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Author Topic: Narrative 3E: Real Time & Effects on Play  (Read 2299 times)
greyorm
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Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


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« on: July 13, 2003, 11:49:52 AM »

After a lengthy spat of little-to-no posting, I'm finding I have more time again lately to do more than peruse the boards, and with that time, I figured it was about time for an update on the Narrativist 3E game I have been running.

For those who haven't been around to read those other recountings of actual play and thoughts on them, they can be found here, in descending order (newest first): "No Myth" with D&D, More Player-Driven 3E, Raven's 3E Game, and Non-silly D&D.

As I discuss what the heck "Narrativist D&D" is in a couple of those other threads, I won't mention it here and just move right on into the update and exposition: the situation as it stands is that the campaign is coming to a head in the next session, or possibly two sessions, but I can't tell for certain yet (and this relates to my title topic, which I will get to in a moment).

As most of the characters have just recently achieved 6th level, it may seem odd that the end of the campaign is occuring now -- at such a "low level" -- but we've had a good run, and there are plenty of hooks left to pursue if we decide to continue.

The main conflicts -- the ones the game has focused upon thus far as the goals of the players -- are being resolved, and on a personal level, I want to wrap it up because I need a break for a bit.

I have been running this game since around the start of 2001. Now, I need some time to play without having to worry about planning and designing and whether everyone is having a good time. This isn't to say it hasn't been fun -- it's been a blast, but fun can be and is exhausting.

There have been a number of sessions missed during the interim -- including a month-long pause to play caused by various problems such as (mostly) last minute work events coming up, ISPs going down and so forth. Also, the sessions have been slowed due to the players splitting up their characters (by both choice and accident).

As I mentioned previously, the party split up into different groups when they entered the city; those two groups further splintered during the last few sessions: the leader and the princess accidentally parting ways (the NPC tagging along with them now MIA), and the elf and dwarf finding one another and joining back together, only to be split again when the elf was turned to stone by a creature held prisoner in forgotten cells beneath the emperor's palace.

Luckily, everyone seems to be enjoying watching the stories of the others unfold while waiting their turn to play. I have been consistently attempting to give "screen time" to the players/groups in small increments of around a half-hour to an hour apiece, with the intent of giving everyone a solid chance to play and further their character's goals (or complicate their achievement), and other than my last session (where one individual did not get to play because I went too long with another player) it has worked out well.

However, to get into my topic -- the effects of real world temporal events on play -- the events in the game have been shifted unpredicatably in no small part thanks to various players having to miss on certain nights.

Due to their splitting up, it has been easy enough to simply concentrate on the other players, avoiding dealing with the actions of the missing character until the next (or later) session. But this has resulted in strange alterations to where the game has gone -- the individuals closest to the group's goal (finding the sorcerer controlling the emperor and confronting him) have taken longer to reach that point.

For example, during one session, it clearly appeared that two of the characters would not be present for the final presentation and climax of the game.

Even though the players are invested in the actual outcome of the game, in this case, they would have been just as happy to watch the results as participate in them, which is just cool.

So their presence in the situation would not have made much of a difference to the players, as their characters are not directly invested in the outcome -- and they were having their own interesting time exploring a secret tunnel they were shown, which leads into the palace dungeons (and the things they found therein).

However, due to real world events changing who would be available to play when, the two characters caught up and at one point appeared about to pass the other two characters to arrive at the goal first, setting up a very interesting situation.

However, that is still not what occurred. Due, again, to various events causing certain players to be unavailable for the regular evening, the three different groups have now all arrived at what looks to be the climax scene at more or less the same time.

Only one character is being held back from it, and he is desperate to arrive in time to prevent the actions of another character. As a player, he's aware of what the player is planning, though his character is not: far from being a problematic confusion of player and character knowledge, it has added an exciting level of tension to the character's attempt to arrive in time.

Thanks to all these changes, a number of new unforseen twists to the story have been interjected. Whereas prior to this, I had thought the confrontation would be a somewhat standard and forward attempt at the group's goals: freeing the leader's parents from captivity, slaying the sorcerer, discovering if the emperor is really under his influence, and the princess' desire to destroy the crystal artifact (the Heart of the dragon goddess) as a sacrifice to her own god.

Now, the parents have become less a concern to the leader than slaying the sorcerer, for he is close by, and with him out of the way, she feels she can free her parents more easily by removing the emperor from his control.

However, this will also provide me an excuse to showcase that the emperor is not under the sorcerer's influence, and that he really is just a bastard (at least in the eyes of folks like the party's leader). With certain characters having a vested interest in the continued life of the emperor, and others preferring him dead, inter-party conflict about what to do arises.

Also, the dwarf has a vested interest in stopping the priestess from smashing the artifact. The dragon goddess has warned him that her Heart must be protected, because its destruction will spell the doom of the dwarf's people, for it will give her power over to a vastly more cruel and destructive god. She has threatened her own wrath upon them if he fails as well.

He is, however, uncertain as to whether the dragon goddess is simply lying to him, if she even has the power to hurt his people any longer with her Heart's power bound up by the sorcerer, but doesn't want to tempt fate (and is absolutely terrified of her anyways, with good reason (for one, she's a goddess)).

On the other hand, smashing the artifact is the only way to reduce the sorcerer's power from its lethal levels and remove the nobility and priesthood of the empire from his mental control. When the players also discover that smashing the crystal will kill all those still ensorcelled by it, the players will have to make a hard, uneasy choice with neither obviously the correct one.

It's Catch-22...what would YOU do?

Finally, while the players want their characters to kill the sorcerer, factions of the priesthood that have resisted his domination want him alive -- for a most severe punishment, as mandated by their god. They're working with the characters right now, but what happens when the characters try to kill the sorcerer and defy the will of heaven?

Nasty stuff...and the players (though not necessarily the characters) know most of it, with the exceptions of whether the emperor is under the sorcerer's control, and the deaths of those ensorcelled by the artifact if it is destroyed.

If the two items mentioned above do not come out in play, I might just abandon them and go with something else that works to create tension and excitement. Frex, if the artifact is destroyed, flat-out, without the results of the action being known, I would find everyone dying to be somewhat anti-protagonistic -- there's no choice for the players, and their heroes are responsible for all that destruction.

Instead, perhaps, everyone under the artifact's enchantment will pass out, except the emperor -- thus showcasing that he isn't under the sorcerer's spell at all, and is and has been fully in control of his terrible actions and decisions over the past few months.

The point is, none of the above would have come about if not for the interference of real-life upon campaign play. It both slowed things down, giving my creative juices time to ferment, and caused events to occur that would not otherwise have happened.

So, a question, how much would this bug Simulationists -- the kind that want to experience a reality as it would be, using the rules and the game as a sort of virtual reality?

I have a feeling that most would blanch at the horror of real-life affecting the events and thus exploration of the alternate reality, because it would taint the experience with outside variables. In such a case, how would such be handled in order to prevent real-life from tainting the experience of game play?

Also, for those of you keeping score from last time, the player I mentioned with the bad luck at rolling dice still has the problem of consistently low rolls. It has gotten well past the point where she dreads rolling the dice to achieve anything because she is certain she will fail thanks to a bad roll.

I've taken to the No Myth style I discussed in the previous thread to resolving the situation: failure simply creates an interesting complication, rather than styming the player's efforts (but not necessarily the character's efforts).

The player is still frustrated, however, and I need to take her aside and talk with her about what she wants to do about it, how I'm trying to handle the situation for her (to give her the most excitement and interest from even bad rolls).

Also, I've noticed something I need to work on: scene-framing. Putting characters into the action, rather than leading them through the scene to get them to the action.

I'm going for movie-standards here -- that is, you don't usually see the characters in a movie getting from Point A to Point B, the scene changes and there they are, and the trip is implicitly assumed, or the scene changes and they're confronting some obstacle to getting from Point A to Point B.

That's all for now!
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2003, 11:56:07 AM »

Quote
I have a feeling that most would blanch at the horror of real-life affecting the events and thus exploration of the alternate reality, because it would taint the experience with outside variables. In such a case, how would such be handled in order to prevent real-life from tainting the experience of game play?

Eh, I'm not so sure that it would be like that. In fact, I think that most Simulationists allow macro level things to affect their games out of neccessity. For example, if a player moves and has to drop out, what are you going to do? Keep the character on as an NPC with the same amount of attention as before? Or have him removed somehow. The latter is more likely, I think. A metagame inmtrusion to be sure, but then one can't be entirely rid of metagame. What's really important to the Sim player is that the Metagame injected isn't done so "perniciously". That is, given an option, the player choses to do "the right thing".

Given no RL option, you do what you have to do. And it's no biggie. To use the Video Game analogy, you have to go to the bathroom eventually.

Mike
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