[Dreamation 2008] Troublesome Munchausen

Started by Michael S. Miller, February 01, 2008, 12:12:13 PM

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Ron Edwards

Only if you promise never to use the abomination "GNS triangle" ever, ever again. That crept into things sometime in 2000, got shot down instantly, yet tries to crawl out of its crypt again every so often.

If you promise, then I'll be glad to host a discussion at GenCon dedicated to coherent versions of Baron Munchausen.

Best, Ron


Done - to me it was just an off-the-cuff metaphor placed because the sentence would have been flat and inexpressive without it.

Next time I'll use something else when I need sentence flavour.  Say, "GNS Martian Tripod."  Though probably not in a discussion of Munchausen, I hope.

Callan S.

Hi Eric,

Quote from: Harlequin on February 04, 2008, 09:21:15 PMTo me, Baron Munchausen is all about theme and colour, and damn near nothing else.  If I had to capture the essential elements I was expecting, and not seeing...
Quite asside from the techniques you describe latter in the post, I think this is the key...if you had to. Ie, the activity is the whole group going up against some sort of adversity together.

I mean, one way you could interpret this guy is that he couldn't see the adversity he was supposed to face, so he turned towards other players as a source of adversity (like gamist "Turnin'"). Perhaps if the key adversity involved had been articulated and known to him, he may have thrown his weight against that along with the entire group?


Mmm... I don't think that's entirely accurate, Callan.  The intended read of the sentence you quote is that I shouldn't have to isolate those elements myself - they are the rules of the game we were playing!  And yet because of the way it's written it's difficult for me to even articulate those rules independent of the game text itself.

But at the table, the essential adversity, if you will, of trying to take on the elements and wrest them into story form, was still understood.  It didn't devolve because there was excessive competition directly between the players.  It devolved because those elements weren't being grasped, and because they were being masked by the sub-optimal "rules" of the apparent mechanics. 

(You could make a good case for the proposition that Hogshead even recognized, to some extent, the need for a feedback mechanism, and tried to answer that with the "challenges" mechanism.  It's just a poorly designed mechanism in that it (a) depends on fast thinking, (b) is severely constrained in that it can only add facts, not rule them out, and (c) can be negated/ignored at a minimal - arguably even beneficial - cost.  So in short, as Michael described at his table, it doesn't work for this purpose.  For the nominal purpose of gamist interplay, throwing each other monkeywrenches, it's much more appropriately set up.)

- Eric


Hey, all.  This is my first post on the Forge, so, hello.  I'm just going to jump into this discussion.

First, a few disclaimers:

1) I have never actually played a single instance of Baron Munchausen.

2) I don't own the game.  I read through it in my local game store and for whatever reason, decided not to buy it for $8, got home, decided I was an utter idiot, went back for it, only to find it had disappeared.  It's probably one of the coolest games I've ever heard of, up there in a pantheon of cool games I've never played, like that card game that's about telling fairy tales (is that Once Upon a Time?) and Lacuna (though I'm trying to arrange a game using the First Attempt), and the Wuthering Heights RPG, which is somewhat similar to Munchausen, except it's free online and themed differently.  As you can tell, the games that excite me most are storytelling (narrativist?) games.

3) I've never seen the movie, though I'm passing familiar with its historical forbear and the general tone/feel of the movie.  I'm a big Terry Gilliam fan, by the way, but somehow Munchausen escaped me.

Next, a few thoughts.  Eero, I like your comments about using GM power constructively - being authoritative (even autocratic?) if the situation calls for it. 

Look, this is all undercut by my never having played the game, so feel free to correct me if I'm reaching.  But I've thought a lot about both the game and how I'd like to play it. 

The central activity of the game to me seems to be yarning, followed closely by cooperative storytelling (restricted/moderated by a handful of rules).  For me, because of my education (university), background (immigrant), birthplace (India), and upbringing (American), any Munchausen game would have to incorporate a certain amount of irony - players in a post-colonial era playing aristocrats who presumably believe in a colonial system; or due to the 'tone' of the game, playing presumably western European aristocrats from the 18th century, though I can see a space for Russian, Transylvanian, Indian, Turkish characters...  I believe that Munchausen has place for sexuality (even in a strictly period interpretation, whether your character is male or female) and for varying tones (doesn't everybody get to tell a story, and vote for the best at the end?) and for swearing.  I can envision a range of imagined behavior for 18th century aristocrats, Munchausen-esque or not.  Your interpretation might well clash with mine: I might be thinking Hellfire Club and you a delicate drawing room denizen.

For example, Harlequin, your comments about "the point of the game" and "modern swearing" are quite interesting to me and involve, to my understanding, a certain amount of ambiguity.  The "point of the game" is a shifty thing, even in a game with a really strict focus.  Also, "modern swearing?"  Most swearing is pretty ancient.  And if the specific phrase isn't, there's plenty of historical equivalents that say pretty much the same thing.  I'm trying not to get into specific examples here, but a glance over 18th century "Dictionaries of the Vulgar Tongue" and the like can prove that foul language hasn't changed that much.

What I understand from the original post is that a problem player had his character rape, murder, and pillage, and that was so mood destroying that it negatively colored the entire experience for the original poster and possibly for everybody else at the table.  Had I been involved in the game, it would seem to me that a western European aristocrat adventuring in an 18th century world, outrageous and fantastical though it may be, might have no problem raping, murdering, or pillaging anybody who did not fit the description of Western European or aristocratic.

That said, had I been the problem player and had I started off with some dark and gory description of me as a white overlord raping and pillaging my way through some African nation, and the other players interjected, I probably would have gotten the message and adjusted my story.  It sounds like - I'm just guessing here - your problem player was using the game to act out some personal fantasy, unaware of the concept of distance between player and character, and also wasn't aware that his story was thoroughly unpalatable to everybody else.

It doesn't sound like this dilemma is specific to Munchausen.  I've had lots of D&D players who prefer to play for their own peculiar enjoyment rather than the minimum "a good time was had by all" goal.  As a GM, I like to try and accommodate all my players' playing styles, as long as it doesn't ruin anybody else's experience.  Of course it makes things easier if you start with a group of players that all have a similar bunch of expectations, but sometimes this is impossible, like in pick-up games.

Had I been running the game - and I can't remember if Munchausen has a provision for any kind of GM figure - I would have subtly implied to the player that his style of play was making almost everybody else uncomfortable, and if that didn't work, I would have just straight out told him.  It sounds like a rather simple (though anxiety-laden) conflict of expectations, and possibly not being clear enough or vocal enough to the problem player exacerbated the issue. Going over a brief set of "house rules" before the game might have helped (for example - no swearing, sexuality must be danced around/delicately narrated, stick to the tone of the movie).

There's a lot that goes unstated in your description of your experience.  One is exactly how disruptive your problem player was.  I can imagine everything in a range from mildly disruptive all the way to carpet-bombing the SIS with misogynist, violent fantasies.

Anyway, like Eero said, another way to deal with it would be to declare a duel!  It would be an in-character way of displaying disapproval with the story.