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Author Topic: [TSoY] Rat Moon Setting (long - but juicy, hopefully)  (Read 9445 times)
JMendes
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« on: September 11, 2006, 02:02:38 PM »

Ahey, all, :)

After eleven high-fun, high-learning, action-packed sessions, Rat Moon Rising has finally come to a close, bringing with it some interesting conclusions, some healthy post game talk, and a bright and prosperous role-playing future for our group.

Here's a link to some stuff I posted here in the past.

Game State

As you may recall, Gerard was running around trying to find some moon metal to take back home. Well, eventually, Philippe Dawnbreaker got tired of waiting and sent a couple of boatloads of troops to find him. And of course, those troops were also poised for a big hit on the Khaleans, and perhaps even an attempt at finding the moon metal grove.

That was my queue. I took the troops on, transcended, got the commander and Gerard on the boat and sailed home with them. I then had a long talk with Philippe, then left the castle and walked off into the sunset, never to be seen again. To "this" day, the Ammenite army speaks of the hero that ended the war (for the time being, that is).

In the meantime, my wife's character is back at the ratkin ruins, pursuing her newfound mission of recovering the twelve lost stones of the Twelve Tribes of the Khaleans, all of which are, you know, lost. With her are Isabel's character, because, first, she is Guardian (as in Key of) to my wife, and second, because she is a Lost Child (ditto) of one of the Twelve. Isidro's character is also with them, as he is still chasing after some herbs and he is now of the opinion that the ratkin are a good avenue to purse this.

As it turns out, they're not the only ones who think laying low amidst the mice is a safe bet. Brasil, leader of the Khalean tribe of the Zenith (the thirteenth tribe, so to speak), was severely wounded a couple sessions ago, and the Khaleans caught wind of the impending boatloads of Ammenites. So, they disbanded their village (as they have often done in the past). Only now they have this guy on a stretcher with no place to go. So, ruinbound they come and they meet up with the three characters, the wounded man and a few companions, among which, Elsha, the tribe's master cook, and proud holder of Secret of Inner Meaning, which she put to good use, as you shall see later.

Cool Stuff At The Table

Recall that Isidro was the player that missed a lot of sessions, including the sixth session that I linked to above. I'll also note that he's the player that is most estranged from both the Creative and Technical Agendas we've been converging around at the table, which is actually quite normal, seeing as he is the one that has played the least sessions so far, and this really is the first game where this group has finally been able to play non-traditional.

Well, the GM has been looking for a way to engage him, and this session, he was finally able to plant some good seeds. He had Elsha prepare a fabulous dish, then roll Savoir Faire through it (by using Inner Meaning) to get Isidro's character "smitten", whatever that might come to mean. The cool thing is that, for the first time, Isidro's reaction wasn't "meh, yeah, cool, why not", but rather "whoa, brutal", then reached for the dice. Not only that, he lost the roll, then bought Key of Love.

Then later, when Isabel's goblin character decided to try and "refresh Instinct" (which has become an interesting euphemism in our group) with Elsha, Isidro leaned back with another "whoa, no way", then reached for the dice again with a "why don't I change the subject" line, trying to cramp the goblin's style. (Although, it should be noted, he briefly considered trying to tag along instead, which would have been even cooler!)

Technique - The Seed-Nurture-Bang Cycle

Which brings me to another point. Here's one good, solid way to support long-term narrativist play: throw the player something cool to hold on to; develop and nurture that something, in order to forge and strengthen a bond; throw that something into question, in order to bang the player.

Maybe this is all old news to all of you, but the story I just told above is a good example of the beginning of that cycle, and the whole thing just dawned on me as I was remembering the session last night, so I thought I'd post it here, seeing as it is so apropos. :)

Post Game Talk

But the highlight of the night was the very lucrative post-game talk we had after we adjourned the session.

Last March, we decided to put our looong-standing L5R campaign on hold for a year and try new things. We settled on TSoY and agreed to play through the sample Rat Moon Rising "adventure", then take stock and figure out where to go from there. Well, like I said above, Rat Moon has finally set, so the GM gathered us all in the balcony and told us to speak our minds.

It was pretty much unanimous that TSoY is working great for us and that we're going to stick with it, which is way too cool. Some interesting points were raised, though:

- My transcendence wasn't important enough for the people at the table, in general. Sure, it meant a lot to me, and to the GM as well, probably, but to everyone else, it seemed kind of bland. (Except for the fact that Ana's character lost her Unrequited Love, but hey, them's the breaks and an interesting buy-off :)

- Isidro stated the opinion that the system drives people to play to their Keys too much, which was a straight up example of the agenda clash I mentioned above. We told him that this is a design feature, not a bug, and he understood the point, so we're (I'm) hoping that a successful seed-nurture-bang cycle will bring him more in line with how we've been playing.

- We discussed the difference between making a character and putting numbers on a sheet, and we all agree that although each of us came up with a sort of concept for our characters, it was the GM that actually fleshed out each character's initial situation, and so, in a very real sense, it was the GM who "made" our characters, and this was a big reason why things took so long to really fly for us.

- We then discussed the concept for my next character. It was decided that he would be a guy who roamed Near, looking for the mysterious elf saboteur that we'd met a couple of sessions ago, because he "is evil and must be destroyed". Because this elf, his possessions and his knowledge are directly significant to the Twelve Stones mission I mention above, this is instant buy-in from a lot of players regarding my character, which is a Good Thing(tm).

That's all I have for now. As usual, I welcome any comments or questions anyone may have.

Cheers,
J.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2006, 07:02:04 PM »

Joćo,

This post makes me happy each time I read it. I'm so glad the system is working well for you guys. The "seed-nurture-bang" cycle is smart, and I'm going to put a link to this thread on the CRN Games page so that others can see it.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2006, 05:14:51 AM »

Hi there,

I had a thought about "playing to the Keys too much" ... I agree that it's a feature rather than a bug, but perhaps it's also easy to miss that Keys can apply very well across sheets rather than just within one sheet.

Perhaps the other players can find ways to have their Keys affect or rely upon the player-character of this player. I'm thinking about the way Oliphaunt, the example character, is built to put pressure on all aspects of Violet. Which is to say, having Oliphaunt and his neurotic little Keys around gives Violet a lot of reasons to consider what she's doing with her Keys at any given moment.

I think that might lead to a more diverse set of behavior, per player, regarding individual sets of Keys.

Best, Ron
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brainwipe
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« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2006, 06:42:50 AM »

Cool post!

I love the Seed-Nurture-Bang idea. I'm going to flagrantly use that in my current campaign and then (after the bang), I'll give you credit. :)
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JMendes
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2006, 08:21:46 AM »

Ahoy, :)

Ron, that's an interesting thought. Heh, actually, I wish I had read it before I made my new character. :)

Funnily enough, even though that's one pretty obvious tool for a TSoY GM, it never occurred to me to go for it as a TSoY non-GM...

I'll have to look into that. We'll see how/if it works at the table, and then I'll post back with more comments.

Cheers,
J.
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2006, 05:50:36 PM »

Y'know, I've read over TSoY, and I have to say, I'm somewhat leery of the transcendence mechanics. I mean, I'm all for the idea of ending a character's story meaningfully, and of having mechanics that drive toward that. But the mechanic in TSoY seems. . .arbitrary. And unavoidable. . .you achieve Mastery in something, you Trasncend, your story's comeplete, have a nice day. Contrast, say, the Soptlight Episode in PTA. . .sure, it's not a "end the character's story" mechanic, but it certainly serves to drive toward a resolution of the character's issues, thus "clearing the slate" for that character to do the sunset-ride if appropriate, and combined with the last episode in a season/series, could work quite well for character-closure purposes.

Going back to your example, Joao, it seems like kind of dumb luck that you Transcended at a time when youcould wrap up your character's key issue, peace for his people. And you mentioned the other players weren't particularly into it. In fact, one other player had a character whose Key-based issues were tied directly into your PC (Unrequited Love), which can now never really be resolved. Oh sure, you could wring some kind of heartbroken ending for her out of it, but it would be rather tacked on, jusding from your description. If the "end-the-story" mechanic was more flexible, then perhaps this could have been handled more smoothly, and in a manner that would engage ALL the players. Another example comes to mind: in Capes, a scene ends onlyu when all Goals are resolved. . .perhaps a Character should only "end" when all the issues relating to him/her are resolved?

Another quick note, about Keys: You said Isidro stated that "the system drives people to play to their Keys too much," and this has come up in some of your previous Rat Moon posts as well. I also have been skeptical about Keys, though I am warming up to the idea. I think the concern might be better stated that the system drives people to play to their Keys too mechanically, rather than too much. A lot of people (like me) are looking at statements like "gain 1 XP every time you do X" and picturing players making bland, mechanical statements about character actions just for the XP, with no connection to the narrative, or to driving the story, or whatever. It sounds like a case of the system only being as good as the players' willingness to use it to drive the story. Your group seems to have gotten great mileage out of it; I've enjoyed all your Rat Moon posts. I just wonder if it couldn't cause problems for some players. Is there anything specific about the way your game went that prompted Isidro's remark?

Peace,
-Joel
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Ralek
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2006, 10:13:58 PM »

Hey Joel,

I'm Rogerio and the story guide in this long-term TSoY campaign. I don't normally post here (leaving that to Joćo), but you bought up a couple of issues I see brought up a LOT whenever TSoY is discussed, issues that I have given a lot of thought.

Quote from: Melinglor
Going back to your example, Joao, it seems like kind of dumb luck that you Transcended at a time when youcould wrap up your character's key issue, peace for his people. And you mentioned the other players weren't particularly into it.

I really don't get this... how is it dumb luck? You never transcend unless you want to. There's really no reason whatsoever to go Grand Master in a skill unless you want to transcend and you need to remember that you can spend XP at any time. Joćo was at a point in game where he was no longer tackling his keys and was headed to a definite conclusion to his character's story - you can read more about my thoughts on that here. He had Bamboo Warrior at master level (skill level 3). He went into that scene with 5 spare advances and he was planning on buying off Key of the House on that scene (since he was going against his house) giving him another 2 advances. He had 7 spare advances (which he used one to buy secret of enhancement, which basically allows him to keep rolling pool dice to up his roll until he gets a three out of the dice). If he does indeed manage to roll the three, he can look at the scene and see if he really want to transcend there - if he does, he spends 4 advances bumping his skill to Grand Master and his success level to 7. It is entirely his choice.

About the fact that his transcendence did not engage the rest of the players enough, that's merely situational. The other players never really cared much about the Khalean-Ammeni war so its no surprise that resolving his issue hadn't that great of an engagement. It did however have a major impact on the situation. There's no longer a war, situation right now shifted drastically.

Quote from: Melinglor
In fact, one other player had a character whose Key-based issues were tied directly into your PC (Unrequited Love), which can now never really be resolved.

Keys are not issues. Keys are stuff that the character (and presumably, although not always quite so, the player) care about. In fact, Ana was the only one that was engaged by his transcendence, not by what it caused (the end of the war) but by the fact that the Elf said his goodbyes and will never return. This in turn, engaged Isabel's character, who has key of the guardian with Ana's character and his concerned for her protege and wondering if she will be able to focus on the monumental task they have set for themselves (restoring the spirit of the primordial twelve tribes). I fully intend to explore this on the next session as I'm planning on having the session start with Ana's character throwing up the delicious breakfast prepared by Elsha and everyone slowly coming to the realization that Ana's character is pregnant from the hero that saved the day and departed into the sunset. I'm gonna up the ante on that one and see if this seed blossoms.

About the key thing... get over key guilt, just get over it. If you can't, then probably NAR play is not for you. This may sound harsh, but I've found this to be in true in all cases I've seen it happen. Playing too mechanically means nothing. Keys are a mechanic, so you have to play them mechanically.

Quote from: Melinglor
picturing players making bland, mechanical statements about character actions just for the XP, with no connection to the narrative, or to driving the story, or whatever

Story is what happens at the table, that is the point of NAR play. If characters are making statements and engaging their keys, it became part of the narrative right there - there's is no way it cannot be connected. Those statements put their personalities into the shared imagined space. Whenever you make those statements you continually forge your character's beliefs and that in turn will help the other players at the table (including the SG) put that personality and beliefs into check.

Whenever I see statements such as those I normally come to the conclusion that the people making them are under the impression that the story is about something else other than the characters and what happens with them.
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2006, 11:59:31 PM »

You never transcend unless you want to.

Ok, this is partially amisunderstanding on my part. . .I had gotten a different impression of transcendence on my read-through of TSoY. Sorry, I should probablytry not to stick my neck so far out since I haven't been able to play the game myself. I had missed a lot of nuance regarding the spending of XP, it seems. Anyway, with that correction, let me go at it from a different angle: it still seems pretty arbitrary, even though not involuntary, to tie Transendence to Grand Mastery. How is raising a particular skill to mega-high levels equivalent to wanting to end a character's story? Sure, if you're not ready to end you can just go to the brink of Grand Mastery and stay there, but why even connect them at all? It seems like ending a character's story (again, I LIKE the idea) could be tied to something more directly related, like keys, since they represent actual character drives.

Keys are not issues. Keys are stuff that the character (and presumably, although not always quite so, the player) care about.

Now, see, I look at those two sentences, and they seem to saythe same thing to me. PTA Issues=what players want to address with their character=TSoY Keys. Sure, there's less emphasis on dysfunction than in PTA, but still. . .I have no idea how your correction invalidates anything I was saying on the subject.

About the key thing... get over key guilt, just get over it. If you can't, then probably NAR play is not for you. This may sound harsh, but I've found this to be in true in all cases I've seen it happen. Playing too mechanically means nothing. Keys are a mechanic, so you have to play them mechanically.

OK, think is, some Nar-facilitating games, I read them, and go, "yeah!" TSoY, I read and go "hmmmm, I dunno. . . . ." So my aim in this inquiry is to get to the bottom of why that is. But I was having a hard time expressing myself in my first comment, so I can understand why you would respond as you have. Let me try to communicate clearer. For starters, "mechanically" was a poorly-chosen word. I didn't mean it in the sense of "using mechanics," but in the sense of "wooden" or "forced." That's the thing that I wrestle with regarding Keys; I can see some players using them to jazz up their play by driving straight toward what they want in an engaging fashion. Myself, I think back on a lot of D&Dplay, for instance, and I wish I had a system in THAT game for rewarding the way I was already playing, instead of rewarding the kill-cycle that I was hampered in utilizuing because that wasn't my goal. So cool, so far so good. But I can also see the Keys being used by other players in a much more wooden and forced fashion. like, "Ok, I jump in and help him, 'cause I've got the key of conscience, here's XP for me, OK I roll to attack, ho-hum. . ."

I like the idea of awarding XP for what you want for the character. I think the sticky wicket for me is in the specificity of the XP requirements for the keys. They read to me like so much bland, by-the-numbers character portrayal I've seen over the years, of the "of course I attack him, I'm chaotic evil!" variety.

I don't know. Maybe I'm over-thinking it. Maybe you can't idiot-proof (or unengaging plaer-proof, or jackass-proof) a system. Lord knows I don't have an alternative in mind. I thik I'll shut up now, since I don't want ot over-extend myself in the absence of play experience. Feel free to respond, though, and I'll be happy to continue the dialogue.

One last thing, I am curious, as I asked before, was there anything specifically that happened at the table to prompt Isidro to criticize Keys? or was he just being a skeptical nitpicker like me?

Peace,
-Joel
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Ralek
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2006, 06:25:57 AM »

Anyway, with that correction, let me go at it from a different angle: it still seems pretty arbitrary, even though not involuntary, to tie Transcendence to Grand Mastery. How is raising a particular skill to mega-high levels equivalent to wanting to end a character's story?

I don't know if you read the link to Joao's blog I linked up in the previous post where I address the issue more or less directly while talking about fruitful void. When you reach the stage in game where you can go Grand Master in a skill, XP doesn't t mean much to you anymore. That puts the whole system in check. If you don't care about xp you stop going after your keys, if you stop going after your keys, you stop making statements, your flagability seriously decreases - basically you are playing a whole different game. I don't know what is Clinton's view on the subject of transcendence being tied to grand master, but that's how I view it and have experienced it.

Quote
Now, see, I look at those two sentences, and they seem to saythe same thing to me. PTA Issues=what players want to address with their character=TSoY Keys. Sure, there's less emphasis on dysfunction than in PTA, but still. . .I have no idea how your correction invalidates anything I was saying on the subject.

They are similar but not quite the same. Issues in PTA is something the character is struggling with and the whole system pushes for a resolution in their spotlight episode. You can make issues = keys if you bring all the characters key into it, not just one. Look at Joao's character... he had Key of the Mission (bring peace to the Khalean-Ammeni border), Key of Conscience (not kosher for an Ammeni belonging to a slave owning house) and Key of the House. That's his struggle - his house is very important to him, but on the other hand, his house is pushing to win the war and he wants peace. His transcendence deals with his "issue". He chose his desire for peace over his house. He made a definite statement there. He also chose to transcend in a scene where he could resolve his "issue".

Quote
But I can also see the Keys being used by other players in a much more wooden and forced fashion. like, "OK, I jump in and help him, 'cause I've got the key of conscience, here's XP for me, OK I roll to attack, ho-hum. . ."

and that's a statement from that player. Now, lets imagine that player also has Key of Friendship with someone. And what if that someone is the one attacking the guy in need of help? Will you value your friendship over your conscience?

You are also forgetting a very important part of the mechanic. Buyoff. You get a load of XP (10 more specifically) when you directly act against your key, but you lose the key. You are rewarded for making deep statements about your character, like the way Ana's character jumped into a combat situation even though she had key of the coward when she fell in love with the elf (Joao's character).

Quote
I like the idea of awarding XP for what you want for the character. I think the sticky wicket for me is in the specificity of the XP requirements for the keys. They read to me like so much bland, by-the-numbers character portrayal I've seen over the years, of the "of course I attack him, I'm chaotic evil!" variety.

I don't know if I follow you here... its up to the SG and the other players to challenge other character's beliefs by putting what they care about in check and having them make choices. If their beliefs are never put into question and all scenes are as straightforward as to allow a single key to be followed by everyone in the group, there's something seriously wrong with that TSoY game. Player's frame of mind is also important so that they can take care of challeging each other on their own, like how Isabel's character put herself in the middle of Isidro's pursue of his new found love.

Quote
I don't know. Maybe I'm over-thinking it. Maybe you can't idiot-proof (or unengaging plaer-proof, or jackass-proof) a system. Lord knows I don't have an alternative in mind. I thik I'll shut up now, since I don't want ot over-extend myself in the absence of play experience. Feel free to respond, though, and I'll be happy to continue the dialogue.

Coherence at the game table is important. There's no need to jackass-proof a system if the group is coherent. If someone's being a jackass, why's he playing and more importantly why are you playing with him?

Quote
One last thing, I am curious, as I asked before, was there anything specifically that happened at the table to prompt Isidro to criticize Keys? or was he just being a skeptical nitpicker like me?

Yes. There was an "incident" during play where Isabel's character interpreted what Isidro's character was doing as an attack on her lost tribe good name (she has key of the lost tribe). That wasn't Isidro's intention at the time, but nevertheless it prompted Isabel's action (in fact, she slugged him, advancing scrapping and buying key of the bloodlust in the meantime for a way cool scene). The disconnect between the rest of the group and Isidro was the fact that the group agreed that Isabel was defending her tribe's good name even though offending the name was not his intention so there was no "attack" so to speak. His question was "what stops her from keeping imagining insults to her tribe's name and keep hammering her key for XP". There's a really easy answer "Nothing". It will keep making interesting scenes and when the rest of the players (including the SG) pick up on the bloodlust to defend her tribe's good name it is ripe to be put into question. What will she do when her protege (she also has Key of the Guardian) is the one slugging out the insult?

Quite honestly, I don't think Isidro has had enough coherent play with the rest of the group (he missed a lot of our sessions) to make a good judgement about the mechanic and he has a lot of traditional baggage our group has overcome and he hasn't yet, but he's definitely on the right track. I got him quite engaged on the last session. I do intend to discuss this issue further with him and the rest of the group before next session as it may lead to additional "incidents" in the future.
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2006, 10:35:51 AM »

I don't know if you read the link to Joao's blog I linked up in the previous post where I address the issue more or less directly while talking about fruitful void. When you reach the stage in game where you can go Grand Master in a skill, XP doesn't t mean much to you anymore. That puts the whole system in check. If you don't care about xp you stop going after your keys, if you stop going after your keys, you stop making statements, your flagability seriously decreases - basically you are playing a whole different game. I don't know what is Clinton's view on the subject of transcendence being tied to grand master, but that's how I view it and have experienced it.

Yes, I did go and read it after writing my last post. The while Transcendence/Grandmaster thing is becoming clearer to me. . .but now I find it's back to looking like it's not really voluntary. Oh sure, you don't HAVE to transcend until you want to, but as you say, once you get on the cusp of Grandmastery, the game system starts to wind down in terms  of engaging your character, so it IS basically saying "transcend now." I CAN see how that can work functionally and awesomely, as in Joao's case, and there IS a definite elegance in signalling the endgame by pushing you to wrap up. I still, however, wonder why the endgame is tied to skill mastery rather than the actual thematic material.


Meanwhile, I think I've had a breakthrough regarding Keys, facilitated by this statement:

They are similar but not quite the same. Issues in PTA is something the character is struggling with and the whole system pushes for a resolution in their spotlight episode. You can make issues = keys if you bring all the characters key into it, not just one. Look at Joao's character... he had Key of the Mission (bring peace to the Khalean-Ammeni border), Key of Conscience (not kosher for an Ammeni belonging to a slave owning house) and Key of the House. That's his struggle - his house is very important to him, but on the other hand, his house is pushing to win the war and he wants peace. His transcendence deals with his "issue". He chose his desire for peace over his house. He made a definite statement there. He also chose to transcend in a scene where he could resolve his "issue".

And this one:

You are also forgetting a very important part of the mechanic. Buyoff. You get a load of XP (10 more specifically) when you directly act against your key, but you lose the key. You are rewarded for making deep statements about your character, like the way Ana's character jumped into a combat situation even though she had key of the coward when she fell in love with the elf (Joao's character).

Ok, the lightbulb is on. . .of COURSE. You play the keys AGAINST each other. That's perfect. And obvious. An idiot is me. Man, now I'm pretty excited to try TSoY. The right character, with the right flags, makes for supercharged thematic play. Awesome. I was, frankly, imagining poorly designed characters, with something like the Key of the Jackass, the Key of Bloodlust, and the Key of Getting My Own Way. I'm thinking either TSoY just doesn't have the training-wheels text necessary for slow folks like me to figure out that you've gotta have the right character build to make it work. . .OR I just missed/forgot that text in my read-through. Either way, now I can see how it works. Cool.

I don't know if I follow you here... its up to the SG and the other players to challenge other character's beliefs by putting what they care about in check and having them make choices. If their beliefs are never put into question and all scenes are as straightforward as to allow a single key to be followed by everyone in the group, there's something seriously wrong with that TSoY game. Player's frame of mind is also important so that they can take care of challeging each other on their own, like how Isabel's character put herself in the middle of Isidro's pursue of his new found love.

And this feeds into the newfoud understanding above. . .of COURSE, the games fires on all cyllinders when everyone is dinging each other's keys. So yeah, the players are responsible for making their fun. Player engagement, coherence, etc. I'm totally cool with this idea for other games, but for some reason I was having a hard time figuring out how it worked for TSoY.

Yes. There was an "incident" during play where Isabel's character interpreted what Isidro's character was doing as an attack on her lost tribe good name (she has key of the lost tribe). That wasn't Isidro's intention at the time, but nevertheless it prompted Isabel's action (in fact, she slugged him, advancing scrapping and buying key of the bloodlust in the meantime for a way cool scene). The disconnect between the rest of the group and Isidro was the fact that the group agreed that Isabel was defending her tribe's good name even though offending the name was not his intention so there was no "attack" so to speak. His question was "what stops her from keeping imagining insults to her tribe's name and keep hammering her key for XP". There's a really easy answer "Nothing". It will keep making interesting scenes and when the rest of the players (including the SG) pick up on the bloodlust to defend her tribe's good name it is ripe to be put into question. What will she do when her protege (she also has Key of the Guardian) is the one slugging out the insult?

Quite honestly, I don't think Isidro has had enough coherent play with the rest of the group (he missed a lot of our sessions) to make a good judgement about the mechanic and he has a lot of traditional baggage our group has overcome and he hasn't yet, but he's definitely on the right track.

OK, this answers my question nicely. I that last paragraph is pretty much what I thought was going on with Isidro, but I was curious where exactly he was coming from, and if it was based on something in play or just worried speculation. The incident he was concerned about does remind me of some play I've had, where I felt another player's actions were  spurious, sort of "hung on the frame" of a stated motivation, but not very convincingly or engagingly. That's the sort of play I've been trying to describe, clumsily. Perhaps I'll try and write and up an actual play incident to demonstrate. I'll probably post it in its own thread, if I can figure out exactly what questions I'm trying to answer.



Thank you for being patient with me and taking the time to respond. I know a lot of my questions must look pretty dense. Truth is, I'm only just starting to pursue this kind of play (coherent and functional, that is, to say nothing of thematically charged), so I don't have a lot of AP under my belt to draw from. I wasn't really trying to dispute your expereinces or anything; rather you guys DO look like you're having a way-fun, way-engaging game, so I'm kind of parasitically drawing on your AP to help me understand where that fun exists in TSoY, 'cause from the text I just wasn't seeing it. Thanks, I think you've helped tremendously in that regard.

Peace,
-Joel
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JMendes
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2006, 02:01:30 PM »

Hey, :)

This is turning out to be a way cool conversation! :)

The whole Transcendence/Grandmaster thing is becoming clearer to me. . .but now I find it's back to looking like it's not really voluntary. Oh sure, you don't HAVE to transcend until you want to, but as you say, once you get on the cusp of Grandmastery, the game system starts to wind down in terms  of engaging your character, so it IS basically saying "transcend now."

I just wanted to expand on one particular thing here. You can create a character that is on the cusp of Grand Mastery. If do the right math, a beginning character will need like 15 XP to get there, which, as has been demonstrated in other TSoY threads, can take all of an hour and a half of play.*

But, just because you have a skill that is almost at Grand Master, that doesn't mean you're ready to Transcend. In my case, what happened was that I looked around at my skill list and suddenly "felt" that it matched my vision for my character almost completely, and that meant that I had no need to gather more XP.

That feeling, however, was inaccurate. The reality was that I simply had no more statements to make with the character, which lead to my stopping to spend XP, since I really didn't feel like I had to win a roll or another. That lead to a rather large number of free advances, and really, just a different kind of game for me. And by the way, that went on for a couple of sessions before I finally decided it was time to transcend.

Now, personally, I was fine with that, but a) it's much more fun to chase XP when you need them; b) it's much more fun for the rest of the group if you're doing it. Plus, there's the risk of several players getting to that stage and the game stalling for lack of, as Rogerio aptly put it, flagability around the table. So, I decided it was time to transcend.

Still, no matter how you slice and dice it, you are partially right in that the system converges, and so, sooner or later, this will happen to everyone. However, I just wanted to assure you that the exact timing and circumstances of the whole thing are a lot more under player control than it would seem at first reading of the rules.

As an additional data point, this can happen in just about any game system. I recall a Shadowrun session I was GMing where Rogerio (yes, same guy) had his character seriously considering going hand-to-hand one-on-one with a dragon! He gave it up when he came to the conclusion it would have been an endless stalemate, and right after that, simply retired the character. Also, theoretically, D&D is supposed to end after Level 20. Epic Level is kind of a tacked-on thing. :)

I still, however, wonder why the endgame is tied to skill mastery rather than the actual thematic material.

Well, I can't speak for Clinton, but personally, I view the cause-and-effect between Grand Mastery and transcendence the other way around. "OK, I got things to say, how does one transcend?", "Well, you buy up a Grand Mastery and set yourself up to roll a 3."

I'm kind of parasitically drawing on your AP to help me understand where that fun exists in TSoY, 'cause from the text I just wasn't seeing it.

You and us both, dude. Our first two sessions of TSoY were played using full traditional techniques, expectations and assumptions, and were completely flat. Credit for the turnaround goes to everyone at the table, but first and foremost to two people: one is the GM for taking the time to come here and read all he could read about TSoY play, and bandoleers of bangs, and whatnot; the other is my wife Ana, who just happened to be the least experienced role-player of the group (coincidence? not!), for being the first one to engage the mechanics head-on, in session number three.

Cheers,
J.

(*) Transcendence Fast Track: Getting to Grand Master requires a total of 8 advances: 3 to get Master, 1 in between because you can't advance the same thing twice in a row, then 4 to get Grand Master. Because you start with 5 advances, all you need is 3.
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2006, 03:59:06 PM »

Still, no matter how you slice and dice it, you are partially right in that the system converges, and so, sooner or later, this will happen to everyone. However, I just wanted to assure you that the exact timing and circumstances of the whole thing are a lot more under player control than it would seem at first reading of the rules.

Thanks, Joao. Your (and your group's) play experience has really been valuable for me in seeing how this all work for super awesome fun. That was really the issue in my understanding, I think: lack of actual play experience. (which was really a catch-22, since I was looking at the text and seeing what looked like some un-fun rules, so why would I want to play it? With players that will be skeptical of a new game system, no less?)

As an additional data point, this can happen in just about any game system. I recall a Shadowrun session I was GMing where Rogerio (yes, same guy) had his character seriously considering going hand-to-hand one-on-one with a dragon! He gave it up when he came to the conclusion it would have been an endless stalemate, and right after that, simply retired the character. Also, theoretically, D&D is supposed to end after Level 20. Epic Level is kind of a tacked-on thing. :)

You know, I think this is also part of my understanding gap. . .this is pretty far removed from my actual experience, since I've never managed to play long-term enough to even approach "maxing out" (except in Big Eyes Small Mouth, where you have to work hard to not max out). Played MERP in my youth, but sporadically and never made even 4rd level as I recall. Played Heroes Unlimited, but given that Kevin Seimbada's design pnilosophy is that characters stay at low levels forever, (why even have the upper levels, Kev??!), it's not surprising that I never made 3rd. Played D&D 2E later on, but was at 4th level or so when we switched to BESM. Have played a few D&D 3E games, some defunct, some still going, but have yet to see 7th level in any of them.

So the point (sorry about the tedious litany) is that I've never even seen, say, 20th level in D&D as a live option or actual goal of play. It would take frickin' years to get there, judging by our current pace. So the idea of "ending" a character based on advancement is pretty foreign to my expreience. I'm starting to see how it can work, though. . .

Incidentally, in pondering this I'm remembering one friend I played with as a teenager, who had a tendency to voluntarily "retire" a character when he was ready for him to end. His first Heroes Unlimited character, he conspired by way of note-passing with me, the GM, to have the character accidentally shot and killed. His second, more beloved character, he and I co-planned a farewell adventure. Ostensibly he was going to be retire, but our dirty secret was that I would cue him at the right moment and he'd trade blows with the villain, killing him even as he gave his own life. We never got to run the adventure. Oh, and his barbarian in our MERP game (which was not very Middle-earthy, by the way) was in a situation engineered by me, where a vengeance-minded king had captured him and was making him fight bare-knuckle in an arena, when my friend decided to retire him as well. I had planned to have his opponent batter him into unconscousness, but when his HP were gone, he insisted, "no, he's dead." Notice a theme here?

In the second two examples (in the first, I think he was just bored with the character), I believe my friend had decided that the characters had outlived their usefullness, both in terms of power and story-potential. Much like the SR char of Rogerio's where he decided there was just no challenge for him any more. My friend was also conscious of other players' feelings that his PCs were unfairly powerful AND unfailry privileged by the GM (me), so he wanted to retire them to sort of clear that up, kind of like throwing a match because people think you're cheating.

So anyway, I think I can see now what was really going on there, and what TSoY is trying to do. I have to admit, having a definite endpoint for a character can be pretty sweet if handled properly.

Thanks again for the mucho enlightenment this thread has granted me. And your game was just plain fun to read about, too!

Peace,
-Joel
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2006, 04:21:47 PM »

Addendum:  Wow, I totally forgot to mention that the relevance of the example of my character-suiciding friend (to my mind at least) is that he was obviously looking for an endgame feature for whatever reasons, and not finding it in the rules, thus engineering his own situations.

There.

-Joel
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JMendes
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« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2006, 06:53:51 AM »

Hey, :)

the relevance of the example of my character-suiciding friend (to my mind at least) is that he was obviously looking for an endgame feature for whatever reasons, and not finding it in the rules, thus engineering his own situations.

Joel, that just makes total sense to me. Total! So, I gather that we are now in sync, then. Cool. :)

Cheers,
J.
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