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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 123 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [DitV] The text  (Read 1507 times)
Filip Luszczyk
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Posts: 771

roll-player


« on: February 19, 2009, 12:36:34 AM »

In the other thread Joe Murphy wrote:

Quote
I didn't think it was clear, no. Because the text is so genial and conversational, and refers to 'you' all the time. As a GM, I naturally feel like a special snowflake.

DitV's text is a somewhat problematic beast, I think. It reads well - to the point that it generally makes the reader *feel* he or she understands it, whereas this does not have to be the case. It's much easier to project one's own preconceptions onto a vivid text like that and assume it says things it does not say than with a more clinically written document.

Essentially, I pretty much treat this forum as an extension of the book, having a history of misinterpreting large parts of DitV's rules initially.

What I wonder about is how effective the text actually is when it comes to conveying the procedures as intended. There's certainly a substantial number of problem threads and APs both here and elsewhere, seemingly more than games tend to produce - and even though DitV's apparent popularity might be a factor here, I think it's still indicative of something, especially that many questions seem to repeat. I always had this suspicion that in the case of DitV (and of some other games too, but this has little to do with the topic) a lot of the real learning process occurs via routes different than the book, especially through actual play with the author or with people who had an opportunity to play with the author. If so, there would be this large grey area of people who have the book, but not being exposed to the chain of actual play originating at the author's table, lack the key needed to fully learn the game ("fully" is a tricky phrasing, of course, so let's say it's "as fully as might otherwise be possible"). To what extent this is the case?
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5niper9
Member

Posts: 68

My name is René.


« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2009, 01:50:37 AM »

I don't think it is a flaw of the text. I think it our habits that get into our way.
For example this thing Joe Murphy talked about: Can NPCs escalate? Page 137 (Play the town) and 141 (Escalate, escalate, escalate).

Other question: When exactly are we going to the dice? Follow chapter four and 138 (drive play toward conflict).

So as I said I think our habits (that say for example "NPCs are more window dressing than part of the mechanics" or "we go to the dice when a fist flies") are more in the way than the text.

I always had this suspicion that in the case of DitV (and of some other games too, but this has little to do with the topic) a lot of the real learning process occurs via routes different than the book, especially through actual play with the author or with people who had an opportunity to play with the author.

The thing is actual play. The system looks nice and shiny on the paper but you have to get your hands dirty to really learn how to play. And playing with someone who knows how to play is always easier. I think this is the case with all games. But there are some things in Dogs that make it easier to grasp for both the GM and the players:
For the players it's the initiation. A conflict to learn the system in which there is something at stake but it's not terrible if they lose it.
For the GM it's the How to GM chapter plus town creation.
It still needs time to get used to the techniques in the chapter but thats natural.

Best,
René
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Filip Luszczyk
Member

Posts: 771

roll-player


« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2009, 04:09:39 AM »

So, to make it clear, it's not about whether it's a flaw or not.

I believe that the way the text is constructed (and it's as much a matter of the conversational tone as of the content), it might be the case that it is effective as a compendium of rules for those who already know how to play the game, but not necessarily for those who never had means of learning it other than the book. For example, forum discussion or actual play. But when it comes to actual play, I think the crucial point here is the "chain of actual play" thing. There is a very concrete difference between actual play with and without the author present. In the author's head, the game is complete. In anyone else's head, it probably isn't. Unless you play with the author, or someone who played with the author, or someone who played with someone who had played with the author - you have no guarantee whatsoever the interpretation of the text used at the table is correct. Even within the chain, the more steps away from the author, the less certain one can be that the person/people in authority regarding the rules integrated them fully enough.

So in practice, for example, even though initiation guides the player through the basics, it might be the case it is played incorrectly - and consequently, a vastly different game is being learned.

Habits certainly are a factor in learning the game. The problem is, I don't think the text itself has much capacity to inform the players that certain habits have no place in this particular game*. More specifically, it doesn't seem very effective at establishing awareness of certain walls that make improper habits impossible. The walls are there in properly executed actual play, but the text does not show them. Unless someone shows them to you in actual play, you can only make assumptions about their presence - guessing correctly or not. Now, there's a chance you guess correctly enough to have a game going anyway, but not correctly enough to have the game going (I think this was an issue with my early DitV actual play, and some years later, I don't suppose I have everything essential that there is to Dogs nailed down). I think it's largely because this type of games is pretty prone to unconscious prosthesis of unavailable structures.

However, let's avoid discussing "all games", please. It leads to empty generalisations. The mater is complex enough with this individual, concrete game at hand.

(* IAWA is a slightly similar case. In IAWA's case, the habits breaking text is right here on the forum. I believe it is an integral part of the game's text, though. Still, it's not packaged with the game's document itself.)
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5niper9
Member

Posts: 68

My name is René.


« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2009, 12:08:22 PM »

The text does give the player of the game a tool to resolve conflicts. It explicit tells one of the players (the gm) how to build a situation that is full of conflicts. It give many hints to make the whole procedure, from the beginning of the play with the unresolved situation to the end of it with a resolved situation, fun. The whole chapter ten and page six is there for this.

The problems are still the expectations and habits players bringt to play. I cannot see how you would prevent that influence from dropping into play.

If this is not about whether the text is flawed or not, what is it about? I don't really see where you're going. I believe you have a message to the auther or to the world, but I can't see it yet.
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Filip Luszczyk
Member

Posts: 771

roll-player


« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2009, 08:28:45 AM »

I'm wondering whether actual play in the author-originating chain is a requirement.

The text does tell you all that stuff - though, it's extremely nuanced, and certain things just aren't in there, or are hidden between the lines. For example, the timing of Traits when Seeing is unclear, one of the possession powers has a misleading wording, the lines of allowed input that differentiate various forms of Seeing are blurred, all that stuff. Well, it's all in those 30+ pages of threads on this forum.

But to the point - the text does indeed tell you all that stuff, but does it really tell enough?

Specifically, is it:

a). A game manual that can be used to learn the game on ones own (including through actual play outside the author-originating chain).

or

b). A coursebook, a supplementary material to a course that teaches the game (i.e. actual play within the author-originating chain).

I have this impression that, functionally, it's rather b than a. Also, every time I read comments like the one cited in the opening post, I'm getting more and more convinced that the conversational voice of the text is a direct obstacle in it working as a. I used to think DitV is a very effectively written manual, but now I'm no longer so sure about it. It seems to me unless b is an explicit goal, a clinical voice might be a much more effective choice. I also have this impression that a well written manual-type text is much more (which is not the same as "completely", mind you) effective in preventing the influence of habits on learning the game's procedures, as tends to be the case with card games, board games or even D&D.

So, the game certainly has some ability requirements. For example, basic math is needed to add the dice together, and I recall a discussion that pointed out some problems inherent in playing with a blind person. There's also a lot of other requirements, many so obvious that they would be difficult to list (and others difficult for different reasons, like, perhaps, the general accessibility of the game for non-Mormons). Even a manual-type text would have to take those into consideration, and build from some starting level. The requirement of actual play within the author-originating chain or the absence of such is the key difference, though, and not necessarily such an obvious one. It affects the approach one must take to learning the game in the first place.

(Well, to some extent, all this rambling is a side effect of me trying to figure out whether to stick to producing a conventional text for my game or screw it and go with actual play courses or something.)
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2009, 11:37:30 AM »

Absolutely (a). Your impression that it's (b) is not correct. Overwhelmingly, people play successfully from the text.

The chain of people who've played it with people who've played it with people who've played it with me is much smaller than you think, and I suspect you're underestimating the number of people who play it successfully too.

Some fraction of the people who come to the text can't learn the game from it, of course. That's true of any text. Whether that fraction would've been smaller if the game were written more clinically, who knows. I'm sure it would have been a different fraction, but my bet is that it'd be about the same size. I could be wrong about that! However, even if I am, that'd mean an improvement from, like, 97% to 98%, at a cost of my having to write technically, which I'm not going to do anytime soon.

-Vincent
« Last Edit: February 20, 2009, 11:51:13 AM by lumpley » Logged
Axhead
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2009, 06:11:02 PM »

For what its worth I learned to play from the text. Admittedly I read a bunch of posts of game play before playing, but that was what induced me to buy it in the first place.  As someone who has been scribbling rules for home thrown miniatures systems for years, I am pretty envious of the clear, conversational and approachable manner DitV is written in. 
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- Jason
lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2009, 06:39:37 AM »

Good point! Since actual play writeups and arguments about how it works are the only marketing the game gets, I think it's safe to assume that most everyone who buys it approaches it with an open mind. They're going to it for answers already, I don't have to talk them into that.

-Vincent
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