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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Manu on January 22, 2002, 01:44:45 AM



Title: Setting vs. Color
Post by: Manu on January 22, 2002, 01:44:45 AM
Hey all,

I'm a bit confused by this; what exactly is Color, where does setting stops and color starts? Is it a matter of depth of treatment? Any examples of Color Exploring games out there?

Simple question, but very important issue, I think.

Manu


Title: Setting vs. Color
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 24, 2002, 08:07:09 AM
Hi Manu,

Sorry it took me a little time to get back to this thread. A good starting point is Jesse's thread Crayola Roleplay in Actual Play.

As for your specific question, Setting vs. Color, I think the key point is that Color applies to other aspects of play, of which Setting is one. Think of it as any description or (better yet) evocative element of play that reinforces Setting, Situation, Character, or even System, but is not actually a literal description of the thing or action.

Music during play is an excellent example. The various means in Amber by which people gain points (draw Trumps, write poetry) are as well. Curlicues on the sides of character sheets. It applies to verbal/actual role-playing material as well, say, the attention given to the description of the ornamentation on the Lunar soldiers' horses' bridles, as opposed to the tattooing on the Heortling rebels' faces.

Color may be provided by anyone during play, and even for anything during play at least as a suggestion, which I think is interesting, as the responsibilities for establishing what Character, System, Setting, and Situation are, are usually more formally divvied up among types of participant (GM as opposed to player, player A as opposed to player B).

Best,
Ron


Title: Setting vs. Color
Post by: james_west on January 27, 2002, 11:31:43 AM
One thing we do for color in our group is to try to cook things appropriate to the setting or style of game.

For instance, when playing a game set in the chalcolithic, we all got very creative about use of chickpeas and chicken (the two 'high tech' foods available at the time) in recipes. We also drank badly made beer through straws (gets through the layer of floating debris on top.)

When playing a 'mad max' style game, we invented all sorts of odd drinks; the "hedgetrimmer" is like a screwdriver, but instead of orange juice you use algae.

Food being a fundamental element of human social interaction, this actually adds rather strong color, worked very well for getting into a mindset for playing the games.


Title: Setting vs. Color
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on January 27, 2002, 03:28:32 PM
Quote from: james_west

When playing a 'mad max' style game, we invented all sorts of odd drinks; the "hedgetrimmer" is like a screwdriver, but instead of orange juice you use algae.


But did you serve dog food with it?


Title: Setting vs. Color
Post by: james_west on January 27, 2002, 03:41:30 PM
Quote from: Jared A. Sorensen

But did you serve dog food with it?


Nah - we wimped out and used potted meat. Similar, but not quite the same.

- James


Title: Another Lost Step-Child?
Post by: Le Joueur on January 27, 2002, 05:34:24 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
A good starting point is Jesse's thread Crayola Roleplay (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1177&highlight=color+colour) in Actual Play.

As for your specific question, Setting vs. Color, I think the key point is that Color applies to other aspects of play, of which Setting is one. Think of it as any description or (better yet) evocative element of play that reinforces Setting, Situation, Character, or even System, but is not actually a literal description of the thing or action.

Color may be provided by anyone during play, and even for anything during play at least as a suggestion, which I think is interesting, as the responsibilities for establishing what Character, System, Setting, and Situation are, are usually more formally divvied up among types of participant (GM as opposed to player, player A as opposed to player B).

If I remember correctly, Simulationism is defined (loosely) as Exploration of Character, System, Setting, Situation, or Color.  This becomes problematic when Color is described alternatively as an "evocative element of play that reinforces..." or "'reinforcing detail' of any sort" or "one of the glue-factors that keeps Premise going" or even as intent to "induce an aesthetic mind-set."  How does one explore that?

Taken from that viewpoint, to me at least, it seems like we're dealing with another 'catch-all' term targetted at capturing whatever isn't explicitly in Character, System, Setting, or Situation.  Too bad.  I personally don't use Color as a term or anything directly in the terms listed above.  I have something different that has a more explicit identity in my game design.

I call it (because I lack better terminology) Genre Expectations.  Now I understand that Ron frequently derides the concept of genre, but if I am reading him right, that's because in most cases a 'genre' is not a single explicit thing and people tend to have widely divided interpretation of any single 'known' genre.  That's fine, I am not really talking about the specification of known genres here.  I am talking about the process of recognizing the patterns that can be stereotyped into a genre.

In most people's interpretation of the 'hard-boiled detective noir' genre you have expectations of romantic entanglement, betrayal, double-dealing, and clever end-gambits by the principles.  (There are others, but these are a good enough start, if you need more, go back for seconds.)  Now when I run a game, I take these elements of Genre Expectation into account.

I do not railroad, so I must think of the all of the things I provide (setting, non-player characters, history, and et cetera) as potentially filling any of the roles Expected by the players in the Genre.  If a player begins depending on a non-player character for more than just a little information, I keep that one in mind when the Genre Expects a betrayal, but I am also keeping several other things in mind for that too.

The rise of tension, the crisis, character transformation, climax, and denouement are all somewhat 'scripted' by the Genre Expectations.  All I need to do is find the right elements in what has been played to fit into the roles Expected in the Genre.  Knowing these roles, and filling them as I go is what I use the Genre Expectations for.  I first became aware of this 'structural map' when I was called upon to run a number of campaigns in the regency romance novel tradition.

It didn't take long to soak up the Genre Expectations of one of the English language's oldest, still-practiced, literary traditions, but I was forced to do it quickly.  I think that's why I became away of this concept; I was basically consuming the source material at a tremendous rate to glean exactly this (I just didn't know it at the time).  Later, playing in other traditions, I began to notice the similar 'structures.'  This eventually bore fruit when I began firming up plans for a 'general' game system (as opposed to the mis-named universal game system idea).  Crossing from one tradition to another required some explicit understandings of what those Genres Expected.

Ultimately I see Genre Expectations as a Color that can be explored, specifically because it is more than simply "evocative," "reinforcing," a "glue-factor," or "an aesthetic mind-set."  Strangely this goes back to some of the thinking I have been doing about the differences between metaplots and 'changing settings for play.'  The difference is that just calling them metaplots tends to remind of those published scenarios where the players come to loggerheads with the publications because they have 'accidentally' made changes in the setting.  (When these changes are enforced as impossible, the characters are deprotagonized.)

I believe Ron frequently talks about taking a Dungeon Crawl and turning it into an Exploration of Character, in this Genre Expectation there's things like 'finding out about the dungeon,' travelling to the site, spelunking, treasure hording, and the final confrontation with the dragon (or lich king or whatever).  The process of 'getting to the bottom of it' is never in any doubt in the players minds, so they play with something else, Character.

I consider the 'structure' Expected in a Genre to be a little more like Ron's 'changing setting for play.'  The group knows what is going to happen in the broadest sense of the terms (heck, you know what to expect in a noir film, don't you?), so they focus elsewhere.  In the series of romance novel games, everyone took it for granted that their characters were going to fall in love, it was my job as the gamemaster (and player of the targets of affection) to be as witty, charming, dashing, and otherwise, to create this attraction.  Only near the end of the series was I barely beginning to be able to predict what my players found attractive.  Prior to that, I simply fielded a set of suitors and tried to follow along.  We never knew who was going to fall for whom, whose dark past would affect, or whose enemies would cause problems; sometimes I used moving clues, but more often than not, I didn't.  The thing is, the 'falling in love' part was never in question.

What this means is that the Genre Expectations of the 'plot' worked much like Ron's 'changing setting for play' in that we knew where it was going, but unlike has been characterized bad in metaplot, we didn't know how we'd get there.

So, to the point of this thread (was I ever going to get back to this?), Genre Expectations (loosely fitted in, in place of Color), are a little like metaplot and a little like 'changing setting for play.'  They affect the Setting, Character, and Situation, but only in the broadest fashion, 'behind the scenes.'  Setting is 'where they are' (and possibly 'what they can work with'), and Genre Expectations are 'the way everyone expects them to get where their going' (meaning the fruition of the narrative).

Fang Langford