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Author Topic: Dogs: A Big GM Advice  (Read 4018 times)
lumpley
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« on: March 30, 2005, 08:21:54 AM »

As GM, you get to help establish stakes. If your player says "what's at stake is this" you can say "no, I don't dig that, how about what's at stake is this instead?" Not only can you, you should. This is an important duty you have as GM and you shouldn't abdicate it.

Furthermore, as GM, you should push for small stakes.

It's natural for the players to set stakes big. "Do we get the whole truth from her about everything that's going on? Do we convince him to give up his sinnin' ways and do right forever after? Do we undo all the harm the cult has done?" You as GM have to engage with them and wrestle them down. You should be saying, "no, how about do you win her trust about some small matter? Do you give him a moment's pause? Do you make this one person breathe easier, right now?" It's out of creative tension between their big stakes and your small stakes that the right stakes are born.

I can talk about why you should engage with your players this way in a bit. But first I want to make sure everybody gets that you can engage with them this way, by the rules.

-Vincent
and thanks to Ron for a sharp insight.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2005, 08:39:21 AM »

I get that you can.

I debate whether pushing for small stakes is consistently better than pushing for big ones.  I think both are essential tools in the GM's arsenal.

From Actual Play:

Player:  We're trying to get the truth from her about her absent brother, while we have dinner with the rest of the family.
Me/GM:  Just that?  You know, you can ask her to just spill everything she knows about everything, right?
Player:  In front of her parents?  Yeah, nice try!  I've seen what you do with an opening like that.  Just the brother, thank you kindly.
Me/GM:  <Grumble, grumble>
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Bill Cook
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2005, 10:00:25 AM »

I like. This is something I've been wrestling with in my ongoing BW campaign. I was focused on getting them to say what they wanted to do next. But then when they did, somehow, we couldn't get it done. And god help us if it got decided by IC dialogue or "last man standing" combat. Neither I or the players ever got what we wanted.

What I like about stakes, in general, is that it's always possibe to progress, and with DitV, how you do it is an embellishment of what the dice say.

With this advice, you've named the missing GM duty. I think back on the Universalis one-shot my meetup group did last January; they kept ducking the conflict mechanic; not conflict itself, just the mechanic. I think it's because they didn't want to put anything at stake. Fine to talk about explosions, but with no traditional GM to stamp it, it's consequence free. So the authority receded to the dice, and if someone reached for them, we got this "how are you any more GM-ish than me?" kind of  reaction.

Quote from: lumpley
It's out of creative tension between their big stakes and your small stakes that the right stakes are born.


That's interesting. I would think having smaller stakes allows for greater chaptering of play. I can see the upside of that. And I've noticed that certain players, more typically newbies, tend to set sweeping stakes. It's a competition between player impact and GM pacing.

I remember a player in the BW one-shot I did last December who just got muddled about how to implicate a castle chapel minister who conspired with outlaws to sack a village under his lord's protection. We used an authorship mechanic to create his approach, including reassurances that by definition, it had to have a chance of working. So, to use DitV terms, we set the stage for the follow-up conflict, the character had his damaging material in hand, and still he hesitated. (Phantom de-protagonizing GM's from his gamer past?) In that case, I made him stake it all: "you implicate Minister Weiruss before his lord."
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2005, 10:01:32 AM »

Small stakes are okay, but you should make sure that they're not insignificant stakes. If the Dog wants to know what's going on between a young woman and her father the Steward, it's not a good idea to suggest the stakes as "whether or not you keep her from leaving the room".

Stakes of a given conflict should always resolve something about the story, one way or the other. They shouldn't resolve everything, but something significant, at least. So make sure that if you're suggesting smaller stakes that the end result isn't going to be too small.

Small stakes: Do we locate Br. Seth, who is fleeing and trying to lay a false trail?
Big stakes: Do we catch up with Br. Seth, find out what's going on, and convince him to walk the righteous path
Good stakes: Do we locate and detain Br. Seth

The difference between the small stakes and the good stakes is that the small stakes would lead into the followup conflict of having to catch him once you found him. The good stakes lead into a more dramatic and narratively powerful conflict over finding out what's going on, or convincing him of his sin.

On second thought, maybe that wasn't the best example, because I can see some people preferring the followup conflict to actually catch him. Either way, I think the point, at least, is clear.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2005, 10:27:22 AM »

Yes!

What you're after is two things: follow up conflicts and givable conflicts. (Tony, you get this already, that's why you don't need the advice.)

Since you want good follow up conflicts, the right stakes can go either way without creating a dead end or a dull patch. Pushing stakes smaller will tend to make them less make-or-break.

Givable conflicts - that's the trick. The right stakes will make it so that escalating, taking a blow and giving are all roughly equal. You'll have to decide which, instead of - as in so many writeups, and this was Ron's sharp insight - instead of every conflict going all the way. Set the stakes too large and escalating is always worth it. Set them small enough and giving vs. escalating becomes a real question, as does giving vs. taking a bad blow.

Conflicts always end with a give. It doesn't have to be because one side has used every single last die. It can be as soon as you see which way the wind's blowing - but that won't happen if the stakes are too grandiose.

-Vincent
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Bankuei
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2005, 10:27:36 AM »

Hi Vincent,

Is this just a logical extension of producing good pacing?  I mean, if the problem gets solved in the first 5 minutes, no movie, right?  And at the same time, if next to nothing happens for 2 hours, boring?

So just like movies, stories, and sex, you go with small stuff, crescendo, back down, repeat a few times, climax, and good times had by all?

Chris
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2005, 10:29:12 AM »

Yep.

The conflicts where you go all the way only mean something if you don't go all the way every time.

-Vincent
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Betsi-G
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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2005, 11:09:07 AM »

Quote from: Bankuei
So just like movies, stories, and sex, you go with small stuff, crescendo, back down, repeat a few times, climax, and good times had by all


Wow, Chris.. I have to quote you on that, that's wonderfully put.

Wows all around, in fact, I think I understand Vincent's advice here much better after seeing it phrased a little differently by a couple people, and questioned and generally prodded at.

DitV is by far the most entertaining game.. nay, activity... I've experienced in a while. So cool.
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