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Author Topic: more adventures in improvised system: techniques  (Read 13595 times)
Emily Care
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« on: November 17, 2003, 02:26:46 PM »

Hey folks,

Time for some follow up on this thread, of Vincent's. (Tough act to follow, man!) We finished the plot arc that session was a part of, and I think our latest session illustrates some of the practices we've adopted over the years.  There was some interest in techniques that faciliate the kind of collaborative and supportive play that we do, so I thought it might be worthwhile to try and share some.

Anyway, the campaign is set in a very slightly customized version of the Ars Magica world (which we use minus most mechanics and non-setting system elements), and centers around the adventures of our three primary characters.  They are founding a new Covenant (wizard's household) in a remote, back-water place far from the center of the magical order they're a part of, the Trannsylvanian Tribunal, which also happens to be controlled by the most hierarchal and controlling house in the order: House Tremere.  

We've been following these mages around for about 4 years real time. Most recently, a neighboring covenant went up in a ball of flames (literally), and an emergency meeting of the Tribunal has been called for the Spring to look into it.  Among other matters, our covenant will be up for vote to be ratified as a member of the tribunal.  

Systematic Scene Framing
Now, we figured out who all the mages in the Tribunal were about 2 years ago, now, but of the few dozen characters, we've played maybe a handful so far.  We decided to play out the council meeting at each covenant where they decide who is going to attend, killing two birds with one stone: getting more background on all the characters, and setting us up for the Tribunal meeting.  

This is the second time we've used this kind of structure.  Some time ago, after the characters had built the covenant and were fairly stable, we moved forward in time to each time someone came to visit the covenant.  Both times we've been at a point where many of the major plot threads we'd been dealing with had been resolved, and the systematic scenes allowed us to skip to the "meat".  As I recall, scene framing was being discussed on the Forge at the time when we first did it, and Vincent was (and continues to be) a strong advocate of it.  It worked out really well, and I'm sure we'll use it in the future. Since our campaigns are setting and character focused, (situation arises from these rather than vice versa) having a clear structure can help us rise out of the morass of "so what do we do now".

Collaborative Character Development
So as of this past session, we had just two covenants left to cover.  An un-named one at Budapesht, and Blackstone, a Tremere controlled covenenant on the shores of the Black Sea.  We chose the Budapesht mages first, and realized all we knew about them were their names, their houses, and that they were christian heretics.  Meg envisioned her character Andredeo as a friendly, outgoing mage with a large physical presence, and much contact with mundanes. He came from a magical family, so took it for granted, and was quite wealthy. She seemed to have a good hit on her mage, but I wasn't getting inspired about my character, Jaslyn of Ex Miscellena.  I opened her up to the group for input.

"So what's with Jaslyn? How did she end up in the order?" asked someone, maybe it was me.
I scratched my head, "She's Ex Miscellena, so maybe she's into natural magic, invoking Christ's name to do alchemy and all that."
"She could be a scientist.  Maybe she had access to ancient greek texts." suggested Vincent.
"Sounds good, but where did she learn this as a woman in the middle ages?" I replied.
Meg offered, "She might have been raised in a convent. Think Brother William, from Name of the Rose."
I accepted the upbringing part, but wasn't wholly convinced that it explained everything. "So she could have learned greek and latin there, but---"
"Maybe has a gift for languages, so she found and read some texts in the original that the people around her cannot. Maybe she even knows Arabic."
"That would open up many doors for her, since many more physics and philosophical texts were translated into Arabic than into European languages, at the time, but, now, how exactly would she have learned that?" It still didn't quite fit for me, though I liked the concept.
"Maybe she can just understand it, has a magical talent for languages?" said Vincent.
"Nope, definitely doesn't work for me.  Telepathy, finding, these are special talents characters have had in this world, but that would bend it to breaking."
Then, Vincent came out with it. "Okay, try this. She learned it from a book.  Not just any book, a book with a spirit in it, whose purpose was to teach the reader what the book contained. It just took it one step farther and taught her the language too. It was probably a book made by an Islamic wizard for a prince."
"That would explain her interest in magic as well. Yes that works for me! Very cool!"

Using world development to support character concept
I've noticed that during this arc, we've spent about half the time on each covenant discussing the characters, and how they connect with other mages we know about.  The second covenant we visited had, again, three characters we'd never played before, and about whom we knew
very little.  Vincent's character there was Dixie, a young Tremere mage about whom he said:

"Dixie is the rising star of Tremere."

Cut to Emily: <gears whirling in my head>
"Vincent, I told you that my mage Trey's agenda is to oust the Old Men of Coeris [the triumvirate controlling the house and tribunal] from power, right?"
"Umm, no. You hadn't actually."
"Well, what if we set up Dixie as Trey's rival?"
Blink, blink.  "Sure. How do we do that?"
"I dunno, but let's pay attention."

We talked on. The covenant was in bad shape. Had recently lost a mage to the mob, (We had set our game of My Life with Master at this covenant, so, of course, one of them had come to a bad end. None of the other mages seemed that upset about it.)  and had the trail of another magi's murder lead our way.  

(Out of character:)
"So, about that murder...what do we know about it?"
"Well, the fellow was heading to Blackstone. We know it was politically motivated, he was about to be made part of a the Hoplites, a faction of one house (Flambeau) that functions as the bully-dogs of another house (Guernicus).  Some folks are against this faction existing at all, and he was taken out as part of a campaign to undermine it. We know of at least one mage who was involved. Zarya from the now defunct covenant, Kivont Kardal, who sheltered the murderer." (An aside: Except for those involved, the mages in our Tribunal don't even know it's a murder yet, just a disappearance. And we as players/gms don't actually know who the murderer is. We haven't discussed it, but I'm happy to leave that open. Let it be a mystery for us, and also allows us to have the flexibility to have it be the _right_ person.)

"He was heading here, perhaps one of the mages here is involved in some way."
"Anybody know who?"
Shrugs.
"Where's Dixie from?"
"Magvillus, in Rome."
"Isn't Soraya's brother there?"
"Yes. That's where the home covenant of Guernicus too. That's where the appointment came from for the murdered mage."
Aha! "She's the one then."
"She could have been the one to tip off the Flambeau conspirators that the murdered mage had been approved."
"They may think they are just using her, but she sees it as an opportunity to weaken, not just one but two rival houses."
"She's a new mage, so many people may be understimating her."
"What's she doing way out here in the hinterlands, anyway."
"I think the Old Men made her come back, to get more properly under the thumb of Coeris."
"Sounds reasonable.  Who's in charge of her?"
"I think it's your character, Em."
"Uh-oh. I don't think he's doing too good of a job. He just sent a letter to his master for advice. What does he say Meg, that's your character."
Meg reflects. "He says since she is a new mage, and far from her sources of support. To isolate her, and remind her of the power of the house."
"Hmm.  I feel like there's some unpleasant task, we should send her to do."

We took this information, and dipped into character.  It was a tense session. None of the characters seemed sure of the others.  Insinuations and threats were made.  In character, Vincent suggested that Dixie set the towns-people to rights, and settle the unrest by intimidating and silencing a few key mundanes.  I nixed this as the task for Dixie, and then realized that I did have a task for her.
"Dixie, why don't you look into this disappearance?  Of course, we don't know anything about it, but we need to ascertain if there is anything that may effect the covenant, or the house."
Vincent, as Dixie, looks up startled and tense.  "Um, sure. I could do that." Or perhaps words more eloquent.

Mining Conversation
The final example I think worth sharing took place a some point in the evening, when we started talking about the Tribunal itself.  After seeing all the crazy characters we had on deck to go there, what was it going to be like?
"Maybe they all kill each other."
"Yeah, I see Soraya, standing with that sword from the Dragon's horde in her hand, covered in ichor--"
"Hey," I said, "I think somebody's dreaming this."
Vincent: "Doh!"
"Who?"
"Maybe Soraya?" I suggested.
"No, it's the seer, Lillian Wright. Meg's character." said Vincent.
"Oooooh. That's pretty serious. What do you think Meg?"
"Sounds good, but is this a dream or a vision?"
"A dream."
"Well, okay. So it may or may not be true."
Meg then went on to narrate the dream, with a beautiful buildup, culminating in Vincent's image.
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bluegargantua
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Posts: 167


« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2003, 10:18:25 AM »

Hi Em!

  Always a treat to read about the stuff you guys are doing.

  I'm curious.  How much (and what kind of) record-keeping do you guys do?  Some 20-odd mages, companions, grogs, local nobilty and clergy, the hapless peasant who lives closest to the convenant, you've got a lot of people and many of them get a heck of a lot of time devoted to them.  How do you keep it straight?  Have there ever been times where you've been knee-deep in a resolution only to realize "Wait, based on what we said before (but forgot about) this couldn't possibly happen."?

  Also, how much time would you say you devote to your "Primary" characters?  I know that for Ars Magica in particular, this is a kinda nebulous thing, but you're clearly putting a fair amount of time and effort on people who wouldn't be more than name and stats in most other games.  How much time do you spend away from your core PCs?

  BTW -- Dixie is a great name for a Middle Age magi from Rome.  :)

later
Tom
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Don't laugh, Larry would strike unseen from the shadows and Curly...well, Curly once toppled a dictatorship with the key from a Sardine tin.
Emily Care
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« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2003, 11:10:59 AM »

Hi Tom! Great to hear from you. :)

Quote from: bluegargantua
I'm curious. How much (and what kind of) record-keeping do you guys do?


Good question.  As a matter of fact we do have pretty thorough records.  Thanks in great part to our faithful scribe, Meg, we have a running record of events from each session (recorded very briefly on a yellow legal pad).  And keeping all those magi straight is quite a chore--Vincent created some lists of mages (by covenant, with house affiliation, player and master included) when we peopled the tribunal.  And of course, there's our Big Map o'Mages--two sheets of poster board with all the mages whe know about in the world, grouped by covenant, with major relationships indicated by connecting lines (master-apprentice, etc.) This is used for a certain amount of record keeping too--little x's by the mage name if the character dies (and, out of some fit of insanity that siezed us, the map also has the actors we would cast for the character if the campaign was made into a hollywood film :).  Maybe sometime I'll have the chance to show it to you.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any moments of serious continuity breach, though I feel sure it must have happened once or twice.  Meg, Vincent, anything you recall?

Quote
Also, how much time would you say you devote to your "Primary" characters?

Up until recently, I'd say it was about 90% of our time.  Most of the time, at least one of the characters in a scene has been one of the three main mages, Acanthus, Damwild or Soraya.  Well, that's looking at screen-time, or time in-character.  Plotting-wise, or with respect to out of character gm-level discussions, I'd say we spend a much larger percentage of our time on characters and parts of the world that don't directly involve those three.  

I use the term "primary character" because there are technically no "non-player" character--we all gm and we all play.  IMO the closest thing we have to npc's are characters who we use to help protagonize others either by helping or being an obstacle etc.  And almost any character can be used that way, if the need arises. Though perhaps Vince and Meg would disagree.

However there are very different levels of development: the three primaries have gotten the most thorough development and largest time in play. There are various secondary characters whose lives have featured prominently in our play. Major antagonists usually fall in this category. There are secondary characters we play often, but whose lives we haven't focused on yet. We usually know a lot about these characters, but they haven't yet been central to a plotline.  There are characters who we have played a couple times, about whom we have a clear sense of them as a personality, but about whose background and experience we know shallowly or not at all.  And then there are folks about whom we just know their name.

Now that was until recently, with the latest arc--going from covenant to covenant--many mage characters who formerly fell in the last category have now shifted up at least one level, and some have potential to go higher. We're choosing up characters and plotlines that are of interest to us, and connecting them with plot.  Some of these plots have possible connections with our primary characters (the seer's dream, for example), some do not (Dixie's possible rise to power).  The percentage of play time spent on our three primary may also lessen. Everything will affect those three mages, but I don't think we're concerned about whether that will be in a strong or direct fashion or not.  I'm thrilled that we're reaching this point.  There are things I've found I can explore in these new characters that I was unable to in our first set, and I find inter and intra-house and covenant politics to be a very fruitful area to investigate.  We've also explored a lot of the Premise we developed around the main three.  

And you'll have to ask Vincent about Dixie's name. :) I don't presume to question.

Be well,
Emily Care
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2003, 01:52:47 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care
Good question.  As a matter of fact we do have pretty thorough records.  Thanks in great part to our faithful scribe, Meg, we have a running record of events from each session (recorded very briefly on a yellow legal pad).  And keeping all those magi straight is quite a chore--Vincent created some lists of mages (by covenant, with house affiliation, player and master included) when we peopled the tribunal.  And of course, there's our Big Map o'Mages--two sheets of poster board with all the mages whe know about in the world, grouped by covenant, with major relationships indicated by connecting lines (master-apprentice, etc.) This is used for a certain amount of record keeping too--little x's by the mage name if the character dies (and, out of some fit of insanity that siezed us, the map also has the actors we would cast for the character if the campaign was made into a hollywood film :).  Maybe sometime I'll have the chance to show it to you.


BL>  *takes notes*

Good stuff.

yrs--
--Ben
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Emily Care
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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2003, 06:56:19 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
BL>  *takes notes*


Hi Ben,

Thanks for stopping by. Do you find you have a lot of characters to keep track of in your campaigns? Or do you want to?

I'm curious to hear about others' experiences playing many characters in a single campaign.  There's a dividing line for some people--can't play more than one unless they are gming.  What helps people cross that line, if they do?

Regards,
Emily Care
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2003, 08:10:26 AM »

It's Dixi, actually, not Dixie.  Dixi's a form of Dictum, "I speak," so says my online Latin-English lexicon.  For all I know her name might mean "Someday we will speak" or "Spoken on the weekend" or any other random Latin thing.

But this part, Em, is fascinating.
Quote
We're choosing up characters and plotlines that are of interest to us, and connecting them with plot. Some of these plots have possible connections with our primary characters (the seer's dream, for example), some do not (Dixie's possible rise to power). The percentage of play time spent on our three primary may also lessen. Everything will affect those three mages, but I don't think we're concerned about whether that will be in a strong or direct fashion or not. I'm thrilled that we're reaching this point. There are things I've found I can explore in these new characters that I was unable to in our first set, and I find inter and intra-house and covenant politics to be a very fruitful area to investigate. We've also explored a lot of the Premise we developed around the main three.

I like totally disagree.  I've seen this whole cool arc as establishing what's at stake, a la Trollbabe.  Volucris' rebirth, the schism in Flambeau, Trey vs Dixi, the dragon, Silver Spring vs Stella Sofia vs Coeris - their resolutions all depend on what we three little wizards decide to do.  It's not direct, it's not like Trey and Dixi are going to appeal to us as impartial judges or anything, but we've seen over and over that they're all connected and that we three are the hinge.

We may be secretly getting different things out of playing, Em!  How cool is that!

-Vincent

Edit: Oh and also, My Firstest Relationship Map, which I posted two years ago yesterday, coincidentally.  It's about our gigantic poster.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2003, 12:02:45 PM »

Quote
We may be secretly getting different things out of playing, Em!  How cool is that!


I'd be surprised not at all! We've been approaching plotting and characters somewhat differently for a while now. Remember our "arguments" about what it means for those three characters to be the primary characters, and the amount of screen time we want to devote to other characters.  I think that functionally your priorities mesh with mine, but your focus on our first three will probably give our game a continuity of theme that it might lose if we just wandered about, checking in on random mages we encountered/created in the countryside.  

Although, to be fair, it may also be that I see theme and Premise being expressed, but simply want the group of characters through whom it is addressed to broaden.  I don't see it as a necessity for certain characters to be the sole protagonists.

Now I'm sure I've described it much differently than you see it. :) Let's play telephone about eachother's creative agendas.  And what's Meg's take on all this? How does she see what we've done in this arc?


--Em
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2003, 01:58:58 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care
Quote from: Ben Lehman
BL>  *takes notes*


Hi Ben,

Thanks for stopping by. Do you find you have a lot of characters to keep track of in your campaigns? Or do you want to?


BL>  To some degree.  I've been wanting to run a "cast ensemble" Riddle of Steel game for a while.  Sadly, situations have not panned out.
  I also have a "living setting."  This is definitely not collaborative -- I'm the Master of the House, as it were -- but I've run a lot of games with a lot of different gamers in that setting, and I've been using a somewhat similar technique to your poster to keep track of all the characters that pop up, albeit not nearly as formalized.
  Thirdly, of course, I'm taking notes for Tactics.  Working on the pre-play setting developement rules presently.

Quote

I'm curious to hear about others' experiences playing many characters in a single campaign.  There's a dividing line for some people--can't play more than one unless they are gming.  What helps people cross that line, if they do?


BL>  For many of my recent gaming groups, it would be wildly unthinkable for anyone but the GM to play multiple characters.  I think that this is because they were, by and large, Actor Stance diehard Simulationists with some GM provided Narrativist scenes and content.
  There were some very interesting techniques used for this, including non-GM played "NPC"s who, I can now safely say, were essentially just PCs with permission to use Actor Stance and requirement to follow the GM's directives.  An "NPC" could also play multiple roles in a single game, although usually one at a time.
  Previously, I have controlled multiple characters as a player, though largely in a faceless Gamist context, in which playing two characters is not particularly more difficult than one -- just more number-crunching and much more complex tactical decisions.

yrs--
--Ben
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Jeph
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Jeff Schecter


« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2003, 02:19:04 PM »

All this collaborative play stuff is fascinating.

Em, Vincent, mind providing a bit of backstory as to the players? How did you three get together? When did you start the collaborative  campaign? Did it begin using the classic AM system?

Also taking notes,
--Jeff
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2003, 06:54:39 PM »

Hold on, let me count...8; 11 if you count familiars and the extra body of one pc.  That's how many pc's I have "active" at this point in the story.  I quote "active" because one is currently in a self-induced coma, and one is currently a hostage, but I still consider them active because they are important pieces of the current story-arc (hell, the story is all about Mr. coma).  So, I guess that makes 6 + 3 that I'm actually playing.  The current counts for the other players are (the +'s being familiars, servants, AI's and the like):  7, 4 + 1, 3 + 1, and 3 + 1.

I find that my biggest limitation to playing multiple pcs is actually the range of personalities/voices I can portray.  If everyone isn't clear on which pc is talking, you have that slow down where you have to ask "who said that?"  I think all a player's characters need a different voice, which doesn't mean accent, just a different way/tone of speaking.

Though, you can't actually play more than one pc at a time, more than one can certainly be doing something.  If you've got 5 or 6 players with an average of 4 pcs, and they're all just standing around talking to each other that runs very slow.  But, if you divide the scenes up into blocks containing different (even shifting) sets of smaller pc groups, say one or two for each player, it works fine.

Also, in my experience, some pc's just end up naturally falling into the background.  Maybe they have less depth, don't talk/do much, are always busy, or whatever.  There is a sort of screen time balance that evolves out of that.

For actually having a story of some kind I like small pc groups, one for each player in each act of the story.  It's just plain less resources to advance the plot with, and the conflicts can therefore be more threatening/personal/challenging - more tense.

I'm glad you posted an update.  I like seeing another group's approach to this stuff.

Them's my two cents on playing multiple characters.  Take that.

Emily, Vincent, Meg (if here) any similarities or differences?
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Emily Care
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« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2003, 01:10:26 PM »

Hi Jeff! Hi Jason!

Quote from: Jeph
Em, Vincent, mind providing a bit of backstory as to the players? How did you three get together? When did you start the collaborative campaign? Did it begin using the classic AM system?

Uh, oh, now you asked for it. I'll try not to maunder on too long. :)

It's a good question though. Our history does matter a bit, I think.  

The three of us met a while back (11 years ago? Something like that.) We lived together as  part of a 10 person communal household, of which collaborative (though with single, rotating gmships) roleplaying was a central feature.  Our bohemian years. :)  The major campaigns of those years were also in an AM derived setting--though more elaborately detailed than ours (with 11-12) people contributing) and created from whole cloth using the structure rather than adapting canon.  

Meg solo gm'd a year+ long campaign in the recent past ('97-'98 or so), which we regard as being in the same "world" as our current campaign.  The three of us did substantial world and setting development for that campaign, and V&I did a lot of supporting gm'ly like duties: playing many npc's, interpreting game background and mechanics, etc. But the plot was firmly in Meg's hands.  There were three other players as well, two of whom had multiple characters (2-3), and who did world development through their characters.  

Then, in '99, we started this campaign while driving home from visiting Meg's family in upstate NY.  We started with the simple situation of having some mages found a covenant.  Nobody stepped up to the plate to be gm.  We'd enjoyed working together so much before, that I suggested all three of us share it, and we went from there. So this campaign began as a collaboration from the start, but we'd had practice runs in the past.

As system, that took us longer to let go of. We did start out with classic AM. Or rather using a homebrew version that Vincent pretty much cooked up. At least that's how I recall it. And we slowly moved away from using particular mechanics that we'd been using, through to using description and discussion to figuring things out (which is still our primary resolution system) to now suggesting dice and other mechanics on the fly or using ones we've found useful in the past.  We had to leave it all behind for a while and even do some floundering like we did in V's post, in order to find what kind of mechanics fit with our collaborative structure. Maybe. I'd be very interested in hearing how the others describe this transition.

And setting-wise, I think we used numbers of mages, tribunals, covenant names etc. right out of the book or off the web. When we started out we went through a period of checking out other folks covenant's online and "borrowing" books from their libraries. :)  And seeking inspiration for spells, magical items, charters and oaths etc.  An amusing moment of disappointment we had was in looking over the belongings of various characters. Some of them had these intriguing objects: buckets of sand or ashes, certain stones, branche of wood, etc. We imagined the back-story of where they came from and what they  meant. Then someone noticed that the bucket of ashes was a focus for a particular spell in the book. LOL. sigh. It was so much more interesting when that bucket of ash was
the remains of political rival that someone now used for corporem vis.

Jeph, have or do you play collaboratively?

*****************************
Thanks for the tally, Jason. You counted familiars, does that mean you play them in AM as well? As far as difference and similarities, I think I've  encountered a lot of the issues you describe.
Quote from: cruciel
I find that my biggest limitation to playing multiple pcs is actually the range of personalities/voices I can portray.  If everyone isn't clear on which pc is talking, you have that slow down where you have to ask "who said that?"  I think all a player's characters need a different voice, which doesn't mean accent, just a different way/tone of speaking.

My friend Barry, from the commune days, did this with his characters. I assume he still does.  All of them had quite distinctive "voices" and some even had particular verbal ticks--one had a lisp--that always let you know quite distinctly which character he was playing. It was pratical and enjoyable to interact with.  I've never been good with different voices, and simply try to distinguish my characters by difference of outlook and character, so that what I say as the character will sound like them. And I say "Soraya says..." a lot when multiple characters are in the same scene.   However, I don't see this as a limit on the number I can play. I as a performer may not be able to speak in a way that is distinct to one character, but as long as their actions and decisions are unique and conform to my conception of that person--and this is discernable to the others I'm playing with--then I'm satisfied that they are all adequately distinguished.

Quote
If you've got 5 or 6 players with an average of 4 pcs, and they're all just standing around talking to each other that runs very slow.  But, if you divide the scenes up into blocks containing different (even shifting) sets of smaller pc groups, say one or two for each player, it works fine.


IME, most scenes end up involving a reasonably sized subset of all of the characters in play. Just like even when one is in a large family, or part of a big social circle, the times when _everyone_ is together are not the norm.  Everyone (even the characters) has a busy life.  And, we get to choose who's where in game. So maybe we've just been doing intuitively what you recommend here.  Another thing is where are the characters situated in space (or time, I suppose).  The AM split of mages/grogs etc. means that one will play characters that might not be likely to interact with one another all the time, allowing the players to have just one pc in a group at a time.  And if you are playing characters that people a world (the priest in the village, the duke of the land, the mage in the covenant), they may come into contact occasionally, but mostly the do not. And, again, as gm's we can choose to have other folks pc's have the conflict/interaction with them as situations arise.

Quote
Also, in my experience, some pc's just end up naturally falling into the background.  Maybe they have less depth, don't talk/do much, are always busy, or whatever.  There is a sort of screen time balance that evolves out of that.

Yes, that does seem to be the case. I'd expect that the likelihood of this is directly related to the interst quotient the character has. If they're not sparking  your or someone's imagination, there's no reason for it to be front and center.

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For actually having a story of some kind I like small pc groups, one for each player in each act of the story.  It's just plain less resources to advance the plot with, and the conflicts can therefore be more threatening/personal/challenging - more tense.


It's more streamlined and concise that way. Interesting to look at fewer characters as minimizing resources--it's true, but I hadn't thought of that.  It also narrow the focus in terms of theme or Premise--each player can focus on on narrative being developed at a time. It may be that I don't think in terms of that since I get to set the levels of resources available to my characters all the time--whether through what help they have from other characters, their own inate powers, resources from the world etc. So, I'm doing that all the time, but not aware of it as such. Hm...
 

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Them's my two cents on playing multiple characters.  Take that.

I tooked 'em, rubbed 'em together and came out with some of my own.


Regards,
Emily Care
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Black & Green Games
Jeph
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Posts: 338

Jeff Schecter


« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2003, 03:16:11 PM »

Very interesting background. Thanks!

Quote from: Emily Care
Jeph, have or do you play collaboratively?


Alas, no. At the moment I am only 14 years old, 15 in a month and a half. I have a moderately large player pool (7-8, although only 4 in any one game) but none of them completely share my tastes and visions. They mostly prefer exploration of plot Sim and tactical Gamist play. I also like tactics, but am more interested in exploration of setting and character driven stories. I'm not sure they'd have fun with such controll; I've found that they tend to flounder when given too many choices (although I admit I've sometimes been slow on dropping them a line)--but then again, I've never tried full GM-less (all-GM?) play.

Who knows, it could turn out to be perfect for us all. Maybe I'll try some time.

--Jeff
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Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
lumpley
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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2003, 06:03:05 PM »

Meg and I and some others played Ars Magica out of the 2nd edition book back in '90 and '91, which I'll call the "Caer Mearabourne" game.  It was one of these where the GM (Meg) took the basic resolution dice thing and adapted it to her personal preferred techniques, in unspoken collaboration with the players (me and others).  When we played with the Ennead (our Bohemian days indeed) the GMs (Kip, then Sarah, while I was playing) did the same, but to GURPS.  Maybe Kip used GURPS dice and Sarah didn't even; I think she mostly just rolled 2d6, low bad high good, and interepreted them to the characters and situation.  We had GURPS character sheets we never referred to.  I'll call that the "Isrillion" game.

As I look back, that game was far more collaborative than anybody acknowledged.  The GM had yay-or-nay authority, but the social dynamic was such that a "nay" would've been outrageous.  Generally, each player had domains of authority, and the GM would rubber-stamp whatever we said within our domains.  As a newcomer, my personal domains didn't extend much past my characters.

There was a game we tried to get together in '95 or so, Meg GMing, but it didn't last more than a session or three.  The ill-fated "Durenmar" game.

Then the '97 game Meg GMed was the same way again, only we were pretending to use this oogly Pendragon-Ars Magica bastard I'd cooked up.  That's the "St. Erasmus" game.  Mostly how that game worked was, Meg expected the players to be self-directed Director Stancers, and some of us were and some of us weren't.  To the frustration of everybody, or at least to me.  I recall it as a schizophrenic game, sort of stuttering and inconsistent.

Our current: the "Griffon's Aerie" game.  Yes, co-GMed from moment one, but during the first couple weeks' setup I created character sheets for us to ignore and dice mechanisms that didn't do what we wanted.  The only thing they had in common with Ars Magica's ruleset was the names of the magical arts.  For a little while I was irritated about our not using them, but you get over these things.  I came to the Forge at about the same time as we started thinking of our game as overtly negotiated; by then we hadn't looked at our character sheets for a year.  Muddling through and playing by instinct, supported by our very strong shared vision.

I'd characterize all of my Ars Magica play 1990-2001, up to this recent transition to overt negotiation, as covertly negotiated.  There were rules, but they were almost purely social, and nobody articulated them.  The failures of the Durenmar game and the St. Erasmus game ... plus on reflection the second half of the Caer Mearabourne game ... were almost certainly because the unspoken rules didn't work for those groups.  The successes - the first half of the Caer Mearabourne game, the Isrillion game, some of the St. Erasmus game and the early Griffon's Aerie game - depended on the group working well creatively without the reinforcement of a ruleset.  Friendship wasn't enough, there had to be a certain kind of functional collaborative friendship - and indeed the successful groups were and are collaborative outside of gaming.

-Vincent
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Emily Care
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« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2003, 06:03:49 AM »

Quote from: Jeph
Alas, no. At the moment I am only 14 years old, 15 in a month and a half.

Happy soon to be birthday! And good for you to get an earful of the theory here early in your gaming career.  Your demographic is an important segment of gaming culture that isn't necessarily adequately represented here (though I may be wrong, are there many other young folk on the Forge?). It's good to hear your voice.

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Who knows, it could turn out to be perfect for us all. Maybe I'll try some time.

More power to you if you find a group who is willing and interested in it. Vincent's post gives a good picture of the differences between functional and non-functional play groups of this type.  If you try it out, definitely post here--I'd love to hear about it, and if you'd like feedback, this is a great group to give practical advice and support. Having a small group might be to your advantage--easier to find a group that size with similar vision, and easier to keep everyone on the same page.

Regards,
Em
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Black & Green Games
Jason Lee
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2003, 06:04:40 AM »

Quote from: Emily Care
Thanks for the tally, Jason. You counted familiars, does that mean you play them in AM as well? As far as difference and similarities, I think I've  encountered a lot of the issues you describe.


Not playing AM, it's a homebrew world/time jumping game, but yes we play the familiars as well.  Everything that hangs off a primary character pretty much becomes the responsibility of the owner of the primary character; that includes familiars, family, and often the entire world from which the character comes.

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Yes, that does seem to be the case. I'd expect that the likelihood of this is directly related to the interst quotient the character has. If they're not sparking  your or someone's imagination, there's no reason for it to be front and center.


Hmmm, not often for us - when that ends up being the reason the character is typically left behind, killed, or otherwise removed from primary character status.  With my less prominent characters it ends up coming from them having less complicated relationships with the other characters (my fembot just doesn't have much to say, terribly interesting though she is), or them having responsibilities that are difficult to get away from (like staying behind to watch the ship or spending time in research). Anyway, with the less interesting characters shelving or using them as a thematic tool seems to work pretty good.  It's sorta like natural selection... or fertilizer.


Anyway, good stuff, stuff to think about.  We've got more people, and more structure (rotating GMs and a static system that people yell at me for changing constantly), and priority conflicts (which I imagine makes things run less smooth than you folks).  But, there is definitely something here for me to learn about everyone running in the same setting, which we've had consistency issues with in the past.  Maybe a pre-run session where everybody plays major npc's in the region before our characters arrive - to set the stage.  Hmmm....
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