How to address the following play example

Started by The Magus, August 24, 2009, 12:11:06 AM

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The Magus

This obviously hasn't happened in any game I've played but it illustrates a problem I've had with these narrative style games and I wanted to hear the opinions of others.  I think my play group are sick and tired of me harping on about this (sorry Mackie) but I wanted to know how others might resolve this.

You are playing Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.  You confront Vader (played by the GM) and in the middle of the fight Vader tells you that you are his son.

In my mind there are a number of ways from a role playing perspective that this could arise.  I'm wondering how much this scenario would be dictated by the player and how much by the GM.  For example, the player could say, "I want a confrontation with Vader and in it I find out he's my father."  All well and good but doesn't this make the GM redundant if too much of this goes on.

The player could say, "I want a confrontation with Vader and in it I find out an amazing revelation."  The fight happens and the GM says, "Luke, I'm your father."  The player may well then say "Wow, cool" or "Hmmm, that was kind of lame, I was thinking that he was going to crown me Emperor, shall we rewind?"  Whilst I realise that the GM is meant to be flexible do people think they should follow the arc suggested by the player?  I know - being the Emperor might lead to some cool future showdowns with the Rebel Alliance.  This then makes me think about not doing too much prep.

The final example is just a case of the player asking "What happens next?"  The GM springs it on the player.  I suppose if I were the GM in this example I might be a bit annoyed if the player then said, "No, let's do something else."

I suppose I want to know how it resolves in different systems.  I can think of how it might arise in Sorcerer and Polaris.  The difference for me in these systems is that in Polaris you know it'll end in tears - tradegy always wins out.  I was wondering about creating a pre-determined or pre-agreed arc for a session and a campaign prior to playing (mcuh like an extended version of Destiny in Sorcerer & Sword). 

Do GMs find they face these dilemmas when GMing?

Callan S.


If I understand the example correctly, the player passed authority to the GM to decide this. Then he didn't/didn't want to stand by his own decision even when it didn't really go his way. To me, atleast, this seems a childish player who has no commitment to any of his prior agreements, especially if it's not as fun as he thought it would be. Mind you alot of people around these parts think moment to moment assent or the rules are just for fun is the only thing, so perhaps I am abberation. I think it's just designing for childish people, though.

Moving onto something more concrete, and before the fight all that 'oh, that was lame' stuff (and indeed, lets say instead this is a player who sticks with rules for better or worse): What might be interesting if it's some sort of dice off, with the player having said he is to be crowned emporer, while the GM goes with the father bit (perhaps these could be kept secret during the roll, rather than revealed before the roll (and written on a scrap of paper)). There, now which way fate swings is a bit more uncertain and it's not just a matter of someone just decided how things would go. Instead we have more of a sparring of ideas.


I'm a total newb, but I'll take a stab at this anyway...

In Burning Wheel (and granted BW has a more "traditional" GM role) perhaps Luke has a Belief, "I will become a great Jedi, like my father before me" or somesuch. And on top of that hopefully he has another Belief that states he is a good guy in some way - hmm maybe "The empire is corrupt and I will help the rebellion overthrow the emperial regime" - heck maybe yet another Belief is even being triggered.

As the GM I would be hitting that Belief by introducing Vader as his father and asking the player "okay, he is your father (or at least claiming to be) what do you do?" And either way it will be interesting to see what happens.

Will the player of Luke decide to go along with Vader's offer to "rule the galaxy side by side as father and son" or will he choose to yell "NOOOOO!" and jump in to the vent shaft and be all emo and have to potentially change his Belief, his whole vision of who his father was being destroyed.

Anders Larsen

This is what I see is necessary for Narrativistic play:
1. First make sure that the player have front loaded their characters with a lot of potential personal issues.

2. In play the GM will seek opportunities to hit the characters with situation that, 1) are relevant for the character on a personal level, and 2) confront the character with a hard choices.

3. The choices the player makes for how his character react in that situation, should be important for the following game. So the GM should take these choices, build upon them, and see what consequences they will have for the story.

4. The consequences of the characters's prior actions, will then lead to new interesting situation (back to point 2.).

Well, there is a bit more to it than that, but I would say that this is the basic procedure I typically use (but it of cause differ from game to game).

You should notice that this does not demand, in any way, that the player set the scenes. But it is essential that the choices that the player makes in a scene, are meaningful for the following story, and are not overruled by someones prior idea of what should happen (whatever that person is the GM or a player).

But it is kind of hard to give advise on a hypothetical game, so can you give an actual play example of how your group run games now - just describe a few scenes, with a focus on what the players and GM do. It will help to have something more concrete to work with.

- Anders

Ron Edwards

Anders is right. You need an actual play example for this discussion to continue. For instance, I have absolutely no idea what you mean when you say "You are playing Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back." That gives me no understanding at all of what can and cannot be done in-game, how it might be resolved, or what the consequences of a player-level choice might be.

Rather than explain your hypothetical example, please provide an instance of play which helps to raise your question. Otherwise you're not according to the forum's rules and I'll have to close the thread.

Best, Ron

The Magus

Quote from: Ron Edwards on August 24, 2009, 06:44:42 PM

Rather than explain your hypothetical example, please provide an instance of play which helps to raise your question. Otherwise you're not according to the forum's rules and I'll have to close the thread.

Thread posted here


Though the revelation of Vader as Luke's father is very interesting, I think it's just part of the whole situation.

The whole movie seems to have been set up to push Luke towards the Dark Side.

It is foreshadowed by Yoda, who first refuses to train him : too old, too reckless. Later, when KLuke gets a vision of his friends in danger, he decides to go and save them, in spite of Yoda and Obi-Wan's warning.

And if you add in there how in the prequel, you had the same buildup for Anakin (too old for training, too reckless, getting a vision of Padmé in danger).

So now you have Luke fighting a losing battle against Vader, loosing his hand and his weapon. He's basically at his mercy. Vader tells him he's his father, and asks him to join his side.

Luke's decision is what's interesting here. His back against the wall, his only chance of survival is to go with Vader. It's perfectly justifiable. He could tell himself he's only going to be pretending. Breaking the Sith from the inside.

But in his heart he knows Yoda was right. If he goes this way, he'll be lost, like his father before him. And so he commits the ultimate sacrifice. He jumps to his doom.

And miraculously survives. Which is irrelevant to the discussion. What's important is that it would have been just as interesting if he would have taken Vader's hand. As long as this decision stays clearly in the player's hand, the GM can decide that Vader is Luke's father.


This play example also assumes that Vader is a GM-controlled Antagonist NPC, instead of another player.


Ron Edwards

Stop, guys. Examples like these aren't actual play and it shows. There is absolutely no way to map content to play from the content alone.

Piers has begun a new thread to address his point more clearly. This thread is now closed to posting.

Best, Ron