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Author Topic: How do you reduce Sim/Gam prep?  (Read 8409 times)
CSBone
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Posts: 65


« on: January 27, 2006, 07:36:20 PM »

I originally started this thread in Actual Play “HERE” but after 35 posts it had evolved so far from where I had started and good questions from everybody made me realize that the question I thought I was asking, I wasn’t… so Ron asked me to start again with a new thread.

I am looking for suggestions on how to reduce prep time for role-playing games that support a Simulationist (first ) or Gamist (second) type of play with a more traditional GM/Player dichotomy.

Specifically I am trying to support:
  • tight Character identification
  • exploratory emphasis on setting
  • Player power is constrained by a set of consistent rules
  • The GM is the Player with the imposing task of maintaining the setting and non-Player CHaracters using the “consistent set of rules”, not final authority and arbiter of those rules

Restated: The Players play their Character “In Character” and the GM plays the World and all of it’s non-Player Characters “In Character”.

GM prepwork is the issue at hand. I am looking for alternatives to the traditional extensive GM Prep that will support the above.

The following suggestions were made on the original thread by Jim (Supplanter), John Kim, Joshua BishopRoby, Callan S., Nathan P. Tommi Brander, and Ron Edwards:
  • No Myth play
  • Improv
  • Reduce the size of the scope
  • Involve the players
  • Use pregenerated materials
  • Simplify the numbers
  • Use templates and lists
Of course all of these had some explanations over there.

With this thread I would like to explore how to use these techniques effectively and see if there are any more that didn’t get mentioned. The goal at the end is to be able to put together a list of techniques and explanations of those techniques that would be useful to a GM interested in supporting Sim and Gam play but bogged down by prep.

C. S. Bone
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dindenver
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2006, 08:18:38 PM »

Hi!
  In my mind, the trick is creating an internally consistant world that has a reason why it works that waythat is communicated effectively to the players. Then have pre-gen chars for "extras" and GM gen'ed chars for any plot-drven NPCs. I pretty much do this with every game I play and it works well.
  It helps that I usually do not play games that use a battle grid though...
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Dave M
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2006, 09:07:37 PM »

I think one of the reasons for the insistance that the GM plays the world to character, is that he doesn't impose a solution onto a situation. Typical advice with gamism is 'Think of a good challenge'. But that involves, to varying degrees, imposing a particular solution (a challenge, by it's nature, implies a particular solution). And then the GM is like the wimpy player from the gamism essay, who, from his armchair, is telling the other players what they should do/have done.

In this 'Gm plays the world in character' style of play, the GM should do just that - and somewhere, amongst what he portrays, are solutions. It's in there, even though the GM doesn't know it. You really are facing the challenges of the game world when even the bloody GM doesn't know the answer! :)

Normally I've always thought to avoid player input to any significant degree. It just gives more than one player a chance to tell others what they should have done. But after thinking about it, I came back to player input - but not in the traditional 'anyone pipes in with input when they want' way which is disruptive to this play type. I already PM'd this idea to Chris, but I'll repeat it here: You can still have player input, like the player drawing up a dungeon or part of a city, if the GM instead takes on the role of time. For example, the player could draw up just where the treasure room is and a safe path there - thus creating the 'right way' to win. But if the group instead treats this map as how it happened to be ten years ago (or whatever amount of time), the GM then applies causality (not creating a challenge, just applying causality). The whole cave then becomes an uncertainty - anything could have changed over ten years, yet many things will appear to be the same enough to trick one into a sense of false security. Yet at the same time, the GM only needs to riff off of the map the player made, rather than cook up an entire map himself.

The changes also allows the shift from player input, into character knowledge "Well, this old map says the treasure is in this room, but who knows now?". Thus they give input like a GM, but doesn't leave them with the burden of GM'ing. The burden being, not being able to think of a solution because you had/have too much power - it's like being on that star trek planet where your fantasies come to life. When your solutions just become the right answer, that's no good ([rant]In fact, it's probably simulationism[/rant]).

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Philosopher Gamer
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2006, 07:08:52 AM »

Whoa. Full stop. You posted this in Indie Design. Are we discussing a game that you are actually designing?

If so, tell us a bit about it.

If not, then we have to take this back to Actual Play, which is OK.

Best,
Ron
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CSBone
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2006, 02:58:48 PM »

Hey Ron,

I am going to post over in Actual Play too but this is for a game design. Sorry I didn't start with what I am designing for.

Try this again.

I’m still working on my Ronnie submission, Space Ranger but I ran into several mental brick walls.

To see where I’ve been, go:

Space Ranger Version 0.2 is HERE.

This is to attempt to resolve my brick wall about how to write the GM section of the game. I’m not truly sure the system section of the game can be salvaged because, since my real goal is to put out a game rather than a specific type of game, certain revelations from the Actually Play thread mentioned above made me realize my initial design goals may not be able to make a game I’d want to play.

And if you don’t want to play, you ain’t going to finish it or support it when it’s done. Not good.

The tools I want to explore over here though, seem universal and might help somebody else, and everybody gave me such a lovely list…

It seemed easier to take the piece that would be easy to ask and start it up since there is no game play attached. With a little luck I’ll have the Actual Play part of the question up this weekend.

If I did this wrong, my apologies. Lets shut this thread down and we’ll take it up over on Actual Play.

C. S. Bone
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2006, 04:00:51 PM »

No, no, it's good! That information clears everything up. People just need a little orientation, and all is well.

Best,
Ron
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2006, 07:56:08 PM »

CS, have you played or read Dogs in the Vineyard?  I think what you might (might) be getting at is creating the situation rather than creating the adventure.  In Dogs, the GM creates the Town and what's wrong there, but does not determine or even think about ways to fix it.  Part of that process is to list of what the different NPCs want from the Dogs.  (There's also a nice little dodge for character stats, which is a separate thing.)  In roleplay, the GM then plays the Town to the hilt and the players come up with a way to address what's wrong; the dice show who gets their way.  That prep method is creating the situation.

Contrast with the GM creating the dungeon, mapping out the secret passages that avoid the unbeatable guards, where McGuffin A and McGuffin B are hidden, and places the dying old man who knows how to put them together, which is the only way to stop the necromancer's undead army -- and thereby making only one possible way for the players to actually 'beat' the dungeon.  Thus, the GM has prepped the entire adventure.

Does creating the situation sound about right?
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Tommi Brander
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2006, 02:25:32 AM »

You can give a little director stance without breaking immersion, IMO.

If, for example, the PCs are in a forest, one could say that he picks up a fairly large rock. That makes sense because there often are fairly large rocks in forests. Or a dead tree usable as a club. Or stuff like that.

A guideline: If something hasn't been defined and would make sense, allow it.
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CSBone
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2006, 07:28:59 AM »

Ron,
Cool.

Dave,
Quote
In my mind, the trick is creating an internally consistant world that has a reason why it works that waythat is communicated effectively to the players.
I would agree. What games do you play? What is you favorite CA?

Callan,
Quote
I think one of the reasons for the insistance that the GM plays the world to character, is that he doesn't impose a solution onto a situation.
Quote
In this 'Gm plays the world in character' style of play, the GM should do just that - and somewhere, amongst what he portrays, are solutions. It's in there, even though the GM doesn't know it. You really are facing the challenges of the game world when even the bloody GM doesn't know the answer! :)
YES!
Quote
You can still have player input, like the player drawing up a dungeon or part of a city, if the GM instead takes on the role of time.
I like that idea! I could see using this for a lot of things.

Joshua,
Quote
CS, have you played or read Dogs in the Vineyard?  I think what you might (might) be getting at is creating the situation rather than creating the adventure.
Dead nuts! I’ve got a copy of DitV and that was one of the first things that struck me about the game. My question is, can you apply that “create situation” to a Sim game? Specifically one that revolves around exploring new places.

I continually go back to the fact that the reason I play RPGs is to go other places and be other people in unique and interesting situations. I like the vicarious drama and I want to be able to give it to my Players.

Tommi,
Quote
for example, the PCs are in a forest, one could say that he picks up a fairly large rock. That makes sense because there often are fairly large rocks in forests.
Quote
A guideline: If something hasn't been defined and would make sense, allow it.
Nice!

I’m going crank up an example of play from my reworked Space Ranger over in Actual Play to see if I can wrap my brain around how some of this stuff works.

C. S. Bone
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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2006, 11:46:58 PM »

I hope this isn't in appropriate to this thread but Callan - "Rawk On!"

I think one of the reasons for the insistence that the GM plays the world to character, is that he doesn't impose a solution onto a situation.

In this 'Gm plays the world in character' style of play, the GM should do just that - and somewhere, amongst what he portrays, are solutions. It's in there, even though the GM doesn't know it. You really are facing the challenges of the game world when even the bloody GM doesn't know the answer! :)

... But after thinking about it, I came back to player input - but not in the traditional 'anyone pipes in with input when they want' way which is disruptive to this play type. I already PM'd this idea to Chris, but I'll repeat it here: You can still have player input, like the player drawing up a dungeon or part of a city, if the GM instead takes on the role of time. For example, the player could draw up just where the treasure room is and a safe path there - thus creating the 'right way' to win. But if the group instead treats this map as how it happened to be ten years ago (or whatever amount of time), the GM then applies causality (not creating a challenge, just applying causality). The whole cave then becomes an uncertainty - anything could have changed over ten years, yet many things will appear to be the same enough to trick one into a sense of false security. Yet at the same time, the GM only needs to riff off of the map the player made, rather than cook up an entire map himself.

The changes also allows the shift from player input, into character knowledge "Well, this old map says the treasure is in this room, but who knows now?". Thus they give input like a GM, but doesn't leave them with the burden of GM'ing. The burden being, not being able to think of a solution because you had/have too much power - it's like being on that star trek planet where your fantasies come to life. When your solutions just become the right answer, that's no good ([rant]In fact, it's probably simulationism[/rant]).

We play this "manner of input" in my group ALL the time!  Actually its something that is absolutely fundamental to Sim play.  This goes back to something that I've been badly articulating for some time now.  In Sim, every statement headed for the SIS is run through a "filter," which is typically one of the roles of the GM (but which is subject to player "comment" at almost any time.)  The nature of that filter is amorphous and hard to pin down, but it is governed by the table supported and celebrated aesthetic.  The key is that, like in bricolage, everything that gets added gets altered to some degree or another leading to "entailments" - potential problems!  Thus the player's map becomes "shifted in time" creating a potential "problem" that might (and actually should to some degree) crop up later!  The key is the inherent ambiguity that Sim needs to thrive!  The GM's role is to create ambiguous Situations and the players' "role" is to clarify/resolve that ambiguity when addressing said Situation.  The Dream is expanded...

Returning the thread at hand...
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Josh Roby
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2006, 10:35:00 AM »

Dead nuts! I’ve got a copy of DitV and that was one of the first things that struck me about the game. My question is, can you apply that “create situation” to a Sim game? Specifically one that revolves around exploring new places.  I continually go back to the fact that the reason I play RPGs is to go other places and be other people in unique and interesting situations. I like the vicarious drama and I want to be able to give it to my Players.

Can that technique forward a Sim agenda?  Sure.  Can that technique forward your Sim agenda?  Maybe.  Seriously, the best way is to try it out.
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