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Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 22, 2002, 10:36:01 AM
Hello,

Here's the first fifth (or so) of the complete short story that I'll be presenting as part of one of the chapters in Sex & Sorcery. Its purpose is to illustrate one of the "gender-heavy" story types outlined in a previous chapter, specifically a "male" type that concerns conflicting responsibilities (self, society, honor).

My questions for you are:

1) Is it well-written enough such that you could stand to read the rest of the story?

2) Can you see Sorcerer "speaking" through it, thematically?

3) Do you think a substantial, complete short story (in direct contrast to 99% of most "fiction" in game texts) is an effective way to present these issues? (It's followed by rules & game stuff pertaining to the sorcery and the setting.)

PARAGON

The monastery consisted of seven small buildings nested in a green valley, sometimes foggy but usually bright with sunshine and flowers. The central building was a pretty pagoda trimmed with ornate curlicues and railings, much-loved and reverently tended.

Within the central temple, in the place made most holy by the regard of the ancestors, the elders of the Golden Road sat in a stern row. A young man clad in the robe of a student monk kneeled before them. They regarded him silently for a moment.

“Xin Ha,” began the one in the center. “Never have we seen a more devoted student of the Way. Your unswerving obedience of the tenets of the Golden Road exceeds all expectations.

“Your answer to the Mirror Koan was unprecedented for a student of your rank, and it has prompted a wholly new direction of enlightened discussion in the Emperor’s Academy.

“You display mastery of the Many-Eyed Dragon fighting form beyond our ability to teach you further, and the sparring masters refuse to continue to lose face in class.”

The Chief Elder paused. Then he snapped, “It’s intolerable!”

The student’s serene and humble expression altered to one of bewilderment. “Y-yes sir!” he stammered. “I abase myself!” He did so, with his brows wrinkled and his gaze darting to one side.

“We have received the Imperial Decree of the Emperor’s Temple,” continued the Elder, and his voice rang like an iron bell. “You must leave the temple and journey from village to village. You must drink wine, and touch of the flesh of women, and taste the meat of fish, fowl, and beast. It is decreed: you are to walk the road to Hell.”

Young Xin Ha had listened with more and more astonishment, and finally he found his voice. “Exile? The flesh of women? Revered masters, I cannot believe my ears! Not once, in my whole life, have I broken a single tenet! Even one such act is enough to condemn me to everlasting torment. How can you ask me to shame myself and the Order this way?”

His protests went unheeded. They took him to a secret room, where a wizened old man in chains conjured up a nasty bundle of hissing thing, and they loosed it upon him. It determined to drag him straight to Hell, and marked him with its blood, naming him as its prey!

They told him that he must Bind the thing in Hell Speech, accepting responsibility for the things it Needed. The elder said, “You must choose: obey us and Bind this thing, or disobey the Imperial Decree and be named outlaw.” Xin Ha wept and protested again, but, in the end, he obeyed.

The next day, he set out upon the road, with the demon set in a basket that he carried at the end of a staff. He wore travelling clothes, a conical straw hat, and a woeful expression.

Weeks later, Xin Ha sat glumly against a wooden wall inside an inn of bad repute in a notorious border town. Men who called themselves soldiers, but whose primary activity consisted of intimidating and robbing peasants, roistered all around him, as bruised-looking girls moved to inexpert music. Smoke filled the air and the floor was sticky with long-dried spills of rice wine.

Two nasty little eyes in glowed in the basket beside him, visible as its lid was tipped up on one side. “Sssst!” hissed the demon. Xin Ha shifted his eyes to look at it without changing expression.

It asked, “Have you drunk of the wine, and eaten of the beef?” He answered in the affirmative, curtly. “Did you touch the flesh of women?” He glared briefly at the demon, then looked away and nodded once. The demon grinned like a little furnace. “Better than wine and beef, isn’t it?”


Thanks!
Ron


Title: Re: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: GB Steve on October 22, 2002, 11:13:06 AM
I would say:
1) Is it well-written enough such that you could stand to read the rest of the story?
Yes
2) Can you see Sorcerer "speaking" through it, thematically?
Yes
3) Do you think a substantial, complete short story (in direct contrast to 99% of most "fiction" in game texts) is an effective way to present these issues? (It's followed by rules & game stuff pertaining to the sorcery and the setting.)
I'm not sure. I mean WW did it all the time and I never read them beyond the first one. But I like this better so maybe

With my editor's hat I might say more about the story but I'm not sure that's what you want.

In any case, I enjoyed it. I particularly like the image of the demon sitting in the basket and the naive student wondering what the hell was going to happen.

Cheers,
Steve


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: greyorm on October 22, 2002, 02:55:34 PM
One question: does it add to the understanding of the game?

I don't mean, "Does it provide color, theme or explanation." But more literally, will inclusion of the story be necessary for getting the point of the chapter/surrounding text across?

That is, is it as necessary to read as any other passage in the book -- or is it filler, fluff or whatnot (even very cool and well-written filler/fluff)?

Therein, in the answer, is the answer to the question.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Manu on October 22, 2002, 03:07:05 PM
For 1) and 2) I'd say yes; for 3)...What I really appreciate about Sorcerer supplements is the veryabstracted-yet-directly-applicable nature of the writing. The examples are short and to the point, concerning themselves only to the point discussed. I'm a bit afraid that an entire short story would take away valuable space that could be put to better use by varying the setting examples and discussing the new rules and concepts - the excerpts from Forge discussions in Soul were wonderful, I could buy entire books of that.

Don't get me wrong, this story screams Sorcerer at me, but avoiding the WW syndrome will be a daunting task. The usual format of laying down the bare bones in the books, in a way taking as many things for granted as possible (I can see some of you shuddering, but I actually like it-Don't you love to be creative and fill in the blanks?), and fleshing it out on the Forge is perfect for me.

By that I mean that some of the things that Ron has mastered and that didn't seem so obvious to players on first reading actually allowed people to use their interpretations and probably come up with a more personal and committed way to play. I don't imply that's it's confusing, at least not to the point where it's unusable or detracts from the game.

So I'd rather err on the side of less fleshed out details and more abstract, raw concepts. Just my two cents :)


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Paul Czege on October 22, 2002, 06:28:57 PM
Hey Raven,

One question: does it add to the understanding of the game?...will inclusion of the story be necessary for getting the point of the chapter/surrounding text across?

I think the issue Ron must be confronting is that with the prior two supplements, the literary and film canon supporting the game theory was well established, and he could rely on some level of player familiarity with it, and exploit it for examples in the game text. With this one, a theory that seems to have emerged more from his background in biological sciences and sociological readings than from his interest in a specific genre of fiction, it seems like examples he might try to use from literature and film are going to be, for lack of a better word, opaque, and I think, somewhat lacking in demonstrative punch. So it seems to me the fiction is important.

Paul


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: greyorm on October 22, 2002, 08:41:45 PM
Paul,

Therein's the problem: I didn't read it.
I didn't read it precisely because it was game fiction and I knew it was game fiction.

Would I buy it and read it as a short story? Yes.
Would I read it as game material? No.
(Yes, I went back and read it now)

I'm asking myself, "What did I learn about the rules of the game from this?" The answer is "nothing." It's an interesting story...but what does it have to do with the game?

That's where my question comes in: I've no doubt Ron is attempting to portray something not easily accessible or within the realm of experience of most gamers with the story -- BUT its "just" color.

Ok, so I'm pushing him to make something more out of gaming fiction than the standard: "Here's some color that expresses what your game would/could feel like if this material is used."

What will I LEARN about the game by reading the story that I wouldn't pick up on otherwise, or in a clear, concise description of what the color is being used to represent/describe? I'm asking about the utility of its inclusion, the question of: does it add more to the material for the player than something non-fiction would?

(Though I'm sure Ron realizes the following, I want to make very certain everyone else understands this as well -- I'm not knocking Ron's fiction or ability to write, or the value of fiction as its own entity, but such is neither here nor there for my purposes above)

Well-written or crappy, what does it add to the book?


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: hardcoremoose on October 22, 2002, 09:04:56 PM
Raven,

What I get from Ron's story, and maybe what Paul is trying to get at, is this:

Narrativism is about telling a story.  That being the case, stories are important to the form as a whole, and by including one (or more) in the text of the game, Ron is giving us a model for the kinds of stories we might hope to produce.  That's not so necessary for something like Sorcerer & Sword, where a huge body of literature exists for us to look at and use, but in this case, where the source material may be less well known to the audience, it's utility should be obvious.

Of course, there is the argument that would say "I'm making my own stories here, I don't need to be told what one looks like."  And to a certain extent I can see that argument.  But the truth is, roleplaying isn't the same as authoring a novel; it's a shared experience, and without a shared understanding of genre, the stories that are produced will likely suffer from incoherence.  This is exactly what we experienced during our playtest of The World, The Flesh, and The Devil.

So that's my take; it's a tutorial on what a story - one possible story, anyway - would look like, utilizing the tropes that Ron mentioned.

- Scott


Title: Re: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Alan on October 22, 2002, 09:27:29 PM
Hi Ron,

1) Is it well-written enough such that you could stand to read the rest of the story?

Yes.  However, the opening is a bit slow.  You'd have a better hook if you started at:

Quote from: Ron Edwards

“We have received the Imperial Decree of the Emperor’s Temple,” said the Elder, and his voice rang like an iron bell. “You must leave the temple and journey from village to village. You must drink wine, and touch of the flesh of women, and taste the meat of fish, fowl, and beast. It is decreed: you are to walk the road to Hell.”


The background can be introduced later.


2) Can you see Sorcerer "speaking" through it, thematically?

Yup.  Demon in a basket.  Needs.  Human conflict.  Yup.


3) Do you think a substantial, complete short story (in direct contrast to 99% of most "fiction" in game texts) is an effective way to present these issues? (It's followed by rules & game stuff pertaining to the sorcery and the setting.)

Yes, I think it's a great way to emphasize how premise and theme interact with characer story.  Sorcerer has the advantage of having something deeper to drive a piece of game fiction, than many RPGs.

- Alan


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Paul Czege on October 22, 2002, 09:55:40 PM
Hey Scott,

From the whole of your comments, I think we're on the same page. I just want to respond to this:

Ron is giving us a model for the kinds of stories we might hope to produce.

I think the model of effective text derived from narrativist play has to be Peter Adkison's post about having played Sorcerer at GenCon. It reads more like author's notes than anything else, exposing both the in-game and metagame conflicts of the play experience. It captures the feel of play better than any example of play I've seen in a published game. Contrast it with the log of the online group's game of Shadows from last Monday. It reads more like story, but you can't tell what the conflicts were, and don't much get a feel for what it was like to play.

Our playtesting of My Life with Master is great fun, great Premise-answering collaborative creation of narrative with interesting protagonists. But the product of gameplay wouldn't map very well to short fiction. What I read you to be saying, other than the one potentially misleading sentence, is that Ron is using story as a vehicle for delivering genre expectations, not as a textual representation of the output of the play experience. And that I agree with.

Paul


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: hardcoremoose on October 22, 2002, 10:16:05 PM
Paul,

You read me correctly.  How game play maps to fiction isn't my concern, and moreover, I don't think that Ron is trying to show us how to write a piece of fiction based upon the in-game events of an actual Sorcerer session (this, however, is interesting to me...I seem to remember Ron, or maybe it was someone else, once ask 'what's the point in having these stories if we don't share them with others', and wasn't there going to be a place for people's game-stories at the Sorcerer website at one time?).

I regard the story fragment above as a piece of Color.  However, I'm reluctant to quickly dismiss Color as being less valuable than say Setting, System, Situation, or even Premise.  Color gets a capital "C" just like the other elements of game design because it's absolutely invaluable in conveying genre appropriateness - it may be more valuable in this regard than Setting or Situation - and a shared understanding of genre is necessary to create a coherent "story" among multiple participants.

- Scott


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Uncle Dark on October 23, 2002, 08:51:11 AM
Ron,

It's an interesting story, and I'd love to read more.  Still, it doesn't seem to say anything about gender-specific themes in fiction.  It imparts no information that I don't already have about Sorcerer from the main rule book.

What might work is if you wove two stories together, one "male" and the other "female," in such a way that the differences in theme were contrasted and showcased.

What you've shown us is the intro of a fairly standard "male"-themed story.  Maybe if the next section was a female character with a "female"-themed story (with the two characters eventually encountering each other), that would work better.

I guess what I'm getting at is that since the "male" themes have been standard for most fantasy/adventure fiction in any media, we really don't need to be shown what they look like for their own sakes.  It's the "female" themes that are going to seem odd, and which will benefit more from explicit illustration.

Lon

PS
Upon further reflection, I see where the "demon in a basket" is a pregnancy metaphor.  From what you've given us, there is no indication whether or not the demon ever leaves the basket.  It could just be a funky way of making it Inconspicuous, and it'll leap out and do stuff at Master's command, or it may never leave the basket, forcing the guy to do all kind of stuff to protect it.

This makes a difference.  If the demon leaps out to do stuff, then the basket is an odd looking utility belt, which weakens (to some extent) the pregnancy metaphor.  If it doesn't, then that strengthen's the metaphor.

Does it, I wonder, stay in the basket for nine months and then burst out, changing the metaphor from pregnancy to parenthood?  After a while, does it begin to seriously challenge its master (adolescence)?  Maybe I'm extendign the metaphor too far...

Lon


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Paul Czege on October 23, 2002, 09:04:12 AM
...since the "male" themes have been standard for most fantasy/adventure fiction in any media, we really don't need to be shown what they look like for their own sakes. It's the "female" themes that are going to seem odd, and which will benefit more from explicit illustration.

Excellent comments, Lon.

Paul


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Uncle Dark on October 23, 2002, 09:13:16 AM
Further comment:

Despite the recognitions in my postscript, I still feel that the male theme of the story (dishonor, expulsion, so on) seem to outweigh the femal theme (being bound to and responsible for care of another being) because the male theme is the one our POV character is concerned with.

Lon


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Valamir on October 23, 2002, 10:53:33 AM
Here's my thoughts on game fiction in general.  

1) I have absolutely no bias at all against story fragments vs. complete short stories.  Having a complete short story vs a fragment of one is thus not a selling point for me.  The only time I have a problem with fragments is when they are so interesting I REALLY want to read the rest but there isn't any.

2) Fiction in game books serve 1 purpose and 1 purpose only to me.  Pure color.  The Fiction says "THIS is what the game is supposed to feel like.  THIS is what the world is supposed to look like.  THIS is how characters are supposed to act.  THESE are the kinds of things characters are supposed to be doing / concerned with".

Thus, game fiction is a two edged sword.  If the rest of the game doesn't live up to the promise of the fiction, I feel cheated...as if the old "bait and switch" tactic was used on me.  If the game mechanics don't lead directly to scenes and adventures that look and feel like the game fiction...then don't have the game fiction.


In answer to your specific 3 questions Ron.

1) Yes.  Although I think it could be reworked to have more impact.  As an example the use of the word "consisted" in the first sentence is a real downer to me.  Hard to think of a more boring verb than consisted.  

2) Almost.  By concentrating hard I can see the whole: recently kicked out of the monastery, saddled with a demon, and ordered to break his vows thing as the characters Kicker...but only really because I was looking for it.  As someone else mentioned this might be because there is too much build-up.  The "you are the best that's ever been" part seems to detract from the point.  Beyond that I see where the continuation of the story has ample room to explore more thematic issues also.

3) I've answered part of this above.  To get more specific, I think this supplement will be enough of a departure mentally/philosophically that having an example of the kind of issues that can/should be featured in such a game is very important.  That said, as long as the rest of the text succeeds at showing me how to get through play to something resembling that story it works...complete story or fragment of one.  If not...if one can't see how to get there from the text...then from my perspective the story is pointless regardless of how good it is.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on October 23, 2002, 11:16:45 AM
Ron - tricky to answer this kind of thing.  But what the hell - I'll give my Inner Critic a bit of a free rein, and while I'm probably not giving it all the time, attention and consideration it deserves, these seem to me like maybe-useful insights.  Still, consider all of this a partial and provisional opinion.

Well written enough?  On the whole, very much yes - I'm very interested in why the temple and/or emperor have done such a thing to our protagonist, probably as a result of the fact that (to answer the next question a bit) the themes do come through, and are compelling.  I found a few spots a bit awkward - the flow in and around "a wizened old man in chains conjured up a nasty bundle of hissing thing, and they loosed it upon him" bothers me, and I think the "woeful expression" bit in "He wore travelling clothes, a conical straw hat, and a woeful expression" is either over-written (on it's own) or under-written.  What do I mean by that?  Er - let's see, something like "He wore a travelling clothes upon his back, a conical straw hat on his head, and a woeful expression upon his face" matches up the language from "woeful expression" to the other bits more effectively for me.  Or drop "woeful expression" and have him walk slump-shouldered down the road.  Or something.

Sorcerer speaking?  Yup.  I'm definitely interested in seeing how the story develops that speaking, and can imagine (knowing Ron, not likely - but *imagine*) that if it failed to do so, I'd be left a bit confused.  Again, the themes of Sorcerer DO speak in this bit, but at this point that speech is a hard-to-hear whisper.  Which is NOT a bad thing for the first fifth of a story, but I'd hope the volume would go up as the story progresses.

Substantial, complete story as an effective way to present these issues?  I think it could be.  I agree with the comments here about what needs to happen in order for that to occur (add something to understanding the game, probably not "just" Color), but I would add - some people get things more effectively when they are explained in plain text, other's get 'em better when they see/"experience" it through fiction.  There's nothing wrong (and maybe a lot good) with communicating about the same thing (themes of male and female stories) in different ways.

A couple other comments - I'm hoping that by "complete short story," you mean complete in one place in the game text.  If not - make it easy to find the next "part" of the story in the book.  If fiction in a game book grabs me enough to interest me at all (and sometimes, even the fragmentary bits that are most common in RPGs will grab me), I want to read it all, and I'll flip through the book looking for that next part.  When/if that next part turns out to be an unconnected fragment . . . I stop reading the fiction.

And I was wondering if "Paragon" (which you once mentioned as a possible supplement title) was connected with Sex & Sorcery - now I see it is, and I think I see how/why.  Cool stuff.

Thanks for the excerpt,

Gordon


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 23, 2002, 11:46:42 AM
Hi there,

Back in August, I presented the chapter outline for Sex & Sorcerer. I'll reproduce it here:

Ch 1: getting social dynamics among the real role-players out of the closet, then defining Lines & Veils, and finished by a very graphic revelation regarding Ch 7 in the main book in order to illustrate Lines & Veils

Ch 2: "Male" and "Female" story models/topics explanation - this is supposed to be much like Ch 2 in Sorcerer & Sword, which gets people all fired up about playing this kind of stuff, as well as about the source/inspirational literature and film.

Ch 3: In Utero, exemplifying a "Female" story topic - additional rules bit = lots of sexuality in rituals (not what you might think, either)

Ch 4: Paragon, exemplifying a "Male" story topic - additional rules bit = martial arts to colorize combat, Shaw Bros style

Ch 5: Azk'Arn, a sword & sorcery setting which combines the "male" and "female" story concepts - solid setting material (and it's a hell of a setting, too), examples of how the hero concepts create in-play and prep-to-play events

Ch 6: Very scary rules, going way past the edge - specific to male and female characters, specific to male and female players, not for the timid; followed up with how they would apply to Azk'Arn.

The "testimonials" are intended to go between the chapters.


As you can see, the story (which will be complete in a single place) is part of Chapter 4. Lon, you're 'way off the mark with your pregnancy notions; the Paragon story is all about what I've tagged as a Male story. Therefore your "in sum" statement (it's a Male) is completely on-target and on purpose.

Side note for the hair-triggered among you: Male stories can have female protagonists, and vice versa - what happens is an "edge" or nuance that gets added in doing so. Good examples include The Prince of Tides (the novel, not the crappy movie) for a male hero in a female-type story. However, note that many "women in guy flick" movies are actually Female stories after all, as in The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Other story notes:

1) The concrete conflict of the story is not present in the excerpt you've read. The very next paragraph after the excerpt introduces (a) the girl and (b) the villain, and the situation rapidly becomes such that the hero's prowess (fu, etc) is totally irrelevant. The question is whom to kill/fight, not how well to kill/fight.

2) All the edits/structure comments are very helpful and I will make free with some of them. Yeah, "consist" blows - thanks especially for that one.

3) Scott and by extension Paul are absolutely right about the role of the story - it's Color, not exemplar of play-result. Part of my goal is to use Color well to help convey what I mean, because frankly, the technical part of this chapter (and the section in Chapter 2 which introduces the basics) is really dry.

Here's an excerpt from a later portion of the chapter, when I'm deconstructing the story (I'm still editing this stuff to friendly it up a little).

In the culture of Paragon, a student monk is forced to “empty” the inner two rings, in order to establish his obligations to the outer rings. They are separated from family and access to potential sexual partners, and they are encouraged to devote all their time and energy to their immediate community and to abstract principles. Ultimately the goal is to reconcile these efforts with the inner two circles, such that the person is able to address conflicts among the rings with a clear mind. This training is generally very difficult as those inner rings are hard to ignore.

However, rarely, a person ignores the inner two rings easily and therefore quickly masters the rules for prioritizing the outer two. This is a disaster, for if only the forms of those rules are met, and the emptiness in the middle is only accentuated, a terrible non-human is created, a social parasite. He has no true understanding of the human condition and will not be able to judge conflicts among the rings either for himself or others, despite his apparent mastery of the formal training.

Therefore Xin Ha was already losing tons of Humanity, even before he Bound the demon, and his elders were acting to save him from his own self or, failing that, saving society from him. Either he learns to cope with the inner-ring issues such as anger and sexuality, or he’ll be taken by the demon.


Another issue that's central to the supplement is defining Humanity plurally. In Paragon, Humanity is gained/lost by both (a) helping/hurting others directly and (b) according/not according with community mores. The hero is trapped in a situation in which he must risk a Humanity loss in order to achieve a Humanity gain. (This plurality applies to the Female story archetype too, by the way, although with different variables.)

Oh, and just for you, Ben, nifty martial-arts rules are presented as an add-on in this chapter, admittedly because "I couldn't help it," as part of the notes about the Paragon setting.

Best,
Ron


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Tim C Koppang on October 23, 2002, 11:52:56 AM
Ron,

Without reading all of the I'm sure insightful comments of my fellow Forgites, I would like to present a few quick crituques before going into detail.  Consider these first impressions.

Why the hell did the guy get exhiled?  I'm thinking the old masters either want him to learn how the real world works, or because they just can't stand to lose to the guy.  Maybe you want this ambiguity in the beginning of the story, but I would caution against leaving it unresovled.  The heart of the story, from what little I read, seems focused on Xin Ha's great skill and the trouble that it gets him into.  It's his great natural power and the opposition of both the elder council and his newly awarded demon that drove my interest, and that drives the conflict of the story.  I know that you are pushing sexual themes in the upcoming supplement, and to be honest the attention paid to sex in the above snippit seemed cursory at best--more of sex=sin=baddness type of mood.  Again, I'm expecting this all to recieve more attention in the remainder of the story.

In answere to your question:

1) Yes: cleary written, and I only saw one typo.  I'd also suggest using some other word beside "thing" in the paragraph where he receives his demon.  I understand you are going for the whole, "what could it be" type of feeling, but it's repetitive and let's face it: we all know what game this is for.

2) Sort of.  See big paragraph above.

3)  I have to go to class . . . more on this later.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Emily Care on October 23, 2002, 11:59:04 AM
Thanks for the preview, Ron. Here are my responses

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) Is it well-written enough such that you could stand to read the rest of the story?

Yes. Though it felt a bit more like an example story-line than a short-story.

Quote
2) Can you see Sorcerer "speaking" through it, thematically?

This particular storyline? Certainly.
                 
Quote
3) Do you think a substantial, complete short story (in direct contrast to 99% of most "fiction" in game texts) is an effective way to present these issues? (It's followed by rules & game stuff pertaining to the sorcery and the setting.)


By "these issues" do you mean the issues that this supplement is addressing (gender in gaming etc)? If so, it seems possible, but since I'm not sure what exactly you are getting at, it's hard to tell. That much of the short story didn't communicate anything about "Sex and Sorcery" per se to me.

And if you are asking if this particular presentation will be effective as far as reaching readers, I'd have to say  probably not.  A free-standing story is even easier to skip over than example text within mechanics pages.  

But if you mean effective in terms of presenting   Sorcerer's premise, and themes related to the supplement: the short-story as a medium seems quite suited to presenting thematic narrative.  But Paul's post above got me thinking...

Peter Adkison's write-up of his Sorcerer experience described the unique kinds of player decisions that a game with a strong narrative focus like Sorcerer requires and encourages.  This kind of example could be very valuable in terms of opening up players' horizons and introducing them to the very different sort of approach this game takes. This supplement may not be the place such an example belongs, however.

Hope this is constructive and useful for your work.

--Emily Care

edited in:
Ron's last post answered many questions I had.  Sounds really interesting, Ron.  Having these short-stories (male and female themed) in the structure you've outlined sounds very effective--not just a long chapter at the start that people blow through...


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on October 23, 2002, 01:10:34 PM
Quote
3) Scott and by extension Paul are absolutely right about the role of the story - it's Color, not exemplar of play-result. Part of my goal is to use Color well to help convey what I mean, because frankly, the technical part of this chapter (and the section in Chapter 2 which introduces the basics) is really dry.

and
Quote
<Clipped "dry" text>


Pardon me for a moment while I say - I want this book, I want it NOW, and everyone should stop distracting Ron and let him finish it.  Those in the greater Chicago area should run his errands, do his laundry, and cook his meals so he can concentrate on finishing this book.  I'm not exactly a hair-trigger purchaser of indie games - I do buy 'em, but I'll often wait a while first.  This one I'll be first in line for - I *love* the way the "dry" text pairs up with the story.  I guess my "not JUST Color" comment should really have been "Color that actually speaks to core issues, rather than just fluffy-Color."  

And the alternate means to convey dry technical stuff is also exactly what I was getting at in my other comments, so I think Ron's on track there.  The "dry" description obviously provides direct answers to the question I (and others) asked about why the order did what it did to our protagonist, and I assume the story itself will also reveal that same info, in a different way.

I think Raven's "what does it add to the book?" is a good question, but I also think "a different angle on, and way to access, the same stuff that clear, concise description also covers" is a good answer.  Another way of saying it - the clear, concise description might leave you thinking "OK, I got it, but what's COOL about that?"  The story helps show what's cool.  I guess I'm with Ralph in that I'm not 100% biased against fragments doing the same thing, but given the themes of this book - a story definitely feels like a better expression.

I'm curious about the "exemplar of play result" issue - seems like there IS an assumption that RPG fiction is about examples of what play's like, or at least, examples of what you can do with the game.  When you (or at least when I) think about it, that's seems like a real mistake.  But that's a side issue - suffice it to say that, specific editorial/structural comments aside, I think this'll work.

Gordon


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Valamir on October 23, 2002, 01:59:29 PM
Hey, that deconstruction part made all the difference Ron.  Both in filling in the blanks about why this extreme event happened (I assume there's some exposition that reveals that somewhere in the complete story), and in showing how to link a particular definition of Humanity and how it works into actual story driving elements.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Bankuei on October 23, 2002, 02:01:10 PM
I'm with Gordon on this.  Put me second in line for the book.

At first, I wasn't quite sure what the point of having a short story was, other than Color, but with your further explaination, Ron, I see that you simply needed a model that contained all the examples of the issues you intend to highlight.

Clearly written? Yes.  I'm intrigued by the premise, but the writing could use a little more impact.  Although I'm also thinking about the general melodrama of the old Shaw Bro's movies too.

Sorcerer Themes? Yeah, although I think it's going to be interesting to see the protagonist's answer to "How far would you go?" and more importantly, what is the protagonist seeking to acheive?

Short story good for presentation?  In most other games, I'd just be happy with the fiction bits, because it's about Color.  In this case, you have very explicit themes and subjects you want to explore.  A short story is probably the best way of serving an example to emulate in terms of play, color, and theme all in one fat serving.

Chris


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Tim C Koppang on October 23, 2002, 06:04:43 PM
Quote from: fleetingGlow
I have to go to class . . . more on this later.

Ok Ron, I read your second post which appeared only minutes before my own.  Here's what I have to say about the deconstruction of the story that appears further along in the chapter: it's great.  That, and the new thread about what exactly a female and male story exactly is just got me extremely interested in the supplement.

But . . . I just wanted to reiterate that if you set up a conflict between X-- and his elders, which I think you do in the first part of the story, you shouldn't just leave it hanging.  It's hard to make a useful critique without the rest of the story, but generally speaking you'd risk diluting the tension and confusing the reader.  From the sound of your deconstruction, you present an explanation in the story, but I just wanted to make sure that one does get in there.  Even if you weight down the rest of the text with infinitely more interesting conflicts and characters, if you leave things unresolved (and I don't necessarily mean in the tie up all the loose ends happy Spielberg way; ambiguity is equally worthy) then you're putting things in the story that are auxiliary to the main characters and ultimately detract from a more powerful conclusion.  I'm going to leave that alone for now and wait for a reply.  I don't want to rant.

As for question number three now: I like game fiction.  No buts about it.  I will throw your own ideas back at you however.  You have always stated that detailed source material and game fiction tend to detract from the actual roleplaying that a supplement should catalyze.  Now, in no way am I saying that a story has to distract.  That I think is the heart of your question.  I just wanted to let you know that your particular viewpoint on the issue has made me look at game fiction in a whole new light.

Does your story do this: I have no idea.  I don't know what the rest of the chapter let alone book looks like.  But I do like the idea of including a complete and well developed piece of fiction--dare I say serious fiction.  Sure it will be genre fiction, (I'm using the lit term) but it will hopefully include solid character development through interesting conflicts and won't just simply rely on gimmicks or creative settings to carry along a plot.  Because you are presenting fiction for a self-proclaimed narrativist game you have raised the bar of expectations.  Now you need to show how to flex narrativist premise through fiction, and then apply the techniques of the story to the game itself.  Tough to do, but if you just concentrate on writing a good piece of fiction first then I think you will be well on your way.

Long story short: write a solid, well-developed, polished piece of fiction that can stand on its own with themes of sexual roles etc, and only then mesh the fiction with your rules.  That would be my approach.  And then yes, especially in light of how many references you make to existing fiction in S&Soul for example, fiction as a vehicle to explain concepts can work and work well.

You might want to let a few creative writing Profs take a look at the story and see what they think.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 24, 2002, 08:59:03 AM
Hello,

Thanks to everyone for all the feedback. Tim, I appreciate your taking the time to reply after my second post; I'd figured we were typing pretty much at the same moment. My hope is indeed that the tangible conflict of the story presented in the second fifth and the more ethical/metaphysical conflict presented in the first fifth will be complementary, rather than the second eclipsing the first. We'll see.

Best,
Ron


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Thor Olavsrud on October 24, 2002, 09:41:19 AM
Hi Ron,

As an editor (news, not fiction, for what it's worth), and with the caveat that it's very hard to judge something without seeing the whole, it looks like you have the seed of a good story here. But I'll give you the eternal editor's mantra: "Move it up!"

I know you know this, but it never hurts to hear it again. There's no time to waste when writing a short story. The kicker needs to be in the first line, or at the very least in the first 'graph. Otherwise, the reader is likely to lose interest. Exposition, when it's necessary, can be filled in later.

As for your other questions, I think fiction can be used effectively to add to a game, though it rarely is used to its best effect. The problem, I think, is that it rarely is a complete story, or even a fragment of a story. Instead you get a brief sketch of a situation, and what conflict is introduced into that sketch is rarely injected with any narrative power in terms of giving the reader a reason to care about the outcome.

I think that if you rely on the narrative rules that are reflected in the mechanics of Sorcerer, you will provide your readers with something that is engaging as well as useful in the context of understanding the possible themes of play.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Judd on October 24, 2002, 06:03:31 PM
1) Is it well-written enough such that you could stand to read the rest of the story?

I think fiction in gaming books needs to be short and sweet...but more importantly sweet.  It has to grab me fast and keep me giving a shit.

This story did that.

2) Can you see Sorcerer "speaking" through it, thematically?

Yes, I think it is pretty evident.

3) Do you think a substantial, complete short story (in direct contrast to 99% of most "fiction" in game texts) is an effective way to present these issues? (It's followed by rules & game stuff pertaining to the sorcery and the setting.)

I think it reads well and is a good way to promote the feel you are going for.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Clay on October 27, 2002, 08:31:05 AM
Ron,

Thor hit on my own concerns. I think that the story presents Sorcerer themes very clearly, and I think that the deconstruction is both useful and justifies the use of game fiction.

I do see a problem with the clip that you gave us, and I'd like to address it more specifically than Thor did.  You ended the story exactly where I felt it should have started.  Everything prior could have been revealed in flashback, and a large amount of it could have been cut if necessary.  As Thor said, start with the conflict.  From what I see of the story, the primary conflict is between Xin Ha's monastic beliefs and his need to be part of the profane world.  If that isn't what the story is about, this passage doesn't belong at the start of the story, and may not belong in the story at all.

I am hoping that this story and the associated deconstruction are part of the book, because they seem very useful to me.


Title: Sneak preview: Sex & Sorcery excerpt
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 28, 2002, 07:18:19 AM
Hi there,

Thor and Clay, thanks for the input. I'm sticking to the current construction for reasons of my own, mainly because I have the whole story, and I like it the way it is.

Best,
Ron