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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 55 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: The Framing of Story  (Read 3257 times)

Posts: 27

« on: April 02, 2011, 10:21:58 PM »

I've been developing/playing a rpg for years now. I've been "GMing" most of that time, recently One of the players has taken over that responsibility. Mechanically / Stylishly he's fine however the story plays on rails, Story Then & done & flat.

So what I'm trying to solve is a method to use Story Then as a frame for story now & evolve from story later to become the new frame. All of this exists within a system whose authority rests primarily with the GM & system.

For example, Before actual play the GM would establish/prep the content and create a plot "frame" (this is what will happen if the players do nothing). Then in play The GM would establish situation and then "dump" plot/counter plot authority on the players while constantly updating the situation based upon plot frame & content. Description authority falls upon the responsibility of the system.

The game session should play out as a banter back & forth between players & GM evolving how their characters alter the "framed" plot & content and the results would produce a new frame & altered content for the next session. Unfortunately that's not whatís happening. I think I may need to both better communicate this structure to anyone whom may run the system (or lack thereof) as well as produce mechanics that reinforce the structure & dynamic of play.

Does this make senseand if so is there anyone with similar agendas or solutions?
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 17707

« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2011, 01:28:13 AM »

Hi there,

I think you're on the right track, although I think you might be thinking too much in terms of safety nets.

What you've written isn't too different from the how-to scenario prep for several games which work very well given a single starting requirement: Sorcerer especially using The Sorcerer's Soul, Dust Devils, My Life with Master, Legends of Alyria, Trollbabe, Dogs in the Vineyard, and more recently, Apocalypse World.

So that's two things I need to explain: the single starting requirement and the possible safety-net problem. Fortunately they are related.

1. The starting requirement for any of these games is a full, unambiguous commitment on everyone's part to the Color of play. This is more than wearing funny hats or speaking in funny voices or otherwise "being in character." Color is about all the imagined content: the characters, the setting, the situation of the moment, and even the system itself, i.e., the procedures, and how they represent and produce events. Color means listening and speaking in a way which uses one's own imagination and stimulates the imaginations of others.

Such a commitment is extremely easy in the aggravating sense that it seems effortless and obvious only if everyone does it. For some reason, or perhaps a complex set of reasons, it's not a reliable feature of gaming groups if we think in terms of random sampling. If you don't have it in yours, then there's nothing to be done without literally excluding one or more people from play.

The games I'm talking about are notable for the distinct way in which internal conflicts and game mechanics tie directly into that Color. Given the commitment I'm talking about, the typical response among a whole group is a kind of gonzo version of play-my-character which obviates all GM authority over plot outcomes.

2. Which leads directly to the safety net issue. What you mentioned, "what happens if they do nothing," is not a bad thing to keep in mind, and it's an explicit feature of the preparation procedures in Trollbabe and Dogs in the Vineyard. It's there to give the GM a conceptual foundation for proactive play, whether for NPCs to get moving on what they wanted to do, or for them to respond because what they wanted was altered by the player-characters doing something.

But such a concept shouldn't be there to make sure a story happens "no matter what." One of the key features of Story Now play is that it removes the guarantee inherent in either Story Before or Story After. If the group can't act upon the available components right in front of them, then you don't get a story. It's something you have to do, not something the game will provide as a given feature.

That's why in Sorcerer and Apocalypse World, which are somewhat more uncompromising designs, "they do nothing" is essentially synonymous with "and they don't get what they want and come to terrible grief, probably ignominiously." It isn't punishment for failing to latch into a prepared plot, it's merely the consequence of saying you're going to play a central active character and then not being active, therefore the character ceases to be central, and their fictional situation by definition is so unstable that bad things are inevitable.

Again, I'm not certain that you're running into this particular pitfall, but I offer it as a possible issue to consider.

Important last thing

I've moved your thread into Game Development because it has to go here by the rules - the thread is about a game which is not yet published. But this forum also requires that you provide some kind of external document for others to see. There isn't any other option, because the Actual Play forum is only for discussing published games. I'm not requiring you to do this immediately because I may have blindsided you a bit by moving the thread. But please put it on the stuff-to-do list as this thread continues.

Best, Ron

Posts: 27

« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2011, 07:11:48 PM »

The funny thing about this topic is, this set-up a scenario & see where the players go with it is always how I've played. I consider traditional RPG game play. Whenever I played with GMs on rails, I'd think "Whatís he doing & why am I here?".

When I started playing I was introduced to gaming (AD&D 1E) by someone I knew only briefly but became fascinated by the concept so I picked up the D&D red & blue sets & only thought about playing for a year or so before I met another person interested in RPGs. I started DMing under the assumption that campaigns were like dungeons, the GM sets them up & the players actions determine what changes from what would have otherwise been.

Itís because of this assumption that I never bothered to explain or create a framework of rules entailing it.

Oh I just created a lame site for you to laugh at. Alls it has is a brief intro to the game (an attempt to answer some of the power 21 questions), a character record & a special tactics sheet.


Oh I've played DitVY finally, & will be playing Sorcerer soon (as soon as a friend is ready to run a session).

Posts: 27

« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2011, 08:49:02 PM »


sorry bout that.
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