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Author Topic: The Hell is a 'Kicker'?  (Read 10269 times)
Thededine
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« on: February 04, 2002, 05:43:03 PM »

Did I miss a newsfile or something?  Everyone started talking about Kickers and I have no idea what they are.  Help!
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-- Josh
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2002, 05:46:42 PM »

A Kicker is a term used in Sorcerer for the "event or realization that your character has experienced just before play begins."

For the player, the Kicker is what propels the character into the game, as well as the thing that hooks the player and makes him or her say, "Damn! I can't wait to play this character!"

It's also the thing that the player hopes to resolve at the end of the game. At the start of the next game with the same character, the resolution of the Kicker alters the character in some way, allowing the player to re-write the character to reflect changes. Something that (IMHO) is a much better form of "experience points" than just a mathematical increase in ability.  Word up, G!
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2002, 07:44:31 PM »

Hiya,

The Kicker is part of the Sorcerer rules for character creation and it feeds directly into play. I invented the term, and to my knowledge, the concept as well at least in terms of a formal game element.

Jared has it just about right ... the Kicker is a sentence or two written by a player regarding his or her character. Its requirement is that something about the character's life has just changed, in such a way that they must take action. Ideally, the Kicker should not be a no-brainer but pose a bit of a conundrum or even an ethical dilemma. There's a fair permissible range, though - some players like to throw themselves and the GM a curve ball by introducing tres freaky shit; others like to introduce a very solid ethical choice. The only bad Kicker is a boring one.

From the GM's point of view, all the player-characters are now in motion. For instance, I tend to run very prep-heavy games, but if the player-characters have Kickers, I don't have to drag them into anything - they are blazing into action of some kind. (Some people have expressed concern that this will "interfere" with the planned run. In practice, everyone who's tried it has done a 180 regarding this concern.)

Anyway (sigh, I hate this part), it's a copyrighted term, it's part of the Sorcerer rules, and I am perfectly happy for anyone to include it in their game design if they give me credit.

Best,
Ron
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Thededine
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2002, 10:16:00 PM »

Ah, many thanks!

Sounds similar to an idea I'm implementing in my system, where all characters have three plot hooks.  Kickers, though, are player-active, rather than fodder for the GMs to use, I assume?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2002, 07:05:53 AM »

Hi,

I don't really distinguish between player-fodder vs. GM's-to-use, in that we're all playing together, right? The Kicker is "meat" for anyone.

OK, the above paragraph is a little too glib. Basically, say I provide a Kicker like "A guy tried to kill me with a hatchet on the bus today." I am well aware that the GM now has about a billion things he "could do" regarding my character, and the ball is now mainly in his court. I am happy about that - that was the entire point of the Kicker. Or, say I provide a Kicker more along the lines of "I came home from the airport, opened my suitcase, and discovered that my stuff is all gone, replaced by exactly the same weight of heroin in kilo bags." With this Kicker, the ball is more in my court, and the GM really doesn't have to do much besides ask "What do you do?"

I must emphasize that Kickers should not be sprung on a GM but are just as much of a beginning character's sheet as his or her numbers. Therefore any back-stuff that a Kicker demands (or demands may be made up) become part of the game-world, equally as important as any "plan" the GM has in mind. I mentioned before that my games are heavy-prep - a certain portion of this is spent in making sure that Kickers (at least one, usually a couple, and rarely all) are quite involved in the back-story I have in mind.

I've held forth at great length about how a Kicker and a classic "character hook" aren't the same thing, but I won't here unless it's an issue you're interested in.

Best,
Ron
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2002, 09:30:42 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards


I've held forth at great length about how a Kicker and a classic "character hook" aren't the same thing, but I won't here unless it's an issue you're interested in.



I'm actually not sure, so I'd quite like to hear more about this. Are there previous threads you can refer me to? Reveal unto me your great length, as it were.

Cheers,

Joe.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2002, 09:46:51 AM »

Hi Joe,

Great length, eh? Didn't Jim Morrison get busted for that in Miami?

The really trenchant discussion of Kickers occurred way back in April of last year, at the Gaming Outpost, in  
http://www.gamingoutpost.com/forums/index.cfm?fuseaction=ShowThread&threadID=33198&messageID=33198&forumID=28&CustomSS=0&login=">Kickers.

Tor Erickson has agonized a good deal over Kickers here:
http://www.gamingoutpost.com/forums/index.cfm?fuseaction=ShowThread&threadID=39806&messageID=39806&forumID=28&CustomSS=0&login=">Kickers again and http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1019">Rethinking the Kicker

However, in his experiences of running Sorcerer, he has a lot to say about how it turned out to be far less problematic than he'd expected. See his three threads in Actual Play: "Southern Fried Sorcerer, part 1" "Southern Fried Sorcerer, part 2," and "Southern Fried Sorcerer, The Final Act."

I also suggest the Sorcerer forum threads (in this order) "To Tor, Jesse, and Paul," "Art-Deco Melodrama," "Art-Deco Melodrama Part 2," and "Art-Deco Melodrama: the Final Chapter."

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2002, 06:17:26 AM »

Oh, here's another one, started by Jesse Burneko not too long ago:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1321">Odd Kicker question

Best,
Ron
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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Posts: 178


« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2002, 06:52:49 AM »

Bloody hell.

Cheers, Ron. Everytime I read one fantastic thread, another three pop up. This a forum Xeno would be proud of.

Joe.
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Mithras
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2002, 08:16:49 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I invented the term, and to my knowledge, the concept as well at least in terms of a formal game element.


Fair enough. I'm sure I'm not alone here when I say that we've been doing this for many many years. In fact my first RPG group back in the mid 1980s were obsessive about this. They would come to the chargen session with one or more sheets of paper describing the history of their characters so far and these little stories always built up into some great unresolved story. I didn't give a damn that they broke the chargen rules, or made the character out to be a prince of a kingdom, the unwritten rule was that the 'kicker' had to leave the PC free to wander about and adventure, with this unresolved story playing out across the campaign.

In particular I remember when I bought CoC for the first time, and one of the players (who knew nothing about the Mythos or the game) turned up with a fantastic 'kicker', a three page story about his priest who'd built up some conflict with a demon, and there was plenty of classical exorcism and stuff in it as well, but the whole thing was unresolved ... it was great! But I said 'uhh, there aren't any demons in Cthulhu, or exorcisms... sorry' And that was that. I wouldn't do that now of course. Any player puts that much into a game before he's even played the damn thing gets the right to have the gameworld change to suit his character!
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Paul Elliott

Zozer Game Designs: Home to ultra-lite game The Ladder, ZENOBIA the fantasy Roman RPG, and Japanese cyberpunk game ZAIBATSU, Cthulhu add-ons, ancient Greeks and more -  http://www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2002, 08:31:53 AM »

Hi Paul,

I fully acknowledge that the Kicker technique has been around for ... well, probably since the beginning of role-playing. You'll note that my post was careful to take credit for it only as an acknowledged game element.

I think it's an important distinction, though, and that your example illustrates how not including the Kicker formally can have negative effects - if it's "not in the rules," then people may reject the technique as being "not done," and hence the vicious circle begins.

As I've done before, I also want to distinguish very carefully between a real Kicker and an elaborate character back-story which does not demand resolution during play - your examples were also careful regarding this issue, but unless it's driven home, others have a tendency to forget it. When someone hands me a 37-page history of their character, it's not a Kicker unless something has just changed, significantly, for the character.

Best,
Ron
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Mithras
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« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2002, 01:51:40 PM »

I didn't mean to come across all snotty, back there Ron. But I am proud of the way my players got into this stuff. Unfortunately back then I didn't really make use of it as much as I could of.

Cyberpunk really impressed me with its Lifepath, I can't remember if the rules stated this or not, but we always wove together all the elements of a Lifepath into a mondo story that wasn't yet resolved. We always did that, and so for me Cyberpunk stands tall in my mind as a game that revolutionized character generation (for our gaming group at least!).
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Paul Elliott

Zozer Game Designs: Home to ultra-lite game The Ladder, ZENOBIA the fantasy Roman RPG, and Japanese cyberpunk game ZAIBATSU, Cthulhu add-ons, ancient Greeks and more -  http://www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2002, 03:05:45 PM »

Hi Paul,

Good call on Cyberpunk, because that's the same game that - in combination with Champions - taught me about beginning with characters in motion. In both games, though, I noted that players divided up very distinctly into Kicker-makers and not-Kicker-makers, depending on how they interpreted the Metagame-elements of chararacter creation.

That is, some Champions players ladled Hunteds and DNPCs into their "Disads" section and promptly ignored them from the moment of playing, and sighed and rolled their eyes if I brought them into play. To these players, these Disadvantages were "free points," and that was it. Similarly, the same players in Cyberpunk would write up an elaborate back-story from their life-path and consider it to be basically lots of Color, and nothing more.

Whereas, just as in your games, other players (including me) would come barrelling into play with tons of stuff inherent from the back-story, and in many cases, that material was ignored by the GM, who had his story all set to go and didn't need someone horning into it with "character stuff."

My experience with these two games (and with GURPS, which for all practical purposes is Simulationist Champions) led me to think up the Kicker as a formal game element.

Best,
Ron
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