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Author Topic: Trollbabe Barrage of Questions III: backstory and content authority  (Read 6201 times)
Moreno R.

Posts: 547

« on: March 15, 2011, 11:01:01 PM »

Hi Ron!

I am still mulling over the last reply in the "Barrage II" thread, but meanwhile, let's attack the backlog of question that surfaced in play...

In this thread, I want to talk about some reactions (and violations) to the rule "The player has no back-story authority - none. Some situational authority, yes, but only working with what's known" that I observed in play.

In particular, I wanted to talk about (A) the players that create a backstory for the trollbabes, and (B) the players that create a previous mission to be followed

1) Players creating backstory for the trollbabes (in general)
The bit that I see creating the first uneasiness in some players is the "I will not tell you what the trollbabes are, i don't care" bit. I have observed that in some players, there is an inability to "enter" their character without knowing her backstory. Not only that, it's not enough to have a backstory in mind, it must actually matter and enter in the game.

I have observed this happening in different trollbabe games, but always with the same players: they usually start playing "searching" for other trollbabes (they don't start right away in the same location, they meet "casually" after a while), and when they meet... they proceed to narrate their common history, how they are created, etc. (usually they don't do a massive infodunp, but they start giving small informations, hinting that they know a lot more and will explain it all later)

In this situation the player is creating a lot of backstory. A lot of COMMON backstory, creating the history of the other trollbabes, too (the other players usually play along, I have still not seen anybody reject the new informations, but it could be a problem...). By the other way, none of this is adventure preparations, and is something that is part of the trollbabe characters...

So I am i doubt about what I should do:
1) Tell the player "no, this is not how this game is played, if you need an explanation think about it but don't tell it during the game"
2) Let the players create any backstory they want about the trollbabes
3) When I see that a player has this problem, I should create myself a backstory explaining their "origins"
4) something different

Until now I have used (2), but wondering if (1) was instead the best answer. I don't think (3) is correct and I hope there is a more satisfying (4).

2) Players creating backstory about their the relationship (small r) with a NPC:
Sometimes it happen that during a game the player say something like "I already passed here" (creating the backstory "the trollbabe already know the place"(  or "That castle? It contains the orb I was searching for", or "Now that I arrived in this place, I must search for the golden orb" (no orb was ever talked about in previous adventures)

The way I see it, it's mixup of two things: creating personal backstory (with NPCs , places, spirits, etc.) and giving a "mission" to himself even before the start of the adventure. I doubt the first is allowed by the rules,  but I am not sure, and the second I think is allowed by the rules, but really against the spirit of the game... (I allowed it anyway, but it's bothering me)

3) Players creating a bigger. multiadventure "mission":
I have a player who created for the trollbabe a multi-adventure "mission": she has to search for a group of "scrolls of element dominance", one at every location she go. At the beginning the player did this without talking about the overarching arc (the trollbabe simply searched for a "scroll of elemental dominance" for water in a library to cast a spell on a river). When I saw a patter in the following adventures I asked her about this, and she had created a "mission" where her trollbabe had to recover a list of magic item, or her "enemy" would kill someone dear to her.  I accepted to create that "enemy" in a following adventure, when she would have been ready (and when she will tell me)

All in all, I see half of the group enjoying the game as is, and the other half enjoying it in a "close, but not really there" way. They have no knowledge of the source material, they are long-time gamers, and they are enjoying, I think, a Trollbabe (game) that is not the one written on the book, but the way they think it "should" work.

What I am trying to understand is if the game is robust enough to endure tis kind of "torsion" without breaking or turning in something too different, or if I should try to rein this in


(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 17707

« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2011, 06:56:41 AM »

Hi Moreno,

What is a trollbabe
I don't see the "origins of trollbabes" content very much in my games, but I know it happens a lot due to people's actual-play posting.

Like you, I use #2, letting the players do whatever they want with it. To myself, I repeat, "It doesn't matter," and go ahead and continue making adventures in the ordinary way. I see it as more Color which to the players, enriches the setting, and I suppose that's OK.

But what about, as you say, when the player really wants this material to enter into the game? They want the GM to internalize this information too, and make up content and conflicts in which the trollbabe origins matter. If trollbabes are created by wizards, they want to see the wizard who made them appear in play. If trollbabes are born to human-troll mating, then they want to see family members and visit their old tribes.

I agree with your final paragraph that this desire represents a certain lack of connection with the source material, and is more consistent with accumulated training about "what you do in a role-playing game" or what is observed in most comics and movies.* I think it is probably the individual GM's decision whether to acquiesce to this unacknowledged expectation, and simply to go ahead and do it, why not; or to say openly to the player, this is mere Color and has no impact on my preparation or the point of play. I can see going either way depending on the content. Perhaps the origin concept is so interesting and fun that I'd happily adopt it. Or perhaps it is merely filling space using tropes from a bevy of anime sources** and satisfying that expectation without regard to being actually fun and good.

I know this person or place
I've run into this before. It's kind of interesting to note that the author and most of the original players of Dogs in the Vineyard were already Trollbabe veterans, and recognized that relationships in Dogs are not quite the same, being more backstory-oriented. But if you come to Trollbabe after playing a lot of Dogs, I can see how someone would find the difference confusing, or expect things from Trollbabe that aren't really there.

I altered the relationship rules for the book version precisely to address this problem for kin specifically; one can no longer grab an NPC and announce "he's my brother!" quite so freely. I don't really have any text in there about back-story of other kinds, though - can you grab an existing NPC and say, "Botho! My old lover! How's it going?" My assumption in writing the rules was no.

This may be something worth discussing with players before play begins, specifically the contrast with certain other games.

We have a mission
For the most part, I think this is the same as the trollbabe origin concept. Either the player is content to have the character look everywhere and occasionally find clues or interesting details, as Color; or the player really wants this overall story to be about the quest. If it's the latter, I'm having a hard time imagining that I'd cooperate. I think I'd almost always say, look, this is not a story about your quest, and your quest is merely like your character's hair color - relevant in many small ways but never the actual focus (in rules terms, pivot points). But I acknowledge that some day someone might come up with some idea which really grabs me and makes me decide, hey, I do want to develop that.

Best, Ron

* In fact, one thing I get really annoyed with in movies adaptations of comics characters is the long, long, detailed display of the character's origin story, and even worse, not being able to let it go and trying to resolve it as the climax of the movie. The filmmakers are missing the point that the character is best observed in action after the origin is long over, concerning episodic problems that remind the character of his or her origins directly or indirectly. Compare the utterly shitty story of Batman (1989) with the incredible, and to my mind the fully realized Batman stories in The Animated Series(1992-95).

** I specify anime here on purpose because much of its content is pastiche from existing stories, hence using its tropes as original source is often like a copy of a copy. (Not always, I admit. I did play and write Demon Cops, after all.)
Moreno R.

Posts: 547

« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2011, 06:44:50 PM »



(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
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