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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 184 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: How do you reduce Sim prep  (Read 16188 times)
John Kim
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« Reply #30 on: January 22, 2006, 02:45:01 PM »

Here are some answers to particular questions...  There is some discussion of the big question of players directly narrating background (i.e. use of Director stance), but I'll leave that for another post. 

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3) Reduce the size of the scope.  Seriously, this might seem a bit obvious, but imagine an outpost a quarter of the size (i.e. fewer NPCs) attacked by fewer monsters -- and perhaps a smaller number of slightly more powerful monsters.  A big shift in my gaming over the years has been reducing the size of the scope.  So where before the PCs might have been based in a big city, now they are based in a small village.
I think this is one of the best suggestions so far, and I wish I'd thought of it myself. My question for you is how do you do something like house breaking in Lanhkmar (Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser series by Fritz Leiber) or capture and escape from the Death Star (Star Wars Ep IV) without railroading. We are talking some big places. Actually, the big place thing is one of my biggest problems. Same question for Joshua.

The short answer is: you don't.  Don't expect to be able to do any particular fictional tropes in your campaign.  What works in a movie or novel isn't always best for an RPG.  More specifically, if you want to do prepared setting (as opposed to pure No-Myth-of-Reality improv), don't set your games scattered across a moon-sized space station or giant sprawling city.  Try to find reasons for your PCs to stay within a limited set of areas.  If you would really like a big city, try to find reasons to generally stay within a particular neighborhood, or perhaps in the royal palace, or somesuch.  However, you have to accept that by making the scope bigger, you're inherently reducing the detail. 

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2) As other people have said, involve the players.  There are good reasons to limit player knowledge of the opponents, but in the above example you could easily have had the players help with keeping track of the NPCs in the keep.
Actually, I did have the Players playing the NPCs during the big fights. Are you suggesting that I should have had the Players doing the prep on those NPCs as well?

In short, yes.  If the players are running these NPCs, then they clearly know their stats.  So you don't lose any surprises or simulation by having the players prepare them as well. 

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4) Use pregenerated materials.  I tend to set games in the real world, because this lets me use real maps, real cultures, and so forth.  For my Vinland game, I used USGS maps.  However, there are also options for fantasy.  These days for D&D you can buy PDFs for a ridiculous number of things: customized sets of treasures, items, opponents, and so forth.
I do and I intend to make my own for my own game. The question I always have is how much is a good thing vs. padding a system. To be sure .pdfs turn the whole distribution thing on it's head so the answer might be more is better.

Just to clarify again -- my suggestion is to not make up your own, but to use material written by other people where possible.  Making your own all-original material can be very fun and satisfying, but if you really want to reduce your prep time, it helps to use material which other people wrote.  This can be books out of the library, PDF roleplaying products, and so forth. 

My rule of thumb is that anything which you can use directly in your game is not padding.  If it is of marginal or questionable use, then don't get it. 

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5) Simplify the numbers.  A simpler system in general is ideal, but even with a system like D20 there are options.  There are software programs for handling sheets for NPCs, including templates.
A good thought, but how do you simplify the characters or the places or the things? And how simple is too simple. I don't like cardboard cut out caricatures. How would you typify the line between simple and flat. Is there a rule of thumb?

Well, there isn't a rule of thumb because everyone's taste differs.  Try not to detail everything beforehand unless you're sure you're going to use that detail.  I have a small set of templates which I use for most characters -- and also a list of randomized names with space for notes beside each name.  During play, if a new character is called for, I take from the list of names -- but I also write in the line beside it who I came up with. 

Between session, characters from the name list who are important may have their character sheet written up in more detail based on the list.  On the other hand, many minor characters can be interesting in play but still just a standard template stats. 

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- John
Josh Roby
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« Reply #31 on: January 22, 2006, 05:06:27 PM »

In a GM created environment you can explore Man against “X” from the POV of the “Man”. I don’t think it is quite so easy to do in a collaborative story telling environment. And not Sim as I understand it. Having limited ability to affect the collaborative environment through your Character and yet still doing so, I feel, is the fun in roleplaying gaming as I understand it.

Ah, this might be the problem.  You seem to be equating "Players explore a predetermined setting via character avatars" as Sim.  What you've got is a knot of techniques -- tight character identification, exploratory emphasis on setting, player power constrained by character stats, GM prepwork, player ignorance of that prepwork, and absolute authority of the GM so armed with said prepwork.  None of these techniques are necessary components of Sim.  "All" Sim is is a directed effort to create an experience that consistently emulates a genre (including but not restricted to realism) as understood by the players.  While your knot of techniques is certainly one way to go about getting that, they are  not Sim.  Your techniques are a ladder; Sim is the ledge you're climbing for.

I should apologize; I didn't understand what you were asking for.  You weren't asking for alternatives to extensive GM Prep; you seem to see this as a necessary feature of your preferred means of play.  What you were asking for were means to mitigate, reduce, compact, or otherwise streamline that process.  My personal experience was that that process was, by definition, time-consuming, and thus I ditched it.  If it's important to you to keep it, I don't think I have much advice for you.

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Perhaps we need to use a different word that Color because I am getting the impression that implicit in the definition of the a word is the idea that it does not have a concrete effect ons the shared information space.

That is the definition.  Color is included in the fiction, is determined by the system, but does not itself have an effect on the system which determines what material goes into the fiction.  Your storm example is not Color.  You had said that you would be comfortable allowing players to determine "flavor" -- would you be comfortable letting the players prepare that storm and its attendant effects on their later actions?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #32 on: January 22, 2006, 07:24:31 PM »

Hi Chris,

Oh, I should have said I like arts and craft as well - in a similar issue to you, I don't like spending the time on it only for it to get used up in an almost ephemeral way.

Quote from: Chris
Quote from: Callan
Also, how does 'all of us at the table must be windows for one another' feel for you? Do you have any concerns over feedback issues, eg a player says "Don't worry, from the looks of it there are just kobolds at this level", but instead of this being taken as an estimation of game reality, it becomes the game reality. The ability to judge if he was right, has been lost?

Big time! This is in fact one of my biggest problems with the idea of co prep with your Players. I can see how it might engage them, but I can also see how it might ruin the game too.
Forgive me another example to help me ensure were on the same page: Imagine that your roleplay is about stockbrokers trying to choose the right stocks to invest in from the information they have.

You as GM create all those news reports and info. However, you just don't have the time for generating all that info.

But, if the players invents (some of) the information - well, unless it's just treated as background colour, the player himself is inventing (part of) the solution (as all pertinent facts tend to effect all solutions, like a butterfly effect). After he's done this, even if he chooses the right stock to invest in, how much has he actually learned about this imaginary stock market? How much has he learned, compared to how much he's merely satisfied his own preconceptions of how this stockmarket works?

Indeed, at it's worst, it's an incestuous feedback loop. Where the player own perceptions are reinforced because 'they faced risk', when really the players perceptions were (to some extent) in control of that risk to begin with.

Way off?
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
CSBone
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Posts: 65


« Reply #33 on: January 22, 2006, 08:43:42 PM »

John, Joshua,
I'm not ignoring your posts, but you deserve answers with some thought.

Callan,
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Imagine that your roleplay is about stockbrokers trying to choose the right stocks to invest in from the information they have.

You as GM create all those news reports and info. However, you just don't have the time for generating all that info.

But, if the players invents (some of) the information - well, unless it's just treated as background colour, the player himself is inventing (part of) the solution (as all pertinent facts tend to effect all solutions, like a butterfly effect). After he's done this, even if he chooses the right stock to invest in, how much has he actually learned about this imaginary stock market? How much has he learned, compared to how much he's merely satisfied his own preconceptions of how this stockmarket works?
On the nose. Please continue.

C. S. Bone
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Silmenume
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Posts: 467


« Reply #34 on: January 23, 2006, 04:15:07 AM »

Hey Callan,

I have only skimmed this thread at the most superficial level, but your above post is spot on in my book as well.
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
CSBone
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #35 on: January 24, 2006, 06:17:26 AM »

It would seem I’m working backwards….

John,
Thank you for your suggestions. They are beginning to  make sense. I’m going to put together a long rambling post with examples to make sure I get it.

Joshua,
Your ability to parse incoherence into useful dialog is astounding…this is not an ability I possess.

So lets try this again.

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You seem to be equating "Players explore a predetermined setting via character avatars" as Sim.
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"All" Sim is is a directed effort to create an experience that consistently emulates a genre (including but not restricted to realism) as understood by the players.  While your knot of techniques is certainly one way to go about getting that, they are  not Sim.  Your techniques are a ladder; Sim is the ledge you're climbing for.
<audible sigh>Every time I think I’ve got a handle on the local usage of certain words, I find I’m wrong.
 
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What you've got is a knot of techniques -- tight character identification, exploratory emphasis on setting, player power constrained by character stats, GM prepwork, player ignorance of that prepwork, and absolute authority of the GM so armed with said prepwork.  None of these techniques are necessary components of Sim.
Here is what I am trying to support:
  • tight Character identification
  • exploratory emphasis on setting
The rest I don’t know.
  • Player power constrained by a set of consistent rules, yes, but I have come to understand the GM as a Player as well so this seems to me to boil down to a consistent set of rules.
  • GM prepwork  is the issue at hand. Player ignorance of the prepwork, this is what I know. I guess the question is how to draw the line to support tight Character ID and exploration is the question. Callan seems to be trying to make a point in this regard but my take is that exploration requires secrecy. Do you know of a better way?
  • As for the absolute authority of the GM, hogwash! I’m looking to support the idea of the GM as the Player with the imposing task of maintaining the setting using the “consistent set of rules”, not final authority and arbiter of those rules. I’d like to support consensus and Player table talk as the final arbiter and authority.
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I should apologize; I didn't understand what you were asking for. 
Seems I’m not particularly clear myself.
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You weren't asking for alternatives to extensive GM Prep
I am.
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; you seem to see this as a necessary feature of your preferred means of play.
Nope.
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What you were asking for were means to mitigate, reduce, compact, or otherwise streamline that process.
With my understanding of what I am trying to support, I was under the impression that this was the best I could do. I am open to suggestions if you have them, of how to go further than that…if your methods work without losing focus on the tight Character ID and setting exploration.

BTW, nice breakdown.

C. S. Bone
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #36 on: January 24, 2006, 06:45:09 AM »

Hello,

This thread has included some great posts. I suggest, though, that it's taken us three pages to arrive at shared understanding of the questions, and so the topic would be best served by splitting off new threads, leaving this one as the foundation. As a minor supportive point for this suggestion, the title turns out to have been a little misleading.

I can see two such threads at this point: one about your (Chris') straightforward questions about reducing prep without entering into anyone-contributes-to-setting-or-situation play; and one about getting into such play, if desired.

So, let's close this thread, but not stop the discussion. Chris, if you could, please feel free to start the new threads with a lot of attention and focus. And if you can stand it, a wee bit of actual play, if only to orient everyone (see how useful it was this time, for instance!).

Best,
Ron
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