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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: matthijs on March 19, 2005, 02:28:05 AM



Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 19, 2005, 02:28:05 AM
We tried Capes last night.

Setting: Students at Megapolis High School. In a physics lab experiment gone wrong, three students get super powers.

First scene: Detention! Professor Williams tells us to clear the school cellars as punishment for causing trouble in physics class. Down there we discover a huge robot - the fourth PC - hidden behind a locked door. He can't get out without more power! We debate whether to help him or try to shut him off, when suddenly we hear a car going by outside. The robot drains the car's power and comes charging out.

The car stops, and Alvin and Martha - two students - get out. Martha's really mad at Alvin: This is the third time his car "breaks down" conveniently on a date.

Martha sees the robot and screams. She calls the police. Wailing sirens.

New scene: Outside, Martha talks to the police. One of the cops mistakenly tries to arrest Prof. Williams. A new robot appears in the basement: An evil twin! He kills some of the cops, one of which is being kissed by Martha as he dies.

At this point, the game had gotten too chaotic. We didn't have any direction, and conflicts on the table were "Event: Prof. Williams says 'Nice and clean in here!'" and another one (even less dramatic, I believe). We were about to start a conflict: "Goal (Mento): Make Martha do a strip show". Bleh. We just stopped.

Problems we had: Not grokking the game. We weren't into the whole tactics thing, we just wanted to tell a good story, and felt like the rules weren't helping us do what we wanted.

Why did we have to use abilities to do stuff? How did we end up resolving the cool conflicts too fast, and the boring ones too slowly? Why should we invest any interest in the events going on?

We weren't prepared for what the system would do; I spent a lot of time looking up rules and clarifications, and several players had to pass turns because they got frustrated trying to keep the rules and the plot in their heads at the same time.

We want to try it again - but we have to be aware of what we're getting into. This is a tactical game, not a go-with-the-flow game. It's about setting up conflicts not just because they sound like fun, but because they can give you an advantage later in the game.

- - -

So. We decided to give it a shot right afterwards, new characters, new setting. Post-apocalyptic surrealism. We're mutant survivors in a bleak world. A strange & scary Zone of weirdness is growing, and has taken part of our city. We have to go into the heart of the Zone and find out how to stop it. (Sort of Tarkovskij's "Stalker" meets "Mad Max").

We decided to give ourselves more time for free play and setting the scene. So we started out going round-robin, taking turns narrating stuff. After doing that for a while, someone mentioned starting a conflict, and we just couldn't fit it in - since I didn't respond with a rules fix, and it didn't seem like anyone felt the need to introduce mechanics at this point, we just kept on talking. The same thing happened two more times; after that, we went with the round-robin narration.

It worked out well, but it had nothing to do with Capes. It was a reaction to a rules set that was obstructing us in our goal: Telling a story together and getting into the atmosphere of it.

- - -

I want to emphasize that we'd like to play Capes again, and I don't have any fair criticism to the game at this point. We didn't know what we were getting into, and played the game in a way that didn't work - wrong tool for the job. Next time we'll give it a go the way it should be played.

But yesterday, the impro was very good, and the Capes session wasn't.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Garbanzo on March 19, 2005, 05:38:17 AM
Hey, matthijs.

I've played Capes exactly once, but it did happen to be with ol' TonyLB himself, so presumably it went the way games usually go.

My take: Capes is a really rather amazing engine for modeling golden- or silver-age comics.  I suspect it is really rather bad for doing other stuff.  (It'd almost have to be: it's too good at doing what it sets out to do to be easily drifted.)

I think that there's a bit of a mis-match between what the game does, and what you want it to do.  The rules are all about sorting between clear and competing eventualities, and require that the players are at odds, and willing to make a big fuss about being at odds.  It sounds like in your game, there wasn't this tension.  Is this right?

The game is strikingly different from most RPGs in a couple of ways:
1.  The characters have to be in opposition.  All the game does is resolve conflicts that occur between the characters.
2. Because of this, conflicts can really go either way.  If there's a <Goal: Destroy the world>, then it might happen.  This requires a good deal of acceptance about the possible directions the story will go.  If you're not ok with things going either way, there's trouble.  
3. Interestingly, there's a clear gap between what I as a player want to happen and what my character wants to happen.  I might introduce a goal that I doesn't especially care about winning.  Primarily because I want to suck in one of the other players who I think will be really invested in not losing.

Your game sounds like a typical "party" of allied folks in a situation together.  Uh-oh.  Where's the conflict?  
In our game, there were six of us, and Tony (to my surprise) alternated hero and villian roles around the table.  And suddenly, BAM!  We were all tussling and struggling.  <Goal: The president gets killed live on national tv> was the first thing on the table.  So it was time for super powers and day-saving.  
Heroes vs. villians, we were all willing to get some debt and make things happen because we knew our characters were at odds.  If our characters weren't all that opposed, the whole thing would've been a bit of a wash.  (Yeah, ok, the president's in danger!  So...I save him, with minimal fuss!  Uh.)


My reactions to the specifics:
First scene, we've got a huge lumbering robot, Alvin vs. Martha, and police!  This seems just about right, to me.  A couple of different conflicts rolling, all hitting substantially different things.
What were the goals/ events, and how did they resolve?
It sounds like this-
<Event: The robot is loose!>
<Goal: Martha thinks Alvin is a real creep!>
<Goal: Martha calls the police.>

Is this right, more or less?  And how did they end up resolving?  Your description cut to scene two without resolving for us scene one!  Did this happen in the session, too?
But it couldn't've, because by definition, the scene isn't over until all the pieces resolve.

Ok, scene two.
<Goal: The cops help>, which failed, and they end up trying to arrest the prof.  Evil Twin shows up, narrated into existence with <Goal: The Evil Twin wreaks havoc>, which succeeds.  

Can you tell us what the actual conflicts were, who was interested in them, and how they resolved?

I mean, from the above, so far so good!  What happened?  When did things get so disasterously off track?  What were the specific times when you felt frustrated by the system?  My guess is that everyone wanted to collaborate, which is the opposite of what the game is for.  Am I on track?

-Matt


Title: Re: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on March 19, 2005, 07:40:05 AM
Quote from: matthijs
We weren't into the whole tactics thing, we just wanted to tell a good story, and felt like the rules weren't helping us do what we wanted..... a rules set that was obstructing us in our goal: Telling a story together and getting into the atmosphere of it.


Yeah, you've nailed the problem here: You wanted one thing, Capes is set up to do something else. I've heard people make the same complaint about My Life With Master, which is even more highly structured. Both of these designs (and others around the Forge) operate on the [U.S.] Founding Fathers' principle of "the wise restraints that make us free," or poet Robert Frost's rule that "writing poetry without formal structure is like playing tennis without a net." In other words, you have things you want to do, but the formal structure -- sonnet form, or constitutional checks and balances, or Capes conflict resolution rules -- gets between you and that goal, complicating things.

If you're not expecting this, if you're used to transparent systems that exist to make telling the story you thought up easier, then it's really, really frustrating. If you embrace this, if you let go of your initial idea and let the game throw up unexpected stuff, then it can be a lot of fun.

Imagine water flowing neatly through a tiny stream in an ornamental garden; very nice; but what if you put some big rocks in the water? All of a sudden you get unpredictable perturbations in the flow, and boy, can that look cool.

{EDIT to add afterthoughts:}

Two more things came to me while I cleaned up the baby's cheerio-encrusted high chair:

1) Capes not only relies on formal structure, it relies on capitalism: You invest by borrowing, the whole "winner's debt becomes loser's story tokens" economy is about paying the other side to lose, and, above all, the game, like a capitalist economy, absolutely requires individuals to compete seeking selfish individual goals in order to produce a harmonious and mutually beneficial whole. If you don't compete, if you try actively to cooperate, then the game stalls. Counter-intuitive, but powerful.

2) Because Capes puts formal structure and mechanics in the way of anyone's idea for the story (Fortune and Karma over-rule drama), and because it's competive, something very interesting happens. The downside I've seen is that a player who is low on self-confidence and self-assertion is going to get overwhelmed and drop out (I've seen this happen). But the very interesting upside is that people who have a certain minimal level of self-confidence and self-assertion will flourish, because the structure protects and nourishes their competitiveness against more dominant players who, in a pure drama system, would just ride over them: In our Forgite DC pickup game last night, the people who dominated the casual conversation before the game were much less dominant than they were during the game, when rules kicked in to make sure anyone who wanted to got to contribute.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Valamir on March 19, 2005, 08:58:59 AM
Yeah, in this Capes has a lot in common with Universalis.  Both are games specifically designed to eliminate "pass the conch" play.  If you're looking for them to provide rules to enhance "pass the conch" play...you're bound to be frustrating.

Uni's rules on Complications are there specifically to allow other players to call a halt to the conch and bring into play a dice mechanic that, depending on how the dice fall and what resources were called upone for dice, really change the direction that play would have gone if the conch had continued.

Capes goes a step further and has that sort of Complication as the standard mechanic, in play at all times...not just on occassions when a player calls for it.  In Uni if you Gimmicked Complications out of the game (or just ignore using them),  you are left with much more of a "Pass the Conch" play with some additional mechanics for Challenges and Interrupts.  In Capes the conflict mechanics are so central that there is no ignoring them.

Going into Capes with the attitude of "how do I use the conflicts to help support the story I want to tell" won't work.  In Capes the mechanism is so strong that you have to go into it with the attitude of "how do I identify what the story is from this menu of conflicts that are in play".  Since that menu is added by the players, you have to atune your senses to identifying what the potential conflicts in any given scene are...use the rules to establish those as the menu of conflicts...and then seek to tip the balance of those conflicts in a direction you favor while the other players are tipping the balance in different ways or throwing wrenches in by adding conflicts you hadn't thought of.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 19, 2005, 11:12:50 AM
Okay,

I'll bite.  What is "pass the conch" play?

I checked the glossary. Nothing.  I found the term in serveral posts using the Search function -- but never defined.  So.... Come on, let me sleep tonight.  What's it mean.

(You know, sometimes this place really is like wandering into the text of A Clockwork Orange!)

Thanks,

Christopher


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Larry L. on March 19, 2005, 11:30:37 AM
It's a reference to Lord of the Flies.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Valamir on March 19, 2005, 12:14:26 PM
Yeah, as Larry says.

Its not a Forge jargon term.  Actually I'd thought it was in fairly widespread use to describe play where players take turns narrating freely.  Who ever "has the conch" gets to say what happens.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 19, 2005, 12:48:00 PM
Okay, here's a thing.

I get what Capes is trying to do, but I don't like it. Like Universalis, it has two things that don't really go well with my playing style:

- An assumption (or implicit requirement) that players are competitive
- A system mirroring a capitalist world view of investment and returns

And I'm thinking maybe it's not just me and my personal style. Maybe it's actually a cultural thing. Competition, cash returns, using the system to get what's best for you.

See, the cultural references I was brought up with are way different than the ones you've got in the states. Things like - my country (Norway) is a socialist democracy. The shows we all watched as kids were all about cooperation and getting along together - heaps of social realism. The sports we excel in are mainly sports where you don't win using tactics, only through personal training and excellence.

Another way it's a cultural thing: Four-color superhero comics. I can't understand their significance - not won't, but actually can't; they're almost alien artifacts to me. You read one, you've read them all. They seem so very, very basic. Why on earth try to recreate that? I've understood that they have some sort of mythical significance in American culture, but only through reading stuff like "Watchmen" and "Maximortal" am I getting why adults would even look twice at the stuff. I'm not trying to say they have no worth - but it's not a worth that I can easily understand, given my frame of reference.

I'm definitely not saying that all Norwegians are like me, or that all Americans are like X or Y or Z, but sometimes the cultural differences show. I thought I'd have problems understanding Dogs in the Vineyard, but everyone I've played with grokked that after half an hour of chargen. Capes, however, is taking us longer to get.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Valamir on March 19, 2005, 01:44:03 PM
I think it very well may be a cultural thing.

I started balking at your use of the word competition to describe Universalis, because to me the level of competition in Uni is very mild.  I find Uni to fit the very definition of what I consider to be cooperative.

Then it struck me that that itself is quite likely a cultural thing (acknowledging that cultures are not homogenous among their members, of course).

Coorperation to my way of thinking is enhanced by elements that you likely consider competitive, but which to me are an essential aspect of keeping cooperation effective.  To my way of thinking cooperation between parties must involve party A challenging party B's assumptions and party B defending them, otherwise you just get lack luster output that caters to the least common denominator.  Meaning that the only thing that gets done is what everyone can agree to...which by definition means its devoid of conviction (unless dealing with a very homogenous group who are all convicted about the same thing...which I'd call rather cultish).

The difference between this and competition is that in cooperation the challenge and defense exchanges are there to filter out the bad ideas and let the cream rise to the top.  Both parties are dedicated to making the output the very best it can be.  But both parties also believe that not all ideas are equally good.  The only way you can get a) the best possible output given b) a range of quality in input is to test the input and allow only the best of the input to stick.  That testing is what the Interruption, Challenge and Complication mechanics in Univesalis is all about.  There are 5 people around the table.  They all have a number of ideas.  Some of those ideas are good and some of them suck.  The challenges and defenses are how the bad ideas get discarded, and the players collectively agree on what to keep.  That's my definition of cooperation.

This is in contrast to competition where the object is NOT to jointly produce the best possible output but only to achieve the result you want at the expense of results others want.  Take football for instance (either real football or that silly soccer game with the round ball and the net).  Niether team is dedicated to jointly creating a great game for the fans to enjoy.  In fact, they'd much prefer a boring lop sided blow out of their opponent than a down to the last second dramatic finish.  Their goal is to get their desired result (a win).  As long as they win, they don't care if the output (the game as experienced by the fans) sucks.


That's why, to me, Uni is a VERY cooperative game.  The mechanics are there to allow parties to jointly dedicate themselves to producing the best output by providing mechanisms to test and discard the bad ideas in favor of the good (acknowledging, of course, that "bad" and "good" are entirely subjective).  Played competitively, Uni is horrible.  Which is why I always balk when someone suggests its a competitive game.


But then I suspect this is where the cultureal differences in our understanding of the nature of cooperation and competition comes in.


**I tackled this from the perspective of Uni, which I obviously know very well, but I suspect the same reasoning is behind the design of Capes.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 19, 2005, 02:04:43 PM
Ralph, I think you're on to something.

To me, cooperation in storytelling is much more based on impro theatre: Say Yes. Whether an idea is good or bad: You've got to accept it and try to make it work. This doesn't mean that what gets done is what everyone can agree to - it means players take turns dictating what the story is about. That doesn't make for lackluster, LCD output, quite the opposite - it makes for intensely vivid, but sometimes incoherent output.

The sort of cooperation you're talking about is, to me, a mood-breaker. When we're trying to tell a story, but anyone can interrupt anything with a smack of the rulebook, clattering of coins and counting of pips on the dice, it's a horror. Sure, you get stuff that looks nice when you tell it to someone afterwards - but there's just no chance that the group will sit around being thrilled and scared by what comes pouring out of the collective imagination. At worst, it's like watching a great movie that stops every ten seconds because someone wants to rewrite the plot or take a vote about what should happen next.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 19, 2005, 02:13:20 PM
Quote from: Valamir
Going into Capes with the attitude of "how do I use the conflicts to help support the story I want to tell" won't work.


(Minor point: Doesn't it say in the beginning of the book that it's a good idea to have a story planned before you start? I don't have the text right here...)


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: jburneko on March 19, 2005, 03:01:33 PM
Hello,

I agree with Ralph's assessment and I thought of an analogy that might help clearify things.

Consider a boxer who wants to be the best fighter that ever lived.  That boxer has a coach who's constantly putting obstacles (like punching bags) in the boxer's way and screaming things at him like, "harder!  faster!"  He chastizes him when he fails.  Are the coach and boxer competing?  I don't think so, and I would hope not.

In Capes, I want to create a character who is cool, exciting and compelling.  The index cards are my punching bags and my fellow players are the coach yelling, "more!  more!" in form of adversity.  Are we competing?  Or just pushing each other to be the best we can be.

Jesse


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Valamir on March 19, 2005, 03:48:09 PM
Quote
To me, cooperation in storytelling is much more based on impro theatre: Say Yes. Whether an idea is good or bad: You've got to accept it and try to make it work. This doesn't mean that what gets done is what everyone can agree to - it means players take turns dictating what the story is about.


Interesting.  See I'd define that as anarchy, which seems about as horrible to me as what I described seems to you.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 19, 2005, 11:32:14 PM
Jesse,

(I just want to repeat that this isn't about whether Capes is a good or bad game; I haven't assessed that yet, because I haven't played it right).

Interesting analogy with the boxer getting better by meeting obstacles. Did you read mine about watching a movie and getting interrupted the whole time? Or, it's like I'm trying to do this subtle and difficult dance with four different people, and this guy is standing on the sideline yelling "Punch! Punch!"

It really depends what you value highest: Immersion or story. Yes, I know those are two huge cans of worms - the first is supposed not to exist, and the second has a whole bunch of GNS baggage attached to it. So I'm going to put it differently.

Usually when I play, I don't see the "finished product" as the sum of the in-game events. The atmosphere I experience is what matters. Capes and Universalis are two games that focus on getting the story right, in different ways - the events are what matter. Now, so far when I've played those games, the atmosphere has ranged from good to nonexistent.

It's as if the systems are training wheels that I want to ditch, not just because I'm pretty well trained at what I do, but mostly because they're leading me in the wrong direction. I don't see conflict as the end-all and be-all of a story.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 19, 2005, 11:45:52 PM
Quote from: Valamir
Interesting.  See I'd define that as anarchy, which seems about as horrible to me as what I described seems to you.


Well, yeah. But we're not talking about a form of government here, nor about a training exercise... it's a cross between a game and a form of art, and different cultural expectations and rules apply. You don't use democracy to compose music, and you don't depend on market forces to give you a good plot for your novel.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: John Kim on March 20, 2005, 12:50:28 AM
OK, I thought I should throw in a few comments, in no particular order:
  • Regarding the cultural divide -- I've recently gotten back from having gone to Knutepunkt 2005, where I role-played with a bunch of Scandanavians.  I had a blast and had no shock or difficulty fitting into the brief games played there.  They were different than what is typical of role-playing here in the U.S. (less rules, more subjective techniques), but not IMO a completely different type of activity.  
  • I sympathize with Matthijs when he talks about interruptions in film.  I am struck that this is very similar to my early comments in Immersion and Story (Sep 2003).  The distance of atmosphere from the fictional narrative was something that struck me when I read LordSmerf/Thomas' sample of Capes play from IRC.  I put together combined log of IC and OOC of that.  
  • The point about competition is also something that resonates with me.  I had similar observations from Soap play, which I reported in the thread Medicinal Soap.  There were several rounds where the mechanics didn't enter in at all because no one made challenges.  I felt that our group tended to be more cooperative which interfered with the point of the rules.  I consciously pushed to get more challenges so we could try out the rules more, but it was forced.[/list:u]My conclusion is that I suspect this is more a divide by role-playing style preference than by national culture.  There are plenty of more immersive players here in the states.  And that's where I see the divide here as being.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 20, 2005, 01:47:01 AM
Thanks, John, I think you're right - it's a style difference, mostly. (I do think it's connected in part with cultural differences, though, which is an interesting subject in itself).


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: TonyLB on March 20, 2005, 07:21:56 AM
Quote from: matthijs
Well, yeah. But we're not talking about a form of government here, nor about a training exercise... it's a cross between a game and a form of art

I hesitate to offer yet another analogy, but "training exercise" is in fact very close to how I think about the game.  You're playing a game and you're making art.  You can improve your technique in either.  But in order to improve you need feedback about what you're doing well or poorly.  Capes gives very specific and objective feedback on the question of "Are you producing adversity that engages the other players?"  To the extent that you want to improve in that arena, that's helpful.

It's like you're rehearsing a play (except without a script, of course).  You're writer/actors, and the Capes ruleset is the director.  He's opinionated, as directors are.  He's obsessed with the idea of one player providing adversity for another.  He's a complete phillistine in other areas.

So you can be up there delivering a great monologue, perfectly portraying a danish prince on the verge of suicide and murder, and giving the audience absolute shivers... and the director can and will jump up and yell "No!  No!  How is this providing adversity for anyone?  Go say these things to somebody, not alone in a crypt!  How about Ophelia?  She'd take issue with all of this!"  You can keep doing what you want instead of what he wants, but he's going to keep complaining if you do.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 20, 2005, 07:47:07 AM
Well... the problem I have with the training exercise viewpoint is: What exactly are you training for? If Capes is training you for a later event - what kind of event? Diceless gaming?


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: TonyLB on March 20, 2005, 08:35:03 AM
Hrm... I don't know.  Never really thought about the question.  It's sort of like asking "So how do you win?" of most roleplaying games.  You don't win.  You play in order to keep playing.

What you're training for is to continue providing challenges and adversity to the other players, better and better as time goes on.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: LordSmerf on March 20, 2005, 09:09:12 AM
With some sleep and some thought I've got some more questions here...

First, I've never been a serious immersive roleplayer, so you're going to have to bear with me when I'm asking questions and making ridiculously silly statements.

What happens in immersive roleplaying when someone consistently presents uninteresting input?  It's clearly interesting to them or they wouldn't be presenting it, but no one else at the table cares.  You say "yes" and move on.  Okay, but what impact does that have on play?  How does that compare to a game where everyone is tossing in input that engages all the players?

After thinking about it for a bit, I believe that it's a preference in teaching styles.  In any RPG you want to teach the other participants what you find interesting.  In Capes, and in Universalis, and in Dogs in the Vineyard this feedback is fast and furious.

It sounds like the more immersive style is a much slower and more subtle process: over a large number of sessions you carefully observe the types of inputs that each player provides so that you better understand what they enjoy.

Does that sound accurate/plausible?

Thomas


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Doug Ruff on March 20, 2005, 09:26:28 AM
Quote from: matthijs
It's as if the systems are training wheels that I want to ditch, not just because I'm pretty well trained at what I do, but mostly because they're leading me in the wrong direction. I don't see conflict as the end-all and be-all of a story.


I'm highlighting this as I think it identifies an area where some rules clarification would help. Because I don't think that Capes is necessarily all about conflicts.

If you check out the Chapter 2 example of play, at the start of the scene (p. 46) there are a few sentences of narration by each player about what they are doing in the Gymnasium. This involves no conflicts, it's just "setting the scene".

Now, I don't see why there has to be a limit to the amount of collaborative narration that goes on, before the first conflict (Goal or Event) is defined. It's quite clear that all of the scenes are going to end in a conflict (which is good), but how much narration can go on before this happens?

My own thought on this is that there doesn't have to be a limit - if everyone is happy with telling the story, then that's fine.

But... the Starter for the Scene gets to choose the first conflict, which means that they, and they alone, get to decide how long the "collaborative narration" phase lasts. and I'm not convinced that the system guides them in deciding when this should happen.

So, some questions:

(1) Is there anything to prevent extended narration periods at the start of (or in-between) Scenes?

(2) What rules (if any) cover the transition from narration to conflict? At the moment, this appears to be "when the Starter names the first conflict", but I may have missed something.

(3) Specific issue: what happens if the Starter wants to keep narrating, and the other players want a conflict?


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 20, 2005, 09:34:35 AM
Thomas,

just to be clear: The "say yes" philosophy I mostly apply to improvised GM-less role-playing. It's not necessarily tied to immersive play, though it can be.

Uninteresting input is a problem. The biggest problem is lack of input - players who are into their character, but don't show it. Just like hanging out with very quiet people, it's a matter of taste whether you want them in your group or not. Personally, I prefer players who "are" active characters. (Predictably, when there are no rules to force everyone to contribute, you're left with the ugly truth that some people are just better at role-playing than others, more entertaining to listen to, have easier access to ideas and character mannerisms etc).

Yes, it's a fairly slow process to find out what people want - unless they tell you. In most campaigns I've run or played, there's a lot of talking between players, and between players and GM, about what works and what doesn't.

(What you describe - "over a large number of sessions you carefully observe the types of inputs that each player provides so that you better understand what they enjoy" - sounds very much like one of the strategy tips given in Capes: Find out what they want, so you can feed them conflicts that engage them, giving you story points).


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 20, 2005, 09:43:15 AM
Doug! Good one! This was one of many things we had trouble with, and a fairly central issue, I believe. I pushed for short narration periods, using the examples in the book as a guide. However, when we started our impro session, we decided not to have a time limit. And, in the end, that's what caused the no-conflict playing style: Nobody wanted conflict enough to start using the conflict rules.

Quote from: Doug Ruff
But... the Starter for the Scene gets to choose the first conflict, which means that they, and they alone, get to decide how long the "collaborative narration" phase lasts. and I'm not convinced that the system guides them in deciding when this should happen.

As far as I can tell, and the way we played it, the answers are:

1. No. However, the examples seem to say narration should be short, and the lack of rules governing it makes for uneasy play in an otherwise rules-governed game.

2. I believe you're right - the starter has to start Actions (creating a conflict or using an abillity).

3. We had some pages where other players than the starter wanted to start Actions, forgetting they couldn't; I told them they had to wait. There were also points where I had to tell the starter to get on with it, as we were clearly entering conflicts (and use of abilities, but I later understood that it's OK to narrate ability use without having to start Actions). So I think you just have to use social pressure if they don't want to start Actions but you do.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: LordSmerf on March 20, 2005, 09:58:17 AM
Quote from: matthijs
Just to be clear: The "say yes" philosophy I mostly apply to improvised GM-less role-playing. It's not necessarily tied to immersive play, though it can be.


Okay... this raises an interesting question that may belong in another thread.  Is "GM-less" roleplaying different from "Gm-ful" roleplaying?  It seems that you're saying that in GM-less play no one has the authority to say "no", would it be fair to say that GM-ful play gives everyone the authority to say "no"?  Have you ever played that way?  How would that be different from the way you normally play?

Quote
Uninteresting input is a problem. The biggest problem is lack of input - players who are into their character, but don't show it. Just like hanging out with very quiet people, it's a matter of taste whether you want them in your group or not. Personally, I prefer players who "are" active characters. (Predictably, when there are no rules to force everyone to contribute, you're left with the ugly truth that some people are just better at role-playing than others, more entertaining to listen to, have easier access to ideas and character mannerisms etc). [-emphasis added]


This really struck me, but I'm not sure what I want to say about it.  Something about rules putting everyone on a level playing field, or maybe about rules helping to teach you to be a better roleplayer.  I'll try to figure out what I want to say and come back later.

Quote
Yes, it's a fairly slow process to find out what people want - unless they tell you. In most campaigns I've run or played, there's a lot of talking between players, and between players and GM, about what works and what doesn't.


Interestingly I've found that whatever people tell me they want, experience shows that they want something different (maybe only a little different, maybe way different).  So while talking may be helpful, I've found it rarely actually tells me what they really want.  Sometimes they don't know themselves.

Quote
(What you describe - "over a large number of sessions you carefully observe the types of inputs that each player provides so that you better understand what they enjoy" - sounds very much like one of the strategy tips given in Capes: Find out what they want, so you can feed them conflicts that engage them, giving you story points).


Yes!  And what I'm saying is that they're very similar things.  In Capes you have these strong rules designed to reveal what other people want right now.  In freeform play you can still learn these things, but you don't have rules support so it takes more time and effort.  You don't get the instant feedback that Capes provides.

Thomas


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 20, 2005, 10:14:34 AM
Thomas, I certainly agree with many of your points - especially that it's sometimes easier to get players to understand and show what they want by way of actual play with the right set of rules.

(Wrt "GM-less" - just using regular jargon instead of Forge jargon there, not a strictly defined term).


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Callan S. on March 20, 2005, 05:00:09 PM
Quote from: matthijs
The sports we excel in are mainly sports where you don't win using tactics, only through personal training and excellence

So what drives them to excel? Certainly something does. And it isn't the reward of challenging someone else and winning. They don't improve themselves for that. What reward do they get for excelling, in terms of the culture they are in? I think the answer might help this discussion about roleplay.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Callan S. on March 20, 2005, 05:42:14 PM
Quote from: matthijs
So I think you just have to use social pressure if they don't want to start Actions but you do.

This reminds me of the conch shell idea. When you pass the imaginary shell, the action implies the following social pressure "Dude, you have the shell! Say something!"

Perhaps you've always been applying social pressure...just not aware of doing it until capes asked you to apply it in a different way?


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 21, 2005, 12:41:18 AM
The drive to excel:

In winter sports like ski jumping, cross-country skiing etc, I believe the people who end up being world champions are mainly competing against themselves - just trying to get better and better at what they do. This is certainly one of the things that makes me improve my role-playing: When I think "shit, that session should have been better. I can do much better than that!"

What is needed for this to happen is some yardstick, something you can measure yourself by; and idols, people who are better than you at what you do, so you know you're not yet getting the best results you should be able to.

Social pressure:

Social pressure is very obvious in impro role-play. When you have no rules to hide behind, there's no illusion that what you're doing is fair, or has any authority outside that you're given by the group. However, social pressure is also something we're trained to ignore - so even though some techniques could be blatantly obvious to an observer, that doesn't mean the participants are even aware they're using them.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: TonyLB on March 21, 2005, 05:21:30 AM
Quote from: matthijs
This is certainly one of the things that makes me improve my role-playing: When I think "shit, that session should have been better. I can do much better than that!"

What is needed for this to happen is some yardstick, something you can measure yourself by

Cool.  So if creating adversity for other players were something you wanted to get better at, I think you'd be all set.  Unfortunate that it's not, since you seem to be in just the right mindset to use Capes, otherwise.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Callan S. on March 21, 2005, 06:17:04 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
Quote from: matthijs
This is certainly one of the things that makes me improve my role-playing: When I think "shit, that session should have been better. I can do much better than that!"

What is needed for this to happen is some yardstick, something you can measure yourself by

Cool.  So if creating adversity for other players were something you wanted to get better at, I think you'd be all set.  Unfortunate that it's not, since you seem to be in just the right mindset to use Capes, otherwise.

It sounds like the desire in Mat to have adversity applied to him, so as to be a yardstick to judge himself by. But if no one else is interested in applying that adversity to him...tricky.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 21, 2005, 10:37:37 PM
Quote from: Noon
It sounds like the desire in Mat to have adversity applied to him, so as to be a yardstick to judge himself by. But if no one else is interested in applying that adversity to him...tricky.


Nope, not what I'm saying.

When I'm happy with a session I've GM'ed, it's because I've prepped properly so all the players have had engaging stuff happen to them, the right sort of stuff so they pick it up, run with it and play off it.

When I'm happy as a player, it's because I've gotten into my character and channeled him, playing out issues that he and I want to do something with and about; and because I've interacted well with the other players, getting into their troubles and joys.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: Callan S. on March 22, 2005, 02:45:06 AM
Quote from: matthijs
Nope, not what I'm saying.

When I'm happy with a session I've GM'ed, it's because I've prepped properly so all the players have had engaging stuff happen to them, the right sort of stuff so they pick it up, run with it and play off it.

When I'm happy as a player, it's because I've gotten into my character and channeled him, playing out issues that he and I want to do something with and about; and because I've interacted well with the other players, getting into their troubles and joys.


For the first part, it sounds like you start with a bunch of players all sitting ready and then want to work from there into everyone getting into some fun stuff.

For the second, it sounds similar, where you want to start out from a reasonable base and work upwards.

To me, it still sounds like adversity. It's the adversity of a blank page...the blank page gives you lots of options, but there is still the adversity that nothing is on it. It's a milder form of adversity (then again, sometimes it can be over powering in its adversity...writers block). If that sounds right at all, perhaps you'd enjoy people throwing you blank canvases/blank pages to work on.

Don't get me wrong about the blank bit. You can have someone declare a castle undersieg by dragons while inside undead are helping good aligned elves...if they've just described that and no exploration of it has happened yet, that's a blank page to me. Blank = no exploration yet.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 22, 2005, 02:52:32 AM
Noon, I think we're just splitting words now. If "adversity" can include anything anyone does, including doing nothing, well, yeah, I thrive on adversity.


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: TonyLB on March 22, 2005, 04:58:24 AM
Uh, yeah, Callan... I think you've gone a bit far, terminology-wise.  I was just noting that Matthijs wanted an easily perceived yardstick against which to measure his success in the game.  That would help him to improve.  

If he wanted to improve how well he provided adversity to other characters then Story Tokens would (I would argue) be an easily perceived yardstick against which to measure his success.  But it's not an area he wants to improve in, so Story Tokens aren't going to help him.  It's like measuring the lap-time for a high jumper.  No matter how consistently you tell him how many jumps he can cram into a minute, he's going to tell you "I don't care how many, I care how high!"

He needs some other game that provides an easily perceived yardstick of how well he's achieved his goal.

Matthijs:  Have I understood your earlier comment?


Title: [Capes and impro] Not getting it / making it work
Post by: matthijs on March 22, 2005, 05:05:14 AM
Yeah, Tony, that's more what I meant! (Short reply day today ;)