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Author Topic: The spicey die roll - Middel Earth (home brew) Sim  (Read 4239 times)
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 468


« on: September 29, 2009, 02:14:25 AM »

Hi Everyone,

I'm not really sure why I am posting this, I guess I am in a reminiscing mood; yet at the end there is an event I'd like to share that still resonates with me today even after the passage of several years.

This particular episode took place 4 years ago real time. I went hunting through my character folder to find what notes I could on this character and this particular scenario but they were scant to the point of merely listing the Players and their Characters plus I found another preprinted adjunct sheet to the player sheet called “Experience Record” with a bit more indicated.

That play session was just this side of the bell curve of small for us with six player characters including myself plus the GM. Included were two NPC's, one a PC who was not available and NPC'd for the night and the other a complete GM creation. On the quick the campaign was set in Tolkien's Middle Earth about 25 years before the War of the Ring. The system is home brew sharing a superficial  physical resemblance to TSR's but functioning in an almost completely opposite manner – attributes and skills but employed in a manner that is nearly completely opposite to the way “AD&D Edition” x works.

My Character that night was a Dunedain of the North by the mannish name Bannon.  His High Quenya names were Coiraumo (Living Storm) and Surion (King of the Wind). This tidbit has some minor bearing in this post as it illuminates to some degree the nature of my relationship to another PC playing that night, my brother Raven. His High names were Belirauma (Mighty Storm) and Borthalion (Strong Hand). Several years even prior the game I am posting about, the GM first introduced our characters as “Sons of the Storm” where our entrance into the world (the SIS) was framed by us both walking into the scene emerging from a howling snow storm. Actually prior to that the GM played out the set up of our characters as my brother having gone out and disappearing and my character spending 70 years searching high and low through all of middle earth looking for him. As for my brother the GM described his 70 years in a pit via witnessing a young girl grow flower into woman hood, mature, age and die all while he was incarcerated. In this process the woman was so smitten with Raven that she never married much to the chagrin of her father, who perished and his son inherited his father's keep as well as Raven, my brother. In this hour or so long introduction such thematic tropes as the indomitable Dunedain will (Bannon spent 70 years ceaselessly searching for his brother Raven and Raven never despaired of being found) and their powerful charisma (Raven made no play what so ever for the girl but she was so taken in by his Dunedain Charisma though they never spoke she could marry no other and eventually died a spinster) were demonstrated. When I did find my brother, I asked the Lord or now his heir son to release my brother to which he threatened to kill him if I did not leave. Numerically I could not fight to rescue but I proclaimed such a doom upon the lord that by morning he had died. (Note there was no “skill” on my sheet about being able to do anything like this other a generalized “understanding” that the Dunedain have immense “will.” Think Aragorn breaking Sauron's hold over the Palantir or Aragorn “breaking” The Mouth of Sauron just by holding his gaze.) So when our characters were introduced into play the catastrophe of Tharbad had already taken place where better than 95% of all the Dunedain in the world were killed – including our family. So at this point the bond between Raven and myself has been viscerally cemented in my mind.

Finally I should note that having a Dunedain in our game is a sign that you really get the material, the world and what the Dunedain are. It usually takes years of play to get one and they are THE pinnacle character. They ARE a very difficult character to play, and it should also be noted that you only get one. Period. If he dies there is NO Chance of getting another. Ever. (There are no resurrection spells or the like in the world.) They are very capable characters, they are tied directly into the highest level of events in the world, on a “Social Contract Level” they are a sign of the highest level of acceptance into the group as they are awarded to players who are considered truly great role-players. So beloved are these characters that in scenarios where they are in extreme danger players will find reasons to have their characters' put them selves into harm's way if necessary for another player's Dunedain.

OK, lot's of probably tedious back story and set up for a small moment, but in order for the following to make any sense it is necessary to understand the above.

So the background of the scenario is that Harrandor is in a state of utter chaos following the failed Black Commando attempt to decapitate and sieze Gondor and the subsequent war with the invading Harradrim armies. The Harradrim were badly beaten (this was resolved in a very abbreviated matter by having three players roll a set of percentile dice each – all of which were above 95%! - this was done because we were at the dog end of 6 loooong days of play in a row and we were all too worn out to play it out.) However this battle was waged in Harrandor lands and there was much destruction and woe inflicted on the locals as is always the case in war. The upshot was that there was no established power remaining and there was great anger felt by the locals towards both the Harradrim and Gondor.

Aragorn had tasked small groups of Dunedain with small Ranger of Ithillian contingents to try and pacify Harrandor, bring stability and hopefully mend some of the psychological wounds Gondor had inflicted and try and win the hearts and minds of the locals. Tall order as there were so few of us and the immensity of area we were each responsible for was so large – not to mention the carnage that had be wrought on these poor people. Each Dunedain had two Rangers and that night there were nine of us in total – 3 Dunedain and 6 Rangers when we stumbled across a town of several hundred adult men plus adolescent boy, women and children that was about to engage in armed rebellion against Gondor.

I forget all the extenuating circumstances but as usual time was not on our side, we arrived at early evening and determined that the men and older boys were going to ride off the following morning. We decided out of hand that we were not looking to “kill” the people in order to prevent the insurrection (as far as the Dunedain were concerned they were Gondorian citizens), but we rather looked to try to decapitate their efforts by driving off all the horses if possible and thus rendering them immobile. We made quick plans, waited until about midnight and set about our various tasks. Well, as is want to happen in situations where everything needs to happen properly bad die rolls made their appearance at particularly pivotal times and my brother was captured. The town was roused, they knew they had been attacked as a large number of the horses had been scattered, a few of their had been knocked out and thus they were hungry for blood.

The town had been roused and collected around my prisoner brother and were threatening to kill him. There was NO way direct violent action was going to save his life as the town leader had my brother on his knees, hands and feet tied with the local firebrand standing over him with a short sword held over my brother's head working himself up to commit coldblooded murder. Events were unraveling fast in real time, literally on the order of minutes. Though we had Rangers of Ithillian who are excellent bowmen there conditions were ALL wrong to try and snipe out the ring leader and make a rush to save Raven.

As a player I had no idea what to do, but I knew I had to do something and that Dunedain are “fate benders.” Armed only with this idea I broke free of my men and rode alone into the midst of the angry mob. Needless to say the other players were not pleased by this and Chuck especially was dismayed. I however was playing on that the Dunedain were all Kings so I was going to play on that somehow. So I walked, not galloped, my horse into the town stood high in my stirrups, pulled my bastard sword out leveling it at the man holding my brother, telling the GM that I unveil myself completely throwing my Presence (Charisma) out before me (mine a 22 in a world where the manish maximum is 18) and start proclaiming a doom upon this man his descendants and all in the town who directly or passively brought harm or let harm come upon my brother, also a King by rights, in the high tongue of Quenya. The GM reminded me that the locals would not understand Quenya, but I responded that while they may not “understand” the language itself Quenya was a tongue of tremendous power (remember the hobbits in Rivendale not understanding the songs but being able to “feel” and “see” what was being sung) and I wanted the people to “feel” in their souls if not their minds the deadly earnestness with which I was declaring my intentions and their fates.

As a player I was crapping in my pants, my hands were literally trembling because if events went sideways there was no way no matter how accomplished I was as a warrior (level) that I could hope to survive several hundred people attacking me – and I had my brother to worry about as well. I had walked right into the lion's den. I then bent my gaze upon the firebrand who held the sword over my brother's neck and told him to release my brother. My sword was leveled at him, shoulder high, from atop my horse, but there was no way I could do anything physical to save my brother's life if the man decided to plunge his sword into my brothers neck. Meanwhile I am surrounded on all sides in a sea of angry, unpredictable and dangerous people. In the back of my own mind I am making what preparations I can emotionally for the possibility of the loss of this most beloved character. Not only would I have lost this character, but the world as a whole would have lost an irreplaceable bulwark against Sauron and his minions. Recall Aragorn's speech to Boromir in Rivendale about the endless and thankless struggles of the Dunedain or that on the march to Gates of Mordor at the end of the books that Gandalf said that among the army there were “men” who were worth a thousand armed knights.  When you have a Dunedain you have a “responsibility” to the world. To lose one's Dunedain is to fail in that responsibility.

But Hell if I am going to let my brother, whom I had searched the world 70 long years, die without trying to rescuing him even if it meant my life for his.  As a player I was literally trembling with nervous adrenaline and a pounding heart.

Looking down my pointed sword I demand that the firebrand release my brother as he is holding the sword high ready to plunge it down into Raven's neck in a horrifying blink of an eye. Again I must make clear that if the firebrand had so chosen to do so there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop him, I was too far away. The man starts to argue back and two thoughts occur to me in a flash. First I cannot let him get the upper hand dynamically in the situation – I have to dominate him completely. Second I was irked that the GM wasn't responding to all these Charisma efforts of mine that are gift and birthrights of the Dunedain when I as a player am struck out of the blue – I will remind the NPC who he is dealing with and I say in as a commanding voice as I a player could summon, “Kneel, before a King.”

The room went quiet but there was definitely an electricity in the air. I had done something that no one else had ever done playing a Dunedain in 20+ years that the game had been played. I could even see the sparkle in the eye's of the GM when I said this – he was impressed. He had me roll a d20 and banged a natural 20 and the table explodes into shouts and whoops and hollers. The man struggled for a moment, thrust his sword into the ground in frustration and collapsed to his knees, as did a surprising number of the mob. Whew! He was broken and his hold over the mob was destroyed. I bid my brother to rise and we leave the town together. I do not offer a hand to raise him no do I offer him a spot on my horse for I felt it was still important to show that my brother had NOT been broken. (Of course once out of sight I gave him my horse and I walked.)

As my brother and I were making were waking our way through the crowd about thirty scattered men shouted “For Gondor!” I responded with something like, “Know that Gondor is not your enemy. Go – and make of yourselves good men.”

What was soooooooo cool was that not only did I get my brother out, I was alive, but that I had successfully accomplished our original goal of restoring order but trying to win over the people back to Gondor...and the best part was that this was accomplished without killing anyone! Because in a way these people are “future subjects,” my people as it were. One does not wage war against one's own people. It was immensely satisfying especially to have accomplished all that, but there's an important coda to this...

...some weeks (months?) later I was talking about this scenario to the GM and he told me that he had never seen a Dunedain more perfectly played in all his years of Gming Middle Earth. He told me that the die roll was for show, to add drama to the moment as my actions were so perfect that in his mind no die roll was needed to determine success. Did this revelation bother me? NOPE! Not in the least! He just told me that my play was so good that it transcended the need for a die role. It was spice only to make the moment even more delicious, but that the success was a solely and direct result of my role-play. That made me feel even more excited about that night's play. The best he'd seen in 20+ years of play. Wow!

I guess the point of all this was the above paragraph - the idea of play transcending the need for (or the outcome) of a mechanical resolution check. I don't know if any of this comment worthy but there you go. I hope I haven't wasted everyone's time.

Jay
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2009, 06:59:30 PM »

It sounds like you had a really great experience, Jay! It was a pleasure to read it.

I was looking at this:
Quote
I guess the point of all this was the above paragraph - the idea of play transcending the need for (or the outcome) of a mechanical resolution check
and I noticed something - the big, exciting climax of the scene happens when the die hit the table, right? And it was the die result that gave it some punch.

It's possible that I'm wrong, but my guess is that if the GM had simply "let" you succeed in that situation, it would not have been nearly as memorable. You were crapping your pants, as you said ^_^ because you knew that if ordering the firebrand around didn't work, you were screwed! I daresay that a great big source of tension in this scene was highly mechanical and metagame in nature - as deep in the scene and as deep into character as you might've been, it sounds like a big reason why this was so exciting was because of mechanics considerations, not in spite of them. I'm really glad your GM told you to roll, actually, or he might've robbed you of some of the glory of this great moment!

At the same time, I want you to know that I agree that mechanics can sometimes spoil a great moment in the game, or rather hinder the chance of a great moment really happening. I think this happens when a) the mechanics only cover things we don't care about or b) they cover them in a way we find uninteresting. If Dunedain and other characters with "Will" had "Will" as a character trait, but maybe kept it fairly general (a couple of possible modifiers, a couple sample target numbers, and leave it at that), it could be a good way to "push" a scene with your character, "bend fate" as it were ^_^ to try and break someone's resolve when nothing else would work, but without leaving that intense moment created when a Dunedain bends fate, you know?
 One thing that happens with high- and low-handling-time mechanics (how much page-flipping you have to do, how many tables to consult, etc.) is that the longer you spend outside the scene, the more the tension in the scene can cool off. If a swordfight is supposed to be really intense and meaningful, then the mechanics for that kind of situation (a meaningful one) could stand to be a bit less detailed, and certainly more intuitive and easy to remember, so you can keep all the necessary bits in your head and not have to look anything up. On the other hand, "cool" scenes, i.e. ones in which things don't get red-hot with tension and excitement, could be handled in a more complicated fashion, if you desire, without sacrificing the feel of that kind of scene. Neat!

Very cool! Thanks for sharing that great moment with us!

-- Zac
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2009, 08:46:20 PM »

The man starts to argue back and two thoughts occur to me in a flash. First I cannot let him get the upper hand dynamically in the situation – I have to dominate him completely. Second I was irked that the GM wasn't responding to all these Charisma efforts of mine that are gift and birthrights of the Dunedain when I as a player am struck out of the blue – I will remind the NPC who he is dealing with and I say in as a commanding voice as I a player could summon, “Kneel, before a King.”

The room went quiet but there was definitely an electricity in the air. I had done something that no one else had ever done playing a Dunedain in 20+ years that the game had been played. I could even see the sparkle in the eye's of the GM when I said this – he was impressed.

Good stuff, Jay.  This rings very familiar to me.  It's this play style that has been the source of most of my most rewarding roleplaying experiences.  I basically see the core of the experience as a "what should happen" negotiation between all involved players (that is, the GM plus whichever players are acting via their characters).  It's always satisfying when there's a meeting of the minds about the next step in the fiction -- what makes sense, what would be cool, what would work, etc.

There's that moment of tension where the player goes, "Does the GM agree that this is at least plausible?" and then, "Does the GM think that this would succeed?"  In a game where no one's on the same page, a "no" is usually merely frustrating, but in a group with well-shared priorities, the GM's answer arrives as The Truth.  "No, these townsfolk are too incensed to listen," or, "That speech would totally make them pause and take your words seriously."  Or, "Could go either way; roll some dice!"

He had me roll a d20 and banged a natural 20 and the table explodes into shouts and whoops and hollers.

I do this a lot too (calling for a die roll as GM) for drama's sake.  The shaking, the die, praying for a high number, the roll, watching, the die stopping, and... result!

Of course, if I've already decided as GM that the player's attempt really ought to succeed (logically, dramatically, or both) then the actual impact of the die roll is just degree of success.  So I totally beleive your GM when he told you that the roll didn't determine the outcome.  In those situations, if my player rolls poorly, I just qualify or delay his victory with some other shit happening.  Perhaps, "The sword wielder doesn't lower his blade, but his fierce look wavers!  Speak on and roll again!"

I really think this kind of play can be common if the players and GM can just learn to trust each other on the crucial criteria for affecting the fiction.  I'm working on some cartoons to facilitate that.  If you want to bring that into this discussion, Jay, just lemme know and I'll happily post a link.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2009, 02:04:59 PM »

The problem with advocating that trust is that it blocks out other kinds of play (like both parties using written, transparent rules as the criteria for affecting fiction). If they trust in one game, what are they going to do in the next session with a game that's designed around transparent criteria rules? Not trust each other on the criteria (and instead defer to the rules)? No, once you've set up a trust process, it doesn't stop in a hurry - it's pretty much embeded in the social framework. And that blocks out other ways of playing.
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Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2009, 08:53:07 PM »

Well said, Callan.
David, I too find Jay's post exciting, but as a rule I just don't trust GMs to honor my input unless I have mechanical backing for what I want to happen. To me, a die roll is not just emotionally relevant - it states, unmistakably, "My ideas matter just as much as anyone's. Back me up, dice!"

Besides that, it's disingenuous for a GM to try and corner the players - if you come up with a sweet way out of (or through) a dilemma, especially if it's emotionally satisfying, there should be a way for you to present your solution and make it stick. Any sort of "you'll get out of here if I SAY you do!" stuff, which some GMs pull all the time, is bad-faith play, as far as I'm concerned.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2009, 04:33:17 PM »

So, Jay had this moment where he wanted to accomplish something with his character: intimidate and command the respect and obediance of an irate mob.  Will he succeed or won't he?  There are tons of ways Jay could have resolved this in different games.  To name a few: rolling dice, drawing cards, spending points, asking GM's permission, simply declaring success or failure, voting, doing whatever he felt his character would do and letting someone else resolve it.  Each of these provides a different experience.  A player's mind might focus on the luck of the dice, the choice of whether to spend a needed resource, the evaluations of other players, etc.

I've played with a lot of these.  While I tend to like some better than others in general, overall I'd say that sometimes I'm in the mood for the experience delivered by one method, and other times another one.

There's a unique experience to what Jay describes.  You get in your character's headspace, you assess your (his) situation and options, you do the best you (he) can, and you see how the setting and its people respond, as relayed to you by the GM.  Looking at that "GM as setting arbiter" and waiting for his feedback is different than looking at dice or voting on how cool your play was or any other method.  Maybe it's hard to get right, maybe it's lined with potential pitfalls, maybe few will wind it worth the bother when there are other options.  But it can be made to work, and when it does work, the resulting experience is something a lot of roleplayers I know really love.

Playing one game or session this way certainly wouldn't preclude you from playing another game or session using a different resolution method.  I can switch between Primetime Adventures, Sign in Stranger, and old-school GM-heavy D&D2 just fine, thank you.

Separately, I also think that most games benefit from a mixture of rules and trust.  There will always be judgment calls, even if they're only about when to use a given a rule.  When judgment calls come up, it's important to be able to trust your fellow players' basis for judgment.

Ps,
-David

P.S. Jay, if you're still around, I think it would be instructive if you could speculate on how else your Dunedain's speech might have been resolved; and, given the way that it was resolved, what parts of the experience could have been improved, or were optimal just the way they were handled.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2009, 07:06:19 PM »

The thing is, pushing trust basically wrecks personal evaluation of quality. Was it fun, quality play? To even form that question in mind is to distrust the assertion by others that it was fun. Pesonally I think it's healthy skepticism, but it's still distrust even with my stamp of approval. The more you work with trust the more it kills critical evaluation. Critical evaluation requires, as far as I know, atleast some level of misstrust/treating others assertions as possibly just a bunch of hype.

Quote
There will always be judgment calls, even if they're only about when to use a given a rule.
For myself, I percieve that as not being the case. The many boardgames that don't require judgement calls are evidence enough of that for me. Just noting that so as to not give any false sense of having implicit agreement from me on the matter.
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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 468


« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2009, 01:06:47 AM »

Hi Zac,

You have the right of it when you said that the die roll gave the moment some punch.  Actually it probably gave the moment allot of punch.  Which falls in line with my thread title – The Spicy Die Roll.  The point of the die roll at that moment was not employed by the GM as a resolution mechanic (be it task or conflict) but rather as a dramatic device/tool.

David,

Your description of the use of the die roll, when you as GM have already decided on success, as means as assessing the degree of success matches our use exactly.

This rings very familiar to me.  It's this play style that has been the source of most of my most rewarding roleplaying experiences.  I basically see the core of the experience as a "what should happen" negotiation between all involved players (that is, the GM plus whichever players are acting via their characters).  It's always satisfying when there's a meeting of the minds about the next step in the fiction -- what makes sense, what would be cool, what would work, etc.

I'm going to have to spend some time considering your “what should happen” description more, but right now I am going to give a tentative, but qualified agreement.  “What should happen” does not mean “what will happen.”  It IS satisfying when there's a general meeting of the minds but we don't want to know a forehand what is going to happen.  That means there will, at times, be failure when “what should happen” doesn't.  However the reason for the failure should follow the internal logic of the world even if the reason is not made explicit.  The real potential of failure, i.e, player efforts that result in a failed outcome in previous play, must be an established fact of the game and not just exist as a potentiality in order for tension to exist when using this particular type of fortune mechanic.  Which brings me to your next piece...

There's that moment of tension where the player goes, "Does the GM agree that this is at least plausible?" and then, "Does the GM think that this would succeed?"  In a game where no one's on the same page, a "no" is usually merely frustrating, but in a group with well-shared priorities, the GM's answer arrives as The Truth.  "No, these townsfolk are too incensed to listen," or, "That speech would totally make them pause and take your words seriously."  Or, "Could go either way; roll some dice!"

...which (I believe) aligns with my previous paragraph.  You are right that in a game where no one's on the same page, a “no” is usually frustrating.  When everyone is on the same page in this style of play, a “no” typically leads to more Sim expressing opportunities - as you so ably indicated in the examples you provided.

I like what you said about the GM's answer arriving as The Truth, but I'm going to spin it just a bit.  I'm going to say the GM's answer is a Fact.  The nice thing about a Fact is that facts can change with further input/negotiations and yet not be in contradiction if the Facts do change.  This is key.  Let's say the GM says, "No, these townsfolk are too incensed to listen.”  That fact is not immutable.  As a player I can do or say other things that might alter that Fact.  But more important is to remember that my choosing to use “spoken words” in this instance was just one form/attempt to reach a greater ultimate end (the rescue of my brother/the prevention of the secessionist movement/etc.).  At the end of that night's play we will have established/negotiated a whole multitude of SIS Facts which can then be chewed on long after the end of the game session where the players deduce and infer a great number of additional (proto?) facts.

Ultimately, though, you have the right of it when you say trust is key.  One simply cannot have enjoyable play without trust.  Period.  In Nar play I've seen it stated that the players need to know that they can trust each other when they are baring their souls during play.  In Gamist play its trusting that the GM isn't (or is!) modding the rolls behind the screen or that the other players aren't misrepresenting their die rolls.  It is often forgotten that in Gamist play we are not playing a computer game.  When we are Exploring (as opposed to playing a computer game) the Lumpley Principle is the only arbiter.  IOW for all the trappings of mechanics even with the crunchiest of systems its still at bottom us human beings all sitting around agreeing to stuff.

The thing is, pushing trust basically wrecks personal evaluation of quality. Was it fun, quality play? To even form that question in mind is to distrust the assertion by others that it was fun. Pesonally I think it's healthy skepticism, but it's still distrust even with my stamp of approval. The more you work with trust the more it kills critical evaluation. Critical evaluation requires, as far as I know, atleast some level of misstrust/treating others assertions as possibly just a bunch of hype.

There are an awful lot of assumptions in you assertions here.  Drama is recognized as a legitimate form of resolution.  Thus the blanket assertion that a trust based system, which Drama resolution relies on heaviest of all, wrecks “personal evaluation of quality” is to utterly dismiss Drama resolution as a legitimate means of play.  Given the Lumpley principle; all play at heart is Drama resolution in that we all must ultimately agree to the statements being made during play.  “This 20 showing on this recently rolled d20 means I killed the orc.  The rules say that.  Does anyone disagree with my statement about  which rules I am invoking or how I am applying them to this situation or the outcome of the application of the rules?  No?  OK.  We all agree then that that 20 means my character killed the Orc.  Moving on...”  Lumpley Principle.  I believe that Drama Resolution is getting short shrift as a legitimate and viable means of play resolution.

Also why does one need to “evaluate” quality.  Unless I am mistaken role-play is a highly subjective experience.  Again we come back to the Lumpley Principle and the Share Imagined Space and the great lengths we go through to make sure that all the players are indeed on the same page indicates to me the difficulty in finding the objectivity in the game.  To my understanding objectivity is the artificial construct – the SIS – which we strive mightily to agree on – using the Lumpley Principle.  IOW we have to work very diligently to get past our subjective states to arrive at an “objective” Fact.  Since this process is so inherently subjective where does this need to (presumably objectively) evaluate quality come from?  I am either having fun or I am not.  I don't have to go through some measuring process to arrive at the emotional state of “fun.”

But then I am lost by the usage of the word “quality.”  Can you clarify what you mean by “quality” and to what thing you are measuring the quality?  For me that night's quality of play was awesome.  I was told by my GM that my quality of play was one for the books – it was superlative.

The form of the mechanics and how they are employed, to me fall under color.  They literally color our enjoyment of the game play experience and effect how the negotiation process proceeds in a deeply profound manner.  Yet, mechanics are but one of the five elements of Exploration and as such they are a spice to the game which, as David indicated in his previous post, come in many flavors.  Season to taste then!  By all means!  Again David has the right of it, if one does not like the particular spicing of that particular incarnation of  mechanics then use a different recipe/game system.  But to declare something which is used to individual taste as universally bad is, I believe, an error.  I do believe that role-play does have a long and horrible history with Drama resolution, but that is a problem related to misuse born out of ignorance (not understanding the role of mechanics in Sim).  People are terrified of even discussing Drama resolution which is a terrible shame especially since all role-play rests on the Lumpley Principle.

P.S. Jay, if you're still around, I think it would be instructive if you could speculate on how else your Dunedain's speech might have been resolved; and, given the way that it was resolved, what parts of the experience could have been improved, or were optimal just the way they were handled.

David, could you expand on your question, please?  I'm not sure what you are looking for from me.  To me the experience was optimal, but I am curious as to what it is that you are trying to uncover.  If you wish do put in that link you had mentioned in one of your earlier posts.
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2009, 02:09:13 PM »

Hi Jay,

Quote
Drama is recognized as a legitimate form of resolution.
Well, for myself, that alot of people say they recognise something as legitimate doesn't mean anything in itself. Large numbers of people doesn't lend evidence toward anything. Lots of people recognised slavery as legitimate, for example. How could they believe that if it wasn't true? Well, because belief is cheap, no matter how many people are involved. That's my perspective.

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Thus the blanket assertion that a trust based system, which Drama resolution relies on heaviest of all, wrecks “personal evaluation of quality” is to utterly dismiss Drama resolution as a legitimate means of play.
Does the wrecking of 'personal evaluation of quality' utterly dismiss drama resolution as a legitimate means of play? I don't think I've said this. Your drawing your own conclusion about what is dismissed. I've only said it wrecks personal evaluation of quality - I left it there for others to draw their own conclusions about what ramifications that has, if any.

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Given the Lumpley principle; all play at heart is Drama resolution in that we all must ultimately agree to the statements being made during play.
The lumpley principle is about working on a semi shared fiction (semi because there is no hive mind/xerox duplication of the imagination between participants) - if you try and keep all of play within the fictional level, then I'd grant your premise.

But if I've agreed heads I win, tails I lose and tails comes up - no, I am not at that point deciding whether I feel like agreeing with the result of me losing. There is no agreeing to the result going on at that point past the coin flip. There is only the following of the result. This flows on to the fictional level of there being no agreeing to the result, because if I lose on the roll, I'm hardly gunna go 'Oh, but imagination wise my character totally pwns!'. No, fiction wise he loses too - and it's not a matter of lumpley style agreement, it's simply following the result for all participants. There is no agreement at that point, just following the result (afterward, in tying the result to further fiction, sure, LP. But not right now). So no, not all play is drama resolution at heart. Some parts of play are no more lumpley principle or drama resolution than RL gravity is an act of lumpley principle or drama resolution. The RL coin flipped. What comes after is not everyone just agreeing to the result - it is the result as much as the result of throwing a rock at a window.

Unless you try and keep all play within the fiction, in which case there are many techniques for ignoring the die roll yet acting as if it was still relevant (I remember Ron talking about these once, but can't remember the thread...)

Actually that makes me think of some (pervi?) mechanics - like if the characters have little paper houses on the gaming table, and that represents their imaginative game world house. Okay, at some point a player is blindfolded and the houses shuffled around a bit in front of him. Then the blindfolded player brings his fist down hard in front of him!

It's hardly lumpley principle when one of the paper houses is crushed, that the imaginative house is also crushed. Well, unless your way in denial of the connection between the two. The whole group trying to game that your house is fine when it's crushed in front of you? In people there's something prior to the lumpley principle, and I think it says no.

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Also why does one need to “evaluate” quality....I don't have to go through some measuring process to arrive at the emotional state of “fun.”
Well, there are plenty of fun things in the world which are quite bad for you.

But beyond that, it's something like a suger to medicine ratio - 100% suger is sweet, but it doesn't make you stronger or healthier in any way. If someone wants medicine but gets swept into a trust system, they may stop evaluating whether they are getting the amount of medicine they wanted to have and so continue to play in games even where they don't get what they want.

I hope what I mean by medicine is pretty clear - it's something that confronts or challenges the actual person at the table, to put it vaguely. I'm hoping people in general just know what I mean on that.

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But then I am lost by the usage of the word “quality.”  Can you clarify what you mean by “quality” and to what thing you are measuring the quality?  For me that night's quality of play was awesome.  I was told by my GM that my quality of play was one for the books – it was superlative.
Quality is your own standards. For myself, someone else can't tell me something matched my own standards - I need check that for myself.

Perhaps it's wrong of me, but I wonder whether your acceptance of GM's 'Truth' and 'Facts' has extended outward into domains beyond those you originally decided?
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2010, 10:53:14 AM »

Jay,

We've clearly had some similar gaming experiences.  Almost everything you're saying, I'm nodding and going, "Yeah!  It is like that!"

It IS satisfying when there's a general meeting of the minds but we don't want to know a forehand what is going to happen.  That means there will, at times, be failure when “what should happen” doesn't.

I think we agree and are just using "should" to mean slightly different things.  I've broken down the process of vetting contributions to the fiction on the "resolution" page for my game Delve.  See the "would", "could" and "couldn't" links (although you may have to read all the links in order for it to make sense).

I'm going to say the GM's answer is a Fact.  The nice thing about a Fact is that facts can change with further input/negotiations and yet not be in contradiction if the Facts do change.  This is key.  Let's say the GM says, "No, these townsfolk are too incensed to listen.”  That fact is not immutable.  As a player I can do or say other things that might alter that Fact.

Yeah, I like that way of phrasing it too.  I think I actually used something vaguely similar in my "Establishing Setting" section from the above link.

At the end of that night's play we will have established/negotiated a whole multitude of SIS Facts which can then be chewed on long after the end of the game session where the players deduce and infer a great number of additional (proto?) facts.

Huh.  I hadn't thought about that.  Are you talking about group rehash, or just individual recollections?

P.S. Jay, if you're still around, I think it would be instructive if you could speculate on how else your Dunedain's speech might have been resolved; and, given the way that it was resolved, what parts of the experience could have been improved, or were optimal just the way they were handled.

David, could you expand on your question, please?  I'm not sure what you are looking for from me.  To me the experience was optimal, but I am curious as to what it is that you are trying to uncover.

Okay, well, if it was optimal, then there's not much food for musing there.  I was trying to uncover some breakdown of the moments of play by type of resolution*.  Like, "I decided this, the GM decided that, we agreed here, rolled dice there, looked up attribute ratings then" etcetera.  I thought maybe we could figure out something interesting about how these techniques all work together.  That now seems both vague and ambitious, though.

More concretely, you said one thing that have me some "non-optimal?" thoughts:
I was irked that the GM wasn't responding to all these Charisma efforts of mine that are gift and birthrights of the Dunedain

As someone who wasn't there, I didn't know whether this was a case of:

"The GM's cheating!" or "The GM's ignoring my contribution, so I'm not empowered to play!"

or

"Wow, I thought that woud have impressed most incensed villagers.  I guess these ones have some reason they're particularly pissed off." (or some other sound in-fiction logic)

Based on the rest of your account, I can guess that the latter was more the case, largely because of your group's shared priorities about stuff like sound in-fiction logic being really important.  What do you think?

I also think there's something to be said for a "show, don't tell" dynamic at play, where no stats or rolls are going to win the day without some action narration of convincing quality.  But I'll wait on that tangent for now.

Ps,
-David

*I mean that in the broadest possible sense: "process by which stuff enters the SIS"
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Silmenume
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Posts: 468


« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2010, 02:01:41 AM »

Hi Dave,

I'm fairly certain we are on the same page with the “should” thing and the “Fact” thing.  I did follow your link.

I was trying to uncover some breakdown of the moments of play by type of resolution*.  Like, "I decided this, the GM decided that, we agreed here, rolled dice there, looked up attribute ratings then" etcetera.  I thought maybe we could figure out something interesting about how these techniques all work together.  That now seems both vague and ambitious, though.

I wish I could offer you the data points you're looking for, but that game session was several years ago.  I couldn't even tell you the name of the NPC that my character broke or even the name of the town.  I will say that the way system was used that night was typical of how we usually play.  Having looked at that illustrations that you linked to, I will say that both our methods of play are quite similar.  I do agree, alas, that my description of the session of play I posted was vague but I am curious about your “ambitious” note.  All in all this is a topic that I am quite interested in discussing – I've been trying to do so for years!

At the end of that night's play we will have established/negotiated a whole multitude of SIS Facts which can then be chewed on long after the end of the game session where the players deduce and infer a great number of additional (proto?) facts.

Huh.  I hadn't thought about that.  Are you talking about group rehash, or just individual recollections?

Typically its a group rehash, and in my rough estimation about 30-40% of the game enjoyment.  I also think it is a vital part of the long term game process in general.  Our game style is what I call episodic where the scenario typically has a big climax and a definite conclusion.  When the game ends there is lots of energy that needs to be bled off but also lots of questions that beg answering as well as inferences that want to be drawn out while all the details are still fresh in our minds.  We ask each other questions about what each of us was trying to accomplish (this also works to smooth over any Social Contract Level issues) as well as propose ideas as to what we think the motives of the NPC's were.  Most importantly, and most interestingly, we try and sort out what the implications of what transpired in the game were.  If bad guy A had this information that means someone inside institution X must be rogue.  Just recently Maglor was killed by Saruman.  A player posted the following -

Quote
As the sky weeps for Maglor a great weight comes off my shoulders. If the sky doth weep for Maglor then "The Lady of Sorrow" hath moved the heart of Manwe. In his death Maglor is forgiven by the King of Valinor. Ambar meta I shall see Maglor again, when we gather at the feet of THE ONE.

The GM had described the weather as thunder and lightning both as mood and to make tracking difficult.  The player quoted above took the circumstances married them with back story/Setting material and was able to make the proposal.  Do we know that Manwe lifted the ban?  No.  But the player made a rather poetic case using the existing “facts” to propose another “fact.”  The cleverness of stringing together such disparate pieces along with his manner of presentation count for allot in how we play.  Granted this particular example was on a bulletin board, but it works the same both in game and in the post game debriefs.

I also think there's something to be said for a "show, don't tell" dynamic at play, where no stats or rolls are going to win the day without some action narration of convincing quality.

That is exactly how we play.  Stats or rolls lend weight to action narration, but it is the action narration that opens the possibility for a roll.  One cannot say, “I have persuasion at level 8, so I try and persuade the guard.”  Rather the player must act out the persuasion effort in first person voice.  Then the GM will either have the NPC react or have the player roll and then give the NPC reaction.  If the effort is lack luster the player is going to take penalties while brilliance will earn bonuses in addition to the skills on the sheet.  In practice the stat or the skill level is rarely mentioned unless the number is exceptional.  Why?  Because the stat or skill level is spice to the main player effort.  If we are trying to wow the GM throwing numbers at him all the time is not going to be effective.  Rather the stat or particularly the skill level is a short hand reminder to the GM that I have done spectacular things with this character using this skill in the past.  IOW I am good with this so take that into consideration as well.  But all this functions on an emotional level.  Would me mentioning my skill level bring more weight to my efforts or will it be read as me using a crutch?  All of us at the table want to see each other being clever and playing our characters.  Using mechanics instead of thinking is seen as “wimping out.”  Not only is it not rewarded frequently it simply does not succeed.

More concretely, you said one thing that have me some "non-optimal?" thoughts:
I was irked that the GM wasn't responding to all these Charisma efforts of mine that are gift and birthrights of the Dunedain

As someone who wasn't there, I didn't know whether this was a case of:

"The GM's cheating!" or "The GM's ignoring my contribution, so I'm not empowered to play!"

or

"Wow, I thought that woud have impressed most incensed villagers.  I guess these ones have some reason they're particularly pissed off." (or some other sound in-fiction logic)

Based on the rest of your account, I can guess that the latter was more the case, largely because of your group's shared priorities about stuff like sound in-fiction logic being really important.  What do you think?

The question that was going through my mind at that time was why wasn't actions having any effect.  I didn't expect the people to just fold, but it seemed that my efforts weren't influencing events at all.  Which was strange because rarely in our game does something have full or conversely null effect.  Part of this was I was frantic.  I'm guessing, now, that the GM was playing out the moment for greater emotional impact.  Remember the part about where what should happen does not always happen.  If you note that my initial efforts were somewhat based on mechanics and less on actual first person action statements.  I said, “I throw my presence out; I unveil myself.”  That can be read as code for, “Hey I have a CHR of 22 and I'm using it to try and sway the people.”  I said I spoke in Quenya, but I as the player did not actually articulate what I was attempting to say in Quenya.  I didn't have to speak Quenya as a player, but I did need to communicate the ideas in first person which I did only in the third person and even then only the gist.  It was not until I spoke in the first person, “Kneel, before a king” that things started happening.

I don't know if I was strung along for greater emotional impact, to keep me sweating as it were.  I don't know if the GM was unimpressed with my efforts until that moment.  Did the GM just plain forget to address the crowd would react as he was focused in so tightly on the rebel NPC and what decision the GM might make regarding killing a Dunedain?  Like I said it troubled me at the time, but the flip side was when I “won” the elation and relief was all the greater because the emotional distance I traveled was greater.  I went from despair to utter elation.  If I was starting to weaken the crowd's resolve then I would not have been in the state of despair and fear from which I then emerged in jubilation.  So who knows the answer on that one?

Gosh, I'm tired.  I hope the latter part of this post makes some sense.

Happy New Year!

Best

Jay
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Jay
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2010, 10:19:57 AM »

Hi Jay,

I'm still mulling where to go with this... there are fun options aplenty, but I'm trying to see if I can focus in on a design issue here.  Basically, I want to be able to tell other play groups how to find success of the type that your group and mine have enjoyed.  The cartoons are an ongoing attempt at that.  What are the keys, and how can they be communicated from text to players and then players to players?

So, before I continue in that direction, I just want to ask if that's cool with you.

Meanwhile, a few questions:

Do setting facts get firmly established during your postgame debriefs, or simply proposed as possible interpretations?  I mean, if Maglor's dead and we're never going to see him again, one player suggesting that he's been allowed into heaven is kind of a special case.  The GM can just go, "Might be true, might be false, who knows?" and it doesn't matter because it's still a cool way to look at things.  It's more or less a player saying "An NPC can be perceived as doing this!"  That's very different than the player saying, "An NPC does this!" and the GM agreeing either explicitly or implicitly (by not speaking up to the contrary).  So, just for context, I'm curious about which you guys do.

As for the GM stringing you along for emotional impact: this is one of those tricky judgment calls, where the GM's role as impartial arbiter is so open that he has to fill in the gaps with something, and that's often borrowed from other fiction.  In this case, the indeterminate nature of "how a whole bunch of angry peasants respond to a commanding guy of noble blood" allows ample leeway for pacing and tension of the suspense/action movie/novel variety.  How necessary is it that the GM do this?  How much of a tall order is it?  I have some general thoughts on the matter, but I'm wondering if you have any thoughts based on this particular game.

Ps,
-David
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Silmenume
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Posts: 468


« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2010, 03:11:48 AM »

Hi David,

I apologize for the delay...

Do setting facts get firmly established during your postgame debriefs, or simply proposed as possible interpretations?  I mean, if Maglor's dead and we're never going to see him again, one player suggesting that he's been allowed into heaven is kind of a special case.  The GM can just go, "Might be true, might be false, who knows?" and it doesn't matter because it's still a cool way to look at things.  It's more or less a player saying "An NPC can be perceived as doing this!"  That's very different than the player saying, "An NPC does this!" and the GM agreeing either explicitly or implicitly (by not speaking up to the contrary).  So, just for context, I'm curious about which you guys do.

Most of the time Setting facts are proposed as possible interpretations.  Like you said, “'Might be true, might be false, who knows?' and it doesn't matter because it's still a cool way to look at things.”  However, sometimes an idea that pops up in the debrief is given the imprint of “fact” and the world will hence forth reflect that fact.  Occasionally the idea will show up sometime later during a play session without it having been given status as “fact” during the post game debrief.  It's all very fluid about how this “out of game” talk ultimately effects the cannon.  When the discussion starts closing in on specifics of a given scenario or character the GM will say something along the lines, “If we continue down this line this will count [in the game world].”  IOW he's saying that we are actually entering into official role-playing (Exploring - using Forge parlance.  Using Chris Lehrich's articles one would say that the GM is saying we are officially starting or entering into the ritual of role-play).

I should mention that we probably spend more time talking about the game than actually playing it.  This is not meant to say that we don't play often or enough, but rather that soooooo much goes on during a game that sorting out what happened and more importantly what it means can go on endlessly.  Mixed in with this is discussions about the source material and articles about the source material – of which there is much given that it is Tolkien.  For example I read an article on Melkor relating to his psychology/character break down and shared it with the GM.  Now the GM, if he likes it (which he did), has a deeper understanding of how Melkor thought (motivations and goals) as well as a richer insight into how he influenced the very fabric of Ea (Middle Earth).  With this understanding the GM was then able to extend this new found knowledge into, say, how dark magics work and why (amongst many other venues of expression in and out of play).

I suppose this is obvious, but I'll say it anyway, our knowledge of Middle Earth is incomplete and we are always striving to learn and create more of said knowledge – both in and “out of play.”

As for the GM stringing you along for emotional impact: this is one of those tricky judgment calls, where the GM's role as impartial arbiter is so open that he has to fill in the gaps with something, and that's often borrowed from other fiction.  In this case, the indeterminate nature of "how a whole bunch of angry peasants respond to a commanding guy of noble blood" allows ample leeway for pacing and tension of the suspense/action movie/novel variety.  How necessary is it that the GM do this?  How much of a tall order is it?  I have some general thoughts on the matter, but I'm wondering if you have any thoughts based on this particular game.

I am rather at a loss by your question of, “How necessary is it that the GM do this?”  I will offer some thoughts here, but I do not know if I am answering the question you are asking for I am not truly certain what exactly you are looking to illicit from me.  So, after reading my response please feel free to guide me in the direction you wish me to explore with you if I have indeed missed the mark.  As I read your question the core issue as I interpret it seems to me your interest as expressed by the word “necessary.”  Is it “necessary” for the GM to make the game play experience interesting?  Absolutely!  To answer this question adequately, in this formulation, requires us to inquire about the very foundation of why we role-play at all.  All three CA's presume that “an enjoyable time be had by one and all” as foundational.  The expression of the three CA's pursue that end each in their own way using the Elements of Exploration to support their methodologies.

There appears to me, and I may be wrong so please let me know if I am indeed off the mark here, a presumption that the GM is an “impartial arbiter.”  Why?  The only CA where that might be argued is in Gamist play.  That is certainly not the case in Narrativist play where the GM (even when the roles typically associated with the GM are distributed among the various players) is to aid in the digging out and posing of those difficult Premise questions.  This cannot be done in an objective manner.  One must be intimately involved with the play and the players to accomplish this.  IOW one cannot stand out or above play but must rather be as deeply involved as the “non-GM” players are.  Well, even more so the case in Simulationist play.  If we go back to the old idea of role-play as jazz, then in Sim the GM is contributing as much to the developing and evolving melodies as any of the players.  To extend this jazz analogy a bit (and I understand that analogies have their short comings) Nar play might be thought of as the process of the creation of a piece of composed music while Sim is the creative process of playing of jazz in the immediate present of the here and now.  This is not to say Nar is not fun in the present of play but there is the goal of Story Now.  Sim is in the moment of playing and creating in the immediacy of right here right now.  In this ,the GM could be thought of as the first musician.

As an aside this is where people frequently miss the difference between Sim play and Exploration.  Using the jazz analogy, Exploration would mean people are making noises using instruments.  Sim means that players are using the structuralism of music theory to make music using said instruments.  It is not random tootling, but the mindful process of using and experimenting with music theory as applied to a base melody using a shared group aesthetic.

Going back to your question of, “is this necessary?” I would ask the question, “how could it not be?”  The art of it, as it were, is being able to balance so many needs at once without stopping play.  How much of a tall order is it? A very tall order.  It takes great skill to manage such a thing successfully and not all efforts are as successful as others.

I don't know I answered your questions in a reasonable fashion.  Please let me know. I look forward to your reply.

Jay
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Jay
David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2010, 01:15:13 PM »

Hi Jay,

I'll assume from your response that you're happy to ponder design implications with me.

I think you understood my questions perfectly, and your responses give me a lot to work with.

When the discussion starts closing in on specifics of a given scenario or character the GM will say something along the lines, “If we continue down this line this will count [in the game world].”

Excellent.  That sounds like an important procedure.  If I were given a rulebook on how to play this game the way you guys play it, I'd want that to be in there.

I should mention that we probably spend more time talking about the game than actually playing it.  This is not meant to say that we don't play often or enough, but rather that soooooo much goes on during a game that sorting out what happened and more importantly what it means can go on endlessly.  Mixed in with this is discussions about the source material

This also strikes me as vital to your style of fun.  Having done a fair bit of this myself, let me see if I can sum it up:

During play itself, attention is kept largely on the immediate action.  Sights, sounds, actions, etc.  There are few pauses for explanation of the people, places, events and stories that are glimpsed only partially.  When play finally ends, the players do what fans of any mysterious TV series do: they question, theorize, interpret and predict.  "Why did that happen?  Did it mean X?  I bet Y is up to Z!  Maybe when we go to A, we'll discover B!"

I've found that the energy to do this is particularly high when play-mode narrows perceptions even further (immersed in my character, I know only what he perceives), when the gameworld beyond play holds independent interest for the players (we're Tolkein fans!), and when play is a continuous campaign across many episodes (duh).

When these are all true, I find there's often an extra level of anticipation and eagerness to continue Exploring, and this winds up adding a lot to play. 

So, again, a rulebook might be wise to work this in somehow.  Or would it?  How much can or should designers try to prompt formerly emergent behaviors?  I can see two approaches:

1) Provide play rules that foster character POV.  Present an inspiring Setting (maps, histories, fiction, web links, etc.).  Provide a campaign-friendly play structure.  Then, mention somewhere that talking about the game tends to add to the fun -- but don't fight for attention with this, leave it in the class of lower-priority game instruction.  (There's only so many procedures and rules gamers will learn and remember, right?)

2) List in a prominent place in the instructions of how to play that "pre-game talk" and "post-game talk" are essential parts of the process.  Make that impossible to ignore.  Flesh it out with details on how to get the most out of such talks.

I really have no idea which would be more effective for what game.  Help!

As for the GM stringing you along for emotional impact: this is one of those tricky judgment calls, where the GM's role as impartial arbiter is so open that he has to fill in the gaps with something, and that's often borrowed from other fiction.  In this case, the indeterminate nature of "how a whole bunch of angry peasants respond to a commanding guy of noble blood" allows ample leeway for pacing and tension of the suspense/action movie/novel variety.  How necessary is it that the GM do this?  How much of a tall order is it?  I have some general thoughts on the matter, but I'm wondering if you have any thoughts based on this particular game.

. . . Is it “necessary” for the GM to make the game play experience interesting?  Absolutely!

Well, let's just assume that the basic situation (will the peasants listen, or kill your friend?) is going to be at least somewhat fun and interesting, even if the GM adds little flourish.  Is that a reasonable assumption? (See this post's P.S.!)

If so, my question is about the extra fun that the GM adds.  Inspired by how tense scenes in thriller films play out, the GM strings you along!  He watches you and sees your nervous energy build!  Finally, he senses the time for resolution arrives!  Do it now!

So that's the "extra" fun.  How necessary is that?

My first thought is that:
1) Sometimes the GM does it just right.  The more of that, the better.
2) Sometimes the GM doesn't bother.  With strong fictional situations, that's okay.
3) Sometimes the GM tries, but doesn't do a very good job.  That tends to be about as fun as #2.

The art of it, as it were, is being able to balance so many needs at once without stopping play.  How much of a tall order is it? A very tall order.  It takes great skill to manage such a thing successfully and not all efforts are as successful as others.

So, this here is a major design problem, in my eyes.

Ron's made some points here (some to me in my Rat Island thread, some elsewhere) about how many games rely on such "secret, highly refined" GM skills to work at all.  I completely agree that that's not desirable.  I want GMs to be able to run my "realistic" Sim masterpiece without having PhDs in Responsive Dramatic Multi-Tasking Improv.  Or, y'know, I want to give them those PhDs myself in short order.

I've played plenty of functional RPGs that have dodged this problem by changing the play experience, but none that have tackled it, keeping the play experience the same but providing tools for "extra" fun.

I've been tinkering with such tools.  I have lots of minor helpers, but no brilliant workhorses.  I wonder if anyone else has made progress along these lines?

There appears to me, and I may be wrong so please let me know if I am indeed off the mark here, a presumption that the GM is an “impartial arbiter.”  Why?

I didn't mean to say that that was the GM's only or primary role.  I only mean to refer to what we agreed on this earlier in the thread: that the GM must appear to be impartially applying "what would happen" when called upon to arbitrate an outcome.

Beyond that, it's just a question of the required minimum amount of GM drama-infusion.  Again, see the P.S.

Thanks,
-David

P.S.  Most of my GMs have been pretty drama-sensitive.  An excpetion is my friend Al.  Coming from a significantly Gamist background, Al does his best to function as a computer when GMing.  He determines "what would happen" as purely logically as he can, and then describes that outcome as accurately as he can.  He never consciously does anything else.  Yet, when logic won't fill in all the blanks, even he defaults to "keeping encounters at the edge of what the PCs can handle" and other basics of what makes for engaging fiction.

Maybe the world is full of GMs who botch drama badly enough to ruin "will the peasants listen, or kill your friend?" situations.  But I've never seen one.  (Though I have seen plenty who ruin it for other reasons!)
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Silmenume
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Posts: 468


« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2010, 02:27:15 AM »

Hi Dave,

I'm sorry that I did not directly respond to your question about pondering design implication, but you have deduced correctly.  I am open to discussing such things.  That being said we must bear in mind that the role of mechanics in Sim has not yet been teased out.  Acknowledging this will help us from falling into the trap of treating resolution mechanics in Sim as Task Resolution mechanics – which they are most certainly NOT!  I wish I could offer more direction as to their ultimate role, yet perhaps we may make some progress as we work through some thoughts.

During play itself, attention is kept largely on the immediate action.  Sights, sounds, actions, etc.  There are few pauses for explanation of the people, places, events and stories that are glimpsed only partially.  When play finally ends, the players do what fans of any mysterious TV series do: they question, theorize, interpret and predict.  "Why did that happen?  Did it mean X?  I bet Y is up to Z!  Maybe when we go to A, we'll discover B!"

Indeed it is much like you describe, but you miss by half!  This process goes on during our play as well – in fact it is the central engine.  The key is that it all happens not from an objective stand point but rather from a restricted/limited/subjective point of view.  IOW these questions and thought processes are restricted to that of our individual character's perspective.

I agree with your about your list of the three pre-conditions being vital the aforementioned process.

So, again, a rulebook might be wise to work this in somehow.  Or would it?  How much can or should designers try to prompt formerly emergent behaviors?  I can see two approaches:

1) Provide play rules that foster character POV.  Present an inspiring Setting (maps, histories, fiction, web links, etc.).  Provide a campaign-friendly play structure.  Then, mention somewhere that talking about the game tends to add to the fun -- but don't fight for attention with this, leave it in the class of lower-priority game instruction.  (There's only so many procedures and rules gamers will learn and remember, right?)

2) List in a prominent place in the instructions of how to play that "pre-game talk" and "post-game talk" are essential parts of the process.  Make that impossible to ignore.  Flesh it out with details on how to get the most out of such talks.

I really have no idea which would be more effective for what game.  Help!

Help, indeed!  This is the crux of it!

I think both approaches are necessary.  That being said ---

Rules that foster character POV might include requiring players to speak in first person as much as reasonably possible.  Reward players for not acting on information that their character would not know. Reward players for making choices that both reflect and buttress a growing world view.  Have events move forward based not on resolution mechanics but strongly grounded in player input.

Source material is everything!  Players want to live the Dream!  Give them access to that dream world in as rich a manner as possible.  The Dream, remember the Dream!  That means you're hooking the players on the world, not the mechanics.  The world --- IS!  History!  Maps!  Relationships!  Social institutions and mores ...and of course juicy conflict.  The more pieces there are the easier it is to build a scenario and later a campaign that is not generic.

Critically important - avoid offering absolutes as much as one reasonably can.  Let the players draw their own conclusions as much as possible.  Present information such that it can be open to interpretation.  Taylor information given to each character from their perspective and don't be afraid to shade it accordingly.  If someone has a guilty conscience then play interactions with authority figures such that they can be easily interpreted as threatening.  If a player is facing an NPC who is hiding something then role-play that NPC as furtive, as someone who doesn't make eye contact [literally – don't just say the NPC doesn't make eye contact (an absolute statement) but as the GM really avoid making eye contact with the player].  Its up to the player to make a determination on what's going on (draw their own conclusion).

Getting players to engage in “post-game talk” shouldn't be that difficult if one has run an engaging session.  Like in your example above, the hunger to fill in the blanks should be there after an exciting game.  That being said, as the GM, you can start the process by asking probing questions of the players about the night's game.  Ask the players if they have an questions.  I don't know how transferable this technique is, but we play our games as episodes such that nearly all games end with a big climatic ending (the easiest being a battle) but then end the game before all the lose ends are tied up.  Its the old show biz adage of, “always leave 'em wanting more.”  You don't want a session to end at a dead halt.  Its a terrible energy killer.  Momentum is your friend.  Use it.  Exploit it ruthlessly!  Remember what I said about absolutes?  A sharp conclusive ending is a type of absolute.

“Pre-game talk” is a little tougher, because you need games to have been played to have something to talk about.  As the GM the easiest way to get this talk going is again to ask players probing questions about their characters.  However, ask the questions in such a manner that the player is required to consider the answer from his character's perspective.  Have what they say matter.  This should not be idle chatter, but focus on matters that are important to the player via his character.  Also allow these conversations to bridge into the game world – even if isn't specific to a scenario.  FREX – I had a character who was a Ranger of Ithilien who had never spent any time in Ithilien fighting nonhuman nasties but had spent all his time patrolling civilized areas.  He was corrupt.  At the time of the generation of this character all the Rangers were outfitted for deadly combat, but I thought that didn't make sense given that we also essentially Marshall's.  Before the game while we were discussing the character (he was a new one I was getting that day) I noted this to the GM and said I felt my character should have some nonlethal weapon to deal with people so he could escalate and have a place to go without having to go all the way to deadly force.  I felt it logical and reasonable that I would have some sort of truncheon/baton or the like.  He loved the idea and voila, every Ranger from that point on was equipped with a baton.  Pretty cool in my book!

There is a saying that I am going to mangle, but it goes something like this, “The media is the message.”  Don't have a system that claims that it is all about living/experiencing the Dream and then have 200 pages of mechanics with only a paragraph on how you want the players to play the game.

I'm going to cut my reply here and address the remainder of your questions in a follow up post.  Feel free to comment on this in the mean time if you wish.  (You did raise some fine questions that warrant responding to, but like your earlier questions some underlying points need to be considered before a response is possible.  FREX the GM, by capitalizing on the events had shifted the stakes from geo-political to filial which has a much higher emotional punch.  He was actively capitalized on the unfolding events of the scenario to get to the point you called the “basic situation.”  Was it written in the dice that my brother would be caught by the town and in fear for his life? No.  The player rolled poorly but that did not mean he was rolling specifically to avoid capture. The player rolled poorly and the GM interpreted that as the player's character getting caught (and that the town was roused, out numbering us badly, wanting blood, etc.) That was the GM taking the events and working them into a higher emotional moment.  The potential for something bad to happen if die rolls went south was latent in the situation, but in what form that crystallized into was the GM's creative choice.  So you seen that even before the GM “strung me along” he was already adding to the situation making it more intense.  He was already adding his “flourishes”, as it were.  It's not as if the GM suddenly starting mucking with the scenario to make it more intense, he was actively working it all night!

Jay
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
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