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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 31 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Re: [D&D 3.5] A world without its creator  (Read 3184 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: January 04, 2008, 08:18:49 AM »

Hi Jasper,

Here's my question: yes, the introduction was boring, but what about play itself? I recognize that the first may be an indicator for upcoming problems in the second, but it might not have to be that way. If play presents (or presented, I'm not sure) no hassles, then the bumpy introduction might simply be left in the past, or discussed without pressure in retrospect.

Best, Ron
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dindenver
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2008, 03:53:31 PM »

Hi!
  I didn't think that happened anymore, lol
  Yeah, I have been in some D&D campaigns that started that way.
  Something about D&D hits a lot of those pressure points and brings out the same reactions in inexperienced DMs. There is the two parties, one is the good guys one is the bad guys, etc. And when its all drawn together the GM wants to retell it, but sometimes there is not much fun in the re-telling...
  Sorry man
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Dave M
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David B. Goode
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2008, 03:20:40 PM »

I have a delightful home-brewed supers game I've been running for years. The one constant through every campaign has been my poor wife. Every time a new game started for years, she had to endure the Big Back Story, explaining history and origins. She told me, after several occurrences of this, that she really didn't need to hear it anymore.

After patching up my wounded GM heart, I came across a great alternative - probably from a pod-cast. Planting the history and world story in the game is way less cumbersome. The PCs get to take it in in bite sized peaces. I've noticed a lot of movies and computer RPGs begin in media res, kind of assuming you know everything, then reveal the world, backstory and all, to you slowly.

Also, remember every GM makes mistakes, especially when he's excited about sharing a wonderful world he's crafted.
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Jasper Flick
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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2008, 02:09:36 PM »

I've been away for a while. Thanks for the reactions people!

It seems I'm not the only one who believes that RP sessions generally make bad source material for storytelling. In case of an actual play session even more so: I'm here to play, not to exclusively listen. If I could've seen it coming I probably would've tried to stop it, though I can't tell if that would've shot the whole deal to hell. I've noticed trying to talk about the act of play itself tends to alienate mainstream RPers from me (and I don't use any fancy Forge lingo or anything).

I guess the point was that there wasn't anything set up or agreed upon in advance (heck, this was to be the first orientating session). The deal to tell a bit about the setting was made there and accepted. Only while it was being carried out did it manifest itself as something I considered bad. By then he who would stand up would be the party pooper.

It would probably have been alright had I included in the deal "yea but if it gets boring we can cut you off, ok?". Ah, hindsight. Counter-intuitive as it might seem, being formal in a casual situation makes me more at ease. (Tangent: I abhor true freeform play; gotta have explicit rules or it's meaningless to me.)

So with that out of the way, as Ron asked: what about play itself? I didn't make it very clear but the game in question ended about a month before I started this thread. Anyway, indeed a bumpy start can be overcome, but in this case the initial momemtum rapidly vanished. I'll write about that in a later post, which will come in a few days. Sorry for the wait!


Some other good point people made in this thread:

How long is it gonna take?

I think Callan hit something big here:
Quote from: Callan
[...] I could literally feel them chaffing during it. I think to a degree, fair enough - when you don't know how long the GM's going to go on for, it's hard to enjoy it.

Indeed Johad had unrealistic expectations back then, but so did at least I as well. We both obviously thought it wasn't going to be too long.

I think both sides can gain a lot by knowing how long it's going to take.
The GM beforehand: "Is this going to take a reasonable amount of time, not too long?" The GM can time himself to check whether he's reasonable, based on agreed upon standards.
The players during play: "Is this acceptable? Can I switch to story-time mode or do I have to stay primed?" Not knowing how long something still has to go is half the pain if you ask me.

When do we PLAY?

Quote from: Matt Snyder
[...] But, I do know of many groups -- including mine! -- who spend one session and other odd times setting up a "campaign." Very often, I find this very unfocused, and the interest level among various group members varies widely. Often, the GM is very, very excited about it and has a particular vision. Maybe one or two other players are into it. Most folks, though, are thinking "Yeah, yeah, Big Bad. When do we PLAY?"

I don't know Matt. It kinda like startup sessions like that because it allows all heads to be turned in the same direction. But it has to be clear to all that it is NOT a play session, and everyone has to be OK with that. I kinda seems from your example that people weren't on the same page about that in your case.

No more Big Back Story

Quote from: David B. Goode
After patching up my wounded GM heart, I came across a great alternative - probably from a pod-cast. Planting the history and world story in the game is way less cumbersome. The PCs get to take it in in bite sized peaces. I've noticed a lot of movies and computer RPGs begin in media res, kind of assuming you know everything, then reveal the world, backstory and all, to you slowly.

I think that's an interesting technique but I'm not sure if it accomplishes the same gaol as a BBB, by which I assume you mean a big opening dialogue to set the stage. In Johan's case the purpose was to give us an idea about the setting, or genre if you will, and to give hooks we could use to integrate our PCs into the setting. A slow reveal won't serve that purpose. If your goal is creating mood, then small doses indeed seem better than big chunks. If your goal was to bask in world-builder glory, well... then... shit... I guess small chunks are a reasonable concession.

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David B. Goode
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2008, 07:15:47 PM »

Quote from Jasper
Quote
I think that's an interesting technique but I'm not sure if it accomplishes the same gaol as a BBB, by which I assume you mean a big opening dialogue to set the stage. In Johan's case the purpose was to give us an idea about the setting, or genre if you will, and to give hooks we could use to integrate our PCs into the setting. A slow reveal won't serve that purpose. If your goal is creating mood, then small doses indeed seem better than big chunks. If your goal was to bask in world-builder glory, well... then... shit... I guess small chunks are a reasonable concession.

Totally right, Jasper. I guess some backstory coming into a new campaign is unavoidable, especially if your world is unique. My advise is more for setting up a fantasy or space opera or whatever with the basics up front, but again, a bit-sized chunk, but still holding back on even historical revelations until the game is going on. By dividing it up you take some off the front end, and can get your players into the story faster.
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dindenver
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2008, 10:11:08 AM »

Hi!
  Slow reveal works in fiction, because the writer can add an "exposition character" either a no-it-all that won't show up or a dimwit that can't stop asking questions all the other chars know the answer to.
  I think this technique is problematic at best for RPGs. As you won't have any guarantee that such a character will exist. Meaning the PCs may not want (or potentially be able to) to fill either of those roles and casting GMPCs in that role can be problematic.
  Ideally the theme of the campaign needs to be laid out, but maybe in a more natural/casual style so that questions can be asked, etc. The reality is, he probably had a bunch more he would like to share, but wasn't sure what lvl of detail you guys would want. I imagined if he could get a Q&A going instead, it would have been a little more fun...
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Dave M
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Danny_K
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2008, 02:27:14 PM »

I wonder if your response is common -- I've had the same thing, a response curve that flares upward, hovers for a minute or two, then drops below the baseline and stays there.  I think there's a sweet spot that comes pretty quickly after the intial premise is expressed, where the imagination is powerfully stimulated.  "A world without its creator?  Cool!"  After a couple minutes, you see all the possibilities getting closed off, and then it's just listening to somebody read their notes. 

I suppose this is why play-before-play is so deadly.
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David B. Goode
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2008, 03:26:37 AM »

Yeah,Din, but they do it all the time in crpgs - or does that work better in that format than table-top rpgs?
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dindenver
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2008, 10:22:46 AM »

Hi!
  Its Dave. And of course it would work better in CRPGs, this is another format that allows for the developers to script events and tack on characters without garnering undue attention.
  Where as, if the GM suddenly has a GMPC floating around the group being a know-it-all or asking dumb questions from the NPCs the group encounters, then that creates a situation where the GMs motives are questioned.
 Don't get me wrong, I think in many ways a slow reveal is one of the best ways to immerse the players into a deeper setting. But, I think to blindly crib techniques from other media without stopping and thinking how applicable it will be in a role-playing setting, could invite disaster.
  I think settings like Nobilis, where the setting is deep, but the PCs are not necessarily expected to be well versed in the "real setting" of the game world, creates a situation where role playing is not impacted by a player's familiarity (or lack there of) with a setting.
 And of course, creating an exposition character might be perfectly viable, as long as the GM states clearly, this guy will hang around and work with the group to explain the setting as we go. And then there is always the technique of the GM just laying info out there if it is something that one or more PCs would intuitively know. (e.g., "the guy following the group has a tattoo of a red serpent on his forearm. Based on his skill/trait/background, Fred's character would know this is the sign of a known drugs gang in the area").
  In the end, its probably best not to use any one technique too heavily, but to use a lighter mix of several techniques.
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Dave M
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David B. Goode
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2008, 10:39:29 PM »

Dave,

I think you and I actually agree on this. Slow reveal is a great tool in the GM tool-box. It can't always be used, however using it, or any other technique we can borrow from other forms of media does not necessarily equate to "blindly cribbing".

Having an npc around asking stupid questions wasn't really what I had in mind. What I was trying to get across was what I believe you also have touched on. Sometimes you can slowly reveal history, culture, and wonders without having to throw everything out to the players at the start of the game. What I was trying to express was that, while in the beginning the GM certainly needs to give your players a sense of "feel" for the world. The GM may have more info in his introduction than he needs (the topic was one of long-winded GM intros). The info not necessary for the players to grasp the world can be saved and revealed as the story unfolds. This not only saves time and lets you get into the action faster, it gives the GM hooks and interesting facts to share down the road.

The technique has worked in crpgs, but also in novels, comics, tv shows, movies - every form of story media. And it works in rpgs.
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contracycle
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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2008, 02:52:26 PM »

I think there are two different issues here.  The first is, how much information is needed to play effectively.  The second is, how much information is needed to fully internalise the setting. The first is possible in an introductory lecture.  The second is not.  This turns into a problem only when the two are confused, with a couple of caveats.

In Romeo & Juliet, the chorus comes on first and tells you that:
- the story concerns two families "alike in dignity"
- that we are in Verona
- that the lovers are doomed
- that their deaths brings an end to the feud
- and its going to take 2 hours.

The opening crawl to Star Wars tells you that:
- it is a period of civil war
- the rebellion has just won its first battle
- in the process they acquired the death star plans
- Leia has the plans and is being pursued
(and we know how long its going to take from the billing)

In both cases the initial data dump is very limited but gives you enough information to understand what is going on.  There is still plenty of stuff to be discovered in the development of each story, though.

Certainly RPG is not directly analogous for multiple reasons, possibly the most important being that we need to make informed decisions at character creation.  However I think we can still get carried away over-estimating how much is required, especially when working with a Sim aesthetic.  You can do quite a bit of exposition within character creation itself; part of the problem I think is that we take the view that the character should be fully authored by the player without let or hindrance by the GM, but perhaps if we let go of that idea a bit, and allowed/expected characters to be altered, rewritten, or simply swapped for another at a later date, many of those problems may go away.  The player then does not need perfect information with which to create the perfect the perfect character, but only enough information to create a functional character.

This may even have an element of positive feedback because if you accept that the first characters made for a given game/setting are conditional, temporary, disposable (or at least potentially so), then the GM can also agree with a player to bump a PC off in order that they can be replaced, and this could itself be done for with an eye to exposition.  In fact there are probably some forms of exposition that you can only do with a character death; it can be exploited, for example, to show a villain getting their credentials, or demonstrating just how dangerous a noxious environment or predatory beast really is.
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