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Author Topic: The Premise of the Beast  (Read 6742 times)
James V. West
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« on: February 24, 2002, 11:58:39 AM »

I've been tackling one of the sticking points of The Questing Beast: what should a character actually do?

No one has said much about it, but I felt like I didn't really explain what a Romance was meant to be in any kind of clear manner in the first draft. This is a clearer statement of what the central premise of the game is really all about. Sorcerer's Kickers really drove home to the fact that TQB characters had no solid starting point. I needed to have something more concrete to present to new players to get them off to a good start. The idea of Quests was meant to do that, but I want to nail them harder than in the draft version.

The final version of this text will appear in the beginning of the game, just after a brief introduction. What do you think? Clear as water or mud?



Traditional Arthurian romances are works of fiction written hundreds of years ago. Tristan and Isolte, L’Morte D’Arthur, and The Mabinogion are examples of this kind of story. By modern standards, the characters often behave in strange, almost illogical ways. They often launch into death-match duels with disguised opponents only to discover they were fighting their own brother or king. Supernatural elements such as enchantresses, witches, giants, and objects possessing magical powers are very common in these tales. But the goal of The Questing Beast is not limited to evoking the imaginative writings found on the pages of a few dozen old books. Any source of inspiration is in keeping with the game so long as it meets a simple criteria: single-minded passion and what that passion creates or destroys.

The story you create should focus your Hero on one goal; one singular quest that defines who she is. Anthropomorphic figures lend themselves quite naturally to simplified and extreme characterizations. Its easy to imagine a young cat who strives to hunt her father’s killers, letting all else fall by the wayside. If you’ve ever watched a housecat corner a mouse under the stove, you know what I mean. Her life may have been normal before the invocation of this one goal but once the wheels of her story begin to turn, everything changes. Perhaps she doesn’t even know why. All that matters is that she is responding to an irresistible, compelling force and whatever was important in her life before is no longer a high priority. Her behavior may swing to wild extremes. Her life may become a turbulent swath of rage, of joy, of fear, or love. Then imagine what might happen when the Quest comes into direct conflict with another important element of her life. A lover, a mother, a sister. The human drama that emerges from such a clash is exactly what your Romance is all about.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a good example of a story in which singular passion rules. Romeo sees Juliet across a crowded room and from that moment forward his actions are fueled by love. If he were your Hero, this would be the beginning of his Romance. The object of his Quest is Juliet, just as her Quest becomes Romeo. The families of the doomed lovers spiral around them in hatred, teetering on the edge of a knife. But all that matters is one chance for a kiss. That is single-minded passion--and, in this case, the tragic effect is doom.

A less depressing example is the film A Knight’s Tale loosely based on the work of Chaucer. Once his lord has dies leaving he and his companions in a lurch, the Hero William is driven to challenge himself and prove to the world that he is a knight-at-heart despite his common heritage. This is his Quest. His passion is so focused he resorts to impersonating a noble. He refuses to compete in anything less than the most prestigious events though he knows his skills serve him better in the lesser arenas. And then comes love. That one girl for whom he would die...and yet his passion for knighthood--the chance to change his stars--crashes headfirst into his love for Jocelyn.

These are just a couple of examples of what I mean when I say focused passion. Think of books, comics, movies, or real-life stories you’ve experienced and draw from them. Nothing in art is more stirring and intoxicating than human emotion and the turbulence it causes.
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2002, 01:18:48 PM »

I think it's great! It really hammers home the fact that your PCs are in a romance (in the old sense of it). The examples are great, and I'd even like to see a few more film/literature references. I'm picturing a list of references, with a few notes on each one. Though that may be too much work for a free product!

The only issue I have is the cat & mouse example. It was hard to tell where your example of a Cat PC and the housecat ended.
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James V. West
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2002, 06:16:27 PM »

More references to films and books is something I'm certainly thinking about. The two listed above are two of the most potent examples I've thought of. When I watched A Knight's Tale the first time it immediately resonated with me. When I picture myself playing the game, my Romance would be very similar to that story.

By the way, I plan on actually selling the game after GenCon. Pretty cheap, though. I'll still keep a free version online, but the print version will cost some bucks.

Let me take another look at the cat example. The mouse reference was in there as an illustration for how the cat element connects to the idea of hunting the killers. I'd really like to suggest/push some animal symbolism in the game with a much more detailed listing of animal forms and their traditional symbolic roles.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2002, 06:26:21 PM »

James,

I think it's some of the best writing I've seen from you, and certainly the clearest articulation of how anthropomorphics should function to drive story in TQB. Nicely done.

Paul
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2002, 09:53:54 PM »

Quote from: James V. West

Let me take another look at the cat example.


The example itself is perfect, it's just the writing doesn't make it clear to me where the cat & mouse ends and the Romantic Cat PC begins again.
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Zoetrope10
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2002, 03:40:12 AM »

James

Extraordinary, inspiring writing.

Z
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2002, 11:53:06 AM »

A *great* evocation of the approach you're going for - an approach that is quite appealing to me.  I can even get the anthropomorphics angle, and that's not an easy hurdle for me to get over.

Appolgies if this is an issue covered in previous TQB discussions, but . . . what springs to mind here is the difficulty of managing the multiple "all-consuming" passions of various characters.  An all-consuming pasion tends to push other things out of the way.  I'll have to re-read TQB and see what advice you've provided in that area, but it certainly seems an inportant issue.

Great stuff,

Gordon
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James V. West
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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2002, 01:02:27 PM »

Hey thanks for all the comments, folks!

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

A *great* evocation of the approach you're going for - an approach that is quite appealing to me.  I can even get the anthropomorphics angle, and that's not an easy hurdle for me to get over.


That's great to hear. I know many people have a problem with anthropomorphics, much like many people have a problem with anime (myself included). If you can do a game featuring one of these elements and actually get those people to like it then its a good thing. I want TQB to do that.

Quote

Appolgies if this is an issue covered in previous TQB discussions, but . . . what springs to mind here is the difficulty of managing the multiple "all-consuming" passions of various characters.  An all-consuming pasion tends to push other things out of the way.  I'll have to re-read TQB and see what advice you've provided in that area, but it certainly seems an inportant issue.


Passion pushing other things out of the way is what I want to happen. Or, more specifically, I want players to be drawn into the quandaries that such passion can cause.

You won't find much help in the current version of the game. I didn't nail a decent thrust for pcs until just recently and it won't show up until I've completed the full version.
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Henry Fitch
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2002, 12:45:01 PM »

I think what he may have been worrying about was the passions of one character pushing the passions of another character out of the way. When everyone has a story focused around their all-consuming passion, it could be hard to fit them all into one romance.
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James V. West
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2002, 10:54:09 PM »

Quote from: Henry Fitch
I think what he may have been worrying about was the passions of one character pushing the passions of another character out of the way. When everyone has a story focused around their all-consuming passion, it could be hard to fit them all into one romance.


A Cycle is the whole collection of Romances for a group of players. The Romances don't necessarily have to have a strong connection, so each player's story can go off on its own megalomaniacal tangent. At least, that's the theory ;-).
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2002, 07:44:02 AM »

Just to chime in, that's great. And, yes, now I can see a reason for the anthropomorphs. The proto-premise goes from being, "Concocting tales of "Arthurian" legends of characters who happen to be animals" to "Concocting tales of Arthurian legend that revolve around the character's driving passions which are determined by the animal form which the character takes."

That's 137% better than before.

Mike
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2002, 08:51:02 AM »

Quote from: James V. West
Quote from: Henry Fitch
I think what he may have been worrying about was the passions of one character pushing the passions of another character out of the way. When everyone has a story focused around their all-consuming passion, it could be hard to fit them all into one romance.


A Cycle is the whole collection of Romances for a group of players. The Romances don't necessarily have to have a strong connection, so each player's story can go off on its own megalomaniacal tangent. At least, that's the theory ;-).


Yes, that was a big part of my concern.  "Unconnected" player stories still conjure up fears of everyone else sleeping while the GM "roleplays" with one player.  That's probably a "Narrativism in general" issue rather than a TQB-specific thing, but I am interested to see what the TQB-specific advice/implications are.

Gordon
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James V. West
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2002, 12:30:16 PM »

What I try to do when I run this game is to make sure every player is engaged and involved most of the time. If a player just doesn't have anything to do with a scene, I make sure to cut the scene and go back to the other player without letting it go on too long. Little cliffhangers, I guess.

The real trick is when you have a group of characters who really have little or nothing to do with one another and whose stories are occuring in different places. I don't know if I would reccomend starting a game that way. I'm trying to emphasize that the Guide should be active in drawing links or encourgaing links between the Romances so that the opportunites for crossovers will be plenty and everyone can be involved.
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