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Author Topic: [Apocrypha] Blind fate, blind justice, and blind love  (Read 2371 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: August 10, 2011, 08:15:12 AM »

I've been working on this post for about two years.

I encountered Apocrypha at GenCon 2000, at Jonathan Tweet's suggestion. He was supportive about my advocacy of creator ownership and wanted to encourage me to get Sorcerer published as a book, so he directed me to all the independent games there, including Obsidian (the Apophis Consortium) and Apocrypha (Frontier Design Studio). I'm not sure whether I bought it there or at a game store later.

The publication history of the game is profoundly depressing. It's a lot like Storm Press' Sun & Storm, which was published in 1992, exactly the earliest moment when a creator-owned game was under the maximum gun to conform to the FASA model of publishing and design, and was entirely blindsided by it. Apocrypha, on the other hand, was published at the last moment of that era - before Orkworld (2000) showed that creator ownership was marketable and profitable, and before Sorcerer (book form, 2001) showed the same thing from a grassroots origin. Both S&S and Apocrypha were economically doomed for the same reasons and neither deserved it. Via example, they bookend the most evil phase of RPG publishing history.

You can find the scant leavings of the game's internet presence at the RPGGeek (includes text from now-unavailable publisher website) and Pen & Paper Database entry (latter includes credits; this is one of the few pre-2003 female-authored RPGs for those who are following that issue.) Frontiers Design Studio was an independent RPG company with a lot of ideas and a game of their own.

So what's in it? Well, the promo contained a whole lot of babble: "the ultimate high fantasy game of enchantments, ammunition, and salvation" - ahh, the 90s, we barely knew ye ... Anyway, once past that, the heart of the game lies in the eleven highly-detailed races for player-characters. They range across a variety of technological levels, biological phenomena (two, I think, were disembodied) and cultural mores. That should lead to the sensible question, "what's the setting," and there are two answers.

The text explains that there are two major ways to play. The most-emphasized one is set in Allmathe city, in a kind of mash-up world with all the races and a kind of urban souped-up high-tech context. The idea here is to play a wildly-diverse set of characters in a more-or-less Shadowrun-y or other urban-adventure way.

The other way is one-race play, basically ignoring Allmathe and its entire underlying set of assumptions, treating the single race as the only one, in a setting of its own with definite technological and environmental features. This option it received less front-presentation and attention in the book, being brief enough and sufficiently presented as the "other" way to play to be missed unless you really sat down and read the book as a whole. However, it was also detailed, thoughtful, and stated pretty explicitly in terms consistent with my notions of Narrativist Premise: the examination of specific issues by nailing certain fictional factors down. This section of the book provides a useful bibliography and filmography for each race dedicated to that end. This is the way that got me excited.

I'll try to illustrate what I mean with the bird-type people, the Children of Ouliria. They are hollow-boned, fluffy feathered, winged, monkey-faced people, tribal, intensely ritualized, and attractively exuberant. Their main deal is that anatomical sex, i.e., male or female genitals, is a personal and trivial issue, and one's gender identity is utterly socially and psychologically constructed. So whatever it is you have under your feathers (and it's small and not-visually-assertive anyway), if you're authoritative, thoughtful, and judgmental, then socially and psychologically, you're a woman; if you're showy, impulsive, and aggressive, then socially and psychologically, you're a man. This is for all intents and purposes one's entire sexual identity; it's not like one has a "secret sex" or anything like that.

They get together romantically usually boy-girl, but not necessarily, hence yielding ten combinations as we would see it, which they think of as three:

i) As they see it, two men: both might have male genitals, or both might have female genitals, or they might include one set of each.

ii) As they see it, man and woman: both might have male genitals, both might have female genitals, or the man might have male and the woman might have female, or the man might have female and the woman might have male.

iii) As they see it, two women: both might have male genitals, or both might have female genitals, or they might include one set of each.

And what a couple does in private either does or doesn't produce offspring and no one asks any questions about that. Therefore, interestingly, what would be considered a thoroughgoing gay couple sometimes can and do produce offspring. The Ouliria write-up features some atmospheric stuff about their tribal "high-flying" rituals and various other practices, but the gender identity thing is the big deal.

OK, so if we were playing in the whole-city, mash-up sense, then what a character of this race takes as given is suddenly highlighted as a source of contrast, material for dialogue probably based on misunderstandings with other characters, and potential conflict. For start, as stated explicitly in the text, they'd assign gender identity as they saw fit and think that disagreements might be mockery or stupidity. The desired effect is one of inadvertent comedy for the players and eventual accord, tolerance, and insight for the characters. I am totally going directly from the text on this! The "acting instructions" for each race and overall thematic conclusions are explicit in the book. And this interaction and effect would be one of perhaps half a dozen among the player-characters alone, with many more possible with and also among NPCs in terms of adventure scenarios.

Productive as this might sound at first glance, none of it is in fact Premise because unless that effect occurs (with its attendant and fixed theme), play is impossible. You can give your character a name and various individualized details, but you have to play this part "right." All the theme is present and embedded, and what matters is the adventure which permits the theme to be acted out in thespian fashion - very much like Everway, in fact, which I have described in the past as Star Trek: TNG starring the Village People. So in spite of all the emotional drama queening, nothing happens unless a prepped adventure, complete with McGuffin, fixed pacing, and fixed plot structure, is set in place. To my turn of mind, the content-heavy implications of the various different races are trivialized and turned into funny hats.

Whereas if we were playing strictly within Ouliria culture and effectively utterly re-understanding our setting so that the other races simply don't exist (much less the mash-up city), then the issue is flipped, and to my inclinations of play, far more interesting. What's weird to us as players, now must become utterly normal and probably not thrown into moral/social question for the characters, although it might generate situational hassles. And as people we have to think out of our own box in order to discover, consider, and attempt to resolve genuine moral/social issues which would in fact throw characters of this ilk into dramatic conflict. Now that's Premise in spades.

It's a little tricky to explain this further without other people involved and character sheets in front of us, but let's say we're in a community of the bird-people, and our characters are in relationships or not, and if so, in various permutations of the above combinations. But remember, to them, it's just boy-boy, boy-girl, and girl-girl, and there's no psychological discrepancy introduced by genitals. I see three options for working with this.

(i) To cast the sexual identity issue as a conflict, or at least deeply problematic situation. For instance, a couple trying to have a child and knowing that they are not biologically capable. I don't think this is particularly responsible, artistically speaking, because it shies away from the Premise, casting it as "other" and immediately breaking it. But as I see it, that doesn't fly, OK? That's us again. Clearly their own society does have means for facing facts (perhaps utterly privately, perhaps not) and working through solutions, without shattering the paradigm.

(ii) To raise something which would be actually sexually deviant or a source of discomfort for this society, but without being, for them or us, abominable (child abuse e.g.). Or even better, (iii) some situation that didn't involve active sexuality at all but does tap into the social dynamic, i.e., the political side of gender identity. It doesn't even have to be especially problematic from that angle, as long as it's sufficiently adverse and ties into the issue as understood by the characters.

So consider my description of the multi-race mash-up vs. the single-race focus, especially with (ii-iii) in mind. See the difference? The first takes the classic 1980s separation of gender and sex as a given and throws it in the faces of others who see things in a more standard ("unreconstructed") way. The second opens up that same separation to dissection, reflection, insight, and critique.

(more to follow)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2011, 08:15:38 AM »

Now that I've put you through all that, the fact is, we didn't play with the Ouliria. My favorite race in the book is another one, the Lorath. They're blind; visually, think of Vaylen from Babylon 5 but with the bony growth-things on the front of their face as well as the top and sides, extending down to the cheekbones and along the jaw, and no eyes at all. Their skin is thin with angular bones right underneath, so they tend to wear protective robe/kimono type clothes. They're intensely psionic, communicating through telepathy and empathy, with some degree of spatial-sense, but orienting primarily at the personal, immediate range. Their reproductive biology is a bit fascinating: unless both partners want children, mating produces no offspring; children are born in litters (in external pods, not uterine) and mature rapidly; and having once had offspring, a woman is infertile.

I was intrigued by the reproductive biology. Compared to actual humans, it cuts way down on problematic dynamics based on uncertainty, such as paternity, fidelity, and certain realms of parent-child conflict, such that the Lorath have less kin-crisis to be deceptive about anyway. However, the text focuses more on their religion and philosophy, all of which venerate truth to a high degree. In fact, I think it goes a bit overboard, identifying the Lorath's perception of truth as being actually true in a lot of cases. That struck me as both silly and unproductive. As I see it, the Lorath would be outstanding at perceiving the truth as far as people like us are concerned, but not to them. We adjusted this concept a little bit, not so much in content as in perspective, which you can see in a document I'll link to in a minute.

We also adjusted the text content about the extent of the Loraths' actual sense deprivation. In the book, they have a "radar sense" to bring them to parity with sighted characters, effectively neutralizing it as a disadvantage. In all-Lorath play, that seemed unnecessary as well as a bit lame anyway. We wanted the blindness to be real.

Consistent with this idea, we also agreed not to use any sighted descriptions or narrations whatsoever during play. I think role-playing can do things which other artistic media absolutely cannot, at least not socially, and this struck me as a productive example.

I wrote Lorath and Lorath 2 to help us work through the system and character creation, but (a) they have a couple of errors and (b) they're meant to accompany some Lorath-centric sections I'd photocopied from the book as handouts. So I'm not sure if they'll mean much in isolation, although you can get an idea of classic post-GURPS point-building used to construct characters (and which I, for one, mistakenly thought was the only viable way to make characters for a long time). Lorath 3 is a "pure rules" document that I was able to write up after combing the game book very carefully and combining all the stuff that would be relevant to our game, which I think is a pretty good window into the system.


So the group consisted of Tod, Julie, Maura, me, and we played it about four years ago. I posited the idea that a Lorath community had undergone some kind of destructive cataclysm, leading to our community setting receiving a lot of refugees. This is immediately problematic for a Lorath game because precogntion is an essential feature of their religion, implying that some kind of social or mystical breakdown had occurred. We also liked the idea of seeing how Lorath, who ordinarily live rather organized and smoothly-tuned lives, dealt with economic stress (in this case, the refugees' needs) and minor differences in community practice.

I am very fond of the WotC map archive. I had photocopied a twin-mountain fortress illustration from an old game supplement and used a map from this archive to say what was inside it, but cannot manage to find the file with certainty. It may have been this one or something like it, for the interior only, redefining it as above ground-level inside the mountains. I also used this and this for a religious enclave somewhat separated from the main complex, redefining the tunnels as gullies and box canyons.

Character creation turned out a little tricky, in a way which occasionally happens with this group. Julie made a maternal character with a strong socially-defined role in the setting as written, Tod made a coherent bad-ass but socially disconnected character, and Maura made a weird mash-up alienated character with problematic ties. The game was deeply community-centric and I probably should have pushed for more socially-centralized characters at the outset.

Lorath 4 is the relationship map based on Julie's character and its linkup with the other characters. She was the only family-centric character; Lluva and Lothair were both outsiders to the community. The map isn't labeled, which makes it hard to understand. To clarify: Hhmla and Vro are the parents of four children, Marron, Leone, Tilva, and Pasha. Vro, an influential member of the community's high council, has two brothers, Zeth and Azareth. Although still friends with Hhmla, he is now physically close to a high-ranked priestess of Lorath named Irreth, a recent arrival among the refugees; Lothair is her bodyguard. Azareth is a kind of fundamentalist-political sort, and he and another guy named Thoth-Aron have sequestered Lluva, who (given the point-buy choices made by Maura) has some dangerous powers and is regarded as a threat by Irreth.

Our first session mostly let us sink into the characters and their starting positions a little. Easily-observed conflicts, like Hhmla realizing just how much her priesthood's authority was being undermined by Irreth, like Lothair dealing with an assassination attempt toward Irreth, and Lluva getting out of her current confinement, laid out a pretty good set of events for a session of play.

How it felt and played was greatly successful. I received constant help and investment from the others in the momentary narrations and descriptions, which was fantastic because we couldn't possibly do this unless there was a full-group buy-in. The blindness-based narrations worked really well and generated a curious intimacy among us which I liked very much. It was almost as if we were all physically touching, even though we weren't literally doing that. In fictional terms, we really enjoyed the way every scene was framed by social rituals - tea ceremony type activities, or how people moved and acted in large groups such as a marketplace, itself with a physical layout that had nothing to do with looking over the wares. Lothair was in a fight at one point, and it was fascinating how social understanding of why each combatant was fighting, and of how far either was willing to go, was conducted as a psionic combat simultaneously with physical attacks and defenses. Therefore why the fight ended and how that was related (and not related) to physical injury would have been utterly incomprehensible to a sighted observer.

Outside of conflict, however, it was a total bitch to handle "what happens." There isn't anything to work with, not even the kind of social expectations and roles that are embedded so well in Hero Wars/HeroQuest. To play at all requires very aggressive scene framing from me out of, essentially, nothing except what I "want" to happen. Therefore if I don't want to "want" anything to happen (i.e. as a result of a scene), then I'm stuck. And as far as when rolls are definitely called for, it's total, total murk. Erik's musings about Compels in FATE ([DFRPG] Occult Toronto) are right on target for this: the decisions for what happens are basically still being tossed right into the GM's lap, so the Compels don't really accomplish much that wasn't already present in the early-1990s paradigm for that person's role at the table as authority over the fiction.

So it was all going to rely on what NPCs did and said. And for that, I really needed a better framework, like the tribal myth I used in Hero Wars, or anything at all like that. I went back to the religion section in the rulebook, thought of it as doctrinal rhetoric, and then got a bit mystical and thought about different levels or angles upon the concept of truth. For our second session, I managed to arrive at a framework, summarized for my own GM purposes by Lorath 5. Essentially, I realized that in the one-race setting, Lorath the god is in fact God. And instead of some paltry in-game "deity" creature, I really wanted to consider this concept/being as God, particularly in the Muslim sense of flat-out ineffability - you don't psychologize Allah - married to equally flat-out moral authority. Using truth as the touchstone for right and wrong generates certain powerful philosophical and political positions with many nuances and ambiguities in practice. Again, this wasn't for the players, but rather for me to focus my attention on what the NPCs were using as their value systems, as well as for my narrations for very powerful psionic/truth actions. It made a huge difference for my GMing, giving me a very strong basis for the personal, environmental, social, and philosophical conflicts in play, just as I'd done in Hero Wars.

This showed up well in my now-feasible ability to play Vro and Irreth, as well as in a great dialogue scene between the traditionalist, idealistic Hhmla and her hardcore-mystic son Lothair. She tried to reach him through personal love, identifying it with community stability, through compromise if necessary. His position was that he loved her, but frankly, the truth was that fire and cleansing were going to have to solve the problems of the community, and both she and he as well as everyone else were simply going to have to go through it, come what may.

We played for at least six sessions, all of them characterized by that curiously intimate, philosophically-informed but emotionally-strong features I've tried to describe. We did finish out a pretty interesting story. Perhaps influenced by my constant readings about Lebanon, the community underwent a wrenching, violent disconnection that did not reflect merely refugee-vs.-native, but exposed inequities in the original structure. It fragmented into a number of variably-stable turfs. The conflicts eventually became about working constructively with the new order of things, harsh as they were, vs. choosing to seek further and further into the truths that tended to act as new shocks to the current situations.

Ultimately, however, we didn't get too far compared to what we may have expected given the richness of the setting and the intrinsic fun of developing and experiencing the Lorath. For some reason, I felt the energy of play decrease with each session, and then cease pretty much right in the middle of one. What seemed like the climax - Irreth reaching deeply for God, succeeding only in immolating herself - felt more like a punt, and we didn't continue after that.

The system definitely offers things to like about resolution, which is rather clever and generates fun distinctions among characters. But resolution alone is not enough. Nothing matters to system more than reward systems, in which damage or consequence systems are embedded by definition. The game's reward system is wretched, just little snippets of increases to various skills, such that characters cannot actually change beyond how they're initially conceived. Therefore no reason to play except to enjoy the GM spinning out his stories as you thesp it up. The contrast with Hero Wars (now HeroQuest) at this level couldn't be stronger. And related to that, the damage system is extremely weak, best described as "lie down for a little bit." It's clearly not intended actually as a consequence so much as a means of spotlight management via Color. Both of these are the direct cause of putting all the heavy lifting into the GM's lap so he or she can tell "the story,"  which I find exhausting and leads players to think, rightly, that their decisions are only consequential if I want them to be. As written, these features of the system are just right for the "main" way to play but leaves the one-race, preferred-by-me way kind of hanging there. If you want to play that way, then the text's implication is to emulate their listed sources via illusionism, and that's all.

I liked the game's conceptual and technical virtues a lot, and I learned a lot from the way we approached it. I wish it were still around for more people to discuss, tweak, and play it. I'd like to know if any of the authors are still around.

Please cherry-pick anything you'd like to ask about or compare to experiences of your own.

Best, Ron
shoot! I forgot that I'm still PDFing the old handouts. Wait a little bit and I'll manage to get them uploaded to the links.
Lorath #1-3 done, #4-5 coming in about an hour
Done! - RE
« Last Edit: August 10, 2011, 09:29:59 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2011, 11:26:48 AM »

How does the resolution work, and what does it offer which you like?

I also wonder, isn't the reward and to a degree the damage systems part of resolution, in most systems? We can have "dice to clouds" and "dice to dice", so to speak, and "Dice to dice" often does constitute to a large degree of advancement and damage, as the fall-out of "Resolution".

Also, the paragraph about all the characters' relations made me have a flash-back to the history chapter of Artesia and some of the drier history-books. A list of 10 names one after another and how they relate to one another always makes my eyes cross :p
Specifically, the sentence "Although still friends with Hhmla, he is now physically close to a high-ranked priestess of Lorath named Irreth" who is "he", here? Only from the map I can somehow assume it's Marron? Very hard to follow, and a flood of names is always hard, in my experience.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2011, 06:19:44 PM »

Hi Guy,

I appreciate you looking this over.

The "Lorath 3" file I linked to has all the resolution rules. They aren't as simple as some games, but the principles underlying them are more clear than many. At first reading I wondered whether it made sense for the sum of the relevant values be the target number for rolling under, but in practice that turned out to work very well. I think it's worth learning from. I was also pleased to see two developments which paralleled Sorcerer, as the two games are contemporary (very late 1990s) for design: (i) the exact value by which a roll exceeds its target value is the number of "victories," used for degree of success; and (ii) one can make augmenting rolls to generate a degree of success, then chain it into the next roll as a bonus (this is in HeroQuest too). The first may not look all that innovative, but I'm pretty sure that all games prior to these used a converter, as in, "for every 5 by which the target is defeated," rather than being well-designed enough actually to use the number without conversion. And the Traits really mattered - two characters with similar skill sets but very different Traits ended up generating extremely different fictional outcomes and paths of decision-making.

The system's worst weakness lies in its drama-drained initiative system. If any number of emergent properties of the resolution rolls themselves had been utilized for that purpose instead, the system would be near the top of my list as far as the rare meaningful combination of skills, attributes, and traits is concerned.

The way I see reward systems, it's exactly the other way around: resolution is the subset. Whether it's absolutely explicit as in, say, Dogs in the Vineyard, absolutely implict as one finds in many games (i.e. you get points for playing, but nothing to do with what exactly happened, and you spend them as you will), or in between, as in Sorcerer, is one of the most important dials of a given game design.

The "his" in my paragraph referred to Vro, the father of Hhmla's children. I agree that it might take a few minutes of concentration to parse the relationship map, but it's not that hard: a mother, a father, several kids, and a few acquaintances. It's not supposed to mean much without my accompanying paragraph, and in turn, the paragraph is supposed to be read with the map alongside it. Also, my goal in presenting this material isn't to provide a deep explanation of our actual fiction to the reader, but rather to demonstrate what kind of materials I'd developed in order to GM the game, and how I communicated my understanding of things to the players.

Maura reminded me of some things I'd forgotten: her character Lluva was an interrogator, which was a cool concept for a Lorath, as to a human, any Lorath is a nigh-unstoppable psionic interrogator. But among one another, differences in defensive and obfuscatory techniques would make an official interrogator an extremely important social role - and a dangerous one. Her character had been imprisoned at the start of play because Irreth was afraid of her.

Best, Ron
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C Luke Mula
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2011, 04:00:31 PM »

This setting looks incredibly interesting. Looks like the book is still on Amazon, too. Hmm... might be a purchase I need to make.

Anyway, you mentioned that you learned a lot from playing/running this game. I think I picked up a few of the things you're talking about (the interest held by a one-race premise versus the all-race urban game, etc.), but what kinds of things specifically stick out to you as having been learned through this game? (Feel free to edit it down to the most significant two or three things if it's too much to write down.)

- Luke
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2011, 12:15:30 PM »

Hi Luke,

Here are the things that jumped out at me, in no particular order.

1. Despite having an immense set of prep and support techniques, a clear notion of agenda, great enthusiasm about the material, and a group of people who really knew what they were doing and how to do it, the game fell down in terms of pure enjoyment of the fiction, both making it and experiencing it as audience. So something didn't work. I think there's more to reflect on there besides intangibles.

i) The experience reinforced exactly how important Reward is, in the overriding Color + Reward context for play. As I see it, reward is creative, social, and intangible, but it includes the possibility of reward mechanics as part of the game's system. I am not referring to ultimately-empty incentive mechanisms ("refer to your character's motivation and gain a Story Point! Spend a Story Point to get a re-roll!"), but rather to enjoyment mechanisms, or things that are fun to see change on one's character sheet, and fun to use. Apocrypha has no such thing.

ii) The other set of techniques were probably lacking on my part: the failure to have Stakes in the Trollbabe sense, or the card flip either for character Fate or for the scenario in Everway. Both of these are ways to say, "All right, that did it, the overall situation will now go this way because of what just happened." In the two games I just mentioned, those are concrete mechanics. Whereas in our long-running game of Hero Wars a while ago, we did observe and enjoy this effect, but without mechanics. So it's not distinct mechanics I'm looking for, but the technique of discovering when fictional events have provided a tipping-point for larger-scale, situational, even setting-level change. At the moment, I find myself wondering whether it's a matter of having enough genuinely political crisis a-boil in the situation, either due to GM prep or to material inherent in the canonical setting.

2. Non-cinematic techniques can be developed and made central via role-playing. It seems clear to me that movies are considered the gold standard for entertainment media in today's world. A book is "good" if it can be made into a movie, and it is a confirmation of a book being good if someone wants to make a movie from it ("turn it into a movie"). A role-playing experience is "good" if someone describes it as being like a movie. I find this annoying. It seems to me that books, or any other medium, can be good without reference to movies, and can successfully utilize techniques that would either be un-entertaining or even impossible in the cinematic medium.

I found the blindness concept very productive in trying to move into that non-cinematic experiential potential for role-playing.

3. I greatly appreciate how elegantly the authors put together the resolution system, using standard features like attributes, skills, traits, and target numbers. They did it in the face of twenty-plus years of many, many RPGs which used those features in unconsidered and clunky ways, without any social support structure. A lot of innovative game design has occurred since then by throwing all or most of those standard features away, but at least a couple of my own designs and a handful of others' display attempts to retain or find what can be good using the older framework. I think Apocrypha is a solid member of that small company. I'd like to meet the authors one day to talk about that.

Best, Ron
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C Luke Mula
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2011, 08:22:59 AM »

Hey Ron,

Quote
I find myself wondering whether it's a matter of having enough genuinely political crisis a-boil in the situation, either due to GM prep or to material inherent in the canonical setting.

When you say "genuinely political," do you mean it in the sense of it pertaining to human government? Or do you mean it in the sense of larger scale relationships and tensions (like Fronts in Apocalypse World or Factions in Stars Without Number)?

Quote
I found the blindness concept very productive in trying to move into that non-cinematic experiential potential for role-playing.

This reminds me of what I've heard of the Jeepform "Gang Rape" (I haven't seen it or read it myself, so I could be wrong in that comparison). Seems like both are great examples of using each medium for what only that particular medium can do.

- Luke
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2011, 09:56:42 AM »

Hi Luke,

I definitely mean human government, specifically the genuine meaning of the word "politics," i.e., the rigors of making policy. (As opposed to electioneering, which is the debased meaning of "politics" in ordinary American speech.) Whether it's directly commenting or modeled upon some actual current-events situation, or relatively speculative, either way is fine by me.

I have continued to think about our difficulties relating the reward mechanics of Apocrypha to the feedback loop of enjoyment. Perhaps my thinking on the topic has changed since then, because I was in fact able to relate a very similar reward mechanic in DeGenesis to the conflicts inherent in the setting. It seems to me that how one specialized one's skills, over time, was a very big deal (and it's not too different from the improvement mechanic in HeroQuest, regarding character abilities anyway). Yet we didn't do that for Apocrypha. It may have been due to the combination of (i) our not seeing it, although it may have been there to do; and (ii) the lack of productive tension in the one-race setting as textually presented, despite my effort to put some there. I think it's easier because the DeGenesis setting is rife with powerful conflicts, many of which are insightful twistings of real ones.

Regarding that latter, there was a certain distinctly 1990s assumption that I think peeped out from behind the shutters in the Apocrypha text: the idea that the biggest problem facing us was diversity, and that in the one-race application, not much was there to be done besides genre emulation. Because if we were all one "sort," then we'd have no problems, perhaps. I'm familiar with this viewpoint among some of my friends, who like to think of themselves as enlightened, because they are so tolerant, without realizing the bigotry underlying their ideas.

Well, that might be laying too much criticism on the undeserving text of the game, which as I say does present a lot of provocative and interesting ideas. Revisiting my (ii) above, perhaps again, this is more about the failures of my own skill-set, not being able to bring as strong a political and ethical crisis to the potential the setting offered.

Best, Ron
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