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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 251 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [In the Pit] Best setting for breaking characters?  (Read 6274 times)
David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2006, 09:17:34 AM »

"What setting has sufficient elements to seriously *evoke* Tears, Blood, Beast, or Heart.  That's what I need.

Now we can run with it a bit:
Element   Common symptoms   Common causes   
TearsGuilt, loss, and sorrowBetrayal of or by another, self-loathing, harm to or by others
BloodPain and debilitationAttacks, torture, traps, "enemy"
BeastAppetite and selfishnessDeprivation, scarcity, hunger, power structure
HeartAffection, altruism, and courageLove, loyalty, pragmatism, efficiency

Why make such a chart? Well, on the one hand, it can be a sort of checklist (if accurate and complete enough). A setting must have all the causes above, to be thoroughly evocative. Further, the system should have real mechanical "hooks" into the symptoms (but that is Another Story). But most importantly to me (and I only now see it) those Big Four are actually highly interrelated:
Beast and Heart are two sides of a coin; what's the coin itself? I'd say "social reinforcement" or perhaps "successful cooperative experiences". Thus, it would seem the group-characters MUST know each other or at least be closely enough "aligned" in a social arena that they are inclined to cooperation and even altruism. Otherwise, the first challenge of the form of a prisoner's dilemma will decimate the group right off the bat: amongst strangers, someone ALWAYS will go with appetite (Beast) and will ruin the shared boost for their own solo windfall.
Blood and Tears quite often go hand-in-hand. But let's disregard the trivial equivalence (most bloodletting leads to tears) and focus on the internal v. external nature of that pairing. Blood is active pain delivered unto others; Tears is reactive pain taken upon oneself.
...But there's MORE....
Beast and Blood are pretty much roommates: there aren't many beastly solutions that don't involve spilling a bit of the problem's blood.
Heart and Tears are likewise closely coupled. My own failure of Heart leads to Tears (for ME).

It's a strange swirl, you have here. Beastliness leads to blood, which our hearts tell us is wrong via tears. The setting must "derail" that causal chain and, in effect, constantly encourage the beast--and yet it must ALSO reinforce the heart, otherwise the choice to "go feral" isn't a choice, it's merely pragmatic.

That tells me more still about The One True Setting: it can not free the group-characters from responsibility. Thus, prison torturing-for-torturing's-sake falls down (I suspect) because there is no means to choose otherwise: you're a prisoner and there's no "guilt" or "innocence" to assume. Now, the USE of torture as a means to force betrayals (true or false) IS a strong hook in that it becomes a choice: suffer the blood from the beasts (and thus enhearten all others at your cost, though they might also suffer tears); or become the beast, sell-out your friends, spare yourself blood, but suffer your own tears of guilt from your stifled heart.

I know I am rambling, but this is how I think about these sorts of things: as relationships between components. That's what I was groping at in my post above; each element needs its own hooks into the situation and setting to make them hang properly, otherwise one will bubble up as merely the smartest result to pursue given a set of prescribed losses, and the game become something more like chess than RPing.

And let us consider how your Big Four are, in fact, two Big Twos: one set of opposed "modes" of relating to a group, and one set of two "results" for that behavior. What will make meaningful (dramatic?) decisions for the g-cs in the first two, and how will the second two feed back onto the next such decision? What is lost at each choice, and how does that loss mechanically constrain (or exacerbate the consequences of) subsequent choices? That leads me to think the situation and setting must provide (a) a sequence of goals, not just one, and (b) multiple means to attain those goals. "A" makes the cost of tough decisions relevant while "B" makes the actual decision relevant. Thus, we can't build a mere "escape" setting because it is obvious that one would want to escape, and there's probably only one way to do so (leave the area). Unless "escape through death" is considered a valid option....

I'll stop the canoe here, because I am paddling out to sea and I want to know if I have gotten the core ideas straight. My Grand Point is merely that the way you build the relationships between elements WILL lead you to building aspects of setting. That, in turn, could make you find The One True Setting; or it could help you to see a great way to build a "mapping system" that lets the players develop their own setting alongside the group-characters and based on themes they want to explore.

David
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chris_moore
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« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2006, 09:37:06 AM »

Thanks again, so much.  The feedback here has really given me a push in the right direction.

Hope to see some of you in subsequent posts!

Chris
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pells
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« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2006, 09:57:02 AM »

Sorry to jump in, but I'd like to second David...

I believe there are many perfect settings for in the pit. From what I understand from the game, you don't play the same character for a long time, you either succeed or fail. So two things :
1. Maybe you should provide more than one setting with your product. I can glady see people say oh, we're playing in the pit, but in what in setting ?, since some would be present time (trench, prison), other SF (alien), other in the past (gladiators). Mechanic stay the same, ressources, context are different. Anyway, each of your setting shouldn't be too long...
2. Your premises are very strong. You should think of a way to present, define a setting for in the pit. Something like towns for dogs. It should be short, but some elements should always be present. That way, not only do you present numerous settings as examples, but you also provide a way to create them.

I'll go with one suggestion. It has to do with high school, but in an extreme way : royal battle.
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sean2099
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« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2006, 05:20:46 PM »

Another what-if?  What if players are stuck in horrible situition X but they are in some position of authority?  What if they have to be "hardcases" to maintain order?  They maintain order for the short term but it makes the situition worse in the long term.  If they try to be "soft", then it is a gamble, it might help the situition or make it explode in their face?

Of course, it would a place/time/scenerio where they can't leave either.  i.e. guards or trustees at bleak prison, sanitarioum (sp), etc.

Just a thought.

Sean
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shadowcourt
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« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2006, 08:18:19 AM »

I know this thread has been dormant for a while, but having just read it, I'd weigh in with a hearty stylistic recommendation of Harlan Ellison's science fiction classic "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream." It's yet another "no win" scenario, and certainly looms large in my mind, the way "The Cube" does for others.
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Castlin
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« Reply #20 on: May 25, 2006, 09:43:08 AM »

Would it be too obvious or against your wishes to have "the pit" be "The Pit"? As in, Abaddon, Hell, etc. Of course the characters (and maybe not the players) don't know they're in such a place, it looks and acts just like the real world, except nothing ever seems to go right for some reason. If you took the more modern view that people make their own hells, then you have two nice pieces to work with. The first is that everyone has something horrible in their past (at least by their definition). Also, the characters must have some kind of history together, even if they don't know it, or it would be very unlikely they would have a place in each other's hells.

As to what the setting appears to be, any of the previous suggestions sound great, though I agree with the notion you probably want to include more than one option with the game. Here's my suggestion; the characters are prisoners being kept illegally and used for medical experimentation. It's pretty much dehumanizing from all perspectives; you have no rights, no freedoms, nobody acknowledges your identity, and you are only valued for your body, which exists only as something to be tortured and destroyed.

It might not be hell yet, but maybe the characters are already dead and teetering on the brink; riding a very slippery slope into damnation and this is their last chance at redemption.

Maybe the hell idea is more supernatural than you wanted. Another horrific, pit-like setting would be a group of people burried alive together (either by accident or on purpose).
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chris_moore
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« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2006, 10:55:09 AM »

Here are some of the basic parameters that are Necessary for creating an "In the Pit" setting:

1.  The characters are bound or trapped together...usually physically.  Since each scene gets one conflict resolution roll, and all players negotiate which character takes what fallout, they have to be together. Or, like quarks, must be affected as a group regardless of distance, or something. (I am attempting to take the phenomenon of the PC "amoeba" and use it for good.)

2.  The characters have an end goal that they must reach to gain their freedom.  Survive the gladiatorial finals match, make it to the pick-up point, kill all 5 politicians, etc. 

3.  The environment that the characters inhabit, and the supporting cast they interact with, MUST force survival-type decisions.  The question of the game is "What are parts of you are most worthy of survival?  Your body?  Your morals? Your inner peace?

I'm interested in any suggestions that meet these criteria!  Chris
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amicitia
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« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2006, 06:14:03 PM »

First reading this thread I was reminded of a few sessions of Paranoia I ran some time ago...

A number of survivalist horror films and computer games come to mind e.g. Aliens, 28 Days, Doom etc. These scenarios tend to encourage cooperation at least initially on the part of the participants, but there can be plenty of opportunities for them to save themselves at the expense of the group. For instance if the group consists of five individuals and there are only three antidotes to a virus they have all been exposed to. Or your hand is bitten by an infected 'opponent'  - do you cut off the affected limb before your whole body is infected and how do your companions react? The pit setting can easily be a military operation gone wrong or a passenger liner suddenly overcome by something sinister. A sense of isolation and menace seem to be key here. NPCs can be used initially as 'examples' of how bad things can get to set the tone of the game e.g. star trek red shirts :-)

Each character could have detailed backgrounds with conflicting goals and may possess secret information e.g. a ships pilot who knows where the 'single' escape pod is; the scientist who created the virus; codes for certain 'safe' areas etc. The corporation 'man' in Aliens is a perfect example of this type of conflicting goals. This should begin to erode the trust characters may have towards one another at the beginning of their ordeal.

Anyhow, I hope this is not too off track, but I agree with some of the other writers in encouraging you to pick a setting. The rest will flow from there.
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dindenver
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« Reply #23 on: May 26, 2006, 09:26:16 PM »

Hi!
  The scene that jumps to my mind immediately, is the scene from The Stand where the Walking Dude finds one of his lieutenants in a prison.
  Its a desperate situation. The prison is locked down, you can't get out, and you have to survive. If there was more than one survivor, it would be even more tense...
  And of course there is always lord of the flies...
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Nick
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« Reply #24 on: June 10, 2006, 05:35:18 PM »

Just wanted to throw out a couple texts that have explored this theme that might prove helpful for you:

No Exit- an existentialist story in which a few characters are trapped together in a small room in hell.

Stage Coach- an old western in which a number of very different people are forced together in a long ride that is beset by the law, indian attacks, and internal social pressures.

House of Leaves- though not quite as literal an interpretation of your theme, this book does have some very good sections of people lost in an enclosed space and their true colors emerging. It also shows some good techniques for raising tension amongst a group of people trapped together.

Hope this was helpful,
Nick
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