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Author Topic: Don't violate expectations  (Read 1875 times)
Gordon C. Landis
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« on: May 31, 2001, 06:54:00 PM »

OK, so I've been diving into the theory etc. discussions kinda heavy, and I feel the need to get a little more down to earth.  Here's an incident from a Talislanta game I was playing a while back that really hammered what's probably a fairly basic GM "tip" home for me:

We were escaping (with the evidence needed) from a heavily protected household/fortress (a Kang warrior clan, if you know Talislanta).  We'd gathered a bunch of ways to fly (potions, spells for some PC's, magic items, what have you) because we figured we'd have to hotfoot it out of there - one piece of evidence that was needed was a person (well, "person", and it's too complex to explain further) and we probablly wouldn't be able to get her quietly.

Sure enough, we ended up burning all our flight abilities and making a run for it.  When it became obvious that our pursuers were slowly gaining on us, we began to gain altitude (oh, 20,000 + ft) as one known aspect of our pursuers was their ability to diminish magic.

Eventually, they catch up, fighting occurs, we send our fastest ahead and pull a heroic delaying action, etc. etc.  Sure enough, the magic-dim effect makes our flight ability degrade once they get close.  After a short while, the GM says to one player "OK, the ground is starting to get close now, and you see the rest of the pursuit team - very nasty and very fast-running beasties - are waiting eagerly . . . "

People didn't take it well.  Our Tal games are pretty "narrativist" (in the broadest possible sense), and we're a pretty well behaved group, more than willing go with the flow - but (in retrospect) we'd directly planned to avoid this, and the GM (probably) just didn't register it strongly enough.  The story might be better with us close to the ground, but it just didn't work given that we'd established "great altitude".

Now, I suppose you could retoactively edit that altitude out of existence (lapsing back into the linear vs. non-linear resolution pattern question), but barring having established that . . . a GM needs to keep things consistent with established actions/reality.  As a practical matter, not as a principle . . . I never want to see someone in a bloody TALISLANTA game calculating distance fallen over x rounds with acceleration from gravity at 10 meters/sec/sec again!

Gordon C. Landis
(hmm . . . maybe something about falling back on Simulationism if/when Narrativism loses its' feel of verisimilitude . . . nah, I'm lapsing back into that theory stuff again)
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james_west
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2001, 08:38:00 PM »

In particular, if the players have made it really, really clear they're not interested in a particular complication you absolutely should obey their wishes. Seems like you're right: the GM here seemed oblivious to the fact that the characters had gone far out of their way to have this NOT HAPPEN, which seems like a strong clue that the players weren't interested.


[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-06-01 00:39 ]
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Mytholder
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« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2001, 03:49:00 AM »

At the same time, unless your players are very good and in-tune with the game goals, the GM has to maintain a certain level of authority. You don't have difficulties *poof* out of existence if the players aren't interested in the challenge, you just diminish them.

In this specific case, I'd have said "ok, you are losing altitude, and far far below, you can see the group pursuers. You'll be on the ground fairly soon unless you do something. What?"
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2001, 06:21:00 AM »

Hey there,

If I'm not mistaken, we are all agreeing that MODULATING the crisis-level of a scene, based on the interest levels of all at the table, IS a good thing.

Just how much to modulate is going to vary. For instance, (1)"OK, you get away," shelving the pursuit; vs. (2) "They're gaining, what do you do?" with the private commitment to having the pursuit fail as long as the PCs do SOMETHING; vs. (3) "Here comes the fight," because they were being pursued, dammit, and those bastards won't give up so easily.

Gareth is right - the GM does have authority here, specifically over the DEGREE of modulating among the range of 1-2-3. That is, if I may be so bold, what a GM does - what I call "being the bass player."

But my primary observation on this thread is that such behavior and modulation is a fine thing. I'd go so far as to say that it's obligatory in Narrativist play.

Best,
ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2001, 05:03:00 PM »

So I think I can summarize my point by saying "If the GM directly contradicts a 'fact' that the players think was established, trouble may well ensue".

Ron points out (or at least, what he wrote gave me the insight) that often such details aren't really the issue - especially in Narrativist play.  You don't have to focus on working the details - sidestep 'em, if that seems right.

With MY current group, I know you'd have to sidestep 'em with at least a little grace, but that's not too tough.  I think the point still stands - DON'T directly contradict.  Get creative, sure, that's fine - maybe even the whole point of some gaming styles.

And that is probably enough on that subject - from me, anyway.

Gordon C. Landis  
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