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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: David Berg on October 15, 2011, 06:13:43 PM



Title: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 15, 2011, 06:13:43 PM
I've been chatting recently with some GMs who pre-plan all the major plot points in their scenarios, and communicate what they're doing to the players in such a way that no one gets any unpleasant surprises.

This has made me wonder how the players can care about what their characters are doing.  But then it occurred to me: determining where the game goes has nothing to do with gaining XP in D&D or losing Sanity in Cthulhu.  And it says nothing about the smallest scale, where Cthulhu's primary social rewards operate: the portrayal of encountering alien horror and going mad.

The group jumps on the GM's railroad, and then plays to find out and determine what that looks and feels like.

I kinda always knew this was definitionally possible, but it was only recently that I read a thorough description of how it could go.  Todd F. says:

From my Hollow Earth Expedition scenario for this year. At the start of the session, I explain to the players that this adventure focuses on action, a la an Indiana Jones movie. Their job is to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. I then open the adventure with bad guys stealing a crate of something from a university. The PCs see the bad guys from a distance as the bad guys load the crate into a truck and start to drive off. My intent is to have an exciting car chase with lots of over-the-top stunts.

About half the time, it doesn't occur to the players to chase after the truck. Some will react as if it's a real-world situation ("I write down the license plate number"). Some will attempt to bring the action to an abrupt halt ("I shoot out the truck's tires"). In those cases, I usually say, "Rewind. Remember two minutes ago when I told you to make an action movie? A truck is driving away with stolen property? What would Indiana Jones do?" That's always been enough to make the lightbulb go on. I've never had to tell players, "Chase the truck!" Although I would tell them that, if I had to.

The Good That Follows: I want an opening scene that shows off what the game system can do and sets the tone of my movie. That's my job as the GM of a convention game. I've planned events within the car chase that will give the players opportunities to be creative and will give them something to react to. This scene will also let them discover how I apply the rules to over-the-top action, because no two GMs use the rules of a game in exactly the same way.

But here's where the real GM fiat comes in. As soon as the car chase starts, I say: "Here are the rules for the car chase: (1) The bad guys are going to get away with the crate. That's just the way it is. (2) Pretend you don't know that. Make the car chase as exciting as you possibly can. If you come up with an ingenious idea that should stop the truck from getting away, you'll also need to show the audience why that idea fails. Any of the resources that you spend this scene (Style Points, ammunition, whatever) will be returned to you at the end of the scene -- plus additional Style Points, the number of which will depend upon how exciting a scene you make this. (3) The car chase will last exactly as long as you want it to. When you're ready to move onto something else, the bad guys will get away."

Most of my players have played out the car chase scene for about an hour and a half. It's almost half of my adventure.

In case it's not obvious, the second half of the adventure is the recovery of the crate. The reason the bad guys' escape is by fiat is so there's something to recover. Happens all the time in action movies.

The Good That Follows: Once those rules sink in, my players have a lot of fun with the car chase. Because they don't have to think about tactics (since the bad guys will get away anyway), they focus on making the scene fun and exciting. Some players will come up with stunts that hinder the PCs, thereby helping to explain why the bad guys were able to get away. I reward those players with extra Style Points, of course.

As a reader, I have all sorts of alarms going off, but then each is addressed.  The players don't have the type of agency I'm used to, but they do have a type that works for this game.  The game's creative constraints aren't what I'm used to, and they aren't presented in a way that I'm used to, but they are nevertheless functional.

At the end, the PCs win.  Todd doesn't fudge any rolls or have the badguy turn into a moron, but he stacks the odds enough in the players' favor that the outcome is essentially a given.  But the players do get to spend all their earned Style Points to stamp their unique signature on the victory, to fill the movie with good scenes of action and dialogue, which is what this activity is really all about.

Kind of like how Cthulhu gaming can be all about generating the key touches and details and expressions to make a gripping Lovecraft story as opposed to a perfunctory one.

I'm not aware of any game texts that support the functional version of this type of play, so I'd like to consider what sort of design could produce that. 

Does anyone want to discuss that?

I don't have any concrete ideas yet, but I think it might be necessary to relate rewards to the fiction by way of aesthetic rather than factual criteria.  Like, instead of, "use these mechanics when you try to pick locks/fire guns/manipulate someone", perhaps, "use these mechanics when you do something badass/clever/shocking/stylish."  Or maybe that's just a feedback issue, and not a reward issue.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on October 16, 2011, 01:04:08 AM
Oh, isn't this participationist genre simulationism with or without a focus on unique snowflake PCs? FATE does that, at least with the snowflake PCs, all the way to Timbuktu and back on under three gallons a day. Spirit of the Century, say.

I myself am not very interested in doing this with adventure fiction, as it's so difficult to break out of the Hollywood pigpen in that genre. There probably aren't enough players for a whole group on this planet who'd be sufficiently educated on adventure cinema to play efficiently, but not so much as to yoke their imagination into an endless regurgitation of the tropes. However, I've had some very satisfying horror genre roleplaying with essentially similar creative agenda. Dead of Night and Dread are two excellent games for this sort of thing in the horror context.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: stefoid on October 16, 2011, 12:12:13 PM
Wushu? 


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: happysmellyfish on October 16, 2011, 02:43:23 PM
I'm intrigued by the gear-change that the GM seems to be implying. So the first scene is basically a time out from the rules, with the outcome explicitly pre-determined. All of the resources expended are returned to the players - it's a space basically outside of the usual mechanics. Then, the "boss fight" or whatever turns those rules back on. Or does it? Or, more to the point, why does it?

Quote
At the end, the PCs win.  Todd doesn't fudge any rolls or have the badguy turn into a moron, but he stacks the odds enough in the players' favor that the outcome is essentially a given.

If telling people, "Look - this is the outcome we're heading towards, just play it out and have fun" works so well, why bother letting the rules creep back in? The numbers are stacked so that the players are very likely to win, but what if they still lose? Is the GM willing to let that stand?

I believe Todd, if he says this kind of play works; I'm just interested in the bipolar approach.



Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 18, 2011, 03:15:09 PM
My example aesthetic mechanics aside, I think the most interesting design goal here is actually the participationist structure, not the genre sim. 

Do you know any games that help a group communicate in that respect in the way Todd describes?  I mean, tons of games allow you to do it you want to, but the whole history of our hobby speaks to the mixed results of that.  I'm looking for something that actually helps it go well.  Todd had to do a lot of years of crappy railroading to get where he is now, and I'd consider it a fantastic service to cut that phase out.

As for the genre sim angle, Eero and Steve, I know plenty of games that support that by modeling fictional causality in genre-apt ways, but I don't know any that say, "If stabbing that guy right now would be good for the movie, we don't care how good you are at it or how difficult it would be."  If Wushu or FATE do, please let me know; I haven't played either.

HSFish, Todd's take on the bipolar approach is that different creative constraints serve the game best at different phases.  I suspect that knowing they'll be able to win the day by the rules at the end is part of what makes players feel comfortable accepting different constraints earlier on, but I'm not sure.  I should ask him whether players ever ask, "Will you script the ending?"


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Callan S. on October 18, 2011, 06:04:28 PM
Quote
Do you know any games that help a group communicate in that respect in the way Todd describes?
I would think you just need to point them to a document in advance that outlines it (even just pointing to this thread or the story gamers thread). And the important thing is, if they haven't read it or don't agree with it, they can't play. Sure, it'd be better to have it in the book and they have to read the book (and either agree or don't play), but hey, were a bit of a makeshift hobby still, that aint so bad, is it?

I've got an uncomfortable itchy feeling though, that you mean a text that lets anyone sit down, but it magically turns them around into wanting, at that very moment, to do participationist play. Every single time. No bad ralroad games (just good ones). No 'ostrification' needed. Works every time.

Can't be done.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 18, 2011, 06:40:53 PM
Callan, I agree with your takes on both options.  I'm looking for a third option, though.  Not a game that will make everyone want what it offers, but a game that can deliver on what it offers for those who are interested.

A document that says, "Players, here's what you need to know up front about what the GM will be doing," is but one component.  Rules that make it easy for the GM to create those parameters and for the players to take meaningful action within them would also be required.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: stefoid on October 18, 2011, 07:37:41 PM

As for the genre sim angle, Eero and Steve, I know plenty of games that support that by modeling fictional causality in genre-apt ways, but I don't know any that say, "If stabbing that guy right now would be good for the movie, we don't care how good you are at it or how difficult it would be."  If Wushu or FATE do, please let me know; I haven't played either.


Oh right, Ive never played Wushu but I dont think that it does what you said just then.  It apparently gives you over the top bonuses for contributing over the top fictional means of achieving something (mostly oriental martial arts style achievements) - so you get rewarded for fictional style contributions in the form of increased chance of success.  but yeah, now that you have explained yourself as in teh above quote, thats not quite what you are talking about.

I guess actually Ingenero has some element of what you are talking about above, as the game is split into two phases - story phase and challenge phase.  During story phase, the emphasis is not on whether the PCs can achieve something in a success/fail way - there is no formal conflict resolution mechanic used in that phase.  The emphasis is on the complications and consequences that result from PC intentions.

So if the PC wants to stab the guy in Story phase, well then by golly, stab stab, hes dead.  No rolling, no skill checks or whatever.  In challenge phase, however, if a PC's stated goal is to kill that guy, then the focus is directly on "can he do it?" using conflict res mechanics etc...

with Ingenero, though, whether the stabbing occurs in story phase or the challenge phase is not the decision of the GM, but through players explicitly stating their character goals.  If stab-guy is turned into a goal, then the GM must consider it challenge phase when that scene is close to playing out.  If stab-guy is not an official goal, then PCs are free to stab away during story phase. 

So... it depends what you consider as 'good' for the story.  Ingenero's view is that the players define the important thigns with their character goals and that these should be played out using conflict res mechanics and have no predetermined outcomes.  Whereas other things can be 'pushed through' during story phase to keep the story moving ahead.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 18, 2011, 10:07:50 PM
I just realized that my "communicate in this way" phrasing was misleading.  I didn't only mean "spell out the framing of the activity" (vital as that is); I was also thinking more like, "sustain this type of inter-player interaction thanks to the game system".


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: stefoid on October 18, 2011, 10:17:55 PM
huh?


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Callan S. on October 18, 2011, 11:54:18 PM
A document that says, "Players, here's what you need to know up front about what the GM will be doing," is but one component.  Rules that make it easy for the GM to create those parameters and for the players to take meaningful action within them would also be required.
From what I read, you don't get to do meaningful action, David? You just get to play as mildly ad libbing actors? Have you played in one of these games? You might be attributing more to them than is actually there?


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 19, 2011, 01:30:24 AM
Theatrix?

There is an RPG net review here that discusses the system.
http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_6.html


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 19, 2011, 04:19:50 PM
Thanks, Gareth.  I heard a lot of interesting things about this game a while ago, then forgot the name.  I'll think on that review and see if I can come up with anything useful to say here.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Paul T on October 19, 2011, 05:16:37 PM
Dave,

How does Trail of Chthulhu fit or not fit these criteria? I'm asking because I've never played, but many elements of the design sound like they're headed in this direction.

Also, some jeepform games.

Interesting discussion, in any case.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on October 20, 2011, 04:05:29 AM
David,

I believe Todd's account, decoupled from the accounts of "his" players, is largely unreliable. The fact that it exclusively refers to convention environment gaming doesn't help. We're talking about a heavily time-constrained activity with people he knows barely, if at all, and no real space for involved communication. Knowing little to nothing about Todd himself, there's also no reason to trust his ability to accurately judge people's reactions.

But perhaps I'm posting this only because reading the account makes the described activity feel repulsive to me. With rules like that outlined up front, I believe I would just walk away from the table. Otherwise, based on my past experiences with activities of this sort, I would likely feel a strong urge to totally, totally, oh so totally put my unique stamp on all that - by totally ruining it, just trying to see in how many ways the guy's assumptions could be undermined within established limits. Also, should other players actually have fun during the activity, I believe I would notice at least some of them enjoying GM's charisma more than the actual process itself.

Incidentally, I consistently feel in a similar way reading Fate stuff or even people posting about Fate.

Note that I've been in games largely concerned with moment to moment genre aesthetics (Exalted or Bliss Stage come to mind). Works fine for me, as long as there's some actual gameplay behind it. The activity described in Todd's account appears artificial and pointless to me, this whole minor aesthetic input all things but meaningful.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 20, 2011, 09:11:28 AM
Filip,

Yeah, reasons abound for why this play style might not appeal to someone.  At the same time, I believe Todd's accounts are accurate.  I've had them corroborated by players.  Perhaps in the chaos of a convention, sitting down for an unknown activity and being given clear structure and expectations is welcome to most players.

Personally, I find the unique appeal of the is play style to be the discovery of well-crafted plot, like reading a good page-turner suspense novel.  Foreshadowing, dramatic timing, big reveals, etc.  As a player, that's audience-style enjoyment but from a "closer up" point of view than I usually feel when just reading.  As a GM, it's author/director-style satisfaction in presenting your vision to a receptive audience.

There are other appeals too, but for me, those are the most singular.  I think a lot of people are actually drawn to GMing because they want to tell their stories.  Wouldn't it be great for them if they were shown a way to do that that was not abusive to the other players?

-David


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 20, 2011, 09:54:17 AM
Hi Paul,

Here's my take on Trail of Cthulhu:

The GM prep of a "spine" of core clues, plus the system's automatic successes for attempts to find core clues using Investigative Abilities, is sort of compatible with "GM runs a story".  I say "sort of" because the GM cedes control over timing, that is, when a player decides to use said Ability.  The GM still has a fair amount of control over pacing and the ingredients that go into a big reveal, but there's a slight compromise to that.  On the one hand, you could say this is cool because if a GM wants the dramatic timing to be just so, they need to get their players on board to make that happen.  So, yay, communication, pulling together, etc.  On the other hand, you could say that's half-assing this play style, compromising with a style with more distributed authorities.

Sanity and Stability tracks are totally compatible with Todd's style of game.  Pay attention to how crazy you're getting, and roleplay that.  Awesome.  It's a group-approved aesthetic meter measured out in check boxes on the character sheet.  Go all the way off the end, and the ToC book gives great options for how to represent amnesia, megalomania, and other forms of insanity at the table.  Gaining and losing Sanity and Stability is all about encountering stuff the GM throws at you, so the GM has input without needing to make every decision about who goes how nuts when (thanks to the randomness of the die roll).  Win-win.

Ability and skill rolls are totally not well-suited to Todd's game.  While technically compatible, they orient the players to the game all wrong.  My experience is that players get caught up in attempting to do stuff, and the intermittent rewards of the dice reinforce this.  So now the Hunting Horror is coming at me, and what am I thinking about?  I'm thinking about how difficult it should be for me to climb out this window, based on my Athletics and the GM's description of the window, which I will ask them to embellish as I grasp about for my most effective option.  My sense is that when Todd runs Hollow Earth Expedition, he does in fact use the game's pass/fail task mechanics, but no one gets hung up on optimizing their in-character striving because it's light-hearted and pulpy and they know they're not gonna die.  Cthulhu is the opposite of that.  And, indeed, when Todd runs Unknown Armies, I think his players roll only for Stress Checks.

Frankly, I think the more the players think about effectiveness options, the more Cthulhu gaming suffers*.  I think it's an ideal candidate to be run the way Todd runs Unknown Armies.

Ps,
-Dave

* Well, actually, that's an extreme simplification of what I think; longer version starts here (http://www.lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=599#15644).


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 20, 2011, 10:15:15 AM
Hi,

In another thread, I linked to a recent write-up I did called Setting and emergent stories (http://adept-press.com/wordpress/wp-content/media/setting_dissection.pdf); it's pretty focused on techniques for using settings, but my breakdown of story creation and role-playing might be good here. It turns out I cited Trail of Cthulhu as an example of explicit Participationist design, too.

Unknown Armies presents an interesting case. I cited it in the essay as at least having potential to be used for setting-heavy Story Now play, but I admit that is mainly wish-fulfillment on my part. In practice, I've found it to be designed practically exclusively for short-term, highly colorful, and quite Story Before play. Ken Hite, on the other hand, has GMed years-long, many-many-session games of Unknown Armies, so he'd be one to ask as well.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Dan Maruschak on October 20, 2011, 10:36:24 AM
Dave, it seems to me that the tension in the type of games you're talking about is that the game's mechanics tell the players they can do one thing (e.g. shoot out the tires of a truck) but subtle and ambiguous social pressures tell them they need to do something else (e.g. "make a good movie", which apparently means "there must be a truck chase" if you have the right decoder ring). Is this the feature that you're trying to preserve or the bug that you're trying to fix? Games tell us all the time which things are valid and in-scope stakes for the resolution system, sometimes explicitly with mechanics and sometimes implicitly with setting or genre conventions (in DITV, nobody tries to travel back in time to fix the town before the problem began). It's perfectly possible to have pre-defined plot events as part of a game's design, too, as long as the rest of the game design doesn't conflict with that expectation.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 20, 2011, 11:14:41 AM
Dan,

Agreed on your last point about when pre-defined plot is viable. 

As for feature/bug, the subtle and ambiguous social pressures are the bug.  Todd applies a fix that doesn't come from any game text or ruleset.  I'm interested in creating a text & ruleset to provide such a fix, so people who aren't Todd can do it.  What I'm asking now is what such a game should include.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 20, 2011, 11:49:37 AM
Just want to chime in and agree with the point that Dan and Dave express.  FATE and so on, which was mentioned above, don't really facilitate this sort of thing because they are no more than task res, still with the iomplicit problem Dan identified.

When I've thought about this sort of thing, I have often been drawn to thoughts about playing boards of one kind or another.  Something that graphically displays some issue of concern that the players. Just off the top of my head, imagine a flowcharty type thing that had a box labelled "try to kill Goon 1" and an arrow to "Goon 1 dies".  And elsewhere there is a box labelled "Try to kill the Overlord" and an arrow to "The Overlord mind-controls you". Now you would know that if you tried to kill the Overlord, you're really saying "My PC gets mind-controlled".

Now that's a very crude sort of illustration, borrowing from the example used in Todd's game, and you could refine by, for example, covering the second boxes with cards that re only revealed when an attempt is made, which would preserve subjective surprise.  But the very fact that this sort of chart existed would communicate the expectation that things are set up, than it isn't a "physical universe" and so on.

I've come to increasingly suspect that the linkages that can exist between numbers on character sheets, dice, successes and whatnot are not enough to convey the concept of express, designed, edges to the area of free action.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 20, 2011, 12:06:20 PM
Oh and something else.  I think the one design element with which appears in an existing text, and is most conducive to this style of play, is the cut-away that appeared in the early iterations of the WEG Star Wars game.

Now I believe it got dropped later, and I'm pretty sure it never appeared anyway else, so I'll explain.  The idea was that the prepared story would include the kind of cut-away that happened in the movies, where the AUDIENCE sees the NPC's doing and saying things that bears on the action that just has happened or is just about to happen.  And this means the players get information that the characters do not have, which tacitly informs their decisions. 

So as an example, again borrowing them the situation established in the OP, perhaps before telling the players that their characters see the villains loading the truck and driving off, they also get a chunk of narration showing the obviously malevolent, bald-headed Overlord berating his minions, strangling a small furry creature, and taking up a meditative posture in the back of the truck.  Now as the players chase and clamber over the vehicle, wrestling with minions, dangling from the running boards and so on, they as players know that just inches away from the PC's the Overlord is squatting in the lotus position contemplating things unknown but no doubt diabolical.

PS: I've made up the title Overlord.

Anyway, I think that was a very effective technique that went quite some way to dealing with the points Ron raises in his essay.  I'm less convinced it worked very well in conjunction with the basic task res system that made up the rest of the game, but I think its the best of the existing in-print specific techniques.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Dan Maruschak on October 20, 2011, 12:29:01 PM
Dave, I think you'd want to start with figuring out what the resolution system should resolve. If the game's mechanics were all about the relationships between the PCs, for example, then whether the truck's tires are shot out or whether there's a chase becomes more akin to a setting or scene framing decision.

When I was working on the dice mechanic for Final Hour of a Storied Age (http://www.danmaruschak.com/blog/final-hour-of-a-storied-age/), I looked at how Mouse Guard structured the GM's turn, and I concluded that the dice weren't really deciding between "yes" and "no" but between "yes" and "not yet", e.g., when you're rolling Pathfinder to get to Lockhaven, the dice are deciding whether that's a minor detail (success) or whether you'll go into depth and have an intense scene (success with a twist) or character moment (success with a condition) along the way. In some ways it's just a pacing mechanic. In my game, I made this pretty explicit: individual dice rolls tell you if you're doing well or poorly against obstacles in your path, and whether you overcome them, and winning chapters progresses you through your pre-outlined plot. I have some instructions in there that tell the players to keep their narration within the scope of what the mechanics can allow: since you can't kill the villain in chapter 1, narration that would logically result in the villain being dead isn't valid narration. I think it works, but maybe not for everybody, it's obviously not the only way to go.

Are more structural mechanics something you're open to, or do you also want to preserve the classic paradigm of players playing characters with capabilities described in terms what they can do within a fictional world?


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on October 21, 2011, 07:47:43 AM
I think a lot of people are actually drawn to GMing because they want to tell their stories.  Wouldn't it be great for them if they were shown a way to do that that was not abusive to the other players?

I notice there's this curious tendency in the hobby, but it's a bit difficult for me to relate to their motives, as I tend to refuse gaming with people who manifest this urge. Often, it comes packaged with social-level incompatibilities that make me want to avoid prolonged social interaction with them in the first place.

I think before considering the question of non-abusive methods, another question should be asked: why are those people drawn to GMing for this particular reason?

I think it might often be the case of social context in which they find themselves immersed. Like, for purely random reasons, perhaps their circles include a large number of gamers. It might seem easier for them to satisfy their storytelling urges by applying bait & switch strategies in such social environments, rather than reaching past it towards more appropriate audiences. However, it tends to result in abusive arrangements that have been plaguing the gaming fandom since forever.

Now, there's a large number of methods for telling your story readily available. What's the particular draw of GMing as opposed to, say, writing novels or engaging in traditional storytelling?

I think it's worth considering that perhaps what such people need are not ways of telling their stories by slaughtering gameplay in their games. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to show them ways of telling their stories via more effective medium, where the issue of abuse is simply not present?

It reminds me of all those fantasy heartbreakers designers who struggle with issues that have already been answered innumerable times in segments of hobby where they simply never looked for solutions. It's not that unusual for people to become fixated on creative directions that are in fact dead ends.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 21, 2011, 10:04:31 AM
Now you're just being offensive and ignorant, Filip.  What's more you;'re imputing motivations to people without knowing anything about them.  Most of what you have written above is little better than vile and vicious slander and bigotry.

The one serious question you pose in that outpouring of filth is "why this form".  And that should be easy enough to understand.  It;s because it is, relatively speaking, small scale and intimate.  Because it doesn't require such a monumental ego as to think that large numbers of people are going to want to read our words or watch your film, but those people whose interest and proclivities you already know. Because it doesn't require years of work followed by purely abstract consumption who experiences and feedback you will never see.  It;s something you can do for the people you know  that right here and now, more or less, in the same way you might cook them a meal or, in pre-TV days, the way people used to entertain each other by playing instruments and putting on plays and so on at home.

Now I don;t demand that everyone share the same aesthetic preferences, but however much you may dislike it, if you have nothing to contribute then you can at least get the hell out of the way.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 21, 2011, 10:32:40 AM
Filip,
Early in my roleplaying career, I tried to use my GM position to tell my stories, and though there were many times when that didn't go so well, there were some times where it went really well for everyone involved.  I know I got something unique out of it, and I think the players did too.  So I'm convinced that functional possibilities do exist in this direction.  How hard they are to design for is another question.

Everyone, I'd prefer that we keep the focus on the "designing for" part here in this thread, please. 

Filip and Gareth, if you guys want to explain yourselves to each other, maybe PMs?


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 21, 2011, 10:33:31 AM
Well, and here I was just about to post to say that preferences weren't the topic.

Gareth, notify me next time, please. I'm not saying your concern is not real.

Filip, I think there was more content in your posts than Gareth did, but if you could bring it forward in another post, without the issue of preference, it would help the thread.

Everyone, cool the tempers. Punch a pillow, type in a blog, whatever you need to do.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 21, 2011, 10:36:19 AM
There's some interesting stuff here!

Ron,
I like the document you linked and I'm trying to figure out if it provides any takeaways or tools for this discussion.  The observations about how certain styles of set-up can interfere with the players getting what they signed up for seems relevant.  Todd uses pre-genned characters, so they're as integrated with the setting and plot as he can/wants to make them.  I think it's at least one valid approach for Participationist design.

Gareth,
I'm used to GM plans and GM cutaways, but I'm not used to them being one and the same!  Any thoughts on what's unique about that specific technique?

Dan,
My first thought is to look at reward system, but I feel kind of unfocused and that the possibilities there are quite broad, so maybe looking at resolution is a good place to start.  I will definitely return to this topic.  In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on appropriate resolution mechanics

Thanks, guys!


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 21, 2011, 10:38:44 AM
Wow, bad editing by me.  That note to Dan should have concluded:

if you have any thoughts on appropriate resolution mechanics, please share!


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 21, 2011, 12:50:51 PM
I'm not precisely saying that plans and cutaways are the same, but rather than cutaways suits planned styles.

What I'm essentially suggesting is that a huge amount of the conflict that potentially arises, and if not conflict then uncertainty and confusion, does so because task res systems assert that you can do anything you could to in the physical world,.  While in the GM-story type game, this isn't going to be true, or at least isn't going to be always true.

It can also serve to soften some of the dangers.  So if the cutaway reveals to you that the evil Imperials are going to sabotage the starliner, you take rooms that are closer to the escape pods.  Which has the convenient result of reducing the odds of a fairly rolled system event killing off characters, and so on.  In other words, it facilitates collusion between the players and GM, which is a great deal more elegant and friendly than fudging rolls and denying actions so a favoured NPC can escape, as the classic form of GM control has it.



Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Dan Maruschak on October 21, 2011, 04:11:49 PM
Dave, I think it's hard for me to talk about game design in such an abstract way. If you were trying to actually design a particular game or achieve a particular effect it might be easier to keep the conversation grounded. At a conceptual level, I think the important thing is to keep player choices and resolution system results either orthogonal to the question of plot progress (e.g. maybe there's mechanical support for having evolving relationships but nothing that affects the character's goal: the Ringbearer is guaranteed to get to Mt. Doom, but the game is about figuring out how the Fellowship feels about each other along the way) or coordinated with it in a way that's fun (e.g. a pacing or level-of-detail mechanic rather than "reality-simulator" mechanics). You don't want the game sending mixed signals.

Obviously, I think my own game Final Hour of a Storied Age (http://www.danmaruschak.com/blog/final-hour-of-a-storied-age/) does pre-outlined plot well (although it's a GM-less game and a collaboratively created plot -- I'm skeptical that it would work if you just ripped the collaborative front-end out of my game and replaced it with a GM-decided plot, I think there wouldn't be enough buy-in). A big influence for me when writing my game was thinking about the difference between writers who work to an outline and writers who do "discovery writing", which is more like normal Story Now design where you have strongly defined characters who bang up against each other and create "plot" as they go. While a discovery writer is more prepared for surprising events, an outline writer generally knows the events in the plot but is open to being surprised by things they find out about the characters or about nuances of how particular scenes play out (at least that's my opinion). In my game, players usually have only a rough sketch of the character at the end of chargen and end up getting to know the character through play by describing their actions.

I think generalized conflict mechanics (like with negotiated stakes or whatever) could work too, but you need to figure out how to make sure that the stakes people agree to aren't going to interfere with the plot. The biggest problem I have in Mouse Guard is that the rules say players are supposed to determine their own goals in a conflict, so it's hard to put a conflict in the middle of the GM's turn because the players may not say they want the thing you think they should want. In general, I've grown kind of skeptical of negotiated stakes games (and they seem to be less popular in more modern indie games) because determining "good" stakes is something that seems to take a lot of skill or at least good storytelling instincts. I think there's potentially a way to work with slightly more mechanically discrete stakes that you could "open up" as the story progresses (e.g. killing a named NPC isn't allowed until Act II, killing a major villain isn't allowed until Act III, etc.). This could potentially give your story-builder some building blocks to work with that they could accurately determine whether they were sufficiently stable to build plot contingencies on. (I haven't really thought this through in too much depth).


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Callan S. on October 21, 2011, 07:37:20 PM
I think Filips outline is one that can possibly exist and could possibly be the case here. If it is the case yet is covered up for being called rude to talk about, that is a dire situation.

Ron: I'm not sure what you mean by preferences in regards to Filip's post? If it's along the lines of my question below, as to why roleplay when you could read aloud to a select group a text you've written? It seems a valid issue? Some desires just can't be forfilled by roleplay - roleplay can't do everything, of course.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 22, 2011, 01:01:44 AM
Gareth, I think I follow you.  So, as part of the GM's endeavor to tell the players what constraints they're operating within scene by scene, a cutaway is one more tool in the toolkit.  It may be more fun and more elegant than simply saying, "Okay, guys, don't room near the starliner's reactor core."

Planning such cutaways as part of prep allows/requires the GM to put some thought into what the relevant constraints will be before the chaos of actual play.  There are all sorts of options -- a list of planned cutaways could be a way to manifest plot points, or it could be a call for additional, supplementary plot points to fill in gaps.   

It also fits well with Todd's "make a movie" focus on an imaginary audience.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 22, 2011, 04:38:47 AM
Callan, there's a big difference between saying "I've had negative experiences with this sort of thing" and saying "the people who do this sort of thing are a type with some sort of malevolent personality problem.  I have never disputed that plenty of people HAVE had bad experiences, and I've also said that most of the existing GM advice as to how to do this sort of thing have played a big role in that.  What I dispute is the attribution of intentionality.

David, yes that's it.  Now the larger point is this: those cutaways are useful primarily because the help frame the at-the-table activity in the context of existing task resolution systems.  That is, to some extent - how much of an extent I'm not yet sure - they are solving a problem that arises precisely because the rest of the system is based on the world physics model. 

As you say, the cutaway serves to communicate the existence of constraints scene-by-scene, while the boxes-and-arrows example I gave previously was an attempt to imagine how the same sort of constraints could be communicated action-by-action.  It is that function of communication that I think will be key to properly facilitating story-before games.

The cutaways example and Todd's wagon-chase example both rely expressly on a cinematic convention that is commonly shared by players and GM's, and that provides a framework in which a working relationship can be conceived and understood.  But there are a lot of other situations in which the conventions are not so widely understood.  For example, if you project the game into an alien society where the rules of appropriate conduct are quite different to those in our world, there is always the danger that players acting with perfectly good intentions will do things that will, should, must trigger extreme responses that can derail the planned story.  Say, a player does something which breaks the law in a manner that appears trivial to us but is serious in context lese-majesty being a prime example.  The response required could have such negative consequences that it effectively hijacks the direction of play.  PC1 insults the king and gets thrown in the Tower, PC's 2 and 3 plot to free him before he gets beheaded. Even if they succeed, whatever mission or direction they had been working towards before is now redirected to a game of "being outlaws".  The GM either intervenes, or tosses their prep in the bin.

So my general thrust is this: just as story-now had to break away from the quest for system to "better model reality" and instead discover "how to preserve protagonism and agency", I think story-before will have to figure out "how to communicate scope and constraint".  Maybe not only that, but I think it's going to be a necessary part of it.  Todd does this explicitly, the cutaways do it implicitly - how can it be done systematically?


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Callan S. on October 22, 2011, 01:22:40 PM
Gareth, I don't know Filips intent in his post, but I didn't read any description by him of negative intents. The road to hellish gaming is paved with good intentions. To me, Filip is just describing the details of the paving stones. If Filip's been judgemental, just ignore that part of the post, because the rest simply describes circumstances and, by my estimate, is quite important to consider.

Filip, sorry to keep talking about you in the third person reference.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 22, 2011, 02:23:58 PM
Bait-and-switch?  Slaughtering gameplay?  Saying that "these people", roughly, shouldn't be playing RPG's at all?  I have difficulty in seeing any redeeming features in that garbage.

I don't really see what more there is that hasn't been discussed to death a thousand times.  I've already acknowledged that the hitherto existing methods applied to this end had down sides, but Filip is arguing that no effective  methods should even be discussed.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Callan S. on October 22, 2011, 03:37:31 PM
Occasionally on RPG.net I've seen threads which, summed up, seemed to me like asking "How can I stick a fork in my eye without it hurting so much?" which to me, begs the answer "Don't stick a fork in your eye?" but it's taken as being off topic or avoiding the question. But it is a possible answer. Although there may be solutions to a situation, it may possibly be that simply not doing the activity is the solution. Maybe, maybe not. To me Filip says it even more gently in simply suggesting there may be other ways more fruitful. I don't think we enact honest consideration if we don't consider that atleast even a tiny, fringe possibility of this. If it has been considered already to some degree, then I guess my last few posts weren't needed and sorry for my thread muss up. I'll leave it there, in either case, anyway.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 22, 2011, 04:19:48 PM
There's nothing we can gain from what-he-said what-I-meant what-he-meant posting.

Please talk about the stuff this thread is about. David was very, very specific about what that is a few posts ago.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 22, 2011, 07:10:55 PM
I agree with Dan that it's somewhat hard to have a purposeful game design discussion without the constraints of a specific game project.  At the moment, though, rather than trying to nail the one optimal approach for a game with certain color/setting/idiom, I'd like to explore a broader realm of productive techniques. 

I think one question all Story Before designs need to answer is, "So if the players don't determine what happens, what do they determine?"  So many games' incentives seem to hinge on character success.  You do X so you can earn points that give you a better chance to succeed when you attempt Y.  To me, getting away from that paradigm is exploratory and experimental, so for now I'm interested in a wide field of what might work.

Another big question is, "How do you get the most out of Story Before?"  This starts with understanding the approach's unique strengths, like the foreshadowing, dramatic timing, and big reveals you can find in planned fiction (i.e., novels and movies), as well as the unveiling and discovery of an extant creation.

I think the answers to these questions ought to connect.  Like, the players need to determine something that is complementary to foreshadowing, big reveals, etc.  Two possibilities that come to mind are details and impact.

Details:
The GM writes the plot, but the entire group makes it come to life.  Standards are applied for what is valuable in that endeavor, whether it be genre emulation, a vision of a specific setting, certain themes, etc.  Rewards ought to motivate the right sorts of contributions as per those standards.  Indirectness may be necessary, as I've found "Good job, that was very Lovecraftian, here's a token" to be underwhelming.

Impact:
The GM writes events.  The players maneuver their characters into positions where those events will matter greatly to them when they occur.  The payoff is that, when the GM reveals that the killer was brilliantly manipulated by the inept-seeming villain from earlier, the players respond intensely in character with shock, disbelief, and outrage.  "We let him go and now find out he's killed our best friend!  He's been laughing at us the whole time, that sadistic fuck!"  This provides the ultimate "well plotted, sir!" to the GM, as well as a huge adrenaline rush for the players. 

In trying to facilitate this, there's a potential conflict between the complicity of awareness and the genuine response of surprise.  How many specifics can the GM really plan and still be on target for these players and these characters?  If the players know too little of the plan, they may stray off into territory where the plan won't matter to them; if they know too much, the plan may come off flat.  Rewards here ought to motivate the strengthening of bonds between character and situation.  I, uh, have no idea what that would look like.  Drop flags for next session, strive to buy in right now?

Anyway, I hope all that babble throws some more fuel into the pot.  I'm happy if this thread goes down plenty of paths of different techniques for Story Before (as long as none of them are "Consider not bothering").  Dan and Gareth, I'll reply to your thoughts shortly.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 23, 2011, 11:46:37 PM
This was intended to address Dan's points but then got far broader.  So, anyone who's reading, consider this addressed to you as well.

Hi Dan,

That Storied Age mechanic sounds like it might apply.  The idea that there is a Chapter 2 that you will get to, but what you do in Chapter 1 determines when and in what position -- that strikes me as very appropriate.

My first guess is that "when" is the less important of those two in Story Before.  As a matter of fact, I'd like to leave the GM free to generally dictate timing of important fictional developments.  Letting a die roll delay a Turning Point for a few minutes sounds fine, but letting a whole series of resolution outcomes possibly delay it to next session sounds less suited to Story Before's potential strengths.

The more meaningfully the characters' positions evolve the better, I would think.  Whether that's effectiveness scores rocketing up and down the scale, resources flooding and bottoming out, or relationships and connections being drawn and crossed out, I'd guess that you want bang for your buck here.

At the same time, all these important changes need to not change the PCs' relationship to the Story Arc.

Hmm.  I wonder if GM and players could agree on character limits as part of character creation.  Brainstorm:

1) Each character gets a Dynamic.  The Dynamic is the type of character change the player is most interested in (game comes with list of genre-suitable Dynamics, GM refines further, then players pick?)

2) The GM and player discuss the bounds of each Dynamic.  How high and low can the character go?  Example: Courage.  The GM sees problems only if the character gets utterly fearless, but finds total terror compatible with the intended plot, so the limits are set at Very Courageous and Ruled By Terror.  The game system then moved the character around within that range.

Does that say anything about what the resolution system should resolve? 

If it's about success of character actions, then it needs to also (directly or indirectly, immediately or eventually) produce changes to the character. 

But maybe it's not about success of character actions at all.  Maybe participationist play is that rare situation when the Play Pretend model of "someone decides" is usable.  Maybe the GM decides, maybe the player decides, or maybe the player with the most points decides (with points earned for contributions to the stated aesthetic goals of play, perhaps).  If the GM decides the result of every attempt, and the mechanics resolve only how that effects the character, that is at least a pretty clear statement about why we're playing.

Note: in the above example, given goals of dynamics and limits, we probably want a negative feedback  mechanism, so anyone who gets Very Courageous doesn't simply stay there.

Are more structural mechanics something you're open to, or do you also want to preserve the classic paradigm of players playing characters with capabilities described in terms what they can do within a fictional world?

At this point I'm open to anything that seems like it'd work. 

As for characters defined by in-fiction capabilities, I have two opposite thoughts:

1) Screw that!  The mindset of, "Here I am, here's what I want, what are my options, what would work?" totally butts heads with a planned story.

2) Yes, keep it!  The mindset of, "Think in character, try stuff, and discover what happens," is perfect for resonance and intense appreciation of the developments the GM unveils.

Personally, I agree with Eero that transparent and repetitive regurgitation of tropes is unappealing.  And I think that's a risk if you stick players in author/director stance with limited author/director powers.  The contribution channel may get a little too narrow. 

Interestingly, Todd's solution in Unknown Armies is to briefly hand out director reins to a given player at a moment that spotlights their character.  So that's an option.

My personal sweet spot would be if I could build a character who's a machine well-suited to the game's agenda and then just play them like a real person.  I think designing such a game might be more work than the alternatives, but it'd be super cool.

I think the important thing is to keep player choices and resolution system results either orthogonal to the question of plot progress (e.g. maybe there's mechanical support for having evolving relationships but nothing that affects the character's goal: the Ringbearer is guaranteed to get to Mt. Doom, but the game is about figuring out how the Fellowship feels about each other along the way) or coordinated with it in a way that's fun (e.g. a pacing or level-of-detail mechanic . . . )

Agreed!

I think my brainstorms above fall under "orthogonal". 

As for "coordinated":

Maybe if the character changes being produced dictate which plot point hits when?  Like, if there are 4 PCs with 4 Dynamics and each Dynamic has two endpoints for a total of 8, then the GM devises 4 or 8 plot developments that will be triggered by hitting those endpoints.  Ehn, kinda cool, but kinda not proper Story Before.

Maybe if the character changes and the plot are both pulling on the same aesthetic rope in some structured way.  Something beyond just "we're all doing cinema horror and we know good cinema horror when we see it".  Like, I dunno, there are Potentials within both story and character that can be Unlocked by meeting certain conditions.  Like, if the group decides that Courage 3 / Loyalty 5 / Sanity 0 would be a great place to wind up, then achieving that rewards everyone involved with... uh.. crap, I don't know.  With a reminder to do whatever you were stoked about, that caused you to declare that a great place to wind up, I guess.  Or there could be an audience rating, some critic meter of how good the movie is.  A bad rating shouldn't mean a not-fun play experience, but a great rating could be something to shoot for.  The rating would have to be based on something that neither GM nor players can do alone.  This idea needs more thought!  Help would be most welcome!

Maybe the players can write wish lists of scenes they want to have, and helping the GM pull off the GM's vision earns them such scenes.  Though "trade" and "taking turns" is no good; there needs to be synergy.

an outline writer generally knows the events in the plot but is open to being surprised by things they find out about the characters or about nuances of how particular scenes play out

That reminds me!  I can't believe I haven't touched on the play -> prep cycle.  It's common in my experience to have the GM's prep for session 3 react very strongly to what the players did in session 2 even if the GM is trying to tell his/her own story.  I've never seen this structured in such a way that the players know this is happening and feel rewarded by it, though.  Maybe at the end of session 2, the players could have earned a certain number of input points, which they can then spend on scenes or events or NPCs or objects or locations, which the GM must then include in the prep for session 3.

More generally, reminder to self: tell GMs in big letters on page one, "You get to be a control freak about these certain things over here, but not about these other things over there.  If you can't enjoy being surprised, just do a reading, don't play a multi-player game."

I think generalized conflict mechanics (like with negotiated stakes or whatever) could work too

I'm actually not having any inspirations in that direction, but I'd be happy to hear suggestions.

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 24, 2011, 01:22:33 AM
Some points based on the above.

A planned story doesn't necessarily need to be total.  So it would be quite possible to constrain the whole story of "how the ring was brought to Mt Doom" and then leave the decision to throw it in or not to players or system or a mix of both.  What would happen then is essentially a bunch of special effects that play out as the credits roll.

On a similar note, it is possible to do branching plans, but this is usually sub-optimal because it means that some amount of prep will not be used.  As such it's quite an inefficient method for someone writing for themselves and their group, but I should mention that this problem goes away when the writer is a third party, providing material to multiple groups.  So maybe game1 has a branch decision at the end, and you follow it on with game A or game B depending on which branch your group decided to take.  If the person writing these is in the same relationship as a module writer of old, selling their work to various groups depending on what choice they made, then the branches won't be wasted after all.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on October 24, 2011, 05:26:38 AM
Early in my roleplaying career, I tried to use my GM position to tell my stories, and though there were many times when that didn't go so well, there were some times where it went really well for everyone involved.  I know I got something unique out of it, and I think the players did too.  So I'm convinced that functional possibilities do exist in this direction.  How hard they are to design for is another question.

Everyone, I'd prefer that we keep the focus on the "designing for" part here in this thread, please.

As for designing. Do you know that even today people are using this time-proven medium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storytelling) to tell stories to small immediate audiences? Seems like you are designing with this specific activity as the goal. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to start your design from the activity itself rather than refit the conventions of another "game-like" activity into a rough shape of the former.

You can learn more about traditional storytelling via sites like this one. (http://www.storynet.org/) I think it shouldn't be difficult to apply its methods to not so traditional topics, like pulp genre or other nerdy matters, should that be needed based on the target audience.

Next, I believe you might find reading this classic article (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=18707.0) useful. I also think it's particularly useful to notice another phenomenon existing within the hobby, one roughly equivalent to the one described, but related to games rather than stories. Specifically, the linked article gains a new meaning and mostly still makes perfect sense when all instances of the word "story" are substituted with the word "game".

I also believe homosexual people should engage in homosexual sex, while heterosexual people should engage in heterosexual sex. Not necessarily in each other's vicinity though, unless bisexual, when in turn they don't benefit from searching for a vagina on a men's body. But hey, I never said I'm not a bigot, did I?


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 24, 2011, 09:28:50 AM
it would be quite possible to constrain the whole story of "how the ring was brought to Mt Doom" and then leave the decision to throw it in or not to players or system or a mix of both.

That appears to be what Todd does.  I must confess, it confuses me a bit. 

I mean, if he told me up front, "you get to decide the ending," then I'd probably be looking forward to that the whole game, evaluating momentary changes in position with an eye toward the finale.  That seems like a bad thing, as opposed to having things matter immediately in their own right.

And if he didn't tell me that, I'd probably be a little disoriented when it hit.  Like, "wait, I get no control over the plot, but now I do get control over how it all turns out?"

But maybe I'm failing to imagine the experience accurately.

On a similar note, it is possible to do branching plans, but this is usually sub-optimal because it means that some amount of prep will not be used.  As such it's quite an inefficient method for someone writing for themselves and their group, but I should mention that this problem goes away when the writer is a third party, providing material to multiple groups.

It's an interesting question.  Some of the GM tastes and techniques that apply here probably apply fairly well to writing modules.  That said, for now I'd like to focus on a proper interactive RPG, for which case I'd have to agree that doing prep that won't get used is generally a bad thing.  I guess it depends on what sort of prep, though. 

Some GMs have no trouble at all prepping and then implementing NPC stuff that may affect the players in different ways depending on what they've gotten up to.  "The Vampires declare war on the CIA" is going to change your espionage game one way or the other, but it plays out differently depending on if your character is standing there for the declaration.  I think that as long as the prepped event does matter to the players, how they experience it is often a good thing to leave up to chance and individual decisions.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: contracycle on October 24, 2011, 10:41:17 AM
Well, on the topic of a final decision, let me draw on the example of CRPG's.  In the second Knights of the Old Republic game, for example,  at the end the Sith Lord gives you a lecture and tries to convert you to the Dark Side.  Depending on how you choose, you get a different final boss fight and different end cinematics.  In  Deus Ex: Invisible War you get arguments from three different factions, and deconstructions of each faction's position from the point of view of the others, and have to choose which one to throw in with.  In Mass Effect 2, you have a whole bunch of subsidiary goals to complete before triggering the final act, and depending on which of those you achieved, various ally characters get killed or not.

So there are quite a lot of ways to have the overall course of play focus on a climactic moment in which some sort of choice is made.  I don't think that comes across as particularly confusing. In the ring scenario, maybe you have a tracker which is modified by decisions over the course of play to determine whether you have enough control to dispose of the ring or not.  One of the purposes of constraint up to that point will be to project the characters into situations where such choices may be made - the wraiths are hunting you, do you try to go invisible?, etc.

The thing is that whether a choice matters to the players and whether it matters to the GM are two different things.  They only matter to the GM to the extent that they obviate future planning, and so where a choice can be made without doing so - by putting it at the end, for example - then its perfectly feasible to include that sort of thing.  It isn't necessarily the case that the GM is imposing an interpretation on events.  So it isn't really necessary for the idea that the GM has control over "the plot" to include in that the final decisive point of play.  What they're really controlling is setting up that decisive moment, contextualising it, adding dramatic flourishes and so on.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Dan Maruschak on October 24, 2011, 02:43:50 PM
My first guess is that "when" is the less important of those two in Story Before.  As a matter of fact, I'd like to leave the GM free to generally dictate timing of important fictional developments.
I think pacing is an interesting question. Generally, I think of it as a pretty low-level thing, on the same sort of level as things like the amount of description. It can have an impact on the feel and tone of a story, but it isn't necessarily core to a story. I was thinking about HBO's Game of Thrones, where most of the battles are sort of skimmed over (presumably for production reasons) in contrast to the books where there's usually a bit of detail to them: the story is the same, but the way it's told is slightly different, with different pacing. But like you say, the timing of important events is in some ways what "plot" is all about. I wonder if there's an easy way to differentiate the two, or if it's more subtle, like the difference between "important fictional details" and "just color".

Quote
Hmm.  I wonder if GM and players could agree on character limits as part of character creation.  Brainstorm:

1) Each character gets a Dynamic.  The Dynamic is the type of character change the player is most interested in (game comes with list of genre-suitable Dynamics, GM refines further, then players pick?)

2) The GM and player discuss the bounds of each Dynamic.  How high and low can the character go?  Example: Courage.  The GM sees problems only if the character gets utterly fearless, but finds total terror compatible with the intended plot, so the limits are set at Very Courageous and Ruled By Terror.  The game system then moved the character around within that range.
Do you think there's a danger of making things over-determined? If the GM is going to be bringing a strongly pre-planned plot, I'd worry about players also trying to pre-plan or pre-explore characters. But maybe I'm just having a personal taste reaction, since I don't like to overintellectualize what I want to explore with a character before I play them because it keeps me from engaging with them emotionally.

Quote
Does that say anything about what the resolution system should resolve? 

If it's about success of character actions, then it needs to also (directly or indirectly, immediately or eventually) produce changes to the character. 

But maybe it's not about success of character actions at all.
I think I might quibble with the idea that it needs to lead to change. I think it could also be about revelation. There have been a few instances in my Storied Age playtests when we were essentially asked by the game: "You failed. Why?" Having to come up with good narration that answered that question helped us develop the characters. But I suppose that some people might classify "learning something about the character that you didn't know before" as a kind of change.

Quote
My personal sweet spot would be if I could build a character who's a machine well-suited to the game's agenda and then just play them like a real person.  I think designing such a game might be more work than the alternatives, but it'd be super cool.
I think games like DITV and Apocalypse World do a good job of framing player decisions about character actions in an outward facing way that lets you think about what you want to do without worrying about knowing if what you do will succeed. Personally, I think I have an easier time "just playing my character" in a game like DITV than I do in FATE, which tells me explicitly what I'm good at (or average, fair, great, or superb at) in terms of interacting with the world. I'm thinking that the big problem is the reliable expectations you can build up: if you can know as a player that you should have a 30% chance of successfully shooting out the truck's tires then you can't mesh comfortably in a story that requires that the tires not be shot out. But what mechanics are or aren't "anti-immersive" is a highly debated topic.


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 26, 2011, 07:16:13 PM
Settling on a real goal
I'm posting now in the assumption that "Story Before + Participationist" is the thread's play-and-design goal. Here are some thoughts that have occurred to me over the past week, and some threads, some very old, which I think might be useful reading.

As a minor point, let's not leave Story After behind in the dust. I think that in trying to work out techniques for the stated goal, a person may find himself or herself trapped in something they don't want to do, and seeking Story After instead. A useful although immediately-unproductive older thread about Story After can be found here: Facilitating illusionist retcon story techniques (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=3973.0). Maybe it could be the foundation for a sister thread.

We might do well to leave various concerns about Creative Agenda behind. Not because the combination of techniques is CA-neutral - it's not - but because Forge discussions have usually brought it up in the context of trying to distinguish between Simulationist and Narrativist play, and learning not to get distracted by the shibboleth of "story." The whole Participation/Illusionist terminology was worked out in that context. However, once we treat the CA issue as a door to walk through, and once through it because we're saying for the moment, nertz to Narrativism, I think we can talk strictly in terms of these play-and-design goals without letting that be a source of conversational breakdown.

Major point: dials, dials, dials
One of the insights I've extracted so far is to turn some of the assumed necessary features of such play, or rather, historically present features, into options. Such that different designs toward the goal could display rather different techniques-sets. It'd be quite a revolution to see ten different versions of Story-Before-Participationist with not only different settings but with genuinely different rules and hence facilitated play-experiences. Contrast that with the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the hamster-wheel production of Shadowrun imitators reached the level of self-parody.

My point is not to eliminate any of the following, but to identify them as dials that can be spun quite freely without violating the goal.

i) The desired amount of play in real time associated with "the story," especially assuming either nigh-infinite lengthy play or single-session over-and-done play as the defaults. That said, though, I think this kind of role-playing may benefit from a certain amount of attention to "how long we're doing this," without specifying the length as a universal principle.

ii) Specific genre/source expectations that have historically been associated with such play, particularly adventure-module based play. One of them is obviously the team concept; instead, opening up conceptual frameworks for the characters’ role in the story seems to me to be one of the great design opportunities made available. It’d be fascinating to see a means of establishing through play which character will or might become the dickweed, for example. (see Examples of GNS in application w/respect to play (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=4226.0) if you aren’t familiar with my use of the term; beware, though, these old GNS discussions are very swampy muck)

iii) How to arrive at a fictional situation, which is pretty much the same old Murk issue. Historically, this kind of play has been relatively non-Murky because "get into the mission, dammit" has often been a requirement for play in the first place, reinforced by the prevalence of published adventures. People who can’t get behind that are tagged “uncooperative” and “disruptive,” and are either grumpily tugged along or get left out of play. Is railroading a symptom of design? (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=29332.0). This is a detailed, relatively recent thread in which I present my own take on the issues explictly and gradually to a person who is understanding it bit by bit. I think applies well to this topic.

Shooting sacred cows
In line with prior posts of mine concerning bucket seats …

i) Obviously, total player naivete has to get jettisoned. As long as the story’s “spine” is being maintained by the GM (or whatever the story-guy-Force-in-charge person is called), there’s plenty of room for player input given that the players aren’t merely recipients. It’s a different kind of input than seen in straight-up Narrativist play, but certain techniques could easily be opened up over here as well: Director Stance, cues for certain things (“I have a flashback,” who knows), or whatever.

ii) "Characters can do anything!" No, they can't. The story at hand, or rather, its production via various agreed-upon means, is no longer simply visited upon players who have alleged "free agents" who turn out to be not free after all. That's the heart of the Impossible Thing Before Breakfast. Instead, we're saying, "The GM controls the story and the players know it." Where "controls" is no longer necessarily considered synonymous with "writes, delivers, takes a bow," which is one of the reasons we're having this conversation at all.

So (i) and (ii) work together: neither GMs nor players do "everything," "nothing," or "anything." The various group-distributed means of enjoying and contributing to the enactment and enrichment of the delivered story are wide open for development.

iii) Nothing about this sort of play requires an elaborate setting. This is largely why I included my essay in this thread, getting away from the idea that Story Before play is necessarily about transmitting setting at all, especially a big and detailed one. Presentation of light setting (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=8450.0) isn't a very deep or detailed thread, but it asks the right questions.

iv) It is likely that someone reading the thread to date will interject that the obvious goal of Story Before Participationist play is "immersion," with the corollary point that the job of the GM is to induce this state among the other participants. If anyone is leaning toward saying this, then I suggest that immersion as an obvious and automatic goal be treated as a sacred cow and shot, and the phenomenon be treated as a dial, subject to the desires and experiences of a given group, as well as to the desired outcomes of a given game designer. See On immersion, fascination, and precious moment (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=15433.0) for the definitive discussion about it, including the links to older threads.

Data, we got
I'm seeing a lot of "but how can this be done" posts. It's time to do some data-mining and make use of the Forge's potential for institutional memory.

I've done it, mainly in the short-term, e.g. [Arrowflight] Pixies, poison, and duty (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=8528.0); see also Arrowflight and illusionist game texts (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=3966.0) and . I think my Fvlminata review (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/reviews/28/) and my Godlike review (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/reviews/2/) are relevant as well, although the points I'm thinking about are phrased there in terms of GNS questions. If you apply my above point about relaxing the "Sim-or-Narr, oh my God!" concern, or at least choosing and getting on with it, then the bits about story-creation in those reviews turn out to be part of this discussion.

Frank has done it a lot! See [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=21258.0), The players’ role in Participationist play (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=25449.0); see also his comments in A small clash of vision (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=28019.0) which is a useful thread about some stumbling-points, and his and my unintentional tag-team posting in [NWOD][VtR] New Game - New Possibilities - New Questions!  (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=26750.0).

Well, if I keep working on this post it'll be another weeks-long process. I'll stop here for now and hope for some feedback. I have another batch of points though, regarding - counter to my historical posting - how not to get diverted into Narrativist play while considering what we're considering here.

Best, Ron
edited to fix a link - RE


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on October 27, 2011, 12:50:29 AM
Hi Ron,

I'll have a more substantive response eventually, but I just wanted to chime in and say that we are very much on the same page here.

neither GMs nor players do "everything," "nothing," or "anything." The various group-distributed means of enjoying and contributing to the enactment and enrichment of the delivered story are wide open for development.

This is exactly why I'm excited about this topic and raised it here.



A few quick notes before I go off to begin reading those links you provided:

"Story Before" definition:

I've been using "Story Before" in a very unspecific way, to refer to any range of planned outcomes, from "the GM planned the beginning and end of every scene before play began" to "the GM has a general vision for how things ought to go, and occasionally steps in during play to dictate outcomes that serve that vision".  Hopefully that's yet another dial, and the full range is under discussion here, but I just wanted to make my usage explicit in case others are thinking of something different.  I'll be happy to refine my usage if that seems more productive.

Immersion:

As for my personal favorite version of immersion, I'd say that Story Before Participationism (SBP) likely covers the entire spectrum from "most immersive" to "not immersive at all".  SBP is quite capable of housing creative configurations that are optimal for a sort of guided thrill ride where players are maximally receptive to an affecting sensory barrage... and it can also house Todd's "make a movie and think about the audience" performance and showmanship.

Diversion into Narrativism:

Ron, huh?  I don't see that as a risk at all here.  I'm all for your earlier suggestion about leaving G vs N vs S out of this for now.  (Not because I'm not interested in how it relates -- I am!  Just because I fear it'll wrench a few billion words out of me and others to the detriment of the goal at hand.)

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 27, 2011, 11:55:33 AM
That's true - I'll start a daughter thread.

I encourage others to do the same with whatever auxiliary or extension issues they've perceived in the discussion so far. I'm not stopping this thread, but I do think that it's time to start new ones about related stuff rather than keeping it all here.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: David Berg on November 04, 2011, 12:04:18 AM
I'm having fun reading through those links.  Some of it's old news to me, but those threads with Frank are pushing into just enough detail to maybe be useful here.  The bit here (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=25449.msg245368#msg245368) about the Han Solo clone betraying the Alliance is fantastic.  I also like the mirror analogy in that thread.  Each player holds a "wonderfully flawed" (thanks, Callan) mirror up to the shared material of play, reflecting back their personal take on it.

These unique reflections are incredibly valuable to a Participationist GM!  This is why you bring your story to the game table -- to see people react to it with strong emotions, yes, but also to express their understanding and appreciation of it by taking it in new directions.  "Star Wars made you take your hotshot smuggler in that direction?  Wow.  My vision of what Star Wars can encompass just expanded.  It was a little uncomfortable at first, but now I'm trying to see what you must be seeing, and hey, that's pretty cool."  That's a pretty meaty interaction already.  Now take "Star Wars" and replace it with "my story" -- that's a back-and-forth with some serious creative oomph.

To be a Story Before Participationist GM, you can't be too possessive or protective of your baby.  If you can't move past that initial discomfort and see what the player sees, you're in trouble.  "No, don't do that!" is a natural urge.  I'm not sure a mere text instruction is enough to overcome it.  A mandate to overcome that urge (or reward for doing so) might be a crucial part of an SBP rule set.

On the player side, orientation to the fiction is key.  Of course I can give you my take on Star Wars -- I already have a bunch of attachments to it.  There are parts I love or hate, parts that interest or bore me, parts I think were done perfectly and parts I can do better.  Give me a channel to affect the fiction -- any channel, even just acting in character -- and my reflections on Star Wars will pour right out into play.  But when it comes to the GM's story -- well, that can be different.  When have I seen enough of it to form an opinion on it?  In which situations are my opinions welcome?  Do I share enough touch points with everyone else that the thing I want to contribute will even make sense to them?  Should I play tentatively?  Should I play with reckless abandon so I don't get tentative? 

The issue is twofold: getting the group on the same aesthetic page (important in any RPG, but especially so here, I think) and also communicating what sorts of reflections will play best.  I suspect some modeling would be a good call here.  Picture this: the GM plays out an intro scene by him/herself.  The GM either designates a stand-in for a player character or (if the game's player-character relationship supports it) takes control of one or all PCs.  The GM then has some events unfold, and demonstrates how the PCs respond.  So, when actual group play begins, the players have seen the world, experienced the pace and tone of the story, and been given at least one example of how they can interface with it.  Hopefully this will get them started on the right foot, ready to act with some orientation and confidence.  (Of course, it would nee to be made clear that the GM's example is just an example, and not the only way players are encouraged to interact.)

I wonder if calling out types of reflection would be useful?  Let me see what I can remember appreciating when I GMed this way (kind of) in high school. 

There's Emotional Response (how does my character feel about this?), Curiosity (what questions can I ask?), Extension (if we saw this, and we saw that, then here's my assessment of what's going on that we haven't seen), Fishing (I have any idea for what might fit well here; I look around for it), and Processing (here's my story about what's happened so far) -- and these can all be done from Actor Stance.  If the players ever use Director Stance (Todd hands that out for spotlight moments), there's the chance to author whole new locations and characters to express a new take on the GM's story.  Perhaps this is why Todd does it!

More reading to do, more ponderings to ponder...


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on November 04, 2011, 05:38:29 AM
Hey David,

Thanks for pointing this thread out to me. Also, curse you, for now I spent the whole morning reading and typing, instead of working as I ought to have! *shakes fist*

The topic is one that I have been writing about for long, and I’ve actually come around recently to finishing my new game Danger Zone (in German, unfortunately) which is about the very mode of play Todd describes in your first post. A lot of great points have been made in this thread and I mostly agree with what Dan, Gareth and Ron have said. From your summaries and follow-up questions, David, I gather that you and I are very much talking the same language here. I cannot possible try to address every point that has been raised in this thread, because even if I limit myself to a few, what comes out is four pages.

1) Existing games; rules leading or fiction leading?

You are probably familiar with Vincent’s “strictly ballroom” analogy, wherein he makes the distinction between games where the rules lead, and games where the fiction leads. Some of the suggested “new Participationist designs” seem to lean into the direction of “rules leading”, though to be fair, I have only read a few reviews and haven’t played any of them. These would seem to include Trail of Cthulhu, Final Hours in a Storied Age, and Ingenero, which were mentioned in this thread. A game where the rules lead has a very different “feel” than a game where the fiction leads, and, in my experience, Participationist play is all about the fiction: Getting “into it”, appreciating it, investing in it. I’ve been talking about this, and the role fiction-based resolution mechanisms may play in it, in the thread [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=27574.0). (You may remember the thread from Vincent’s series of posts about the “Moment of Judgment”, it somewhat went South but some good points were made.)

HEX/Ubiquity and FATE are two games mentioned above that seem to produce good results for Participationist groups who already know how to do it. I think that’s because both games have this sort of fiction-based resolution, low points-of-contact, and also some tools (FATE points et al) to overrule the resolution and the GM, where needed, in an up-front way. What they are lacking, as David correctly points, is a reward system and clear communication of goals to facilitate Participationism. As an aside, I only played Ubiquity (HEX) once, in a convention game, but I thought it was pretty half-ass: Beginning PCs were largely incompetent, style points didn’t make much of a difference and in a fight, generally the most effective thing to do was “just roll an attack”. PDQ works better in my experience but still lacks the features David was asking for.

I think WuShu is a special case, it is a hamster wheel as Ron has repeatedly pointed out and it doesn’t really facilitate anything but a competition of who can give the most ridiculously over-the-top portrayal of an action sequence. (Which can admittedly be fun for an hour or two, every other year.)

2) So, why bother rolling an attack at all?

Happysmellfish wrote:

Quote
If telling people, "Look - this is the outcome we're heading towards, just play it out and have fun" works so well, why bother letting the rules creep back in?

Yeah, why indeed? Long story short: Because it’s fun. There is no contradiction here. I don’t want the basic “feel” of role-playing, of “how we negotiate the fiction”, changed. Just because I enjoy Story Before doesn’t mean I want to sit down and do a story workshop instead of just, y’know, roleplaying. Look at that truck chase scene in Todd’s game. You think they’d keep doing that for 1.5 hours straight if they were just “narrating it”? If single actions couldn’t fail, if clever ideas weren’t rewarded, if being an appropriately kick-ass action hero didn’t need to be earned? (Hint: No, they wouldn’t.)

Sure, nobody will die. The bad guys will get away. But it makes a whole lot of a difference whether you give them a memorable chase where they only escape by improbable luck, or whether the GM has to fudge things just so none of the PCs gets killed. That’s an ambition every good Participationist player should have: to give the GM a run for his money. To live up to their PCs’ roles and be kick-ass (or emo or whatever the deal is). Take that away, you take away all the fun.

 3) How I did it

Another post that’s probably repetitive at this point but totally on topic is  
[nWoD]Post-Apocalyptic Participationism in Salt Lake City
(http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30639.0) in which I talk about the actual play experience I was looking to facilitate with Danger Zone. So, how did I do it?

3.1) Resolution

The stuff that FATE, PDQ et al do well, I do, too. Characters have a few very broad stats that say what they are good at. Resolution is very simple, but there is a bonus dice mechanism that relies on fictional details alone. Fiction leading, check. (Also, David’s point about Details, check.) There is a subsystem for fights and chases with a fun little initiative mechanism, too.

My variation of FATE points are called Daring Points, and are basically awarded by the “Rule of Harrison Ford” (strikingly similar to Todd’s approach).

3.2) Transparency

I think Gareth is dead on when he says:

Quote
(…) just as story-now had to break away from the quest for system to "better model reality" and instead discover "how to preserve protagonism and agency", I think story-before will have to figure out "how to communicate scope and constraint". 

So, the “Rule of Harrison Ford” is in place to show players what kind of thing is expected from their characters. Also, the fact that there are subsystems for fights and chases says explicitly, “there will be lots of fights and chases in this game”.

The GM is explicitly allowed to use Force, but the rules say when he uses Force, he must put a number of Daring counters equal to the number of players into the pot (the pool of Daring Points). So as GM I have to say aloud when I use Force, and the text encourages me to do it at the beginning of a scene (my example is actually a chase where the GM says at the start, “Just so you know, they’re going to get you”, dropping a number of tokens into the pot.)

One of my favorite things about Danger Zone are the Dramatic Scenes. In the default Normal Scene, rules application is optional. Everyone is allowed to take some liberties in narration and Daring Points may be spent to just skip a roll and succeed at any task (within reason). At any point, any participant can put the red “Decisive Scene” card on the table, and from there on, rules will be applied more strictly. Daring Points can still be used for re-rolls and other stuff, but not to fudge outcomes. Negotiation of the fiction is more strictly, you can fail even if you don’t want to. (Note that it’s totally up to each group when to call for a Decisive Scene. In particular, not every Decisive Scene has to be a fight or chase and not nearly every fight or chase has to be a Decisive Scene. If a group does not feel they need any Decisive Scenes, ever, that’s also perfectly okay. These rules are supposed to be “convention building”, for each individual group.)

Even in a Decisive Scene, your character can’t die. The only way that can happen is if the GM specifically announces a Life-or-Death Decisive Scene, slamming the black card down on the table and saying, loudly, “Life or Death.” (It sounds cooler in German.) The rule is that this can only happen when the players actively decide to press a fight against terrible odds, letting slip a chance for escape or surrender. The GM must never force a Life-or-Death Scene. By no means is a Life-or-Death Scene needed to complete any given adventure.

I also have smaller “talk about it” bits in the rules but the above are the main, rules-enforced transparency aspects.

3.3) Reward System

On a small, session-length scale I have the Daring Points and the Rule of Harrison Ford. I did not feel a need for any further incentive to complete the GM’s plot. I mean, if the players are interested in that kind of thing at all, they should be able to catch the clues, and if not, no Reward System however elaborate could change that. D&D doesn’t grant XP for accepting the mission, either. (I did include a couple pages condensed GM advice, though.)

I also wanted to include a larger Reward Cycle that would work on the “campaign” or “chronicle” scale. As character improvement was bound to be slow, given that characters had few stats and the range was only 1-4, it would have to be a slow advancement, not as quick as, say, Keys and Advances in TSoY. I also wanted it to be more of a subtle thing in the background, not as dominant as Keys. So I made up something called “Destiny”, where the player names one or two, well, destinies for his character and you gain Advancement Points by getting closer to your Destiny—or struggling against it. You can also abandon your Destiny (much like Key buy-off). But these things are supposed to be cooking on the side, and then sometimes to be picked up and integrated by the GM into one of the “Before” stories, not something that would be resolved in a single (or couple of) sessions.

Unfortunately, I only had single session playtests, so I don’t know if it works. :P It does resonate with an analogy Ron once came up concerning Participationism and character development: The GM and the player are riding a tandem.

4) Getting on the same page

I just realized I did not cover this in the Danger Zone text, but it’s important. David wrote:

Quote
The issue is twofold: getting the group on the same aesthetic page (important in any RPG, but especially so here, I think) and also communicating what sorts of reflections will play best.  I suspect some modeling would be a good call here.  Picture this: the GM plays out an intro scene by him/herself.

I actually did this for a couple of my games (e.g. Dead of Night), only I didn’t talk to myself. (Aside: The GM in the above mentioned HEX game did that and it was awful.) Instead, I provided a written intro about half a page long. This reminds me, the original Star Wars d6, already mentioned in this thread, suggested to write an intro dialogue like a screenplay, for the players to read out aloud.

One of the most useful means to get everybody on the same page is, of course, source material. I recently announced a game of Danger Zone with the tag line “True Pulp” and went on to say: “No steampunk—gasoline. No gadgets—guns. Tough mustached guys with suspenders and greased hair. (…) You seen Peter Jackson’s King Kong, you know what I’m talkin’ about.” I’m fairly sure this will get everybody exactly on the same page.

I think given the GM role in Participationism, it’s important for the GM to develop and communicate that aesthetic vision to begin with, but also, as David very correctly points out, not to be possessive or protective about it. Do you need a rule that specifically addresses this point? What more would such a rule say than “don’t do it?” Are FATE points and their ilk, by granting limited director stance to the players, already doing the trick? Interesting questions.

Again, great thread and thanks for keeping the discussion up and contructive!

- Frank


Title: Re: decoupling Reward Systems from broad-scale Story Arcs
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 04, 2011, 06:39:34 AM
Hi,

I'd like to call for splitting things into daughter threads now. I've reviewed this one, and there's at least two distinct steps of redefining the issue. Which is not a bad thing, but it means this thread will serve best as a foundation for others.

If you are reading this and thinking, "But wait, the thread just got good," then that's exactly what I mean. Take whatever it is you think is the good thing to talk about, and start a thread with a distinctive name about that. With some actual play referenced to illustrate it or to counter-illustrate it.

Best, Ron