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Author Topic: The wonder of indecision  (Read 2958 times)
LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« on: February 04, 2005, 02:25:37 PM »

Last night in Mike Holmes's IRC HeroQuest game I had one of the coolest experiences I've ever had in role playing:  Mike presented me with a Bang, and I was totally at a loss for how to respond.

I think for the first time ever role playing I was presented with a situation which had no easy (for me) answer, and it was totally awesome.  I'm still jazzing on the whole thing.  And now I'm so excited to figure out what I'm going to do to resolve things I'm all jittery.

Interestingly, I don't think that the system really contributed to this.  It certainly didn't get in the way or hinder things, but this seemed to simply be the application of Mike's skill with GMing and finding just the right Bang for the moment.

I figured I'd post this because I thought it was so cool, and I've been sort of mulling over what this might mean.

So, has anyone else had this kind of thing happen to them?  What kind of thougts do you have?  Why is it that this point of indecision is so fulfilling to me?

Thomas
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xenopulse
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2005, 02:48:02 PM »

Achievement is about challenges. For Gamists, challenges of tactics. For Simulationists, challenges of creating and expanding the Dream, as "truthfully" as possible. For Narrativists, challenges of tackling tough questions and decisions that are meaningful.

It seems like you've been presented with a true challenge (which is why you say you've previously only known "easy" questions). Now you feel the potential of it, and what the process of dealing with it incorporates, and means. And the achievement that will result from you figuring it out.

That's just my interpretation, of course :)
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2005, 05:02:02 PM »

1.  That is cool!

2.  Don't leave us in suspense, what was the bang?  (If that's too chatty and not theoretical enough, let's say that I'm still struggling with the bang thing, and want to know how a really sweet one works.)
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LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2005, 10:16:18 PM »

Sure, context is cool.  The reason I didn't include it in the original post is that it's really hard to judge what made it so great if you haven't been involved in the game and weren't there.  I'll try to give a basic layout of what happened, and then perhaps try to highlight what made it so powerful for me.  Then maybe we can get some discussion of this puppy.

The character I've been playing for the past ten sessions of the game is Sebastian.  He's been very cold so far.  Very little emotion on his part.  He's very effecient at what he does, which is basically handling problems behind the scenes.  He collects information and then figures out who needs to know what to take care of things.

In the past couple of sessions there have been some interesting developments where Sebastian has been kind of showing signs of real emotion, and caring about people.  This has been a lot of fun for me, not least because the other players have noticed too: "The idea that Sebastian has feelings is really scaring me!" kind of stuff, tongue in cheek, but still acknowledging the changes.  I find that cool.

Anyway, the only serious relationship that Sebastian came into the game with was "Lover of Laura".  She wasn't supposed to be in this part of the world (where the game is taking place), but I figured Mike could use it somehow.  In one of the first sessions he brought her into the area and we did a bit with her, but she really hasn't seen much screen time.  She had been loosely affiliated with the local branch of her cult, but that was about it.

We were on our tenth session, and Mike figured (I guess) that Sebastian needed some screen time on his own, he had mostly been in scenes with other PCs (which, really, most of the PCs have been so far).  So there's this scene with him and Laura, I was really into it because it was a chance for me to play around with the idea that Sebastian really does have feelings, and here's him around someone he's comfortable with.

Things are interesting, but Mike lets on that something is "just not right".  This develops over the course of the scene, but ultimately, a couple of Contests later it is revealed that (paraphrase) "She isn't quite herself, in fact when you look into her eyes it's as if part of her is missing."

And I froze.  What am I supposed to do?  I have no idea!  And it was great.

There's more to discuss, specifically what made this Bang so effective for me, but I'm tired and it's late.  I'll try to come back tomorrow morning and expand.

Thomas
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2005, 07:05:53 AM »

I promised an analysis of why I think this Bang was effective, so here it is.

Over the past couple of sessions I've been working toward the idea that Sebastian is human after all, or that he is becoming so.  What Mike did was take the most powerful tie to that idea (the character with whom he is most human), Laura, and threatened her narratively.

Further, he threatened her remotely, and this is the key.  There was no easy response, Sebastian couldn't just strike out at the threat, and he still had to deal with the consequences of that threat.

So, here I am (as a player) with a PC I care about, an NPC I care about, and a relationship between them that I care about.  And Mike puts the pressure on, and he does it in an engrossing (to me as a player) way.  It's a situation loaded with questions: Can you give this relationship up?  Can you allow someone to live happily under false pretenses?  Under outside influence?  What can you do in the short term?  What can you do in the long term?

So, what made it work?  Here's what I think: I'm invested in a character, and I am specifically invested in this specific relationship he has (for many reasons: it makes him more sympathetic/likable, it is a great tool for some cool narrative issues, and I'm sort of a hopeless romantic at heart).  Now that I'm all invested, a threat is brought to bear; but threat itself is not really enough to make this powerful, the key is that this threat is a) prolonged (chances are, this is not going to be solved with a single simple action) and b) remote (the source of the threat can not be immediately apprehended and dealt with).  The remoteness forces you to deal with the consequences of the problem before you have an oppurtunity to solve the problem.

Yeah... so, that's my analysis.  Anybody else got anything here?

Thomas
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2005, 09:01:10 AM »

First there's the exquisite timing: Mike waited to threaten the person Sebastian cares about until you'd invested lots of time and energy in making him capable of caring.

And then -- well, think about what you just said:

Quote from: LordSmerf
Sebastian has been kind of showing signs of real emotion, and caring about people.  .... the only serious relationship that Sebastian came into the game with was "Lover of Laura".....it is revealed that (paraphrase) "She isn't quite herself, in fact when you look into her eyes it's as if part of her is missing."


Mirror, mirror.

Just as Sebastian is becoming fully human, Laura -- the person who makes him feel more human than anyone else -- is becoming less human herself.

It's not just a threat to someone you care about. It's a threat aimed exquisitely at the thematic issue that you finally thought you were getting on top of after long struggle.
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LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2005, 11:10:30 AM »

Yes indeed.  That is pretty much exactly how I see it.

What I'm really hoping to get here is some discussion on the topic.  Does a truly engaging Bang always follow this formula (delayed and remote)?  Is this feeling of indecision common and I've stumbled upon it late?  What's up with all this?

Basically, is this something new?  Or is it something that hasn't been discussed?  Is it one of those things that everyone else is going, "Well, duh, of course it's like this."?

This was a new thing for me, I was wondering if it discussion of the subject had come up...  And, everyone who's already posted, keep it up!  I'm really jazzed about all this and want to talk about it.

Thomas
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2005, 12:26:56 PM »

My grip on bangs is tenuous at best, but this doesn't quite fit my idea of what a bang is.

As I understand it, a bang is something that comes up that requires immediate action. It's something the character cannot ignore, cannot shelve until it's more convenient to think about. They have to react immediately. The eventual resolution of the situation that caused the bang may very well be uncertain, but there's no uncertainty that you must react now.

Unless I'm missing something, this fails to satisfy that "must act NOW" criteria. The character has time to think it over. The realization that Laura isn't entirely there doesn't require him to BANG act now! Am I wrong in my assessment, or am I wrong in my idea of what a bang is?
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~Lance Allen
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Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Roger Eberhart
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Posts: 38


« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2005, 05:51:40 PM »

Wolfen, what you're describing might be considered a kicker or a bang. Kickers always require immediate action. Bangs may or may not. Bangs require some sort of decision on the part of the player. A bang might be discovering some piece of information. Whether the player acts on it right away is up to them.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2005, 06:35:16 PM »

Except, if I understand correctly, not acting on the information should also foreseeably have consequences.  So it's less a choice of "Act or leave it at the status quo" and more a choice of "Act or don't act, but nothing's going to be the same."  Yes?
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2005, 01:00:58 PM »

Choosing not to act is an action.

But yes, Roger, I was getting Bangs and Kicker's confused.

Carry on with your conversation.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
matthijs
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« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2005, 11:51:31 PM »

Perhaps this bang was engaging on many levels at once; emotionally for the character and you, narratively as it fits in nice structurally with the development of the character - and intellectually.

You really don't know what to do, and have to figure something out. That takes time and thought, and the more of both you contribute, the more significant the situation becomes.
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