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Author Topic: Story Now, but first we Prep...  (Read 5883 times)
Yokiboy
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« on: March 15, 2006, 06:55:30 AM »

Hello,

I have bad experience with narrative RPGs due to the prep it takes to setup. We planned a game of Sorcerer, created some kick-ass characters, and a one-sheet, and everyone was excited as hell during the char gen session. I heard some moaning when I stated that I wanted two weeks to prepare for the game, which also meant skipping next week's gaming session. With preparations done and ready to play, the players had lost interest in the game. They could no longer identify with their protagonists, and all their excitement gone.

I've since had a similar situation with two attempts at playing TROS, and it's wearing me out. I keep getting so excited while preparing for the games, but don't get the pay-off of playing them. We had a couple awkward first sessions, but nothing more. I've now found a new set of players, with less baggage, and hope to give it another go, but my confindence isn't what it should be.

I regularly read AP posts to learn from them, and enjoy when the prep is included. I was shocked by how little prep Ron Edwards did for a Lacuna game, and how Jeff, Judd and Rob's The Audible PTA Dreamation game was up and running in no-time, and I've seen a few more AP posts where they seemed to game as soon as the characters were created, without any additional GM prep.

The one game that actually worked for us was PTA, where we played a 5-session season. We even had a soundtrack, and to this day it is my favorite game experience.

Would you please share your own experiences with Game Prep, as I need to find the confidence to introduce all the cool Story Now games I've picked up, but haven't played yet.

Are there games that require less prep time by design? Are there tricks that let you start a game quickly? Can you pre-prep, such as having a stack of relationship maps ready for use?

TTFN,

Yoki
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Judd
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« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2006, 07:43:35 AM »

Yoki,

I've gotta say that the PTA games I have run have been solid but I've had dud sessions too.  Most often this happens when we have a lukewarm idea and stick with it rather than shelve it and start brainstorming another concept all together.

For Sorcerer, I have found that after chargen, it takes the week between the chargen session and the first game to come up with bangs, post the chargen AP and the bangs I have and cross a bunch of the bangs off as lame.  I have 3 or 4 bangs per character and that usually does it.  I use about half of 'em.

Hope that helps,

Judd
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2006, 08:03:43 AM »

Hello Judd,

That does help, but would you elaborate on how you keep the players' interest in that week it takes you to prep for Sorcerer after char gen?

Is the trick to have the players be totally committed to their characters, in other words, create characters they really burn for and yearn to play? Same as with your comments regarding PTA and dud games, is the problem perhaps that I have let some players create characters they're lukewarm about? I think that might be the answer to what I did wrong.

For instance, in the Sorcerer game we prepared for, the players created really awesome, but over the top characters that had me totally excited, but I now know that they didn't believe the characters to be playable, and weren't willing give it a try.

I know that you've played numerous of the indie games Judd, in your experience which ones require less prep by design?

TTFN,

Yoki
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Judd
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« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2006, 08:41:23 AM »

Hello Judd,

That does help, but would you elaborate on how you keep the players' interest in that week it takes you to prep for Sorcerer after char gen?

We meet on let's say Sunday to do chargen, then I write up bangs in the seven days between that day and our first session the following Sunday.

If they aren't excited to play in that time, there's trouble.

Is the trick to have the players be totally committed to their characters, in other words, create characters they really burn for and yearn to play? Same as with your comments regarding PTA and dud games, is the problem perhaps that I have let some players create characters they're lukewarm about? I think that might be the answer to what I did wrong.

Why is it your job to create characters that they are excited to play?  I don't understand why this is your responsibility.

For instance, in the Sorcerer game we prepared for, the players created really awesome, but over the top characters that had me totally excited, but I now know that they didn't believe the characters to be playable, and weren't willing give it a try.

That sounds like it should be written about in this actual play thread.  Because I really dont' get it.

Could you write up how that chargen session went?  What kind of characters did they make?  What were their kickers?

I know that you've played numerous of the indie games Judd, in your experience which ones require less prep by design?

I have run PTA with success and no prep but for every three shit-hot games I've run there has been one lukewarm that I just didn't write about because it was so tepid.  I don't think PTA need be a game with any less prep than Sorcerer, though.  Low prep has always been the way I GMed and sometimes it was hot and sometimes it wasn't.

Low prep games: Dogs in the VIneyard (have a few towns, maybe tweak an NPC to fit with a PC's concept and GO, Inspectres, Capes and With Great Power..., Universalis and I bet you could get by with very little in Conspiracy of Shadows.

I'd really like to hear more about the Sorcerer chargen mentioned above.
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2006, 08:46:56 AM »

Wow, I really get to sound like a broken record this week...

InSpectres requires exactly 0 prep. It takes about 20 minutes to create fun characters and the franchise they work for, and then you can launch into the game. In my experience, the humor and wackiness of the game is pretty infectious, and leads to solid, enjoyable gameplay.

Now, if you're looking for something more serious, InSpectres may be a hard fit - but if you're looking for an "icebreaker" that you can get into play quickly with, to demonstrate the shared-player-power-protagonist-centered style of roleplay, it'll fit the bill.

Also, which games do you have, or are you interested in getting? The other game that comes to mind is Dogs in the Vineyard. The town creation prep can happen anytime, even before characters are made, and character creation + initiation seems to usually run about a sessions worth. Next session, you launch right into the town.

Polaris requires no prep, and is tragic and beautiful. My Life With Master requires no prep, and is intense and unforgiving, and is pretty short term (a couple of sessions, max).

So, those all have little-no prep by design, but without knowing a little more about what you're looking for, they're just names. And Judd asks good questions.
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Nathan P.
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Jon Hastings
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« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2006, 09:05:47 AM »

Yoki,

I can sympathize: my group's Kayfabe game is on indefinite hiatus because we lost momentum by not moving from prep to play quickly enough.

And I'd add Trollbabe to the list of games that, by design, require very little prep: I've run successful sessions with 45 minutes to an hour worth of prep time.  (If anything, I overprepped the game the last time I played).  Also, Trollbabe is cool because you can do prep before character creation and then jump from chargen right into play.

-Jon
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2006, 09:14:00 AM »

If the problem is the players losing interest waiting for prep, what about including them in that process. As I understand it in Sorceror you need a relationship map (so a cast of characters) and kickers (and bangers? I might be wrong here.)

Since play is "Story now" players knowing about what is in the world is okay, because stories are not scripted. They may know the people around and what might kick them in the head - but they don't know when it will or if it will happen.

Players can be included by making the writing a group discussion. "Okay, you have your characters. Now we need a world. I want it to be Dogtrot Southern Indiana." "Indiana!?! That blows. Why not Chicago?" "What do the rest of you think?" "Why not Gary, that brings in Chicago land and Indiana." "Okay, Gary it is. Now we need to build a map of relationships. Each on you make up one person and then we will fill in the gaps that link them up..."  Then later "Okay Bob, John needs a problem. I want you to suggest one. Make it a good one - if it screws him over big it will make for a more dramtic story... Aright, John, now you get to return the favor..."

When I've used Engle Matrix Games in RPG set up (where the players make arguments about similar things) it really increases the player's commitment to the game. They have a stake in the world, to try and keep the people they made safe.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2006, 01:43:40 PM »

Hello Judd,

Okay, let me go through these one at a time.

We meet on let's say Sunday to do chargen, then I write up bangs in the seven days between that day and our first session the following Sunday.

If they aren't excited to play in that time, there's trouble.
Which is what I've run into, but now think I might know why.

Why is it your job to create characters that they are excited to play?  I don't understand why this is your responsibility.
No, I understand that it's not my job, but I should be able to gauge if they're really creating characters that they are interested in or not. I think when we tried to play Sorcerer I was too overly excited myself, and I loved their weirdo characters, but the players seem to have been a bit intimidated by the freaks they created when left to their own devices.

That sounds like it should be written about in this actual play thread.  Because I really dont' get it.

Could you write up how that chargen session went?  What kind of characters did they make?  What were their kickers?
I did actually write about it in the Adept Press forum at the time, but it was a long time ago. By searching the forum for posts on this topic, I found another reason that probably caused this particular game to tank as my thoughts on the setting were posted quite a while later.

I have run PTA with success and no prep but for every three shit-hot games I've run there has been one lukewarm that I just didn't write about because it was so tepid.  I don't think PTA need be a game with any less prep than Sorcerer, though.  Low prep has always been the way I GMed and sometimes it was hot and sometimes it wasn't.
Okay, interesting. I know the successful game of PTA which I ran featured the same amount of prep as my Sorcerer game, or rather the two week promise was kept in PTA's case.

Low prep games: Dogs in the VIneyard (have a few towns, maybe tweak an NPC to fit with a PC's concept and GO, Inspectres, Capes and With Great Power..., Universalis and I bet you could get by with very little in Conspiracy of Shadows.
Thanks. I need to pick up inSpectres, I keep hearing so much great stuff about it, and With Great Power is on my not-so-short short list.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2006, 01:57:01 PM »

InSpectres requires exactly 0 prep. It takes about 20 minutes to create fun characters and the franchise they work for, and then you can launch into the game. In my experience, the humor and wackiness of the game is pretty infectious, and leads to solid, enjoyable gameplay.
This is definitely a game I want to get, but I don't own it yet.

Also, which games do you have, or are you interested in getting? The other game that comes to mind is Dogs in the Vineyard. The town creation prep can happen anytime, even before characters are made, and character creation + initiation seems to usually run about a sessions worth. Next session, you launch right into the town.

Polaris requires no prep, and is tragic and beautiful. My Life With Master requires no prep, and is intense and unforgiving, and is pretty short term (a couple of sessions, max).
I do have Dogs, and My Life With Master. Here are some others:

    Lacuna Part 1
    The Farm
    Sorcerer including all supplements and most mini-supplements
    Dust Devils
    Fastlane
    FATE
    HeroQuest
    Legends of Alyria
    Story Engine
    Trollbabe
    Primetime Adventures
    Wuthering Heights
    SOAP
    The Pool
    Cat
    Run Robot Red
    The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men

In the doom and gloom of this thread I forgot that I played one fantastic campaign of FATE in which we followed all the tips from the Sorcerer books, playing an awesome game of Sword & Sorcery. This fired on all cylinders, but the gaming group has split up since then. The AP is described here.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2006, 02:00:55 PM »

A happy side note: I met my new game group this evening, and was blown away by the game they came away wanting to play. We will meet Saturday to play Dogs in the Vineyard - hoody hoo! I haven't created any towns though, so I might be "borrowing" a town created by someone else.

Wish me luck.
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ffilz
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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2006, 02:12:22 PM »

Plenty of good Dogs towns to borrow. Look at recent Actual Play and Lumpley Games posts for ideas.

Tower Creek from the back of the book is and excellent first town.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Yokiboy
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2006, 02:20:34 PM »

Tower Creek from the back of the book is and excellent first town.
Well Tower Creek it is then, thanks Frank.

At least now I know what to read on the train to work.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Callan S.
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« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2006, 05:38:26 PM »

Hi Yoki,

Could you tell use more about what sort of prep you do? And tell us about the bangs you made up?
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Philosopher Gamer
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