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Author Topic: indie flavored DnD. (long)  (Read 6080 times)
Jasper the Mimbo
Member

Posts: 110


« on: October 11, 2005, 01:57:40 PM »

"we don't have everyone we need for that game, let's start a new game with the people we have here."

Normally this isn't a problem, untill the people that weren't there hear about the game and say "that sound cool, can I play a....." no one wants to say no, so the game is expanded to include them. it ends up that you have 3 or 4 games being run with the same players, and no game can be run without the full group. Games that are fun and interesting ither get dropped on meet very infrequently due to schedule incompatability. This get very frusterating.

My friends and I usually find ourselves playing DnD. Probably because it's the system we know best. We play plenty of other stuff, but for pick up games, we usually fall back on DnD, so when I finally had enough of the problem mentioned above, I went to DnD as the medium of my proposed solution, which went like this:

"I am sick of (extended version of above rant, complete with Luke Crane style arm waving), so why don't we try this: You guys come up with a setting, and I'll run a game in it. These are my criteria: There must be a setting appropriate explination for me to instantly extract or insert charecters, and we come up with the setting before we discuss charecters at all."

For a few moments all I got were blank stares, then "Wow. Um, ok." For the next two hours all I do is take notes on thier conversation, mediate arguments and keep people from getting derailed. In less time than I thought it would take, we an amazingly detailed, complex framework of a very cool setting. Here's what we came up with

    Arabian Nights style setting
    one main city (possably the only city)
    very culturally diverse, with a live and let live policy regarding people who are differant than you.
    many small religious sects and cults, none of which are endorsed by the government.
    a very public power struggle between the sultan and the visier, who work togeather to keep the city running but are constantly trying to undermine each other's athority.
    complex beaurocratic government
    Gnolls (Hyena-men), goblins and lizard folk are the known non humans, and are all exepted in the city.
    Very overcrouded, noisy and dirty.
    Outside the city is endless desert full of ruins, half told tales and buried secrets.
    Magic is uncommon, but not out of the ordinary. Alchemy replaces most low end magic.

and finally, my stipulation.

    The gov't is gathering people with exeptional skills and sending them on various missions to collect various objects of power from out in the wastes. Each charecter is imprinted with a mark that allows them to be tracked and monitered by a complex and somewhat unstable system of magical transportation. The "travel grid" must have a mark to lock onto in order to send anything, which means charecters can always be brought back, but have to getr to their destination the hard way, unless somone else that is imprinted got there ahead of them. The system is experimental, taxing, and understaffed, which means it almost never works when the players want it to, but gives me a great way to yank charecters out if players don't show up.

All this came from a convesation I had sitting around a table at Gen Con, and having someone say "why don't you make your players create the world for you. Less work for you. Remember, lazyness is it's own reward."

Gotta go to class I'll post about the charecters and the game itself later. Thusfar my experiment is a complete sucess.
 
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1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.
Andrew Norris
Member

Posts: 253


« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2005, 03:40:16 PM »

That's really great to hear. I think that making people own up to their own issues (with gaming, or anything else) is really healthy, but sometimes it can be difficult -- framing the situation in terms of "We have an issue, let's figure out how to deal with it together" is a great approach that avoids pointing fingers.

It's possible that some of the players won't "get" the importance of this arrangement, and will just go, "Hey, cool setting, this should be fun." That's fine; they'll still enjoy themselves.

Our group hasn't done exactly what you've done here -- we've addressed various issues whose resolution has improved our play, but we've never done it so firmly as a prerequisite to starting play. I think I'll try it.
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Arturo G.
Member

Posts: 333


« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2005, 03:54:42 PM »


Nice collection of tenents!!
In Universalis this approach is part of the game mechanics, and after our first session last week I have a very nice feeling about it.

It's important for the players to be concerned about the setting/mood and situations of the game. If they help the GM to build them, much better.

I suppose that the next step could be to create appropriate characters for the setting and discuss them with the group. Thus, the GM may prepare some bangs.

Cheers,
Arturo
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MetalBard
Member

Posts: 40


« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2005, 12:36:34 PM »

Hey Jasper,

Good experiment.  It's always fun to have a setting that everyone can like.  One thing though - you may want to talk to your players more in-depth about what they want to DO in the setting.  If it fits in fine with your additions of government sanctioned dungeon crawl, that's great, but it's the sort of thing you want to establish before the game starts.  You don't want a couple of players bored because they didn't want to go around looking for forgotten artifacts when they're actually really interested in the sultan/vizier power-struggle and want to take sides (or make their own bid for power).

Just a few thoughts that may add a little more "indie flavor," as you call it, to your D&D.
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"If you've ever told someone how your day went, you can narrate." - Andrew Norris at the Forge on player narration

My name is also Andrew and I have a  blog
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2005, 04:36:24 PM »


I went to DnD as the medium of my proposed solution, which went like this:

"I am sick of (extended version of above rant, complete with Luke Crane style arm waving), so why don't we try this: You guys come up with a setting, and I'll run a game in it. These are my criteria: There must be a setting appropriate explination for me to instantly extract or insert charecters, and we come up with the setting before we discuss charecters at all."

Cool.  I'm pretty used to this since I'd been into shared GMing from Ars Magica and Theatrix in the past.  It's curious, though, while several games have completely shared ("troupe style") GMing -- I haven't seen this specific one published in games (i.e. players define the world, but still have a single GM who runs it). 

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- John
MetalBard
Member

Posts: 40


« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2005, 05:44:35 AM »


It's curious, though, while several games have completely shared ("troupe style") GMing -- I haven't seen this specific one published in games (i.e. players define the world, but still have a single GM who runs it). 



Burning Wheel definitely does this within the "character burning" session and it is laid out more explicitly in their Burning Sands supplement in the "world burning" section.  You may want to check it out.
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"If you've ever told someone how your day went, you can narrate." - Andrew Norris at the Forge on player narration

My name is also Andrew and I have a  blog
TonyPace
Member

Posts: 38


« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2005, 07:07:54 AM »

The mark is a very clever device, one that I shall mentally file away for future use!

You can happily rinse the setting elements of bureaucracy and power politics through the filter of Paranoia to create D&D missions with the stench of politics if that's what certain players really want - the great thing is that the setting brainstorming session probably made the players' agendas clearer.

I heartily recommend Universalis as a great way to work in this sort of style, as the coins help make sure the wallflowers don't get left out, and the Challenges really help hash out differences of opinion.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2005, 12:37:11 PM »

I'm currently doing this thing called OtherWorld, wherin we use Hero Quest rules, but a blank slate for the setting. Chargen is "As You Go" (AKA Develop In Play).  The result is that the world is defined only in play, with things like the player definitions of their character's homelands fleshing things out. Which is cool because it means you can just jump in and go, no waiting. Been loads of fun so far.

Mike
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Adam Dray
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Posts: 676


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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2005, 09:09:28 PM »

A bunch of indie games do the "players define the world, but still have a single GM who runs it" thing, for different definitions of "world." Setting elements, in any case. My Life with Master starts play with a player-created definition of the Master, his demesne, and the town to some degree. Verge defines the world almost exclusively through the character's relationships to it. And Universalis, of course.

Really, you only need as much world as is meaningful to the players. Any more is wasted. And I say players on purpose instead of saying characters. Characters don't have real feelings about the world.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
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Mikael
Member

Posts: 206


« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2005, 10:43:25 PM »

Hello Jasper

Reading the description of the interesting system your players came up with, there was one thing that seemed left out. Why would the system yank out specific people while delivering others at a specific time? Just saying that the transport system works imperfectly - apparently randomly - is one option, but your mention of heavy politics & bureaucracy suggested another.

Create two forms. One is filled by the character as a request to be sent on a mission, with the most pressing of reasons. The other is filled in by some NPC - relative, business partner, rival - to request that the character is brought back to attend to some (unfinished?) business. When starting a session of play, players who were not present in the previous session have to fill in both the PC and NPC sheets for their characters, ideally referring to other events and characters already introduced by other players. Then, before play, you read out the NPC sheets of the players who were there in the previous session but could not make it today, and use the PC sheets to introduce the new characters. Thus the randomness of the transportation is explained by the slow grinding of the byzantine bureaucracy, and if you record all the relationships described on the requests on some kind of R-map, the players will self-evolve a backstory for their characters.

The R-map could affect things on the mission (specific items sought, specific NPCs to kill and have their stuff taken from them, or some interesting NPC trasported in to become part of the party). You could also use the map to stage adventures within the city, as you should soon have plenty of material & inspiration. If nothing else, a simple "appreciation feast" for the city´s greatest heroes could quickly turn ugly or become interesting in other ways.

Just a thought, a way to add little bit more of that good ol´ indie flavor. Old Spice?

Cheers,
+ Mikael
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Ben Lehman
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Posts: 2094

Blissed


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« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2005, 01:25:52 AM »

Hey, Jasper --

Who'all's playing?  How are you solving the same ol' scheduling problems?

yrs--
--Ben
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Jasper the Mimbo
Member

Posts: 110


« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2005, 04:00:30 PM »

Wow, thanks for the feedback guys. Sorry it's taken so long to get back to this. So here goes with the play report.

After the world had been loosely spun into being the players started working on characters and weaving their backstories into the setting they had just come up with.

Before I continue I should mention that my group decided that they wanted to play with "Geshtalt" type characters. For those of you unfamiliar with this rules variant, it basically means that every time a character levels up they get a level in two different classes, taking the better of the class features if they are different and getting the abilities of both classes. Powerful yes, but I'm finding that I really like it. It gives the players the options of a high level party with the fragility of a low level one. I get to pull out the big guns and not slog through the three hour combat it takes to challenge a 200 hp barbarian. They also decided that most people in the world would not be Geshtalt, and that everyone needed some reason for being what they were.

So here's what they came up with:

Jeh'ran, played by Calder
Fighter/ Rogue.
Perpetually sleepy looking morally flexible sword for hire working for the criminal underground. In reality he works for the government. He has had a false identity hypnotically layered over his real one. He's unknowingly reporting everything he sees and does.

Ja'helad, played by Tyler
Barbarian/ Paladin
A nomad conscripted into the army. Sent to defend a caravan that had taken refuge in a ruined temple and had been holding off raiders, his unit was trapped inside the temple by a sandstorm. He volunteered to explore the catacombs for water sources. He found a fountain guarded by a seemingly crazy old man who bade him drink. The water imbued him with holy energy, strengthening and healing him. he took the old man back to his commander, and the old man told the commander exactly when the sandstorm was going to end, where the raiders would be and what they would do. After that, the unit took to calling him "the Prophet" and after they had served their tours, all returned to become priests and followers. Ja'helad serves the prophet willingly, but is increasingly worried about the zeal of his brothers, and not knowing what god they actually follow is a bit unnerving.

Nemo, played by Anders
Monk/ Sorcerer
An amnesiac who wandered out of the wastes covered in cryptic scars and tattoos written in nearly every known language and many unrecognisable ones that all describe death and doom. Somewhat insane, and totally unaware of the concept of consequence, he is a creature of instinct, and occasionally, profound insight.

Achmed played by Eli
Scout/ Psion
The son of a noble tutored in an ancient art of waking dreaming, which seems to be able to effect his abilities in unearthly ways. Woke up one morning inside the sultans dungeon in a body that was not his own.

The first game ended with all the characters having been thrown in jail, I'll give a more detailed report later, but for now it's off to rehearsal.
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List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.
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