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Author Topic: [Untitled] Ronnies feedback  (Read 8520 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: October 03, 2005, 04:53:35 PM »

Feel like disappearing into a haze of hatred? Feel like a lab rat lately? Then you'll be right at home merely in reading Keith Senkowski's Untitled entry, let alone playing it. This is totally William Burroughs + Dangerous Visions + The Fisher King, with a sticky note stuck to the front.

Keith, you certainly maxed out hatred with the presentation alone, although "rat" is comparatively weak. If you really want to get that in there, then I'd suggest some GM guidance for presentation of stuff which invokes it more ... now, how to do that via the narrator's ravings, in the text, is an interesting problem.

At first, I was put off by the self-reference to gaming. I've kind of been-there-done-that in Over the Edge.

Quote
I see it all now. You, me, the others. Even the fucking Researcher. We are all in this maze together. We are all trapped and at the whim of men beyond this reality. We are fiction to them. Puppets to be moved as we see fit. Some play us.

Hey wait, then again, this is basically the "what is an RPG" part of the rules. Right. The whole text is a manual for the rules, not Color fiction. It's hard to keep my sight on that, but when I do, it's great. I really enjoyed how the gaming mechanics were present in the bulk of the text via Color and raving (glowing diamonds, etc), although granted, I probably couldn't have figured it out without the final page.

The actual rules are basically My Life with Master, with the addition of a neat shared-pool thing. It is remotely possible that your character might actually not spiral down into a pit of awfulness, and as far as I can tell, it's a matter of making sure you put back into the pool more than you routinely take from it.

I am just a wee bit puzzled about some details of resolution, including just what you do with the dice you've rolled now that you've eliminated high values with 0's. Let's see ... say I roll 5d10, and I get 0, 3, 4, 4, 9. I get that the 0 and 9 go away. Now what? Did I get a 4 (highest value) or 11 (sum), or what? Also, ties aren't explained, unfortunately. If I had to guess, I'd say that the player-character has to beat the opposing value, not just match it.

Also, "Aiding Others" rolls against what? Control? Or does that "others" refer to other player-characters, instead of the Others? I think that's it ... in which case, the helping-roll would simply roll against the same opponent. Is that right?

I'm assuming standard scene-conflict presentation and basic play, but that does seem boring. I recognize that the GM must present "only hard problems," but how about an example or two? Yes, I know I wrote Sorcerer. Speak loudly and clearly for everyone in the room.

It'd be neat to have everyone generating horrible little scritchy-scratchy psycho artifacts much like the game text as they go ... that might even play a role in generating what happens next.

So Keith! Can we expect to see a copy of this for sale? I like the idea of someone at GenCon saying, "Hey look, someone left this trash on the shelf," and a booth-guy saying, "No no, man, that's one of the games ..."

Best,
Ron
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Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2005, 05:41:29 PM »

This sort of reminds me of Lacuna in that the reader is left to puzzle out "what the game is" before playing. I'm impressed Ron figured out that much of the mechanics. I got as far as figuring out it involved 10-siders. Going back and seeing mechanics described in text I've already read is kinda spooky.

Regarding presentation, that's probably the bestest / most-disturbing "faux psychopath" document I've seen. I especially dig the post-it note on the cover. But if this should happen to win an award, does Keith have to leave his prize on the "L"?

Ron's suggestion of players creating crazy artifacts has me tickled. A bunch of adults sitting around the table prodigiously scribbling like kindergarteners creates a very amusing mental image.
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Keith Senkowski
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On A Downward Spiral...


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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2005, 06:50:00 PM »

Ron,
Thanks to the contest Ron.  Got me off my ass to do this.  I had been thinking about an artifact game for a long time, but couldn't really wrap my head around it.  It took a little prodding and found it to be a rewarding experience.  Unfortunately now I am trying to figure out how to do it with every one of my ideas.  For isntance in my game idea The House that I have been tinkering with I am trying to find a way to incorporate a doll house into the game mechanics in some fashion.  You pushed me down a dark alley you fucker and I can't resist wallowing in the filth.

Feel like disappearing into a haze of hatred? Feel like a lab rat lately? Then you'll be right at home merely in reading Keith Senkowski's Untitled entry, let alone playing it. This is totally William Burroughs + Dangerous Visions + The Fisher King, with a sticky note stuck to the front.
  I'm glad you got that vibe.  Totally what I was going for.  I had finished House of Leaves shortly before GenCon and I was already a fan of Burroughs.  Plus, when I was writing this thing I was listening to Tools Lateralus and my favorite polack composer, Wojciech Kilar.  Mix all that shit into a bag with some personal experience and some stream of consciousness writing and there you have the thing.  It is nice to see those influences bleed onto the pages and to be seen.

Keith, you certainly maxed out hatred with the presentation alone, although "rat" is comparatively weak. If you really want to get that in there, then I'd suggest some GM guidance for presentation of stuff which invokes it more ... now, how to do that via the narrator's ravings, in the text, is an interesting problem.
Good point.  The hatred was easy to include strongly.  It can be found mechanically and I think was the first idea I had, making hate a key attribute of the whole thing.  Rat was definately weaker.  I think one way to really bring it to the front is to somehow incorporate a rat maze and bait (like the author's wife).  Not sure how to do it, but I think I could present it more strongly.  I touch on that a bit below concerning the Researcher.

At first, I was put off by the self-reference to gaming. I've kind of been-there-done-that in Over the Edge.

Quote
I see it all now. You, me, the others. Even the fucking Researcher. We are all in this maze together. We are all trapped and at the whim of men beyond this reality. We are fiction to them. Puppets to be moved as we see fit. Some play us.

Hey wait, then again, this is basically the "what is an RPG" part of the rules. Right. The whole text is a manual for the rules, not Color fiction. It's hard to keep my sight on that, but when I do, it's great. I really enjoyed how the gaming mechanics were present in the bulk of the text via Color and raving (glowing diamonds, etc), although granted, I probably couldn't have figured it out without the final page.
To quote Gary Oldman, "Bingo!"

When I sat down to write it out I always had in my head making the color text a part of the game itself.  Cutting the fluff is always brought up in RPG discussions it seems.  Particularly when talking about mood heavy games.  I hate that useless baggage, so I sought to take the baggage, the fluff and merge it with the crunch.  The next step is to off course make the text itself, the book an integral part of play opposed to just a set of instructions.  That's my ultimate goal.

Funny thing about the last sheet.  I originally was going to put it there, but in code.  I was going to take the English, translate to Hebrew and then translate to the numerical equivalents.  I want to not have to have the last sheet in the book (or at least not a sheet appearing to be rules), but I don't know if that is even possible.

The actual rules are basically My Life with Master, with the addition of a neat shared-pool thing. It is remotely possible that your character might actually not spiral down into a pit of awfulness, and as far as I can tell, it's a matter of making sure you put back into the pool more than you routinely take from it.
As anyone who has read any game ideas I have worked up I am no good at creating something no one has seen before.  However I am pretty good at stealing other people's ideas and remixing them.  Like I've said before, I was more interested in creating something tangible than working up new mechanics.  My Life With Master had almost everything I wanted from the game mechanically (almost).

The Spiral needs to be inevitable I think.  I shouldn't even have Good Acts listed I think.  Everything you do should lead to the eventual bottoming out.  The game isn't about winning.  It's about getting a taste of your life spiralling out of control.  It's about sainity and how flimsy reality is. 

I know it has this Sci-Fi feel, but as I was working it out and writing and drawing spirals and gripping the pages with fake blood on my hands I realized that it's all in his head (the author).  It is in all their heads (the mutliple characters).  They all are feeding off each other and in doing so sending each other down the drain.  And now that I think about this there needs some sort mechanic to illustrate this more I think.  Any ideas?

I am just a wee bit puzzled about some details of resolution, including just what you do with the dice you've rolled now that you've eliminated high values with 0's. Let's see ... say I roll 5d10, and I get 0, 3, 4, 4, 9. I get that the 0 and 9 go away. Now what? Did I get a 4 (highest value) or 11 (sum), or what? Also, ties aren't explained, unfortunately. If I had to guess, I'd say that the player-character has to beat the opposing value, not just match it.[/url]

Also, "Aiding Others" rolls against what? Control? Or does that "others" refer to other player-characters, instead of the Others? I think that's it ... in which case, the helping-roll would simply roll against the same opponent. Is that right?
You would take the highest die.  I missed putting that in.  I'll need to massage the text a bit.  Also there are no ties.  Player has to beat the opposing value.  Tie goes to the house cause in the end, the house always wins.

About Aiding Others, that's a fuck up on my part.  Should have said something like other Rats or something.  You are right in your assessment that it is for aiding other Players/characters and it would be simply rolling against the same opponent.

I'm assuming standard scene-conflict presentation and basic play, but that does seem boring. I recognize that the GM must present "only hard problems," but how about an example or two? Yes, I know I wrote Sorcerer. Speak loudly and clearly for everyone in the room.
I've been thinking about this actually.  I think the only way I could add it to the ravings is to detail the Researcher's activities as seen through the eyes of the puppet looking up at the puppeteer.  What do you think?  I think that would clarify things a bit.

It'd be neat to have everyone generating horrible little scritchy-scratchy psycho artifacts much like the game text as they go ... that might even play a role in generating what happens next.
You have no idea how hard I tried to come up with some way to do this.  I mean it would be easy to present in the text (insane directions on what you need to do), but I'm not sure what.  A journal or poloroids seems like too much for everyone in the game to create on the fly and how do I marry the fucker to the mechanics?  There has to be a reason besides it's cool to be like that crazy fucker Senkowski.

I do like the idea of the Player's artifacts dictating what is happening next.  It adds to the whole zealous, "see I told you it's a maze" sort of vibe.  Just don't know how it would get used.

So Keith! Can we expect to see a copy of this for sale? I like the idea of someone at GenCon saying, "Hey look, someone left this trash on the shelf," and a booth-guy saying, "No no, man, that's one of the games ..."
I totally want to sell copies of these.  I want to freak people right the fuck out with the content and the realization that all the content informs on the game.  I was thinking even custom post-it notes for each copy at the very least and maybe even custom versions with their own unique blood spray patterns and spirals and notes and shit.

Keith
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Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2005, 06:54:01 PM »

Larry,

Good.  I want to creep folks right the fuck out.  Kinda a theme I got in the work I do.  At the same time it concerns me that you had trouble puzzling the shit out.  I want it to be invisible (the mechanical content), but at the same time I want it, by the end or reading, to hit you in the fucking face.

Is it wrong that I'm tickled pink that you think it's the bestest/most disturbing "faux psychopath" document you've seen?

Keith
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Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
talysman
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2005, 11:45:32 PM »

funny, since I haven't read Burroughs, I was thinking of Frederick Pohl's "Tunnel Under The World" or the movie "Dark City", but without the aliens. or maybe with the aliens; it's up to the group to decide what the Researcher really is, isn't it?

... although there was one adaptation of "Tunnel Under The World" that made the whole thing a plot by advertising men. that certainly has potential...
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2005, 09:28:36 PM »

So I am toying with the idea of how to add artifact creation to the game.  I'm thinking of maybe having the Players write shit down on index cards or on their copy of the game would be even better.  Everything they write becomes real in the game environment.  Every little doodle, every sentence, every sketch becomes a part of the reality.  How to moderate that I don't know. 

Maybe they can only be past events or something?  Maybe they can only be introduced to a scene that your character isn't in?  Maybe they can't directly benefit your character?

What the carrot is then for creating this shit, I don't know.  Maybe the writing is the only thing that can stop the spiral, the Humanity loss.  Maybe by introducing one of these elements you have been writing through the game you don't lose Humanity that scene or don't gain more Haze?

Just kinda thinking outloud here.
Keith
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Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Keith Senkowski
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Posts: 725

On A Downward Spiral...


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« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2005, 09:48:11 PM »

John,

Don't know Tunnel Under the World, but Dark City was definately an influence.  Love that fuck'n movie.

As to what the Researcher and the Others are, I leave it up to everyone to decided what they are.  At different points I thought of them as existing and as being figments of the imagination of all these crazy fuckers.  I mean, you have to ask yourself, how reliable is the source?  He killed his wife after all.

Keith
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Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2005, 04:51:12 AM »

Hi Keith,

I agree with you about the iffy-existence of Researcher - but I also think some pointers about how to introduce him, it, them, etc, into play would be a good idea.

For instance, who do you see even mentioning the Researcher during play? The GM, at all? Or is it strictly a player-interpretation, character-raving thing? is there any authority over the Researcher or his minions? Do you think identifying the hand of the Researcher is a matter of being buried in the Haze, or of clearing it?

And no good saying, "Uh, whatever the group wants." Various dialogues about PTA and Dogs are convincing me that many people will have no idea whatsoever, and won't even recognize that such a choice is there.

It might interest you to know that I teach a course about rats. Usually I don't bring my non-Forge life into the forum discussions, but in this case, this anecdote might be useful for play and possibly design.

Just last week, I assigned my students an in-class essay about rats and learning. They (the students) had been exposed to the idea that learning, per species, has parameters regarding what can be learned as well as what rewards learning.

Rats, for instance, learn to navigate mazes quickly and easily. A very effective means of negative reinforcement for them is induced nausea - they "get" that feeling yucky means "bad decision this time." Contrary to popular belief, they don't perceive electric shock in the same way. It hurts them, but they don't learn from it.

Humans, on the other hand, learn other stuff quickly and easily, like languages (as kids anyway). They really aren't too swift at navigating mazes - even if you think you're "good at directions," you're pretty pathetic compared to a rat.  A very effective means of negative reinforcement for them is shame/status. To humans (and dogs), electric shock not only hurts, but indicates failure and disapproval, and as such is extremely aversive.

The students did quite well, but they did struggle. It's awfully hard for people to understand that non-humans are often very cognitive and capable of sophisticated behavior ... but not our behavior. We tend to make two groups: "pepole + little furry people" vs. "weird blind meat-robots." To state that creatures do internally construct and deal with the world much like we do, but in a way and with priorities that reflect their evolutionary/ecological history, not ours, is a very hard concept, at least at first exposure.

Imagine a rat placed into a human-type problem-set, rewarded and punished by the absence/presence of electric shock! This is pretty horrific - the animal has no idea what is being asked and no idea how this "hurting" thing is supposed to be involved.

I also asked the students whether humans really can "learn anything and everything" as commonly imagined, or whether we can learn something well/quickly when social consequences are not involved. I think a few existential-crisis fuses blew at that point, although many of them did try bravely, which is all that matters at this point in the term.

So, anyway, it seems to me that your game does exactly this with humans: placed into a problem-set that is not socially constructed but rather about something they don't "get," rewarded and punished by some feedback they can perceive but cannot understand as related to their decisions ...

Best,
Ron
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Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2005, 06:39:34 AM »

Ron,

Good questions.  I seem to suffer from the delusion that everyone will know what to do cause I do.

I think identifying the Researcher is simpley the illusion of clearing the Haze.  The characters think they are getting answers, but the problem is that the answers don't make any sense.  With that in mind I think that the initial introduction of the Researcher has to be by the Players, either collectively or individually.  However once he is out there he becomes the GM's toy.  Now how to convey that passage of control in the text will be tricky.

As to the Others, I think they could be introduced by the Players or the GM and once they are let out of the box and into the environment, they stay out of the box.  The GM untimately controls both, but in the case of the Others, their nature is defined by anyone at the table, making them a solid in the environement, while the Researcher is defined by the Players and then filled with contradictions by the GM, making him the nausea you mentioned affecting the rats.

That is some crazy interesting shit.  I'm glad I ignorantly was able to grab it.  It seems I got mad skills and don't even realize it.

Keith
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Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Spooky Fanboy
Member

Posts: 585


« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2005, 07:25:26 AM »

Quote
The Spiral needs to be inevitable I think.  I shouldn't even
have Good Acts listed I think.  Everything you do should lead to the
eventual bottoming out.  The game isn't about winning.  It's about
getting a taste of your life spiralling out of control.  It's about
sainity and how flimsy reality is.

One of the things that makes for good suspense is hope, in (low)
porportion to the horror. I'd really rather have a slim chance of
getting out of the maze but likely failing than realizing I had no
chance at all. To me, it's the difference between a Jason movie
(where you know everyone besides Jason is dead meat, and all you're
watching for is how creative he gets with the horny teenager
disposal) and a movie like Cabin Fever, where the disaster was
bad, but Plain Human Stupidity made it so much worse. Give the
players a chance to reap the benefits of struggling toward heroism.

Besides, I have this cool image in my head of a player hitting
Transcendence, having just enough time to say, "it all makes sense
now..." and going *piff*, while the others have just enough
time to say, "What the hell did that mean!?" before the
Researcher and his goons come to erase all traces of the
Transcender's existence. Boo-yah!
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2005, 07:45:04 AM »

Keith,

Now mind you, I'm pretty dense at figuring out mechanics from game texts to begin with.

Some of the bits that throw me off are the various equations scribbled in the margins. I see that bit of non-prose symbolics and start looking for a mechanic. Then I realize it's just the sort of mathematical recursion that a schizophrenic would latch on to.

I also kept figuring the highlighting was some sort of cue for "This is a mechanical element."

Would anyone who didn't already know about dice pools be able to figure that mechanic out?

Ron,

I'm actually really excited to discover you are knowledgable about Rattus.
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Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2005, 09:24:36 AM »

Hey Spooky,

That's a good point.  The illusion of the hope for a better day is a nice contrast.  The key for the game I think is that it has to be an illusion.  Sure someone may somehow pull it off, but the odds are ridiculous on the scale of me walk'n on the moon.  Maybe removing the Good Acts isn't what is needed but instead more ways to fuck up.  Dunno.

Larry,

That's a good question.  Something I need to clear up.  Part of me though doesn't want people to be able to explain it all.  I would rather it be more like, "How the fuck do we play this?"  "Just read it dude.  It will make sense by the end."

Keith
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Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Spooky Fanboy
Member

Posts: 585


« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2005, 07:15:50 AM »

Sorry for late post, but I'd think more ways to fuck up is the way to go.

Right now, the suspense of will they escape or won't they is one of the key things driving this game, and IMO the big source of suspense. Once that is fully closed off, it becomes a matter of sending characters as lab rats through the maze, not for education, but for amusement. That can grow old real quick. (Witness Kill Puppies for Satan; while a fine game that does what it sets out to do, after awhile it becomes obvious that the characters are at a dead end.) In Untitled, as it currently stands, there really isn't even the distraction of "kewl powerz" or "joining the enemy" as an alternative. Playing the game for comedic value (like kpfs or Paranoia) isn't really an option, either.

Of course, long-term play might not even be on your radar screen. But if it is, the hope of escape will be the hook that draws people back, while the entertainment value of "how will character X fuck this up now?" will provide interest along the way. 
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2005, 11:02:35 AM »

H'mmmm ... count me as a dissenter. I think that Hope needs to be real, and the Maze can end.

Now, in-game, that might not be pretty. The endings of Brazil and Pi come to mind. But in game-mechanics terms, I'd like to play the game in which that's a possibility.

And yeah, it doesn't have to be a very big possibility.

Best,
Ron
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