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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 33 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Low-Prep/No-Prep Play  (Read 5285 times)
Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1970


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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 11:32:30 PM »

I think it's a stretch to call that a pacing mechanic. It is, at best, dramatic pacing. There is nothing mechanical that says "the game/session/town will end when these trackable conditions are met". Even talking to everyone in town and getting the whole story doesn't mean that the town is over. Only once the players have decided it is done, whether it be because their hearts have emptied themselves or because they have figured out what they feel is the best judgment for all concerned, or simply because they've decided the whole branch must be burned (this has happened...) and there's no one left to judge or deliver mail to, is it finally over.

Evidence of this: Supposedly this game is supposed to run reliably as a single town in a single session. In a respectable length campaign, we only managed to run an entire town in a single session once. Every other time, it took 2-3 sessions to finish off a town. The pacing wasn't mechanical, it couldn't be manipulated via the rules.

Damnit. I let myself be side-tracked. I think this may have merit as its own discussion, and it may not. Suffice to say, the number of conflicts in DitV doesn't constitute preparation or lack of preparation. A simple situation thrown together in 5 minutes may take a lot of conflicts, or a session built up over hours may be resolved quickly (also based in AP; I threw together a town once, and it took two sessions to resolve, and spent hours putting together a complex two-tined situation with two distinct but intertwined progressions of sin, and they killed it off in one session; this was not, by the way, part of the aforementioned campaign)

Is this topic (low-prep/no-prep play) coming to a close? I feel as though maybe we're only scratching the surface, but the discussion is starting to fragment.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
manatic
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Posts: 11


« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2009, 06:44:26 AM »

I don't think the topic is or should be coming to a close. The discussion just got sidetracked for a while into the whole pacing issue. I believe there are other aspects to low/no-prep than simply pacing mechanics. A few things that spring to mind are

  • The GMs role/shared narrative. As noted before, though, this is a huge topic and should be discussed in a topic of its own. It probably is, in a few thousand or so.
  • The "meaningfulness" of high-prep/low-prep/no-prep games. In my view, games that are completely improvised by the GM and the players can be a lot of fun, but they lack the feeling of accomplishment. You can create and set goals, but it somehow feels trivial, since it's being made up on the spot. Here I assume that the players are/become aware of the fact that the game is being improvised.
  • The peaceful coexistence of high-prep and low-/no-prep methods. People often start polarizing these issues. No-prep becomes a completely directionless meaningless sandbox game, where the players do what they feel like and the GM throws what he feels like at them, and this is repeated ad nauseam. High-prep becomes a strict 80s-D&D-module, where the GM mercilessly railroads the group into completing the quest he came up with, regardless of character motivation and the like. Of course this is not the reality and we are slightly going after straw men here.

To state my position: I like the liberty of low-/no-prep, and the coherence that high-prep brings. I think the optimum game is a high- (why is there not a regular-prep, btw?)prep game played with a low-/no-prep mentality. I find it easy to completely improvise a coherent, solid scenario when I have some prepped material to draw from. The material doesn't really constrict my choices, as I can choose what to use. Instead, if I suddenly seem to be at a loss for ideas for whatever reason, I have a chance of snatching up something from the prepped material. An interesting NPC, a convenient scene or something like that to spice things up and to provide new directions for the story to possibly move into. I do not feel that this detracts from the possibilities of deep gaming - quite the opposite - as it provides players with a feeling that their characters are functioning in a pre-existing coherent reality, even if it is only vaguely explicitly detailed. Even games very suitable for total no-prep such as 3:16 will in my view benefit from such an approach, even if it is only a couple of small details such as names for NPC troopers or the company's starship.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2009, 06:43:50 PM »

Oops. This dropped off my radar for a time. I read your response, then decided to step away to let it percolate.

I would like to provide a contrasting viewpoint to your second bullet. You say "In my view, games that are completely improvised by the GM and the players can be a lot of fun, but they lack the feeling of accomplishment. You can create and set goals, but it somehow feels trivial, since it's being made up on the spot."

I offer this: Games that are pre-planned negate much of the accomplishment of the players, because the GM is pressured to make sure that the players can continue to advance. It's hardly possible to continue to advance if you fail to beat the challenges placed before you, is it? If there is no set direction to advance in, when you succeed, your successes count, and if you fail, your direction shifts.

I don't think I expressed that well. You tell me if it's clear enough.

When we're talking methods, then obviously methods from both sides can coexist. As a matter of fact, I don't think play is possible that doesn't include some level of no/low-prep techniques. What I perceive more as the point of discussion is play where the preparation is a matter of minutes rather than hours, or where there is no preparation required before sitting down at the table.

It's the dichotomy between taking a few minutes to roll and record the results from the planet generation before your players show up (or just doing it right there at the table with 'em) and rolling it all up, sketching out some of the encounters, preparing the briefing, making personnel write-ups on the NPCs, etc. (admittedly, this second wouldn't have to take hours for 3:16... but I'm using it as a common ground example)

Some games require you to come to the table and create the session right there. In a Wicked Age, I believe, is one such example. You're really not even supposed to, as I understand it. I've only played it once though, so I could be wrong. My recent design work on Sexy Deadly is another such game; The only thing you can really do before sitting down with the group is create your character, but really, you're not actually supposed to do that, either. Sure, you *could* prepare the entire scenario beforehand, but you're not supposed to.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2009, 08:35:35 PM »

Hi Lance,

A town is supposed to be run in one session, in dogs? How long is a session? Does the book offer a definition? Further, if it went outside the books stated time, perhaps rather than it not being a pacing mechanism, the author stuffed up in writing a pacing mechanism that'd fit it in that time.

I hate to be pedantic, because without definition of how long a 'session' is, this isn't evidence at all. But bringing this sort of thing up makes me look the wet blanket while everyone else gets to feel all socially linked, even when, perhaps, there are no grounds to be certain at all. I think sometimes these things aren't examined, because its a bummer to play this part.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #19 on: January 06, 2009, 08:41:59 PM »

And while I was gloomy, I forgot to ask what you meant by direction shift? I can see a use in examining a character who upon failing, decides on a new path in life. That's interesting! But in terms of the player, they have entered into an activity in order to forfil that activity, I would usually expect. If a character flip flops about and ignores any overall goal, they never get anywhere and thus the activity is never completed (unless you prep it). From the sound of it in 3:16, they can flip flop about, but those alien counters keep ticking down. So you will get somewhere, even if your character decides on a new direction in life every five minutes. Which sounds good! That might tie in the differing views, here?
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manatic
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Posts: 11


« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2009, 02:06:44 PM »

I was pretty much about to type what Callan did. 3:16 has a kind of regulated freedom (oxymoronic, maybe..) that I enjoy. It works with no preparation, provides a solid goal and yet gives the players a lot of freedom.

I believe the whole concept of advancement has some kind of goal as a prequisite. Can you have just generic advancement, or is the ideal simply to make up your own goals and then head for them?

On another note, what about no-prep and inexperienced GMs? Is it possible? Or rather, does it make for a deep, exciting game? I'm highly skeptical on this. While apparently everyone in this discussion has a lot of gaming experience, what about a first-time GM running 3:16, what kind of a game will he be able to run?
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2009, 04:52:25 AM »

I offer this: Games that are pre-planned negate much of the accomplishment of the players, because the GM is pressured to make sure that the players can continue to advance. It's hardly possible to continue to advance if you fail to beat the challenges placed before you, is it?

That may be true, but if everyone is willing to accept that illusion then it can be perfectly satisfying.  I mean much of the point of this challenge can be the demonstration of your own abilities to the other players.  It may be true that the GM would have had to let you through the gate eventually, but it matters if you were the one who singlehandedly scaled the wall, killed the guards and opened it from the other side.  Similalry,m if your main interest is to see the world as it is, then the architecture of said gate and the styles of the guards may be more the point of play then the problem it imposes itself.
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