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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 78 - most online ever: 843 (October 22, 2020, 11:18:00 PM)
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Author Topic: [SS], [TSoY] and "safety net"  (Read 27982 times)
Paolo D.
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« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2011, 07:45:17 AM »

Quote
That is a totally fair observation, and I agree: the SS text doesn't go into much detail on many specific nuances of Story Guiding. This is largely because I wanted to keep the scope of the text limited, tutorial-like, instead of allowing parts of it like the Story Guiding chapter to expand into independent treatises on their own. Thus there are many places where I say what should be done, but do not explify on how I accomplish these things in detail. Even the Story Guiding chapter is more of a crash course on the duties involved than anything approaching lucid - it does the job for an experienced GM who merely needs to know which of his toolsets to engage for this particular game, and I think it does a reasonable job as an introduction upon which to build from other sources and practice for those who are unfamiliar with this GMing style, but there are definitely things that are left unsaid for simple lack of space.

Ok, I think we reached a real turning point in this thread.

I strongly dislike the idea that the Story Guide has to (1) already know how to play the traditional GM, and figure out by himself which pieces of his toolbox recycle from previous experiences to be a good Story Guide, or (2) find other sources to build from if he's unfamiliar with the GM tasks.

This implies that the Story Guide, even after reading the SS game text and playing it, has to "already know" how to be a good GM.
It reminds me some parts of the Vampire: The Masquerade core rulebook, where you can find phrases like "Be a good Storyteller, invent a good story. You already know how to do it."

In my experience, this is a blueprint for disaster, for at least two reasons:

1) the GM doesn't, necessarily, already has experience on how to effectively be a good chairman and how to recognize and enforce good interpersonal creative communication in a useful way. It's definitely a skill that is worth to develop and that, generally, one can develop with experience (and then apply to different games - like the ones you mentioned - and to many other social and professional activities). My point is that, in the lack of this experience, something to help him - a method, a procedure etc. - is needed. Then, he will be able to learn from this method/procedure/etc. , during play, and to get better at it.

2) the "traditional GM toolbox" is way too big and too variegated: something in the game text has to tell you which pieces you have to keep and which ones you have to forget and throw away when you play this particular game. This is true mostly because the majority of the GMs had their previous experiences with games that encourage the "mother-may-I" approach to play. Many GMs are accostumed to be like a "rpg god" for their players, and that's the exact opposite of being a good chairman who should encourage communication and creative sharing.
It's not their fault, it's just the way they always played - but if you say to them "you already know how to be a good GM", they'll do it like they always did, most of all in a game like the SS where the SG has strong powers and responsabilities on the social and procedural level, and little limits on the mechanical resources level (he can dispose potentially infinited opposition resources through the NPCs, which is not true for games like PTA, Shock: or Agon where the Producer/Antagonist has a limited budget).

The Solar System game text, as it is now, partially explains "how to be a good GM" for this game, but I think that "partially" is not enough: still, there are some "holes" that the Story Guide has to fill with his previous knowledge.

The "creative sharing chairman" part that you explain in your previous post, is a very good suggestion for many games, including the Solar System, and includes many personal skills definitely worth of development.
But, still, the game text and procedures should help you at it ( = they should help developing and applying it) and they shouldn't just say "do it, you already know how to".

Since here, I wrote all of my current post assuming that you don't won't to make the Solar System having a high entry level, because as it is now I think it's a game accessible safely only to gamers already accustomed to the GM paradigm tipical of games like Sorcerer, Trollbabe and DitV (and to the same player/spectator paradigm too).

Is it really what you want the SS to be like?

Even if your answer is "yes", I think that I'd like to work on some extra game text or procedures, like a "Solar System for dummies", whatsoever (in the spirit of the open license for the SS).

And if really space was an issue for you, I think we could have plenty of room here on the Internet to fill these holes (at start, with a thread, then we'll see).

Ok, that should be all of it for now.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2011, 03:21:03 AM »

I can't disagree with anything you say here Paolo, except insofar as to say that the scope of any given game text is by necessity limited: the SS booklet I wrote was not intended to be the comprehensive last word on how to GM a game in this mold; it is a cheap, compact introductory text that should be followed up on with further research by anybody who's intrigued by the style of gaming it represents: for traditional GMs this might mean experimenting and discussing their viewpoint with me or other inclined gamers, for entirely new GMs it might mean playing a bit under the tutelage of an experienced GM, and of course further texts such as Clinton's original game text, various less formal treatises and potential future writings of interested parties are also commendable options. I realize that you're viewing this whole issue very strongly from a text-centric viewpoint (the text is the game and therefore a flaw in the text is a flaw in the game), but I've myself come to realize that I consider this a lie when it comes to roleplaying games; the text is a set of instructions that has to be implemented by humans who grog the text's intent, and thefore the real issue is pedagogical and not dogmatic: just like you would not use a thorough encyclopedia to teach a basic science curriculum, you wouldn't want a game text to truly strive for painfully thorough treatise on everything pertaining to play if you actually wanted to learn from the text. A science textbook won't be thorough and even entirely correct in what it presents simply because it's more important to be understandable than pedantically correct. I don't consider it a fundamental failing of my SS text that it is not an encyclopedia of everything SS-related, just like it's not the fault of a basic textbook that it covers merely basics of its own topic.

Of course my attitude towards the SS text here means that I am very keen on seeing others take the TSoY/SS material even further: let there be game texts in abundance, written by and for different needs. For example, a Solar System text written by you, Paolo, for the express purpose of clarifying the Story Guiding role, seems like a worthy endeavour to me: it would complement everybody's efforts so far and provide us with an updated text to use in teaching the game and in discussing the wisdom of Story Guiding. You could call it "Solar System 2012 edition" or "Paolo's Solar System" or "Solar System Story Guide's Companion" or some such - all fine approaches to labeling what essentially should be a constructive addition to the range of texts we have available for use in setting up the game. I'd be more than happy to help you get something like that together!

Also, I think the above textbook simile clarifies how my issues in not expounding more on the Story Guide's role and skills in the SS booklet wasn't so much about physical space (although that was a consideration in the sense that I started the writing process with a light-weight and cheap product in mind) as it was about pedagogical space: I wanted a simple and light text that would be easy to approach for a wide range of people with different starting points, and this meant that whatever methodological material I would include alongside the rules would have to be compact and to the point instead of exhaustive and pedantically correct. This observation is in answer to your point about my own ability to write more in-depth material about how the game plays: I could, indeed, write a second text or a series of essays to complement the game text in this regard. Currently I'm not very interested in doing that because GMing guidebooks in my experience tend to be boring sources of knowledge that most people pass on in favour of learning by doing or from tutoring by other GMs. (This has to do with how we perceive information received in general vs. information we seek to resolve a specific problem, no doubt.) You are right in that I could do it, though, even if I currently limit myself to merely answering questions as they occur to people who've read the SS booklet and want to know more: this way I know that the person asking is interested and committed and receptive of discussing the topic, which wouldn't be true of a long general treatise launched into the Internet.
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Paolo D.
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2011, 10:00:12 AM »

I can see your point: I agree that a game text should tell you how to play that given game, but without being a full encyclopedia of "all of it".
However, with my "no safety net in the SS" issue, I'm talking of something that should be part of the minimun instructions required to play the SS safely*, and therefore, that deserves to be part of the core of the SS just like the rules to extend a conflict, to hit a Key or to do any other basic thing.

I'm not talking of a long treating on "how to GM a bang-based game".
I'm talking of a rule, or a small number of rules (and in this definition, a procedure is a rule), meant to enable (or to make easier) the creative communication needed among the players (SG included) to stay on the same page (and meant to do it through the rules, not despite them - and, again, when I say "rules" I include "procedures" -) in the SS.
A given rule, for a given game.
I just made some examples of it a couple of posts up here (the veto in DitV, the Fanmail in PtA, the Challenge in Blood Red Sands, the token bid in Universalis...). Different games with different safety nets (that, in the end, are just rules, and not long essays on "how to GM it").

Giving the SG (or the whole table) effective tools to stay on the same page easily (something usable to do it "in practice"), is something that should definitely be in the basic instructions to play the game. Especially in a game with many high customizable parts, as the Solar System is, even if it's a product with a simple and light text.

However, I think we are reaching a dead end on this topic. Maybe we just have to agree to disagree, and to start delving into one specific part of our long conversation (like the "who decides what" when it comes to things like naming Effects, extablishing ability support chains and so on).


* where "safely" means: with a certain degree of resistance to issues on the social level caused by people not being on the same page. No game is immune to people having issues on the social level, but at least it should be designed to help preventing or resolving them.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2011, 11:03:51 AM »

What you propose sounds like basically worthwhile, you should definitely let us know if a solid rule or procedure for what you propose occurs to you. I genuinely would have included such rules in the SS booklet if they were part of the textual tradition I was working with or if the need for such would have surfaced in my own play of the game in 2004-2008. No bones about it between the lines, either - I would be genuinely interested in your thoughts on how useful it would be to emphasize a group veto or whatnot as part of the SS methodology; my own experience has been that whatever tools I've used in my own play in this regard have been purely incidental and characteristic of my own technique of play rather than the general methodology of how the game plays, but I might as well be wrong about this evaluation. Thus, definitely a good point to think about in further development of game texts and perhaps the game itself. However, I still have to nitpick this:
However, with my "no safety net in the SS" issue, I'm talking of something that should be part of the minimun instructions required to play the SS safely*, and therefore, that deserves to be part of the core of the SS just like the rules to extend a conflict, to hit a Key or to do any other basic thing.
My point about game texts was and is pretty much that there is no "core Solar System", there are only texts that describe a set of practices that are referenced by that name. This is important for your point in that I truly do not disagree with you about the usefulness of rules and procedures that address creative cohesion, but this agreement does not in any particular way translate into a conclusion about game texts. Perhaps if I was in the business of writing up The Official Solar System Reference Document, then we could argue about what should go into it and what shouldn't. As it is, however, we can only conclude that there are some things I chose not to include in this particular text, and I can talk about my reasons for that, but not you nor really even I can say that the text should have something more. It is what it is, and a new text needs to be written if something else is desired.

I continue harping about this perhaps fatuous-seeming point of postmodern text critique for one simple reason: I am not prepared nor willing to be the tin god against which dogmatic interpretations of the Solar System are backstopped, and therefore I am not comfortable discussing what "should" be said in "the" Solar System game text like it was some unitary canon with weight separate from its contents. That would be wrong not only because this isn't a game I designed in the first place (that would be Clinton, not me), but also because I did not write the Solar System booklet as an official statement on anything. The epistemic context for my SS booklet is that it's a snapshot in time of my then-current thinking regarding the discipline of "playing Solar System", not that it's a thing in itself.

If the above seems like an useless nitpick, then that's probably because it is that for this discussion; for me personally the specific nature of "game" as a textual object and a discrete product to be transmitted against the nature of "game" as a practice or discipline has been central when I've developed my understanding of what it means for me to be writing about (not "write a game" but "write about a game", note) a game somebody else has designed, but I freely admit that I might just sound confused for no reason to anybody outside my own head on this topic.

Anyway, as you said, we've probably hashed the substantial topic pretty well, and I don't even think that we disagree on anything: we both think that my SS 2008 booklet punts the maintenance of creative cohesion mostly to the Story Guide, and we both think that it'd probably be useful for a new text to delve deeper into the skills involved. We also agree that if there are some genuinely natural rules or procedures that would support this task, those should probably be included as well. All well and good, I'm just stuck on my personal text-analytic obsession about whether it can be said that the game as a social activity can be said to lack something if a particular game text lacks it.
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Paolo D.
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« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2011, 10:12:07 AM »

Quote
I continue harping about this perhaps fatuous-seeming point of postmodern text critique for one simple reason: I am not prepared nor willing to be the tin god against which dogmatic interpretations of the Solar System are backstopped, and therefore I am not comfortable discussing what "should" be said in "the" Solar System game text like it was some unitary canon with weight separate from its contents. That would be wrong not only because this isn't a game I designed in the first place (that would be Clinton, not me), but also because I did not write the Solar System booklet as an official statement on anything. The epistemic context for my SS booklet is that it's a snapshot in time of my then-current thinking regarding the discipline of "playing Solar System", not that it's a thing in itself.

If the above seems like an useless nitpick, then that's probably because it is that for this discussion; for me personally the specific nature of "game" as a textual object and a discrete product to be transmitted against the nature of "game" as a practice or discipline has been central when I've developed my understanding of what it means for me to be writing about (not "write a game" but "write about a game", note) a game somebody else has designed, but I freely admit that I might just sound confused for no reason to anybody outside my own head on this topic.

I can see your point, that's the same stance that I and Luca Veluttini are taking about our works with Solar KOTOR, Solar Exalted and Solar Masquerade (that are, in that order, his/our/mine way to play Star Wars Saga/Exalted 2nd/VtM with the Solar System).

Still, I think that the following topic: (bold is mine)

Quote
All well and good, I'm just stuck on my personal text-analytic obsession about whether it can be said that the game as a social activity can be said to lack something if a particular game text lacks it.

...could deserve a thread on his own, maybe in the Indipendent Publishing section: I'm very interested in the topic of game text writing, but I'm definitely not "equipped" enough in terms of experience to tell something about it on my own.

However, for the sake of clarity, when I write "the" Solar System, I mean "your" Solar System (Eero's Solar System 2008). That "should", probably was a bad word choice from mine - we don't have modal verbs in the italian language, or not like the english ones at least - so sorry for that ;-)

That was just to explain better some of my points, not to add new ones, so I think that this particular thread could have reached his natural end now.
I'll come back later with a new one for the next topic. For now, thanks for this thoughtful and interesting discussion :-)

Best,
Paolo
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2011, 10:37:34 AM »

Thank you, your point about social coherence mechanics is certainly well-received. I don't have any off-hand brilliant notions about it, but now that I'm aware of the issue I'll keep my eyes open for new insights on the topic. Who knows, perhaps something of the sort will make an appearance whenever somebody gets around to writing a new rules text for the game once more.

Also, I'll be interested in Ron's views and how they parallel Paolo's points - whenever you have the time, Ron.
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