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Author Topic: [untitled jeepform] Ronnies feedback  (Read 1531 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: January 07, 2011, 08:23:10 PM »

Ben Lehman's untitled jeepform might serve as a case study for what I mean by "baking" in the context of these threads. All the parts are fine in terms of identity, but almost all seem a little off to me in details or function. Jeep, check, but what sort of jeep in more than one way; soldier/war, check, but which war and why; scene types and specifications, check, but they need adjustment and clarification.

Also, there's a qualitative issue which is that it's too classic jeep, almost by the numbers. Looking over its procedures, I think it could be about any topic, could highlight any specific emotion, and with any mix of people relevant to it. This point applies here mainly due to the terms requirement: slotting in "old" and "soldier" when it could just as easily be "young" and "murderer," or "single" and "sick with AIDS," or even well away from anything to do with death, isn't strong enough.

That leads to a bit of a rant at the jeep design scene, which hasn't developed much away from the initial designs. I'm thinking it's time for jeep designs to shake loose from Doubt much in the way that independent RPG design shook loose from Sorcerer.

But OK, back to the game and on to the substantive recommendations. First, I think that this design should identify a real war. That would require a more serious look at what soldiers did in it and invoke real-person positioning regarding it. As I've written about Spione, if you ask people what they think about heavily propagandized issues concerning (in this case) the military, you tend to get a lot of ordinary spin quoted at you. But if you play the right kind of game with that material front and center, the outlooks that emerge are often more critical and more provocative. Jeep is ideal toward this end and I think that it's kind of a cop-out not to nail down one end of the fiction-making in reality.

Now, exactly why I think it works for Black Cadillacs to let the war be chosen by the gaming group, whereas here I think it ought to be textually locked down, isn't clear to me. I think it might be that BC play is mechanically driven or at least highly likely to distort the soldier's memory and account of his experiences, and that all the players are equally invested and involved in that, one way or another. Here, as written, the choice of war is up to a single player, and I don't really see an organic means for others to be invested in honesty or dishonesty about it.

Second, I don't think the scene terminology makes much sense. What're called framing scenes merely seem to be the required opening steps of what're called recollection scenes. Which is to say, all scenes turn into recollection scenes. Whereas this might seem like a quibble, I think that such concerns are crucial to a given jeep design's function and need to be attended to very carefully.

Finally, I'm not seeing the staginess or physical relevance of people being up and moving around. Part of that is due to one character just lying there, but it's more than that. In every jeep I've seen, read, or been in, the characters' movements, or blocking as it turns out, are a big deal. They play a role in expressing what the acting players want to make evident, and they play a role in generating new effects and responses among everyone else. Here, it seems to me not to do much - the acting players might as well be sitting around a table, for all their movements and positions matter to the point of play.

Ben, tell me what you think.

Best, Ron
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2011, 02:40:22 PM »

I think you're mostly right, particularly in light of your earlier comment that 24 hours is probably just too short a time to do justice to [old, soldier] as a concept pair. The game makes sense in my head, but I see a lot of that stuff didn't get to paper, which is pretty common with me and contest entries.

I am reluctant to give up flexibility in terms of "what war?" Just for my own country, when I think about the particulars of the following American wars: WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Central American operations, the Second Iraq war; it opens up whole fields of possibility and cultural exploration, and I really am loath to give any of those up. What I was considering doing, and what I ought to have done, was to introduce very specific soldiers with specific wars and specific families, writing six or so sets, and then leaving the ghosts up to player creation (with war-specific recommendations on the soldier sheet.) But the time boundaries of the contest were really pushing me then (particularly because of some irregularities with the Forge clock, I didn't actually know how much time I had left.)

The scenes are supposed to blend into each other, with each framing bringing one or more recollections, and each recollection bringing up various ghost-baggage, possibly amounting to framing new scenes within the recollection. This is of course directly about the effects of PTSD on soldiers and their families, as well as the simple moral weight of killing (we are fascinated by stories of killers and their baggage but somehow a soldier -- barring exceptional atrocities -- is supposed to be okay with killing other humans because their context is socially sanctified.)

Working in jeepform was interesting. I was consciously trying not to push the boundaries of the form too hard, simply because it seems weird to go "okay, I'm working in this restricted mode" and then immediately start to tweak it. I think in general you are right wrt to jeep -- it needs to grow some -- I'm just not sure if I'm specifically the person to push it. There's a whole pseudo-cultural thing here. But after the initial design impulse, the game is going to evolve in the ways that it needs, of course. I'm wishy-washy on further development, but I imagine by the end of the process it'll look like something pretty far afield.

I think I would want to work up a soldier and family and play the game before making any major surgeries. Busy as I am, this may be one or two years out, unless something falls into my lap.

yrs--
--Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2011, 05:37:51 PM »

Hi Ben,

Quote
What I was considering doing, and what I ought to have done, was to introduce very specific soldiers with specific wars and specific families, writing six or so sets, and then leaving the ghosts up to player creation (with war-specific recommendations on the soldier sheet.)

Believe me, as the guy busting his way through the decades of the Cold War regarding Berlin, I know what you mean.

But my thought is that if you were to provide a set-up for one war, especially one which was particularly resonant for you personally, and then also provided a template or rubric (or whatever the buzzword is for instructions) for others to use, I bet that would be pretty strong.

Belatedly, I don't think I emphasized my appreciation for the entry enough. It is definitely no small thing to invoke these issues and stay with an utterly naturalistic premise.

Best, Ron
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2011, 12:18:39 PM »

Yeah, that could be good. Sadly, looking at my development calendar, it's going to be a bit, realistically.

I'm glad you appreciated the game :D

yrs--
--Ben
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