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Author Topic: [Verge] How much genre background?  (Read 1684 times)
Adam Dray
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« on: August 09, 2005, 06:55:19 AM »

For Verge, I'm writing an opening chapter that explains some of the history of cyberpunk, post-cyberpunk, and transhumanism; talks about the memes and tropes; and explains things players can do to make their game more cyberpunk.

The game includes a very rough sketch of a setting. I didn't want to hamstring players by stepping on their creativity by including a full-blown setting. Players are quite creative enough in this regard, I've found. But I felt I had to give players some guidelines about the genre.

How much information should I include? As I researched and outlined, I could easily see this becoming a weighty section (10-12 full pages). Is that too much? Is a page enough?
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2005, 08:43:50 AM »

Heh, the best rec you'll find is "put in as much as you think is needed".

More than that, though, I think the concern you had before was to provide enough information to get the players understanding what Cyberpunk is all about.  If you do that, and maybe provide the sub-genres to boot, it will give people an idea of where to begin.

-Andy
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2005, 08:58:18 AM »

Hi there,

I was faced with a very similar problem in writing Sorcerer & Sword. I wanted to deliver a solid aesthetic understanding of why this genre was distinctive and powerful, without having the reader mistakenly enjoy my setting as the basic point.

I think I achieved this goal, to the extent that I think this supplement is my most successful single text, communicatively speaking. At the risk of some conflict-of-interest, I'll suggest that you check it out.

Best,
Ron

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timfire
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« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2005, 10:54:26 AM »

One question you have to ask yourself is who is your audience? Do you want to write this for someone unfamiliar with cyberpunk, someone who is already familiar, to somewhere in between? That will dictate how much as well as what exactly you should include.

I faced this issue with The Mountain Witch. I decided that people most likely to buy my game were people like myself---people who have seen Seven Samurai +  a couple of random samurai films, as well as a bunch of anime.  I decided I could assume a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the audience. So what I did was I decided to do some historical/cinematic research, and anything *I* learned in the process I would include. For exampe, I included two (5.5 x 8.5) pages on the role of women samurai in society, but not a single page on the role of male samurai, as I could assume that most info people had on samurai would already deal with men. Altogether, I think I have... 18-20 pages, maybe, on Samurai films & history (spread throughout the book).

So anyway, I think that's a question you should decide first.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Adam Dray
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« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2005, 11:27:56 AM »

Ironically, Tim, I'm arguing exactly the same thing in another thread. Know your audience. I guess the doctor should take his own medicine.

My game is for people who love cyberpunk, post-cyberpunk, and transhumanism literature/media and want to play games that address the tough questions that the best of those genres raise. I have a feeling that players need some help doing that -- that they think they know what cyberpunk is but they may only know a part of it or they may only remember the dark fetish of it and forget the real questions. So I want to remind them.

I do own Sorcerer & Sword and it was one of the main influences on my decision to write the section I'm researching. I would guess that Ron went through a similar decision process as I did/am. Am I right? Players think they know fantasy but they only know a small portion of the stuff the distributors are filing in the Fantasy section of the bookstore, and most of it is crap, and maybe a few dozen pages explaining the real thing might give players some ideas they hadn't considered before. Even though those players are hardcore fantasy fans, or so they think.

At the same time, I don't want to write a setting for them. There are too many cool settings that fit the genres and I don't want to limit them. Verge isn't about the genre; it's about a feeling of risk and reward and deciding what is important to you. It just plays well in those genres, so I thought I'd include some pointers to assist the players.

I want players to produce stories that tackle the kinds of issues that the best literature does, not just chase McGuffins through corporate hallways and computer networks. The System will take care of most of it, but I want to give them the "ammo" to get their minds working.

I do intend to cover the subgenres and more. I'm focusing it on cyberpunk, because that's the label people understand the best, but it'll do post-cyberpunk, transhumanism, SF, space opera, SWAT, and so on without much trouble. I prefer post-cyberpunk stuff, myself. Andy, imagine playing "Kill Bill" with Verge.

Verge fits in the same space as Unsung, though the latter does certain kinds of games much better than Verge, I suspect. Unsung lists a dozen or two genres it does just fine.

Tim, I like the idea of spreading out the genre information throughout the book. Did you do this in horizontal chunks or via a running sidebar?
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
timfire
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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2005, 11:48:14 AM »

Tim, I like the idea of spreading out the genre information throughout the book. Did you do this in horizontal chunks or via a running sidebar?

I intersperse my "essays" throughout the main text. (Is that what you meant by "horizontal chunks"?) For example, my essay on the genre of samurai of film is in the intro chapter. My chargen chapter has two essays, one on the role of the female warrior and one on ronin. Actually, I have the first chapter posted on my website, if you want to read it to see what I mean.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Sifolis
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« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2005, 11:57:41 AM »

id assume youd want to do enough "cyber punkish" genre to show people your not just biting cyberpunk. if i make a role playing game about dragons and dungeons, bet your ass i better do enough back-ground story work to show im not just stealing a game and calling it my own.

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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2005, 12:12:32 PM »

Adam --

I think it would be good, in terms of your example setting material rather than the literary review, to concentrate on developing Situation and Color rather than setting as it is conventially presented in an RPG.  I'm having trouble elaborating on this anymore except to point to the Polaris text that I sent you previously -- I'm trying to do just that, although I can't say if I succeeded or not.

yrs--
--Ben
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2005, 12:16:34 PM »

Tim, thanks for the pointer to the sample chapter of TMW. That's a great example of how to expose some background without laying it on too thick. Love it, by the way.

Sifolis*, I'm not sure I entirely follow you. Are you saying I'm in danger of ripping off R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk? I'm really not worried about that at all. Verge is so different from any commercially-successful cyberpunk-genre game that there's no serious danger that people will think I'm ripping them off. What do you mean by "do enough 'cyber punkish' genre," anyway? Do you mean setting material, or history of cyberpunk as a literary and cultural movement, or what?

Ben, I hope to do what you're suggesting. I want to avoid a literary review except perhaps as a sidebar. I'm not sure how to approach Situation so much, though. Is it Situation if I talk about how cyberpunk often establishes megacorporations as governments unto themselves, with traditional government sitting powerless in the background? I suppose it is. That's where I had planned to go with this kind of thing. Not so much with the Bruce Bethke and more with the stuff players can use in the game.

* Sifolis, can I convince you to put a real name in your signature? Your handle reminds me too much of something for which I'd need penicillin.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2005, 12:26:43 PM »

I mean Situation in the most technical sense.  Essentially, what sorts situations the characters will find themselves enmeshed in, and enough small-scale bits of setting to create those situations ourselves.

What I'm really suggesting is that you resist the impulse to have your setting "fit together" at all.  Rather, keep it to a series of small bits and images, as well as some clue as to basic conflicts that a Verge character might find themselves in.

For instance: "Some folks that Omnitech has already finished the Alan project, and created not one, but three super-intellegent, modular, self-reproducing program."

Followed, maybe, by "And wouldn't that explain that wierd phone call you just got?"

Rather than "Omnitech has a gross profits on nearly 1 trillion newbucks per corporate year.  In their main installation, they have 100,000 soldiers, commanded by lieutenant whathisface..."

I have a hunch that you're already up on this.

yrs--
--Ben
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2005, 12:48:59 PM »

Certainly more of the former example than the latter. This isn't a guidebook to a cyberpunk world in any sense. I think my background info will be:
  • some very brief literary background, possibly sidebarred
  • discussion of tropes like "blurring the distinction between man and machine" and what they might mean to characters
  • a bunch of sample starter ideas with a fair amount of juice but not a lot of meat
  • some vague notes on a sample setting, limited to around 4-5 pages
  • more background stuff sneakily slipped into images, examples, and explanations of mechanics
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Sifolis
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« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2005, 12:21:52 AM »

Hello again...

I wasnt talking about legal issues, i was talking about integrity of work. if you made a star-wra-esk game, and just left the understanding of your game rest on prior understanding of the movies...that would mean you made nothing but a rule system for their idea.

but if you detail your world, your story , your background...then  its cool. i dunno man....what?
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2005, 05:01:52 AM »

Sifolis, I'll ask you to take it on faith that I'm not ripping anyone off in my Verge game. You can read the game linked in my signature if you want to decide that for yourself based on facts. For now, this is not the topic I want to explore in this thread so let's drop it.

I'm asking how much background material is right for my game, hopefully drawn from insight from other designers based on work on their own games. Andy and Ben and especially Tim and Ron hit it right on the head with their responses.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2005, 05:55:08 AM »

Hi everyone,

I think we can call this one closed. Inquiry, responses, food for thought, a few links to check out.

Return to oven, more baking - I'm looking forward to the next round.

Best,
Ron
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