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Independent Game Forums => Adept Press => Topic started by: jburneko on January 28, 2002, 10:58:30 AM

Title: Odd Kicker Question
Post by: jburneko on January 28, 2002, 10:58:30 AM
Hello Again,

So a couple players who have been away from one of my games for a long while are coming back.  Rather than trying to squeeze them back in myself I asked them to write Kickers for their characters.  To explain what a Kicker was I just quoted the text directly out of Sorcerer.  However, as I was quoting it, there was a line that caught my attention:

"Kickers should not... dictate PC's actions..."

My question: Why?

It occured to me that since the player who writes the Kicker down is the same player who's going to make a decision based on it then vary rarely are they going to produce a Kicker with absolutely no idea how they're going to react to it.

For example, if I develop, 'I've just found a suitcase full of money' as my Kicker then I probably ALREADY have a good idea about what my character plans to do with it.  Why not just specify that right then and there?  Why not, 'I've just found a suitcase full of money and I'm heading out the door to embark on a wild spending spree.'

It seems to me that if the Kicker ALSO includes the initial reaction to it then there's a lot more direction provided for the GM to plan around.


Title: Odd Kicker Question
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 28, 2002, 11:16:34 AM
Hi Jesse,

The word "dictate" is tripping you up. It's causing trouble like "narrate" does because it can mean "say" as well as more focused meanings.

I am using it in the constrictive sense - I am warning the user from providing a Kicker that only gives the protagonist one reasonable thing to do. "My house is burning down," has pretty much only one reaction: get out of the burning house. "Guys are coming to kill me," is the same: defend yourself and try to turn the tables.

(Whereas "A guy tried to kill me with a hatchet on the bus" provides a more surrealistic or offbeat or perplexing problem beyond the actual physical danger.)

Thus the Kicker style I am aiming at, with that particular admonition, is that for which different people might have their characters react to differently. Otherwise you end up with the typical non-Narrativist character hook: "I'm a merc. A guy hired me to kill Bobby G." Well, duh, he's going to kill Bobby G now. So what?

None of this has anything to do with what I am perceiving you to be asking about: the description of a character's action or reaction in the Kicker itself. There is nothing wrong with this, at the most basic level. Including, "I barely got away from the guy by hurling myself out the emergency exit, when we took a corner at 45 mph," could easily be added to the hatchet Kicker.

However, permitting or encouraging such additions hits a practical problem very, very swiftly - players turn in elaborate short stories, essentially "playing before they play" in the way people have done for decades. You get reams of colorful events with ... as it turns out ... no entry into the act of role-playing. The reactions have been made and the Kicker is, for all intents and purposes, over before play has begun.

Therefore if I were to see Kickers with characters' actions and reactions as part of the text, I might be very picky about how much of that material would be acceptable.


Title: Odd Kicker Question
Post by: efindel on January 29, 2002, 07:10:00 AM
Just to offer my own translation:  the kicker must require the character to make a significant decision.  This decision must be made in the game.

Note that the significance is to the character making the decision.  "Am I going to kill this person" is always significant with respect to the person who's the possible target, but may or may not be significant with respect to the person who's asking the question.
The "in the game" part prevents someone from making the decision their kicker requires before the game begins.

Title: Odd Kicker Question
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 29, 2002, 07:11:58 AM

Agreed. I'd also clarify it by noting that "decision" implies more than one option being available, and that one of those options is probably not going to be "proceed with life as usual."


Title: Odd Kicker Question
Post by: contracycle on January 29, 2002, 08:00:33 AM
I found when I was thinking about Kickers that I was tempted by the "spawn" term as used by computer RPG's.  In that construction, the kicker "spawns" the characters into the situation, the dramatic tension; i.e is the event which activates them and hence renders them the protagonists.