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Author Topic: Is this scene framing? Force? Narr? Silly newbie post.  (Read 7311 times)
Emiricol
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Posts: 64


« on: April 28, 2004, 10:01:01 AM »

Hello.  Let me preface this by stating that I'm new to these forums, and most of these concepts are new to me.  I read about them and recognize that I do in fact see these things in effect in my campaigns to greater or lesser extent.  

When reading the following, keep in mind that the specific game in use is D&D 3.5, but I see for other games I'm going to be trying out the same habits looming in my "director style," if you will. Of note is the fact that  I use a non-standard system for experience points, so combat is never encouraged or discouraged merely by the combat reward factor of the system we've been using.

On to the meat of my post.

In my campaigns I tend to give the players a starting point, often with their direct or indirect input, and I have a moderately flexible idea of what the final outcome should be.  The players have some empowerment to take a slight director stance (I am working on improving that, but it is still uncomfortable for me as the DM).  As they progress I throw out, more or less "on the fly," new information, changes or events, which inevitably lead to the final conclusion.

The players feel that they drive the story, and until I started coming here I thought this was so as well, but I am realizing now that the adventures always reach the end-point I had vaguely envisioned at the start of the adventure.

What factors (narr, gamist, force, etc) are at play in this?  I'd like to read more on those specific topics, once the influences are identified.  Also, any personal thoughts on my DM system, or more appropriately, lack thereof?
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Emiricol
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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2004, 10:21:08 AM »

And apologies - I'm pretty sure I posted this in the wrong forum.
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timfire
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« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2004, 10:22:05 AM »

Well, I can tell you what's not. It's not scene framing and its not narrativism. It's force you're talking about. While I can't be sure, it sounds like you're subconsciously dropping hints for what the players should do. Here's the most recent thread on Force/ Illusionsims/ Railroading: Railroading Fun (that thread has links to older threads.)

[edit: Cross posts.]
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Emiricol
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« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2004, 10:48:00 AM »

It sounds like Illusionism (or at least Illusionist methods), though much less structured than what the posters in that thread seem to find the baseline definition of Illusionism.  Interesting.  

I've had the same players for years and they often tell me how much they enjoy my games, but these forums are motivating me to understand *why* the games are they way they are and *how* this is done.  That way it can either be more than haphazard, or I can move in the direction of a new way of doing it.
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2004, 11:08:57 AM »

Offhand this sounds like the technique that's sometimes called Roads To Rome. It's a way to use Force and it's usually an application of Illusionism, but it can be done overtly too; for example, there might be foreshadowing, dreams, or prophecies about the inevitable end-point (a climactic confrontation at the moment of the winter solstice in the Onyx Tower of Hokus Pokus, or whatnot).

We tend to talk about Illusionism, GM authorship, and Force as if they were all-or-nothing conditions. (If the GM isn't sharing authorship equally with all the players, he must be authoring everything himself. Either the GM Forces the players into one specific plot decided in advance, or uses no Force at all and the players' decisions determine everything about where the story goes.) But a lot of real play is in the "less structured" domain you're talking about, where the GM has a plan but to varying extents the details of how the plan plays out, and/or the plan itself, can change and are influenced to a greater or lesser degree by player choices. This current thread is one attempt to discuss such "mixed" GMing styles.

And BTW, this was absolutely the correct forum for your question.

- Walt
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2004, 11:55:24 AM »

Note however that these techniques, though generally given bad connotations here on the Forge, are not necessarily bad. It is a good thing to attempt new styles of play, but remember that change is usually painful, and that some players simply will not like it. Sometimes it is best to continue playing the way you always have been if everybody is satisfied by the play.

On the other hand, you recently got a copy of TRoS. As pointed out in System Does Matter, the rules of the game can and will affect your play style. If you do not adapt your playstyle to fit the game, you will tend to have conflicts between system and play, and will need to drift the game to suit your style of play. While some drift is pretty much inevitable, and is even sometimes encouraged, if you drift too much, so that you're not even playing the game the way it is intended, then what's the point of playing that game?

Your best bet on the topics of Railroading and Illusionism with TRoS is to take an almost laissez-faire approach; hands off. Take an active part in character generation, making sure that all of the characters are equipped with interesting SAs that complement or interact with each other. Group chargen is a MUST with TRoS, and many other games with a narrativist approach.

After chargen, discuss with each player briefly where and how they want to start off. Look strongly at their SAs. Then start off the game with either a group or individual scenes with an immediate action that MUST be reacted to by the group. This is called a Kicker, and is stolen shamelessly from Sorcerer. From there, hands off. Let the players push the story. You react, introduce NPCs and plot twists as appropriate to their actions, always, always ALWAYS keeping their SAs in mind.

Do not attempt to push toward any one goal. If things slow down, use their SAs, and any prior events (both at the same time, where possible) to create a situation which they have to react to, much like the kicker. These are called Bangs.

This is truly player-driven play. The SAs, as is often pointed out in the TRoS boards, are not meant to be bonuses when the character happens to end up in a given situation. They're meant to be a roadmap for the Seneschal to follow. If at any time a player does not seem inclined to follow one of his SAs, Talk to them about changing it. SAs are the players way of telling the Seneschal what they are interested in doing, and if they're not interested, then they're not getting all the mileage out of it that they can.

That is not to say that narrativist or player-driven play means that the Seneschal is a reactive bystander. If you have a cool idea or theme you want to introduce, you can do so with your bangs, your NPCs and your plot twists. The key is that your additions should never be unrelated to the players SAs.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
TonyLB
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« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2004, 01:46:57 PM »

I'll quietly make a devil's advocate statement.  I don't know, from his post, that what he's talking about isn't narrativism.  Because I don't know what he means by the phrase "Final Outcome".

Say he dumps the characters in a village being besieged by the undead.

If his Final Outcome is "The game ends when all the zombies have been killed." then it's probably Gamist illusionism.  Probably.

But if his Final Outcome is "The game ends when the characters have resolved some of their own issues about death, corruption and grieving," then we're talking about a whole different ball game, aren't we?
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2004, 09:53:16 PM »

I, too, am going to reject the standing line that this is necessarily force.

It could be trailblazing; it could be something very like trailblazing with strong use of illusionist techniques, and it could be participationism.

Participationism is best described as "illusionism by consent". That is, in illusionism, the players think their decisions are meaningful, but the referee skillfully steers everything to the pre-planned outcome, in essence voiding the impact of any decision that might have led to a different outcome. In participationism, the players don't expect their decisions ever to matter, but to color the road that leads to the intended outcome. Thus they've agreed to let the referee tell the story, and they're along for the ride.

Trailblazing actually turns a lot of this on its head. In trailblazing, the referee has a story, but he's not going to do a thing to force it. He has designed his scenario (or purchased it, in some cases) and carefully laid out the trail of breadcrumbs that should lead the skillful players to the final outcome fully prepared to meet it. However, once play starts, everything is fully in the hands of the players. What makes it work is that at the social contract level there is a commitment by the players to follow the breadcrumbs--for them, successful play means finding that pre-planned end.

If that's what you're doing, you're not using any force at all. You're crafting a clear trail, and you've got a group that is coherently playing in the trailblazing mode, following your trail faithfully, and always successfully finding your end.

Regarding illusionist techniques, they make everything a bit blurry. In essence, an illusionist technique is anything the referee does which empties any player decision of impact or meaning. When it is said that way, it sounds horrid; but it is not always negative.

The best example of an illusionist technique with positive value is The Moving Clue. In a mystery campaign, the player characters must collect the clues to solve the mystery. The referee knows that they need certain information to get the answer. Let us suppose one of the "facts" they must discover is that the master of the house left the grounds alone at three o'clock. In a "standard" design, there would be one character who knew that. Let's say, for example, that it was the chauffer--"I asked if he wanted me to drive, but he said he just wanted to take the Jaguar for a spin, and left." Now, if the players ask the chauffer, they get that clue, and they can solve the mystery. However, if they never question the chauffer, they never solve the mystery--the entire game is derailed by their decision (whether affirmative or by omission) to talk to the chauffer. Using The Moving Clue technique, however, the referee has decided that someone the player characters question will give them that information--it doesn't matter who. It will be, for example, the third person questioned. The information will be couched in a way that fits that character--the cook saw him drive by from the kitchen window, or the scullery made saw him head for the garage with his briefcase, or the gardener saw him pull out onto the highway. Suddenly the game can't be derailed by player choice. It's an illusionist technique that preserves player power by removing the impact or meaning of a decision.

The rule of thumb I'm using for that at the moment is this: positive use of illusionist techniques removes the meaning or impact from player decisions that should not matter so that the players are able to get the most from the decisions that matter to them.

All of which is in the final analysis to say that I don't think we have enough information about how you play to say what you're doing.

--M. J. Young
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2004, 01:27:08 AM »

Quote from: Emiricol
*snip*
The players feel that they drive the story, and until I started coming here I thought this was so as well, but I am realizing now that the adventures always reach the end-point I had vaguely envisioned at the start of the adventure.
*snip*


I'll add a couple of short thinks. In the computer game Deus Ex, your on a railwayroad. But there's still wriggle room there...I enjoyed being able to knock people out for the most part, or as I felt the situation from somewhat of a character perspective, cut loose when I/he felt uncomfortable. Essentially players might be between two rails, but in the space between them, you get to choose where in that space you go. Sometimes they don't need to be wide apart to satisfy everyone. After all, roleplay doesn't have to be big and important...playing for more lighthearted fun can have much less space between the rails and be fine, IMO.

The other thing is, perhaps you've given them power and they have then LET you finish the story the way you want. Its possible the power you granted to them is simply a comfort or a fallback should something not fit their desires. It makes them feel that if something isn't fun, they can change it. But that doesn't mean they'll weild it to change the end...they might just be very interested in finding out the story end you've made...they'll make the changes they want. But if they want to find out the story end you've made, how many changes will they make? Not many. It could be that just having director like powers makes them happy and they don't need to wield massive world changing power to enjoy a session.

I mean, there's no RPnomicon saying your game has to live up to some 'and all the players drove the story' requirement. There are brilliant ideas around the forge, but that doesn't mean they have to be used to their full potential.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2004, 07:18:58 AM »

Hi there,

I think some of you guys are getting a little hung up on whether this kind of play is bad or good, rather than putting all that aside completely and just talking about what it is.

The much-quoted text is indeed the key:

Quote
The players feel that they drive the story, and until I started coming here I thought this was so as well, but I am realizing now that the adventures always reach the end-point I had vaguely envisioned at the start of the adventure.


See that "always"? I remember it well from my Champions GMing days. Coupled with the "but," it indicates that the GM-decisions over story-significant events in play take full power and precedence over player-decisions. That's Force.

We don't need to know whether the players are complicit with the techniques involved or whether they are awed by Emiricol's amazing skills, or anything. Nor does it matter whether the GM decides on Rome before or during play itself, or has mapped the roads beforehand or is improvising them during play. All that stuff is sub-categorization after the basic observation that the GM is committed to getting to Rome and has complete power over the fact that they all will arrive there.

So, Force it is. To discuss sub-categorization, we'd have to know more, although I think the implication so far includes some illusionist techniques. I'd be especially interested in talking to the players, although gamer-culture has trained many people never to admit that they "see the GM's plot" a mile ahead, even to themselves.

As far as GNS stuff goes, it's very clear to me that Force, through whatever family of techniques employed, is anathema to Narrativist play. (Again, as usual, don't confound Force with any aggressive GM input; there's a lot of the latter that doesn't include the former.) But to get any more specific than that, we'd have to look at the usual issues.

Those issues include:

1. The real-people interaction at the table, all kinds of Social Contract issues (does anyone habitually end play upset, for instance), and so on.

2. Whatever tweakings of the D&D3E reward system are in action, if any, and what levels the characters began at and have earned.

3. How the reward system in play interacts with story-participation and completion, especially in relation to the climax points that Emiricol has recently discovered that he's fixing into play with full GM-authority.

Best,
Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2004, 09:24:05 PM »

Quote
Also, any personal thoughts on my DM system, or more appropriately, lack thereof?


In regards to this question, opinions on how into techniques players are and how awed they are by Emiricol's leet skills, are something he's asked for (indirectly), even if we didn't. Unless I'm wrong in reading his second question (the first being mostly about force), then damn, I answered it incorrectly.

Anyway, I'll add a couple more questions.
1. Do the players, in their own words, want to play a narrativist type of game.
2. Do their 'tells', ie the way they act during play, indicate enjoyment of other styles as well. In what sort of proportion?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Emiricol
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« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2004, 12:02:45 AM »

Quote from: Noon
In regards to this question, opinions on how into techniques players are and how awed they are by Emiricol's leet skills, are something he's asked for (indirectly), even if we didn't.


That's rather rude.  I asked for input, not insults.

As to your other questions, the players aren't even aware that there may be such things as GNS.  All are experienced role-players, and I'm lucky enough to have had most of them with me through three campaigns now (via OpenRPG).  That question had little to do with leet skills or quests for gratification - the players are having fun and that's enough for me.  What I was really after with that question was more general. Contstructive criticism or better yet, pointers to relevant threads (thanks to those who took time to do so, by the way).
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2004, 05:20:05 AM »

Hi Emiricol,

Callan (Noon) was responding to this comment in Ron's post:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
We don't need to know whether the players are complicit with the techniques involved or whether they are awed by Emiricol's amazing skills, or anything. Nor does it matter whether the GM decides on Rome before or during play itself, or has mapped the roads beforehand or is improvising them during play. All that stuff is sub-categorization after the basic observation that the GM is committed to getting to Rome and has complete power over the fact that they all will arrive there.
(red emphasis added.)

Ron's point was only about the logical basis for reading implications of Force into your description of a play style. Callan rather missed Ron's point, in my opinion, and interpreted the highlighted sentence as "we shouldn't be discussing this" (and thus felt obliged to defend his right to do so by referencing your "any personal thoughts?" question) instead of as "these variables are not relevant to whether or not this play style represents use of Force." I'm pretty sure Callan didn't intend to be rude or insulting to you.

Adding my own commentary on Ron's point quoted above: please note that when Ron says "Nor does it matter whether the GM decides on Rome before or during play itself, or has mapped the roads beforehand or is improvising them during play," he's saying those variables don't matter when judging if Force is being used. That doesn't imply they don't matter to the players or to the perceived quality of play. I emphasize that because I've misinterpreted similar statements in a similar way in the past, and I've seen others do so too.

- Walt
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Emiricol
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« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2004, 09:24:40 AM »

Thank you for the clarifications, Walt.  Noon (Callan), I owe you an apology.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2004, 10:58:18 AM »

No, no rudeness intended...but I could see how I could be read that way. No apology needed, it's just a mix up. :)

But just in case my questions were answered a bit briefly, even though they don't know about GNS, from what you know, what would you say their reactions are to each?

Walt: Well I noticed in a actual play thread ( "Old Schol D&D" ), that Ron stepped in because people were offering answers for the problem rather than answering the question asked, which was to identify the problem solidly. That's good focus, because that was the question. Here weve got two questions, and I percieved a call to only cover the problem identification question, like in that other thread. It's quite likely that I've percieved wrong, which is why I added some follow up questions in the previous post so it wasn't just an empty post if it were so. :)
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