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Author Topic: Any bangs for our buck?  (Read 8218 times)
Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« on: April 06, 2004, 02:21:26 PM »

So, I'm still confused about bangs. I just ran a reasonably successful session -- a couple of slow spots, a fair number of cool ones -- and I'm trying to figure out if anything in the session constituted a bang. I don't mind if nothing did; I'm just trying to nail down the definition in concrete terms, which means examples.

I'm running Cthulhupunk Plus Twenty, a sequel game to my Cthulhupunk, a homebrew that I started in 1991, before there was a GURPS Cthluhupunk. I use the OTE system. The year is 2023, 22 years after the existence of supernatural critters and magic and all that came out on a global scale, 80% of the world died in a plague and/or complications arising therefrom, and the Lovecraftian Outer Gods were banished for 20 years.

There are 2 groups of PCs, and this session mostly focused on the ones in the band Age of Consent. We've got

Laura -- the only PC actually in the band. Bitten by a werewolf last session. Avram, the player, said that he liked this, and that maybe the attempt to cure Laura of incipient lycanthropy had failed, but she didn't know that. We agreed this would be cool.

Jay -- genetic construct of a breeding program sponsored by Purity, a group of Nazi sorcerers. Someone is trying to kill her, and she suspects it's a member of Purity. Her primary contact in Purity, Earnest the Toymaker, was recently killed. A young sidhe named Pixel worked for Earnest, and refuses to say anything about his suspicions because Earnest wouldn't have wanted him to. Even if Pixel is wrong, a dead Earnest can't release Pixel from his promise. Played by Beth.

Honggong -- a Norgroid. Think Amberite without magic, but young enough to be direct, and actually a very nice person. I love how Honggong is sometimes the most human of the characters. Played by Matt.

Regina -- crow shaman, mother of Cory, Lord of Stanehouse. Played by Josh.

Firemaker -- coyote shaman with a finger in every pie. Played by Josh.

Firemaker's apprentice, Nick, is Honggong's boyfriend, and a prince of an odd group of people, the Hyperoi, who have an odd alliance with another odd group of people, the Scythians.

So, I went through my index cards of stuff as seemed best. Nick asked Honggong for advice about keeping friends out of trouble. Definitely not a bang. Nick's friend, Peter, and Peter's brother, Randy, who were rescued by PCs last time, figured out where they wanted to go. Not a bang, not intended as one, not drawn out -- just, "This is where they go." It gets drawn out only if that means Story Now, a concept that is starting to click nicely.

Age of Consent is suing a Nasty Record Company. We decided it'd be Virgin Records. It may be a coincidence that people at one of their concerts waved fish in the air and yelled nasty things at AoC's half-Deep One singer. Honggong immediately went into action, aided by Ron, an NPC FBI agent stationed with the band, and excellent die rolls resulted in their intimidating the hell out of the punks. Is this a bang?

The next day, Jay, who is interested in Ron, went looking for him. He was in his room, and she heard him comfort a woman who was crying. Was that a bang? Jay decided to leave, thinking only, "She'd better not be trying anything. Well, she'd better not be succeeding."

[If Jay had gone in, she would have found fellow genetic construct crying on Ron's shoulder about missing Earnest. Is it more or less a bang if it goes somewhere more dramatic than this?]

Back in Boston, where the band lives, they learned that people had dumped fish outside their home, but friendly vampires (long story) had cleaned everything up before they got home. Not a bang, I'm sure.

A gay vampire called the band in terror: His parents wanted to meet him and his vampire lover, and he wanted moral support. Honggong agreed to go with him. All the players knew exactly where this was going, although Matt said that Honggong didn't, which makes sense. The parents (after a scene someone described as X-Man 2, where Bobby is at home) sicced a group of monster hunting priests on the vampires. Is this a bang? Or just a plot twist?

Regardless, Honggong was utterly cool in combat, tossing the priests through a window, but killing no one, hangging the father from a chandelier after he really mouthed off stupidly, and heading out with a magical sword she'd grabbed from one of the priests.

The best part about that was that I've wanted to give Honggong some kind of extra firepower, probably in the form of a magical item, and had not even thought of that in this scene. I'm not convinced the Catholic Church will let her keep the weapon, but they might be able to find something else to give her in return.

At Stanehouse, Regina met her son's new love interest, Yuanmei. To my delight, Josh played up Regina's bixexuality. ("Man, she's hot. Wait, moving on my son's girlfriend is not cool.")

Yuanmei's brother is in trouble. He has been captured. Her grandfather used a ritual to learn who had captured him -- none other, Regina realized, than the band's foe, Hanoi Xan! Is this a bang?

More domestically, but feeling more bangish to me: Cory's adopted son Terry, about 2-3 years old, is a bit confused. Cory adopted him after killing his mother, a thoroughly despicable woman. Cory decided to be Utterly Honest with the boy, and it never occurred to him that this could wait until Cory was a little older, so he explained matters to Terry. Terry explained his troubled logic to Regina. Daddy kills Mommy. Terry likes Yuanmei. Is Yuanmei going to become Mommy? Will Daddy kill Mommy again?

Is that a bang? I'm not sure. I mean, objectively, nothing happened except comforting talk and hugs -- but that's not nothing, and it's the closet to Theme Stuff I tend to do.

Virgin Records made offers and vague threats. Not a bang.

Laura and Jay visited Kingsport, where many of their artist friends have been attacked. While installing a camera for someone prone to getting possessed by Hypnos, god of dreams, Laura turned into a werewolf. I think that's a bang.

I think it was also a bang when everyone found out in character -- a friend is now a wolf, and you've got to stop her from killing or being killed, like now.

Not a bang, but amusing, was when Laura woke up, naked except for a collar, in a cage, with Honggong, the very strong Norgroid, outside.

Laura: Did we agree on a safeword? 'Cuz I wanna use it!

Honggong: Nope. What, you didn't like your little belly rub?

[Said belly rub being how Honggong subdued Laura. Well, that and massive amounts of strength.]

Nick got a Mysterious Invitation, which sounded like a trap, so he invited Honggong. There, Hanoi Xan made an offer. Not a bang. So not a bang. Honggong's really not the introspective type. Need more action there.

Pixel, the sidhe who might have known something about who might have killed Earnest, turned up dead. Bang? Or just a plot twist?

Firemaker learned that the Governor of Florida had been murdered and that his wife named Firemaker as the murderer. Normally, this would be a bang, but here, I'm not sure. There was no urgency -- nor was there intended to be. That is, yes, Firemaker wants to know what's going on, and yes, it's next session's plot, but he's not on the run. He's cooperating with authorities, has alibies, and they have no reason to do more than ask for cooperation as yet. So, I'd say that's not a bang.

Were there any actual, no fooling, by the book definitional bangs?

-Lisa
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FredGarber
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Posts: 95


« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2004, 10:22:05 AM »

Keep in mind that this is a post by a Forge Newbie, and I sort of stumbled here and found that I had just spent a good deal of time "reinventing the wheel" in my own gaming theories.

Many these events seem to be small b-bangs, sometimes called "Inciting Events" over on the theory threads.  A Big B-Bang needs to force the characters to confront Premise.  Now, without you posting what is/are the Premise(s) of your Story Now, I can't tell if they are Bangs.

When most of the group decided to avoid the confrontation between Vampires and Parents: that might have been a Bang.  Possible Premise :"What are you willing to risk for an acquaintance?" Matt took the bait, and Honggong chose to involve himself in this family dispute.

Josh seems to have taken a Bang when the sexy potential-daughter-in-law showed up, and he had to make a decision on whether or not to have Regina play hell with her son's love life.
"How far can you push a relationships?" might be a Premise.

As far as I read, Bangs are things that a GM uses to force a Player
to confront Premise.   Bangs, and indeed the GNS model, are for the players, not the characters.   Regina can't have a Gamist Agenda, Josh can.  Honggong can't ask for Story Now, only Matt.

Veteran Forgers?  Did I get it right?
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DannyK
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2004, 10:42:13 AM »

I'm no veteran, but I agree.  It's an interesting summary of the game session, but I can't find any mention in there of what the themes or conflicts are, either from the GM or the player perspective.  Without that information, I can't tell if any of these are Bangs or not.

Danny
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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2004, 04:59:24 PM »

Quote from: FredGarber
Many these events seem to be small b-bangs, sometimes called "Inciting Events" over on the theory threads.  A Big B-Bang needs to force the characters to confront Premise.  Now, without you posting what is/are the Premise(s) of your Story Now, I can't tell if they are Bangs.


Fair enough. It may be that, by definition, I can't have bangs, since I don't sit down and say, "I need a Premise or two and some Themes." Sometimes, themes kind of evolve, but that's an accident.

Cthulhupunk Plus Twenty seems to have a theme about parents and children, and about children growing up. There may be a theme about more experienced folks teaching people, or that may be a pattern that's just an accident. But two players have PCs who now have apprentices -- they are the Wise Old Mentors to the Brash Young NPCs.

Quote
When most of the group decided to avoid the confrontation between Vampires and Parents: that might have been a Bang.  Possible Premise :"What are you willing to risk for an acquaintance?" Matt took the bait, and Honggong chose to involve himself in this family dispute.


Hm. Actually, the Premise here may be: Good deeds are rewarded. This is part of the vampire thread. The other PCs actually weren't invited, as I recall. Honggong got the phone -- the folks living in this house all competitively grab for it, and the one who gets it least often is the one who gets stuck with dish washing duty.

And I do throw lots of stuff at the PCs. While Honggong was helping an acquaintance with what she thought was just moral support, Jay and Laura were helping friends and acquaintances that they knew were being physically harrassed.

OTOH, another theme that might be springing up has to do with being willing to delegate and accept help. Jay always wants to Do Everything. Josh thinks this may be Beth being a Gamist Team Player, trying to win for the team by making sure everything important is considered, and done or not done, as makes most sense. Honggong considers herself the best at handling physical trouble, and she has a point.

But none of these are planned as themes, so it may not be a bang. It may just be the GM tossing out a plot hook and Matt catching it.

Quote
Josh seems to have taken a Bang when the sexy potential-daughter-in-law showed up, and he had to make a decision on whether or not to have Regina play hell with her son's love life.
"How far can you push a relationships?" might be a Premise.


This is not intended as a premise. It may or may not become an accidental premise. But if it is not a premise, then Regina's decision point is not a bang, is it? What does that make it?

Quote
As far as I read, Bangs are things that a GM uses to force a Player
to confront Premise.   Bangs, and indeed the GNS model, are for the players, not the characters.   Regina can't have a Gamist Agenda, Josh can.  Honggong can't ask for Story Now, only Matt.

Veteran Forgers?  Did I get it right?


Quite likely. As I said, I'm trying to figure out the proper use of the terminology.

-Lisa
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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2004, 05:02:06 PM »

Quote from: DannyK
I'm no veteran, but I agree.  It's an interesting summary of the game session, but I can't find any mention in there of what the themes or conflicts are, either from the GM or the player perspective.  Without that information, I can't tell if any of these are Bangs or not.


Fair enough. This is because I don't sit down and plan themes, although they sometimes evolve. Conflicts? Hm. There's a conflict with the Evil Hanoi Xan. There's Cory's troubled love life. There's Terry's troubled psychology. There's someone trying to kill Jay. Et cetera. But are these things enough to make anything a bang? Am I running a bangless, if enjoyable, game?

-Lisa
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Alan
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Posts: 1012


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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2004, 05:18:23 PM »

I'm reading a book on screenwriting theory and I found an interesting parallell with a bang.  In the book it's called a dramatic event.

A dramatic event:
- is irreversable
- it changes the character's circumstances
- it gives the character new and more important purposes
- it's meaningful to the character (and the audience)

I think this can be adapted to a Bang:
- is irreversable
- it changes the character's circumstances
- it asks the player to provide new and more important purposes for his character.
- it's meaningful to the character (and the player)

From my understanding, that hits the nail on the head.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2004, 05:51:41 PM »

Quote from: Alan
I think this can be adapted to a Bang:
- is irreversable
- it changes the character's circumstances
- it asks the player to provide new and more important purposes for his character.
- it's meaningful to the character (and the player)

From my understanding, that hits the nail on the head.


I'm not sure. Let's take Regina not making a pass at her son's girlfriend, and let's pretend there's a relevant premise there -- how far will you go to fulfill your desire or somesuch.  Desire vs Honor vs Love. Whatever.

So, Regina decides not to make a pass at her son's girlfriend. This could change the PCs' circumstances -- let's say it does. Let's say this is the first time Regina's ever decided that something is more important than her desires. It has changed her circumstances. It is meaningful to player and PC. It provides purpose for the character, as she wants to be a better person or something.

Okay, that's not what happened, of course, but pretending it is what happened, there is one criterion missing: Regina's decision is not irreversible. She has to stick to it, constantly remaking it. At any point, she could change her mind and try to seduce the woman.

Does this disqualify the scene from being a bang? I would argue not, but I'm not sure why.

In Gawain and the Green Knight, on the third day, Gawain's refusal to sleep with his host's wife -is- irreversible. That scene -is- a bang. The first two days, he manages not to sleep with her, but it's not irreversible -- he has to resist her the next day and the next. Is only the third scene a bang? Or are the other two as well?

-Lisa


-Lisa
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Malechi
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Posts: 186


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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2004, 06:36:37 PM »

i may be nitpicking but...

A premise is usually a Question that when answered produces Theme.  

Your example of "Good deeds are rewarded" would be a Theme produced via the Premise "Whats the point of good deeds in a uncaring universe".  

The games over-arching thematic statement is the sum of the player's addressing premise over the course of many bangs which present the Premise for addressing.   Some may choose to answer the question differently than "Good deeds are rewarded".

anyways
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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2004, 07:15:33 PM »

Quote from: Malechi
i may be nitpicking but...

A premise is usually a Question that when answered produces Theme.


Please pick the nits. I am asking for nitpicking.

Quote
Your example of "Good deeds are rewarded" would be a Theme produced via the Premise "Whats the point of good deeds in a uncaring universe".

 
Mm, that's not quite the right question, since, if good deeds are rewarded, I would think that, by definition, the universe is not uncaring. But I see what you mean, sort of.

The thing is, I think I've hit bangs in games where I was not trying to make a theme or a premise, and I'm trying to figure out how to identify these, and what themes or premises the bangs addressed. Hm.

So, at the climax of the first part of my Cthulhupunk game, many years ago now, Matt was playing Jacob. Avram was playing Harry. Both are Norgroids. Think Amberites without magic. Jacob's sinister uncle was Up to Something. As said uncle wrote the Necronomicon and got his entire line cursed, and as his uncle had seriously considered killing off much of the human race, Jacob was concerned.

The sidhe were concerned about something different -- several of their number had been used, nonconsensually, by the Outer Gods in Unspeakable Rites to create Sidhe-Outer God crossbreeds. They wanted to destroy the crossbreeds. As Avarm put it, it was a purity of the race thing, as, whatever the kids did one day, they had not yet done anything wrong.

The sidhe told Jacob that they'd tell him what his uncle was up to if he'd help them kill the crossbreed kids. Jacob knew that this was something that Harry would probably not like, and he didn't want to make an enemy of Harry. So, he called Harry, asking how Harry would feel if Jacob agreed to the deal.

Harry: I would be most displeased.

Jacob: Could you be more specific?

Harry: I suggest you tell them to fuck themselves.

Avram (as sidhe): Been there. Done that.

Jacob declined to take that suggestion.

Jacob: How displeased? If this would mean we'd be at each other's throats -

Harry (conversationally): Don't do it, Jacob.

The sidhe assured Jacob that they could protect him from Harry. Harry, interestingly, never said that it would put them at each other's throats or that he would try to kill or injure Jacob. He uttered no direct threats, and I'm not sure he made any indirect threats. He did say that he would not be the only one displeased with Jacob.

The sidhe continued to assure Jacob that they could protect him from any and all enemies.

Jacob: I'm sure you could, but that would probably take me out of comission.

He decided, reluctantly, that he'd better decline the sidhe's offer.

Now, I think this was a bang. But why? What was the question/Premise? What was the answer/Theme?

Similarly, at one point, I was playing with an alternate timeline. Same campaign. In the alternate timeline, the Outer Gods were closer to taking over the planet, having destroyed most of the wards that kept their power in check -- but one of Harry's archenemies was dead. To my delight, PC, and I think player, which is the real cherry, were tempted.

Harry: Wait a minute. Is this such a bad timeline? Kenerake dead, you say? Is it so bad if the wards are down? Can we maybe get the wards back without bringing Kenerake back?

I think that was the sweetest moment of the session. Lizard (aka Ian Harac) had told me to make the alternate history appealing in some ways, and this was the bait. It was beautiful to see Avram swallowing it whole. Later, he asked if it would be possible to interrupt the ceremony at just the right time to leave Kenerake dead, but the wards intact.

GM: Alan [one of my NPCs] will die if you do that.

Avram: Well, do we care if Alan dies?

Lovely.

Was it a bang? What was the Premise? What was the Theme? Did I try to create Premise and Theme deliberately or not? Does it matter to the question of whether the scene was a bang?

I don't want to spend more time than I do on Premises and Themes. I think I run a better session when I let my subconscious take care of that, and I don't hammer players into the anvil with my idea of Significant Themes. I know that other's milage varies. I'm cool with that. I just want to know which of the tools in the box I'm using.

-Lisa
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2004, 12:15:20 PM »

I'm getting deja vu all over again. Did't we already do this thread?

Quote
I don't want to spend more time than I do on Premises and Themes. I think I run a better session when I let my subconscious take care of that, and I don't hammer players into the anvil with my idea of Significant Themes. I know that other's milage varies. I'm cool with that. I just want to know which of the tools in the box I'm using.


No, this is precisely the right approach to take.

First, a Bang is something that you inject into play intending to cause certain things to happen. Sometimes they don't work. A significant percentage of Bangs fail because we're human GMs. There's no formula that can make you 100% successful that I've found or even heard proposed.

Second, what is it that you want to cause? Well, you want to cause the player to have to make a decision that has thematic value of some sort. But this is key, it can be any sort of thematic value. I think that somewhere along the way you got the idea that the GM predetermines the outcomes of Bangs in terms of theme. The idea with Bangs is, in fact, that you don't determine theme, theme being the answer to the question.

Yes, some Bangs are likely to produce one theme or another as an artifact of their design. For instance, possibly the easiest way to create a Bang is to make a situation in which the character is forced to decide between two things that are important to them. These will tend to produce themes that relate to either of the binary selections.

But I'd argue that these are the least interesting of Bangs. Still good, but the best Bangs are ones in which you have no idea what the PC will do, just the feeling that they can't escape the situation without creating theme.

The point is that you don't have to be thinking consciously in terms of premise, let alone theme. One doesn't create Bangs (well I don't and I doubt many do) by saying, "Hmmm. I'd like for the players to address the premise of the values of peace over violence. The potential themes are that the PC rejects violence, and accepts peace. The other being that the PC rejects peace as impractical and accepts violence. So I'll set up a situation in which...."

Nah, doesn't go like that at all. And that would be a horrible way to do it under certain circumstances.

No, what usually happens is that you look at the PCs situation, and think, "Hmmm. What would be cool to happen to him next? Well, he's got a large rating in Pacifist, but all of these combat abilities, too. How about somebody insults him in front of his girlfriend? Yeah, that would be cool."

Now, I don't know how the PC will respond. Again, it's likely that we'll see one of the two themes above, but who knows? The point of a Bang is that we'll have some sort of theme created from some sort of premise, but it's not particularly important to know what they are, or give it any thought.

Bang Criteria
- PC can't "walk away" without that being a statement of sorts. Whatever happens it's cool.
- There is no "obvious" choice. That is, the situation can't be such where it's obvious to everyone what the best way to progress is. Such that the player's choice is informed only by his ideas of what would be cool.

So, given that, how would you re-evaluate your Bangs?

Lastly, Bangs are just a technique, not the be-all way to play. So where you may not be using Bangs, it's not surprising that you're game is still fun - you're just using other techniques that work. In fact, you can get a lot of fun play out of "failed" Bangs, or "near-Bangs". That's why it's only important to try with Bangs, and not worry about them being perfect.

BTW, on Alan's list, I'm not sure what is meant by Irreversable. I think it means that to be really dramatic that the character has taken a step that he can't "take back" somehow. OTOH, Bangs can allow PCs to flip-flop themes all they like.

Mike
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Alan
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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2004, 12:32:54 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

BTW, on Alan's list, I'm not sure what is meant by Irreversable. I think it means that to be really dramatic that the character has taken a step that he can't "take back" somehow. OTOH, Bangs can allow PCs to flip-flop themes all they like.


I think "irreversable" applies better in fiction.  In an RPG it's makes more sense to change that to unavoidable, in the sense that, as you say, any response makes a thematic statement.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2004, 01:28:17 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I'm getting deja vu all over again. Did't we already do this thread?


Threads go around and come around. When I was on an Arthurian mailing list, one thread that came back again and again was whether there really was an historical King Arthur. This was when I ducked for cover.

Quote
No, this is precisely the right approach to take.


'Swhat I figured. But I've read so much on how GMs should sit down before each campaign and work out the Deeply Meaningful Themes and figure out how to structure the campaign accordingly. And I just don't GM that way.

Quote
But I'd argue that these are the least interesting of Bangs. Still good, but the best Bangs are ones in which you have no idea what the PC will do, just the feeling that they can't escape the situation without creating theme.


<nod> Sometimes I'll set up a situation -- I don't know if it's a bang situation or not -- where I'm not pre-determining player/PC response, but I have a pretty good guess as to what that response will be. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be very useful. But going into uncharted territory is another kick. Stuff you just could not have predicted that turns everything upside down and that everyone enjoys -- there's nothing like it.

Quote
The point is that you don't have to be thinking consciously in terms of premise, let alone theme. One doesn't create Bangs (well I don't and I doubt many do) by saying, "Hmmm. I'd like for the players to address the premise of the values of peace over violence. The potential themes are that the PC rejects violence, and accepts peace. The other being that the PC rejects peace as impractical and accepts violence. So I'll set up a situation in which...."

Nah, doesn't go like that at all. And that would be a horrible way to do it under certain circumstances.


I agree. And I've read so many cases where the author -does- think like that. A lot of early White Wolf stuff. I can't vouch for the later stuff, as I fell out of the habit of getting a lot of WoD stuff. Too predetermined for my tastes. A lot of Tribe 8 stuff, which is a pity, because, apart from the predetermination, it's cool. Some essays, even good ones -- at least one in Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads.

Quote
No, what usually happens is that you look at the PCs situation, and think, "Hmmm. What would be cool to happen to him next? Well, he's got a large rating in Pacifist, but all of these combat abilities, too. How about somebody insults him in front of his girlfriend? Yeah, that would be cool."

Now, I don't know how the PC will respond. Again, it's likely that we'll see one of the two themes above, but who knows? The point of a Bang is that we'll have some sort of theme created from some sort of premise, but it's not particularly important to know what they are, or give it any thought.


Again, I agree.  I'm just trying to figure out when I am and am not making a Bang.

Quote
- PC can't "walk away" without that being a statement of sorts. Whatever happens it's cool.


Yes, I think that works better than the "irreversible" idea. And if the PC can walk away without it being a statement, it wasn't really a bang, by definition. The villain offering the hero a chance to join him in conquering the universe may not be a bang, even if it's a cool scene everyone enjoys. The hero turning the villain down may simply be proof that the hero is not an idiot. It depends on the context.

Quote
- There is no "obvious" choice. That is, the situation can't be such where it's obvious to everyone what the best way to progress is. Such that the player's choice is informed only by his ideas of what would be cool.


Mm, not sure. That is, on the one hand, I want to agree. If it's clear that X is the Correct Choice for moral or practical reasons or both, then I want to say it's not a bang. But if one is playing a character in such a way that the character may not make the obvious choice, then is it obvious?

I think I'm getting lost in semantics here, though.

Quote
So, given that, how would you re-evaluate your Bangs?


Hm. Honggong helping the vampires is making a choice, but I'm not sure whether it qualifies. The player knows what is at stake, (pun unintended), but the PC does not. The choice is obvious. If the PC walks away, yes, the vampires wind up dead, but I could see the PC saying, "How was I to know?" And I'd probably agree. Or is the bang in that case whether the PC simply says that or whether the PC does something else -- visits the parents to harm or harangue, joins an anti-vampire defamation league, whatever?

Regina and Terry would, I think, qualify as a bang -- at least, if we take presume there is a theme and premise. That gets to be a tricky call if you don't decide to Insert them. But ducking that, one way or another, Regina is dealing with her adopted grandchild, and there are no obvious answers.

Honggong going with her boyfriend to hear the villain's offer is an odd one. This gets tied up with her boyfriend knowing that his father is doomed to die soon. I won't go into all the connections here, because the relevant factor is that it isn't having the Bang effect on the player. Without that, there is no Bang.

If Josh were bored by the Regina-Terry scene, it wouldn't be a Bang. Well, yes, I could hit Regina with consequences. I've done that before. I try not to be inflicting my ideas of morality or ethics on players, but if, fr'ex, a player can't be bothered to have his PC keeping tabs on his spy ring, even after I say, in so many words, "You should check in with your spy ring", I've no problem hitting the PC with the consequences. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn't -- but it isn't a bang. It's a plot twist or a plot extension.

Similarly, setting up an NPC to die in a horror plot isn't a bang, IMO, by the definition we're using. It's a Plot Device, an ancient and honorable tradition.

Pixel being dead -- let's see. No obvious answers. Check. PC can't walk away without this being a statement. Check. But it doesn't feel like a bang. It feels like a plot twist.

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Lastly, Bangs are just a technique, not the be-all way to play. So where you may not be using Bangs, it's not surprising that you're game is still fun - you're just using other techniques that work. In fact, you can get a lot of fun play out of "failed" Bangs, or "near-Bangs". That's why it's only important to try with Bangs, and not worry about them being perfect.


Thanks. It's the pedant in me. I want to know which tool I'm using, and if it's not a Bang, what the Bang tool is. I think I keep on as I am, and just look at the Stuff I toss in to ask myself what it is -- Bang, plot twist, Plot Device, something else.

-Lisa
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2004, 02:08:30 PM »

Quote from: Lisa Padol
Threads go around and come around. When I was on an Arthurian mailing list, one thread that came back again and again was whether there really was an historical King Arthur. This was when I ducked for cover.
Well aroung here you post a link to the original thread. So, more seriously this time, I haven't covered this with you, have I?

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No, this is precisely the right approach to take.


'Swhat I figured. But I've read so much on how GMs should sit down before each campaign and work out the Deeply Meaningful Themes and figure out how to structure the campaign accordingly. And I just don't GM that way.
Where did you read that? Please point out the threads in question so that I can go there and do what I always do when I read that, and debunk the notion. I and others have worked pretty hard to dispell the notion that Narrativist play must be prestructured in some sort of deep way. The point of System Does Matter, actually, is that if you have the right system, all you have to do is play the system as written and you'll get Narrativist play. No thinking required at all. ;-)

I agree that putting out interesting conflicts that you have a feeling about in terms of what the PC will do is a valid approach in many ways. First, the player might not feel that you've predicted the outcome, in which case you have something approaching a certain sort of Illusionism. Secondly, the might do something you didn't predict anyhow. Remember that Narrativism is, by definition, players deciding to do things because those things are thematically interesting. As such, any random feedback will cause a Narrativist response in the right players.

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I agree. And I've read so many cases where the author -does- think like that. A lot of early White Wolf stuff. I can't vouch for the later stuff, as I fell out of the habit of getting a lot of WoD stuff. Too predetermined for my tastes. A lot of Tribe 8 stuff, which is a pity, because, apart from the predetermination, it's cool. Some essays, even good ones -- at least one in Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads.
That's one of the claims of Narrativism is that WoD stuff ain't it. Precisely because it predetermines too much.

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And if the PC can walk away without it being a statement, it wasn't really a bang, by definition.
Well, depends what you mean. I'd call it a failed Bang. I mean, it was designed to be a Bang, it just fizzled for some reason.
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- There is no "obvious" choice. That is, the situation can't be such where it's obvious to everyone what the best way to progress is. Such that the player's choice is informed only by his ideas of what would be cool.


Mm, not sure. That is, on the one hand, I want to agree. If it's clear that X is the Correct Choice for moral or practical reasons or both, then I want to say it's not a bang. But if one is playing a character in such a way that the character may not make the obvious choice, then is it obvious?

I think I'm getting lost in semantics here, though.
Yes, you are. The real question is whether or not the player feels that he's making a real choice, that he's adding to the game by using the power he's been given to make the game go one way or any other he chooses. If it doesn't do that, then, again, it was a failure as a Bang.

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So, given that, how would you re-evaluate your Bangs?


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Hm. Honggong helping the vampires is making a choice, but I'm not sure whether it qualifies. The player knows what is at stake, (pun unintended), but the PC does not. The choice is obvious. If the PC walks away, yes, the vampires wind up dead, but I could see the PC saying, "How was I to know?" And I'd probably agree. Or is the bang in that case whether the PC simply says that or whether the PC does something else -- visits the parents to harm or harangue, joins an anti-vampire defamation league, whatever?
That's a perfect Bang, IMO. Because it's not a character decision. That doesn't matter at all. It's a question of the player decision. In this case, the player gets to decide whether or not the vampires live or die. Can you see the statement that the player is making in either case? Each is fun and interesting, and if the player really prioritizes Narrativism, then there's no way to know which he would choose (actually, I'd put more money on him staying - it's what I would do). :-)

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Regina and Terry would, I think, qualify as a bang -- at least, if we take presume there is a theme and premise. That gets to be a tricky call if you don't decide to Insert them. But ducking that, one way or another, Regina is dealing with her adopted grandchild, and there are no obvious answers.
Premise: How do you deal with children in terms of your values? Theme: whatever the player decides. Perfect Bang. Very relevant to me, my youngest is three weeks old today. Makes you think about these things.

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Honggong going with her boyfriend to hear the villain's offer is an odd one. This gets tied up with her boyfriend knowing that his father is doomed to die soon. I won't go into all the connections here, because the relevant factor is that it isn't having the Bang effect on the player. Without that, there is no Bang.
Oh, I dunno. I think it's probably something a tad more complicated than the simple Bang. I try stuff like this a lot. Sometimes simpler is better, but I think it's definitely an attempt to produce thematic play from the players.

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Well, yes, I could hit Regina with consequences. I've done that before. I try not to be inflicting my ideas of morality or ethics on players, but if, fr'ex, a player can't be bothered to have his PC keeping tabs on his spy ring, even after I say, in so many words, "You should check in with your spy ring", I've no problem hitting the PC with the consequences. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn't -- but it isn't a bang. It's a plot twist or a plot extension.
Yeah. In fact, use that stuff sparingly. Injecting theme that way, that strongly, tends to inform the players that they're supposed to follow those themes. It can have a chilling effect on Narrativist play.

Occasionally it's fun to do, however. Remember, you're a player too, and get to make statements of your own.

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Similarly, setting up an NPC to die in a horror plot isn't a bang, IMO, by the definition we're using. It's a Plot Device, an ancient and honorable tradition.
Like you said previously, it all depends on context. Does the death mean that some character has to make some decision? Like stand and fight, or run away? If so, it's a Bang. Yeah, "combat" is often a bang, when presented correctly.

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Pixel being dead -- let's see. No obvious answers. Check. PC can't walk away without this being a statement. Check. But it doesn't feel like a bang. It feels like a plot twist.
See, what the GM does is force the issue. Often with plot twists as the device to bring them about. The question isn't what the GM is doing, but what the player responses available are. In this case, the plot twist is the technique used to set up the Bang. There are a lot of others.

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Thanks. It's the pedant in me. I want to know which tool I'm using, and if it's not a Bang, what the Bang tool is.
It makes sense to want to know if you're using a technique. It doesn't make sense to fret about it, however. If play is going well, then discussions of technique don't much matter - just keep doing what you're doing. But, yeah, if this helps you understand what a Bang is, then hopefully there'll be some moment where you'll see the technique's applicability in play and use it more often to good effect.

So, good luck,
Mike
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Lisa Padol
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Posts: 365


« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2004, 01:45:46 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
So, more seriously this time, I haven't covered this with you, have I?


I don't think so. This isn't sounding like stuff I've read before.

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Please point out the threads in question so that I can go there and do what I always do when I read that, and debunk the notion. I and others have worked pretty hard to dispell the notion that Narrativist play must be prestructured in some sort of deep way. The point of System Does Matter, actually, is that if you have the right system, all you have to do is play the system as written and you'll get Narrativist play. No thinking required at all. ;-)


Okay, I don't think we're talking about the same thing here. When I read stuff like "You must plan your themes in advance," I'm probably reading White Wolf or general essays on rpgs. When I read stuff in the Forge, I tend to read Actual Play.

Actual Play is my all time favorite place to hang out here. I don't have time to read all the forums -- there's this thing called work, necessary for bills and such; there's game prep time, for the actual playing; there's reading, hanging out, and all those cool things. When I glance at the theoretical forums, my eyes tend to glaze over.

I don't have a problem with that -- it's where the planting gets done. But I'm interested in the fruits, which are here. Kabbalisitically speaking, there are four worlds. I forget the name for the first, but the next two are creation and formation, and the fourth translates to something meaning this is where the finished product is. They're all important worlds, and I'm hanging out in the fourth. Examples are what make me understand all the theories and go, "Wow! Now, I get it."

There haven't been any examples of "You must work out your theories first" in Actual Play. There was "No, a bang is not defined that way," and since the author of the post to that effect happened to be correct, I don't think there's a problem with that.

What did probably throw me are some of the examples. Which ones? Well, the ones that go like this: "I'm starting a Sorcerer campaign, and here are my Premises."

There is nothing wrong with such posts. And they have lots of cool stuff showing me in ways that all the theorizing doesn't everything from how to tailor Humanity to the individual game to how to get a fight scene underway. But these examples left me with the impression that  one is Supposed To sit down and plan out premsises in advance for Sorcere. Not because anyone told me I had to do that -- heck, I'm not even running Sorcerer -- but because that's what they're doing.

I'm sure there are threads where this isn't happening, but people don't tend to say, "I'm running Sorcerer, and I am not making Premises." Nah, they just talk about the cool stuff in their games.

I think this is where the confusion came in.

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Like you said previously, it all depends on context. Does the death mean that some character has to make some decision? Like stand and fight, or run away? If so, it's a Bang. Yeah, "combat" is often a bang, when presented correctly.


It usually means the player either takes the plot hook of the evening or the GM's life is made mucho complicated. So many mystery plots start with an NPC dying. It's often a requirement.

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See, what the GM does is force the issue. Often with plot twists as the device to bring them about. The question isn't what the GM is doing, but what the player responses available are. In this case, the plot twist is the technique used to set up the Bang. There are a lot of others.


Not sure I follow this. Pixel dies. This is a plot twist. It is a lead up to a future Bang. Is that what you're saying?

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It makes sense to want to know if you're using a technique. It doesn't make sense to fret about it, however. If play is going well, then discussions of technique don't much matter - just keep doing what you're doing. But, yeah, if this helps you understand what a Bang is, then hopefully there'll be some moment where you'll see the technique's applicability in play and use it more often to good effect.


Oh, I'm not fretting. Just trying to hear the music.

-Lisa
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2004, 03:15:59 PM »

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I'm sure there are threads where this isn't happening, but people don't tend to say, "I'm running Sorcerer, and I am not making Premises." Nah, they just talk about the cool stuff in their games.
Uh, OK, I see where your problem might be here. In Sorcerer, this is a requirement of the rules. To play Sorcerer correctly, and by the rules, you are required to set up a premise via a selection of the meaning of humanity for the game, and what demons are, etc. The process is called making the "one-sheet" for the game in question. If you don't do that, you can't play. Not because it's the only way to play a game that supports narrativism, but because the Sorcerer rules require it.

Not choosing a premise for Sorcerer would be like players not choosing classes for their characters in D&D. It's just not possible to play without it. Because in establishing Humanity you establish when you roll for certain things, etc, etc, etc.

On the plot twist, sometimes that twist is the bang. In fact, discovering a dead person is one of the example Bangs in the Sorcerer book. Now, not all dead bodies are Bangs. But if this sort of a twist means that the character now has to make some choice (and we can't be sure of what that is) then the dead body, that plot twist, is a Bang.

Mike
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