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Thematic Play

Started by Simon C, April 08, 2010, 03:23:22 AM

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Quote from: Simon C on April 12, 2010, 01:10:44 AM
How do you choose what system to play?

The one that's associated with the setting, usually, although most of my GMing has been with my own system.  It's a totally unremarkable sim type thing, pure task resolution of the physics engine school.

QuoteHow do you choose what situation to put the characters into once you've chosen system?

Something that I think will present an interesting problem, or highlight an interesting aspect of the setting.  I used to ask players for visual images that wanted to see in play, stuff that resonated with their perception of the genre, and then I would try to structure a plot that would bring them out.

QuoteHow do you choose what characters to play?

Over time, I have exercised more and more control over character selection, because the experience of having to try to construct a bond between the PC's in play is too much like hard work.  So, something that gives the characters an essential unity of explicit interest.  I am happy for them to design freely within those constraints, although I will discuss and prompt stuff if I feel it is appropriate.

I suspect your answer will be something like "We do whatever seems interesting".  I hope it is, because "Interesting" is exactly what I'm talking about. What makes it interesting? The fact of it being interesting to a human being says to me that it speaks to issues of being a human.  Now, it may not be very deep issues, and it doesn't have to be very deeply examined, but I think that a theme is there.  Interest is not sustained on lightsabers alone.

Of course it must be interesting, otherwise we wouldn't do it at all, would we?  That's not the issue - the issues is whether my kind of interesting is the same kind interesting as yours.  And let me ask this - what element of human experience would NOT qualify, in some sense, as an "issue of being human"?  As a term that does not help anyone understand what is going on, to my mind.  Now I think that would you mean by that is some sort of emotional or ethical significance because these keep recurring in your examples.  But I don't think they occur much in mine.  IUf they are neither deep nor deeply examined, are they anything more than trivia, and incidental and essentially insignificant element of something ehose main interest lies elsewhere?

If I set characters to solving a murder, thats not because I think there is much interesting about the murder, or it's motivations, that is of interest.  It is purely so I can structure stuff around creating challenges and exploring the setting.  You say lightsabres can't hold much interest, but I think you'd be surprised.  Also, a setting or situation is never just one single thing that is explored, but a particular nest of them.  I ran a game which crossed the WOD non-mage magicians system, which name I forget, with a plot pirated out of Cthulhu modern, all done explicitly with an eye to Hellblazer, which was our shared reference and the stuff we were interested in exploring.  There were murders, there was body horror, there was supernatural terror, but nothing that really looked like, for example, the premise driven play of Sorcerer.  It was a glorified murder mystery with bells and whistles - the interest was in mood, in description, in Colour essentially.  I can't even remember what the pretext for getting the characters involved with the murder mystery was any more, because it wasn't important: what was important was to run run around doing Hellblazer type things.

As I have already suggested, if I spend my time building a model yacht, then presumably I find it interesting, but does that interest speak to a "human concern"?  Surely it is more likely that I am interested in the detail, the technology, the methodology of construction, the satisfaction of achievement.  Why is more assumed to be necessary for RPG?  People have lots of interests and hobbies that do not, to my mind, have any such necessity attached, that have no relation to "human issues".  A friend of mine is a Formula 1 obsessive - what is the human issue at stake in this interest?  Another likes to consider himself a 'biker' and enjoyes the experince of riding bikes - again, why is that not a sufficient motive to explain his interest?  Why, in short, can a cigar not merely be cigar?

"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."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Simon C

Hey contracycle,

I wanted to let you (and other interested observers) know that I appreciate your contributions to this thread. I've stepped back for a while to reformulate my thoughts and to consider your contributions.

I have started another thread on a related topic though, which I welcome feedback in.