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Author Topic: Princes & Prophecies  (Read 3933 times)
Paul T
Member

Posts: 369


« on: August 01, 2006, 11:07:51 PM »


Hello,

I have been reading discussions on the Forge for about eight months now, and getting more and more of a solid grasp of how the theory relates to game design. Now, I'm finally getting the chance to apply it to some actual role-playing.

I'm having a lot of light bulb moments--I haven't had the chance to game much lately, but it feels like the ratio of light bulbs to time spent playing is very high. More recently, I've had some frustrating things pop up which I would like your advice on.

I got together four players to run a short-term (two to three session) adventure in a dark/low fantasy setting. Three of them are good friends of mine (but not very old friends) and one is someone I've just met recently. Of the three from the former group, two are experienced roleplayers, and the two others are playing for the first time. More on them below.

*The Game*

I told them the game would take place in a dark, twisted fantasy setting with fairly little "flashy" magic or supernatural influences. The characters could be anyone they wanted them to be as long as they were people with a good reason to take part in an expedition. I told them that they would encounter a situation and have to choose how to deal with it, what side to take, and so on.

The expedition is being sent by the aging King to apprehend a man. It has been organized by the King's Captain of the Guard because of a rumour: a peasant in a faraway village on the very edges of the kingdom has apparently publicly threatened the life of the King. Of course, this cannot be allowed.

It would be a pretty straightforward matter, but two complications muddy the waters. First of all, this man may have gathered some supporters by now, and maybe even armed them. For this reason, the expedition will consist of a Company of Guardsmen (about fifty), a few knights, and their servants. Second, there is an obscure prophecy that suggests that this man shall bring about the King's doom.

The rules in use are a modified set of the Fudge rules, which are still under construction, and can be seen here:

http://fudge.phoenyx.net/guide/bin/view/Projects/OldSchoolFantasy

You don't need to read them to follow this account. It's basically Fudge with some rules added to make combat feel like D&D and some simple narrative power options for the players (spend a Fudge point, add something to the story).

Here are the characters we got:

-His Highness Prince William himself, one of the King's sons, and a potential heir to the throne. Although plagued by indecisiveness, he hopes to prove himself on this journey. Unfortunately, his rather embarassing sparring match with Sir Galen was observed by many of the men, and their regard for him has sunk to a new low.
(The player is a friend of mine, and completely new to roleplaying.)

-Sir Galen Dawnstar, reputed Paragon of Virtue, an aging knight who is a loyal King's man and renowned for his honor as well as his skill in battle. He has pledged himself to protecting the Prince and worries about his seeming lack of skill with the sword.
(Played by another friend of mine, someone who loves roleplaying but hasn't had the chance to play much in years. He's recently become interested in "Forge" thought on RPGs, and we've been discussing it together.)

-Loryn Gladerunner, a former King's huntsman. The man they're going to apprehend is his son! He was just released from the King's dungeons, where he has spent the last 20 years, locked up for hunting the King's deer. He is coming along in case his status as the man's father might give him some leverage over the situation. The player has informed me that he loves both his family and the Crown, and I think he would enjoy having to choose between those two things. We last saw him fleeing the encampment with the Prince's practice bow in hand.
(Played by a friend of mine who was a serious gamer but has recently become disenchanted with RPGs. As far as I can tell, it's because he's tired of railroading GMs and disfunctional play. I told him some of my ideas on avoiding those pitfalls, and he agreed to join. I think it's the first time he's been excited about roleplaying in a while.)

-Aeryllyn, a servant woman who is traveling with the Company in the function of a canteen lady. Unbeknownst to many, Aeryllyn is actually an experienced spy, and the Captain of the Guard has assigned her the task of observing the men and reporting any signs of possible treason. Unfortunately, she is not a smooth talker (due to a low Charm rating) and has a worrying tendency to tell people everything she knows. The Captain of the Guard, angered by her slips of the tongue, has ordered her to stay by Sir Galen's side "until we return to the city". She is a
master craftswoman, and has constructed a primitive telescope to aid in her spying.
(Played by someone I just recently met. She's never roleplayed before, but is really excited to try it. It was her interest in roleplaying that led me to start this game.)

A couple of the write-ups mention in-game events. Those took place during the first session of play, which began with character creation and a brief explanation of roleplaying for the new players.

Unfortunately, one thing I forgot to do (mainly because I really wanted to get started and people were getting antsy) was outline relationships for the characters--towards each other as well as towards the King and the other members of the expedition. This may well be a cause of my current problems.

*One Session, Two Sessions*

The first session took a long time to get going, especially as the new players were getting used to the procedures of play (I'm talking about things like speaking in character and interacting with the SIS, not the dice and rules relating to the mechanics--those haven't been a problem at all). However, by the end of the session, things really picked up. This got me really excited about the second session, which I hoped would begin at the same level of intensity.

In the first session, I kicked things off with a dinner at the King's table the night before the expedition's departure. I asked each player to tell me what they were doing there. Loryn's player said that he was manacled in the corner of the room, chewing on a discarded bone. Aeryllyn's player told me that she was there because she was being sent on a spy mission. That felt a little awkward to me, fighting against years of ingrained traditional GM reflexes and habits, but I bit my tongue in time and had the Captain of the Guard talk to her after the dinner and ask her to look for any possible treason within the Company.

From there, play progressed very smoothly. I decided that I would try to get each player to frame their own scenes, and was surprised by how easy and natural it felt. It was something I'd read about before, and it always sounded very scary and artificial on paper. However, it turned out to be very similar to what I had been doing as a GM for years--I would turn to each player and it would go something like:

--"What would you like your character to do now?"
--"I want to confront the Captain of the Guard about [...]"
--"How do see that happening?"
--"Well, maybe I'm walking by his tent and find him eating breakfast..."
--"Perfect! Let's go!"

I told the experienced guys that I wanted them to do this sort of thing, as well (they weren't particularly used to it).

In addition, I tried to go with anything the players made up as much as possible. For example, when Aeryllyn's player said, "I want to see if any of those men are grumbling behind the Prince's back," I would ask her to roll, and if she was successful, she would find some. This was difficult (I had not planned on there being any traitors on the expedition), but I made myself do it, and I'm glad I did. Allowing the players to contribute in this way has really made the game better.

There was one incident that was a little tough, though. Loryn stole a bow. Aeryllyn found the bow, and her player described that the bow had the Prince's mark on it! Loryn's player looked a little concerned--that hadn't been what he meant by "I want to steal a bow." I asked him if he was OK with that, and he agreed. After the game, I suggested that next time a player improvises a detail that gets another player's character in trouble, they should give that player a Fudge point. He agreed to this method of handling it, and that's what we'll be doing in the future.

I also tried to think about how every roll could represent some form of conflict resolution instead of task resolution. For instance, we had a scene where Sir Galen and the Prince were sparring for practice. The players were aware that about half the camp was watching them, but the characters were not. I told them each to roll their "Arms" trait. If the Prince won, he would prove himself to the men; if he failed, he would make a fool of himself and lose their regard. (He failed. I asked him to describe what happened, and he described his character slipping on a rock and throwing his sword into a nearby barrel of water. That narration was probably the moment of play were that player seemed the most engaged--he really got into it!)

Through the combination of these three goals I set for myself, I was surprised by how well play progressed, despite the fact that the "story" or "plot" had not even been encountered--they had not yet arrived in the village where this man was supposed to live. Play was almost all about the characters interacting with each other on the road on the way to the "plot", so to speak. For me as GM, it felt effortless. All I had to do was describe scenery and act out the speech of various NPCs.

The second session, however, really didn't go as well. They arrived in the village to discover that:

a) The man they were looking for was no longer there, but probably living in the woods to the West, and many men had gone there with him.
b) Children had been disappearing from the village for some time, and no one knew why.

(I also had another friend who was visiting me join the game. He is also an experienced gamer, but not familiar with the Forge ideas I've been reading about. He played a traveling physician who was hired by the Prince almost immediately and joined the Company. He has since gone home, so the character is now an NPC. Just for the record, I asked him after the game, explaining my discontent. What he thought was wrong with the game was that the PCs were too scattered and that I should try to get them into a group together somehow and then try to isolate them from the expedition so that they have to work together.)

This second session did not go smoothly or effortlessly at all. It wasn't a total disaster, but energy was low, and I really had trouble getting things rolling. I felt that a lot of the players weren't giving me much to work with. For instance:

When they encountered the physician on the road, the Captain of the Guard made a big show of how _he_ would be "dealing with this, and the rest of your step aside", clearly taking charge of the situation. The Prince tried to reassert his authority, and a little conflict of power began to take place. I decided to play it to the hilt, playing the Captain very aggressively, as well as being underhandedly insulting to the Prince. Unfortunately, this didn't work. Apparently, his arguments on why he should be in charge were strong enough to convince the Prince, who immediately backed off and let him take the reins of the situation. (I'm pretty sure that the player was not stepping down because he felt pressure from me, but because he actually thought that the Prince would have been convinced by the Captain's arguments. In my conversation with Loryn's player, we've come to the conclusion that this conflict has simply been postponed...)

 Later, I had a scene at the mayor's house, where most of the characters were having dinner. Loryn's character was still hiding in the forest, so I told his player that he could just tell me any time he wanted his character to be involved in a scene. He said that he wanted to sneak into the village and climb onto the roof of the mayor's house, trying to eavesdrop on their dinner conversation through the chimney. We made an Agility roll. The roll was a serious failure, so I told him that his character made it up there but will make some clumsy mistake and get noticed by the villagers, but he could decide when and how that happens. He seemed excited by this, and after a good while he announced that Loryn falls off the roof.

Here, I was taken aback again. I was expecting this to escalate to some kind of interesting scene (perhaps a confrontation, a capture, or a chase), but the player just said that he wanted to flee to the forest as quickly as possible and hide there.

Not sure what to do, and feeling like the game was getting a little flat, I turned to my Illusionist GM training and started feeding the players clues about the "secret plot" I had outlined in the backstory (which had already been hinted at previously). The players were interested in these clues, but the game lost the momentum it had had in the first session. The dynamics reverted to more traditional play, including one scene where the characters went to investigate the blacksmith, who I had decided was completely uninvolved with the backstory or the possible rebels. There was a long scene where they asked him questions and tried to determine whether he was capable of making weapons for the men. I played him so as to show that he was not competent at that sort of thing, and did so obviously enough that almost the players could tell (I've spoken to them about it since) that he was innocent just from my body language. Aeryllyn;s player, however, kept pushing, and finally ran into the back of the shop, announcing that she found some metal rods that looked like they might be made into swords.

I really wasn't sure how to handle that, so I gave some ambiguous answer about how they could be or might not be, and the scene finally closed. It was quite probably the longest scene to date. I have since asked the player how she felt in that scene and she admitted that she had been bored with the scene and just wanted _something_ to happen.

I felt really stuck in that scene, not being able to see how the blacksmith making weapons could possibly fit into the backstory I had made up. Since the conversation with her (post-game) I have come up with an idea, but that moment of play was decidedly uncomfortable. I had been trying to accomodate most reasonable improvised content by players throughout the game even if it heavily changed the story (which is very much against my instincts), but here I couldn't figure out how it could be done. I could tell, though, that it really needed to happen to make that scene make sense. I felt kind of stuck.

I've decided for now that in the future I will ask the player to spend a Fudge point. If they are willing, their contribution will become part of the SIS, and my backstory can go suck on a lemon. If not, then it's probably not that important, and we can move on.

Loryn's player (the disenchanted gamer) said that he enjoyed the session, although nowhere near as much as the first one, but thought that I reverted to using task resolution instead of conflict resolution and that this may have caused the loss of momentum in the game.

I ended the game with a terribly, terribly railroaded scene (I don't know if the players could tell or not, but they probably could) where they were attacked by a giant, monstrous man in the forest. They defended themselves successfully and killed him. However, as they looked at the creature's severed head, they realized that its features were, however distorted, recognizable as those of a small boy they had met earlier and who had recently disappeared from the village.

I threw in that scene because we had five minutes of play left and I wanted to leave the players with something to think about. That aspect of things worked, but the combat didn't feel very tense of particularly interesting, and forcing that scene to take place left a really bad taste in my mouth. I know railroading and GM Force is usually described as something that a GM does to the players, and that the players should be angry about, but I really really find doing it unpleasant from the GM's chair. It totally ruins my enjoyment of the game. I want to be surprised by what happens too!

*The Point*

I'd really like to hear any advice on how I might have handled any of that better, and how I can help make the third session more like the first and less like the second (the whole "GM reveals plot" thing is even more tiresome for me than for the players, I think).

As I saw it, the first session had all been driven by the players and each character's attempts to introduce or resolve some sort of conflict in play. The second session, however, turned into more of a traditional "try to find the GM's plot" game. For me (as GM), that felt like dragging stones in comparison, and I know the players didn't enjoy it as much either. I reverted to that style of play because that's what I know how to do (long-trained habits), and because I felt like the players had backed down from everything I'd thrown at them so far and really needed to make something happen. So, it was essentially out of desperation. I felt on the spot and it was my habits that took over.

One problem, as I said, is that I don't really have the characters' relationships to the rest of the world. Eager to start playing that first evening, we skipped that part, just like most gamers do--we didn't take the time to figure out how each character feels about the King, or the Captain, or the soldiers, etc. I had meant to do it and somehow forgot at the last minute.

The only exceptions are Loryn's connection to his son (the man they're after) and the Prince's connection to the King (his father). But both of those characters haven't really appeared in play yet (the King had a minor part in the first scene of the game, but that was it), so it's hardly made any difference.

The first session did create some dynamics between the PCs, however. Sir Galen feels guilty about having shown up the Prince in front of the men, and feels the need to protect him (since he now believes him to be incapable of defending himself). The Prince is sympathetic to Aeryllyn, and knows that she is spying for the Captain of the Guard. Loryn and Aeryllyn are probably not on too good terms (she found the bow and turned Loryn in, which led to him running away), but Sir Galen and Loryn are (the knight had been kind to the old man). Also, the Captain of the Guard has assigned Aeryllyn to Sir Galen's care so as to keep her out of trouble, or from blabbing all her secrets to anyone she meets. She's been running out from under Sir Galen's watchful eye whenever possible since then.


*A Final Note*

I'm really happy that I'm finally getting the chance to put some of the Forge "moon-talk" into practice and excited by how it transformed the game in that first session. Thank you all for making the Forge the place it is. I look forward to your feedback.

All the best,


Paul

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TonyLB
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Posts: 3702


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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2006, 05:34:55 AM »

Wow, they both sound like really good games. The first because it was just fun, and the second because you had some instinct-clash that (I suspect) you'll look back on and say "Ah, that was the beginning of my consciously creating my own style."

So, yeah, frustration now, but you should also be feeling some pride and hope.

There are a couple of techniques that you can take a look at, and see whether they would apply. Me, personally, I'd have applied them in your situation, but you're not trying to redevelop my style, so maybe they aren't the right fit for you.

  • Innnnnteresting...: When somebody does something completely unexpected, particularly when it defuses a current conflict, I file it away in my mind and start thinking: What does that mean about this character? What does it mean about the player? How can I use this new knowledge to get at them even harder, later? So, for instance, when the Prince backed down ... that's interesting. That doesn't seem like the kind of thing a Prince would do in his situation. He's sensible and selfless, but also maybe a bit shy of confrontation. I would smile and note down in my mind (or in my notes) that the Captain of the Guard needs to push again, harder, with less iron-clad arguments. And that, maybe, some NPCs with personal connections need to have their safety or happiness on the line depending on whether the Prince stands up to him. To paraphrase Vincent Baker: "Oh ... you'll go that far, huh? How about this baby-step further? Will you make the same decision now? Innnteresting."
  • What happens next?: When a player runs off into the land of What-the-Fuck, it's usually not because they are deliberately isolating themselves from the story. It's usually because they have something in mind, and I haven't figured it out yet. So I ask 'em. "Okay, and then what happens?" Either they have an idea, and they tell me, or else they suddenly realize how they've defused their characters ability to be in the story, they get a little sheepish, and they figure out a way to get back into play. The situation with Loryn running off into the forest seems, to me, a clear example of this. Either (a) she ran off into the forest because she knows that the criminals she is seeking are in the forest, and figures that her failed spying would give her enough "street-cred" that those criminals would make contact (perhaps violently abducting her! Yay!) or (b) she was clueless, and why should you do all the work of fixing her cluelessness?
  • Say yes or roll the dice: That blacksmith scene ... that's a power-struggle between you and Aeryllyn's player. You want there not to be weapons-making going on, and he wants there to be. That's great. Diverse creative input is what makes the game cool. What is not great is that it dragged on and on, because the only rules-approved way to resolve it was for you to simply say "No. By fiat, I declare this is not so," and that wasn't satisfying to anyone. So roll some dice. Say "Okay, my stakes are that the blacksmith is clean. Yours are that he's guilty. I really want this, so I'm spending five of my fudge points on the roll. You can spend whatever feels right for you. Let's roll." I find that giving the GM the power to say "Hey, I really want this," without that being the final word can be a powerful tool. It empowers the GM the same way that fudge points (and other resources) empower the players, and I think the GM needs that sort of empowerment once the players get accustomed to flexing their own story muscles. Otherwise, as you've pointed out, the GM can feel more than a little kicked around by the unequal exchange.

I hope this stuff helps. Honestly, I think that you had a really encouraging second session. There is a whole host of skills that go into making a plot-thread for inclusion in a game where the players get to change the direction of events, and your lack of practice in those skills was throwing you a little, but I didn't see any overarching pattern of social dysfunction that would indicate that people are really trying to get different things out of the game or each other. It sounds like everyone's on the same page, and that makes me think that you'll get past these first few speed-bumps without any great difficulty. So keep at it, and keep posting!
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Paul T
Member

Posts: 369


« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2006, 10:10:29 AM »

I forgot one important thing:

In the system I put together, the most obvious Flag is that each character has a Flaw. So, here are the characters' Flaws:

--The Prince is indecisive.
--Sir Galen is "honourable to a fault" (we haven't really managed to work this one in yet)
--Loryn's Flaw is that "he just crawled out of a dungeon", but his real issue is that he is torn between his loyalty to the King and his love for his son (I got this from the player in a recent conversation we had, after the two sessions).
--Aeryllyn is "painfully honest". ("Are you a spy?" "Uhh.... well... kind of... I mean... yes, I am!")

Not the most thematically powerful stuff, but the Prince's and Loryn's (now that he's communicated it to me out of game) or pretty promising to me.


Paul
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Paul T
Member

Posts: 369


« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2006, 10:21:29 AM »

Thanks, Tony!

I do feel hopeful and inspired by the whole experience, and the players have been really cool about discussing the problems we had and how they might be fixed.

Your first point ("Innnnteresting...") is more or less what I was thinking as well, but after two or three such scenes in a row, I felt like I'd run out of steam. I'd thrown some conflicts at the players, and I felt like they all kind floundered, and I had nothing left.

With the Prince, the obvious next step is for the Captain to abuse his authority in such a way as to make the Prince uncomfortable. That's what I had done in play (the Captain got arrogant, telling the Prince to "watch how things should be done" and point out how idiotic he felt the Prince's decision to hire the physician had been). But the player kept mum.

Probably what I should have done was sit there and wait for the players to come up with something. They would have had to eventually. (This is close to what your second point says, in retrospect.)

Your third point has got me thinking. I'm not entirely sure how to make that work, first of all, but it's not a big deal. I just need to give myself some form of limited resources, and go from there. But what I don't "get" is what happens if I win. There's still nothing for the story there. The advantage is that we can roll and skip to the next scene instead locking horns at the table. Is that the only advantage?

Thanks,


Paul




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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2006, 11:29:26 AM »

Your third point has got me thinking. I'm not entirely sure how to make that work, first of all, but it's not a big deal. I just need to give myself some form of limited resources, and go from there. But what I don't "get" is what happens if I win. There's still nothing for the story there. The advantage is that we can roll and skip to the next scene instead locking horns at the table. Is that the only advantage?

Pretty much, yeah. As a for-instance, some people I know have used Burning Wheel's Duel of Wits mechanics as a way to short-cut conversations that would (normally) have stretched on for hours. The phrase they made (which I really like) is "Duel of Wits, now, or shut up."  That phrase is, of course, almost always uttered by someone who is being relegated to a spectator role while two other people chew the scenery in an unstructured argument.

Time (and more importantly, patience) is not in infinite supply at the gaming table. If you can get the same value from a scene done in five minutes that you get from the same scene done in thirty, that is a big deal in terms of how happy everyone is with the game.
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Paul T
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Posts: 369


« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2006, 02:38:38 PM »

Tony,

Thanks for clarifying.

Does anyone have any questions for me? Suggestions for how to kick the game up a notch?

My question still stands (Tony, your asnwer seems to be "don't worry about it", right?):

How do I avoid those situations where the players back down from conflicts (in this case, usually "delaying" their resolution) and I feel like I have nothing left? (Tony, you made me think, "just wait for the players to do something instead," which may be a sufficient answer to this.)

Ron often talks about prep and backstory in the context of games that give the players room to improvise and add material. What happens when those two things come into conflict (as with the blacksmith in my game)? The best answer I've got for myself right now is to go with what the players want (if they want it badly enough), but that can feel like a compromise on my behalf.

Best,


Paul

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Andrew Norris
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Posts: 253


« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2006, 10:33:01 PM »

Hi, Paul,

Great thread, and some really good questions. I get where you're coming from; I ran into the same thing in the first campaign I introduced heavy player narration rights.

So I'll talk a little about a FATE game I ran, kind of Elmore Leonard meets X-Files. (We used Fudge points just the way you are.) I was really jazzed coming up with a backstory and main plot, lots of ideas for different adventures and interesting antagonists. Then we get into play and I do struggle a bit, because when the players are involved in scene framing and narrating outcomes, things don't always go the way you expected. We ended up, like you, spending more time on what the PCs were interested in, or what their problems were, than we did on the plot.

Then I read Sorcerer and Sorcerer & Sword a couple of times, and broke down why it was that I was so jazzed to get in my plot stuff. It wasn't that I wanted to railroad them, just that I had so much stuff to show them. They could do all that characterization along the way, right?

But they had lots of stuff to show, too, and to be perfectly honest, for my game, their stuff was more compelling. (Basically, the characters who had supernatural powers all got them at a big cost, and dealing with those costs was driving the game.)

So I turned it all around, and I decided to pretend that they were making "the plot", and I was another player in there kibbitzing and throwing monkey wrenches into their plan. A player who had all the NPCs, but still. And then I started seeing how their own issues, with some outside force working against it, would drive them into action, and I'd break out all my cool shit, but it'd be there to build up their story, to force big decisions and crises.

It worked really well. If I had a character I really wanted to come at them with, I introduced her in a way that made the players say, "Oh, we're going after this bitch." I took all the various things she was going to try over the course of the adventure, put them in a bag, and threw back whichever one was going to most get in the way of what they wanted. And so on, back and forth.

So that's one way to look at it. When the players have lots of narration rights, you don't have them all in a train. Instead you have a many-headed beast going in many directions, with you throwing things at them left and right. There's no telling where things are going to bounce. But as a prepared GM, you have interesting situations and characters (all with their own needs and goals) ready to keep things interesting.

I also wanted to specifically talk to the "Duel of Wits" method for conflicts talked about earlier. When a player and I (or two players) both have a strong preference for a particular scene's outcome, we roll off in a conflict, bid Fudge Points, etc. The way I see it, both parties have a cool idea, and if they bid it'll go to the person most "driven" by their particular idea. You win, you get to run with it; you lose, the "penalty" is you have to really think on your feet, and riff off the other person's idea to help make it really sing. And if you'd won, hey, they'd have Made You Awesome in return, so it all evens out. (And I love not having ten minute arguments in character anymore, good lord.)

If you're interested in picking up some books that deal well with these techniques, I'd recommend Dogs in the Vineyard and Sorcerer (especially Sorcerer & Sword, which I've found useful for fantasy gaming in other systems).
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Paul T
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Posts: 369


« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2006, 09:23:07 AM »

Andrew,

Thank you for your comments.

Just one small point:

I wasn't talking about the players missing "the plot"--as I said, I enjoyed play the most when the plot wasn't engaged at all. My hangup is about the backstory or Situation. I wanted to throw the characters into a mysterious situation. I have no idea about what is going to happen, but I have a very good idea of what happened before the characters showed up. However, some (actually, many) of those things are not known to the players. That means that they could easily improvise something that doesn't work with the backstory (like trying to pin a murder on the wrong suspect).

I didn't realize that this could be a problem, since I thought I could just let them know that, no, that wasn't the case ("he's innocent, actually"). But I hadn't anticipated the social-level head-butting that in-character discussions can really be if this isn't made clear.

So far, two options have been suggested:

1. Make a roll or take Fudge points from the players and suck it up (try to make the backstory fit).

2. Just inform the players that their idea conflicts with past events they're not aware of and skip to the next scene.

I found the contrast between a storyline driven by the players and one which was just a player-driven but where I had pre-determined what was and wasn't important unbelievably jarring, though.

I tried to ask Ron Edwards about this in the "Dinosaurs and Zebra Women" thread. Unfortunately, I forgot that Sorcerer can't suffer from that problem since a) the story develops from Kickers (player-authored material and NPCs) in the first place, and b) Sorcerer doesn't have any mechanism for player director stance authoring.

However, here's what he had to say about it in the old "Art-Deco Melodrama" thread:

Quote
" Doesn't this go against ideas of co-authorship, though? Isn't the plan that we should trust our players instincts in bringing in new material? I mean, it seems like a foregone event that at some point during play a player is going to be forced to make something up off the top of their head and the new element will be inappropriate or just boring. [...] So why limit player authorship at this point?"

Ordinarily, I'd say you were right. However, in this case, there are two problems. For one thing, the included element is both vague AND significant [...] I tend to allow co-author rights around the table to include protests - such that a Director-Stance level statement may be considered a PROPOSAL, not a dictation, even coming from the GM at times. To be clear about this, I would have phrased the question to the player as, "So, give me a suggestion about " rather than the more power-granting, "So, how exactly does "

This seems to suggest that he _does_ limit such inappropriate input to preserve the integrity of past events or the backstory.

Are there any other ways to deal with this kind of situation in play?

All the best,


Paul
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Andrew Norris
Member

Posts: 253


« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2006, 09:58:39 AM »

I see your point; it's not a railroading issue, more that you've got ideas about the Situation you'd like to work into the game, and their ideas contradict yours. It's similar to, but not the same as, situations where people are introducing game elements that drastically differ in theme (e.g. slapstick in a serious dramatic scene).

I'm sort of having trouble with the "this contradicts established backstory" thing, though. I think, and I'm only guessing, that the issue is that you have a certain version of the SIS in your head, and some of the input 'breaks' that. (Like the weapons thing -- was it "I envision a village this small not having a blacksmith this well equipped?") If that's the case, it's an issue, because you have much less unilateral control over what goes into the SIS than you would in a traditional game. The blacksmith, the village, the hidden plot -- none of this stuff actually exists in the game until it comes out in play.

Here's a couple of methods that can be useful:

- Bribery/Payment. If there's a situation where you really can't let them say something is true with a Fudge point, then turn it around, tell them this, and give them a Fudge point for their trouble. (You're saying, "Hey, I need this bit to go this way, I can't budge on that. Here's some goodies to compensate.") If you're in a situation where letting them narrate something just screws up your comfort zone as GM, this seems like a fair way to handle it. And I think it's perfectly reasonable to use the justification of "This is something that's already happened, so it's not up for debate", if you want the player narration rights to only extend that far.

- Aggressive Scene Framing. If X really needs to be true for you to be comfortable, assert it's true from the opening of a scene. Although it may feel fiat-y, the key difference is that you're asserting that GM narration power for the scene setup, then letting them take the reigns for the resolution and outcome. (Again, sometimes that works well with bribery; I often hand out Fudge points to someone when I frame them into a scene that starts with them in peril or at a disadvantage.)

What this means for me, in play, is that if we get to a conflict, and I can't let the player win the stakes, then it's not a real conflict -- it's just not

- Refocusing GM Prep in ways that can flexibly work into player narration. This one's a little tricky.

One thing that might help would be if you described to us the backstory, and the key elements you want to come into play from that, and we try to reshape them to cover the same ground, but in a method that's more amenable to player modifications.

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Andrew Norris
Member

Posts: 253


« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2006, 10:02:04 AM »

I forgot to finish a thought:

- Aggressive Scene Framing....
What this means for me, in play, is that if we get to a conflict, and I can't let the player win the stakes, then it's not a real conflict -- it's just not

I meant to say "it's just not valid for this particular game". For instance, if your group decides PC death is off the table, then "He dies" is not within the range of acceptable stakes for a conflict. If you decide that events that happened before play are off the table for players to change, that's a similar restriction.

It does occasionally lead to scenes that start building up, then abruptly cut without a "diced" resolution, but that's acceptable.
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Paul T
Member

Posts: 369


« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2006, 10:30:46 PM »

Thanks, Andrew,

One more question:

In your Fate game, how did you decide when to roll in such a situation (and WHAT did you roll?), and when to bid Fudge points (I assume you mean in the regular Fate process, where the loser gets to keep all the points)?

I'm thinking I'd just let the player pick, but that leaves a slight problem--the GM is still setting the difficulty of the roll, which leaves the door open to railroading again.

I'd love to hear how you handled it in Fate.

All the best,


Paul
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