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Author Topic: [Spione] Follow-up and musing about the Forge Midwest game  (Read 9272 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: April 14, 2008, 07:26:54 PM »

Hello,

I will come clean: this is an unabashed promotion thread.

We played a game of Spione (pronounced "shpee-oh-neh," or "-nuh"; the last syllable isn't "ee" or "ay") during Forge Midwest. It arose in a funny way, because Roland had traveled to the event specifically to play it, and so I set up all the stuff for play on Sunday morning. He took a while to arrive that morning and I was stressed, because I had to drive back to Chicago later that day, and I had the kids, and so on. In the meantime, a ton of people sat down with me and wanted to play, so by the time Roland showed up, we had a great big table. I think I said eight people in the conventions thread, but am not sure: it was Clyde (for the first half), Brendan, Tim, Mark, Len, Roland, and me ... am I missing someone? Tim and Len ran the principals.

I'd like to discuss the details of play in the forum at the Spione website, rather than here. Anyone who was involved, please start that one there, or perhaps I'll get around to it later in the week. Here, this thread's topic is based on these follow-up questions. It's like a user survey, only public.

1. What did it feel like to create, to incorporate (for Tim and Len), to encounter, and to act upon the Trespasses? Please don't reveal whether yours were or were not used, and please don't reveal the contents of any that were not used.

2. In the Spione resolution system, one might not get the chance to act (i) before someone else does something that negates your intended narration and (ii) as the starting speaker for a given "bit' at all, depending on the draw and how people moved the cards. As I perceived it, everyone at the table quickly understood the Flashpoint rules and knew the consequences of moving or not moving cards if they were able. What did you think of the chance that you might not speak as planned, or perhaps not at all?

3. What do you think our story "said," if anything, whether about people, or about politics, or about spy stuff?

4. Which character or characters became protagonized in your mind, and if so, did that get expressed during play, and if so, did anyone else pick up on it and enhance that role for that character?

I'll include my own thoughts on these things as we go, but I wanted the user-survey effect first.

Best, Ron
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2008, 04:20:50 PM »

Hey Ron,

1. I can't remember feeling out of sorts because of the trespasses, but I see why thats something to want to check on. Speaking as a paranoid guy interested in security you may want to add two steps to protect peoples identities as I've got a fairly good idea whose trespasses were used. I'd make sure everyone writes on the same paper type, and I'd have the folks playing the spies rewrite the trespass in their own handwriting, and then dispose of the originals with the unused trespasses. That's... you know... if you were interested in paranoid guy security. If played at my apartment there would also be a paper shredding.

2. I loved this. It creates tension and requires you to be on your feet. I deliberately left myself last in the layout hoping to be the person who had to tie things up a bit.

3. I was only there for half the time. So I'm not sure I can answer this.

4. This is an interesting question. During this game I realized from playing all these wacky games that I've learned a different form of immersion. So many of the characters were protagonizied, the standouts were the mailman, Oscar, and Len's character, also the unnamed spy. I was a bit disappointed that no one picked up on the unnamed spy, as I was kind of leaving him out there as an "offer" to see what other folks did with him, so I could respond and build off their additions. So I moved to using what other folks were interested in.
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Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design.
clyde.ws, Clyde's personal blog.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2008, 06:37:29 PM »

Hi Clyde,

I liked the mole too.

One thing I found with that many people playing is that the plot is richer, smoother, and faster than with four people. I now wish I'd set up bigger groups for demonstration purposes in previous promotional events. On the other hand, it's also easier for certain avenues which would be interesting to remain only hints.

In retrospect, it's kind of cool that that particular HVA mole in the BND just didn't ... ever ... get identified by anyone, or exposed, or caught. All our story briefly brushed him, long enough to see a bit of him, and that was it. He's still there.

If you had been able to stay for the second half of the game, that might have turned out differently, but speaking as someone who had actually planned on picking up that thread you started, and got sidetracked by compelling other stuff, I think it actually turned out quite well as the spooky, hey he was never caught, implication.

Best, Ron
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2008, 08:47:53 AM »

Hey Ron,

Totally. I think if I had stayed I would have used him more without ever identifying him. That just seems really cool for spy fiction, where you're like who the heck is this guy. I think when Len pushed his lover off the bridge the focus really shifted to more of investigating the trespasses and less on the spy genre. Is that how the game proceeded, as that was the point I stepped out to interview Mike Holmes?
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Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design.
clyde.ws, Clyde's personal blog.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2008, 11:25:57 AM »

Hi Clyde,

Both elements - the personal/emotional and the operational/agency - ramped up in a remarkably synchronized way. Probably the turning point for me was revealing Hovsep's Trespass, which the player (Tim) tied directly into the operation. The guy had actually screwed over his own spymaster, and we'd already established that his handler was a pretty all right guy - so with Hovsep dead, the handler effectively became a protagonist who was standing up to the spy web he and his buddy had been trapped in. So how the operation went, and how the personal interactions went, affected one another quite thoroughly in Hovsep's case and we were all interested in developing both. I felt quite sympathetic toward the handler and did quite a lot to play the shake-up in the spy web that Hovsep's actions caused.

Whereas with the other principal, whose story was far more focused on his aberrant sex life, the tie-in to operations developed differently, largely through a series of different agencies' interpretations of his spying. So those interpretations also cast different lights on judging him as a person - I mean, he was a prick, killing his pal like that, but was he a traitor? That did get answered, and mostly through opportunities via the cards. I know that I always pushed viciously against Harry, putting him in very ugly situations, because I did not like him at all - but that was only one influence on who he was, as his player ended up heroizing him to a strong extent. The result was a degree of political and personal ambiguity that I am certain I, at least, could not have produced by myself.

Best, Ron

edited to delete double signature - RE
« Last Edit: April 26, 2008, 11:31:42 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
TJ
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Posts: 35


« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2008, 02:47:29 PM »


Thanks Clyde for directing me to this.

> 1. What did it feel like to create, to incorporate (for Tim and Len), to encounter, and to act upon the Trespasses?

It felt completely natural. I don't know how else to describe it. The whole storyline just grew organically.

I was a little concerned that my narrations leading up to and following just after Hovsep's death were a bit too much "James Bond".  Twice I had characters draw guns, and there was a botched stabbing.  I think I could have incorporated the Trespass a lot more subtly, but my familiarity with the espionage genre is limited.


> 2. In the Spione resolution system, one might not get the chance to act (i) before someone else does something that negates your intended narration and (ii) as the starting speaker for a given "bit' at all, depending on the draw and how people moved the cards. As I perceived it, everyone at the table quickly understood the Flashpoint rules and knew the consequences of moving or not moving cards if they were able. What did you think of the chance that you might not speak as planned, or perhaps not at all?

I didn't have any negative reaction, if that's what you mean.  I just saw it as this game's equivalent of a "poor dice roll".  The random element that it added to the collaboration worked out very well.


> 3. What do you think our story "said," if anything, whether about people, or about politics, or about spy stuff?

It said that spies are self-serving opportunists. Perhaps because our spies were in the business of deception, they learned to lie to themselves about their motives.  My principal Hovsep thought that he was rooting out corruption within his organization...which conveniently coincided with removing the obstacle to his possible promotion.


> 4. Which character or characters became protagonized in your mind, and if so, did that get expressed during play, and if so, did anyone else pick up on it and enhance that role for that character?

The unnamed mole.  He brought a dose of creepy menace into the game, and I would expect him to return in the sequel.

Also the bumbling landlord -- the polar opposite of the mole -- was a good contrast to all the other sinister characters.  I was really sympathizing with him by the end of the session.

Hovsep's handler fit somewhere between those two iconic extremes.  He was the real protagonist of Hovsep's story.

On the other side, I'm not sure what to make of Harry's relations.  They all judged him based on the side of Harry that they saw, but no one saw the complete picture.  I'll leave it up to Len to tell us what was going on with him.


And on a silly note, I think I found a theme song for our 80's Berlin spies.  Think of this as sort of a Spione-Rick Roll:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1sf2CzEq0w
Note the use of playing cards in the video. :)

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Malky
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2008, 07:45:23 PM »

Len here, yes I am tardy, so thank Clyde for alerting me about this!


1. What did it feel like to create, to incorporate (for Tim and Len), to encounter, and to act upon the Trespasses? Please don't reveal whether yours were or were not used, and please don't reveal the contents of any that were not used.

Everything flowed well together!  While it did take me a while to come up with one, everything waqs handled well.

2. In the Spione resolution system, one might not get the chance to act (i) before someone else does something that negates your intended narration and (ii) as the starting speaker for a given "bit' at all, depending on the draw and how people moved the cards. As I perceived it, everyone at the table quickly understood the Flashpoint rules and knew the consequences of moving or not moving cards if they were able. What did you think of the chance that you might not speak as planned, or perhaps not at all?

That was kind of rough!  Lucky me got almost what I wanted every time, but some way to ensure that a principle got some naration might be considered.  Did principles have a veto power?

3. What do you think our story "said," if anything, whether about people, or about politics, or about spy stuff?

My "spy" was a monster.  He did some horrible, deplorable things, (not even spy realed!), he got away with them, and in the end, dissapeared.  Yet he was honored as a fallen "hero".  What does that say about the human condition?  Maybe that I liked the irony that this total "monster" had almost everything "go his way".

4. Which character or characters became protagonized in your mind, and if so, did that get expressed during play, and if so, did anyone else pick up on it and enhance that role for that character?

The "mail man" became my primary focus.  Who was he, and while in the end he was working for the "Brit's", was he not really wprking for himself? A theme of irony, once again!

Harry, one of the main spy's, was a Brit working for the KBG.  We found out Harry had a thing for hurrting woman, filming S&M 8MM films, and was , in the end, taken away by the KBG after he had killed a female friend in Berlin and had been caught by West German police making S&M films.  He was actually a double agent for the British, and the last scene showed his young daughter touching his memorial plaque some where in London.

Harry was a complete and total monster, in my eyes.  I had no bones in takeing him that route.  Game play let me add in a lot of elements that led to his ironic conclusion.  Ron kept comenting thru the game how things, (mechanic wise!), kept working out for Harry, untill we finally got to end game, and I made Harries end as vague and ironic as possible.  To me, that in itself was a statement about the whole Cold War, that it was a monsterouse waste of time, money, and humamn talent in so many ways, ands it was, indeed, a very ironic period of time to live in.

I think, in part, that every one else helped pile on Harry, but, as everyone saw that I was also ADDING to that monsterouseness about him, tha I was not trying to find any redemption in him, they started to back off.  Did I go a bit over the top?  Sure.  But, it would not suprise me if something like this could have happened in the era we played in.

I'll check back and answer any other questions that pop up!

And boy, what a game!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2008, 11:45:21 AM »

Hi guys!

In one key variable, Spione is a lot like Primetime Adventures turned inside out. Instead of starting with distinct, identified protagonists whose issues are articulated, and during play, specific "motor" elements are made up and introduced, we start with two characters who will be motors for all manner of conflicts, and then we discover through play which characters are protagonized in that context.

I thought our group picked up on that particularly well: the principals were pivotal from the start, but the process called "character creation" (in the sense of a dedicated protagonist, most explicitly in PTA) in most other games was emergent through play. So it's possible for a principal to become a protagonist, but that's only because he or she is another character in the overall mix, not because of the principal status.

I've often GMed Sorcerer and other games from what I call my "John Sayles view," which is to say, in a certain kind of story, you can find a way for any of the characters to be considered a protagonist, at the very least in that character's mind, and even if he or she has hardly any screen time. I can't say it's the way I regard all stories or all play, but it's very powerful and has a distinct feel when I do it. Spione partakes of that, to a certain extent - until the crux of the matter comes forward, and the political and personal rip one another's guts out. Then the Sayles view kind of disappears, or partly anyway, and I become a real bear for bringing down hammers of judgment. Given the resolution mechanisms, though, the effects of all of us doing this at once are not cacophonous, but blend in a neat way to create ... I don't know what, nuanced explosions or something like that.

Best, Ron

P.S. Len, I agree so strongly with your summary statements about spying and the Cold War. Basically, you're Spione's target market.
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Malky
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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2008, 06:05:52 PM »

Ron, I served in the Navy from 1985-1991 and fought in the first Persian Gulf War.

I've read a number of Cold War era novels, you know, Clancy and such, and had been told by an officer I should get out of the Navy and join the CIA.

So yeah, no suprise, as I am am a Cold War Vet!

Good work on the game, and best of luck, I hope my input has helped!
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