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Author Topic: Mystery-- Essay  (Read 5448 times)
Domhnall
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Posts: 97


« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2004, 02:56:39 AM »

I'll post my "Realistic Fantasy" essay sometime and we'll discuss it then.
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--Daniel
montag
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Posts: 172


« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2004, 03:16:58 AM »

I'm sorry. Looking back I realise I've indeed gone a bit off-topic. Again, sorry. Just ignore that post, the point can easily be made again at the appropriate time.
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markus
------------------------------------------------------
"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."
--B. F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969)
Domhnall
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Posts: 97


« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2004, 03:37:03 AM »

No problem.  

BTW, it's ok to post essays, right?  I don't own a web page, or I'd just link people to that.
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--Daniel
Valamir
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« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2004, 04:11:53 AM »

Hey Domhnall, good thread.

Your "miniatures paradigm" is an interesting statement.  But I don't see it as an either or thing.  Its not a question of "if players know too much, they'll treat their characters like miniatures from a top down perspective".

We call that perspective "pawn stance" around here because the player is treating their character like a pawn in a board game.  Perfectly enjoyable, but not what I was talking about at all.

Your system is promoting very heavy Actor Stance.  Its not only recommending Actor Stance but advising the GM to make sure that he not give out information that could be used for any other kind of stance.  

As I said making the game text clear on how the game is designed to be played is a very good idea.

However, I think that if the designer is going to give a specific way on how to play the game (which he should) there ought to be a specific reason way that method suits this particular game better than another.

You've suggested "realistic fantasy".  I'm inclined to ask for more information as to why you think a fantasy game is going to be more realistic by keeping information away from me as a player.

This suggests to me that you don't trust me as a player from using that information in a prudent manner to the betterment of the enjoyment of everyone at the table.  That you suspect that if you give me the information I'm going to "screw something up" and so to prevent that you simply won't give me the information.

BTW:  that's why I used the "insult" word.  Perhaps a bit too strong but an accurate choice on how I would feel if the GM were keeping information from me because he didn't trust me with it.


Take your pick pocket example.  

Your worry seems to me that if you tell me the NPC bumped into me, I'll immediately go into "alert status" demand checks to notice the thief, do an inventory to see whats missing, etc.  That suggests to me that your play experience to date has been with a very narrow range of players and your projecting that experience out and assuming thats how all (or even most) players would respond.

Let me show you an alternative.  Lets say, my character was on his way to propose marriage to a lady, and had stopped in the bar to get some refreshments.

GM:  A rather scruffy bearded chap at the bar bumps into you sloshing your drink.

Me (ooc):  Hey, what if this guy just picked my pocket and took my engagement ring without me knowing.

GM:  Ok


See, now instead of this being some "random encounter" type of event, its actually significant.  I go to see my lady, I get all worked up to propose, then just at the moment I'm about to...bam...I notice the ring's gone.  Panic sets in, oh no.  Just then she says:  "wasn't their something you wanted to ask me".

Flustered I have to play down the whole thing and try to get out of the situation.  Then maybe I'll have my character "retrace his steps" trying to figure where he might of lost the ring, at which point he remembers the scruffy guy in the bar, and bam...new source of adventure trying to chase down that ring from pick pocket to fence to pawn shop to new buyer.

So how do I feign shock and horror at finding the ring missing, when of course I knew it would be missing.  Its called acting.


Advantages of this style of play:

1) The GM doesn't have to do everything alone.  Players are ready willing and able to help make the story work.  Often times they'll have better more creative ideas that you did...simply because their are more of them and they aren't suffering from game prep burnout.

2) Definite buy in from the players.  You'll know that the "hunt the ring through the city" adventure I something I as a player will be really interested in doing and really engaged in, which will make the adventure alot of fun for everyone, including the GM.  

The alternative, is:

The GM took the ring without my knowing

"sprung" the surprise on me at the last minute (some surprises are good, like birthday presents.  Other surprises are met with all of the enthusiasm of a surprise visit from the in-laws...and their staying for 2 weeks.)

Then wants me to chase the ring around the city as part of a pre prepped adventure.  

How do you as the GM know that your adventure isn't going to met with a big "yawn" from me and the other players.  We're not into it.  We're not engaged.  It isn't interesting to us, so getting us through it is like pulling teeth for you.  Why even go there.  The best way to know for certain that your players are into the adventure is to let them help set it up.



Quote
Well, thanks for your responses. But, I must admit that I am truly lost as to some of the gamestyles you are presenting. Do you guys mean that as you are playing, that the players can create people and situations along side the GM? That the GM is the not sole "world narrator" that the PCs are dwelling in? That sounds like what I am hearing, but correct me if I am wrong. Is this phenomenon common? I have never been exposed to that before. You mean that as I (when a player) can decide, "This is a good spot for an orc" and then I can have one appear? Is this fun?


That's more extreme than what I was suggesting above.  But hell yeah.  Its ALOT of fun to play this way.  In fact, my current project "Robot & Rapiers" has essays like yours in the GM advice section that pretty much spells out how the players can go about inventing NPCs for the game.

Is the phenomenon common?  Also a hell yeah.  Its hugely common.  Not d20 level common, but there's enough folks who play like that we can design games meant to be played like that and make a nice tidy profit selling them.  

Here at the Forge you'll find concentrated doses of that sort of play.
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montag
Member

Posts: 172


« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2004, 04:24:18 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
You've suggested "realistic fantasy".  I'm inclined to ask for more information as to why you think a fantasy game is going to be more realistic by keeping information away from me as a player.
This suggests to me that you don't trust me as a player from using that information in a prudent manner to the betterment of the enjoyment of everyone at the table.  That you suspect that if you give me the information I'm going to "screw something up" and so to prevent that you simply won't give me the information.
uh, Ralph, where did you get that trust thing from? Daniel explicitly stated that his group likes "being in the dark", presumably because that makes it easier for them to suspend their disbelief or whatever. So where does that "trust" stuff come from?
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markus
------------------------------------------------------
"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."
--B. F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969)
Valamir
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« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2004, 06:59:02 AM »

Quote from: montag
uh, Ralph, where did you get that trust thing from? Daniel explicitly stated that his group likes "being in the dark", presumably because that makes it easier for them to suspend their disbelief or whatever. So where does that "trust" stuff come from?


From the initial essay: (emphasis mine)
Quote
So, if the GM determines that the character would perceive the bump innocently, then the GM should not mention the bump at all. This is to keep the players from either using experience they have as players or having to restrain themselves from using that experience.


There is obviously some concern about players using their experience as players in the game.  There is a whole section about players with new characters and the "problems" caused by their existing knowledge from previous characters.  

It seems there are 2 assumptions being made in this essay.  As I noted above I think its a wonderful thing to be explicit upfront about what those assumptions are.  But the two points I want to make are that:

a) the directions on how the GM should run game should be phrased so that it is clear that the recommendations only apply to the way this game should be run, rather than (as know) that this is the way RPGs are supposed to be run.  and
b) that there should be specific reasons why this particular game should be run this particular way.


The two assumptions being made are

1) that players gain more enjoyment from roleplaying the more immersed they are.  There are statements to this effect throughout the essay "but it is much more fun when the player thinks the same thing as his characteretc."  So the idea is that if players have more information than their characters they won't enjoy the game as much.

While that may well be true of Dom's players, it isn't true of me or anyone I routinely play with.  After one session of playing with a GM who used any of the recommended techniques in this essay I'd never play with that GM again.  It would rank among one of the most horrible RPG experiences of my life.  That's why I think its so great to have an essay like this in the game.  If you know what you're going to get going in, you can either decide not to play, or adjust your expectations and decide to give it a shot.  Much better than being broadsided by it unexpectedly.


2) The second assumption that is being made is the worry that if the players have more information than they should they'll use it in bad ways (clearly a concern in the above quote).

This assumption comes from alot of places.  One of the most common is pawn stance concerns of players treating the game "like a game" and making free gamist use of information.  I think this is a partial source of the assumption since Dom clearly said they were trying to move away from that "miniatures" mentality, thus lessening the game elements.

The other big source of this assumption is the idea of the "GM's Story".  Limited information limits the players ability to interfere with the GM's Story.  There's a hint of this also in the section on changing the way magic works and details about the events and world in order to "throw the players off".
 


So basically, the style of play being promoted in this game is very much a "treat the players as if they were their characters" approach.  

Entirely valid, but hardly universal.

Dom, I hope you discover around this site another enjoyable way to play that takes the approach "treat the players as if they and you are all co-authors of a great story"


The two points I wanted to make with regards to this essay, however, was not so much a critique of the style of play but rather:

a) My view that the essay should be rephrased so that the directions on how the GM should run the game are clear that those recommendations only apply to the way this game should be run, rather than (as now) that this is the way RPGs are supposed to be run.  and

b) that there should be specific reasons why this particular game should be run this particular way.  For this last, I mean:  What makes this particular setting or this particular genre better well suited to this particular style.
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Doyce
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« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2004, 07:01:32 AM »

Quote from: Domhnall
But, I must admit that I am truly lost as to some of the gamestyles you are presenting.  Do you guys mean that as you are playing, that the players can create people and situations along side the GM?  That the GM is the not sole "world narrator" that the PCs are dwelling in?  That sounds like what I am hearing, but correct me if I am wrong.  Is this phenomenon common?  I have never been exposed to that before.  You mean that as I (when a player) can decide, "This is a good spot for an orc" and then I can have one appear?  Is this fun?


I'm sorry.  I know this is an unhelpful thought, but as someone who only recently (3, 4 months ago) ran headlong into the eye-opening paradigm shifts of the Forge I couldn't help reading this and thinking "Oooooh boy, you wandered into the dark alley, didn't you?"

Assimilating the Forge vocabulary can be kind of mind-bending, but I think you'll find that folks are pretty open and accepting of all styles of play, even if they're not into the same things you are.  I'd say you represent a very significant population among gamers that, for whatever reason, is not at all well represented here at the Forge.

I second the recommendation to check out the Essays section, especially the essay on Narrative styles of play, and doubly second the observation that you might find it dense reading with a lot of terminology that's unfamiliar (it's been built over several years).  Also, to see the theory in action, I would point you at the Actual Play forum -- especially to threads on games like InSpectres (though there are many others), which is a really good example of 'pure' narrative games in which the players and GM have equal story control.  InSpectres as a session is pretty tongue in cheek, but as a game design, it's very serious stuff.

Anyway, some of these theories are the sort of thing you really need to see in practice to really start to 'get' -- at least if you're me. :)  My *real* suggestion is to get one of those games and run a session of it for fun... that's where the light really starts to dawn.

Let me also say something about the "is this fun?" question:

Consider this: let's say you're a good GM, and let's say you're playing with a group of players you know very well.  I would say, not pessimistically, that if you're really firing on all pistons, you'll design an encounter or role-playing scene that everyone at the table really enjoys... the kind that they talk about for days after... about half the time.  The rest of the time it's a miss, at least for part of the group.

I'm being generous, probably, with that 50% success rate.

Now, let's say that the player themselves has a way to influence the things that happen in the story (every game has this -- in some it's easier or harder to accomplish, but every game has this. For example, any game has the ability of the player to say "I want to go see Uncle Owen." out of the blue.)

Let's say they use this ability to cause a scene that they thinks is interesting.

In theory, they can't 'miss' in the same way the GM can -- since they are causing an event that they think is interesting... well, it sort of has to be interesting to them.  There is no (or very little) chance of that GM-player discontinuity occuring and resulting in a scene where that player says "eh, whatever."

And yeah, that can be fun.  Some of my best moments GMing has been in a scene that the player led me to.

Hope the unhelpful beginning of the post moved around to some places to look around and start to see what people are talking about.  I don't know if it's the best way, but it's the way that worked for me.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Valamir
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« Reply #22 on: April 07, 2004, 07:03:41 AM »

Oh I also wanted to note how fascinating this part of the essay is:

 
Quote
All the players remembered the plot, the secrets they uncovered, the enemies, etc., so I (informing the surviving player) altered a few (mostly minor) facts. What this accomplishes is to keep the players off track as to what actually happened since they, with their new characters, have no idea what happened in the final version of reality.


We've spent alot of time talking about the idea of game reality only existing once it is spoken and brought into play.  The whole "No Myth" idea focuses on the notion of "if it hasn't yet been said, its mutable".

Here, however, is (for me) the most interesting piece of the whole essay.  Essentially a reversal of the No Myth.  Here, things that have been said, have been "established as true" in the game world are mutable.

A truly amazing perspective and one I hope Dom will write more about.
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timfire
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« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2004, 07:09:10 AM »

Quote from: Domhnall
Here, the player placed a specific person in the tavern, and the GM went along with it.  This is quite different from your examples of common things experienced in the settings you described.  Towns de facto have those common things, and it's makes perfect sense to have them be accepted without a second thought.

The two things really aren't as different as you think they are. In both the lady-thief and tree examples, the player is injecting something into the game world. The point is that players don't ask if a tree is nearby, they simply declare that they're going over a tree. It's not very different from creating a NPC.

Where it is different is that the tree is what I'll call a "story-neutral" object. The presence of a tree doesn't really have any significant impact on game events (usually). The presence of the thief-lady does have impact. That's the difference, not the technique itself.

I think the thing you're objecting to (or at least find unusual) is players injecting objects that have the potential to alter the GM's story.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Rob Carriere
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2004, 07:45:50 AM »

Hi Jack,

Quote from: Jack Aidley
As in all things in roleplaying, there is no One True Way. I hope I'm not coming across as presenting one.


You certainly don't--hope I didn't come across as suggesting you do...

Quote
I don't think that it's about either surprise or control outside of your character, however - I think that Daniel's essay presents a way of roleplaying that de-protaganises the player characters. By removing knowledge from the players about their characters you prevent them from controlling their characters in a way that they would choose.


My, not-so-very-well-presented, point is that depending on taste, the players may have all the control and choice they want. I enjoy both ways of playing and while the `secrecy way' does reduce your ability to engage in elaborate planning, it certainly doesn't take away your ability to decide what your character will do. Nor does the fact that GM has kept from you that you are a pick-pocket victim stop him from responding in a way that helps play along once you do discover your purseless state.

SR
--
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GreatWolf
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designer of Dirty Secrets


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« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2004, 07:56:36 AM »

Quote from: Domhnall
Well, thanks for your responses.  But, I must admit that I am truly lost as to some of the gamestyles you are presenting.  Do you guys mean that as you are playing, that the players can create people and situations along side the GM?  That the GM is the not sole "world narrator" that the PCs are dwelling in?  That sounds like what I am hearing, but correct me if I am wrong.  Is this phenomenon common?  I have never been exposed to that before.  You mean that as I (when a player) can decide, "This is a good spot for an orc" and then I can have one appear?  Is this fun?


Just as another example of what we're talking about, check out my post in this thread.

And yes, it is fun, although it is definitely a different type of fun.  :-)  The example that wanders through these parts is the jazz band jamming together, with the GM being the bass player.  It's not The One Way, but it is a way.

Oh, BTW, another hello from Peoria!  Welcome to the Forge!

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2004, 08:33:19 AM »

Domhnall,

I like to compare the two different styles of play to watching a supsense movie for the first time and then watching it again at a later date.  Both are enjoyable activities but they are enjoyable for differing reasons (assuming the movie is any good, of course).

The first time you watch the movie, it's enjoyment is hinged on the element of risk that creates suspense.  It's fun to watch Gothika or The Thing or whatever the first time because the adrenaline gets pumping and things jump out and make you jump and you don't know who's gonna die or when or how.  (How's that for a run-on sentence?)  It's like being a player in a game where the GM doesn't give you all the information and you are staying in Actor stance with lots of immersion.  The fun is in the fact that there is risk involved that I, as the player, do not control.  I can only control what my character does and how he reacts.  I don't control whether he lives or dies or what forces outside of him can do to him.  This can be a real rush.  It's Step On Up at it's finest, in my opinion.

The next time you watch the movie, the suspense is gone (or at least lessened).  I know who dies and who doesn't.  I know when the creepy thing is going to jump out at me.  Strangely enough, I can still enjoy the movie.  I discover interesting plot twists that I missed the first time.  I pick up on clever uses of foreshadowing that I didn't see last time because I was too hyper on my adrenaline rush.  The story gets deeper (if the movie has a story) because I'm detached enough to see and absorb more this time around.  It's like playing in a group where Narrative Control and Credibility are distributed among everyone and not just with the GM.  People tend to stay in Author and Director stances more so they can manipulate the plot and setting, not just their character.  There isn't as much an element of risk or suspense (generally) since it's harder for something to happen to your character that you don't consent to (again, generally) but there are some really, really good stories that get told.  This is a jolly good time and is all about Story Now.

Perhaps other folks won't like my analogy but it sure helps me out and it explains why I can like playing two separate ways for totally different reasons.  Sometimes I want the rush and sometimes I want the story.  Hope this helps.  Sorry about a lot of the terms I threw about.  They are generally defined in the Essays on GNS.  I highly suggest perusing them.
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Alan
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« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2004, 08:57:45 AM »

I think that discovery is not specific enough.  In both methods, one where only the GM presents signifcant details and the one where players can also contribute, both contributions are a surprise to most participants.  In fact, I would argue that player contributions are more surprising as the GM doesn't know what they will be, and the player usually comes up with them on the spur of the moment.  This is raw discovery on the edge of creativity.

I think the difference that Domhall, and others in other threads focus on is novelty.  When a player creates an idea, what he comes up with may surprise him, but there's no sense of novelty or outsideness.  Myself, I think this is a more than fair price to pay, because I really enjoy creating ideas.  I find the experience of novelty, especially as created by someone else, more often frustrating than enjoyable.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Mourglin
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Posts: 18


« Reply #28 on: April 07, 2004, 11:21:42 AM »

What a thread, all very good stuff :)  Before I continue I must tell you that I am a player in Dom's game and the "victim" of said thievery (sword stolen) that Dom mentioned further down the thread.

First let me just say that prior to playing with Dom I had GM'd and played in many games where meta knowledge was usually divulged publicly at the game table and it was presumed by all participants that such information would not affect action or outcome (in a meta sense).  It was typical style gaming as far as I was concerned.  Game notes were used at times but not to any extent that Dom had used them.  Most of the people I had played with were not Hack & Slash types and did not embrace the pawn stance as Valamir added to this discussion.  I suppose we were moderate in many respects and tried to fuse the GM's narrative, the players creative edge and story for the most part.

When I met Dom ( back in 1995 at my game store ) I was introduced to a gaming style/paradigm he has outlined in this essay.  It was IMO like a shot of adrenaline being pumped into my gaming experiences as a player and a GM.  I am a firm believer in the essay's theme, yet I understand its not for everyone.  I do see the flip side of the coin and understand why people would be resistant to Dom's position on the paradigm.  Yet I think this essay could easily be misinterpreted, or perhaps Dom has not explained some other elements of his GM'ing practices.  I believe I have a wider breadth of gaming experience than him and have seen many successes outside of paradigm, which I think maybe Dom has not had the opportunity to participate in.  Anyways this style of GM'ing is unique and it has been far better than the bulk of the RPG campaigns I had played in prior.  I have been in counteless player and GM situations alike that have taken off from creative tangents brought forth by the player.  Some of the best gaming has transpired due to these "player driven creations" as I think they have been coined.  

I do think the critics of his essay are implying that there is little to no creative synergy coming from the players that help move the story for stories sake.  I completely disagree.  Dom does his homework and it one of the best GM's around (albeit if you can first swallow the paradim pill and give it a whole hearted try).  We are free to do whatever we wish, whenever and however.  He has never stifled that element to drive story.  As a matter of fact, I wrote a very vivid character history for Ulraend, which was 100% driven by me.  It was a terrible trajedy (which if anyone is interested I'd love to post the story up for others to enjoy)  and Dom build an entire solo campaign around those 2-3 pages and in turn was able to GM me for 10-12 solo sessions before I met another player.  

As always my posts always seem lengthy, but I must add 1 short example where the paradigm shines as compared to others.   My character Ulraend ended up in a situation where I "John the Player" had to make a decision about attacking and NPC that was a close friend of the character or what I thought at the time, a fellow player.  This player had a believeable story which placed her well in the context and story that Ulraend was in at that time.  Well this is where the paradigm owned me so to speak and it was so awesome.  The other player (whom I thought was joining me in the campaign finally)  was in fact playing a shape shifting demon of sorts.  She appeared beautiful and and her story was believeable as I said and was also a PC (gg meta knowledge). So when my NPC friend says, "Ulraend she is evil and a foul creature etc. etc." and "I am your friend" I was very confused (Dom had a dark magic working on Ulraend and my mind was being taken over and toyed with.. very evil..) So I didn't know and Ulraend didn't know the best choice to make.  I was in the dark completely... anyways I ended up slaying the NPC whom I failed to recognize as my true friend and later come to find this out after the fact.  Had Dom just used 2 NPC's and not a 2nd PC things would have probably turned out "better" in that I would not have slain my friend.  Looking back with 20/20 that would have been worse because it would have closed a chapter in Ulraends life which I am playing in now.  By making a "in" paradigm choice based only upon what "John the Player" knew which was consistent with Ulraend's knowledge the game has proved better.  It has opened up many adventures for the character and has proved to be a very rich and creative experience.  

Last point, to play out of the paradigm is akin to being a juror and hearing a piece of evidence or testimony in which a judge immediately tells you the jury to strike the commments/testimony made.  To me that is a waste and the damage has already been done.  Its so much more rewarding to not know what your player doesn't know. I stand by that conviction and think its a great way to game.  This paradigm doesn't have to be stifling or detract from players contributing to the story or creating "trees" and "thieves", these elements accentuate the paradigm a great deal and make it one of the best (at least for me).  Its not a trust issue at all, its a way of enrichening the players experiences via the paradigm.


Best

John
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Valamir
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« Reply #29 on: April 07, 2004, 02:35:03 PM »

Great post John.

In case I haven't said it loudly enough, I'm a huge fan of having a style paradigm like this and making it clear and explicit right in the game text (

Whether its a paradigm I like or not doesn't change the joy I feel when I see prospective game designers start to do this.

Quote
First let me just say that prior to playing with Dom I had GM'd and played in many games where meta knowledge was usually divulged publicly at the game table and it was presumed by all participants that such information would not affect action or outcome (in a meta sense).


And just for clarities sake, because I feel my earlier posts rambled around far too much, the alternative paradigm I (and others) were mentioning would be succinctly described as

"games were meta knowledge was usually divulged publically at the game table and it was expected that all participants would use such knowledge to push the story towards dramatically interesting events"

Presented not as a challenge to Dom's paradigm in any way, but just 1) in answer to his question about anyone actually playing like that and 2) to show why I'd appreciate certain phrases of the essay reworded to show more clearly that the essay is about a specific paradigm.

I really hope to hear more about this, because I've never heard of a GM who goes to this great lengths to control OOC character knowledge...headphones...altering setting details.  That's a pretty unique approach that I really want to see hashed around here.
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