Lessons in Type B

I do tons of session reconstruction in my head for a day or so after a game. I am becoming totally convinced of a session strategy that I call “Type B.”

Type A play is where nobody talks about character internals, or where character internals are a secret. The idea is that since we aren’t mind-readers, we shouldn’t be aware of such things. All we can see are actions. So we try to express what’s going on inside the character through outward actions.

Type B play is where there is extensive discussion about character internals. We lay open our character’s heart and mind for public inspection. Hopes and fears, beliefs and goals. Action is secondary – we’ll get to the action part after we have thoroughly hashed out where everyone is coming from and where they want to go.

By way of example, the following is summarized from Strand Gamers podcasts of their Mouse Guard sessions. While deciding whether to take a route from Lockhaven that goes through Ivydale or Shaleburrow, one of the PCs keeps making the (seemingly odd) push for Shaleburrow, even though it’s a bit more out of the way. The other PCs react with puzzlement. Why do you want us to take the longer route? It doesn’t make any sense.

This is Type A play. The apparently obstinate PC has something going on inside, but he keeps it in and tries to convey it solely through action.

Then he opens up. He is a young mouse, and his parents, both deceased, are buried in Ivydale, and the sorrow of it is still too near. That was exposition, not dialogue. All he did was convey to the other players what was going on in his character’s head. Even though he had explained his history to the other characters during character creation, they weren’t able to make the connection with his in-character behavior.

This will be my first axiom: Type A signals are too subtle to pick up. Even when you have sufficient information to put the pieces together, you probably won’t. And you don’t usually have all the data.

After that PC’s internals were on the table, the internals of other PCs were revealed as well. One of the other mice had a great swell of compassion for him, and so her motivation turned to emotional shelter and support. They still went through Ivydale, only instead of a quick stop with one of the party “acting¬†weird” it was an emotional challenge. They wrestled with things like whether to visit the grave site, and working up the courage to do so, or avoiding it entirely (with its own attendant set of feelings).

By putting it out in the open, everyone got to participate in a meaningful event. If it had been kept inside none of it would have happened at all. Worse, the player of the young orphaned character might decide that these elements of his character are unimportant. Who cares if he has feelings about his dead parents if it won’t be allowed screen time during a session?

Second axiom: Type B play rewards rich characterization with screen time. As a corollary, everyone, especially the GM, has to be dedicated to carving out screen time for internals.

Third axiom: Revelation begets revelation. As soon as one character’s internals are open, other characters’ reactions to them flow into play smoothly and naturally – maybe with motives and feelings you didn’t know were there before. Everyone wins if anyone does it, and if one does it, more do it.


One Response to “Lessons in Type B”

  1. Lucas said:

    Dec 28, 12 at 8:50 pm


    Sorry about commenting in this space. I had the idea of sending you an email with this, but I haven’t found it, as well I haven’t found any other appropriate space to say what I mean to you.

    So, first of all, I would like to thank you for the explanations about The Matrix. I read it several times, about 1 or 2 years ago (not the in the Coronas blog, but in Wylfing,net), and it was crucial for me to understand a lot of details, and the whole story. So deep and full of meaning. I really enjoyed it! I had some comments to make about the movie and your thinking, but unfortunately I forgot them. I even didn’t know it was possible, because of the other page (it was the only one that wasn’t blocked on my computer at the job, I read it in my free-time). And By the way I have to say that from now on I will visit this page more often.

    But the reason I’m sending you this message is another one. Have you heard about the ‘Life of Pi’ story? I think so. I had never, until yesterday when I watched the movie. At the end of it I was so unsettled, and the first reflection I could formulate is that after the day I watched The Matrix trilogy (and was able to understand the whole story), this is the first movie that got my head so full of ideas and theories. And the symbolisms applied to the movie, so rich and full of ways to interpret, really amazing.

    And not so long after it I remembered your brilliants explanations about Matrix, and I thought this would be such a great movie for you to do it too!

    What do you think about it? (I’m considering you know this story, but if don’t, You obviously will need to watch it or read the book if you are considering to answer this question)
    But I bet there’s a lot of people that would like this thing, if you enjoy doing it, it would be quite a pleasure for a lot of us to read.

    Please, tell me what you think about it, and, one more time, congratulation for what you’ve done!

    P.S.: Sorry about my bad English! I’m Brazilian, and I’m not so used to write in your language.