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Author Topic: The Creation and Birth of a Character  (Read 13305 times)
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« on: May 12, 2005, 10:28:51 PM »

For the last couple of months the GM in the game I play in and I have been, for lack of a better term, flirting with me getting some sort of a Dwarf Character.  I had one for that I did not play but once or twice that I lost during the July 4 week of gaming in 2004 that I posted about earlier trying to keep an Elf maiden alive.  She did not know she was an Elf as she was orphaned when she was very young.  My Dwarf came across her and was smitten by the absolute beauty of unsullied innocence that I forswore my family and followed her around wherever she went as companion and protector.  As I was on the tall end for a Dwarf I played myself off as a misshapen boy (I was beardless) who lived in the streets with the other homeless misfits and youths – and this is where she ran.  We were in the south in Harrandor so no one knew what an Elf or a Dwarf was plus providence always managed to keep her identity a secret, as is the way providence seems to work for Elves.  Through a long confluence of events she was sold to some Black Commandos for the fee of killing me by one of the other street urchins.  I could not be found, and the Commandos were not going to bother with someone as insignificant as me anyway – so when the dust settled I pursued.  The Black Commando’s seemed to treat her as a prize so I feared that they knew or at least had some idea of what she was.  Against them I had NO hope – so I followed them all the way back to Aria where I took up residence with the only friend I had found in that whole hostile journey – the encircling mountains.  I dug in and waited.  Finally I “felt” that if I did not go in, I would never get the chance.  As it turned out the portent I “felt” was the oncoming of the sack of Aria initiated by the Dunedain in revenge for Tharbad.  Thousands of Vikings were brought in and turned loose and into this unforeseen maelstrom I entered to try and retrieve my beautiful unspoiled little gem.  In the end I died but did manage to see her (barely) rescued by one of her kin.  As the Elf carried the maiden off and I was dying upon my knees I called out, “Elda!  Know this – it was I, Jahal, who died trying to save your kin…”

…and that ended my interest in Dwarves for a while.

Cut to –

…about two months ago.  The GM is starting to assemble the “evil dungeon party” that one of the player’s has been agitating for a couple of years.  A number of the players are getting their Characters and the GM and I are fumbling around trying to figure something out that is workable for the scenario and palatable for me as a player.  One idea that he tossed out was that of a “dark Dwarf.”  He was all hot and bothered about the idea of me playing an actively evil Dwarf from the Withered Heath – I was less sanguine.  However, I would eventually need a Character for the “evil dungeon drop party” that was slowly forming and the idea of coming up with a story of a Dwarf from a line that no longer existed and had no love or truck with other Dwarves at all fascinated me.  Dwarves as, we play them, are incredibly insular.  They are not physically fast in a world where speed kills.  Typically he who lands the first blow wins.  The lingering effects of the seven Dwarven rings forged by Sauron in the second age are still felt in that race as they are all still tainted by the inflamed lust for gold and such – thus they are suspicious of all non-Dwarves.  They have also been “peeled” a couple of times in their history and have long memories of other races NOT coming to their aid.  Finally shall we forget the events surrounding the Nauglamir in the 1st Age and what happened in the Battle of Five Armies in the 3rd?

So I came up with a tale of a Dwarf being the sole survivor of his people who had ultimately perished in a great battle with dragons in the Withered Heath.  I proposed that this Character still possessed the ancient knowledge of his line of how to enchant blades and such.  He would be in the south forging whatever items he was contracted for to the wealthiest patron.  Long ago his line moved into the Withered Heath in the far north for the unbelievably rich ores in the mountains and to put the wood to the dragons there.  This line of Dwarves had much discourse with the Noldo and a strong and productive relationship grew between the two peoples.  I claimed that my line basically liked how the Noldo “walked tall” in the world and were not cowed and did not live in abject fear of The Shadow and that they brought the fight to their enemies.  In the end were wiped out in a last desperate push by the Dragons while our kin, under the influence of the 7 rings, would not come unless compensation was involved.  We were so wrothful that our brothers would dicker over our survival that we told the other Dwarven Kings what they could do with their lusting after our wealth - and in the end we were overcome in our pride and avarice.

Since I was in to be in the extreme south I had decided that I would not let the world utterly forget the knowledge we had for so long nurtured by making magical items on a commission basis.  While I was mortal and would in time pass from this world and all my knowledge with me, I vowed then to leave a legacy unto the world that would not forget who I was and that my people had mastered a mighty craft and that we had been abandoned to die.  These items would, however, be full of my anger and malice so would not long bring weal to those who in their arrogance and ignorance think that one could merely employ a Dwarf of my heritage and lineage as a mere artisan.  The idea I had was that I would have been contracted by one of the three, what could be called “guilds,” to create some item that would then somehow upset the balance of power/terror.  Word got out and my patron was killed and I had to escape the city for my life and this would put in a position whereby I would need to travel and with others.  Given my disposition I would not have been too particular that the group was composed of extremely evil personages.  --- and this is one idea that I had written up and proposed to my GM.

However, before the actual group formed and I would have a chance to play this out, we played another scenario in this city and picked up a Character known as a Skin Walker.  This is a type of lycanthrope.  A PC in the city in question belonged to the most powerful of the 3 guilds and I thought it would be reeeeealy cool to play an “urban campaign” with a “below the radar of society” thief’s guilds wars.  Actually there are only two established guildes in the city and the one I was in was an upstart literally clawing its way to the top, however it was still covert and while operating the other two guilds did not know that we existed as an entity, but they did know there was a new problem in their section of town with roving packs of “dogs and wolves.”  So I wrote up a one-page description of me coming to in the rain in an alley at night, naked and covered in blood and gore with dead bodies all around.  Basically a person from behind said that I had done all this and if I wished not to live in constant fear that I should follow him – and this was how I was inducted.  So it appears now that this Character would be destined for the Evil Dungeon Drop™ group and that was cool by me.  We played a short for that night and it ROCKED!  With only a blank sheet we started in a dilapidated building with a man in dark robes and withered countenance commanding us to go out and take control of the night – and so we did.  And in the next hour or so of play I created and discovered some of what this Character is made of and can do!  Shape change to a wolf on the fly!  Super human strength as watched one of my people smash down a door with his bare hands!  I could communicate and command with “lesser hounds” (real dogs).  I had heightened senses.  It was awesome as we hunted down some of the members of the other guilds.

Cut the Dwarf scenario I had written about several weeks ago with Gralin.  My Dwarf was supposed to be introduced in this scenario.  In fact the night literally started off in the extreme east at Cuiviénen with a PC Elf (already existing scenario several years old) who had gone to find the birth place of the Elves to see if any remained and to bring them back to utmost West in Arda.  Then the GM did a bird’s eye travelling West across other scenarios with various PC’s along the way – and as we were approaching the Lonely Mountain he cut to a lone Dwarf hammering away at his forge who was utterly unconcerned with the world.  At this I, as a player, immediately stood up and mimed myself at a forge with extreme intensity uttering to the flames – “obey me!” … and the camera moved on.  As I had posted in my previous AP thread, as per the events of that game, we never ended up getting my Dwarf as the scenario veered so far away from what the GM had thought it would go.

Cut to:
Last Saturday.  The game was called together only late Thursday evening so only 3 players in addition to the GM were available to play – myself, Chuck and Montana.  This would be interesting as these two are very, very good players.  I do not exactly recall how the session began, but it did so with so “work” on one of the other two players’ Characters.  Not much that I can remember happened for about half an hour when the GM turned to me and started talking about a Dwarf.  Long – Long have I forged … alone.  My people came to the Withered Heath for the ores and the dragons and we had much discourse with the Noldo.  There was much love (read - respect, sharing of intellectual gifts and knowledge) between us as peoples.  We were proud – mighty and the masters of our own fate.  Even the dragons feared us… for a while.  Then they gathered and attacked again and again and we sent word out to our kin for aid – and they demanded recompense for their axes.  We would not trade gold for blood and so we fell.  All but one.  I too would have fallen if I had not been buried under my own dead and thought to be the same.  However I was left with the curse of remaining alive – so in my stubbornness and defiance of any remaining dragons I set about to bury all my kin and woe betide any who would hinder my works.  The GM said I carved out 100 tombs in the mountainside and that in them I forged and placed 100 suits of armor, 100 helms, 100 shields and 99 swords.  In the center of tombs was a Throne room where our king would have sat.

…and so I forged.  The last sword.  I added that I forged in a pit in the center of all the tombs as if they had been arranged in an amphitheater and I was the center stage.  The GM made some comment to the effect that I shaped the whole construction as if it were a crown which I thought was pretty cool!  He told me that the Noldo had taught me the langue of fire.  That with this knowledge I could bend fires to my will.  He had me roll a d20 and I rolled well.  I had a “near mastery” of the language at 8th level and 8 checks – one more would put me at 9th!  Then the Elves taught me Fire Songs/Chants and in this I rolled extremely well and had a 10th level skill.  (At this point Chuck handed a note forward to the GM which he then read aloud – “How can one expect to forge is one cannot control the fire?” – right on!)  He also started to say that, “Fire is your friend…” when I interrupted by saying, “No!  Fire is never your friend… at best it is an untrustworthy servant.”  The GM went on to say that the Noldo taught me three secrets of fire.  First is that it is a thief and steals air.  Second it is always hungry and is ever covetous of more fuel.  Third – fire has no loyalty, it is a betrayer never to be trusted.  The GM said with this knowledge that I was extraordinarily “resistant” to fire – but not immune.  Nothing is immune to fire.  Then he said I was forging a great helm – and I knew immediately this was to be a “dragon helm.”  I had mentioned to him very early that I thought it would be cool to have some armor or a shield made from dragon scales or hide and to have a sword or weapon that had a special purpose against dragons.  This would be mostly symbolic as since the death of Smaug was pretty much the end of Dragons in the world – besides I would not want to actually battle a dragon.  That would be a short scenario!

Back to the helm.  Immediately I interrupted him saying that this was to be my greatest work and that I started by creating a pit lined with gems as only they were sturdy enough to withstand the heat I would need.  I did not make coal as was the norm but mined it from the very earth itsElf.  This coal would be a gift from Mahal (Aule) and would not come from Yavanna.  Then I forged a new set of tools for the sole task of making this helm.  I said that I created tools to hold the mask in place so I could hammer with two-handed strokes.  The GM altered this by saying that I hammered with two forge hammers and that the fire itsElf leapt under the hammers as they crashed upon the helm while I stood in the pit surround by flames!

And during this he said that in such matters there is a “madness” that sets in.  Perhaps in my stubbornness I had halted the flow of time around me and this was how I was able to do so much – maybe.  He also said that I could not remember if my father told me about Eol (the forger of the most powerful 2 weapons in the history of Middle Earth {Anglachel/Gurthang and Anguriel} – a “dark” Elf and one who lived and died in the 1st age) or that I had met him personally!  Wow!  What a fascinating thought!  What an open ended source of speculation!!  Did I tamper with time or am I just a little mad?

So I hammered on this enormous helm in the midst of mighty fires with two hammers that streaked like falling meteors wreathed in flame naked from the waist up when I heard something that I had not hear in ages – a voice.  “We have come out of history.  Will you array us?”  The fires, the GM said, immediately banked and “seemed” to bow before the two.  Two Noldorian Elves of the first age – PC’s.  I said, “You have tarried overlong, but - yes.”

OK!  This is way super cool for a number of reasons.  First of all I’m going to be running with 2 first age Noldorian Elves – that says a huge amount about the nature of my Character.  That Noldorian Elves of the first age would ask me to array them says much about my own smithing/enchanting skills!  These two PC’s, Celemegil and Celemir, were run briefly several years ago and are accomplished magic item craftsmen so that they would be pleased with what I had to offer is a huge indication of the magnitude of what I can do.  I have not “rolled any numbers” for this Character other than the two fire skills.  I can’t wait to get to actually filling out a Character sheet, but this is already shaping up to be extreme coolness!  Speaking of shape the GM also indicated that my shape was more mannish than is typical for Dwarves – I said that it was simply due to effects of moving my body like an Elf during the forging processes they taught me for so many years.  Then the GM said that it was now time to put such thoughts away and that we were to start on the scenario he planned – Doh!!!!

I was not disappointed about what happened during the rest of the night and I hope to relate about that in another post in the future as that scenario captured my imagination so much that I had trouble sleeping that night – and that hasn’t happened in years.  Though lots of fun I am uncertain why the rest of the night got under my skin so – but it was very interesting to me!

So here we have one example of our Character creation process.  It can be complex and involved.  The creation process can be woven into play or it much can happen in direct GM and player direct talk outside gaming sessions.  This whole give and take, this peeling of the onion, this adding of parts (dare I say – Bricoling?) upon parts while being mindful of their history was exhilarating in a way that is hard to describe.  I should note that there are “no” more “magic” crafters in the world – especially among the Dwarves.  The echoes of the first age…  I don’t know.  I hope I haven’t bored too many people.  Just posting more about how things work in our game.  I hope it has been informative in some way.  Thank you all for your time.
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2005, 12:25:54 PM »

3132 Words

You know, I like to kid myself that I know a bit about Middle Earth. What's likely, at least, is that few people know as much as I do about it.

Still I couldn't follow that post.

Part of it is the mixing of player and character. Jay, you're not a dwarf. Too much description of the events of the game, not enough about the people playing. We weren't there and playing so...we just don't care what happened in-game. That's true of all RPGs and all people reading about them.

Mike
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Sean
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2005, 01:05:58 PM »

Mike, is everything OK? This is not the first snappish post I've seen from you in the last couple of days. I guess that's really an off-thread question, or a rhetorical one.

Jay, I always enjoy reading these posts about your game, because the whole thing is so crazily involved and intense. I dig that. However, I also very rarely know what to say, because I'm not seeing where you're trying to go in your analysis, or if you are analyzing, or what questions you have, etc. Not to mention the always-important stuff about the real world things going on. What are the relationships like between you and the players of the Noldor, for instance? Is any real-world stuff being negotiated in the new setup with your dwarf? What's going on here in terms of the social dynamics of the game?
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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2005, 01:40:03 AM »

Hey Sean,

Thank you for your gracious words.

Quote from: Sean
However, I also very rarely know what to say, because I'm not seeing where you're trying to go in your analysis, or if you are analyzing, or what questions you have, etc.


To be honest, I don’t know either.  I have been strongly advised to post in the AP threads about my games to try and establish some sort of common ground as well as to provide some background to my posts.  Being that I am so new to this process in a way I’m just “vomiting up” my experiences in the (vain?) hope that someone smarter than I will ask the meaningful and insightful questions to get the ball rolling.  I guess this is more of a raw data dump as I don’t have any “issues” that I am trying to solve in this thread nor do I have anything to expound upon theory wise, per say, here.  Yes I fully understand that the meat is in the player interactions, and I will deal with that topic in a moment.

However, I do think it is instructional Mike reacted so negatively to my post form.  Sim is, as Ron so aptly puts it, not like the others.  Sim is very difficult to parse and quantify because in Sim the players are not manipulating or mindfully engaging “concepts” (Premise/Challenge and everything attendant to “addressing” those “concepts”.)  It is easy to talk about “concepts.”  There are very few “meta-game mechanics” (which in my opinion are used to overtly/directly aid in the discussion of the “concepts”) to go over and we tend to try and work everything out from within the SIS.

Regarding the interactions of the players at the table – what you’ve read is that interaction.  For example, my previous post does contain a lot of the interactions between me and the GM as well as many of the important surrounding and influential events.  I’m not saying that I can’t post more effectively – far from it.  I do really wish to learn to post in a manner that is more transparent to everyone.  An enormous amount of effort and time went into my post and I would like to reap some reward for my efforts – IOW I’m not posting just to see my own words staring back at me.  There really is a lot of important data in my posts but there are two major issues that stem from the same basic root.  Sim is a signification process and not a concept manipulation/discussion process and neither myself (problem 1) nor the readers (problem 2) (with, to best of my understanding, the exception of Chris L) know how to effectively discuss or cull out or highlight the salient elements for analysis.

Let’s refer back to the creation of the Dwarf in my first post.  What I was getting at, I think, was the incredible complexity of all the concerns in that process.  As long as my post was I can see that I did leave out some very important elements – that of my relationships to the other players regarding this particular Character.

Actually let’s stop here for a moment.  I had a thought that might help.  I claimed that Sim is a signification process.  I realize here that much of what I had written is opaque precisely because no one understands the significance of the actions that were taking place.  This is no one’s fault but mine, however it is central to the whole understanding of my posts.  THAT the GM and I were discussing an EVIL Dwarf is significant.  THAT the GM and I were discussing me having a new Dwarf is significant – both personally and to the game world at large.  THAT I could bend fire to the Character’s will is significant to the world at large and to me as a player and my relationship with the GM and the group dynamics.  THAT the GM was considering giving ME a Dwarf and not another player at this time is significant.  THAT my Dwarf MAY have known Eol is significant both to my standing at the table as well as to the world at large.  THAT I could convince the GM of certain elements of my Character’s back story is significant.  THAT the GM said that my Character had FORGED 100 suits of mail, had FORGED 100 helms, had FORGED 99 swords, and had unwittingly CARVED the mountain side into the shape of a crown is significant.  Etc. – ad nauseam.

There are also the Social Contract level issues that center around the celebrated themes in the game.  We all love playing epic heroic Characters and we all love celebrating that ideal.  So to play with the idea of potentially bringing in what could have been, in the early stages, a powerful evil Character into the world would have put stress on that Contract with regards to the rest of the players.  I’m not even particularly interested in playing “true evil.”  So this give and take and the evolution of this Character idea is an  “important” element/process.  What Mike read as, I’m gathering, a giant screaming pile of useless details is highly relevant to the Sim agenda.  However its not the “details” as ontological units, but rather the significance of their mere presence and the nature of their relationships to one another is fundamental.  What is seen as useless junk/color to a Narrativist is the very symbols/objects that the Simulationist bricoles and signifies with.

So the whole process of how I got to the fairly finalized form of the Dwarf is a type of recounting of the interactions between the GM and myself.  Its not only “what” was said (the concepts) but THAT these objects/symbols were chosen and allowed to enter significantly into the SIS that was important/central.  Three quarter’s of the fun was that I got these objects to store in my bricoleur’s shed for future use!  Can’t wait!  Woo Hoo!

Quote from: Sean
What are the relationships like between you and the players of the Noldor, for instance? Is any real-world stuff being negotiated in the new setup with your dwarf? What's going on here in terms of the social dynamics of the game?


The player’s of the Noldor are Chuck and Montana.  My relationship with Montana is very solid and pretty easy going.  We sync fairly well and he frequently goes to great “personal risk” (read – jeopardizing the existence of his Characters) to aid player’s/Character’s that he is paired with.  He is a creative and interesting player.  Chuck is another matter as I have indicated in previous threads.  He is paranoid and typically has little faith in the player’s around him though he himself is frequently brilliant, though not without his faults.  As far as I am concerned I am excited to run my Dwarf with the two of them as players.

Is any real-world stuff being negotiated in the new set up with my dwarf?  I’m not sure exactly what you mean.  No one has directly approached about how I should or ought to create or run the Character – in fact that is more or less verboten.  The players all exchange ideas on some level or another, but the buck stops with the individual player and the GM.  IOW while players may suggest they may not, as per the social contract, apply any more pressure than suggest.  That is actually a huge no-no to step beyond mere suggestion.  So there is the is strange nebulous, for lack of a better term, tension between freedom to choose on one hand while supporting and maintaining the ideal of what is being celebrated by the group as whole on the other.  I should also note that once in game no player may suggest how another player is to play his Character on any level – outside the SIS.  In side the SIS everyone’s Character is allowed to act and react as they see fit.  So if one Character does not like what another Character is doing/saying then they have free reign to do what they think is appropriate – up to and including killing (or at least attempting to kill) the offending Character.

Out of game, and I mean after or between session and not OOC or metagame, there is more latitude.  However, after or between games there is more of an objective analysis and not a judgmental evaluation – or at least that is the ideal that the GM sets.  This “analysis” or debrief after games is actually a critical part of our play process.  It is informal to be sure, but important nonetheless and just plain fun.

I know that I have rambled and I apologize profusely, but I hope that I have in some way enlightened this discourse in some fashion.  Please – please ask any questions that you see fit.  Or make suggestions as to how I can post more effectively so that more or all may be part of this discourse.

Thank you all for your time.

PS – Mike I am sorry you find my post so repulsive.  I am not unmindful of the interests or concerns of the readers.  However, I do think that part of the problem is that Sim does not lend itself well to the type of reporting and analysis that functions exceedingly well for Gamism and Narrativism.  I accept that I may not be terribly effective in my writings, yet I think we should consider the possibility that what I am talking about does require a very different frame of mind to understand/process.  I am doing the best that I know how and am fully open to any helpful suggestions, but consider – are you really being charitable and making an effort to meet me half way?  If you are, then great – I need to work that much harder!

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Part of it is the mixing of player and character. Jay, you're not a dwarf. Too much description of the events of the game, not enough about the people playing.


I know that I am not a Dwarf and you know that I am not a Dwarf – so if I am drifting “voices” as it were, I think that too is significant – and a common outgrowth of the mythic bricolage Sim process.  I think it is profoundly telling that I made that error.  It is very indicative of what naturally happens during mythic bricolage – so my drifting “identities” is an important “tell” of the Sim CA.  This is a prime example of how just how deeply different Sim is from Gam/Nar.

What would you have me saying of the people playing in the game in my primary post here?  Other than the GM they were not involved in any direct level.  Indirectly we all have histories of what we signify as important and we do have between game discussions typically in more general terms – i.e., this is how I think the Dwarven culture works, or I was reading the other day in the Silmarillion about the Elves and it doesn’t seem to much of a stretch to me that they (as a race) could do this? Etc.

We aren’t creating a story with Theme, nor are we marching on to Victory.  So what metric would you have me use?  By bricoling we agree to give up most if not nearly all meta-game discussions and mechanics.  What OOC does occur among the players is usually supportive or “pass me a drink” kind of stuff or commentary about what is currently transpiring that our Characters are NOT involved in.  The remainder of the discussions, which are “relevant” but outside the SIS, are almost always issues of clarification of what is going on in the SIS and transpire between player and GM.  What remains to discuss are the decisions that the players made – which tends to end up being, more or less, a recounting of the game’s events.  What I can do is spend more time explaining the significance of such decisions – for that is what is at heart in the Sim CA.  I have also spoken with Ron about finding my voice here – so I am fully aware that I can improve and that I am “thrashing around in the dark.”  Nar is about how we go about addressing the Premise.  Sim is about how we go about the Signification process and that is found in the details – they are inseperable.  You can no more discuss Nar without discussing all the various ways and means that the address of Premise was pursued then one can discuss Sim without discussing all the various ways and means that the (note - plural) objects of play were manipulated and signified.  I don’t know how to sum up that process yet – or even if its possible.  As Chris indicated and as I have read in Strauss these kinds of behaviors mean very little to those outside the (signification) process.  I feel like I am trying to describe what its like to play a soccer game and I am being told to only talk about the successful goals kicked.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
We weren't there and playing so...we just don't care what happened in-game


But that is what is important to Sim.  Just as myths only cared about by those who create and use them, so it is with Sim.  There is nothing of importance outside the act of creating, manipulating and the signifiying of the employed objects/symbols.  The signification process happens after the lumpley principle; that is after credibility is assigned not before.

So there we have it.  Are we inching towards common ground?  I hope so – but do let me know!
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
jdagna
Member

Posts: 563


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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2005, 11:14:22 AM »

Quote from: Silmenume
Quote from: Mike Holmes
We weren't there and playing so...we just don't care what happened in-game


But that is what is important to Sim.  Just as myths only cared about by those who create and use them, so it is with Sim.  There is nothing of importance outside the act of creating, manipulating and the signifiying of the employed objects/symbols.  The signification process happens after the lumpley principle; that is after credibility is assigned not before.


Hopefully I'm not butting in where I shouldn't be...

It seems to me that all of the details are not required to get at the Sim-ness of what happened.  For example, in a summary of a Gamist session, you don't have to go into every little tactical decision.  You can say "We saw a big challenge, but we carefully manipulated the rules and managed our resources and had a lot of fun kicking butt.  Joe slapped me on the back after a string of good rolls took out their right flank without a single injury to me!"

Likewise, you could do something very similar with your Sim play experiences because it really isn't the details that matter when other people are analyzing it.  You could be immersing in Wild West detail, faithfully adventuring in a Star Wars universe or just about anything else - the important part is not whether you use a horse or a starship, but what happened among the people and why it worked or didn't.

For example, in skimming through your post, the only part that jumps out as being interesting (in an analysis sense) is when you somehow get stuck with a character other than the one you put all the effort into.  Here's where I think Mike is really criticizing.  We don't know how that happened... there must have been some discussion among the group and you must have had some opinion about this event.  I know players who would have all but left the group if they didn't get to use a character as detailed and interesting as the one you designed - you obviously put a lot more work into that than most people would.  

But you don't mention any of that; instead you launch into a discussion of guilds and Skin Walkers which are, unfortunately, irrelevant to what happened.  You might have designed a cool wookiee sith lord in Star Wars and been handed a Twi'lek pilot.  The social/GNS/play issues are going to be identical between the two.  We just don't need to know anything about the characters or the setting that doesn't directly relate to what happened between the people.

In fact, here's the whole of your post boiled down into its essentials, as I can see:
- you played a character that didn't really appeal to you once
- later, you came up with an idea for a similar character that did appeal to you
- but you got assigned a different one
- and when you tried to bring in the one you liked, the GM didn't find an appropriate place to do it
- the GM made up for it by giving you a cool cut scene and interesting powers, items and companions
- you enjoyed this a lot (apparently, enough make up for not having actually played the character)

If I had to pick some analysis out of that, I'd say that perhaps you're playing RPGs for entirely the wrong reason.  You might be better off simply writing fiction.  Your group might be better off too, because there's never any mention of them really contributing to what's going on.  In fact, the group appears to be trying to stifle it and you appear unaware of this (and unaware of them in general from the post).
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Justin Dagna
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2005, 12:50:59 PM »

Hiya,

All points of preference aside, what I'm seeing in this account is mainly how much emotional investment and narration of fictional events are present ... prior to play. Even as you described it, your whole tone shifted from "me and I and how it was" to "Ye Olde Story of Yon Dwarfe." Even character creation is play, for you, in this case (consistent with some of my Sim points).

It reminds me a little bit of how much time and fun were involved for some Champions players back in the 1980s, who would say that everything after building the basic portrait of the character was downhill. Not that I'm implying that to be the case here - just the fun & effort, is the parallel.

Jay, what I'm interested in is how typical this degree of negotiation and investment is, for the folks in your group. As I recall, everyone has at least a couple of characters running at any one time, right? Do all the characters get this whole vetting and emotional buildup, for all the players?

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2005, 08:50:47 AM »

What Justin said.

It's not at all about preference - I'm pretty simmy in some ways. I can show lots of posts about very simmy games that did not rely on recapitulating in-game events. In fact, your section with the capital THAT's was actually pretty good in some ways, except that it didn't say why these things were important.

My point about the output story being uninteresting is that, if I played a sim game, and put the output out, you'd snore just as much. Because RPGs aren't meant to be consumed post-play. They're fun only in play. Actual Play posts aren't about entertaining the reader at all, they're about trying to get the reader to understand your processes, and how the real people involved created what they created and why.

For example, I know this is problematic for you, since you've said that you don't have the mechanisms fully available to you, but it's hard for us to understand how the system interacts in play since there's nowhere for us to see what the system is like. Instead we have a very vauge impression of it. Heck, and this should concern you, from what I've heard, the systems nearest relative is Rolemaster, from what I can tell. I'm probably very wrong, but I can only work with the information I have.

In another way, I think that we are forced to assume that the system is actually, effectively, freeform for certain purposes.

In any case, other things are very much not clear. Like who has what sort of credibility. Can you as a player create a village? Or suggest to the GM that they do so? Do the GMs keep final say on everything? Is agreement given tacitly or verbally? How does the record-keeping play into it? Does it matter how much something has been written down?

Yadda, yadda. I mean, this is hard, but, try to step outside of your experiences, and imagine that you're explaining to somebody who had never played a RPG before just how the decisions are made and why. Because, given the far out methods that your group uses, we are, for all practical purposes, all completely new to this form of play. Oh, we might identify with this part or that. But the totality of it is so far from any other group that I've even heard of that it's very much like a new form entire.

Or, perhaps my perceptions are all wrong. But I'm just, again, working with what I have.

Mike
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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2005, 10:26:44 AM »

Hello,

Wait a minute. I think that's all backwards.

Mike and others, bear in mind that this thread is not a favor to us. It's for us to reach where Jay's coming from, not the other way 'round, or at least not yet.

Could I see some indication that people are interested in what's being said? I think I provided an example. Let's have this discussion be by and for people who can do the same.

Mike, you just might not be the right person to participate in this thread, unless you want to turn around your perspective and quit saying "no no you didn't post right."

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2005, 12:07:38 PM »

Communication is always a two-way street. Before we can do anything for Jay, or reach some higher understanding of any of this, we all have to understand each other. Basically I'm saying that I can't participate because I'm getting all noise and no signal. Jay doesn't owe me or anyone a damn thing. But if he wants any sort of reasonable feedback, we have to be getting information from him.

If it's only me for whom this is problematic, then Jay should probably just ignore me and hope that he can work with others who are interested.

Mike
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2005, 12:23:28 PM »

Right. Mike, your proper role at this time is to stop explaining yourself and wait silently. Thank you.

Best,
Ron
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James Holloway
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2005, 01:25:44 PM »

Quote from: Silmenume

So here we have one example of our Character creation process.  It can be complex and involved.  The creation process can be woven into play or it much can happen in direct GM and player direct talk outside gaming sessions.  


Ron commented that you are treating character creation here very much as an instance of play, and since the goal of play seems to be "to associate with the romance of this particular vision of middle-earth" that makes a lot of sense.

This sounds very much like what Andrew Rilstone was talking about when he said "focus + acceptance = role-playing." Synecdoche, for certain, but I think applicable to this style of Sim, in that it is these things that are the point for you guys.  

I've read all of your posts about this game and I always find myself scratching my head about a game that's obviously so exciting and compelling for you but which to me sounds really unenjoyable. But these posts are definitely helping me understand it.
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droog
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2005, 02:05:06 PM »

We used to play a lot like this, down to the between-play meetings for discussion among the upper echelon (we called them 'bull sessions'). Two-hour breaks to discuss social ramifications of a particular spell. Etc.

It's about the Ideal, or the Dream or whatever. You want to get the experience right. So yeah, character creation in itself needs to be woven in if the Dream is to maintain internal consistency. Every detail needs to be thought through. The arcane knowledge that builds up among the group is immense. Dissenters either fall into line or leave.

It's like doing history or archaeology rather than literature. I get the appeal--I've done years of it with RQ and Pendragon. But, with some others, I'm not so interested in the specific details of your research. I only read somebody's Master's thesis if I have to, and that goes for the Silmarillion as well.

I'd like to hear some general points about your techniques. How do you make Sim fun? Obviously the game has a great hold on you: is it as simple as your all being Tolkien fans or is it the game itself? Do you have any conscious techniques?
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Silmenume
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2005, 08:46:00 PM »

Hey Ron,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
All points of preference aside, what I'm seeing in this account is mainly how much emotional investment and narration of fictional events are present ... prior to play. Even as you described it, your whole tone shifted from "me and I and how it was" to "Ye Olde Story of Yon Dwarfe." Even character creation is play, for you, in this case (consistent with some of my Sim points).


Yeah, funny how that happened.  It certainly was neither my intent nor goal!  In trying to recall and relate the creative thought process and the interactions between the GM and myself I unintentionally fell back into Character.  I don’t know if I managed to convey this idea, but I wished to get across just how ad hoc our Character Creation is and how “organic” it is or can be to the game process.  Certainly the most important idea I wanted to get across is just how peripheral mechanics are involved with Character creation.  This is not to say we don’t have mechanics for Character creation, we do, but the process always begins with some sort of fleshing out of a concept before dice rolling begins.  This concept is very fluid and dynamic until such time as it becomes “official” when the Character actually interacts with Setting.  That is we can have a rather fully fleshed out Character and still play with a blank Character sheet and this Character would be more “solid” than one with a Character sheet but little background/personality etc.

I think what is important here is that Characters are mostly “inspired” by Setting (Which includes both canon – the books – and created – via the game process) or at least must be consistent with its “principles” even if not in pre-established fact.  My Dwarf, for example, was from one of the other lines of Dwarves.  That there were other lines was clearly indicated in the books, but the names of them and where they lived and what happened to them is basically unsaid.  So building upon the basic “principles” of Dwarfdom and then extrapolating a bit I got to create/contribute something “new” to the world i.e., I got to extend the Dream.

To do delve a little deeper into navel gazing I would say that for us there are two “aspects” of Character creation.  One is the creation of the concepts of the Character and all related matters – personality, culture, situation/circumstances, back-story, relationships, skills, drives, physicality, etc.  This part is looked upon as “a part of play” in that we are engaging in a dialectic between culture (Character) and nature (Setting) even if we aren’t sitting at table and rolling dice etc.  The other phase is the mechanical process of rolling dice and filling out the Character sheet.  This process is not looked upon as play – and given the choice of whether to “roll up” new Characters or discuss or “play them into existence” the majority of the time we choose the latter.  It’s not much different than actually play – truth be told.  Its still bricoling and we are thus still engaging in Dream building.  “Exploring” the Character into “form” is still Exploration.  The introduction of new Facts into the Fact space is Exploration, be those facts events or qualities about one’s Character.  Mechanics for us, on the other hand, are constructs external to the SIS that while necessary are not bricolage.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Jay, what I'm interested in is how typical this degree of negotiation and investment is, for the folks in your group. As I recall, everyone has at least a couple of characters running at any one time, right? Do all the characters get this whole vetting and emotional buildup, for all the players?


If I recall correctly the number of Characters that each player has varies from about 15 to 40+.

The degree of negotiation regarding Character creation is totally dynamic.  There are no fixed parameters or even rough guidelines (nor real expectations) regarding how much time or effort is expended in this process.  We spend a lot of time out of game session just “talking [about] D&D.”  And these conversations range from what the implications of what happened in game, to inquiring about the motives of the PC’s or NPC’s, to hashing out player issues, to discussing some change in mechanics, to something we’ve recently uncovered in the books, or a movie we saw that gave us an idea for a Character, to trying to get more extract information about something from the GM, to talking about what we liked about the game or didn’t, to the GM asking us what kind of Character we would like to play in such and such a scenario, to us bringing up an idea to the GM about a new Character idea or scenario or culture or magic item, etc.  There is this constant low level D&D related dialogue going on all the time.  So how much effort a player wants to “invest” in the creation of a Character is frequently up to the player himself.  These dialogues can and do happen just about anywhere at any time – during movies, over coffee, email, a note during a game, a phone call, etc.  This can also be nothing more than just a nod of appreciation between a player and the GM while watching a really cool scene in a movie.

Sometimes we’ll sit down to play and the GM will tell a number of players to roll some numbers as we are getting some new Characters.  Once done the GM goes into the back-stories and interrelationships of the various PC’s as the lead-in to the situation/scenario.  Once or twice we’ve had “dungeon drops” where we start off with nothing but blank sheets in a really dangerous place/situation.  As we play we “build” our Characters through actions, not petitions, and we are given a considerable amount of latitude in this process so one can end up with a very powerful or rare Character – the kicker is you have to survive the night.

So this vetting process is totally dynamic and extremely unstructured.  The key is to create an idea that is interesting to one’s self and the GM.  Why the GM?  Because as a member bricoleur the more hyped up you can get him on the idea the more interesting play will become.  Its not that we must cater to him, rather its just a matter of simple human behavior in that the more intrigued one is by something the more inspired they become.  On a certain level everything in the game is shared/negotiated between the GM and the Character’s owner.  The Setting is not the sole province of the GM – though strongly his while conversely the Character is not the sole province of the Player – through strongly his.  Each has a direct and unintended effect on each other.  That is how a player plays his Character will have an effect on the Setting and Setting will have an effect on how one plays their Character.  And this can be direct in that the GM has an orc attack a PC Dwarf to indirect in that how a player play’s his “Dwarf” effects the total body of understanding/knowledge of Dwarves indigenous to the Setting.

In a way, the more we bring to the table the more we as players get back in return.  Thus the more we invest in Character creation to more fun/interesting/complex the play of said Character will be.  Usually because of the number of people involved and the time constraints during an actual play session one is usually better off talking to the GM about Character ideas outside of the game because time isn’t such a pressing issue.

I hope that I have in some way answered you questions.

Everyone else who took the time to post I will address in following posts.  This one was already getting to long!
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Jay
droog
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« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2005, 06:17:33 AM »

Quote from: Silmenume
Everyone else who took the time to post I will address in following posts.  This one was already getting too long!

As long as you're going to, I'll clarify my question a bit.

I did a lot of maps when doing RQ, Lovingly hand-drawn maps, multiple maps to a region, economic maps, political maps, linguistic maps, tactical maps, social maps. I also drew many of the characters, multiple times and in various situations. It was all part of making that solid in our minds; understanding what the characters were going through.

What sort of things do you use? Is this always part of Sim? Are the bull sessions, too?

You use the multiple characters technique (if I can think of it that way). I found that the same thing evolved in my Pendragon game (though I think about a dozen chrs would be the maximum in that case). Is this a useful technique for Sim? More characters=broader view thus deeper Dreaming?

Our group also gave overwhelming support to the GM in questions concerning Setting. Is this something that must occur in Sim?
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2005, 06:42:04 AM »

Wow, now that's an informative post.

Quote from: Silmenume
This process is not looked upon as play – and given the choice of whether to “roll up” new Characters or discuss or “play them into existence” the majority of the time we choose the latter.  It’s not much different than actually play – truth be told.
At one point you make this sound like a two step process, and at others you make it sound like you can forgo one for another. Are there two chargen methods going on here? That is, do you sometimes get a concept and then "roll it up," and at other times, just make up the stats? Or is there always a point at which you have to roll for stats (or otherwise use mechanics to build them)? Does it vary, or is the same method used each time?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
If I recall correctly the number of Characters that each player has varies from about 15 to 40+.
This is the total that a player will have developed over time, correct? As opposed to the number that they'll play in one session? Or is it the latter? If the former, how often are older characters revisited? Or are they basically retired (with the understanding that they still exist, and could be brought back into play should events make it sensible)?

Quote
We spend a lot of time out of game session just “talking [about] D&D.”
You refer to the game as D&D? Is it close to D&D then? Or is that just traditional?

Quote
Sometimes we’ll sit down to play and the GM will tell a number of players to roll some numbers as we are getting some new Characters.  Once done the GM goes into the back-stories and interrelationships of the various PC’s as the lead-in to the situation/scenario.
I'm not parsing this. What do you mean by "roll some numbers?" Generating stats for characters? Pools of stats like some chargen systems use? What's being done here? Why is it done?

Quote
As we play we “build” our Characters through actions, not petitions, ...
Petitions? You mean instead of asking for a certain kind of character from the GM?

Mike
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