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Author Topic: [S/Lay w/Me] O'er Plains of Ice the Sky-Ship Sails  (Read 6176 times)
Gregor Hutton
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« on: February 21, 2010, 07:35:29 AM »

So, at WarpCon in Cork, Ireland I got in some gaming as well as enjoying the odd refreshment (ahem) at the Old Bar at University College Cork. Most of my gaming was with cards (Contract Whist), boardgaming (Metro and Guillotine), or a mixture of both (Race for the Galaxy). I did get some role-playing in with my pal Brian in  the Old Bar though, a session of S/Lay w/Me.

There were just the two of us around for a game and Brian was keener to give S/Lay a go than the other two-player stuff I had on me (including Mars Colony and isn't it great that there are a number of 2-player games now that fit easily in your bag?).

So, I was "I" and Brian was "you". I handed the book to Brian and he was enthused by the options and the "to-the-pointness" of the text.

After saying it all. He picked... I am a hunted outlaw, hardened and bitter, but I still hope. His hero is... Tall, rangy, long-of-limb, scarred from a lifetime of hard living.

Where? On Plains of Ice ranged by ski-ships (which we twisted to interpret as Sky ships rather than ships on skis.)

Why? The Hero is hunting for the old gang member who betrayed him to exact revenge.

So, now it was mine to develop. Monster [6] was going to kill him Savagely (oh yes!), In a Group, Slowly and With Deceit. I figured they were a group of Sky Pirates led by a particularly nasty character, who would attempt to feed the Hero to his carnivorous pigs. But Brian was going to find that out in the game. The Lover [2] desired him Wantonly, Forbidden, Manipulative and with Knowledge. She was one of the pirates who would use him to overthrow her leader and have him stay with her. I told Brian about the Lover: 2, so he could draw it in for 2 dice.

I opened play with the Hero in the brig of the Sky Ship, captured and being taken north across the Icy Plains to a castle in the snow. There the Pirates would trade him for gold -- his old gang member would pay well for him they thought. We went back and forth which is one of the things I really like about S/Lay. Brian was finding his feet at first, looking to me to OK what he was saying, or asking for an answer (and I don't know how tough the door is to break either, it's your Go, you tell me!). So after some filling out the situation Brian moved towards his Goal --- he picked the lock with a knife he had hidden on himself.

The Match went back and forth and I did quite well with my rolling. I rolled 6 dice in the end and got 24, Brian rolled a total of 8 dice over his Goes and got 27. Still, victory for Brian and he got his Goal. He also had 3 good pairs of dice. Oh, it's worth noting that we didn't stack the dice. We just lined them up on the table in the pub, value pointed upwards. It was just in case we accidentally knocked them over with our trips to the bar.

In the fiction Brian's Hero fought and battled, chased and hid, had wild embraces with the Lover and was liberally clubbed over the head and stabbed by my Pirates. I even fed him to the pigs only for his Lover to help him out.

In the End Game Brian's Hero exacted revenge on his old accomplice for free, slew the Monster (killed the leader by feeding him to his own pigs and disbanding the Pirates as a result), shot dead the Countess of the Ice Castle (after she had shot the Lover in doing so left the Lover to her Fate in the Icy Wastes... she'll maybe be back as a Monster after his betrayal of their deal!), and he was Healed by some monks in a lonely monastery on the edge of the ice plains (he rode there with a pair of Sky Stallions weighted down with loot, giving them up in tribute to the Monks in return for his health).

Gonzo, thrilling, fiction. I really do like playing through the End Game.

Play-wise, at the start of the Goes Brian was looking to me as a GM, almost, to give him permission for things or answer his questions. Well, it's your Go, man! By the end he was making forward-moving Goes on his own, with me dropping in to play characters and throw suggestions. On my Goes Brian was dropping in less but when I was confronting his Hero I was getting him to react to me "in character" I think the text about good and bad Goes is really helpful.

I also see playing through the game as a learning experience. It won't be perfect first time out and we shouldn't expect it to be, but as long as it's fun it's all good. It was a lot of fun and we know that when we play again we'll be better at it as a pair of players. And I like that it'll be my Hero next and then back to this one of Brian's.

I really recommend this to anyone who wants an easy, tight, two-player game.
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2010, 05:49:05 AM »

Oh, the point I wanted to ask/talk about with other S/Lay w/Me players is the stuff about taking "Goes".

I wrote: "Brian was finding his feet at first, looking to me to OK what he was saying, or asking for an answer (and I don't know how tough the door is to break either, it's your Go, you tell me!)." and "Play-wise, at the start of the Goes Brian was looking to me as a GM, almost, to give him permission for things or answer his questions. Well, it's your Go, man!"

When you've played has that been similar for you?

In an earlier game [S/Lay w/Me] The Tome of Mechanical Wonders I touched on this a bit. I am perfectly happy to have some "in character" chatter between us, lots of gonzo colour, exploration, filling out of the world, story (from both participants) and then some forward-moving event from me to tie up my Go. Joe Prince was like this too, though he wondered what authority he had on my Go and so was less strident about leaping in with characters and ideas on my Go.

So, I've not found myself or any playing partners just saying "I do blah. Then roll a die and say: Your Go now!" But I did find Brian looking for me to feed him answers a bit like a GM does for a lot of games. Whether it was the Cider or my explanation Brian was being more decisive as the game progressed, but I could see it was a step for him to take.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2010, 09:32:48 AM »

While I've not played S/lay, I've seen this sort of thing happen a TON with games that give the player power to make decisions about the fiction. I've even had to stop myself and retcon the thing I just said in answer to one of their questions.

Player: "I rolled three successes in my investigation roll. What do I find?"

Me: "Well, you notice that the dumpster is locked closed and... Wait, they're your successes. What DO you find?"

Player: "Uh, well, I notice the dumpster is locked closed, and..."

Me: ::facepalm::
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2010, 11:24:17 AM »

I like the part about feeding him to the pigs. That fits nicely with the book text about all the horrible things that can happen to characters as long as they don't permanently wound or kill them (yet).

Regarding the input-what issue, I think I see two different things going on. The first is a simple learning curve about the whole notion of forwarding-moving Goes, which in Big Model jargon are all about Director Stance and to some extent Authority, or whatever people want to call it. A bit of play and reminding "It's your Go, you say," solves that pretty quickly. It's especially relevant to the hero's Goal. When Tim Koppang and I play, he's forever forgetting to get his hero to the Goal or vice versa, although he strives toward it all the time. So I usually end up bringing in the Goal on my terms, quite disadvantageously to the hero. This isn't a problem as it reflects Tim's aesthetic standards for what this hero and his adventures are like, but it's true that he genuinely forgets about that aspect of the rules during play, that he even can bring the Goal right into the story and define its details himself.

The second thing is a little trickier and involves the two players jointly coordinating and harmonizing exactly how they want to talk while playing this game. It's not actually hard, but it's tricky to discuss only because it's individualized for any two specific people ("dualized"? - arggh). One issue concerns much should be in a Go, which actually does tend to get resolved nicely as long as both people are enjoying play and making Goes in the first place, although I definitely feel your pain, Lance, especially in other games. That doesn't seem to be what you're talking about here, though. If I'm reading right, you're talking about how much person X should talk and contribute at all, during person Y's Go. Correct me if I'm mis-reading.

The rules are a lot more basic in this case, actually. The owner of a given Go is the sole author in terms of content. However, any and all table-talk is perfectly all right. As long as you both know whose Go it is, and therefore whose speaking voice really is providing the content, then chatter away as you prefer.

Best, Ron
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2010, 05:34:10 PM »

Ron,

No, I'm talking more about a player giving up his or her power to contribute to the fiction in ways outside of their character's action to another person that they see as an "authority". This is especially grating when the player doesn't actually realize this. It's most grating when the person seen as the authority accepts the player's power without even realizing it's not their place. It'd be a different thing if the player knew that it was fully their power to decide what happens, but is interested in seeing what another player might come up with. It's the doing it as a default assumption, or doing it because they feel uncomfortable with deciding what happens outside of their character's agency that bothers me.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2010, 06:25:11 PM »

Due to getting interrupted during the editing, I screwed up the prose in my post. The "you're" in the sentence after the one addressed to you, Lance, actually was supposed to be "Gregor." Everything I wrote in that sentence had nothing to do with your point. So I can see where I've created a huge yip-yap out of what I was saying to whom, without much chance of disentangling it at this point.

Well, fuck it. I'll just re-write it all correctly now: My apologies for spraying the room with fog, effectively.

Quote
I like the part about feeding him to the pigs. That fits nicely with the book text about all the horrible things that can happen to characters as long as they don't permanently wound or kill them (yet).

Regarding the input-what issue, I think I see two different things going on. The first is a simple learning curve about the whole notion of forwarding-moving Goes, which in Big Model jargon are all about Director Stance and to some extent Authority, or whatever people want to call it. A bit of play and reminding "It's your Go, you say," solves that pretty quickly. It's especially relevant to the hero's Goal. When Tim Koppang and I play, he's forever forgetting to get his hero to the Goal or vice versa, although he strives toward it all the time. So I usually end up bringing in the Goal on my terms, quite disadvantageously to the hero. This isn't a problem as it reflects Tim's aesthetic standards for what this hero and his adventures are like, but it's true that he genuinely forgets about that aspect of the rules during play, that he even can bring the Goal right into the story and define its details himself.

The second thing is a little trickier and involves the two players jointly coordinating and harmonizing exactly how they want to talk while playing this game. It's not actually hard, but it's tricky to discuss only because it's individualized for any two specific people ("dualized"? - arggh). One issue concerns much should be in a Go, which actually does tend to get resolved nicely as long as both people are enjoying play and making Goes in the first place, although I definitely feel your pain, Lance, especially in other games.

Gregor, that doesn't seem to be what you're talking about here, though. If I'm reading right, you're talking about how much person X should talk and contribute at all, during person Y's Go. Correct me if I'm mis-reading.

The rules are a lot more basic in this case, actually. The owner of a given Go is the sole author in terms of content. However, any and all table-talk is perfectly all right. As long as you both know whose Go it is, and therefore whose speaking voice really is providing the content, then chatter away as you prefer.

Best, Ron
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2010, 12:35:17 PM »

Hi Ron and Lance, thanks for the comments.

You're right, Ron, for the first point it was easily resolved. In this case of my game with Brian early on I did say "It's your Go. You tell me." and we went from there. Brian rolled with it and got his head around it. The book is pretty good at saying that stuff. Mainly, I think, because it's so short and clear. I can just hand the book to the other player and say "look, you Go, you can do these things, but not those things" and this stuff is on facing pages.

The second part is a very good point about the growing experience of two people working/playing together. Content-wise Brian didn't leap in as hard as I did at first. He was initially tentative. But when faced with my Pirates stabbing him and all the cruel things I throw in, he then went on to describing smashing down doors, pulling a flintlock out of a pirate's belt and shooting them, and so on. I also amended my play to follow his lead too. And I know he left my lover there on the stone floor because I had her bash him over the head at that very place earlier in the story!

The last point about who has the say on a Go is clear too. I think some people will find that hard when they feel "their character" is stamped on by the other player on a Go. To that I say, um, have you read any R.E.H.?

I had a think about Lance's point too. Y'know while S/Lay might be seen as a big leap for those people, but I'm thinking it might actually be the best thing for them. Because in other games they're just a player in a group where you might get herd mentality or whatever, and other social politics going on (who can they look to for the answer or permission?). But in S/Lay it's two people conversing. They can say whatever they like (well, within the limits of what they can and can't say on a Go), it doesn't have to be mind blowing or "clever", just say it. They'll come to their own comfort and enjoyment level over playing the game.

I really like Breaking The Ice, but even in that you have a Player and a Guide. In S/Lay, it's moved beyond that. You have a Player and an interested partner, who will be Going next, and the Match is at hand.

The place I want to get to with S/Lay is that when I am taking Goes (as You or I) I want to be only rolling at the end of a Go when I feel because of the fiction I should move towards the Goal, or the Lover or act as the Monster (as appropriate). At the moment in the games I've played I'm driven to getting my dice on my Goes and so I seek out those things, and have so far not wandered into a colourful go that just didn't go those places. I can't wait to get a two-player relationship so that we're doing that stuff, where now and then, we don't claim the dice.
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contracycle
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2010, 05:56:41 PM »

I had a think about Lance's point too. Y'know while S/Lay might be seen as a big leap for those people, but I'm thinking it might actually be the best thing for them. Because in other games they're just a player in a group where you might get herd mentality or whatever, and other social politics going on (who can they look to for the answer or permission?).

Jesus f'ing wept.  We are developing whole new strains of brain damage here.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2010, 06:07:23 PM »

Hiya,

Gareth, I learned long ago that when you deliver a pithy comment that I don't get, there's usually something I want to understand better behind it, and profit from when I do. I don't understand this one, and I'd like to, so can you turn it into a paragraph for me? I'm not joking or trying to one-up you.

Best, Ron
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2010, 10:37:19 AM »

Hey, I'm interested to hear what the comment is too. I can read it a whole host of ways at the moment and I don't want to second guess it.
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contracycle
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2010, 01:27:06 PM »

In a manner analogous to the way in which orthodox RPG texts butchered story to the point that people who had internalised those texts had trouble grasping it when presented to them, the construction of an idea that players of - and now I can't use the term "traditional games" because that's been hijacked as well - lets say old fashioned GM-led adventure gaming, are relegated to "those people", some sort of strangely deficient Other, who need to be offered therapeutic design for their bizarre condition in the hopes of breaking them out of their "herd mentality".

Seems to me what was described here is probably simple habit.  Fine.  Habit doesn't need therepuetic treatment, all you need to do is demonstrate the alternative and it will catch on or it won't.  If it's not habit, or if it happens "a TON with games that give the player power to make decisions about the fiction", then it might also be preference.  Maybe, just maybe, people aren't seizing the opportunity because the opportunity is in fact not desirable (to them).

Long before there were games that granted this sort of authority over the fiction I encountered players who tried to assume it, and I don't doubt for one second that if you met such a person whose desires had hitherto been frustrated, and offered them the opportunity they had always wished for, they would grab it with both hands.  I doubt they would need to be trained into wanting it.  And it irks me whan failure to jump at the chance is treated as a pathology.
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greyorm
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2010, 03:43:20 PM »

I don't know that your interpretation of Gregor's statement is what he meant, but I don't disagree with your points, Gareth.

Still, there is such a thing as people not doing what they want to do because the rest of the group has said "that's wrong" or "you can't", and it becomes a trained habit/belief, even if prior to it they wanted something else, and can be difficult to break out of because their brain still reacts the same way as it expects those rules to be in play. There are numerous behavioral studies in sociology and psychology that showcase just how overwhelming this effect is -- to the point that you can get people to say, without argument even, that a square is a circle if the rest of their group says it is.

That can't be outright ignored, given the amount of dysfunction in the hobby; ie: "THIS is how gaming works, and playing any other way is WRONG WRONG WRONG!" and how that affects people trying to get into story-gaming or new and different play styles. Which isn't to say this isn't murky territory, given for any specific individual it could be created habit or it could be real personal preference (or it could just be the way a specific game system is set-up to work regardless), and treating the latter like the former is disingenuous and insulting.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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contracycle
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« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2010, 01:41:13 AM »

I don't dispute that at all, but it cuts both ways, right?  I mean, it could also be the case that it is we who have the herd mentality that dismisses and pathologises a style of play out of habit and reinforcement.

I'm totally in agreement that it is valid to confront peopple with ideas that challenge their default assumptions.  I support the challenging of habit by doing rather than arguing; but that of course is premised on the observation that when a function is supported by the rules in front of you you're more likely to take it up than if someone merely explains it to you in the abstract.  Show not tell, practical experimentation - absolutely, positively, that's healthy.

None of this IMO justifies a presumption that this is something that should be imposed "for you own good".  There's a line that's crossed at that point from offering to demanding, a rejection of refusal as being either genuine or legitimate.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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greyorm
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« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2010, 09:21:16 AM »

Oh, definitely. If we were talking about social or criminal law or something, I'd argue there are cases when "for your own good" comes into play, but as this is hobby entertainment we're discussing, I can't see the good or point in it and there's a line there one doesn't want to cross.

But I don't know that I read Gregor as having said that (or meant it that way, if nothing else). I suppose that's up to Gregor to explain the meaning of the "those people" bit, which, at least in my mind, can be read a couple different ways.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2010, 09:41:17 AM »

Hey Gareth

I think you've picked me up wrong because I wasn't clear enough in what I said. Sorry about that. I wasn't using "those people" to tar everyone who plays traditional games at all, and I wasn't writing in a pejorative sense or pathologising players that play GM-led adventure games. And I don't see S/Lay w/Me as a "cure" or a "treatment" to an illness.

So, I don't have any argument with what you've said.

When I wrote that I was actually thinking about someone I know locally, who would find this game a pretty good thing for him to play. I think he'd like it, it would be the best game for him. He normally plays games in which he lies low and follows the crowd, and others pin value on his PC and tell him what they'd like him to do (there's a lot fo social bullying and manipulation going on in their game if you ask me), despite the fact he's very creative and probably does have a lot to say on his own. Anyway, he doesn't get into the whole social posturing going on in the group, and so even when he does get asked for things I guess he's always looking for what he should say, or people to agree with, rather than what he'd like to say if he had the stick.

I played a game of Breaking The Ice with him on a plane once (great fun, by the way), and I think he would like S/Lay w/Me even more than that. I don't see it as a "cure" or a "treatment", at all, he's not ill. I think it's just a game that would allow him to be on an even footing with a loudmouth like me, without having to give me the answer I wanted or get my permission. Does that clarify it?
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