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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 163 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Adventures in Improvised System  (Read 17943 times)
lumpley
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« on: October 03, 2003, 06:34:25 AM »

My guy fucks corpses.  It's okay, I mean he's the son of Lucere, one of the three old men of Tremere, and Lucere raised him to be the Antichrist, which he isn't, but when it became obvious that he isn't, Lucere was ... disappointed, and not in an understanding way.  My guy considered the ramifications and concluded that since he's not the Antichrist, there must not be one, and since there's no Antichrist, there must be no Christ, and since there's no Christ, there must be no God, so he can fuck corpses if he damn well wannas.  Which he does.

"You fuck corpses?" Quintus says.  Quintus is Meg's guy.  "You sick pervert.  That's vile."

I forget why it pisses me off but it does.  I punch him in the nose.  "I punch you in the nose, like wham!" I say.

Meg pantomimes Quintus putting his hands up over his face.  "You hit me!  You sick twisted fuck!" she has him say.

"I hit you again," I say.  "I knock you down.  I'm gonna stomp shit out of you."

"No way," Meg says.  "I block you."

Uh oh, I say to myself.  Emotional investment + your opponent gets to say how effective you are = Deprotagonization.

"Let's take it to the Certamen Circle, then," I say.  (Certamen is what we Ars Magica playin' people call a magical duel.)

"Certamen, huh?" says Meg.

"Certamen, huh?" says Emily.

"How shall we do Certamen?" I say.  This is I believe the first Certamen-as-such that we've had since the illfated Pendragon mod of '99.  I'm looking for the dice, they're still on the shelf in their jar.

"Let's just play it out, see what happens," Meg says.

"Sounds good to me," Emily says.

"Well, okay," I say.  "I guess."

There's a certain amount of murdering a servant to reanimate his corpse (maybe I'll fuck him later), sharp stone darts, quicksand, a ladder of bones, but when you're right you're right and it's turning into a big ol' ugly = Deprotagonization.

To break out of it I employ the kind of Author Stance where your in-game justification is so thin that everyone looks at you and narrows their eyes.

"Well I'm not happy with how that went," I say.

"Hm," Meg says.  "Me neither."

"Partly because I'm not sure I intended my confession to be in character," I say.

"Oh," says Meg.

"But I'm okay with that, let's not rewrite it."

"You sure?" says Emily.

"We can," says Meg.

"Nah.  What I'm really not happy with is the Certamen.  Cause of A) the pressure to come up with cool magicky attacks under pressure."

"Yeah," says Meg.  "That was hard.  I wanted it to be like that Vincent Price movie?"

"The Raven," I say.  Emily hasn't seen it so we tell her about the cool magical duel in it.  Meg and I coincidentally both saw it on TV in our impressionable youth.

"But B) since it's hard to come up with cool things, when you do you're invested, but then I, your opponent, get to say how effective you are."

"Oh!" says Meg.  "Right!  That's right."

"I want to roll dice or something next time."

"How about rolling horse race dice?" Emily says.  She means: every contestant rolls a die, number of sides determined by rider skill and horse quality, every leg of every lap.  Whoever rolls highest is in the lead and gets a bonus to the next leg, plus we narrate all the shifting positions.  Whoever rolls highest in the last leg of the last lap, wins.

"...Right, okay," I say.  "That could work."

"Sounds good," Meg says.

So next time, we'll do that.

"Wanna do over?" Meg says.

"No.  But what if -- what if what we just played out isn't necessarily what actually happened, but is how the story spreads through the covenant?"

"...Okay, yes!" Meg says.

"I like that a lot," Emily says.  "Some servant watching..."

"Yeah," I say.

So who knows what really happened between my guy and Meg's.  All we know is that something did, and this is how the covenant comes to understand it.

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2003, 07:27:10 AM »

Hello,

A while ago, Chris Chinn was talking about "the ball," as a metaphor for various narrations or power-issues during play. Coincidentally, I'd been working up some essay material about "the ball" as well, and it was different enough from his that I was forestalled. Either I keep working up these essays and kind of stomp on Chris' contribution, or I re-do the whole thing, which wouldn't work because "the ball" is the perfect metaphor for what I'm saying, and I think that Chris' stuff was a sub-set of my stuff anyway (conceptually speaking).

But now it's time to talk about my ball idea.

Remember four-square? I never played it, but various girls would stand on these painted squares and bounce a red rubber ball around to one another. There was some sort of scoring system, I'm sure.

Think of the ball's movement as interaction among the role-players of any kind. Narration, authority over what happens, laughter, support, disagreement, looking up a rule, whatever interaction at all.

Here's my point: the ball itself must have some bounce and spin. This can arise from a Fortune system, resource fluctuation (e.g. Miracle Points in Nobilis), unpredictable elements of "what happens" input, and more; those are the big three. You can get bounce & spin with all sorts of combinations of Drama, Fortune, and Karma.

Why? Because foursquare with a dead ball is no fun. Toss - splat - pick up - toss - splat - pick up ...

Even if you're not trying to beat the other guy. Even if you're setting up a another guy to spike it (shifting to volleyball, sorry). Even if there's nothing going on, socially, that resembles a sport and the goals are way different. In other words, entirely independent of GNS. We're talking about the part of Exploration called System. If System is flaccid, play is no fun.

When you get to state how your character faces adversity and exactly what happens and how it turns out ... um, you had to pick up the sad, flaccid ball and impart every bit of "oomph" to pass it to the next guy. And the "oomph" doesn't work, because its energy is lost when it hits, and he or she has to start all over.

This phenomenon, in combination with the IIEE concept (who says who goes when and how much), is why unconstructed Drama is a problematic system choice.

Best,
Ron
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Emily Care
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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2003, 08:12:12 AM »

Greetings all,

Thanks for writing that up, Vincent.  

Ron, so our ball got deflated when it hit a snag on the drama/conflict of certamen?

Using improvised system, our group engages in a lot of exploration of system.  Hitting walls like that one give us the clue that we need to use a different technique.  And if the next one we try doesn't work, we modify it or use another, until we are satisfied that the ball is nicely pumped. We don't have a pre-constructed structure for our drama, but instead develop system elements as we find we need them.  

Regards,
Emily Care
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2003, 08:17:46 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

Remember four-square? I never played it, but various girls would stand on these painted squares and bounce a red rubber ball around to one another. There was some sort of scoring system, I'm sure.


Great analogy, and great points.

But I will sidle in here to huff and puff about your implications of 4 square being a girls game.  As resident playground 4 square meister of my middle school days I can assure it was not (although there were a couple of girls who were pretty good at at).

FYI the general scoring system we used was "play till you're out".  There'd generally be a line of 10-20 kids waiting to play.  The fourth square would serve to the second (diagonal) square and then the ball would be hit back and forth until someone missed a play (either hitting it out of bounds or letting it bounce more than once).  Then they were out, other players advanced 1 square to fill in the gap and a new player joined in square 1.  So the scoreing was how long you could keep playing and how regularly you could get to the 4th square and stay there.  Which set up an interesting dynamic.  For the player in the 1st square it didn't matter who got out you'd still advance.  For the player in the 3rd square only defeating the server would do.

Apologies for the digression, but you just brought back fond memories.
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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2003, 08:46:07 AM »

My thinking is that we as a group dig Ron's 'unpredictable elements of "what happens" input,' it serves us well, and we default to it.  This was a case where getting it wasn't straightforward.

I wonder now how we might handle certamen if we switched to structured Drama instead of to Fortune.  Just out of, y'know, System design monkey curiosity.

(When we played four-square there were a jillion possible variations, and whoever was at the top got to name the game, like dealer's choice poker.)

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2003, 08:47:47 AM »

Hi there,

Hey Emily! Yeah, I think your group offers an excellent example of discovering ways to keep the ball pumped, without getting bent out of shape by it along the way. I do think the "what the servants said they saw" interpretation represents an acknowledged local failure of the process, though. Unlike many groups, you & Vincent & Meg are capable of retro-pumping it and continuing without rancor or a sense of overall failure.

Ralph, I think I chose foursquare because I didn't know the rules for win-lose. That opens it up, in my mind, for the system-analogy because the "goal" of bouncin' the thing around remains customizable (ie. GNS-open).

I'm highly tempted to enter into a mockery of "Was not, either, a girly-boy!" kind of replying, but then I remember a kid from junior high who was (a) named Leslie and (b) a total bad-ass, and shall concede your point.

Best,
Ron
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2003, 04:44:28 PM »

Four-square was for girls, Ralph.  All the boys at my school played a varient called "Long Ball," which was exactly like Four-Sqaure except you played it using two Four-Square courts on opposite sides of the blacktop.  So you'd have to launch the ball the length of the basketball court and try to make it land in the opposing team's Square.  Beautiful game :)

But to the point, Four-Square is actually a really good metaphor, Ron, including the rules for winning.  There's not really an end to the game, you just keep playing until you decide to stop.  Kinda like roleplaying.  Also, you never lose complete control of the ball, since, if you get ejected from the game, you just get in line to hop right back in.  Roleplaying, in effect, is like playing Four-Square with only four players.  You keep rotating positions between the squares, but everyone's always playing.  Also, the person in the "king" square (#4), gets to start the ball bouncing each turn, but, after that, it's a free for all, with everybody grabbing at it.

How's that for a metaphor?
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2003, 07:27:18 AM »

Hey Vincent,

"No. But what if -- what if what we just played out isn't necessarily what actually happened, but is how the story spreads through the covenant?"

You, Meg, and Emily seem exceedingly accomplished at creatively preserving character integrity over the very long term despite the contaminations of collaborative roleplay. The perception thing you describe here is very unconventional, and very cool. I suspect this is going to be a hard question to answer, but can I ask if there other specific techniques for preserving character integrity that you've produced from out of the general dynamic of respectful negotiation that you cultivate? Have you found yourselves using any specific technique frequently enough that you have house terminology for it? Or perhaps house terminology you use to raise certain concerns for discussion?

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Tim Alexander
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« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2003, 07:48:42 AM »

Hey All,

I just wanted to second Paul's question here. The twist on the scene being what the covenant heard is nothing short of brilliant. If you guys have techniques that you've developed that you can articulate, please give us your pointers.

-Tim
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lumpley
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2003, 07:24:15 AM »

Quote from: I
I wonder now how we might handle certamen if we switched to structured Drama instead of to Fortune. Just out of, y'know, System design monkey curiosity.

Quote from: In PM, bluegargantua
How about...give each contestant a few minutes to think about how they would like to advance their character if they win and how they'd move their personal plot forward if they lost. Heck, non-participating people can come up with ideas, why restrict? Once the contestants have a pair of ideas, they compare. Ideally, the resolutions people come up with only serve to spark off a hybrid idea that makes players happy (even if it leaves their characters unhappy).

So once the contestants decide on an outcome, they go back and play it out. Since the outcome has been determined, they can go ahead and narrate the hell out of it. I think it also helps the emotional involvement issue because a.) you know what's going to happen and b.) you have an idea about how you can use the outcome (even a negative one) to your overall story.

I think that's wicked smart.  Even if we just think about and reveal our goals for the certamen up front - my goal is to show my guy to be the better wizard, Meg's goal is to make my guy look like a fool - then we can, depending on how compatible they are, either negotiate through to a mutually happy as you say hybrid resolution, or dig into them, break them down and spin them off until we arrive at goals compatible enough to resolve.  Very smart.

(In play, it wouldn't be that we decide an outcome and then go back and play it out.  Playing it out would be the process by which we decide it - but the initial conversation about goals and story directions would give us the bounce we need.  That's how it looks to me from here, anyway.)

Paul, Tim, good question.

I can say that this isn't the first time we've used the hearsay trick.  And while we're always willing to go back and do something over, as a group - we never have.  So probably we do have a couple few practiced techniques.

I'll consult with Meg and Em, see if we can't tease some out.

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2003, 08:12:28 AM »

Also Paul! What an interesting thing to say!
Quote from: You
...preserving character integrity over the very long term despite the contaminations of collaborative roleplay.

Check this out: Is play really collaborative if it contaminates character integrity?

What we're collaborating on is character integrity.

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2003, 08:41:09 AM »

Hello,

Hey corpse-fucker, you wrote,

Quote
Even if we just think about and reveal our goals for the certamen up front - my goal is to show my guy to be the better wizard, Meg's goal is to make my guy look like a fool - then we can, depending on how compatible they are, either negotiate through to a mutually happy as you say hybrid resolution, or dig into them, break them down and spin them off until we arrive at goals compatible enough to resolve.


My comments in The Pool question agree with Tom's (bluegargantua's) point, and I think our shared comments have always resolved this issue, in any role-playing game which focuses on conflict resolution, to my satisfaction.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2003, 08:59:48 AM »

Ron, ha!  And what it's secretly is IIEE.  In that awkward I'm-looking-up-at-the-dice moment between just talking and actually resolving, we managed to hit ->Now We Resolve, but we sadly misgot ->Here's What We Resolve.  Not the right kind of I to successfully IEE.

Here's my eyes all lit up from theory-practice connect.

-Vincent
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2003, 04:51:57 PM »

What we're collaborating on is character integrity.

Well...you guys might be. But I don't know how to do that shit. When I create my guy, I have a vision for him. Maybe I envision him as really edgy. But when we roleplay dialogue, that never comes through. The other player characters are never on eggshells around him like they should be. So yeah, that's contamination. My vision is more satisfying than my dude is in play. How do you get the foils you need in your games?

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Tim Alexander
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2003, 07:58:35 AM »

Hey Guys,

Quote
Maybe I envision him as really edgy. But when we roleplay dialogue, that never comes through. The other player characters are never on eggshells around him like they should be. So yeah, that's contamination.


Wow am I curious to see Vincent's response to this. I'm getting the feeling though that what his group has going for it is a pretty deep social contract regarding character integrity. I would venture to guess that if Vincent played the aforementioned edgy guy; the group would be well aware of it, and would work to keep that vision in the same way Vincent would work to keep their's. I think that a lot of the stuff we're both looking for as techniques for during play are actually part of pre-play. Once that foundation is laid, ideas like the neat rewrite spring from everyone being clear about perceived violations of that social contract.

Admittedly, I'm a "social contract is stunningly important, and too often taken for granted" kick; so YMMV.

Quote
My vision is more satisfying than my dude is in play.


This is a big ouch.

-Tim
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