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Author Topic: [Shadows In The Fog] New Draft  (Read 21744 times)
clehrich
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Posts: 1557


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« on: November 11, 2004, 10:36:00 AM »

Some of you may recall my game Shadows in the Fog, an occult history horror and weirdness thing set in Jack the Ripper's London.  Well, after much agony and some playtesting, I have done a pretty strong overhaul of text and rules.

It's available as a zip file containing a hefty pdf.

Here's the .zip link to download from

I'm looking for essentially any comments at all, as before.  What I'd particularly like to see is someone take the thing for a test-drive, but I realize that it's tricky because the game really doesn't lend itself to short runs.  Still, any playtesting would be much appreciated.

Please note that there aren't enough examples.  The thing was getting pretty long anyway.  So one question is where examples are needed.  I mean, examples are always helpful, but where in particular would they be helpful?

As before, Volume 2, which will contain all kinds of historical information, maps, and whatnot has barely been started.  When I eventually consider the game "complete" it will have all this, but the game is entirely playable without it.

Many thanks.
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Chris Lehrich
redivider
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2004, 10:48:29 PM »

Hi,

I read quickly through the game, skipping the options section. Very very intriguing. I like the concept, the use of tarot cards, the subtle magic, your admission and embrace of a slow pace, the 'theory,' even the introductory epigraph is great.

Here are some thoughts:


You mention the concept of a “Mask” a few times before explaining exactly what it is in the actual mask section.

Give a few examples or lists of possible masks beyond your mention of a character with a military background. Or direct players to the People of London section.

 “Abyss” is a stark term compared to many of the examples, some of which are fairly subtle.  I like the word, but you might want to “justify” it in a sense by explaining why the reality or secret behind the mask qualifies as an abyss.  


“Group creation session” makes it sound like the players will share character concepts in advance so as to create a bunch of characters who work well together: the 'team' concept. But you’re actually focusing on defining the relationships between characters and fleshing out character backgrounds through points of contact. I like the technique of a social gathering by the way.

The example you give under the “Compleat Mask” seems too strong. The blatant reference about whoring seems to add an out of character ‘make sure you catch my drift here’ to what I had imagined as an in-character sharing of info.

It would be nice to have an example of a character with skills and ratings.

Two of the interpersonal skills, caring and trusting, are going to be harder to figure out than the other two which have corollaries in many games.  Examples probably needed.

The meanings of the suits is under-emphasized in your rules explanations and examples. Suits don’t show up at all in your opposed actions and concessions examples. And the combat example of the swords suit should clearly state that the trick in the fight is an example of intellect. And then the pentacles card doesn’t seem to have anything to do with money. I like the extended example but you should strengthen the role of suits. Or am I misinterpreting what suits are supposed to do.

Need more examples of magick use, especially initiation and narrating the win.

Also could help to have an sample of game play for a magical resolution over the full five tricks.

Good summaries of types of magic.

I like the Levi-Strauss underpinnings. But examples under the Why this Way section seems too “hard” in the sense of it being unlikely that different players would remember earlier uses and refine them so carefully in a narrowing, ascending pyramid of meanings. Although maybe this is what you mean by play moving slowly so players have time to reflect upon past actions and draw upon fragments of info about the setting. The example of the tower card and the opposing spheres is even harder. (Don’t get me wrong, they really make me want to try the game but perhaps building from a really obvious example to your subtler ones would be a good idea).

Also, might you want to summarize these crucial concepts in the intro rather than leave them after all the rules.

Finally, two more conceptual comments.

Where’s the horror in the text? It is tepidly indirectly implied in a few examples, but do you need a section on the kind of horror experience you think the game can provide, and how to structure terror and mystery through collaborative narration? Or is the game not necessarily a horror rpg, you’re just going to provide plenty of details on the occult in the 2nd volume.

Along the same lines, ever thought of leaving the magic out, or suggesting a magic free game as an option? It’s a personal bias of mine to think that some rpgs can work just as well or better without the included supernatural powers.  The game seems to have enough social, psychological, and setting depth to work sans occult. Trumps could still equate to unusual things happening; just not by supernatural means.
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clehrich
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Posts: 1557


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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2004, 11:20:38 PM »

You got all that from a fast read-through?  Damn, you're good!

I'll just walk through here, for clarity's sake.  Most of the things I agree with to at least some degree.

Quote from: redivider
Give a few examples or lists of possible masks beyond your mention of a character with a military background. Or direct players to the People of London section.
Yes, interesting point.  Another way to do this would be to point to the little discussion at the end of Dracula and Jekyll, but that might be a little much.
Quote
“Abyss” is a stark term compared to many of the examples, some of which are fairly subtle.  I like the word, but you might want to “justify” it in a sense by explaining why the reality or secret behind the mask qualifies as an abyss.
Excellent point.  Dead-on.  I'll get to work on that.
Quote
“Group creation session” makes it sound like the players will share character concepts in advance so as to create a bunch of characters who work well together: the 'team' concept. But you’re actually focusing on defining the relationships between characters and fleshing out character backgrounds through points of contact. I like the technique of a social gathering by the way.
On this one, I wonder what others think.  I see what you're saying, but that's not the connotation this term has for me.  If your reading is relatively usual, though, some term-change or revision is definitely in order.
Quote
The example you give under the “Compleat Mask” seems too strong. The blatant reference about whoring seems to add an out of character ‘make sure you catch my drift here’ to what I had imagined as an in-character sharing of info.
I'm not sure what you mean.  My notion of the Compleat Mask is that it's really only for your and the Host's delectation, but because you have thought it out concretely and written it down you are likely to start using it as a basis for play.  Maybe I'm misunderstanding your comment?
Quote
It would be nice to have an example of a character with skills and ratings.
<whack!>  Oops.  Yes, of course it would, wouldn't it?  It's always the obvious that I forget....
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Two of the interpersonal skills, caring and trusting, are going to be harder to figure out than the other two which have corollaries in many games.  Examples probably needed.
Well, here I'm not confident about the terms either.  Basically my idea is that "caring" is a kind of empathy, an ability to understand others in an emotional way, and that this lends itself to all sorts of social interactions.  "Trusting" is a matter of setting aside paranoia and fear and being willing to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Again, I see this as relevant to a vast range of social interactions.  The idea was that all the interpersonal skills can be used for more or less anything, but with different implications.  So you can seduce someone by domination or by caring, but those seductions are very different.  I think this isn't explained very well, though.  Any suggestions?
Quote
The meanings of the suits is under-emphasized in your rules explanations and examples. Suits don’t show up at all in your opposed actions and concessions examples. And the combat example of the swords suit should clearly state that the trick in the fight is an example of intellect. And then the pentacles card doesn’t seem to have anything to do with money. I like the extended example but you should strengthen the role of suits. Or am I misinterpreting what suits are supposed to do?
Actually, I think the examples don't use the suits almost at all, because they were almost unrevised from the first version.  Ooops!  The thing is, I really dislike using the suits as meaningful this way, but everyone I know who has read the game really really wants to use them so -- and really wants to use them for their "minor arcana" divinatory meanings.  I'm trying to produce a simplified compromise version, but I'm sufficiently ambivalent about it that I completely forgot to revise the examples.  That says something, I suppose.  Wish I knew what.  Wish I could stop typing "really" as well. :>
Quote
Also could help to have an sample of game play for a magical resolution over the full five tricks.
Here's something I want to throw open.  I tried to write an example several times, but it never really came together.  The problem is that every "spell" (magical resolution) is a special case.  That's what makes the game work, when it does.  It's entirely about the group, and how everyone thinks right now, and what people come up with, and so on.  So every time I try to write up an example, I end up with something that I think sounds really constricting and sort of "do it this way or else."  But I realize that I can't leave it completely without examples -- or can I?  I keep thinking there's some way around this problem, but can't think of what it might be.
Quote
I like the Levi-Strauss underpinnings. But examples under the Why this Way section seems too “hard” in the sense of it being unlikely that different players would remember earlier uses and refine them so carefully in a narrowing, ascending pyramid of meanings. Although maybe this is what you mean by play moving slowly so players have time to reflect upon past actions and draw upon fragments of info about the setting. The example of the tower card and the opposing spheres is even harder. (Don’t get me wrong, they really make me want to try the game but perhaps building from a really obvious example to your subtler ones would be a good idea).
Well, actually I find that most of this stays below consciousness somewhere.  I put in this theoretical section because it might give some idea of where the game is headed, but I'd rather take it out than make it "practical," in the sense that I think it's something that comes by itself if people are willing to fudge things.  Basically this is the sort of mucking about that leads to "crocking" or whatever you want to call it, i.e. screwing with the rules of (let's say) Champions in order to get infinite power for 0 points.  The point of the system at this level is that it guides you to do this as an in-game meaning creation, rather than as a meta-game screwing around thing.  Oddly enough, it seems to work without any overt theory!
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Where’s the horror in the text? It is tepidly indirectly implied in a few examples, but do you need a section on the kind of horror experience you think the game can provide, and how to structure terror and mystery through collaborative narration? Or is the game not necessarily a horror rpg, you’re just going to provide plenty of details on the occult in the 2nd volume.
No, well, this is the other thing I keep banging my head against.  I've done 3 versions of the game, then 1 prior version of this set of rules, and in every case the horror and whatnot somehow drops out.  What I'm trying to get at is something I have trouble explaining.  Basically if you design characters like this, with this disparity between Mask and Abyss, and put them in a really Victorian world, they are inherently figures of horror.  And when you then set them into a kind of investigative relation to the Jack the Ripper murders, the whole thing goes dark and ugly very fast.  But I can't seem to put my finger on how and why this works or makes sense.  I feel as though adventure "seeds" would be an idea, but they always seem cheesy.  The whole concept seems somehow integrated throughout to me, but I have a lot of trouble making clear why this is so; I realize that if you haven't steeped yourself in a huge amount of this kind of literature and history and rumor and conspiracy theory, the connection isn't clear, and I need to make it so.  I think this is the greatest weakness of the game writeup as it stands.  Any suggestions, from anyone at all, on how to fix this would be much appreciated.
Quote
Along the same lines, ever thought of leaving the magic out, or suggesting a magic free game as an option? It’s a personal bias of mine to think that some rpgs can work just as well or better without the included supernatural powers.  The game seems to have enough social, psychological, and setting depth to work sans occult. Trumps could still equate to unusual things happening; just not by supernatural means.
Oh sure.  Jere is running a version of the game that is pure John LeCarre espionage -- no magic, just paranoid weirdness.  Instead of magic, you have missions, usually in the past -- the contents of services' records and whatnot.  But I remain convinced that somehow if I can get across the whole "why this is inherently horror" thing, what you will produce is occult gaming in which the occult works like occult texts always said it did.

I think I'm very close, but it's sure as hell not quite there yet.

Many, many thanks!
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Chris Lehrich
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2004, 10:38:56 AM »

First, in terms of alternate history, you say that the idea is to be subtle about it, such that any use of the occult would not be discernable in the future looking back on the history. I get what you're saying, but does this apply to the players as well? That is, is this a convention that the players need to adhere to, or just the GM? If some player did use some flashy ability to kill Queen Victoria (she having been determined to have been replaced by a fake or somesuch), should that be disallowed? Discouraged?

I like the section on mode. It sets the idea that the protagonists, and likely the antagonists too, are those who have a disjunction between their internal and external personalities. I think that this makes for a rather clear method of finding appropriate characters to play.

The note on secrets is pretty good, but you might want to include a statement that the way to ensure that you have the "story power" over something is to be willing to reveal the secrets in question. A secret unrevealed is only fun for the revealer, so the "threat" of your secret being overrun by somebody else should simply be incentive for people to reveal their secrets. This might, in some ways, conflict with the pace of the game - but I don't think that it has to do so. In any case, it can work to prevent a lot of protracted farting around, waiting for something dramatically interesting to happen. I think as long as people are adhering to the other genre constraints, that the pressure to reveal secrets is fine.

Generally, I think the campaign and design parameters sections do a fine job of getting the feel of the style and such across. What they don't do, somehow, is to get across what gameplay will be like. We get all the color in spades, even some idea of who the characters are, but we have no idea what the situations are going to be like. I looks like we have to wait for that until way back in "Running the Shadows" (Shadowrunners?). But even there, again we get color, and tricks for generating color. It seems that, at the most, the only suggestions for generating situation is in terms of interpreting reads of the cards.

Is this the game's assertion? That nobody playing needs to think actively about situation, but that it will come about automatically as a result of the card play? Note, I'm not talking about scenes individually; you mention that it might do to have scenes with conflict pre-established. But nowhere do you say what sorts of conflicts make sense, or how to organize them, except in the long example in the "Running" chapter under "Why this way?"

Put it this way, it seems to me that either this will fail to work at all, or it will work, in which case it's extremely brilliant. But I'm doubting the whole Jungian forces concept that seems to be driving it. I mean, with Universalis, we don't expect any particular sort of result, anything can happen. So, basically, without anything in particular to inform what sort of action is supposed to happen, how do we get the right sorts of plots to happen in SitF? With all the remarks on color, I can see it feeling right - I just don't see what sort of conflicts are going to be built.

It sorta begs for a sample scenario, or the equivalent. Perhaps a sample of play? I mean, I can see the Group Creation session crystal clear. But then right off, as GM I'm going to flounder as to what to do to spur action. Do I create a villain ala Fu Manchu or something (or is that too pulpy?) Do I have somebody important discover the PC secrets one by one? What's appropriate? How can I keep it all coherent without falling into that CoC party play mode where it's just, "Dude calls us all together to investigate haunted house." Or is that the mode we're supposed to use?


I think that I said this last time, but it bears repeating; watch the negative language. You say too often that the game isn't pulp, but then don't say as much about what it is. Instead of trying to exhort people not to play pulp, I think it would be better to tell them how to play in the subtle manner that's good for the game.

For example, "Don't design your character around a gimmick." Replace with, "Design characters with depth." Then the Richard III example becomes how to use a characteristic for depth, with the other examples as counterexamples. So, instead of "Don't do this, here's a bad example, here's a good one" you say, "Do this, here's a good example, and here's what not to do." I think this has strong psychological effects. The first sounds like you're in denial of what might be fun, the second sounds athoratative and directly informational.

"Right away, I'm begging you to immerse yourself in Victorian Culture. The best way to do this is to read some helpful fictional works (it's also fun, of course)." Sounds like it's some horrible task that you're asking the participants to take on that you're trying to sweeten. How about, "It's very important before starting to immerse yourself in Victorian Culture. Do not begin play until you've read some helpful fictional works. It's fun, and failing to do so will make the game less fun to play."

We make other things requirements in play, why not reading assignments? As always, the player will ignore this at will. The way to get them to do it is to present it in a positive light as a requirement of good play. Which it is, no?

Your section on Austerity does this perfectly. To paraphrase, "Play is austere, not pulpy. Play is mostly internal, not external."


The part about The Abyss is interesting. Perhaps not important, but intriguing, you say that the character must have something eccentric about them to "deserve" having occult things happening to them. Thus conforming with the Victorian ideal. But isn't the game to some extent about questioning this ideal? I'm not suggesting that players should be allowed to take non-eccentric people. Just that this seems like a somewhat odd assertion. Are you saying here that the theme of fixed destiny due to behavior is inalterable in the game?

Also, is the character's Abyss a secret or not? The examples seem to be secret type stuff, but then some of the other text seems to assume that their peers would realize these things. For example, one of the questions is, "What do you think they think of you?" Shouldn't that be, "What would they think of you, if not for your mask?" Or do I read something incorrectly?

The section on Passing seems to offer a clue (that is, it could be either?), but it's still not clear.

Under drives, you have several questions. One of them is "What would you give up for them [your drives]?" I suggest leaving that out. Isn't that something that play should determine? If they answer the question up front, then I think that it takes some of the suspense out of it, no?


These are some fundamental level issues, I haven't gotten into the detailed mechanisms yet.

Oh, one last thing. How is the character recorded? It probably seems obvious to you, but...is there a character sheet or anything? Or is the character just recorded as a list of notes? All the many questions that go into chargen, and the intro session - how do we ensure that this doesn't get lost? What if the game is a once a month event? Or you play gazillions of games like I do, and forget the names of the characters between sessions, much less what their connections to each other are.

Did I miss a suggestion about this somewhere?

Mike
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clehrich
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« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2004, 12:01:02 PM »

First, a very long response that is at the same time an example:

Quote from: Mike Holmes
First, in terms of alternate history, you say that the idea is to be subtle about it, such that any use of the occult would not be discernable in the future looking back on the history. I get what you're saying, but does this apply to the players as well? That is, is this a convention that the players need to adhere to, or just the GM? If some player did use some flashy ability to kill Queen Victoria (she having been determined to have been replaced by a fake or somesuch), should that be disallowed? Discouraged?
Everything in these rules is about every player.  Following your remarks last time around, I discarded the whole "GM's, here's your thing, which is different" approach.  So in a sense, yes, this applies to players as well.  But at the same time, it's an aesthetic principle, not a binding restriction.  I'm going to explicate this a bit because it may help point out why I'm having so much trouble with examples.
    "If some player did use some flashy ability to kill Queen Victoria (she having been determined to have been replaced by a fake or somesuch)...."[/list:u]But you see, this can't happen like that.  The mechanics make this simply impossible.  So let's say Anne, Bob, Cathy, and Dave are playing, and Dave is the Host (GM).  Anne's into ritual magic (forget the player/character distinction, for simplicity's sake).  She plays The Moon:
    Hidden enemies, danger, calumny, terror, deception, occult forces, error.  
Reversed: Instability, inconstancy, silence, lesser degrees of deception and error.[/list:u]Now having read that, and having announced that her Occult Skill is Good, she says that the Queen is assassinated by hidden terrorists with occult powers, who then replace her with a fake Queen.

Now my sense is that the other players will join with the Host in overruling this, on the grounds that it's too much like pulp cheez-whiz and not enough subtle weirdness.  They might tone it down, making it an attempt on her life rather than a necessary death.  This is pure aesthetics: if they don't think this is workable, it's not going to happen.  But let's suppose instead that they say, "Well, okay, let's do that."  Magical resolution time.

Anne: Queen Swords -- The head of the occult terrorist group has figured out that when the Queen is riding to Balmoral on Tuesday, she will be unprotected for 5 minutes.  [This is pretty big (Queen) and about intelligence or thought (Swords)]

Bob: 4 Swords – Special Branch are aware that someone’s scouting this trip.

Cathy: Hermit – “especially treason, dissimulation, roguery, corruption.” – Special Branch knows about this because the second-in-command of the occult terrorists is actually an undercover agent who tells them everything. [Note that this is a very big thing, thus a Trump]

Dave: 9 Swords – Special Branch calls in the Diogenes Club occultists to analyze the situation and come up with a plan.

[1 Trick to Anne.  Note how everyone is to some degree against her here, which is because they think it’s too big and cheesy.]

Anne: Knight Pentacles – The occult terrorists are exceedingly wealthy, and they buy the assistance of the carriage driver. [Now we’re on to money, because Pentacles]

Bob: Queen Pentacles – The Diogenes Club hires a brilliant actress to impersonate the queen, paying a lot because she’s risking her life.

Cathy: 4 Pentacles – Special Branch knows what bank the occult terrorists use.

Dave: 3 Pentacles – Special Branch asks the bank to stop funds.

[1 Trick to Bob.]

Bob: King Rods – The Diogenes Club acquires the services of a professional, and very deadly, assassin, one Colonel Sebastian Moran.  They intend to use him to take out the head of the occult terrorist group.

Cathy: 8 Swords (she’s out of Rods) – The Diogenes Club, run as it is by Mycroft Holmes, manages to figure out where the terrorist headquarters must be.

Dave: Hierophant – What they figure out is that the headquarters is at Mark Mason Hall, which means they know it’s got to be either the Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia (SRIA) or the newly-formed Golden Dawn... of which I believe you’re a member, Anne. [Note again how powerful Trumps are]

Anne: 9 Rods – The terrorists, having realized who the traitor is, kill him.

[2 Tricks to Bob.]

Bob: Queen Cups – Playing on her patriotism, the Diogenes Club convinces the actress to take the Queen’s place in the carriage on the fateful Tuesday. [Emotion = Cups]

Cathy: Knight Cups – Again thinking patriotism, the Diogenes Club approaches S.L. MacGregor Mathers, head of the new Golden Dawn, and gets him to provide a list of members and interested people who might be anti-British.

Dave: 9 Cups – Among those with a deep dislike or concern about the situation in Ireland and the Parnell Affair, they find W.B. Yeats, Florence Farr, and Anne O’Grady (the PC).

Anne: Fool – Unfortunately, the Diogenes Club have made the mistake of thinking that because Mark Mason Hall is the terrorist group’s headquarters this also means that they will perform their ritual there... which they won’t.  They’re completely in the dark about the actual performance on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

[3 Tricks to Bob – he’s won now, so we start tidying up]

Bob: Last Judgment – “change of position, renewal, outcome... weakness, pusillanimity, simplicity...” – The Queen and the actress swap positions, reversing the whole outcome of the event and making its actual effect very weak. [Poor interpretation, but good enough]

Cathy: King Swords – Although the Diogenes Club are totally wrong, their assassin, Colonel Moran, is an old shikari and tracks them to their lair. [Note that this is just barely within bounds, not quite violating Anne’s previous play; without a big card like this it should be blocked]

Dave: Page Rods (unsuited trick!) – Moran shoots the chief terrorist at 2:00 am, right in the middle of the ceremony.

Anne: Tower – Because the terrorists have actually raised the powers of darkness already, the spell goes wild and uncontrolled, and disaster ensues.  The terrorists are disgraced and ruined, but calamity nevertheless strikes Britain.

[1 Trick to Cathy]

Now we’ve got Anne 1, Bob 3, Cathy 1.  So Bob narrates:

A whirlwind of demonic energy swoops down on the carriage, out of a lowering sky.  The horses panic, then are torn apart.  The treacherous driver is found nearly a quarter of a mile away, horribly burned and with no blood in his body.  The daring actress, sad to say, appears to have been devoured by wild animals.  And there are no witnesses.  The country is in shock: even though the Palace gives out its assurances that the Queen is safe, many people still wonder whether it was the double or the real Queen who died.  Some stocks plummet.  The papers run story after story about this freak accident, and seek ever wilder explanations.  And all the occultists in Britain – and abroad – know that something terrible came within an inch of striking down the Queen of England... which means that her throne is unstable.

Okay, so the point of the example is that in the end, the group decided that they didn’t want the Queen actually to die, so they bent things.  They kept together as much of the original spell as they could, but almost reversed its implications.  Now one point, mechanically speaking, is that Cathy has lost cards as a result of this: she played 6 cards, including the initial Trump, but takes 5 at the end.  Bob draws 8 cards, having played 5.  Cathy draws 6 cards, having played 5.  Dave, of course, just replenishes his hand to 10.  Of course, I’m skipping over the question of the kitty and all that, for simplicity’s sake, but the point is that because the group didn’t like Cathy’s play, she ended up losing a card total (plus some high cards) and didn’t quite get what she wanted.

Another way this could work is if the group decided to let the spell work as planned, killing the Queen and replacing her with the double, but decided instead to follow up Dave’s suggestion (not so veiled) that Special Branch and the Diogenes Club might haul in Anne herself for questioning.

A final note is that this is a slightly odd example because I didn’t make it necessary at the outset that Anne’s character caused all this; Dave had to do that in play.  But actually, that’s perfectly possible.  Basically Anne’s character in some way manipulated occult forces, god knows how, the result of which was that a terrorist Golden Dawn cell decided to kill the Queen by ritual magic.  Now if Anne had been completely on the line with this, i.e. had said from the outset that she was running the ritual, things might well have gone differently: I suspect that the group would just say that her Occult Skill just isn’t nearly powerful enough and they don’t like this abuse of power, so they’d push her to tweak her spell until they could live with the results.

One thing that's missing in a big way from this example is Anne's initial shtick setup.  She should make a little speech, using her occult doublespeak, telling us how the spell works and what it's all about.  If this is really, really brilliant, the group is much more likely to go along with the results.

Above all, I hope this little example shows something of how this game actually runs during magical resolution.  It’s not a great example, I admit.  But I think it also gives some indication of why it’s so difficult to write examples for this game.  Any suggestions?
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2004, 12:33:08 PM »

Continuing on to Mike's other points and questions:

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Is this the game's assertion? That nobody playing needs to think actively about situation, but that it will come about automatically as a result of the card play? Note, I'm not talking about scenes individually; you mention that it might do to have scenes with conflict pre-established. But nowhere do you say what sorts of conflicts make sense, or how to organize them, except in the long example in the "Running" chapter under "Why this way?"
See, what worries me here is that your questions imply that these things are tightly linked together, and I think you’re right.  Which is yet another reason it’s so damn difficult to write up examples.
Quote
Put it this way, it seems to me that either this will fail to work at all, or it will work, in which case it's extremely brilliant. But I'm doubting the whole Jungian forces concept that seems to be driving it. I mean, with Universalis, we don't expect any particular sort of result, anything can happen. So, basically, without anything in particular to inform what sort of action is supposed to happen, how do we get the right sorts of plots to happen in SitF? With all the remarks on color, I can see it feeling right - I just don't see what sort of conflicts are going to be built.
Setting aside the Jung thing, which to my mind is backwards but not the point here, the odd thing is that it does seem to work.  But as you say, the question of “what sorts of plots?” is an amazingly important and difficult one.  I’m wondering how to present this.  I mean, I could provide a list of sample storylines, but I don’t know if that would by itself help enough.
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It sorta begs for a sample scenario, or the equivalent. Perhaps a sample of play? I mean, I can see the Group Creation session crystal clear. But then right off, as GM I'm going to flounder as to what to do to spur action. Do I create a villain ala Fu Manchu or something (or is that too pulpy?) Do I have somebody important discover the PC secrets one by one? What's appropriate? How can I keep it all coherent without falling into that CoC party play mode where it's just, "Dude calls us all together to investigate haunted house." Or is that the mode we're supposed to use?
Coherence is a really good question in SitF.  And I’m not sure what the answer is.  I do think that maybe starting out with the old CoC thing might be useful, but I find that the game tends at some point to start generating its own plots.  See, if you take that magical example from last post, you’ll see that out of thin air we’ve generated a whole bunch of side plots.  So then people start following them up in normal play, and their magic keeps adding more plots, and so on and so forth.  Which means that by the time you’ve run let’s say about 10 sessions, the storyline is so goddamn complicated that only the group can even follow it any more.  Jere’s espionage version, Age of Paranoia, has a Wiki to keep it all straight – and the thing is getting HUGE because NPC’s and stories and whatnot keep appearing out of nowhere.  His version is very GM-driven, but when SitF has run well in previous versions, it happened exactly when the GM was really barely necessary except to toss in new weirdness from history.  That’s what I’m trying to capitalize on in these rules: the ability to generate coherent strangeness on the fly.
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I think that I said this last time, but it bears repeating; watch the negative language. You say too often that the game isn't pulp, but then don't say as much about what it is. Instead of trying to exhort people not to play pulp, I think it would be better to tell them how to play in the subtle manner that's good for the game.
Gee, I thought I’d toned that down.
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For example, "Don't design your character around a gimmick." Replace with, "Design characters with depth." Then the Richard III example becomes how to use a characteristic for depth, with the other examples as counterexamples. So, instead of "Don't do this, here's a bad example, here's a good one" you say, "Do this, here's a good example, and here's what not to do." I think this has strong psychological effects. The first sounds like you're in denial of what might be fun, the second sounds athoratative and directly informational.
I’ll work on it, but as I say, I really thought I’d gone a long way in that direction.  What do others think?
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The part about The Abyss is interesting. Perhaps not important, but intriguing, you say that the character must have something eccentric about them to "deserve" having occult things happening to them. Thus conforming with the Victorian ideal. But isn't the game to some extent about questioning this ideal? I'm not suggesting that players should be allowed to take non-eccentric people. Just that this seems like a somewhat odd assertion. Are you saying here that the theme of fixed destiny due to behavior is inalterable in the game?
Oh sure, it’s about questioning that, but SitF simply does not work if your character is a “straight shooter.”  You can’t question it from the outside, only the inside.  It’s not a fixed destiny, but it is true that the more magic you get involved in, the weirder you will get.
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Also, is the character's Abyss a secret or not? The examples seem to be secret type stuff, but then some of the other text seems to assume that their peers would realize these things. For example, one of the questions is, "What do you think they think of you?" Shouldn't that be, "What would they think of you, if not for your mask?" Or do I read something incorrectly?
Nope, that’s basically particularizing the Mask.  The idea is that your peers are in many ways like you, but although they pigeonhole you as like them, there are special things about you that do make you a bit different.  And it’s very important to think about what if anything bothers them about you, why you’re not put up for as many clubs, and so forth.
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Under drives, you have several questions. One of them is "What would you give up for them [your drives]?" I suggest leaving that out. Isn't that something that play should determine? If they answer the question up front, then I think that it takes some of the suspense out of it, no?
My idea here was that you become fairly clear about how important these drives are.  Basically it’s like Humanity in Sorcerer, which is I think what you mean about needing to leave it a bit open how you decide things, but the thing is that you have multiple drives and they’re not necessarily consistent or coherent.  So if you’re conscious and deliberate about constructing the things as stuff you might give other things up for, that helps you flesh out the complexities of the character.

I guess what’s really missing here is that all this initial character work is eminently mutable.  You expect that the character will change over time, but in subtle ways.  So you’re setting up a hugely complicated three-dimensional mass of conflicting desires and drives, and then letting those things twist in on themselves over time.
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Oh, one last thing. How is the character recorded? It probably seems obvious to you, but...is there a character sheet or anything? Or is the character just recorded as a list of notes? All the many questions that go into chargen, and the intro session - how do we ensure that this doesn't get lost? What if the game is a once a month event? Or you play gazillions of games like I do, and forget the names of the characters between sessions, much less what their connections to each other are.
Well, to me it seems like the best way is just to write a brief statement of the Mask, a detailed paragraph or two on the Compleat Mask, and a page of notes on the Abyss.  

But your question about keeping track of all this over time is a really good one.  Jere, as I say, has been running a Wiki, and I think that’s a really good way if you have the inclination.  Anyone else have suggestions on this?  The game generates an enormous quantity of weirdness very rapidly, and it is indeed hard to keep track.  I mean, if you think about that Queen-killing example, consider that every detail of that play could get picked up again at any time.  And that every time someone used a Trump in there, that’s part of the card’s history now.  On a Wiki, what you do is have a page that’s just the Trumps, with every use attached to the appropriate Trump and a link to the appropriate magical action.  Every magical action also gets a brief page, with cross-references to the Trumps.  And every NPC gets a page.  And and and....

Here’s a concrete example.  Remember the actress horribly killed while acting as the Queen’s double?  Okay, well where was she before that?  She got invented on the fly, but who was she?  Well, maybe later on we’re mucking around with Maskelyne’s Egyptian Hall of Mystery and we need an actress who was once there doing something weird.  Great, how about the same actress?  ‘Course, we have to remember who she was and what sorts of cards might have marked her.  Now how does that color the current Maskelyne storyline?  Hoo boy, I come out in goosebumps just thinking about it.

I don’t know.  I could just ramble on and on indefinitely about possibilities.  So poor old Kitty (that’s her name, I just made it up) got eaten by demons, and she used to work for Maskelyne.  But the thing is that her boyfriend – fiancé actually – thinks there was some kind of plot against her and doesn’t believe in the whole demons thing.  We know this because when someone did a spell to make the Special Branch squad not notice them rifling through the files, what happened was that this guy turned up trying to break in and distracted their attention, and so during the Magical Resolution it turned out that he’s actually the ex-fiancé of Kitty.  Now Special Branch of course thinks he must be some kind of Irish terrorist, which he isn’t, but this also means that he comes to the attention of the Diogenes Club, precipitating him into genuine magical stuff.  And all of a sudden we have an important NPC created out of a chance association with a past NPC who was invented and killed in the course of one spell.

I’m rambling like this to give some sense of what this game is about and why it’s so damn difficult to explain in concrete examples.  Anyone have suggestions?  I mean, as in specific advice for how to do this?
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2004, 12:36:23 PM »

Refering to the first response:

It seems to me that you're saying that, since the game advocates a certain kind of play, the players will enforce the genre conventions. Well, that's either true or it's not. Meaning, if it's true that the players will enforce the conventions, then the case will never come up. If it's not true for one player, then it might not be for all.

My question is, if a minority of players sees something as a genre violation, do they have any recourse? The GM? He certainly has veto power over some things like character concepts, and there is the section on monitoring interpretations, etc. Basically, does the GM's authority extend here, too? To protecting genre in terms of magic?

Anyhow, if the problem can't happen, then why the section in the rules telling us to watch out for it? Basically, what I'm getting at is that you have loads of comments about what the genre should be like, but very little in the way of powers to enforce it, other than a general notion of GM fiat that's enumerated here and there.

This strikes me as traditional. That is, it seems like you're assuming that the players will have played other RPGs, and have a tradition of GM fiat anyhow, and so they'll just get how to handle this sort of thing. I personally take the more rigorous road on these things. But others would advocate not even handling them at all. What I see as particularly problematic is leaving it halfway stated. If the GM has powers over these things, then say so. If it's just up to group consensus, then state the genre, and don't bother with any (to use a Ron phrase) "High Point's of Contact" method of determination. Just assume that the players will do it right.

Why wouldn't they?


As for the problem with examples, I'm afraid that I simply don't see it at all. In any RPG, there are places where the players have multivariate options. Just because you can't display them all in one example, doesn't make the example, useful. Just have each example display one or more uses of the rules of the game. Do I miss your point somehow?

Put another way, the example seems just fine to me.

Mike
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« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2004, 12:49:00 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
It seems to me that you're saying that, since the game advocates a certain kind of play, the players will enforce the genre conventions. Well, that's either true or it's not. Meaning, if it's true that the players will enforce the conventions, then the case will never come up. If it's not true for one player, then it might not be for all.

My question is, if a minority of players sees something as a genre violation, do they have any recourse? The GM? He certainly has veto power over some things like character concepts, and there is the section on monitoring interpretations, etc. Basically, does the GM's authority extend here, too? To protecting genre in terms of magic?
Well, what I was trying to show with that example is that actually the GM has very little direct recourse except overruling, which should be rare, but that the entire group as a whole has enormous power.  I mean, they in effect vetoed Anne's spell.  The GM's initial power over character concepts does not extend past that point.  Once the character is running, he can't tweak it.  As to monitoring interpretations, it's mostly a matter of getting everyone to think more or less on the same page about cards.

See, the weird thing here is that every time people read these rules, in whatever version, they worry about exactly these kinds of issues.  But in play, I've never seen them come up in actual fact.  What actually happens is that the whole group comes to a stable way of looking at cards and interpretations and when people go too far the whole group kind of indicates, more or less subtly but definitely clearly, that they're against it.  Half the time the player says, "Can I take the card back?" within about 30 seconds.  Usually what happens then is people say, "No, well hang on, how about if we made it like this, would that still work for you?  'Cause then you could play it."  And the guy says, "Oh, yeah, cool."  And he makes his speech and the magical resolution starts and so on.  And I should note that this doesn't happen often -- like about once every five sessions or so, and they get less and less common.
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Anyhow, if the problem can't happen, then why the section in the rules telling us to watch out for it? Basically, what I'm getting at is that you have loads of comments about what the genre should be like, but very little in the way of powers to enforce it, other than a general notion of GM fiat that's enumerated here and there.
Well, because the group needs a baseline aesthetic sense of how to run things, since they really do all the running and ruling.  And having advice about what kinds of things are "too far" or "pulp" or whatever is supposed to provide useful guard-rails so that when somebody does something too pulpy, the rest of the group has a sense that they ought to bend it back into line.  I don't know why the GM fiat thing seems so strong to you; to me, it's pretty incidental after the initial setup.  As to "powers to enforce it," the players have insane powers to enforce anything they want, because no piece of card-play narration happens without other players' potential input, and in magic in particular there's always an enormous amount of input.  Actually I've sometimes had the problem that people get so into messing with others' spells that players get frustrated!
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If it's just up to group consensus, then state the genre, and don't bother with any (to use a Ron phrase) "High Point's of Contact" method of determination. Just assume that the players will do it right.
Really?  I thought you hated that sort of thing.
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As for the problem with examples, I'm afraid that I simply don't see it at all. In any RPG, there are places where the players have multivariate options. Just because you can't display them all in one example, doesn't make the example, useful. Just have each example display one or more uses of the rules of the game. Do I miss your point somehow?
I'm glad that example worked for you, but to me it's such a teeny microcosm of the whole.  I mean, it sets up all these weird potentials but then doesn't talk about how they get followed up.  I guess I could sort of construct a complete session example, with some analysis.  I don't know; after reading the second post, was my concern clearer?
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2004, 01:23:49 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
See, what worries me here is that your questions imply that these things are tightly linked together, and I think you’re right.  Which is yet another reason it’s so damn difficult to write up examples.
Sorry, not getting your point here.

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...the odd thing is that it does seem to work.  But as you say, the question of “what sorts of plots?” is an amazingly important and difficult one.  I’m wondering how to present this.  I mean, I could provide a list of sample storylines, but I don’t know if that would by itself help enough.
First, how much independent playtesting have you done with it? I have no doubt that it works for you with your clear vision of how it should work. I'm just not sure that there's enough of that vision in the text to get it to work for anyone else. I'm not kidding when I say that I think I'd falter right out of the gate playing myself. That said, my opinion here sans actual play is about as important as yours is (not much, IOW).

But, not sample storylines - I think that would imply GM pre-plotting (which my personal biases are against, especially in a game that seems so strongly geared to do other things better). No, what I think this needs is examples of actual play. That is, what your personal play of the game is good for is for informing people as to what makes sense. I'm not refering to some fictional example of play, but actual examples. If you've played, and it's worked for you, then one way to get across what should be in play is to put exactly what you did (mistakes and all) in the book.

This makes examples really easy. You just publish what actually happened.

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Coherence is a really good question in SitF.  And I’m not sure what the answer is.  I do think that maybe starting out with the old CoC thing might be useful, but I find that the game tends at some point to start generating its own plots.  See, if you take that magical example from last post, you’ll see that out of thin air we’ve generated a whole bunch of side plots.
Yes, the whole actually strikes me now as a lot like Inspectres. Have you seen how "prep" is done for that? Basically, you do very little, except have the "Call". That said Inspectres has the advantage of a strong episodic structure, while your game seems to be more serial and freeform.

Basically, I think you need something to replace that structure. One way would just be to throw in Sorcerer style prep ideas. The games strike me as very similar in terms of prep requirements.

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So then people start following them up in normal play, and their magic keeps adding more plots, and so on and so forth.  Which means that by the time you’ve run let’s say about 10 sessions, the storyline is so goddamn complicated that only the group can even follow it any more.
Hmm. If this is true, consider that it might not be a feature. Have you ever seen a game of SitF "finished"? Does the proliferation of plots make it impossible to get any of them told?

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Jere’s espionage version, Age of Paranoia, has a Wiki to keep it all straight – and the thing is getting HUGE because NPC’s and stories and whatnot keep appearing out of nowhere.  His version is very GM-driven, but when SitF has run well in previous versions, it happened exactly when the GM was really barely necessary except to toss in new weirdness from history.  That’s what I’m trying to capitalize on in these rules: the ability to generate coherent strangeness on the fly.
OK, so what is it that you and Jere do to make things go? Is it only your play that tends to go well "freeform?"

If, in fact, it all just works out for real, well, then I think you've really got something interesting and new here. I'm just suspicious that there are forces at work here creating success where it might not work so well in general distribution. Or, I dunno, maybe this is a game only for those who are very into the niche? Not meant to be able to work for even those with only a slightly casual approach?


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I think that I said this last time, but it bears repeating; watch the negative language. You say too often that the game isn't pulp, but then don't say as much about what it is. Instead of trying to exhort people not to play pulp, I think it would be better to tell them how to play in the subtle manner that's good for the game.
Gee, I thought I’d toned that down.
I bet you did. But I'm of the belief that you can get rid of it 100%. That said, at this point it's probably not a big deal. It's just that you have what I think is a powerful design going here, and it shouldn't have to seem apologetic or "requesting" at all.

Might just be my personal tastes showing here, too, of course.

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Oh sure, it’s about questioning that, but SitF simply does not work if your character is a “straight shooter.”  You can’t question it from the outside, only the inside.  It’s not a fixed destiny, but it is true that the more magic you get involved in, the weirder you will get.
I agree completely. As I've said, I think that this is a great way to create protagonists. It's just the explanation seemed odd.

In general, there seem to be several places where player and character drives get confounded in the text. I'm guessing this is somewhat stylistic, attempting to get the player into the head of the character or whatnot. I'm not going to argue against that here, but only say that I personally find that it's better if the texts don't try to confuse these things. For example, I think it's generally harmful to refer to "you" when actually refering to characters.

For example, in the first block of concept questions, question one is, "What are your institutional and class ties?" Question three is,"How will the character react to the unnatural and why?" See the lack of agreement there? At the very least, I'd be consistent. Or do you see some advantage to going back and forth?

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Nope, that’s basically particularizing the Mask.  The idea is that your peers are in many ways like you, but although they pigeonhole you as like them, there are special things about you that do make you a bit different.  And it’s very important to think about what if anything bothers them about you, why you’re not put up for as many clubs, and so forth.
Not sure I'm getting you. To restate, then, there are differences in terms of the character's Mask being less than totally acceptable to society, and then there's the Abyss, which is a much deeper infraction? Or am I still grasping here?

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My idea here was that you become fairly clear about how important these drives are.  Basically it’s like Humanity in Sorcerer, which is I think what you mean about needing to leave it a bit open how you decide things, but the thing is that you have multiple drives and they’re not necessarily consistent or coherent.  So if you’re conscious and deliberate about constructing the things as stuff you might give other things up for, that helps you flesh out the complexities of the character.
Well, like in Sorcerer (which is precisely what's informing my idea here) humanity, yes, critical to this is deciding what is important. But the humanity score is precisely about not pre-deciding just how important it is. Rather, the humanity score is what's important to the player, but it may mean nothing to the character. Now, you can play this through character drives as well, but I think that establishing what's more important than what doesn't leave that to be established in play. Which is what's fun about such things, IMO.

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I guess what’s really missing here is that all this initial character work is eminently mutable.  You expect that the character will change over time, but in subtle ways.  So you’re setting up a hugely complicated three-dimensional mass of conflicting desires and drives, and then letting those things twist in on themselves over time.
Right, but that's my point. By asking the player how important X is, you fix it in place. Well, for some players, but probably not others. The point is that if you want them to be mutable, then ask the question in mutable terms. "What might be important to your character and why might it be?"

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Well, to me it seems like the best way is just to write a brief statement of the Mask, a detailed paragraph or two on the Compleat Mask, and a page of notes on the Abyss.
This sounds good. Put it in! :-)

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But your question about keeping track of all this over time is a really good one.  Jere, as I say, has been running a Wiki, and I think that’s a really good way if you have the inclination.
Wiki's rock. I completely advocate their use for things like this. And I'd even suggest you say so in the text.

But for people who don't want to learn Wiki (something that I can't understand, but then I wouldn't)?

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Anyone else have suggestions on this?  The game generates an enormous quantity of weirdness very rapidly, and it is indeed hard to keep track.  I mean, if you think about that Queen-killing example, consider that every detail of that play could get picked up again at any time.  And that every time someone used a Trump in there, that’s part of the card’s history now.  On a Wiki, what you do is have a page that’s just the Trumps, with every use attached to the appropriate Trump and a link to the appropriate magical action.  Every magical action also gets a brief page, with cross-references to the Trumps.  And every NPC gets a page.  And and and....
Sounds like Universalis. ;-)

Notecards are often used with some success in FTF games.

But a whole nother angle to consider is that maybe you should have some sort of reward for bringing things back full circle to things established previously. Universalis does just this, and it helps immensely. The Trump history probably works a tad this way, but if it's your experience that plots tend to proliferate, then maybe you need to find a way to constrain play more, so that bookkeeping is reduced, and so that plots can be brought to conclusions.

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Here’s a concrete example.  Remember the actress horribly killed while acting as the Queen’s double?  Okay, well where was she before that?  She got invented on the fly, but who was she?  Well, maybe later on we’re mucking around with Maskelyne’s Egyptian Hall of Mystery and we need an actress who was once there doing something weird.  Great, how about the same actress?  ‘Course, we have to remember who she was and what sorts of cards might have marked her.  Now how does that color the current Maskelyne storyline?  Hoo boy, I come out in goosebumps just thinking about it.
Again, in Universalis, using the Actress already established gives you rewards, essentially, so people come back fast to avoid running out of resources.

Another thing to think about is "sunsetting" things. That is, only keep notes on the last two sessions. Anything that doesn't get used in that time becomes invalid. Just chuck it. Doesn't mean you can't come back to it, only that none of the mechanics will still work for it - you have to start over as if the thing were newly created. This would have players thinking as sessions start to end how to bring back things from the last session so they don't lose their potency.

Just at thought. Might work for Uni, too, now that I think about it. Hmmm.

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I’m rambling like this to give some sense of what this game is about and why it’s so damn difficult to explain in concrete examples.  Anyone have suggestions?  I mean, as in specific advice for how to do this?
How was that not a concrete example? That is, if that could have happened in a game, then why can't it be an example? I still don't get it.

Mike
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2004, 01:55:26 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
See, the weird thing here is that every time people read these rules, in whatever version, they worry about exactly these kinds of issues.  But in play, I've never seen them come up in actual fact.  What actually happens is that the whole group comes to a stable way of looking at cards and interpretations and when people go too far the whole group kind of indicates, more or less subtly but definitely clearly, that they're against it.  Half the time the player says, "Can I take the card back?" within about 30 seconds.  Usually what happens then is people say, "No, well hang on, how about if we made it like this, would that still work for you?  'Cause then you could play it."  And the guy says, "Oh, yeah, cool."  And he makes his speech and the magical resolution starts and so on.  And I should note that this doesn't happen often -- like about once every five sessions or so, and they get less and less common.
You misunderstand me. I completely think that this can and does happen, that group power works just fine. Again, this is Universalis in a nutshell. My point isn't that the group can't enforce it's will, you've given plenty of power to do that. The question is why should their will be to play, for example, Austere instead of Pulpy? Other than your suggestions that they should not?

Again, in Universalis, the power to limit to a certain sort of play is part of the overal general power given. But any genre can happen, because the rules don't make it go any particular way. Your rules seem similar to me. Where in the mechanics are the players constrained to the genre?

Put another way, I could see using the system to play supers only by changing the color text and genre suggestions. Have I missed anything? Is it the color of the tarot that keeps people from drifting the genre? I'm not saying that I think that people will play supers if they agree to play SitF; but they might play pulpy Victorian. Or at least do things that alter history in a visibly magical way. Not that they always would, but that the system itself doesn't seem to have a way to enforce any sub-genre.

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Well, because the group needs a baseline aesthetic sense of how to run things, since they really do all the running and ruling.  And having advice about what kinds of things are "too far" or "pulp" or whatever is supposed to provide useful guard-rails so that when somebody does something too pulpy, the rest of the group has a sense that they ought to bend it back into line.
This is my point. Color text can inform, but not enforce. V:TM says that the game is about playing up the character's struggle for humanity, but it plays a lot different than that because of the system.

Basically this sounds like "system doesn't matter." That you can just tell people what play should look like, and the system doesn't have to support that. Now, I'm going a tad overboard here to make the point, because, at worst your system "gets out of the way" regarding genre (that is, I don't see it enforcing the wrong genre at all). The question is where does the control lie?

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I don't know why the GM fiat thing seems so strong to you; to me, it's pretty incidental after the initial setup.  As to "powers to enforce it," the players have insane powers to enforce anything they want, because no piece of card-play narration happens without other players' potential input, and in magic in particular there's always an enormous amount of input.
Again, this was my point. I was asking if the powers were strong, not saying that I thought they were. That is, strong powers would be one way to enforce genre. The other, just as valid, is to not say anything about it. That is, why have the GM contol caveats where they are at all? If the players have the power, and you think that the players will be inspired by the setting material so much that they'll enforce the genre, then you don't need the GM to be able to veto in these cases, do you?

Basically, why do you give the GM the authority where you do, but not in other places? My point, overall, is that I think this sends mixed messages as to how the genre is to be maintained.

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If it's just up to group consensus, then state the genre, and don't bother with any (to use a Ron phrase) "High Point's of Contact" method of determination. Just assume that the players will do it right.
Really?  I thought you hated that sort of thing.
I said that I dislike it. But I'm willing to accept that it works for some people (in fact, according to Ron, the majority, IIRC).

Where you potentially part with the theory is the question of whether or not your system supports the genre of play. Sorcerer definitely supports playing about demons and sorcery, etc. Your system definitely supports playing about using supernatural powers to alter reality. But does it support Victoriana at all? Note how Ron doesn't even try to enforce color with Sorcerer? That's not to say a system can't support color, or that yours doesn't. I'm just not seeing how it does. And color seems so, so important to this particular game.

To give you a bad example of how this could be done (note, a bad example, just meant to spur ideas, not meant at all for adoption), you could have the GM give cards to players who stayed particularly in genre. So, players who played to kill queens in violent storms of energy would not get these rewards. Meaning that the players would be systematically informed of how to play.

I think that it's interesting that the "Advancement System" is entirely "play" and not a reward system. I like that. Thing is, you don't have any reward system. Replenishing cards is, if anything, gamism basied, and certainly there's nothing there that supports any particular genre. So, have I missed the reward system?

Games don't have to have one, but it's certainly one way to put genre reinforcement.

Mike
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2004, 06:43:09 PM »

Quote from: clehrich

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“Group creation session” makes it sound like the players will share character concepts in advance so as to create a bunch of characters who work well together: the 'team' concept. But you’re actually focusing on defining the relationships between characters and fleshing out character backgrounds through points of contact. I like the technique of a social gathering by the way.


On this one, I wonder what others think.  I see what you're saying, but that's not the connotation this term has for me.  If your reading is relatively usual, though, some term-change or revision is definitely in order.


Group creation is fine.

Quote from: clehrich

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I think that I said this last time, but it bears repeating; watch the negative language. You say too often that the game isn't pulp, but then don't say as much about what it is. Instead of trying to exhort people not to play pulp, I think it would be better to tell them how to play in the subtle manner that's good for the game.


Gee, I thought I’d toned that down.

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For example, "Don't design your character around a gimmick." Replace with, "Design characters with depth." Then the Richard III example becomes how to use a characteristic for depth, with the other examples as counterexamples. So, instead of "Don't do this, here's a bad example, here's a good one" you say, "Do this, here's a good example, and here's what not to do." I think this has strong psychological effects. The first sounds like you're in denial of what might be fun, the second sounds athoratative and directly informational.


I’ll work on it, but as I say, I really thought I’d gone a long way in that direction.  What do others think?

 


I agree with Mike. I have an easier time understanding statements on love when the statements talk of love, instead of not-hate. Likewise, you should talk of X, instead of not-pulp.

On the other hand, one does not present the feeling of occult and horror, by repeating the phrases "occult" and "horror". Remember, show don't tell.

I agree with Mike that you are not supporting color.

Color is probably my personal weak point. I am not the best person for advice on this.

Actually, it feels like you are supporting color, but not of the intended type. The portrayal of the setting feels more like "anthropological essay" color than Victorian occult horror color.
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"We have to break free of roles by restoring them to the realm of play." Raoul Vaneigem, 'The Revolution of Everyday Life'
Piers
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Posts: 72


« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2004, 06:59:56 PM »

Here are some thoughts, but you should be warned that at a certain point I am going to go hareing away from the game as it is currently written.   Hopefully my crazy suggestions will be useful rather than distracting.

What I'd like to see is a way in which the Mask and the Abyss become part of the system.  Here's one suggestion, followed by a much more extreme one:

What if the player's hand of cards was divided into two groups:  Mask and Abyss, held separately.

In this set up, cards could be played out of either pool at any time, with the following restrictions:

a) Cards played from Mask must be based skills and abilities supposedly possessed by the mask.  If they don't (whether because they used for magical actions, or because (for example) Sir Henry shouldn't know how to pick pockets) any cards gained at the end of the scene must be placed in the Abyss pool.

b) When used for mundane actions, cards played from the Abyss pool, must be described as using abilities or resources that the mask does not possess.  

c) When the number of cards in the Abyss pool is greater than the number in the Mask pool, the mask is fraying and i) any other magician can tell that the character is a magician, ii) a number of cards in the Abyss pool equal to the difference must be held face up.

The idea is to prodcue a tension in the player's resource use.  On one hand, Mask cards are more flexible, in that they can be used to act without arousing suspicion, and if need be can be converted to magical use.  Doing the later, however, moves cards into the Abyss pool.

On the other hand, while Abyss cards can be used for any action without affecting the allocation of cards, they often attract attention.  Moreover, if you have too many Abyss cards compared to Mask cards, you aren't hiding yourself at all efficiently with the result that the entire table (and by extension the Occult world of London) will be able to predict what you might be able to do, because they can see the face up cards.  


Which leads me to the following radical question:  Why does the game have two separate systems, one for mundane activity, one for magic?  

I know you want to keep the two separate, but even the very pared down skill list you have now seems too weighty for a game with the very free-form magic system.  Fundamentally, I don't see any reason why the trick system shouldn't be used in 'ordinary' scenes.

More importantly, what _I_ would like to see is a game where the only limitation on actions is the distinction between acts that fit with your Mask, and those (coming out of the Abyss) that break it.  All actions are divided into Mask actions, which must be consistent with the description of the character, and are thus limited; and Abyss actions which are unlimited because they use magic or hidden abilities, but as a result, harm the character's Mask.

That is to say, that if you really want to drive at what I see as the heart of the game, you need to build a tension between the need to maintain one's Mask, and the (potentially) unlimited power available if you open up your Abyss.  There should be danger at both extremes.  That is, the danger that you will either lose your Mask completely (and be swallowed up by the Abyss), or that in suppressing the Abyss, you will become nothing but a Mask.

Think of it as the opposing difficulties faced by Conradin in Sredni Vashtar, and Jekyll and Hyde.  In the first case, Mrs DeRopp wants to squeeze the imagination and the life out of Conradin, making him an ordinary Mask-only individual like herself.  (Seen from this point of view, Saki's heroes are individuals with open Abysses, and the crazed sucess of their pranks is the result of a magical ability to manipulate the world, that is unavailable to the mere Masks that inhabit the society around them.)  By comparison, the Jekyll is confronted by increasing difficulty as Hyde becomes more and more out of control, until finally the difference between the two collapses, resulting in his ruin.

If you combine a system with Mask and Abyss scores with the ability to somehow attack those scores, you produce two ways of destroying characters: snuffing out their magical talent (turning them into bare Masks) or disgracing them in society (reducing the Mask to nothing).  In doing so, you hopefully produce attempts to balance Mask against Abyss by the players, and continually bring the premise of the game back into focus.  

I am really not sure how you would do all this, but even if this is way further than you want to go, hopefully it is provocative.

Piers
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clehrich
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« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2004, 07:13:32 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
First, how much independent playtesting have you done with it? I have no doubt that it works for you with your clear vision of how it should work. I'm just not sure that there's enough of that vision in the text to get it to work for anyone else. I'm not kidding when I say that I think I'd falter right out of the gate playing myself. That said, my opinion here sans actual play is about as important as yours is (not much, IOW).
None whatsoever.  John Kim started to run it, but then a couple players moved away and the thing ended after one quick session.  No one else has ever tried, to the best of my knowledge.  I do think it's possible that this is because there isn't enough guidance from me, but it's a little tricky to provide it without seeing where others have difficulty.  Sorry, just bitching.
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No, what I think this needs is examples of actual play. That is, what your personal play of the game is good for is for informing people as to what makes sense. I'm not refering to some fictional example of play, but actual examples. If you've played, and it's worked for you, then one way to get across what should be in play is to put exactly what you did (mistakes and all) in the book. ... This makes examples really easy. You just publish what actually happened.
I'm having a lot of trouble communicating here, I guess.  The best stuff to communicate, the stuff that really runs very well, is the stuff that happens once an enormous amount of weirdness is already in place.  And then, in order to write an example, you end up with about five pages of background material that sounds like one of those "What happened last year on Days of Our Lives" blurbs.  Consequently I end up abstracting examples -- and they end up unclear for precisely that reason.

Of course, this also means that this is a difficult game to get running, but I can't really speak to that directly because I need to know what it looks like for others to run it, or start running it.  So one of the purposes of posting these rules is to try to encourage someone else to go out and run a few sessions.
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Yes, the whole actually strikes me now as a lot like Inspectres. Have you seen how "prep" is done for that? Basically, you do very little, except have the "Call". That said Inspectres has the advantage of a strong episodic structure, while your game seems to be more serial and freeform. ... Basically, I think you need something to replace that structure. One way would just be to throw in Sorcerer style prep ideas. The games strike me as very similar in terms of prep requirements.
Quite possibly, yes.  I have considered, as you know, a soap opera style setup, but this never quite gelled somehow.  I'll think about Kickers and Bangs -- thanks!
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Hmm. If this is true, consider that it might not be a feature. Have you ever seen a game of SitF "finished"? Does the proliferation of plots make it impossible to get any of them told?
Well, in a sense, yes.  But what happens is that the players do have enough narrative control -- almost all of it, really -- that they can decide which stories they really want to finish, or at least give closure to.  The GM pushes a certain amount to get more stuff in along the way, but this is indeed a difficult game to end.  I realize that's probably a bug, not a feature, but a big part of the design concept was something that would naturally lend itself to wanting to run on and on and on, with ever-increasing complexity, and create that kind of weird tunnel-vision that everyone who's ever been in a multi-year campaign (one that went well, I mean) recognizes.
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OK, so what is it that you and Jere do to make things go? Is it only your play that tends to go well "freeform?"
Um, Jere?  Want to comment here?
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If, in fact, it all just works out for real, well, then I think you've really got something interesting and new here. I'm just suspicious that there are forces at work here creating success where it might not work so well in general distribution. Or, I dunno, maybe this is a game only for those who are very into the niche? Not meant to be able to work for even those with only a slightly casual approach?
My guess is that there is something new here, but that it's not a game that's going to work for general distribution.  I never intended it to be so, so that's not a problem.  But the theory is that there is a certain kind of maniac -- I know lots of them, but unfortunately most of them no longer live within driving distance -- who get seriously into this sort of stuff.  And if you do, I think this game has a lot to offer.  If you want a casual pick-up game, no, this may well suck.  That's my guess, of course -- no casual pick-up group has tried it and told me about it, so I don't know.
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I think that I said this last time, but it bears repeating; watch the negative language. You say too often that the game isn't pulp, but then don't say as much about what it is. Instead of trying to exhort people not to play pulp, I think it would be better to tell them how to play in the subtle manner that's good for the game.
Gee, I thought I’d toned that down.
I bet you did. But I'm of the belief that you can get rid of it 100%. That said, at this point it's probably not a big deal. It's just that you have what I think is a powerful design going here, and it shouldn't have to seem apologetic or "requesting" at all.
I guess it's a matter of the limited audience thing.  This game does seem to prompt a lot of people who say, "Gee, how cool!" and no one who says, "Gee, I'll play this!."  It also seems to garner a surprising (to me) number of people who say, "Gosh, that sounds great, except that I intend to do nothing at all you describe, because I'm going to run a pulp CoC campaign and throw out all the historical information and chuck the character construction in favor of some stats."  That sounds like an exaggeration, but I promise it isn't.  I don't really know what to make of this; do other people get this?  So I guess I'm trying to hold up neon signs to some of these folks.  I'm trying to say, "Look, I've said a hundred times what makes this game tick.  If you don't like any of that, trust me, you will not like this game very much.  Here's some things you might just plain love and be planning on doing here, but which if you do them will make the whole thing crash and burn -- I have seen this happen, and it will burn.  Please, please don't start into this and plan on one of these things -- it will burn, horribly."  I do know what you're saying, Mike, and I suppose I should just leave them to their fate.  But I will say that even Jere, who's a careful reader and pretty much into this sort of thing, walked straight into one of the lightly signposted pit-traps within three sessions.  And you know what?  I could feel the flames start to flicker within another session.

So let me sort of throw this one open -- I know, I know, I'm not supposed to run a poll, so I'll put it differently.  Does anyone have suggestions for how to say, "If you do this, which you are probably right now thinking you will do, the game WILL crash and burn," without saying anything whatsoever negative or warning?  Given, I mean, that the reader almost certainly IS planning to do exactly that, even though it is not stated positively in the rules that it is a wise idea?  The point being that I do think there are some potential play-groups out there that might actually get into this, but will not do so if they make one of those all-too-easy early steps that I keep trying to head off at the pass.
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In general, there seem to be several places where player and character drives get confounded in the text. I'm guessing this is somewhat stylistic, attempting to get the player into the head of the character or whatnot. I'm not going to argue against that here, but only say that I personally find that it's better if the texts don't try to confuse these things. For example, I think it's generally harmful to refer to "you" when actually refering to characters.
The confusion is not stylistic.  It's mechanical.  If this works, and in a sense when it does, what happens is that those identities start to blur in a somewhat disconcerting way.  I don't mean you get emotionally involved or something.  I mean that you start looking in the mirror in a somewhat odd way.  I really cannot explain this, but it has happened, and when it does it's unique in my RPG experience.  I'm sure it's not actually unique, but it's one of the shticks of this game to push in that direction.  If you read the Assumption alternate rules, you will see some of the implications of this going too far.
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Not sure I'm getting you. To restate, then, there are differences in terms of the character's Mask being less than totally acceptable to society, and then there's the Abyss, which is a much deeper infraction? Or am I still grasping here?
No, let me put it like this.  Imagine you are wearing a Halloween mask, right?  It's a Nixon mask.  At a distance, I pick you out: "He's wearing a Nixon mask."  Up close, I notice other details, and if suddenly five more guys walk in wearing Nixon masks I can still pick you out, because you're the one wearing Nike sneakers.  To me, you're still "Guy wearing Nixon mask," but you're also the one with Nikes.  So despite the fact that every Victorian has a Mask, that doesn't make him a 2-dimensional being.  It just means that unless people have a reason to deal with him directly and for more than a second, you will not register as anything other than your Mask.  

This is in fact normal human behavior in our society today, but lots of people want to pretend it isn't true.  If I see a 40-ish woman on the subway wearing a suit, with a PDA, a cellphone, a pair of Nikes, and a paper bag containing heels, and I see she's reading the Wall Street Journal, I'm betting she works in finance and I'm betting she's middle management.  If I don't have any reason to deal with her, and some cop comes up to me five minutes later and asks me if I've seen this woman, I'm going to have a hell of a time dredging up anything other than, "Oh yeah, the yuppie woman, what about her?"  I may not remember any of the details I just mentioned, without prompting, because I wasn't paying attention -- but I still pegged her Mask without thinking about it.

But when that woman actually goes to her office, there's a whole bunch of people just like her, and to them she's not "yuppie woman" but "Claire Berkowitz, the Finance veep who rides the subway because she's too cheap to get a car and wears the Nikes because she pretends she goes jogging but everyone knows she doesn't."  All of that leaves traces on her exterior, but you'd have to be paying very close attention and doing Holmes-style abduction/deduction to figure it out just by looking, you get me?

Now if she goes home, strips off her clothes and sacrifices goats to Moloch, and of a weekend sometimes kidnaps children, cuts them into slices, and eats them raw, just to take a sort of extreme example, that's the Abyss.  Nobody knows about that.  But if Sherlock Holmes walked into Claire's office, he'd notice things about her that do not match either "yuppie woman" or that whole complicated description of "Claire Berkowitz."  

To take a less extreme example, suppose it's a very conservative office and Claire goes home to her lesbian partner with whom she also practices Wiccan magic.  Again, the people in the office don't figure this out, because Claire is practiced at "passing," but Holmes might well suspect.

To take an older and uglier example, how about if Claire goes by Claire Berkowitz, but was born Claire Jackson, and is African-American but very pale.  This is what I mean by "passing."

The Mask is acceptable to society, whether it's specific and particular or just "yuppie woman."  The Abyss is not acceptable to society, or at least not to the society in which the Mask matters much.  That is, on the subway I really don't care if she's a lesbian Wiccan, and even if I do it's none of my business.  At a very conservative office, it might well be a real problem.  And in Victorian society -- oh my god.  If we make Claire male, and HE goes home to his gay partner, both of them could very well go to jail for perversion if it ever got out.  This is called "passing" -- not being noticed for what you do that isn't acceptable, but getting noticed to whatever degree is necessary for what you do that is acceptable, like working in an office and cracking "fag" jokes around the water cooler.
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My idea here was that you become fairly clear about how important these drives are.  Basically it’s like Humanity in Sorcerer, which is I think what you mean about needing to leave it a bit open how you decide things, but the thing is that you have multiple drives and they’re not necessarily consistent or coherent.  So if you’re conscious and deliberate about constructing the things as stuff you might give other things up for, that helps you flesh out the complexities of the character.
Well, like in Sorcerer (which is precisely what's informing my idea here) humanity, yes, critical to this is deciding what is important. But the humanity score is precisely about not pre-deciding just how important it is. Rather, the humanity score is what's important to the player, but it may mean nothing to the character. Now, you can play this through character drives as well, but I think that establishing what's more important than what doesn't leave that to be established in play. Which is what's fun about such things, IMO.
The question here isn't the same.  The way a Sorcerer game works, as I understand it, humanity is a common Premise, an issue that the whole game is about.  At that level, the Premise here is about mask/abyss and hypocrisy and whatnot.  But my personal version of humanity (as it were) may have nothing to do with that except as it's part of my life.  So if I am really driven to make a lot of money, that doesn't make greed or acquisitiveness or materiality a bad thing or have anything to do with humanity.  But the thing is, I don't know how important that is to me, so I don't know whether it's something that has the potential to become a kind of humanity-indicator for me or not.  That's what I need to know: what are the hooks by which I will get to work dragging myself into the mud?
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Right, but that's my point. By asking the player how important X is, you fix it in place. Well, for some players, but probably not others. The point is that if you want them to be mutable, then ask the question in mutable terms. "What might be important to your character and why might it be?"
No, the idea is to ask how important X is in order to ask whether it's possible, over time, that X might become something of really large importance, and how and why.  Do you see the distinction?

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But your question about keeping track of all this over time is a really good one.  Jere, as I say, has been running a Wiki, and I think that’s a really good way if you have the inclination.
Wiki's rock. I completely advocate their use for things like this. And I'd even suggest you say so in the text. ... But for people who don't want to learn Wiki (something that I can't understand, but then I wouldn't)?
Yes.  For people who don't want to learn Wiki, what DO you suggest?  That was the question.  Sorry, but you're throwing this question back at me and I still don't have an answer.
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But a whole nother angle to consider is that maybe you should have some sort of reward for bringing things back full circle to things established previously.
It's not necessary.  The reward is already there: power.  It's just that simple.  The more you do this, the more powerful you are.  Trust me, it works, because as soon as someone says, "Okay, this works because I link up X and Y and Z that you thought we'd forgotten about, ta da!" (not in those words, but in effect), the entire group goes, "God damn, that's clever, of course that works," and they then jump in with their cards constructively so as to be counted as helping the cool thing be cool.  This is what I love about this game: the basic social dynamic of "God, that's cool, I wish I'd thought of that" makes it imperative to be cool, and the way to be cool in this game is to recycle background material, and that generates yet more material to recycle, and all told that makes for VERY powerful spells.  And all of that creates a huge incentive to keep track of everything, as tightly as possible, because that's where skill -- and thus power -- really lies.  Trust me, it's neat.
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Here’s a concrete example.  Remember the actress horribly killed while acting as the Queen’s double?  Okay, well where was she before that?  She got invented on the fly, but who was she?  Well, maybe later on we’re mucking around with Maskelyne’s Egyptian Hall of Mystery and we need an actress who was once there doing something weird.  Great, how about the same actress?  ‘Course, we have to remember who she was and what sorts of cards might have marked her.  Now how does that color the current Maskelyne storyline?  Hoo boy, I come out in goosebumps just thinking about it.
Again, in Universalis, using the Actress already established gives you rewards, essentially, so people come back fast to avoid running out of resources. ... Another thing to think about is "sunsetting" things. That is, only keep notes on the last two sessions. Anything that doesn't get used in that time becomes invalid. Just chuck it. Doesn't mean you can't come back to it, only that none of the mechanics will still work for it - you have to start over as if the thing were newly created. This would have players thinking as sessions start to end how to bring back things from the last session so they don't lose their potency.
Nope, buzz, totally not getting this Mike.  Sorry.  The whole point is that nothing whatsoever is ever, ever going to fade away.  Nothing.  Even if somebody dies, that doesn't mean he can't still be a major effect on occult forces, and I don't mean because he's now a vampire or ghost or something, but because he existed, at one time, in the past, and that has meaning.  

In one run of this (different rules a bit, but same concepts, and the example is fine) the PCs are agonizing about what the hell are they going to do to nab their villain of the moment (Charles Augustus Milverton, the blackmailer, who was incidentally using these mentally retarded orphans and paupers as "eyes" into rich people's homes by getting them trained and hired out as menial servants, thereby doing genuine philanthropic work, but at the same time using magic to kind of "ride" their minds when he wanted to look and hear, thus gathering his evil secrets with which to blackmail...).  And Jim comes up with this plan that used about 50% of the various symbols and weirdness from the whole campaign, going right the way back to the White Queen (a twisted nun/nurse who worked on the same ward as the doctor who treated Merrick, the elephant man, and who also killed people or something in her spare time), and weaving it together with various alchemical and astrological stuff that had cropped up here and there.  Now because he came up with that much stuff, it worked amazingly powerfully -- that was automatic, almost.  Do you see why that's intrinsically cool?  And let me tell you, every single player was totally into that and wanted to be a part of it.  That's exactly what drives this game.
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2004, 07:32:20 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
You misunderstand me. I completely think that this can and does happen, that group power works just fine. Again, this is Universalis in a nutshell. My point isn't that the group can't enforce it's will, you've given plenty of power to do that. The question is why should their will be to play, for example, Austere instead of Pulpy? Other than your suggestions that they should not?
Oh, I see.  Sorry, I did misunderstand.

Okay, well because if you go strongly toward pulp, the game collapses.  I'm not really sure exactly why this is, but it does.  Basically in my experience if you go pulp with this, the players stop inventing by using the odds and ends of history and past experience and start getting all punch-and-shoot, and you know, the combat system kind of sucks for that.  The more times I revise the system, the less it will work for pulp, but I can't seem to explain that except by saying, "Trust me, don't do this, it won't work."  I know that's negative, but you see how even my constant repetitive statements that pulp won't work still have you asking if pulp will work?
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Again, in Universalis, the power to limit to a certain sort of play is part of the overal general power given. But any genre can happen, because the rules don't make it go any particular way. Your rules seem similar to me. Where in the mechanics are the players constrained to the genre?
I don't have enough independent playtest information to answer that.  In my experience, it's true, but I don't know why.
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Well, because the group needs a baseline aesthetic sense of how to run things, since they really do all the running and ruling.  And having advice about what kinds of things are "too far" or "pulp" or whatever is supposed to provide useful guard-rails so that when somebody does something too pulpy, the rest of the group has a sense that they ought to bend it back into line.
This is my point. Color text can inform, but not enforce. V:TM says that the game is about playing up the character's struggle for humanity, but it plays a lot different than that because of the system. ... Basically this sounds like "system doesn't matter." That you can just tell people what play should look like, and the system doesn't have to support that.
But what I'm saying is that system does matter, and that this system supports a relatively narrow kind of play.  The problem I'm having is that for some reason, it doesn't look like that, but it seems to be the case -- again, in my experience, at least.  V:TM says one thing but does another; I'm saying that SitF says one thing and does that thing, but for some reason it keeps getting read as potentially doing something else.  I don't know how else to communicate this without independent playtests.
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Again, this was my point. I was asking if the powers were strong, not saying that I thought they were. That is, strong powers would be one way to enforce genre. The other, just as valid, is to not say anything about it. That is, why have the GM contol caveats where they are at all? If the players have the power, and you think that the players will be inspired by the setting material so much that they'll enforce the genre, then you don't need the GM to be able to veto in these cases, do you?
Well, again this is back to the negative rhetoric thing, I guess.  I have seen, time and again, players want to push in directions that ultimately start to collapse the whole structure.  And when that happens, it's wise to have someone who can say, by fiat, "Guys, this isn't going anywhere good, can we back up a second?"

One point that all this raises strongly, come to think of it, is that there's a big difference between the advice and structuring that needs to happen for the first 5-10 sessions and what needs to be said thereafter.  This isn't distinguished in the rules, but maybe it should be.  Because my sense is that once the thing is really rolling, the whole group will keep things within guard-rails.  At the start, there's going to be a lot of tendency to jump those rails, and that has to be checked or it will never get off the ground.  I have spent months and months taxiing on the runway because I couldn't herd the cats well enough; I think these new rules help immensely with that, and the Age of Paranoia game suggests considerable success on that count.  Does that clarify what I'm up to?  I'm not saying I explain this all well in the rules -- clearly not.  But do you see now why we're slightly talking past each other?

Another point is that at the start, I guess this is a rather flimsy structure.  Over time, it builds support for itself, but at the start it's pretty rickety.  I realize that's a problem, but I'm not sure how to suggest setting it up strongly and firmly without putting in place a bunch of stuff that will later on have to be gotten rid of.  I want the strength of the structure to arise organically, not from rules fiats, and in my experience that does work over time, but the problem has always been getting it going.
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Where you potentially part with the theory is the question of whether or not your system supports the genre of play. Sorcerer definitely supports playing about demons and sorcery, etc. Your system definitely supports playing about using supernatural powers to alter reality. But does it support Victoriana at all? Note how Ron doesn't even try to enforce color with Sorcerer? That's not to say a system can't support color, or that yours doesn't. I'm just not seeing how it does. And color seems so, so important to this particular game.
Sort of depends on what you mean by Victoriana.  I think if you mean an occult-spin Sherlock Holmes with The Picture of Dorian Gray looming out of the fog, yes, it supports it surprisingly well.  If you mean Cthulhu by Gaslight, no, it supports it amazingly badly.  That's sort of what I'm constantly trying to guard against, if you see what I mean.
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To give you a bad example of how this could be done (note, a bad example, just meant to spur ideas, not meant at all for adoption), you could have the GM give cards to players who stayed particularly in genre. So, players who played to kill queens in violent storms of energy would not get these rewards. Meaning that the players would be systematically informed of how to play.
No, I get what you're saying.  No problem there.  But the problem is that this genre is unlike a lot of genres, in the sense that unlike a lot of RPGs when we say "genre" we don't really mean genre fiction as in the stuff you find on the Mystery or SciFi or whatever shelves, from Tor or whoever, at the bookstore.  When this works, you get something more like what you might find on the Fiction shelves, which is to say it might be genre but it's sort of its own thing.  Kind of like the way Tim Powers or John Crowley or Gene Wolfe get filed as Fantasy but are a disconcerting shock to people expecting the usual sort of thing; indeed I know of lots of people who dislike their work because it's not usual at all, Crowley being the most extreme example I suppose.
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I think that it's interesting that the "Advancement System" is entirely "play" and not a reward system. I like that. Thing is, you don't have any reward system. Replenishing cards is, if anything, gamism based, and certainly there's nothing there that supports any particular genre. So, have I missed the reward system?
I don't understand the question.  The reward is play, and more play, and more powerful play, and more resources to play with.  I sense that there's something important behind your question, but I don't get what it is.
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2004, 07:35:00 PM »

Quote from: Cemendur
On the other hand, one does not present the feeling of occult and horror, by repeating the phrases "occult" and "horror". Remember, show don't tell.
Yes, good point.  Any suggestions on where I can put some "show" in, apart from horrible RPG fiction?  Examples, I know, but where?
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Actually, it feels like you are supporting color, but not of the intended type. The portrayal of the setting feels more like "anthropological essay" color than Victorian occult horror color.
Can you explain what you mean by this?  I'm just not sure I get what you're saying.

Thanks!
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Chris Lehrich
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