at the same time allowing players to corner/catch their target/s.

Have loot counters/cards scattered in the terrain, and make their locations known - this allows you to 'pre-dump' some of the GMing instead of having to constantly supply the players with information.

I would argue that the terrain you have in your possession determines to a large extent what kind of theme and what kind of scale the game will have.
I think I would love to grub in the details of that stuff with you, but if we do we’ll end up distracting the thread from the building and running questions that are giving me a hard time.

BTW, does anyone have a link to the write ups on the characters for the original Braunstein game? I think linking that will help give a hint to what I mean about it being more than just a multi sided battle scenario.
 

arjunstc

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Can you describe a bit what that is like?
I might actually be able to run a copy of that down .
OK, so it's basically a multi-player wargames scenario.

The theme is medieval, and the setting is a medieval town market square surrounded by buildings, with 5 streets leading to the central square.

There are 17 characters, each with a short description, some with specific objectives, some more vague motivations; basic stat line: Combat, Esacpe, Move, Special; equipment/money. Some characters have servants/dogs. The key here is characters can roll to escape combat, which gives weaker characters a chance to survive combat.

Activation is card based. The GM turns over cards and announces who acts next. If you are next to another character you can initiate combat or shoot someone if you are not.

Example of characters:

Village watchman with the objective of maintaining order. Also has the key to the town jail.

Rogue whose brother is imprisoned in the town jail who wants to free him.

A knight who must deliver a treasure chest to the bishop's house.

Arsonist.

A Welshman who wants to steal an animal and make it off the table.

A Scotsman who wants to burglar a house.

An Irishman who wants to pick someone's pocket

(Hey, I didn't write this, and this was published in 1997, it was a different time...)

Characters roll randomly to see where they start the game. NPCs start on the table or have their scheduled entry points. Buildings like Merchant's House, Bishop's House, and Church have loot placed inside them; I assume other houses will have lesser amount of loot too.

That's about it, really. I am sure we can come up with more characters with conflicting/complementary objectives.
 

arjunstc

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I think I would love to grub in the details of that stuff with you, but if we do we’ll end up distracting the thread from the building and running questions that are giving me a hard time.
Hey, we can make this a group project. As a flex, here are some Russian cardboard buildings I bought (before the whole Ukraine situation...) which I think are perfect for a Braunstein or Pigswill scenario:

20171008_172822.jpg


 

Black Leaf

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BTW, does anyone have a link to the write ups on the characters for the original Braunstein game? I think linking that will help give a hint to what I mean about it being more than just a multi sided battle scenario.

Are the ones used in GenCon08 the same? They're both run by Weasley and call themselves "Braunstein 1". https://arsludi.lamemage.com/static/braunstein/braunstein1-characters.html

What those player handouts also suggest to me, cautiously, is that the reason there are no surviving rules is because Weasley didn't actually write up any formal rules for his games. Otherwise you'd expect them to be part of the handouts.
 

ffilz

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I don't think the kind of game @arjunstc is describing is necessarily the same kind of game as a Braunstein. It's a similar idea, but my understanding is that Braunstein was a higher level game, covering a whole city (so no terrain layout, and maybe not even a street level of detail map) and characters being more influential in the city.

The table layout with terrain and a bunch of characters is more in the realm of skirmish games, not all are necessarily entirely military in nature.

The White Dwarf magazine had at least a couple bar room brawl scenarios in this line, Bar Room Brawl from #11 and Rumble at the Tin Inn from #33. Major Tremorden ran several scenarios https://www.victorianadventureenthu...morden-rederrings-colonial-era-wargames-page/
 

SJB

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Olde House Rules offer a set of licensed rules:


There is also a module:

 

DeadBob

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I don't think the kind of game @arjunstc is describing is necessarily the same kind of game as a Braunstein. It's a similar idea, but my understanding is that Braunstein was a higher level game, covering a whole city (so no terrain layout, and maybe not even a street level of detail map) and characters being more influential in the city.

The table layout with terrain and a bunch of characters is more in the realm of skirmish games, not all are necessarily entirely military in nature.

The White Dwarf magazine had at least a couple bar room brawl scenarios in this line, Bar Room Brawl from #11 and Rumble at the Tin Inn from #33. Major Tremorden ran several scenarios https://www.victorianadventureenthu...morden-rederrings-colonial-era-wargames-page/
I'm pretty sure people have run Braunsteins with miniatures and terrain. It isn't definitive, but it is common. However, I don't think running or designing one without miniatures makes it Not-A-Braunstein either.

I really would like to table that part of the discussion for now, however, as it tends to be a rabbit-hole with no exit.
 

DeadBob

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OK, so it's basically a multi-player wargames scenario.

The theme is medieval, and the setting is a medieval town market square surrounded by buildings, with 5 streets leading to the central square.

There are 17 characters, each with a short description, some with specific objectives, some more vague motivations; basic stat line: Combat, Esacpe, Move, Special; equipment/money. Some characters have servants/dogs. The key here is characters can roll to escape combat, which gives weaker characters a chance to survive combat.

Activation is card based. The GM turns over cards and announces who acts next. If you are next to another character you can initiate combat or shoot someone if you are not.

Example of characters:

Village watchman with the objective of maintaining order. Also has the key to the town jail.

Rogue whose brother is imprisoned in the town jail who wants to free him.

A knight who must deliver a treasure chest to the bishop's house.

Arsonist.

A Welshman who wants to steal an animal and make it off the table.

A Scotsman who wants to burglar a house.

An Irishman who wants to pick someone's pocket

(Hey, I didn't write this, and this was published in 1997, it was a different time...)

Characters roll randomly to see where they start the game. NPCs start on the table or have their scheduled entry points. Buildings like Merchant's House, Bishop's House, and Church have loot placed inside them; I assume other houses will have lesser amount of loot too.

That's about it, really. I am sure we can come up with more characters with conflicting/complementary objectives.
That's pretty great really. If there were a couple more motivations by character and/or some things to barter (or possibly, more obvious things to barter, since presumably there is a need to ally with other characters to more easily achieve some of those goals.), it would be closer to what I was imagining.
 

DeadBob

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Are the ones used in GenCon08 the same? They're both run by Weasley and call themselves "Braunstein 1". https://arsludi.lamemage.com/static/braunstein/braunstein1-characters.html

What those player handouts also suggest to me, cautiously, is that the reason there are no surviving rules is because Weasley didn't actually write up any formal rules for his games. Otherwise you'd expect them to be part of the handouts.
You may be right about no formal rules existing for that, but it does make me wonder what assumed rules there were.

I do get fixated on the initiative thing a bit more than other stuff, however. Mostly that's because I want to figure out a way for players to mostly handle stuff themselves with minimal Referee intervention, but also keep things moving.

I have gotten some advice from people even just running two-sided, but many player wargames that a big functional goal is to get as many people as possible doing stuff at the same time, in order to keep events popping along.

Edited to add:
So, not sure what Wesley does these days with Braunstein 4 ( Banania) , but apparently, from that video linked upthread, multiple versions of the rules exist, and there appears to be different versions of the characters in different versions of Braunstein 1 (Napoleonic).

So, like, that isn't confusing or anything. :irritated:

OTOH, these also weren't commercial products and they were made for a group of friends, and friends specifically who stuck around after a group of more "gaming iz serious bizness" type players schism'ed off.

The video does seem pretty clear that even in the original play of B1, the players themselves started to spontaneously move (either miniatures/terrain or by map, the discussion isn't clear) by themselves without Wesley actually confirming anything, so that makes my questions about stuff like initiative even trickier.
 
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Black Leaf

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I'm pretty sure people have run Braunsteins with miniatures and terrain. It isn't definitive, but it is common. However, I don't think running or designing one without miniatures makes it Not-A-Braunstein either.

I really would like to table that part of the discussion for now, however, as it tends to be a rabbit-hole with no exit.

I can see your aversion to getting into the "does this make something Not-Braunstein" discussion, but it raises an important question I think. What exactly is your motivation? From what you've said this isn't just a thought exercise; you want to design a game. But there's two very different approaches you could potentially be taking here.

1. You're interested in recreating something as close to the original as possible. If that's the case I don't think there's any better shortcut then the "talk to Dave Weasley directly" one. I believe Jeff Berry AKA Chirine ba Kal also has a lot of direct experience of Braunsteins.

2. You want to take inspiration from what you percieve to be Braunsteins and use them to create your own thing. That's my preferred approach and it makes fidelity to the original less important. (And there's nothing wrong with that. A lot of the best OSR work has been from people doing just that. And there's certain OSR tropes like 3d6 down the line which were never how Dave/Gary played in the first place).

I'm going to assume 2, mostly because there's little I can do to suggest if it's the first approach.

The best thing to do there is work out first exactly what makes a Braunstein for you, what you want in your game and work forward from there. Nothing detailed, just a few words per bullet point.

That's pretty great really. If there were a couple more motivations by character and/or some things to barter (or possibly, more obvious things to barter, since presumably there is a need to ally with other characters to more easily achieve some of those goals.), it would be closer to what I was imagining.

Did you see the link to Copper, Cockroaches and Cows I posted earlier? I suspect it might be close to what you have in mind from what you're saying here. A sample character briefing:

Benjamin Hill

IssueOpinion
Land ReformAgainst
Effective DemocracyFor
Catholic ChurchFor
Separation of the Military from PoliticsAgainst
CentralismOpen to persuasion
NationalisationAgainst

Age 39

Origin


Born in Sinaloa (NW) to a middle class family. You entered military academy in Italy but eventually settled as a farmer in Sonora (NW)

Revolutionary Pedigree

You immediately started to incite revolution on behalf of Madero in 1910 but were captured & imprisoned by the governor of Sonora. You were freed by Maderista loyalists once the revolution started to spread & were a successful soldier being appointed local commander of revolutionary forces by Madero. You became a colonel and as such fought against Orozco’s men in his revolt. You were in command of the troops in the prefecture of Hermosillo (NW) when Madero was murdered and you took your troops into the revolutionary cause.

Allies & Enemies

Fought Orozco
Know Calles he is a little conservative and violently anti Catholic.
Maytorena was the Governor but he fled to the US when Huerta launched his coup.


Objectives


Your political beliefs are very important to you. You want any constitution of Mexico to embody them.

Your struggles on behalf of the country should be rewarded by a senior position in the government.

The revolution is a time of opportunity. You should make sure that you are not financially disadvantaged after it is over.

Abilities

Organised Agitator – When you recruit you may let another player on your map recruit without paying to take the action or gaining fatigue. They still pay for increasing support but not for taking the action.

Military “Skill” - Start with the Massed Assault tactics card (reusable)

Bon Viveur – You do not lose Support when you provide patronage to people with Support exactly the same as yours.

Middle Class Backing –Must belong to a FOR democracy party. Gain $10 income for each town you control. Collect it at the start of the Operations Phase

Start: 3 Support, One munition, $50.

If you have any questions about playing in the game I can answer those. If you have any design questions put them together and I'll facebook Jonathan Pickles (the designer) for you.

I do get fixated on the initiative thing a bit more than other stuff, however. Mostly that's because I want to figure out a way for players to mostly handle stuff themselves with minimal Referee intervention, but also keep things moving.

You only really need initiative to resolve battles. For everything else real time is likely to run more smoothly.
 

arjunstc

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I don't think the kind of game @arjunstc is describing is necessarily the same kind of game as a Braunstein. It's a similar idea, but my understanding is that Braunstein was a higher level game, covering a whole city (so no terrain layout, and maybe not even a street level of detail map) and characters being more influential in the city.
Thanks for that insight. I have never seen photos or videos of Braunstein in action, and in my mind's eye from reading about it in books on D&D's origins I have always seen it as a skirmish wargame table with role-playing.

That said, I believe a wargames table set up is probably an easier way to get players into the game, as well as to referee it.

This thread has made me want to run a game myself...
 

DeadBob

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I'm going to assume 2, mostly because there's little I can do to suggest if it's the first approach.

The best thing to do there is work out first exactly what makes a Braunstein for you, what you want in your game and work forward from there. Nothing detailed, just a few words per bullet point.
Yes, exactly. I'm also hoping that by getting help figuring this out, it will increase interest for other folks and start to provide some kind of documentation that others can also build on.

I found a place to check out Pigswill. It really is a much more clear and complete vision of this sort of thing than anything I've ever seen from some other, far more famous names.
Did you see the link to Copper, Cockroaches and Cows I posted earlier? I suspect it might be close to what you have in mind from what you're saying here. A sample character briefing:
In terms of crisscrossed motivations, multiple motivations, and things that cannot necessarily be easily solved with a proper application of violence (espite the era and setting)...yeah, that hits pretty much all the right points for me personally. That's the sort of lovely, convoluted mess I was looking for.
If you have any questions about playing in the game I can answer those. If you have any design questions put them together and I'll facebook Jonathan Pickles (the designer) for you.
I appreciate that. I may well have questions down the road, so I'm very happy if you'd make that sort of connection for me when they eventually come up.
You only really need initiative to resolve battles. For everything else real time is likely to run more smoothly.
This is likely a case of me being confusing with terminology again. By initiative, I mean less "combat" specifically and more broadly how do we order how players take turns, and are there means to allow players to take turns at roughly the same time, something that tends to be important with that many players.

So using Chirine's games as an example. I asked about this part because, well, you really can't have 20 players and each taking their turn one at a time. Even with only 1 character and very simple mechanics, you might only go through the list of players ( I'll call that a Full Round) 2-4 times in a likely amount of play time.

What he told me he does is that, at the start of a round, everyone rolls d100, then he counts back by the tens place, starting with the 90s. All of the people with a result in the 90s take their character actions ( Chririne does always use minis and terrain) and resolve them at the same time, up and down the table. If two or more players have their characters close enough that it matters who goes first, they compare the Ones place digit (rolling off if it is still a tie). Then the call goes out for all players with results in the 80s and so on, until everyone has gone, then the Full Round starts over with a new roll.

I could see some potential glitches that might occur, but that's the rub of it.

I'm looking for other possibilities to keep things moving along at a good pace.

Along with some attempt at humor, keeping things moving apace, either by design or by referee interaction seems to be a very important part of successfully running one of these broad types of games.

Is there anything like player turns and order in Mega Games usually? Or is it more like Diplomacy with the 15 minute conversation phases followed by filled orders that are then handed in and resolved?
 

DeadBob

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Thanks for that insight. I have never seen photos or videos of Braunstein in action, and in my mind's eye from reading about it in books on D&D's origins I have always seen it as a skirmish wargame table with role-playing.

That said, I believe a wargames table set up is probably an easier way to get players into the game, as well as to referee it.

This thread has made me want to run a game myself...
Honestly, track down a reading copy of Pigswill mentioned upthread from that old Wargames magazine.

It's a very complete, easy beginner version of this concept that uses miniatures and could very easily be reskinned for another period or setting.
 

TristramEvans

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Hey, we can make this a group project. As a flex, here are some Russian cardboard buildings I bought (before the whole Ukraine situation...) which I think are perfect for a Braunstein or Pigswill scenario:

20171008_172822.jpg




I have a bunch of those sets, they're great. They also come with lots and lots of cardboard standee figures if one doesn't have painted miniatures handy.

With trade with Russia in purgatory at the moment, I highly recommend checking out the Western equivalent Battle Systems:


(I've mixed and matched the two easily)
 

DeadBob

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I have a bunch of those sets, they're great. They also come with lots and lots of cardboard standee figures if one doesn't have painted miniatures handy.
I'd considered buying some of those when another friend recommended them and partially because of the cardboard figures already making them more useful for exactly this sort of game.
With trade with Russia in purgatory at the moment, I highly recommend checking out the Watern equivalent Battle Systems:


(I've mixed and matched the two easily)
I think that's the company I just bought some stuff from, but with a SciFi theme to use with StarGrave.
 

arjunstc

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I think card activation works. You can flip over a few cards at one shot unless the order becomes crucial. And if one group of characters are involved in combat or something, characters on the other side of the table cab do their own thing simultaneously. The key is spreading the objectives out so the characters are not all clustered at one spot.
 

DeadBob

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I think card activation works. You can flip over a few cards at one shot unless the order becomes crucial. And if one group of characters are involved in combat or something, characters on the other side of the table cab do their own thing simultaneously. The key is spreading the objectives out so the characters are not all clustered at one spot.
That was something another ref of big, multiplayer wargames suggested as well when they were using a card driven system. Basically, each player had a card. The refs would shuffle the deck, draw and call the player, and would only pause for a moment to look at the next card. If there was no interaction, they'd call that as well, and keep going. The only time they'd pause was if it was clear that the next card could potentially cause some kind of interaction immediately.

Again, I see some potential glitches, but it generally made sense. The main glitch I could foresee is if there was a sort of central scrum that had developed and the shuffle of the card deck just plain came out with a string of players potentially caught in it, leaving more physically peripheral players to wait for that to sort out.

I'd considered a variation for big games where the player order was determined by cards, but with a breakdown into zones/tables, each with a non-repeating deck. So, basically, if there were 5 tables against each other end to end and twenty players, each table would do a seperate card draw. Rules for exiting one table and entering the next (probably at the end of one round and then entering the next table on the following round) might also be needed. At least that way, other areas could be assured of moving along, even if they were having their own personal scrum.

Ther was some theoretical stuff I'd considered, but it was so non-traditional that even I wasn't exactly sure how it would work in practice. Mostly it was simply allowing players to take certain kinds of limited action by announcing and resolving them as they came up, in a type of ongoing, rolling action, unless interrupted. For example, they'd just state out loud (at clear normal volume) that their character miniature was moving. If no one interrupted/objected/announced blocking, they'd measure and make the move. Then just keep repeating as necessary until another player forced interaction. Some other types of actions ight require use of a sand timer ( I dunno, repair work, Ritual casting. Stuff like that). Other than taht it would mostly work in "real time" with refs there making sure no one was getting too creative with their interpretations and were making sure to announce their actions and allow proper, reasonable time for reactions from other players.


...and now I'm going down the minutia rabbit hole...
 

carpocratian

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I had the fortune to get to play in two recreations of the Braunstein games with David Wesely at one of the Garycons, several years ago. We did the original one and the banana republic one (two separate events).

My memory of the banana republic version is a little foggy, but I have a pretty good recollection of the first one. Once everyone understood how to play the game, Mr. Wesely spent most of the time wandering around, listening to us interact with each other, or sitting at a table to take questions and make adjudications. He told us that he had tweaked the game a little here and there over the years, even back when he was running it in the early days, primarily in ways that just made it run a little smoother. Since it was all experimental when he first ran it, he had to figure out what worked well (and what didn't) by trial and error.

If I recall, there was a sheet with a few very basic rules on it (which I'm sure I have stored somewhere), but it was just a reminder for some of the main points he made while explaining the rules to us. I don't think you could have run a game from it. We each had a character sheet with a writeup about our background and our goals and a few general hints about some things we might try, but it was only a few paragraphs long.

I played a bookseller whose goal was to sell all of his copies of a new regional history book, or something of that nature. I had X number of books that cost Y number of dollars, and I had to convince the other characters to buy them. Nobody knew if I was really a bookseller or up to something else, and I didn't know any of their goals, or (really) much of anything about their characters, other than the basics (ex. "This person is the town mayor"). Everyone had their own goals, backgrounds, resources, money, etc. I wandered from player to player engaging their characters, trying my best to sell them my product. I had to convince them to part with money that they may have had other plans for, or that they were intending to save for emergencies or other unknown situations. I really had NO idea of what they were all up to or what goals they had, outside of bits and pieces their characters would tell me. Some never bought my books, some bought them because they thought that their characters would buy into my sales pitch, and some bought them in exchange for me doing them little "favors" that made no sense to me at the time, but obviously had something to do with their goals (ex. "I'll buy a copy if you tell the mayor that you heard a loud noise last night"). We all stayed in character during out interactions with each other, so it was full-on roleplaying, with no dice rolling and limited props. It was just characters talking to characters. None of us got the full story of what all the intrigues and plots and mysteries were until the game had concluded and Mr. Wesely filled us in on things. I did manage to sell all my books, and even reached that goal 30 minutes early. Mr. Wesely seemed surprised that I had sold them all, and didn't seem to know what to do with me after that, so he had me spend the last half hour helping him with various little tasks, which I was very happy to do. It was all a lot of fun, and I really appreciate getting the chance to experience it. It was probably the biggest highlight at a convention that was really enjoyable all around.
 

Black Leaf

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Is there anything like player turns and order in Mega Games usually? Or is it more like Diplomacy with the 15 minute conversation phases followed by filled orders that are then handed in and resolved?
Kinda like Diplomacy but different.

There's been a lot of experimentation with the format, but generally it works in turns. The standard is a diplomatic turn (much like Diplomacy's conservation phase) followed by an operational phase.

The latter tends to be where any minigames, plus stuff like moving troops around on maps takes place.

One big difference between megagames and Braunsteins (at least from what I can tell) is that megagames are a lot more influenced by boardgames and tend to cannibalise basic mechanics for a lot of their turns. Obviously, that's still nowhere as complex as a wargame, but it does add to the crunch level some. Which, as well as the fact they trend to a higher player count, megagames tend to run with much bigger ref teams. I think the mininum I've seen is two primary refs plus a ref for each player team/area/faction.
 

DeadBob

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I had the fortune to get to play in two recreations of the Braunstein games with David Wesely at one of the Garycons, several years ago. We did the original one and the banana republic one (two separate events).

My memory of the banana republic version is a little foggy, but I have a pretty good recollection of the first one. Once everyone understood how to play the game, Mr. Wesely spent most of the time wandering around, listening to us interact with each other, or sitting at a table to take questions and make adjudications. He told us that he had tweaked the game a little here and there over the years, even back when he was running it in the early days, primarily in ways that just made it run a little smoother. Since it was all experimental when he first ran it, he had to figure out what worked well (and what didn't) by trial and error.

If I recall, there was a sheet with a few very basic rules on it (which I'm sure I have stored somewhere), but it was just a reminder for some of the main points he made while explaining the rules to us. I don't think you could have run a game from it. We each had a character sheet with a writeup about our background and our goals and a few general hints about some things we might try, but it was only a few paragraphs long.

I played a bookseller whose goal was to sell all of his copies of a new regional history book, or something of that nature. I had X number of books that cost Y number of dollars, and I had to convince the other characters to buy them. Nobody knew if I was really a bookseller or up to something else, and I didn't know any of their goals, or (really) much of anything about their characters, other than the basics (ex. "This person is the town mayor"). Everyone had their own goals, backgrounds, resources, money, etc. I wandered from player to player engaging their characters, trying my best to sell them my product. I had to convince them to part with money that they may have had other plans for, or that they were intending to save for emergencies or other unknown situations. I really had NO idea of what they were all up to or what goals they had, outside of bits and pieces their characters would tell me. Some never bought my books, some bought them because they thought that their characters would buy into my sales pitch, and some bought them in exchange for me doing them little "favors" that made no sense to me at the time, but obviously had something to do with their goals (ex. "I'll buy a copy if you tell the mayor that you heard a loud noise last night"). We all stayed in character during out interactions with each other, so it was full-on roleplaying, with no dice rolling and limited props. It was just characters talking to characters. None of us got the full story of what all the intrigues and plots and mysteries were until the game had concluded and Mr. Wesely filled us in on things. I did manage to sell all my books, and even reached that goal 30 minutes early. Mr. Wesely seemed surprised that I had sold them all, and didn't seem to know what to do with me after that, so he had me spend the last half hour helping him with various little tasks, which I was very happy to do. It was all a lot of fun, and I really appreciate getting the chance to experience it. It was probably the biggest highlight at a convention that was really enjoyable all around.
Thank you for that write up. That's very useful. It is interesting that, at this point, he's running it pretty much entirely as what I think of as a "scenario LARP". I've heard it sometimes called a "Parlour LARP" too, although I've been known to be off on terminology before. Either way, it sounds like lots of fun.

I also think it points to Braunsteins not being defined either way by miniatures, being more of an issue of designer preferences than anything else.

I enjoy your story of playing the bookseller. To me, that also points to the "(attempted) humor being important" to Braunsteins, along with having some kind of trading/trade goods in the scenarios. In this case, the humor was a bit subtle, simply that of having a literal workaday character just going about their normal life, but potentially being caught up in bigger events and a strong possibility of mistaken identity in there as well.

As for having trades/trade goods involved, or really anything swappable, my guess is that might be even more important in any kind of game that has any physical artifacts (miniatures, some kind of maps, setting elements) that are normally associated with combat heavy play. It acts as a kind of balancing agent in the formula.

Your description of the very short sheet with points about rules or mechanics also fits with a couple of things I've suspected, and that Black Leaf alluded to as well, that while there are rules, they're pretty light and mostly kept in the head of the (main) referee/designer. Probably not for immersion reasons (I'm sure that helps for some folks though), but mostly just for speed of getting on with the game (with no Session Zero or pre-game time to peruse rules documents) and very few places to leave those rules when moving around regularly anyway.
 

DeadBob

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Kinda like Diplomacy but different.

There's been a lot of experimentation with the format, but generally it works in turns. The standard is a diplomatic turn (much like Diplomacy's conservation phase) followed by an operational phase.

The latter tends to be where any minigames, plus stuff like moving troops around on maps takes place.
That's got my gears turning about possible formats too now.

That may also be one of the things that make all of this tricky to track down or document as well. Format could well change depending upon exactly what sort of Braunstein/MegaGame/LeadLARP/ParlorLARP/Whateveryacallit is supposed to represent.

I really can see how something like Pigswill comiing from a skirmish/single piece wargame/protoRPG scenario works with its minis gaming based mechanics, and where a MegaGame with players representing something like higher-in-a-hierarchy types ( there's a SF Mega Game I watched some videos about called something like Watch the Skies, IIRC, that I found fascinating) makes more sense with something like that Diplomacy style of Conversation Phase/Operational Phase ( and then some sort of rules for activities during that operational phase, depending upon the mini game representation).

So, even more involved now to talk about this stuff, but it does point to there being lots of creative design space for the would-be builder.
One big difference between megagames and Braunsteins (at least from what I can tell) is that megagames are a lot more influenced by boardgames and tend to cannibalise basic mechanics for a lot of their turns. Obviously, that's still nowhere as complex as a wargame, but it does add to the crunch level some. Which, as well as the fact they trend to a higher player count, megagames tend to run with much bigger ref teams. I think the mininum I've seen is two primary refs plus a ref for each player team/area/faction.

This bit also makes me wonder about how player group size impacts design style too, at least as much as what "school" of gaming you're drawing primary inspiration from.
 

AsenRG

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Somehow I'd missed that thread. And I suspect I've even got Barons of Braunstein already:shock:!
 

chirine ba kal

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I don't think the kind of game @arjunstc is describing is necessarily the same kind of game as a Braunstein. It's a similar idea, but my understanding is that Braunstein was a higher level game, covering a whole city (so no terrain layout, and maybe not even a street level of detail map) and characters being more influential in the city.

The table layout with terrain and a bunch of characters is more in the realm of skirmish games, not all are necessarily entirely military in nature.

The White Dwarf magazine had at least a couple bar room brawl scenarios in this line, Bar Room Brawl from #11 and Rumble at the Tin Inn from #33. Major Tremorden ran several scenarios https://www.victorianadventureenthu...morden-rederrings-colonial-era-wargames-page/
The first game that the good Major ran was indeed a miniatures game; he cleaned out all of the HO model kits from the local hobby stores, and since they were German model railway kits it was a natural to set the first game in Germany...
 

ffilz

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The first game that the good Major ran was indeed a miniatures game; he cleaned out all of the HO model kits from the local hobby stores, and since they were German model railway kits it was a natural to set the first game in Germany...
Ah well then...

Was it conducted like a wargame though with defined turns and movement or was there some level of abstraction?

I guess it would be nice to have a much more complete write up of Braunstein as it was originally run...
 

chirine ba kal

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Welcome to the board! I don't have any specific questions but would appreciate any anecdotes, observations, and lessons learned that you care to share.
Thanks! (I've been here since 2018, but there hasn't been any message traffic for me.) I work better in a Q&A format, as I have some forty-five years in the game hobby and a lot of material to work with.

I still game the way I used to back in the middle 1970's, as you can see from the photo...
 
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chirine ba kal

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Ah well then...

Was it conducted like a wargame though with defined turns and movement or was there some level of abstraction?

I guess it would be nice to have a much more complete write up of Braunstein as it was originally run...
The first one was an answer to the people in the Twin Cities horse-and-musket community who were bored by the usual style of running campaigns. In the game, each player was the person in charge of an off-board unit, and the idea was to generate some sort of miniatures game to follow. It lasted all of five minutes, the Major said, as Duane Jenkins and Dave Arneson marched in and demanded to fight a duel between their characters. Role-playing followed, with interpersonal mayhem the result. The game was basically a total failure, the Major told me, as the players never did have a miniatures game as the result of his game and were so taken with the idea of playing individual 'player-characters' that they took the idea and ran with it. His next two games were run in a much more traditional and structured format, and the players hated them; the fourth one, the Banana Republic, was run with miniatures as a sort of tactical display and run as a more purely role-playing game. (The idea then caught on.)
 
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