Briefly, I’d like to say that I think there’s still value to an unbroken, uninterruptible turn structure in an RPG, depending on what you’re going for with it. While it’s certainly useful in its own way to have a game without a turn sequence, and the idea of “spotlight” in RPGs is kind of dubious, I thought about why I wanted a turn sequence in my game, rather than bucking it as a lot of indie games have been doing lately. I also tried to think about it outside the box of “the bad player who runs over others in a turn-less game” because I try very much not to look at “bad player” arguments. My philosophy is that I write games where I assume and impart upon the group that they should be friends, talk things over, and should look after each other and cooperate – I don’t like to write mechanics that exist solely to punish the theoretical “bad player.”
1) It’s easier to play online: Turnless games and games with interruptible turns behave weirdly in a medium near and dear to me – play-by-post roleplaying. Playing D&D 4e in PBP is kind of a nightmare because of all the times that another person at the game is needed for input. You move, and someone can interrupt with an Opportunity Attack; you attack, and someone can interrupt with a power or you might need someone else to resolve your roll because of a lack of information; you give other players actions and then they resolve them on your turn, necessitating that they appear and post before you can continue. There’s a lot of places where you could potentially require the input of others – and that’s more posts in your way.
What I want from Uttarakuru is for everyone to have a turn, and for everyone to expect to resolve that turn alone. This means a turn structure, but equally important is open information. Important target values can’t hide behind a screen. Everyone should know off the bat what their targets are and what the consequences of their actions could be.
2) It’s more neatly organized: I’m a neat freak in RPGs. I ran my own Dungeon World mini-game for some IM friends the other day. I essentially asked for a turn structure on that because everyone started talking at once and I found it hard to follow. I love Dungeon World. I love The Conversation. But even when I play Dungeon World, rather than DM, I’m a bit demure – I still sort of “wait my turn” so to speak. I find a lot of comfort in sequence, and I’m pretty poor at doing things outside of a chronological order. I like to think of RPG turns as pieces of a story that all fit together as a puzzle. I want to bring that kind of neatness and organization to Uttarakuru. Scenes and Turns are each broken up into simple steps you can easily digest.
3) It’s easier to plan ahead: I’ve seen a lot of general stigma to “planning” things in RPGs. Listening to the RPG blogosphere there seem to be few things more vocally reviled than the GM who hunches over books and “plots things out” and comes to the game with encounters and story and other things in mind. I don’t accept that though, because I think this planning is still very useful as a guide or inspiration – a skeleton around which flesh can be arranged. When you have a turn order and a certain expectation that scenes may contain “rounds,” and that in turn those scenes themselves will make up units of an adventure, you can more easily generate material ahead of time, as well key your material to specific parts of that structure. You have a more comfortable environment to plot out. Not everyone is good at improvising, but I think planning and structure can be a great tool to help you become a good improviser. You can start on that road by learning to prepare material but also coming to the table knowing you will change that material and add to it as it suits the player’s actions and decisions.