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Author Topic: No Myth playing  (Read 8897 times)
Marco
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« on: April 23, 2003, 10:33:53 AM »

Feng has been talking about playing without the "myth of reality"--I find the idea interesesting but I'm foggy on some issues.

0. Gener issues? What happens when genre is foggy? I mean Ron dislikes it. I *like* it--but have a hard time using it to *exclude* things (Lost Boys and Dracula are both vampires genre--but pretty different in the fine points).

1. The GM's portion seems to consist somewhat largely of set-up and throwing genre conventions at the PC's?

(My terms may be bad--real bad--I'm tryin' to be shortish tho)

ALSO: I don't read Feng as saying anything in *absolutes*--so I'm guessing that the answers to some of my questions might be "it depends on the implementation." If that's *not* so, that's very intteresting.

a) Let's say that the genre isn't known going in.  What about major league surprises? Are those not-so-good for this mode of play?

b) Does this allow for NPC agencies going after the characters in a methodical way? I.e. if a street gang is hunting a character and the players avoid places where street gangs are, do they avoid complications or exchange them for other complications?

c) Are villain's plans made up on the fly? If I know Dr. Evil plans to do something and I come up with a logical way to stop it--does that lessen the complications? remove them?

2. Locations and Space

I don't think *anyone* would say ya need a foot-by-foot description of Manhattan (much less the entire NYC) to let the PC's tool around in. In a discussion of "no myth" play the GM was assumed to provide archetypical locations on the fly as the pc's asked about them--and use them to introduce complications (do I have that right?)

a) What about very strange places (a super-tech deserted space station discovered by modern-day astronauts?) I mean, to run that the GM would want a map and stuff, right? Or do you think not?

b) What do ya (Feng--or anyone else) think of using maps to drive PC-behavior/exploration?

3. The Chasm Complication
A character is being chased by indians (a cowboy character). Chasms are in-genre? Right? I mean, there was one in Young Guns ... stuff like that.

Is the problem that it's *deadly* or that it's easy to *misunderstand*? Or both? I submit those problems are universal to complications: nothing is so safe you can't find a way to kill your fool self with it and nothing is so simple it can't be misunderstood.

-Marco
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2003, 10:46:57 AM »

First, it's only the term Genre that Ron's opposed to as it means different things to different people. He would compoletely agree with Fang that there has to be a consensus amongst players about a lot of the things that Genre covers. So he'd have no problems using, say, Cowboys, to establish Genre Expectations.

When doing up a set of Genre Expectations, it's exactly the differences between Lost Boys and Dracula that you have to address. Fang's not saying that it's OK to just go with "Cowboys" and expect everyone to be on the same page. You have to go quite a bit further. Usually the first step is to sub-qualify. Like, "Not John Wayne Cowboys, more like Spaghetti Western." And include any oddities, "But with futuristic tech like Wild, Wild West or Brisco County Junior."

In fact you keep talking it out until all the players agree that they think thaty have a substantive gist of what's being sought.

You never, never, never, ever have to have a map. Maps are fun. I like 'em. Yes, they can be used to promote good play. But they are just not required. Want me to do a space station? Fine, it's like the one in Moonraker. Never seen it? Good, so much the better. I can describe it from my memory, and you'll think I'm being original. In fact, I'll probably mess the description up so much that you won't even recognize it even if you have seen the movie.

Chasms are great Conflicts. As long as they are handled in other than a pure win/lose fashion (and actually for climaxes, even that's probably OK). It's not Chasms that are the problem per se, just how they're handled in most games.

Mike
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Marco
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2003, 11:05:05 AM »

Re: Maps--

Well--okay--I hear ya--but ...

by future tech I meant like all with shopping malls and hotels and stuff inside it. Not HUGE but with a lot of cool locations. You don't map it, fine--but there's gotta be a map in your head since the PC's are essentially walking around looking at stuff.

What I'm saying is that if it starts as Apollo 11 and becomes The Twilight Zone, the PC's won't easily be able to create genre expectations the same way I can in an "average fantasy city."

So is that sort of play not good for "no myth?" or ...

-Marco
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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2003, 11:19:26 AM »

Quote from: Marco
Re: Maps--

Well--okay--I hear ya--but ...

by future tech I meant like all with shopping malls and hotels and stuff inside it. Not HUGE but with a lot of cool locations. You don't map it, fine--but there's gotta be a map in your head since the PC's are essentially walking around looking at stuff.
Not sure that you're getting at. No I don't need a map for that.

Player: "We go window-shopping in the High-Tech mall."
Me: "Cool. You take a Trasport module to the mall and start wandering around. You end up at the botique for designer genes, when you spot that Alien that ran off with your oscillating trasducing coil the day before. What do you do?"
Player: "I charge him."
Me: "Roll. Success? He leads you on a merry chase through the 47 levels of the mall, but eventually, you use your antigrav boots to cut him off and corner him."

Where in all this do I need a map? I made up the whole thing off the top of my head. Anyone could do it.

Quote
What I'm saying is that if it starts as Apollo 11 and becomes The Twilight Zone, the PC's won't easily be able to create genre expectations the same way I can in an "average fantasy city."

So is that sort of play not good for "no myth?" or ...
That's an interesting case. But one of two things is true. You can discuss the shift before play. Probably not a good solution. Or you can spring it on the players. Since they've experienced a paradigm shift, you can do whatever you like as GM. Once they've "discovered" the rules for the new paradigm, then they can participate as before.

In some ways I'd say that this sort of thing is prime for "No Myth" play.

Mike
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2003, 11:53:20 AM »

Before I say anything else we need to get one thing straight (this is humorous even though it don't sound it): my name is Fang, like the tooth, like Phyllis Diller's 'husband.'  Feng is a different poster entirely; he started back this February.

That out of the way....

Genre Expectations

Like Mike describes narrowing a genre down to a communal set of Genre Expectations with your group is prime here.  "No Myth" can function if the players keep getting slapped with "I couldn't have expected that!"  However, they don't need to be crystal clear precise; they have to be foggy to give you room to work with.  The difference between Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is slim to fine, the difference between Lost Boys and Lugosi is inadvisable in a set of 'vampire Genre Expectations.'

The gamemaster is more than "throwing Genre [Expectations] at the players," he's playing too.  He tosses up a Complication and they all deal with it.  This isn't a one-way street; he's helping the players as much as trying to aggravate them.  (In practice, you spend more time helping the players deal with the results of their choices than you do dumping random Complications on them, really.)  The art is taking from 'what has gone before' and using it to give detail to 'what is happening now.'

I don't advise using an unknown Genre Expectation going in.  Going along thinking that it's The X Files and having Doc Brown from Back to the Future show up doesn't just surprise, it often ruins play.  That's why I calls 'em Expectations.  Too much of the unexpected and all the players feel is chaos.

Quote from: Marco
b) Does this allow for NPC agencies going after the characters in a methodical way? I.e. if a street gang is hunting a character and the players avoid places where street gangs are, do they avoid complications or exchange them for other complications?

A Complication 'going after' the player characters in a "methodical way?"  Not only is that a recurring Complication, but as you remarked "they...exchange them for other complications."  Isn't 'hiding from our enemy' something that make the game more Complicated?  Some enemies are made up on the fly (starting out somewhat archetypical), but the best ones are made up by the players during or after character generation.  Remember, villains are people too, what would you do if you were Dr. Evil and the hero thwarted your plan?  (That's right the Complication changes.)

Locations

Using a real map is great especially if you can run it through a copier and then run it's copy through and then...specific detail isn't important.  If you use New York, all you need to know is what kind of archetypical places are found in Alphabet City, Lower Manhattan, or the East Side; what you don't need are real street names and addresses.  How far or how long it takes to get from one place to another is only of issue when using time as a Complication; if there's a deadline and they're stuck in traffic it won't matter specifically where only 'how close' do they make it.  (I like dice for creating that kind of detail; it makes the players feel both fairly treated and full of suspense.)

Quote from: Marco
In a discussion of "no myth" play the GM was assumed to provide archetypical locations on the fly as the pc's asked about them--and use them to introduce complications (do I have that right?)

Spot on.  Any embellishment that occurs during play is as much the gamemaster's responsibility as it is for the player who asks to go back there.  I think Mike gave an excellent example of how to use archetypical "strange places" and I think 'Bond Spy Thrilla' is very much it's own set of Genre Expectations (plenty narrow and plenty foggy).  The point is the gamemaster wouldn't need any more map than you could do on a napkin: power source here; food service there; airlocks here, here, and here; and space dock there.  No decks, no floors, and not a single door.

Quote from: Marco
What do ya (Fang--or anyone else) think of using maps to drive PC-behavior/exploration?

Fine, if they're blank!  I mean it, a blank grid of streets with the squares no larger than a pinkie nail would be great, with no labels.  This becomes a mnemonic for 'what has happened so far (#1).'

The Chasm Complication

Chasms are definitely in most cowboy Genre Expectations (look at the backgrounds for Road Runner cartoons).  Heck, I wouldn't have complained when the Nazi car goes over one in Raiders of the Lost Ark (even though I don't think there are any in that part of Egypt).  The problem is how you use them.  On one end of the spectrum of cowboy Genre Expectations, you have the one where the villain holds the hero over one until the tables are turned and then dies going over it.  On the other end, every time a hero falls off one they catch that lone scraggly tree and dangle until help comes.

See this underscores why you must address the cliff as a Complication and not a map feature.  I would only expect Roy Rogers to catch that branch, but if Butch and Sundance did, wouldn't it spoil the show?  Thus a cliff is a Complication, not an impediment; it isn't thought of as deadly only hard to get past.  This also gets at the purpose of using Genre Expectations; a 'Roy Rogers' cowboy Genre Expectation refuses to let anyone die, no matter what.  In a 'Clint Eastwood' cowboy Genre Expectations, people are dropping like flies, but almost only from gunfire.  Encountering a cliff in either shouldn't be thought of as a deadly drop (that would be the gamemaster subscribing to the 'Myth of Reality' of it); they Complicate the story but in neither is the cliff allowed to kill.  Players are pretty cued in on this too; they'd never try to jump a chasm in an Alien (designed by Giger) Genre Expectation, they know that if it didn't kill them it would force the gamemaster to either scare the willies out of them or jump them with the alien.

The chasm almost only becomes a problem of miscommunication in Genre Expectations between gamemaster and player; the players think it's a 'heroic genre' with much derring do and the gamemaster is thinking gritty.  Both imagine the cliff is a 'real' thing and thus the call for a roll looks vindictive to the players and silly to the gamemaster.  The problem is gamemaster fails to realize that ending the game isn't fun.  If there were adequate Genre Expectations in place either the gamemaster would know that a failed roll plunges them into further mystery and Complication or the players know that jumping is a deadly mistake.

Quote from: Marco
Nothing is so safe you can't find a way to kill your fool self with it and nothing is so simple it can't be misunderstood.

Y'see, there you go again assuming that a "thing" is a thing.  In "No Myth," there are no "things."  There aren't.  Nothing exists.  Everything spoken of with nouns are simply tools to be used to further the game in ways that have been mutually agreed upon.  That's why the rusted sword everyone forgot (gamemaster included) back at the beginning of the dungeon, suddenly turns out to be magical when the players find themselves dropped into the oubliette.  Who knew?  No one, not even the gamemaster, but it's 'par for the course.'  (Maybe that's how I should describe Genre Expectations; whatever is 'par for the course.')

Only in Genre Expectations where characters get killed for foolish behaviour should death be a possible consequence of foolishness.  I could easily see that in a 'slasher flick' Genre Expectation, but never in a 'romance novel Genre Expectation' (unless it was the villain near the end).  This underscores the exact problem buried at the beginning of the earlier thread.  Few games support this kind of play implicitly; so much fudging goes on just to satisfy playing out the Color of a Genre Expectation, that it isn't funny.

That's why I'm working on this part of Scattershot right now.  This second.  As I type these words, I am trying to learn how to communicate this vision of play and how therefore I might make a game suit it.  This is my passion, my cause, and the reason I write these darn long responses.

Fang Langford

For those who forgot, what you base everything on in "No Myth" gamemastering are:[list=1][*]What has happened in the game so far.
[*]What one could reasonable expect from the narrowly understood version of the genre; I call 'em Genre Expectations.  (That'd be whatever is 'par for the course' for the source material.)
[*]What the character are going to do.[/list:o]I steadfastly believe that that's all you need to know to run a "No Myth" game.  (And sometimes, for me, prep is exclusively about getting the gist of what my players want me to run, only the Genre Expectations.)
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Marco
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2003, 02:28:44 PM »

Cool. Cool. Thanks all--that's nicely clarified.

Now: I wanna know--

Is the "No Myth" game style the only 'actualized' way to play? That is, if game reality is a 'myth' (as the name might imply) then are all the people who draw dungeons or map out locations in space ports fooling themselves?

-Marco
[ Mike, where I was goin' with the space port thing was "it's the first time the characters have *ever* seen a space port--they're gonna go shop-by-shop and look at weird gadgets and try to figure out what the hell is going on--like a high-tech dungeon. I wasn't clear at all. ]
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2003, 03:09:37 PM »

Quote from: Marco
Now: I wanna know--

Is the "No Myth" game style the only 'actualized' way to play? That is, if game reality is a 'myth' (as the name might imply) then are all the people who draw dungeons or map out locations in space ports fooling themselves?

I don't know what you mean.  How are you using the word "actualized?"

I certainly don't think "No Myth" gamemastering is in any way better than any other.  You need maps and such for Plotless but Background-based Games or any game where the gamemaster is exploring the background as much as the rest of the players.

"No Myth" was suggested as a salve for a person uncomfortable with using railroading techniques to get characters 'where they needed to go.'  If you have no problem with railroading, Illusionism, or any of a number of other styles that take much of the power away from players (willingly or unwillingly), you have no need for "No Myth" gamemastering.

The main complaint that "No Myth" gamemastering solves is gamemasters who feel hemmed in by both linear or plot-based gaming and player freedom.  While I'd prefer that all gamemasters would remember that "it's all fake," I certainly don't think it's required.

Fang Langford

p. s. Always glad to help.
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clehrich
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2003, 08:52:04 PM »

As a side note on maps, I think Fang's made a really good point: "you need maps and such for Plotless but Background-based Games or any game where the gamemaster is exploring the background as much as the rest of the players."  The mapless style supports lots of things, but when Marco asked, "What do ya (Feng--or anyone else) think of using maps to drive PC-behavior/exploration?" I think it should be noted that such things can work just dandy.

My personal favorite spin on the location issue is from kill puppies for satan, in the sample adventure, where the PCs break into a mental asylum to rescue their friend the ghoul.  lumpley tells us to imagine the thing exactly in our minds: it's your high school.  He even gives a little conversion chart so that you can make the various parts fit.  The point being that the location is no longer "archetypal": it's like a high school, down to the smell of disinfectant that oddly always smells like rotting fish, and the idea is that it gets your players to have the willies... without knowing why!  So here you do have a location that is extremely detailed, not something you could sketch on a cocktail napkin, but at the same time it's all about feel rather than dungeon-crawl.

Don't know if that helps or confuses matters.
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Chris Lehrich
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2003, 06:57:05 AM »

Quote from: Marco

[ Mike, where I was goin' with the space port thing was "it's the first time the characters have *ever* seen a space port--they're gonna go shop-by-shop and look at weird gadgets and try to figure out what the hell is going on--like a high-tech dungeon. I wasn't clear at all. ]


I get what you're saying, but the answer is, "just say no".

The point is that this sort of Simming about isn't supported by this style of play. You just never do it. If the players say, "I want a new raygun" then you say, "OK, you trapse on over to the raygun store and get one". If they say, "I wanna shop" you say "OK, you shop about a bit, and pick up several high tech gadgets. Then the Frogstar fighters break in through the dome, and start shooting up mall-walkers."
Or, if the player asks a more pointdly Sim question like, "What store is nearest the airlock we arrive at" then respond, "The duty free store, of course." If they are persistent, "What's after that", I'll respond (accurately), "I dunno. What do you think would be there?" followed up with a more sympathetic, "How about a bar?"

You can even add details without a map. "While crossing the mall, there's a large open central area where zero-gee acrobats are performing for the mall-goers." Or, "The mall uses little pneumatic tubes like the Jetsons to propell people too and fro across the mall so they don't have to walk the miles to get to all the different stores."

But mostly, in this style of play, if players are asking that sort of question and you don't have a ready answer prepared, it's time to say something like, "You check the mall out thoroughly, and have the layout pretty well figured out. As you complete your perusal, you're approached by a man in a biological contamination protective suit who says that you're in danger and need to move out of the area."

IOW, you need to get on with the plot.

In no case do I need a map to do any of this. Think of it this way. You know how you "wing it" when players go somewhere in your game that's off your map? Just do that all the time. The reason that this is so intuitive a style for me is that I'm a lazy GM. Rarely do I map things out in detail. So players end up looking going places that I have to detail on the spot. Rather than try to create all the accurate detail that I'd have if I had a map, I generalize, and move on.

Fang's realization is that you can just do this sort of thing all the time. You never have to have a map to start. And by not having a map, you open up possibilities for all sorts of new techniques.

Now, as we all agree, there is a place for maps. Even in this sort of game, I think that maps are still cool. It's just a matter of how you use them. Essentially, in this style maps aren't there to say, "No, that's not there." They say, "These things are here, here, and here, and go ahead and put in whatever else you like as well." They can be inspiring. They just can't be limiting in this style of play.

Mike
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2003, 06:47:40 PM »

I think perhaps the real fear, Marco, is what do you do if the players want to make a map and you don't have one?

And I think that there are a couple of ways this can be handled.

One, to which Mike so nicely alluded, is you tell them that their characters have made a complete map of the area.

Another is that you interrupt their efforts with some in-game reason why they can't make a map--like security coming up and asking them why they're making a map of the mall, a suspicious activity given that there are directories posted regularly on the walls and there aren't too many reasons why you would want such a thing after you've left the area.

One that has not been suggested I've actually seen done. If the players are mapping, make the map then and there. E. R. Jones has done this, on more than one occasion. He would describe what we see, create the distances, and watch us draw it. Then he'd ask which way we went, and whichever way we went, he invented the map.

Mike spoke of being a lazy referee; I can think of few better ways to enjoy that status than to let your players draw the map for you.

Let's face it. You were going to make it all up anyway, right? Why do you have to make it up in advance, if you can make it up on the spot and let them draw it? If they're so eager to have the map, let them do the work.

--M. J. Young
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