I posted he following on the thread on Cultures of Play, Can we talk about the situation problem?
I like simple situations that the players have a chance to comment on and change right in chargen.
In our Burning Wheel orc game via skype, the players agreed to a pitch I made to them where the game was about orc caught behind elven lines, in elven lands, far from home, as their horde was decimated. I had no idea if they were going to make up goblin fodder or orc generals. They made up the top two orcs in the horde, and through their beliefs, made up a ruling family of orcs and a Troll Warlord through their beliefs.
This was a neat choice because it meant they had just lost all that they had due to treachery of the troll, great stuff.
The map became a key part of that game as they ventured north, past the elven castle Orcwatch to the dragon’s mountain, to steal his horde of orcs and get back in a ruling seat. But I had no ideas about any of that when I initially pitched it. I would have been just as thrilled to play lowly goblins eeking out a living among the elven villages.
So, the situation worked because it had desperation, loss, and lots upon lots of choices. Also, the situation started simple but got a bit more through character creation and then entirely complicated through play.
When I pitched the idea to the players, Jim and Rich over skype, I could hear their excitement and the system gave them tangible ways to grab hold of the situation and expand upon it. In Burning Wheel’s case it was through relationships, Beliefs, traits, lifepath choices and affiliations.
Good situations start off with a really simple premise that everyone can easily get inspired by and expand on a bit through chargen and then make explode through play:
The duke is demanding that your knightly manor back him in the coming war with the king.
A ghost is loose in the university and your ghost-hunting start-up needs to pay the bills.
The crumbling and ancient city or Rose’s nobles have begun to take over the city’s proud thieves and criminals.
I want lots of hand-holds, lots of opportunities for my players to say things like:
I am in love with the king’s daughter.
The ghost is the ghost of my own ancestor.
I am a bastard son of a Rose noble with a foot in both worlds.
And once play starts, it is going to go from interesting to downright complicated after a few conflicts.
Hope that helps the discussion.
EDIT: Comments disabled so that discussions on this don’t go on in two places, instead of just at that thread.