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Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: marcus on December 09, 2003, 03:40:34 AM
Although on searching for it in the basic rules I cannot see it explicitly said, I gather that the "Premise" is supposed to be a pretty important thing to be decided upon in the initial design of a new Sorcerer campaign. For "Premise" in a Sorcerer context, I read "Narrative Premise". If I'm wrong on either of these points, someone please tell me.

To make sure I'm using the terminology correctly, Narrative Premise is referred to in Ron's 2001 essay in the following terms:

Quote
Narrativist Premises focus on producing Theme via events during play. Theme is defined as a value-judgment or point that may be inferred from the in-game events. My thoughts on Narrativist Premise are derived from the book The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, specifically his emphasis on the questions that arise from human conundrums and passions of all sorts.

Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?
Do love and marriage outweigh one's loyalty to a political cause?
And many, many more - the full range of literature, myth, and stories of all sorts.


What I really don't understand is how one (whether it be the GM alone or the whole role-playing group in plenary session) can fix something like this at the very start of the campaign. Surely different "human conundrums", moral and social issues are going to arise as play unfolds? Although a Narrativist Premise or "Theme" (which latter term I will now use for brevity) may emerge as one views a game in retrospect, I cannot see why one would want to play with this matter set beforehand and, even if one did so wish, how the group would confine its activities to exploring the preset Theme.

To make sure I am selecting something that really counts as a Theme, I will simply take Ron's first example. Just say the group decides at the start of a Sorcerer game that the Theme for the game will be "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". Now how is this decision important to the game?

As best I understand it (which is no doubt imperfectly), a Theme is something that is supposed to be relevant to not merely a single session of play, but to a whole series of sessions that hang on this Theme. If that is correct, how would one run a series of sessions all based on the Theme of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". It strikes me that various different "human conundrums" are likely to emerge in any given session, let alone a whole "campaign" (if this is acceptable terminology for Sorcerer, I don't know). Even making the majority of them relate to the question of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?" strikes me as a difficult thing.

To make matters harder, I gather that a Sorcerer GM is not supposed to work out much in the way of a pre-set plotline but rather let the player's decisions rule what happens. In the circumstances, it strikes me as rather harder for the Sorcerer GM to engineer the plot to keep bringing it back to the issue of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". Presumably, then, it must be left up to the players to a large degree to steer the game this way whilst the GM merely "facilitates". But are the players really going to be that well organised that they can come up collectively with a plot that concentrates on "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?", when I would have thought this would be hard enough for even a single guiding mind (the GM) to do?

If maintaining focus on the Theme is supposed to be an exception to the GM's role as mere "facilitator" of the players and is allowed to "railroad" the players in this particular only (and I think I've read a thread somewhere to this effect), then surely you would end up with a major GM violation of player authorship? Even if the players helped invent the Theme in the first place, if Theme is central to play, wouldn't the GM's actions in forcing this Theme in actual play tend to dominate the game?

Let us suppose that the group does, somehow, concentrate its playing activity on the theme of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". Would this actually be an interesting thing? Wouldn't everyone be heartily sick of this issue after the first 10 minutes of play and want to Explore something else?

As you would glean from the above: basically, I just don't get it!


Marcus


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 09, 2003, 05:59:25 AM
Hello,

Bad timing, my friend. I just went through this in detail with a couple of other people, and I also am spending a lot of time explaining this in my work on the Narrativism essay.

I'll quickly say that the essay you're citing is out of date on this issue. Premise as a term is now restricted to Narrativism, just as it was prior to that essay.

Oh yeah - and Premise isn't necessarily pre-set in any overly-specific way for a Narrativist game. Instances vary in terms of how "loaded" play is at the start. Most Sorcerer and HeroQuest games, for instance, start with a pretty general Premise and specify it further via play itself. Whereas in My Life with Master, the Premise is rock-solid at the solid, including fairly extensive customizing during all-group preparation. And at the other extreme, playing Universalis has to build the entire Premise, from the ground up, through play.

Anyway, though, I am very over-extended today and cannot give this discussion the attention and most especially the thread-references it deserves. So, I call on the Forge for help. Josh? Jesse? Christopher? Ralph? M.J.? Paul? Mike? Sean? And ...? whoever?

Please?

Best,
Ron


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Valamir on December 09, 2003, 06:24:11 AM
First place I'd send you is Narrativism for the Soul (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8756)

Also, for clarity purposes, I'd caution you on your substitution of the word theme for Premise.  Premise is the question, theme is the answer that results from play.  They are not synonyms.

Premise issues can be very narrow as those in the example you questioned or much broader.  By broader I mean a question that can be highlighted by many different "human connundrums" attacking it from a different angle.

For instance a Premise might ask "To what lengths will you go to preserve traditional culture?"  There are a ton of potential situations each with a different angle that you can throw out that touch upon this premise in a different way...the son who defies his father's wishes (breaks traditional culture) to run off to join a band of insurgents fighting to preserve that culture.  The father willing to committ murder to prevent his daughter from marrying a foriegner...and to avoid retributions against his village for the death of a foreigner, the murder he commits is of his own daughter.

Both of those items could come about in actual play and both represent different ways of addressing the overall premise of the game.  Questions like that could easily last many many sessions.  Ultimately, when one looks back over the sessions and sees the choices that were made, and what resulted from them, one can assemble a (or perhaps many) themes that were addressed through play.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Calithena on December 09, 2003, 07:05:56 AM
Hi Marcus -

One thing to notice up front is that Sorcerer deals with thematic/premise related issues more directly in its actual mechanics than many other games, even those with broadly similar 'narrativist' design goals. Specifically, you have Demons, and you have Humanity, and you get something from Demons that you want, but some aspect of that getting involves putting your Humanity at risk in the process.

Now, since 'Demons' and 'Humanity' are open to varying different interpretations, it seems as though you have to come up with some rough statements of what the Premise of your game is going to be up front in order to even run it. Or rather, once a group has defined Demons and Humanity and decided to play the game a certain way, they have also decided, at least in the broad sense, on the Premise of their game.

Does this mean it can't morph somewhat over time? No. Does this mean you can't start out sort of general and hazy and reach clarity in your first few play sessions? No...in fact, when Ron describes his GMing technique, it seems to me that this is more or less what he's doing.

Does every adventure have to deal relentlessly and monomaniacally with that same Theme or Premise in every one of its aspects? No...no more than great books always stay on focus in every single chapter. There's no reason you can't break out of that for a while and explore something else...except that, because of the way Humanity and Demons have gotten defined, it's always going to be lurking in the background, ready to re-emerge. And that will color all experiences in the game, but not necessarily dictate them.

Does this mean that Sorcerer might be better suited to 6-15 adventure minicampaigns, which Ron has suggested in various places are more the norm than many gamers acknowledge, than to endless explorations of the same characters built up over years and years of play? Possibly...I wonder if anyone with separate thoughts on that might wish to start a thread addressing the subject.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Calithena on December 09, 2003, 07:11:27 AM
Just to make it more concrete: the conundrum you suggest could be handled by Sorcerer in a couple of ways. One would be, say, by defining Humanity in terms of close personal friendship, and making the Demons sort of lawful entities, maybe totems, that demand sacrifice for the community.

Another, more complicated way, which IIRC Ron discusses in Sex and Sorcery, would be to have two axes of humanity - 'friendship' and 'community success' - and have Demons be entities of raw chaos, devoted to breaking down both kinds of connections between people. Then you might have some situations in which both kinds of humanity were at stake, and some in which the Demons (some aspect of dealing with demons, not necessarily the demons as agents) would cunningly let you have one to undermine you in the other.

Etc. There are variable possiblities for defining these things in all cases, and you don't have to have the absolutely tight focus from the outset, but you can't play Sorcerer without Premise, because the game builds it in at the beginning. Yeah, you could de-emphasize the premise in certain ways in play, but it seems to me that part of the brilliance of this game is the way it builds this basic conflict into the mechanics.

I hope I'm not too far off with all this - senior sages, feel free to correct me. The general point is that at least in a broad sense you already have defined your premise once you sit down to play Sorcerer, by way of your definitions of Humanity and Demons and the relationships between the two.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: jburneko on December 09, 2003, 10:24:49 AM
Hello,

What's been said so far is perfect so I'll just make some comments to back it up.

1) To reinforce Ralph's clearification:

Premise: Moral/Ethical Question defined (even loosely) before play.
Theme: Answer to the Question developed on a per character basis as the result of actual play.

2) Sorcerer's Premise In The Abstract.

There were a couple of mind-blowing discussions in these two threads:
 Where is "Not-Here"?  (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=5071)
and
 Not-Here, Not Here-And-Now Plus Demons, and NaN  (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=5394)
In these two threads Ron makes it clear that "default" Sorcerer is *NOT* predicated on the idea that everyday mortals exist in the mundane world but that Sorcerers are somehow "in the know" about what's REALLY going on and that hidden reality is based on the activities of these Demons.

The key is that Demons don't exist, not even "in game."  So to grasp "default" Sorcerer you have to accept this paradox, "Demons don't exist, and you've just bound one into your 'service.'"  The point being that Sorcerers ARE everyday mortals who have gone to great lengths and risks to accomplish the impossible.  Why?

That's Sorcerer's "default" Premise.  To what lengths are you willing to go to fullfill your desires?  How much of your "Humanity" are you willing to sell out to get it?  How far are you willing to bend to meet the Needs of these non-existent entities?  Note: That last question is powerfully metaphoric.

When you play Sorcerer you are asking and answering these questions.  These questions become codified when you define what Humanity means and what Demons are.  These questions become further codified when you finally have a specific character with a specific demon.

3) Concrete Examples.

One of my on going Sorcerer pet projects is my Ravenloft inspired Gothic Fantasy setting.  Here, I've defined Humanity as Emotional Sanity.  Demons are quite litterally ghosts and goblins and figments of the imagination.  The Premise becomes how far are you willing to go to satisfy your emotions?

Christopher Kubasic nailed this concept.  He played an aging noble named Karl whose wife was dead and his only son had left home against Karl's wishes.  Karl's demon was a golden haired 8-year old boy only Karl could see, the "perfect" son.  Karl's Kicker was that his real son had finally come home for the first time in years.

Do you see how the Humanity Definition + Karl + Karl's Demon + Karl's Kicker all relate back to The Premise defined above?

In another game I've run the flavor requested by my players was "Space-Western."  So, I defined Humanity as "Being Civilized" or respecting the rule of law.  So the Premise becomes "Are you willing to break the law to get what you want?"  This turns out to be a particularly BRUTAL Humanity definition because often the most heroic or "just" actions taken by the characters are Humanity LOSING ones.

The game took place on a space station (which was one of the PC's demons by the way) and one player was the head of security (i.e. The Sheriff).  His demon was a tin cup he carried with him always because it was the cup his father used to poison his mother.  Its Need was to have The Sheriff get drunk while drinking from it.  The Sheriff's Kicker was that he'd just recieved a report that his father and his outlaw gang had just been spotted boarding the station.

See how the Need of the Cup Demon becomes a metaphor for alcoholism in this example?  But again The Sheriff + The Cup + The Kicker all address the Premise.

Hope this was usefull.

Jesse


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on December 09, 2003, 10:56:28 AM
Hi Marcus,

Good questions.  I know that I’ve struggled for a while with putting Premise into action for Narrativist play – and sometimes it was for the same concerns you raised in your first post.  Let me run down for you what I know, as well as clarify a couple of points for you.

First of all, please take immediately Ron’s point that while Egri’s example of Premise is usually pretty narrow and specific, the use of a fairly open-ended question for Sorcerer or HeroQuest is going to be just swell.  “What will you do to protect your culture?” or “What does it mean to be human?” are almost default Premises for HeroQuest and Sorcerer, respectively.  (They could, of course, be reversed with the proper settings, color, and so forth.)  Both will work wonders for serving as a Premise and getting a game going.

Now, to your specific concerns:

1) First of all, no one person at the table is “responsible” for keeping the Premise on track.  Nor the “players” in lieu of the GM handling it.  By definition the Premise is a question that everyone at the table is curious about answering.  It must have some sort of emotional and intellectual (if not vital and biological tug) that makes people wonder, “Yeah, how far would I go to protect my family?” or “What does it mean to be human?”  We all wonder these questions on one level or another, even if we never phrase them clearly, because we all make choices about whether or not to travel home for Christmas, where to take a job, whether to tell a co-worker you know the boss is angry at him because it might mean you get a promotion if he gets canned.  We live these questions.  One of the functions of Narrativist play is bring these questions out of the not-thought-out private realms of our brains and put them on the table for God and friends to see.

The idea, then, is that once you tag a Premise that everyone finds interesting, it sort of takes care of itself.  There’s no need to flee from it, since its fun to see how you might answer the Premise through the play of your PC.

2) But there’s also no need to obsess on it.  The Premise is not answer quickly or at once.  It is explored.  The GM provides lots of opportunities for the player to test his or her PC against the Premise.  The answer may change throughout the game.  (The answer may not.)  For example, in “Aliens,” Ripley is unwilling to face the danger of the alien menace for the sake of others at the start of the movie when she refuses Burke’s offer to go help the marines investigate the colony.  By the end of the movie she’s battling the Alien queen mano a mano.  In between she’s shifting her view on how involvled to get, how much danger to expose herself to.

Now, “Aliens” is a battle between humans and the xenomorphs.  The Premise is, “Is my life worth the safety of my community,” because the movie clearly defines two communities, each with warriors, mothers and children that need protecting.  As the movie continues, Ripley’s answer changes.

Now, keeping in mind that an RPG is a fluid exercise not limited by an in-amber plot like the fixed media of movies, the player gets to choose how to respond to these challenges as we go through the game.

3) Once the game is underway, the GM can provide these challenges by offering bangs and choices that either bluntly or subtly test the Premise.  If we were playing a scenario called “Aliens” and none of us had ever seen the movie and the movie, in some strange universe had never been made, and the GM cuts from one PC in the midst of the alien attack to the player playing Ripley and said, “You see the monitors crackling to static as the Marines are decimated,” that play choose what action Riply takes.  And by that choice - flee, get back to the ship, help the marines, whatever – answers the question.

Keep in mind two things – the player can always answer it differently later.  And there’s no “right” way to answer it.  Because there’s no “plot.”  Ripley can flee. And the aliens will hunt her ass down.  Even if she were to escape to earth, an infected marine would come back, with Burke’s help or somehow, and the question would still be up in the air.

And this: for the fun of it, Players start putting their PCs in circumstances that require choice and test the Premise all on their own.  It just happens.  (Again, it might be blunt or subtle.)

3) Answering the Premise is not the goal in Sorcerer.  Resolving the Kicker is.  So this actually takes a lot of the pressure off the Premise to be on everyone’s mind.  It’s like the music track in a movie.  You’re *not* thinking about it all the time.  It’s simply there, being tested.  But no on is obsessing about it.  Basically, if you’re working with player driven Kickers, and tossing them choices, questions and choices about human behavior are going to come up.  The Premise gives everyone a bit of a focus.  But it’s simply not that big a deal.

Which leads to….

4) It’s a tool for improv.  The reason no one needs to Railroad choices to the Premise is because having structure like Kickers and Premise and other Narrative elements actually are the tools used to allow everyone to get on with playing.  Instead of the GM’s plot, which his how we normally think, “Well, least there’s this to go on,” Narrativist play removes that big structure and says, “Okay, open playing field.  Go.”

But that’s just too much!  Too much freedom!  No structure at all would mean creative death!  So there are different tools: Kickers, Premise, Bangs, Relationship Maps – all of which do provide structure – but a quiet structure.  They give form to the play, without determining what the play will be.

In essence, something like Premise and R-Maps are akin to a color palette in a painting.  You can choose to use any color you like in a painting willy nilly, but you’ll end up with a mess.  Really.  The human eye won’t be able to pick out the forms because the colors will be all over the place.  Instead, you limit your palette to three to seven or so colors, and mix any colors you need out of those colors.  This means that even the new shades you come up with are “grown” out of the limited choices, and the who thing has a feel of unity while still providing variety with the newly mixed colors.

It hangs together.  It keeps things focused but varied.

That’s what these wacky Nar tools are about.  The GM’s Sim world or Railroad plot are too unified, and so the players chafe and strain for variety.  And what variety exists usually is all of the Players creation, and seldom tied to the GM’s work,  there’s too much variety – no unity.

These Nar tools give everyone at the table an improvisational “limited palette” to work from (“What does it mean to be human?”) and then, working from these limited choices, allows everyone to explore the Kicker, Rmap, Premise, Bangs and so on in any way they want.  It’s limited – but OPEN ENDED.  Hence, no boredom.

5) Watching how you, and your other players, explores the Premise – through the complications, through the choices made – is fun.  It’s not a matter of “how do I beat up this guy,” but “Why do I beat up this guy,” or “Do I beat up this guy, and if not, why not, and if not, will I endure the consequences.”  So, again, it’s not an obsessive exercise.  It’s about providing a foundation for creating scenes, actions, and choices no one could have anticipated and seeing how it all plays out to the end of the Kickers.

But why is it fun for the group to watch, and not just for he person exploring the Premise in his scene?  Because the Premise is shared.  Everyone is invovled in answering it, and so everyone is curious how someone else is going to answer it.

So, here's how it works in most games: John takes his Thief Zwaba and goes off to a little character bit with some internal sensation that only John can experience, and I have no context for as a fellow player.  But with a Premise, when John is exploring this same kind of action, I have a window into what's going on -- the Premise.  I have a context for the actions.  They're not John's actions alone -- they are part of the group's exploration of the Premise.

6) Final note: A lot of this stuff works best in tandem with other Narrative tools.  I’ve suggested as much in the points above.

Christopher


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 09, 2003, 02:48:32 PM
Quote
Now, since 'Demons' and 'Humanity' are open to varying different interpretations, it seems as though you have to come up with some rough statements of what the Premise of your game is going to be up front in order to even run it.
Hah! The newcomer got it first. You don't have to do any more than state what the Demons and Humanity are, and you've got your overall Premise. Character Kickers will narrow that premise a little likely, play will narrow it specifically, and theme will emerge from the decisions.

The neat thing about Sorcerer is that, because of the Humanity mechanics, you can't avoid the premise. That is, you "do what the character would do" and the premise is addressed. Simplicity itself.

Nothing wrong with discussing the premise more if one wants, however. Just no need to do so.

Mike


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: fahdiz on December 09, 2003, 05:14:17 PM
Quote from: jburneko
The key is that Demons don't exist, not even "in game."  So to grasp "default" Sorcerer you have to accept this paradox, "Demons don't exist, and you've just bound one into your 'service.'"  The point being that Sorcerers ARE everyday mortals who have gone to great lengths and risks to accomplish the impossible.  Why?


Quote
Its Need was to have The Sheriff get drunk while drinking from it.  The Sheriff's Kicker was that he'd just recieved a report that his father and his outlaw gang had just been spotted boarding the station.

See how the Need of the Cup Demon becomes a metaphor for alcoholism in this example?  But again The Sheriff + The Cup + The Kicker all address the Premise.


A non-existent "thing" cannot have a Need.  Possession is a pretty specific thing, and "alcoholism" doesn't qualify.  You might categorize alcoholism as *obsessive* behavior, but you would never consider someone *possessed* by alcohol.

Metaphor is excellent - but it needn't be the driving force of the game.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 09, 2003, 05:22:14 PM
Hi Fahdiz,

I dunno, man, that post reads to me like those old arguments about what a fireball "really" could or could not do.

I think it's helpful to wrap your head around the idea that a nonexistent thing does indeed have a Need. Think of the Need as a sub-clause in the Binding. Think of the Binding as the character's commitment to having this nonexistent thing be here anyway.

Kind of gives me chills to think about it. I like the metaphor approach.

Best,
Ron


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: M. J. Young on December 09, 2003, 08:28:34 PM
Well, early this morning, minutes after he posted his comments in response to Marcus' question, Ron sent a note to me to get involved in this thread. Of course, I usually get here in the late afternoon or evening, and today was a long day of a lot of real-world problems, so it's fourteen hours later when I get the note, and I find myself wondering as I read through all of these wonderful posts what, if anything, I can add, or whether I've been rendered redundant.

I'm going to try, anyway.

On some level, I always see a connection between Ron's Sorcerer and Goethe's Faust.

I'm sure you're aware of Faust. He's the guy who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for all the pleasures of life. The Egrian premise in Faust is almost certainly something like, if you sell your soul to the devil, will you get what you want?--and the answer Goethe gives is that the devil will cheat you.

Now, Sorcerer is in a sense asking the same question: can you get what you want by selling your soul to the devil? However, there are a number of ways that this is made more interesting (as a game--I won't say that Faust isn't interesting as a story).
  • You don't make the deal up front; you get to decide moment by moment whether to go deeper into this deal. Will you risk a bit more of yourself for the chance to get a bit closer to what you want?
  • The deal isn't written in blood; it isn't even written in black and white--that is, because of the check system, you might get away with getting more of what you want without sacrificing more of your humanity. This makes taking the risk more enticing, because you know you might well get away with it. (You could achieve the same effect if the chooser didn't know how much humanity he had left, but this works better--the player knows that humanity is dwindling, but that he might be able to get away with this unscathed.)
  • The things you want are at least perceived as good things, in the main. In a soon-to-be published installment of Game Ideas Unlimited: Self Interest I reconsider the old D&D alignment category "evil" and show that what really makes it work is that it isn't exactly what we think of as evil--by the book, it's just putting your own interests ahead of everyone else's. More to the point, in the minds of many that's a virtue, a mark of wisdom. Thus to be an "evil" character in D&D is merely to espouse as the prime virtue the protection of one's own interests first and foremost, which is a perfectly defensible sort of virtue. Similarly, the things that Sorcerer characters want are frequently laudable. Unlike Faust (who was seeking as much worldly pleasure through debauchery as he could find, only to discover that he could never really become happy that way), we can see virtue in trying to achieve those character goals. It becomes a means and ends game--will you sell your soul to the devil to save the world?

And probably the biggest one:
  • Having established this tension between selling your soul to the devil and getting what you want, Sorcerer then buries it under one of the uncounted guises that such decisions frequently take. Our demons are pride, alcoholism, violence, vengeance, order, honor, and a host of others we might never imagine were the terrible things they prove to be. Our soul is hidden in the values, the humanity we have defined in the game.[/list:u]
    Thus indeed, Calithena is right. You define humanity, and in opposition to that you place the nature of your demons. From that moment forward, every move you make asks you whether you'd like to sell your soul to the devil to reach your goal. From the moment you've put that much together, you can't escape the premise. In a sense, your character and his demon are the embodiment of the premise, and any time they interact, the premise is at the heart of that interaction, whether you say yes or no.

    Maybe I did add something. I hope it helps.

    --M. J. Young


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: greyorm on December 09, 2003, 09:14:58 PM
Quote from: marcus
What I really don't understand is how one (whether it be the GM alone or the whole role-playing group in plenary session) can fix something like this at the very start of the campaign.

I cannot see why one would want to play with this matter set beforehand and, even if one did so wish, how the group would confine its activities to exploring the preset Theme.

Similar to the same way most novels are developed and written with a Premise. Certain human conundrums may arise during the development of the story -- and I'm not talking about the writing here, but the development -- different directions the story could take, different themes the story could focus upon, but it is ultimately the Premise which is focused upon. It "keeps the story in line", so to speak. Simply, you're asking "How does a writer write an entire story centered around a Premise?" to which the answer seems obvious (at least to me).

If that's not helpful at all, let me know, and I'll try a different direction. However, having said this, I have the feeling you're examining Sorcerer play from traditional "I play THIS character and he does THIS" and off the group goes, each player focusing on playing their guy -- immersing into character like an actor into a role. That's the root of the problem I'm seeing in the questions you've brought up.

Ron's band analogy time: you're playing music, jazz, as it were...there's plenty of places you could go with the music, plenty of different places you could take it. But you don't just go everywhere, you, as a group, concentrate on the playing of complementary melody. The guy playing bass is the GM, guiding the beat and serving to keep the group on track, even though he doesn't control the actual music that comes out of the rest of the band.

Quote
Now how is this decision important to the game?

Deciding on a Premise early on, rather than seeing what develops during play, sets the tone for player decisions in play and character backgrounds (ie: the Kicker), the scenes the GM develops and what is focused on in those scenes.

Note that I said player decisions above, rather than character decisions. Very important. Characters don't exist. Players do. Players who can focus on a Premise and riff on it, who can create engagement with a situation which highlights that Premise. This is particularly important if the problem you are encountering is one of "I'm playing my guy and he would do/know this"...you as the player can say, "well, he might, but that doesn't really address the Premise -- alright, he does this instead, which does."

Now, even though Ron has said you can let the Premise develop over the course of the game, I've found that for Sorcerer, I like to pin it down before play. Why? That's where my definitions for Humanity and Demons come from, that's how the game can consistently be about the Premise...because the game, the actual mechanics in play, are all about the Premise.

Quote
how would one run a series of sessions all based on the Theme

Ultimately, it all boils down to Humanity. Humanity is usually defined as the axis of the Premise -- and demons are its polar opposite. Admidtedly, that's far more simple than it actually could be, and there are other ways to set it up, but for purposes of achieving a basic understanding of what you are asking about, there it is.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Peregrine Dace on December 09, 2003, 11:29:58 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

I'll quickly say that the essay you're citing is out of date on this issue. Premise as a term is now restricted to Narrativism, just as it was prior to that essay.


Best,
Ron

Hmm, are you sure you want to do that.  Every form of play, story evolution, story writing etc. etc. has an initial proposition of one form or another.  Turning it into jargon may be counterprodictive.

Peregrine


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: marcus on December 10, 2003, 01:01:50 AM
First up, thanks for the amount of time you have all invested in helping to answer my question.

Secondly, although I must say that I found the wider definition of Premise in the 2001 essay (of which Narrative Premise was merely a sub-type) a more useful one than what is apparently to be the new definition (as well as closer to the natural meaning of the word), out of conformity with the new practice I will now use the word "Premise" only to mean the type of premise that was formerly known as "Narrative Premise".

Thirdly, I follow the distinction between Forgista use of Premise and Theme, which I had erroneously thought were being used as synonyms in the 2001 essay.

Fourthly, if I might be so bold to attempt a summary of the responses, in so far as they are relevant to the question of what I need to do to start a game of Sorcerer in what might be called "the approved fashion", it seems to be the general consensus that the fixing the definitions of Humanity and demon-nature, along with the Sorcerer rules themselves, will provide a degree of Premise sufficient to be getting on with. I am sorry to reduce many fine words to such crude practicality, but is this about the size of it? If not, what more should I (or, perhaps, I in conjunction with the players) do before starting?

Marcus


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ian Charvill on December 10, 2003, 01:49:26 AM
Quote from: greyorm
Similar to the same way most novels are developed and written with a Premise. Certain human conundrums may arise during the development of the story -- and I'm not talking about the writing here, but the development -- different directions the story could take, different themes the story could focus upon, but it is ultimately the Premise which is focused upon. It "keeps the story in line", so to speak. Simply, you're asking "How does a writer write an entire story centered around a Premise?" to which the answer seems obvious (at least to me).


I may be projecting from my original problems with narrativism but it's pretty clear that theme doesn't exist in a play/novel in the way that it exists in narrativism.  You could fill entire library shelves (if not entire libraries) with learned people arguing over what the theme of a particular work is.

I mean, take Hamlet.  Trying to set down a one line, incontravertable, theme for Hamlet is like trying to catch a bullet in a butterfly net.  And I think it's misleading to think of Hamlet as a special case.  Pick an episode of Buffy or ER.  Get three people to watch it and write down the theme.  You'll get three different themes and the similarity of them will be dependent on how similar the mindset of the three views is.

Similarly how much readers of the Lord of the Rings like the film seems somewhat dependent upon whether they see the theme as about heroic destiny (in which case Aragorn is as good a focus as Frodo) or whether it's about the heroic struggles of unheroic men (in which case it's Frodo's show and Aragorn is just part of the supporting cast, speaking to the premise by way of contrast).

Now, my point of confusion with narrativism came because simulationism is much closer to a play or novel in it's use of theme (perceptions of the theme is an individual, not a group concern, your theme may vary and you can only really speak to theme in retrospect).

Which is I guess a preamble to my one line contribution to the debate: premise needs to be up front and accessible to players in Sorceror otherwise you'd stand a good chance of ending up with drift towards theme-heavy sim.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: marcus on December 10, 2003, 03:44:32 AM
Ian wrote:

Quote
premise needs to be up front and accessible to players in Sorceror otherwise you'd stand a good chance of ending up with drift towards theme-heavy sim.


Are you saying, Ian, that stating Premise up front is a method of preventing it from dominating play? If that is what you are saying, it strikes me as rather ironic.

Marcus


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ian Charvill on December 10, 2003, 04:20:35 AM
Premise doesn't dominate theme heavy sim - premise (in the strict GNS sense) isn't there at all.  You do have theme, but theme's not premise.

By foregrounding Premise in Sorceror you are ensuring that Premise is what you get, rather than theme.

Does that make more sense?


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Calithena on December 10, 2003, 05:25:32 AM
Marcus -

Unlike a lot of these guys you're talking to, I haven't actually run Sorcerer yet - but. I think if you talk to your players about what kind of game you all want, decide on definitions for Humanity, Demons, and what aspect of interacting with Demons causes Humanity loss and why, you'll be off to the races. Then different situations which address premise should arise in play fairly naturally - you can almost think of GMing as throwing the question at your players in different ways, and how the question comes out will depend on how they and you pursue it.

So yeah, for my part, I think your 'crude summary' is good enough. It depends a little on what kind of game you want, though, how precise the specifications of these things need to be. Some posters appear to prefer games in which the definitinos of all these things are very 'tight', which it sounds from your initial post that you're a little nervous about. On the other hand, it's possible to let various kind of flex come into your definitions at different points, if that's where you want them.

In Sorcery and Sword, for example, the definition of Demons is rather broad, and the definition of Humanity, while narrow (primarily personal loyalty), is extremely flexible in application. So if you were running a game in the Clicking Sands, say, I would think that the precise meaning of Humanity would vary more from character to character and would probably take several sessions to really establish clearly in the players' and GM's minds. Similarly if you were using Sorcerer for Call of Cthulhu-inspired play, Humanity would be defined as sanity, and Demons would all be gibbering horrors from the dark - there the flex would be in what exact form of insanity each character would be struggling with, and that would be a particular 'flavor' for that character. In both these cases, both the precise nature of Humanity, and in the first case, the way Demons undermine one's Humanity, are open to great latitude of interpretation, even though the game is addressing the same Premise.

I don't think you have to worry about playing Sorcerer in the 'approved fashion' - but if you're wondering what the game does to address Premise and how to use the game to throw questions about values at your characters and players, I think it's helpful to realize the ways in which the game is set up to help you do just that. Because actually the game itself helps to address your initial worry - you can think about what would be a cool adventure for your group of characters, and the Demons/Humanity interaction will pull you back towards the theme you're wishing to address in your game over and over, in interesting and spontaneous ways. Or at least that's my theory about what would happen - and what I'm hoping to get out of the game when I can get some people together for a session.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on December 10, 2003, 07:43:04 AM
Okay.  Wait.

Marcus, yes.  You're summary is spot on.  Go for it.

(I admit I went more for a "How does Premise help Narrativist Play in General"; I hope it was still helpful.)

Ian -- and all who wish to raise their lances to him or come to his aid -- we are now about to have to define what the word "theme" means -- because it truly isn't a given at this moment.  

We are also about to beging comparing and contrasting how Premise or Theme work in Sim and Nar (or don't)...  Which is beyond the scope of this thread.  

I'd suggest anyone wanting to do this start up another thread and give it the clear focus of this issue.  It may be a topic worth pursuing... But it's not Marcus' topic, and I think the thread, as it stands now, is a worthy one for reference later.  I think we should leave it that way.

Christopher


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: fahdiz on December 10, 2003, 08:08:41 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I dunno, man, that post reads to me like those old arguments about what a fireball "really" could or could not do.


Not really.  It's simple ontology.

Quote
I think it's helpful to wrap your head around the idea that a nonexistent thing does indeed have a Need. Think of the Need as a sub-clause in the Binding. Think of the Binding as the character's commitment to having this nonexistent thing be here anyway.


At which point it *exists*, and is no longer a metaphor.

So if the Binding is in effect taking an idea, metaphor, what-have-you, and making it *real*, with *real* Needs and Desires, then we're on the same page - and that's the power of a Sorceror.  But once it is Bound, it is no longer a figment of the imagination - it is real, and thus terrifying and devastating to one's Humanity.

Except that still doesn't really get at the heart of Possession.  How can a non-existent thing take control of someone's body and mind?  It had to be *real* before it did so.  Perhaps some *other* Sorceror made it real, and some unlucky chap just happened to be in the way.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 10, 2003, 08:57:44 AM
Fahdiz, the contradictions that are implied are part of the Sorcerer aesthetic. That is, it's cool that it doesn't make sense for these things to both exist, and not exist. If you don't think that's cool, then maybe the game isn't for you. Or you can play it slightly differently. But consider the possibility that it can be fun (because it is for some like me) before you reject it outright. The system is just a way to explore these things.

Marcus, that's almost it, but you've left out the other mandatory part, which is Kickers. These tend to narrow the focus down automatically some as well. That is, the player looks at the nature of Humanity, Demons, etc, and then decides what issues the PC faces right off the bat. This limits the subsequent action considerably.

Mike


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: greyorm on December 10, 2003, 12:20:26 PM
Ian,

Premise & Theme are not the same thing. In fact, multiple themes can arise from a single Premise depending on the results of play, so I agree that the definition needs to be discussed elsewhere (and I find myself agreeing with what you posted in the other thread along those lines).

Also, I'm very aware of the vast differences between novels and RPGs, but for the purposes of an illustrative metaphor for the case of how a group could stay on track with a Premise, I think the analogy works. Players engage the same sort of mind-set a writer does when he sticks to a Premise for an entire novel (or series thereof).

Quote from: Ian Charvill
Which is I guess a preamble to my one line contribution to the debate: premise needs to be up front and accessible to players in Sorceror otherwise you'd stand a good chance of ending up with drift towards theme-heavy sim.

I disagree; my Narrativist 3E game has a definite unspoken Premise, which I've identified in play, but my (non-Forge) players aren't consciously aware of. Yet we keep hitting on that Premise again and again in play, even (and tellingly) when I'm not looking to guide the action that way. The game, however, is not Sim or even in danger of drifting towards Sim because the players aren't simply exploring the Premise, looking at it, responding to it with examination.

Rather, they're reacting to it and developing it. This is the difference between similar styles of Nar and Sim in my mind.

Likewise, in Sorcerer, I've found that simply defining Humanity and Demons give rise to a very obvious Premise, which is usually inescapable; and though I don't prefer to play it this way, even left undefined at the start it gets fleshed out via play simply by virtue of what the players as a group choose to concentrate on, by what gets them going.

Quote from: Peregrine
Hmm, are you sure you want to do that. Every form of play, story evolution, story writing etc. etc. has an initial proposition of one form or another. Turning it into jargon may be counterprodictive.

The use of Premise to indicate Narrative Premise is very old news (or at least it is to me), and likewise seems in no way counter-productive.

All these arguments about the use of jargon or "non-intuitive terminology" seem like arguing over the use of the term "spin" or "flavor" to describe behaviors and elements of a quark (ie: Is "up" really a "flavor"?).

It's technical jargon, and its use must be considered in the context of the field/theory when one is discussing that field/theory. Otherwise, you spend forever trying to find a "good term" and never actually get around to exploration of the theory.

Quote from: marcus
it seems to be the general consensus that the fixing the definitions of Humanity and demon-nature, along with the Sorcerer rules themselves, will provide a degree of Premise sufficient to be getting on with.

Finally, for Marcus, yes, I'd say you have it right. The only other thing for you to consider in the equation is Kickers. These will give play definition and focus, and tell you what the players are looking for regarding the possible Premises arising from the interaction of Demons and Humanity.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: marcus on December 11, 2003, 12:39:54 AM
I hadn't forgotten Kickers, but did not consider they were part of Premise. Should there be some attempt to ensure that the Kickers all relate to a particular question (being a previously-decided Premise)?

Marcus


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: A.Neill on December 11, 2003, 01:57:19 AM
Quote from: marcus
I hadn't forgotten Kickers, but did not consider they were part of Premise. Should there be some attempt to ensure that the Kickers all relate to a particular question (being a previously-decided Premise)?

Marcus


Marcus -  my understanding is that kickers primarily serve to put a character in motion. If a player is well tuned into the premise when the game starts, a kicker may well be set up with that premise in mind. This may not necessarily be the case, and while the kicker may be resolved within the context of the premise later, a player may not have this in mind when the kicker is set up. So I guess there may be an indirect correlation, but not a causal effect!

Alan.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Calithena on December 11, 2003, 05:26:37 AM
I wonder if Marcus' new question should be a new thread.

Marcus, I tend to think players should just come up with cool kickers that pose an interesting conflict, and that whether or not they address Premise in any explicit sense should sort of be left up to the game to handle. If they do, great, but I think they're more to get some action and drama going right away, to get the character tied into what's going on right away - AND, to give the player some control over what's going on with her character, what kind of conflict they're giong to be facing, right away too. I think the in-play resolution of kickers will probably involve forcing the players to deal with value-laden questions, including those central to the game's Premise, but that the kicker itself should first and foremost be something cool and gripping that makes the player (and the character) care about what's going on.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 11, 2003, 07:33:23 AM
Hi there,

I'm good with letting the Kicker question stay here in this thread.

Sean, that is a very interesting and almost perfect breakdown. I'm going to take a scalpel to it.

Quote
I tend to think players should just come up with cool kickers that pose an interesting conflict, and that whether or not they address Premise in any explicit sense should sort of be left up to the game to handle. If they do, great, but I think they're more to get some action and drama going right away, to get the character tied into what's going on right away - AND, to give the player some control over what's going on with her character, what kind of conflict they're giong to be facing, right away too.


This is very close, but I must quibble. The first part, about players coming up with Kickers which are cool to them, is crucial. Freedom about that coolness is also crucial.

The quibbly part is this: "tied into what's going on ..." I look at it the other way 'round entirely. The Kickers are what's going on. The GM must treat his own back-story and prep (to this point) as subordinate to the Kickers, in order to provide them with as much meat as possible.

Yes, it may appear that the Kicker hooks the player-character into the GM's prepped material, but that is a mis-perception based on habit - the cognitive process involved is precisely the reverse. It hooks the GM's prep into the player's material.

To clarify, a very specific Kicker means that the GM now has a considerable story constraint to work within, perhaps even necessitating a full re-write of everything he's prepped so far. A vague (but still cool) Kicker means that the GM has been given "permission" from the player to surprise him or her at a pretty basic story-level, i.e., the conflict. A bland Kicker needs "spiking," which is to say, transformation into one of the former two during the first session, with any luck via the player's decisions.

I think that's what you were indicating with your "control" clause, but I wanted to get it front & center.

Quote
I think the in-play resolution of kickers will probably involve forcing the players to deal with value-laden questions, including those central to the game's Premise, but that the kicker itself should first and foremost be something cool and gripping that makes the player (and the character) care about what's going on.


Spot on. Since the player cares about X, then X is primary, and the values-issues embedded in X are the Premise. If the Explorative elements of X are in line with the generalized Premise-concepts discussed so far by the group, then whammo - there's no stopping the upcoming creative explosion during play as long as no one shies away.

Another way of putting it is that the players in my necromancy game, once we discussed the Humanity definition, had no trouble coming up with their demons (resentment of dead father, triangle with dead lover and live lover, remorse over cannibalizing a friend to survive). Nor did they have any trouble with Kickers (see the relevant thread).

The human mind does all of the above without very much prompting, training, or effort; all it needs is appreciation. The only problem facing us is that the gamer mind has in most cases been rigorously trained to shunt this basic human skill out of the activity it calls "role-playing."

Best,
Ron


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: fahdiz on December 11, 2003, 07:45:31 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Fahdiz, the contradictions that are implied are part of the Sorcerer aesthetic. That is, it's cool that it doesn't make sense for these things to both exist, and not exist. If you don't think that's cool, then maybe the game isn't for you. Or you can play it slightly differently. But consider the possibility that it can be fun (because it is for some like me) before you reject it outright. The system is just a way to explore these things.


No, don't misunderstand me - I haven't rejected anything outright, nor said that Sorceror couldn't or wouldn't be fun.  There are a lot of games based on paradox - but those paradoxes still tend to be grounded in some kind of reality.  Paradoxes in Unknown Armies, for example, are of this variety: "Epideromancers have total control over their bodies, but they only way they can get this control is to mutilate themselves - i.e. destroy the very thing that their power enhances."  That is, in my opinion, an easier paradox to roleplay than a paradox of being.

Meh, I'll just have to look into it more carefully, I suppose.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Calithena on December 11, 2003, 07:47:26 AM
Precision surgery there, Ron. Yeah, "the Kicker IS what's going on" is a better way to put it. I thought of that midsentence and so that's where the corrective clause came in, as you surmised.

This is, I should add, a great sort of RPG aikido for dealing with a perennial problem - how to get the players into the story? The GM frets and sweats over plot hooks, how to make the players and characters care, etc. etc. - but why not just let the player tell you what's interesting to them and hook themselves in to the story? Problem solved...


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Valamir on December 11, 2003, 08:09:00 AM
Quote
This is, I should add, a great sort of RPG aikido for dealing with a perennial problem - how to get the players into the story? The GM frets and sweats over plot hooks, how to make the players and characters care, etc. etc. - but why not just let the player tell you what's interesting to them and hook themselves in to the story? Problem solved...


You would think it would be just that obvious wouldn't you.

Over in my situation thread on RPG.net, however, there were at least half a dozen posters...long time gamers...who absolutely could not see the "precision surgery" distinction Ron made above.  No matter how many times or in how many different ways it was explained to them, several of them keptl snapping back to "yeah, tie the characters back into the story...I've been doing that for years, nothing new here".  They just couldn't see the difference.  Couldn't even comprehend it.

It was enormously frustrating, yet an amazingly interesting phenomenon to observe.  I would guess there's probably even a clinical psychology diagnosis for that sort of perception disconnect.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: marcus on December 12, 2003, 12:38:54 AM
Ron said:

Quote
Since the player cares about X, then X is primary, and the values-issues embedded in X are the Premise. If the Explorative elements of X are in line with the generalized Premise-concepts discussed so far by the group, then whammo - there's no stopping the upcoming creative explosion during play as long as no one shies away.


I may be misinterpreting the above quote, but isn't this saying that each Kicker carries with it it's own Premise, which may or may not correspond to the Premise arising from such matters as Humanity and Demon definitions? It is said that if the two coincide that will produce some sort of creative bonanza, but if players are by and large free to make up their own Kickers, then surely such coincidence is unlikely. In that case, would there not be multiple Premises?

This ties back nicely to my original posting that initiated this thread, challenging the need for a single Premise. In view of the importance of Kickers, and the importance of player freedom when designing them, if one assumes that Kickers are a source of Premise, then a single Premise seems all but impossible to achieve as a matter of practice.

Marcus


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on December 12, 2003, 04:25:30 AM
Marcus,

I think some of the confusion here comes not from the game text, but social expectations of players. I see this often online - "gamers," whatever that might be, are praised for being more creative, smart, and funny than other people, but when cooperation actually playing a game is mentioned, people say, "But gamers - you know them. This guy'll want to do X, and this one will want to do Y, and this guy will disrupt everything, but, shucks, that's gamers, and you have to deal with it."

Here's an alternate view, which changes the outcome of multiple player-written Kickers significantly. Adam, Bob, and Carl are in my group, and we're going to play Sorcerer, and we've talked about it some. We don't have an entire setting sketched out - and don't plan to - but we've got some notes, and some themes are emerging. Now, we make up characters as a group. When Adam mentions something cool, Bob says, "And my character can tie in here..." and Carl presents his character as a sort of foil to the coolness. Point being, these three work together to create characters and Kickers that can't help but work together: even if the characters don't have previous relationships between them - and usually, they don't - they've got thematic direction which will bring them barreling towards each other.

I just don't believe players will actively make characters that will strain or damage a focused game.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 12, 2003, 06:51:08 AM
Hi Marcus,

All I can say is that you seem to have a concept of "single Premise" in your mind that doesn't correspond to any practical reality that I can think of, in actual play terms.

1. Starting Premise = very general (e.g., Humanity = letting go of one's dead; sorcery = necromancy)

2. Character creation + demon creation + general social creative interactions, culminating in Kickers (whole ton of versions of not-letting-go, based on ignorance, embracing of helplessness, guilt, or anger)

Result = several individual and highly localized takes on the Premise, all "linked" simply because they're each consistent with the general one. Note: if at any point, any of these seem inconsistent with the starting Premise, then tweak whatever seems most fruitful in order to resolve it.

3. GM goes to town with prep with NPCs and whatnot all built to provide adversity suited to addressing the Premise(s).

4. Actual play; through about two sessions, everyone's appreciation of one another's localized Premises becomes a shared and excited appreciation (and desire to resolve) the general Premise.

I don't see any sign of the kind of "single Premise" you are concerned about, which apparently is supposed to contradict any or all of the character-specific ones. I see points of intersection and reinforcement among all of the characters (even if it's purely thematic and the characters have nothing to do with one another in in-game causal terms, to take the most extreme possibility).

In fact, what you're describing is almost unfathomable. It strikes me as the common fear-response I get in discussing Sorcerer - "But, but but, what if ..." statements, such as "What if the Kicker doesn't hook the character into the back-story?" or "What if the characters never meet up?" or similar. Not only do these things not happen, but the GM doesn't have to take steps to make sure they don't happen. They're non-issues.

Best,
Ron


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: jburneko on December 12, 2003, 10:02:51 AM
Hello,

I agree in full both with Clinton and Ron.  I also know where you're coming from because I did the same thing when I first started playing Sorcerer.  And Ron's right, they're non-issues.  It just doesn't happen.

But I'm kind of a learn-by-example kind of guy so I thought I'd revisit the concrete examples I posted earlier and show you what a "typical" Sorcerer PC "group" looks like in full.

Okay, so for the Gothic Fantasy I brought this to the table: Humanity = Emotional Sanity.  Demons = Ghosts and Goblins.

The three PCs I got were:

Karl, the nobel with the never aging golden haired boy whom only Karl could see.  His Kicker was that his real son has returned home after leaving against Karl's wishes so long ago.

Levant, a wealthy merchant whose wife was murdered.  His demon was his wife whom he brought back from the dead.  His Kicker was that he'd finally come to his senses and realized the artificiality of his "marriage" and indeed he has fallen in love with another woman, herself, also married.

Finally, the third character was a bandit slave (the character's name eludes me).  I was allowing characters to start without Demons in this game and he opted for that.  His Kicker was that he'd been captured in a raid by the local militia and imprisoned.  However, a local peasent uprising has just set him free for the first time in his life.

Note: That third Kicker MAY at first glace seem a bit disjoint from the other two but in fact it's not because within the first session the PLAYER turned it into a revenge story against the bandit king who enslaved him in the first place.

In the Space-Western Game the setup was: Humanity = Being Civilized (respecting the rule of law), Demons = This, admittedly was a little vague for this game.  I don't think we ever really arrived at a definition which I think hampered the game slightly but it was none the less.

The three PCs I got were:

The Sheriff, I mentioned in the other post with his tin cup demon.  Again, the Kicker was that his outlaw father had been spotted on the station.

Thomacina Quinn, the owner and opperator of Quinn Station, a center for trade out in the further most reaches of space.  Her Demon was the Space Station itself.  Her Kicker was that an envoy from the Terran Government had arrived requesting that she have a criminal who operates out of her station arrested.  The key was that this particular criminal was operating with her sanction as a sort of Privateer.

Takash Kirit, a space smuggler with a possessor demon that was currently hosting inside some kind of giant space slug.  His Kicker was that an interstellar repo-man from one of the "fringe" governments had shown up and was threatening to take his space craft unless he agrees to assassinate the envoy mentioned in Quinn's Kicker.

Notice that PC3 went out of his way to tie his Kicker in with PC2.  That's always a nice touch when it happens but it is by no means necessary.

Hope this was useful.

Jesse


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: greyorm on December 12, 2003, 12:01:35 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
The quibbly part is this: "tied into what's going on ..." I look at it the other way 'round entirely. The Kickers are what's going on. The GM must treat his own back-story and prep (to this point) as subordinate to the Kickers, in order to provide them with as much meat as possible.

Yes, it may appear that the Kicker hooks the player-character into the GM's prepped material, but that is a mis-perception based on habit - the cognitive process involved is precisely the reverse. It hooks the GM's prep into the player's material.

I admit I'm floored by this.
Not in the way you may be dreading, but in the opposite way -- that this even had to be said. I guess I didn't realize how much a hurdle this was to overcome for some folks (particularly given Ralph's note about the RPGNet thread...).

When I said my part about the Kickers playing into everything above, I assumed this would just be obvious: the Kickers are the story, by creating them, the players have just told you what gameplay is going to be about.

That's why developing Premise after the game has begun works: you find out what the game focuses on based on what players submit to the GM as Kickers, and how they act and what they do during play.

The GM is like a writer-by-dictation, with the player doing the dictating, "Ok, I need one-thousand words on this subject, and here's what I want it to focus on, and make these points."

He's not at the helm of creative control, he's subordinate to the players in this regard; like a navigator and captain, the GM is the navigator and it's the captain (the players) who tells him where to go. The navigator just keeps the group on course and out of the rocks, though he has no final say on what that course actually is.

In regards to the one Premise issue, I don't necessarily agree that it doesn't or can't occur. My 3E game keeps hitting on the Premise "What is the importance of family?" in various ways -- in a fashion akin to having multiple sub-Premises underneath this one ("How far would you go to save your family?" "What would you do for your family?" "What do you do to family that gets in your way?" "What is the importance of a family?" and even "What is a family?").

A couple other Premises have cropped up in play as well, such as "What would you do, how far would you go, to gain power and respect?" (assorted questions about deserving those items appear as well) and "What would you do for love?" but they all keep tying back into the family issues in the game.

So what I keep seeing something like a hierarchy of Premises, all of which keep returning to the central one in the end. Such an occurence would also occur in Sorcerer, particularly given the Humanity/Demon conflict and its intersection with Kickers.


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: marcus on December 12, 2003, 01:57:56 PM
Although I think I am getting a good feel for this now on a practical level, some of the things being said seem to me to conflict with the distinction that was pointed out near the start of this thread that Premise is what you start with and Theme what emerges during play.

Raven wrote:
Quote
A couple other Premises have cropped up in play


Surely whatever crops up in play cannot be Premise (which is pre-determined) but presumably is Theme. All sorts of issues might emerge in actual play by way of Theme, some of which will presumably hark back to the Premise, and some which will not.

Through the starting definitions of Humanity and Sorcery (and through such the Kickers to the extent that they may reflect a spoken or unspoken consensus as to what the game is to be about on a Narrative level) Premise (even if loosely defined) is created, which points the game in the right general direction. From that starting point, Theme may emerge through play, developing the question raised in the Premise and/or raising new questions. Is this what is supposed to be happening, from the point of view of the theory?

Marcus


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 12, 2003, 08:14:04 PM
Hi Marcus,

Arrrghh ... now it's "starting with" that you're turning into a monster.

Starting with does not equal pre-determined. Just lose that notion. Starting with only means "comes before theme."

So it could take several sessions of play before Premise gets really meaty. That is fine.

With that in mind, your final paragraph reads just fine. When you say "is created," just substitute "gets underway to whatever extent floats everyone's boat."

Best,
Ron


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: marcus on December 12, 2003, 09:58:43 PM
OK then, I consider that my questions on Premise have now been answered in full. Thanks everyone!

Marcus


Title: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 13, 2003, 01:14:58 PM
Yay! Group hug, everybody.

And Marcus, thank you. This will be be a valuable go-to thread for newcomers from now on.

Best,
Ron