Author Topic: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify  (Read 5761 times)

Moreno R.

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2013, 12:50:37 AM »
* Unfortunately, Paul's link to Gente Che Gioca has not been updated since that forum's redesign, but I hope someone can find the text in its new home. Moreno, any chance?

Hi Ron! The letter from Paul to the Italian players is here:
advice on having an enjoyable time with My Life with Master

Moreno R.

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2013, 12:56:07 AM »
Reading again that thread, with some posts in italian and other in English, I think that probably is simpler and less confusing to copy-and-paster Paul's initial post alone:

Hello,

As the Narrattiva translation of My Life with Master nears release, I'd like to offer a bit of advice to Italian roleplayers, from my own experience, on having an enjoyable time with the game. When I designed My Life with Master my play style was characterized by fluid scenes involving multiple player characters, a natural enjoyment of roleplay and dialogue without any particular hurry to use the resolution mechanics, and no particular concern for equitible apportionment of screen time. The game was meant to be played this way.

To my great frustration, my play style has more recently become characterized by formalized stakes-setting, abrupt usage of resolution mechanics, and narration at the expense of roleplay. And I see lots of folks playing My Life with Master this way.

Perhaps once indie games started experimenting with turn-based play it was a slippery slope from using a game's resolution mechanics when called for by roleplaying to using the game's structure and mechanics to workshop a narrative; I'm not sure. But my advice to you is to resist trending to this when you play My Life with Master.

As gamemaster, don't frame scenes directly to an obvious conflict very often. Enjoy describing the location and the situation. Enjoy playing and characterizing the Master. Enjoy playing and characterizing the NPCs. Create scenes with more than one NPC in them (more than just the Master, more than just the Connection) when you can. It makes scenes more substantial. As player, enjoy inhabiting your minion. Enjoy developing him or her through play. Give yourselves some time to experience the scene and the characters before you bring things to a conflict. And don't negotiate conflict outcomes before you roll. Simply establish what the minion is trying to do before you roll, and then in keeping with the result of the roll, collaborate and roleplay an outcome.

If your play style is already changed to formalized workshopping, and narration trading, well, you'll have to wait for me to finish Acts of Evil. I'm designing it to train me back from the negotiated workshopping.

Sincerely,

Paul Czege

Ron Edwards

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2013, 10:06:14 AM »
What Paul said. "Workshopping" is exactly what your rules are promoting in exquisite detail, and it is a terrible thing. It's not play, and it's not fun. People think it's fun for a little while until it inevitably breaks down at the table.

I want to play Left Coast. I don't want to sit and outline a story or scene before playing it, which renders play sterile at best and in practice ends up abandoning play altogether, as described in the dialogue with Hazelbier in the thread I linked to. When we playtested it - and this was a group of people who, every single person, loved and appreciated the source material and subculture - we found that play was left with nothing to do. All the creativity and fun had been expended on setup, and since play added nothing, that creativity and fun thunked onto the floor and went nowhere.

Adding this in:

See also [PTA] Actual Play Actual Examples?, because I want to stand much firmer now against John Harper's claim in that thread that pre-conflict stakes-setting is a valid introductory technique for games like Primetime Adventures (which applies to Left Coast as well).

I don't think it's a valid technique at all; I think it's broken and horrible. I think telling people "make sure to drive toward conflict" is badly mis-read as "work out every detail of a conflict before you play it." It's especially dangerous because the technique (or pseudo-technique) seems fun ... until you hit the inevitable outcome which Jesse describes so well in the thread I initially linked to, when everyone is doing nothing but railroading one another, and not playing at all. The fact that so many people mistake this for "player-empowerment" is the single worst outcome of the existence of the Forge.

I also think John's perception of The Shadow of Yesterday as supporting this textually is flatly wrong; that text explicitly says to define a character's intent when rolling dice, but absolutely nothing else, nothing about what will or will not actually happen aside from (abstractly) failing in that intent. Clinton confirmed that point to me shortly after the GenCon discussion.

And this:

The Big "Stakes" Controversy

Best, Ron

P.S. This is not a slam on John and I have no reason to think he holds the same views today. His role in this post is strictly historical and pertains to that particular thread.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 10:39:48 AM by Ron Edwards »

Steve Hickey

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2013, 06:14:45 PM »
Thanks for that analysis, Ron ... and thank you, Moreno, for extracting Paul's quote. Right now I'm recovering from a roadtrip, so I'll spend a bit of time reading through all the links.

In the meantime, Ron, I can already see three areas where I need to get a clearer understanding of the problems you've identified:

1. Generating creative content: what's wide open and what's fixed
2. Encouraging the use of 'workshopping' techniques in scenes
3. Pre-conflict stakes setting.

Could we tackle these one at a time?

If it's useful, I'll summarise the procedures and techniques being used in one of those areas, and maybe you could identify the points that are problematic? (Let me know if you think there's a better way of doing this.)

So, here are the procedures and techniques used in the conflict system:

1. Identify that the Author is being genuinely opposed by another character, the Weird conspiracy, or some aspect of the world
2. Trigger a conflict
3. Identify why this is a conflict for the Author ... on the surface and in the subtext
4. Roll dice and determine success or failure
5. If the Author succeeds they can spend points to succeed at the surface or subtext levels of the conflict, or they can choose to succeed at neither and gain something else.
6. If the Author fails, the rest of the group spends points to change the situation in some way.
7. The group creates a one-sentence description of the outcome of the conflict.
8. Continue roleplaying the scene, using that description as a constraint.

When I look at this summary with an eye to finding the problems you've identified, points (3), (7), and (8) seem like they could be most prone to pre-conflict stakes setting. As a couple of points of explanation (I hope this doesn't come across as defensive!):

* When I've played the game, I've found that identifying what the Author wants is more about articulating why this is a conflict for the character rather than pre-narrating an outcome. (As an aside, this is an attempt to articulate the functional style of PTA play that Morgue and I described in the 'Wanting your PCs to fail' thread.)

* Creating 'a one-sentence description which says this one thing must or must not happen' is my attempt to encourage the group to roleplay out the consequences of the conflict.


Anyway, I'll go back to reading the threads, but if you have time I'd be interested in your comments (and let me know if you'd like to use a different process to have this conversation).

Thanks,
Steve

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« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 02:40:21 PM by Ron Edwards »

Ron Edwards

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2013, 07:05:27 PM »
Quick note: in your first numbered list, I hope you mean discourage workshopping techniques, right? Because that's what I am aiming for.

Here's maybe a practical side of what I'm talking about. One of the key points in my designs, and I think the second version of PTA went off the rails in this regard, is that I include very few, if any, consensus-based procedures. In S/Lay w/Me, for example, at the climax point, the "you" player chooses some things from a list - and the "I" player has no approval-disapproval part in this. It seems reasonable to me that your instructive bits, like "Identify the author's precise conflict," should be similar, in that it's not up for grabs or negotiation, it merely gets done, by this person, probably easy because it's obvious anyway, and we move on.

If you are aiming for what you and Morgue were talking about in that thread, then fantastic. It's a great way to play. But I really, really think your current instructions (here I mean the ~30 page one) won't get anyone there.

Best, Ron

Steve Hickey

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2013, 06:35:57 PM »
Brilliant. That example is really helpful and I think I can see what you mean now. To test if I'm right, I've made a list of 'consensus / workshopping' moments in the rules. Some of them seem more likely to lead to the types of breakdowns in play that you identify as a risk.

Potential 'consensus / workshopping' moments in the rules

In Setting Creation, which quadrants do supporting characters belong to? (page 10)

In Setting Creation, what sort of relationship do two selected supporting characters have? (page 10)

In 'How to Play a Scene', the ideas of players making suggestions about what could happen next and suggesting things to other players about what their characters could do (page 18)

(potentially) Identifying whether there's a conflict (page 19)

Defining the conflict, as you illustrated in the previous post (page 20)

After a conflict, the group adding a detail to the partial success (page 21)

After a conflict, other people proposing alternate outcomes and combining possible outcomes together (Steps 3 and 4 of page 22)

The list that the group chooses from if they want the game to continue (page 27)

___

If I'm right, and I'm seeing what you're talking about now, then some of these have easy fixes: either assigning creative responsibility to a particular person (which I can now see is being used effectively in lots of other areas of the game) or removing particular sections. But I'm going to do a bit more reading and thinking about this.

___

Also, regarding the 'encouraging / discouraging workshoppping techniques': Yes, when I phrased that sentence I was talking about identifying which aspects of how to play a scene that, at the moment, encourage workshopping ... so that I could then address those. I may want to break down the 'How to Play a Scene' section further after reflecting on how it works.

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« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 02:40:03 PM by Ron Edwards »

Steve Hickey

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2013, 06:38:26 PM »
Finally had a chance to read and digest that series of threads.

Reading through them, I was reminded of something. When I'm working as a script editor, I'm often making suggestions to change elements of the script so that the story is realigned at quite a deep level. One of my concerns is that the writer I'm working with is accepting the suggestions without understanding the deeper restructuring that's required to make the suggestions coherent. If this happens, the redrafted script can feel like its edits have been made in order to tick off items on the list of feedback rather than having been transformed.

I hope that this isn't going to happen here. While reading through the threads, I was keeping a look out for the four areas I felt were relevant to our conversation and noted down any solutions that occurred to me while I was reading. The four areas were:
-   what is a conflict
-   workshopping and story-conferencing
-   stakes
-   conflict resolution

I feel like I could be rushing towards finding solutions before fully understanding the issues. So if any of the possible solutions I'm presenting here are wildly off-target, to the point that I'm obviously not understanding the deeper issue, feel free to point it out.

Based on what you're saying, Ron, here's what I need to make sure of (and I'm freely plagiarizing from the threads in what follows):

Avoid story-conferencing
That scene-play doesn't contain 'proposals' that characters could do something (like 'What if'' or 'she could''). Proposals lead to story-conferencing rather than having a strong, forward-moving Shared Imagined Space (SIS).

Possible solutions:
- Ban proposals and 'if'-type statements from the game. Players use their Situational Authority (DEFINE) and their Narrational Authority (over the outcomes of actions)
- Allow proposals only when a player asks for them (for instance, if they don't have any idea about what to do next

Clearly initiate conflicts
That the rules force the game to move clearly from scene-play into initiating a conflict, without going through a phase of protracted negotiations and 'what-if' group dialogue about outcomes. Once you have a fictional conflict of interest at hand (that character A can't get what they want because of whatever character B is doing, and that character A is gonna do something about that), then roll the dice right at that moment, with tons and tons of unknowns still waiting to be established.
 
Possible solutions:
- It feels like the rules could be more direct about initiating a conflict. I quite like a rule suggested in these threads (I think it comes from Trollbabe Revised) of just saying 'Conflict!'

Clearly define conflicts
Since I'm using conflict resolution, I need to make absolutely sure that the conflicts are the clash of fictional interests between fictional characters. (One thing the series of threads makes clear is that conflict resolution doesn't work when the conflicts are between players wanting different things. That leads to the conflicts and their outcomes being surrogates for the players' bids for status and attention from the group.)

So, I need to make sure the conflict is defined clearly. My goal here has been to increase our insight into what's driving the Author.

Currently the rules say this:

Quote
First we agree, as a group, on what this conflict's about on the surface and what it's really about: emotionally, psychologically, or socially for the Author (the subtext).

If the subtext of the conflict isn't obvious, try these four steps:

1. Ask the Author player what she thinks the subtext is.
2. Ask the Author player to give a monologue about why this is a conflict for her Author, and how the Author wants this moment of conflict to end. (Think of this monologue as like reading about the Author's train of thought in a novel.) You can often extract the subtext of what the conflict's really about from this monologue.
3. Everybody else in the group can ask questions of the Author player during the monologue (to clarify the Author's motivations). 'What do you really want?' is a good question to ask.
4. The supporting character's Owner can say what her supporting character doesn't want the Author to achieve, but she doesn't have to say WHY (in order to preserve any secrets).

I don't see 'stakes-setting' here (in terms of pre-defining what happens if the conflict succeeds or fails), but I do think the procedure can be simpler, clearer, and focus on individual players making the decision.

Possible solutions:
- The player initiating the conflict says what the conflict is about on the surface, specifying what the character or aspect of the world she represents wants to prevent the Author from achieving (but she doesn't have to say why they want to prevent this)
- The Author player says what the subtext of the conflict is (what it's really about: emotionally, psychologically, or socially for the Author).

Clarify the post-conflict procedures
The rules could be much clearer about who describes what happens as a result of the conflict (you originally called this 'narrational authority', Ron, but I also like the term you used later: 'outcome authority') and what the post-conflict narration resolves.

Possible solutions:
I need to define the following:
- who creates the 'one-sentence statement' of what happens to the Author. Currently there's a lot of contributions from a lot of people, but someone needs to
- what the scope of the post-conflict narration is (it plays out in the scene, but the lists gives players the ability to add details to the SIS that don't directly concern the conflict)
-  who has outcome authority and situational authority (defining which characters are involved and what they're doing)
- whether the Author can permanently resolve the 'what the conflict is about in the subtext' as a result of winning

Comments on Paul's advice
Paul advice at Narrativa is good. The rules are already encouraging some of what he suggests
- not framing scenes directly in to an obvious conflict very often
- enjoying playing and characterizing the NPCs and the Author
- giving yourselves some time to experience the scene and the characters before you bring things to a conflict.

Paul also says this (which I think the game is doing but can be improved on, as described above): "And don't negotiate conflict outcomes before you roll. Simply establish what the minion is trying to do before you roll, and then in keeping with the result of the roll, collaborate and roleplay an outcome."

But the rules could be better at facilitating some other aspects of Paul's advice (to create scenes with more than one NPC in them when you can; to enjoy describing the location and the situation - which happens in my games but I don't think would necessarily happen in others).

Possible solutions:
- When framing a scene, the Author player can choose any number of characters suggested by the other players who could be in the scene
- Add some advice for players that when they're playing a scene, they can add details about the location or (to take something from Spione) "add some non-essential description to what's been narrated already, either in general or to an existing scene."

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« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 02:39:49 PM by Ron Edwards »

Ron Edwards

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #22 on: May 08, 2013, 11:10:17 AM »
Hi Steve,

Avoiding story-conferencing: you nailed it. I might even advocate not mentioning "ask for proposals" at all. The issue of possibly freezing-up is better handled in the definition of situational authority - in which some social chat can be constructive, as long as it isn't misconstrued as "seek concensus" or "negotiate until you work it out."

Clearly initiating conflicts: you nailed that too. And I really don't think you even need "rules to force" conflict to appear. The characters as set up can't help getting into conflicts through ordinary, open-ended, "what I say he does" + "what you say this other guy does" play. The rules only need to let people who already know they want to do this actually to do it. They don't need to shepherd and force people who don't.

If you follow the Trollbabe model in some way, remember that when someone says "Conflict!" in that game, it's either instantly understandable from what's already happening, or it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that the fiction immediately catches up to that status. It's absolutely non-negotiable; no one can say, "Gee, I don't see a conflict here," or anything like that.

Clearly defining conflicts: I think it's sufficient merely to say, "I'm talking about conflicts between characters' actions and words, not about players' desires for the direction of the plot or any other content in play."

At the risk of being offensive, I think all of that text you're providing, and all those steps, are a quagmire. If people don't get the point from that short phrase I presented above, no little ritual will get them there despite themselves.

I even suggest omitting all text about "figuring out what the conflict is about." Again, Trollbabe is the most effective model: in that game, the trollbabe must have a goal in every conflict, which is the single thing that success/failure pertains to. (Side but important point: the opponent does not have an equivalent "opposing" goal, regardless of what he or she is fictionally trying to do, and how sincerely.) As Clinton has stated unequivocally, the roll in The Shadow of Yesterday is fictionally tied to the acting character's statement of intent and needs no further elaboration in order to be a roll. Your quote from Paul says the same thing. Apocalypse World is modeled on exactly the same thing too.

That's all you need. I don't think you need an abstract, player-justified discussion at all - especially not about subtext. Let that stay in the "sub," I say.

Clarifying the post-conflict procedures: I agree this needs a procedure, but above all, it should be a simple procedure.

Best, Ron

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« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 02:39:20 PM by Ron Edwards »

Paul Czege

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #23 on: May 08, 2013, 12:06:52 PM »
My post (in English) can be seen here:

http://www.gentechegioca.it/smf/index.php?topic=170.0

Paul

Paul Czege

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #24 on: May 08, 2013, 12:26:40 PM »
Weird, when I posted that I could see no follow-up posts after Ron's reference to my advice post, and now I see a whole conversation.

Steve Hickey

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #25 on: May 28, 2013, 02:53:50 AM »
Thanks for the supplementary link, Paul. Much appreciated.

Ron, that was great stuff. Thanks again for taking the time to engage with me on this. I've finished the draft now, and have sent it off for layout discussions.

I'm going to be testing out your suggested "no subtext" version of the conflict system and see how it plays compared to using the "define the subtext" version in the last couple of versions.

I'm feeling good about this! I'm heading towards a new level of publishing a game and it's really exciting!

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and comments in this thread.

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« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 02:35:47 PM by Ron Edwards »

Steve Hickey

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Re: Left Coast: Here's a gamma draft, which I'm looking to simplify
« Reply #26 on: June 25, 2013, 02:16:33 AM »
One further note (that I think is relevant to this thread).

The kickstarter that I've been writing this simplified version of Left Coast for is now live and has eight days to go.

Radio Free Albemuth theatrical release kickstarter

This kickstarter is to fund a limited theatrical release of a completed (and faithful to the book) film adaptation of Radio Free Albemuth. If this sounds like your sort of thing, consider checking it out.

It's been a fascinating opportunity to dip my toe into the world of Kickstarters, which seem pretty all-consuming from the inside (like, running it becomes a second or third job). The two things I need to work on now are:

a) publishing this version
b) connecting with the people who have received the game as Kickstarter backers

The people who are getting it are definitely not entirely from the traditional 'RPG' spheres, so seeing how the game works for them is going to be fascinating.