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Torturing the Youngest in the Group's PC

Started by Judd, September 30, 2005, 10:41:45 PM

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Judd

So, everyone else in the game has to be late and its just me and the youngest person in the group, Kolja.  He's a junior in high school and we've been gaming together off and on for just over a year now or so. 

He's a huge Burning Wheel fan and we made contact on the BW forum.  Nice guy, fun gamer to have at the table.  He sat in on a one-shot I ran and then sat in for when we played Dogs in the Vineyard.  When I started a BW Revised campaign, I didn't even think of not calling him.  He was excited to play and fun to play at the table with, exactly the type of gamer you want at your table.

When I was his age, I too was playing with gamers much older than me.  A few of the other people at the table are or were teachers.  I make a real effort not to be a condescending prick to him in any way; I think we all do.

There were a few things his character could get done on his own this game. Kolja's playing a sneaky wizard with a few spells and some serious skulk on.  So, he stalks the baron's nephew as he hits the town with a few knights in tow.

The dice don't go his way.  The knights are on to him.

They roll a stealth check to turn the hunter into the hunted. They fail. 

He leads them to an abandoned building in the slums, a set for a past game's scene.  Kolja's skulker sets a trap.  He comes out on the bad end of the fight.  The knight gets a brutal lock on and chokes his PC into unconsciousness.  I played up the creepiness of being choked unconscious but a brutal knight of a hated baron.

Luckily, it was right about then that players started showing up.

So, they ask his character questions and he won't answer 'em.

He tries to escape but again the dice eff him, as he fails a tax roll for a spell cast and fall unconscious, a few steps from possible freedom.  Honestly, it was great.

The other players are showing up and there is an entirely plausible way they could know that Kolja's PC was caught.  The player with the way to find out asks for that scene to be played.  We play it and the PC's start moving and shaking to get his PC out of the Baron's dungeon, using mostly political leverage.  Great stuff.

But still, its a while until his PC will be out.

So, uncomfortable with narrating his PC's torture, I asked him to do it.  I'd imagine this idea came to me from reading Trollbabe and from being a kid and my mom telling me to set my own punishment when I had done something wrong.

Kolja lit into it, talking about how they were peeling his skin away and how his character's face was a mangled mess and how they were using herbs to make him even more keenly aware of the pain.

Great stuff.  We even did a trait vote, prompted by Kolja to give him a trait for it ( I forget the trait's name, its a call-on for Intimidation, though) and he got a Difficult test for his Steel.

His PC was tortured but he wasn't.  I was comfortable with the way it played it and I think Kolja liked the way it added some depth to his character.

Win-win.

Chris Geisel

Really awesome AP. Kolja sounds like a great player to have on board, and it sounds like you made a really good choice with the torture narration. What could've been a power-trip for the GM turned into an awesome bit of player empowerment, culminating in the mechanical reward for his participation.

And I was expecting another post along the lines of abzu's "Anatomy of a Railroad", reminiscing about how you and your buddies used to gang up on a little brother's PC or something. Must be my guilty conscience.
Chris Geisel

Judd

Quote from: Chris Geisel on September 30, 2005, 10:50:41 PM
And I was expecting another post along the lines of abzu's "Anatomy of a Railroad", reminiscing about how you and your buddies used to gang up on a little brother's PC or something. Must be my guilty conscience.

I could've written about the guys who we used to game at's little portly brother and how they used to berate him and call him fat when he'd come in and ask politely for a cookie from our game table ( which would've led to a discussion of how they talked to their mother, making everyone at the table uncomfortable).

But I'm not sure how I could've stretched that into a whole post.

Judd

(and when I say used to, I mean when I was 14)

Eric Provost

Thanks for the story Judd.  It's always nice to hear tales like that.  It's funny how certain events like PC torture are solid deprotagonizing in the hands of anyone but the player, but in the hands of the player it's a powerful tool to focus the spotlight on the character and tell the rest of the players a little more about them.

-Eric

Judd

Quote from: Eric Provost on September 30, 2005, 11:49:12 PM
Thanks for the story Judd.  It's always nice to hear tales like that.  It's funny how certain events like PC torture are solid deprotagonizing in the hands of anyone but the player, but in the hands of the player it's a powerful tool to focus the spotlight on the character and tell the rest of the players a little more about them.

-Eric

Thanks, Eric. 

There is this thing in the game, I call it the Darth Vader Ballot Box.  Anyway, its a wooden box with a metal lock and whenever anyone spends an artha point, they get to vote on who they think will turn evil.  When we reach a certain point in the campaign, we will open the box, count the votes and see which PC is the new Big Bad, the players will hunt down that character and do battle, after which the campaign ends.

This has really changed the game.  Players forge friendships between characters and establish themselves as bad-asses just in case they are the ones who go to the dark side, so their PC is a bad-ass villain.

I think Kolja took this opportunity to make for a scar that could be scary if his PC turns out to go to the Dark Side.

Eric Provost

QuoteI think Kolja took this opportunity to make for a scar that could be scary if his PC turns out to go to the Dark Side.

Sweeeet!

Sydney Freedberg

Quote from: Paka on September 30, 2005, 11:59:15 PM
the Darth Vader Ballot Box.....whenever anyone spends an artha point, they get to vote on who they think will turn evil.  When we reach a certain point in the campaign, we will open the box, count the votes and see which PC is the new Big Bad, the players will hunt down that character and do battle, after which the campaign ends.

Write that up so we all can use it. (Yeah, it sounds simple, but there've got to be a lot of informal things you guys all know that make it work, right?) Or, hell, write your own game built around that mechanic.

Andy Kitkowski

So, uncomfortable with narrating his PC's torture, I asked him to do it.

That's the gold right there.

If more GMs/DMs thought of that advice, right there, I would have had a few less uncomfortable gaming sessions, and I surely wouldn't have left one of my gaming groups back in college.

Uncomfortable situation (gratuitous sex, torture, horror, etc)? Just have the PC narrate it and roll with that.  They get to react how they would really react, they react within their boundaries, and who knows, they might come up with something totally excellent.

-Andy
The Story Games Community - It's like RPGNet for small press games and new play styles.

Marc Majcher

That was a great story, Judd.

Quote from: Paka on September 30, 2005, 11:59:15 PM
There is this thing in the game, I call it the Darth Vader Ballot Box.  Anyway, its a wooden box with a metal lock and whenever anyone spends an artha point, they get to vote on who they think will turn evil.  When we reach a certain point in the campaign, we will open the box, count the votes and see which PC is the new Big Bad, the players will hunt down that character and do battle, after which the campaign ends.

This is such an insanely awesome idea.  I'm totally stealing it.

Callan S.

I'm trying to think just why it's better for the player to narrate the torture.

I'm guessing it's really hard to take a negative description from someone without feeling theres an agenda of some type from them. However, one does want to face the full brunt of that negativity, either for creative or gamist penalty reasons. If someone is beating you, you start to think of what you need to do to avoid that beating rather than examinging the beating itself. However, if someone else sets you up for a beating but leaves it to you to execute it, you avoid this. Indeed, since your in charge of the beating, you can really get into examining/exploring it.

Hows that?
Philosopher Gamer
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Judd

Quote from: Callan S. on October 04, 2005, 03:53:10 AM
I'm trying to think just why it's better for the player to narrate the torture.

I'm guessing it's really hard to take a negative description from someone without feeling theres an agenda of some type from them. However, one does want to face the full brunt of that negativity, either for creative or gamist penalty reasons. If someone is beating you, you start to think of what you need to do to avoid that beating rather than examinging the beating itself. However, if someone else sets you up for a beating but leaves it to you to execute it, you avoid this. Indeed, since your in charge of the beating, you can really get into examining/exploring it.

Hows that?

Um, I guess.

The fact was that he was caught.  I thought it paid not to kill him, as that was the most boring story option and it made sense to torture him for a while.

But I didn't feel comfortable.  Judd, that's me, didn't feel comfortable torturing Kolja's character.  Exploration, gamism, agenda...ffft.

I didn't want to do it and so I asked him to do it.  In doing this something that made me feel comfortable gave his character a trait that he entirely digs.  He got to make his character a little more bad-ass and tie himself to a soon-to-perish villain.

Storn

Quote from: Andy Kitkowski on October 01, 2005, 12:52:59 PM
So, uncomfortable with narrating his PC's torture, I asked him to do it.

That's the gold right there.

If more GMs/DMs thought of that advice, right there, I would have had a few less uncomfortable gaming sessions, and I surely wouldn't have left one of my gaming groups back in college.

Uncomfortable situation (gratuitous sex, torture, horror, etc)? Just have the PC narrate it and roll with that.  They get to react how they would really react, they react within their boundaries, and who knows, they might come up with something totally excellent.

-Andy

Agreed.  That is an awesome way of handling it.  I hope I can keep that in the back of my mind when a similar situation comes up.


Sydney Freedberg

Quote from: Paka on October 04, 2005, 04:34:51 AM
I didn't feel comfortable.  Judd, that's me, didn't feel comfortable torturing Kolja's character.  Exploration, gamism, agenda...ffft.

Nicely put. All the rules and techniques and theories exist only to serve the real people sitting around the table -- and not to serve them as bludgeons with which to bully each other, but to serve them as instruments to create something fun and ideally even illuminating together. There is no dishonor in saying, "guys, I just don't like where this is going": In fact, that's the kind of honesty that's essential to make everything else work.

(All this is straight Ron Edwards, of course).

Judd

Quote from: Sydney Freedberg on October 04, 2005, 04:42:12 PM
(All this is straight Ron Edwards, of course).

Right, right.  Sex and Sorcery's lines and veils are rattling around in my head somewhere too.  No doubt.