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[TSoY] Rat Moon Drags On

Started by JMendes, June 04, 2006, 06:25:09 PM

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Hey, all, :)

This is all in the sequence of this stuff here.

We had our sixth TSoY session last night (and yes, I'm counting them). Unless something utterly surprising and/or insightful happens in the future, this is likely to be my last post here regarding this campaign. It's likely to remain top fun from here on in, but not so likely to generate new discourse-worthy insight.

So, here's the situation at the table, as it was at the end of session five:

  • Rogerio, the GM, has really come into his own. He's finally shed his ingrained traditional GMing habits completely and is now simply throwing stuff at us from his bandoleer of bangs, then hanging back and watching the show.
  • Ana, my wife, is the MVP at the table. She was the first to actively engage the Key mechanics and she continues to be in the lead on Key buyoffs and purchases.
  • Isabel, the other woman in the group, is a close second, despite her tendency to grow extremely sleepy in the second half of the sessions. Her creative usage of Key of Lost Child is continually injecting background and color into the game world, not to mention providing direct ammo for the GM's bandoleer.
  • Me, I struggled with my own traditional habits as well. My fumble was directly related to my assumption that the story was about the situation, rather than the characters. Fortunately, I'm over that as well.
  • Godinho, Isabel's husband, was fast on my heels in shedding his own traditional gamer baggage. His is the story I want to tell in this post, so more on this below.
  • Isidro missed out on the second session in a row, due to various real life circumstances. Unfortunately, this sixth session was all about power brokerage that went directly to his Key of Power, so he kinda missed a big boat. Oh, well, there'll be other chances.

So, on to my story. I want to talk about something that happened half way through session five, the significance of which didn't hit me until a bit later, after all the éelan from the whole of the session finally subsided.

The in-game situation has our party tracking the NPC Gerard's group through the woods. We didn't really roll to find the tracks so much, because that would lead to uselessness. As we were preparing to frame the scene forward after some tracking, the GM said he would be calling for a roll. He meant for us to make a Woodcraft roll to see if we would catch up with Gerard under circumstances favorable to us or to him.

Godinho, however, interrupted him and stated that he wanted to pay special attention to see if anyone was following us. The GM pondered this for a minute, then announced he'd be calling for two rolls instead. He then proceeded to have us roll against someone who was indeed following us, which we managed to spot, then corner.

Here's the thing: this third party really didn't exist at all until Godinho said what he said. And here's the disconnect: Godinho, as a player, said what he said because he saw it as a "good move". Rogerio, on the other hand, chose to interpret it as an expression of interest on the player's part for the concept of having someone else following us. So, he created the follower on the spot.

A bit of further disconnect: when we did find and corner the guy, Rogerio was satisfied that he was done his job as GM by responding to the player's interest. Godinho was satisfied as a player to have had his good move pay off and be successful.

(Well, that last bit is not entirely true. Because of the way things were said and done at the table, I'm reasonably sure Godinho had at least a strong suspicion that Rogerio created that guy on the spot, although it's hard to say whether he knew exactly why.)

Before the beginning of session six, we talked about this incident as a group. Honestly, I had some (mild) apprehensions about talking about this. On the one hand, it might contribute to get Godinho further on board with a game about character development. On the other hand, it might jerk him out of a good gamist vibe. Still, as Rogerio aptly put it, illusory, incoherent fun is perhaps not that healthy, so we talked.

As it turns out, it was a rather good talk. Godinho confirmed my suspicions that he realized the follower had been created on the spot. He understood and was totally on board with Rogerio's explanation as to the why. During the session, his engagement of his own character was completely different. He wanted a Key that wasn't in the book*, so he asked the GM to create it, then proceeded to buy it and act on it. Net result: one more player on the good side of coherence.

So why is coherence important?

I'm going to talk a bit about the relationship that developed between our two characters. His character is a Zaru, an ex-slave, with Key of Conscience and a stated desire to eventually go on a slave freeing mission. My character is an Ammenite noble, presumably a slave owner, also with Key of Conscience, presumably implying him to be against slavery. Except, Ammenites are manipulators and deceivers. So, an ex-slave and a slave owner meet and they talk and they forge an uneasy relationship because, see, the ex-slave can't really trust the deceitful Ammenite, now, can he? Think Frodo and Boromir in Fellowship of the Ring. They're kind of together, but the hobbit doesn't quite trust the man.

Thing is, this was only possible because of the way we at the table decided to bring player priorities into the game, rather than stick to the industry default of playing within character knowledge and goals. If even only one of us had stuck with the traditional way of playing, this relationship could never have developed in this manner. Rather, in all likelihood, either we would have backed off the trust theme altogether, or worse yet, the tension would have escalated to gratuitous use of mechanics and one of us would have ended up dead.

It's all about coherence at the game table.

So there it is. I didn't post all this stuff earlier because I wanted to have that pre-game discussion with everyone beforehand, and because I figured I'd have stronger discourse if I had conclusions to present alongside, which meant playing through session six first. I learned something as a gamer from all of this. Hope some of you did as well. Any questions? :)


(*) Key of Leadership. It needs to be touched up a bit, in my opinion, but I'll see about me or Rogerio writing it up on the Anvilwerks forum.
João Mendes
Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon Gamer

Ron Edwards

Hi João,

First, thanks for posting these, because you're illustrating some of the core points of "system does matter" as well as providing a great example for others.

As a possible topic, perhaps we could discuss prep for the next session which utilizes the fact that Isidro wasn't there. By which I mean, yes, all the stuff that went on would have tied into his Key ... but now that those events have happened, wouldn't their outcomes tie in even more?

Here's my thought process - say I were playing a power-heavy, power-mongering kind of character, someone who felt strongly about leadership and influence and politics. For whatever reason, the character was absent during a whole slew of events which would have been very absorbing to him. Now, he returns. Here's what the character might say - "But I wasn't there! And just look at what happened without me! Now I'm going to have to go in and fix everything."

That's only one example of a relevant response; there are probably many others. And of course, it's not that any one of them is the right one, so much as the response itself, if Isidro wants to anyway.

So perhaps you could consider prepping in such a way as to provide a lot of opportunities for Isidro to apply that Key in a responsive fashion to the previous session's events. I can think of ways I'd do that with the players I know, but how do you think that might be done with your group?

Final point - the entire sequence with the person following the group, and the "perception" roll which actually invented him into the game, is very familiar to me. I built a lot of rules in Trollbabe based on my positive experiences with playing in this way, and you can even find an example in that text which looks a lot like yours. Clinton's a Trollbabe fan, so I think this represents a neat correspondence between the two games which he'll appreciate.

Best, Ron


Hi Ron, and thank you for your comments. I'm Rogerio and I'm the GM in this TSoY campaign. I don't post much, but I'm an avid follower of non-traditional RPG Theory and techniques.

Regarding the prepping for Isidro who missed the session. The situation I launched (the power struggle for leadership of the tribe) is still completely in the open. In fact, due to the actions of the players, the situation became even more complex with the creation of a third side. Ana's character, who the NPC who launched the power struggle wants to see take over the tribe, suggested a third person which would be much more suitable to lead it. Now, why has this happened? I created the situation to involve all the characters (and it did) but the only one which actually had a vested interest (assuming no current players would take a new key to give them an interest in solving the situation) in resolving it one way or another was the one that was missing from the session. I do have a couple of scenes prepped to launch him right in the middle of the heat should he come to the next session. My point, the missing player wasn't there, but nothing was really done to the situation, so it's still pretty much in the open.

Regarding your final point, a side note. The npc itself was not invented on that situation (not that it being would be any problem. I'm an avid Donjon fan, and I have no qualms about direct player input). Just the fact that NPC would show up there was. I had a key scene which was the characters meeting this strange elf saboteur. On previous occasions, I left direct openings for the characters to follow to meet this individual, but on both those occasions, they decided (consciously) not to follow them. When Godinho said that he was keeping an eye out I saw it as a perfect opportunity to lead to that scene again. I just hadn't thought of it before hand. Situations such as these have happened quite a few times and you know what? Its GREAT. It completely changes the context in which the scenes happen. I really go into the sessions with no clue as to what will happen. It's very liberating as a GM.

Ron Edwards

Hi Rogerio,

Agreed in full. It sounds like we've had some similar experiences with games of this kind. I'm looking forward to reading more about this game.

Best, Ron


Hey, Ron, :)

Glad you're finding this useful! That's exactly what I was aiming for when I posted. :)

Just wanted to let you (and anyone else following these threads) know that the GM plus me, my wife and at least one other friend are going away for a week-long intensive gaming spree, so the next TSoY session won't be before the 24th.

Hopefully, Isidro will show up to play. :/

I'll let you guys know how it went. :)

João Mendes
Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon Gamer