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Author Topic: "Capeless Capes", or using Capes for other genres  (Read 15040 times)
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2006, 04:22:08 AM »

I don't think that the concept of powers should be removed from a non-supers game, with a little effort you can come up with abilities that can act as powers for the characters, powers are central to the mechanic after all, but as Tony says you will always end end with that comicbook feel. Fantasy will be Epic Fantasy, SciFi will be Space Opera SciFi...it is unavoidable, and given the system, it shouldn't be avoided...its what makes it work.

I think this is a very good point.  Capes does a lot of things well, but one thing it doesn't do well is "tight" narration.  That is, narration that feels all of a piece, tightly integrated.  I think it has to do with the fact there is no GM, and no overarching thrust to the story at any time.  Stories in Capes are not designed, they accrete like coral reefs.  Lots of exciting fun stuff happens in Capes games, but coherency is not necessarily on the menu.

Therefore, there will always be a certain amount of stream of consciousness and chaos to Capes play.  Personally, I love this, but it is dead wrong for some kinds of stories.  Claustrophobic horror, for example, or film-noir thriller, where things need to be very well integrated, with little extraneous detail detracting from some central theme.  You could do Star Wars, but you couldn't do Blade Runner.  You could do Conan or Elric, but you would be hard-pressed to do Thomas Covenant. 
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drnuncheon
Member

Posts: 155

Some call me Jeff


« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2006, 06:15:52 AM »

I think this is a very good point.  Capes does a lot of things well, but one thing it doesn't do well is "tight" narration.  That is, narration that feels all of a piece, tightly integrated.  I think it has to do with the fact there is no GM, and no overarching thrust to the story at any time.

Wow. Totally different from our Capes game (which I suppose qualifies for this thread anyway, based on its Angel/Hellblazer/Dresden Files setup)- but I think that's because we as the players made a definite choice to do that.  Each time one of us set up a scene, we made a decision to have it follow on logically from the previous scene, and things were thus pretty closely related.

Given that, I wouldn't say that Capes itself is what doesn't do "tight" narration - that is, there's nothing in the system making it more difficult.  The tightness or incoherency of what's going on is completely up to the players, and if they're getting incoherent, then it's because of the choices they are making.

I may change my mind as the campaign goes on, but I suspect that even if one of us throws in a scene that's completely out of left field, the group will then deliberately move to weave it in to the story.

J
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Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2006, 06:55:14 AM »

Quote
Wow. Totally different from our Capes game (which I suppose qualifies for this thread anyway, based on its Angel/Hellblazer/Dresden Files setup)- but I think that's because we as the players made a definite choice to do that.  Each time one of us set up a scene, we made a decision to have it follow on logically from the previous scene, and things were thus pretty closely related.

I think that is all in the pre-game discussion and setup. I don't think there is anything stopping a core plot "shared" world environment working in Capes as long as it has been discussed prior to play. Structured plot lines can be useful, especially with newer or inexperienced players.

Quote
Given that, I wouldn't say that Capes itself is what doesn't do "tight" narration - that is, there's nothing in the system making it more difficult.  The tightness or incoherency of what's going on is completely up to the players, and if they're getting incoherent, then it's because of the choices they are making.

Agreed...the direction the narration takes is player dependant...if your group are like hyperactive 4 year olds then coherency is not likely (I speak from experience here.)

As long as the group have agreed to related scenes then things can be tight, but without that agreement things could get out of hand very quickly...its all social contract stuff at that point...
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Doug

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!" ...Midnighter
Uhlrik
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #18 on: May 10, 2006, 08:00:11 AM »

I don't think that the concept of powers should be removed from a non-supers game, with a little effort you can come up with abilities that can act as powers for the characters, powers are central to the mechanic after all, but as Tony says you will always end end with that comicbook feel. Fantasy will be Epic Fantasy, SciFi will be Space Opera SciFi...it is unavoidable, and given the system, it shouldn't be avoided...its what makes it work.

I don't disagree with the powers part of that statement at all.

I'm not sure about the comic-book feel or the epic fantasy thing (it kinda depends on what one means by epic fantasy) as I've not played the game enough to explore all of its potential ramifications. My take on epic roleplaying means a game that it is filled with big issues, lots of drama and impressive story developement. I think that your definition is similar.

As far as fantasy goes, I tend to be more interested in "low fantasy" stuff than "high fantasy" (to illustrate, I'm more interested im playing in a setting where magic and supernatural phenomena are somewhat subtle and special than someplace where it's as overwhelmingly commonplace as, say, Xanth)... but a "low-fantasy" game certainly can definitely be epic by my definition. I'm interested in thematic scope and implications, much less so in having manticoras wandering down the street chit-chatting with a half-drow about politics and that wacky wizard that leveled a mountain because he was in a bad mood, then pausing in their conversation to let a warrior that's busy extinguishing fifty glowing ninjas on his own pass them by.
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drnuncheon
Member

Posts: 155

Some call me Jeff


« Reply #19 on: May 10, 2006, 08:24:37 AM »

I think that is all in the pre-game discussion and setup. I don't think there is anything stopping a core plot "shared" world environment working in Capes as long as it has been discussed prior to play. Structured plot lines can be useful, especially with newer or inexperienced players.

That's the thing - we didn't actually talk about that.  Nobody said "OK, we have a structured plotline to go through today which is John's responsibility" or "here's the plot".  I kicked off with a fight scene, John provided the reason, Mel picked up the ball and took actions which led us into the next scene, where John's new character pulled us into the third, and by the time it got back around to me again I think all three of us know what the next scene was going to be.

And yet, we still don't know who sent the demon, why it was after the amulet, who this "Vriknu" is (and why his symbol is on an amulet I got from a cult that serves an entirely different demon), who Gabriel and Meredith are really working for...so in the sense of "this is what's going on behind the scenes", there's no kind of a structured plotline at all. 

In the sense of "this is the type of story we're going to tell", yeah, we discussed that and are all on the same page - but again, we didn't sit down and say "each scene has to follow from the last logically", it's just what we're doing.

Part of it may be related to the fact that the three of us have been gaming together on an almost weekly basis for the past 5 years, with each of us taking turns in the GM chair.

J
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #20 on: May 10, 2006, 09:06:24 AM »

Given that, I wouldn't say that Capes itself is what doesn't do "tight" narration - that is, there's nothing in the system making it more difficult.  The tightness or incoherency of what's going on is completely up to the players, and if they're getting incoherent, then it's because of the choices they are making.

There may not be anything that makes it more difficult, but there isn't anything to make it easier either.  As you said yourself, "the tightness or incoherency of what's going on is completely up to the players".  This is not true for all games.  Some games provide a lot of support for this.  Things that make it easier:

1) A GM (as in D20) or psuedo-GM (like the Dealer in Dust Devils or the Producer in PTA).
2) A fixed story structure (ala Shab al-Hiri Roach or Mountain Witch, or the episode structure in PTA).  
3) A mechanic that keeps drawing the story back to certain themes (Spirtual Attributes in TROS).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Capes needs any of the above as part of the rules.  I like Capes just the way it is.  What I am saying is that the Capes rulebook doesn't provide these things, so to support some kinds of story telling you will have to add things in.  It sounds like you and Doug bring in point 2 above through your group dynamic.  Also, it sounds like you have groups of players that are very disciplined and in-sync regarding the direction the story should take.  This has allowed you to be successful.

What I am getting at is this: sometimes, you are better off using another game, then trying to use a current game to tell a particular story you want to tell.  You can do fantasy in Capes, just like you can do fantasy in D20, TROS, Fate, GURPS, Donjon and who knows what else.  But each of these systems will have certain KINDS of fantasy it does well "out of the box", and others that it does poorly.  One set of elements (setting, characters, premise, plot lines, etc.) will be fantastic in one system but be dissapointing and frustrating in another.  

As an example, I think Michael Moorcock's Elric/Corum/Hawkmoon fantasies would work wonderfully in Capes; heck, there are big sections of a lot of the Elric stories that READ like a Capes game in progress.  However, even though the "power" level is much higher, I think Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time series would be poor fit for Capes; these books are more about interpersonal interactions that would be better done with, say, Fate.

So when you ask me "Can I do fantasy in Capes?" my answer has to be, "Sure, but what is it about the kind of fantasy you want to do that you think Capes will support better than the other excellent fantasy RPG's the world has to offer?"  If you can answer that question, then you know where to go with Capes to get what you want.
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drnuncheon
Member

Posts: 155

Some call me Jeff


« Reply #21 on: May 10, 2006, 12:50:59 PM »

What I am saying is that the Capes rulebook doesn't provide these things, so to support some kinds of story telling you will have to add things in.  It sounds like you and Doug bring in [a fixed story structure] through your group dynamic.

I'm not sure if we're talking past each other or what.  When you say a "fixed story structure", it sounds to me like you're saying it's the result of deliberate planning (that's certainly what your examples suggest), and my point was that no, we weren't doing that at all.  If it looks like there's a fixed story structure, that's only from the outside.

This is the sort of thing I'm talking about: "From the outside, it looks like we were really smart!"

Quote
Also, it sounds like you have groups of players that are very disciplined and in-sync regarding the direction the story should take.  This has allowed you to be successful.

I'm not sure I'd call it that either - I'm sure we all have very different ideas about the direction the story "should" take.  For example, neither of the other players had even considered the idea that Gabriel and Meredith were working for someone other than Joseph, even though it was plainly obvious to me based on their actions.

What we all share is the desire for a story.  Not any particular story - not my story or Mel's story or John's story - but a coherent story just the same.  So when we can make a choice that would either lead towards or away from a story, we're choosing to head towards one.


Now, the thing is, this happens in all roleplaying games, all the time.  If you're the DM, you can run D&D without a coherent story.  "Done with that fight?  OK, you're in the arctic and three yeti attack."  "Weren't we just fighting yuan-ti in the jungle?"  People generally don't do that because they have that same desire that we have for a story - even if it's just "four guys go into a dungeon and come out with mad loot".  In Capes, everyone is the GM, so if the story is incoherent, it is because the GMs have chosen to make it that way - they have all said (consciously or unconsciously) "this is how we want to play."

J
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Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #22 on: May 11, 2006, 01:22:16 AM »

Quote
That's the thing - we didn't actually talk about that.  Nobody said "OK, we have a structured plotline to go through today which is John's responsibility" or "here's the plot".  I kicked off with a fight scene, John provided the reason, Mel picked up the ball and took actions which led us into the next scene, where John's new character pulled us into the third, and by the time it got back around to me again I think all three of us know what the next scene was going to be.

Ah the hallmark of a good group...you're a lucky man...wish every group was like that!
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Doug

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!" ...Midnighter
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #23 on: May 11, 2006, 06:08:48 AM »

I'm not sure if we're talking past each other or what. 

After reading your comments, I realized that the word "incoherent" was a bad choice for what I was trying to say.  Better choices would have been "seemingly incoherent' or "nonlinear".  I did not mean to put words into your mouth regarding "fixed storylines" or otherwise.  I recognize that none of your group consciously planned anything that happened.  My point was that Capes doesn't HELP you keep to a more straightforward linear structure.  There is no support for it, and in fact the mechanics, if anything, support the opposite.   The fact that your group kept to a fairly linear structure in your first session is great, you all obviously enjoyed it, but doesn't alter my conviction that setting out to TELL a fairly straightforward linear story is not something Capes is good for. 

The subtitle of this thread is "using Capes for other genres".  My point is that just saying "Capes can work for fantasy" or "Capes can work for Sci-Fi" is not very helpful.  Capes would be good for SOME kinds of Fantasy, perhaps better than many other games at it.  But other kinds...not so much.  This is true for every RPG, Capes is not unique.  What I was trying to get at is WHICH kinds of fantasy Capes would be optimal for, and which it wouldn't, and what the features would be that differentiate between the two.  So for example, I think the following:

Capes is optimal for: Heroic Fantasy (ala Elric/Conan), Heavy Metal-style Euro-fantasy (ala Moebius), Episodic Fantasy (ala Xena or Hercules), maybe Mythological or Legendary Fantasy (as in Arthurian or Ancient Greek, I think this is sort of the territory Bret is heading for with his "Gods" hack).
Capes is not optimal for: Epic Fantasy (ala LOTR or Wheel of Time), High Setting Fantasy (that is, where knowledge and consistency of the setting is really important to the play experience, such as most D&D fantasy settings), Character-Based Fantasy (ala Thomas Covenant or Earthsea or Pern), Dungeon crawls.
Capes is neutral (i.e. depends more on the group then the game) for: Humorous/Parodic Fantasy (ala Discworld or Xanth).

And to me, the differences in the two lists can be summarized in two points:
* Capes is optimal for fantasy that is fairly non-linear or episodic in structure, and is not optimal for fantasy that is fairly linear or epic in structure.
* Capes is optimal for fantasy that concentrates on situation and/or colour, and is not optimal for fantasy that concentrates on setting and/or character.

The two points above would apply to ANY genre, really.
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drnuncheon
Member

Posts: 155

Some call me Jeff


« Reply #24 on: May 11, 2006, 06:38:13 AM »

My point was that Capes doesn't HELP you keep to a more straightforward linear structure.  There is no support for it, and in fact the mechanics, if anything, support the opposite.

I'm afraid I don't see it.  What's the reward for choosing non-linearity?  When it comes time for me to be the scene starter, what's my impetus to choose to set up a scene that's completely unrelated to what has gone before?

Maybe if I'm just starting out with Capes I want to do it to explore this great new freedom I have.  But if we're all sitting down to play our supernatural game, I'm going to choose scenes that fit in with the current characters and plotline, because I know that the other players and I are already invested in those characters and situations.  That means they'll fight harder and there'll be bigger rewards.

Sure, I could decide to set the next scene on a barren wind-swept plain just north of the Arctic Circle.  Or in Cambodia.  Or on the far side of the moon.  The rules won't stop me.  But I have to ask myself - why?  What do I get out of it?

Jeff
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #25 on: May 11, 2006, 09:11:45 AM »

I'm afraid I don't see it.  What's the reward for choosing non-linearity?  When it comes time for me to be the scene starter, what's my impetus to choose to set up a scene that's completely unrelated to what has gone before?

First of all, Jeff, do you think Capes would work equally well for all fantasy?  Do you think there are some kinds it would do better or worse at?  Why?  That is the question I am trying to get at.

To summarize in another way what I think would work well in Capes versus what I think wouldn't:  Capes works well for sub-genres that are created in the same way Capes is played.  Capes is played by people tossing off scenes, each one building on what has gone before, but with no one person really in control of what the thrust of the story is, and sometimes no one even HAVING a general direction in mind.  What kinds of fantasy are created like that?

* comic books (Doctor Strange)
* t.v. shows (Xena, Hercules, maybe Buffy)
* short story series (Elric, Conan)
* mythological or legendary stories (Arthur, Greek Gods)

what isn't?

* Novels, and especially epic novels (i.e. LOTR, Earthsea, or the Wheel of Time)
* Most other RPG fantasy settings (i.e. Forgotten Realms) because knowledge and coherency of setting is so important.

Now, as to you comment above, a particular part of a story can be related to what has gone before, and yet the relationship be non-linear (better I think, to say non-structured, I'm still trying to find the right words).  Think of your average Elric story.  It has Elric in it, and Stormbringer, Arioch, Tanelorn, etc.  So these stories are highly related to each other.   But on a story by story basis, they often have no connection to each other.  Moorcock certainly didn't write them in a structured fashion.  In many ways it makes no difference whatsover what order they are read in.  Elric was never planned by Moorcock, it just happened; it built up over time like a coral reef.

Now compare Elric to the Lord of the Rings.  Even though Tolkein bounces back and forth between several different plot lines in each book, and the book itself went through multple revisions, it is obviously a planned work.  It has a constant thrust throughout the whole thing.  The scenes don't just lead into each other, they drive forward, heading towards a conclusion.  I would argue they head towards an obvious conclusion; did anyone ever seriously think Frodo would FAIL to destroy the ring, the first time they read it?

The Capes mechanics support relating what is happening now to what else has happened, but it doesn't do this with any kind of structure at all (ok, not completely true, the veto and the comics code can be used to help with structure).  All that matters is the interest level I think what I am about to do will generate in the other players. I could be taking the story in a wildly different direction, but as long as it is interesting at the moment, I will be rewarded.  Moreover, if I am MISTAKEN about this being interesting, well, its too late.  Its already in the story.  In a way, the damage is already done. 
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drnuncheon
Member

Posts: 155

Some call me Jeff


« Reply #26 on: May 11, 2006, 10:33:54 AM »

First of all, Jeff, do you think Capes would work equally well for all fantasy?  Do you think there are some kinds it would do better or worse at?  Why?  That is the question I am trying to get at.

I think Capes would work best for any kind of character-heavy fantasy.  A Game of Thrones, or Erikson's Malazan, for instance.

I think Capes would work just fine for epic fantasy given one of two situations:
1) The players decided beforehand that's what they wanted to go for, or
2) The "epic plot" that builds up through each player's contribution is interesting enough that all the players stick with it.

(If the campaign doesn't meet either of those criteria, then I submit that the campaign is what is ill-suited and not the game system.)

Take the scene in Bag End: Gandalf wins the goal "Reveal the history behind Bilbo's ring".  Before that, Gollum was just a creepy encounter in a cave that one of the other players thought would be neat.  Afterwards, BAM! Significance.  From the outside, it looks the same as if the DM had lovingly crafted the history of the ring before deliberately placing it there to be found during the previous campaign.

Quote
The Capes mechanics support relating what is happening now to what else has happened, but it doesn't do this with any kind of structure at all (ok, not completely true, the veto and the comics code can be used to help with structure).  All that matters is the interest level I think what I am about to do will generate in the other players. I could be taking the story in a wildly different direction, but as long as it is interesting at the moment, I will be rewarded.  Moreover, if I am MISTAKEN about this being interesting, well, its too late.  Its already in the story.  In a way, the damage is already done.

People selectively edit stories all the time.  Just because it's in the game doesn't mean it's in the story, if you catch the difference there.

I get that you're saying that a strong central authority makes those kinds of games easier, because you've got one person responsible for continuity, planning, etc.  I don't think that makes Capes bad for those kinds of games, just different.  The players will have to (unsurprisingly) share the duties of the GM among them.

Assuming everyone wants to have a great Tolkienesque epic, let's say you decide to take the story in a wildly different direction on your next scene.  Isn't that pretty much the same as the players saying "Forget this whole Mordor gig, let's go sail across the sea and sack the Grey Havens?"  There's nothing stopping you from doing that sort of thing in D&D either, but somehow I don't think you'd say that D&D doesn't support the "epic story".

J
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #27 on: May 13, 2006, 09:11:36 PM »

Hmm. Now, only Tony moderates this forum, so don't look at me like I'm the boss-man, but...
Did you guys notice you've resurrected a thread from January? (Go back, look at the date on Syndey's last post.) I just wanted to point that out.
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Uhlrik
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #28 on: May 13, 2006, 09:51:58 PM »

Hmm. Now, only Tony moderates this forum, so don't look at me like I'm the boss-man, but...
Did you guys notice you've resurrected a thread from January? (Go back, look at the date on Syndey's last post.) I just wanted to point that out.

I did notice. I don't think it's a bad thing, if there's still stuff that's worth discussing.

;)
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #29 on: May 13, 2006, 10:04:14 PM »

Okay, just checking. It's a no-no on the Forge-at-large, if you didn't know.

But this is Tony's house, so whatever. I do think it's a worthwhile topic.
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