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Author Topic: Storypunk: "Do you think you can tell?"  (Read 8021 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« on: November 01, 2002, 04:49:54 PM »

I was drafting a webpage/introduction for my game Storypunk (formerly the project called "Quixote & Coyote," discussed http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3934">here and http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3990">here) when I was suddenly inspired by multiple sources.  My muses were:

-- Narcissist v0.5 by http://www.aetherco.com">Aetherco, a time travel game about alternate history as righteous rebellion

-- Haroun & the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, my favorite novel of all time, bar none.

-- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, specifically, the opening lines:

Quote from: Floyd
          So... so you think you can tell
           Heaven from hell
           Blue skies from pain.
           Can you tell a green field
           From a cold steel rail?
           A smile from a veil?
           Do you think you can tell?


You see, Storypunk is about the world being a story that we're all part of, very much like Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage" concept.  Originally, I was working with a bizarre mix of Universalis & Mage, where characters would build a new story, piece by piece, to be in, and then try to use their story to affect the Myth of the Real, which we all live in.

However, after reading Narcissist & Rushdie and listening to Floyd, I think there are some more interesting possibilities here that might move Storypunk out of the shadow of the "metaphysics" games that everyone and his brother seem to be sick of.

A Question of Clarity

What if it was unclear just whose story you were a part of?  You call your home story "reality," but does everyone come from the same story as you?  If Don Quixote's story is the novel that he lives in, a story that (like your own life) has a beginning, an end, and some content in between, who's to say that Don Quixote's story isn't just as much "reality" as yours?

If Don Quixote hacks his way out of Cervontes' novel and into your "reality," he'd doubtlessly think that it was a fantasy world.  Likewise, if you hacked your way out of "reality" and into a story of your own devising, you'd call that story a fantasy, while the inhabitants of your story would call it "reality."

Who, after all, has the right to decide what is "real" and what is "fantasy," if those two things are not completely distinct?

A Story to Come From

Now, in Storypunk, every character would have a particular story to have come from.  This could be called their Origin or something like that.  You could claim to have come from "reality," but most other story hackers would laugh at you and dismiss you as someone who hasn't yet seen the truth.  More likely, they'd have Origin's like "Herman Melville's Moby Dick" or "The Creation Myths of the Apache," claiming to come from one story or another.

Just what novel has your life recorded in it?  Well, that might be one of the first things you'd have to find out.  It might turn out that you're a character from a 23rd century historical novel.  Or you could be someone's autobiography.  Or you could be from one of the wizard Tarisnon's many fantasy stories about a world without magic.  Who knows?

If you'll notice, each of these Origins implies that there actually is a "real world" out there somewhere, one in which the authors of your stories exist.  Where is Herman Melville from?  Perhaps he's a character in someone's novel too.  After all, the story-within-a-story is one of the oldest concepts in storydom.  Just ask Shaherazad (sp?).  Or, you could hold out belief, like many do, of discovering the "true" reality out there somewhere, one producing all the stories that exist.  Or, an alternative faith could be believing that there is such a thing as the First Story, one from which all other stories spring in a factal pattern.  Your God would then be the First Storyteller, who is the ultimate Origin of everything that is.

Hacking Literature, Folktales, & Myth

I didn't call the game Storypunk just because it sounds cool.  The characters are basically hacking their way across storydom, finding new stories to be in and seeking out more information about the story they came from.  You could get caught up in a great victorian romance, or battle space pirates, or witness the trials of Hercules, or wander Appalachia with Jack the Giant-Killer.  And it wouldn't be like most time travel or world-hopping games where you randomly jump to a destination or have a bunch of templates to select from.

You could change your story by one of two ways, finding a story within a story to be a part of (i.e. getting sucked into a work of literature, folktale, or myth), or by creating you own story, getting pulled into the reality you build yourself.  The latter could also be done as a group, in the style of Universalis, with each character contributing some components to the story they want to step into.

What About "Escaping the Real"?

One of the key themes of my original "Quixote & Coyote" concept involved the characters always being unable to escape the banality and horror of their crappy lives.  As in kill puppies for satan, they were complete losers, but decided to ignore reality through fantasy, rather than by slaughtering cute animals for Lucifer.  This new conceptualization seems to give that idea a kick in the teeth.

Does it?  I'm not sure.  Are the two ideas completely incompatible?  I don't think so, but it's something I'll have to think about more.  Could the characters get forced back into their Origin stories every now and then, forcing them to deal with a reality that is (at least to them) rather uninteresting compared to all the other stories they could be in?  Would that work?  Maybe.  But, in this second reimagining, I was also hoping to let players take on the roles of literary characters or those from myth and legend.  Obviously, playing Merlin stuck in Camelot would not have the same effect as playing Bob Jones who has to take out the garbage and pay his credit card bills.

What do people think?  Am I shooting my old idea in the head?  Is this idea "better" (i.e. more thought provoking and interesting)?  Is it worth moving away from my old concept?

Later.
Jonathan
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2002, 06:14:20 PM »

Jonathan,

It's very cool. I like everything...except this:

I was also hoping to let players take on the roles of literary characters or those from myth and legend. Obviously, playing Merlin stuck in Camelot would not have the same effect as playing Bob Jones who has to take out the garbage and pay his credit card bills.


Literary characters, in my mind, are storied out. Their themes are revealed. The Premise and conflict that disgorged them into significance to their human audience has been answered. Merlin in Camelot no longer has anything to say to a human audience. Merlin at The Alamo, maybe, but retrofitting new Premise and conflict onto "used" literary figures is an exceedingly difficult task, requiring a great deal of insight into how the character's original thematic answer to Premise might be reinvigorated with meaning through the resolution of a specific new conflict that casts entirely new meaning and understanding into it. My recommendation is to ditch the idea. Keep historical and fictional settings, and "underbelly"¹ the player protagonists within them.

Paul

¹ Clarification on this term is available upon request, but could probably be found easily through a search of older conversations.  
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2002, 06:24:54 PM »

Jonathan, it seems what you actually have here are two different ideas. The Q & C and your new take "Storypunk".

Personally I think both have potential, although I must say that Q & C tickled me the most as an interesting game. That would be partly because it ties into things that can make you start debating the whole concept from a buddhist viewpoint(!) There is a lot of narrativist themes available from Q & C.
On the other had, I was a little wondering how you'd make group adventures to come together in a Q & C game.

Storypunk on the other hand is more straightforward and seems to naturally flow from Torchbearer, something I can't ascribe to being an accident. May I suggest that you drifted towards Storypunk partly because of the underlying system.

The most important thing as I see it is for you to decide why you drifted towards SP. If it's only partly because of the system and SP represents the game you really wanted do in the first place, then that's fine, but if it's a drift because of the game system you should maybe think twice before you go SP instead of Q & C.

I think both have potential.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2002, 06:28:42 PM »

Hmm... I'm afraid Merlin was a bad choice of an example, here.  I wasn't really intending for players to play famous characters or those whose exploits and personality they were very familar with.  Instead, I was going to allow them to choose a character concept from literature, folklore, or myth, but not play a specific pre-existing character.  For example, they might be able to play a gnarled old eccentric wizard, but they wouldn't be allowed to play Merlin or Gandalf.

It was also a bad example because I was going to argue that the vast majority of storydom is not limited to the traditional roleplaying genres of fantasy, sci fi, westerns, horror, pirates, etc.  In fact, the vast majority of storydom comes from the primordial legends of early human history, hundreds of thousands of years before the present.  Even if the characters choose to stick around "modern storydom," the vast majority of stories told, even today, are NOT fantastic adventures.  You would instead be more likely to encounter characters from romance novels, thrillers, historical fiction, TV sitcoms, biographies, New Yorker articles, or just the daydreams of a thousand office workers or elementary school children.

Does that address your concerns, or are you still opposed to allowing PCs to come from stories outside "reality"?

Later.
Jonathan
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2002, 06:33:44 PM »

Quote from: Pale Fire
I think both have potential.


Agreed.  But they're also too similar for me to do BOTH.  That's why I either need a way to combine the ideas, or I need help in picking one over the other.  I'm trying to do some pondering on my own, of course, but I was soliciting help just because both ideas seemed to have such potential.

Later.
Jonathan
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2002, 08:16:47 PM »

Jonathan,

Does that address your concerns, or are you still opposed to allowing PCs to come from stories outside "reality"?

It absolutely addresses the concern. I have no problem with player characters modeled on archetypal figures from folklore and myth.

Carry on!

Paul
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Gwen
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2002, 09:27:13 PM »

Quote
I didn't call the game Storypunk just because it sounds cool. The characters are basically hacking their way across storydom, finding new stories to be in and seeking out more information about the story they came from. You could get caught up in a great victorian romance, or battle space pirates, or witness the trials of Hercules, or wander Appalachia with Jack the Giant-Killer.


Sounds good, but where did the "punk" come from?

Is the victorian romance between a green hair go-ganger and a cybered out assassin?

I'm just making sure there's punk elements in the game before "punk" end up as some sort of RPG suffix.

EDIT:  Which, i realize it IS an RPG suffix, but hopefully not an arbitrary one.
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talysman
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2002, 11:56:24 PM »

I think this is a cool concept; I also like the Q&C concept (hey, why wouldn't I? "Brazil" is one of my favorite movies.) I, too, hope you can keep both ideas...

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Quote from: Pale Fire
I think both have potential.


Agreed.  But they're also too similar for me to do BOTH.  That's why I either need a way to combine the ideas, or I need help in picking one over the other.  I'm trying to do some pondering on my own, of course, but I was soliciting help just because both ideas seemed to have such potential.


rather than pick one over the other, I think there is a way to combine the most important features of both. Gwen's post gave me the idea, plus earlier discussions of Terry Gilliam's other "Brazil"-like movie, "The Fisher King". why not make all the characters "crazy" people who consider themselves literary characters? not necessarily the dual reality from Q&C, but rather each new story the character enters has no other role for the story-hacker than "crazy person", until the hacker makes a role.

in a way, "Miracle on 34th Street" is an expression of this idea. pretend that Kris Kringle is a story-hacker that has escaped from legends about Santa Claus into another story about the modern day. he's a nobody when he arrives and quickly becomes labeled "mentally incompetent"... until he can force his premise onto the story he has entered and become the hero.

you could also assume that travelling from story to story is through a hierarchy of "containment": the santa claus myth is contained in the story of "Miracle on 34th Street", which is contained in our world (story?) -- the next story Kris would enter... this would impose a certain rationality on story-hacking: if you wind up in 23rd-century Mars, you can't go to medieval europe next, because medieval europeans didn't tell stories about your adventures on 23rd-century Mars. you could go to the early 20th century America, however, where your story was printed in "Amazing Scientifiction" ... and from there, to the late 20th century, where your 1930s adventures are part of a novelist's peudoautobiographical memories of an eccentric person the novelist once met...
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RobMuadib
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2002, 12:35:08 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

What About "Escaping the Real"?

One of the key themes of my original "Quixote & Coyote" concept involved the characters always being unable to escape the banality and horror of their crappy lives.  As in kill puppies for satan, they were complete losers, but decided to ignore reality through fantasy, rather than by slaughtering cute animals for Lucifer.  This new conceptualization seems to give that idea a kick in the teeth.

Does it?  I'm not sure.  Are the two ideas completely incompatible?  I don't think so, but it's something I'll have to think about more.  Could the characters get forced back into their Origin stories every now and then, forcing them to deal with a reality that is (at least to them) rather uninteresting compared to all the other stories they could be in?  Would that work?  Maybe.  But, in this second reimagining, I was also hoping to let players take on the roles of literary characters or those from myth and legend.  Obviously, playing Merlin stuck in Camelot would not have the same effect as playing Bob Jones who has to take out the garbage and pay his credit card bills.

What do people think?  Am I shooting my old idea in the head?  Is this idea "better" (i.e. more thought provoking and interesting)?  Is it worth moving away from my old concept?


Hey, it's late and I am about to go to bed, but had someting I wanted to share. It was an episode of ST:DS9, one in which Sysko is in some alternate identity crisis, in this case a guy in a mental hospital who thought he was actually Captain Sysko of DS9, through the show he was writing the story of this Sysko and the related characters on the walls of his cell. Despite the shrinks telling him he was delusional and they didn't exist. I just thought it was an interesting plot line, particularly because of the vast importance that Sysko had in the story (Being the emissary and all, and fighting in a major war, truly escaping the real.)  

Additional to this was as similar image, I think it was in Kult, about a guy who had written all over the walls of his cell until finally he just disappeared, leaving his story without an ending. Then there is the similar feel/situation in 12 Monkeys, in which Bruce Willis' character was in a same sort of situation, though he actually ended up writing his own story to a certain extent, or at least knew the ending. I guess it is just a cool theme that appeals to me. On a similar take is HP Lovecraft's the Dreamquest of Unkown Kadath.

So I guess I like the some of the variations, stories already written in which you are in, stories freeing you. Perhaps you should consider allowing travel between the different realities. Perhaps others destroying or erasing your "origin story" or the mss of it, or something pulling you back to the real world, or reducing your powers.

I think there is certainly room for your original idea in there. And I think making the power somewhat fragile and subject to inference much more interesting.

(Oh yeah, in a related note is the idea of being able to enter painting and other works of art, another common theme of traveling through. )

As for storypunk, it could certainly be interesting, I could see all sorts of amusing parallels to real world writing. Oh shit, I just got a rejection slip..ahhhhhhhhhhhh:) Or, oops, forgot to run a spell check. He banished me, He summoned an editor and redlined me until I couldn't maintain my link anymore.

Anyway, just some tangential thoughts, it could certainly be quite interesting. Another idea is being trapped in a short story, being stuck in a loop, etc. All kinds of interesting things you have to address in your mythology/theory of the story hacking. Oh yeah, someone else mentioned the Neverending story as well, another interesting take, the pivotal attic scene when he finds his name in the book, and the characters talking about him.

laterz

Rob
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Gwen
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2002, 01:35:41 AM »

Some of the best movies for this idea are by Gilliam, but I HIGHLY suggest the Adeventures of Baron Munchausin over Brazil.

Brazil is a great movie and a good example for this game, but the dream sequences are very abrupt.  From what I've read on the game, it is intended to slowly flow into the dream, which is why I would suggest Baron Munchausin.  (Also by Gilliam)

That movie is quite surreal and is also a GREAT example of how several players can wind up in one intertwined dream.

There was also a short film about the old people in a retirement home thinking they were pirates and turning over couches and using canes as swords.  Might be an Atom Film, not too sure.

And then there's that friggin' Robin Williams movie where he dies and starts living is his wifes painting or something.  It did really bad in the box office, but I hope someone else knows the name of it.  What Dreams May Come?  I think thats it.  That movie supposrts this idea too.
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RobMuadib
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« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2002, 06:03:34 AM »

Johnathan

Hey, one last bit, as to which I prefer. I personally like the Q&C aspects of the game. Escaping the real seems the more intriguing aspects of it. Certainly, if you structured the game such that the players are normal characters that learn hints that their life is in fact "not real" could make a more interesting take on it.

You know, you could be sitting on the train and the guy across the way is reading some book and is subvocalizing, when you notice he is reading about what is currently happening to you. Perhaps you catch a glimpse of the back of the book as he leaves with a picture or some author.

I guess I like the idea of us being the scrawlings of some madman on his wall, or someone's fever dreams. One of the oldest creation/reality myth is that world is just someones dream, and will end when they awake.

Maybe this way the players could learn the secret runes (inked in red-- what can I say the editing element appeals to me) that will allow them to leave their story and enter another. The theme of what do you do when you find you aren't real, but yet you know you exist being another favorite.

As for the classic story realms, I can imagine these being domains of other older "storypunks" who have learned the runes and made their domain in this more stable, protected, realm. Perhaps there is the fear that your story will be lost, the last copy burnt. Imagine the fear of the Storypunks of a book-burning or some such. Or the fights that might occur between Storypunks over some hugely popular new realm. Imagine the fighting that might occur among story punks over same establishing a realm in Harry Potter, how many of these books have been printed and exist, etc.  

Then you get into whether it has to exist as a written word. Thus all storypunks would have a creation myth, perhaps the oldest storypunks tracing their genesis all the way back to some monks manuscript, while newer ones exist on someones mac harddrive, etc. Or, eek, you came from some X-files fan fic, or something.


Anyway, I think the idea of characters becoming aware of their non-existence and learning the way into other stories is more interesting. Also, the idea of the "Classics" and other great works being realms fought over or coveted by other storypunks interesting. Being that normally storypunks trace their genesis to one of a kind manuscripts or such. I think that tenous grasp on existence would provide the perfect impetuous to seek out the other stories you mention, and provide a very interesting take on traveling between alternate worlds. (Think of how many storypunks would want to establish a realm in the bible, or the Koran, or some such, an interesting take on holy war.)

Anyway, just thought I would offer my vote towards what I consider the more interesting take. It seems to me the enter any bookworld that interests you pretty much what you can do with most any RPG. i.e. lets play a game like the 3 musketeers, etc, etc.

anyway, some ideas to consider

HTH

Rob Muadib
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2002, 08:20:01 AM »

Quote from: Gwen
Sounds good, but where did the "punk" come from?


A few different places, actually:
-- Cyberpunk, in that the characters are rebelling against "the man," except this time it's in the form of the stories that try to put them down and restrict them; they do this by "hacking" their way out of one story and into a new one; this rebellion + hacking gives the connection
-- Steampunk, Deiselpunk, etc. : these words arose from the same root, Cyperpunk, but they don't mean it in the same way; the "punk" in these terms refers to the way Steam/Deisel tech has permeated every layer of society, making it seem oppressive and omnipresent; Storypunk follows along the same lines, having story be everywhere

Quote from: talysman
why not make all the characters "crazy" people who consider themselves literary characters? not necessarily the dual reality from Q&C, but rather each new story the character enters has no other role for the story-hacker than "crazy person", until the hacker makes a role.


I like this.  So, if a Merlin-esque wizard hacked his way into a work of detective fiction, he could no longer perform any magic (since it was not within the realm of the story he was in), so he would either have to create a new role for himself within the world (and maybe regain some of his powers) or change the story until he could do what he wanted.  Of course, until he did either one, he would be subject to the treatment of the other characters in the story.

This, again, would bring back some of that feeling of oppression and marginalization.  When you entered a new story, you would have no place in it and would be automatically placed on the outskirts of society, unable to fully take part.  And if you created a new role for yourself, you would be submitting to the rules of that place, which limits your ability to express your true self, which may not be appropriate.  Maybe there could be the danger of losing your identity to the role you have created?  Maybe you could become "storyblind" (like "dreamblindness" in Nightbane), where you can no longer remember that you have not always been a part of this story.  Maybe Kris Kringle has a danger of losing himself to the boring normality of 34th Street.

Would that work to bring back some of the themes I was playing with in Q&C?

Quote
you could also assume that travelling from story to story is through a hierarchy of "containment"


I also think I might steal this idea, since it really reinforces the "story within a story" approach.  Of course, the characters could still invent their own stories to step into, but it would be much simpler to find a story that already exists and move into it.  I like the idea of jumping into books, or plays (inserting yourself in with the actors), or movie screens, or the story being told by an old woman in front of the hearth, etc.

As in Continuum and Narcissist, players could keep track of their path through stories, and be able to "work backwards" (or tangentially) to try to return to previously-encountered tales or even their Origin story.

Quote from: RobMaudib
Perhaps others destroying or erasing your "origin story" or the mss of it, or something pulling you back to the real world, or reducing your powers... And I think making the power somewhat fragile and subject to inference much more interesting.


Agreed.  I had pretty much forgotten the idea of stories being ephemeral things that don't last very long.  Thanks for bringing that back up.  Now, I have to think about how I want stories to "crash" in this new conceptualization.

Perhaps is we took your later suggestion that long-lived, well-known stories are the only ones that are really stable, so the little stories invented by the characters would probably be the least stable, since they are known only to them.  They would be temporary solutions at best.  The Classics (including things like the Bible or Gilgamesh) would be the safest places to hang out, but also the least interesting, since their stories are already well-known throughout all of storydom.  If you want adventure, you have to go find it among new stories (which are in danger of being ignored and not remembered) or very old stories (which are in danger of being lost completely).

The consequences of being in a story that "crashes" would be severe.  Perhaps you are flung randomly about storydom and completely absorbed by whatever story you end up in.  For example, you might take on all the characteristics of a medieval peasant and forget all about your previous adventures.  Once you finally awaken, after a long time, to your former life, you'd then have to escape from your story and find your former companions (or new ones) to go story hacking with.  Still, perhaps "crashes" would also be fairly common, and your own identity would be constantly tempered (in both a Nobilis and Torchbearer sense) by the different characters you would become after crashing.  You might not be a medieval peasant anymore, but some part of that would always remain.

In fact, what's to say that your Origin story, wasn't merely the story you ended up in after a very bad crash?  You might not remember anything before that, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.  There could be some who believe that all the roles in storydom are played by the same 20-100 characters, who, at various points, crash into those roles and play them until they are able to escape.  So, the various people you meet might even be different version of YOURSELF, crashed and lost within that story for a while.  You could even awaken, after a crash, and find yourself in the role of someone you've previously met and talked to.  You could even (in a Continuum Gemini sort of way) reenact that encounter with yourself.  After all, time means nothing in storydom.

The idea of being stuck in a looping short story is really cool too.  I can just imagine "Groundhog's Day" in an Edgar Allen Poe story.  It would be horribly frightening, because you'd barely manage to survive, say, "The Pit & The Pendelum," and then you'd have to go through it all over again :)

Quote from: Gwen
There was also a short film about the old people in a retirement home thinking they were pirates and turning over couches and using canes as swords. Might be an Atom Film, not too sure.


Are you sure you aren't thinking of the beginning of Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" where the old pirates attack another office building using the filing cabinets as cannons?  It's called something like "The Voyage of the Crimson Permanent Assurance."  Very fine example, indeed ;)

Current Thoughts:

It seems more and more clear, at this point, that both ideas are certainly feasable.  And certain people seem to prefer Q&C and some seem to think I can combine the two ideas in a way that works.  Perhaps I could offer them both as a different set of options for using the same game system?  Perhaps there could be ways of moving the campaign back and forth between the two conceptualizations, until the players weren't sure what was the "real world" and what was "story"?

Maybe, in a more Q&C-based campaign, the characters could still jump into books and movies, but they would always "crash" back into the real world.  We could still use the Chains system I developed earlier to make their real lives a living hell.  Then, in a more Storypunk driven campaign, the characters would "crash" back into other stories, losing a piece of their original identity.  Do you think I could offer that option without weakening the core concepts of the game?

Certainly, the first option would be a darker one, focused on the real world consequences of getting lost in fantasy, and the latter option would be more fanciful, but with the threat of identity loss.

Anyway, I definitely appreciate everyone's thoughts so far and would love to hear more, especially about some of the suggestions I've responded to here.

Later.
Jonathan
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talysman
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« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2002, 09:09:22 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Quote from: Gwen
There was also a short film about the old people in a retirement home thinking they were pirates and turning over couches and using canes as swords. Might be an Atom Film, not too sure.


Are you sure you aren't thinking of the beginning of Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" where the old pirates attack another office building using the filing cabinets as cannons?  It's called something like "The Voyage of the Crimson Permanent Assurance."  Very fine example, indeed ;)


nah, it's an episode of the 1980's version of "Twilight Zone". the episode was called "Kick the Can", I believe. senior citizens reminesce about childhood games, like kick the can and sneak out to relive it ... and discover that they can magically regain their youth. I think it starred some of the same actors as "Cocoon".

anyways, as far as Storypunk versus Q&C, I don't think there's as big a gulf between the two as you think. both concepts describe what the characters do (live in fantasy) but Q&C didn't elaborate beyond those general terms; what it did elaborate was the motivation: the characters are at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to taking control of their own lives. living in a fantasy world is an escape, a means for them to take control.

compare Storypunk. the motivation is rather vague, but what the characters do ("live in fantasy") is much more detailed than Q&C: the characters hack stories and seek to fulfill their fictional role by finding a story they belong in.

so you have two very similar game concepts, one with a detailed character motivation, the other with a detailed character goal. I don't see what the problem is... combine them! drop everything from Q&C except that motivation to escape the mundane and put it into Storypunk, which needs a motivation to drive the game. you can even add some loose philosophical speculation about the real-life goal of real-life people to be the "main character" in their own story.

as an aside, you might want to find Robert Anton Wilson's "The Cosmic Trigger". Wilson frequently drops comments like "I thnk we're all living in a science fiction novel" into some of his other works; THIS book is part one of his autobiography, and he talks about actually feeling like he was in different novels at different times. could be pretty inspiring...
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2002, 09:09:38 AM »

Jonathan -- interesting stuff here. There's lots of material being discussed, so I'll just try to stick with your core questions, which seems to be, "Is this idea better than my previous idea (the Quixote thing)?"

My answer is a resounding yes. Here's why, from my perspective.

While I like the first idea you posed (Q&C), I feel it's a bit limiting. You may have a clearer idea, but from where I'm sitting, I'm not sure what characters do. To me, going off on some Quixotic quest ... in downtown Cleveland is clever. But if the conflict is "while not paying his credit card bill" I'm just not as interested. (Now, if it's "while losing touch with his wife" I'm a bit more interested.)

But, the notion of "hacking" one's way through narratives -- literally -- is much more appealing to me. I just seems like there's much more to do -- each "story" or realm or whatever, has preconceived conflicts. By their own hacking (or the hacking of others, villains or otherwise), those conflicts might get thrown off. So, right there we've got the notion that a character has to deal with the conflict, or deal with the ramifications in that and subsequent "story worlds" if he doesn't.

And to put it even simpler, the title Storypunk just grabbed me. When I realized it was an evolution of Q&C, I thought AHA! Now this is a cool idea.

Also, it really reminds me of a game idea posed here (was it here on the Forge? My memory's failing me) wherein characters from literature had escaped into the "real" world, and the players were a kind of ghost-busting squad to set things right. Can anyone help my swiss cheese brain on that one?
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Matt Snyder
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2002, 10:05:12 AM »

I think talysman makes a great point here.
Storypunk's really bloomed into something amazing to see.
Incidentally, forgive my jumping from thought to thought... This is a stream-of-consciousness sort of reply.

Origin Stories:
Somehow, I don't find this idea very powerful.  I do think it links well with Story Death: What if the characters ran around the web of stories, not just to keep themselves entertained, but because if they didn't keep them moving, the stories died?  It would become a devastating humiliation to be inside a story when it kicked the bucket, but the idea requires a certain amount of story-death frequency; what happens when stories deeper down in your chain collapse?  Do you lose the power that story granted you?  Are the really skilled story-hackers, like Shaharizaad (it's an Arabic name from shahar, "city", and -izaad, a feminine name suffix; her sister Dunyazaad's name comes from dunya, meaning world), traditionally adept at something in particular, like embedding stories deeply, or linking them together with patterns of inference and implied causality that makes all the stories in the pattern behave like one?

Now this Story Preservation idea raises a question: What is to tell the hackers the expected longevity of a story?  Does the environment they percieve change with the shifting of the story's power?  Is this possible without damaging the features of environment that contribute to the mood of the particular story (Gothic grey half-light, Torchbearer's bright colours, the wine-dark sea of Greek myth, the endless night of a slasher movie)?  How much does the story impinge on the hacker?  How much of the hacker has to be defined?  I imagine that only what the hacker has defined for himself is what is constant - Rapunzel's hair was long, but what colour was it?  The Emperor had no clothes, but I guess everyone else did, or the story wouldn't be very clever...

What is a story?
Is every cheap slasher flick a distinct story, or are they all the same story, with points where they branch and rejoin like poorly spun yarn?  What is to say that The Thousand Nights and a Night is a single story, rather than a frame that holds hundreds of stories together?  What is a story like?  From outside it, can you smell it, taste it, touch it?  Is there a Sea of Stories?  What does it feel like when you step from one story to another? (I'm envisioning something like Amber here - you step behind a tree, and on the other side it is night.)

I guess I've made it clear that at the moment I'm a lot more interested in Storypunk than Q&C... This isn't really the case.  After all, what was Haroun, but a little boy who escaped into a story?  There's no reason that story hackers can be totally disconnected from the Real World, unless this Realm of Stories is such that that is the case...
...Wait, story-time is timeless?  You've created an apparent paradox with that; if stories can die as their real-world manifestations are forgotten, then the Story Realm depends on external time... ...maybe the timeframes are decoupled somehow?  Back to Q&C, if you do choose to connect the realms somehow, you could have real-world 'escapees' in the Realm - maybe they're valuable to story hackers because, as real living people, they're capable of real living creativity?  Are story hackers creatures of the Realm, or escapees themselves?
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