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Author Topic: [Dreamation 2008] Troublesome Munchausen  (Read 6409 times)
Michael S. Miller
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« on: February 01, 2008, 04:12:13 AM »

On Friday night at Dreamation, I facilitated a game of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Let me build upon what I wrote in my LiveJournal:
Quote
Friday midnight was The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. If I have a regret all weekend, this was it. On the surface, it was *grand.* People had been asking me about it all through the weekend, checking to see how many people I could take. The description is so enticing, we had a number of folks I don't normally see in the RPG room come out to give it a try. All told, there were 13 players, plus myself. Thus, I explained the rules of the game very briefly, and--since I had brought 2 copies--split things up into 2 tables and joined the smaller of the tables myself (mistake #1). Things started off very well with my tale of how I came to learn that apes and men were cousins (and then actually married one). In retrospect, perhaps this veiled implication of bestiality opened to floodgates to what came later. Alexander Newman told us of the little dog he met on the moon that spoke French. Jeff Lower told us how he became th king of Mbolo-Mbeleland by accident, and a player whose name I never learned wowed us all with a story of how he lost a week of his life building his own prision under the sea and was subsequently rescued by sea monkeys. Then things got highly uncomfortable, and I didn't do a damned thing about it (mistake #2). There is MUCH matter there to be discussed, so I will move on with my con write-up and come back to the Munchausen game in an AP thread somewhere.

There has already been some good discussion about it on Jeff Lower's LJ

Here's more detail on the "things got uncomfortable" comment. The fifth player at the table was asked "So tell me, Baron, of how it was you killed the King of Norway." I had never met this player before or since, so I can't comment on him personally. He launched into his tale about how he had been part of a group of bandits that were pillaging, murdering, and raping their way through a town in Germany. All four of us who had already gone were pretty well floored at this development. Each of us spent a coin trying to suggest that he change the tone of his tale. We'd suggest things like "But surely, Baron, even though your companions expected such acts of depravity, you would never stoop so low, and actually deceived them about what you were doing." He'd take the coin and respond with "You are right, of course, I decieved them about how many rapes and murders I committed. Since I did so much more than they did, I didn't want them to feel bad about not keeping up with me."

I've also been told that the other table had wild deviations from Munchausean norms, lots of swearing, and the like. I welcome any comments from folks that were at that table.

A few things I'd have to do differently next time:

ONE: If I have too many people, divide into groups by familiarity with the game or genre. Folks who have played before, or seen the film, or read the stories or the game, can get started right away. I'll sit with the other group and give better guidance as to what is expected and what is not. I've to to remember that the Law of Large Numbers implies that the more players you have, the less chance they're all on the same page.

TWO: When the game jumps the tracks, you can't use game rules to stop it. You need to break character and address it person-to-person. Six years I've been frequenting this site and I still can't seem to put that one into practice...

THREE (possibly): I put Munchausen on the event list because I used to run it a lot before I got heavily into running the Indie Games Explosions, and it's just a heck of a lot of fun. Perhaps if I'm running something primarily for my own enjoyment (and thus am invested in not just sitting on the sidelines and facilitating, I don't offer it as a scheduled event, but as an invitation-only pick-up game. This would likely increase the enjoyment of those that are invited, but doesn't really expose the game to anyone new. But, since it's hard to come by, increasing its exposure is a bit cruel anyway.

I welcome any other comments or questions.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2008, 05:39:27 AM »

I agree in principle that out-of-game intervention is required to set players on the same track as regards social convention. In case of Münchausen, though, I'd be sorely attracted to challenging a villainous wretch like that into a duel for confessing to such attrocity! This inclination, I am sure, speaks more of the strong subject matter than the advisability of trying anything like that with the rules of the game, such as they are.

I've had several similar experience through the years - playing a lot of games like Dust Devils and My Life with Master at conventions is sure to bump into inappropriate weirdness if any of the players are prone to introducing such. I would categorize these situations into three boxes, perhaps:
  • Sometimes people are just unfamiliar with a genre and go into inappropriate content by mistake. I try my hardest not to let anybody be left into a position where they need supreme genre knowledge to play well, but sometimes it happens regardless. To make this work requires willingness on the part of the clueless person to put matters on the table and take suggestions from others; if the game session can be used as a tool of learning regarding the genre, then play will also go well.
  • Sometimes geek social fallacies take a man and twist him into a monster. Specifically, it seems surprisingly common, especially for an established group, that a person should get into a game with the express purpose of proving that it doesn't work. This can usually be worked with, like the above, by talking about it explicitly instead of going into the status game with the person in question. A variant of this is "top dog" behavior where a person exercises power to establish their identity as the keenest, coolest guy in the game; this is pretty usual with Finnish teenagers and immature student population who like to prove how tough they are by the level of uncaring attrocity they bring into the game.
  • Sometimes I end up playing with people who have strident, monomaniac convictions that touch upon the matter of play. We all have beliefs and preferences, but I generally find that most people, most of the time, are well able to verbalize and compromise on their ideas, and get excited with the ideas of others as well; not so with this type of people. Such a player might, as a matter of gratification, try to intently overrun the game with his own agenda. Such a player might just as well get supremely uncomfortable when another player takes the game into opposition with his personal beliefs.
Now, the former kind of player I can deal with, but the latter is simply embarrassing for everybody involved. I should know, my brother is fragile in exactly this manner, prone to priorizing his own ideas over others and likely to twist his uncomfortableness in the game into a strange ball of anger that bursts forth suddenly or causes him to engage in some stress rituals. It is quite possible to game with a person who, from your viewpoint, holds strange and fragile ideas that should not be touched; you just need to know what works with him and what doesn't. Assuming that you have common ground at all, play is possible.

As you can see above - putting the first two cases aside - I tend to diagnose the most difficult kinds of play interruption as genuine social difficulties: roleplaying is a form of communication that requires not only a shared cultural basis, but also a willingness to respect and listen to the other person. A frame of comfort is required, one wherein all players can try to affect the direction of play without risking mockery or ostracism. When a player insists on being the top dog of shock value at the table, whatever the game (I know folks who are like this; perhaps this was the case with your game as well?), or breaks down in pieces when something relatively ordinary is brought into play by others, then that common frame of activity disappears.

Of course, while I have the above list to reference when considering similar situations I've witnessed, pinpointing a given case into one particular box is hellishly difficult, especially when I don't usually end up prodding any given person's play-style for an extended amount of time if they cause this kind of trouble. In the cases where I have played long-term with a difficult player who breaks genre convention like this I've usually come to categorize them in the third category: they are folks who simply are so fragile socially that they can't play in a flexible and socially skilled manner.

Hmm... I'm tempted to write about similar experiences of my own, but it seems I'm not really comfortable with publicizing other people's horridly inappropriate behaviours in-game. I feel that the reason for the behavior is in each case very personal to the player in question and figuring out what, exactly, is going on is not going to happen without dragging out all kinds of personal contextual data on the person at hand. Speaking of why somebody acts like that at the gaming table is necessarily a personal matter.
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Queen_of_Kryos
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2008, 01:09:43 PM »

When Jeff told me about this one when I caught up to him on Saturday, I asked him if there were any ladies at the table, to which he responded with an emphatic "No."  I thought this was interesting, and inasmuch as this may not be a gender issue (in fact, it probably isn't), it's enough to make me wonder if the individual in question would have brought up rape (especially more than once) if there had been mixed company. 
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Harlequin
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2008, 02:14:46 PM »

I was over at the second table and can speak to it directly.  I echo Michael... this game was my only solid regret of the whole con.  We had two ladies and there was no actual rape (what a thing to say about Munchausen!), so maybe there's something in that, but the underlying phenomenon was if anything much worse at our table.  Subtler, but pervasive... elements of juvenilia - not ridiculous or outrageous, just dumb and anachronistic - and a clear failure to really catch the point of the game.

Swearing (in character at the table and in-character during storytold dialogue), especially modern swearing, was somehow the thing that most specifically got under my skin, but I think that's because it was concrete and identifiable, where the real problem was an underlying malaise without any clear handles.

This last resulted in us lacking even the "but surely you were deceiving your companions, Baron" feedback loop... because there was just nothing you could haul out and say no, this element by itself is totally out of line.  Rather, the line crept all over the place, starting poor and creeping worse.  The creep is where, I think, the lack of feedback mechanisms in the game really showed.  There was no good way, until all the tales were done or your own turn came up, to say "that really sucked, those themes just weren't appropriate in my opinion" to the participants.  Shy of, and again I echo Michael, stopping play and actually saying that, which in retrospect I possibly should have done but felt I lacked the authority to do so unilaterally.

Alas, though she is beautifully penned, this poor game is (IMO) overdue for a shakedown from the theory crowd to make its reward system actually serve the role of reinforcing the style of play upon which the game depends.  Be interesting to see someone take that on as a project... keep the basic play-structure the same, and keep the mechanics in the same very simple vein, but pen a game flow and rules logic which works robustly, even with less-than-optimal players.

- Eric
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Ignotus
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2008, 02:00:29 AM »

Eric,

I was also at the second table, and while there was some breaking of kayfabe (for which I am in part responsible), I had a great time, and thought that most of the stories were clever and funny.  I'm sorry if what my friends or I were doing was irritating you; I genuinely didn't pick up on that vibe at the table.  I confess I wasn't really thinking in terms of theme when I was telling a story or posing challenges.  I own a copy, squirreled away somewhere, and my local group has expressed interest in trying the game again, so I was wondering if you could expand on what the "point" of the game is, and what makes a thematically appropriate tale?  What would you have told us, if you'd decided to speak up at the table?

-Sam
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Iskander
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2008, 03:01:39 PM »

a player whose name I never learned

That was Jeff "Kingdom of Nothing"[/i ]Himmelman.

My guess is that we saw something close to Eero's second example: geekpoint-scoring by casual atrocity. It certainly didn't sour me on the game qua game, but I'll never sit down at a table with that guy again.
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Claudia Cangini
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2008, 04:01:02 PM »

I agree in principle that out-of-game intervention is required to set players on the same track as regards social convention.[...]
I've had several similar experience through the years - playing a lot of games like Dust Devils and My Life with Master at conventions is sure to bump into inappropriate weirdness if any of the players are prone to introducing such. I would categorize these situations into three boxes, perhaps:
[...]


Eero, I'd like to ask you something.
I've already demoed a lot of DitV and PTA at Cons and are about to do it even more in the future (plus MLwM) with Narrattiva , the italian publisher of this games.

Your description of "difficult" players sent a shiver down my spine.

Until now it seems I've been lucky and my demos always proved pleasant and smooth, but if you have any suggestion for how to deal with the problems you mention, know I would be very interested in hearing about it (to be prepared if I ever meet those!).

Best!
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Claudia Cangini

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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2008, 05:32:12 PM »

Michael,

Before diving into the unpleasantness, would you acknowledge your using constructive denial? As in, during the game insisting for example 'French poodles on the moon is exactly what a baron munchausen game is'? But now your out of the game you could say that really that isn't strictly true? But it's rather fun during the game to believe that is just what a baron game is?

It's possible to talk about the unpleasantness, but I think if we have to talk to each other in double talk about what the game 'really' is, talks will be fruitless.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2008, 04:28:35 AM »

Until now it seems I've been lucky and my demos always proved pleasant and smooth, but if you have any suggestion for how to deal with the problems you mention, know I would be very interested in hearing about it (to be prepared if I ever meet those!).

Really, my best advice is to not get into a game with an unsuitable person. There are a lot of folks with problems in my second and third categories (the first one isn't that much of a problem) in roleplaying; I have no idea if it's something in roleplaying that attracts them or if the general population includes so many maladjusted individuals as well, or what.

The problem cases (type III) I've encountered the most have been friends and friends of friends who hang out in the same circles and therefore have opportunity to get into the same games with me; I used to accept anybody into my table if they paid lip service to the goals of the game. Nowadays I've started simply saying no to people who I know are desperate enough (in a geek kind of way) to come into any game and promise anything for the chance to play, regardless of whether they're actually willing or capable of communicating in the manner required by the game or group in question. If the person in question is a friend, I'll usually try to arrange to have games that are actually suitable for them now and then. So if a guy is uninterested and incapable of dealing with violence in the responsible manner that Dust Devils requires for it not to descent into a gratuitous rapefest, for example, I try to include him in a game of D&D or something like that, which I know to be along the lines of his expectations and preferences. I don't mind, I can play a lot of different games as long as we're clear on what we're doing.

The situation is a bit different when you're demoing games at conventions. The type III guys have not been much of a problem in those cases, mostly because a short demo usually doesn't manage to hit their sore spots. Type II, on the other hand, has certainly come up lots of times. A rape scene is typical of the behavior here, I think, as people know that it gets a rise out of others. I'm reminded of a session of Under the Bed once where a certain player bid for social dominance by trying to have a priest molest the child - pretty awkward for the group, to be sure, and rather similar to the Munchausen situation the Dreamation crew encountered.

My technique for these type II situations has been to use GM power constructively - a player like this is usually well used to having an authoritative GM keep him in line (that's why he's acting so impossibly when given the freedom, after all), so it's not like you're repressing somebody in an untoward manner. Just act authoritatively and perhaps a mite offended, signaling your displeasure, and the player will usually recognize that you are actually judging his actions - usually a person like this will get out of hand to begin with due to a game that purports to share power, which he then interprets as a god-given mission to test the robustness of the system and where the lines (social lines, that is) of acceptable behavior lie. Just act like a traditional GM on the social level (while not doing anything on the rules level), and a player like this will usually desist. Usually they don't come around and come to adore any given game during such a demo, but at least you've averted the situation, allowed other participants to enjoy and kept your face - this is important in the long run, as even a rather childish social terrorist of this ilk will grow up in time and may come to appreciate what you have to offer in a year or two. I've certainly met situations that are exactly like that!

A more general lesson for us all, perhaps - the social power wielded by the GM to signal displeasure with inappropriate action is, appropriately, a power that all players should share. An adult group with shared commitment to the game shouldn't need one player to act as a judge of inappropriate situations, so nowadays I try to act the same whether I'm the GM or not - if somebody flouts the social set-up as I perceive it, I'll certainly call for a time-out and call the player on it. Roleplaying tradition has, for no reason at all, vested this power on the GM only.
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Claudia Cangini
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2008, 04:54:33 AM »

Thank you so much Eero.
Your taking the time for such well thought advice was much appreciated.

Best!

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Claudia
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Kat Miller
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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2008, 05:41:17 AM »

Michael,

Before diving into the unpleasantness, would you acknowledge your using constructive denial? As in, during the game insisting for example 'French poodles on the moon is exactly what a baron munchausen game is'? But now your out of the game you could say that really that isn't strictly true? But it's rather fun during the game to believe that is just what a baron game is?

It's possible to talk about the unpleasantness, but I think if we have to talk to each other in double talk about what the game 'really' is, talks will be fruitless.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean about the double talk of what teh game "really" is.

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kat Miller
Harlequin
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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2008, 01:21:15 PM »

Sam - that's very nicely asked, so I'm going to try and express an answer, even though I'm having a lot of difficulty pinning it down.  Bear with me.

I think there's definitely a hint when you mention that you weren't thinking in terms of theme.  (I presume you're using this in the more common sense of motifs and topic areas, rather than Ron's very constrained definition for Nar theory; I prefer the general term myself.)  To 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...

1) The characters are presumptively not only aristocrats but aristocratic in their behaviour.  So for example if the Baron were to find himself in possession of a lady's underthings, it would be a necessary act to offset this potential failing in gentlemanly action by an apology or disclaimer of some kind... the more over-the-top and florid, the better.  Or for another example, a Lady would never, ever actually speak of a sexual act.  Indeed the closer to the forbidden territory and the scandalous the topic comes, I think the more necessary it is for the counterweighting courtesies to be overemphasized.  This seems like a subtle point but I'm not sure this is true; it is, however, something that one couldn't reasonably expect someone to pick up automatically.

It seems on the face of it like the Baron throws away the strictures of upright period-aristocrat behaviour, and one could come away with only that impression, without realizing that it's in between the lightly scandalous deeds and the overly courtly language that the actual aristocracy is being hoist on a two-pronged skewer.  We had transgressive Barons and Baronesses who would not have been wholly out of place in a light-weight Sorcerer game, without the counterweight at all.

Chalk this one up to a subtlety of the mode without which it lost balance and fell down.

2) The preposterous felt like it was largely out of reach for many of us (including me), remaining stuck at the level of the mildly absurd.  This is definitely a skill thing, and one of the elements one would expect to include in the final judgment calls.  So it's definitely not blameworthy, except inasmuch as it meant that what suffered wasn't a session which could have been great... it was a session which would have topped out at pretty good, even if all other flaws had been remedied.  I'm sure this contributed to the sour taste in my mouth, but it's inherent to a first play of a difficult game and I shouldn't place it in the same category.

3)  Several other missing motifs from the source could have been present, but weren't, which would have helped as well.  For example, the motif of the extraordinary companions (the fellow who could hear for miles, etc), which serves I think to spread the glory around and allow the Baron to profess humility even when he's boasting.  Again it's probably ignorance of the source, and it's also revealing how much of an effect these elements have in facilitating some of the underlying themes; not something you'd think of, 'til they weren't there.

4)  The table talk suffered from breaches of kayfabe (good phrasing), and from interjections which allowed the meta-level stuff (which was theoretically permissible as 'table talk', and thus by convention not subject to the same rules) to migrate their feel into the narratives.  Having the one influence the other is definitely an upshot of the fact that the table talk is, itself, in-character.  This is where the swearing bothered me... somewhat in its own right as a breach of character/theme, and moreso in that it intruded into the stories and dragged them downward as well.  There was no separate out-of-character voice in which to express them.  My own intuition says that therefore, this should have meant that either such a voice be cleanly separated ("okay, I just have to cut in and say this even though my Baron totally wouldn't... you were such a bitch to that poor Prince!") or not expressed until after.

All of these exacerbated by the fact that there is, quite simply, nothing else under the hood except motifs and colour.  They, and not the coins, constitute the real 'system' in Lumpley Principle terms.  In many ways it's definitely a Gamist game... "can you demonstrate skill at telling an original story which holds closely to the following elements?  Step up and try."  Which analysis suggests that Michael's intuition, that he needs to do substantially better briefing and mood-setting next time, is precisely correct.  In a very real sense, he didn't actually explain the rules.  Not his fault, especially with all these coin tricks pretending to be the real rules... but definitely something to remedy next time.

Does that help pin it down?

- Eric
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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2008, 07:54:34 PM »

Eric, that's excellent, and really speaks to why I was rather profoundly disappointed by BM as a game on the two occassions I played.

Not having read the book, how clear are these elements presented?

I'm speculating that they are probably present in the presentation of the text, but not made explicit such that the reader has to interpret that presentation as part of the rules rather than ignoring it as the usual fictional fluff found in many games.

Would it be possible to create a list of these motifs that is at once succinct enough to be employable as a "cheat sheet" for teaching the game but yet inclusive enough to really get the point across?  Has someone already done such a thing?

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2008, 07:15:38 AM »

Hello,

I thought I'd add a bit from a different angle, although I do not want to derail the points made by Eero and Eric. This is already a rich thread based on a few posts, and I'm hoping to get yet another weave or facet into it. It's GNS stuff, and it's composed of a few parts.

The first part comes from playing the game Once Upon a Time a lot, which now that I think of it had a big influence on a lot of us sometime in the late 1990s. It may even have had a role in generating Endgame mechanics in RPG design. There are two points I can draw from playing it so much that I think are relevant here.

1. The game underwent a major revision in the second edition, which is the only one I played - namely, the addition of Ending cards. This is huge. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to play without them, because I think the game would degenerate into pure struggle for control. "Look, we made an SIS, and now it's a free-for-all of derails, subversions, and interruptions until it's over."

2. The second edition still yielded a card-game equivalent of the incompatibility of Gamist and Narrativist goals. The former subordinated the thematic punch of the developing story to who could lock down the ending, as we competed for that in terms of rules and cards. In this case, merely laying down the Ending card by the rules did the job, even if the narration that bridged the gap to the ending was a bit lame in thematic/plausibility terms. That didn't matter much because that particular narration is pro forma. By contrast, the latter subordinated the "who wins" question to whoever could line up the best run-up to their ending, in terms of plausibility and thematic punch. That meant that one didn't play an Ending card although it was possible, because the current components in action didn't line up to make that Ending "work" in a satisfying way. Winning still existed, but winning without a good narration for the Ending card was actually losing, or more accurately, a bit of a betrayal.

My experiences convinced me that the game was not fun unless either of these goals was explicitly in action for the whole group, by about halfway through the game. If one of them were firing well, though, then the game was endlessly entertaining.

The second part concerns most of the early Hogshead games, including Munchausen and reaching its peak probably with Pantheon. I find them all to be broken much in the same way as the first edition of Once Upon a Time, and also problematic in the same way as the second edition. The aesthetic seems to be, "compete for how the story goes," with currency as a method for both contribution and interruption. It's prone to a lot of bullying, and when the rules don't permit the bullying (i.e. you have the counters or whatever to stand them off), to a lot of subversion and devaluing of what others have already said. Instead of story creation, it's about story control, and I think lends itself to the worst excesses of what I described as Prima Donna play in my Narrativism essay, or if you shift it to the Gamist end of things, to the unpleasant excesses of the Hard Core play I describe in that essay). It may be that the designers had only ever expressed Narrativist goals using those tactics, and therefore to make a "story game," simply translated those tactics into rules.

(Robin's design of Rune does a better job, I think, of formalizing Hard Core Gamist play into rules without it becoming simply a breaking-down of the social power elements of play. Pantheon, in my judgment after playing it, collapses into "yes it does no it doesn't" based on tokens and points.)

3. What if one doesn't want to play it Gamist and instead as a kind of celebration of the source material? Which is, I think, where you and a couple other people at the table were coming from, Michael. Also, Eric, it seems to me that your interpretation of the game comes from that angle too. Well, my take on that is that the rules are grinning viciously at you, right from the page, when you try it. They are built to empower anyone who wants to give your genre-fun a giant wedgie, right over your head like in Dilbert. That person has the rules on their side, and thus they got your "gee the Baron is fun, let's be fun together" goal right here (with gesture).

I think that the Hogshead community of the mid-90s brought maximum innovation to maximum incoherence (in the GNS sense), and I stand by that now. The game doesn't offer a goal in terms of Creative Agenda, so people tend to project onto it whichever one they're inclined toward based on some aspect of the text (G = rules to compete for story control, N = "make a story" in a kind of naive interpretation, and S = enjoy Baron Munchausen color and light theme as a fixed entity). But the system is Gamist with the red dial of competition turned way up, and since it's Gamist over the SIS itself, it pops the competition up to the Social Contract level above that.

I dunno, Michael ... it seems to me that the game itself, for all its textual enjoyment of Baron Munchausen color, is built to hose anyone who actually wants to bring that enjoyment into the actual practice of play. Even if the participants all decide to do nothing but that, they'll accomplish it by ignoring the available options of the rules.

Best, Ron
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Harlequin
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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2008, 09:45:22 AM »

Ron - I think your conclusion there is spot on.  Maximum incoherence with maximum style.  Which is where I'd really like to see someone re-craft it to explicitly support a proper CA.  Hell, one could probably re-craft Munchausen three times... once to support each side of the GNS triangle.  Now that would be a fascinating tutorial/exemplar on GNS.  Here's the exact same game done three subtly different ways, each of which is fun in a totally different way.

Ralph - this is one of those games where even the 'rules' are presented in-character.  The real rules, the colour etc., drips pretty heavily, and IIRC there's no real "game fiction" distinction for people to steer around.  Some of the motifs are less likely to be present - for instance, I don't know how well the text actually brings in the extraordinary companions motif - but really a full read of the game does feel like it would successfully communicate the goals as long as the rules weren't obscuring them the way they do.  So your speculation is correct except that the text is well-done in that it's never "fluff" to steer around... if you steered around the fluff you wouldn't get anything at all.  It's quite simply the body of the work.

Now, at the con, we didn't do a full read of the rules; I'm quite sure I had the strongest familiarity with the game at our table, and I lost my copy more than five years ago.  So nobody had that osmosis treatment for the real rules, and that's something we could have opted to fix with a little more prep.  A list of motifs like you describe might be doable, I dunno... it would have to be a well-steered group project between several people who had familiarity not only with the game, but also the movie and the source folktales (and preferably the body of folk lit surrounding them as well - there's snippets of Koschei the Deathless and all sorts of other stuff in there).  I wouldn't trust one person to spot all the elements and weight them appropriately.  You'd definitely need to triage it down into "Required", "Recommended" and "Optional", and would I think be a bigger project than just re-tasking the game text and keeping the colour-via-reading approach (but making it explicit).

Who's up for actually taking up the challenge of reinterpreting Munchausen into G, N, and S variants, with proper support for each?  I'm told the game can still be had for reasonable prices on EBay and so forth.

- Eric
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