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[Misery Bubblegum] What Truths matter?

Started by TonyLB, September 29, 2005, 08:13:28 PM

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I've been trying to codify the thoughts discussed in Opinion and Truth.  The problem I'm hitting is that "Truth" is such a wide category that it's almost impossible to get sensible mechanics that deal with all the possibilities.  It's simply not specific enough to either the genre or the game's goals.

I've been trying to think how to narrow it down.  What Truths, what revelations about a person, are important?  Which are trivial?  Clearly something like "Had an appendectomy" is going to be irrelevant to almost any game, no matter how strongly it supports or contradicts people's Opinions on the subject.  There just isn't anywhere to drive story from there.

My initial thought is that the important Truths are people's motives.  Sydney Bristow's big secret was that she was a double-agent ... that her motive on a mission was not the motive of her superiors.  Wesley's motivation for aiding the team turns out to be more about saving the world than supporting his friends ... ouch.  And, of course, endless teen romances hinge on finding out whether the girl "likes me" or "LIKES ME likes me."

Mechanically, when you reveal a Truth, you are taking an existing motive ("I love guys") and making it public knowledge.  While it's secret, only the people who know about it can call upon the Truth for mechanical support.  When it goes public, anybody can call upon it for mechanical support ... even (especially!) against the person whose motive it is.  But they have to pay a toll, much as they do when they use someone else's Opinion.

I think this can be balanced such that it's a win-win proposition:  Keeping your motives secret is powerful.  Having them revealed is also powerful, but in a wholly different way.  Sometimes you'll want to do one, sometimes you'll want to do the other.  But, of course, you won't always have the final say in the matter, because it's a game and people can (and will) oppose your intent for your own character.

But before I dig into how to balance this:  Do you think limiting the Truth to these Truths is too limiting?  Are there other emotional contexts (besides motivation) that need to be accounted for?  Is there any purpose to giving mechanical reinforcement to facts that have no emotional resonance?
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Stefan / 1of3

Of course you need stuff like love, hatred, treason and desire. As you consider them motivations, that's no problem.

There may be more, though. "Had an appendictomy" is probably irrelevant. "Got HIV" is probably not.


Okay, I'll accept that provisionally.  But why?  How is it important to the actual story?

HIV ... well, that's pretty heavy.  I'm very aware of my vast ignorance of the emotional complexities involved there, and it makes it hard for me to speak freely.  Can we grab another example?  "I'm pregnant."  That's a classic, right?  So what does it do to the story?  What types of scenes and story arcs does it drive?

Right out of the gate, it raises questions:  How does the prospective mother feel about being a mother?  How does the prospective father feel about being a father?  What does this mean to the relationship between the mother and father?  What does this mean to the relationships of those people with other people?  What will it take for Buffy to prove she can still kick ass when she's eight months along?  How far is Sydney willing to go to protect her unborn child?  If Connor has to choose between his child and the life of an innocent then which means more to him, family or decency?

In real life, pregnancy also drives a huge number of other scenes:  morning sickness, pre-natal visits, interminable advice from the grandparents-to-be, and so on and so forth.  But most of these scenes are so terribly boring to an outsider that they are (rightly!) left out of stories.

What does it take to make these scenes interesting to an observer?  Let's take a simple example:  shopping for baby clothes.  This is us, putting little outfits into a shopping cart.  Boring, boring.  This is mom, picking up a frilly outfit and showing it to dad with a big smile on her face.  This is dad ... faking enthusiasm.  And suddenly, BAM, the scene is interesting (at least to me).  Why?  What's going on there?
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Josh Roby

I think your motivation is one important kind of opinion/truth, but I'm pretty sure there are others.  I'd nominate identity as another one -- who a character "really" is is an important question, especially in the teen romance sort of genre you seem to be targetting in Misery Bubblegum.  Your Hogwarts example "Joe is gay" or the upthread example of "Buffy is Pregnant" both fall under this.  To go a little more classical, how many Faulkner characters are potentially-perhaps part black?  Or to return to Hogwarts, "Snape is innocent" or "James Potter was a bully."

Emotion might be another, but if it is, there are very hazy lines between emotion and identity and between emotion and motivation.

All those 'boring' scenes you outline are only boring when they are only the thing they are -- if it's just a pregnant girl puking into a toilet, it's nothing notable.  You need to tie in the boring scene with something that matters to the character (their motivations, their identity, other as-yet-unidentified bits).  If it's a pregnant girl puking into a toilet on the day of the Big Presentation, you're tying into her motivations to succeed.  If it's a soon-to-be mother shopping and trying to get the baby's father to get interested while he's secretly terrified, you're tying into his identity of being scared to be a father.

If these motivations and elements of identity were established prior to play, you'd be setting up conflicts -- you know the character cares about X, so you throw an obstacle at X.  As I understand you have things formulated, these motivations and elements of identity are being assigned to the characters in play, which... I think means you're not really setting up conflicts, per se.  Or perhaps you are, in play, creating conflicts from the ground up, proposing both what the characters might care about and what obstacles might be thrown at it.  I don't have a good enough handle on your project to say that with any sort of confidence, however.
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog


Hrm ... Identity (whether true or false ... clearly Snape believes he's an innocent) and Motivation acting in concert, and each separately and together also acting with Opinion.  It's a tripod.  If your Identity is "I'm the virtuous Slayer," and you've got a Motivation "I love mayhem" and everyone has the Opinion "She's super cool," then you've got a pretty shallow character right there.

Oh shit.  You've got Faith, as she was first introduced.  And I didn't even realize that as I wrote it up... I was thinking about Buffy.  Which makes what I was about to say all the more poignant.

The moment you see one of those mutually supporting tripods in action, the temptation is to knock out one leg and see what happens.  So, with Faith, people dump "She's super cool" and take "She's annoying" and then later, "She's reckless/psychotic."

Now Faith and/or Buffy has got an unstable tripod there, big-time.  Both "I'm the virtuous Slayer" and "She's psychotic" support (and are supported by) "I love mayhem."  But the two can't co-exist with each other.  Opinion has offered an alternate explanation of (in this case) Motivation that opposes Identity.  Now her motivations have become a battlefield between the two other legs of the tripod.

Buffy bought down her early motivation and bought out all the opposing Opinions, all in order to preserve her Identity.  She became less reckless, learned to detest the mayhem she's so good at, and along the way became miserable and unmotivated.  Yay misery!

Faith went a different path.  Bit by bit she abandoned her identity as virtuous, working the strength of the other two legs of the tripod.  Eventually she had to accept "Faith is no god-damned good and never will be" as her Identity (thank you Wesley!) and even to revel in it.  Her motivation drifted from "I love mayhem" to "I love to hurt and be hurt."  Now she had a stable tripod again, along entirely different lines ... right up until a certain brooding angsty hero decided to knock a leg out of her tripod and to come at her with the Opinion "Faith is soul-sick and needs redemption," which (again) explained her motivation very nicely but contradicted her tough-bad identity.

Okay, I'm really, really liking this general concept.  I'll try to match a dice-economy to it.  In the meantime, folks, keep talking!  Brilliant stuff, which I will shamelessly purloin!
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Josh Roby

Quote from: TonyLB on September 30, 2005, 02:28:37 PMOh shit.  You've got Faith...
Tony, I'm not supposed to laugh out loud at work. ;)

While I can see you've got the kernel of a mechanic that is loping along ahead of you, I do wonder about your three legs and their mutual exclusivity -- that is, Motivation and Identity are two things that may be related, but they're still distinct.  Opinion, on the other hand, is not of a kind with the other two.  People have Opinions about my Motivation and Identity all the time, and in play, wouldn't people be assigning Opinions to other people's characters which specficially impact their Motivations and Identity?

Or, to look at it another way, are Motivations and Identity accessible to the other players at the table, or is Opinion theirs to assign and Motivation and Identity are things that I can assign to my character?  Is Opinion their 'access port' while the other two are my avenues of keeping some control over my own character?  How does the system resolve people having Opinions about my true loyalties (Motivation) or who I really am (Identity)?
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog