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Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 07:07:00 AM
All right then.

This post is about what I'd think (or DO think, really) about the characters prior to going into the first session. I will also post about my OWN work prior to play, both before the character creation and afterwards, but this will come later.

So, about the characters. (Creators, leave your egos at the door. This is the stuff I never show real players.)

Cyril's Price is invalid. This is "DNPC"-think from Champions, the idea that a person you care about is automatically going to be a hassle and distraction during play. It's especially obvious in that Cyril is supposed to love Jenny very much but not want to be with her. Pretty easy to jettison, eh?

It's not even a Price in rules terms, which by definition is a sphere of activity in which the character takes a 1-die penalty. At this point, I say, "Time to chat with the player and fix this mess."

Cyril has an excellent demon, with a great Need. No problems there. No problem with the Kicker either (mental note: "Tobias Hapgood").

Eroch has a great Price, a great demon Need, a great Kicker ... pretty much no problems, especially with that weird-ass building involved too. Cool. All this makes up nicely for the clean living + self-esteem + lone adept descriptors, which on their own are a tad boring.

I told Paul I'd like to set Pazuzu's Desire, and looking at the other demons (which are frankly quite mean and nasty), I decide to "soften" Pazuzu's unpleasant Need with a rather sympathetic desire for Knowledge.

Richie's Price is invalid as well: "Control emotions?" What's that? I've have to demand a sphere of activity that low emotional control DAMAGES. Richie's Kicker, also, is kind of hackneyed - old Dad Vader is back in town, apparently, and that story can usually only go one of two ways. Either I take pains to make the dad sympathetic after all (thus invalidating the player's whole character concept, which I won't do), or I resign myself to having an NPC who exists simply to be beaten up.

All three characters have a very similar problem - the players have treated sorcery per se as a bad Marvel power. "I was walking down the street, I got bonked on the head, and then discovered I had acquired super powers!" The Sorcerer equivalent is the mysterious stranger who teaches and then leaves (how convenient), and no "feel" or personal commitment between the character writeup and the material regarding Lore. The Lore section on the backs of the sheets would be suspiciously blank.

I'd have to talk to the players about that a bit. Eroch's architecture can be tied directly to his sorcery, if the player likes. Richie's coven, in particular, needs to be defined and set up in an interesting way (I have an idea about that ...)

Connections among the characters: Richie and Eroch get drugs from the same source. How does Cyril connect with either? Damn. Another thing to talk to the player about.

So NPCs include: Jenny, Tobias Hapgood, Chema de Pauvan, a German psychotherapist, Richie's mom (who the player has told me is still around), and Richie's dad (if indeed it's him).

Places of interest include Cyril's club and Eroch's building.

Okay, enough on that. Next post, all about me and my musings even before all this character stuff started. Then after THAT, I'll combine the two.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 10:04:00 AM
Now for the discussion of my prep as GM, prior even to knowing about the characters.

Remember my discussion of the atmosphere and "feel" of the game? The whole black-and-white animation, and 40s thing? I'll put that aside - TOTALLY. I'll only return to it later.

The book I've wanted to use for a template in a game for a long time is Find a Victim, by Ross MacDonald. It seems totally inappropriate in terms of the setting we've discussed - the main character wanders into things utterly disconnected (only conceiving a minor lech for one of the female characters and a dislike for her husband) and it all takes place in a barren, isolated central California town in the 50s. But none of this matters! All I want is the relationship map.

It goes like this. An old fellow named Meyer, who owns a trucking company, has two daughters. Anne is a good-time girl and Hilda is a repressed housewife, married to the local sheriff, Brandon Church. Another fellow named Don Kerrigan has a loveless marriage with a woman named Kate, and he owns a motel business, the latest in a string of loser/failed ventures.

Anne and Don had a long-term affair that's been over more than a year (everyone knows this). Anne also tolerates the puppy/stalker level of affection of one of Meyer's drivers, named Tony Aquista. Much more secretly, Anne has just initiated an affair with Brandon Church, who is guilt-ridden about it. Tony reveals the affair to Hilda.

Don has a criminal solution to his financial woes - hold up one of Meyer's trucks (that's delivering whiskey to HIM, Don, and driven by Tony) and sell the stuff to hoodlums in a dry state, as well as collecting on the insurance. An out-of-town criminal, Leonard Bozey, is his ally in this; Bozey has a local girlfriend named Jo and a set of unsavory hoodlum allies.

Complication #1: Don and Jo have fallen in actual, real love, which throws a nasty kink into the Don-Bozey alliance.

Complication #2: Hilda kills Anne, then Tony (on the night of the theft!). Brandon is torn between his loyalty to his honor/job and to his wife (whom he has always sheltered, knowing her fragility), and he gets Don Kerrigan to help cover up the situation (burying Anne's body), in return for letting Bozey get away with the truck. Hilda manages to escape and kill Don as well; she can't stand that anyone knows about the affair between her sister and her husband, and desperately wants life to be "normal" now.

OK, so much for the book. I draw the map and "take it over."

Name changes follow. I'm interested in the Cronenberg trick that Jared refers to in Schism, about having names seem like aliases, not directly transformable to ethnicities. I also decide to keep most of the first names the same, for no good reason.
Brandon Church becomes Martin Beck (hence his wife is now Hilda Beck)
MacGowan becomes Maginnis (hence Jo "Summer" Maginnis)
Leonard Bozey becomes Milo Sizey
Don Kerrigan becomes Joey Van Graysloke (which is a very weird name) (hence Katie Craig van Graysloke, ditto)
Meyer becomes Raner (hence (hence Anne Raner, Hilda Raner Beck)
Tony Aquista becomes David Pruitt (and gets de-ethnicized)

OK, now to transform it regarding the setting. First step is to alter it all to the urban, sophisticated, big-money environment that I have in mind for the whole "material gain" issue.

So van Graysloke's shitty little motel biz becomes a string of casino hotels and similar ventures, linking him solidly into the shady business of licenses, leases, building contracts, and much else.

Similarly, Beck transforms from a small-town sheriff into a crusading DA or maybe just a good precinct chief - none of the issues change at all, just his status and profile. The character is supposed to be moral and breaking-apart, so this works fine.

And finally, Raner becomes the guy who owns and runs the airline that ships a lot of commercial material into the city area, in a semi-private airfield. If it's a cargo plane, then he's got a piece of it. (For the period, this function would be much more specialized than it is today.)

The key events include two thefts, both by Sizey. One happened in the past (in the book, it's a bank robbery of $20 thousand, marked); one happens at the outset (a truck hijacking of $70 thousand worth of bonded liquor). Here we can change them into operations of much more significance, with the second one including the actual disappearance of an entire cargo jet. The other key event is the string of murders by Hilda, and for now, I keep those fuzzy.

Now to sorcerize it! The main character to beef into full sorcerer-status is clearly Sizey - change him from a small-time "heavy thief" into a semi-legitimate developer and high-gloss con man, with some political allies. The gang that helps him becomes a scary, shadowy, sorcerous entity, much more significant than the gang of thugs in the book.

The other issue is Anne's murder, which suddenly leaps into focus surrounding the GUN which kills everyone. Hmmmm … what's interesting about this whole back-story is the depth of Hilda's unacknowledged hatred and jealousy for her sister … and that the sister gave her the gun, daring her to shoot herself, which (no pun intended) backfires badly … and so I get this image of Anne giving Hilda the demon gun, saying "Why don't you just kill yourself?", Hilda DOING IT, putting the gun to her head and pulling the trigger - and the demon treating that as a Binding, responding to her real desire, and killing Anne instead. Wow! That's an image: the gun remaining aimed at Hilda's head as it is fired, but Anne's head impacted and fragmenting from the shot. I can look forward to the revelation of that event.

So the gun is a demon. Perhaps old Raner has one foot in sorcery, perhaps just enough to Bind the gun originally. Let's make the demon up:

Its abilities are obviously Lethal Special Damage, Ranged, and Perception (intense desires). I decide that a person may roll Will vs. his own Humanity to bring the desire into the necessary "intensity," and then the demon rolls its Power vs. Humanity to perceive it (with victories from the first roll as a bonus), and its victories from that roll become bonuses for the Damage attack roll. Cool!  

Object demon (gun); Stamina 4, Will 5, Lore 3, Power 5; Desire Ruin, Need for stories of injustice.

Physically, it's just a gun. The only sneaky thing is that it can shoot whoever is the desired target without being pointed right at him (it still has to be fired; the Ranged and Damage abilities are conferred to a person). Nice - I decide to call it Kaww.

Not bad! Not prepped of course, just some back-story plus the demonic technicalities have fallen into place to some extent. Now it's time to check out those characters and see what they bring to the back-story and vice versa.

Best,
Ron

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-30 17:37 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on October 30, 2001, 10:16:00 AM
I'm posting this only for the sake of clearity.  I think you've mistaken Jenny, who is ASSOCIATED with the price for the price itself.  Cyril's Price is: Jumpy (-1 die penalty to all social rolls).  Jenny is just the most direct consequence of that.

Also what happened to to my demon being related to Tor's demon in the connections section?

Other than that I think your observations are interesting.  Especially the Superhero observation.  What exactly is your advice for getting around this problem?  It seems to be a natural consequence of those who like to play Solitary Adepts or Naifs.  The former are those who have long lost contact with other sorcerers and the later are Sorcerer's by accident.  And both of these are by far the most popular choices at least in my limited experience.

You mention the "shadowy master" who shows up and then disappears.  I bring this up because I'm genuinely curious and not because I'm trying to be defensive.  My original master background had been that the guy saved my life, introduced me to sorcerery and then just one day vanished without a trace.  You're reaction was that this was weak and now you claim here that it is convenient.  Originally I didn't see it that way.

Where my mind was going was a justification for Cyril's price: jumpy.  Okay, so this guys shows up out of no where, introduces Cyril to the dark arts and then just disappears.  But WHY?  And where did he go?  Is he still alive?  Worse, is he coming back?  It didn't feel convenient it felt creepy.  I was laying bare something for the GM to do their worst with.  Maybe my master was really somekind of demon?  Maybe my master was wanted by some other group of Sorcerers and will someday come after me.  Who knows?  It was something for the GM to play maliciously with.  Cliche, maybe, but not convenient.

This is compared with the revised version in which my master and I were both gamblers and eventually the town just got two small for the both of us and I just got up and left.  Sure, it's a little more proactive on my part and perhaps shows an insight into Cyril's character but the possibilities seem much more narrow.  The best we can hope for is that my former master would come looking for me for some reason.  But why should he?  He's a gambler and I'm no longer crowding his turff.  Good riddence.

So, really I don't see how the latter is better than the former.  Again, I'm just being curious, not defensive.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 01:46:00 PM
Jesse,

We're talking about GM-thoughts that are not negotiated by players. They may be unfair, misinformed, not interpreting things right, or forgetting details. Since they are private (in reality), that's just the way it is.

For instance, in cutting & pasting everything about Cyril, I totally missed the Price itself. [You are right, it's valid.] Since I was UNAWARE that I'd missed it, it could not be corrected until I went to that player and said NICELY, "Hey, I didn't see the Price," when I'd be corrected. And that's how I'd handled it.

However, we're in my head now - and it's not fair to anyone in there, I'm not nice about things in there, and the way I scribble notes about what to do has not yet gone through a social filter that's going to get good results.

Same goes for the sorcerous mentor issue. I like the new Kicker better than the old one, and that counts for a lot. That doesn't mean, when I look at the correlated change in the sorcerery-mentor back-story, it is not going to aggravate me in some way.

The whole point is that it's a POSITIVE aggravation. The new Kicker is so good that it's totally worth it. So now I say, "H'm, how can I do this back-story justice, when it doesn't offer me certain things?" I've already had a good correction from the player (the Kicker). I don't want to ask again. It's now on ME, and if I don't let myself spew a few sparks about it, privately, then the creative challenge isn't going to yield anything.

Remember the point of this exercise. The hood is off. One of the things that goes on in there is a much less mediated, much less friendly, much less "keep things smooth" atmosphere. I know you're not being defensive - the answer to your curiosity is, "Now is the time when I am not being fair," in both the ancient and modern senses of the word.

A lot happens between this stage and the first run. Fairness (again, in both senses) comes back into things during that return-to-players phase.

Best,
Ron


[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-30 16:50 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on October 30, 2001, 02:14:00 PM
Hmmm... interesting.  I understand that we're taking a walk around inside your head (Ron Edwards RAW :smile:).  I was simply asking the tour guide some questions about what I was seeing.  But in some cases it seems you'd prefer if we held our questions until the end.  I'm cool with that.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 02:51:00 PM
Now it's time to bring'er 'round the mountain and do the next step - got my relationship map, setting, and some notions about back-story. Got the characters and some connections among them (and yes, Jesse was right about me forgetting about the two shadow-demons, which is important). How does it all come together?

More importantly, how do I bring it together WITHOUT WRITING A STORY? I am providing story meat, but not story events. Ultimately, this has two parts: (1) Deepen the back-stories of characters and situation alike, aligning them in many ways; (2) come up with Bangs that make sense, to be applied AFTER the first Bangs (the Kickers) during play.

All right, first it's a matter of checking out all the details.

ITEM
Chema is pregnant. Fabulous - the big stud of the back-story is Joey van Graysloke; he's the dad. Toss out Jo "Summer" Maginnis entirely, and replace her with Chema. The relationship map just changed radically, as the romantic rivalry between van Graysloke and Sizey has vanished, as well as marital tension between Kate and van Graysloke. Fair enough; it's worth it. Kate only really existed in the original book to hook the protagonist, so Chema performs the same role.

It also puts the only fractured marriage in the story with Martin and Hilda Beck, and that's all right - the more unresolvable moral weight focused on Beck, the better.

ITEM
The building! OK, we've got one main NPC who's a building/developer real estate casino type, and a PC who's about to open his amazing scary building. Great! Those business interests cross profoundly and with much opportunity for conflict; it also affords opportunity for what Joey and Chema are doing with one another.

Notice the "casino" part? That ties into Cyril as a gambler who owns his own club, and into Richie as the hustler and grifter. Okay, good; any shady business by van Graysloke is going to reverberate throughout the three characters.

ITEM
Drugs. Whoa - drugs. Two of the PCs utilize drugs in their sorcery. Ooooohhh … well, doesn't that tie nicely into what the cargo plan was carrying when it was hijacked. Poof out! goes the bonded liquor and poof in! goes the dope. Got it. It also gives Raner a very nasty turn, because not only does he want the plane's contents back, he doesn't want Beck finding out what they were.

ITEM
A German psychotherapist. Whoa! Whoa! OK, a ton of things all come together simultaneously. The term "shadow" plays a big role in Jungian psychology. Richie is a coven member. Hilda is an unbalanced neurotic, recently graduated to full-blown psychopathy.

When this happens, it's like stuff just REVEALS itself to you, rather than you making it up. It all fits. The whole setting just screams for murky Jungian symbology and murkier Freudian motivations. We have a Jungian psychotherapist at least ankle-deep in sorcery - we have Richie with a shadow-demon and membership that coven; Hilda undergoing therapy and thereby picking up some Lore; Cyril with some sort of connection as well.

Notes to self: (1) make sure Tor is OK with the coven being a psychiatric thing; (2) spend a bit more time linking Cyril's mysterious mentor to the coven (letting him stay distant, too; he's not a part of this story) and pointing that out during play. Gotta figure out that demon connection too; I still like the "one demon" idea or at least the concept of a mental or emotional link between them.

Thoughts on THAT - note that both men have very informal names for their demons, "Blob" and "my shadow." Ha ha … that would give me lots of room for developments. Noted and logged. [If this were a real run, I'd spend some time developing this idea with a VERY close eye on not forcing the player-characters to know anything more, nor to do anything specific in the future.]

ITEM
Sizey is not Richie's dad (too obvious), but the vague and sinister head of the vague and sinister sorcerous group that he works with IS Richie's dad. All set. Call him Leo Silver. Thoughts at this point: keep him light - what matters about Richie's Kicker is not what he and his dad actually work out in confrontation, but rather how ANXIETY about his dad screws with his ability to deal with other stuff. (A bit of a dodge, but OK.)

ITEM
Beck and van Graysloke hate one another's guts, all the more since the murder of Pruitt turns them into temporary allies. Van Graysloke sees it as his big chance to get away from the town with a nice nest egg, and Beck sees it as yet another step on his personal staircase to hell.

Anyone who deals with them, or knows of them, can spot this sudden exponential rise in the dislike between the two men.

DONE YET?
Well, we could play at this point. But it's always good to look at the whole arrangement and shake it a little …

DOUBLE-CHECK
Too much sorcery? We have Raner with the gun, the psychotherapeutic coven, and the shadowy group that includes Richie's dad. Richie and Cyril both tie into that, but Eroch represents yet another branch/type of sorcery.

It does seem like too damn much of the stuff going around. Sharpen it up a bit … combine the demon gun with the shadowy group, and link Eroch's tradition back in time with the Jungian group's European origins. That pretty much gives us two solid groups, which is much better.

Note to self: come up with characteristic Telltales for both sorcerers and demons for each of the groups, especially using PC material for the basic ideas.

Other note: make sure that the other group has a strong psychological angle - perhaps the disruption of relationships is involved, given Leo's past - and really play up, eventually the fact that Hilda used the Lore of the psychotherapeutic group in combination with the demon of the OTHER group to commit the murder. Nice.

DOUBLE-CHECK
Is the back-story linked up enough? One thing's a problem: dealing with Anne. She's the primary murder victim, and there are two ways to go with that - have her be vaguely known to the PCs to start or not at all, or have her be linked in strongly.

Could Anne be Jenny, Cyril's girlfriend? Two problems with that. First is that Jenny is Jesse's NPC and it's rude to knock her off without any screen time, even. Second is that Jesse made it clear that their relationship problems are CYRIL'S doing, not hers - so having her be a bitch of a good-time girl is more-or-less stealing the character entirely. Can't do that.

Too bad, really, because it would have let Tobias completely replace Pruitt, which would have worked great! Except that it also means killing off all of Jesse's NPCs in the first half-hour of play. No go.

Solution: leave Anne out of the player-character prep entirely. Her existence is something they can find out fast (the most superficial look at van Graysloke will reveal his notorious ex-affair with her), even at the "you know about Anne, a real good-time girl who picks up with men at the club" level for Cyril.

Do, however, make sure they know who Beck is. He's well-known in the city as a clean, justice-driven, highly moral politico-cop. (Kind of like the precinct chief part, as it would include jurisdiction over the airfield.)

DOUBLE-CHECK
Kicker check time. Fuck! Eroch and Richie are all set, but we're still stuck with Cyril. And it's a good Kicker, too! How does poor ol' Tobias fit in here? Hmmmm … just gotta be a little "lumpy" and connect loser-Tobias to his loser-friend, David Pruitt, successful pilot for Raner but totally, hopelessly, and uselessly besotted with Anne Raner. Oh, that works. That means that Cyril knows who Anne is (as described), and has to deal not only with his lapdog-pal Tobias but Tobias' equally annoying pal Dave.

And since we're gonna kill Dave deader than disco in the first run, no problem. Tobias will be awfully dependent on Cyril about it. Hmmm … have to make sure that Tobias is actually NOT an annoying little bastard … Jesse's going to have to like him enough to care … ah ha! If he's with Anne, he ain't with Jenny, right? Cool. Jenny turns him on to Anne.

DOUBLE-CHECK
Is anyone important being marginalized? Yes!! Chema is being treated like a little punchboard, most unfairly. I like Chema; I want her to be an interesting character and generally sympathetic, and for her relationship to Eroch to be something worth caring about (it's a Kicker, after all). Note to self: beef her personality up (a mute character is EITHER invisible OR more present than anyone else), give her lots of good stuff to do in the course of play.

WHAT I'LL GLOSS OVER
If this were a real run, I'd now spend time assigning some physical features to each of the NPCs, so that we'd know that van Graysloke has red hair, very sharply slicked down flat with a high side part - a handsome guy in his early 30s with a lazy, look-past-the-person stare. I'd make sure that Tobias' hair was parted in the middle, and that Raner is a hairy, grunting behemoth of a 60-year-old. Time for a good description for everyone and some thoughts about role-playing them (tentative, of course - in many cases, these will be tossed out during actual play and replaced by better ideas).

Whew! The next post will be about the actual prep for the first run. We're skipping a few things, including the time spent for details like the ones I've mentioned (Telltales, Chema, etc), as well as perhaps one or two little dialogues between me and the players (such as the one which would clear up my confusion about Cyril's Kicker, for instance).

Best,
Ron

P.S. All questions and concerns are welcome as we go, although of course some answers will be "wait until the next part." Some can be answered right away though, I'm sure, so fire away.


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Paul Czege on October 31, 2001, 07:22:00 AM
Hey Ron,

Holy smokes, I had to read this thread three times before I thought I could respond with intelligent questions. So here they are, from all over the place:

Hilda kills Anne, then Tony (on the night of the theft!).

In the book, what's Hilda's motive for killing Tony after her informed her of the affair? She doesn't want anyone to know her shame? What's Tony's motive for telling her? He's mad at Anne for continually keeping him at arm's length, but then having an affair with Brandon?

I decide to "soften" Pazuzu's unpleasant Need with a rather sympathetic desire for Knowledge.

Beyond just softening Pazuzu's unpleasant Need, did you choose the Desire for Knowledge with any other objective in mind? Did it maybe seem like a good fit for the way you see Eroch and Pazuzu fitting into the backstory? Or could you just as easily have chosen something else soft like a Desire for Social Celebrity?

I'd have to talk to the players about that a bit. Eroch's architecture can be tied directly to his sorcery, if the player likes.

This is cool with me. I was actually trying to come up with something like this, but my imagination failed me. And the main problem I have with Eroch, as written, is kind of related to this. It's that Pazuzu seems kind of incidental to his situation. Involvement from Pazuzu in the hiring of the psychotherapist or business planning related to the building isn't actually specified, so it comes across almost like Eroch decided to have a demon around just in case he'd need one. So I'm thinking a linkage between Eroch's sorcery and the building would be good. What thoughts do you have about that possible linkage?

Joey van Graysloke; he's the dad. Toss out Jo "Summer" Maginnis entirely, and replace her with Chema. The relationship map just changed radically, as the romantic rivalry between van Graysloke and Sizey has vanished, as well as marital tension between Kate and van Graysloke.

What happened to the marital tension? Wouldn't the affair with and pregnancy of a 15 year old girl cause marital tension?

I get this image of Anne giving Hilda the demon gun, saying "Why don't you just kill yourself?", Hilda DOING IT, putting the gun to her head and pulling the trigger - and the demon treating that as a Binding, responding to her real desire, and killing Anne instead. Wow!

This is awesome. I really like it.

The "double check" sequence you describe is great too.

But you do casually write a couple of things that seem logical and straightforward, but when I think about how sweeping they are, seem amazingly ambitious:

1. "It does seem like too damn much of the stuff going around. Sharpen it up a bit … combine the demon gun with the shadowy group, and link Eroch's tradition back in time with the Jungian group's European origins."

2. "...we've got one main NPC who's a building/developer real estate casino type, and a PC who's about to open his amazing scary building. Great! Those business interests cross profoundly and with much opportunity for conflict; it also affords opportunity for what Joey and Chema are doing with one another."

3. "Notice the "casino" part? That ties into Cyril as a gambler who owns his own club, and into Richie as the hustler and grifter. Okay, good; any shady business by van Graysloke is going to reverberate throughout the three characters."

Link the tradition back in time? Business interests crossing profoundly? Any shady business is going to reverberate throughout the three characters?

I'm not sure how I'd attempt any one of those three things with a given scenario. Just exactly how can a prospective GM implement delivery of three things like that?

Paul


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 08:36:00 AM
Hi Paul!

"In the book, what's Hilda's motive for killing Tony after [he] informed her of the affair? She doesn't want anyone to know her shame? What's Tony's motive for telling her? He's mad at Anne for continually keeping him at arm's length, but then having an affair with Brandon?"

Remember, both of these people are nuts. That's not to say they are inexplicable, though. Hilda's motive is that if EVERYONE who knows ANYTHING is just eliminated, then the Whole World Is All Right. (Murder to protect one's capital-D Denial is a big issue in MacDonald stories.) You got Tony pegged too.

"Beyond just softening Pazuzu's unpleasant Need, did you choose the Desire for Knowledge with any other objective in mind? Did it maybe seem like a good fit for the way you see Eroch and Pazuzu fitting into the backstory? Or could you just as easily have chosen something else soft like a Desire for Social Celebrity?"

It's simply sympathetic and provides a different way for a demon to be a "clue vacuum" from Blob's Need (which is also fine, but only one way to do it). I'll let it develop through play, as I trust myself fine to role-play and establish demon personalities with little prep. Personal GM talent thing.

Re: Eroch and his sorcery
Actually, I was thinking about tying the sorcery more heavily into the psychotherapy … in that Eroch had enough contact with the therapist to get some ideas, and developed it further on his own. Pazuzu may well represent a successful effort on his part to enlist whatever power he could to become rich and powerful (mainly to help his sister, of course, although probably not entirely). Her help, plus the insect-motif, both influenced the building's design, probably mediated through Eroch's own aesthetic ideals as well.

Re: Joey van Graysloke and Chema:
"What happened to the marital tension? Wouldn't the affair with and pregnancy of a 15 year old girl cause marital tension?"

Hmm, good point. The problem is that Kate van Graysloke is no longer necessary as the character hook, so I was just going to drop her. However, for present, we'll hold her as a potential NPC who may "grow" in response to player interest.

Regarding the murder of Anne,
"This is awesome. I really like it."

That's because you're a sick, sick man.

"But you do casually write a couple of things that seem logical and straightforward, but when I think about how sweeping they are, seem amazingly ambitious:"
"Link the tradition back in time? Business interests crossing profoundly? Any shady business is going to reverberate throughout the three characters?"
"I'm not sure how I'd attempt any one of those three things with a given scenario. Just exactly how can a prospective GM implement delivery of three things like that?"

Umm … easily? Look at your phrasing: IMPLEMENT DELIVERY. That's exactly right. I don't have to develop, establish, or otherwise define any of these things. I have to deliver them as issues. All I need is for the players to tap into the power issues inherent in each character and get a rush of that sorcerous arrogance, coupled with Author power. Richie is given a chance to see what sort of shit his dad is up to ... Eroch must deal with political or economic shenanigans that jeopardize his building ... Cyril must react when said shenanigans put his club license in jeopardy ...

But all this is getting ahead of ourselves. Next post will deal more with the whole "prepping for real play" issue.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 09:38:00 AM
Hi there,

This is my final prep post to show what I'd have ready for our initial run.

STUFF TO PUT ON A HANDOUT ABOUT THE SETTING
I am a handout fanatic. The first one might include ...

Lots of atmospheric cool stuff about the city

Material about the casino hotels, as well as about the big new insectoid building going up. This portion establishes for SURE that something very screwy is happening regarding Van Graysloke's shady real estate dealings.

Drugs have been dry for a while, but there's a new shipment coming in.

Some names: Martin Beck, along with a bunch of others like the mayor and so on. Perhaps individualize the sheets for this part, so that different players get different information and NPC lists.

Absolutely nothing topical - remember this is mid-20th-century as the movies would have us believe.

It might be fun to comb through some Call of Cthulhu or other game material to find pictures of the NPCs in the map. Maybe even some black-and-white period photos? If so, avoid known actors or celebrities.

THINKING ABOUT THE PLAYERS
[The following material is designated very unfair and arbitrary. These are the suspicions and concerns that I'd NEVER tell players until much later, if ever. The good news is that even if they are inaccurate, they prompt me to make the game better via the in-game "Solutions."]

Jesse - may drift into "find the monkey" and "investigation" without reference to anything cool or worthwhile in audience terms. Solution: beef up all NPC interaction, have them expect things and judgments and concerns from the character. Jenny has humor, intelligence, verve, and hopes - make sure Jesse wants Cyril to get with her, such that Cyril's resistance is perceived as a character flaw.

Tor - not too sure, so I fall back on the default new-to-Sorcerer concern that the player will swing into either Cyberpunk or Call of Cthulhu mode. Solution: Beef up his family! Have mom and possibly siblings be interesting people who depend on him. Play up their concrete financial needs, e.g. rent and so on. When Richie squares his shoulders and enters a hustling/con situation, I want us to root for him because we know what's at stake.

Paul - may be a worry wart and have a complex about whether what's he doing is OK, maybe descending into during-play monologues to psychologize his character without announcing an action. Solution: give Eroch respect. He designed, implemented, and owns this building - he's a big wheel! Art, function, and prosperity - what could be more impressive, in this setting? People fall all over themselves to please him. Give Eroch power via influence; don't frustrate his actions in any way.

ON TO THE BANGS!
Well, then, we get together and play, and here's what I'd have scribbled as my notes.

It's OK to state where PCs are and what they're doing, as a form of respect and acknowledgment to the player about the character. The best way is to suggest, "Eroch is doing a personal walk-through the building with Pazuzu …" and then ASK Paul if that's reasonable or all right. If it is, it lets him know that I "feel" the PC in a way that acknowledges his creativity AND control.

Ask for physical descriptions, not only of the character's face and appearance, but of his surroundings and turf. During play, go ahead and find out what Cyril's club is like, or how Eroch is setting up his office, or how spiffy Richie's personal space like his bed and bathroom is (could go either way, with that character).

Now to the Kickers themselves (the first Bangs) - serious role-playing time. Richie finds out that his dad's back in town, does he? Time to role-play that … I have to decide whether it's through his mom or other family members, or through the sorcerous contacts, or what. Same goes for Chema - I have decided that Pazuzu hears her weeping, and is "full up" with her Need, which Eroch will be able to spot - then Chema shows up with reddened eyes and a brave look. That oughta do it. Chema WILL turn to her brother for support and help, and NOT keep the pregnancy secret. Then with Cyril … that's definitely a club scene, so that Anne, David, Tobias, and Jenny can all be involved at least visually.

In every case, pay strict attention to how the character responds in terms of human empathy, especially in terms of it being more important than financial/status ones. Bring the demon into it in each case, preferably to the extent that Humanity check is called for if the player does anything interesting.

AND INTO THE RELATIONSHIP MAP
So the response to the Bangs ought to reverberate into the map instantly. Does law get called in to deal with the real estate stuff? Then it's time to meet Beck and establish him as a Good Guy, stern perhaps, but solidly down on the shady stuff (this is before the murder, remember).

Similarly, does the therapist (whom I dub Dr. Heuttner all of a sudden) get called into things in response to Chema's therapy? Well that's a big deal right there, and Richie's whole coven may be thrown into a tizzy as well.

This is serious role-playing on my part - I have to provide huge amounts of nifty meat via the NPCs to the players, in a form which invents, among us, the in-game solidity of the PCs and NPCs alike, as well as the city as a whole. I have to take the players' stated actions, NONE of which I am able to anticipate, and bring in stuff from anywhere appropriate on the map. Much of it will be invented on the fly - a few coven members, perhaps, or cronies of Richie's, or perhaps an investment attorney who's Eroch's right-hand man. That invention can be by me or by the players, I expect the diagrams on the back of the sheet to get scribbled on extensively.

It depends mainly on the Amber trick: "What do you do?" and the more the character does, the more happens and the cooler it is.

It also depends on the NPCs being well-played and often sympathetic. Again, Chema is a big priority; I want her appearance in a scene really to interest everyone. Same goes for Richie's family and Jesse's relationship (Jenny isn't a whiner!).

Really develop those Bangs. They are story. Find out what happens. Get an idea of which PCs are polite, which ones are ruthless, which ones are instantly sympathetic. Play the demons and find out (ie invent) what they are like. Record the outcomes of rolls for actions that look like they might have long-term consequences, including the successes for or against the character.

THE GM'S BANG
The drug shipment is coming in - and the plane vanishes. Yup, it just never touches down. David Pruitt is wandering dazedly in the wasteland surrounding the airfield (there always seems to be one), when he is killed (long-distance!) by Hilda and her gun.

Who finds him? Doesn't matter. If a PC was involved in waiting for the plane, then they might. Or perhaps Tobias can be involved - he had been told by David that "something big was up" and was trying to get in on it to impress Cyril. Or maybe it's something that gets discovered whole sessions later.

What matters is that every damn NPC on the map is going to react to this like Ferdinand the Bull being stung by the bee. It means that any and every interaction the PCs are having with them will instantly and obviously change in character, in many cases counter to the PCs' interests.

Note for future: have a big black evil void open up in the air and the plane come thundering out of it to crash somewhere. Of course, all the drugs it carried and all personnel are gone. That's definitely a session 2 or session 3 thing.

AND FURTHER INTO THE MAP
Well, the first thing is that tons of stuff is happening that the characters may or may not be privy to, namely the killing of Anne (before the plane vanishes), the crucial deal between Beck and van Graysloke (ditto), and the killing of David (afterwards).

The main thing to remember is that the original source (the novel) is left far, far behind at this point. It may be that actions of the PCs in the first part of the run have changed many things! No NPC has to be "protected" - I don't have to keep something secret if the PC has done something that would get that info. And the PCs have amazing information retrieval systems in the form of their Covers and their demons.

The doors are flung wide at this point. I don't have the faintest fucking idea of what's going to happen. Perhaps the sorcerous bastards who stole the plan are going to be more present and dangerous than previously anticipated. We may have a whole coven meeting to run, with Eroch and Richie present, to determine the father of Chema's child. Or who knows - maybe Anne's body is discovered in this very first run (rather than being the climactic discovery). The map is now the player-characters' chew-toy, and all I have to do is amplify what's already there, and what's been established through play already. I have to keep "pushing" the demons and their Desires and Needs.

Think about what's ABOUT to happen too, specifically that Hilda's going to nail van Graysloke too. Maybe someone can be talking to van Graysloke right when his head blows up from Hilda's gun, fired miles away.

One thing to remember is that Beck and Van Graysloke are allied enemies, and that perhaps (if Beck had been looking into the shady dealings) the fact that Beck is now PROTECTING him will be very obvious to any PC who's been involved in that aspect of the situation. This only becomes MORE drastic after Van Graysloke dies, and Beck goes into full cover-up mode, with attendant Humanity loss and erratic behavior.

FINAL NOTES
That's it! That's prep! I go into a first run knowing and planning exactly what you've seen, ready to play bass with my instruments the demons, the Kickers, and the GM's Bang, as well as the relationship map.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Paul Czege on October 31, 2001, 11:41:00 AM
Paul - may be a worry wart and have a complex about whether what's he doing is OK, maybe descending into during-play monologues to psychologize his character without announcing an action

Whaaaaaaat!!! Okay...I'm totally pouting and not talking to you anymore.

Scott, defend me. Scott? Danielle, register for the Forge and defend me.

Dammit.



Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 12:01:00 PM
I'm gonna fire my bouncer. He was specifically told to strip the three principals' egos from them during this exercise, prior to their entry into my private head-space.

Comments on the scenario preparation? Please?

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on October 31, 2001, 12:19:00 PM
Is this going to go into "...& Soul"? I'm a bit confused.


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on October 31, 2001, 02:30:00 PM
Well Ron, personally, I'm just oogling in awe.  To fully comprehend what I'm looking at I'm going to have to sit down and map it out for myself.  I'm not very good with verbal descriptions of relationship maps.  But off the cuff the best I can do is offer my initial thoughts.

1) Your bouncer has sufficiently de-egoized me.  But I do have one comment about your 'concerns' about me.  Did you determine the possible tendency for me to fall into 'investigative' mode from the character I created alone or because of what you know of me as a person?  I ask only because you're dead on. I even worry about my games falling into this mode when I *GM*.  

2) I have to go with Paul in that I'm amazed about the more abstract issues such as how sorcery is linked back in time.  I admit that I have NO IDEA how to bring these things into actual play and ANY elaboration on this would be welcome even if it just comes into the form of, "Well, if the players truly are interesting in authoring the story then I expect things like X, Y and Z to result from these elements."  What exactly DOES the Sorcerous Technicallity do story-wise other than just add color, flavor and uniformity?

3) I have to admit that most of my own relationship maps/backstory endevors suffer from what I've come to call the, "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you medling kids!" syndrom.  That is, the backstory is COMPLETE, in that those who were involved in any crimes, injustices or moral attrocities have reached a point of stasis.  The darkness is in their past and they wish nothing more than to forget it ever happened.  But then some medling PC happens to start digging for whatever reason and unearthing this seething cess pool.  The idea being that these crimes, injustices and moral attrocities are lying their unresolved and it's up to the PC to decide what to do about it.  This unfortnately results in basically having NPCs that can do only one of two things: resort to violence and try to stop the PC from diging too deep or go into utter denile mode and try to lock the PC out.  Not very interesting.

So all this self absorbed rambling was to say I'm very impressed with your ability to slice a story very neatly in half.  You have just enough backstory to really understand what's going on but yet it's still in motion so that when the PCs arrive they're sucked up into a rushing river rather than stiring up a still pond.

4) Source material.  I'm impressed with both your ability to start with a kernal of someone else's idea and make it your own as well as your ability to drop the novel's plot.  For some reason this technique just doesn't work for me.  Not only do I seem to have a great deal of trouble altering some one else's work to fit my own needs, I have a great deal of trouble forgetting the actual events of the novel.  I feel arrogant messing with these things.  I read published novels with a sort of wide-eyed sense of wonder at how everything just fits so nicely into place and I end up having this feeling that if one single element is distrubed this carefully crafted masterpiece will crumble.  Something I should probably get over but impressive on your part none the less.

5) This is more of a side note but you make references to the "Cyberpunk Mode" and the "Cthulhu Mode".  I know the "Cthulhu Mode" but what's the "Cyberpunk Mode"?

I think that about summarizes it.  These are just the thoughts that go through my head as I read this.  Once I've gone over it all more carefully I think I'll have something slightly more constructive to say.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: joshua neff on October 31, 2001, 02:43:00 PM
I have to give a big "me, too!". I also have the tendency to run Scooby-esque stories (stuff I talked about up in Actual Play). Seeing the developmental process for the relationship map scenario was enlightening. I'm feeling a surge of creativity & freedom.


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on October 31, 2001, 02:46:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-31 12:38, Ron Edwards wrote:
STUFF TO PUT ON A HANDOUT ABOUT THE SETTING
I am a handout fanatic. The first one might include ...


A specific question on this one, that can be applied to the process in general:  How much time (effort?) are you going to spend putting these handouts together?  If not as an absolute number, maybe as a proportion of your overall prep time?

(Let me confess - Part of my agenda here at the Forge is to get more quality RPG time for less overall time invested/spent.  But this seems a valid question in the overall "how you prepare a game" consideration . . . )

Gordon


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 02:50:00 PM
Hi Jared,

No, this material isn't going into Soul. Soul has been changed a tad, but not dramatically.

Hi Jesse,

I based my GM-assessment of you guys as players mainly on the personal interactions and emails I've had with you (you, by the way, are the only one I haven't met face to face). They were actually rather caricatured, especially for Paul, whom I was not-very-nicely digging in the ribs with it.

As for the demonic stuff, well, it's a matter of pressing the players for details of the rituals and interactions with their demons during play. Given that stuff, I appropriate it and have it show up when NPC sorcerers or other demons are in play. The connections across the psychotherapeutic tradition, as well as distinct differences with the other sorcery, become quite clear over a series of play sessions.

I tend NOT to start play with well-worked-out sorcerous traditions, but I also tend to end up with very distinct traditions and customs and demon-breeds after finishing a story. That's how the stuff in Chapter 7 came into existence, after an especially powerful set of Sorcerer playtests with three different groups.

Finally, thanks for the kind words about prep ... although I admit to a certain arrogance regarding creativity. In other words, I respect the amazing artistry of Ross MacDonald (or Kenneth Millar, his real name), and would never presume to write a Lew Archer story - but I also think that I have "doped him out" as an artist and can take his thematic PALETTE, and with players, create works of art on our own.

I actually changed very little about the relationship map from the book this time. In my Hero Wars game, for instance, the maps are often unrecognizable in essential connections after I'm done retrofitting them to Gloranthan politics. In many cases I might as well have just started with a map of my own, but it's a source of pleasure to pirate them initially, often linking them to or layering them with maps from other sources.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 02:58:00 PM
Gordon,

How much time I spend on handouts is a direct function of how much I'm role-playing overall.

About 15 years ago, I was running one Champions game once every two weeks, and playing in another every week. That struck me, then, as an absolute maximum.

From 1996-2000, I played in one group, period, usually meeting weekly. The only exception was Sorcerer playtesting and demos and similar stuff.

This last year, it all went bonkers. I now run one game which meets weekly, although in practice we get about 3 out of every 5 weeks (that's Hero Wars). I also play in another group, in which I'm GMing about half the time, every week (right now it's Little Fears). And during most of the school term, in addition, I'm at the weekly meeting of the gaming club, and there I GM about half the time.

It's nuts. I like all of these but the time drain is terrific. I've cut way back on auxiliary stuff (handouts and so on).

So, to answer your question, IF I were running just one game like a normal human, meeting weekly with occasional cancels, then I'd put a couple of hours a week into generating really nice handouts with pictures and neat things like "fill in the details of this sketchy myth" and stuff like that.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 03:12:00 PM
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Jesse asked about "Cyberpunk" role-playing mode, which goes like this.

1) I'm built tougher than NPCs. Opponents are not going to be capable of taking me down.
2) It is perfectly OK to shoot anyone under any circumstances. No in-world consequences of note will result.
3) The point of play is to twist assigned objectives into personal advantage.

I want to commend the 1st edition of Cyberpunk for many features that AVOIDED this problem, to some extent. But Cyberpunk 2020 really encouraged these behaviors.

We could also consider the Shadowrun (adding "Big guns are better") and Unknown Armies variants (adding "Jump around and act squirrelly").

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on October 31, 2001, 03:27:00 PM
I just thought of another question.  How hand-in-hand do these elements go: Character Generation, Style and Premise, Source Material.  Now, OBVIOUSLY, ultimately these will be woven together like a fine wicker basket.  What I mean is initially how tightly are they woven.

For example, you came to us with a sketchy style and a Premise and we created characters to fit those elements.  Now is that because you specifically liked this relationship map for that style and Premise and you knew that we would create characters that would work with it?

*OR* could we have said "Nah, Ron, we want a game that has a more Anime Space Opera feel to it with a focus on the aquisition of social status and power politics."  Would you STILL have been able to use the exact same relationship map (obviously transformed differently, but I'm talking about the source.)?  Or would you have rifled through your store of relationship maps and found something more suitable?

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 04:30:00 PM
Jesse,

As long as we are talking about relationship maps ONLY, they are infinitely adjustable. Money is money, fraud is fraud, murder is murder, property is property, suicide is suicide, marriage is marriage, infidelity is infidelity, parenting is parenting, and all attendant emotions are always the same.

I didn't pick Find a Victim because I thought the map would go well with the setting. I picked it entirely independently, given my past readings and great regard for Ross MacDonald.

As for the other issues, such as Premise, Setting/atmosphere, and character creation, all of those are basically synergistic and will continue to be throughout play. If you guys had veered sharply from my suggestions prior to character creation (by saying so), then I would have veered with you.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 01, 2001, 12:44:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-31 17:46, Gordon C. Landis wrote:

A specific question on this one, that can be applied to the process in general:  How much time (effort?) are you going to spend putting these handouts together?  If not as an absolute number, maybe as a proportion of your overall prep time?


Well, I don't know about Ron, but with stuff like handouts I find the answer is, how much time do I have? I work on stuff like this as long as I think that the stuff I'm working on will be fun in play to have. Hard to have too much, unless you do nothing but prep for RPGs all day.

As far as effort: effort? I can't stop myself from working on stuff like that even when I should. Doesn't seem to take any effort at all. I just keep thiking of how cool the players will think the handouts are. Handouts are a joy. :smile:

BTW, for pictures, just go to a search engine most of which have media searches these days, select the sort of Image you want (Color, BW) and type something in like guy, man, girl, officer, whaterver. Then select one of the thousand or so images of people you've never seen before. Easy. Same for equipment, buildings, whatever. Also, while you're there, download some sounds and/or music.

Everyone here has a computer and access to the internet. No excuses for not having good materials.

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 01, 2001, 12:55:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-31 17:50, Ron Edwards wrote:
I actually changed very little about the relationship map from the book this time. In my Hero Wars game, for instance, the maps are often unrecognizable in essential connections after I'm done retrofitting them to Gloranthan politics. In many cases I might as well have just started with a map of my own, but it's a source of pleasure to pirate them initially, often linking them to or layering them with maps from other sources.


One of my favorite tactics is to take any plot from a movie that I've seen or a TV show, whatever, and start changing elements. This is the key. Take a particular element at random that really doesn't fit and find a parrallel for it. Like if I'm watching Quincy and there is a character who is a Physicist, I change him into a wizard for my fantasy game. This will suggest other changes to keep other things consistent. Insert the PCs somewhere.

I keep at this until I usually can't recognize the original, but have something useful. It just gives you a starting point to work from. Don't worry if your version is as good, better, or worse than the original. That's not the point. Just make sure that it's useful by the time you're done.

Ron obviously does this very well.

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 01, 2001, 02:12:00 PM
Hey everybody,

I'd like to get some more comments about the setup so far, especially from Tor, Jesse, and Paul (although everyone is welcome of course).

Then I'll talk about actual play of the first run, what I'd be looking out for, and most especially how I would continue to use the map.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on November 01, 2001, 05:09:00 PM
Well, I've finally taken the time to go through the prep a line at a time and map the whole thing on paper so that I can actually see it.  And what I can say is that I understand it all but again I get that little niggling feeling that I have trouble beleiving this scenario will last more than a single session.  This is, I'm sure due to the fact that I'm still so unfamiliar with the technique and how to actually make it work in play.  When you spell it out across multiple posts like you did it looks huge and involved but when I look at it on paper it looks tiny.  

I guess at this point I'm looking most forward to discussion of 'hypothetical' actual play.  Relationship maps and backstory always look good on paper but I have such a hard time making them actually move or do anything always always running the risk of having them just be a graph for the players to uncover a traversal path.

For example it's so easy for me to see cut off points.

Okay so Joey is the father of Chema's child.  My first reaction is that once Joey's dead Eroch ceases to have a reason to care about anything else in the story.  "Good, that lecherous rat bastard's dead and no longer a threat to my sister or her baby.  Chema, let's go home."  Of course a possible solution I see is that Beck is going to start needing to pin Joey's murder on SOMEONE so hey, look here's this archetect and his knocked up sister.  But it took me a while to spot that.  I don't think it would occur to me under the "pressure" of actual play.

Okay, I don't remember the exact details of Richie's kicker so I may be missing a vital point here but it comes down to Richie's father Leo is the member of this shadowy coven of which Sizey ALSO happens to be a member.  Now most of the backstory stuff involves Sizey.  Once Richie finds Leo in the coven the bigest fear that leaps to mind is: "Hey, I'm a shadowy underworld sorcerer.  You're a shadowy underworld sorcerer.  Like father like son.  Hey, let's go grab a beer and catch up."  What reason does EITHER character have to care about what this other coven member Sizey happens to be up to?  That seems like a weak link to me and runs a deep risk of not easily having Richie move into the rest of the relationship map.

Cyril seems to have the quickest path into the goings on.  Tobias comes running to him about the death of his loser friend David.  It's already been established that Cyril cares about Tobias he just wishes he wouldn't idolize him and hang around so much.  So Cyril's going to want to help him out.  However, this runs the risk of walking me right into the (rightly) feared "Call of Cthulhu Mode" as I try to help Tobias solve the murder of his friend.

I know a great deal of this is coming from Actor Stance mentality and the basic asumption is that we're going to have an Author Stance mentality and WANT to be involved but even in Author Stance a character's got to have motivation even if it's retroactive motivation.

So looking over the scenario and knowing nothing of the player's actual styles of play these would be my initial fears.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Paul Czege on November 02, 2001, 06:44:00 AM
Jesse,

Great analysis! Even though we're not actually going to play, your post gave me  this vivid image of game sessions where you're mapping the scenario during play, with the other players contributing information and referring to your map rather than keeping their own.

'zat how it usually happens?

Paul


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Paul Czege on November 02, 2001, 06:52:00 AM
Ron,

Have you determined if you'll keep the Don and Jo in actual, real love, thing for Chema and Joey van Greysloke? It creates a hook-path for Eroch of sympathy to their romance, followed by the death of van Greysloke, discovery that Hilda did the deed, and then the link to Dr. Heuttner. But if you leave it open, and avoid killing van Greysloke, there's the hook-path of van Greysloke's collapsing business somehow destabilizing the de Pauvan family's already tenuous financial situation, and then van Greysloke turning out to be a creep who took advantage of Chema, which seems to fit better with your material success Premise.

And if you go boldly with the actual, real love thing, are you kind of railroading a single hook path?

But I guess my main question is, related to prep, how do you know where to draw the line? You're planning to keep the murder of Tony Aquista, which I presume isn't backstory as far as the novel is concerned, as a killing of David Pruitt. How do you differentiate that killing from the murder of Don Kerrigan, and not be firmly committed during play to that mirroring itself as Hilda murdering Joey van Greysloke?

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-11-02 09:56 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2001, 09:14:00 AM
Hi Jesse,

"… I get that little niggling feeling that I have trouble beleiving this scenario will last more than a single session. This is, I'm sure due to the fact that I'm still so unfamiliar with the technique and how to actually make it work in play."

This reaction continues to boggle me. I believe that it relates all the way back to our private emails about stories … and that in play, I am committed to CYRIL'S story occurring, as authored mainly by you. It really isn't about "finding the objective" or "discovering the mystery." It's about what you've decided to have your character do ABOUT HIS LIFE, and about how to treat a wide variety of people in his life, and the extent to which stuff is "found out" along the way is both variable and not especially important.

"Okay so Joey is the father of Chema's child. My first reaction is that once Joey's dead Eroch ceases to have a reason to care about anything else in the story. "Good, that lecherous rat bastard's dead and no longer a threat to my sister or her baby. Chema, let's go home.'"

Let me break this down a tad. First of all, since when would Eroch necessarily see JVG as a "threat" to his sister or the baby? If he does, cool - then when JVG is killed, any number of demonic or mundane sources of information can make it clear to a given character that Chema is next.

What those informational sources are depends on a wide variety of possible conclusions or connections that have been reached at that point. I should also point out that it is NOT Eroch who has to be informed of the danger to Chema. It is Paul, and he's right at the same table that everyone else is. So information vouchsafed to, say, Tor's character, means that Paul sits straight up and starts engineering Eroch into the path of that information too.

Even more importantly, it is not Eroch's relationship to JVG that matters anyway. It is his relationship to Chema and to the psychotherapist. How are those going to change? Is he going to keep Chema in therapy? Are events that occur during play actually going to lead her to speak? How about the pregnancy itself? How do all the economic consequences of these events relate to the successful opening of his building, and how can he make sure it's successful? And then, with him having made those decisions or begun to, how are they going to reverberate into a variety of NPC actions that will have to be dealt with?

I see the revelation of Chema's lover's identity, and even the death of that lover, as the BEGINNING, not the end, of Eroch's story.

"Of course a possible solution I see is that Beck is going to start needing to pin Joey's murder on SOMEONE so hey, look here's this archetect and his knocked up sister. But it took me a while to spot that. I don't think it would occur to me under the "pressure" of actual play."

Oh, that's possible, and it's actually a damn good option. But Beck is such an interesting character that I'd rather have player-reactions to him give me the cues necessary to make those decisions. For all I know, Beck and Eroch would be pretty close by now, or maybe they have nothing to do with one another, or whatever. That's definitely a prep-for-later-run decision.

"… Richie's father Leo is the member of this shadowy coven of which Sizey ALSO happens to be a member. Now most of the backstory stuff involves Sizey. Once Richie finds Leo in the coven the bigest fear that leaps to mind is: 'Hey, I'm a shadowy underworld sorcerer. You're a shadowy underworld sorcerer. Like father like son. Hey, let's go grab a beer and catch up.'"

If I'm not mistaken, Richie despises his father, so I'm not too worried about the last issue. But let's say it happens. So? Nothing at all relies on me playing Leo as a bad guy. What if they hit it off and Richie comes to a serious personal revelation that it doesn't have to be bad-Dad and good-Mom anymore? Cool! Now Leo explains that Milo Sizey is ripping him off big-time and maybe they can do a dad-son-sorcer thing to take his scungey ass down. Or maybe Richie manages to get a family reconciliation planned, and just then, Milo Sizey steals Leo's demon (AND maybe even Contains Richie's Shadow) and nearly kills him? Why is this outcome your biggest FEAR? I see nothing to fear at all. I see rich, fine meat.

But the following is your real question.

"What reason does EITHER character have to care about what this other coven member Sizey happens to be up to? That seems like a weak link to me and runs a deep risk of not easily having Richie move into the rest of the relationship map."

And that sure illustrates something to me. Why are you concerning yourself with the CHARACTERS' reason to do anything? I can give a fat rat's ass for character motivations; those are a matter of player creativity and authorship. My task is to interest, even fascinate, the PLAYERS. Again and again, people keep repeating "have to hook the player and the character" (it's going on even now in another forum), and I keep smiling to myself and shaking my head slightly. Character motivations are the most debased, useless elements of play from a GM's perspective. Once the players are genuinely interested in ANYONE'S situation in play, then they will move to put their characters into some aspect of that situation.

"Cyril seems to have the quickest path into the goings on. Tobias comes running to him about the death of his loser friend David. It's already been established that Cyril cares about Tobias he just wishes he wouldn't idolize him and hang around so much. So Cyril's going to want to help him out. However, this runs the risk of walking me right into the (rightly) feared "Call of Cthulhu Mode" as I try to help Tobias solve the murder of his friend."

Well, it's more about the DISAPPEARANCE of the loser friend David, first of all. There's a lot to do in order even to find his body, because all that's known is the vanishing of that plane. As a related issue, I could also connect Cyril with the big shipment of cargo (not the illegal drugs). I could tighten that up easily right there in play - Raner gets in touch with Cyril, "Hey, this whole shipment is stolen and I can't make good on our contract for the stuff you ordered. Talk to the insurance agency."

OK, fine, though. You get this info, and you find the body, and you swing into "solve the murder" mode. Great! You're faced with a corpse that was killed by a bullet at close range, with no gun present. He's in a sandy area with his footprints clearly there - no other footprints. It's the opposite of a locked-room-murder, in that there's no room, but conceptually it's the same. You know what Blob's going to say? Hot friggin' damn! Secrets afoot? And guess what, no trivial little secret will be good enough; only this one will do.

You are now in pure Sorcerer-land: how do I feed my damn demon?

"… even in Author Stance a character's got to have motivation even if it's retroactive motivation."

And as I said, that character motivation is a cheap, easy, floozy detail of role-playing. If you, Jesse, are interested by anything that's going on, and if it has become clear (however cautiously) to you that I, the GM, really will permit you to act on your own ideas … well, Cyril ends up being chock-full of motivation all on his lonesome.  

Go back to the little paragraph that I wrote as my "Solution" to my concerns with you as a player. Imagine me kicking ALL of that into high gear from the very first moment of play, and the entire group establishing a shared expectation of "what's Cyril gonna do, and how," which gets turned expectantly upon you in any scene in which he's present.

Best,
Ron

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-02 12:25 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2001, 09:15:00 AM
Paul,

"Great analysis! Even though we're not actually going to play, your post gave me this vivid image of game sessions where you're mapping the scenario during play, with the other players contributing information and referring to your map rather than keeping their own."
"'zat how it usually happens?"

I'm not sure I understand the question at all, since your post is addressed to Jesse but the question seems to be for me. It could be that you are asking WHO is actually "mapper" during play.

I've done it lots of ways. Sometimes the players are "born mappers" who are drawing diagrams of relationships without any prompting of mine. Others get all boggled and I draw the relationships they've learned so far (accurately or inaccurately), and give it to them as a handout. Still other groups work best with a community whiteboard, and the map gets scribbled on and rearranged by anyone, whether myself or a player.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2001, 09:18:00 AM
Paul,

"Have you determined if you'll keep the Don and Jo in actual, real love, thing for Chema and Joey van Greysloke?"

Yeah, I'd decided. I definitely wanted to keep Van Graysloke as negative a person as possible, partly because I hadn't been especially sympathetic toward the Kerrigan-Jo thing in the novel anyway. This is what I talk about in "Soul," in that the GM has to exercise judgment regarding the source story and pick which aspects appeal or disgust him/her PERSONALLY. In The Goodbye Look, Rita Shepherd disgusts me, and I have no sympathy even for her efforts to protect her son; thus the character derived from her in my game would be considerably different from the character that another GM might derive.

The same goes for Van Graysloke. I disliked Kerrigan intensely, and thus I would play JVG as a real fuckhead who's enjoying his power-trip over Beck, enjoying his general dominance over his once-snobby wife, and happens to have put one over on the foreign architect, the one guy who'd stymied his shady-business-kickbacks deal, by screwing his sister. In fact, I can see most players pegging him as the villain toward the end of the first run (as a variety of information points to him), in which case (a) his murder and (b) Beck's stonewalling their efforts to understand it will both be sources of pure consternation.

"And if you go boldly with the actual, real love thing, are you kind of railroading a single hook path?"

Yes. That's another reason I was avoiding it. If Chema and Van Graysloke love one another, then I'm pretty much forcing an Eroch-Chema split, or at LEAST making another man in her life more important than her brother, and I don't want that. It would devalue Eroch's entire story significantly.

"But I guess my main question is, related to prep, how do you know where to draw the line? You're planning to keep the murder of Tony Aquista, which I presume isn't backstory as far as the novel is concerned, as a killing of David Pruitt. How do you differentiate that killing from the murder of Don Kerrigan, and not be firmly committed during play to that mirroring itself as Hilda murdering Joey van Greysloke?"

This question blows my mind. I really had to back up and try to piece together how one would be looking at the issue in order to ask these things. I think the answer lies in two points. (1) There is absolutely no reason, whatsoever, to "be consistent" regarding which elements of the source material are kept vs. which are discarded. (2) I am perfectly happy to keep Van Graysloke's murder fixed, or shall we say, 99% fixed. I am gleefully anticipating the moment when ANY player-character, for ANY reason, is discussing highly important matters with the fellow when his head erupts precisely as if a .45 round had entered his temple. I am similarly gleefully anticipating the recognition that Pruitt's death was identical, which may occur BEFORE or AFTER this event, depending on when the body is found.

So therefore, in this specific case, the JVG murder is almost as fixed as the Pruitt murder. But in general, whether it is that fixed, is left as a strong possibility, or is totally thrown open to in-play events, varies any ol' which way, depending on what I think works best for the characters in question and their Kickers.

It raises an important point, though, which is that I am not shy about interjecting horrifically significant events into the storyline well after it has begun. If anyone is laboring under the impression that a Narrativist GM does not keep a bandolier of Bangs handy, they should abandon that misconception as soon as possible. The whole point of the relationship map is that the NPCs *continue* to act.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 02, 2001, 09:45:00 AM
Hmmm. Unfortunately you are now going to have to start over entirely with this excercise and do it all again. You see, now that the players have seen under the hood, their perceptions of the game have been colored, and actually playing the game would not, as part of the experiment, give a natural result, one that would resemble what would have happened if they had not seen under the hood.

So, this is what you have to do. Start from scratch, write new characters, Ron does his thing preping the game, and then play the game without looking under the hood. Then, after you've played, Ron can again reveal his notes on how he did it, and we can see how that relates to how play went.

I think in the name of Game Science that this is, at this point, a moral imperative. :smile:

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2001, 09:57:00 AM
Mike,

I believe the appropriate response would be, "You're out of your fucking mind."

More seriously, since we're NOT going to play, not even to PRETEND to play, that's not an issue. I really don't want to know what a player says he "would do," in response to one of my stated elements of play. I'm interested in what people are concerned about and so on, or what they think would or wouldn't make sense to them.

Best,
Ron

P.S. This is edited in: with any luck, the jocular nature of Mike's post and the jocular nature of my first paragraph are NOT going to be a cause for concern for anyone. We like each other. We are kidding around.

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-02 13:16 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 02, 2001, 10:57:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-11-02 12:57, Ron Edwards wrote:
with any luck, the jocular nature of Mike's post and the jocular nature of my first paragraph are NOT going to be a cause for concern for anyone. We like each other. We are kidding around.


No we don't! You're my mortal enemy Edwards! (if they can't figure out we're kidding I say we keep em strung along...)

Anyhow, why don't you want to play with Paul, Tor and Jesse. They seem like nice guys. I suppose now you're going to cite Real Life and other such time constraints. Horse-hocky, I say! I can set you guys up an online group and you can duke it out via e-mail.

C'mon, y'know you want to do it. What do you say. In the name of science, man! Heck, if I made up a nifty character and had a GM work up a background and stuff, I'd know that I'd want to play.

BTW, do you always use detective novels for inspiration, or is that just your current kick?

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2001, 11:18:00 AM
Among much tomfoolery, Mike asked,
"do you always use detective novels for inspiration, or is that just your current kick?"

I think that quite a few sources are functional. Most movies are stripped down to less than what sustains role-playing; ie, they are about the same stuff but are highly, highly refined and focused. Most quality fiction that is NOT especially prized by academia will do nicely. I especially like the 50s-60s American authors that either hit it big with a couple of books but who are otherwise ignored, or were written off forever as trash because people enjoyed them. Mario Puzo's early stuff is great, Herman Wouk, James M. Cain for SURE, even John Steinbeck, who wasn't adopted by Snob Criticism until after he was safely dead.

The so-called detective tradition is very high-yield, though, and the list of sources in The Sorcerer's Soul (especially since I expanded it for the book version) are astounding in the depth of their content. As you know, it really doesn't have anything to do with ACTUALLY being a detective. Lew Archer really didn't have to be a private eye, and the main character in Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White is just a painting instructor. Solving crimes is simply not the point. These stories are about the price of alienation.

Ultimately, I think they have their philosophical foundation in Camus, notably his books The Plague and The Myth of Sisyphus. In the detective stories, the SOURCE of the widespread alienation, and the SYMPATHY we have for those most profoundly affected, and the MANIFESTATIONS of that alienation (positive and negative) ... the terrifying line walked by the protagonist (who is alienated by the same things that afflict the villains, yet who retains enough humanity to try to stop them) is very important and matches the ethical premise of Sorcerer so perfectly, that this literary tradition is almost-endlessly inspiring.

Best,
Ron

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-02 15:34 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Paul Czege on November 02, 2001, 01:39:00 PM
Hey Ron,

I'm not sure I understand the question at all, since your post is addressed to Jesse but the question seems to be for me. It could be that you are asking WHO is actually "mapper" during play.

Actually, I was poking Jesse a bit to see if he'd twitch. It's an unfortunate habit of mine that's lost me a few girlfriends over the years. Remember when I tried to convince you to put the picture of yourself from when you earned your black belt on the Sorcerer dust jacket?

I just have this impression that when Jesse's playing, other players take the opportunity to coast and rely on his notetaking rather than their own, and that he probably ends up pretty consistently being the one to recap previous game sessions for the group before the GM starts running a new session.

I was teasing, but it wasn't malicious. I can tell that he's very much beyond that dysfunctional crap now. It was like when you remind one of your friends that you remember he had a curly perm for his school picture in 1980.

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-11-02 16:43 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2001, 03:31:00 PM
Hello,

Well, the last few posts have wandered a bit. Let me do a bit of corralling and orienting.

1) I'm waiting on Tor's comments on my scenario prep, plus further responses or concerns from Paul and Jesse.

All others' comments are welcome, but on the same topic, please.

2) I'll give a wrapup for this thread, and then our FOURTH thread will begin with exactly what I would do during the first session of play, and the mind-set I'd have relative to both (1) "fixing" certain story elements in particular orders or at certain intensities, and (2) expanding or developing new story elements as they arise.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Tor Erickson on November 03, 2001, 04:14:00 PM
Okay, my first questions and comments are about the stuff that goes on in the GM's head vs. stuff that doesn't.  Is there some reason why the GM wouldn't address all the issues in character creation?  For example: if Richie's kicker seems kind of tired, why not just talk about it during chargen rather than trying to fix the issue retroactively (during play or elsewhere)?  It seems like the answer to this question could run along two routes:  1) you reach a point when too much time is being spent on char-gen and people are losing their focus (started to notice this today during our chargen session for sorcerer) or 2) you want to protect the author-sanctity of the player; in otherwords, trusting the player's motives and rationales for making the choices they do.  The question of when to push the player farther and when to step back is, of course, a very large issue.

Second comment/question: Size of the Relationship Map.  What kind of an effect does the actual, physical size of the relationship map have on the game?  When I say physical size I mean the actual number of relationships that will be revealed during play.  More particularly, is there a direct correlation between map-size and playing time?  Will a map-size of 9 relationships take considerably longer to play out than one with 3?  Or is it much more fluid than that?  Also, it seems as though in a large MacDonald style map there are more potential points of entry for characters, which seems more convenient for a group of protagonists (and for the GM).  Do you find, Ron, that a larger map makes for more believable and easier character tie-ins?

Third question; humanity and binding.  Did we ever determine what stats would be appropriate for the initial binding roll? Have we ever established a fixed definition for humanity?

General comments:  The extent to which the relationship map and backstory is a playground for the players (but not necessarily the characters) is finally dawning on me.  This is combined with my second realization that as far as I can tell, the PRIMARY PURPOSE of the RM and the BS is to give the players space to test, push, explore and especially comment on their characters and life in general.  Putting these two things together late last night was a major realization, and I'm both excited and nervous for my first real session of Sorcerer next Saturday.  
-Tor

[ This Message was edited by: Tor Erickson on 2001-11-03 19:18 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 04, 2001, 08:43:00 AM
Hi Tor,

Your question,
“Is there some reason why the GM wouldn't address all the issues in character creation? For example: if Richie's kicker seems kind of tired, why not just talk about it during chargen rather than trying to fix the issue retroactively (during play or elsewhere)?”

… is very well answered by both of your proposed answers. I agree with both of those very strongly.

I also want to say that a good principle is “good enough for government work,” that is, if Richie has a great demon (he does) and if I get an idea that the player can “see” him (which I am assuming for purposes of this example), then I am willing to work with any number of shallow spots for later. Many of these shallow spots SHOULD be shallow, because defining them and creating stuff about them is part of the good stuff of play.

(Example: in the first Star Trek show, the characters and much of the “ideology” of the show developed only over time, in an ongoing feedback loop between scripting and production. In the ST:NG show, they use the “Bible” method in which relationships, motivations, backgrounds, and more are all mapped out beforehand. I strongly recommend that the former method is vastly superior if we are talking about setting up a foundation for FUTURE authorship [in this case, the foundation is character generation, and the actual play is authorship]).

Kickers in particular may be permitted to be shallow. If the player just announces that “he’s being attacked by a mean dog,” well, if we’ve ALREADY gone once-around the Once-Over stage, any more is probably going to be counter-productive. (Most players will not ever write a 20-page character background for a game again, once having done so and had the game fizzle during its second session.) There’s always room to have a Kicker be more than it appears, by definition.

The very dangerous places for spotting shallowness are the “bump on the head” sorcery and the utility-demon.

“What kind of an effect does the actual, physical size of the relationship map have on the game? When I say physical size I mean the actual number of relationships that will be revealed during play. More particularly, is there a direct correlation between map-size and playing time?”

I do not see any such correlation. Since play is NOT, and will NEVER be, strictly about “revealing the map,” the speed at which it is revealed is mainly irrelevant. What determines play time are (a) how accessible the key connections are and (b) the difficulty of or resistance to what the players DECIDE TO DO, at any given point – whether the map is known or not. Especially the latter. (This also argues against Jesse’s worry about “when the map is revealed, the story’s over,” because the story is really about the sorcerous characters, not about the people in the map.

“Also, it seems as though in a large MacDonald style map there are more potential points of entry for characters, which seems more convenient for a group of protagonists (and for the GM). Do you find, Ron, that a larger map makes for more believable and easier character tie-ins?”

Yes, absolutely. I agree that the larger the map, the more room for people to be hooked in without the stupid “all meet in a bar” thing.

”Third question; humanity and binding. Did we ever determine what stats would be appropriate for the initial binding roll? Have we ever established a fixed definition for humanity?”

No, and no. To the first, well, that would be something I’d probably ask right at the beginning of the first session, to get some role-playing of sorcery into the picture. It could even be of scenes from years before, during the Binding. (I also like this because it “reveals secrets” about one another’s demons among the players, thus putting a solid boot into the idea that everyone is hiding stuff from one another. They don’t have to give up everything at the outset, sure, but I reeeeeeaaaallly hate that whole “no other player knows anything about my character, man.”)

“The extent to which the relationship map and backstory is a playground for the players (but not necessarily the characters) is finally dawning on me. This is combined with my second realization that as far as I can tell, the PRIMARY PURPOSE of the RM and the BS is to give the players space to test, push, explore and especially comment on their characters and life in general. Putting these two things together late last night was a major realization, and I'm both excited and nervous for my first real session of Sorcerer next Saturday.”

H’m. This interests me. What, exactly, composed your view of role-playing scenarios prior to this realization? Everything in your paragraph has been integral to my entire approach to GMing since the late 1980s, and it is very hard to wrap my mind around any other purpose of play, if we are talking about fiction/novel style play, as opposed to fun/action movie or other modes.

Best,
Ron


[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-04 12:58 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Tor Erickson on November 04, 2001, 01:36:00 PM
Ron wrote:
Quote


H’m. This interests me. What, exactly, composed your view of role-playing scenarios prior to this realization? Everything in your paragraph has been integral to my entire approach to GMing since the late 1980s, and it is very hard to wrap my mind around any other purpose of play, if we are talking about fiction/novel style play, as opposed to fun/action movie or other modes.


[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-04 12:58 ]


Hi Ron,

Prior to this realization (which has been happening for awhile now, not just the other night) I was a hardcore setting and situation simulationist who desperately wanted narrativism but didn't trust the players with authorship power beyond the character creation step.  

This thread and my work on my upcoming Sorcerer game has gotten me thinking a lot about the intricacies of the relationship map; how it can be used, expanded, changed, and how it applies to actual play.  I'm especially interested in the balancing of Bangs with revealing relationships on the map (though of course the two can and should be connected), and how the relative ratio of bangs/relationships affects the feel of the game (for example, say I want a more action-based, John Woo kind of game: my first reaction is to increase the number of bangs and decrease the number of relationships).  Also, it's been mentioned various times that certain maps are more conducive to rpgs than others, with focus generally being on complexity and the strength of the connections.

Anyway, I know this is straying off-topic and I'm not looking for answers right now (though perhaps a new thread could be in order), these are just thoughts that have arisen in the course of these Art-deco threads.  

So, what happens next?

-Tor


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 04, 2001, 04:27:00 PM
Next? New thread. This one's done.

I'll start it up soon.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on November 05, 2001, 01:04:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-11-02 12:14, Ron Edwards wrote:
Even more importantly, it is not Eroch's relationship to JVG that matters anyway. It is his relationship to Chema and to the psychotherapist. How are those going to change? Is he going to keep Chema in therapy? Are events that occur during play actually going to lead her to speak? How about the pregnancy itself? How do all the economic consequences of these events relate to the successful opening of his building, and how can he make sure it's successful? And then, with him having made those decisions or begun to, how are they going to reverberate into a variety of NPC actions that will have to be dealt with?


Hello Ron,

I know you declared this thread closed but I've been very busy the last few days and haven't gotten a chance to ask these questions.  The above paragraph exemplifies where your planning technique really loses me.  I absolutely agree with you that the above issues are the key and interesting issues regarding Paul's character.  It's true that as a Narrativist GM you don't know how Paul will approach these issues or if even all of these issues will come into to focus.  But what really throws me is that NONE of these issues are in any way shape or form directly anticipated or addressed in your planning.

Let's break it down:

"It is his relationship to Chema and to the psychotherapist. How are those going to change? Is he going to keep Chema in therapy? Are events that occur during play actually going to lead her to speak?"

The psychotherapist isn't even IN the relationship map or any of the back story.  Wouldn't you want to decide before hand if the psychtherapist is friend or foe?  Is the psychotherapist aware of Sorcery?  Does this therapist care about Chema or does he/she have some more evil purpose for her?

"How about the pregnancy itself?"

I see a coven of evil pedatricians turning innocent babies into demon spawn.  Cheesy and off the top of my head but this is the kind of personal customization I'm talking about that I don't see reflected in your planning.

"How do all the economic consequences of these events relate to the successful opening of his building, and how can he make sure it's successful?"

This one really blows my mind.  WHAT economic consequences?  I agree that the building is not only a great image but of vast importance but I don't see anything in your planning that would in any way shape or form threaten the opening of that building.  The land is bought.  The building is constructed.  Show up on opening day and cut the cord.  The deal seems pretty sealed and safe to me.  It seems to me that a good bang to plan would be something that threatens the building.

What this really comes down to, is that the kickers have been used to excelently hook our characters up to the back story and relationship map ripped from the source material.  HOWEVER, I don't see enough personalization of the conflicts.  Wouldn't an original relationship map that speaks directly to the obvious issues inherent in each character be a better choice?  I guess inherent in your planning I don't see anything that faciliates us addressing the key issues related to our characters.

As always, thanks for the insight.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 05, 2001, 08:10:00 AM
Hi Jesse,

"… what really throws me is that NONE of these issues are in any way shape or form directly anticipated or addressed in your planning."

I see exactly what the problem is. It lies in that word "anticipated." If you do not mind me being a little personal about this, I think your past history with role-playing has created a value system that you are having a hard time shedding. That value system is founded, utterly, on the idea that the entire purpose of play is to Figure Out the Villain's Plot and to Stop It. You are looking for elements in my prep that would ensure that the characters are going to "have to" do this.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that as a GM, you are bugged by not knowing each and every detail about every NPC's relationship to The Big Plot, and as a player, you are bugged by the idea that the GM would not know that. I have encountered the mind-set that such a GM is "not respecting the players," or is "making it up as he goes along," or is otherwise "devaluing the whole experience" by not running, essentially, a Call of Cthulhu scenario.

I ask you this: what is the ACTUAL RISK of not prepping in this fashion? What can go so horribly wrong if every last detail is not nailed into place? Why must the game-world be a four-dimensional Reality prior to play?

Let's take this line of reasoning to the player-characters themselves. Why must the entirety of play be devoted to Finding the Right Rock and reading the Note Under It, which tells them where to go and what to do, and then Doing It? My answer is that it does not, and in fact, that the entirety of play is devoted to an alternate thing.

I shall attempt to demonstrate the alternative view through addressing your specific questions.

 Me: "It is his relationship to Chema and to the psychotherapist. How are those going to change? Is he going to keep Chema in therapy? Are events that occur during play actually going to lead her to speak?"
You: "The psychotherapist isn't even IN the relationship map or any of the back story. Wouldn't you want to decide before hand if the psychtherapist is friend or foe? Is the psychotherapist aware of Sorcery? Does this therapist care about Chema or does he/she have some more evil purpose for her?"

Sure Dr. Heuttner is in the back-story, the part that Paul wrote (all three character back-stories are part of the big back-story, even if they're not connected). Chema is in the map, as Joey's lover (or victim, whatever). Dr. Heuttner is there as a little twig or spike off of Chema's name. Lots of characters have these little twigs, such as some thug that Sizey uses as his "big gun" in simple matters, or maybe a hot-headed subordinate of Beck's.

However, as you have accurately noted already, Dr. Heuttner pretty much demands to be treated as a bit more important than just a twig. I shall focus on the key question you ask: "Wouldn't you want to decide before hand if the psychtherapist is friend or foe?" Wow. What a revealing statement on your part. My basic, straightforward answer to this question is No. Emphatically, no.

What is scaring you (or seeming weird or alien or A-B-C-7) is that I am happy to let VERY IMPORTANT plot elements be quite fuzzy right into the first session of play. I could easily see Dr. Heuttner being the most important NPC in the story - and yet I'm willing to go into the first session with NO idea whether he's benign or malign? Oh my God! What kind of prep is that??

I say it's good prep. I like Dr. Heuttner already - he percolates in my mind just as demon characters do. I know what to do when that happens. Specifically, I know not to over-prepare, because it's exactly what turns into railroading, in turn because I will begin to "play" the character in my mind as I prepare. That is horrible and disastrous. Instead, as soon as someone wants to talk to the Good Doctor, I'll offer various personal details (statements of fact, as well as mannerisms) about him AS THEY SPRING TO MIND AT THAT MOMENT, and the player will be creating a whole set of personal desires and opinions as I do so. Voila, a powerful and relevant NPC is born. All of these things cement into play in actual play, and become solid as iron for future events.

Dr. Heuttner is destined to become one of my most sinister, terrifying, profound villains, or one of my best-loved helpful allies, or a fairly fringe/mild bystander in the whole picture. It depends on "the needs of the story," as stated so badly in most role-playing discussion, which I will translate into functional terms by stating as, "the needs of the PLAYERS' story."

Me: "How about the pregnancy itself?"
You: "I see a coven of evil pedatricians turning innocent babies into demon spawn. Cheesy and off the top of my head but this is the kind of personal customization I'm talking about that I don't see reflected in your planning."

You can bet that won't be in my planning. Why would we need such a thing in this story? What in the world does it have to do with anything that's going on? It is most emphatically someone else's story BESIDES the main characters'. It's a fine example of the kind of scenario prep in which the hooks ONLY exist to bring the characters into contact with Some Evil Scheme, which they now Must Stop. However, what I am doing is exactly the opposite sort of scenario prep, in which the various evil (grubby and pathetic really) schemes only exist to make the player-character hooks more solid and valid - to mature them into personal character conflicts which the players care about.

That's Character-based Premise prep. I have no GM-based interest whatsoever in the murders being "solved," or a crime being prevented, or any aspect of the back-story being resolved in any way at all. I do not care at all whether Hilda is run over by a truck, cured, escapes, or is eaten by a demon. Instead, I am interested, profoundly, in whether Richie and his dad are going to hug, ally uneasily and briefly, clash briefly, or kill one another. Or in whether Cyril is going to propose to Jenny or not, and whether he will be a good mentor to Tobias (with some fine grim outcomes if he's not). Or in whether Chema becomes a catatonic vegetable and Eroch becomes a haunted "king" of an empty grotesque achievement with no purpose, as opposed to them solving both old and new family crises.

And to clarify - in those matters of interest I stated, I am leaving them WHOLLY up to the players. I am not committed to any SPECIFIC outcome of all those decisions. My job is to bring all of these relationships into center stage via the "pressure" of dealing with the scenario's other elements.

Me: "How do all the economic consequences of these events relate to the successful opening of his building, and how can he make sure it's successful?"
You: "This one really blows my mind. WHAT economic consequences? I agree that the building is not only a great image but of vast importance but I don't see anything in your planning that would in any way shape or form threaten the opening of that building. The land is bought. The building is constructed. Show up on opening day and cut the cord. The deal seems pretty sealed and safe to me. It seems to me that a good bang to plan would be something that threatens the building."

I'll chalk this one up to my lack of clarity in previous writeups. Joey van Graysloke is a hotel-chain dude, skilled at that highly dishonest interface between city government, construction, taxes, and licensing. He continues to exist by playing off these influences against one another in a highly tenuous juggling act (which is starting to come apart). Eroch's building is Eroch's. He financed it, owns it, designed it, and is profiting from it. Such a phenomenon and such a person cannot help but screw up Joey and anyone he's hand-in-glove with, and vice versa.

Rather than threaten the building (which I like to call the "Lincoln Logs" model of GMing, which is to blow up anything the player-character likes or cares about, or to threaten to do so),  I simply have it in mind to go the other way around. Joey's interests are threatened by Eroch's success with his building. In my opinion, this gives me MOUNTAINS of possible things for Eroch to encounter if he starts to look in this direction. The pregnancy is a fine reason to start looking. Eroch may well discover a very dangerous enemy staring him in the face.

"What this really comes down to, is that the kickers have been used to excelently hook our characters up to the back story and relationship map ripped from the source material. HOWEVER, I don't see enough personalization of the conflicts. Wouldn't an original relationship map that speaks directly to the obvious issues inherent in each character be a better choice? I guess inherent in your planning I don't see anything that faciliates us addressing the key issues related to our characters."

What you are calling "personalization of the conflicts," I would call, "The GM muscling in on playing the player-characters." The whole idea is for me NOT to dictate what Eroch is going to run off and do - but to allow Paul to tell me that, and by so doing, to give me, quite possibly inadvertently, a strong idea of how to employ certain plot elements.

All three of these issues - what Dr. Heuttner is up to (if anything), the refusal to have some Sorcerous Evil-Doing Afoot, and the Joey-to-Eroch (rather than Eroch-to-Joey) conflict - are connected by my central point and philosophy of Sorcerer prep. It goes like this:

The elements of GM prep exist only to bring the player- characters' kickers into maximal player emotional commitment. Nothing else matters - most specifically, not outcomes of any elements of back-story conflict. The only desirable outcome of play is that a player-character addresses the moral conflict at the heart of his kicker. The back-story exists to "heat up" that conflict.

You may find this odd, but Jenny is a MUCH more important NPC than Beck. Why? Because she is the center of Cyril's Kicker. Beck (and everyone else) only exists to make that Kicker more important to YOU, Jesse, during play.

Contrast this to the traditional view, in which the GM's first act is to kill Jenny, and look expectantly at the player - essentially saying, "I killed what you care about, and therefore now you are left only with caring about what I want you to care about, which is this Big Evil Plot over here. Start looking."

Let me know if any of this is making better sense.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on November 05, 2001, 10:17:00 AM
Forgive the quotes but I've got to address certain key points.

Quote

I ask you this: what is the ACTUAL RISK of not prepping in this fashion? What can go so horribly wrong if every last detail is not nailed into place? Why must the game-world be a four-dimensional Reality prior to play?


The risk I see is devaluing the obvious elements that are key to the players personal emotional involvement.  If I had preped this scenario, I would KNOW what Joey's motivations are and how to play him when he comes into contact with the playes because I would fully understand his motivations.  I know what he's willing to do and talk about.  I know when he'd lie and when he'd try to get the players to do something for him.  Same for Hilda or any of the other "major" characters in the backstory.  I know who they are and what they want and how to engage the PCs.

At this point I know nothing about the psychotherapist who  we both agree is a much more important character than anything going on in the 'meat' of the relationship map.  Okay, so if Paul starts out session one and says, 'I go to the doctor to discuss Chema's progress.'  If I as the GM don't say something compelling like, 'Actually, in our last session Chema spoke a single word but it appears to be ancient arameic' or even, 'I'd like to try this new experimental drug' then Paul isn't going to see any reason to continue to deal with the psychotherapist.  Because I know NOTHING of the psychotherapist and his relationship with what's going on I'm going to say something inocuous like, 'There's not much progress I'm affraid.  I'll call you when there are developments.'  I then run the risk of Paul, going, 'Okay, nothing of interest here,' and wandering off.  And then we never hear from or see the psychotherapist again.  Unless I have him call Paul with one of the afformentioned 'compelling' statements.

By the way Paul, this in no way reflects my expectations of you personally as a player only my fears of what I have observed to be 'typical' player behavior.

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However, what I am doing is exactly the opposite sort of scenario prep, in which the various evil (grubby and pathetic really) schemes only exist to make the player-character hooks more solid and valid - to mature them into personal character conflicts which the players care about.

My job is to bring all of these relationships into center stage via the "pressure" of dealing with the scenario's other elements.


This is where I just stare blankly and go, yes but HOW, HOW, HOW, HOW, HOW, HOW?  If none of your initial prep speaks directly to the key conflicts, I just don't see how we get from one to the other.  I don't see how jealousy motivated murders perpetrated by Hilda are going to put 'pressure' on Richie's relation with his dad.  I don't see how Beck's cover up is going to put 'pressure' on Cyril's relationship with Jenny.  Even if I were the sole author of this story, alone in my room with complete control I can't see how to get from one to the other.
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Quote

What you are calling "personalization of the conflicts," I would call, "The GM muscling in on playing the player-characters." The whole idea is for me NOT to dictate what Eroch is going to run off and do - but to allow Paul to tell me that, and by so doing, to give me, quite possibly inadvertently, a strong idea of how to employ certain plot elements.


Oh, I'm not saying you should dictate Eroch's actions.  But what happens when Paul has Eroch run into a scenario 'void' such as the Doctor which seems VERY VERY likely for session one and there's nothing there?  Even when you and I agree that something SHOULD be there.

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The elements of GM prep exist only to bring the player- characters' kickers into maximal player emotional commitment. Nothing else matters - most specifically, not outcomes of any elements of back-story conflict. The only desirable outcome of play is that a player-character addresses the moral conflict at the heart of his kicker. The back-story exists to "heat up" that conflict.


HOW?  Oh, I feel so blind.  I just don't see how the backstory 'heats up' any of the kickers.  I see exactly the opposite.  I see Jenny and the Doctor and once David and Joey are dead Tobias and Chema all falling by the way side as we get sucked up into the 'meatier' going ons of the fixed backstory.

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You may find this odd, but Jenny is a MUCH more important NPC than Beck. Why? Because she is the center of Cyril's Kicker. Beck (and everyone else) only exists to make that Kicker more important to YOU, Jesse, during play.


I don't find that odd at all.  But I don't see how we get from Beck being so well fleshed out and yet keeping the focus on Jenny.

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Let me know if any of this is making better sense.


I understand WHAT you are trying to achieve.  I just don't understand HOW you're going to achieve it.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: random on November 05, 2001, 11:02:00 AM
Quote

At this point I know nothing about the psychotherapist who  we both agree is a much more important character than anything going on in the 'meat' of the relationship map.  Okay, so if Paul starts out session one and says, 'I go to the doctor to discuss Chema's progress.'  If I as the GM don't say something compelling like, 'Actually, in our last session Chema spoke a single word but it appears to be ancient arameic' or even, 'I'd like to try this new experimental drug' then Paul isn't going to see any reason to continue to deal with the psychotherapist.  Because I know NOTHING of the psychotherapist and his relationship with what's going on I'm going to say something inocuous like, 'There's not much progress I'm affraid.  I'll call you when there are developments.'  I then run the risk of Paul, going, 'Okay, nothing of interest here,' and wandering off.  And then we never hear from or see the psychotherapist again.  Unless I have him call Paul with one of the afformentioned 'compelling' statements.


(I hope I'm not butting in... and I hope this is appropriate to be included in this thread.  If not, let me know and I'll get rid of it.)

jburneko,

I think there's a cognitive disconnect here about how decisions about the game world need to be made.

You can make decisions about aspects of the world up front, before the game starts.  I think it's good to do some of this, to come up with details that might become important or interesting, depending on what the players decide to do.  But every time you make a decision about the game world before the game starts, you're limiting the possibilities for what might happen during play.  You already know, in this example, that the doctor has an idea for a drug program that might help Chema.  You might also come up with other plot details that are interesting or fun, based on the consequences of the drug program.  Then you've got an investment of time and energy in the doctor character and the drug-program plot detail: you want it to be important, because you've already given it some thought.

Alternatively, you can defer those decisions until play starts.  Suppose that Paul doesn't visit the doctor to check on Chema's progress.  That's great; you can leave that detail undefined.  If at some point Paul decides that his character needs to check up on what the doctor has been doing with his sister, you have an opportunity to think about everything else that's going on in the game world at that instant and see whether there's a possible correlation between the ongoing state of the therapy and anything else that's in the game world, and exploit that opportunity; or just invent something entirely new to flesh out that part of the game world.  

If there's a whole lot of other activity right then in the game, maybe the conversation with the doctor is a chance to take a breather from all the crazy stuff.  If there's not enough tension in the game, maybe the doctor makes some kind of revelation that shocks everyone.

By deferring decisions about what is happening in the game world, you can provide more room to the players to decide what is important in that world.  If Paul's immediate reaction to the news that Chema's pregnant is to fire her therapist, then maybe the doctor wasn't really that important after all.  If Paul decides to spend a lot of game time chatting with the doctor, then he probably is.  But the important thing is that it's the players' attention that defines what about the world is really interesting and important.

The relationship map and backstory are there as a springboard and as glue to hold the campaign together. They prevent players from just being concerned with their own personal corner of the game world, and provide them with details that they can play off of to further the story in their own direction.  The Bangs are there to keep the players engaged -- "whoops, I guess I can't just relax and take things easy; my creepy business associate's head just blew up."

Of course that's just my take on what these things are for; hopefully I'm not perverting the ideas too badly.  I think that this is all consistent with what Ron has been saying, though.  If I'm not too far off base, then maybe that explains why you're getting frustrated with Ron's answers: you're asking questions about how to do things during game prep when the answer is "I don't do those things during game prep."

Cheers,

rnd


[ This Message was edited by: random on 2001-11-05 14:04 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on November 05, 2001, 11:37:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-11-05 14:02, random wrote:

If Paul's immediate reaction to the news that Chema's pregnant is to fire her therapist, then maybe the doctor wasn't really that important after all.  If Paul decides to spend a lot of game time chatting with the doctor, then he probably is.  


I totally get what you're saying.  Where my largely personal problem comes in is this: If I put a lot of planing into the doctor and the first thing Paul does is drop the therapist then great I can just drop the plot element.  The idea isn't to create a scenario that HINGES on the therapist being involved but only prepares FOR the therapist to be involved.

If on the other hand I DON'T put any planning into the therapist and Paul decides to spend a lot of time with him then things will be very boring because I won't have anything to SAY as the therapist because he doesn't currently relate to anything in my head.  Paul won't have the opportunity to make the doctor important because I haven't prepared to allow the doctor to be important.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 05, 2001, 12:19:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-11-05 14:37, jburneko wrote:
If on the other hand I DON'T put any planning into the therapist and Paul decides to spend a lot of time with him then things will be very boring because I won't have anything to SAY as the therapist because he doesn't currently relate to anything in my head.  Paul won't have the opportunity to make the doctor important because I haven't prepared to allow the doctor to be important.


That may be a problem. Ron is assuming that you can just make up stuff about the doctor to make him interesting given what has already happened on the spot. And if you give it a chance you might find that you can do this. I think that you're just afraid of walking the tightrope without a net.

That pre-game prep you feel that you need turns your tightrope into a rail. Sure it's sturdier, but you risk driving the game someplace other than it ought to be. Ron's contention is that you can't make up ANYTHING about the psychologist that doesn't relate to the character's protagonism, because doing so makes the game about the Psychiatrist, not the character. And it's hard to make stuff up about the psychiatrist that does relate to the PCs protagonism, because they haven't started play yet. Who knows what direction they'll go after the game starts? Conclusion - you have to wing it a bit. Ron's not saying don't make stuff up, just don't do it till you see where the game is going, and can make up stuff that reinforces the PCs stories.

Another problem that you're having seems to me to be about the level of events that have to occur to create "heat". This is a Gam/Sim leftover. One murder is in fact far more than you need to create all the heat you'll ever need. Given all the stuff going on in Ron's descriptiopn, I almost think that he's overdone it. You haven't forgotten that there are demons about, have you? Yes, in Simulationist or Gamist play saving the world regularly is important because things like that are part of what makes the sorts of premises available in those games engaging. Shouldn't be necessary at all in a narrativist game. The murder is just there to kickstart the players stories. It is not the story itself.

Ron, how about next example, you start with a dance instead of a murder to demonstrate how little you really need to establish a kernel around which to develop PC plot. I think that Jesse might really need an example of play of some sort, unfortunately. :wink:

One more thing Jesse, you mentioned your players. Keep in mind that if they are against Narrativism in general (like my Sim players) then this whole thing will not fly. They MUST be willing to create their share of the story or this sort of setup will not fly.

Miss anything, Ron?

Mike

[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-11-05 15:23 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on November 05, 2001, 01:35:00 PM
This is verging on me getting defensive which is not what I intend or like but I'm trying to be as clear as possible.  Perhaps just moving on to Ron's actual play analysis would be best.

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Ron's contention is that you can't make up ANYTHING about the psychologist that doesn't relate to the character's protagonism, because doing so makes the game about the Psychiatrist, not the character. And it's hard to make stuff up about the psychiatrist that does relate to the PCs protagonism, because they haven't started play yet. Who knows what direction they'll go after the game starts? Conclusion - you have to wing it a bit. Ron's not saying don't make stuff up, just don't do it till you see where the game is going, and can make up stuff that reinforces the PCs stories.


This may go back to me still not fully understanding what we mean when we talk about preserving the player's protagonism.  I don't understand how planning lots of details about motives and behaviors about the psychologist will deprotagonize the player or somehow shift the story from being about the character to being about the psychologist.  I'm not dictating HOW the character must react to whatever is going on with the psychologist be it good or bad, I'm just giving the player something to react to AT ALL.  Or beter giving ME as the GM a foundation for how the psychologist will react TO PAUL/EROCH.

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Yes, in Simulationist or Gamist play saving the world regularly is important because things like that are part of what makes the sorts of premises available in those games engaging. Shouldn't be necessary at all in a narrativist game. The murder is just there to kickstart the players stories. It is not the story itself.


I'm also not talking about turning the game into a "Hunt The Evil, Save The World" scenario either.  Those were just cheesy examples that leapt to mind because they're easy.  As an example just making the Psychologist Joey Van Grayslokes brother would make me happy.  Now it leaves the question "Who does he side with?"  Does the psychologist insure that Chema never speaks in hope of covering up one more of his brother's fuck ups?  Or does he become inamored with either Chema or Eroch and turn his borther in?  These questions I can leave to actual play.  I can wait to see how Paul has Eroch treat the Doctor to decide which way the doctor goes.  But at least I have an element to hold onto while I roleplay the doctor.  I have some baseline motivation for developing his character.

Quote

One more thing Jesse, you mentioned your players. Keep in mind that if they are against Narrativism in general (like my Sim players) then this whole thing will not fly. They MUST be willing to create their share of the story or this sort of setup will not fly.


Eh, forget my players.  I'm being selfish at this point and talking about me on both sides of the table.  As a player if I have my character do something and the GM doesn't present me with something compelling as a consequence then I won't pursue that line of thinking any more.  If I'm the GM and the player does something that I haven't done any planning on AT ALL, even as subtle as making one character related to another, then I'm going to present that player with the most milk-toast presentation of that character because that's what's going to leap to mind.

Furthing the psychologist angle.  With just the added element of having the psychologist be Joey's brother I'll know what questions the Doctor would ask Chema and Eroch to try and figure out how much they know about the pregnancy.  I'd know what behaviors to look for in Paul's portrayale of Eroch that might endear the Doctor to their cause.  I know what questions the doctor would answer outright and truthfully and what questions the doctor would evade.

However, left as is, with waiting to see what Paul does, I'd revert to 'cold professional.'  Yes, the doctor is doing his best.  And, no, there hasn't been much progress.  I'd ask a few standard questions to try and get some background on Chema and Eroch.  Overall, nothing really engaging.  To me that runs the risk of Paul simply abandoning the psychologist as a milk-toast character with nothing of interest going on.

Is this clear?

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: James Holloway on November 05, 2001, 02:14:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-11-05 16:35, jburneko wrote:
If I'm the GM and the player does something that I haven't done any planning on AT ALL, even as subtle as making one character related to another, then I'm going to present that player with the most milk-toast presentation of that character because that's what's going to leap to mind.


You and me both, sport. You and me both.

I have the devil-hell of a time with this kind of thing. I just have difficulty improvising things which are dramatic. This has the effect of leading characters toward the things I have prepared, which has the effect of railroading.

Problem: I don't know how to get around this except practice. A lot of the time, my players will help me out (unintentionally) by saying things like "hey, let's go talk to the therapist" and then getting distracted for ten minutes by something, while I'm frantically thinking about what would be good for the therapist to do.

But I don't know that I'm currently very good at coming up with good ways to use NPCs or other game elements without advance planning.


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 05, 2001, 02:28:00 PM
Quote

However, left as is, with waiting to see what Paul does, I'd revert to 'cold professional.'  Yes, the doctor is doing his best.  And, no, there hasn't been much progress.  I'd ask a few standard questions to try and get some background on Chema and Eroch.  Overall, nothing really engaging.  To me that runs the risk of Paul simply abandoning the psychologist as a milk-toast character with nothing of interest going on.

Is this clear?

Jesse


Well, it's clear, but I don't understand why you'd do what you say. Yes, if you run the character boring, the character will be boring. So don't do that. When (if) you get to the character have him behave in an entertaining fashion instead.

That's snarky, but I'm tryig to get my point across.

You don't have to pre-plan a character to have him behave in a way that will propell the story. Just figure it out on the spot, as play is happening. You tell us you can do this before play, why not during? During play you'll have the players cues to work with, which you wouldn't have before hand.

And you'll have Paul on the other end giving you those cues; he'll make most of it happen anyway, I garuntee. Even if you are the player in question, by the time you get to the psychologist, you'll have such a head of steam (from starting off on your kicker, or your demons need, or whatever) that you'll drive that scene. Unless the GM were to run it in a boring fashion or has some separate agenda for Herr Doktor. In which (latter) case the scene might just not work to enhance your characters story (which would be a shame; might as well have not included him).

Are we getting anywhere, or just circling?

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 05, 2001, 02:36:00 PM
Quote

I have the devil-hell of a time with this kind of thing. I just have difficulty improvising things which are dramatic. This has the effect of leading characters toward the things I have prepared, which has the effect of railroading.


Well, then all the more reason not to have anything pre-planned. If you have nothing pre-planned, then you can't railroad toward something. Like you mention later, let the players go where they will. Once they get the hang of it they won't really need you anymore.

Have you guys played SOAP yet? If not downloadit and play it with a friend ot two ASAP. That'll learn ya.

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ian O'Rourke on November 05, 2001, 02:47:00 PM
Okay, I don't want to jump in here and distance Mike and Jesse, but I think Jesse is trying to make one simple point (and correct me if I'm wrong):

If he was to make the Psychologist totally up on the spot, he thinks there is a good chance he would not be as interesting or as dynamic compared to a characters he'd put some thought into beforehand.

I think that's all that's trying to be said. The argument is how does putting this thought in take anything away from the player characters (the central protagonists)?

Is the solution to go halfway, surely you could detail the psychologist as a character without defining any motivation with respect to the relationship map or his place in the drama.

Describe how he looks, his mannarisms, what he does when he's nervous, what he does when he's lying that sort of thing. That way you can play him when you decide he's lying when the scene is driven by the player.

I'd do that, then I'd be playing what I thought was a distinctive character I'd thought through, but his place in the drama was still purely driven by 'on the moment' player driven choices, avenues of questioning, etc.

Make sense? Or have missed the whole issue? Whatever, this process is very intrigueing.

_________________
Ian O'Rourke
www.fandomlife.net
The e-zine of SciFi media and Fandom Culture.

[ This Message was edited by: Ian O'Rourke on 2001-11-05 17:49 ]


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: jburneko on November 05, 2001, 02:55:00 PM
Mike,

I don't think we're circling per se but I think we've drifted.  Another thing I'm having trouble with is imagining something Paul could possibly do that would suddenly give me insight into the psychologist and his motivations that I couldn't think up in advance.

Sure, if the psychologist is delt with late in the story it would be better to put his personality and agenda (if any) on hold.  If Paul has gone off and done 10 other things I might come up with a great idea of how the psychologist fits in with those things.  I do this all the time in play.  But in this case the psychologist is right there in the kicker.  In all likelyhood going to the psychologist will be one of the FIRST things Paul does.  In that case, I can't imagine what Paul could do that would suddenly make me go, "Oh yeah, THIS is where the psychologist stands."

Which brings me back to what I was ORIGINALLY getting at.  I can't understand why the kickers are used as whispy twigs attached to the backstory rather than the roots on which the backstory stands.  If the kicker is the first thing the player is going to deal with then the kicker is exactly where I'd spend 99% percent of my planning time making sure that any sort of relationship map or back story organically grows from that kicker.  Making sure that no matter what the player does something engaging is the result.  And by that I don't mean making sure that all roads lead to rome, only that I've done enough planning so that the player won't wander into a creative void too quickly.

Jesse


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 05, 2001, 02:59:00 PM
You're arguing on my side, Ian. Things like appearace and mannerisms are a far cry from Motivations which is what Jesse wanted to ascribe.

The potential damage? In truth, we're making a mountain out of a molehill. The one character probably wouldn't damage the game too much. But why make the mistake even once when its simpler not to? What can happen is that the scene in question can start to revolve around that pre-decided motivation.

Lets do a sample. Paul comes to the Psychiatrist because Whatshername has gone totally catatonic now (because Ron would do that). He's desperate. The scene should revolve around Paul's character trying to recieve some hope or solace from the doctor. If I have not preplanned the doctors motivations, I can now make him bad and thwart such requests for solace, or I can have the doctor be helpful. Anyhow, I can make the doctors actions revolve around Paul's.

If I had previously decided that the doctor was about trying to find out about the secrets of Paul's character's building, then I might feel the urge to drift over to having the doctor ask questions about Paul's characte and the building, all the while schemeing as to how the doctor would steal the plans or something. Whatever. It would no longer be about what Paul (not Paul's character, we don't really care about that) wants it to be about. He came here looking for some melodrama about medical advice and now he's getting something else entirely. Bad GM.

Sure, you could forget the doctor's motivation to play the scene the way Paul wants to, but then why have it worked out in the first place? Waste of time. Go with the flow...


BTW, for Sim play I'm all about the pre-planning. Heck, I even do (dare I mention it) Metaplot. But that's for another thread.

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 05, 2001, 03:07:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-11-05 17:55, jburneko wrote:
Which brings me back to what I was ORIGINALLY getting at.  I can't understand why the kickers are used as whispy twigs attached to the backstory rather than the roots on which the backstory stands.  If the kicker is the first thing the player is going to deal with then the kicker is exactly where I'd spend 99% percent of my planning time making sure that any sort of relationship map or back story organically grows from that kicker.  Making sure that no matter what the player does something engaging is the result.  And by that I don't mean making sure that all roads lead to rome, only that I've done enough planning so that the player won't wander into a creative void too quickly.


This is a big problem in understanding. You attatch too much importance to the backstory. It's called backstory because it is, essentially, unimportant. Scenery. The real story IS the kickers. The backstory is just what happens to be happening at the time to mix things up a bit.

You don't even need one.

Gasp! Oops, there, I said it. You could put all the PCs in a black box and just let them at each other, and probably drive a Sorcerer story. It's just going to be a little more colorful with other people around as well. That's all the backstory is for. How's the player going to wander off into a creative void with a demon at his back? If nothing else?

Mike


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 05, 2001, 03:12:00 PM
Folks, oh my, take it slow here.

First of all, EVERYONE has raised good points. Random, Mike, everyone has stated a variety of ways that describe or encourage my willingness not to prep Dr. Heuttner.

Second, though, Jesse has a good point. He simply does not feel comfortable going into play with a character who could be very important with no motivational prep.

That's a PERSONAL distinction. It would be perfectly all right to prep the doc just as much as I did Van Graysloke, Hilda, or Beck, and in that case it would be OK to give him a big ol' spot on the relationship map, probably to Chema. Or even to go whole hog and make him someone's brother or something (although I would find that too pat, myself).

Why didn't I do that? Because, most importantly, I got a "funny creative itch" when I considered the doctor. You can see it in my post, when I get all excited by considering the Jungian angle. Ah ha, I say, this WILL be interesting. I utterly trust myself to improv the doc into motivated existence when the time comes.

Jesse says: if I don't prep the doc's motivation, when it comes time to play him, he won't have one and I'll play him as a faceless, voiceless blur.

I say: ooh, baby, I just KNOW that the doc will be great - whatever the hell that will be, I dunno, but that knowledge lets me go into play feeling assured that he's gonna make a difference.

It is now a matter of comfort zones, not a matter of argumentation, which is why Mike's enthusiasm is becoming irritating to Jesse. I strongly suggest that we leave it as follows:
1) Whoa, look, this technique is so far out of one participant's comfort level that he does not see it as useful to him.
2) That is perfectly all right. The technique is not mandatory.

A lot of good points got raised, all 'round the topic, in the last six or seven posts. But really, folks, let's call this thread. We've hashed it out as far as it's gonna go.

Best,
Ron


Title: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2
Post by: Ian O'Rourke on November 05, 2001, 03:23:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-11-05 17:59, Mike Holmes wrote:
You're arguing on my side, Ian. Things like appearace and mannerisms are a far cry from Motivations which is what Jesse wanted to ascribe.


Quite possibly. I also think it might be a moot point, as is often the case in these games players do a lot of OOC discussion with each other and the GM, so even though the NPC is not detailed at the start of the game, he can be detailed before the session (he will be seriously encountered in) based on what the player has told the GM his motivations are.

As a result, if you don't feel comfortable doing it blind, agree a certain level of discussion so that planning before the next session can incorporate likely scenes (and a few notes based on the players drivers as he understands them before the session).

Anyway, shutting down as requested.