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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on October 27, 2006, 08:38:29 AM

Title: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 27, 2006, 08:38:29 AM

We played a third session of Best Friends, following up on the events described in [Best Friends] Larceny, hatred, and supportive self-actualization (, with me, Tod, Julie, and Maura. This one went a little rougher than the past two, not because of the system (our variant is 100% spiffy as far as I'm concerned), but due to content. We probably went a little edgier than we might have, and in fact, I know I'll be pushing for a straight-up crime caper in the next session. In a game like this, which is very close to Primetime Adventures, I think it's important to establish and maintain a base-line.

You may remember that our first session concerned a successful jewel robbery and a flashback to the group's "origin," and that the second concerned some minor thefts and working together to keep Kaytlin's dad from being ill-treated by his no-good girlfriend. This one turned out to be pure soap-opera: Thor, Angela's no-good ex-boyfriend, sleeps with Kaytlin, Madison, and Mindy, largely because he sort of cluelessly falls into each one's proximity, because each one has a beef with one of the other women, and because Thor is sort of irresistibly no-good.

This sequence of events was constructed without being pre-set and without much discussion - it was about as consensual as you can get, keeping in mind that we didn't have any uber-conversation about how it should go either. So I'd say the group as a whole was in agreement and there was no squick-factor involved. It's not like we didn't want our characters to be madonnas and not sleep with anyone, for instance.

The trouble for me was that I (as Madison) didn't like sleeping with Thor. It diminished her, and thus brought a potential downer into the character as far as I was concerned.

I figured out why, too. The model or inspiration for all of this is Patrick from the British TV show Coupling, in that all the female protagonists do sleep with him, and it doesn't diminish them as people, even though he's grossly unsuited for a real relationship for two of them. But Patrick at least has a personal virtue: specifically, his incredible shallowness actually becomes a kind of wisdom, especially given the women's tendency to lie to themselves and to one another so much. Whereas in our game, Thor is really just "no good," case closed.

Now, none of this was in and of itself a deal-breaker during play, just an unexpected challenge. As we played, the basic outcome was a non-peak (but still good) result. The final scenes had a great setup, as all the women had dates with pretty interesting guys at a party, yet all of them were clutching their hair in consternation about Thor. Unfortunately, and this is important, we ran into my time constraint at the very end, right when all the women pretty much decided to have a powwow and let the skeletons out of the closet. It was hard! We were all wrestling with how to approach it, and a couple of tries didn't gel. And then I had to leave.

I think we need to play out that last scene for real, when we get together next time, because it struck me, anyway, what I'd like to propose in character - that Angela has to dump her ex-boyfriend in order for the rest of us to keep from competing over him. That makes special sense in this case because of the session's excellent first scene, in which Angela gets him to do a favor for her, but then doesn't sleep with him.

Kind of an after-school special type of story, only for women in their late twenties.

See what I mean by edgy? The content didn't offend any of us, but it put a lot of pressure on us all to get the ending just right, perhaps a little too much pressure given the light-hearted content of our game.

Anyway, we are also starting up a game which requires a hell of a lot of prep and careful play, but the good news is that when we played that game's first session, Tod asked very clearly whether we were going to keep up with the Best Friends game. My take is that we as a group really like our characters and their weird thieves-but-good-guys gal-friends thing. I'm pretty sure that we won't leave them behind.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 27, 2006, 09:35:47 AM
Thanks for mentioning Coupling. It makes me laugh my ass off. :-)

I'm trying to understand what you're saying about trying to determine what happened at the end of the session. You were planning scenes, and discarding ideas, until you had to go? What did these "tries" consist of? (Am I missing something mechanical going on)?

In any case, I don't know about edgy, but I can see it being annoying to go over a scene several times and not get it right. I mean even "proposals" always seem to me to be play. For example, if we talk about a scene, and come up with all of it including the conclusion, then actually doing the scene itself always seems to me like "going through the motions." We've already played it out in the creation of the action that we've decided upon as the plan.

Doing several plans, and discarding them all sounds like a multiple retcon to me. And then not to have actually decided and played the outcome? Meaning playing it several times and not selecting one as the real event?



Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: jrs on October 27, 2006, 09:53:35 AM
I was there, and I'm not sure I understand what Ron means either.  That last scene was a bit rough but I thought we pulled through it ok.  It wasn't so much going over the same scene multiple times as Mike mentions; it was more a combination of Ron's last minute announcement that he had to go (the first we had heard that there was a time constraint), and trying to work through conflicts that were meaningful for us.  I actually really liked how the last scene where Mindy had to push and used Angela as her source of resisting Thor paralleled the first scene where Angela used her memory of Mindy giving her a pep-talk to break up with Thor to resist sleeping with him.  (It just so happened that the push scores worked out to be reciprocal in that way.)


Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 27, 2006, 09:55:15 AM
Hi Mike,

I agree with you entirely, and fortunately nothing of that kind was happening at all. Instead, we had established the scene, characters were in it, stuff was happening, and we were role-playing dialogue and actions. When I say 'things didn't gel," I'm not saying that we as players were negotiating whether anything was said or happening, I'm saying instead that characters were talking and not quite reaching conflict or closure.

In other words, nothing was hitchy or difficult about play itself. I'm talking about the content of play and how satisfying it was at that particular moment. I think if I hadn't had to leave at that point, we'd have worked through it, and my take from the group is that we agree about that and simply plan to play that scene through, from where we left off.

As a rule, I think negotiating about scenes either before or afterwards, in terms of whether we should have it, or keep it, or anything like that, is ass.

Best, Ron
crossposted with Julie

Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 27, 2006, 12:43:46 PM
Ah, I get it. Thanks.

So was it simply a case of circumstances (having to rush off), or is there something system-wise that caused the problem with the scene? A lack of support in the system for discovering conflicts? A lack of "flags"?


Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 27, 2006, 02:08:56 PM
Just logistics. None of that stuff you're mentioning poses an iota of difficulty with this group, nor with our play of this game. I encountered a role-playing (not acting)challenge in the sense of personal skill and ease of expression, that's all.

I'd prefer to continue the discussion without further fixating on what was not the case.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Gregor Hutton on November 01, 2006, 05:11:39 AM
Does Thor really have to be "no good" or do you think there is the possibility for him to show another side (even if it is only to one of the Best Friends)? If he did would that make him weaker as a character in the story? Or stronger?

I keep thinking back to your comment in an earlier thread ( "I think the key will lie in making and using NPCs. After all, in the game you just described, what if the husband is actually a pretty decent guy?"

I guess it's one of these situations I've seen where a whole bunch of my sister's friends see a guy as a complete loser, but crucially one of them would stick up for this guy having seen another side to him (whether real or imagined).

I can't wait to read more adventures of these girls. Thanks for posting! Oh, and my sister is a big fan of Coupling and the game too.

Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: jrs on November 01, 2006, 05:18:15 AM
Hey Gregor,

In Angela's nonsense, I wrote: "no good ex-boyfriend."  Thor has to at least start out as "no good", and I think we well established that.   Whether he stays that way is not yet determined.


Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 01, 2006, 05:19:25 AM

I don't know. Further play will see. I'm enjoying Thor as no damn good, partly because anything else I can imagine simply recapitulates stuff I've seen in movies and TV, but the other members of the group are present too with their own input and inspirations. As you know from my earlier thread, we're playing in a way which assigns responsibility for scene-framing based on who gained a coin - so there's strong GMing in the sense of that particular task, but it jumps all 'round the table all the time. Thus an NPC has a consensual identity. Then add to that the observation that if an NPC is part of a given character's Nonsense, that player tends to reserve veto or at least powerful influence over that NPC's depiction. It's interesting; we're still working it out a little because (I think) we also keep a weather eye out for the next imaginable pop-up conflict.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: sirogit on November 02, 2006, 08:18:25 PM
Hey Ron,

I'm awfully curious why you think negotiationg about scenes before or afterwards is ass.


Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2006, 09:04:08 PM
It's pretty straightforward, Sean. Think of it this way ...

If I were a painter, I wouldn't want to paint a painting, then use it as a tracer or paint-by-numbers model to "really" paint "the" painting. I'd want to paint it in the first place, period.

If I were a novelist, I wouldn't go through all the issues and processes and motions of writing the novel, then ... use that in some weird way to recopy it as the "real" act of writing it.

If I were a jazz musician, I wouldn't want to write out the solo note by note, check it with all my band members, and then go out into the gig and reproduce it as planned.

In all of the above cases, maybe the result isn't perfect. Maybe it's fuckin' rotten, for all I know. But the act of creating it is the act, and if the point of role-playing (for me) is as a creative medium, then I'm not going to pre-cast it in stone before doing it.

Same goes for afterwards. "Hey guys, that solo wasn't so great, was it. Let's just all pretend I played a good one, OK?" Ballocks. If it wasn't that great that particular time, no big deal. There's always something to learn from that and always another day.

Best, Ron

P.S. It strikes me that some of the li'l argumentative souls out there will point out that artists often draw in pencil before they paint, or that novelists will write an outline first, or that jazz musicians often use pre-known riffs in their solos. None of that has anything to do with what I'm talking about - that's merely process, not pre-creation of the actual thing. Role-playing has its process equivalents, and none of it is play-before-play or gee-revise-what-we-played in the sense that I am discussing (and calling ass).

Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Graham W on November 03, 2006, 07:44:29 AM

I'm running this game at Dragonmeet in London, so I'm interested in how your "GM-ful drift" is working out for you.

Are you still keeping to your scene-framing rule with Friendchips: where the last person to receive a Friendchip frames the next scene? It sounds as though you're deliberately framing scenes to create a bit of adversity: is that right?

I'm also interested in what you said about external adversity in the previous post. It sounds as though you use the Nonsense to suggest some external adversity and then use scene framing to bring it into play. Is that a fair summary?


Title: Re: [Best Friends] Thor is no damn good
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 03, 2006, 08:11:15 AM
Correct on both counts, Graham. That's pretty much exactly what we're doing.

The net effect is for the external adversity (or opportunity, or event, whatever) to permit anyone in the group to latch onto it as a way to invoke the inherent internal (among-player-characters) adversity built into the system, in whatever form he or she sees fit.

Best, Ron