*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 30, 2014, 09:26:43 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
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)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [Unspeakable] Abashed or anti Czege principle?  (Read 3359 times)
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland


WWW
« on: November 16, 2010, 04:18:22 PM »

Hello all

I've been toiling away at a game based on my group's chaotic play of Call of Cthulhu of years past. After two years of development in French, I feel like I should come here, the place that gave me the impetus and so many of the ideas to design the game, to discuss some fine points.


Basic idea of the game

So the GM (guardian of the mystery) comes up with a mysterious situation. He plays the "antagonists" (cultists) trying to free the "source" (Yog-Sothoth) to get really powerful. He doesn't know what it really is, just that the antagonists think they know what it is. He tells the players what roles are acceptable for their protagonists given the setting and situation. Characters are defined by a description that has no mechanical effect, plus a bond (something that keeps them anchored to their definition of reality).
Play is divided into three phases plus an epilogue. The GM reveals stuff about the situation (in the first phase: metaphorical colour stuff based on the aesthetic guidelines he chose, in the second phase: stuff that betray the antagonists' plan), which don't directly affect the protagonists. Each time he does that, he throws some dice into a bowl. The players can then pick up the dice and give a Monologue. Depending on the type of the die, the Monologue changes: premonition (a.k.a. dream/nightmare), hallucination, occult knowledge and paranormal effect. This lets them introduce some suppositions about the source and gather dice which are good for winning conflicts.
Each time a player takes a die or looses a conflict, his protagonist's name lands on a list. When the GM crosses out a name, he does something bad to them. Actually, that's the only way the GM can inflict harm upon the protagonists. Plus, the more names have already been crossed out, the worse the effect (or vice-versa: the effect cannot be arbitrarily violent). The GM can use the ideas in the Monologues to flesh out and "confirm" the source (which raises the difficulty level for conflicts).
At the end, everybody dies or looses their mind, or maybe the cultists are defeated just in time. The end.


So, some examples

So technically speaking, the Monologues is a bit of provisional director stance for the player. Provisional, since we don't really know yet how "real" the described events are, it depends on what the other players latch on (if everybody starts riffing off your idea and expanding on it, then it takes on a certain reality for the characters) and if the GM takes it up to define the source as it goes along or uses some idea to assault a protagonist. Its uses are as a way to add Colour into the game and enforce a certain genre trope.

One of my favourite examples (from memory, can't find my notes any more) was from a session a while back, set near my home-town in a facility that did research on the genetic code of goat species. My brother played a Palestinian biologist, his bond was a grenade sent his way and that had miraculously not exploded: it was a symbol of his faith (hint: some of you might have heard that the Swiss citizens have some radical opinions about islam). The players crazed out because of all the goats growing supernumerary eyes and horns over the course of play, and stumbling upon the secret lab were human-goat hybrids were experimented upon. It's near the end, my brother needs some dice to do something about the situation. He goes for an hallucination, where his copy of the Qur'an starts twisting and animating (his faith is vacillating).
Later, I inflict some visions on him (thanks to the list): he sees Helvetia running in the flaming building, alongside the patriotic Swiss janitor (another PC). The Palestinian manages to save them both, but goes back into the building for his Qur'an. My brother decides to sacrifice his character to achieve a last success (that's a mechanical feature): he blasts out the mad scientist, but his holy grenade drops down the stairs. He jumps after it... and that's when it goes bang!
Before that, the third PC, a catholic security guard described in a monologue how one of the Archangel descends upon the facility with his righteous flames. If I recall correctly, that was a hallucination to justify the guard actually putting fire to the building himself.
A last detail: the janitor has a dream of his Swiss flag being eaten by a goat (emblem of our xenophobic party), and actually leaves Switzerland in the epilogue, disgusted by what respectful Swiss citizens had done in the facility, and thankful to the Muslim who had saved his life. Great stuff about religion and politics all around.


My last session was with Eero, his brother Markku and their friend Sami, while we where at Spiel Essen. The setting was a small bit of countryside enclosed by a huge and sky-high wall (acting as a non-human antagonist). During play, the up-to-now permanent clouds clear and the inhabitants see the sky for the first time. Signs of decay arise in the world, while the wall starts rising higher and higher. Eero played a priest who absolutely refused to indulge in any supernatural stuff. He got beat upon all along, being held responsible for the death of the people and the plague that decimated their cattle. Markku played a pagan mushroom collector who walked the forests with his dog (mechanically his bond). Near the end of play, Markku seized a d8 (occult knowledge) and described how two crows landed in front of him and revealed to him that the wall was actually an oesophagus of an ancient god who was about to digest this world. This led Markku to sacrifice his dog (another feature of the system) in the end-game phase in a ritual manner in the heart of the forest, which stopped the wall from rising (perhaps the god was satisfied with this sign of devotion?)
Sami played a guy that climbed the wall for most of the duration of play. On his way up, he takes a d20 which he plays like a déjà-vu: he has already climbed this wall before. A bit later he takes a d8 to describe engravings in the wall: names and dates of older climbers. Finally, I had declared a cascade coming down the wall (maybe this was an oesophagus after all) and tried to drown or throw off the climber thanks to my list, but failed. Sami reacts by taking an additional d8 and discovering that fish are being swept down, and these fish are the same as the ones in the lake and ponds of the world!
The epilogue has Markku's character leaving the world through a hole in the wall after having found a cure for Sami's character's ill daughter, and new animals coming back in to replace all the ones that had died in the mysterious plague. I forgot what happened to Eero's character, but Sami's reaches the top of the wall, writes his name into the stone, and sits down to contemplate the outside world, with a smile on his face.
This was not a horror story. I think it was because I, as the GM, didn't play hard enough, but I might decide that it actually is a feature of the game to sometimes have happy (though weird) endings.


My concerns

I will be needing the input of Eero to fully get this thread going. Here's the deal: Eero thinks that the Monologue rules violate the Czege Principle. That is that the Monologues set up adversity for the characters, which they then resolve themselves. My view is that the monologues introduce colour, which the GM then indeed uses to generate supernatural adversity on the fly, but which is supposed to be relevant to the character.

A possibility that occurred to me is that my design is abashed (see the Provisional Glossary). Indeed, Eero was raving about the way he didn't care if his character died (it's a real possibility for the GM to kill protagonists) as long as he maintained protagonism. I realized that in some way, what I cared about was that the player had some input as to how it could happen, while also adding his own ideas to how the source (aka Shub-Niggurath & Co.) would reveal itself. Maybe I'm actually striving more towards expanding and enforcing the package, than anything which really guarantees protagonism?
I've seen a lot of players flagellate their own characters (usually players who have a great deal of experience in Call of Cthulhu). Although I consider this behaviour to be the roleplaying equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot, the system sure gives you the tools to do it, and it goes a long way in revelling in the joy of character corruption. I hope my first example showcases how this is not actually what I'm interested in, the system is supposed to give tools to the players to help create a meaningful backdrop of supernatural colour while exposing the character to the sadistic GM. This is not self-flagellation, but heroic sacrifice, in my view. But maybe I'm missing the point with these considerations.

I'm not quite sure I represent Eero's opinion well, so let's wait his feedback before tackling this point.


Questions are welcome, I'm sure I'm forgetting to tell some of the basic features of the game. You may also download the rules, or you can order the ashcan from me for 7 Swiss francs (or $7 or €5) and postage in the form of a spiral-bound 32 page A5 paper manual, with cardboard & plastic cover. If you order this, you get your copy with my latest thoughts annotated on post-its and stuck at the relevant places (or something like that). Only 5 copies left, the Germans bought them out at Spiel.

Logged

Regards,
Christoph
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2010, 07:25:22 PM »

Hiya,

Some technical points about the terms, for whatever that's worth ...

1. "Abashed" refers to a Creative Agenda; it was coined relative to Narrativism but I suppose it could be applied to any of them. So, what I'm not seeing from your post is, Abashed what? I can't imagine its Narratism; the kind of design and play you're talking about isn't anywhere near Narrativist even if you swung a dead cat really, really far to try to hit it.

2. The Czege Principle is subtler than it looks, much like Paul himself. One has to look across all of play to see whether the adversity we're talking about is is the main adversity of play, i.e., the thing which really defines the character in action, or at the social level, a payoff moment for playing the character. If not, then recursive means for producing it may not be a problem. The question in this case is whether the monologue actually defines the adversity or whether it's providing raw material for what someone or other may pick up and work into some form of adversity. If I'm not mistaken, in the Finnish game, people treated it more like solid "this is what's happening" play rather than as a semi-rational, perhaps never-used, perhaps used-unexpectedly-differently kind of brainstorming.

I am amazed that you managed to combine radical Islam (somewhat conflated with Palestine) with Monty Python's holy hand grenade. I don't even know where to begin, so will move on.

Hi Markku, Eero, and Sami!

Best, Ron
Logged
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2010, 12:49:58 PM »

This was an enjoyable session, and the game itself is almost done. In fact, thinking about it, my main advice at this point is to not sell specific fictional content short when you go into final production: write up those ready-to-play scenarios, develop a specific format for people to post new scenarios in the net (perhaps make a fillable pdf-sheet for the purpose, even), get some nice art and fluff writing for the game and in general coat it with flavour; MLwM has a great balance in this regard between specific color and dry rules, and your game is in many ways similar to that. Heck, you might even give it a specific mythos if you feel so inclined; it's always easy to backhack a game into its more universal form, but to hook people in the first place it's often useful to have a solid starting point in imaginative terms.

That had nothing to do with the thread, I just wrote it down while I remembered it. The current ashcan is just like an ashcan should be (introspective commentary included), but hopefully the end-product will be one of those unfairly gorgeous rpg books we've come to expect of the Francophone world. Itty-bitty small, but atmospheric.

One thing that strikes me here is that when we played I personally was very invested as audience on the actual mystery - what was going on, how did this universe work and so on. I think that this was part of why I felt that it was wrong to use the monologue rules - basically I either narrate something that doesn't fly with the group and that others won't build on, or I narrate something that resolves the central issue of the scenario, thus voiding my enjoyment of seeing the mystery unfold. I was also very interested in your contributions as the GM, Christoph - whenever you revealed another "symptom" I was interested in seeing both your poetic skills (I liked the creepy details) and the presumable shape of the mystery itself.

The above is, of course, wrong-headed now that I've read the game text; you did not have a mystery, and you specifically were not ready to narrow down the real meaning of what happened in the story. This is perhaps something that I was not fully satisfied by in the game: whether the rules or the group, I felt it incongruous that details were established but not worked upon; the resulting story was impressionistic, with fighting meanings and no unifying vision of what is going on. I suspect that this is partly because the genre trappings were unusual in this particular session: I expect that were I to play with Lovecraftian trappings, I would also accept more incongruity in what gets established as definitive and what's just ravings of madmen, and the specific actions of the player characters would be more concrete and less wishy-washy as well. Now much of play was basically highly skilled formalistic-rpg gurus utilizing a rules-system to narrate a story that accorded with the formal limitations of the system without necessarily making any sense as a story. Nothing unusual for phantasmagoric fantasy (magical realism and such) stories, of course.

Incidentally, what happened to my character was that he became a hermit to replace the hermit. He took the church bell with him, too, to remind him of the incomprehensibility of the world. (The church bell was important to him because the valley did not have smelting capabilities, and therefore no way of actually producing a bell like that; for him it was direct proof of the fact that their world was a prison, a smaller shard of a larger reality.)

But anyway, Czege Principle - Ron's right about the requirements for violation, which is why I was rather tentative about whether it was an issue here. It is perhaps sufficient to note that to me it felt like narrating a delusional break for my own character felt like building adversity. Note that this is separate from the revealed contents of the hallucination; the mere fact that suddenly my character is suffering of hallucinations seemed to me like such a massive violation of his person, revelation of adversity and complication in the plot that it seemed like something the character would have to deal with. This is again an issue of trappings, no doubt - had it been established that the character is mentally unstable, or had the milieu been 1920s New England or Victorian London or other such, or if the story had involved some antagonist or whatever to put things into perspective, I probably wouldn't have reacted like this. But as it was, mental health was extremely important for a community leader acting in a crisis situation, and I was definitely not going to start my own character into a series of weird hallucinations without first trying to resolve the practical problems.

The above is a slight issue for your game, perhaps, thinking about it in hindsight: your intent is clearly not to make the specific venue of Monologue revelation a big deal in the game, but certain milieus and genre trappings might encourage such, anyway. For example, it's probably not the intent that a player first describes his character's hallucination and then describes how his character tries to reserve a psychiatric appointment for himself to work out why he's delusional. Or have the character do some black magic and then come in with the inquisition to apprehend him. The specific venue that the monologues take does not have this sort of loaded content in the default genre of Lovecraftian mystery tale, but an arbitrary setting might bumb into these sorts of expectations and additional loaded meaning for what the monologues are in the fictional world. Get me?

Setting that aside (I suspect that this is a relatively minor issue for the game as a whole), I think that the matter I touched upon above, the issue of how mystery gets constructed and revealed, is the more interesting part of the game. Hopefully you'll get some external playtesting out of the ashcan thing so you can map the reactions people have on this way of distributing the responsibilities. I personally find the conceit of dividing the inner meaning and external signs of the mystery as responsibilities of different players interesting, and it's clearly the core of the game system here; however, I'm not certain whether the monologues are an entirely effective tool at getting into the meaning of the mystery instead of just getting players to puke out more of the same sort of associative poetics that the GM already shovels into the scenario. What I'm fearing is that the resulting revelation at the end of the story does not in fact cogently build upon the material so far established, but rather comes out as forced creativity from a player put to the spot, wholly depending on his personal skills in accounting for what has gone before. You probably know much better than I do: does the game consistently cause the group to grasp on the Monologue-content and build upon it to provide a horrifying revelation of what everything the GM is giving out actually means? Or is the Monologue content in fact just more of vague poetics, often repeating the GM's cues, and thus the final revelation might be built out of whole cloth or not be a revelation at all?

Something to think about, the way I understand the game. I certainly feel the need to play some sessions of the game myself as well to examine what it does more carefully in a bog-standard Lovecraftian setting - perhaps I'll have an opportunity before the year rolls out.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2010, 01:28:37 PM »

Hello there

Thanks for the input!

Ron, what is it that amazes you? I need to correct a few points. The Muslim was not radical about his beliefs (he was a biologist working in genetics after all). The "holy grenade" slipped in unfortunately in my report, there were no Monty Python jokes during play. The really cool thing about this session was that it was around the time we had to vote on the minaret law. My brother feels uneasy about some aspects of Islam and integration politics and we often got into arguments about the topic of Islam in Switzerland. It was great to see him play a nice Muslim, adding breadth, in my opinion, to his political and religious views.
Continuing along that vein: I was the sergeant of the guy who played the janitor when we were serving our mandatory days in the Swiss Army, so seeing him play a somewhat daft patriot was interesting. We served, but we'd have been just as pleased not to do so. We've become more critical of the army since then, I believe. Keeping a "strong" army is a conservative concern in Switzerland, so even though the army in itself was not present in this session, the janitor was the stereotypical conservative (verging on xenophobic, but definitely not full blown racist) voter. What I found interesting was that the player decided to have him leave Switzerland in the epilogue, transformed by his encounter with the Palestinian who saved his life.

Regarding abashedness, now that Eero weighed in, I'm a bit more confident in my design again. See, I decided not to care if this game came up sim or nar, I just followed a clear vision for what play was supposed to be like. As my recounting may point out, there is a lure to cry out "omg, narrativism in this game!" It seems like the characters face moral choices, and that the players are addressing some premise or engaging in social commentary, and I want more play like that. When Eero said there was a potential problem regarding protagonism and the Czege Principle after we wrapped up the session, I was thinking that I had gone too far and abashed my design in some way (either not quite sim, or not quite nar), but seeing what he says about his understanding of the game now and in what context he could better work with the Monologues, everything clicks again. Nevertheless, if you'd care to expand on how my game is out of the reach of ballistic dead cats, I really could learn a lot on a theoretical level.


Eero, thanks for the kind words. I agree with your notion of going with a specific mythos and doing that really well, including a series of sample situations with a definite colour which unites them. As you hint at throughout your reply, the game already has setting elements coded into the rules, and I will expand on that. Our play was really stretching the implied setting which is very Lovecraftian, and the lack of pressure on my part was due to me struggling to apply the system to that weird setting I came up with.
Alas, I'm weary of the Francophone overproduction mentality and I'm aiming for as minimal a design as possible, probably staying B/W, or only one colour (the Italian version of 1001 Nights would be on the shiny spectrum of that idea).

Regarding "impressionism": I'm not sure if you're describing a weakness of my design or actually pointing at what I consider as a feature. What's your thought on Dirty Secrets and the multiple strands of possible motives being explored simultaneously, only to be retro-selected once crime resolution is applied? I consider Dirty Secrets to be very solid in this regard, and hope to tap into a similar suspension of possible "backstories" that suddenly snaps into place for closure (it might still leave some questions open for the players to agonize over all their lives).

Moving on to the Czege Principle. Things are beginning to make sense! I think you nail it pretty hard on the head: it definitely is not the intent that a "player first describes his character's hallucination and then describes how his character tries to reserve a psychiatric appointment for himself to work out why he's delusional". What my situation did not manage to achieve was a context where such concerns are secondary. For example, by playing angry and irrational villagers, I confirmed your priest's role as an anchor of sanity in the village. I should have treated the villagers as a third party (non-adversarial, non-helpful) and used the wall itself to attack your character and what he defended (perhaps by driving the villagers insane, imprisoning them in labyrinthine outgrowths of the wall, and just plainly fucking with your character's rational world view.)  A character is supposed to be so desperate that a hallucination could actually be seen, at least in principle, as a way out, rather than a confirmation of him being screwed.
I've been talking quite a bit about how to play a situation where the antagonist is as abstract as a wall, and I already have some ideas on how to define the antagonist's role in a clearer way (basically, the antagonist needs to provide serious adversity for the protagonists, duh).

I'm also very interested by the problem you point out concerning the closure of all this poetic wanking. The aim of the Monologue is definitely to act, as Ron puts it, "as a semi-rational, perhaps never-used, perhaps used-unexpectedly-differently kind of brainstorming". Even though the source is heavily influenced by the players, it's the GM who plays it in the end. And he'll try to have it devour the characters and dominate the world, big time. But that's not enough to tie together the loose bits.
One of the newest tools in the game, which has seen little testing, is the idea that the difficulty can be increased by the GM if he reincorporates Monologue-material into the "official" revelations regarding the source. The idea is that since he came up with the aesthetic for the mysterious situation, he is the most competent participant to flesh out the source by taking up the players suggestions. Also, since the Monologues have a tendency to reveal the fears or other bad feelings of the protagonists, it's more interesting for the GM to take those ideas and turn them into adversity via the source.
The more advanced types of Monologues are more concrete than the early ones, which allows to explicit some elements. It's still possible to just go south with disconnected narration though.
The ashcan has a crazy rule, the Suggestion: you can give one of your dice to another player, which represents your character implying some information about the other's (which he must flesh out). Players going into a crazy back and forth with this rule could technically derail the whole economy of Monologues, or, if you're somewhat skilled, bring in enough material to actually complete the revelations. However, it is, in effect, only rarely used.
Finally, the epilogues are supposed to be there to round off any angles.
However, all these mechanisms have a tendency to force creativity on a player to some degree (I think that that's what blocks a lot of players from using the Suggestion rules).

In effect, the most common application of Monologues are the artefacts and the banishing ceremonies to repel a source that has manifested itself. When the source does not manifest itself because the protagonists blast away the "cultists" in time, then we're usually just stuck with what the antagonists did and what they thought that the source was supposed to be, which is under the full responsibility of the GM. Players are left to wonder and hypothesize to their last days what the source really was, the only thing being clear is that it's best that the thing was never let loose.

Logged

Regards,
Christoph
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2010, 11:02:12 AM »

Hi Christoph,

Your corrections make it hard or less relevant to answer your question. My amazement was based on some of the extravagant stereotypes which might have been present out of bigotry (bad) or out of satire (good), and I was under the impression that the term "holy grenade" was not ony in play, but perhaps a repeated and ongoing aspect of play. I also want to stress that the term "amazement" is value-neutral in English, so in my post, I was deliberately withholding all implications of approval or disapproval until I learned more.

I'm following the minaret issue in Switzerland quite closely, and your clarifications about you, your brother, and the guy who played the janitor provide me with a much clearer picture of the issues that initially intrigued me. I really enjoy your account of play based on this information, and it seems to me as if the three of you were able to have a meaningful political discussion through play in a way which perhaps might not have been possible, or arrived at the same conclusions, in dialogue. Or at least, that's been my experience with Spione and in playtesting Shahida.

Best, Ron
Logged
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2010, 02:27:05 AM »

Hello

Ron: okay, too bad for the CA analysis then, I'll be sure to come up with a new AP by beginning of 2011 to untangle that point.
It was precisely because "amazement" is value-neutral, that you have a special interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and that you are the author of Spione (I'm not sure if it was in the text itself or in some other discussion where you said that you were fascinated by how people address certain political topics while role-playing versus how they do it in abstract debate) that I wanted to make sure what you meant. In my opinion it was definitely satire rather than bigotry.

Eero: if I had called the "hallucinations" something else, for example "visions", would you have had the same concerns? Did the name of the rule have negative implications for you? I've already changed the name of "nightmares" to "premonitions" (which includes any type of dream) because some people were annoyed by this being too restrictive. I ask because the three other types of Monologues didn't often come up in the discussion, as if "hallucination" drew fire because of the subtext this names caries.

Logged

Regards,
Christoph
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2010, 12:31:30 PM »

Yes, Christoph: I think that the in-fiction meaning of the Monologue as a phenomenon (as opposed to its contents) is something to consider. I wouldn't go so far as to say that you should remove all in-fiction meaning (rarely a good idea), but I do think that there is a Czege-like danger here: if a player perceives the mere fact of his character having a Monologue to be much more impactful for the game and the character's interests than any actual Monologue content would be, then the cart might well be before the horse. It would be like playing D&D in a world where revealing that your character is a wizard immediately and irrevocably derails all other concerns as the character becomes branded an outlaw heretic who spends the rest of the campaign hiding in the woods from the inquisition; the mechanical motivation for using a rules feature is overshadowed by the thematic content.

Unfortunately I don't off-hand have any flavourful suggestion for what the Monologue could "be" in the fiction aside from some sort of visions or hallucinations. I don't know, perhaps that is a fine thing for the player to introduce for his own character and my reaction was just an outlier. It's pretty obvious that if I'm forewarned about the game being such that my character will be hallucinating stuff, and those hallucinations are a good thing, then I obviously will be prepared for it as a player and won't hesitate about that so much.

Comparing the game to Dirty Secrets is interesting; the way I understand the role of mystery in the latter, the reason for why the players feel satisfaction when resolving the mystery is that they have bought into the various in-story facts and clues that have been floated during play; the mystery feels "real" despite being constructed out of whole cloth because the players have bought into the idea that they need to narrate an explanation that fits with the clues, and they feel rewarded when they manage to do so. I get this a lot in Zombie Cinema as well: one of the high points of the game usually comes around 50-80% into the game when somebody makes a connection between the disparate elements the players have been introducing and welds a perfectly reasonable, unexpected story focus out of it all.

Perhaps an useful hypothesis is that Unspeakable might not get this same creative rush to the same degree because the narrative powers are shared in a quirky and uneven manner, and the elements the players introduce are by nature symbolic, vague and easy to ignore. Dirty Secrets gets a more powerful creative tension because the players share more narrative authority, their contributions are more stylistically coordinated and the individual contributions are more difficult to ignore. I suspect that this is not a major issue for the game, but it might explain part of my own reaction to the game's shared mystery-building element.

It's pretty clear that I'll need to play the game some more. I'll take it with me this weekend to our gaming retreat, we'll see if there's an opportunity to get some more experiences with it.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2010, 03:58:21 PM »

Cool, good things to think about, Eero! I hope you get to play the game and wish you a good session.


PSA: so as to minimize possible confusion with the InSpectre line (I'm of course thinking of the supplement UnSpeakable), especially now that there's going to be a movie, I'll rename the game into Unnam[e]able (the dictionary I used while translating didn't have this term! else I would have used that) or just keep the French title, Innommable (pronounced /inn?mabl/). Just so that you know for future threads.
Logged

Regards,
Christoph
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2010, 12:11:31 PM »

Hi Christoph,

My apologies for forgetting about the Creative Agenda question.

As a preamble, I want to clarify one point for anyone reading this: confounding the Czege Principle with Narrativism. There is no connection. The Czege Principle concerns play in general, regardless of Creative Agenda. So resolving the CP issue regarding your design, or recognizing that no such issue is intrinsically present, has nothing to do whatsoever with the specific CA issue.

Now for the CA thing.

Me:
Quote
I can't imagine its Narratism; the kind of design and play you're talking about isn't anywhere near Narrativist even if you swung a dead cat really, really far to try to hit it.

You:
Quote
... See, I decided not to care if this game came up sim or nar, I just followed a clear vision for what play was supposed to be like. As my recounting may point out, there is a lure to cry out "omg, narrativism in this game!" It seems like the characters face moral choices, and that the players are addressing some premise or engaging in social commentary, and I want more play like that. ... Nevertheless, if you'd care to expand on how my game is out of the reach of ballistic dead cats, I really could learn a lot on a theoretical level.

One reason I haven't followed up, besides forgetting, is that my observation or response about CA was based only on your first post, and about both games which at the time were not as distinct in procedure as they were clarified to be later in the thread. I submit that the first post's description of the game (i.e. combining the two instances), without your clarifying later post, looks like spontaneous wacky comedy with possibly-superficial stereotypes, along with Cthulhoid material for gamer spice, with no particular thematic tension beyond what one might find in, say, a medium-level-funny episode of Futurama.* There are lots of RPGs which do this well, Paranoia probably chief among them but also kill puppies for satan, and for play of this sort, it doesn't matter how much Director Stance, multiple narrators, and whatever other Pool-like or InSpectres-like Technique is thrown in, a Premise is not genuinely produced and processed in the cauldron of play - it's merely an enjoyable mix of irreverent components.

But your clarification changes that and my dead-cat statement doesn't apply.

Best, Ron

* Settle down, fellow geeks, this sentence isn't dissing the show.


Logged
Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2010, 08:10:29 AM »

Hello Ron

No sweat, I had actually thought that my recent answers had also rendered the CA question harder and less relevant, so I was okay to wait for a new AP.

I agree that respecting the Czege Principle does not lead to Narrativism (or any other such connections).

Your explanation grabs my attention hard. I suspect that a lot of play, especially when not mastered by myself (as read in reports and experienced once), but also when I fail to do something, actually fits your description of wacky comedy without any premise being addressed. A recent trend I've been observing is that some testers tend to change the relationship between the antagonists and the source, up to confounding them in one sole entity from the start on. This seems to lead to more wacky stories, but I'll have to watch this point closely.

Something that I consider as a feature of the game is that the antagonists actually are humans, with human ambitions but trying to achieve them with inhuman means, by exploiting a discovery that radically throws conventional world-views on the head, questioning classical values, etc. In quite a few sessions, the antagonists have actually played the role of fore-shadowing the moral corruption that could befall the protagonists, and indeed, the rule allowing a protagonist to defect to the antagonist side has been used a number of times. I even heard of a game where a former protagonist rose to supplant the original antagonists as a much darker figure of inhumanity.

There's also an aspect of situation creation which I haven't clearly understood. I usually base them upon personal fears (or at least anxieties), which I often try to link with recent scientific research. In the game with the Palestinian biologist, the characters also brought something into the situation: hanging political and religious questions.

Somewhere between the GM's personal fears, the questions the characters bring in via their bonds and the way the antagonists are supposed to be defined, I sense a real possibility of addressing premise, via satire or otherwise. However, in the current form, this can easily be lost and play then moves into wacky funny stuff.

The game we played with Eero, Markku and Sami, is somewhere off the radar in regards to this discussion. The antagonist was not a human being and no horror was involved. They did bring in human questions with their character's bonds and motivations though.


I must confess to being slightly annoyed when play stays at exploration of wackyness and irreverence, so I'll try to do something about that in future developments.
Logged

Regards,
Christoph
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!