Using D&D 4e as a GNS Litmus Test

Started by Ayyavazi, August 26, 2009, 01:42:16 AM

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Hello everyone,

I've already posted the following play example in [D&D 4e] God it feels good to DM again. topic. I'm re-posting it here with the following in mind:

1. I needed a new topic title to provoke the number of hits (input) I was looking for.
2. I wanted to discuss something fundamentally different, which is this:

I want to use this game as a litmus test to identify which Creative Agenda my single player favors. As such, I understand that I have to expose him to the various agendas through this system, and I wanted some of your input into how to drift the system as necessary to expose him to different agendas. So, I'll post the actual play example, and hopefully somebody can tell me which agenda is being pursued and what is making that the agenda we are pursuing. From there, I would like some insight into how to drift the rules (with an emphasis on minimal change in actual rule and mechanic structure) to encourage the other two agendas in either order. Any tips on creating the play experience that is the hallmark of each agenda would be greatly appreciated. Please keep your hints and tips restrained to the system [D&D 4e] in use. I do recognize that there are better, more focused systems out there for the various agendas, and I have every intent of playing those with this player in the near future. But for now, I just want to use D&D 4e to sort of get his feet wet, and then proceed with whichever agenda he wishes to go with (since I will greatly enjoy myself no matter which one he chooses).  Thanks again for any help you guys can offer. Here's the play example, and it takes two posts to fully post it:

I'm the DM, and my friend C is playing one character. Normally D&D4e suggests 4 to 5 players (or at least 4 to 5 characters) but the encounter mechanics basically allow a group of any number to work, whatever roles are covered, so long as the number of monsters doesn't vary much from the number of characters.

So, C, being a WOW player, decides to play what he knows and wants a Cleric. I make a Paladin character as support, which I run. I made both characters (to reduce load on a brand new RPG player) and briefed him on the rules.

C's character is a Cleric of Melora (nature goddess) which is a decision he made based on a really cool feat he wanted that required he worship her. It gives him occasional regeneration of HP.

The Paladin is a paladin of Melora (to ensure story continuity) that I have purposely made Mute as part of his training. This way I can resist the urge to play the Paladin s A GM PC. He is just there to follow C's character's lead.

I give a basic overview to C of the DM's dutuies and his duties as a player. I also explain that I don't want him to feel constrained creatively either in his combat actions (since 4e's structure is a little too constraining at times, and it can be argued that it removes all tactical considerations, or too many at least) or his input into the fiction. So, I lay out for him that if he wants to try something that his powers or the rules don't expressly permit, he can pitch it to me, and I'll debate it with him and do as much as I can to make it work. Also, if he has ideas of where he wants the story to go, he can do the same.

So, I start him off saying that he has a vision in which a town somewhere to the north is suffering from an evil plague, and Melora wants him to get rid of it. He chimes in and says he would rather have the local priest of his tribe (some Dragonborn worshipers of Melora. He chose Dragonborn as a race because it offered the best bonuses for a Cleric) have the vision, and send him on this quest. This seems fine to me, since he still wants to do the quest in the first place (not that I had anything prepared at all, other than this broad stroke). I don't know why he didn't want to have the vision personally, but I suspect it has to do with his WOW training, where quests are always sourced from someone else, and then you take them, rather than having internal drives.

So he goes off. I narrate that a couple of days of safe travel have passed as he works his way over his mountain range. Then he is ambushed in the night by a couple of goblins. This was his first real interaction with the rules, and it showed. I had to prompt him and remind him of what he could do and how those choices (which power to use) would influence things, roughly speaking. I didn't mind since I expected it and believe I remained patient with him.

The battle involved one goblin archer perched on a rock and another hiding in some bushes. Shiro (C's character) awakens thanks to the Paladin's warning (Heskan). The Paladin does his job (literally in the game sense of being a tank and also within the fiction, since he is Shiro's sworn defender against evil) and protects Shiro to the best of his abilities. C wants to combine his breath weapon with an actual weapon attack, kind of fusing them. I think the ideas is suitably dramatic and cool (plus it is encouraging his creativity) so I allow it, using the same attack rolls to figure out how well it works (he ultimately fudged on getting the breath weapon onto his mace, but still hit with the mace. I gave him some bonus damage for a cool idea) They run off the goblin archer and kill the one in the bushes.  Some minor wounds result from the fight, but the nights rest takes care of it. I award experience immeiately after the fight, but there is no treasure to find.

Upon awakening they must scale a cliff face to continue on their journey to the north. I have two lightning scorpions attack them on the cliff-face. I ignore the rules about climb checks while being attacked because I am trying to showcase the fact that he can do dramatic inspiring things beside the four or so powers at his disposal. He instead tries to climb down the cliff, fails, and falls 20 feet, taking some fairly heavy damage (at least for a level 1 character). There one of the scorpions follows him, and he pretty much uses his abilities as they are written. Trying to encourage some more creative thinking, I have Heskan grapple a scorpion and fall on top of it off the cliff, putting his falling damage into the scorpion rather than himself. Again, I suppose I fudged the grapple rules a little (grabs don't work like that, it would have taken two turns to set it all up RAW) and let it work with a single grapple check. In the end, both scorpions die and I award experience again. Still no treasure. That is where the first session (which lasted about an hour and a half) left off.


The session I had last night lasted closer to three hours, and was much more fun, for both of us. I started out by saying they had traveled a about ten miles or so down a mountain and into a valley, in which there was a small river with a bridge. On the bridge stood a cloaked human on a riding horse and Shiro and Heskan could obviously make out another bandit hiding out behind a rock. I again had no prep, so a simple toll to cross fight was what I had cooked up. Shiro approaches the bandit and begins making small talk, staying far enough away that the other bandit can't ambush them right away. He explains that he is a cleric of Melora and is searching for a plague-ridden town in the north. Following Mr. Baker's advice, I point him to the fun and we make up a name for the town, which I say the Bandit happens to have come from (Hampstead). After more questions (and some more quick-thinking) we determine that Hampstead is about a week's journey away on foot, but a nearby village (Barnhallow) is only a day away. The bandit still wants his toll, but Shiro wants to give him a blessing instead.

Normally, I would just have had the bandit attack, but I've learned a lot about GMing this past year, and decided to break out of the fiction for a moment and address C directly. I asked him what he wanted out of this encounter, because I had originally planned for a simple fight. He explained that he actually wanted to win a convert to the church of Melora from this encounter. So, I said ok, now that I know what you want, lets go forward. I let him start a skill challenge with Religion and Diplomacy as the key skills. As he starts talking to the bandits (Jim on the bridge, Eli behind the rock), Jim is unreceptive. At this point, Shiro is getting great rolls, but I want to kind of use this since he found it so interesting in the first place. So, I have Jim be callous and atheistic, too hard on his luck thanks to the plague, and too racist (he blames the elves for starting it) to listen to the words of Melora. Eli lost his sister Ellie back in Hampstead, so he wants a blessing for her spirit, which Shiro readily gives. As he gets closer (physically for the blessing) to Eli, Jim flips and tries to attack, but Heskan gets in the way. At this point, Shiro wants to create a holy wall between himself and Jim, and knock him unconcious. Technically speaking, he has none of the powers that would let him do that, nor enough actions in his turn to do that. But, he is really digging how this is going, and so am I, so I say sure, give me a religion check and we'll go from there. He aces it, so I say that the wall forms, but Jim isn't knocked out, he is simply stopped from getting to anyone or being able to hurt anyone. Furious, Jim rides away telling Eli he can go burn in his green foresty hell. Eli is a bit shaken up that his friend has done this, but is won over after some theological talk about Melora and her purity and greatness. None of the religious talk was glossed over with simple rolls though! C actually made up scriptures on the fly (short ones) and holy quotes and sayings that he used, and between the two of us we fleshed out  bit of what Melora teaches. So, we are diverting from the standard setting supplied in the book in order to open up our creative freedom, and making changes as they are necessary.

Also, C asks if there are evil elves in this world, and I tell him of course, the Drow. He says ok so they made the plague? I told him that as a character he has to wait and see, but if he wants the Drow to be behind it from a story point, sure, they can be behind it. But I also added in the caveat that nobody he is with or has met knows the difference between Drow and normal Elves, and I explain that I want this to be the case because it will make for an interesting encounter later on. (Initially I had made the the elves did it remark off the cuff and meant it to be a red-herring. But C was digging the whole thing so much, I just ran with it.) So, all being over, I award experience for the encounter as normal, even though there was no direct fight and the skill challenge was a little easier than it should have been for so much experience.

Now, Shiro and Eli and Heskan make their way to Barhallow to stock up before heading to Hampstead. We determine that Barnhallow does some trading with the Dragonborn tribes and Hampstead, and that Hampstead is a typical human/dwarvish settlement based on mining and farming. The humans trade their food for the dwarf mined metals and weaponry, and trade this weaponry in turn to Barnhallow for their Dragonborn traded goods, which the Dragonborn trade to Barnhallow for the weapons they get from Hampstead. This little economy took shape pretty quickly, but added a lot of depth to what was otherwise a simple eliminate the plague quest.

So I stopped here for a moment and asked C about the three encounters he had had so far, and asked which he liked best. He said he loved the third the most. He liked battling, and wanted more of it, but he really liked what he was able to do with that third encounter. He also expressed that he would like Eli to join the church, and maybe become a significant NPC or even party member later on, if the fiction supported that kind of decision for the character. He also said that from a character standpoint and his own preference, he would like to not have random fights with natural creatures, since it strained the idea that he was a chosen of Melora (why would animals attack a worshipper of the animal goddess?). So I said sure, I'll make sure that if something natural attacks you, it has a good reason (and we fleshed that out to mean its a pet or trained, or Shiro did something to piss it off). It is also worthwhile to note that I threw out the population design advice in the DM's guide, because it creates too many PC classed characters in the world and makes it fell like there's at least a hero in every town. I made C aware of this ahead of time, and told him that basically, Cleric, Paladins, Fighters and all those classes are only for the truly exceptional, and he should count himself as maybe one of a dozen such people in the world. There are few heroes and many dangers. But anyway, the point is that he wanted fights, but not too many, because he was getting into the fiction a lot and wanted to make sure that at least most of the fights were related somehow to improving the fiction and solving his quest. I wasn't using random encounter tables anyway, but this made it a lot easier for me since I knew all the fights should now make sense, with some side stuff thrown in occasionally to liven things up (and maybe provide more room for creative growth).

So, I had intended Barnhallow to be a pretty simple stopover with nothing significant happening. We gloss over a gate scene where they arrive at dusk and the city is barred up. The guard lets him in so long as he promises not to get into trouble. Then I almost fell into the error of role-plying every scene, even the unimportant dull ones. So I stopped myself and addressed C again, and asked what he wanted. Did he want to explore every nook and cranny, or did he want me getting to the encounters and the bangs? He said he liked the second option, so I asked a follow up question. DO you care about the nickels and dimes you would have to count to figure out staying at the inn and paying for meals, or would you rather we skipped it and assume it all works out (since the cost is so low it is only significant for 1st level characters anyway). He said he would rather skip it, but then asked how he could make money with blessings and such! So, I explained that most common people don't have gold lying around they can give to strange wandering priests, but it would be reasonable to assume that the money he gets from any blessings or menial labor go toward his stay at towns and such. He was ok with that, and we moved on.

Shiro asks around the town to see if anyone had come here from Hampstead recently. I supply that sure, one man came, but he was dead and rotted by the time he got here. (this info was given after a night of rest at the town). Shiro wants to investigate the grave (dig it up), and so is directed to a grove outside of town. Getting there, he discovers that the area around the grave is dying, the soil is ashen and the grass is gone. As I am about to continue, he interrupts me and says that he would like one of the glossed over blessings to be that he helped a man out last night who was attacked by a strange shadowy figure. He healed his wounds. Then he wants to cut back to the grave scene. Bewildered, I say sure, that happened. I then describe that he finds a corpse with tarry consistency skin sloughing off of its bones. Hes disappointed by this, and addresses me as DM, saying he kind of envisioned the plague as a plague of undeath, and had planned for the grave to be empty (he had asked if the grave was empty, and missed the light in his eyes that said he really wanted it to be). He had wanted a zombie or something to have attacked the man. I said sure, we can do it that way, and looked up a zombie in the monster manual.

So he goes back to town and warns them that there's a plague-ridden zombie on the loose (in retrospect, I should have made this cause a mass panic, but instead I assumed the small town watch kept it quiet and handled it better than it should have). He sends Heskan out on patrol and stays with Eli, praying for help from Melora. During all of this, C explains to me that he wants to change back to the idea that he had the vision in the first place, not his priest. I say sure, its called a Ret-Con, and we can do it. So, taking his lead, I say that while he is praying, he has a vision of a child and his dog being attacked in the grove by the zombie. He then asks me what telepathic powers he has. I explain that since he's a cleric, mind powers are a little out of the question. He's disappointed, but doesn't give up. He asks about some kind of religious warning. I think its cool, so I ask for a religion check (this skill is fast becoming the "I want to do something supernatural but I don't have a power that says I can do it" skill. He makes it, so I say that Melora divinely warns Heskan about the situation.  C then asks if he can make some holy handkerchiefs to protect them from the plague. I remind him that in medieval times, people didn't know toxins could travel through the air. Plus, I didn't want him to just have all the tools he needed to fix the plague right away, since that removes the drama from it. He agrees, so long as he can get the tools soon enough. I make a mental note of it.

Shiro and Eli go to the stables and Shiro steals a horse so he and Eli can ride to the grove as quickly as possible. I decide that the vision I gave him was a precognition, and Heskan tackles the zombie before it attacks the boy. The boy and dog run to safety, and the fight begins.

Eli is terrified of the living dead, and sits paralyzed with fear atop his horse. Heskan battles the undead, and Shiro decides to try to quell Eli's fear with some words of wisdom and holy light (a natural 20 says he hits it out of the park, with religion) so he proceeds to close with the zombie after he bolsters Eli. Then Heskan lays some fiery breath on it, and Eli moves in for the attack. By the numbers, Eli botched it with a 1. But I turned to C and said, "Wouldn't it be more dramatic if, filled with Holy Righteous might, Eli smites the Zombie?" and C says yeah, that would have been awesome! So, it happens. The Zombie was at low HP anyway, so it wasn't a huge change from how things would have went. Interestingly, Shiro didn't try to do much when Heskan was bitten by the rotting zombie, or even when he ended up with a mouthful of the tarry skin, which they both knew was bad. I don't know if C is assuming I will keep the Paladin and his company free from harm or not, but I thought I was being obvious that this is a very virulent plague, and that it spreads easily.

From here, C wants an encounter where he exorcises the plague from the corpse. It goes against my better judgement (plus he lacks the ritual, but hey, when has that stopped us so far), but I say sure, we'll have a little skill challenge with Religion. He flubs it, so I ask him some questions. I ask what he wants to happen here. Does he want to leave the body and possibly have the village of Barnhallow infected, or does he want to burn the remains or what. He explains he wants to fight a ghost. And he wants it to come from the remains, since he botched the exorcism. I say sure. I look up an appropriate ghost monster, and have it rise out of the ground. The characters fight it and use all of their abilities as written to eventually kill it off. I have the tarry plague ridden body decompose instantly and the ghost's evil spirit coalesce into a necklace, the first treasure he has found yet! A level 3 Amulet of Health +1.

From here, we discuss the nature of the plague and how we want it to work so I understand how to influence things that come into contact with it. It is determined that the ghost rising out of the remains was only because the spirit was a disturbed spirit, probably thanks to the botched exorcism. C may at this point have the idea that he can successfully exorcise the plague next time, but I'll correct him if it comes to that. It needs to be harder than a single skill check, and I don't think he or I wants countless ghost fights for every time he fails. So, we determine that the plague can spread either through skin to skin contact, or through the undead. And the plague causes undeath once the victim dies. So its pretty serious stuff, and it can get worse fast. Still, he doesn't seem worried at all that Heskan accidentally ingested some of the stuff. Maybe when his skin starts rotting off he'll notice. However, there is no posssessing spirit causing the plague, its a supernatural ritual that has to be broken (which will stop the plague from starting again) and another ritual of some sort to cure the plague that is already present.

From here, Shiro decides to go back to town with Eli and Heskan. The watch-master is pretty pissed that they stole some horses, but calls it even since they wasted the zombie and saved a kid and his dog. The town sends them on their way with provisions and wishes them well, and the session ends with Heskan, Shiro, and Eli riding off into the sunset.

Jasper Flick

I'm responding to your stated goal for this thread, not the game.

Are you confident you're able to walk a player through the three CA's? Do you have a clear grasp of them yourself, not just theoretical, but from experience, or at least read a ton of AP posts? Have you GMed all before? Is the player willing to take part in this experiment?

Keep in mind that, if anything, you'll be testing this player's preferences to whatever experiences you provide, not axiomatic CAs. As he's a new player too, it's probable he'll be echoing your own preferences, whether you consciously communicate them or not.

It's also not a fair test if you filter input for X, Y, and Z though a system that's biased towards X. Instead of drifting a game around through undefined murk, I think it's far clearer to actually play three radically different games as they are written, each strongly showcasing a specific CA.

Perhaps also a useful read: Mike's Standard Rant #7: You Can't Sneak Up on Mode.
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Thanks for the Rant Jasper,

I have read it, and I understand what was written, and your points. As is, I want to try to work it all through D&D 4e because that is what C wants to play, and I don't blame him. I'm not looking to have it sneak up though. I'm looking to have it be out in the open, this is what is going on, agenda x. I'm looking for ways in which to modify and drift D&D 4e as time goes by in order to showcase the various agendas. I realize he will be picking up on my cues a lot, and possibly mirroring my preferences. That's why I think it is important to showcase the various possible agendas through this medium that he learned first, before it becomes his default way of looking at gaming.

However, should I not get the assistance I'm asking for (and also fail to do what I want) I will need to fall back on offering more games that definitively support certain agendas to make sure I have all of the bases covered. So, any suggestions on what systems to use for each agenda? And also, any help with the original question of drift would be appreciated. Thanks again,

Dan Maruschak

QuoteI want to try to work it all through D&D 4e because that is what C wants to play
From your AP, I get the feeling that you do not want to play D&D 4E. It seems like you take every opportunity to suggest to your friend that he should do something different from what the established mechanics suggest, and you seem disappointed when he actually tries to engage with the mechanics. But maybe I'm reading too much into it. Is there a reason he wants to play 4E instead of other games, and are you sure that your "drifting" experiment isn't undermining that reason?

I also think you would be better served by using games that are already well designed to support specific agendas at the table rather than attempt to drift a pretty tightly designed game like 4E to achieve an experience you don't fully understand yourself. I don't have much personal experience with 4E (or much tabletop RPG experience at all), but from what I've read about people who have reported good experiences with 4E and your AP, I have a few suggestions. I think the way you could achieve Gamism with D&D 4E is to start primarily using the mechanics as designed, and only deviate with the stunt mechanics, etc., as occasional spice rather than trying to supplant the entire system with them. Work on designed cool set-piece battles with interesting terrain and dynamic features and stuff, rather than thinking in terms of sandbox play. I think you also ought to get more players, since most fans of 4E report that the "teamwork" aspect of overcoming challenges is the fun part.
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I do want to play 4e, but perhaps not as it is designed. It kind of feels like a rat race to me. You get more abilities which are technically more powerful, but might as well not be since everything you are getting is only making you able to cope with the increasing challenge, always keeping it perfectly balanced. There is no way (apart from drifting) to actually achieve play in which the player can get ahead of the threats he is supposed to be facing. The other problems is that after two or three encounters, the powers available to the player have become repetitive and do not foster creativity of any sort that I can see or appreciate. And it takes ten encounters on average to get to a new level, where you might learn one power. Ultimately, I like the system, I just think it needs more variety, which is what I'm trying to inject. And I'm not actually trying to prevent him from using the system as is. We are both frustrated by the constraint on options, and so I am trying to get him to think outside the framework. But, its possible he would have loved the framework just fine if I had as well, since he is a new player after all.

Thanks for your input. You've got me thinking.

Dan Maruschak

QuoteYou get more abilities which are technically more powerful, but might as well not be since everything you are getting is only making you able to cope with the increasing challenge, always keeping it perfectly balanced. There is no way (apart from drifting) to actually achieve play in which the player can get ahead of the threats he is supposed to be facing.
So you want the challenges to be easier to overcome as you increase levels? Wouldn't someone pursuing a Gamist agenda feel let down if he could walk through challenges without breaking a sweat?
QuoteThe other problems is that after two or three encounters, the powers available to the player have become repetitive and do not foster creativity of any sort that I can see or appreciate.

I think the kind of creativity the game rewards is "what can I put together with the tools I've got?". This is why having multiple players is important (since different character class powers can synergize in different ways, modulated by the particular situation on the battlefield, like where the various characters are positioned) and why having interesting encounter locales is important (e.g. powers that move enemies are very different things if you are fighting on a bridge rather than a corridor -- you have the same powers on your character sheet, but they have very different implications in this particular fight). If the kind of creativity you are after is something more along the lines of very rich descriptions of actions having mechanical weight, then there are other systems that support that much better than D&D 4E.
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Callan S.

Hi Norm,
QuoteThat's why I think it is important to showcase the various possible agendas through this medium that he learned first, before it becomes his default way of looking at gaming.
Have you asked him if he wants to see all the other agendas?


Hey there Dan and Callan.

First, Dan. Yeah, I see your point about being able to walk over encounters without breaking a sweat. It removes the drama just a tad, doesn't it? As for playing with multiple players, believe me, if I had other players, I would. I am finding it very difficult to get a group together in my area for the time slot I have available. Because of that, I am doing the best with what I have. And the party is still 2 characters, not 1, and it looks like it will soon increase to 3 if Eli becomes a mainstay. As for other systems handling the creative drama input better, I'm sure there are. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. The funny problem is, he is enjoying the story so much he wants to stick with the system because he has linked the system to the story in his mind. If we changed systems, he would feel like the story no longer fits. So, he wants to stay with this one for now, until we reach a point at which he thinks its good to stop. Of course, a little discussion would probably convince him that we can carry on the story just fine in another system, and that is something worth looking into.

Callan, I have asked him about pursuing all three agendas and given him a brief explanation of each. He is interested. He wants to figure out where we are going so far, and then change as necessary. But, he also has said he is perfectly willing (and wants) to continue playing the way we are if it remains extremely fun.

Now, for a general question, Which agenda is being pursued in the actual play example above? Also, is it possible to argue that each of the three agendas is being pursued, individually? That is, can someone say, "This is gamist play because," at the same time someone else says, "This is Narrativist play because," and so forth?

Dan Maruschak

QuoteAs for playing with multiple players, believe me, if I had other players, I would. I am finding it very difficult to get a group together in my area for the time slot I have available. Because of that, I am doing the best with what I have.
I wasn't intending to criticize, I can certainly sympathize with the difficulty of getting a group together to play. You may want to look into alternatives to only playing with local people -- I have recently started playing a game over Skype and I'm having a lot of fun. On the number of players thing, I was just trying to point out that you may not have fully appreciated the degree to which the number of players is important to getting the most out of the 4E experience.

QuoteAs for other systems handling the creative drama input better, I'm sure there are. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
I am not very widely read in RPGs, so hopefully others will give you better suggestions than I do, but I know that Sorceror gives you bonus dice for richly describing your actions, and I think Houses of the Blooded gives the player the ability to introduce facts into the world when they win at dice rolls. FATE, such as in Spirit of the Century, lets you do "declarations" to place Aspects on things. Any system that is more conflict-resolution focused than task-focused is probably also more conducive to on-the-fly creativity, even if it doesn't directly reward it, since people tend to get tired of describing themselves winning conflicts in the same ways.

QuoteNow, for a general question, Which agenda is being pursued in the actual play example above?
There's a possibility that you two are just excited to be playing at all, and that initial enthusiasm may overshadow any subtler nuances, like asking a starving man what he would like to eat. However, I'll try to answer, even though I'm certainly not a GNS expert. It doesn't sound like you're doing Gamism. Since you didn't focus on any in your writeup, it sounds like you weren't particularly jazzed about any cool moves or gutsy plays or things like that. There's a possibility that it's Sim ("what is it like to be a priest of Melora?") or Nar ("what am I willing to do for Melora?"). From your AP, it seems like the two of you get most excited about introducing interesting color and cool setting details. Based on that, I would guess Sim. But I'm not an expert, so I could easily be wrong.
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Callan S.

Quote from: Ayyavazi on August 31, 2009, 02:15:48 PMCallan, I have asked him about pursuing all three agendas and given him a brief explanation of each. He is interested.
That's good!
QuoteNow, for a general question, Which agenda is being pursued in the actual play example above?
Well, that kind of assums any of the agendas has been played. I can't actually detect anything from the play account. I'll give the old disclaimer in saying that - I wasn't there at the gaming table. But if your asking in terms of me reading the account, I can't really detect any agenda showing up - none of the material or emotional tells in relation to material seem to indicate any agenda.

Eero Tuovinen

On first sight I agree with Callan. The AP is really long and detailed, so I might have missed something, but to me it seems like you're mostly figuring out your mutual creative responsibilities in the game at this point, with little Creative Agenda actually being exercised.

That being said, to me it seems like your friend C is interested in co-authorship, which you're encouraging with your no-myth GMing. I assume that once you work out exactly who is driving and what, you'll start seeing what this authorship is for. If I had to bet, I'd go for narrativism or some sort of narrowly cordoned genre sim, but at this point it could go either way. The way you use the system discourages gamism, or at least it seems that way to me: D&D gamism is about neutral arbitration in the face of mortal threat (to characters, that is); a soft and input-taking GMing technique runs counter to that, so if you're going to get gamism, it's not going to be the normal sort of D&D gamism.
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Jasper Flick

And there's the rub. Eero may well be right, and you're squarely in the figure-it-out phase. That'll pay off when you got through that and have settled on the CA you both want, whichever that turns out to be (RtD or SN). Now if you eat CA for breakfast, there isn't much figuring out to do and you might be able to run full steam from the start, but that isn't the case here, you're both searching, creating a game as you go.

Now what you say you're gunning for is basically that as soon as you've found your CA, you'll forcefully enter another period of seaching for another CA. It might well be that if you really get that CA running, you'll want to stick with it in this game. Because it's so much better that wandering around. You'll want to just play this game.
If you won't get that experience, you're probably not reaching a solid CA at all, changing direction before you reach one. You'll be stuck in the searching phase without getting true payoff. Oh it might be entertaining, but it won't accomplish what you set out to do.
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Thanks for the input guys. I think you are right, we are still tinkering around and figuring out where the boundaries are. Once that is done and we have some sort of "canon" for how things work, we'll probably be working toward either RTD or SN. The one instance where I wanted to inject some real consequence (when I asked him what he wanted to happen with the corpse of the zombie) he asked for a fight rather than to enjoy seeing a plague rampage through the small village. That could have been because he perceived "spreading plague" as losing, or just that he didn't want to deal with it just yet. We'll have to see. But if he thinks that there will never be any negative consequences for anything he does, he's in for a surprise.

Either way, if we do hit some kind of agenda and enjoy it immensely, then we probably will stick with it. One thing I thought of doing after he solves the plague problem was to play Dogs in the Vineyard with his character and Heskan. They could go to neighboring villages (that already worship Melora) and set things straight. It would take a little tinkering with the system (or maybe not, considering how loose descriptions can be for traits and such), but it might be tons of fun.

I'll keep you all posted on how this goes. Another game should be coming this friday, and I'll post about it as soon as I can.


Callan S.

See, at this stage I think it's more productive to consider yourselves co designers of the game, fabricating it during play, rather than just simply playing something.

As a co designer you can't just push consequences, because the other guy is your peer - you have no genuine rank over him. He may decide to slip into a more player like role to see what your consequences are like from that perspective. As you fabricate the game you might pretend one person has rank over the other in terms of play, but you don't really. I'd really recommend thinking of everyone as a co designer, and after that they may be taking on the role of a player to see what it's like. And your taking on the role of GM, rather than actually GM'ing. Until you get that game that Jasper mentioned.