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Author Topic: Silent Railroading and the Intersection of Scenario Prep & Player Authorship  (Read 25499 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: August 08, 2006, 07:24:20 AM »

Hi Frank,

Arrrrrghhh!

Narrational, not narrative.

Narrational = which actual person talks and what they say; in this case, specifically pertaining to in-game resolution

Narrative = pertaining to what fictional conflicts occur, how they finally are resolved (again, in fictional terms, not procedurally), and the emergent themes

I'm not frustrated at you, Frank, but at the native speakers who persist in tying themselves in knots over this extremely simple difference in two words which share linguistic roots but are about two incredibly different things. Nineteen times out of twenty, when someone blathers about Narrativist games or Narrativist play, they are only talking about narrational techniques and thus spread confusion and blight across the land.

OK, I'm done. But everyone who screws this up, consider yourself smacked by a thrown hamster. I have a big bag of'em.

One person has narrational authority? Another has plot authority? Easy as pie.

Bob: "You cut his head clean off!" (narrational authority)

Bill: "The lady Samantha comes running up - 'You bastard,' she cries. 'Guards! Arrest him!'"

In this case, the narrational authority is extremely limited, because that's all the guy has. People are so accustomed to the types of authority being lumped together that they often think narrational authority must at least one, if not all, of the other kinds. It doesn't have to.

I suspect that you were thinking that narrational authority had to include some plot authority, and in a lot of games that's the case. The Pool allows it, intermittently, for example. But in this case, if you say that Bill has the latter, then, well, he does, and Bob doesn't.

Although I'd really rather see further questions about this be taken to Actual Play threads of their own. I can see about fifteen objections to my little example flaring up already based on 'what if - then" constructions ...

Best, Ron

P.S. It's probably time for the rest of us to give Paul a chance to respond.
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Frank T
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« Reply #16 on: August 08, 2006, 08:34:22 AM »

Yeah, a little inter-lingual confusion here. Thanks for clarifying. That makes sense.

- Frank
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Paul T
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Posts: 369


« Reply #17 on: August 08, 2006, 11:48:40 AM »

Wow. This discussion is getting really intense. Thank you all for participating!

Ron, thank you, especially, for that extremely thorough and lengthy post. Just for the record, I don't feel offended or attacked by anything you have said--quite the contrary, and I'm glad you've taken the time to do so.

This discussion has been fascinating and fruitful for me so far. I hope GenCon won't prevent it from continuing, even if it has to continue at a glacial pace.

A lot of things have been brought up, so I will try to answer the ones I feel I can answer at this point, and leave the ones that I'll need to go home and think about for a while.

Here we go:

----

Marco,

That clears up what you said beyond any reasonable expectations. Thanks! I will definitely be taking your advice in the future.

---

Dav,


Quote
I've since gently pointed out to him that the scene he's hoping for is hardly guaranteed to happen.

This is where my brain skipped a beat.

All right, here is the Thing... [...] your player specifically said that he and his character wanted to participate and even possibly direct Scene X!  Your Job, as GM, is to make that happen.

You two should be conspiring to work at this, not mentioning it and separating. 

You make a very good point, and one worth thinking about. However, in this case, the scene he has in mind includes all the other player characters as well, and at a certain time and geographical location. We do not yet know whether those players want their characters to go in that direction in play.

So, my position is that I will try to make his cool idea happen in play, but not over the desires of the other players--they could prevent this scene from taking place if they don't want it. Hence my statement that it was not guaranteed to happen--I couldn't guarantee it without stepping on the other players' toes.

I'm curious to hear whether you think your advice still applies or not, given that caveat.

Quote
To be honest, his lack of colorful descriptions and narration is MUCH less important than this. 

Before someone else jumps on this, I haven't mentioned "lack of colorful descriptions" anywhere (at least, I hope I haven't). I have zero concern about the players' ability to contribute in terms of description (what Ron is calling "Narrational authority"). If they want to, I'd love to hear it, but I'm just as happy if they don't.

Quote
I realize I have a whole mess and passels of general ideas on how to run and create a game for your players and their characters, but, in my defense, I run the best damn games you ever did see (often due to players that "get it", but also because, well, I know how to hook 'em, and I know how to get my players to conspire WITH me, rather than AGAINST me, tres` important).

If you're suggesting that you're holding back some other advice, please jump right in--I'd love to hear it.

---

Jon,

Thanks for jumping in! It's good to have someone from the game to contribute and either support me or hold me accountable by pointing out when I'm misrepresenting things.

I'm really really surprised by the assumptions that you (and some of the other posters in this thread) have made about my desires for which type of authority I'm looking for from the players in this game. (Ron's breakdown makes a lot of sense to me, as well as his explanation of how they are entirely separate fruits.) This suggests that it is my fault, so I will try to come out into the open with this, now that Ron has given us some vocabulary to use in discussing these distinctions.

Having thought about it a little, what I'm looking for is (in this game):

   * As GM, I want to retain Content authority and Narrational authority. (However, it's only important to me as it relates to backstory--if a player wants to describe minor details, I don't mind them doing so in either of those areas. But I guess I would like to able to "veto" anything that conflicts with past events or other important elements of play.)

   * I want the players, on the other hand, to take grasp of Situational authority. I've been assuming that there will be some hesitation on this point, so I'm willing to provide scen framing and the like when the players aren't jumping in and doing it, but I would be happy to defer to the players completely in this arena. Hence my prompting in game, along the lines of, "You want a chance to confront Mr X? Ok, how do you see this happening?" (and then I'm happy to go with whatever the player gives me).

   * I'm not sure about Plot authority. I think I'm still seeing it kind of as an emergent property of Situational authority, but I will trust Ron that they are separate. Since I see them as related at this point, I'm pretty sure I DO want the players to have Plot authority (once play has begun--the game started with me supplying a good chunk of Plot information) as well, since I'm really looking to give them Situational authority.

I see both of these categories as sort of hierarchical. My view on this is as follows:

   * The players hold the bulk of Situational and Plot authority. I, as GM, can fill in Situational and Plot stuff when the players feel uninspired, but will defer to them when they DO have something they want.
   * In the same way, I, as GM, have Content and Narrational authority, but the players can fill those in when I'm uninspired ("Does the blacksmith have a hammer on the wall?" "Uh, sure,"), but will defer to me in those arenas.

Jon, since this is so different from what you were saying, is this totally coming out of left field for you?

I know I didn't articulate any of this very distinctly at the start, very much in part because I wasn't sure which way things would go when the game began. But I've been trying to push in that direction since play began, given the success of the first session (which I felt operated as I described above).

Is there a communication gap going on? As I said in the write-up, what I have told (and demonstrated, at least in the first session) to the players so far is that I frame scenes as much as possible only in response to what they want, and give them authority to determine the particular situation at hand. From the actual play report:

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!"

Of course it hasn't been super-clear, since this approach has only been developing in play for me. It's a new thing, and I didn't have it in mind before we started playing. So, of course it wasn't clearly outlined at the beginning.

Another example might be the first scene of the game:

I told the players there was a dinner at the King's table. Any player who wanted to be part of the scene could do so. One of them (the serving woman) said she would there. I said, "Ok, why?" She responded that she was receiving orders for an espionage mission from the Guard Captain. So, after the dinner, I had him pull her aside and give her one. (This is her exercising Plot authority, correct?)

Does that all make sense, or is what I'm doing completely different from what I'm saying I'd like to do?

---

Ron,

That's a really meaty post. I will reread a few times before it all sinks in, I'm sure.

However, I'm still missing something about Jasmine and the Pool. Here are the relevant bits:

OK, that was the easy paragraph, and I know it didn't answer your question. Here's the basis for my answer: I'm also pretty sure that you think that giving up those reins also means giving up situational authority and content authority, and that's what I want to concentrate on now.
[...]
And similarly, like situational authority, content authority was left entirely to my seat at the table. There was no way for a player's narration to clash with the back-story. All of the player narrations concerned plot authority, like the guy's mask coming off in my hypothetical example above, or in the case of the Jasmine game, the one suitor becoming a popular rather than sinister guy through his actions.
[...]
But it is a technique of a specific game, and not even a required one within it. It does not exist in The Pool's rules, and in fact, is defined out of them given the rules that are there. (Many people think The Pool is some kind of free-form, make-it-up, la-la kind of fairy role-playing. It's totally not. I claim it's as rules-heavy as Phoenix Command.)

I'm really not seeing how the Pool's rules allow the GM to retain content authority. (Just for the record, I'm totally with you on the Pool being a strict ruleset.) Here's the relevant bit, again:

Quote
Giving an MOV is like taking control of the game for a few moments. You can describe your character’s actions, the actions of those around him, and the outcome of those actions. You can even focus on less direct elements of the conflict such as what’s happening in the next room or who’s entering the scene.

So, for instance, in your "unmasked villain" example, if a player rolls to unmask him, why can't that player then state that as the mask comes off the villain turns out to be the chef, or something similar? When investigating a murder scene, why, by the rules, can't he state that he finds the footprints of some character who, by the back-story, could not have been there?

You're probably tearing your hair out by this point. But I don't understand this part, and I seem to be stuck on it. I appreciate everyone's patience, and promise to be patient myself.

(Or do you just mean that you had a talk with the players about it, either before the game, or before each roll--something like, "OK, if you win, you'll unmask him, and I'll tell you who it is"? I can't really see how what you wrote can be read that way--as far as I can tell you're talking about the game text.)

---

Thank you all once again,


Paul

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Paul T
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« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2006, 11:57:01 AM »

Follow-up:

1. In the future, I will make a separate post to answer each person's questions. That should be clearer and easier to read, and I think is the "standard" here on the Forge.

2. Rereading this conversation (including my own contributions), it seems to me that we, as group, are operating on slightly different interpretations of Ron's four categories. For instance, I think some people see "the Vikings will attack at noon!" as Plot, some as Content (they left their homeland two months earlier), and some as Situation (in this scene, the Vikings come in to complicate things). Ron, am I correct in saying that you would consider that statement as touching on all three?

Cheers,


Paul
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Paul T
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« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2006, 12:13:57 PM »

Ron,

I can also see that my questions about the Pool are exactly what you specifically requested people not to post. My apologies. I would still love to hear your answer, whether here or by PM, but will try not to post anything like that again.

Thanks,


Paul
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2006, 11:41:45 AM »

Paul mentioned that some people may be operating from different definitions of the authorities. I'm also a bit vague on where the boundaries of some of them lie. Here are a couple of questions about what authority would be needed for certain things.

Let's say two characters, Corrin and Andvari, man and wife, have made enemies. You'd need Situational Authority to say, "while they are sleeping, an assassin slips into their room and tries to kill them." Right?
What authority would you need to choose which enemy was attacking? Would Situational A. be enough, or would you also need Plot A.?
Also, could you say that a character who had previously been an ally was attacking? Would you need Content Authority for that, or would Plot A be enough?
What authority would you need to declare the reason for the attack?

Let's say they defeat and capture their assassin. What authority would you need to be able to say, "this former champion of an evil god is so impressed by our honour that he changes his ways and becomes a good guy" ? Is the changing motivations of characters during play covered by Plot or Content authority?
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JMendes
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« Reply #21 on: August 09, 2006, 12:44:49 PM »

Ahey, :)

Darren, I can't claim to be an authority on the issue (no pun intended), but as an exercise in understanding, I'd like to try my hand at these. Ron, I hope that's OK, and please, do correct me if I'm wrong.

You'd need Situational Authority to say, "while they are sleeping, an assassin slips into their room and tries to kill them." Right?
Looks that way to me.

What authority would you need to choose which enemy was attacking? Would Situational A. be enough, or would you also need Plot A.?
I'm thinking, if you already know what the possible enemies are, then yeah, Situational. If you want to create an enemy, however, you probably need to go all the way to Content. You only need Plot to control the moment at which the identity of the assassin becomes apparent to the marks.

Also, could you say that a character who had previously been an ally was attacking? Would you need Content Authority for that, or would Plot A be enough?
If you're talking about a specific former ally, I'd say Content, but if you just say any character who has heretofore been an ally, I'd say Situational, as in "a former ally slips into their room and tries to kill them". Again, Plot seems to apply only to when or whether the characters perceive the goings on.

What authority would you need to declare the reason for the attack?
I'd say Content.

Let's say they defeat and capture their assassin. What authority would you need to be able to say, "this former champion of an evil god is so impressed by our honour that he changes his ways and becomes a good guy" ? Is the changing motivations of characters during play covered by Plot or Content authority?
Depending on the specifics, I'd say you could even get away with Narrational on this one.

Hope I hit the mark on at least a few of these.

Cheers,
J.
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url=http://lisbongamer.mc-two.com/]Lisbon Gamer[/urlLisbon Gamer
Paul T
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« Reply #22 on: August 09, 2006, 03:29:09 PM »

Hmmm...

Darren and Joao--I may be wrong, but I think that this type of "what-if" conversation is what Ron was trying to avoid in this thread.

In the meantime, I think I'm beginning to understand my problem a little better. In short form:

   * The category of narrational authority has absolutely nothing to do with whether the information (it's hard not to use the word "content" here) is decided before play (like back-story) or during play (as is typical of most "narrational" input in RPGs).

Am I closer to being on the right track now?

Cheers,


Paul
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #23 on: August 09, 2006, 03:53:06 PM »

If that's the case (avoiding what-if's), I'm sorry. But those examples weren't What If's, they were real examples from my current campaign, in which fate points (a form of authority distribution) were used to create situations. I generalised them a bit because of questions raised by the incidents and this thread.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: August 10, 2006, 03:30:09 AM »

Hi Paul,

Almost right! Just about almost there ... the only tweak is that your sentence is correct in the abstract, or definitional sense, but in practice, a specific role-playing group has to know, as a group, when and how information (especially what I'm calling content authority) comes into the SIS.

In other words, in group A, narrational authority might include content authority, but in group B, it does not. So in one of these groups, one cannot say 'Oh gee, narrational authority might or might not carry content, I guess" - it'll be fixed-in-place, or, as you discovered, difficulties ensue.

Making such standards explicit for a given game design is pretty historically rare, except for one or two constructions of authority. Design which tailors authority-distribution (between and within levels) is comparatively recent.

Best, Ron
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #25 on: August 12, 2006, 04:54:12 AM »

Hi Paul,

I think you need to reread your stated views with a clearer definition of authority.

I see both of these categories as sort of hierarchical. My view on this is as follows:

   * The players hold the bulk of Situational and Plot authority. I, as GM, can fill in Situational and Plot stuff when the players feel uninspired, but will defer to them when they DO have something they want.
   * In the same way, I, as GM, have Content and Narrational authority, but the players can fill those in when I'm uninspired ("Does the blacksmith have a hammer on the wall?" "Uh, sure,"), but will defer to me in those arenas.

For instance, It seems to me you want to have Situational Authority, after all its who decides in the end that counts, and you did have problems with the "I run to the woods" situation which implies you want to have the final say. Sure it may be your aim for players to suggest situations, but this isn't the same thing.

I would be interested to see you list the 4 authorities based on who has the final say. And in light of that which areas are up for discussion.
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Paul T
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« Reply #26 on: August 12, 2006, 09:42:01 AM »

Hello, everyone.

I recently ran the third session of the game, which went much more smoothly. Everyone had more fun than in the first or second session, including myself. A few things are beginning to make sense to me, but some others are still unclear.

My main stumbling block is still the idea of the "separation" of the four authorities. Although I can see how one might conceive of them as entirely different areas, it seems to me that in play a lot of statements will belong to more than one category. For instance: a particular character X has a history of being famous for having the most perfectly-shaped hands in the kingdom (content, right?), and player Y is ignorant of that fact. Player Y knows that he has Narrational authority in a scene involving character X, but not Content authority. If Player Y then describes something about character X's "dirty, scarred hands clutching the sceptre", he has unwittingly stumbled across some Content "stuff", hasn't he?

In other words, I cannot see how the rules of (say) the Pool allow the GM to retain Content authority. I can see how one might have a discussion about this before the game, agreeing to play this way, but I don't see how the rules can enforce that. Is that what Ron meant--a social-level agreement before or during play? I can totally see how that might be the case, but Ron's particular choice of words keeps suggesting to me that he's talking about something else (see the quotes earlier in this thread). If he did mean social agreement, whoever had Content authority in the example (above paragraph) would have to tell player Y to change that part of his narration. But this sounds like it could be unpleasant in practice.

(What extant games have neat or innovative ways of defining this territory? Are there any examples we can discuss here?)

Anyhow, on to the game:

Play was much more like the first session of Princes & Prophecies, where I exercised very little Plot or Situational authority, except in reaction to the players.

Here are my thoughts, revised:

I am still sure that I want the "final say" on matters of Content, and on Narrational stuff as well (in other words, I can always decide whether or not I want a player to narrate a moment in play or introduce some back-story information, even though I could choose to grant it often if I wanted to).

Situational authority is still something I want players to be exercising during most of the game, but I've realized that I'm not entirely certain I don't want "final say" in terms of veto power. My ideal "image" of play is that all the players (including myself) will be using Situational authority equally (like, for instance, each framing a scene in turn). I think I'll need to try it both ways ("I have final say even though players exercise Situational authority" vs. "Situational authority is widely distributed") to really know whether I would prefer having "final say" in terms of veto power or not.

Plot authority, frankly, I find rather confusing, so I'm not sure what to say here. I know that in the last session of the  game I exercised fairly little of it and I enjoyed play more than in the second session, where I'd exercised a lot of it.


Jamie,

I think you're right on with your comments--it's what I've been thinking about myself, and I hope the above answers your question.

Hi Paul,

I think you need to reread your stated views with a clearer definition of authority.

[...]

For instance, It seems to me you want to have Situational Authority, after all its who decides in the end that counts, and you did have problems with the "I run to the woods" situation which implies you want to have the final say. Sure it may be your aim for players to suggest situations, but this isn't the same thing.

I very explicitly did not want to have Situational authority in that situation. That is why I did nothing to change things afterward. Nor did I require a roll for the character to escape or anything like that--I wanted him to have final say, so I gave it to him. What that situation was, in my mind, was a social-level mismatch of expectations. In that scene, the player had made a failed roll while eavesdropping on a conversation, to which I responded, "OK, at some point in this scene your character makes some sort of mistake and will get noticed by someone. You tell me when and how." The player (Jon) grinned mischievously, and I got the impression that he was excited by the prospect, that he had some cool idea of how that might come about.

My expectation was that when he would jump in, something exciting and interesting would happen. I had no problem with what happened at the table in terms of authority or System. I wouldn't have done anything differently were I to run the scene again, nor do I wish I had vetoed his statement or taken charge in any way. My disappointment was as an audience member--I had (possibly?) misread his body language so as to be anticipating some cool event, and after all the anticipation I felt let down. This was exacerbated by the fact that I was beginning to feel the weight of responsibility of the whole "plot"--the players were no longer pulling it along with me. When he didn't give me much to go on, I felt like I was in the "hot seat" again. In the future, as I said before, if that happens again, I'll try to sit back and ask the players what happens next.

Does this shed any further light on either the situation? For this thread overall, does it shed any further light on the source of my confusion?

Side Note - Reward Systems

This third session of play really taught me a lesson about reward systems, I think. I feel like I have a more practical understanding of their use, which I felt by their absence in my game.

When I sat back, only reacting to the players and soliciting more from them by asking questions ("You come into town? Ok, who's with you?"), play went very well. Whenever I got a "cool idea" I wanted to contribute and jump in with some scene framing or NPC initiative, however, the players tended to quiet down and sit expectantly--if I made two or three such contributions in a row (as I did in the second session), the players pretty much stopped altogether, waiting on me to continue.

As a result I am thinking of introducing a mechanic that rewards players to frame their own scenes and conflicts--my desired aim is that even when I am contributing Plot or Authority stuff, the players will have incentive not to back off but jump in and try to make their own contributions, kind of "pushing against me" instead of sitting back and letting me have full say. Any suggestions? Am I on the right track with this?

This is the first time I've seen concretely, in actual play, how reward systems can be used to form play. Like many gamers, I've been operating for years and years with no reward system (or equal rewards for each player, which comes down to the same thing). This experience has been very interesting to me!

All the best and continued thanks to you all for your advice,


Paul
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #27 on: August 15, 2006, 08:09:49 AM »

Hi Paul,

Reading your last post this bit seems odd:

Plot authority, frankly, I find rather confusing, so I'm not sure what to say here. I know that in the last session of the  game I exercised fairly little of it and I enjoyed play more than in the second session, where I'd exercised a lot of it.

Maybe this is where your problem has its roots, are you hoping that plot will be emergent from play or do you have some mechanism for driving plot? For example, are your NPCs actively provoking action and/or dilemma?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: August 15, 2006, 09:21:32 AM »

Hi there,

Jamie, I'd like to paraphrase your question a little, because as written it might be read as a dichotomy where there is none.

Here's the real dichotomy, as I see it.

1. Plot may emerge from play through the resolution of situations. In such cases, "plot authority" may be thought of as a fully shared entity - as a thing, distinct from the other kinds of authority, but as a process, in this kind of play, arising from them rather than being inserted as a "thing" from the get-go.

Please note that planning, especially in terms of what I call Bangs, may be part of this. The distinction between and local definitions of "GM" and "player" may be thought of as roles within this process, just as cooks and headwaiters have different but equallly authoritative roles in an overall restaurant process.

2. Plot may be exerted upon the play-space, as a planned phenomenon - not only "this is where I'll introduce Big Billy," but rather planned outcomes and revelations and twists as well - "this is where Big Billy will make sure that Player-Character Bob will discover the clue, or grieve for his sister," or whatever. Certain kinds of play rely on this kind of plot approach, in which plot authority takes on a far more centralized role.

Don't be confused, either, by prep vs. improvisation. If this kind of plot authority is centralized and solid in the fashion I'm describing, then a skilled user can either utitlize pre-play prep or during-play improvisation to exercise it. If the group works well with this kind of play, then it typically becomes what Mike Holmes calls Participation play.

#1 and #2 each encompass vast ranges of other variables, and I fully expect discussion of this topic to flail wildly as people confound those variables with what I'm talking about. For one thing, extraordinary degress of "in character" intensity can be found in both.

Paul, does that make sense? I do think Jamie's onto something with the point about your own ease/difficulty with this issue. I also think it might be time for this thread to close, as processing the issues is already improving your enjoyment of play, and for you to continue to process them through play itself rather than further terminological or theoretical chit-chat here.

Let me know whether you want to keep going with the thread, or just provide some closing thoughts if you'd like.

Best, Ron
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Paul T
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« Reply #29 on: August 15, 2006, 01:11:54 PM »

Thanks, everyone.

First of all, this discussion has been fantastic, and I've got lots to think about. My game has already improved from the advice given here. There are a few things I need to sort through in terms wrapping my brain around some of these concepts, but that I can do on my own time.

However, there a couple of loose ends I'd like to wrap up, if that's OK. I still need some advice on my game.


Getting It

First of all, since no one has taken to shouting "No!", I will assume that my stated preferences for this game make sense, and assume that I am therefore interpreting the four authorities correctly. Please let me know if that isn't the case.

For instance: Plot authority. In light of the couple of most recent posts, I am willing to say that Plot authority is in the players' hands in this game. Ron's explanation of how Plot authority can determine the need for other statements, or "causal relationships" between the four types of authority, as he put it, ties this up neatly. Plot authority is essentially consulted by the players to determine how to exercise Situational authority.

Example: Player X wants to know who the Masked Stranger is (i.e. he wants to exercise Plot authority). He narrates a Situation where the Stranger's identity will be revealed (probably they'll be a roll or something for whether the Stranger can avoid being revealed). The GM, exercising Content authority, reveals his identity.

Am I getting this right?


Seeking Help

Finally, what I would really like from this thread is advice on how best to explain this to my players and how to deal with any problems that arise in play due to cases of "mistaken Authority". While the third session went really well, I still don't have anything solid in place to avoid a problem like we had in the second session (the scene with the blacksmith).

I'm looking for good ways to reach an understanding with the players and deal with violations (unintentional violations, i.e. not social conflicts) of said understanding.

From the original post:

Possible solutions include:

* The "No Myth" approach, if I understand it correctly--anything not yet introduced in play is not part of the picture, period. The GM's back-story is merely a collection of material he or she would like to introduce to play. If the players' contributions make that material impossible to include, the preparation is wasted. (An example of this is "Bangs" prepared by a GM before play. Some may be ignored, others may never get "thrown in" at all.)
* Social contract: The players agree not to improvise content in certain areas of play. (This sounds a little problematic to me, being kind of hard to define.)
* All backstory is known before play begins. There are no "GM secrets".

Any others?

The second "solution" is what I assume we've been talking about, absent a system that outlines it more clearly. (As Ron said, some of the newer games are tackling this head-on.) Are there some other options?

The system-facilitated solutions are things that allow the players to bid resources or roll somehow otherwise resolve who gets final say. This has limitations--if some authority should NEVER be shared, this approach doesn't really help you, right?


Talking It Over, or Organizing the Fruits in My Game
 
My concern is that I don't want to use any of this theoretical language at the table. Plain English should be sufficient, right? Most of this stuff is simple enough to explain ("Ask player X to find out who the Masked Stranger is, as it has been pre-determined"). However, as this thread has demonstrated, there are two tough points:

1) Not everyone understands right away what exactly these four mean, where one ends and where another begins, and so on. (Couldn't this, alone, lead to misunderstandings at the table?)

2) Actual statements made at the table will often require several types of authority at once.
(This is what I meant when I said:)

Quote

Is it even possible to separate them in any meaningful way in play? Isn't there tons of overlap between those three types of authority?

How can a player remember to limit their narration so as to avoid a conflict of authority over something that hasn't even been revealed yet when it can get tied in with something else that the player does have full authority to narrate? I mean, if a certain monster marks its path with daisies, and the players don't know it, they could use narrational authority to describe a trail daisies going into the local inn, couldn't they, thinking they were merely contributing colour? What does the GM do then?

Given 1) and 2), I'm seeing a lot of potential for miscommunication. Any suggestions? How can I make this clear to my players, and continue to make it clear in play?

Maybe an example is necessary, and this is why I keep coming back to the Pool:


Organizing the Fruits in the Pool

I still do not understand how the Pool allows you to retain content authority. This is a very important point for me, I feel, for getting a fully operational grasp on this whole situation, because it still mystifies me.

Is it:

a) The system allows it, so if the GM wants to run his game that way, he can. (i.e. the players cannot change this even if they try)

b) The Pool cannot be played any other way; it's a design feature.

or

c) The GM (Ron, in "Jasmine") explains to the players before play begins that their MoVs do not include Content authority. (The Pool merely makes this type of play possible.)

If c), what did you say, Ron?

In game, how did, or would, you deal with any violations of the limits agreed upon?


Conclusion

In short, these expectations (i.e. the distribution of the four authorities) have to be shared and understood by everyone at the table, or, like Ron said, you will have No Fun. I am unsure how to make that happen, given that many, if not most, narrated statements could easily encompass several "authorities", and not everyone seems to be able to wrap their head around those distinctions immediately.

All the best,


Paul
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