*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 31, 2014, 03:46:06 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 39 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: 1 2 3 [4]
Print
Author Topic: Establishing Premise in Serenity RPG  (Read 10631 times)
Dr_Pete
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #45 on: February 23, 2009, 01:37:01 PM »

Christopher, that was a great description of your game.

Maybe there's more that can be discussed about bringing the idea to a Space Western (or even a generic) game, preferably in a system-independent way, or looking at what, system-wise, is needed/can be used to bring out "story".

What are the various tools that have been developed for this, in other words...? 

One "problem" with kickers in the abstract is that they can lead to very independent play.  Each person has their own ideas, things that interest them, etc.  This might produce something like Battlestar Galactica, where everyone is off facing their own personal crisis.  On Firefly, the characters are more closely tied together... they are all on a ship, they are more or less a team, though one with various tensions between characters.

To create a firefly-like story, you want everyone to buy into being part of that at some level, I think.  There are characters facing some external challenge together, while also dealing with individual issues.  Your HeroQuest writeup points to the question I'm getting at, in a way... there, the characters were explicitly set up to be family, which brings a lot of structure to the story.  If you have adults working together, how do produce some of that same cohesion, or do you just hope it comes naturally?

In Firefly, it's a business... admittedly a pretty mediocre one.  Mal owns a ship.  He's hired Wash to pilot it, and Kaylee to keep it running.  He's hired Zoe and Jayne to be muscle for whatever they're doing.  Simon is hired on as a medic, and gets to keep his sister on board.  Book and Inara are paying passengers willing to be taken wherever the ship is going.  I think it's easy to think of them as a bunch of people having adventures, but they're not just people that met in a tavern and teamed up, there's some structure there-- it pulls them together, and generates stories.  On the other hand, somebody can get fired or quit or act in a way that's not in the best interest of the company they work for, it's a legit choice in a way that "no, I don't want to crawl into that bear cave with you, stranger" is usually not a legit choice in D&D.

I guess the flip side of that is, what do you do with kickers if everyone's working/living on a ship and they're at least moderately committed to staying together (because it's their job/their family)?  Is there an implicit "we're going to riff off of each other" thing that goes on, or is that explicit in some way?  How would generating one collaborative "group kicker" for the "A story" mesh with having each individual generating a personal kicker (which may or may not be connected to the group one)?  I'm not sure how exactly this would play out, and maybe I'm confusing kickers with something more like plot elements... "the ship's low on gas" or "we've got a hold full of stolen goods"

Mal discovers he's married certainly seems like a kicker, but how might a train robbery, say, come into play with this game structure?  The "traditional" way to do this would be to have somebody give the players a mission... get me such and such off this guarded train.  That doesn't seem compatible with this play style, or is it?  Big set pieces where "action" takes place seem discouraged, no?
Logged
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #46 on: February 23, 2009, 03:07:07 PM »

Hi Pete,

This could get huge and messy fast.  And I'm planning a post where we actually break out a sample version of FIREFLY using Sorcerer and and then HeroQuest.

But before we get there, in the hope of trying to avoid big and messy, I'm going to try to keep it small and neat for now.  It's my belief we can succeed at this.

So, you're working with many assumptions in that last post (we make sense, we're discussing something that doesn't exist yet and hasn't happened yet, so we're only working with assumptions) and I want to poke at two of them.  Think about them -- for a while -- and see what you come back with.

1) You seems to be assuming that the three PCs in the Glorantha game stayed together because of the family structure.  My question is, why do you assume this?  You do see that after Daleeta vanished and the father said he was going after her, the younger son might have tried to force his father to stay and let the girl go.  Right?  There was already bad blood between the two of them and this would have been very understandable.   If the Players had made different choices then we might have ended up with a fight in the village with father and son.  The second son would have been forced to make a decision about what to do.  it could have ended up very blood and violent and with a very different end to the session.

Do you see that the Players had utter free will and decided that the crisis of Daleeta's disappearance strengthened the bonds between them, but that it didn't have to go that way?

There was NO structure that reinforced them working together as a group.  None.  None at all.  It was simply the choices of the Players.

Do you see this?


2) You wrote, in the context of using Kickers in a Firefly game:

"Each person has their own ideas, things that interest them, etc.  On Firefly, the characters are more closely tied together... they are all on a ship, they are more or less a team, though one with various tensions between characters.  To create a firefly-like story, you want everyone to buy into being part of that at some level."

Okay.  Yes.  I'm assuming that if the Players all want to play a game "like" FIREFLY, they will, in fact want to remain together as a crew.  That is, it "interests" them to do this.  They have "bought into being part of that" because we are doing exactly that thing.

For some reason you are assuming that a Kicker would override a Player's own "interests" -- the interest to play the crew of a star faring tramp freighter.  But, do you see that no Kicker forces no Player to do anything other than what interests them?  What interests the Player is the point of this kind of play.  And if the Players keep wanting to be shipmates then they will.  How does having Kickers distort this?

2a) Because I think you're making some unique distinctions about FIREFLY, let me offer this:

River has a Kicker: She wakes up in the cargo hold of a tramp freighter, no knowing anyone but her brother.
Simon has a Kicker: He just busted his sister out of a secret and dangerous "school" that conducts mind-altering experiments.
Jayne has a Kicker: An Alliance Federal Agent just offered him a big reward for betraying Mal.
Mal has a Kicker: He just lost the big payment he needed to keep his ship going
Booker has a Kicker: He just witnessed a murder

And so on...

Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.... These Kickers are all taken from the two hour pilot.  They will inform the series for the run of the show. And they are THERE.  Right there in the show.  Because the show is made of story stuff, and the game play we're talking about is made of story stuff.

Keep in mind that Jayne BETRAYS the crew for more money in one episode.  Keep in mind that Mal almost kills Jayne for this betrayal.

You might say, "Yes, but of course it will all work out.  They're a team!"

And I would say, "And it can work out in an RPG with Players having utter free will as well, since the Players can choose to have their PCs remain as a remain a team."

Do you see that this is all up to the Players?  The Kickers force nothing.  They do not make the Players pull apart from each other.

If we were in Alternate Reality RPG-Land and there had never been a FIREFLY series and we were playing out the game of Firefly and Jayne's Player made the play for the betrayal at the hospital that would be his choice.  Because it interested him to pursue this.  And we'd see how it played out.  He might end up dead.  Mal might end up killing him.  He might end up killing Mal. Or they might end up making up... just like what happened on the TV show.  But it would be based on what the Players were interested in, not arbitrary expectations front-loaded before play.

So, those are two and a half things to consider.  Consider them.  And really, take a day or two and think about them.  And then, no matter how they sit, come back and we'll talk more.

I'm slammed with projects right now, so taking some time would be good for me.
Logged

"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 #47 on: February 23, 2009, 03:20:52 PM »

whoops!

One more thing:

Make sure to watch the FIREFLY Pilot.  If you don't have it, you can catch it here on Hulu.com http://www.hulu.com/watch/4569/firefly-serenity

Watch it in the context of this conversation... Which is to say, watch it with an eye to the choices the characters make.

****
Oh, and I've reconsidered my write up of Mal's Kicker to make it a bit punchier (I wrote them on the fly, after all...)

Mal has a Kicker: "A criminal refuses to complete a bargain for stolen goods when I desperately need the money." 

This would be translated into a specific scene in an RPG, a scene that provokes a choice from Mal because of how the GM frames it.  In fact, in the actual episode, it ends up provoking choices from Mal, Zoe and Jayne.  Watch the pilot and see how the engine that drives it is the choices the characters make.
Logged

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

Posts: 34

Martijn Vos


« Reply #48 on: February 24, 2009, 12:30:50 AM »

I'm a bit behind in reading and responding to messages here. I've seen some interesting points in other messages that I also want to respond to, but this particular one deals directly with an issue I'm struggling with:

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 hope it's not too annoying when I do that, but from my perspective, what people call "Story Now" constantly seems to jump between two extremes, one where it's a completely new way of playing, and another where it's pretty close to what I've been doing (or been trying) for most of my life.

Quote
- 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.

My group has an Earthdawn game that's been going on for 10 years now. But we only play once a month (and sometimes a lot less). And this is by far the most extreme example.

I tend to see myself as a Simulationist. I prefer a game and game world that makes sense (D&D has never had much appeal to me), where people can do realistic things and make their own choices, preferably with interesting characters with interesting backgrounds and lots of complex issues making decisions that make sense for that character.

I care about the realism, about complex, plausible characters that work realistically as protagonist of a story in that world, and about keeping the group together so everybody doesn't go their own way and the group falls apart in lots of solo games. A lot of this seems to coincide with Story Now goals, but keeping the group together (which is by far the hardest thing to satisfy from my simulationist perspective) sounds like it doesn't even belong in Story Now. That could solve a lot of my problems, but if the group does split up because they decide they have conflicting interests, then that is pretty much the end of the campaign. I have no interest in running several simultaneous solo campaigns.

Quote
- 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.

But not to their characters. If there's nothing keeping them together, and they split up, there's even less keeping them together, and you'll be running simultaneous solo games. That's a lot of extra work for the GM, and most of the time players are just audience to other players' stories. I suppose it can be fun occasionally, but it doesn't sound very functional.

Characters with wildly conflicting goals can be great for a single session if they happen to be in the same location and involved in the same conflict, but they pick different sides in it (particularly if they still need to work together to accomplish their individual goals, and they don't immediately start killing each other), and splitting up temporarily can work fine if the group still has compatible goals and intend to come back together again, but if they split up because they have non-compatible goals, and have no interest in getting back together again, I don't see why you'd continue the campaign that way. Best way to continue in that situation seems picking the most interesting story, and have everybody not involved in it create characters that are interested in getting involved in it. That way you get a somewhat cohesive group again.

Quote
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.

So that's a kind of mechanism that keeps the group together. If you alienate yourself to the point where you might get kicked from the group, your humanity will also be very low. You risk losing your PC even before you decide to leave the crew. It's basically a mechanism for "gaming" the group into working together. They can choose not to, but if they go too far, they lose their character. In a sense it takes a difficult choice away from the GM and players by capturing it a game mechanism, which might be a good thing if that choice is bothering you. (Which it sometimes is, in my case.)

Quote
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.

I can see why. I'd love to do stuff like that (and one of the other players would probably like it even more and do that nearly every game), but our games lack a mechanism that cuts off the collision course and forces the player to choose between making a new character and redeeming the old one. Which means it's a choice that the players and GM have to make, and for some reason nobody wants to make that choice. (Although I think the main problem is that a lot of players expect a long and cooperative campaign, and aren't prepared for the collision course in the first place.)

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

I guess that's the difference. We are uncontrained by game mechanics but (perhaps as a result?) we do have expectations.

Quote
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.

That's what I want too, of course. I like the phrase "dry up or blow up". I think our games do that at times. Either it takes a lot of work to keep going, or it gets completely out of control all of a sudden. Maybe we do rely too much on the capabilities of the players to keep the game on track, and need a bit more guidance from meta game mechanisms. Which I guess is what many Story Now systems are about.
Logged

Martijn Vos - gamer, coder, soon-to-be dad
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #49 on: February 24, 2009, 07:27:53 AM »

Hello Martijn,

You wrote something that I think is very accurate: "I hope it's not too annoying when I do that, but from my perspective, what people call "Story Now" constantly seems to jump between two extremes, one where it's a completely new way of playing, and another where it's pretty close to what I've been doing (or been trying) for most of my life."

Certainly that has been my experience with the tools and procedures I've been playing with the last several years.  The key, for me, is that the play works now.  I get what I wanted and it works.

I got what I wanted, and I got play that works.  I had to give up a lot of assumptions about what would work and what would not.  But when I did, I got what I wanted.

Did you get a chance to look at the HeroQuest thread I linked to?  I know it is long, but it is a clear example of these procedures.  Although it was a one shot at a convention, for me it could easily have served as the first session in a long series of sessions.  I do hope you get a chance to go through it.  It would give us a framework for discussion from actual play -- which is where I am always most comfortable.

Three more points in general:

1) In terms of campaigns, I can't speak to that perhaps the way you would like.  The desire for the long campaign isn't particularly my desire.  That is, I understand the desire.  I have the desire.  But mixed with the long campaign are issues of time commitment and structural issues in a game that sometimes bog down.

It sounds like your Earthdawn game has had about 150 to 200 sessions.  The Sorcerer game I played last year, the one set in prison, lasted 9 sessions -- not a years long play at all.  And yet the nine sessions were packed with amazing play and a great deal of fun.  We could also pick up those characters and play them again.  We could continue the stories -- or even move backward in time and tell a tale of who they were before that particular story took place.

My point is -- whether we did that or not -- is that my concern these days is the fun I have at the table right now.  I no longer press myself toward games that will still be running five years from now.  I'm content to focus on games that will reliably produce a great time now.  If that means I'm not counting on a game that's running five years from now, so be it.  Again, this doesn't mean I couldn't end up with a years-long running game.  I'm just saying that isn't my primary focus.  My primary focus is more fun now.

2) You wrote: "I prefer a game and game world that makes sense...I care about the realism, about complex, plausible characters that work realistically as protagonist of a story in that word."  Did you write this as a contrast to the sort of play I've been discussing?  I'm not sure why you would do this, but if you did, could you write me a few words about why this is? I don't think anything I've written about suggests that the world doesn't make sense or that the characters are not plausible.  Certainly, the kinds of sessions I play have worlds and characters as plausible as those found in the series Firefly!  Have I written anything to make you think otherwise?

3) As for the concept of "solo games" or "solo campaigns" -- I'm fascinated by these terms.  Now, I'm not trying to convince you of anything.  What I've been writing about may not be your cup of tea, and that's fine.  But I need you to understand that nothing I play like (in the HeroQuest game I linked to, in the Sorcerer games I've mentioned) feel "solo" at all. 

It's always a group of people gathered together.  Doing something socially.  Together.  We're all interested in what the other people are doing with their characters.  This, I'll be blunt, is just a major point of disconnect.  That you're focusing so much on what interests the characters seems utterly alien to me since I've learned that what really matters at the game table is what interests the Players.  There's just no getting around it. 

If the PCs work together as a group it's because the Players decide to do it.  No amount of fiction constraints ("You're all a squad from the FBI") can force that to happen.  In my experience it is fictional constraints like this that almost encourage Players to strike out on their own.  Feeling trapped in a game makes people test the boundaries as they search for some freedom.  Frustration arises and then the Players (not the PCs!) are getting in each other's faces.

For you, the notion that the PCs are not in the same scene is some sort of solo play.  But I realized a while back that no matter what, only one person can talk at a time, only one person can do something at a time. So if I stretch that 10 to 30 seconds of play a little longer to one to three minutes of play, and cut quickly around the table from one player to the next, there's little risk of boredom for the players and the players get to do more. 

But, I say again, there's no solo play.  My focus is on the social group of the Players at the table.  And the games I play, and the prep I do as a GM, is about insuring that the Players are involved and interested in what's happening at the table even if their character is in a scene.  I suspect you don't believe me -- but this goes back to point one above: the game play does involve new techniques and procedures that change the way play goes, even if it is only to get the kind of play you've already done or have striving to play.  The results are different.

I simply see nothing "solo" about the play at my table, and I know my Players would agree. But the games I play offer new ways of building cohesion among the social group at the table and wind everything up in ways that might not be part of how you're seeing play work.


A quick note about the Humanity rule from Sorcerer: To be very clear, the rules does not constrain the Player's choices.... it is that there are consequences for those choices.  Essentially, when you do something "against" Humanity, you have a 50% chance of the PC's Humanity going down a point.  When the PC does something in line with Humanity, there is about a 50% chance the Humanity will go up a point.  So the Player can behave any way he wants...  he can even dance on the edge of Humanity 0 for while with a Humanity of 1 and doing against-Humanity things as long as the dice favor him.  But it is the Player's choice, every time.  And if the Player really believes his character would act in a way that threatens his Humanity, he's allowed to drive it down toward 0.  And then, if the player decides the risk is getting too great, he can pull back and start doing actions to lift his Humanity.  But the point of the mechanic is that the Player chooses -- there is no forcing of behavior.
Logged

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

Posts: 34

Martijn Vos


« Reply #50 on: February 24, 2009, 08:49:12 AM »

You wrote something that I think is very accurate: "I hope it's not too annoying when I do that, but from my perspective, what people call "Story Now" constantly seems to jump between two extremes, one where it's a completely new way of playing, and another where it's pretty close to what I've been doing (or been trying) for most of my life."

Certainly that has been my experience with the tools and procedures I've been playing with the last several years.  The key, for me, is that the play works now.  I get what I wanted and it works.

I got what I wanted, and I got play that works.  I had to give up a lot of assumptions about what would work and what would not.  But when I did, I got what I wanted.

You mean that what I've always wanted is indeed (at least partially) Story Now, but I've been working with the wrong tools? Using a more narrativist system will get me the same thing, but more reliably and consistenty. Is that it?

Perhaps it will also get the other players on board. I'm always a bit annoyed that I'm trying to come up with interesting characters with real personality, and they come up with a name and some stats. (Well, it's not always like that, and the longer a campaign continues, the more all characters (including mine) develop, which is probably why I like long campaigns.)

Quote
Did you get a chance to look at the HeroQuest thread I linked to?  I know it is long, but it is a clear example of these procedures.  Although it was a one shot at a convention, for me it could easily have served as the first session in a long series of sessions.  I do hope you get a chance to go through it.  It would give us a framework for discussion from actual play -- which is where I am always most comfortable.

Haven't read all of it yet. There's a lot of stuff in this thread I still need to read and digest. But it still sounds somewhat like an accident: somehow everybody just got it, and started doing your work for you.

Quote
2) You wrote: "I prefer a game and game world that makes sense...I care about the realism, about complex, plausible characters that work realistically as protagonist of a story in that word."  Did you write this as a contrast to the sort of play I've been discussing?

No! Not at all. It's just self-analysis. I'm trying to describe in words what I want from a game. And reading it gives me the impression that it's part Simulationism, part Story Now. The problem is, the player who wants a more Narrativist game abnd pointed me to The Forge isn't a Simulationist at all, but a Gamist. No detailed characters with complex personalities, just some stats with a name (that I feel doesn't quite fit in the setting).

And I read some older posts here where people said Nar was much closer to Gam than to Sim, which worried me a bit. But from this thread I get the impression that Nar is more like the natural extension of Sim. And now I find myself worrying how that player will take it.

Quote
3) As for the concept of "solo games" or "solo campaigns" -- I'm fascinated by these terms.  Now, I'm not trying to convince you of anything.  What I've been writing about may not be your cup of tea, and that's fine.  But I need you to understand that nothing I play like (in the HeroQuest game I linked to, in the Sorcerer games I've mentioned) feel "solo" at all. 

It's always a group of people gathered together.  Doing something socially.  Together.  We're all interested in what the other people are doing with their characters.  This, I'll be blunt, is just a major point of disconnect.  That you're focusing so much on what interests the characters seems utterly alien to me since I've learned that what really matters at the game table is what interests the Players.  There's just no getting around it.

But I am interested in what interests the characters. But what if various characters are interested in completely different things (perhaps because their players are)? Isn't it the interaction between what the characters are doing that's fun? If one character is slaying dragons on his own, another is involved in courtly intrigue, a third is tending his farm and fighting off raiders, and the fourth is exploring some far away land, then why are these people even in the same game? That sounds like your reading four books simultaneously. It seems to me that you really do need something, anything, that connects them somehow.

Quote
If the PCs work together as a group it's because the Players decide to do it.

But what if some players decide to work together, and one doesn't? (A common occurance in my group.)

Quote
No amount of fiction constraints ("You're all a squad from the FBI") can force that to happen.  In my experience it is fictional constraints like this that almost encourage Players to strike out on their own.

But if they don't have anything in common, then there's no plausible reason for them to work together. The only way to plausibly get them to work together is to give them something in common.

Quote
For you, the notion that the PCs are not in the same scene is some sort of solo play.

They don't have to be in the same scene all the time, but they do need something that they have in common, or else their respective adventures will cease being relevant for the others. Being in the same scene could do it, but that doesn't necessarily stop them from breaking up. Having a common goal works better. Being involved on different sides of the same conflict could work too, but is really hard to pull off in my experience.

Quote
I simply see nothing "solo" about the play at my table, and I know my Players would agree. But the games I play offer new ways of building cohesion among the social group at the table and wind everything up in ways that might not be part of how you're seeing play work.

I mostly don't see what you really mean. Do the players really do their own thing, completely unrelated to the others, or do they have something in common? If you're building cohesion, then you're giving them something in common, right? So what is it? What are those new ways of building cohesion?

Quote
A quick note about the Humanity rule from Sorcerer: To be very clear, the rules does not constrain the Player's choices.... it is that there are consequences for those choices.  Essentially, when you do something "against" Humanity, you have a 50% chance of the PC's Humanity going down a point.  When the PC does something in line with Humanity, there is about a 50% chance the Humanity will go up a point.  So the Player can behave any way he wants...  he can even dance on the edge of Humanity 0 for while with a Humanity of 1 and doing against-Humanity things as long as the dice favor him.  But it is the Player's choice, every time.  And if the Player really believes his character would act in a way that threatens his Humanity, he's allowed to drive it down toward 0.  And then, if the player decides the risk is getting too great, he can pull back and start doing actions to lift his Humanity.  But the point of the mechanic is that the Player chooses -- there is no forcing of behavior.

There is one restriction: Humanity can go up and down, and then it reaches zero, he loses his character. But it's part of the game mechanics, just like injury and death usually is. The consequences become more explicit and less arbitrary. There are clear limits to just how much a character can misbehave, and that gives him freedom within those limits. It makes the misbehaviour part of the game, and puts clear boundaries on it, and that sounds like a very effective mechanism to prevent something I've seen in my group: everybody getting annoyed because they consider one player's character disruptive, without them really being able to do anything about it.
Logged

Martijn Vos - gamer, coder, soon-to-be dad
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #51 on: February 24, 2009, 09:04:17 AM »

Hi Martijn,

I'm slammed on some writing right now, so I wont' get back to this for a while.  Luckily, that will give you time for the two length threads at hand.  I really think moving forward in our conversation will be helped by this, giving us some shared context to poke at.

I did want to say, though, that this made me laugh (a true, honest laugh of recognition):

"Haven't read all of it yet. There's a lot of stuff in this thread I still need to read and digest. But it still sounds somewhat like an accident: somehow everybody just got it, and started doing your work for you."

Yes!  I know!  It does seem that way!  And if I didn't get the same, reliable results with different Players I'd think the same thing.

We'll talk more about the specifics later.  But take a look at what is already written. Notice that the the Players in the HeroQuest game were also very interested in what interested the characters.  But without the Players first there are no characters.  That's my only point.  When I write something like that it is not at the expense of playing from the point of view of characters and their emotions and drives and passions -- but it is an acknowledgement of the reality of what happens when real life people sit down to play together.  Hoping that things will work out because the Players will "hide" themselves in their characters is, I have found, an expectation that often leads to disappointment.

But I'm already typing too much... we'll take a couple of days and reconvene. 
Logged

"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 #52 on: February 24, 2009, 03:01:46 PM »

Hi Martijn, (Christopher, I'll give you a rest, lol)

It sounds like we're discussing very similar issues regarding setting up the game so that it has some cohesion.

My feeling is that yes, there should be something that binds the characters together.  There are at least 2 different types of ties I can think of that could work... family and employment bonds.  Others might also work.

I think that an important element of this is a collaborative character creation process.  How are the characters connected to each other?  Starblazer Adventures (based on FATE/SotC) requires players to construct backstory links between the characters as part of the generation process, which might be helpful, though I sense one might want to go a bit further than they do by default.  It's a very cool, fairly generic-setting space game which would probably be easy to play in a narrativist way.

I've been told that a very big part of this kind of play is to not constrain the players control over the action of their characters.  Lets imagine for a moment that we're talking about the example you mentioned.  One character doing courtly intrigue, one slaying dragons, one is tending his herd and fighting off raiders, and one is exploring some far away land.  This is the same type of thing I was worried about, but lets go back 1-2 sessions of this theoretical game, and think about how they might have gotten here playing this the "Story Now" way.

The characters, lets imagine, are created as four brothers, all minor landed nobles.  They are in a nation on the brink of war with a far away country. 
The first one's kicker: While at court, I overheard a plot against the king. 
The second one's kicker: I learn that a dragon killed our father.
The third one's kicker: Bandits have raided my land.
The fourth one's kicker: My son has been taken hostage.

Just by trying to do this, I've turned these into somewhat more interesting individual stories.  The actions of the theoretical characters are totally bland without some meat as to motivation.  You need a reason to "do intrigue" and "farming" has to be among the dullest rp activities... maybe not "roll to paint the wall without dripping" boring, but that's not a game, that's a character sketch.  "I plow today"... "ok, roll to see if you hit a rock... ah, a 1, you nick your plowblade"

Now, lets move the game forward a bit...

Maybe the travelling one's son was taken hostage by the king, as insurance.  The King wants to send him on a Ambassadorial mission to their enemy nation-- both to gather information, and to keep him away from Belinda.  Maybe he's out there working in good faith for the King, maybe he's trying to cement his own power for his comeback.

The first son's intrigue might grow into to seducing/protecting Belinda, as well as fighting over issues of inheritance, since the father is dead.  All this while trying to find the enemy agent in court.  Maybe he even instigated the exile?

Meanwhile, perhaps the dragon is allied with the kingdom, and sworn to protect it from invasion.  Killing it would leave the country in a much worse position to defend itself.  On the other hand, maybe it has magical treasure which would be useful.  Combat, in and of itself, serves little narrative purpose.  He's not going to go up a level, or get rich from it, so why's he off doing it?  Some story related reason.  Heck, maybe the dragon will offer to place him on the throne, once he sees he's outgunned.

The bandits are scouting parties for the imminent invasion, and the third one is therefore on the front lines of the war that's about to start.  His serfs are in need of leadership, and he is in need of backup, but someone has convinced the king not to send him any assistance.

These four guys are in totally different places, but I could see each of the players being genuinely interested in what happened to the others, because the stories are compelling (at least moderately, given that I had to back engineer them), and they are intertwined.  The things they are doing are not supposed to be the generic, everyday stuff... clearing dungeons, wandering aimlessly hoping something will attack you.  No, you leap straight to the cool bits that put the characters under story pressure... the story is the stuff you want from it, not the xp grinding.
Logged
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #53 on: February 24, 2009, 03:28:53 PM »

Hi Guys,

No big post this time.  Again, I'm thinking something through, but haven't written it yet.

But I really liked this: "No, you leap straight to the cool bits that put the characters under story pressure... the story is the stuff you want from it."  Exactly!  That's the practical effect.

I also want to point you to some threads from a while back.  Ron Edwards and three other posters did character creation and scenario background prep for a Sorcerer game online.  It wasn't for an actual game -- simply a walk through of how setting, situation, Kickers and so forth all come together.  You might want to check them out.

"To Tor, Jesse and Paul" http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=753.0
Art Deco Melodrama http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=770.0
Art Deco Melodrama Part 2 http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=828.0
Art Deco Melodrama The Final Chapter http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=876.0
Logged

"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 #54 on: February 24, 2009, 03:36:46 PM »

And while I'm at it...

Here are the links to the AP of a Sorcerer game run by Jesse Berneko (it's the game I referenced, where I drove my PC's Humanity to 0)

Gothic Fantasy Part One:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=2702.0

Gothic Fantasy Part Two:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=2807.msg27442#msg27442

Gothic Fantasy Part Three:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=2908.msg28210#msg28210

Enjoy!

Logged

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

Posts: 95


« Reply #55 on: February 24, 2009, 05:10:30 PM »

There's a couple of things I want to chime in on.  In summary, many role players are trained to expect certain things, or think about things certain ways.  It took me a long time to see that C.Agenda wasn't just an axis between Role and Roll, but actually had three points of Step Up, Dream, and StoryNow! (*)

1. I had an idea, when I started, that Story Now! was somehow light on GM Work, since I didn't need to worry about charts of weapon comparisons (that helped players Share the Dream), or complex Skill trees (to determine if my players Stepped Up to the Challenge).
   This was SOOO Wrong. 
There are plenty of work for a GM in StoryNow, and a lot of it is what I think would fall under "Discussion of mechanics, with Low Immersion" for the players.
The longer the campaign is set to go, the more a GM needs work to make sure all his players are feeling like Protagonists, and aren't being overwhelmed by the free choice to direct the story.  It's more cerebral, "fiddly" work, and less about making sure that all the NPCs have unique funny voices. 

2. Because a StoryNow campaign is often more open-ended by design, sometimes players feel 'lost,' and lose interest.  It's important to add shorter campaign "tales," or episodic elements, so that players can see milestones.  In Shared Dream play, keeping things going without end is a goal in itself.  In Gamist play, there's usually levels and XP and things like that to worry about.  In Narr play, oftentimes the campaign end after 6-10 sessions.  It's not because the story is played out, but because the players are preconditioned to expect XP and to increases in effectiveness, and some StoryNow games don't have that.

3. In StoryNow Games, ESPECIALLY a game based on Firefly where there is a specific feel and style that you're trying to reproduce, players should talk out loud, to each other, while building the characters.   It's important that characters are built with motivations and goals that aren't designed to crash into each other.  OR, if they are built that way, that the players know that they have motivations that might conflict, and they're ready and expecting that. In some systems, players can design their characters without talking, and still get functional play.  Most Nar games aren't like that (although there are exceptions)

4. Why some people say StoryNow! games are like StepUp games: In Gamist and Narr games, players need to spend a certain amount of thought on what game mechanics they're going to use.  If the whole session passes and there's no dice rolling (or other Conflict Resolution), then the scenes are usually flat and unsuccessful.  Either characters are not pushing the Premise, or not Stepping up to Challenges.  In Simulationist games, the rules are there to facilitate the Dream, and if players spend three sessions without ever creating a Conflict, all Exploring Character and Setting, they might call that a successful play.

5. In most StoryNow play, the only limit as to how deep the player can address the Premise is based on how much they want to, from day one.  Increases in Effectiveness usually only increases how much the story goes your way As Opposed to the Other Players.  This sometimes leads to a player vs player mentality, or player vs GM, where players feel like they've lost when the story doesn't go their way, instead of feeling like they've won by creating an interesting scene.  Creating a flat scene is how you lose at Narr, not by not getting your own way.

-Fred
(*) The NOW part of StoryNow is important, because a good story can emerge from Gamist or Sim play, but it isn't the focus (NOW!) of the players.
Logged
Dr_Pete
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #56 on: February 26, 2009, 09:14:19 PM »

Hi Christopher,

I've given your points some thought...

On the first point, I think there's a major distinction that needs to be made that I do think I had in mind, but may not have communicated clearly.  That is, the distinction between the characters working together, and the game "working" as an actual group activity. 

I, at the moment, think that the characters need to be sufficiently bound together on some level that when Alan is "active", Betty has a reason to be tuned in, and not be just waiting for her turn.  The classic example of this is when somebody goes off alone, and the GM and player go into another room.  I don't think that hypothetical boredom of Betty's is because she's self-absorbed.  When groups split up, it often derails the momentum, because there's at least a sense that you're a spectator for extended periods.

A stereotypical character good for a lot of games is something like Boba Fett.  Mysterious, standoffish, tactically strong.  Watching someone play that character skulking around a bar and not talking to anyone is boring.  Heck, being in a long car ride with him would be boring.  A lot of characters are built for solo or tactical play, and watching somebody else play through combat is not usually a good gaming experience.  For these and various other reasons, you don't usually split up the group.

The questions is, how do you liven up the game from this model so that it remains a viable game for everyone even if the characters are in different places, and even if the characters are in conflict.  Obviously, it's possible, as various threads here have shown.  I think part of the success must come from the emphasis on constructing something more story-like, with dramatic tension.

But you have written, and Ron wrote in the Art Deco thread, about it being important that the characters be linked, at some level.  My sense is that that is important to increase the player's interest in what's happening at the table when they're not "on".  I don't think it's just an issue in Martijn's games.  Doing interesting things, things worthy of an audience, is the another part of that equation.  It may be that the frequency of cutting between different groups is higher, as well.  Are we talking, typically, about 2-3 minutes before moving on, 10-15 minutes, or something else?

As for character conflict, I would absolutely buy that characters can be at each others throats, even if family, etc.  If I played in a game like that, though, dealing with that conflict would probably take priority over a good chunk of the "adventure" though (obviously I'm approaching this discussion from the perspective of a game like D&D, with a GM generated plot, etc).  Those conflicts are traditionally very annoying because of metagame concerns that tend to take away options like having a real fight.  I think I mentioned a game I played many years ago where we had a thief stealing from other characters during a dungeon crawl... that's a violation of a usually unspoken social contract among players, even if the character class was thief.  A realistic reaction might be to kill him and leave him to rot in the dungeon, but that also seemed, at the time, like it would be wrong to do.  That said, I could totally see how a game with this other focus could be very cool and engaging.  I think it's very clearly NOT something to try to sneak into a traditional game with traditional expectations to try to bring the game to another level.

On point 2:
I see that if the players agree that they "want" to be tied together with some structure that they would be less inclined to create characters that would send them flying off in different directions, or ripping each others throats out.  I guess I was primarily thinking about the structure the people around the table come to in creating the characters.

There's a big difference between "create your own character, doing your own thing which interests you" which seems to characterize the Art Deco and the Gothic Fantasy game setups, and what happened in the HeroQuest game.  That was what I was driving at... what structure, if any, can/should the GM provide players as they set about doing character creation?  Traveler Sorcerer seems to say "you're all old war buddies" while in the HeroQuest game the players seem to have spontaneously decided to play a family.  Without some guidance before starting creation, do they typically form strong links, or start independent?  In my past play, I've done the "everyone create a character, and I'll figure out how to bring your characters together" setup.  It can work, but I see that it is only superficially similar.

And on 2b)
It's definitely true that those kickers are all there, and without the "tv show" constraint, Mal could have killed Jayne.  In fact, his name's escaping me, but the pilot of Buffy (another Whedon creation) featured the death of one of the original group of buddies which might otherwise have become the Scooby Gang, if I remember correctly.
Logged
Pages: 1 2 3 [4]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!