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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Joel P. Shempert on April 05, 2008, 11:03:00 PM



Title: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 05, 2008, 11:03:00 PM
I ran a Shadow of Yesterday one-shot for Portland/Vancouver's Gamestorm con this weekend last. It was my second time running the game. In some ways it went better than the first time, on other ways it was a bit worse. Overall, I had fun and learned a lot.

Like last time, I ran a game smack-dab in the Ammeni-Khale conflict, with the Zaru caught in the middle. For those who don't know, Ammenite merchants are sending troops and settlers into the Khalean forest, seeking priceless Moon Metal, and the Kahalean tribes who worship the trees as ancestor spirits are resisting fiercely. The Zaru are pacifist slaves, the people of the last nation Ammeni annexed, and shunned by their own if they resist their oppressors.

I had five players; Willem played Wind, a tranquil and conflict-avoiding Elf traveling for curiosity and amusement; Gilbert played Duval, a Khalean orphan raised as an Ammenite fleeing to find his native people after his foster parents' assassination;  Brandon made a wild warrior elf named Thag, seeking ever-greater challenges of glorious combat; Petrea played Long-Whiskers, a Ratkin aiding the Zaru cause who was taught the secret of Zu by the Moon Men; and Zach played Griskin, Gilbert's former Goblin pet, now become Human through the Affliction of fraternal love, and harboring the secret that *HE* killed Gilbert's parents!

The action took place across about three scenes: the Ammenites guided by Wind met Long-Whiskers who led them to a Khalean village, where Duval was accepted as a lost son, and they all (joined by the bloodthirsty Elf) went off to raid the local Ammenite settlement at dawn. In the raid, Thag sought out the biggest baddest soldier to challenge and got his ass beat, while Long-Whispers went to see to the safety of the Zaru slaves, who were arguing over whether to rise up against their oppressors. A handful did, but were routed with no serious injury. Meanwhile, Duval and Griskin took the Magistrate hostage and tried to persuade him to surrender to avoid bloodshed, but they failed and the Magistrate instead summoned his Guard.  They fled the house, but not before seizing some documents from the Magistrate's desk that cast suspicious implications on the murder of Duval's parents.

The Khaleans withdrew, and back at the village Duval confronted Gliskin who told everything--his parents were going to enlist him in the military, he killed them for Duval's own good! Duval, enraged, stormed off into the forest. There he encountered Khalean raiders from a rival tribe, striking when their foes were tired and weakened. Gliskin came to his rescue, and Duval rushed to the village and stilled the battle with the Secret of the Perfect Chord, blessed by Long-Whiskers' uttering of "Zu." The Chief  made an appeal to the raiders to let the feud end and unite against their true enemy. The raiders were doubtful their chief would agree, but left deeply touched by the Khalean prodigal's song.

*                    *                    *

This was an interesting TSoY session for me. A lot of things were sub-optimal, but there were a few things that were really, really right.

First, the awesome: I got to see Keys in action! What with just running a one-shot, so I didn't think I was going to get much Key-engagement beyond a general signpost for play direction. But I had a couple of guys (Gilbert and Zach) who set up a great conflict-pairing with their keys and drove the characters straight toward crisis. It was wonderful to watch. And Brandon with his Bloodlust was quite eager to take XP as Thag waded through hapless Ammenite troops.

Speaking of which, I got to see Bringing Down the Pain in action, which was great fun. Brandon initiated it before the roll, as he'd heard me mention it was the only way to kill a named character. It ran really smoothly; Thag's intention was to kill the Sergeant, and the Sergeant's intention was to drive Thag out of the barracks. We had one Parallel action, when Thag taunt the Sergeant as the Sergeant pinned Thag to the wall with his spear-shaft. Thag took loads of harm, filling tracks 1-4, and Gave. He was flung out of the Barracks and the Sergeant turned to muster the remaining troops.

Second, the not-so-awesome: I'll start with my own failings: It was early and I was tired, and and at first I forgot to set proper losing stakes for a bunch of conflicts. For simple combat, it was easy to infer "if you lose, you take Harm," but for other Contests it was a cause for confusion. I recovered, but I'd lost some ground in terms of establishing what TSoY does and how it does it. I think I missed some great opportunities for compelling stakes.

The biggest issue I had with the game was how easily the group fell into "Party Play" despite my best efforts to prevent it. My pitch was basically, "three factions in conflict, pick from them and go at it!" and envisioned a disparate group all converging on the same location with possible blood opera ensuing. But the players all drove toward "partying up" --like Brandon who had announced he'd have Thag make an entrance whenever there was a fight. I had him challenged by Khalean sentries, figuring he'd fight them, but instead he very carefully made peace with them and made signs to be directed to their chieftan, thus insuring that he was placed with "the group" both by proximity and allegiance.

There was a lot of player passivity as well. As I mentioned above, I got a lot of great engagement and proactivity out of Gilbert and Zach, and Brandon if single-minded at least drove toward character action. The other two players, not so much. I've played other games with Willem and found this not to be the case, but here he basically created a character who didn't care about anything. He had the Key of the Coward and the Key of Conscience, but never acted on the latter. Willem's stated himself that he dropped the ball. The other case was more perplexing: Petrea tied her character specifically into the conflict as protector and helper of the Zaru, but no matter how much Zaru tension and Zaru endangerment I threw at her, the responses were just. . .passive. "The Zaru leaders are arguing about whether to hunker down or rise up and fight." "I stay and listen." "The Zaru are rushing the troops, and some soldiers are breaking off to put them down." "I watch and see if any of the Zaru need healing." I just couldn't quite intuit what would compel action.

Thinking about it now, I can see I did drop the ball on one count: she had the Key of the Collector (collecting Zu syllables), and I failed to give her any to collect! She approached the Zu priestess early on and gave signs of recognition from the Moon men, and I had the Zu priestess reprimand her and tell her that the Moon Men are decadent fools for allowing Zu to spread through the masses. But that was that; I didn't press it any further, and her in-character reaction was basically "Oh, OK." Long-Whiskers didn't have any syllables beyond "Zu," so there wasn't anything for the priestess to try to wrest away from her. . .and I totally missed the opportunity to have the priestess use a syllable--owing mostly to the fact that I found in play that I'd forgotten to give her any! I couldn't think of a good one on the fly, so the priestess ended up playing a passive role herself. Damn! Now I'll never know if Petrea would have jumped on the opportunity to get in a Zu-battle. Man, what a waste.

Overall, I feel like I had a strong two-person game on my hands, with several background/window-dressing characters. I'm not entirely satisfied, but the good parts were really good. What I'm looking for here is to hone my TSoY-fu for future play; any advice or observations would be extremely helpful.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 06, 2008, 08:20:24 AM
Hi Joel,

I might be reading your description of "the party" issue incorrectly, so if I'm off base, forgive me:

Because we around here have made a lot of noise about there not needing to be "a party," that doesn't mean anyone is saying the Players can't have their characters play together, cooperatively, or whatnot. 

I found it funny when yo wrote, "My pitch was basically, "three factions in conflict, pick from them and go at it!" and envisioned a disparate group all converging on the same location with possible blood opera ensuing."  I mean, that's sort of like "anti-party play" where the GM has as strong an expectation of the Players not having their characters be cooperative for the game to work well as a lot of GM have a strong expectation that the Players better party-up for a game to work well.

The "there doesn't need to be a party" thing is never about making sure there's blunt conflict within the group.  It means that the Players are free to move in and out of alliances within each other.  There might be conflict, there might not.  This let's the PCs make any darned choice the Players want them to make in terms of actions. Which is the point.  It isn't: "Hey, Players, have conflict with each other!" It's, "Okay, guys, given that you can go any direction you want, which direction will you go?"

In the HeroQuest game I'm writing about (really, I've got the next post half written on my laptop!), it looks like the PCs are all in conflict.  But when a big Bang arrives that hits all of them, the PCs each put their differences aside and went off together to take care of business -- the father and the two sons bonding more strongly as the adventure continued.  I never saw it as "partying up."  I saw it as the progress of the story -- and, more importantly -- as the choices the Players wanted to have their characters make.

One of your Players wanted to be the outsider who makes peace with his enemies.  Cool.  Now just throw his own people at him or his new friends!  That's all.  Let the Players figure it out.  It's their problem now.  Time for new choices!

The kind of play your trying right now, having expectations about how the Players should end up playing in terms of the choices they have their characters make is going to lead to a lot of frustration on your part.  After all, you're inviting them to make choices!  You have to let them do that!  You're simply not allowed to have expectations about where the group is going to end up -- as a group or as individuals.


An example:

Last weekend I played a Sorcery & Sword game, run by Jesse.  Jesse set up a situation where there were these orgies that were part of lore rituals taking place in his Gothic Fantasy setting.  A disease was spreading from the parties of demonic origin. 

I created this good-guy sorcerer hunter; a proud member of The Order of the Scarlet Petal.  I decided that my character's Kicker was that my sweet, good-hearted fiance had gotten the disease.  (What this meant in term of my fiance's moral character -- innocent or secretly bad, I did not know.)

Another Player created a Kicker where he'd been finally invited to the big-big orgy held by a certain lord, but he had to bring a "guest" -- even if it meant bringing her against her will.  The name of the guest on the invite was my fiance. 

Well, I assumed that my PC and this Players PC would be at each other tooth and nail the whole game.  And sure enough, he was sneaking around my character's home looking for clues to my fiance's whereabouts when I returned.  He was invisible at the time, but I made a lore roll, whirled with my sword after sensing him, and went at it.

But during the fight we exchanged words, and I realized he might lead me to the source of the demonic disease.  (I didn't know what he intended to do with my guy's fiance.)  He wanted to live, I wanted the disease, he lied well. So we ended up becoming allies, racing from the house to work together.

It was great, with the opportunity for tension to erupt between us hanging over the rest of the game.  I didn't see it as "partying up" -- I just saw it as cool story stuff.

In my view, you had the opportunity for cool story stuff from the choices of your players as well.  But you got caught up in your expectations of what you were expecting the players to do (the "right" thing for the players to do!) even before they got a chance to take action. And that's not where we're allowed to go with this stuff!


***
And a separate issue.  You referred to stakes in your description -- as in "If this happens, then this; and if this happens then this."  I don't think TSoY is played with those kinds of stakes.  I believe the game is best played with "I attempt to do this," rattle-rattle, "Okay, here's what happens," and then, "And now I attempt to do this," rattle-rattle, "Okay, here's what happens," and then, "And now I attempt to do this," rattle-rattle, "Okay, here's what happens," and so on, till resolution is reached.

I'm no expert on TSoY, but having read it and read about it, I believe, like Dogs, Sorcerer, (and in my view, PtA), it is best served by having the Players state active intentions for the PCs ("I'm gonnat try to confuse him"), with specific descriptions ("Insert color details here") and roll dice, and then decide and narrate results after the dice determine which way the narration should go, combined with the color details to inform the narration.

Best,

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Willem on April 06, 2008, 01:58:00 PM
Hey, I played Wind in that game. I heard about the 'buddhists = elves' angle and I thought I'd explore that idea. It inspired me - could a person stay detached in a whirlwind of worldy conflict? So I chose 'coward (conflict avoidant)' plus 'compassion' as my keys, to represent that conflict.

Everytime I could, I avoided conflict, and when it came up, I chose compassion over conflict avoidance, but the situation rarely came up. Meanwhile the other warrior elf gained XP every combat round. :) I pursued my keys as best I could, but I felt like I had entered the wrong story for my character. I had a hard time finding his place, and couldn't feel anything to push against.

Meanwhile, I totally envied Zach and Gilbert's pairing up, as they immediately saw their opportunity.

I would recommend, though Christopher speaks against 'splitting up the party' for its own sake, if you really wanted to anyway, next time it would have helped me to develop IAWA-style best interests. Then I think I could've gotten a better handle on the whole thing. The keys just felt too abstract to develop in such a short timeframe.

I could see the warrior elf and i immediately going at it over the philosophy of 'conflict'. it didn't seem to fit though, when we played.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 06, 2008, 03:19:57 PM
Hi, Chris!

I found it funny when yo wrote, "My pitch was basically, "three factions in conflict, pick from them and go at it!" and envisioned a disparate group all converging on the same location with possible blood opera ensuing."  I mean, that's sort of like "anti-party play" where the GM has as strong an expectation of the Players not having their characters be cooperative for the game to work well as a lot of GM have a strong expectation that the Players better party-up for a game to work well.

The "there doesn't need to be a party" thing is never about making sure there's blunt conflict within the group.  It means that the Players are free to move in and out of alliances within each other.  There might be conflict, there might not.  This let's the PCs make any darned choice the Players want them to make in terms of actions. Which is the point.  It isn't: "Hey, Players, have conflict with each other!" It's, "Okay, guys, given that you can go any direction you want, which direction will you go?"

Hrm. You make a good point. It is pretty counter to the "you can go in any direction you want!' philosophy to have a particular group paradigm in mind, even if that paradigm is blood opera. I guess, now that I examine it, my purpose was not to have players "do anything you want!" "Anything you want!" is a sure-fire recipe in my experience for disjointed, incoherent play. My goal was to have a game of fun and grabby conflict, including PvP conflict, centered on a tense socio-political situation. I'm not sure if I communicated that well. I think my own mindset just sees that three-way conflict and assumes that at least some players will be on different sides.

The thing is, I've generally found "party play" dead boring, and had no desire to indulge that. In practice it's generally meant that either every PC pretty much follows the same ideals, or else a group of misfits with completely incompatible ideals is jammed together and has to constantly contrive lame reasons to tromp around like a big amoeba, and look the other way or bend over backwards to keep the ideals clash from coming to a head and self-destructing the group.

My gripes about the session all speak to that, I think. I agree that it can be great to have PCs unite, sometimes unexpectedly, for some purpose arising from the flow of the story. Awesome! I can't wait to hear how your Heroquest game turned out. And with a group of PCs that start out united in general purpose and ideals, that's cool and a fertile field for conflict as problematic situations arise (see: Dogs). But a situation where everyone's just kind of "together" for no real good reason, and pretty much ignores each others' business save to "team up" in battle or something. . .yeah, that's pretty unsatisfying. Like the example I gave above: Brandon said he wanted to get in a fight as soon as possible. So I started him out with a challenge from hostile sentries. But instead of fighting (which by way of character concept he had no strong reason not to), he made peace with them so he could get introduced to the village and the PCs as an ally and team up with them.

I think, really, it boils down to the passivity thing (you can regard "the Party" as a red herring if you like). If we had a motley crew of unlikely companions traveling around as Ye Olde Fantasy Party, I'd still enjoy it (with reservation) so long as everyone at the table was invested in everyone else's shit and playing into each other's issues (that is, Keys) in fun and conflict-inducing ways. But when you've got five people playing parallel games there's not much of a payoff, and it certainly doesn't play to TSoY's strengths. That's why I'm glad Gilbert and Zach created the collaborative character arc that they did; it saved the game for me.

Incidentally, in my own Heroquest game at the same con (which I'll be writing up shortly), I only had two players and they teamed up from the start. But it didn't bother me. It was a different sort of story we ended up telling and it had just the right amount of dramatic tension, with believable character motivations and a satisfying conclusion.

In my view, you had the opportunity for cool story stuff from the choices of your players as well.  But you got caught up in your expectations of what you were expecting the players to do (the "right" thing for the players to do!) even before they got a chance to take action. And that's not where we're allowed to go with this stuff!

Well, there's no doubt in my mind that I missed a lot of great opportunities. I found myself at a loss for how to address many of the PCs' flags, and let possibilities slip through my fingers. You may be right about the reason for some of those slip-ups. I'm just not sure how to approach it differently. I want to be open to player choice but I also have a minimum standard for my personal enjoyment.

And a separate issue.  You referred to stakes in your description -- as in "If this happens, then this; and if this happens then this."  I don't think TSoY is played with those kinds of stakes.  I believe the game is best played with "I attempt to do this," rattle-rattle, "Okay, here's what happens," and then, "And now I attempt to do this," rattle-rattle, "Okay, here's what happens," and then, "And now I attempt to do this," rattle-rattle, "Okay, here's what happens," and so on, till resolution is reached.

I'm no expert on TSoY, but having read it and read about it, I believe, like Dogs, Sorcerer, (and in my view, PtA), it is best served by having the Players state active intentions for the PCs ("I'm gonnat try to confuse him"), with specific descriptions ("Insert color details here") and roll dice, and then decide and narrate results after the dice determine which way the narration should go, combined with the color details to inform the narration.

Well, actually, TSoY does have upfront stakes. The [urlhttp://tsoy.crngames.com/Resolution#Types_of_ability_checks_and_how_they_work]relevant passage[/url]:

Quote from: the TSoY Wiki
First, the player states the character's intention and the Story Guide sets the stakes. This should be easy: "Pieter is going to try to climb that boulder" is a good example. The Story Guide could reply "If you succeed, Pieter's over the rock," but that's pretty implicit. Usually, the results of success are easily taken from the what the player said. The results of failure are determined by the Story Guide and players. In this case, failure could mean Pieter's not over the rock or it could mean something worse. The Story Guide has free reign here to say, "That's a giant boulder. If you fail, Pieter falls and will break a bone." What's important is that these stakes are stated up front.

So I'm doing that by the book as far as I can tell. It's important in TSoY to have the cost of failure up front, so that a player who fails an Ability Check can judge whether it's worth it to Bring Down the Pain.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 06, 2008, 03:26:43 PM
Hi, Willem!

Everytime I could, I avoided conflict, and when it came up, I chose compassion over conflict avoidance, but the situation rarely came up. Meanwhile the other warrior elf gained XP every combat round. :) I pursued my keys as best I could, but I felt like I had entered the wrong story for my character. I had a hard time finding his place, and couldn't feel anything to push against

Interesting. I totally didn't get that from play. I mean, yeah, I got that from the Key selection, but in terms of actual character action, nothing. I don't recall Wind ever taking action to help others in danger, but maybe I'm misremembering. Then again, perhaps I didn't provide you with enough juicy opportunities to explore that Key! That's entirely likely, as I kept forgetting you had switched from Key of the Unanswered Question.

I'm not familiar enough with In a Wicked Age (I know, I know! All the cool kids are!) to know how Best Interests work. I'm a bit surprised though, that you found Keys too abstract. To me they're pretty straightforward and easy to use.

Thanks for playing! I'm sure we could have a better go at this if we both get the kinks knocked out. :)

Peace,
-Joel



Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 06, 2008, 03:59:54 PM
Joel,

Right call on stakes.  I had to go back and review the rules. That's how they're written. My bad.


As for the "party" stuff, for me, I guess the best way to put it is that I'm "Party Agnostic."  I don't think in terms of "party" anymore.  The PCs might be hanging or not, but whether they are or aren't isn't a matter of "party."

When you wrote, "you can regard "the Party" as a red herring if you like..."  Maybe.  I don't know.  I would look more at what you're seeing as passivity and such.  Active play can occur whether or not the PCs are working alongside each other, so I don't think thinking in terms of party is going to help much. 

The question are how can you help your players become more engaged in play.  I'm just suggesting that the "party" issue might not be the symptom that needs to be addressed.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 07, 2008, 01:06:06 AM
When you wrote, "you can regard "the Party" as a red herring if you like..."  Maybe.  I don't know.  I would look more at what you're seeing as passivity and such.  Active play can occur whether or not the PCs are working alongside each other, so I don't think thinking in terms of party is going to help much. 

The question are how can you help your players become more engaged in play.  I'm just suggesting that the "party" issue might not be the symptom that needs to be addressed.

Yeah, my above post is me musing and coming to the conclusion that it's not "the party" as such that's bugging me. So I think we're mostly in agreement. I think what I'm talking about is actually a set of behaviors that in my experience tend to accompany party play but aren't intrinsic to it. Not sure if there's any causation buried in that correlation. But it's those behaviors (most notably failure to engage with the other PCs) that stick in my craw.

Do you have any observations from the passivity/non-engagement incidents I've described?

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 07, 2008, 08:31:35 AM
Hi Joel,

Most of my experience the last two years has been Players actively engaging.  There has been one time (rare) when I was at a table and realized I was outnumbered and the Players just wanted a lot of fun color.  I threw myself into making fun color and we all had fun.  (One can do that.)

And then there was one particular case that leaps to mind about one player.

A young man who arrived at at PtA game carrying an Order of the Stick compilation he had just bought at the dealer's room.  He had never played PtA before and had only played versions of D&D.

In the opening scenes he was pretty disengaged, and really just wanted to grab on to some goofing around story stuff (we had set up a CSI in the middle ages show, but he wanted to play pranks on the other Player's character rather than get around to the murder).  It struck me all as pretty "protective" behavior -- staking out a bunch of turf that was his that also couldn't get him in trouble.

I did two things:

First, I stopped the game.  I said, "Okay, hang on.  We just spent the last hour creating the setting for this TV show, and I know you're not used to playing this way.  But I'm going to ask that you give it a try.  Here's a bunch of words that we've come up with in that brainstorming session..." and I listed a bunch of words, many of them out of his own mouth.  "For the next couple of hours let's stay focused on those concepts."

I want to point out that while I don't know how that's going to read on the page, the tone was warm and excited in that 12-year-old boy way I get when I'm excited about something.

The second thing was that he has created a girlfriend for his character.  HE did that.  So I put the relationship with the girlfriend in danger.  His PC's issues was "Obsessive Genius" so, I had the girlfriend show up when he was working on his inventions or the murder investigation -- and the the scenes were about whether or not he could tear himself away from his obsessions to deal with her.  He was shy kid (I'm saying "kid" but he must have been 19-12), and I'm guessing dating and girls were still big issues for him.  So he REALLY got engaged on this issue.

Also, he really wanted to go the mechanical genius route, so I gave him scenes where he had to do his work under pressure from political figures who didn't wan him to do his work.

The game worked out great.  He stopped reading his book, only paid attention to what was happening at the table, and at the end of the session (it was midnight) looked at the table sadly and said, "I wish we could keep playing.  I really want to know how this all ends."

So, that's really the key for me. I try to rummage around and dig out things for the character sheets that I'm pretty sure the Players are interested in.  And then I address those things.  What's established SOCIALLY is more important than what I arrive with alone, if that makes any sense.  And it seems to be working out pretty well.

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: elegua on April 07, 2008, 09:35:57 AM
I played Duval in that game and had some observations.

It was a convention game with players who were unfamiliar with the game and each other. I think this was what hung things up the most.

Zach and I worked because I designed by character to have several possible hooks for interactive tension and Zach (being the most experienced story gamer of the players) latched on quickly to them. His character was designed from the beginning to take advantage of what I had created and expand on it greatly. Even though I had a good time, I will admit I wasn't on my game as much as I would have liked and missed some great opportunities to escalate even further.

Petrea's character was the next best fit for intrinsic plot hooks, but nobody at the table really understood what she wanted. It seemed pretty clear from my seat that she wasn't comfortable creating her own story in the game. I don't think she was familiar enough with the style of game. I could speculate all sorts of reasons for this. My take is that learning to encourage folks like this to be more active in creating a dynamic character should be a focus of the community, particularly those who are trying to initiate new members.

Neither of the elf characters seemed to be integrated with the setting at all. Neither of them had links to what was going on locally or any strong feelings about what to do about it. Not only that, but their general character motivations were completely opposite. This had opportunity for conflict, but Brandon was indulged in his bloodlust and Willem didn't find any sort of groove of interactivity, which is all the more important when you have 3-4 hours to do a complete story arc. This is probably most closely related to Joel's lack of engagement at 9am after short sleep as he just rolled with everything that was happening in character creation and didn't try to get players to build up those ties. I think this is what would have improved this particular session the most.

Given that view, it probably would have been better if Zach and I hadn't clung to each other considering we were the two players most interested in engaging others. Of course, we had no way of knowing this in advance and by the time it became apparent there were problems, it was too late.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: elegua on April 07, 2008, 09:40:13 AM
Oh, and this isn't to talk down Willem at all. I played with him several times over the weekend as well and had a blast. This game just didn't connect.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Willem on April 07, 2008, 09:57:43 AM
Guys, I think the fact that I didn't click with the flow has some valuable revelation in it. I feel like we're talking about me in the third person, and apologizing for it, as if some sunspot randomly made me act like a newbie story-gamer (well, a more newbie story-gamer). Don't worry about apologizing, but also I don't think that making it all about me 'choosing passivity' helps either. I think a fairly simple resolution lies in the middle of all this, even if I can't see it right now. To tell my story:

I chose the keys of compassion and cowardice.
I guided the players to the land of the forest people, out of danger, to follow these keys.
When personally requested by his sidekick, I followed and looked after Duval into the battle, in spite of my distaste for violence.
To end the battle and resolve my struggle, I looked for the governer in his mansion and tried to talk him into surrenduring.

So, I did all these things to follow the Keys, but I'll admit that I myself never felt that I had any struggle or character discord. I did indeed feel disconnected from the story. It felt like a "following the letter, but not the spirit" of the rules. I suppose in any one of those above instances, another character could have made the choice to act (or not) more difficult for me, but I hadn't made an agreement like that between Gilbert's Duvall and Zach's Goblin.

In "In A Wicked Age", to make best interests, you take a moment before you start to pick two best interests that you want to accomplish, at least one of which you preferably aim at another character (I actually don't know if the rules state it like this, but I do it this way). This ends up engaging everybody really strongly.

But Christopher's PtA story applies here too. How could my elf have found himself pushed into a hard choice? Or perhaps my elf just didn't belong in this story? Perhaps his Keys differed too much from other folks? Should the other Elf and I have consciously paired up for a challenging dynamic, specifically and intentionally, at the beginning? I got the "D&D vibe" from him, like he just wanted to kill stuff (which he did - a lot), instead of engaging in character. I also could have paired up with the Ratkin, I suppose. But I didn't understand what she wanted, either.

In all truth, I would have happily made a different character if it would have helped.




Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 07, 2008, 05:20:17 PM
Chris,

A young man who arrived at at PtA game

[SNIP]

So, that's really the key for me. I try to rummage around and dig out things for the character sheets that I'm pretty sure the Players are interested in.  And then I address those things.  What's established SOCIALLY is more important than what I arrive with alone, if that makes any sense.  And it seems to be working out pretty well.

That's a pretty instructive example. Thanks! It's becoming clear to me that I didn't do nearly all I could to promote engagement and interaction. I think a lot of it is a practice and confidence issue, and as I run more Indie games with a more diverse sample of people I'll continue to get better at it.

Gilbert,

Petrea's character was the next best fit for intrinsic plot hooks, but nobody at the table really understood what she wanted. It seemed pretty clear from my seat that she wasn't comfortable creating her own story in the game. I don't think she was familiar enough with the style of game. I could speculate all sorts of reasons for this. My take is that learning to encourage folks like this to be more active in creating a dynamic character should be a focus of the community, particularly those who are trying to initiate new members.

I'd say your observation about her not wanting to "create her own story" is spot-on. My puzzlement arises from her reaction to the story I did feed her. She'd declared that she was about two things: Protecting the Zaru, and Collecting Zu. I didn't deliver much on the Zu front, but I gave her plenty of Zaru-protecting fodder, which mostly fell limp. Climactic example: "The Zaru are rushing to attack trained soldiers with only tools and clubs! The soldiers are turning on them to repulse them! What do you do?" "I wait and see if any of the Zaru need healing." My internal reaction--hbwhaaa? I only wish that some Zaru had been hurt or killed (as luck would have it, both the Zaru and the soldiers failed their fighting rolls. I ruled that the Zaru were routed without serious injury). Maybe I should have just decided the outcome of the battle (a bloody rout, death all around)? That seemed too heavy-handed. Meanwhile Petrea remained mostly a spectator to the story, despite my actually throwing her the strongest bangs in the game, I'd say.

It's that nut I'd like to crack, in terms of how to handle a situation like that in the future.

Neither of the elf characters seemed to be integrated with the setting at all. Neither of them had links to what was going on locally or any strong feelings about what to do about it. Not only that, but their general character motivations were completely opposite. This had opportunity for conflict, but Brandon was indulged in his bloodlust and Willem didn't find any sort of groove of interactivity, which is all the more important when you have 3-4 hours to do a complete story arc. This is probably most closely related to Joel's lack of engagement at 9am after short sleep as he just rolled with everything that was happening in character creation and didn't try to get players to build up those ties. I think this is what would have improved this particular session the most.

I'll totally cop that I dropped the ball on this game, especially during chargen. Sleep issues aside, I was caught in that "let everyone make the character they want" groove, which is a fine groove to be in provided it syncs up with the "all the characters 'click' in a story together" groove. I shied away from steering or dissenting during character creation, relying on my original pitch to do the work. Even when I had some red-flag issues, like not one but two Elves--how I expected two "aloof, don't care about anyone but themselves" archetypes to work in the same game consisting of strangers in a limited timeframe I'll never know.

I guess that's my particular hang-up of the "you can do whatever you want!" variety. A firmer hand, explaining and reiterating when necessary just what we're trying to do here (like in Chris' PTA example) would be preferable to, uh, to what I did.

Willem,

So, I did all these things to follow the Keys, but I'll admit that I myself never felt that I had any struggle or character discord. I did indeed feel disconnected from the story. It felt like a "following the letter, but not the spirit" of the rules. I suppose in any one of those above instances, another character could have made the choice to act (or not) more difficult for me, but I hadn't made an agreement like that between Gilbert's Duvall and Zach's Goblin.

I'm not trying to marginalize you in the dialogue. Bu all means let's delve into your portion of the game and why it went the way it did. For starters, I totally forgot about you trying to talk the Magistrate into surrendering (possibly because Duval later tried to threaten him into doing the same thing). So you were driving toward your Keys more than I realized. I think I had a hard time tracking in my brain between the Key you first picked and the one you later settled on. In all honesty, I didn't really get what you were doing (even though a lot of it was right in front of me!) and so it didn't really look from my end like you were doing much of anything. I think I've got a lot to learn about the GMing practice of driving toward conflict. The goodness in our game came about mostly 'cuz I got lucky and Gilbert and Zach did most of my work for me.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Willem on April 07, 2008, 05:38:09 PM
Quote from: Melinglor
I'm not trying to marginalize you in the dialogue. Bu all means let's delve into your portion of the game and why it went the way it did.

Alright, but I'd like to accent that I don't want to imply any marginalization of myself. As you hint at, I think my character just occupied a communal blindspot of some bizarre kind, something I saw happening as I made him but didn't know how to stop myself. :) Now I think I best could have simply said, "Hey everybody - I don't see how my character will stay hooked in the story. Could someone help me, much like Zach and Gilbert have decided to help each other?"

Especially as a story-game, the GM in TSOY has enough to worry about without also doing all the player's work for them. I've mentioned before that I felt I had dropped the ball, and now I suspect it happened when I didn't speak up.  I made a character in a detached way, and ended up with a detached character storyline.

Player Empowerment Now!


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 07, 2008, 06:42:47 PM
Hi Joel (and all!),

This is a big issue.  And complicated.  And almost impossible to do over the internet.

But some things leapt to my mind. I have no idea if I can break it out any further than what I'm about to say, so this might be it.

No player can "create her own story."  I'm being very blunt and literal about this, just stating a fact.  So I'm not trying to "catch" anyone here in a misstatement.  I'm just stating a fact.

I was talking with Ron Edwards about this very issue last week. 

Here's the thing.  There's a reason why some games have GM.  It's to provide resistance for what the Player's character cares about or is trying to do.  Without that, there's no story.  (Even, say, Polaris, which has no "GM" certainly puts Players in relation to each other so they're pushing conflict at other Players -- serving in the role of the GM, even if that role rotates.)

I bring this all up, Joel, not to say you weren't doing this (from the posts so far, I kinda of get yes, and I kind of get no).  I bring this up to say when I first grabbed at these new-fangled games, my attitude was, "Cool! I just set up all this narrative stuff, the Players decide what they want the story to be about, and WHAM! it all just happens!"

Man, was I wrong. 

What it took me a while to realize was that without me, as GM, providing open conflict and resistance their characters actions and goals, nothing was going to happen.  Without putting pressure on the PCs, there wasn't going to be much going on to help drive the game forward.

Remember in the thread where we were talking about your upcoming HeroQuest game, and I kept prodding you about having a PC group of mixed Luars and Heortlings.  I couldn't figure out why that kept sticking in my brain.  You kept saying, "Well, I want there to be all this conflict."  And I finally figured out why it kept bothering me. 

See, there might be conflict between the PCs. Or there might not be.  That's up to the Players, and there's no way to know until the moment of play what is going to happen -- moment by moment.

What concerned me in ways I could not articulate or understand was that -- I think -- you were unwittingly abdicating your responsibility to provide pressure on the PCs yourself, handing (and hoping) the Players would pick that task up for you.

I'm not sure if this was the case.  But I can assure you that for me a few years ago, it certainly was.  I didn't want to step on the Player's empowerment and what not.  I didn't want to deprotagonize and stop them from driving forward toward what they wanted play to be about.

But what I learned was, without the GM being a strong hand of resistance, nothing happens.  I learned it mostly from PtA, by the way.  When I first played I really thought I could sit back and enjoy the Players driving the story forward.  And it became this mess.  The next time I ran a game (the one I wrote about above, in fact), I kept my brain on fire coming up with conflicts over the PC's issues.  I just kept thinking, "What's the worst thing that could happen now?" or "What's the last thing the character would want to happen now."

And because I stepped in with a strong hand and really pushed TROUBLE at the Players' characters, the game went really well.

Now, I wasn't at your game, so I don't want to make guesses at the micro-details of what was offered by the Players, what was proffered by you, and so on. But everything in your phrasing suggests that you're very much in line where I was when I first played Sorcerer and The Pool and other other games I found around here.

All I can say is, GMing TSoY or Sorcerer or these other crazy games isn't like how we used to GM D&D...  But that doesn't mean there's not a lot to do.  There's a lot to do!  Like putting pressure on the PC's moment by moment.


I am going to get specific about one thing:

I want to clarify that the GM of these games never feeds anyone a story.  A story is the accumulated events, and if we're making them up as we go along, there's nothing to be gained by expecting any character is going to have one kind of story or another.  All the GM can do is keep putting pressure on the PC with fictional elements. If these fictional elements are call backs and heightening of ideas, NPCs, events and so from earlier in play, all the better.

So, when you wrote you "fed" Petrea a story I get a little jumpy.  Now, you might think you didn't mean it that way.  But let me point something out:

Petrea declared that her character was about Protecting the Zar.  And then, later on, when the Zar enter combat she makes a tactical decision to stand back and heal as needed.  And this disappointed you for some reason.  I don't know why.  What did she say she wanted her character to do?  Protect Zar.  What was she doing?  Protecting Zar. 

Now YOU as a player might have made a different choice.  But you weren't the Player.  She was. 

Moreover, I'm a little confused as to how the battle played out.  Were there other PCs involved, or just NPCs against NPCs.  I ask, because the way you spoke of it, it sounds like NPCs vs. NPCs, and yet -- you "wished" the battle had gotten bloodier.  To which I can only ask (if that was indeed the case), "Why didn't it get bloodier?"  I mean, it's your choice, right?

And if you wanted her to get more involved, that would have done the trick. Right?  Now it might not have been the whole thing you wanted her to do or whatever, but she would have been finding her way in a game where she is able to do what she wants to do.  And you were providing opportunity to do it.

Now, the conflict and pressure.  Let's say the battle's going really badly. She's providing healing support, but they might get wiped out.  Could she even help?  I mean, really. If there's this big battle going on, and everyone's dying, and she's one PC, what could she do?  I have no idea.  Maybe she was staying back at the early stages because she guessed, as seems to be the case, that if she invested too deeply she'd only be investing in a fight that she'd be certain to lose.

In other words, what could she do?  Where was the ring of power that had to be destroyed?  Where was the grail that could heal the Zar's leader who could win the final battle? 

See this is where you come in. She can't make up the solutions to her own problems.  Play and experimentation has proven this is dull.  She wants to protect Zar.  Fine.  You want her engaged in the action on some bigger scale.  Great. But give her something to do that will really test her in some larger and concrete manner.

If you describe the battle about to be lost and then offer up some prize that can save the day, my guess is she would have jumped at it.  If you say there's a wizard wiping them all out, and she's seeing the Zar fall, and if that wizard falls the Zar have a chance, there would have been a narrative focus that would have given her direction in her action.  Now she's got pressure -- can I get to that wizard before the Zar are killed.  And what will I do to make that happen.

Was there anything like that?  Or was it two armies fighting. Because if you had removed the plot shenanigans from The Lord of the Rings and dumped Frodo into a big battle between Gandalf and Morder -- sure Frodo would have participated in the War of the Ring... but he would have lasted two pages and it wouldn't have been much of a story.

And this isn't you getting in the way of her story or her imagination or her empowerment.  It's you providing the opportunity to pursue those things in active play.  Again,I wasn't there, but I sense a Player who was actually successfully doing (in that moment, at least) exactly what she claimed she wanted to do -- in the scale that was available to her.  For a bigger scale, she'd need some sort of fiction/narrative socket to go after bigger scale stuff.  Because she didn't know the rules of the world, because the threat wasn't present in such a way that one PC might be able to really make a difference.

If you go dig up the AP of Sorcerer game I ran at a local con last year, you'll see I made sure to lay out narrative details that Players could focus on to get things done in an actual plot.  And in the HeroQuest game you read about, Daleeta, the pregnant worshipper of the Red Goddess became the focus of play.  (The Players made her up, but if they hadn't, I would have had to come up with something.)

Go check out the Art Deco Melodrama thread (it's in four parts, all badly labeled!  But you can find them!) and you'll see Ron doing the same thing of making objects and goals and specific fictional foci that give the Players something to hang on to. 

We do this all the time in stories.  Indie has to get the Ark of the Covenant.  Neo has to rescue Morpheus.  Frodo has to deliver the ring to Mount Doom.  John McClaine has to protect his wife from the thieves.

It's the GM's job to provide specific shape and context for this stuff. Now how the PCs respond to it is, of course, the business of the Players.  But without this shaping, there's no context, focus, direction, pressure and conflict.  The GM must do this stuff.  Its the job.

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: elegua on April 07, 2008, 08:23:31 PM
Now, the conflict and pressure.  Let's say the battle's going really badly. She's providing healing support, but they might get wiped out.  Could she even help?  I mean, really. If there's this big battle going on, and everyone's dying, and she's one PC, what could she do?  I have no idea.  Maybe she was staying back at the early stages because she guessed, as seems to be the case, that if she invested too deeply she'd only be investing in a fight that she'd be certain to lose.

In other words, what could she do?  Where was the ring of power that had to be destroyed?  Where was the grail that could heal the Zar's leader who could win the final battle? 

See this is where you come in. She can't make up the solutions to her own problems.  Play and experimentation has proven this is dull.  She wants to protect Zar.  Fine.  You want her engaged in the action on some bigger scale.  Great. But give her something to do that will really test her in some larger and concrete manner.

While I don't want to sound disagreeable to this approach, I would like to include a bit of nuance of the situation.

In order to intentionally leverage character motivations, those motivations need to be understood. The frustration here is that this character's motivations were never understood by anybody other than the player (if even). There were some clues dropped, some bits of information, but they seemed confusing and sometimes contradictory. If anything, getting better at communicating about intention with reluctant players would be a good result from this interaction.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 08, 2008, 03:01:48 AM
Hi,

Absolutely.  Which is why I said upfront I didn't know all the details.  There was of course a great deal I don't know about that happened at the table. 

I was only addressing the details I was provided.

My only other point -- to reiterate -- is that sometimes Players (whether new to these games or not) don't always know how to articulate their character's motivations.  Especially if they've been playing games that required taking guesses at the GM's plot for years.  So that feeding the player dollops of, "Oh, you want to protect the Zar, cool... here are some Zar, protect them as you see fit" and letting them find their way in this manner let's them find their way in a very different set of behaviors. 

I've seen this slow process myself -- both in myself and in others.

So, while the Player might have been confused, sometimes being patient is all you get.  I know it was a convention game, so it feels like the clock is on.  But giving a player who is struggling dollops while letting him watch how other people are seizing forward motion is sometimes the key.

But that word "sometimes" is important.  Different people, different circumstances.  I was only pointing out that details provided by Joel, she was in fact doing what she said she wanted her character to do.

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 08, 2008, 09:38:18 PM
Hi, Chris!

You're making a lot of good points. I don't think there's many lessons I haven't heard before, but there are a lot that I haven't quite internalized. Hearing your story, I'm tending to conceptualize it as my being a few years behind on the same exprience track that you're on (more or less).

For instance, my first new-fangled game was Primetime Adventures. I looked at it and said, "Hell, the Producer doesn't do anything." So I tried to run it GMless so I could play a Protagonist, and it was problematic as hell.

So anyway, I've learned a lot since then, but I haven't (due to some frequency and regularity of play issues) actually played that many Indie RPGs, and certainly not in a sustained manner. So I do fall down a lot on a lot of stuff, including "putting pressure on the PCs moment by moment."

Looking back I see that lack in both my TSoY and HQ games at the con (the Heroquest session I'll write up in due time; it went pretty well, in fact, but then I didn't actually get a mixed group of Lunars and Heortlings). I had an OK conflict web for the TSoY game, but I didn't really do much with it, except "this group is attacking that group!" If I had done exactly what you describe, it could have been a much stronger  game.

No player can "create her own story."  I'm being very blunt and literal about this, just stating a fact.  So I'm not trying to "catch" anyone here in a misstatement.  I'm just stating a fact.

[SNIP]

I want to clarify that the GM of these games never feeds anyone a story.  A story is the accumulated events, and if we're making them up as we go along, there's nothing to be gained by expecting any character is going to have one kind of story or another.  All the GM can do is keep putting pressure on the PC with fictional elements. If these fictional elements are call backs and heightening of ideas, NPCs, events and so from earlier in play, all the better.

So, when you wrote you "fed" Petrea a story I get a little jumpy.  Now, you might think you didn't mean it that way.

Well, I didn't mean it that way in fact. I meant to say "story elements" (still probably not the best choice of phrase), and the practice I was getting at was no more than giving a player a situation: "This thing is happening, right here, right now! What you do?"

In a word, Bangs.

Still, though. . .you make a good point about getting sloppy with our concepts and terminology. I got caught up in Gilbert's phrasing and repeated it, and as we both used and reinforced that phrase it distorted the concept we were talking about, and in my case at least caused a slide in my thinking about the concept as well. I used to refer to the games I played that way when talking to non-roleplayers, as in: "We play my friend Colleen's story one week, then switch and do my story the next week." it seemed useful shorthand at the time, and I hate the term "campaign." But in the end it really distorted my thinking about the fundamental act of RPGs and whose "story" it is.

So quite right, I shouldn't let myself fall into a habit like that.

So, when you wrote you "fed" Petrea a story I get a little jumpy.  Now, you might think you didn't mean it that way.  But let me point something out:

Petrea declared that her character was about Protecting the Zar.  And then, later on, when the Zar enter combat she makes a tactical decision to stand back and heal as needed.  And this disappointed you for some reason.  I don't know why.  What did she say she wanted her character to do?  Protect Zar.  What was she doing?  Protecting Zar. 

Now YOU as a player might have made a different choice.  But you weren't the Player.  She was. 

Moreover, I'm a little confused as to how the battle played out.  Were there other PCs involved, or just NPCs against NPCs.  I ask, because the way you spoke of it, it sounds like NPCs vs. NPCs, and yet -- you "wished" the battle had gotten bloodier.  To which I can only ask (if that was indeed the case), "Why didn't it get bloodier?"  I mean, it's your choice, right?

OK, I should clarify what was actually happening in the game at this point. I'm sorry you're having to jump at shadows on account of not having been there and relying on my incomplete description.

It wasn't a huge, massive battle with whole armies arrayed against one another. It was a small, struggling outpost in the jungle raided by a modest war-band of tribal fighters. SO while I never nailed down exact numbers, the forces were measured in terms of "a band of raiders," or "a handful of Zaru, or "a squad of soldiers."

I broke the action into chunks in terms of location around the camp, with separate contests all around as we jumped from location to location. Wind, Duval and Griskin were in the makeshift manor house on the southeast side contending with guards in there, Thag and the Chieftan battled in the center of the camp, and Long-Whiskers was in the northern quarter seeing to the Zaru's safety. WHen a motley force of Zaru rose up, they rushed to the center of camp where the Ammenites had the Chieftan surrounded, and a small part of the Ammenite force broke off to put them down. So for that engagement we were talking about total combatants that you could probably count on your fingers. A sningle Ratkin could definitely (especially TSoY) do some good.

You're damn right I didn't like the choice she made. Yes, it was hers to make. I still have the right to judge it, which is what this discussion is about. There's a fairly narrow set of parameters, I think, for when a choice of "I do nothing" will be satisfying to me. There were certainly a lot of options she could have gone for that didn't consist of "nothing." She didn't even boost the Zaru with "Zu."

It seems (though I can't speak for Petrea) that she wasn't impressed with the drastic immediacy and sheer crisis of the situation. This wasn't "a bunch of people are fighting, including these people fighting those people." This was "the pacifist slave laborers armed only with artisan tools are desperate enough to attack trained soldiers."

The reason I didn't just have people start dying was. . .well, I felt like I needed to roll for it. I had a Contest between the two NPC groups (Scrapping Untrained (0) vs. Spear-fighting Competent (1) plus bonus die for better weapons), which both groups failed. In hindsight (again with the hindsight!) I could and maybe should have just said what was happening and only brought in the dice when a player took action. I definitely could have introduced the strife I wanted that way, and I think that's an interpretation within the scope of the rules. Just like in Heroquest--which makes it ironic that later that day I reviewed Mike Holmes' HQ Heresies in preparation of the next day's game, too late to save TSoY. I just got stuck in that old habitual thinking, like the mechanics "model" the world or whatever, and if something of questionable outcome is happening, you "gotta roll for it."


If you describe the battle about to be lost and then offer up some prize that can save the day, my guess is she would have jumped at it.  If you say there's a wizard wiping them all out, and she's seeing the Zar fall, and if that wizard falls the Zar have a chance, there would have been a narrative focus that would have given her direction in her action.  Now she's got pressure -- can I get to that wizard before the Zar are killed.  And what will I do to make that happen.

Was there anything like that?  Or was it two armies fighting. Because if you had removed the plot shenanigans from The Lord of the Rings and dumped Frodo into a big battle between Gandalf and Morder -- sure Frodo would have participated in the War of the Ring... but he would have lasted two pages and it wouldn't have been much of a story.

Honestly the reason there was no One Ring or Holy Grail or whatever was. . .I didn't think to put it in, for no good reason. I was so focused on setting up the network of conflicting people 9good in itself), that I didn't think to have anything wondrous or powerful in the fiction. . .or anything pivotal or sought-after at all. I guess in trying to avoid the traditional "quest for the McGuffin!" trope I over-compensated. Even though there was plenty of awesome stuff lying around to pick up and run with. I came to the game really jazzed about the sheer cool of stuff like Zu words and Moon Metal. . .but without the faintest idea how to bring them interestingly into play. So that sie of things kinda fizzled. Blegh.

So there you go; I'm not sure if that clears up your puzzlement, but i know your posts have been enlightening for me. We probably don't need to harp much on these issues (I've already written about the problems and hangups of the game at a length that sort of distorts their magnitude in my memory), but I'll be interested to see what you make of my conclusions and discuss any directions that folks want to take from here.

peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 09, 2008, 12:38:54 AM
Hi Joel,

I want to move on... I really do.  But it's stuck in my craw.  And now I'm being an obsessive ass.  But I can't help it....

The Player did not say she was doing nothing.  She said she was waiting to help the slaves if they got hurt. That is a choice.  She might have been passive in her body language, she might have spoken softly.  I don't know.  But I do know is that she made a choice for her character that was active.

The ability to see that as active and to go "Ah! I'm close!" is vital to spotting the cues and clues the player is giving.

Now that you're past the "rules mimic reality/roll dice to determine every effect" issue, you can have NPCs drop like flies in such circumstances.  My guess is (we'll never know) the PC would have taken the next small step of healing the slaves... and as the crisis grew she might have done more.

But the key would be to follow her choice instead of saying, "Can't she see how cool this is?" 

This kind of play requires a good deal of back and forth.  The Player tosses the ball to the GM, the GM tosses it back.  And you catch the toss you're given.

Not all tosses will be genius, and certainly not all tosses will be what anyone at the table expected. 

You might thing I'm trying to discuss parallel time streams that never happened, which isn't my point.

I'm layering on the words in an attempt to make you see there are opportunities in choices that we might not see yet as GMs, and part of our job, beat by beat, is to take that catch from the player and see where our next toss leads. 

The fact that you're saying she chose to do nothing makes no sense to me.  She said she wanted to heal the slaves if they suffered -- and they never went down!  I now understand why they didn't. 

But the important point I'm trying to make for future circumstances is that she tossed the ball to you, and you didn't toss it back.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 09, 2008, 12:48:52 AM
And here are some game prep threads you might enjoy:

This is the four thread Sorcerer Prep Ron did with some folks online to show how he sets up a game:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=753.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=753.0)
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=770.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=770.0)
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=828.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=828.0)
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=876.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=876.0)

And this is the prep I did for a Sorcerer & Sword convention game:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=24800.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=24800.0)

I bring them up because both preps show what kinds of details a GM can add (in terms of objects and situation) that give specific fictional elements that the Players can grab onto and focus on to help move forward in the fiction -- both in character creation and during the course of play.

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 09, 2008, 04:25:16 PM
And here are some game prep threads you might enjoy:

Thanks. I'd already hunted up the Art Deco threads and I'm on the third now. It's really inspiring, helpful reading. I'll read yours next.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 09, 2008, 05:45:49 PM
Chris,

The Player did not say she was doing nothing.  She said she was waiting to help the slaves if they got hurt. That is a choice.  She might have been passive in her body language, she might have spoken softly.  I don't know.  But I do know is that she made a choice for her character that was active.

Ok, fine, she wasn't doing nothing. She made a choice as a player that involved her character acting a certain way in the fiction. I believe I've already acknowledged that. It wasn't a choice I liked. "I wait until someone I supposedly care about is wounded and possibly killed before stepping in" seems an awful lot like "nothing" to me. . .but whatever. it's not an interesting choice to me in any case, at least in context of the particular game--both the social dynamic of the players and the narrative scope of the fiction. It wasn't "Ooh, you're just letting them get themselves massacred! Hardcore!" with any accompanying Thematic statements like "They got themselves into this mess, I'll be there to m\pick up the pieces." There was no buildup or tension to the decision that would have made it "pay off" in this regard. It just sorta "hit" the table with a dull thud and sat there.

Which is partly my fault, as I've acknowledged! If that was truly the choice she was gonna make, then people shoulda died over it. Then there can be remorse or protective vengeance or "see I told you so" or whatever. I've learned my lesson well on this score. If I'd done my job then the ball would be in Petrea's court to make something interesting of the choice and its consequences. Can you just take my word for it that the vibe I was getting offa this player (which of course you can't perceive directly) was not one of active engagement but one of passivity and opaque motivation? If I had to guess (and it IS nothing more than a guess) I'd say she was simply into some sort of character "portrait" for its own sakeadpoting the pose of this sweet, meek little Ratkin with no expectations that the character would be a dynamic force to influence the game's conflicts.

These posts have been immensely productive for me so far, but it's hitting a threshold now where we're just treading around and around this one issue that shouldn't even be that important set against the backdrop of the very real progress we're making in communication and I'm making in Nar GMing. I'm getting a sinking feeling regarding Petrea's reaction if she does happen to find her way to this thread. I'll give ya one more post for closing arguments if you want, but I'm done discussing this particular sub)topic.

The ability to see that as active and to go "Ah! I'm close!" is vital to spotting the cues and clues the player is giving.

Now this! This is a productive insight. This I'll take to the bank!

I think this statement in conjunction with the more concrete examples and principles in the thread gives me a good springboard for how to approach "the job."

Peace,
Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 09, 2008, 05:59:59 PM
Oh, and Petrea, if you do read this, I apologize if this furious debate hurts or offends you. I wish we had been able to hammer out better communication at the table (this thread will lay bare a dozen ways I suck at that!). I hope you had a fun experience; I did despite what it looks like with the game's warts under the forum microscope.

peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 09, 2008, 07:11:03 PM
Hi Joel,

I'm on the edge of being an ass.  Trust me, I know, and I hesitate to post the following.

But if you're able to write this:

Quote
Which is partly my fault, as I've acknowledged! If that was truly the choice she was gonna make, then people shoulda died over it. Then there can be remorse or protective vengeance or "see I told you so" or whatever.

Then whatever I was trying to do to communicate to you has failed.  And since I'm failing so badly, I'm certainly will willing to let the matter drop after this post.

How you can possibly say that people should have "died over" her choice to heal people should they become wounded boggles my mind. 

As a GM, here's a tact you could have taken: Someone is wounded (or many people are wounded) and she steps up to try to heal them.  At this point dice would be rolled.  Some people might die.  Some might not.  But this is where we'd be finding out if her efforts failed.

The notion that you would simply jump over even giving her a chance to heal anyone -- going straight to vengeance or remorse -- is, in my mind, perverse.  You are simply dicking over the Player for not stepping up to the situation you thought she should have.  You had a clear image in your head of what should have been happening.  In a previous post you wrote: "It seems (though I can't speak for Petrea) that she wasn't impressed with the drastic immediacy and sheer crisis of the situation. This wasn't "a bunch of people are fighting, including these people fighting those people." This was "the pacifist slave laborers armed only with artisan tools are desperate enough to attack trained soldiers."

Okay, that's all your excitement and all.  You you clearly had a clear vision of what was supposed to be happening.  But you know what? That's just not your call -- not when it comes to the PCs, and the Players controlling them.

She clearly wasn't getting the vibe. Maybe she just wanted to sit in her head.  Maybe you didn't communicate in a way that sparked her.  Maybe you did -- and it still didn't spark her! 

You're talking about taking away the chance for her to do with her character what she said she wanted to do (heal) because you're pissed she's not excited about the circumstances the way you want her to be and not fitting into the picture you had already built in your head?  Um, no.  You're railroading under a different guise.  You're trying to shove her into a state of passion and excitement that she either didn't feel -- or didn't feel yet. 

You're saying you'd kill NPCs so that "Then there can be remorse or protective vengeance or 'see I told you so' or whatever..."  See?  You're doing it again. You're expecting her to respond a certain way to the Bang you're providing -- which you're not allowed to do.


I got a couple of more things to say:

Not everything is going to be a big Thematic Statement.  Even when you see the opportunity, that doesn't mean the Player is going to see it as such.  Just slow down.  Especially in the first session, which this essentially was, the Players are often feeling their characters out.  For you, it was time for big thematic statements... for her, who knows?  Maybe she was in her character, someone passive who hadn't yet made that big choice to take action...?

But we don't know what was going on in her head, so its a tough call. 

But this, not knowing what's going on in someone's head, is a big deal!  I remember taking note of this at a LARP years ago.  I was invited to tag along, but I didn't participate, so I just watched the events, like a guy at a 3D movie.  (It was pretty cool.)

Anyway, there was this woman there... an elderly woman, who barely spoke or said anything to anyone.  But there was this intensity to her -- in her eyes, and the way she observed things.  And for the life of me, for a while I couldn't figure out what was going on.  And then it hit me -- because I'd seen this in LARPS before but hadn't recognized it -- she was REALLY INVOLVED.  I mean, in her head, she was building layers of relationships and thoughts and what she thought of the other characters and so on.

Of course, she wasn't articulating any of it.  She wasn't giving it shape in what we call "The Shared Imaginary Space" around here.  But instead of blowing her off for not bringing all her stuff in to play, I just remember thinking, "Wow, there must be a lot going on there."


My mission after that revelation was to help people bring stuff into the SIS.  Bullying certainly wasn't going to help, since that might well be why such people shut down in the first place.  I decided to try the tactic of small engagements.  If the person seemed interested in such-and-such, I would offer such and such.  I couldn't expect them to come blazing out with Thematic Statements blazing.  I had to treat their choices (even their quiet choices -- even choices that might not look like choices) with respect.  I had to say, "Okay, so kids are important to your character.  Okay, here's a kid.  Okay, so now you've got a relationship with the kid. The kid comes to you with a tough question about life.  Okay, the kid is trusting you with something: her mom's a witch and she's coming for her."

You can see how, through a slow building of beats, the Player might be more willing to go out on a limb to assert herself into a dangerous situation than if a child came screaming into the PC's hut and shouted, "There's a witch! She's mom! Help!"

So folks just need to take it slower. Why?  Sometime to get comfortable with the fiction.  Sometimes to get comfortable with the character.  Sometimes to get comfortable with the GM.  See, in this kind of game, they're going to need to know you won't dick them over with what they care about.  Many GMs do dick over Players with fictional elements they care about.  Let's say we twist that example above.  The Player creates a child as part of the Player's background.  We know there are GMs out there who are gonna crush that child within three sessions.  "Okay, she's dead! Now what are you going to do?"  I've read of this very situation happening on these very Internets.  A woman clearly invests her female PC in an NPC child -- and the GM, thinking he's providing an awesome Bang KILLS THE CHILD.  Hey, guess what?  The Player thinks her fun's being taken away from her.  You why?  'Cause it WAS. 

So some Players are going to need to time to realize, with one small example after another, that investing in fictional details -- and making them public -- isn't going to get her fucked over. (Like, I don't knows, saying I want to be medic during a battle, and the GM killing everyone off because I didn't take aggressive enough action right away....?  Hmmmmm???)


Your Player: She frustrated you.  I get it.  She was passive. I'm seeing clearly a certain slump of the spine and shoulders.  A certain lack of energy in the voice.  Her declarations always came after a pause of some kind. 

And all I'm saying is, hitting her with some sort of Thematic Bitch Slap is not going to encourage her to engage more.  Dude.  Slow down. 

In the example I offered in my last post, I said, "She says she wants to heal them if they get hurt, so let some of them get hurt so she can heal them."  And you jump the fence and have them dropping dead so she can feel remorse or vengeful or what the heck....

Hey.  Slow. Down.  Let her get a chance to heal a fallen slave.  Let her get to know that you're going honor her requests about what she wants to do.  Maybe she's decided her PC is scarred by battle and only wants to help others.  Maybe she's decided that she wants to see more of the system and how you run it before she runs into a fight.  I don't know.  Maybe she should have said something out loud -- but some people are bad on this stuff... And a lot of it is unspoken and how you handle yourself.  And she's a girl and it sounded like the rest were boys, and that's going to matter, too.


Finally, fiction.

I know you saw it as the big climax.  All I can say, some people might need more fictional foreplay, if you will.

If you look at stories -- well, movies at least, and plays, and most fairy tales -- you'll discover that every character wants something at the start of the story.  And an opportunity presents itself to get that thing.  But that as the character moves toward that thing, the obstacles become greater.  The character is tested in new ways, what what seemed maybe a relatively easy path to get what she wanted becomes more and more difficult.

Which is all to say, the Player said she wanted her PC to wait and heal the slave if they were wounded in battle.  Which is was in keeping with her desire to protect them.

And my thinking is... if she had been given the chance to heal a few of them, she would have been protecting them... But if the battle was still raging and that her healing wasn't enough she would have been in more forward motion than she was before, but not enough yet to get what she wanted?

Would she have taken the opportunity to become more engaged?  I don't know.  You don't know either.

I do know you and I are looking at the situation you've described like we're looking at an Escher print: you're seeing one thing, and I'm seeing another thing.  I'm seeing opportunities with this Player -- not matter how long the odds! -- and you're seeing a dead end that could only be resolved by pushing her into a whole new direction of your choosing.

I'll say it one more time: Slow down. I'll repeat:  Don't expect Players to make the Big Thematic Statement when you think it's time.  Toss down Bangs, but be open to any response.  Be open to the clues a Player offers about what she wants to do or is interested in, and feed that interest.  Don't even think of punishing or trying to force Players into certain avenues of Thematic Choice or Play.  Earn the trust of your Players -- especially early on -- by meeting them at the level of speed or investment they are willing to make; if the Player is coming in small and quiet (or even passive) come in small an intimate and tease something out slowly.

I get that I wasn't there and you saw her passivity in action. I get you might not buy what I've been saying.

But I've said my peace now, and am done. 

I want to thank you for the various exchanges we've been having around here, by the way.  It's really forced me to pay attention and sharpen my expectations for myself and what I'm trying to communicate.

CK




Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: dindenver on April 09, 2008, 08:04:20 PM
Hi!
  I'm still getting the hang of "nar" games. And on separate occasions, I have been accused of being "passive" and/or "Clinching."
  There is more to it than that though. There are a ton of moving parts that go into the roleplaying. Its not just a matter of doing what your char would do. Why not? Because its a group activity, you don't wanna be the person who acts like a dick and then says, "I was playing in character..."
  So, what feeds into it for me:
1) System support for players directing the narrative
2) GM support for players directing the narrative
3) Buy in from the other players. Meaning if I want to introduce a new story element, am I going to be playing that story element alone? Cuz, that's no fun...
4) What other story elements are already in play. In other words, There are times where I would rather support another player's contribution, than try and introduce another moving part, you know?
5) Understanding of the Social Contract (Are we playing No one gets hurt or I will not leave you or?). What can I expect to get thrown at me, what can I expect to be accepted as reasonable response to conflict, etc?
6) What is the PvP action going to be like? Will we be doing intra-party conflict? Will we be fighting each other? Or is it more of a pro-party atmosphere or?
  See what I mean, I try and figure all this stuff as I go and sort of re-calculate it as the game progresses. So, sometimes I am slow to decide and sometimes I just want to join in someone else's reindeer games...
  Anyways, good luck guys, sounds like you know what you want, you just have to get there.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 09, 2008, 11:29:48 PM
Chris:

But if you're able to write this:

Quote
Which is partly my fault, as I've acknowledged! If that was truly the choice she was gonna make, then people shoulda died over it. Then there can be remorse or protective vengeance or "see I told you so" or whatever.

Then whatever I was trying to do to communicate to you has failed.  And since I'm failing so badly, I'm certainly will willing to let the matter drop after this post.

How you can possibly say that people should have "died over" her choice to heal people should they become wounded boggles my mind.

Oh, God. I really need to address this. I know I declared myself done, but I've just got to.

You seem to have misinterpreted me. I never meant that there would be no wounded slaves. . .I just said there would be some dead ones as well.

I stand by that call. If I were to call the results of the Zaru/Ammenite clash without player intervention, my gut decision is that the Zaru would be routed with one or two fatalities and several wounded. That's the outcome that I believe satisfies both Player and GM desires and sensibilities. I'd be only too delighted to allow Petrea the opportunity to heal some slaves. I would probably have even had the guy to heal be the important NPC, the leader, so her healing contest would be fairly momentous. I'm just saying the decision to hang back and wait until after the fight to heal folks carries a risk of people getting killed before you can heal them. I believe that's my call.

But look at what you're doing. All of a sudden there's some magic rule that says when a player declares they don't want people to die, then nobody can die in that scene without a roll. Talk about restricting choice--now there's only one possible option for the GM on the table: player wants to heal wounded, therefore have some people wounded but none killed. I don't buy it.

My "Then there can be remorse or protective vengeance or 'see I told you so' or whatever..." is nothing more than my off the cuff list of some possible (and different!) ways to respond to some Zaru dying in that situation. None of that is "the one way I felt the story should go" or anything. No railroad, just a hypothetical list to say "look! there's still player choice if some Zaru got killed!" Dead Zaru just become another Bang following from the player's reaction to the previous Bang. That's the way this is supposed to work, right?

Also: this isn't D&D. We're not talking about some abstract loss of hitpoints, followed by an application of Cure Moderate wounds. We're talking about a deadly situation where sharp pointy things are getting stuck in people and hesitating or waiting could mean the difference between life and death. I don't think that's punishing or herding. That's my natural response to her response to my. . .and so on. Back and forth. Lobbing pitches. That's exactly what we did (excepting my tripping up on rolling it rather than deciding for myself). Nothing says I have to like her contribution.

Point taken about pacing, though. A gradual buildup is helpful and preferable. My problem is, this was a con game, so this session is it. So naturally I was wanting things to pop. If there's anything I still want out of this thread, it's some solid grounding in the art of facilitating a con experience with this kind of game that delivers the necessary oomph for this style of play. I suspect the rest of your HQ account will be helpful here.

I've never run a con game before. Hell, I've never been to a con before. This was a new and terrifying challenge which I think I did OK at considering, but with tons of room for improvement. The con game presents unique challenges for consensus building as well as pacing and climax, which I hope to continue to learn and improve on. But I'll be damned if I'll cop to charges like "perverse" or "dicking over" or "railroading" simply because I made (hypothetically! in coulda-shoulda-woulda-land!) a call about the fictional results of fictional action that I believe is completely justified and compatible with Nar aims in general and your principles in particular.

I'm exhausted. But I won't declare anything over (since I obviously can't stick to it). I'll leave it up to you-honestly though I'm half dreading it I'm dying to hear what you have to say.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 10, 2008, 05:20:20 AM
Hi Joel,

I wasn't misrepresenting you.  I read what you wrote and treated it as the statement you meant.  You've now clarified what you meant by expanding the possibilities.

This isn't meant as a "Gotcha!"  You said, people would die, there would be remorse and vengeance.  Which close off, to my eyes when I read your words, "People would be saved, there would be fear, and then triumph."

Now I know you didn't mean your words as the path you were you going to throw at the player, but one of a series of a possible choice you might make or expect.  You might ask, "How could you not know?"  I can only say, "Dude! I read you post!  That's what the words said."

It's all good.

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 10, 2008, 05:35:05 AM
Well, it's not like. . .
This is a big issue.  And complicated.  And almost impossible to do over the internet.
. . .we didn't know what we were getting into. :P Guess I'm glad that's over with. ANd thanks, truly, for all the (hard-won) insight.

Peace
-Joel


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 10, 2008, 06:04:41 AM
As far as insights go, it's not like I have busted a hump working on this stuff myself over the that last few years!

Best,

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 10, 2008, 08:26:31 PM
Yeah, like I said, seeing us as being on different points of the same journey has been helpful and encouraging to me.

. . .

Huh, are we totally kin the phase where the bitter rivals have battled it out ruthlessly, and are now laughing about it and drinking beers and slapping each other on the back?

Peace,
-Joel

PS. If you're interested, I'd like to hear more about how you'd handle that pacing and patience stuff you were talking about in a one-shot like a con situation.


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 10, 2008, 10:57:44 PM
Hi Joel,

Just so you know, I never saw us as battling. 

I'll post details the next time the situation comes up and its clear in my head.

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 11, 2008, 09:35:04 AM
Just so you know, I never saw us as battling. 

Well, I was being a bit snarky about it there, but. . .I definitely felt like it was a struggle, even if it wasn't against each other.

Peace,
Joel

PS. Did you mean the next time prepping for a con comes up, you're going to do a new thread about that? Or were you still going to post to the thread here in the near future? Just curious what I should be waiting for. :)


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on April 11, 2008, 10:11:24 AM
Hi Joel,

I really, really do plan on finishing that post...

And you asked for examples of moving slowly with a player. So, when that happens, I'll make note and post about it.

CK


Title: Re: [TSoY] I fought "The Party" and "The Party" won
Post by: Marshall Burns on April 16, 2008, 02:04:07 PM
Joel,
I wanted to mention something that struck me while reading this.  Here's an extreme simplification of one thing that you mention happening in the game:

Player: "I want to protect the Zaru."
GM:  "Okay, here's some Zaru that need protection."
Player: "Oh, okay.  Guess I'll protect them then."

Correct me if you never called that a Bang, but, man, that's not a Bang.  What I mean is, where's the choice?  She wants to protect Zaru, she has the opportunity, and there's no reason to do otherwise.  No choice at all there.

This is a Bang:

GM:  "Okay, so, you want to protect the Zaru, do you?"
Player: "Yup."
GM:  "Really?  Even when [insert risk or consequence]?"

(Erm, that is, it's a Bang when you enact it, not when you say it)
The choice is what it's all about.  There has to be a reason for NOT to do it, as well as a reason to do it, plus maybe reasons to do other stuff that nobody ever saw coming.  The risk or consequence also has to be relevant to the character AND the player to make the options actually options, actually things that might be chosen.

Just an insight I've been clued into from reading your posts (the OTE stuff too) and "inventing" Narrativist play on my own with The Rustbelt.

-Marshall