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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 04:15:35 PM



Title: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 04:15:35 PM
Over in this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25560.0) thread, I talked about the relationship of Exploration, Techniques and Ephemera on the one hand and Creative Agenda on the other. Especially, how the former are not all that relevant for identifying the latter. I was asked to clarify. Instead of trying to analyze someone else’s game by description, I have decided I’ll use a game of my own as an example. I already mentioned the game in the parent thread. It was a game of Dark Ages Vampire.

So let’s go over all layers of the Big Model.

Social Contract: We were all very close friends. We met to play each Sunday, in a very relaxed atmosphere, and played pretty long sessions (8 hours +). We smoked cigarettes and drank single malt whisky. The time period I’m talking about here might have been half a year, or more. I fail to remember, it was a decade ago.

Exploration: Our characters came to the city of Constantinople around 1250 AD. They found out a lot about the city’s undead society. They found their place, chose which leader to follow. Picked their enemies. Picked their lovers. Lost their lovers. One (mine) created a new Vampire, a troubled relationship. One PC became the thrall in a blood bond to another PC. There were some dramatic scenes, fights and the likes, in between. Major NPCs died the final death. Around 1350 AD, the PCs fled the invasion by the Muslims.

Techniques and Ephemera: Plain old role-playing. The players played their characters, the GM did everything else. Rules were applied mostly as written. Significant dice rolls were about combat, the use of disciplines, and resisting frenzy. Willpower points were spent. Blood pool was used to boost attributes in combat. Combat did not happen every session, but when it happened, there was some serious rules strategizing going on. Across the game, OOC commentary was constantly present. A lot of scenes were played with only one character in the scene, but all players strongly engaged, making suggestions and comments.

(I’ve straightened the Techniques and Ephemera part out a bit. We had some minor bumps and changes there, but those would only complicate the example.)

So, now? After reading this, no one can say what our Shared Creative Agenda was, or even if we had any. (Well, Ron can, because he knows me and we’ve talked about that game, but that’s cheating.) The above is simply not enough information.

What you need to know is how feedback happened, among the group. How and about what appreciation was communicated. What stuff got talked about even months later. You need to identify the overall pattern in our play, over all those sessions, that expresses our fundamental goal, our essence of what made play worthwhile.

In that game, we had exiting combat with interesting rules strategies. We plotted sophisticated intrigues and showed a lot of guts in staging those against much more powerful foes. All that was fun, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave it out. But the “strategizing to win” was not our essence.

We also had intense relationships, both PC/PC and PC/NPC. These relationships were subject to changes, and so were our characters’ personalities. There was internal conflict, not only the classic Vampire one, but also a religious one on top (for my character). That was fantastic, I would never have wanted to leave that out. It was very important, especially to me and one other player, Michael. But these conflicts, and the decisions we as players made, were not our essence.

Our essence was our shared delight for “our Constantinople”. All those places, all those historical references with their bittersweet ring. All those fantastic NPCs with their mysterious past and cloudy agenda. So many things to find out, one by one, putting the picture together. You should have heard us, we could go on for hours and hours just marvelling at this thing, making silly sounds of admiration and debating which NPC was coolest. Each of us loved all of it, but our character was our medium for interacting with it, for reflecting it, for adding our own bit of flavour to the package. Also, the whole history of the Kindred, as per the White Wolf metaplot. Boy, did we dig it, and how it tied into our real world’s history. I mean, I met Dracon. You know? The actual Dracon. Ever heard the phrase “draconic punishment”? That Dracon. He was of course a Vampire and he became my mentor.

That, there, was our essence. In GNS terms, we were playing by a Simulationist Creative Agenda.

How can you tell? Well, as I said: From communicated appreciation. Sometimes game mechanics can be a good indicator. For example, when I play Sorcerer, the number of Humanity checks in a session is a good indicator of whether or not some Narrativism is going on. But Vampire, as it were, provided little to no mechanical indication like that.

So, Reithan, our group had the drama and the community thing you have stated as a goal for your own group. We played Sim. If you get your group in good shape and get to the drama and the community thing as well, then you might or might not end up playing Sim. Just as well, you might end up playing Nar, where your essence instead is the thematic choices of the players and the statements these choices include. Or (and I certainly don’t hope so) you might end up with Incoherence, where the participants go after different goals and it doesn’t work out even though you’ve got the drama and the community thing. (I’m not really seeing you end up playing Gam, from your description.)

Does that make sense? *g*

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 04:44:10 PM
Contrary to your statement, I think I had a pretty good bead on it being Sim even before you got the summary at the bottom. Due to a few factors here.

Exploration: Our characters came to the city of Constantinople around 1250 AD. They found out a lot about the city’s undead society. They found their place, chose which leader to follow. Picked their enemies. Picked their lovers. Lost their lovers. One (mine) created a new Vampire, a troubled relationship. One PC became the thrall in a blood bond to another PC. There were some dramatic scenes, fights and the likes, in between. Major NPCs died the final death. Around 1350 AD, the PCs fled the invasion by the Muslims.

Techniques and Ephemera: Plain old role-playing. The players played their characters, the GM did everything else. Rules were applied mostly as written. Significant dice rolls were about combat, the use of disciplines, and resisting frenzy. Willpower points were spent. Blood pool was used to boost attributes in combat. Combat did not happen every session, but when it happened, there was some serious rules strategizing going on. Across the game, OOC commentary was constantly present. A lot of scenes were played with only one character in the scene, but all players strongly engaged, making suggestions and comments.
Added a little formatting here to help pick things out.
1. You focused a lot on things like dates and name - historical-type info.
2. You described finding out about society there, nothing about themes or going in after phat lewts.
3. You mentioned 'dramtic scenes' and 'fights' and being 'in between' the other exploration, as-in secondary in importance.
4. The GM kept control of the setting and rules, while the players just hung out in his arena.

Now, as mentioned in the previous thread, nothing here is specifically a Sim technique or Exploratory focus, however, this overall theme of your Techniques, added to your overall focus in Exploration makes this a very Pro-Sim situation. Sure, even with all this in place, you could have played a decidedly Nar or Gam game, but the deck's stacked against that.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is, to me, similar to Ron's essay on "System Matters". The system matters, but so does everything else. Everything matters.
To me, it's a fallacy to say you can have a ton of Techniques, System, Exploration and Social Contract in place that all support a certain CA, and then say that those will have no bearing on what your final CA becomes. Even if you defy that leaning and go to a different CA, they're still going to make a mark on it.

If someone disagrees, I would like to find some example to the contrary. Find me an example of a cohesive, functioning game that has the majority of it's components slated towards a certain CA(CA1), yet the play itself ended up in another CA(CA2), without having CA1 even as a 'Secondary'.

I don't think it's possible outside of theory, personally.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on January 24, 2008, 06:22:41 PM

Well I think your missing something Reithan.  Frank gift wrapped it for you in the way he presented it and the fact that he mentioned it was a sim game in the previous thread plus he added it in his conclusion.  Even then he's right that the short descriptions he gave could mean or describe any CA, his description could work for a very nar game of Heroquest as easily as it did his sim game of Vampire.

Now he also said a lot of things like, "We also had intense relationships, both PC/PC and PC/NPC. These relationships were subject to changes, and so were our characters’ personalities. There was internal conflict, not only the classic Vampire one, but also a religious one on top (for my character)." This could easily suggest his game was narrativist taken on it's own. 

Or,

"In that game, we had exiting combat with interesting rules strategies. We plotted sophisticated intrigues and showed a lot of guts in staging those against much more powerful foes. All that was fun, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave it out." This easily suggests gamist.

So you see simple statements thrown into a bigger conversation can gum up the gears.  You see one of the above and think he's talking gamism or nar but he's not. 

I do believe getting a better idea of what CA your group is going for would help your discussion on getting characters invested in a community.  But it cant just be stated that we want x you have to show what your group wants based on actions the players have taken towards the game and things they really seem to enjoy about it. 

Frank started this thread so I dont want to derail it on him but I think this may be what he was going for with it.  I'll let Frank decide if this is a derail or not so I wont post again till he responds.  What I'd ask from you Reithan is you could give a summary of your game similar to the form Frank used.  Social contract is big - who are the players in your group and what's your relationship with them.  Give us more on the exploration - what kind of situations do the pc's find themselves in, what are the most memorable ones that you think the whole group enjoyed.  Techniques and ephemera can help as well - when did the dice come out, are suggest from the other players allowed?

Another thing I'd ask is this, You want community to matter in this game but why?  How do you see a strong player investment in community fitting back into what your group enjoys about the game?




Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 07:08:09 PM
Well I think your missing something Reithan.  Frank gift wrapped it for you in the way he presented it and the fact that he mentioned it was a sim game in the previous thread plus he added it in his conclusion.  Even then he's right that the short descriptions he gave could mean or describe any CA, his description could work for a very nar game of Heroquest as easily as it did his sim game of Vampire.
[...]
So you see simple statements thrown into a bigger conversation can gum up the gears.  You see one of the above and think he's talking gamism or nar but he's not.
I get what you're saying here, but I'm saying, look at the bigger picture. Sure he had 1-2 gamist things there, and he had 2-3 Narr things, but he had 4+ Sim leaning Techniques right there. So, overall, the trend in his playstyle was towards Sim.

Thus, his group would more EASILY be playing Sim here. Sure he COULD play Nar, or even Gamist. But it would require working AROUND those techniques, rather than just letting them do their thing.

I'll just refer back to Ron's "System Matters" article for an example of what I'm talking about - I think I'm citing it correctly here.

He said there, that a system that lent itself to one CA well COULD be shoehorned into another - but why bother? Why not just play a game more suited to what you want to be playing? In short, why try to do long-range sniping with a shotgun? Just use a rifle! Sure, shotguns are great, but for long range accuracy you'll end up modding it to hell, when you could have just picked up a rifle to start with.

I do believe getting a better idea of what CA your group is going for would help your discussion on getting characters invested in a community.
[...]
What I'd ask from you Reithan is you could give a summary of your game similar to the form Frank used.  Social contract is big - who are the players in your group and what's your relationship with them.  Give us more on the exploration - what kind of situations do the pc's find themselves in, what are the most memorable ones that you think the whole group enjoyed.  Techniques and ephemera can help as well - when did the dice come out, are suggest from the other players allowed?

Another thing I'd ask is this, You want community to matter in this game but why?  How do you see a strong player investment in community fitting back into what your group enjoys about the game?
Sure, I think this is a good idea, too. I'll see what I can do. It might not be as good as Frank's, though.

Social Contract: We're a group of players that met over an online MMO and after our guild in that game broke up after a few months we decided we had a friendship worth keeping around and looked into other things to do together. As such, we now play other online games together, as well as 2 RPGs that we play using a combination of MSN Messenger and Ventrillo voice chat. We're all adults (18+).

Exploration: The characters came into the game as newly indoctrinated into their respective orders and given a 'gift' of an area for their cabal to call its own. This is Monterey, CA. They, so far have met with several supernatural treats in their area, attempted politics with a few different groups and had both alliances and enemies made. (more the latter than the former). They engaged in some intra-party conflict and exploration of adult themes for a while. They tried investigating some local mysteries but gave up on that quickly. They've had their share of loss and gain (still, more the former than the latter).

Techniques and Ephemera: The players and GM collaborated on the setting, the 'goals' for play and the parameters for what was acceptable in characters and their behavior. One of the initally created characters was secretly (only that player and the GM knew) a hostile NPC spy. Dice rolls, due to restrictions from internet play are handled soley by the GM, and some of the players don't understand the system used very well. Rules apply MAINLY as written, with the exception of a few minor house rules to allow interesting character concepts and to eliminate some rules loopholes and confusions. Combat is actually fairly rare (maybe 1 out of 5 sessions) but battled intensely and in-detail when it happens. Willpower is spent often, as is mana. Most spells cast are improvised, though some characters are learning the importance of rotes in relation to character effectiveness.
Social roles are only called for in key situations or situations where one or the other party is directly opposed to the other (anything else is just sort of moot anyway). Scene framing is handled mainly by common suggestion and is open to all participants, though any element that's in-question usually comes down to a die-roll on a relevant attribute (Say, Intelligence+Streetwise to find an underground rave downtown). NPCs are authored mainly by the GM, as a default, though players may contribute as well.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 11:10:10 PM
Quote
To me, it's a fallacy to say you can have a ton of Techniques, System, Exploration and Social Contract in place that all support a certain CA, and then say that those will have no bearing on what your final CA becomes.

The point is: They don't. That description of Techniques and Ephemera up there? Fits 100% for the Reign game I'll play in tonight. Which is totally Narrativist.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 25, 2008, 12:58:43 AM
On a more thoughtful note: There are of course certain combinations of Techniques that are streamlined toward a certain Creative Agenda, though I’m hesitant to talk about this because I feel this point is often overrated. Most Techniques and even combinations of Techniques are ambiguous. But say we have such coherent a bundle of Techniques, like e.g. Dogs in the Vineyard played as written. The mere fact that these Techniques are applied isn’t enough to assess a Narrativist CA. You still need to look at the stuff I mentioned, at the communicated appreciation, on a sustained level.

I have seen groups go through the procedures of Dogs and just never ignite, because the players weren’t interested. That’s also why I stated, in the parent thread, the “genuine interest” of the players as prerequisite. Reithan, in your game, I think it might be the other way round: The interest is there, and the Techniques don’t work out. That’s why I suggested to focus on working out the Techniques issue and not to worry about CA at the moment. Caldis is right: Figuring that out is important, but I suggest it’s the second step, not the first one, and that it will come pretty naturally once you get over the Techniques issue.

As far as fictional content and CA goes, here’s a quote from “Narrativism: Story Now” by Ron Edwards:
Quote
Let's say that the following transcript, which also happens to be a story, arose from one or more sessions of role-playing.
Lord Gyrax rules over a realm in which a big dragon has begun to ravage the countryside. The lord prepares himself to deal with it, perhaps trying to settle some internal strife among his followers or allies. He also meets this beautiful, mysterious woman named Javenne who aids him at times, and they develop a romance. Then he learns that she and the dragon are one and the same, as she's been cursed to become a dragon periodically in a kind of Ladyhawke situation, and he must decide whether to kill her. Meanwhile, she struggles to control the curse, using her dragon-powers to quell an uprising in the realm led by a traitorous ally. Eventually he goes to the Underworld instead and confronts the god who cursed her, and trades his youth to the god to lift the curse. He returns, and the curse is detached from her, but still rampaging around as a dragon. So they slay the dragon together, and return as a couple, still united although he's now all old, to his home.
The real question: after reading the transcript and recognizing it as a story, what can be said about the Creative Agenda that was involved during the role-playing? The answer is, absolutely nothing.
By the way, I’m fine with talking about Reithan’s game in this thread, I actually think that’s a great idea. But I’ll be off for a while now, I really have to cut on my internet time at work.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 25, 2008, 11:36:17 AM
Quote
To me, it's a fallacy to say you can have a ton of Techniques, System, Exploration and Social Contract in place that all support a certain CA, and then say that those will have no bearing on what your final CA becomes.

The point is: They don't. That description of Techniques and Ephemera up there? Fits 100% for the Reign game I'll play in tonight. Which is totally Narrativist.
To me, by definition they HAVE TO.

An Ephemera is ANYTHING done at the table. A technique is a combination/grouping of those Emphemera.

So, to say that a CA has absolutely nothing to do with anything that actually happened during a game, you may as well just say "Well, you just sort of randomly assign a CA - they're not really determined by anything."

If you had a coherent CA - it was do to SOMETHING that was going on in your games. Those somethings are Ephemera. Those Ephemera can be classed into groups as Techniques.

So, if your CA is determined by Ephemera and Ephemera can be grouped in Techniques, then YES Techniques determine your CA.

The point, I think, and I could be totally off-base here, that Ron & others have consistantly made is that your CA is not the sum of all your Ephemera - just the sum of the ones that were important to your group. So, you can have a lot of false leads these...you can reference TONS of Techniques and Ephemera and if you don't make any note of which ones were REALLY important to your group then it all means nothing.

What I was saying above though it you had a detectable 'theme' or 'trend' to your Techniques. That theme would influence your CA. Now, sure, you could easily have just been doing all that stuff by coincidence and in fact the only 'important' bits to you was the Nar bits and thus you played a Nar game...but as the majority of the mentioned Techniques trended towards Sim, I guessed (and in this case correctly) that the CA was Sim.

Yes, it's still a guess. But, it's an educated guess.

Similarly, if someone said "My group's interested in exploring Nar play" then you could probably suggest some Systems, Techniques or Ephemera to try that would help support or enhance that style of CA.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 25, 2008, 01:04:44 PM
Hey Reithan, let me set one thing straight: My purpose in this thread was not to put up some thesis for argument. The purpose was me explaining the Big Model to you, because you expressed your frustration at not understanding, and I'm pretty sure I do understand. Of course, you'll have to believe me that I understand (maybe this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=23094.msg228681#msg228681) helps). You don't have to give me that credit, and if you don't, that will be fair enough and I won't be offended. In that case, however, I suggest that someone else (specifically, Ron) should take over, because then it makes little sense for me to go on. Your call.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 25, 2008, 03:04:48 PM
Hey Reithan, let me set one thing straight: My purpose in this thread was not to put up some thesis for argument. The purpose was me explaining the Big Model to you, because you expressed your frustration at not understanding, and I'm pretty sure I do understand. Of course, you'll have to believe me that I understand (maybe this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=23094.msg228681#msg228681) helps). You don't have to give me that credit, and if you don't, that will be fair enough and I won't be offended. In that case, however, I suggest that someone else (specifically, Ron) should take over, because then it makes little sense for me to go on.
Ok, Frank. I wasn't replying on your assumed basis of me arguing with your, or competing with you or trying to proove you wrong.
Though, your assertation that basically your points are not up for discussion is, imo, not a very good standpoint. Anyone who is unwilling to discuss his beliefs is fundamentally weakening them.

Now, I do believe you understand what you're saying - or I wouldn't even be paying attention to you, but I don't believe I have to take everything you say as gospel without explaination.

The only point I'm trying to discuss here, which you seem either unwilling or able to do at this moment is already said in your very own post that you just referenced:

Attention: Creative Agenda is the full picture! It is recognized when watching a group play for a longer instance, with special attention to moments where specific priorities may conflict with each other. That’s not to say that any action by a player at any time during play needs to fit a scheme or something.
You said it, Ron agreed with it, and I'm trying to draw attention to it, yet now somehow I'm the badguy? I don't get that.

I'm saying what you've both already said: Creative agenda includes all points and parts of a roleplaying experience. That includes System. That includes Techniques. That includes Ephemera and Color and all the other great things I've read about in the Big Model. I didn't come up with this idea. I'm just regurgitating it.

What I have come up with on my own, which, I think, is a pretty basic inference, is that as all of these things are peices of your CA, they all have an EFFECT on your CA. Each individual peice itself may not innately determine what your CA is - but they ALL affect it.

To that end, many times Ron, in his articles has mentioned Techniques or System which more readily support or enhance a given CA than another. Sure you can use them for other CAs and they may work just fine, but they have a 'bias' toward a given CA.

My inference here, is that if you look at "the full picture" (your definition of a CA) and notice an overal trend in the bias of the individual pieces of the group's roleplaying experience, then that overall bias will have a large effect on the group's CA. I really don't see this as reaching very far, logically. Take, for instance your assertation that one should pay "attention to moments where specific priorities may conflict with each other". Any Technique or Ephemera used by a group has been used for a reason. Either it's the only one they know, it's the best one they like, or it's just better than the others they know for the given gaming experience. Given that each piece MAY (not always) display a bias towards a certain CA, it's logical to assume that, over time, a group playing under a given CA will tend to swap out pieces of their full picture for other pieces that will better support their CA - pieces with a 'bias' towards that CA.

So, if one looks at a game that's gone on for more than just a short time, or at a game played by players with more than a couple GOOD games under their belts collectively, one should assume that most of the Techniques and Ephemera and whatnot that are in play are there for a reason. Those reasons may also include that individual component's 'bias'. So, if you notice an overarching trend in the 'bias' of all peices, then, I think, logically, you would be able to make a fairly educated guess that this 'bias' indicates the group's CA.

If I have made a mistake in my logic somewhere here, or if you find that this does not hold up under scrutiny I would, and I mean this completely honestly and seriously, LOVE to have it pointed out.

NOTE: By 'pointed out' I do NOT mean just going, "NO, you're wrong!" But, to actually explain it to me WHY, HOW or WHERE I have become flawed in my thinking.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 25, 2008, 04:56:34 PM
The question is: Do we talk about the Big Model, state of the art, what it says, period? Then there is no argument, there is explanation. Or are we talking about whether the Big Model is a good model to begin with? I'm not interested in that.

I don't know, I thought my example was a really good one because it has those parts in it that, with your technical approach, look like Gam and Nar telltales when they really aren't. I used this example for exactly that reason: Because I think it illustrates well how CA is an underlying principle, and not "what happens each single moment". It's more like "what it keeps coming back to". If that example doesn't work for you, because you went right for what you perceived as the Sim telltales and ignored the rest... hm. I guess then I don't know what else to say.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: contracycle on January 25, 2008, 05:17:59 PM
I don't think the question is "is the model good" but rather "how does one apply it".  How does one go from identifying a CA and then deciding to do or not do a specific thing to support or encourage it?  If CA cannot be related to techniques or ephemera in any meaningful sense then we do not really have a useful tool.  At present it seems the only function of CA is to apply a label to an observed behaviour, which is all very well for broad descriptive purposes but what actual functional USE is it?  We don't seem able to say, if I want to design a game or alter a play style, I should seek out these techniques and avoid those.  And if we can't do that, how can we have a discussion amongst real people as to what to do, what to change, or why something should be changed?


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 25, 2008, 06:05:19 PM
The question is: Do we talk about the Big Model, state of the art, what it says, period? Then there is no argument, there is explanation. Or are we talking about whether the Big Model is a good model to begin with? I'm not interested in that.
Agreed, 100%. I do think it's a good model. I can see great examples of it in play in just about any successful game I've ever run or played in.

I don't know, I thought my example was a really good one because it has those parts in it that, with your technical approach, look like Gam and Nar telltales when they really aren't. I used this example for exactly that reason: Because I think it illustrates well how CA is an underlying principle, and not "what happens each single moment". It's more like "what it keeps coming back to". If that example doesn't work for you, because you went right for what you perceived as the Sim telltales and ignored the rest... hm. I guess then I don't know what else to say.
Did you even read through my last post or just skim it and go "tl;dr, lol!"
This is the exact point I went over in my last post. I am NOT talking about individual Techniques or Ephemera. I am NOT talking about a "single moment".
I AM talking about "what it keeps coming back to" and the "underlying principles".
I did NOT ignore the other parts that weren't Sim-related. I did NOT skip straight to the Sim.
Please re-read my previous post. PLEASE.

I don't think the question is "is the model good" but rather "how does one apply it".  How does one go from identifying a CA and then deciding to do or not do a specific thing to support or encourage it?  If CA cannot be related to techniques or ephemera in any meaningful sense then we do not really have a useful tool.  At present it seems the only function of CA is to apply a label to an observed behaviour, which is all very well for broad descriptive purposes but what actual functional USE is it?  We don't seem able to say, if I want to design a game or alter a play style, I should seek out these techniques and avoid those.  And if we can't do that, how can we have a discussion amongst real people as to what to do, what to change, or why something should be changed?
BANG! Spot on. Fucking bullseye. Two thumbs up on this one.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on January 25, 2008, 11:43:01 PM

I think this discussion is veering off onto a weird little side trip that isnt going to be very fruitful.  I'd suggest we move past the theoretical discussion of the model and get back to the actual games.

What I see different between Frank's description of his game and yours is an agenda, a force that's driving the whole group towards a common goal.  The techniques and ephemera his group is using may be supportive of that goal but they dont define the goal.  The goal exists beyond the techniques, it uses the techniques to achieve something.  I think that may be the problem with discussing your game, you (or the group) dont seem to have a goal or at least not one that's clearly defined.  You are looking for techniques that will sort out the problems but if your group doesnt share a goal and you just try and find techniques to suit a goal of your choosing you may just end up butting heads.  I see that in the parent thread discussion on how the players turtle and avoid becoming part of the community whenever any possible threat shows up.  I also see you wanting to get the players to invest in community but I dont really see you saying why you want that investment?  How does investing in the community relate back to any agenda you've been trying to aim for?

Does this make sense to you?  I dont want to come across as patronizing but we really need to move past this discussion on what constitutes agenda to move on with your game.  If we need to go over this yet I'm willing to continue but I'd rather get on to discussing that summary I asked you to provide.

To be clear the big error I see in your thoughts (and it may just be the way you are wording it not meshing with the way I hear things) is that techniques are part of the creative agenda when they arent, they are tools that support it.  Those same tools used slightly differently may support another agenda.  We can make out CA by seeing how the tools are used and inferring the reason why they were used that way but just by knowing what they are they dont really tell us that much.



 


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 26, 2008, 03:01:14 AM
Gareth, you are right, and I am not a Big Model fanboy if you believe it. I'm not saying there should be no talk about what you are pointing at and I certainly have my own thoughts on it. I'm saying three things instead: 1) I'm not interested in that, for personal reasons, which I ask the participants in this thread to respect. 2) Without actual play examples, statements about what "affects" which just hang there, without much meaning. 3) Before one starts questioning the Model, one should first understand what it really says.

Reithan, again, I understand your frustration. Boy have I been pissed by all these guys telling me I didn't understand when I first came to the Forge. Of course there is a connection between Techniques and Creative Agenda. But if I re-read some of your comments from the parent thread, and what you say here, there is a missing link. The missing link is the Reward Cycle. Check me on this:

Role-playing, as an activity, consists of four layers of the Big Model: Social Contract, Exploration, Techniques and Ephemera. All of these are present, to a degree, when you roleplay, as an activity. Creative Agenda may or may not be present and shared. So just because you are doing certain things on Ephemera or Techniques level which seem to lead to a certain goal, may mean different things:

* You are just using that Technique and heading that perceived goal out of habit. For example, not telling a player what his character doesn't know, because it "has to be like that" so you can "immerse".

* You are doing something, on Ephemera or Techniques level, because you like it and it's fun, but there is no direct connection between it and your Creative Agenda. For example, a whitty in-character dialogue that has everybody laughing.

* There is a specific feedback between you doing whatever you are doing and the game's long term pay-off, it ties into your Creative Agenda. In my above play Example, talking to a major NPC and learning new things about them and their history, for example.

(None-exhaustive list.)

I'm talking about observing a group in play and assessing Creative Agenda. What you say about how Techniques are relevant ("System does matter", basically), is all nice but not particularly helpful when you're still assessing CA. Once you have done that, and are sure there is a Shared CA and which one, then you can tell what Techniques work in that context, which ones are broken, which ones are fun but not relevant to CA, and which ones that are not applied yet maybe might fit in well.

In the parent thread, I suggested to focus on Techniques instead of Creative Agenda for a different reason, which I've explained over there: Because I think that your primary problem is killing those die-hard habits, and when you do, then Creative Agenda will work out given a few sessions. The problem is that I am working on a very thin base of information and a lot of assumptions, which is why I may be totally wrong about it, which is why for explanatory purposes, I posted about my own game instead. I mean hey, I didn't even know it was a VoIP game when I posted to the parent thread.

So if your purpose in this thread is to understand what you are missing right now, check out Reward Cycle, as a concept. The difference between play with a Shared CA in place and other play (incoherent or just "agenda-less") is a reliable Reward Cycle. And in those first three parapgraphs where I talk about my game, there is no information with regard to Reward Cycles. Which is why, if you guessed it was Sim from those three paragraphs, that was a guess but nothing more. There was no way to be sure about it. Cool?

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 26, 2008, 04:15:44 AM
Oh, and also, I'd like to second this, word by word:

To be clear the big error I see in your thoughts (and it may just be the way you are wording it not meshing with the way I hear things) is that techniques are part of the creative agenda when they arent, they are tools that support it.  Those same tools used slightly differently may support another agenda.  We can make out CA by seeing how the tools are used and inferring the reason why they were used that way but just by knowing what they are they dont really tell us that much.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: contracycle on January 26, 2008, 04:31:18 AM
Frank, there are still serious contradictions in this argument.  In the parent thread, you among others made suggestions that, for example, this group may be engaged in 'sim by habit', and that this is not serving or is contradictory to their goals.  But in this thread, citing the example of your Reign game, you have said that any given technique can be used in support of any given agenda anyway.

Caldis makes a (reasonably) fair point about intent but we already know from Reithans account that he has openly and explicitly discussed CA with his group; thus, their intent is established.  Now why is it that this intent on the part of Reithan's group does not overcome any notional difficulties arising from the techniques in the same way your Reign game can?

This makes no sense, it is self-contradictory.  Furthermore, if given techniques are neither here nor there in terms of CA, we should have been able to kick straight into discussions of techniques that supported the specific goal of "creating a community" without any diversion into CA or suggestions that Reithan is failing to understand his own group's priorities and dynamics.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 26, 2008, 04:57:54 AM
This is not an argument. This is an explanation of how to assess a CA, using my game as an example. In the other thread, I make suggestions about Reithan's game, knowing fully well that I may or may not be right. My suggestions in the other thread, as I have been repeating all over, have NOTHING (N-O-T-H-I-N-G) to do with CA. They have to do with a disconnect between applied Techniques and stated goals of fictional content (Exploration).,

See, this is exactly what I predicted would happen if we start talking about the two things all at once. Now it happened. It's a total mess and nothing constructive whatsoever is coming of it. It's a waste of time and nerve.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 26, 2008, 05:15:25 AM
Also, FUCK IT, Gareth:

Quote
any given technique can be used in support of any given agenda anyway

That’s ridiculous. I never said that and that should be obvious to you, being an intelligent person and all. Whatever you’re at, understanding me is not it. We cannot have a reasonable conversation this way. Please, either get serious about this or get out. Thanks.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on January 26, 2008, 07:44:38 AM
Caldis makes a (reasonably) fair point about intent but we already know from Reithans account that he has openly and explicitly discussed CA with his group; thus, their intent is established.  Now why is it that this intent on the part of Reithan's group does not overcome any notional difficulties arising from the techniques in the same way your Reign game can?

Because I dont think that intent is established.  It may have been discussed but look at this post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25560.msg246495#msg246495).  His group is flitting from stated CA to CA, they dont really know what they want.  He even says it's hard to tell what they are aiming for anymore.  I can make a guess based on actions in the game so far but until we look more closely at his game and his group I dont feel comfortable that I can blurt out advice with much hope of it being relevant or received.  In the parent thread Paul Czege handed out some great advice but look at his last post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25560.30).  He's stated right there that it's about more than just finding the right techniques, it's about changing the way you think about gming and getting your players to trust your actions.  That sounds a lot to me like finding a common agenda.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: contracycle on January 26, 2008, 08:20:50 AM
 
Because I dont think that intent is established.  It may have been discussed but look at this post.  His group is flitting from stated CA to CA, they dont really know what they want. [/quote]

Which is quite possible in a given group; a moment of play may indeed so wander, it is the operation of the reward cycle overall, not in any given instance, that determines the CA.

Hence I think this is massively over-pathologised.  The query raised was about specific techniques, not a "my game is totally screwed" problem.  This seems to be a bad habit of such analysis; not every problem is an existential crisis.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 26, 2008, 10:16:56 AM
Ok, I'd like to step back a bit, and try to get this back on a civil note.

I think, to put it in "Forge Terms" this thread is completely 'incoherent'. :P

I'd like to clarify my intent here, and maybe clarify a few things about the 'where I'm coming from' bits. (stuff about my game)

Ok, first, as Caldis said, the group IS flitting from between 2 CAs. HOWEVER, in every discussion we have about what they want out of the game they all throw straight bullseyes at Nar, so I think that intent IS established - but this is open for discussion.

Maybe reward cycle is the disconnect here, I don't know - I've never been fully brought up to speed on all the intricacies of Reward Cycles, I don't think.

Also, Contracycle did bring up a good point - the game is not totally screwed. It has it's ups and downs - but over the course of a YEAR playing, I think that's fairly normal. Overall we all have a good time and look forward to the games. This is more of a question on "My players want X, I want X - we've discussed it and talked about X...but we KEEP GETTING Y!? WHY??"

One thing I would like to point out, though, Frank, and I'm not trying to poke you and rile you, I'm just trying to get you to further explain yourself, as you said this thread is for explainations, anyway:
You said Gareth (though I don't know who that is, I think Caldis? lol) was wrong that you'd never said that any given technique can be used to support any given agenda. I don't think you've said exactly that, but you have repeatedly stated that techniques do not matter to the CA. Any technique can be used with any CA. This seems like the closest shades of grey imaginable, and I'd like it if you could explain a little further to clarify your intent here, if you don't mind.

So, to clarify, one more time, want I wanted was not "ZOMG! FIX MY BROKEN GAME!" what I wanted was "My group keeps doing X, even though they say they want Y, what can I do?"

The obvious answer is: nothing - if the game works, why screw with it?

My answer, even the GAME works and we have fun - I think if we had the fun everone says they want, we'd have MORE fun. I'm trying to IMPROVE my game here, not FIX it.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 26, 2008, 01:13:15 PM
Hi Reithan, I have repeatedly said that looking at Techniques doesn't work for identifying CA. That's a huge difference to they don't matter to CA. (Gareth, by the way, is contracycle.)

I am trying desperately to keep two topics apart that do not have anything to do with each other, but it does not seem to work out. One topic is your game and how to improve it. I must admit that I had not imagined it as a "played one year, fun overall" game from your first brief description. My idea was that the other thread was directed at helping you, as you put it, get X instead of Y, and I hope I made some useful suggestions. But then you started talking GNS, and from how you were talking, it appeared to me that you had not fully, y'know, figured it out.

That's why I started this thread, because you asked me to explain. I tried to show you how to go about finding out a group's Creative Agenda, if they play by a shared one. The key is looking at how positive reinforcement of certain things work within the group. The Techniques you were talking about? They may support a certain Creative Agenda, or they may be part of play without particularly supporting the group's Creative Agenda. You'll only ever find out if you look at those reinforcements. Then there are of course also Techniques that openly conflict with a given Creative Agenda, and the best way to identify that is to look at negative reactions by the players towards these things in play. But Creative Agenda is not the way you play. It's the purpose of your play.

So, well, I don't know, I didn't expect this discussion to go south that way. Let's try to get it back on track. I guess talk about your group should best go back to the other thread. I thought that Caldis' idea of doing a "CA analysis" of your group in this thread was pretty good, but it seems it wasn't after all. So, if anybody has any questions about the Vampire game, please feel free to ask. For talk about Reithan's Mage game, I suggest the parent thread is the place to continue. Maybe you should qoute that last post over there, too.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 26, 2008, 03:57:34 PM
My idea was that the other thread was directed at helping you, as you put it, get X instead of Y, and I hope I made some useful suggestions. But then you started talking GNS, and from how you were talking, it appeared to me that you had not fully, y'know, figured it out.
Yeah, you made some great suggestions, I think. Most of the ones there were at very least pretty good. I've started trying to use a few of them already and they seem to be working out pretty good.

The key is looking at how positive reinforcement of certain things work within the group.
Ok - that's a good idea. Not sure if you wanna discuss that here, or back in the other thread, though.

The Techniques you were talking about? They may support a certain Creative Agenda, or they may be part of play without particularly supporting the group's Creative Agenda. You'll only ever find out if you look at those reinforcements. Then there are of course also Techniques that openly conflict with a given Creative Agenda, and the best way to identify that is to look at negative reactions by the players towards these things in play. But Creative Agenda is not the way you play. It's the purpose of your play.
Ok - cool, this is probably the best explaination of what I was trying to get you to explain so far, lol.
I think what the confusion here comes down to is my poor understanding of the 'reward cycle'. Would that be on-topic for this thread? Talking about reward cycles and how they help to "Asses Creative Agenda"? (it IS the thread title. :P)

I thought that Caldis' idea of doing a "CA analysis" of your group in this thread was pretty good, but it seems it wasn't after all.
I just probably did it wrong. It still seems like a good idea to have more than one example in this thread. Maybe you can guide me back on-topic?


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on January 27, 2008, 08:33:21 AM

Ok it looks like we've made it to a good spot to start the discussion of CA and it's relevance.  The initial talk was based on community and getting players invested in that community, but that can mean different things depending on several factors including CA.  For instance a gamist could become invested in a community for the resources it provides or he can see it as win condition to protect the community.  A simulationist could see it as structures to test his dream against,how do mages deal with mundane political forces?  A narratavist can see it as a perfect tool to question premise, check out any of the Dogs in the Vineyard towns if you need examples.

Another way to say this would be that the term "invest" can mean different things to different people.  Depending on why you want the players to invest in the town and the CA you are aiming for you will have to take a different approach to creating the community and getting the players into it.   Some of the advice you received was great and can even work in a general 'building the setting' basis for all exploration but some is more tied to certain CA's.  Paul's advice about changing the way you think of GMing is definitely aiming you towards narrativism, which you said you wanted but I'm not sure based on some other things you said about the game and while it's good advice Mage isnt seen as generally supportive of Narrativist play so you may be working against the grain. 

Let's look at that summary of your game I asked you for.



Social Contract: We're a group of players that met over an online MMO and after our guild in that game broke up after a few months we decided we had a friendship worth keeping around and looked into other things to do together. As such, we now play other online games together, as well as 2 RPGs that we play using a combination of MSN Messenger and Ventrillo voice chat. We're all adults (18+).

So you play via internet chat and you've never met each other face to face right?  That's not a problem but it is a different social makeup than most groups I've been in.  I've never played a game with everyone on chat, had one person on a chat program while the rest of us were around face to face but not for long enough to get a feel for how it would work long term.

More relevant to CA however I'd ask what MMO (or MMO's)  you were involved in and what aspect of the game you really enjoyed.  Was it grouped combat, doing quests, dungeons, did you speak in character at all, role play, crafting, making money, were you usually teamed up or was their a significant amount of soloing time?

One other general question, how long are your game sessions?

Quote
Exploration: The characters came into the game as newly indoctrinated into their respective orders and given a 'gift' of an area for their cabal to call its own. This is Monterey, CA. They, so far have met with several supernatural treats in their area, attempted politics with a few different groups and had both alliances and enemies made. (more the latter than the former). They engaged in some intra-party conflict and exploration of adult themes for a while. They tried investigating some local mysteries but gave up on that quickly. They've had their share of loss and gain (still, more the former than the latter).

I've never played Mage and am not very familiar with WOD so I'll definitely miss out on the intricacies of the setting but I think I know enough to make some comments. 

It's modern day, there's a lot of political intrigue going on.  I know in Vampire there is the Masquerade to keep themselves hidden from normals, I suspect this is true of Mages as well.  First question then, which community is it you want the players to invest in?  Is it a normal human community or is it the greater secret societies community?

How do these supernatural threats appear and what exactly are they threatening?  For that matter who are the characters and how do they relate to each other?  Do they have different sects or are they all united?

From the sound of things they are in a pretty dark situation; more enemies than allies, more loss than gain.  Is that a situation you've worked to bring about or is it something they've created by their actions?

Quote
Techniques and Ephemera: The players and GM collaborated on the setting, the 'goals' for play and the parameters for what was acceptable in characters and their behavior. One of the initally created characters was secretly (only that player and the GM knew) a hostile NPC spy. Dice rolls, due to restrictions from internet play are handled soley by the GM, and some of the players don't understand the system used very well. Rules apply MAINLY as written, with the exception of a few minor house rules to allow interesting character concepts and to eliminate some rules loopholes and confusions. Combat is actually fairly rare (maybe 1 out of 5 sessions) but battled intensely and in-detail when it happens. Willpower is spent often, as is mana. Most spells cast are improvised, though some characters are learning the importance of rotes in relation to character effectiveness.
Social roles are only called for in key situations or situations where one or the other party is directly opposed to the other (anything else is just sort of moot anyway). Scene framing is handled mainly by common suggestion and is open to all participants, though any element that's in-question usually comes down to a die-roll on a relevant attribute (Say, Intelligence+Streetwise to find an underground rave downtown). NPCs are authored mainly by the GM, as a default, though players may contribute as well.

Could you clarify in what ways you collaborated on the setting and especially on what you settled on for acceptable characters and behaviour?  The spy character as a secret, how was that handled when it was revealed?  Was there any grumbling or hard feelings or did the players move on? 

Another thing you mentioned in the other thread was deaths in this game.  Several seemed to be brought on by player dissatisfaction with the characters so they killed off the character to make way for a new one.  Can you say why they were unsatisfied with the characters?  How did the new characters differ from the old?  Was there a big change of focus and have the new characters been more satifactory?

Lots of things to mull over there so far so I'll stop for now.  If you think of any more information you want to impart that will give a clearer picture of your game and how the players are involved with it please do, especially anything the helps with the idea of community investment.  Do you remember any incidents in game where they were directly involved with the community?  What worked, what didnt?


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 27, 2008, 10:44:51 AM
Sadly, I still haven't really gotten a chance to check out DitV. I've been looking into picking up a few more RPG books recently, both for insight on things to pull into my game I'm running, and for more ideas on how games systems can be set up for the one I'm making. So - is there somewhere I can see these DitV towns? Or do I need to get the book?

I would agree about Mage not being supportive of Nar play...if we were talking about Mage: the Ascension. That was 'old' World of Darkness. A while back (not sure on the actuall date) White-Wolf pulled the old World of Darkness play setting to a close as it'd drifted rather far from their vision of it, and also because any good story needs an end and they'd been foreshadowing one for a long time. They then came back with a 'new' World of Darkness. All the books and rules completelt re-imagined and rebuilt. There are some familiar faces and some of the system mechanics are similar, but it is a completely new animal.

That being said, the new World of Darkness book do provide a lot of good material for a group that wants to persue a Nar agenda. They include: Virtue/Vice system, Concept, Theme and Mood.

Each WOD book now include a section on the "Theme" and "Mood" the developers had in mind when they crafted it, as well as how they envisioned those being explored by the players and what they may mean. For example, the Theme of Mage is: "Power Corrupts" and the Mood is "Ancient Mystery"

Concept for each character is determined at creation and is basically a small one-phrase blurb about "who your character is". In terms of their personality, skills & generall meaning, to you. Like, to pull examples from my group, "Well-mannered Mechanic", "Passionate Occultist" or "Morbid Assassin." Concept is something that old WOD had - but it was a tool in a vacuum. It didn't tie into anything and most players simply ignored it. It's, honestly not much better now, but it does feed into a new System element: Virtue/Vice.

Virtue/Vice is also chosen at character creation and it's basically what your character's good and bad natures are. The Virtues are the 7 heavenly Virtues, while the Vices are the 7 deadly sins. So if you'd like to play your character as someone with an indomitable spirit of Hope, someone who almost always can see the possible glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, though he doesn't always have the strength to reach for it...That could be Hope/Sloth. Anyway, it gives you a very clear and usable way to establish what Themes you'd like to explore with your character.

Ok, moving along, don't want to spend all day on that...Yes and no to your next point. We do play online, but some of us have met face to face. 2 players are bf/gf and I've met one of the other players.

We've actually all played a lot of MMOs together, the one we all started on and met each other in, though, was "Lineage 2." It's a 'Korean Grinder' if you know the lingo (we didn't at the time, lol) and focuses on in-game politics between player factions. Players form "clans" which can battle to take control of castles & towns, though due to the game mechanics it's fairly improbably for this to be possible with only one clan. Players can also form "alliances" of clans to help. Then, the world is also pvp-enabled (though any pvp outside of seiges levies penalties on the participants). So basically, the game is set up such that players, to participate fully in the game, must form clans. Clans must form alliances, and even then, alliances are constantly vying against each other for power and wealth, so very intricate and impression social and political arrangements form in game. It's really very fascinating, IMHO.

Our game sessions usually last from 8pm CST till about 1-3am CST. So, 5-7 hours. This usually includes at least 1 hour of 'goofing off' at the beginning, where nothing game-related has happened yet, just conversation, so it's more like 4-6 hours.

Yes, in Mage, the players must keep themselves out of the view of mortals, for roughly 3 reasons.
1. Normal people, by their scrutiny, make magic screw up. So mortals around makes magic very dangerous to mages.
2. At least 1 Mage faction's creedo says that mortals should not learn of magic - so going against that earns their ire very quickly.
3. Mages try to hide their "true names" (birth name), because names have power, and mortals tend to ask for such name, or even already know them. (i.e: someone you went to HS with).

Our main goal, I suppose would be interacting with the Mage community, though interacting with the mortal community is fine, as well, and I think at least player's started moving in this direction since the first thread was started (thanks for the tips!).

The threats used so far have been, by-and-large threats to the community as a whole, or threats at least, to their area. There's been one or two threats that were directed entirely at the player group, but this has been the exception, rather than the rule.

The characters are related by situation, allegiance and proximity, mainly. They're usually under a common threat or situation, which has usually been what's been used to draw in new characters to the player group. They are now bound by allegiance as they're all sworn in to a cabal. They are also related by proximity, too, as they're also all staying in the same building at the moment.

They are also incidentally related in one other way: Vice. 3/4 (5th player's still remaking his new character) all share the same Vice.

The dark situation they're in is almost exactly as you described. More enemies than allies and more threats than gains. The answer to why? Both. It is the "World of Darkness" so, both I and the players, have introduced enemies and threats at every turn, though arguably any of these could have been turned to their advantage or at very least defeated or diffused. So far though, they seem like their default answer is just to fight their way out of most situations, seemingly more out of player habit than anything, and that's been turning out fairly bad for them, so things have gotten pretty grim.

How we collaborated on the game: I came up with a few different locations I was comfortable running the game setting in and we all dicusses and picked one, then we discussed what we wanted the focus of the game to be: mystery, horror, political intrigue. We also agreed that we'd like to focus on elements of plot and drama and whatnot, rather than just playing "kill the monster and take his stuff". We talked about "Why are the characters here?" and came up with the "land grant" sort of scenario. Finally we also discussed what exact sorts of characters would be acceptable, and that was pretty much left open to anything.

The spy character was suggested to me by a couple players and I basically flipped a coin to see who'd get it, as I figured if it fell in line with the group's planned goals for the game, but discussing it with the group would let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. So I told one player "maybe later" and the other "Yes". I gave the spy player some guidlines for how I wanted the character built, in terms of what organization was spying on them, and during the game I'd give him hints and directives from that organization on how to acheive his goals as a spy. When he was finally exposed and the players killed him, they seemed to think that it was a farily awesome little plot-bit and the player who was playing the spy was a little disappointed that he didn't get to take his plot a bit further, but overall he realized the players would have to figure him out eventually, so he was ok with it.

As to player-killed characters for new ones, the first one was a character the player created that he made, through application of Flaws and Derangements entirely paranoid. Like, certifiable. He eventually just got tired of dealing with the character's psychoses and wanted to make a new one. The second one had created a character that was fairly religious and ended up putting himself in a very uncomfortable position for his character and the character basically started becoming depressed and whatnot, and the player decided he wasn't having fun playing a character than was only 2-shades away from suicide.

So far, most of the times the players have been involved with the community it's been in terms of them running in and going "OMG! We did this things and made this thing like 100x worse, you have to come help us!" or it's been with the community going "There's some stuff going down on your territory and it's spilling out into ours, kindly fix it before we beat you about the head and neck." So far it's not really been working, as the players, again, seemingly by habit, keep just treating the community like a tool, a means to an end, rather than just something to interact with and use as a part of their setting and experience.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 28, 2008, 06:15:23 AM
Just posting to let you know that I won't have time to contribute for at least two days. But it seems you're doing fine, so please continue! :-)

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on January 28, 2008, 09:52:46 PM

First things first Dogs Towns.  http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17964.0  The forums for the game are hosted at this site in the Lumpley games forums farther down the front page.   If you truly want to aim for narrativist play it's a good spot to look for clear examples, or you could check actual play for examples.

Secondly I apologize for the delay in my posting, I've actually had to do work at work and the weekend was quite busy.  I cant promise I will be posting much faster in the future but I will keep at this as long as you are still interested.

A few points on you latest post.

Mage supporting Nar --  I see what you are saying about Mage having some tools that can support Nar, however just like we discussed earlier those tools used slightly differently can also support Sim play.  The idea of having a set theme like "Power corrupts" is also indicative of Sim play rather than Nar if it's set in stone.  Narrativism would turn the idea of power corrupting into a question that is asked through play, "Does power corrupt?",  where Simulationism takes it as a given of facet of the game that we will have to deal with. 

Again I havent read the book but it sounds like the game is likely to lead to incoherent play.  It may have tools that can be used to support a CA but it is unclear on what an agenda is or could be or how exactly you would support it.  This forces you to either figure it out on your own or to fall back to what you know, which as you've stated is gamism for your players and quite possibly yourself as a GM.   

MMO experience  --  I know enough about Korean grinders to say that your group is dedicated to their hobby if you managed to get ahead in one. 

Mages and humans --   KS13 touched on this already but I agree with his statements in your original thread.  The mage/humna relation one is really thrown out of wack by their effect on magic.  It's an interesting twist that could be used in a Nar game to question power corrupting by juxtaposing the life as a mage with a life in the human community and seeing the affects of one on the other, but you dont really have any mechanical support for that unless you see it in their vices and virtues?  I can see how your players approaching it in a gamist manner can see it as a danger though.  Walking into town is essentially dropping your weapons and leaving themselves vulnerable.

His suggestion on supporting cast players is something you may want to take a look at as well.


I dont know if you'd be up to it but this talk has provided a lot of information on your game but it hasnt really shown it in it's glory.   Can you tell us of an instance of play, prerferably one where everyone really seemed to enjoy the game?  Some event that came up and the characters had to react to, what the players did and how you reacted to their actions, how it all wrapped up?   



Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 29, 2008, 07:32:41 AM
Don't apologizing for posting late, I'm glad you posted at all. :P

I think we've adequately covered the fact that tool can usually support almost any given CA with the right twist, though maybe I was mistaken thinking Mage's tool are biased towards Nar. They do have suggested theme/mood in each book. However, I'm not really clear on how 'set in stone' the developers intended them to be. There aren't any real RULES set to show that "yes, power ALWAYS corrupts", but it is a theme to the setting/background. It's basically suggested that you explore this theme, though it's also not certain that power will corrupt in play, it's more of a "Watch out, power corrupts, you should be careful to make sure it doesn't corrupt you." So, to me, it's more like "Power Has Corrupted Others - Will it corrupt you, too?" So, there's still a question there.

In terms of the developers STATED goals? All 100% Nar. Everything's couched in Drama terms. A gaming group is called a "troupe", a game is a "Chapter" they explicitly explain "Scenes" in a game, and a game over a period of time is a "Chronicle" and they go over again and again and again "Story and Drama above all else" until it basically becomes a gregorian chant.

MMO - Yeah, we were fairly hardcore into that game at the time, but we've become a lot more casual over time. We originally had a HUGE very tight-knit clan in that game, and we got up to what could be considered "second-string" in terms of political power on our server. But eventually internal conflict within our alliance infected our clan and it all fell apart. Such is the way of politics, I suppose. It was a damn fun ride, though.

Mage/Human relations are 'complicated' in the setting. The 5 main Mage orders use humans in different ways, several of the orders try to do this in a more humanitarian way, but one of the big things that's driven home in the game is Mage ARE human. Sure, you can cast some spells, but you're still a flesh-and-blood mortal man. So, players are encouraged through both rules and color to not stray too far from their humanity and become monsters (power might corrupt, remember). It is easily possible for Mages and humans to coexist and even work together on common goals - but a mage's bigger nastier spells become dangerous and unstable in view of the "sleepers."

Supporting cast characters are actually already worked into the game rules. Players can use XP to buy a merits including: "Allies", "Contacts", "Mentor" and "Retainer" which can give them access to such benefits as he described. These can also be purchased at character creation.

As to an example of "glory" in my game, ah how in-depth are you looking for? I can think of a couple good "AWESOME!" moments there, but I'm not sure how much detail I can remember in-depth.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on January 29, 2008, 07:05:52 PM
In terms of the developers STATED goals? All 100% Nar. Everything's couched in Drama terms. A gaming group is called a "troupe", a game is a "Chapter" they explicitly explain "Scenes" in a game, and a game over a period of time is a "Chronicle" and they go over again and again and again "Story and Drama above all else" until it basically becomes a gregorian chant.

The only problem is that drama does not equal narrativism.  You can have "Story and Drama" with any CA the difference with narrativism is that the themes created by the game are in the hands of the players and that creating those themes is the point of play, address of premise.  If your players want that type of play then you will have to do as Paul suggested, change the way you think about gming.  You cant continue to worry about the setting being dangerous or looking to outside sources as inspiration for play.  What you need to do is get the players into creating those themes.  I think you may be on to something with talk of virtues and vices, I dont know that the limits WW put on their use are really helpful to this.  If you can use the vices & virtues the players chose and team them up with community members as tools to get the players to chose how these attributes define the character then you can have play that will reinforce the community and give you meaningful Nar play.

Again this is a big change and if you are just trying to make your game better and not fix it it may be more effort thant you want to put into it.  The Mage rules dont seem to be really helping you get this type of play, neither for you or for your players.  You might try looking at Sorceror for a similar content game that is narrativist and does treat that corruption issue as a question.

The other option is Simulationist play.  I dont think it's as much a stretch from where you are at, it may in fact be what you are doing now.  If you go for a participationist version you can use surprises and get the players wrapped up in your complex dramatic story.  However this does depend largely on your skill at creating something dramatic they can experience.  A good idea is to take things the players show interest in and wrap it into the dramatic story.  Maybe Frank can give some more detail on Sim technique, in this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25449.0) recent thread he discusses a game that sounded quite dramatic.

Lastly there's always gamism.  Your group does seem to slip into it easily enough.  You can use some of the same skills you would use in Simulationist play for gamism when it comes to creating a dramatic story to take part in.  The focus is a little different on where the players have input.  You can check out this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21227.0) for a good example of gamism with a solid story.   Even if you are not interested in this style of play you should be aware that your players do show signs of thinking this way when they are wary of the unknown.  They dont want to make a mistake and 'lose' because they were too trusting.


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Supporting cast characters are actually already worked into the game rules. Players can use XP to buy a merits including: "Allies", "Contacts", "Mentor" and "Retainer" which can give them access to such benefits as he described. These can also be purchased at character creation.
 

Did anyone buy them though?  If not handing out free ones can give them connections to the community you are seeking. Of course it's where you go from there that is really important.   

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As to an example of "glory" in my game, ah how in-depth are you looking for? I can think of a couple good "AWESOME!" moments there, but I'm not sure how much detail I can remember in-depth.

It doesnt necessarily need to be in depth.  Start with how the situation came up, describe the characters involved, the steps taken to move the situation forward, who pushed it forward, and how it concluded.  The important things to remember and comment on is how you and the other players acted and reacted to make the game move and what made the people involved in the game.   


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on January 29, 2008, 07:32:33 PM
Ok, maybe I'm wrong on this one, but I don't agree with what you're saying at the beginning, here. Just because you're playing for a Nar CA, does NOT mean you can't have a dangerous setting or use outside sources as inspiration, as far as I understand.

To my understanding, Nar/Sim/Gam is a descriptor of your group's basic goal or agenda (Creative AGENDA) to their playing.
The way I've explained this to myself and others is "What wins?"

For example, say I gave a group these questions:

1. Would you rather play a strong character with lots of tactics, powers and abilities who got to travel to cool places and take part in an epic struggle, or play an average character who gets to take part in a striking and in-depth drama that explores themes you're interested in and engages you on a deep creative level?

2. Would you rather play your character to his concept and really get into his skin, take part in all the cool things in a really engaging setting or play a character with a bit less defined background and setting, but a very intriguing story that changes and twists based on player input and lets the players really explore lots of thematic and dramatic elements and really craft an awesome story?

3. Would you rather play a character that takes part in a huge stuggle, has an opportunity to win against great odds and display a great tactical flair, or a normal joe in an awesome setting that you can really identify with and 'get into'?

Basically, at some point the players will have to choose what's MOST important to them. Do you win the fight, or explore your drama and theme? Do you stay true to setting immersion, or bend a little to win the fight? Eventually Gam, Nar & Sim will be at odds in your gameplay. It will happen at some point: which one is more important to you? Which one WINS?

On the other hand, even though Nar wins, it doesn't mean you're not allowed to have any Gam elements in your game, nor does it mean you can't have any Sim elements.
To say we can't have a dangerous setting or use outside inspiration, to me, reads like "Nar or nothing". I don't like that stance.

Quote
Supporting cast characters are actually already worked into the game rules. Players can use XP to buy a merits including: "Allies", "Contacts", "Mentor" and "Retainer" which can give them access to such benefits as he described. These can also be purchased at character creation.
 

Did anyone buy them though?  If not handing out free ones can give them connections to the community you are seeking. Of course it's where you go from there that is really important.

Yes, several people have a couple of those merits. I don't think anyone's gotten "Retainer", but we have a few with "Allies" and "Contacts" and one with "Mentor", so there are some SCC around - they've just been used as tools, mainly though - so hopefully we can move past that.

I'll put up that play description, but I'd like to read your response to this first, just so I know what you're driving at, here.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on February 01, 2008, 07:21:00 AM
To my understanding, Nar/Sim/Gam is a descriptor of your group's basic goal or agenda (Creative AGENDA) to their playing.
The way I've explained this to myself and others is "What wins?"

The problem is if something wins then something else is losing.   You've set up a battlefield where different goals are battling for supremacy and they may tromp all over other priorities to win out.  So while you've expressed interest in creating a community that really engages the player you've alse expressed interest in creating a dangerous setting where smart actions on the part of the players are necessary for their survival.  These two can work together if you make engaging with the community part of the smart actions they can take to survive.  Seeing the community as a source of valuable allies and possilbe enemies where they will have to make smart strategic decisions on who to ally with and who to piss off is viable.  What wont work is trying to get them to engage with the community just to make the world feel more real while they are expecting danger and that whoever they deal with is a possible enemy.

 


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Reithan on February 01, 2008, 03:09:43 PM
These two can work together if you make engaging with the community part of the smart actions they can take to survive.  Seeing the community as a source of valuable allies and possilbe enemies where they will have to make smart strategic decisions on who to ally with and who to piss off is viable.
Yes, that is mostly what I want.

What wont work is trying to get them to engage with the community just to make the world feel more real while they are expecting danger and that whoever they deal with is a possible enemy.
However, I don't think we should be forced to use only political threats just because of it.

I feel that you can play a good nar game, and still include strategic combat. As long as that strategic combat does not overrun the main focus(ii) of play.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on February 02, 2008, 12:01:57 AM
I feel that you can play a good nar game, and still include strategic combat. As long as that strategic combat does not overrun the main focus(ii) of play.

Exactly, does the strategic focus overrun the main focus of play.  In your scenario it seems to be the case.  The players have moved towards gamism and away from narrativism, whether it's a case of the players actually having more interest in gamism or the players and yourself not being familiar with narrativism and not knowing how to funtionally play together in this manner doesnt matter is not important.  What is important is that you've shifted to gamism because Nar isnt working. 

I'd suggest either shifting your focus to a gamist approach and foregtting nar for the moment or else you have to reduce the strategic element and focus on narrativism so you dont confuse your players.


Title: Re: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda
Post by: Caldis on February 02, 2008, 12:32:27 AM

Here's a link that probably better explains what I'm getting at and it seems to relate to your situation.  http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=9812.0