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Title: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 13, 2008, 09:48:50 AM
This was my third full non-demo time for this game. As part of my GenCon prep in case we had a chance to devote an evening to it, I'd decided upon a fully suburban game, with Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Lost Boys as more-or-less setting models. The monster would be a Witch by the rules, but appearing as a single man recently moved to area, very evil, appearing to be the perfect neighbor and neighborhood participant. Sort of Fright Night without the final hour of makeup and action. (Does anyone ever remember the first hour of that movie? I kind of like that part a lot.)

Mr. Fitzgerald
Identify 5 / Obscure 3 / Impersonate 8*
Persuade 3 / Dissuade 5 / Sorcery 9*
Pursue 5 / Escape 5
Assault 3 / Protect 5 / Evil Eye 7
3 Survival Points

I had a couple of ideas, including how smarmy and supportive he'd be at a kid's funeral, or perhaps hosting a fun Halloween party at his house, or stuff like that. But I also knew that he'd be generally reactive, as opposed to, for instance, stalking out into the night and killing people in alleys like a werewolf might. I wanted most of the clues and confrontations to be player-driven, with me playing this awful villain mainly as trying to live his life and causing maximum misery and evil without much ruckus.

Anyway, other games intruded at GenCon, and I didn't get around to it. So last month, some of us got together and we made up the characters but didn't play. More delay, curses.

Mariana, Mexican cleaning lady, played by Maura
Identify 3 / Obscure 5 / Invisible 7
Persuade 5 / Dissuade 5
Pursue 2 / Escape 6 / Side Streets 8
Assault 1 / Protect 7 / Cleaning Products 9
5 Survival Points

If you've ever role-played with Maura, that fighting specialty is probably sending a chill down your spine. Mariana's Survival Points dropped, then fluctuated 1-2-1-0-1-0-1-2 for most of the story. She squeaked through the ending by a very narrow streak of luck.

Tom, neighborhood kid (about 12), played by Tod
Identify 6 / Obscure 4
Persuade 6 / Dissuade 2 / Fast Talker 9
Pursue 6 / Escape 2 / Knows the Neighborhood 8
Assault 4 / Protect 6
5 Survival Points

This kid turned out to be the ultimate protagonist, as Tod rolled crazy-well and got lots of doubles, ramping the Survival Points way up. The final scene jacked them down fast, but he had enough to live through the final explosions and hellfire and stuff.

Mrs. Bernice Florin, elderly lady, played by Julie
Identify 3 / Obscure 5 / Distract 8
Persuade 4 / Dissuade 4 / Heavy cane 8
Pursue 3 / Escape 5 / Always around 7
Assault 4 / Protect 6
5 Survival Points

Poor Mrs. Florin sort of turned out the opposite from Tom, as her Survival Points decreased steadily, and she was the player-character to meet her end at Mr. Fitzgerald's hands. Actually, he said "boo!" and her stout heart finally seized.

We finally, finally got a chance to play last weekend. We set our Tension rules as follows: no spending in fights; 3 max for spending at any time. I liked these parameters, as I wanted to see a steady build rather than the up-down up-down of our previous game, which had created a kind of European horror-calm, not bad but not entirely satisfying at times. Curiously, they are very similar to the guidelines Eero's group used in his [Dead of Night] Hair (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25318.0) game (except that they only spent Tension during fights), which I only realized while prepping this post.

Early in play, the players didn't spend many Survival Points, but after the first couple of scenes they started spending them like crazy - for all kinds of things, to my delight. Often for Look What I Found (because I learned long ago not to give characters anything useful in scene framing when they can spend resources to create it themselves), for flipping the numbers of a given pair (something I hadn't seen in play before, so that was cool), and sometimes re-rolls. 5 Survival Points is a lot, and even Mrs. Florin's demise took a long time. It's really hard to knock down a player-character into the potential death zone unless you optimize the monsters for it. If you want your character to live, and if he or she is not actually being eviscerated by multiple opponents, then there are several ways to gain instant Survival Point during the vulnerable 0-left stage.

Or another way to put it is, if you want lots of player-character fatality in Dead of Night, then (a) use really horrible monsters like the Lone Killer or werewolves,* and (b) construct Tension rules that favor characters taking damage rapidly. In this case, we were going for fear rather than mayhem, and for violence with uncertain results rather than insta-lethal violence.

As with most Dead of Night play, Tension began at 5 (the slight creepiness of having an old neighbor die recently and be found in her home). It dropped to 2 or 3 as I messed with some rolls, and then it started building, building, building. I spent it when I could, but my opportunities were actually pretty limited given the way the dice were falling. I bet I missed some moments, though, as I'm generally bad at remembering and using all the mechanics available to me to screw player-characters' effectiveness. So I had the fun of living up to the ever-increasing, but not jumpy or over-rapidly increasing Tension.

In GM terms, I busted out some truly nasty horror, surprising myself really, and the players got really into it. Often when I have a notion (as in my first Dead of Night game, "werewolves, family, war zone, soldiers") I don't dress it up in prep, hoping that the engine catches in play itself, and that's what certainly happened here. I don't take the credit; that rightly belongs to the rules for how to introduce and describe things based on current Tension levels. The benchmarks are 5 (vaguely creepy), 10 (outright grim and shocking), and 15 (over the top). When a monster is in a scene, it hops up by 5, but those extra are "ambient" only and cannot be spent like regular Tension; plus, they go away when the monster's not there. You still use total ambient Tension for descriptions, though.

That was all I needed, given my starting concept and some player-characters who were pretty much defined by their nosiness. At first, Mr. Fitzgerald's arrival was associated with nothing more than missing cats, and when Tom spied on him (so ambient Tension hopped up to 8), I could show him dragging something with a long, floppy, wrapped item in his basement. That +5 helped when he was active, observed, or spied upon, so some scary details could be found in the house or in his words. But it was also cool in his absence, as the lower-Tension feel of "normal life" created an alienated feeling among the player-characters - you know, "Why doesn't anyone else believe that this guy is obviously crazy and evil?"

At Tension 10, a neighborhood kid dies, the external house becomes grim and scary to the protagonists (moving lights, a bloody hand slapped against a window pane); and with the +5, I could do the church scene. Oh man, the church scene. Mrs. Florin went through much trauma, including the Evil Eye and a car accident, to try to get Mr. Fitzgerald to come to her church, and then she reeeeally wished she hadn't. At that point, I could also go all-out in a series of events that left Tom's mother badly impaired. After that, it was full-scale psychedelic horror as the protagonists went Rambo and tried to burn down the house, twice actually. Tension racked up so high during the climax that I was forced to multiply my personal concept of this film's budget by a big number.

Tod gets huge credit for using a Survival Point to say Tom found a spooky ceramic cat in the display case (which had its own history in play so far), which he smashed, calling it an Assault roll. Cats had become a weird motif, playing on the whole notion of the witch's familiar without having any such explicit being in the story. It resulted through unplanned, minor contributions without much acknowledgment, and Tod really exposed how strongly it was working with this sequence.

The Witch is a tricky monster, because ultimately, she (or he in this case) is not quantitatively very powerful compared to most monsters in the book. Evil Eye is really the only damage, and it's indirect, only penalizing a character's next roll, so you have to think carefully about how to do it (Mr. Fitzgerald got aerosol spray in his face when he tried it on Mariana!). Impersonation is a key ability, especially for my suburban-normal-guy witch, it costs Survival Points, and you're only starting with 3 as opposed to a player-character's 5. Sorcery costs Survival Points and doesn't do damage. I figured out fast that I needed to use the Evil Eye a lot. I was relieved that the characters' tactics to confront the witch were pretty explosive, which meant they had to make some protective rolls too. Since I wasn't allowed to spend Tension in combat, it was really up for grabs whether Mr. Fitzgerald would be taken down early in the final fight.

It was scary. That guy was really evil. What happened to Tom's mother by the end pushed the story into old-school King and Bava territory, rather than slick A-level faux-fear. I liked that a lot.

Over in "Sandbox" adventures (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26803.0), I wrote about a play-issue or perhaps Technique that I've taken to calling the Screwdown, which is to say, how significant crises and climactic resolutions can be brought to arise by working with the current fiction. Now, in Dead of Night, climactic and finalizing events are pretty much mechanically mandated through the Tension 15 rule. However, as I've found anyway, by the time you get to Tension 15, things are so under way and there's so much to work with, that the fiction is pretty much straining at the bit already. I'd like to muse more about how that happened, especially because in this case we're talking about hard-and-overt Simulationist play, not Narrativism.

I've raved about it before, and lots of others have too, but I'll say it again - this game provides one of the finest combinations of thoughtful design and in-play emotional spiking (of a particular kind) in role-playing history.

Best, Ron

* [Dead of Night] Werewolves! Men with guns! Mom! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21954.0); also, Eero's thread, linked to above, also includes a brief account of my second game of Dead of Night


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 13, 2008, 10:34:09 AM
This is a fortuitous coincidence! I'm going to Oulu tomorrow for a game convention, and you're reminding me of the great DoN session we played there a year ago with largely the same people I'm going to be seeing now. Perhaps it's time for Hair II, the sequel I already know is going to be set somewhere in the great plains, with long highways, lonely trucker bars and biker gangs...

Man, that's not a bad idea at all. I have a huge bunch of new indie in my bag from Gencon, but there's practically nothing that does this GM-controlled sim storytelling thing.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Graham W on November 14, 2008, 05:05:12 PM
Ron, how do you handle awarding Survival Points for horror cliches with this sort of game? It seems you're at a level slightly above B-Movie Horror, so there's little chance to award Survival Points for, say, running in high heels.

This rule is the bit I don't quite understand about Dead of Night.

Graham


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 14, 2008, 05:50:00 PM
Hiya,

Actually we talked a little bit about this in play. If I can remember it well enough to phrase correctly, we hit upon a construction that worked very well.

The idea was that a stated cliche had to arise from what was already happening, so the effect would hit as a cliche only after it happened, not as an inserted self-referential bit. If characters were in a house and one of them decided to go down to the basement alone with no discernible point - not even saying "Gee, the laundry should be done, think I'll get my socks," then it wasn't worth a point. The best way would be to go down to the basement alone to fix the fuse box after the electricity cut out.

I think Tom got a Survival Point for spying in the basement window just because nosy kids do this,* and Mariana got one for ripping out curses in Spanish ... although now that I think of it, she should have received one later on as well, when after many scenes of feigning lousy English, and after having been arrested basically for being Mexican, she spoke in perfect (annoyed) English to the cops. There might have been a few others too.

So it really wasn't much different from what a director decides in making a horror movie. Do you have the cliche induce a roar of laughter because it's been inserted in an incongruous way? Or does it fit in just right because we'd seen her spend time buying those heels in the first scene, then she's wearing them for her date, and now she's running from the demon dog in them? The unstated goal, now that I think of it, was for cliches to generate a certain sympathetic pain or sudden chill of danger. No one in our story had sex, but I think if they had, we'd have aimed for the original reason why it became a cliche: to sympathize however briefly with the couple, or in the case of the cheerleader and jock, to be irked  (still at a human level) at their selfishness.

My call is that we did not avoid cliches but rather embraced them if they arose, again, rather than pasting them on with self-referential grins.

Best, Ron

* As I see it, Tom was played by both Coreys at once.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: andrew_kenrick on November 15, 2008, 04:22:06 AM
I agree with Ron's handling of cliches - it's the way I handle them too. I give them out for sensible and appropriate inclusion of cliches, not for throwing them in just to get a survival point with no bearing on the story.

The purpose of giving survival points out for cliches is to encourage players to act in a way befitting a horror movie, rather than "turtling up" and going into PC survival mode (as in, I won't go into the woods as OOC I know that something bad will happen to my character).


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 15, 2008, 03:05:26 PM
Ron and Andrew, is that an addition to the dead of night rules? Something other groups would have to reinvent for themselves?


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: andrew_kenrick on November 15, 2008, 03:52:14 PM
Nope, cliches are right there in the book as part of the situations Survival Points are given out.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 15, 2008, 10:26:53 PM
Sorry, I'm refering to how the cliche has to be forshadowed in advance, to earn survival points (not the cliche rule in general). Is that forshadowing requirement an addition to the rules that you've both made?


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 16, 2008, 07:49:18 PM
Hi Callan,

Sorry about the delay. It's a good question and if I'm not mistaken part of your ongoing effort to examine texts' teaching content. The answer is, the rules for cliches say exactly this:

Quote
Running with cliches - A player who puts their character in perilous or inconvenient circumstances by following horror movie cliches gains a Survival Point for their efforts. Suitable examples include splitting off from the party to search the abandoned house more quickly, and running into the dark forest to escape from the creature. The award is purely at the GM's discretion. Sample cliches are scattered throughout the book and a complete list can be found in the index.

All uses of the word in the rules are spelled correctly, with the accent mark. I'm being lazy.

There's nothing in the text about cliches being silly or not silly, foreshadowed or not foreshadowed, or anything else. The numerous examples are generally descriptive and range from the very familiar to the thought-provoking. Graham's question was the right one - how did I, the GM in this case, organize "my discretion?" When the rules hand me the judgment call like this, I am a big believer in telling people what's on my mind, and finding out what's on theirs, because I don't like to start over case-by-case during play. If that weren't the case, I might have played and answered such that "Ah, whenever I felt like it, and sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was scary." And that too would have been in accord with the rules.

I may be reaching here, but my call is that the game doesn't punt or suffer from vagueness about the cliches, but does the right thing by handing this role (judging cliches) to a living being at the table. The reason is that the group also creates the rules for how the GM may spend Tension Points, and the text explains quite carefully how those on-site rules will define the subgenre of horror (and they do, they do). In other words, since the group has already effectively created their own look & feel & tone of the story with the Tension specifications, the parameters for judging cliches aren't infinite.

This is a good example of a game whose rules about different stuff produce strong, reinforcing interactions when those rules are all applied. In such games, especially when certain rules are left open to customization (not: not invention from nothing, but group-specific customization), then the vectors of reinforcement are shifted. In play, what seem like simplistic instructions in other parts of the rules are then revealed as key directives.

There aren't a lot of game texts I'd defend in this way. Most of them punt way too often or leave key issues in the hands of "how everyone knows it's done, obviously."  More specifically, nearly every movie-horror game out there is actually parody. Dead of Night is something special.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 17, 2008, 09:36:03 PM
Ah, okay! Though I describe that as sympathetic restriction on judging cliches (ie, being sympathetic to the subgenre of horror that was defined), rather than a hard restriction like a rule is. I'd describe it that way since the GM still has absolute control of whether he grants a cliche survival points or not, but also given he has absolute control of it he may also restrict himself in sympathy with the prior established ideas.

Not that any of that contradicts the subtle interplay you describe.


Hey, I was just wondering about something in terms of the art  (this isn't a system design question at all) - Mr Fitzgerald killed a PC by saying or shouting boo to them (and the PC had a heart condition I assume)? In real life, that would be pretty horrible and wrong...but in a horror genre, I almost see it as adding a sympathetic note to the character because he didn't do much more than be himself in that instance. Yes, horrible self, but it's not...that horrible? I don't know if that sort of message was intended as part of it, but it made me think, so I wanted to ask. But it's your art, so you can leave it 'as is' without commentry, of course.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 17, 2008, 10:28:37 PM
Hi Callan,

I can see how that might seem likely given the written description, but as it happened in our game, Mr. Fitzgerald was supremely evil in how he killed Mrs. Florin. He'd already Evil Eye'd her into a car accident, corrupted her church horribly, and otherwise made her life miserable. Technically, doing damage (using the Assault score) by saying "boo" isn't something that character is capable of by the rules, if it came right out of nowhere or were part of the ordinary-if-evil course of actions he'd conduct casually. However, with Tension racked up to 20+ (well past the threshold which allows, even requires surreal descriptions), with the history between the two characters (as Mrs. Florin had made the awful mistake of trying to engage and challenge him on a moral, community plane), and with the point-by-point history of accumulating physical and psychological damage he'd done to her which placed her at 0 Survival Points,* it was exactly the way to kill her, with color & rules & in-game fiction all firing at once.

Nasty, awful monster-character. One of the worst I think I've ever done, possibly because it's built straight out of my personal fears as a first-time father. I described the setting as being "a couple of blocks south of here," which describes streets and houses and demographics just like my own street.

The more I type this, the more I think you'd like this game. It is physically and textually so practical, and yet all its best properties are emergent.

Best, Ron

* Important rule: your character doesn't die at Survival Points = 0, but taking damage at that time means he or she does die.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 20, 2008, 10:39:13 PM
Hi Ron,

From the various Dead of Night threads I've read on the Forge, I've formed this picture of Tension Points as saying, "We're making this session look like one of those movies that gets creepier and more dangerous as it progresses; so, GMs, do that!"  And then they provide useful illustrations of "getting creepier" for the GM to refer to, and mechanical reinforcement of "getting more dangerous" as applied to violence.

So, I feel like I'm probably missing something.  I mean, I feel like, given the same mission statement, I could just sort of GM accordingly, and things would indeed get more creepy and more dangerous.  I'd just describe grosser things and give the badguys more resources.  But your post clearly states that this was not your experience:

I don't take the credit; that rightly belongs to the rules for how to introduce and describe things based on current Tension levels. The benchmarks are 5 (vaguely creepy), 10 (outright grim and shocking), and 15 (over the top). When a monster is in a scene, it hops up by 5, but those extra are "ambient" only and cannot be spent like regular Tension; plus, they go away when the monster's not there. You still use total ambient Tension for descriptions, though.

That was all I needed, given my starting concept and some player-characters who were pretty much defined by their nosiness. At first, Mr. Fitzgerald's arrival was associated with nothing more than missing cats, and when Tom spied on him (so ambient Tension hopped up to 8), I could show him dragging something with a long, floppy, wrapped item in his basement. That +5 helped when he was active, observed, or spied upon, so some scary details could be found in the house or in his words. But it was also cool in his absence, as the lower-Tension feel of "normal life" created an alienated feeling among the player-characters - you know, "Why doesn't anyone else believe that this guy is obviously crazy and evil?"

Am I underselling the importance of guidelines to the GM?  I can see how some numerical guidelines would help a little, but do you feel they helped a lot in pacing/mood?  Was this difference a huge factor in making play successful, or just a small one?

Was the loss of Survival Points relevant because it made character death more likely?  Or because it signalled to the players "we're gearing up for the climax"?

How much do feel the successful vibe was a result of purely in-fiction developments, and how much of it was a result of direct player contact with mechanics (Tension Points & Survival Points, I guess)?  Was there any, "Uh oh, we know that subtle thing Ron just described is probably very bad news, because we're at Tension 8!"?

This game is interesting to me on two fronts:
1) I have a few overlapping goals and vaguley similar mechanics I'm testing in my own designs
2) I initially had no interest in playing but that is starting to turn into some serious curiosity

Thanks,
-David


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 21, 2008, 06:42:08 AM
That's what I thought about Tension points before I played the game, David! I rarely misread mechanics, but this was just so different from what I'm used to, that I misjudged the effect Tension points would have.

I played another session of DoN last weekend, and the way I explained Tension points to the players was that they have two functions:
  • Their number tells the GM when to reveal backstory - it's not just "getting creepier" like the rulebook a bit misleadingly states, it's about whether to hold back or give away stuff. This decision is arbitrary drama-wise, you could do either and get good results in this sort of immersive play, so having the decision taken off your hands makes it easier to GM.
  • The Tension points are a resource you use to lock play into a genre mode - the GM spends the points to follow his own, sole aesthetic vision about how individual conflicts "should" go. This means that the naturalism that rules low Tension levels gives way to determinism when you have more points to spend.
Because the latter function interacts with the former by changing the amount of Tension, you get this interesting dynamic zigzag in play that supports GMing really well. The GM actually doesn't need to think about dramatic coordination at all, he just needs to make spot decisions about whether he'd prefer the monster or the player to win a given conflict, and he needs to look at the Tension points to decide whether to delay some (horrific) reveal or not. It's all about GM convenience, not any sort of elaborate guidelines - I could make these choices myself, but with Tension points I don't have to, and can therefore concentrate on other things.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 23, 2008, 12:53:50 PM
Hi David,

Although that question isn't unfair or wrong to ask, it puts me in a difficult position: I have to explain the game rules to you, then justify or deeply explain them, but without you having the text there to decide whether that makes sense or not. I never like the way this works out in a discussion, because the other person's point of feedback-reference just isn't there. It's like trying to make out with fog even if the other person is doing their best to try to understand. Well, all that said, I'll do my best - which is also to say that I think I can only give it one good shot.

To review the Tension rules in the most basic play (there are some sophistications, but never mind): it starts at 5, and all Survival Points spent or lost by characters rack it higher, 1:1. It drops when you, the GM, spend it, typically on the monster's special abilities or on modifying dice rolls' outcomes (I am meaner than Eero and typically always spend against the player-characters). That's all of the quantitative side, nothing more tricky involved. I'll try to place that into the larger context of the rules as a whole.

1. In playing Dead of Night, it's not hard to "make a story" in the most basic sense. First, Premise isn't an issue, so decisions of any kind don't relate to heightening it as a question or seeing it turn into theme via results. Also, it literally doesn't matter what anyone does because the basic point is that the characters are in danger of being killed/worse, and that's all. Thirdly, nor does any sort of survivorship really matter in terms of the point of play; although it's important to act as the character's advocate in general, it deeply enriches the basic enjoyment of what's going on when a character dies just as much as when he or she survives. All of this is to say that the GM has a very easy, wave-front sort of job. The rules are built specifically for him or her to consult what's up, and in so doing, to decide what to do quite simply.

2. When I say "what's up," there are three parts. The first is actually the least constraining: what's gone on in the fiction so far. I mean, it's a monster-horror campfire-story movie thing; the characters are wherever they are from last time, and either the monster is present right away in the next scene or it's not, and recent events usually make those pretty easy. The second is Tension Level, which is to say, how horrifying and surreal you describe things. That's rated on a roughly 5-point scale, and the relevant range is 0 to 15, so it's not hard to do either (not many ratings to know). The third is whatever Survival Points get spent for things like clues or other prop-oriented stuff; you as GM don't have to decide whether there's a pickup truck with some gas left or not, because if they want it, they can make it up themselves and pay for it.

So I think you can see that all "what shall happen now" decisions usually left entirely up to GM as uber-powerful plot-go man are simply not there. The neat thing is that even with all three of the points in #2 going on, you still get to play the monster in terms of specific abilities, choosing a target, being up to something else (bad), and moving around stealthily or not-stealthily. GMing Dead of Night is not a wind-up toy, but the framework provided by everything I numbered and listed above makes the "you" part very fun - you can throw your whole weight into how bad the thing is, period.

And if true Tension ever hits 15, start wrapping it up, which pretty much means the monster goes for the total (or specially targeted) kill-or-worse, or that the player-characters are already doing the same toward it and now get a clear shot, or both.

Does that help? I'm especially trying to get across that Tension, played strictly and in full, is a key part of all of the above, but it's neither a boring metronome nor a boring  "the monster does this now" rubric that dictates your GMing as a whole.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on November 23, 2008, 11:14:27 PM
There's nothing in the text about cliches being silly or not silly, foreshadowed or not foreshadowed, or anything else. The numerous examples are generally descriptive and range from the very familiar to the thought-provoking. Graham's question was the right one - how did I, the GM in this case, organize "my discretion?" When the rules hand me the judgment call like this, I am a big believer in telling people what's on my mind, and finding out what's on theirs, because I don't like to start over case-by-case during play.
I just wanted to break in here with a side question: this communication process ("telling people what's on my mind, and finding out what's on theirs") is relevant across game texts, no? Like, it's a technique you employ whenever "the rules hand [you] the judgment call like this", though not the only possible functional technique.

Reason I ask is, group struggle with a shared standard for such judgment calls (in this case assigning bonus Dice) was one of the many mismatches and frustrations that led to the recent demise of my Sorcerer game. Would this be a valuable technique for Sorcerer play, to talk over the aesthetic standard for judgment before play, so all parties have an idea of what to play toward in garnering Bonus Dice? It strikes me that this could be one more thing  that gets formally defined for a particular game, right alongside Humanity and Demons and Ritual. Or is this different somehow from the DoN "Cliche-->Survival Points" thing?

I don't have much more to say about the AP except that every time you post Dead of Night play, it makes me wanna play the game so bad!

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 24, 2008, 12:14:29 AM
Eero,

Yeah, the strain of using my brain to track a bunch of stuff at once sometimes makes GMing less fun, so I totally see the value in lightening that load.  The more I can focus on the SIS now (as opposed to the SIS that was, or the SIS that will be), the more I can get my player-like fun of dumping in portrayal and other color.


Ron,

"Just play the monster" sounds like a blast.

Your clarification about how the genre expectations simplify GM responsibilities is well taken.  I'm actually relatively ignorant of those expectations, which probably contributes to my fuzziness here (I don't often watch horror movies).

The fact that the players' attempts to do stuff are also simple for the GM to handle (Suvival Point expenditure = get what you wanted) is big too; I hadn't thought about that.

Regarding Tension Points, I think I knew that they go up and down, not just scene-to-scene, but also in response to how actively the GM is trying to screw the players.  That wasn't one of the things I took away from the AP threads, though, so I guess I kind of trivialized it.  Thinking about that now, though, it sounds interesting and fun.

I find it hard to infer from your explanation how scene framing, and prep to inform that, is impacted by all this.  I guess with a little fleshing out of the monster beforehand, it's just a matter of "ad lib some genre-appropriate locations & NPCs" (and play the monster), and a halfway-decent GM can't really go wrong?

Do the monster types in the book come fully loaded with, "Just play THIS, and it WILL create interesting situations," or does the GM have to build that in by detailing backstory, methods, signals, schemes, etc.?  I'd imagine there's a bit of an art form to the latter.

Thanks,
-David

P.S. I'm still curious about direct player contact with the Tension Points.  If anyone can speak to whether, "Uh oh, Tension 10 means that subtle thing the GM mentioned is probably deadly!" happens, I'd appreciate it.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 24, 2008, 12:17:15 AM
Joel, I'm a big fan of talking stuff out pre-game.  Here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25777.msg248541#msg248541) are some of the bases I try to cover (though some of these only pertain to games that are brand new to the players).


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on November 24, 2008, 08:57:42 AM
Dave, yes--I'm a big fan of it too, except that I still haven't hit my stride regarding how to get there. That is, I've had games (many, many games) with zip communication, and they had mismatched agendas and sucked. And I've had games where I tried to communicate from the get-go. . .and they had mismatched agendas and sucked. I've also had games that didn't suck, but from where I'm sitting I don't see any consistently effective methodology for communicating what play's about and the standards for input thereof. Which is why I pounced on this here. I'm trying to get a handle on what bits of communication to focus on, and how much to frontload into the game startup.

If you look at my post here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27126.0), you can see that such issues are rife: I thought we had communicated sufficiently, and I tried to be delicate WRT communicating too much right off and spoiling actual play. But it turns out we didn't communicate enough, or at least not in the right ways. Fortunately we had robust enough communication in the group to recognize this and rectifiy it (in this case, by scrapping the game and planning for a new one), but I'd l;ike to figure out how to better address the issue from the get-go.

Apologies if I'm tangenting too much from the meat of this thread.

peace,
-joel


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 24, 2008, 09:26:47 AM
Hi David,

This would be so much easier if you had the book.

I reorganized your questions and points, which I hope will make sense.

Genre and GMing

Whoa, wait, you don't know, or aren't into cinema horror? Then, um ... uh, what can I tell you, except that all game design is predicated on Color and Reward, and that you must at least understand those two things in order to understand a given game at all? Especially for Simulationist-in-your-face, which Dead of Night most certainly and wonderfully is. We're talking about Reward mechanics (Survival/Tension), but Color is the necessary partner. I sort of thought you had that nailed down. Huh ...

That changes my answers to your questions a lot. OK - well, in horror movies, there are specific plot and ability tropes, but they aren't utterly stereotyped. They are instead fixed in a way which allows nigh-infinite variations. You can flip sympathy for the monster from full to none, or do it right in the middle. You can define a monster as twisted-human or human-appearing non-human (I'm talking thematically). You can even tweak the whole thing to be confirmatory toward familiar values, or to challenge/disturb them. You can mess with both how the abilities and weaknesses look, and how they relate to the monster's emotional state. I'm speaking here about monster/horror movies; this is a big part of why people like them, in addition to certain victim-empowerment issues which aren't relevant to this thread.*

Anyway, in playing Dead of Night, generally people get that stuff without any need to articulate or analyze it. What I'm saying is that the monster types in the book do come fully loaded with "grab and go," but that is embedded in the expectation that the reader knows what I wrote above. It's up to me as GM to play it as pure menace (like I did with Mr. Fitzgerald, albeit fully masked) or some other way. In fact, the very fact that I might say "mummy" or "werewolf" incites others who like this genre, or set of genres, to be interested in which way I'll be doing it.

So how do I, as GM, do that? It's not so much building a whole scenario-book full of clues and signals and encounters, as simply how I present things and play them. Does the werewolf try to kill his lover, or does he avoid her frequently and try to direct his uncontrollable other side toward people she dislikes? It's really not about planning how to convince the players of this or that. It's just, you know, what he looks like, what he does, what he says, and what happens. I play him, and that's my part; the players will do theirs. That's the Color bedrock in action. Given an equally solid Reward in action, you have a game.

Tension

OK, I think you got it pretty much, but I'm overreacting slightly to a given phrase you used. The length of what follows is perhaps misleading; I'm not saying you missed any major point. It's a quibble.

"Screw the players" isn't quite right. If I'm not mistaken, you're talking about how Tension goes down when the GM diddles with dice rolls. OK, I can see that perception ... although again, what we're describing is a limited resource for tossing in a penalty best described as Bad Fucking Luck. And since it is a resource as opposed to the widespread application of that idea through fiat in a lot of traditional Sim-horror play, that also seems to me like not being screwed. Hammering the character, absolutely yes; screwing the player, no.

Plus, don't forget that Tension decreases when a GM helps a player's dice too. I don't happen to do that often if at all, but Eero does, and the rules are very explicit that either way is OK (unless of course the group customizes the Tension rules otherwise).

Quote
I'm still curious about direct player contact with the Tension Points. If anyone can speak to whether, "Uh oh,
Tension 10 means that subtle thing the GM mentioned is probably deadly!" happens, I'd appreciate it.

That's straightforward in the text. Tension Points are written to be closed to the players. It's not a secret so much as unnecessary. And play is so, well, happening that a statement like you wrote doesn't occur - at Tension 10 and above, stuff is already being described appropriately; it's not like they have to guess. I get the idea that you're conceiving of play as being very numerically structured, almost like a board game ... it's not, it's very dialogue heavy, even blurt-heavy; the SIS is thick enough to be cut with a knife.

Andrew has written that he's played demos with a big steel d20 sitting out, partly as a teaching method and partly for physical reinforcement of tension (the phenomenon, not the mechanic, but via the mechanic). I've done the same in one of my games. My take is that for purposes of teaching the game, revealing Tension makes sense, but in simply playing with others, it doesn't matter whether the players see the number or not.

Andrew and with any luck Merwin, can you guys help out? I feel like I'm repping the game to the degree an author should be doing, and it's getting out of my comfort zone in terms of speaking authoritatively. I'm only a practitioner who likes the game, and it's hard to tell whether I'm expressing my interpretation and preferences, vs. representing the text responsibly.

Best, Ron

* Interested people, see Men, Women, and Chainsaws, for my money the only rational book about gender and horror movies ever written.

P.S. Joel, I think that Color and Reward business is going to help you. Let's talk about it over in your new thread, though.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on November 24, 2008, 11:41:59 AM
Sounds good.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 24, 2008, 02:20:17 PM
I just re-read Eero's "Hair" thread (see my first post for link), and glory be, he always spent Tension against the players' rolls too. I guess we were both inclined the same way, despite the default rule that permits it to be spent either for or against.

It'd be interesting to customize that aspect of Tension spending in one of either directions:
- always against the player in a fight, but for the player out of a fight
- vice versa

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 24, 2008, 04:26:29 PM
Hi Ron,

It took me awhile to get an idea of what you were describing, I think because the horror movies I know of (which isn't alot, I don't really pursue them) usually do an escapist sort of horror (with the blood and gore level ramped up to compensate for that). The sort of 'close to home' horror your describing I just haven't really seen in general. Maybe its a form of art that, given commercial circumstances, will be nurtured more in the roleplaying medium than anywhere else?

But...I'll say I am reluctant to talk about the following because I 'get' the art to a degree. But I'm noting that reluctance in itself, for future reference.
Technically, doing damage (using the Assault score) by saying "boo" isn't something that character is capable of by the rules, if it came right out of nowhere or were part of the ordinary-if-evil course of actions he'd conduct casually. However, with Tension racked up to 20+ (well past the threshold which allows, even requires surreal descriptions), with the history between the two characters (as Mrs. Florin had made the awful mistake of trying to engage and challenge him on a moral, community plane), and with the point-by-point history of accumulating physical and psychological damage he'd done to her which placed her at 0 Survival Points,* it was exactly the way to kill her, with color & rules & in-game fiction all firing at once.
He's not technically capable of doing damage with it? Is there a rule somewhere where the GM can decide it does damage? Like either in general, or when there's a high tension? If that's the case, cool - no worries. That relies on more sympathy structure, but I don't see any problems raised by that and it's all fully answered.

Otherwise...she isn't dead. I hate to say it because I get the story building up (or atleast partly getting it, given I wasn't there) and see that as a really strong fictional outcome that I don't want to naysay against. But without some way of making her dead by the rules, you've obviously skipped the rules.

Hoping it's just there's some GM rule on damage and this isn't applicable and we can move quickly on...


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 24, 2008, 04:35:05 PM
Nah man, you're misunderstanding me. Everyone has an Assault score; use it successfully, and the other guy's damaged. He used Assault, so it's all cool by the rules.

What I was talking about was the in-game method. If Tension = 4 or something, and since he's in the scene, ambient Tension would be amped up to 9, then if I had Mr. Fitzgerald use Assault, I'd still be constrained to have it be relatively non-horrific. A brass candlestick, perhaps. A ditch dug across her walking-path, then loosely filled in. If he wanted to do something non-mundane when Tension is still relatively low, then he's (I'm) constrained to use his Evil Eye ability, or spend a Survival Point to use his Sorcery ability.

However, at the time of that scene, Tension had topped 20, which is insanely high for this game; 15 is the signal to wrap up the story. I've never seen it rack up so high in previous play. In those conditions, I was equally constrained to blow off the top with arcane, scary, witchy, hellish stuff. Hence the "boo."

Contrary to your perception, I was following the rules very, very closely, especially in terms of what sort of descriptions were utilized for every damage-inflicting circumstance. What I've described illustrates one way the rules work so well.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 24, 2008, 04:58:13 PM
We played a game of Dead of Night a week ago in Oulu ("Hair II", incidentally; I'll compose an actual play post when I have time), and I again spent Tension only against the players.

My point about this, though, is that the reason I spent against players both times I've played DoN was that it was the genre-appropriate choice. I don't know if it'd be very common, but I could well imagine spending for the players as well, just like the rules tell you to. Perhaps the game should be somehow different from how Hair runs to make that a sensible choice - violence is so rare in this brand of slasher flick that when it hits, it has to hit reliably and hard. Mike Montgren never misses.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 24, 2008, 05:32:18 PM
Hi Ron,

Ah, now I get what you were conveying in terms of mundane damage with assault. Also for some reason my eyes kept skipping over '(using the Assault score)' in "Technically, doing damage (using the Assault score) by saying "boo" isn't...etc, etc' or I might have already guessed that. Dang!

Though I'm inclined to think rather than showing how it fit within the rules and color, your more celebrating how it fits within the rules and color. To me the terms 'assault' or 'mundane' ask for sympathy to the users cause rather than strictly define anything. But as I understand the sympathy those words ask for and with the actual play you described, your build up not only fit snugly into them snugly, but came to a powerful conclusion within those words. If those rules called 'assault' can do damage and can be applied at this point, then they can do damage. However, you didn't just activate that rule - the narrative was in sync with its activation. And I wouldn't say that's just following procedure here. In this game that's actually a cause for some celebration. Just being pedantic in adding that - doesn't impact on anything here.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 24, 2008, 06:43:36 PM
Hey Callan,

That precise combination you describe, of narration (or better, fiction as a whole up to this moment) and activating rules-mechanics, is how I and my groups play anything, all the way through. I don't say that to brag. I say it because it's baseline, a given for us, and I consider it a starting point rather than a goal.

I pose it as a contrast to either (a) essentially a mess of jockeying around for fiction-creation with some embedded, out-of-place feeling mechanics that usually disrupt things; or (b) a wind-up toy that delivers insta-fiction while the group is privileged to act it out or, as they say about the Renaissance painter apprentices, to color in the nipples.

Most traditional role-playing (not all) appears like (a) to me, and I specifically include my own history. Many post-2005 so-called story games in action appear like (b) to me, and I see that as no particular improvement on (a).

Dead of Night fits right in with the boom of ideas and application that is mainly seen in 2000-2004, with only a few real representatives since then (but they do exist). That's why I'm describing my own experience of role-playing over the past eight years or so, in contrast to the 21 years before that, because I'm trying to get across that in playing Dead of Night, what you're describing is expected and normal and above all easy, rather than exceptional or shoehorned in.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 24, 2008, 07:02:36 PM
Ron,

Thanks for spelling stuff out for me.  It's not that I have ZERO familiarity with cinema horror; I just don't have enough to feel confident ad-libbing it and doing it particularly well.

I get "Color + Reward = game" (I think), and I get (at least partially) how the Reward mechanics assist and enable the GM's color-providing duties.

The part I'm blanking on is much more small-scale, and possibly specific to the AP I've read here.  I'm sure I'd do fine deciding what my monster does, and giving it good color.  What I'm less sure of is how to get the characters to see it.  Do I open every scene by saying, "Now you're in an alley," or whatever, because that's where I want the monster?  Do I open every scene by saying, "Where do you want to go now?" and then put the monster there?  Do the players take care of this for me by relentlessly pursuing the monster?

I'm not looking for actual answers in a "Dave, do it this way" format.  I'm just curious about whether the game guides this or leaves the GM to his own devices, based on his own genre understandings.

I don't mind if you'd rather say, "Play the damn game and find out for yourself!" at this point.  All I can say is that you've grabbed my attention with statements like this:

It's not so much building a whole scenario-book full of clues and signals and encounters, as simply how I present things and play them.

and I'm eagerly trying to wrap my brain around how and why that succeeds.

As for the other stuff:

1) Yeah, by "screwing the players", I actually meant "hammering the characters".

2) Glad to have it confirmed that the game works fine with player ignorance of Tension level.

Thanks,
-David


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 25, 2008, 02:58:36 AM
Hi Ron,

That's how you play anything? Dead of night is sim focused, right? I'd have thought the amount of effort/enthusiasm for getting the play to fit snugly within the words, etc would be higher than the effort/enthusiasm to do that in, for example, a narrativist game?


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: jrs on November 25, 2008, 10:25:39 AM
Hi David,

I played the Mrs. Florin character that died in the game Ron described. I'll try to answer a couple of your questions from a player perspective. I will not be able to answer specific rules questions because I have not read the text.

First, some context. This group has been playing together a long time and were very excited to play this game. We are also avid horror movie fans, some more than others, but we are very familiar with the genre. I specifically requested the rule that tension points could not be used by the GM in fights. I had in mind a Stepford Wives kind of horror which I don't think I stated out loud, but it was readily understood by the group.

You asked about the players' awareness of tension points and its affect on game play. Ron has already answered that he did not indicate the tension level to the players. I just want to add that I was fine not knowing the precise tension level. It became abundantly clear that tension was high solely through the description of scenes and effects on the characters. It's the interaction of the survival points with tension that had a greater effect on my experience of play. As the survival points drop (with the assumed increase in tension), the use of that resource has a greater degree of desperation with the increased vulnerability of the character. It nicely emulates the horror dynamic of mere character survival versus taking action that will likely be fatal.

As for this,
The part I'm blanking on is much more small-scale, and possibly specific to the AP I've read here.  I'm sure I'd do fine deciding what my monster does, and giving it good color.  What I'm less sure of is how to get the characters to see it.  Do I open every scene by saying, "Now you're in an alley," or whatever, because that's where I want the monster?  Do I open every scene by saying, "Where do you want to go now?" and then put the monster there?  Do the players take care of this for me by relentlessly pursuing the monster?

I'd say it must be both the GM and character players that make this work. And a lot has to do with wanting to make a horror story. It starts at the very beginning with Ron saying, "I want the game to be set in a neighborhood just like this one, maybe a couple blocks that way," and the remaining players creating characters that have good reason to be there and care about what happens. Thus, the noisy Mrs. Florin that has only the best intentions for her neighbors. When Ron described a moving truck at a recently sold house, I, of course, had Mrs. Florin arrive with a casserole and attempt to be invited inside.

Does any of this help?

Julie


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 25, 2008, 11:40:41 AM
Julie,

Actually, that's perfect.  That helps me tease apart game contributions, player contributions that any group could handle, and player contributions that your group made beyond that baseline.

It seems like you guys effectively mined a ton of shared, out-of-game references, and your ability to do so was based on:

1) the game explicitly said, "this is cinema horror", and you all knew what that is

2) your group used the game's instructions (to customize Tension use), plus plain old communication, to further whittle "cinema horror" into something even more specific, which you all also were quite familiar with

3) Ron was able to choose "a neighborhood like this one" because it worked well within the chosen subgenre -- and, whaddaya know, you're all familiar with the neighborhood too

In terms of making my GM duties easier and more spontaneous, I think that last one would be a key, and I feel silly for not taking that away from the opening post.  Picking "the docks of a lonely fishing village in Nova Scotia", for example, would tax my brain a lot more -- that's a mistake I'd likely have made, because, y'know, it sounds cool.  "Strive for the familiar" might be a good mantra if I wanted to make my job as easy as possible.

I still wonder how much "covering the bases"-type prep I'd need.  So, I'll ask you, if you played another Dead of Night game set at a campsite, and the site was being stalked by a monster, would you have your character just leave?  Not that that would be easy (most likely), but if you came up with a really slick way to get out of it, would you stop yourself, or challenge the GM to be resourceful and stop you?

I get the impression the player's job to uphold genre-celebration is paramount, and I wonder how far that extends and how natural it is to fulfill.

Thanks,
-David

P.S. In case it helps to know where I'm coming from: most of my Sim play has prioritized "run a simulation to see what happens" and high-concept/original conceits.  I've never just grabbed onto a specific shared reference as overtly and explicitly as DoN does with Cinema Horror.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 25, 2008, 11:50:03 AM
This may sound weird, David, but I think it will help the discussion a lot: please re-phrase your question without the word "just" in it. Change or add anything to clarify what you mean. Don't try to dope out what I mean or what I'm after.

This isn't some kind of Zen thing to make you realize anything. It will, however, change the nature of your question in such a way as to be answerable.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 25, 2008, 12:42:58 PM
Sure.

Part 1:
Under what circumstances would it be fun for a character in DoN to leave the place where the horror is at?  Under what circumstances would it mess things up?

Part 2:
Whose job is it to make the fun version happen, and make the messed-up version not happen?  The character's player's?  The GM's?  The rules'?  All of the above?

Part 2 is what I'm interested in.  Please feel no need to answer Part 1 in any detail beyond what's sufficient to provide context for Part 2.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: jrs on November 25, 2008, 01:54:06 PM
Part 1: Does not compute. Seriously. Avoidance would be the anathema of fun.
Part 2: This is going to sound like a pat answer, but it is everyone's job to make the fun happen.

Going back to your campsite example, of course my character would try to leave. The character will want to escape, but I as the player would not want that to be successful (if at all) until the end of the game. There will be events, be it an injured camp mate, dead car battery, blizzard, stupidity, whatever, that prevent the character from leaving. The barriers wouldn't even need be particularly onerous. I would fully expect the GM to establish those events. And if the character does succeed in escaping early in the game, then I would expect the horror to follow.

I suggest watching Alien, and answer this: Why does Ripley go back for the cat?

Julie


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: jrs on November 25, 2008, 01:59:57 PM
Postscript

I just want to add that barriers to escape should not even be considered conflicts as such. At some level (early in the game, maybe) those barriers should simply be part of the setting. I am speaking out of my love for horror; I'm not sure if Dead of Night addresses this in its text.

Julie


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 25, 2008, 02:40:04 PM
Gotcha.  GM and player both collaborate to keep the character where the fun is at.

"Just play your character", in this context, doesn't mean "get into your character's head and use your wits for optimum advantage, the same as you yourself would in that situation" -- it means steer your character the way a good horror film director would.  That might sound obvious; it's just that I'm used to GMing for the former rather than the latter.

Thanks!
-David


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 25, 2008, 03:10:28 PM
Hi David,

As I understand it here, you don't collaberate to get to the fun - the collaboration IS the fun. It's not like you collaborate to keep the character there merely as a procedure that then gets you to something else which is the actual fun. Right there, bam!, that collaboration IS the fun. It's just like when someones telling a story about something they did with you in RL (like a camping story), to a third person. And maybe they forget and stumble at some point in the telling and you swing in there to help them get that story told (and they may swing back in latter, and it goes back and forth). You both carry your shared story together, 'cause you like the story you carry together.

I probably shouldn't have posted - but as I understand it, it's far more organic and natural to do than your making it out to be. But I might be way off.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 26, 2008, 07:30:55 AM
Hey everyone,

Callan, my post focused on a very specific thing you mentioned: the intertwining of fiction-so-far to the immediate application of a given game mechanic. That's what I'm saying is the easy baseline for play in my current experience. I'm not talking about depth or intensity of the fiction itself, nor about any effort it does or doesn't require. This easy baseline's existence serves as the perfect foundation or matrix in which any Creative Agenda is expressed through time.

Your contrast between Narrativist and Simulationist play raises some issues that aren't really suited for the immediate topic. One of them is historical trends in Simulationist-leaning game design vs. modern innovations; another is the distinction between complex and intertwining rules (not always a bad thing) vs. elegant and punchy rules, and how my point applies in either case as long as the rules are not stupid. And finally, most importantly, there is no way to characterize all Narrativist play (for instance) aside from the basic presence of that agenda in action; every other aspect of play is up for grabs.

David, I don't think you're getting it yet. Julie's points are valid, but I'm suspicious that they can be interpreted in certain familiar, screwy ways. I, and I think Julie too, are not saying either "play my character stupidly so that the story can continue," or "everyone accords with story type X so we can have story type X." Well maybe a little bit of the latter, but not much. Let me go back to your re-stated version of your question and dissect it.

Quote
Under what circumstances would it be fun for a character in DoN to leave the place where the horror is at?  Under what circumstances would it mess things up?

These are social questions, which do factor into creative ones, but are not themselves not creative/procedural. So I'm going to focus on the social circumstances in each case.

ii) If the social, interpersonal interactions among everyone are positive and humming, all feeding into what's going on in play, then a character's attempt to escape is like any other action. And in possible confusing contrast to what Julie is saying (but actually not disagreeing with her!), this is perfectly OK if that character does escape. By "escape," I don't mean simply making a successful dise roll, although it might start there. I mean doing so (getting in one's Chevy, gunning it, going fast down the road away from the scary church) and then Tension tops out at 15, and the immediate conflict concludes, without having dragged the character back in or bushwhacked him or her down the road.

I mean, I dunno how to say it any clearer: it doesn't matter where your character goes or what he does, as long as Tension isn't topped out, he or she is still in play. Go to fucking Hawaii, the monster can get him: a later Pursue roll in a new scene, at the very least. And, if Tension is topped out, then by definition the game is nigh over, and if your character is still "away" while the final scenes are concluded ... then he or she did escape! And how cool is that? It's very cool, obviously. There's no downside to any outcome of any of this.

ii) However, if the social, interpersonal interactions among everyone are jumpy and fucked and mis-communicated, then when someone says, "Screw this, my guy is leaving," it's basically a way of saying "I'm not having fun and don't want to play any more." That sentiment is perfectly reasonable, but to express it from within play, via a character's actions and comments, is a cowardly and juvenile method. If the person doesn't want to play, they can stand up and say, "I need to stop, it's not working for me." Yet in our gamer culture, that is considered horrible and awful, as opposed to "staying in character" and fucking up the SIS for everyone else, which is apparently OK.

In these circumstances, I say, "Look, broken play, broken social contract, emotionally dishonest bullshit," and shrug. There is no rules-solution for such things, beyond the existence of fun and functional rules.

Quote
Whose job is it to make the fun version happen, and make the messed-up version not happen?  The character's player's?  The GM's?  The rules'?  All of the above?

None of the above. The job belongs to the people, which supercedes such terms as GM or player (especially in contrast with one another, itself a poisonous concept in this context). The rules have nothing to do with it; the only questions about them are whether they are any good in the first place, and whether they are being utilized by the people for purposes of enjoyment.

I want to emphasize that what I'm saying is not the commonly and uncritically repeated phrase that a primary rule is "Don't be a dick." In application, that usually means "don't disturb the unspoken social dynamic" or "subordinate yourself to the dominant personality." What I am saying is that we begin with the notion that we are here to have fun, and as such, any notion that someone makes sure that happens is evidence that the primary notion is, for this group, not reliably present.

A long time ago, when Sorcerer was in its first PDF forms, people would say to me, "This sounds great, but you'd really need to have good players." By which they meant, people who were genuinely there to have a good time in this particular way. My answer was always, "Yes, that's right. Why are you playing with anyone else?"

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Judd on November 26, 2008, 10:04:59 AM
ii) However, if the social, interpersonal interactions among everyone are jumpy and fucked and mis-communicated, then when someone says, "Screw this, my guy is leaving," it's basically a way of saying "I'm not having fun and don't want to play any more." That sentiment is perfectly reasonable, but to express it from within play, via a character's actions and comments, is a cowardly and juvenile method. If the person doesn't want to play, they can stand up and say, "I need to stop, it's not working for me." Yet in our gamer culture, that is considered horrible and awful, as opposed to "staying in character" and fucking up the SIS for everyone else, which is apparently OK.

This is great, just great.

I want to kick take that whole tradition of acting out in character due to real life shit and kick it squarely in the junk.

In my local gaming, I have done so but it has taken years of pruning out passive aggressive pricks to get here.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: Callan S. on November 26, 2008, 02:19:30 PM
Hi Ron,

I think I get what your saying by the baseline. I was trying to say that if you were all woodworkers making a cabinet, as a group you didn't just make a baseline cabinet - it had wonderful, intricate carvings of people living lives, grain lined up, careful choosing of the wood, many layers of lacquer giving it a deep finish and more. I'll stop rambling now. Thanks for the feedback!


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 30, 2008, 09:11:29 PM
Hi Ron,

The Hawaii example is great.  Thanks.

My questions about characters leaving actually comes from the majority of my past play following a model of "the characters are all in one place so their players never have to take breaks from contributing to the SIS".  If everyone expects that, then the player whose character gets away goes, "Dang, now I don't get to contribute."  The idea that it's okay to sit and watch the other players play, and limit your participation to purely social actions (high fives, compliments, whatever), is pretty alien to my players.  I suspect I'd need to explicitly establish "character separation might happen, but it's okay!" beforehand to help them avoid, "well, if my character had any brains, he'd go to Hawaii, but that'd end my gaming, so I guess I'll play him like a moron."

As for your other point: "I'm not having fun, and I'll use my character to say 'Screw you guys, I'm going home!'" is something I haven't experienced since middle school.  Not that 100% of my play has been so rockin' that no one ever wanted to stop... but, uh, we can, y'know, actually communicate when that happens.  "Dave, we're getting bored!  Conjure some drama ASAP!" is something I've heard more than once.  Sure, dissatisfaction can seep into play, and sometimes someone waits a little too long before saying, "Guys, let's stop," -- but really, your version of "our gamer culture" sounds quite scary to me.  I hope you haven't had to suffer through too much of that...

If my probing about DoN makes it sound like I think it'll break horribly if my buddies and I touch it, that's actually not the case.  I'm not wondering whether it'll allow my group to have a good time, merely in what way.

...and I think this thread has gone a long way toward answering that.

Thanks,
-David

P.S. Callan, as far as I understand it, I'm with you 100%.  I think that indications to the contrary have just been imprecise language on my part.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on November 30, 2008, 09:55:12 PM
I just realized my last post might sound nonsensical after asking "whose job is it to make the fun version happen?"
Let me see if I can phrase that differently:

1) Given that everyone present is there to have some sort of a fun time, and
2) given that Dead of Night is there to offer a specific sort of fun, and
3) given that Dead of Night offers systems (intended to facilitate said fun) which include assigning some tasks to the GM and other tasks to the other players,
then:

Does Dead of Night specify player or GM as primarily responsible for heading off unwelcome developments in the fiction?  If it does, what does it say?  If not, are any particularly developed skills necessary to fill in the gap, or will basic human communication suffice?

I believe this is moot, as my example of an unwelcome development actually isn't one, and no others leap to mind that aren't easily covered by basic human communication.  But feel free to point out if I've missed something...


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on December 01, 2008, 01:39:25 PM
...and just when I think I've said my piece on this, more thoughts jump to mind. 

I think many of my later questions in this thread regard Constructive Denial.  In my past Sim play, this has often been present to a workable degree, but somewhat fragile and high-maintenance.  Julie and Ron, it seems that your group's Constructive Denial was more easy, intuitive, and resilient.  I'm inclined to attribute that to a blend of genre clarity and group play-history, and I suspect that that's the foundation upon which DoN's rules were free to do their thing.


Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: jrs on December 01, 2008, 05:00:44 PM
Hey David,

Can you explain what you mean by "constructive denial"? I don't think I know what that is.

Julie



Title: Re: [Dead of Night] Nice Mr. Fitzgerald
Post by: David Berg on December 01, 2008, 05:30:28 PM
Sure!  I've found it kind of hard to get a handle on, so I've come up with a pretty scientific formulation of it.

From my thread on the topic (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25619.0):

We could say that Exploration is prioritized as Simulationism precisely when:
a) the constraints on player contributions to the SIS are dictated by the players' reference to a package of shared input-material, and
b) these constraints are the primary criteria in determining player contributions to the SIS, and
c) the process of dictating constraints is experienced as if the package itself was doing the dictating rather than the players, which is only possible if
d) the players deny that they themselves created, and continue to create, the shared package.

So, Constructive Denial (Part D) enables a certain type of natural-feeling play (Part C), as opposed to self-conscious "play my character like a moron" or "try really hard to do Cinema Horror right."