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Author Topic: [Innommable] how to make theme exploration prevalent ?  (Read 1370 times)
Frédéric (Demiurge)
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« on: February 08, 2011, 02:46:34 PM »

Hi everyone,

Let me introduce myself, my name is Frédéric, I work on a few french independent games influenced by your incredible creations and theories.
I participate at the forum Silentdrift, a French forum for independent RPGs, administered by Christoph Boeckle.

So, I'm glad to share with you my first topic:
As a GM and occasional player of Christoph's game: Innommable (see another topic about this game here), I would like to point out a few things about the experience it provides.
The game intends to have normal people encounter inhuman beings, leading to "metaphysical horror".
The players drive the play in a background proposed by the GM and the monologues are a direct showcase on the potential insanity of their character.
They encounter weird and freaky situations that often threaten their conception of reality.

Let me give you an example:

Travelers are stranded on a motorway, a sociologist and a philosopher NPC introduce people to cannibalism in secret. Clues are quickly given to players who can struggle against those (some NPC) who are responsible for the incoming disaster.
We were at two thirds of the session when the scene I describe now happened: after the discovery of a corpse in the woods nearby, two children NPC manage to isolate two PCs.

One of the two children showed a PC the wound on his leg. Then he offered her to taste him, attempting to bewitch her with his powers acquired through cannibalism. By losing the conflict, she ended up tasting his blood. Then, on a second failure, she tasted a piece of his flesh.

Note:
The effect of disorder on the reality seems really optimal in Innommable:

The other children showed the other PC the head of his dog in a toilet bowl (this dog is the most important thing for this person). The PC was furious and tried to assault the child who projected him against the wall with supernatural powers. They talked, then the kid said: “actually I lied, your dog is not dead”. He opened the door and there the dog came in... The player had really believed in the death of his dog, but making it come back at this moment was a pretty good way for me to pose a chilling dilemma:
Once the player lost the conflict against the child, he began to understand that his chances of winning were low. He had however the possibility of sacrificing his character or his character's dog (because he decided it was the most important thing for his character) for a certain victory. The PC is under threat from the powers of the child, who offered two choices: eat the dog, or taste his young flesh.


How cruel am I? But it is the system that encourages me. And the players are well aware of the threats they can stir up by increasing their chances of winning conflicts.

Then, when the players discover that eating human flesh gives incredible powers and ability to survive all this madness, they face a conundrum.


After four or five sessions, I've noticed that this kind of exploration may be the core of this game, but if I don't push it, we can miss it.
So, I would like to discuss about possible ways to facilitate such scenes.
You can see the rules there (the game was called Unspeakable, but Christoph told me he'll change it to Innommable).
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My French indie games : Prosopopée, Démiurges, Psychodrame, Gloria et Bienvenue à Pouflard.
Limbic Systems
Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2011, 04:39:48 PM »

Hello Frédéric,
Quote
By losing the conflict, she ended up tasting his blood. Then, on a second failure, she tasted a piece of his flesh.
This doesn't sound like narrativism (which forge jargon couples with the term 'theme')? I mean, a dice roll is determining their action - and not some side action like whether they tip a waiter or something, but a mechanic is determining character choice on the main theme? That's not nar? Or is it not meant to be?

On the latter dog event - I think there was a movie called Sophies choice. But when I was told it's premise it struck me as bogus, since some nazi was forcing her to choose which of her children lived. I actually would have named that 'Nazi's choice', as the choice is so overloaded with the prior choice of the nazi and what that nazi would do with his power, it hardly seems about the Sophie character at all. Then again, I haven't seen the movie. Anyway, here it seems more about that supernatural childs choice of what it does with it's supernatural power, than the PC. To me the NPC child is bellowing while the PC is practically a whisper.
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Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2011, 05:28:59 AM »

Hello guys

Thank you Frédéric for this report!

Callan, your comment points at an important issue, but I think I should re-frame it some. If there is any premise being addressed in a Narrativist sense, then it is not "do you eat this child's flesh right now or do you not", but rather "given that abandoning oneself to cannibalism represents a way out of this madness, should one embrace it?"
This leaves room to being forced to eat flesh, yet doesn't answer the question of how the character accepts it, over the course of the session. In one game I played in, an eye doctor was doing weird eye operations on people that allowed one to see, superimposed on normal vision, the endless dimensions that lay beyond (whatever that was supposed to mean). An artist PC was forced to have it done to her after failing some conflicts. What I was wondering, as the GM, was what the character would do about it? Gauge out her eyes perhaps, for the sake of her "standard understanding of the universe"? In fact, no, the character thought it was quite all right to have such eyes, but proceeded to help in the defenestration of said eye doctor anyway.

"Given that [bizarre/immoral/devastating evidence] yields [interesting, yet profoundly disturbing, outcome], what should one do about it?" I think this is where Frédéric is going with his question too. How do you put characters in such positions, in a meaningful way? Since the supernatural evidence is more or less constructed by the players of the protagonists during play, how can we make it so that it poses a meaningful question to them (at least to those who survive that far)?
Somehow, the things the characters hold as essential to make sense of their life or of reality should factor into that. There is a mechanism called the Monologue which allows a player to introduce supernatural events, which in turn will help define the supernatural opposition, this should maybe be tailored to that, otherwise it might contribute Colour (which it definitely should), but nothing else. The GM should then bang the character on the head with good conflicts. What your remark rightly points out, Callan, is that there is always a danger of forcing an outcome on a protagonist which could effectively take the player's ability to address the premise away... and I don't know how to instruct GMs in setting up good conflicts for this game (it's easy for it to drift to a slasher horror story).
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Regards,
Christoph
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2011, 07:31:36 AM »

Hi Christoph and Frédéric,

Here are the foundation threads for discussion of this sort of thing at the Forge:

Violence Future: disgusting! And only myself to blame
Real life partners, in-game depravity
Drawing the line, drawing the veil
More depravity and Violence Future

I developed the ideas further in Sex & Sorcery.

A lot of people get excited by the lines and veils part, but I'd prefer to focus on the way that powerful potential (not pre-set) themes come into focus through extreme situations and depictions.

See also, in order: Two [censored] at once!, [Le Mon Mouri / kill puppies] Dang!, Dang #3 (kill puppies for satan), Dang #3 (Le Mon Mouri). My review may be helpful as well: and kill puppies for satan (I didn't write one for Le Mon Mouri).

Two later threads nailed various important details down: [kpfs] I was Rude to my Customers (graphic) and [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism.

Best, Ron
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Frédéric (Demiurge)
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 01:22:53 PM »

Callan, Christoph has properly summerized the deal.

Ron thank you for the links
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My French indie games : Prosopopée, Démiurges, Psychodrame, Gloria et Bienvenue à Pouflard.
Limbic Systems
Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2011, 09:50:21 AM »

Hello Ron

Thanks a million for this archive-digging! This reading is putting me in the right frame of mind to tackle the issues I have with my design. I've got to digest this somewhat. I tried to find Le Mon Mouri (without the text, it's impossible to follow the technical points), but Memento Mori doesn't have a page for it any more, and googling and Noble Knight Games cannot seem to help me at all. If anybody sees this message and has a solution to my problem, please PM me!
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Regards,
Christoph
Frédéric (Demiurge)
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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2011, 02:47:08 PM »

Hi, I think I've found a way to make those kinds of dilemma come more often.

1. When awful threats come, they should be consequences of previous choices of the player. (Actually, there's a mechanical coincidence, but no fictional relation).

2. Then, there already are elements for good dilemmas : the PC; what is most important to it; temptation to use forbiden knowledge; every little stake driving each conflict.

If we could combine all of these elements with the consideration of the first point, it would be perfect, I'm going to work at it.
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My French indie games : Prosopopée, Démiurges, Psychodrame, Gloria et Bienvenue à Pouflard.
Limbic Systems
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2011, 03:59:12 PM »

Hi Frédéric,

I apologize for the delay in replying with such a simple answer, but I have little to add except "yes."

Well, maybe a little bit more. It is useful to consider whether, at the start of play, adversity primarily originates outside the characters or from their own back-stories. If it's the latter, then the GM has an easier task: to play NPCs close to the characters, and to ask "what do you do?" a lot. If it's the former, then a certain amount of work must occur pre-play in order to understand how the player-characters may already be in a difficult situation.

Which do you think is more appropriate for your game?

Best, Ron
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Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2011, 10:29:15 AM »

Hello Ron

Frédéric and I decided that I'd respond to this. Clearly, Innommable is Setting-first. The GM has some preparations to do, and he gives guidelines for character creation. Character creation is then very light (a name, a quick description, something which is essential to the character) and we hop off into play without knowing really who these gals and guys are and what makes them tick. The GM however has prepared a situation to throw at them (in this regard it is not unlike a town in DitV procedurally speaking.) The Monologues and confrontations with the supernatural are supposed to reveal what these characters really care about.

Discussion with various testers (including Frédéric via this thread) seem to indicate that I should give clearer guidelines for the GM to frame meaningful conflict, and that means creating meaningful supernatural adversity (the cultists are what they are (ambitious and ignorant humans), but the "ancient god" they will summon should somehow exacerbate the fears and question the beliefs of the characters). Reading the threads for Violence Future and Le Mon Mouri showed me that extreme violence and amorality should be used towards a purpose, and I'm in the process of formulating guidelines (if not outright procedures) for GMs to follow.

The threads concerning kill puppies for satan attracted my attention to the resolution process, which is still unclear regarding IIEE, at least in the text. Moreover, the outcomes of resolution are probably too important in case of failure (which can become quite prevalent when the GM plays hard), so that players will rightfully tend to shy away from conflict. The resolution process is also quite whiffy if one doesn't go for rerolls and sacrifices, exacerbating the reluctance of players to go into conflict.

Did you have more in mind regarding the character first or setting first approach to preparation, Ron?
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Regards,
Christoph
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