Following on from research I have been doing about the nature of choice in board and card games where winning is not necessarily the aim, i.e. emotional or character based choices, I started thinking about the idea of truths within a world.
Is it possible to have a truth in a game that is both persistent and physically present but is never actually known, would this have any affect on how the game is played?
Let me try to explain
First what would I consider a physical truth. This is something that the components of the game make true. This could be as simple as your are the red, green, or blue player in the game, as you have control of those components. This concept in general is not particularly interesting or insightful, but it can be used in interesting ways.
A TTRPG (tabletop role play game) I played a couple of years ago, Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne, has a mechanic which uses a physical truth. One of the players is the accused witch being taken by the other player characters to Lindisfarne to be tried. At the very beginning of the game the player who is accused of being a witch chooses whether they are guilty or not and places the corresponding card facedown in the middle of the table. That way the act has already been committed before any interactions take place, the truth is mechanically locked in place. In this game the card is revealed at the end.
Where I plan to take the idea one step further is in the physical truth being non-visible. Although we may know that a truth is persistent through the components of the game, none of the players may reveal this truth.
If it is never known, then why does it matter?
This is why the truth must be physical, although no-one sees it, it is inherent in the objects. We could in theory reveal the truth by opening a bag or turning a card face up. By knowing what the potential truths are, but not seeing them, the player is left in a state of limbo.
The simplest example I can think of would work for just about any two player war type game, like chess. If there was one token marked ‘Good’ and another ‘Evil’ and these were given to the players face down before their game began, they would play the game in a strange state of limbo. Are they fighting for good or for evil, is it all a matter of perspective, there is a true answer it is written in the components, but they will never see it.
Just by being there present in the components, in the physicality of the game, is this enough to change the way players play or think about their play.
Is this really meaningful?
I’m not sure if this would really make a difference or not. I feel that it would and with the right subject matter and matching mechanics could have a strong potential impact on the play experience. However, conjecture is not enough, the idea needs to be tested.
Making a game with non-visible physical truths.
In order to start experimenting with the mechanic I designed a two-player 1-page TTRPG focusing on the theme of consciousness called RenedesCorp.
Set in the near future the game has the players embody one of the following a human, a conscious robot or a standard robot (without consciousness). The players do not know which specific role they are, they are not aware if they are conscious or not, they’re not aware if they are human or not. This truth is determined by cards which the players do not see throughout play.
If you are aware of any other examples of this type of mechanic, or if you have ideas of where it could be used please let me know.