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Author Topic: Frostfolk and GNS aggravation.  (Read 23761 times)
Levi Kornelsen
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Posts: 210


« on: July 31, 2006, 12:13:40 PM »

(Please note: I'm hoping to use this thread as the opening point of a discussion, rather than as a straight report).

---

Of late, I've taken a lot of time away from the GM chair (with the exception of running a few playtests) in order to just play in games.

Currently, my lady is running a game, using one of my one-day efforts at game engines called The Exchange (that's a direct link to a PDF; you don't need to read it to understand this).  The setting is a frozen land filled with undead, vaguely Scandanavian myth in color.

The base situation is very, very simple quest-stuff; we're all members of a tribe dedicated to true death, enemies of the undead, and our tribe has been slaughtered and our sacred stuff has been stolen by powerful undead.  We need to quest to get it back together, find the scattered survivors of the tribe, defeat our enemies, unravel the mystery of how this all went down.  It's all pretty well handled, but nothing supremely one-of-a-kind.

Here's the neat thing; the thing that makes this game rock for me.  As players, we've been playing together long enough, in various groups and games, that we pick up on each other's metagame cues pretty well, in terms of "I'd like to use dice for this", "I just want to narrate", "This is me grabbing some spotlight", and other such stuff.  For us as players, this is one of the big ways that we work to grab at cool moments before they pass us by.  And the GM started showed us all why she wanted such a minimal game engine just a few sessions in, as we were dropping cues like that.

So, when one of the players, who has a defining love of dice and odd strategies, starts describing what he wants to attempt as his Child-Ritualist, while looking at his sheet and puzzling away, we know he wants some crunch.  And the GM immediately "changes stance" (using the term very loosely) and tosses out a basic idea on ways that we could handle this with dice, using the game engine as a base.  And the rest of the group, if they have any refinements or ideas to throw around towards that, tosses different things on.  He likes a bit of a tactical challenge, so we pitch in and get him one.

Alternatively, we have another player that doesn't care one bit about the dice and tactics - she's there to be social and to grab a few really good character scenes where she can really shine.  So, when she wants to get at something that the GM can't just agree to, but where the stakes aren't really important, the GM shifts the other way.  Instead of trying to build the stakes up to something that's interesting and fun if dice are used, the GM will downplay the stakes; her first impulse is to suggest one or two different ways that this player can get it as "a freebie".  And that's what the player wants, most of the time (not every time, mind; she'll push for a roll once in a while.

The actual methods by which we do things are just as different for each player; I'm a spotlight junkie, for example.  The other players have learned ways to 'play support' for me on the occasions when I'm basking.  The game engine has warped and folded in our hands, and we couldn't care less.

Slowly, in this fashion, we're learning to not only allow each other our various kinds of fun, but actively work to and enjoy providing such stuff for one another.

And it's good.

----

Now, here's where I'd like to go into theory-stuff just a little.  Part of the reason we got to this style of play is that we tried a few games (most notably, DitV) that shook up the way we played and introduced us to new ideas, and we've been talking about theory stuff from these boards in post-play sessions, as well.  This has been extremely helpful, on the whole.

But we ran into problems with the idea of creative agendas.  Not only does our playstyle not map well onto the three agendas, but considering it in terms of those agendas is actually detrimental to our style of play in this game; when attempting to reference this to GNS, we consistently feels as if it's telling us that we're doing it wrong.

I'm not sure I've expressed my aggravation here very well.  It feels as if the theoretical approach should, somehow, have more to offer us on this specific area than it does.

So...  for starters, is there something I'm missing, here?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2006, 12:39:40 PM »

Hey everyone,

This thread will be just for me and Levi for a while, OK? I'll let you know when it opens up for general contribution.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2006, 02:17:09 PM »

Hi Levi,

Thanks for posting this! I know you want to dig into the ideas, so here goes.

First, let's review the Big Model again. It says:

Social Contract encloses Exploration (or SIS, if you prefer). Exploration/SIS can be dissected into five components, but for now, let's call it one thing because they're all interconnected. This one thing encloses a set of Techniques (what the people do during play), and Techniques include a whole constellation of Ephemera.

What you described are Techniques and some Ephemera.

How does Creative Agenda fit in with all this? It can be thought of as a unifying "arrow" or "skewer" that holds the multiple-layered thing together for a given group. It means that the payoff for play is made more likely and made more socially-powerful by all the layers at once.

One of the most overlooked paragraphs in all of my articles is this one, from GNS and other matters of role-playing theory.

Quote
For a given instance of play, the three modes are exclusive in application. When someone tells me that their role-playing is "all three," what I see from them is this: features of (say) two of the goals appear in concert with, or in service to, the main one, but two or more fully-prioritized goals are not present at the same time. So in the course of Narrativist or Simulationist play, moments or aspects of competition that contribute to the main goal are not Gamism. In the course of Gamist or Simulationist play, moments of thematic commentary that contribute to the main goal are not Narrativism. In the course of Narrativist or Gamist play, moments of attention to plausibility that contribute to the main goal are not Simulationism. The primary and not to be compromised goal is what it is for a given instance of play.

What you're describing are moments like what I'm talking about in there - and not mentioning agenda once. You guys shift around some techniques of minor emphasis in player-specific ways. Cool. It's a little more flexible and personally-tuned than what's seen in most groups, which is interesting, but again, we're not talking about agenda in anything you've presented.

So what would be agenda-talk, for your group? Well, for a group to play as flexibly as you guys in terms of Techniques implies, to me, a strong agenda. So strong, in fact, that I think it's invisible to you.

The alternative, that you guys are playing so incoherently as to be switching from agenda to agenda as you go person by person, is unlikely, because that would mean the other people just check out and scratch their navels or look at DVDs on their laptops when they're not playing. And your description implies otherwise, that you use the flexible techniques as a means of strengthening group-based reinforcement, not dividing it. So I'll tentatively stick with my suggestion that there is a single, strong CA at work in your group.

Here's an analogy that Vincent reminded me I used last week. From his message to me, paraphrasing what I said ...

Quote
Let's say you have three guys, all of whom love pigs. One loves to eat them, one loves to race them against one another for prizes in the annual Pigathon, one loves to name them and pet them and scratch their chins. They don't know each other, but then they find one another in a chatroom or something and establish that they all "love pig." They get together on a Friday evening to all love pigs together, and the first one says to the other two, "hey, so here's my favorite recipe, what's yours?"

That's a group with an incoherent creative agenda.

Whereas what you're describing, Levi, is a group whose members all love to eat pig, and it just so happens that they utilize many recipes in a highly individualized way, yet all appreciating one another's enjoyment of different types of recipe. Which in no way contradicts the idea that they all get together in order to enjoy eating pig.

One other thing ... what is all this about "playing wrong?" The only kind of "playing wrong" I talk about involves fucked-up behaviors in which people abuse one another but won't/can't extricate themselves from the situation, like in bad relationships or bad work-situations. Since you have described what seems to be the very opposite - fun play, even loving play if you don't mind me getting sloppy/sentimental on you - then it is obviously playing very right. To interpret my essays as saying otherwise is quite odd.

Best, Ron

Vincent, thanks for reminding me about the pigs.
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2006, 04:08:07 PM »

So what would be agenda-talk, for your group?

See, that's where I run into the place where I met the aggravation.  As the game first started to roll, I was tempted to say that our agenda is social.  But that would be a cheap cop-out, because all gaming is social.

Now, putting this in my own words, an agenda is a way - an imperative, after a fashion - that informs the group as they play, allowing them to remain unified; they're all looking for the same kind of fun (the fun the agenda describes), and this lets them adapt their actions towards that one end.  Groups with a strong agenda that isn't supported by the system-as-written can develop a system-in-play that serves the kind of fun they're after, or find a system custom-build to that end, and there are strong benefits to that.  Now, that may not fit the idea of a Creative Agenda perfectly, but that's the gist of how we tend to think of such stuff.

Now, from that perspective, each of us started the game with differing goals - ones that don't seem to add up to an agenda.  They don't seem to add up to anything.

Laura, our GM, started the game with the goals of creating versimilitude in her game setting, to make space for immersive-type play, and evoke the "feel" of certain bits of mythology.  John, playing the ritualist, came in with his standard set of goals - to build a character that functioned in a way the designer probably didn't anticipate as both a dramatic and tactical challenge.  Holly, playing the Skriver (uh, magical scribe) is our more social player, and came primarily to interact with the other players - both as herself and in new and interesting situations as her character.  Kim had a character concept that she really wanted to try on and explore, an undead-hunting necromancer and fanatical old woman.  I came to relax and play the big dumb thunk, partly to see how my game engine worked in play and tinker with it between games, partly to collaborate on creating setting in-play.  The game engine seems, to me, to be very nearly free of any agenda as well.

But the whole process of collaboratively throwing stuff back and forth (something we started doing when setting stakes in Dogs, and kept expanding) - almost solely on the level of moment-to-moment techniques and ephemera - has slowly started to create a unified style of play.  An aggregate.

Trying to fit this into terms of the glossary here, it's seems that we've gained most of the benefits of a coherent style without having an agenda - even without having much at all at the level of Exploration.  And that's where the model and essays are aggravating, because that doesn't mesh.  Trying to make it mesh, in fact, seems like it would be a problem.

Can you see what I mean?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2006, 04:27:37 PM »

Hi Levi,

I think you're really good at talking about what people enjoy socially during play. I also think you're doing a good job of talking about the techniques of play, and how they change or when which ones are used.

But you're "blind" to talking about agenda in the GNS sense. Nothing you've described operates on the scale or parameters that characterize it. To stick with my analogy, it is so wholly "we're here to eat pig" that you don't even see that as a feature. That is OK. In fact, it probably is testimony to the excellent and non-problematic nature of the agenda in your game (whatever it might be). Most people understand Creative Agendas through negative experience, through seeing them stifled or through grappling after them unsuccessfully.

I have a series of questions I like to ask to help people tease out the CA in a given play-experience, and it's not a canned set, it depends on the person and what they've told me about their actual play so far. However, at this time, I'm not sure that's what you want to do here. I'm not fully satisfied that you want to know, and perhaps you're more comfortable saying, "Nope, no GNS for me, we don't match it, I don't like it."

For now, all I'll do is explain why I'm saying these things. You wrote,

Quote
Laura, our GM, started the game with the goals of creating versimilitude in her game setting, to make space for immersive-type play, and evoke the "feel" of certain bits of mythology.  John, playing the ritualist, came in with his standard set of goals - to build a character that functioned in a way the designer probably didn't anticipate as both a dramatic and tactical challenge.  Holly, playing the Skriver (uh, magical scribe) is our more social player, and came primarily to interact with the other players - both as herself and in new and interesting situations as her character.  Kim had a character concept that she really wanted to try on and explore, an undead-hunting necromancer and fanatical old woman.  I came to relax and play the big dumb thunk, partly to see how my game engine worked in play and tinker with it between games, partly to collaborate on creating setting in-play.

None of which is Creative Agenda, not individually, and not together. These are the emphases within the five components each of you brought into play initially, and that's great.

What you described for Laura = Color
What you described for John = Character and System
What you described for Holly = Character
What you described for Kim = Character

Non-problematic, all cemented together with what appears to be friendship and good will. Excellent ... but still wholly at the level of the SIS and its relationship to Social Contract. What you described in your first post was deeper, in the next layer - the Techniques and how they related up to the SIS, with an emphasis on System and also with a few Ephemera scattered in.

Do you want to review the relationship of the five components, as depicted in my little equation?

[[[Character + Setting] = Situation] + System]*Color

If so, we can do that, and I can then show you how that, as a unit, relates up to the Social Contract, and down (deeper) into Techniques, for your group. It might take a few questions though.

I'm getting a really good idea of the Big Model of your play-experience, and the potential Creative Agendas of the experience are becoming clear to me as well. If you want to talk about the CA side of things, though, then I'm going to need a little bit more.

Can you describe to me a series of fictional events in your play-experience, with this group? Which characters did what, and what happened, and how it happened that way? I think you've already described enough of the real-people interaction for me to factor that in, although if you want to mention a specific real-life aspect of the play-experience as you go, then cool.

I'm especially interested in some events which really strike you as a real payoff - if you were describing this to someone like a close friend or family member, you'd finish it off by saying, "And this is why we play."

Final point: I would prefer a slow pace to this discussion. So far, this is plenty of posts for one day, and it might be better for the next post to arrive tomorrow.

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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Posts: 210


« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2006, 06:12:58 PM »

However, at this time, I'm not sure that's what you want to do here. I'm not fully satisfied that you want to know, and perhaps you're more comfortable saying, "Nope, no GNS for me, we don't match it, I don't like it."

Basically, I've analysed this gameplay with my own toolkit, so to speak, and learned what I can - a few things I think are valuable to me.  I've tried to analyse it with the one from here, and it aggravates me, because I get no results of value.

So, yeah, I'd like to let you take a shot at it.  I figure if we take an honest shot at doing so, either one or both of us can't help but  learn something about something.

I'll come back to your questions either late tonight or tomorrow, though, to keep the pace calm.
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Levi Kornelsen
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Posts: 210


« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2006, 12:27:02 AM »

Hmm.

Here's a cluster of small payoff events that happened in pretty fair order...  I'm not entirely sure I'm giving you quite what you're looking for here, so feel free to dig further in.  The 'payoffs' are marked (*person), for whoever really the most out of that moment.  These are all little moments of cool that ended up giving us a satisfying chunk of session; the big moments, generally, are along the same kinds of lines, just with more lead-up, more focus, that kind of thing.

(Character names: I'm playing Andjagger, John is Son, Kim is the Crone, and Holly is Tavel.)

We're up on a crest, having acquired a foretelling of where our enemies will be in three days, and having beaten them there.  We're trying to discuss how to prepare for the arrival of our enemies down at the bottom of the pass.  Son has fallen behind, and is circling around behind out enemies.  Tavel, being a craftswoman among other things, suggests a rock trap - Andjagger volunteers to do the heavy lifting, but only if Tavel and the Crone will inscribe the stones with some kind of runes that will harm the undead we're going up against. (*Me - we tested some new combined cooperation and preparation rules here, a bit)

The enemy begins to arrive below us, and we set ourselves to meet them.  To our slight suprise, they have advance scouts - wraiths, in this case, who attack us with magic, attempting to corrupt us with death energies.  We struggle against them, and the Crone manages to drive them off by applying her own magic, warding them away from the area, and forbidding them to return for a time.

The Crone knows she's been marked out by the enemy, so she shows herself, and takes stock.  The enemy is a big band of zombies, led by a shrouded master with burning eyes, and they've got a sledge with them that is roofed and banded over with marks and sigils - it's a prison of some kind.  She locks eyes with the master, and engages him will-to-will; zombies, she can drive off by the bucket, if this thing can be driven away.  They struggle, and she's winning, but at great cost. (*Kim - this is awesome stuff for her character)

At the same time, Andjagger and Tavel trigger the rockfall, and chase it down the slope, driving straight through the zombies to the back of the wagon.  Andjagger can't smash the lock off the sledge, to his great suprise, but gets some fun in the spotlight driving back the zombies and breaking them up enough that destroying them shouldn't be all that hard, and Tavel does the picks the lock.

The door falls open, and our Tribal Totem is revealed - howling in pain, wounded, and clearly in the midst of becoming corrupted.  The zombies draw away from the sledge in terror.

Tavel stands agape; Andjagger simply ask the Totem what it would have of him.

The Totem intones "kill the witches", and gestures to the Crone and to another spot (where, unbeknownst to us, an enemy magician is slinking into position to assault the Crone, followed closely by Son, who is slinking towards the magician, in a Congo-line of assassinatory intent).

Andjagger charges the Crone, but has, to his great shock, taken enough of the 'death damage' that she can affect him with her necromancy.  She halts him and binds him to her will almost perfunctorily. (*Both myself and Kim).

Son backstabs the hidden magician, killing him almost instantly, after plenty of careful preparation (*John - this is the upshot of some fiddly, interesting mechanical play with some pretty high stakes, where he got the chance to do so knowing that failure would likely send him sprawling)

Tavel, terrified, stumbles back from the totem, as it turns on the remaining foes and slaughters the greater number of them.  She attempts to confront it and converse with it, horrified by the command, and it comes very close to killing her, quietly telling her that it must send her into Death to set it free, with her responding in shock and betrayal.  This is a short bit of pretty intense character-play. (*Holly - for her, the intensity of this short scene was a lot of fun).

Tavel manages to escape it's grasp, and leads it on a chase through the scattered few foes, which distract it in it's fury.  The Crone pitches Andjagger, currently her slave, into the fray to rescue Tavel - which he does simply by interposing himself between her and the Totem.  The Totem seems loathe to kill him, and as Son joins the Crone on the crest, and they work together to obscure our getaway, the escape is made, though we know that we won't have forever before our Totem sniffs us out.

During this short retreat, we attempt to determine why our Totem wants some of us dead - the apparent answer being that it wants us to enter the spirit world to either help it break free of some corrupting influence, or to free it of whatever has prevented it's total corruption.  Tavel is upset, the magicians are attempting to determine what the hell is going on by puzzling on it and making a check here and there; they banter a bit about getting into the spirit world without dying, and ways that they might do this; they're all dangerous, but might be worth it.  Andjagger offers to simply fall on his sword and discover the truth - to him, as a fanatical spiritualist, the Totem is the life of the tribe, and well worth his death - but the Crone won't allow this. (*Pretty much equal payoff alll round, here - we're all playing to our characters in this scene, hard, and trying to come up with a course of action under a time limit - it's good stuff).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2006, 08:00:00 AM »

Hi Levi,

Great play write-up! I urge whoever's following this thread to click on Levi's link to the Exchange PDF. Despite his claim to the contrary, you're going to see major significance regarding system and Big-Model stuff.

But I'm not ready to chat about that yet. Levi, I'm afraid this is turning into a bit of a question-marathon, but there is a reason for it. I'll ask the questions first and then maybe their contents will help illustrate the reason.

So! During this session, did you, Levi, like what the others did? Did they like what you did? I'm pretty certain they did.

Compare, for example, what Jasper writes in his description of play before his group tried Dogs in the Vineyard:

Quote
I have the impression that Lukas likes to do a lot of what he calls "real role -playing", i.e. getting in character, acting, and acting out behaviors and believes different from those of his real personality. He prefers rules "no to interfere" with that, though he seems to be o.k. with rules bringing about or framing situations for him to act upon, such as stress checks in UA or some of the BtI mechanics.

Niklas likes strategizing, delving into his resources and playing close situations - fights, car chases, interrogations and such. He loves clear goals and strong, blunt opposition and obstacles. Socially, he sort of bears with Lukas´acting, because, well, we´re all friends, Lukas does a great job, it´s fun to watch him, and sometimes, if in a good mood, he plays along and even seems to enjoy it, but my impression is that he likes getting his dice out and maybe coming up with a cool one -liner ("Prepare to die", "Ve haf means to make you talk...") a lot better.

I would like to see more thematic play happen. It did happen, now and then, in our UA game, but I´d really, really like some mechanics to foster that and, what´s even more important, I´d like everyone to appreciate and enjoy those moments. I want conscious thematic play to happen.

Now, I guess it´s pretty clear that our game eventually had to break, right? Any two of us got along just fine, more or less: Niklas let Lukas have some of that acting, and Lukas was happy to roll some mean ol´dice, once he got "his guy" to a point where that would make sense. Neither of them could fathom what the heck I was all about with that "thematic" stuff and what in heaven was wrong for me with the way the game ran. I could get into an acting contest with Lukas (while Niklas was rolling another cigarette) or throw dice with Niklas (while having to keep some acting up for Lukas - which is difficult, you know), and of course feeling that I was catering to their needs but got very little out of the game in terms of my thematic preferences.

I tried to adress these problems, we tried some changes to the game (stronger scene framing, some player empowerment, some meta - game currency, a more explicit social contract, heck, just some talking about what everybody wants out of our gaming). Dind´t work too well. I got the feeling that the other two tried to be nice and help me out, but, come on, why did they have to talk about gaming such an awful lot all of a sudden? 'Why not, you know, just ...game? The problem being, of course, that "just gaming" was a lot of work for ME. After a while, we kind of agreed to disagree and switched to board games. Fine.

(from [DitV] First try and observations about different gaming goals)

Now that's incoherent play, what I was talking about loving pigs in entirely different fashions. "Why can't we just love pigs?" Well, because it means one person has to run around like the dickens keeping people individually happy while the others check out of the play-experience. And that's the good outcome. Or "good." Because if it had really been a good outcome, they wouldn't have switched to board games.

So I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that your group does not fit this profile. I could be wrong about that, but so far, that's what your posts have indicated.

Can I get a confirm on that? If I'm wrong - and you must be truly reflective and honest about your answer - then the next questions don't count.

Looking back on the actual human interactions among you-all during play, how was this enoyment and appreciation of one another's play literally expressed? Think big. Think over the whole session, not just ten-second or two-minute snippets here and there.

Now for the harder question ... starting from the beginning of the session to the end, looking at the interactions in question, did their existence play a role in decisions as play progressed?

To answer that, you really have to step back and not consider "how I felt" or "what did I want" in a teeny-tiny, second-by-second context. You have be like a Martian anthropologist looking at the session as a whole, looking at these humans. Do you see anything that indicates how the fun you had as a group at point A fed into what a given person decided next at point B?

This isn't strange, by the way. It's exactly what you see when people do anything fun together as a group. It's easy-peasy, not arcane, and not weird. It is, however, a topic that has been enswathed in a highly specific kind of denial in role-playing culture. In that culture, "fun" is supposed to be mystical and ineffable - thinking about it is "what man was not meant to know." That's a hard habit to break.

Step back a little and think about the session as a whole. I would like to know, was the entirety of what you described a climactic event relative to previous sessions, or a build-up toward something hefty in the next, or least later ones? I get the idea that the main bad guy was new to the group, but that you already knew a lot about the tribal totem and had dealt with it before in some way. Or is this mistaken? Was this the first time the totem had been brought into play? If so, was it the first time it was even mentioned?

All right, the answers to those questions will really help me show you your group's Creative Agenda.

I hope you can also see the basic issue at hand in your understanding of the whole point. You are exhibiting the classic bafflement of what might be called the "atomic fallacy" of talking about Creative Agenda.

That's the notion that Gamist play (for example) can be divined or identified regarding one guy, at one time, for ten seconds, getting juiced because he picked the right maneuver and rolled the right number and really clocked the bad guy at the right time. And it's wrong as wrong can be. The problem is one of scale.

This is too atomic in a number of ways:

- Time: it's too short.
- Fictional events: you've described actions and short-term outcomes, not scenes and events.
- People: you've broken the group into islands interacting with the GM, but not their interactions with one another as a dynamic, ongoing phenomenon.
- Data: you've talked about what individuals were feeling, not what they were doing in a social, creative sense.

To talk about that one guy (in your case, John strategizing his way toward a crucial cool-ass bad-ass combat move) at this level as "Gamist" is like calling a particular set of muscle tissue with its characteristic cell types a "dog." Sure, that set of muscle may be in a dog. But it just as well may be in a moose, a shark, or a starfish. Muscle tissue has properties and a vast importance, yes ... but, in and of itself, it is not a dog - nor does its existence serve as evidence that it's in a dog.

So the real task at hand, for this discussion, is to realize that we are talking about a scale of analysis, and events-during-play, that are not at the same scale as anything you've been describing. You've talked about the room the animal is in (social contract), and the muscle tissue (the techniques, like the strategizing or the in-character speaking or whatever). I'm trying to get you to step back and look at the animal, which is as yet unidentified, with the questions in this post.

Once we're there, then we'll have to talk about reward systems and cycles in order finally to talk about CA (what the animal is doing). Those are damned concrete, real things which pack a powerful argumentative punch in the points I'm looking forward to making for you. But we can't do that until you make this crucial transition out of the atomism first.

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2006, 01:28:03 PM »

So! During this session, did you, Levi, like what the others did? Did they like what you did? I'm pretty certain they did.

Yes.  But let me get specific, so as not to come off as dishonest about just how great things are.

For any given little payoff moment, there's generally five people at the table.  Generally, one is getting the best bit of any moment. Two or three are actually in there with them, helping that moment work and enjoying it.  And there's often one, maybe two people playing audience at any given moment, listening and relaxing.  At best, they're completely cool with what's going on - they just don't have anything to add.  At worst, they're not really into that moment, but they're trying to keep along with the fiction, looking for ways to play off the results.

Looking back on the actual human interactions among you-all during play, how was this enoyment and appreciation of one another's play literally expressed?

Lots of ways.

First, very small scale, there's The Nod - that moment when other people look over and give that 'thumbs up!' look.

Scaling up, there's the actual system stuff - as we go along doing neat new things with rules, the cooler they are, the more likely they are to stay in the system - both in terms of "the way we roll dice" and "the ways characters commonly deal with different bits of fictional stuff".  If we try something cool, and it doesn't work, it goes into the system as "let's not do that again until we rethink it".

And in the same fashion, the more a given thing engages us in the fiction - and the more opportunity we see to build up on it, the more it gets moved on by the people who dig it.  Andjagger's choice to be loyal to the Totem over Son has ultimately led to him becoming an undead thing kept alive only by the Totem's will, as events progressed, with all the different characters having their own takes on that and interacting with that stuff in different ways, because it's cool.

The more engaging something - anything - is, and the more people it engages, the more it becomes part of the guts of what we do - part of the accepted "way things work and issues that they work around".  This isn't a new thing to me; I've just never seen it happen completely in open sight, with everyone conscious of it, before.

Now, to me, that seems to answer your other question as well, but I have this nagging suspicion that it's not quite the thing you're fishing around for.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2006, 05:50:25 AM »

Hi Levi,

PART ONE

There are a couple of questions that are going unanswered, which makes it hard for me to move the discussion forward. I'll point to one in a minute, but there's a larger part of the conversation that isn't working for me either, and needs fixing.

It is: when I say something like "Does that make sense" or "I think you're looking at it this way, here's another way," then the conversation cannot function unless you give me confirmation or acknowledgment of some kind.

Does my point about the atomic fallacy make sense? You said above that you were, in fact, interested in learning about what I mean by Creative Agenda. This is a key point in learning about it, given what you'd said earlier. So, can I have confirmation or acknowledgment about that? Conversely, if it doesn't make sense to you, then can you let me know what doesn't?
There's no point to continuing unless you provide that kind of interaction. Help me out a little on this.

PART TWO

The Nod, the "system-selection," and the development of fictional elements due to mutual interest are all testimony to the linkage between Social Contract, SIS (all five parts), and Techniques, with Ephemera expressing bits and pieces of each. A fantastic Big Model in action summary. This lets me know your group has a reward system which everyone understands.

But first, I'm hoping you can see what I mean by Creative Agenda now. I'm suggesting is that a group would not reliably get that linkage without a shared aesthetic standard for what is most fun and satisfying. Any one person's enjoyment of that standard serves as others' enjoyment; person A might set up person B for a great rush of it, and person B might follow up on person C's, and whatever.

That would be Creative Agenda - the shared standard by which they do these things. I'm not trying to fish in any kind of tricky way. I'm asking these questions as clearly as I can and pointing down the road ahead at what I'm driving at. It's not mysterious, it's just a matter of looking at the right place. I'm claiming that when we do articulate your group's CA, you'll say, "Oh that old thing! Of course we do it that way! As if that were any kind of issue!"

So, do you see the scale and type of variable we're talking about? Do you see that the diversity you outlined in your first post is simply not a point of contention about that?

Minor point 1: If you guys are using person-customized techniques or modes of expression along the way, that's OK. I'm thinking that you have read my essays to say "one way to roll! one way to speak! one way to do it! only one! do that, all of you, exactly alike!" as the meaning of "system." I've said no such thing. Systems can be plural regarding their techniques. To me, that's a nose-wrinkling "of course they can" with multiple examples to point to.

Minor point 2: I used "reliably" in that paragraph above with some care. You have not fully confirmed that this is a reliable phenomenon in your group, but I think it probably is ... to help me with that, let's review a question I asked in the previous post.

Quote
think about the session as a whole. I would like to know, was the entirety of what you described a climactic event relative to previous sessions, or a build-up toward something hefty in the next, or least later ones? I get the idea that the main bad guy was new to the group, but that you already knew a lot about the tribal totem and had dealt with it before in some way. Or is this mistaken? Was this the first time the totem had been brought into play? If so, was it the first time it was even mentioned?

That will help me get to the most important topic which we need for this conversation: reward systems and cycles.

PART THREE

Here's another minor point. You wrote,

Quote
Generally, one is getting the best bit of any moment. Two or three are actually in there with them, helping that moment work and enjoying it. And there's often one, maybe two people playing audience at any given moment, listening and relaxing. At best, they're completely cool with what's going on - they just don't have anything to add. At worst, they're not really into that moment, but they're trying to keep along with the fiction, looking for ways to play off the results.

No big deal. This doesn't violate any expectations of mine or disallow any of my points. Again, it's completely typical of most group leisure activities. The only kind of checking-out that makes me suspicious is probably familiar to you from other games, or ones you've heard of - the guy who switches on his laptop and gets absorbed in his blog, the guy who wanders over to the DVD rack, the guy who starts a loud conversation with someone else at the table about some other topic while others are trying to play. What you're describing is the expected and necessary ebb and flow of social interaction and attention, with the less-active people contributing to the overall engagement because they're not being overly-present, and also taking needed mental relaxation along the way.

Again, I'd like confirmation of points I make, in terms of whether they were communicated. Let me know if this one makes sense to you.

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2006, 09:48:11 AM »

Numbered parts today.  I'm a fan of those...

PART ONE

The statement about the atomic fallacy makes sense, and I understand what you're saying there.  I'm not sure I entirely agree or disagree with it; I'm just trying to find a way to frame the experience from the perspective you're asking for.

PART TWO

Okay, aiming for the scale that you are, I see why the variance described at start isn't terribly helpful finding what you're asking for, though, to me, it's all of a piece.  Trying to frame this from the perspective of a shared aesthetic standard...

"Anything that creates new situations in the fiction which speak to both the characters and the setting, creating further opportunities to explore both, is awesome (so long as it isn't overdone).  The actual exploration of those things is good - the meat and potatoes of the game.  Things that do neither are neutral or dull."

Closer to the perspective you're looking for?

Minor point 1: If you guys are using person-customized techniques or modes of expression along the way, that's OK. I'm thinking that you have read my essays to say "one way to roll! one way to speak! one way to do it! only one! do that, all of you, exactly alike!" as the meaning of "system." I've said no such thing. Systems can be plural regarding their techniques. To me, that's a nose-wrinkling "of course they can" with multiple examples to point to.

Hmm.  I've written a fair bit of theory-jabber myself, and I've always been appalled how many people read things into what I say that I never meant to put there - and by some of the stuff they read in.  So, I'm going to just let this pass as "We read something you likely didn't mean to say.", and ask that we leave it at that, because nit-picking your wording and my perception in your essays strikes me as the opposite of productive in this conversation.

Minor point 2: I used "reliably" in that paragraph above with some care. You have not fully confirmed that this is a reliable phenomenon in your group, but I think it probably is ...

It is.

To get to your questions...

What I described (the fictional events) was a minor climactic event on the way to a larger one.  Our totem was one of the main objects of our quest - one we didn't expect to find there, but it was something we were looking for, and was a strong part of the background fiction for the game.  The enemy leader was something we'd seen hazily in a vision, but never actually confronted.

PART THREE

Sounds about right. 

I've seen games that had everyone more firmly engaged for longer stretches, but they, plainly, were short and exhausting.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2006, 06:00:39 PM »

Hi Levi,

Well, we're just about ready to start the real topic now.

Quote
Trying to frame this from the perspective of a shared aesthetic standard...

"Anything that creates new situations in the fiction which speak to both the characters and the setting, creating further opportunities to explore both, is awesome (so long as it isn't overdone). The actual exploration of those things is good - the meat and potatoes of the game. Things that do neither are neutral or dull."

Closer to the perspective you're looking for?

Exactly right, in terms of the scale and parameters. But as you've stated it, this lacks content. The content is certainly there; its existence is implied by the "speak to the characters" and the "as long as it isn't overdone."

Our job at present is, having identified what we're looking for and where it might be found (how to look for it), to discover what it actually is: the content or identity of your group's focus, attention, goal, shared aesthetic standard, creative agenda.

Side note: I said "implied" and should clarify why. The way you've said that, you have only implied that the content is there, and said nothing at all about what it is. Both phrases are too vague for that purpose.

Regarding "speak to the characters," I will say this: the characters don't exist. The only imaginable interpretation of such a phrase is "speak to the participants," which is to say, the real people. I recognize, yes, that the characters are involved as fictional constructs, as media for the relevance to the players. When I'm playing simple Jed the homesteader, what "speaks to me" may not be the same as what "speaks to me" when playing Abbanzar the Avatar. But whatever and whenever, we are talking about the material speaking to me, and that's how I'm going to read your phrasing.

Regarding "so long as it isn't overdone," that is going to be a major topic later in the discussion. Don't let me forget about it.
No need to debate this business about the vagueness! It's actually perfectly appropriate at this point and sets up the next step as described above.

Quote
What I described (the fictional events) was a minor climactic event on the way to a larger one. Our totem was one of the main objects of our quest - one we didn't expect to find there, but it was something we were looking for, and was a strong part of the background fiction for the game. The enemy leader was something we'd seen hazily in a vision, but never actually confronted.

Yeah, I definitely gathered from your previous write-up was that the group of players reacted strongly to discovering the tribal totem. OK! So they're on this quest. Tell me, how was this quest established? What was up with the Frost Folk tribe that needed questing to solve? Now, I'm not asking for the metaphysics and what the Caribou Shamaness said in the sweat-hut, I'm talking about what was presented, in play, that got the players strongly invested in going off on the quest?

Were kids starving? Prey animals becoming rare? Savage beasts harrying the solitary hunters? Women becoming barren? What was up? 'Cause I'm pretty sure there was something. I am not being facetious about its content, either. I'm saying, what was the strong content of the early scenarios of this series of adventures (of which the cited session was what, three-quarters along the way, maybe two-thirds?)?

Will the answer tell us about the Creative Agenda? Noooooo, it won't. I've got a really strong notion of what it is, now, and I don't want to be coy about it. I also, however, want to articulate and demonstrate it as well as possible. So the more imaginative/fictional context we have, especially in terms of how it related to you guys actually, in play, the better my notion can be articulated and supported to you.

So we're almost there! Thanks for your patience so far.

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2006, 07:47:50 PM »

Our job at present is, having identified what we're looking for and where it might be found (how to look for it), to discover what it actually is: the content or identity of your group's focus, attention, goal, shared aesthetic standard, creative agenda.

Sounds good, but I'm not sure how to go from here to there.  What I gave was a loose description of one way of framing what I'd call our aesthetic standard - and I'll happily grant you that it was damnably vague, even lacking in identity.

Regarding "speak to the characters," I will say this: the characters don't exist. The only imaginable interpretation of such a phrase is "speak to the participants," which is to say, the real people. I recognize, yes, that the characters are involved as fictional constructs, as media for the relevance to the players. When I'm playing simple Jed the homesteader, what "speaks to me" may not be the same as what "speaks to me" when playing Abbanzar the Avatar. But whatever and whenever, we are talking about the material speaking to me, and that's how I'm going to read your phrasing.

In large part.  But I'll expand, to be clear.  If I say something "speaks to the character", then I may mean any or all of:

-Something that the player wants to explore and address, and sees a way that to do so through the media of their character.

-Something that the player, again screened through that media, finds compelling in and of itself.

-Something that the player believes is, while not necessarily compelling or worth exploring in itself, nevertheless something that grounds the character or opens up chances for the player to get the whole media into a state that will bring up compelling or explorable stuff.

-Something the player believes is relevant to other player's characters, and would like to see brought into the game where it can be dealt with.

-Something that fits so smoothly with the fiction of the character, or the systemry attached to that character, that it feels as if it belongs.

Tell me, how was this quest established? What was up with the Frost Folk tribe that needed questing to solve? Now, I'm not asking for the metaphysics and what the Caribou Shamaness said in the sweat-hut, I'm talking about what was presented, in play, that got the players strongly invested in going off on the quest?

Fictionally, we kicked off the fast way - the home village tribe was slaughtered by unknown foes and our treasures stolen.  This happened just as winter began to fall, and our characters were among the many tribesfolk returning home when it occured; we were the aspiring heroes of the tribe, not yet risen to leadership positions (or, in the case of the Crone, actively in rejection of leadership roles).

That was all pre-start; we started on our way into the village for winter, seeing a smudge of smoke on the horizon.

The earlier cited chunk of play is from about three-quarters of the way down the line, yes.

...

Now, the main content of the first couple of sessions was really three parts...

We buried the dead, with heavy rituals, and scoured the rubble for both grave goods and for the ancestral treasures of the tribe.  We went so far as to describe raising a mound over them, trying to build the overall feel of the setting, the characters, and the dynamics of the game - the whole idea that our characters had previously been secondary member of a supremely skilled tribe, and were now the best thing the tribe had going for it, and the character reactions to that (their own personal issues, so to speak). This was strong content in the sense of establishing characters and their stuff.

We looked for ways to track and number our enemies, and determine what had occured, with magic and various kinds of skills and so on, trying to determine the ways we could follow them.  This was strong content in the sense that it helped us as players get a grasp of the game engine, and start adapting our play to and through it, as well as letting us start finding ways to express character stuff through the medium of that engine.  In effect, it let us turn the engine into part of our actual system of play, to use terms more familiar to these parts.

And, finally, we spoke with representatives of other tribes that we had summoned or who had heard of the attack, attempting to gain information from them, and gifting them with the food supplies that our dead tribesmen would not need to eat over winter.  In effect, we gave them a magnificent bribe not to seize our lands over the winter.  This segment largely helped us create and reinforce a sufficient level of setting detail that we could fully buy into the game, and present things in a way that felt right.

Now, I'm simplifying a fair bit here, but that's generally what we were doing over the first session-and-a-half or so; that was the stuff that established the game.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2006, 06:44:02 AM »

Hi Levi,

Regarding your points about characters: yes, yes, yes – full agreement. Perfect. We fully agree about what characters are, how they’re important, and what may be happening with them. If anyone ever asks me “what do you mean by ‘character’” regarding my Big Model talk, I’ll point to your list. That’s exactly what I mean.

Now, on to the task at hand. I wrote,

Quote
Our job at present is, having identified what we're looking for and where it might be found (how to look for it), to discover what it actually is: the content or identity of your group's focus, attention, goal, shared aesthetic standard, creative agenda.

And you replied,

Quote
Sounds good, but I'm not sure how to go from here to there.  …

Excellent! We are now on our way to doing just that. From now on, let’s talk people, characters, content, interactions, and all manner of stuff about actual play. This is the fun part.

I’ll start by combining your character details from an earlier post with a couple of key phrases that jumped out at me in the last one.

Quote
John, playing the ritualist, came in with his standard set of goals - to build a character that functioned in a way the designer probably didn't anticipate as both a dramatic and tactical challenge.  Holly, playing the Skriver (uh, magical scribe) is our more social player, and came primarily to interact with the other players - both as herself and in new and interesting situations as her character.  Kim had a character concept that she really wanted to try on and explore, an undead-hunting necromancer and fanatical old woman.  I came to relax and play the big dumb thunk,

Quote
…  we were the aspiring heroes of the tribe, not yet risen to leadership positions (or, in the case of the Crone, actively in rejection of leadership roles).

Quote
… the overall feel of the setting, the characters, and the dynamics of the game - the whole idea that our characters had previously been secondary member of a supremely skilled tribe, and were now the best thing the tribe had going for it, and the character reactions to that (their own personal issues, so to speak). This was strong content in the sense of establishing characters and their stuff.

Right. I’m reading between the lines at a few points in the character descriptions paragraph, but given your account of play as well, I think it’s fair to say that none of your characters are necessarily the pick-of-the-litter as far as “save the tribe” is concerned.

Son, the ritualist, is arrogant and independent to a fault. The Crone avoids responsibility but is driven by fanatical passions. Andjagger isn’t too bright (or more accurately, he and the others think he isn’t). Tavel provides the perfect centralizing influence as the only one who’d really like to be the best/brightest of the tribe, but lacks confidence and grit.

Your other two points in the latest post (using system-stuff to identify enemies and figure out what was going on) (establishing and coloring setting-stuff via the interaction with the other tribes) are also golden, because they lock that character-issue stuff totally into place regarding the five components of the SIS.

Perhaps “lock into place” is a poorly chosen phrase, though … what I mean is more like “kick start” or “blossom.” I especially like “blossom” because it means so many other things are coming clear or being included, and it also implies not knowing how it’ll all turn out in the end. The point is that everyone at the table now knew that none of that work spent in making up characters was wasted – the rest of the SIS is firing on all cylinders as well.

You wrote,

Quote
… that was the stuff that established the game.

And “how truly you speak.” Exactly. This is the stuff of the game, not in the sense of literal fictional content (“we are the frost folk”), but in terms of thematic content. You are talking about the potential tensions among the fictional elements, the things that make them unstable, interesting, dynamic, and crying out for resolution.

… and most importantly, resolution that says something. Oh, not in any kind of dry, abstracted academic way, but in the way humans experience such “sayings” when a really good story hammers home its climactic moments, and I (for instance) say to myself, “I was not cheated out of my $9.50 for these past two hours.” People rarely articulate the content of these thematic payoffs, but their existence or failure is the single most important variable regarding whether a movie was excellent or fucking sucked.

Is it any wonder that in this awesome session, chosen by you and not me regarding its signature importance in this game, is characterized not by the presence of a Big Bad guy, but by strife and confusion among the heroes?

That’s no wonder at all. That’s exactly the sort of conflict-situation that your character concepts and the setting were demanding, in which the issues of leadership, worthiness, and responsibility were thrown into absolutely central focus. Add to it the masterstroke of throwing into question the overall validity of the goal itself, and it’s a thing of beauty.

I refer, in that last point, to the Totem. The Totem is the spirit of the tribe, its worth in the metaphysical and mythical power of the setting. If it is corrupted, if it is not reliable as a source of wisdom, then who are the characters, after all? Must they make a Totem anew, or heal this one, according to the dictates of their own, individual views?

All of a sudden there’s a lot more to saving the tribe than just killing a bunch of stupid zombies and their faux-Nazgual warleader. This isn’t  a tactical exercise at the “whole dog” scale, not at all. Nor is it some kind of “gee, just immerse” procedure. You guys are fully engaged in the production of a theme that, until you grapple with this bit of play, in this session, could not be stated because it did not yet exist.

Not only, can the tribe be saved?, but also and centrally, can we save the tribe, when we are neither fully-yet leaders or even in one case, when we do not desire leadership? And when we are quirky bastards, too, with quirks that make our potential leadership problematic? And when we, with our faults, turn out to have to be spiritual leaders (heal/replace the Totem), not just a ‘tac squad?

Does that make sense? I am not claiming that any of you actually articulated any of this during play itself, whether aloud or internally. Such things do not have to be articulated in order to be central to our aesthetic interests, as human. I'm asking if it makes sense now, with you looking back over play as the Martian anthropologist.

Here’s a supportive point. Take my points above, and add to them your group’s absolutely classical setting, which echoes very strongly in my ears of The Prydain Chronicles and the Celtic myths concerning the Fhoi Myore (by whatever spelling). Tribes are pretty much good, healthy things. Undead and massacres and fucked-up totems are, straightforwardly, tragic and (non-sarcastically) evil.

This is excellent data! If the shared goals of play concern “unstable thematic elements crying out for resolution,” then problematic, potentially conflicted characters do very well in initially fixed-familiar, straightforward settings. The setting can later provide more complexity (like your Totem being corrupted), but the starting point does best to be very clear and simple, as you did.

One common pitfall in such gaming is to have maximally-conflicted characters in maximally-conflicted, morally-gray settings, which usually results in a total mess.  You guys, instead, quite rightly have identified where you want your conflicts (character mind-sets) and made sure to do that in the right kind of setting (solid, clear morality). This serves, to me, as another indicator that “creation of theme out of a nest of hassles” is a high priority for your group.

(Side note: the opposite works well for this purpose, too – very straightforward starting characters in a messy, no-sides-right setting.)

(Other side note: these points do not apply at all to play with utterly different goals, in which maximal-mess and minimal-mess are both useful ways to do it)

Now I’d like to talk about the last session or two of this particular saga.

What happened to the totem? Did any or all of the group enter the spirit world through the path of death? Did that help rescue it? How about any inter-character relationships, like Andjagger to the Crone? Did Son show any qualities of leadership, as opposed to showboating? Did Tavel emerge from her confusion to arrive at a powerful statement of ‘what we need to do’? In fact, did the characters establish any hierarchy or sets of individualized responsibility among them?

Because what I’m anticipating, in your account, is the presence of a certain degree of answer to the more abstract questions, italicized a few paragraphs above, inherent in the answers to these more concrete/SIS questions, italicized just above.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: August 03, 2006, 06:45:52 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Levi Kornelsen
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Posts: 210


« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2006, 11:11:07 AM »

Not only, can the tribe be saved?, but also and centrally, can we save the tribe, when we are neither fully-yet leaders or even in one case, when we do not desire leadership? And when we are quirky bastards, too, with quirks that make our potential leadership problematic? And when we, with our faults, turn out to have to be spiritual leaders (heal/replace the Totem), not just a ‘tac squad?

Does that make sense? I am not claiming that any of you actually articulated any of this during play itself, whether aloud or internally. Such things do not have to be articulated in order to be central to our aesthetic interests, as human. I'm asking if it makes sense now, with you looking back over play as the Martian anthropologist.

I'd alter the thematic questions you've put forward a little, and your reading of implied stuff is good, though not perfect.  And, certainly, it does make sense.

But I'm a little resistant to viewing it as central to the way we play.  Now, I'll clarify why that is, because I'd prefer to have you make your case as thoroughly as possible, rather just hearing blank objections.

It doesn't feel so much like an "Aha!" as a "My, that's seductively attractive.  Our game could become that very easily; we're close enough to it that downplaying the other stuff and focusing on that would be simple."  But the other stuff, which we could downplay to bring that stuff clearer, and to be certain of answering those thematic questions, is of value to the group - and may be of greater value to people other than myself, since I can't see perfectly into their heads.

(And this, I suspect, may be where you want me to remind you of "so long as it isn't overdone").

Now I’d like to talk about the last session or two of this particular saga.

What happened to the totem? Did any or all of the group enter the spirit world through the path of death? Did that help rescue it? How about any inter-character relationships, like Andjagger to the Crone? Did Son show any qualities of leadership, as opposed to showboating? Did Tavel emerge from her confusion to arrive at a powerful statement of ‘what we need to do’? In fact, did the characters establish any hierarchy or sets of individualized responsibility among them?

Because what I’m anticipating, in your account, is the presence of a certain degree of answer to the more abstract questions, italicized a few paragraphs above, inherent in the answers to these more concrete/SIS questions, italicized just above.

Well, some of it is in there...

We all entered the spirit world, as it happened.  It became clear that it was necessary to do so, one way or another, to heal the Totem.  But it was also clear that we had limited time, as things were getting worse for the Totem.  Andjagger spoke to his familiar spirit (a semi-vampiric thing he captured and had bound into his sword), and it agreed that the joy of drinking away his life would be worth the difficulty of attempting to give some of it back to him when his work in the spirit world was done; he them killed himself, knowing the blade was likely to fail.

At the same time, the Crone, Tavel, and Son searched the area for any of the drugs normally used for vision quests; it wasn't until after the death of Andjagger that they finally found some, but not all, of the recipe.  After only a token discussion, they knew that they might well return from the spirit world to bodies that were completely crippled, or even possessed, because of their shoddy preparations, but went anyway.

We managed, with some ritual trickery, to largely clear our totem of the bonds that were corrupting him - all save one, which we had to trace back (with ghostly speed) to another spirit.  It was our former cheiftain, Son's father, fully corrupt, and apparently complicit.

From the flow of events, we (as players) were all prepared to hear the "Darth Vader" offer being made to Son.  Instead, he ordered us to break the bond between our totem and leave his father's sould to rot; the tribe mattered more, and the drugs would not last them forever.  After a few failed attempts, and some kerfuffle (in which Tavel was smashed back into her body, somewhat damaged) we managed to do so.

We returned to our totem, and noted that it had begun to become a complete spirit again, though too still pained to talk more than a few words at a time.  Crone and Son, seeing this, murmurred how they would need to renew and cleanse our bonds to the Totem soon, with some pretty hefty ritual.  Andjagger discovered that his familiar had failed, and could not revive him; he simply nodded goodbye to the others, made it clear he wanted no goodbyes, and they returned to their bodies.

Andjagger waited over the Totem, to guard it as it healed, in the Spirit World, before going on to his rest.

After only a few moments, the Totem looked at him, and rumbled something that sounded like "I have need of you among the living.  For a time.  You will come to death when we are done.", and slammed Andjagger back into his body, now undead.

He awoke beside his sickened, vomiting cohorts, and they conversed, attempting to get a handle on the new shape of their world; things, relationships, needed to be oriented anew, changed, dealt with.  And we got a start on this.  But we didn't finish.

...And the last game of the series is either tonight, or a week from tonight, depending on scheduling.
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