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Author Topic: Size limits for narrativist play  (Read 2276 times)
Stivven
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« on: January 21, 2002, 06:05:25 AM »

I was just wondering...what's the average group size is for primarily Narrativist play? I've been musing a little over immersion in LARPs and it struck me that I don't think that I've ever seen/heard of/played in a narrative(esque) LARP, and I suspect that the reason is simple one of scale.

(BTW If this has already been discussed then a pointer would be most appreciated)

Steve
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2002, 08:30:37 AM »

Hi Steve,

It has been discussed a bit, but damned if I can find it.

In that discssion, the only answer that can be given is historical - given the techniques or types of play that we've discussed or seen facilitated in game design, Narrativist play works best with three or four players maximum.

I've been thinking, though.

In theory, since handling time tends to be low in most designs so far, this low number of players seems to be a function not of time-spent-to-resolve-things, but more a function of content-per-character providing plenty of material. (I hasten to add that this counts even for sketchy-character games, because they develop and deepen fast during play.)

I'm thinking that designated "lesser" characters may work well, especially if they are only "lesser" in terms of Effectiveness and not in terms of Metagame. Thus we might have foils that aren't just window dressing, commentators that aren't just repeaters, or any number of other means of generating Fifth Business that matters. Thus the number of players might be increased in a way that does develop and create story without increasing the number of literal A-number-one protagonists.

In a strange way, this seems related to a very different thing I've been thinking about, though, that one of the latest developments seems to be a trend toward permitting lots of secondary characters associated with a player-character, who are played in a kind of organized but shared way between player and GM. It started in some ways with Ars Magica or maybe even back in Champions, but lately it's taken on some very interesting mechanics-features in Hero Wars, and now all sorts of versions are cropping up (Exalted, The Dying Earth).

The kind of power-sharing involved here, organized between player and GM, also seems feasible and fun as something that may be organized among players.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2002, 09:11:14 AM »

Hey,

Steve wrote:

I've been musing a little over immersion in LARPs and it struck me that I don't think that I've ever seen/heard of/played in a narrative(esque) LARP, and I suspect that the reason is simple one of scale.

And Ron wrote:

Thus the number of players might be increased in a way that does develop and create story without increasing the number of literal A-number-one protagonists.

Embedded in this is the assumption that the protagonism of each and every one of the game's protagonists must be delivered to each and every one of the other players (the entire audience). And that raises a question. Is there room in Narrativism for perhaps LARP-esque enlarged play groups where individual character protagonism is delivered to only a portion of the entire play group, concurrent revelation of protagonism, rather than sequential?

And if so, what would the rules system need to be like for this to work? Would there have to be formalized consistent linkages among the players, so they were sure to get an individual character's entire story? How would you keep a character's protagonism from being undermined or irrelevantized in subsequent scenes if participants were unfamiliar with the character's prior scenes?

Paul
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2002, 09:28:46 PM »

Usually the GNS forums fly waaaaay over my head, but here's my humble two cents...

One of the very interesting differences between LARPS and tabletop roleplaying is that LARPS are designed for maximum player to player interaction, while tabletop games are designed with the GM as the hub, or primary interface for the players and their world.  

What this results in, is that LARPS focus on player to player interaction, so that you can always be a part of the story, even if you aren't a main protagonist in the events.  In other words, you can always do something.  Meanwhile with tabletop roleplaying, you have to take turns since the GM can only handle so many events at a time.  Since LARPS make npcs unnecessary, the only thing required is resolution, which the mechanics are designed to handle with minimal arbitration.

Bringing this back to point- the limit to the amount of players in a tabletop game isn't based on mechanics as much as the limit of synchoncity of events that can occur.  In a LARP, no one has to take time to describe their basic actions, they just do them.  Even when one event is occuring, no one has to wait to commit their actions at the same time it is occuring.

So for any tabletop game, the limit to the number of players is based on the amount of time that each player gets compared to the amount of patience they have and input they actually have upon the story.

Chris
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Laurel
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« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2002, 11:43:22 AM »

Steve- what does Narrative and Narrative-esque mean to you?   I'm reaching the conclusion that its a bad idea to discuss G/N/S with anyone until I know how they define the terms in their own words.  Saves a ton of work later on, half way through a thread.   :)  

I know plenty of LARP players that I'd say have Narrative goals, as many as I've encountered in TT or OL.
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Stivven
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2002, 07:34:00 AM »

Quote
Steve- what does Narrative and Narrative-esque mean to you? I'm reaching the conclusion that its a bad idea to discuss G/N/S with anyone until I know how they define the terms in their own words.


First off I guess I couyld put the LARPs I'm talking about in context - I mean the limited duration, once off sort of event,

Well I guess that it's easiest to explain what I mean by way of example. I've seen many LARPs where the major goal of the game is to win, by gaining the most points, being elected to office etc. This is often formalised with the use of prop tokens of some kind (that's not to say that the players never achieve any immersive depth in the LARP, but that they can generally get along fine without it).
Similarly I've also witnessed a lot of LARPs where the goal is to immerse oneself in the haracter, and experience the (generally preplotted to some degree) story as it emerges from the in-charcater experience, with or without GM assistance.

As I've already said, I con't think of a single instance of encountering a LARP with a more narrativist bent, where the players are all trying to create a story at some level.

Quote
And if so, what would the rules system need to be like for this to work?


It should be possible to create a LARP that runs along several strata - with conflicts happening in a kind of layered fashion - lord and lady of the house, sevants etc.  - but to my mind this just scales the LARP down to a more convenient size for nar. play.

One idea is to allow the players to be able to interfere with other PCs - modifying their backstory etc. This would only happen at certain stages of the game, where a time out would be called and the players can then write some interactions/secrets/backstory/prophecy on a piece of card and seal it inside an envelope addressed to their target PC. The information inside can be applied either pro- or retroactively, and the game continues a little tweaked. You could limit the amount or type information included in the envelopes to make the game more fluid, but as I haven't tried it I can't really say.

Steve
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2002, 07:41:49 AM »

Hi Steve,

I have no LARP experience, but spent some time (and still do) talking to folks who do, in order to see whether the GNS-etc material is relevant to the activity.

What I hear from them is exactly as you describe, but two of them, who happen to be Forge members (so chime in, Jared and Mario, yes, you), also tell me that Narrativist LARPing does occur. It's apparently very rare, and it seems to be limited in group size.

Using tabletop as a model, I now think that Narrativist play develops more easily in smaller groups, but may indeed occur and be the primary aim in larger ones, given a fairly specialized system. I was surprised, recently, about how well and how powerfully The Questing Beast played in a group that was much larger than I intended.

Some system thoughts for Narrativist LARPS might be a valuable exercise - I'd think that conflict-resolution as opposed to task-resolution, as well as emphasis on author-power in a metagame-fashion (story points? hero points?), would be the first priority. But I'm definitely willing to bow out in favor of those who really have a practical handle on LARP organization and activity.

Best,
Ron
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