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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 32 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [black dog] play report  (Read 1736 times)
Nath
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Posts: 17


« on: September 15, 2010, 11:10:59 AM »

Game Summary:

Black Dog is a jeepform scenario for 3-6 players, playing out one character's descent into depression.  The main protagonist character passes between different players in different scenes.  A card-based mechanic is used to control the scene /major event order, with the organiser defining the scenes around that.

Play account, written by the organiser J. Tuomas:
"OK. My run was done in the main room of a big apartment. Six players plus me directing. All of them very good, experienced roleplayers. I was nevertheless really impressed by the way they played, and the outside-the-box thinking many of them used.

Our protagonist was Markus, a dancer/modern dance instructor in his early thirties. Traits ranged from health and teacher-student relationships to identifying with his neighborhood and his need to show others he was straight, despite the sterotype.

The spiral consisted of an ailing leg, a colleague who had to cancel their shared performance, a cocky student he had to recruit to replace the colleague, and so on. The trait-cards worked just fine, I threw in some ideas, but most of the stuff came from the players from both in- and outside the scenes.  Like last time, we used inner monologs (started and ended by clapping hands once) and fast forwards (like "let's move to five minutes later, when you have said something that offended her") to very good effect. All in all, I was very pleased with the run, and so were my players, as that status quote I sent you shows.

Again, at the start the mood was light, as people had fun thinking about potential obstacles. And likewise, the laughter started to die down as things got more serious and the protagonist real enough so that the players started to emphatize him. Very powerful."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2010, 01:23:26 AM »

Hi Nath,

Did the play create a moral of the story, at all? Even if everyone would say a different moral, that's cool - I'm asking if for everyone they saw a moral emerge or there or whatever, to the story?
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
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Posts: 133


« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2010, 11:54:06 AM »

It seemed more appropriate to us to simply play a downward spiral, as explained in the scenario itself. As the GM of the run, I wanted emphasis on the documented phenomenon that depression has very much to do with a personalized perception of unpleasant events. (The thing that makes some people crash and say "why is this happening to ME" and others just fight it through.) So we decided together we'd be playing the protagonist's impressions of the situations, not necessarily the real situations. (A psychologist in the player group also felt this appropriate.)

Therefore, the potential moral of the story got kind of obscured, as we intentionally included the protagonist's (possibly) flawed judgment into the storytelling itself. And I think that was part of the reason why it worked so well this time. "But for the grace of (), there go I.", indeed.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2010, 01:22:50 PM »

That really helps me understand - and at least as far as I see it, constitutes a sufficient "moral" itself. In the larger sense of any take-away insight, rather than a simplistic or one-sided instruction.

I really like the way jeep play holds certain behavioral outcomes constant for a given scenario, but permits such latitude in developing why and how those outcomes occur, that different sessions of the same game will produce vastly different take-away insights.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2010, 03:11:25 PM »

I was watching a talk given by Susan Greenfield the other day, and she noted how if you ask a three year old what 'Out out, brief candle' refers to, they will say if you blow on a candle, it goes out. There is no symbolic or metaphorical dimension to it at all. So just as much, Ron, if you see a meaning layered onto "out, out, brief candle" when the child doesn't, it doesn't somehow make up for that absence in the child and, in just looking at the case of the child, doesn't constitute evidence in terms of that case.

Perhaps a non flattering comparison. But a hundred years ago I would have been considered really unflattering to say humans are a species of ape. These days I'd say it barely raises a ripple. Also I'd be some kind of freaky time traveller, but that's what happens when you take an example too far.

Greenfield describes a child as sort of locked in a sensorium, where it's sense after bombarding sense, with no reflection up them and sorting them out. Sort of on the theme, she said how you can point out a bird to a child who's dropped it's icecream on the ground and the child will become distracted and cease crying. Try pointing out a bird to a depressed adult and it wont have that effect. In terms of high sensory engagement, I would say it's quite possible to engage play along these lines. And before we rush to the, perhaps simplistic and one sided, "no no, it wasn't" conclusion to what I'm saying, as you'd agree it's atleast possible to play that way, how would it look if you did? What would that play look like and involve? Merely as a comparative?

A comparison one could consider, if it seems of use.
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2010, 08:13:06 PM »

Callan, that actually points out an interesting part of Black Dog's systems: What it does is point out the stimulus moments, but there is little obvious reflection. It's heavily implicated between scenes, of course, but the surface is here the thing. (Some other jeepform games, like my own A Bitter Aftertaste, do the opposite - it's basically just inner reflections.) That's why the inner monologs were so important, despite being quite rare. They fostered in the point that what we played were indeed the adult's reactions you describe above, and not just flitting from one stimulus to the next.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2010, 08:37:44 PM »

Hi again, Tuomas,

Looking at the inner monologs, would you say it was just the characters monolog? Were the players reflecting on the overal situation of the character themselves and either coming to a conclusion, or atleast deciding they don't know what to make of it? I'm talking about drawing connections from the game sessions fictional events to real life, even if it's in a 'well, people are depressed in real life, but I still don't know what to make of it' way? Or were the players simply basking in the situation as a range of sensations, without drawing any connection drawn between it and real life?

For myself I would assume players would draw connections from the develped fiction to real life. But I'm begining to wonder if I'm just assuming something which is not always the case. I can, atleast vaguely, imagine it's possible for a goup of players to play out a depressed adults life, and simply absorbing it as a series of stimuli.
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2010, 12:22:45 AM »

Given my players in this run, Callan, I am absolutely sure they worked on a balance where they'd draw both the inner monologs and the behavioral changes from scene to scene from both the story elements and their knowledge of real-life depression. And took the expressions with them when they left. What we discussed after play confirmed my impression of that.

My concern over the scenario reflects this point, actually: WIth a wrong crowd, the play could theoretically become just going-through-the-motions and give a false impression of what depression is like So Black Dog at the very least requires a GM who knows what he/she is doing with it.
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2010, 09:44:57 PM »

[Spoiler warning]

To comment a bit further still: Black Dog is about playing glimpses of a journey towards a fixed end, with a glint of false hope mixed into it. And it works just because of that. One of the mechanics introduces the possibility for a turn to the better again, but under normal circumstances the GM removes it in secret. So it's a directed, direct trip, like many of the recent indie tabletops- The end is inevitable, and it's the journey that counts. Because of this, and the false glimmer of hope, the players reflect a lot on what happens during the journey, and take that with them when they go home afterwards. When that is the way it's played, it all feels very natural and realistic.

The scenario might, in theory, develop into the kind of "bad play" where the GM is just chuckling (after removing the hope-possibility) and soaking up the feelings of misery created by the rest, but that's just it: bad play with a bad game master. And it also of course has the same problem points as any larp-like thingy: if the players are passive, or unwilling to reflect on the themes at all, nothing really happens and nothing is gained.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2010, 03:53:58 PM »

Thanks for posting what we talked about in PM! I'm not sure if anyone else will respond on it, but I think it was good to lodge it all the same! I don't want to push forward right now as I think we already got somewhere in PM discussion on this and I think that was good. We'll see if someone else has something to bring to the discussion. Again, thanks for posting it! :)
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