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Author Topic: Establishing Premise in Serenity RPG  (Read 9237 times)
mcv
Member

Posts: 34

Martijn Vos


« Reply #30 on: February 19, 2009, 12:13:28 AM »

Also, from what I've seen, didn't Mel give back the advance payment on the train robbery? He didn't break the deal - he declined it and handed back the advance payment. He found a way to fit his own values into the situation (though I imagine it was a painful one - he needs the cash)
But that wasn't part of the deal. The deal was that he did the job, and he didn't. Returning the money make it okay for him, but that didn't make it okay for Niska. And Niska's henchmen made it clear that returning the money wasn't good enough.

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Though it would be an unavoidable choice from a game perspective, because Simon and River are protagonists too, and it wouldn't make much of a game if you kick PCs out as if they were NPCs.
Look no, your screwing up address of premise/nar by forcing a character choice 'in the interest of a better story'
That's my point. From an RPG perspective, threatening to throw them out, and later accepting them into the crew, was only a Nar decision if it was really an acceptable result of play that Simon and River were thrown out of the group. If that's not an acceptable result, then it may have been an interesting story, a dramatic scene, and well roleplayed, but it's not Nar.

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If you were setting it up as a group, you just do a bit of story before - before play you talk about characters you'd all like to see. Then you'd ask each other 'would they all stay on the ship'?

I could imagine a group that might have a few characters 'kicked out' by a Mel character during the brainstorming (and hell, maybe Mel might get kicked out - this is brain storming a campaign, not sticking to formula), before someone suggests River and Simon 'Aww, yeah, he'd take them, but only just!' 'GREAT, were good to go!'
That's exactly what I intend to do. A character creation session where we decide "what happened before", and have everybody create characters that would actually have a chance of becoming part of the crew, and figuring out what situation led to them becoming part of the crew. Basically it's the flashbacks from Out Of Gas, except we need to do them at the start of the campaign. Although I guess we can figure out more details later on.

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As opposed to traditional character gen, where everyone goes off on their own to make characters in secret, then they find at play they just wouldn't be together (and worse, nar play is then fucked up because 'in the interest of a better story' character choices are forced into accepting each other).
Exactly. That process has been bugging me for about 18 years now.

You either get boring characters who only stay together because their adventures are the only interesting things about their otherwise boring lives, or you get interesting characters who would never in a million years have gotten together as a group, or stayed together for more than a day or so. Or you get a mix where the boring characters just follow the interesting ones, and the interesting ones take all the limelight.
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Martijn Vos - gamer, coder, soon-to-be dad
Marshall Burns
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Posts: 573

American Wizard


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« Reply #31 on: February 19, 2009, 10:29:58 AM »

Personally, while I appreciate escalating conflict as a basis for a good story in roleplaying (I don't have any experience with it, mind you), I'm not really willing to give up on the Dream altogether. I think, for me and a couple of other players in my group at least, the best games would have a bit of both. Or is that just Narrativism firmly gounded in Exploration? I do like immersion, in any case.

Yes! ALL roleplaying is based on a platform of believability. How sturdy you want that platform is a Techniques issue. I also like it to be nice 'n heavy.

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But none of those quite fits what happens in The Train Job. There, Mal breaks a deal, because he realises the deal would hurt people he doesn't want to hurt. He doesn't lose the Faith, he doesn't feel bad about it, and he doesn't like breaking deals either. He breaks it because it conflicts with something more important.
Well, hang on, there's more rules than I can say all at once :)
A "Lost Faith" that is lost all at once is treated exactly like a Woe, which you can "Heal" when absolved or redeemed. Mal absolves himself by giving back the money, and convinces himself (which is what the Faith system is all about) that doing so justified his actions. He ends up with the same Faith back again, slightly adjusted.

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Another issue I'm still having with using game mechanics to drive story, is that game mechanics can be "gamed": manipulated for profit. I have no idea what Vice and Woe traits do, but they don't sound good. So that'd make Mal's choice one between gaining a bonus for sticking to his Faith, or gaining a new trait that he might not want. To me, that feels like interfering with his freedom to take his own responsibility for his choices. But maybe that's the simulationist in me.
The four categories of Psyche traits (Hunger, Vice, Faith, and Woe) all provide the same benefits (allow you to "Push" through failure, which you can also do if acting for the sake of someone you care about) and all come with their own flavors of trouble.
(Sorry to clutter this all up with Rustbelt rules discussion)
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #32 on: February 19, 2009, 11:47:23 AM »

Martijn,

Usually when folks play Story Now games, there are a few assumptions built into play:

1) There may or may not be a "group" the PCs belong to.  Even if they start as a group, the fact that the Players are have full freedom to make any choices they want for their PCs might mean the group might fracture and the PCs might even be at each other's throats before the characters finish their stories

2) Any conflicts between characters are between CHARACTERS -- not the Players.  The Players are working cooperatively to build story... Story might entail conflict between characters.  (See betrayals and shifting alliances between Jayne and Mal in Firefly, or the shifting alliances among the crew of Battlestar Galactica, the strike team unit in The Shield, the citizens of Deadwood, and so on as examples.)

3) There is no expectation as to how things should be or will end up.  At all.  Initial circumstances are created -- and then we start rolling with the story and find out how it's all going to end up.  No one, neither the GM nor the Players, can have an agenda or expectations about the way things are going go to be or supposed to be.  I can only point, again, to the shows listed above to show how wonderfully varied stories can be once one leaves the "team" mentality behind.

I'm currently GMing a Sorcerer game in the setting of Traveller.  My three players created a rich and detailed military background and intertwined history for their PCs.  They decided they have a ship, run a merc crew.  And then play began... last night one PC was desperately trying to save the religious leader from a mob while another PC trained his weapon on the leaders head, afraid of the trouble the woman would bring to his crew and his friends.  It was an incredibly involved struggle for the three PCs as they tried to protect each other -- but also knew that they might come to blows with each other because of their own agendas that might transcend their friendships.  (It feels very much like BSG, actually.  Two of the PCs have smuggled a nuke onto their ship to use against their enemies (just in case), even though the third PC, the ship's captain, has explicitly forbidden this action.)

The PCs and their merc crew were hired to put down a rebellion on a corporate controlled world, and arrived to find the rebellion backed by a religious jihad with actual, metaphysical angels providing support.  Two of the PCs have their own reasons for being moved by the angels, and might end up either siding with the jihad before all is said and done, or trying to tap the power of the Angels for their own needs.

By the time we're done with all this, the PCs might have all killed each other or might be stronger friends than they were before.  We just don't know.  And that's part of the fun.  Everyone is playing from the perspective of their characters and the fiction... it's emotional and visceral and not academic or intellectual at all -- in part because the Player have the freedom to make any choice they want for their PCs out of the fiction as defined up to that point. 

So, before I go any further, do you have questions about playing this way?  Is this something you can see working?  Does it interest you?  Why or why not?

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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Callan S.
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« Reply #33 on: February 19, 2009, 01:13:28 PM »

Hi Martijn,

Ah, okay, you were already saying that stuff. Righto, good stuff! Anyway doesn't hurt to repeat them a bit :)

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But that wasn't part of the deal. The deal was that he did the job, and he didn't. Returning the money make it okay for him, but that didn't make it okay for Niska. And Niska's henchmen made it clear that returning the money wasn't good enough.
Yeah, but to say the deal is broken is to look at the two mens positions and as a person yourself, make the descision the deal was broken. To work in that framework is to just examine your own position, or simply work from your position without even examining it, rather than examine the Mel character and his perception that the deal wasn't broke.

Eh, nm. Maybe I sympathise with the character too much.
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JB
Member

Posts: 29


« Reply #34 on: February 19, 2009, 01:42:41 PM »

Just a quick comment on the observation that players will 'game' mechanics for benefit.  This is true, but a game that's well designed to promote Story Now won't make one side of the choice clearly 'better' in terms of profit.

Since you don't have any nar games to refer to yet, consider this extremely rough and overly specific example.

Imagine a game where Mal's player gets Points!* for 'looking out for his' and acting so they don't come to harm.  And the player gets to choose NPCs who are 'his' - they go on a list on the character sheet.  But if one of the characters on that list does come to harm, or the player wants to take someone off the list, then Mal's player looses Points!

You're going to end up with a character that acts very much like Mal does in the show - you don't want to make everyone 'yours' because you can't look out for them all and will end up in the hole on Points! - but you do need to make some people 'yours' in order to get those gooey, chewy, candy-like Points!

And with a character like that, as the GM, you'd toss a big string of 'NPCs in need' at the player and let him decide whether to mark them, and throw threats at all his marked characters with great regularity.  Which is pretty much what the script did to Mal - So, who do you help? Who do you leave to hang? If two of yours are in danger, you try to save em both, but what if you have to choose just one and the benefits are equal for both? - Those choices are where the player has to engage and say something about who's more important - yer sister or yer lover, or whatever.

The player is going to gain Points! in some places, and importantly, loose Points! in others - but he wants to come out on the positive ('in the black'. Ha!) and also most importantly, the choices he makes trying to maximize the gain and minimize the loss will be interesting.

* Points! could be whatever desirable currency you have in your game.  In most games, the reward currency can be spent on character improvement of some kind, be that stats, equipment, whatever.  That'd work well in this example, as by making the character more effective, the player would be able to take responsibility for ever more NPCs and use them to get more Points! in a big ol' cycle.  But whatever they are, players want 'em.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program..
J


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mcv
Member

Posts: 34

Martijn Vos


« Reply #35 on: February 19, 2009, 03:44:22 PM »

1) There may or may not be a "group" the PCs belong to.  Even if they start as a group, the fact that the Players are have full freedom to make any choices they want for their PCs might mean the group might fracture and the PCs might even be at each other's throats before the characters finish their stories
I've had games like that (very rarely, though), and it's fine for one-shot games. Not so good for long campaigns, I'm afraid, and I happen to like those. For campaigns, it's nice to have characters who have just enough in common to stay together.

Have you read what I wrote in another thread about a particularly dramatic session with mismatched characters? It was memorable, but maybe a bit too intense, and not a lot of fun for the player who got completely overshadowed by the escalating conflict between the other characters.

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3) There is no expectation as to how things should be or will end up.  At all.  Initial circumstances are created -- and then we start rolling with the story and find out how it's all going to end up.  No one, neither the GM nor the Players, can have an agenda or expectations about the way things are going go to be or supposed to be.  I can only point, again, to the shows listed above to show how wonderfully varied stories can be once one leaves the "team" mentality behind.

The thing is, when you do that, the characters will soon each go their separate ways, and there won't be much game left. Either there needs to be a compelling reason for the characters to be together, or you need to game it so that they stay together even if the characters by their own free choice wouldn't have done so.

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I'm currently GMing a Sorcerer game in the setting of Traveller.  My three players created a rich and detailed military background and intertwined history for their PCs.  They decided they have a ship, run a merc crew.  And then play began... last night one PC was desperately trying to save the religious leader from a mob while another PC trained his weapon on the leaders head, afraid of the trouble the woman would bring to his crew and his friends.  It was an incredibly involved struggle for the three PCs as they tried to protect each other -- but also knew that they might come to blows with each other because of their own agendas that might transcend their friendships.  (It feels very much like BSG, actually.  Two of the PCs have smuggled a nuke onto their ship to use against their enemies (just in case), even though the third PC, the ship's captain, has explicitly forbidden this action.)

So the characters have a common history. They've already been designed to have something in common. They work together, take missions together, etc. But what will the captain do when he finds out the others have disobeyed a direct order? Will he kick them off his ship? Can he afford to do so? How much freedom does he really have? Are there really no expectations as to how he should act?

To be honest, this example reminds me of quite a lot of sessions I've been in and heard about.

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By the time we're done with all this, the PCs might have all killed each other or might be stronger friends than they were before.  We just don't know.  And that's part of the fun.  Everyone is playing from the perspective of their characters and the fiction... it's emotional and visceral and not academic or intellectual at all -- in part because the Player have the freedom to make any choice they want for their PCs out of the fiction as defined up to that point.

If everybody is aware that they might all kill each other, then you've already accepted that this is probably not going to be a very long campaign. Which is fine, but still not terribly different from any other game where you've accepted that. I mean, if this is all there is to narrativism, then I've done it dozens of times already.

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So, before I go any further, do you have questions about playing this way?  Is this something you can see working?  Does it interest you?  Why or why not?

I think I've done similar things a couple of times already, and while it was fun at times (though not always), I was kinda hoping for a bit more than just disfunctional group cohesion.
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Martijn Vos - gamer, coder, soon-to-be dad
mcv
Member

Posts: 34

Martijn Vos


« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2009, 03:55:46 PM »

Since you don't have any nar games to refer to yet, consider this extremely rough and overly specific example.

Imagine a game where Mal's player gets Points!* for 'looking out for his' and acting so they don't come to harm.  And the player gets to choose NPCs who are 'his' - they go on a list on the character sheet.  But if one of the characters on that list does come to harm, or the player wants to take someone off the list, then Mal's player looses Points!

This doesn't really sound all that dissimilar from Dependents in GURPS. Admittedly I've never really been able to get a handle on Dependents in GURPS, possibly because they didn't fit all that well into my generally Sim approach.

I'm pretty sure the Plot Points mechanism in Serenity RPG can be used for this very same purpose. It doesn't have a Dependent or "looking out for his" trait, but it does have Loyal, which means a certain group of people can count on you when they're in trouble, and the character gets Plot Points for helping them. I don't think he loses them for not helping them, though. I was actually considering awarding Plot Points for the refusal to help if he has a very good reason not to, and he confronts that conflict head on, but apparently that's not so Narrativist?
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Martijn Vos - gamer, coder, soon-to-be dad
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1159


« Reply #37 on: February 19, 2009, 04:32:51 PM »

Ah, Martijn, you keep doing this thing, and the thing is this: Someone says, "Blah, blah, blah..." and you say, "That's all Story Now is?"

I don't know why you do this, but I can only say I never said that's what Story Now is.  I said it's a part of it.

If you've done it before, that's great.

I have a feeling there's not much more for me to offer here since what I have to offer isn't what I think you want, but I wanted to clarify a few things:

- I'm not sure what you mean by campaign in terms of length, but I know that I and others have played games for months and months.  I honestly don't see why it couldn't go longer.

- There's no reason for characters not to be a cohesive unit.  It's a choice on the part of the Players.  But the choice has to be there.  When you write, "The thing is, when you do that, the characters will soon each go their separate ways, and there won't be much game left. Either there needs to be a compelling reason for the characters to be together, or you need to game it so that they stay together even if the characters by their own free choice wouldn't have done so," I can safely reply: No, this isn't true.  This is flat out wrong.  I -- and many others -- have played many long terms sessions that worked very well this way.  You may not have and you may not see how.  But it can be done, with a great deal of fun and enthusiasm from everyone at the table.

- The characters often split up, but I use lots of cross-cutting between scenes as a GM, shifting from one PC to the next.  Because of the games I use and the techniques I use, everyone is engaged with what's going on, because what's happening to one player's PC is of interest to every other Player.

- I feel compelled to point out that my Players -- whether at conventions or my regular group -- all have a great time in these games.  No one feels left out.  This is only my data set and my say-so, but the reason I brought this up is that most folks assume this kind of play can't work, leaves folks being bored, or works - but only infrequently.  But it's part of larger package that really helps it work in terms of rules, procedures and techniques.

- The reason I brought this up was because I was thinking of typing up a version of Firefly using the rules for Sorcerer.  But Sorcerer assumes that the PCs can go their own way, and might even come to blows.  A lot of how the game works simply doesn't make sense if players don't see this as a functional option.  And since a lot of folks don't see it as an effective or fun or functional means of play, I just needed to see where you stood on this stuff.  You don't see the appeal, and that's cool.


I just went and read the thread you linked to.  I can only say that last night I GM'd Sorcerer for my group and it was a very intense session for everyone at the table.  

But there was lots of laughing and cheering and clapping of hands of approval.  

I'm saying that different games have different rules and procedures that produce wildly different results from similar sorts of play.  When my gang heads out after a Sorcerer session, all we're doing is talking about how we want to get back together again and play more.  I certainly sounds that, on the social level of just between folks, we're getting a different result than what you got at your session.  (And, I offer again, the games go on for several months.  And I could continue them, but the imagination of the Players keep coming up with new settings for Sorcerer.)


To answer some of your questions: "So the characters have a common history. They've already been designed to have something in common. They work together, take missions together, etc. But what will the captain do when he finds out the others have disobeyed a direct order? Will he kick them off his ship? Can he afford to do so? How much freedom does he really have? Are there really no expectations as to how he should act?"

- I have no idea what the Captain will do.  But he could choose to take any action he wanted.

- He might kick them off the ship.  He might not.  By the time the bomb is revealed, the Captain might be the one eager to use it and the two other PCs might have changed their minds, wishing they'd never brought the thing on board.

- He can afford to do so... but if does this (and he might not! -- it might never come to anything like this!) the crew might mutiny.  We won't know till a choice is actually made.

- He has all the freedom he wants.

- There are expectations built on the details of his character sheet only to the degree that his choices will most likely "orbit" the details on the sheet -- but they do not dictate choices.  At all.  For example is a reluctant noble with  complicated relationships with his father (the Duke of a subsector) mother, uncle and aunt.  This will inform his choices.  But dictates nothing.  There are many details on the PC's sheet like this.

Here's detail from the sheet:

Sorcerer also has a Humanity rating on a scale of 0 to 10.  The rating itself does nothing to "control" or dictate behavior, but if a PC's Humanity reaches 0, the Player loses the PC (he is not longer human!)  In each game of Sorcerer the group customizes the definition of Humanity.  For our Traveller setting game, the definition is Friendship.  So the choices, the big choices, orbit the choices of Friendship against Alienation.  You make rolls when your PC commits acts that either support or deny friendship, and your Humanity might go up or down because of that.  

Now, clearly, if a PC keeps acting against his friends it will drive his Humanity to 0 and he's out of the game!  But it's important to realize that a Player can do exactly that.  That's a choice for the Player alone.  In my first game of Sorcerer I drove my PC's Humanity to 0 and it was a blast.  He was a bitter, angry man driven by horrible passions and did the wrong thing time and again... and then (using rules from the game) we re-wrote him and I got him back as a PC and he travelled a path of redemption.  It was awesome.

So, there are imaginative "constraints" on the PCs (the fiction, the rules that tie to the fiction) but there are no expectations.  At all.

And I need to repeat one final time: it works great.  There's no anger at the table.  Everyone has a great time.  The sessions are compelling.  The games don't dry up or blow up.  Everyone can't wait to continue the stories to the next session.
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Callan S.
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« Reply #38 on: February 19, 2009, 05:46:18 PM »

Hi Martijn,

You may very well have been doing nar sessions already. Nar isn't supposed to be complicated.

If I read a text on the chemistry of breathing, yet it never mentioned the word 'breathe', I probably wouldn't associate all that chemistry talk with something I do naturally, all the time. You might be the same with the nar essays and such. It might be so over explained you can't connect it with something you already do. But if you want to get into the 'chemistry' of nar latter on, there's some texts for it.
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Dr_Pete
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #39 on: February 20, 2009, 08:30:24 AM »

I think there are some structures built into traditional rpgs which may seem obvious or necessary but which may not be, and that's at least part of the communication issue, because these other, less traditional ideas can pop the top on them.  I'm going to try to avoid jargon, to make my point.

In D&D, there's a basic structure to a game, which has been there from the beginning.  The players have characters.  Those characters are on a team.  Their goal (broadly) is to go up against bad guys, kill them, and get stuff.  The DM creates bad guys, and rewards the players for beating them.  Success is measured in survival and growth of power.  This is basically the template for most RPGs that follow.

None of it is required, but if you get rid of much of it, you end up playing a potentially very different game.  Even moving to Call of Cthulhu is very hard for a lot of people because playing the game probably means "failure" in the survival and growth of power realms.  Taking away accumulation of stuff can even be difficult for a lot of players.  Now, gathering stuff, going up levels, etc... that has little or nothing to do with "story", but it's pretty hardwired into a lot of roleplaying experience.  Losing all your stuff, being thrown in prison, having your trigger finger cut off so your sharpshooter can't shoot your gun any more... those are legit story elements which might destroy many players' enjoyment of a game too much to continue.

I bring that up because there's a huge difference between what's held up here as the goal of roleplaying here and what a lot of people "want" out of roleplaying.  That said, many don't know what the choices might be.

I do think it's important for something needs to bring the people at the table together, at some level, so they're clearly doing something connected.  In boardgames, for example, it's more interesting if your "move" can effect what happens to someone else's game than if you are all effectively playing Solitaire at the same table.  If you have 4 characters who are on completely unrelated adventures, that's kibbitzing at 3 solo rpgs, and having a DM who is only occasionally paying attention to you.  If you play a game centered around flying from place to place on a spaceship having adventures, and you "let" each player go to a different planet, and deal with unrelated stories, that's more or less what you're doing.  A "game" about Inara being a Companion in the Core, Mal making a deal on a space station, and Jayne on a bar crawl on a backwater planet would be hard to tie together.  Add Zoe hunting for Wash (who didn't show up for the session) on a pleasure planet, and you've got a total lack of focus, probably.

On the other hand, that *might* make a decent game, if there was a common thread to it all of some kind.  The players would slowly see the big picture, and because the characters were all nibbling around a common issue, it theoretically could start to grow into one big story with four or five "subplots", each of which was, itself, an interesting story.  Maybe Inara is enticed to travel to the backwater planet by the executive in charge of making an army of super-Wash-soldiers, and Mal is hired to smuggle dinosaurs there or something.  Not that this is true to the characters of the Firefly story.  The point is that you do need something tying the stories together, but it doesn't need to be "team play".

Alright, enough rambling for one post... the point is that there's a lot of hidden structure to most roleplaying group play.  I am excited to see that a lot of it is optional.  The assumption that you can just add a rule or two to "drift" a game without examining that structure, I think, is false.

Dr Pete
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #40 on: February 20, 2009, 09:10:07 AM »

Hi Pete,

Exactly.  The idea that one one can band-aid up a couple of new rules is probably going to fall flat on its face.  There will be *many* new assumptions, tools and procedures for different kinds of games.  Notions about thematic mechanics or whether or not there will be a "party" are just pieces of a re-wired whole.  Some people, like me, wanted something different enough that learning to chuck whole sets of assumptions was worth it.  For others, not so much.

Such play is a very different game.  This is why, as an example, Sorcerer works even though it jettisons many, many assumptions about how a GM preps a game and how the Players approach the game.  But it replaces them with a new set of gears and levers and interlocking regulators that are well thought and can produce great, fun play.  (Other games do this effectively as well.  I'm discussing Sorcerer because it's fresh in my mind right now, but game like In a Wicked Age, Primetime Adventures, and HeroQuest all games I've loved playing but are startlingly different in play and mechanics than many folks are used to.  There are lots of other cool games I haven't even had a chance to play yet that I know I would love that also unique to themselves as to how to play them.)

Last year I ran a game of Sorcerer my player and I called THE BROTHERHOOD.  It was set in a prison.  There was a prison, Landsfied, where the prisoners were doing sorcerous lore.  The demons were tattoos and shivs and cell blocks.  One PC was a father who was seeking vengeance on the cult leader who was housed in the prison.  Another was an cop-killing ex-cop who had just been betrayed by a member of his crew and needed to find out who did it.  The third was a lifer who discovered that his nephew had arrived in the prison and was part of a plan to seize control of the cell block the PC ruled.

There was no team: but there were many elements that bound the PLAYERS together.  (Not the characters, the Players -- and this is a vital point that was a lightning bolt to me when I realized it years ago.)  In THE BROTHERHOOD, the Players were bound by the definition of Humanity (treating others well, playing outside the rules of "the system"), the definition of Lore (rituals of domination and abuse), the backstory I had prepared about the history of the prison, the turf war taking place in the prison.  Every PLAYER paid attention to what was happening with every other Player because they were curious about a) what choices the Players would be making morally, and b) information gleaned from by one Player's character often piqued the interest of another player even if his character hadn't been in the scene.

The game worked great.  Alliances were made between the PCs -- even though they had never known each other before -- bonds of trust were built in game.  It was really intense and sometimes moving and really quite compelling.  The Players had a great time.  (Please note, despite all fears that Players without "party" enforcement will always fly off to different corners of the world, I have never found this to be the case.  PLAYERS want to go where the interesting stuff is.  If the GM preps correctly, the Players will moved toward each other because they are all near interesting stuff.)

Setting up a Firefly game, the kind of Firefly game I would want to play, means working with lots of rules and tools that might seem not to work -- and if used individually probably would not.  But by using rules and tools designed to interact with each other effectively, produce terrific sessions of game play.  Many of the fears of such rules and tools vanish in actual play because the nightmare behaviors of the Players fail to arrive, or the behavior is transmuted into something effective and quite enjoyable.  (For example, lack of party play does not produce boredom or indifference form other players, but it also allows an amazing, hot interest in what the other Players will have their characters do, because we don't know what the character will do.  Any choice in the moral arena is available.

Now, some people want this kind of choice in their game play, some don't.  But when I watch shows (for example) like Lost, Firefly, The Wire, Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica I know I want that kind of electric decision making at my table.  And with the proper rules and tools such play does not produce fights, boredom, obstructive behavior, confusion or frustration.  Instead, the specific rules and tools used in a cohesive combination produces great, compelling play.

I understand people have horror stories about games that were "like" what I'm talking about.  I can only say I haven't had a horror story from a game session in the years I first started picking up the games I read about on The Forge.
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Dr_Pete
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #41 on: February 20, 2009, 03:49:46 PM »

Hi Christopher,

While I haven't played Sorcerer at this point, I'm definitely interested in giving it a try at some point.  I've read some of the stuff you've put up here and elsewhere, as well as many of Ron's comments.  Very interesting stuff!

I've had various bad experiences over the years with games where everyone makes a character and then we assume they're a "party" (especially bad for modern games-- a cat burglar, a 10 year old and a socialite team up to fight ghosts, etc) so I am all too familiar with how that can go wrong.

Sorcerer discussion seems to take two different tacks... talking about mechanics and talking about how games are structured.  In talking about drifting Serenity, one would presumably keep most of those mechanics, and would probably want to keep "true" at some level to the Firefly story structure, I would think... otherwise, why put it there rather than some other sci fi universe?

Firefly is a Space Western, of course.  Westerns are mostly about civilization vs lawlessness, and being on the edge of civilization.  They're about things like the lone gunslinger riding into town, fighting the bandits or indians.  About maintaining your moral code when nobody else cares.  My suspicion is that you are interested in the "loyalty" element, Christopher, but that's just one element of the cowboy code at play in western movies.  To use a Sorcerer-ish metaphor, Mal would risk losing a "humanity" if he didn't give the money back on that job he refused for going against his sense of right and wrong, I think.  The point being that if you want to craft stories, you need to decide what they should be about rather than "just" having adventures...

As far as mechanics tweaks, I don't know the Serenity mechanics, so I dunno.  One idea that springs to mind might be using Riddle of Steel spiritual attributes to replace plot points.  Basically, you have attributes like a moral code, faith and passions.  Your rating in these go up if you act on them at some risk, and they give bonuses based on their ratings... themed plot points, if I understand Serenity's mechanics based on a quick google search.  I'd also add that acting against them penalizes them, either by zeroing them out or by reducing them gradually.  It provides an in-game carrot for certain types of behavior, but also provides hooks for presenting hard choices for the character sheet... Loyalty or Revenge... do I pursue my revenge, worth 10 points on my sheet, or protect the innocent, worth 4 points on my sheet?  If I go with revenge, at the cost of innocent lives, I lose the 4 points, but if I go with save the innocent, I'm letting the object of my vengeance go, and I lose the 10 (or maybe it drops to 9...)!  That's just an idea, to bring it back to a mechanical "drift" question.

Pete
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Caldis
Member

Posts: 392


« Reply #42 on: February 21, 2009, 06:46:32 AM »

to stay together.

Have you read what I wrote in another thread about a particularly dramatic session with mismatched characters? It was memorable, but maybe a bit too intense, and not a lot of fun for the player who got completely overshadowed by the escalating conflict between the other characters.

I ran into a situation like this long ago, almost 20 years now, when we fell into narrativism by accident.  Our group was using a freeform system and had set up a situation where we were agents for a vast galactic empire on a mission to earth to track down a scientist.  There were three characters with different goals for this mission two of which were directly at odds with each other which ended up pushing the whole session into a cycle of conflict and violence, it was amazingly fun.  It did however leave one player sitting on the side mostly watching.

I think the reason this happened in my game and likely yours was because we fell into.  It wasn't planned and we didnt know what we were doing.  The two characters were primed for interesting conflict the third was a side character who wasnt really connected plus our lack of system gave him no tools to get involved in the conflict.  I think it's one of the things you will have to consider if you try and run a nar game with a system that isnt really designed for it.  You may get what you are looking for but you may also end up with someone spinning their wheels because they arent connected.

 
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #43 on: February 21, 2009, 07:06:20 AM »

Hi guys,

Caldis, that's a good point.  One thing I want to add, though, as I stated two posts ago, is that simply having characters in conflict is not Story Now, even if it's justified with "My Guy Would Do This..."

I have no idea what, exactly was going on at your table, Caldis, nor Martijn's in his example.  I just want to be really clear that inter-character conflict is NOT the definition of Story Now.  I've played several games where that never even happened.

My only point earlier was to make clear that there was no "party" to speak of since the Players had to have the freedom to have their PCs do anything.  The assumption of the "party" short circuits that.
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #44 on: February 22, 2009, 12:09:50 PM »

Hi all,

I just (finally) finished posting the Actual Play summary of a HeroQuest game I GM'd at local convention a year ago.

The setting was Glorantha.  But used many of the procedures and gameplay I've been talking about in this thread onto the game.  (Basically I took procedures from Sorcerer and mapped them onto HeroQuest play.)

I'm linking here because I think the thread successfully illustrates many of the points I've been talking about in this thread. 

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25796.0

Fair Warning: It's a pretty complete write up, with lots of notes about GM prepping, Kickers, Bangs and other items I really wanted to talk about.  So.  Um.  It's about twenty or so pages of single spaced material if you were to print it all out.

Just so you know.

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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
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