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Author Topic: [Middle Earth - home brew] 2nd day in July 4th '06 week of play.  (Read 3619 times)
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« on: August 17, 2006, 11:10:18 PM »

The following morning (if one considers two PM to be morning) I find that I am the last to rise.  I bleary my way downstairs to find that some Team Evil is being played out which is cool as I get to spend some time enjoying just sitting on a bench overlooking acres and acres of non-city.  I discover that my voice is a bit raspy and blown out, but then I found out so is everyone else’s so all’s right in the world.  I came back in to find that two new characters were rolled up – one for Blake and one for Jeff.  Blake had done some amazing research and had woven a nice tale stringing together many pieces of arcane to create an Elven character of powerful lineage.  Given the obvious work and the substantial creativity that went into the creation of his character concept, he was well rewarded.  The character, again blast my poor memory, was of high nobility and shared a very close lineage to Elrond.  Jeff was given a character of similar if somewhat less lineage who was of Noldorian descent thus placing him in conflict with Blake and most elves for that matter due to ancient enmity between the Noldo and the Sindar elves.  As Jeff was playing a Noldorian elf of fairly high lineage his character was a tad on the insufferable side – this too would lead to future in game conflicts.  More artery clogging food was prepared, consumed and cleared away.  The game proper began around 5pm or so with a weaving of a series of scenes with various characters that would eventually draw them all to Rivendell. 
 
Actually I am mistaken.  The night began with the GM handing out and having us all read a chapter of the Silmarillion entitled, “Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age.”  This “reading” before a game has never happened since I’ve been playing and from what I understand ever at all.  I’m not entirely sure of the GM’s intent but what I gathered was the importance, extremely long history and powerful ties between the Dunedain and Elrond.
 
The night began innocently enough with the conclusion of a small scenario that involved just Montana, an NPC and myself.  Driven by an encounter with an overwhelming number of trolls in the Trollshaws I was forced to flee with the NPC elf, Calune (“Gloom’s Light” – actually a PC elf that was played by an Easterling many, many years ago.) which landed us in what appeared to be an ancient Dunedain keep.  It was there that we found Montana’s elf (“The Hunter”) trapped in the bottom of a well.  (Given that back-story Montana’s elf has been seeking out and “hunting” the undead.)  I tried to affect a rescue but found myself at the bottom of the well as well.  Noticing that I started bleeding from my nose and feeling a dread I called out in surprise and fear thus bringing Calune down as well.  What I knew, but my character did not know, was that Montana’s elf, “The Hunter,” had a run in with a vampire (The Master Vampire?) in his past and had been bitten.  Whereas he had not been turned into a vampire because he was an elf, the stain of that “infection” was upon him and was the source and cause of my (and Calune’s when he jumped down into the well) nose bleeding and fear.  (Given that this effect happens to all elves who come into contact with him he is, in effect, in a self-imposed exile from all his people.  Hence his ferocious hatred of the “undead.”)  What was really super cool in my book as a player was the speed with which someone in the world, in this case an NPC, was willing to put them self in harm’s way for my sake.  This moment was a great Sim moment for me – it really made me feel important to the world that a “personage” from the world that I as a player held in high regard treated me as if I was someone worth possible dying for.  This does not happen readily in our game and does not happen at random, thus it was a very special moment for me.  It’s a sign, a communication if you will, between the GM and myself that I had acquitted myself well in the playing of this elven Character.
 
I would also like talk about something that happened in this encounter that was also very cool.  Montana’s elf had been pinned to the well wall by one of his own rune-covered spikes that he used on the undead.  Because of his taint he could not remove the spike on his own, nor could I pull it out of the stone it had been driven in so deeply.  So I decided to try and cut though the spike with my sword.  Normally this would be absurd as the spike was solid metal more than an inch in diameter, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do so I figured that my only hope lay in my “magical sword.”  I don’t much about my sword as a character other than it is what might be called virginal (pure?), never used prior to my using it, it is and it has a fate of some sort.  From a player’s knowledge I know that it is +1 magic and though “magic items” are extremely rare its “power” was not particularly strong. 
 
In the past the few first times I had actually struck a troll I had rolled “20’s” so I was informed that the blade seems to have a “purpose” against trolls.  This disambiguation, growth of knowledge, about the sword and its abilities is pure Sim in action.  There were no rules or mechanics or existing system elements that codified this process but was a decision created on the fly given the circumstances at hand and the nature of the established world.  Bricolage in action.  To get back to the event in the well, I had “The Hunter” lean as far forward, away from the wall he was pinned to, and swung my sword down with little hope of success and fearing that a roll of a “1” would probably mean that I cut “The Hunter” instead.  (The GM did not overtly state that this failure was a possibility, but we all knew from the history of the game as well as the given circumstances this was a perfectly logical potential event.  Again an important Sim moment in that we are working with our acquired through play knowledge of the world to project forward the possible future consequences of our actions.  IOW I had to use the abductive, inductive, deductive logic cycle using the entirety of my acquired knowledge to try and make accurate predictions.)   I know that Montana was concerned about this possible negative outcome, though he did not say anything, and I was pretty stressed about this as well.  However, as luck would have it, I rolled a “20.”  Much rejoicing ensured and the GM had me roll again which was also a “20!”  Normally I don’t have such luck so this was particularly satisfying. 
 
There were two really cool parts about this.  First was that I actually did do that which was for all intents and purposes “impossible.”  However “magic” was involved in the equation which is treated not like a science ala D&D but more organic and related to circumstances.  The next really cool thing was the GM informed me that I, as the player, should regard the sword as +2 and that the next time I rolled and got three “20’s” in a row the sword would become +3, and following that four “20’s” etc.  Again a strong Sim act, a totally new “mechanic” was introduced on the fly into the game “system” based upon what had happened in the SIS.  IOW mechanics followed the SIS but did not lead it.  Very very cool all around.  Another moment of disambiguation that led to more understanding of the fictional world.  The new mechanic was a reflection of our in game actions – we had just added a little bit more to the understanding of Middle Earth as we saw it.  Not only was the cutting of the spike met with much jubilation, the new mechanic was the object of much interested conversation and was also well received.  I got a couple of, “that’s really cool” and “congratulations” for that event and I have to admit it was a moment that I strongly enjoyed.  This may have seemed tangential to the main topic, but it is actually a description of a powerful Sim moment/tell.  Sim isn’t about “story” or “step on up” but the creation and maintenance of the Dream via play and that is exactly what happened in the just described events.  It is extraordinarily difficult to talk about Sim because there is no premise or story to reference back to.  Nor is there the shrewd use of the tools of mechanics or “go lengths” to help anchor and steer a conversation.  However, I will return to the events that I started with at the opening of this post – the gathering of the characters and the scenario itself.
 
After making a deal with the “ghosts” which had imprisoned “The Hunter” all three of us started to leave the stronghold when both my character and the NPC with me were completely overcome by aguish and mourning as we “picked up” on the woe emanating from Rivendell as the bodies of the sons and grandsons of Elrond were brought in by the Great Eagles (of which one was played by Dave Johnson.)  I rolled a ‘1’ at this point as was so overcome by woe that my character could do nothing but weep.  Due to the rolling of several ones as he cut back and forth to me I was in this state for 3 days!  Fortunately for me Montana had his “Hunter” stay and watch over Calune and me for that time – we were in the Trollshaws after all! 
 
Next the GM cut to Chris Tyler who played his dwarf “Gili son of Fili.”  The scene started with the Dwarves marshalling on the field of battle with “Gili” in charge of a Dwarven Square.  The lead up to this impending war can be found here.  Once the basic elements of the scene were briefly laid out Cary, the GM, “played” the moment where the elven arrow struck Chuck’s dwarf “Gralin” in the throat thus causing both sides to break ranks and start to charge at each other.  Gandalf did something big and attention getting that blinded both King Dain and King Thranduil with shouts on both sides going up that something was wrong with their respective kings.  Both sides withdrew and “Gili” was one of the last squares to march back into the mountain.  The GM played on the player’s (out of game) frequently stated desire to avoid this disastrous war and made it known to him that once the doors close no one will be coming in or going out for a very long time and that now was the time to anything.  As “Gili” has long had a good relationship with the Elves he chose to leave and try to seek the council of Master Elrond - this despite the cost that he “knows” will be weighed against him and his line.
 
There was some more business and cross cutting between Blake, Jeff, and myself.  This is where I rolled a couple of more ones that resulted in me weeping in grief for three days straight.  Montana was given the choice to stay or go (made aware of would be more accurate) but he elected to stay because I helped him in his time of need and because of the perilous nature of the local circumstances.
 
We cut back to Chris as Gili in Rivendell seeking and eventually receiving an audience with Elrond.  Gili was received well and was welcomed warmly by Elrond.  Not long after their meeting had started a cry went up and Elrond took leave to his chamber where a few moments later Gili could hear him utter in utmost agony, “My sons…”  The GM, himself a newly minted parent with an 18 month old son really had it in himself pull off the wracking pain in his voice of such an utterance.  While all of us at the table were moved by the “performance,” one player, Montana who has two young boys himself, became bleary eyed upon hearing the words.  Upon reflection I now suspect that his strong resonance with Elrond’s loss (linked with the performance of the GM) had a significant impact on his later actions in the scenario.
 
Chris was asked what and how he would handle himself.  He basically stated, “This is exactly the circumstance for which protocol was created and follow it wholly.  If it is proper for me to stay in my room until instructed otherwise I stay.  If it is truer to good manners that I withdraw then I do that instead.  I do everything and anything not to offend or get in the way.” 
 
The scene continued to play out as the Great Eagles landed in pairs, first laying Elladan and Elrohir side by side.  Blake and Jeff were present and it was from their point of view that this scene played out.  After the initial shock a second set of Great Eagles arrived a few minutes later and lay the sons of Elladan and Elrohir next to their fathers.  I don’t remember the exact phrasing but at this point Elrond uttered something like, “They have taken everything from me.  Is there ought left?”  And so began the mourning (which my character felt in the Troll Shaws) when about an hour later, horror upon horror, a fifth Great Eagle arrived with Turindir, the slayer of all four of Elrond’s dead.  Much dissent and anger stirred in the Elves and there arose dark murmuring about the Dunedain and it was turned toward those who yet lived in Rivendell – the women, the young and the aged.  Elrond put a stop to this and had Turindir brought to the houses of the healing.  Jeff chose at this moment to have his Elf speak darkly of the Edain which garnered him a stinging rebuke from one of Elrond’s closest confidants and protector, Gildor Inglorion a first age Noldorian Elf.  While this tension was rising and the rest of the Elves were overwhelmed with grief the GM cut back to Montana and myself.
 
At this point I had started to come to a bit and was wandering towards Rivendell when Chuck’s Istari, Meneltir, arrived in great haste.  I greeted him and told him of what had happened when the ground began to shake and not long afterward a loud crashing could be heard coming from the north.  Not too far away a head which rose above(!) the tress could be seen moving in the direction of Rivendell. 
 
Urulóki!  Dragon!!!  The music changed at this point from sorrow filled to track 10, Molossus, of the Batman Returns soundtrack.  The energy and pace of this track clearly indicated that this was the shit.  Bad and much, much worse was racing straight to Rivendell – “RIGHT NOW.”
 
Off we ran with all haste, heedless of any danger.  Meneltir galloped off on his mount while Montana (“The Hunter”), the NPC “Calune” and myself (“Aeglin”) made the best speed we could and ran together.  As we ran I kept trying to “reach out” but then I as a player began to literally yell out “Urulóki! Urulóki!” when I didn’t see any of the march wardens at their posts.  More “very-bad.”  I could see the head of the dragon racing forward and then began to catch fleeting glimpses of what would eventually turn out to be thousands of orcs.  This was a full scale assault and Rivendell did not have its guard up, it was going to be caught completely unaware unless we got there first.  Just before we were to enter the bounds of Rivendell “The Hunter” pulled up and handed me a skin filled with what looked like water but told me it was, “very powerful and to use it well.”  He broke off and charged directly into what would turn out to be the main orc thrust.
 
Cut to Chuck (Meneltir) reaching Rivendell proper as the Duruden (the Dragon) was approaching.  Chaos was reigning and Duruden was spewing fire all about.  Buildings were exploding and elves were running around in panic, some engulfed in flames.  In all the years that I have played I have neither seen an elf in panic nor one engulfed in flames much less so in a protected and hidden realm.  This was shocking to the core to behold.  I as a player was stunned into indecision for a little while as this world was crumbling apart.  Elrond ordered that the Houses of the Healing be evacuated and this was where Meneltir set up his defense.  Chuck, with great urgency in his voice, said that he was going to wait until the very last moment to get as close to Duruden before he fired off his lightning bolt – which he was going to increase its force/damage by a factor of four.  While he was saying this he started peeling off “Tomahawk 20’s” like one hundred dollar bills off a wad of cash.  Six he threw down on the table counting them off one at a time in front of the GM for maximum impact. 
 
This was unprecedented in the history of the game.  Chuck must have been saving everyone of this “20’s” for 4-5 years to have accumulated that many, then he burned every … single … one he had in an instant.  Gili, at this point, saw that Meneltir was making a stand before the dragon and placed himself and    as a shield between the Dragon and Meneltir.  This was suicide for nothing they had, even their armor and shields, could protect them from Dragon fire, but Meneltir was a hero of the dwarven people and so it was done without hesitation.  And so it came to be that the Dragon came into view, effectively point blank, to which Meneltir fired off his four times strength lightning bolt – which climbed and arced right into the tear duct of the right eye.  Mind you a regular lightning bolt would kill just about any man; a two times strength lightning bolt would kill just about everything else with the possible exception of a troll or a mumakil and a certain number of “specials.”  This point blank four times strength bolt to the head, and specifically the eye, of the dragon resulted in that eye being destroyed and Durudun recoiling and roaring in pain, but neither did it kill nor did it slow it down to any great degree.  Our biggest cannon merely plinked the target.  Oh shiiiiiiit!  The shock around the table was palpable.
 
Abduction time – the chances of us being able to defeat this dragon were verging on nil.  Time to make some decisions (deductions) about what we were able and willing to do.
 
My character arrived at this moment, and not knowing what to do, I positioned myself next to Meneltir to offer whatever aid I could render.  I did know that I had the skin of special water that Montana (The Hunter) had handed me so I figured I would use that on Meneltir at the appropriate time.
 
Cut to Jeff at this moment, who went charging into the Houses of the Healing searching for something.  It was pretty obvious that he was searching for Gurthang, the sword of Turandir.  The problem was that his character had no knowledge that the sword was around and certainly not that it was in the Houses of the Healing.  This was read as pretty much of a power grab that was based on OOC knowledge and as far as our table goes very close if not an actual case of “cheating.”  Jeff’s character reached the second floor frantically searching for the sword when the building was blown to flinders by the dragon fire sending him soaring out of the building.  I think this was a rebuke by the GM, but if so then the player got off light for he could just as easily died in the building or have taken massive damage upon hitting the ground.  If I recall correctly I was later told that it was at this moment that Jeff wrote a note to Montana saying something like, “I’m through.”

(continued in the following post)
« Last Edit: August 17, 2006, 11:12:06 PM by Silmenume » Logged

Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2006, 11:11:32 PM »

(continued from previous post)

The evacuations were proceeding a pace and Chuck (Meneltir) held his ground firing off another 4 times strength lightning bolt which not only emptied him out but possibly over extended himself.  He collapsed to the ground and it was at this moment that I recognized the opportunity to have a potentially significant on the turn of events.  As a player I made my way around the table to where Chuck was literally bent one knee with his head bent in exhaustion.  It was very important to me that the GM see me in “real” physical proximity to Chuck, not to just say state it.  From my dice bag which I used as a prop I showed the GM me dipping my finger into the dice bag which was to represent the skin of the special liquid that Montana’s “Hunter” had given me and dropping a drop upon Chucks head.  The effect of me playing this out would have a much more powerful effect that merely describing my actions.  The result was immediate in that Meneltir was no longer helplessly exhausted and regained control of his faculties.  Once this was accomplished, which all in all took less than a minute, as I returned to my seat Jeff grumped that I had interfered with the moment he was about to portray.
I felt a bit awkward about this for it was not my intent to “steal his spotlight” and I apologized to him on the spot but I do not think I mollified his anger. My intent was to help Meneltir out in the best way I could, as he was sooooo vital to all of our chances of saving Rivendell not to mention our own skins.  Personal glory was not a motive for me, just a quick seizing of an opportunity to support the team effort.  I quickly returned to my seat without further ado.  However Jeff felt that I had interrupted and stolen something from his play though the camera was not focused on him nor was it in the process of doing so.  Recognizing that my perceptions could be in error I later spoke with several of the other players seeking other perspectives.  The general agreement was similar to my own and many felt that aiding Meneltir was a very important and useful thing to do.

I think it was at this moment that Montana’s “Hunter” charged directly into the oncoming assault of the orcs.  It was very clear this was not a survivable action.  As he ran in he shouted to the GM that he was going to light his soul on fire.  What was super cool was the GM instantly understood what Montana meant.  This self-immolation had never before been done or even been discussed in the world and there was no mechanic to cover this event.  But the GM understood exactly what he meant.  Montana’s soul was corrupted by the taint of the vampire bite so he was offering himself up, like a soul in purgatory, to burn off his taint/sins which was granted given the selfless and sacrificial nature in which he was doing so.  He immolated which took some of the steam out of the orcish advance and when he closed Montana called out saying, “I throw my presence forward which basically resulted in an explosion of flames spreading out away from his body taking out many orcs.  He continued to rush forward and again threw his presence forward again causing an explosion of fire outward from his body.  This he did maybe once or twice more but then he was consumed and there was ought left.  He died, but he had broken or at least stalled the orcish assault on this flank.

Let me make this clear – he sacrificed a favorite character not because he was suicidal but because he so loved the fictional world and its denizens/NPC’s that he was willing to lay down his life for others.  He will never have another character like the one he sacrificed.

Chuck at this point was trying to catch the eye of the Dragon and engage him in mentally knowing full well that he stood little chance of success against the might and will of Durudun.  But Chuck waited until he was out of spell points incase he was dominated that he would not be able to do serious damage.  IOW he too was making ready to sacrifice a deeply beloved character, if need be, in an effort to try and protect Rivendell and its inhabitants.

There is much more yet to cover during that nights play, but I am exhausted and will stop here for the present.

Thank you anyone who has taken the time to read this and respond.
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2006, 12:21:37 PM »

I'm somewhat confused by the mechanics here. 

You're tossing out "rolled a 20" and "rolled a 1" like they're common occurances.  For instance you say
Quote
I rolled a ‘1’ at this point as was so overcome by woe that my character could do nothing but weep.  Due to the rolling of several ones as he cut back and forth to me I was in this state for 3 days!
... "due to the rolling of several ones"?   How often are you typically rolling in the game? 

You then say
Quote
In the past the few first times I had actually struck a troll I had rolled “20’s”
  I mean I can understand "the first few times I rolled really well"...but "the first few times I rolled 20's"??  Is rolling 20's just short hand for "got a good roll" or do you mean literally you rolled several 20s while fighting trolls?

Further this whole section has me puzzled
Quote
The next really cool thing was the GM informed me that [snip] the next time I rolled and got three “20’s” in a row the sword would become +3, and following that four “20’s” etc.  Again a strong Sim act, a totally new “mechanic” was introduced on the fly into the game “system” based upon what had happened in the SIS.  IOW mechanics followed the SIS but did not lead it.  Very very cool all around.

The next time you get three 20s in a row?  Are you playing with loaded dice or are you using some kind of "spend a benie for an auto 20" rule or something?  The odds of rolling three 20s in a row is 0.01%.  The odds of rolling four 20s in a row is 0.0006%.  You will need to roll something like 16 MILLION d20s before you roll four 20s in a row.  If you rolled once every 10 seconds of game play it would take you over 4000 ten-hour long play sessions until you see four 20s in a row. The odds are something like 1 in 800,000 rolls that you'll ever see your trip 20s.

Yet you and your group sound excited by this new addition to the rules expanding your understanding of how middle earth works...I don't get it.  Its not a rule if it will never ever happen.    Help me understand why you're seeing this as a cool and exciting feature and not a "quit wasting our time with stuff that might as well be impossible" moment.

There's some disconnect here.   Either

1) you're using "20s" and "1s" as a shorthand that doesn't literally mean 20s and 1s 
2) you're using some sort of meta mechanic that lets you turn rolls into 20s and 1s with some frequency
3) you're rolling truly amazing volumes of dice
4) you're memory is playing tricks with you and some of those really cool results were actually 17s and 18s and such but through the haze of time you remember them as being 20s...or
5) your group rolls statistically unlikely results on a regular basis.

I don't want to sound like I'm sniping at you here or anything, but its a trend in pretty much all of your actual play posts that all of the really exciting and memorable moments happened because somebody rolled a 20 or a 1...and that just doesn't seem very likely...nor does it seem very reliable, and I'm just trying to get a handle for what the mechanics really are.
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Precious Villain
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2006, 03:08:51 PM »

I don't want to sound like I'm sniping at you here or anything, but its a trend in pretty much all of your actual play posts that all of the really exciting and memorable moments happened because somebody rolled a 20 or a 1...and that just doesn't seem very likely...nor does it seem very reliable, and I'm just trying to get a handle for what the mechanics really are.

Is it possible that what is really going on in these sessions is a form of mild illusionism - that is upon the rolling of a 1 or a 20 the DM looks at the scene and then uses the tremendous authorial leeway provided by this statistically unlikely event to narrate (i.e. insert into the SIS) whatever event may push "the story" forward. 

These are big groups - with enough people all shouting and yelling and rolling dice you'll get lots of 1s and 20s (the odds of getting either one are 1 in 10, after all).  If the rule is:  "Upon the rolling of a 1 or 20, the GM determines some exceptionally good or bad result for the character in question" then the GM has a lot of authority. 

Let me give you a little example, assuming six players and one GM running an NPC.  The party walks into a haunted graveyard.  As they enter, the GM calls for everyone to "roll a d20."  The GM does not specify "what the roll is for."  With 7 dice hitting the table, the odds of someone rolling either a 1 or a 20 are 52%.  The odds or someone rolling only a 1 would be about 33%. 

As GM, I'd only need to call for a handful of such "mystery rolls" before someone miffs it.  At that point, the "evil energies" of the place overtake the unfortunate character as I secretly hand a note to the player stating that he's now evil/possessed, etc.  An Illusionist GM could plan out a whole story arc (many game sessions worth of material) secure in the knowledge that the required number of 1s and 20s will turn up to steer the story forward.  It's totally up to me to determine what happens on a 1 or 20 as long as (broadly speaking) it's thematically appropriate.  Since an Illusionist GM is picking the themes, this is actually really easy.  Take my possessed player character - maybe he just gets an evil gleam in his eye, or loses his magical healing ability for a few days.  Maybe he turns into a vampire or becomes an evil NPC.  It's pretty much up to the GM from the look of things.

As an Illusionist technique it's got potential.  Because of the statistical improbability of rolling a 1 or 20 on any given occasion, players are likely to perceive that there is very little likelihood of the GM stepping in and applying however much force in any given situation.  But from the GM's perspective, you have a power that pops up quite frequently if you have the mental agility to run with it. 

Anyway, to get back to the quote at the beginning (it's there for a reason!), maybe the reason the really exciting/memorable moments from the play sessions involve rolling a 1 or 20 is that the story itself moves forward based only on these 1s or 20s.  Yes, it is super unlikely to double or triple up.  But they are not at all unusual given a sufficient number of dice rolls.  If the GM has significant narrative power on one tenth of all rolls it's simply a matter of patience on the GM's part to have ALL significant thematic moments of play revolve around them.  Significantly, it's simply a matter of patience on the GM's part to have all or virtually all significant thematic moments of play resolved in exactly the way the GM has scripted them ahead of time. 

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My real name is Robert.
Caldis
Member

Posts: 359


« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2006, 06:35:25 PM »

A few aspects of this interested me but what struck me comes from the following quote.

There were two really cool parts about this.  First was that I actually did do that which was for all intents and purposes “impossible.”  However “magic” was involved in the equation which is treated not like a science ala D&D but more organic and related to circumstances.  The next really cool thing was the GM informed me that I, as the player, should regard the sword as +2 and that the next time I rolled and got three “20’s” in a row the sword would become +3, and following that four “20’s” etc.  Again a strong Sim act, a totally new “mechanic” was introduced on the fly into the game “system” based upon what had happened in the SIS.  IOW mechanics followed the SIS but did not lead it.  Very very cool all around.  Another moment of disambiguation that led to more understanding of the fictional world.  The new mechanic was a reflection of our in game actions – we had just added a little bit more to the understanding of Middle Earth as we saw it.  Not only was the cutting of the spike met with much jubilation, the new mechanic was the object of much interested conversation and was also well received.  I got a couple of, “that’s really cool” and “congratulations” for that event and I have to admit it was a moment that I strongly enjoyed.  This may have seemed tangential to the main topic, but it is actually a description of a powerful Sim moment/tell.  Sim isn’t about “story” or “step on up” but the creation and maintenance of the Dream via play and that is exactly what happened in the just described events.  It is extraordinarily difficult to talk about Sim because there is no premise or story to reference back to.  Nor is there the shrewd use of the tools of mechanics or “go lengths” to help anchor and steer a conversation.

This creation of new rules for the game seems important to you however from my perspective you did nothing to conciously bring it about.  You made the decision to try and cut the spike not because you were trying to create a new rule but because you found yourself in a situation that left you with few actions that would resolve it.  You tried the solution that looked best and it worked through magic and fate.  The additional rule wasn't created with your input nor was it something you tried to bring to the game so where in all this do you see yourself expressing the sim CA?  Where are you empowered to persue the sim agenda?  It seems to me like this new rule creation is more a reward mechanic handed out by the gm for good play and lucky dice rolling rather than an active part of the sim agenda, does this comment seem fair to you or am I reading it wrong?

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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2006, 12:52:50 PM »

Hey Ralph,

Thanks for taking the time to wade through my novellas… er posts.

Yet you and your group sound excited by this new addition to the rules expanding your understanding of how middle earth works...I don't get it.  Its not a rule if it will never ever happen.    Help me understand why you're seeing this as a cool and exciting feature and not a "quit wasting our time with stuff that might as well be impossible" moment.

Ah, yes.  That is the million dollar question.  It is exactly here where Sim is utterly different from both G/N.  I’ll do my best to explain why but I’m still struggling trying to put it all down in words.

How often are you typically rolling in the game?

Scores of times.

You then say
Quote
In the past the few first times I had actually struck a troll I had rolled “20’s”
 

I mean I can understand "the first few times I rolled really well"...but "the first few times I rolled 20's"??  Is rolling 20's just short hand for "got a good roll" or do you mean literally you rolled several 20s while fighting trolls?

I mean that I literally rolled “20’s” upon my first contacts with my sword and a Troll’s body.  The first time I used the sword I was in the Troll Shaws doing everything I could to keep myself from being turned into Elf burger.  Well, not everything, because I was rolling so poorly that all I was doing with my sword was fanning air.  I kept whiff – er swinging away and backing up until I did roll a ‘1.’  Under these circumstances a ‘1’ was particularly inopportune.  In this case I tripped and fell on my back.  So there I was on my hind end, my head spinning and the Troll was all over me.  As he closed for his prize I made one last desperate attempt.  I called for a “full thrust” and literally rolled a “20.”  This was the first time the sword had ever been wetted in battle – and it killed the Troll outright.  Trolls don’t go down to just one blow normally speaking.  So by narrating this outcome the GM established, using the circumstances at hand - first blooding, against a Troll, with a natural “20,” that this sword probably has a “special purpose” against Trolls.  That was the end of that night.

The next time I played this character was several weeks ago where I was again hunting Trolls.  This was the scenario where I ended up in the bottom of the well with “The Hunter.”  Again I was rolling so badly that I was doing nothing but parting air.  Finally I managed to roll a number that actually hit – it was a natural “20.”  If memory serves I think this happened twice in this little scenario.  I only hit twice and on both times it was because I rolled a natural “20.”  Thus far, at this point in the history of the sword, every time the sword actually made contact with a Troll it was on a roll of a natural (or unmodified) “20.”

Did that help clarify what I had posted earlier?  Let me know if you have further questions or if I haven’t helped you at all.

Further this whole section has me puzzled
Quote
The next really cool thing was the GM informed me that [snip] the next time I rolled and got three “20’s” in a row the sword would become +3, and following that four “20’s” etc.  Again a strong Sim act, a totally new “mechanic” was introduced on the fly into the game “system” based upon what had happened in the SIS.  IOW mechanics followed the SIS but did not lead it.  Very very cool all around.

The next time you get three 20s in a row?  Are you playing with loaded dice or are you using some kind of "spend a benie for an auto 20" rule or something?  The odds of rolling three 20s in a row is 0.01%.  The odds of rolling four 20s in a row is 0.0006%.  You will need to roll something like 16 MILLION d20s before you roll four 20s in a row.  If you rolled once every 10 seconds of game play it would take you over 4000 ten-hour long play sessions until you see four 20s in a row. The odds are something like 1 in 800,000 rolls that you'll ever see your trip 20s.

Yet you and your group sound excited by this new addition to the rules expanding your understanding of how middle earth works...I don't get it.  Its not a rule if it will never ever happen.    Help me understand why you're seeing this as a cool and exciting feature and not a "quit wasting our time with stuff that might as well be impossible" moment.

I fully grok what you’re saying about the exceedingly slim odds of such a series of rolls actually coming up, rolled only in combat, no less.  I’m not sure how to put this coherently in paragraph form so for everybody’s sake I’ll take the easy way out by just “listing” the reasons.

  • In our game, the history and nature of a sword is equally if not more important than its “plusses.”
  • This “rule” is far more significant as a reflection of the idea it represents than in it’s actual or frequency of application.  I have a sword that can, has and has the ability to continue to grow in might.
  • This particular “rule” is for my sword only.  Like any given player Character, this sword is a one of a kind.  It is called “Lincrist” – “Song Cleaver.”  This appropriate to my character whose name is “Aeglin” – “Fell Song.”  I had envisioned the character originally along the lines of a blade singer whose blade responded to his singing.  I then set about trying to keep the Great East Road open and so the hunt for Trolls.  This decision of mine has now been grafted into the sword.  My choices as a player are being reflected in the “reality” of the fictional world.  The history of the sword is growing with my play.
  • This sword is utterly unique in the history of this game.
  • I’ve seen triple 20’s come up a couple of times, in my nearly 10 years at the table so it doesn’t “feel” as unlikely as it should.
  • We have the “Tomahawk 20’s” that I could use, but I don’t think I would ever use one for that purpose.  However, the point is that there are means to affect the odds based on circumstances that may yet come up in the future.
  • This “rule” adds yet another layer of significance to the die rolling of combat.
  • That there is a potentiality that might eventually come to pass in the future would be a really cool event to experience!
  • In Sim, it is the rare and the new which is exciting.  IOW it’s not just about the same old thing ad nauseam but rather the remarkable amidst the established and experienced norm.  A new “fact” has been created.

This list is not comprehensive but I do think I’ve covered the more salient points.

Sim isn’t about “story” it’s about the interaction and disambiguation of objects and their inherent properties as portrayed in the fictional world changing and growing over time via play.  It can be about a sword, or a town, or a people, or a character (creating, expanding or the meeting and interaction with an important NPC), or a waterfall, or the Two Trees of Aman, or the codification of an event in play as a “rule,” or seeing Minas Tirith for the first time or playing a character in Minas Tirith and adding to the knowledge of both the character and Minas Tirith through play – all of which have in common the process of disambiguation via play.  More Dream.

Thus that a new mechanic may rarely come up in actual play is largely irrelevant – what that new mechanic really is is a piece of history (more Dream).

There's some disconnect here.   Either

1) you're using "20s" and "1s" as a shorthand that doesn't literally mean 20s and 1s  
2) you're using some sort of meta mechanic that lets you turn rolls into 20s and 1s with some frequency
3) you're rolling truly amazing volumes of dice
4) you're memory is playing tricks with you and some of those really cool results were actually 17s and 18s and such but through the haze of time you remember them as being 20s...or
5) your group rolls statistically unlikely results on a regular basis.

I apologize for the parceling of the post, its not meant to be nitpicky, but I have no skill whatsoever in formulating cohesive wholes.

1.  I literally do mean actual “20’s” and “1’s”
2.  The only “meta” mechanic we have are “Tomahawk 20’s” and “Tomahawk 2’s” and those are given out at the rate of 1 of each per player per year.
3.We do roll a fair number of times per game.
4.  Its hard for me to be objective about my own inherently distorting memory, but “20’s” are very special in the game, purposefully so.  We are encouraged strongly by the GM to make sure he knows when we do roll them as some pretty spectacular things do happen – thus making the reporting process very self reinforcing.  People literally yell “Tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenty,” pumping fists up and down, high-fiving among the players, the GM putting on a show of rolling his eyes in mock helplessness.  This does not happen with rolls of “19.”  Actually I don’t know where this would actually fit in the hierarchy of the model itself but we tell new players and are reminded on occasion by the GM that all “1’s,” “20’s” must be clearly noted by the player to the GM, and “10’s” less so.  Not reporting “1’s” is an extremely serious breech of the rules of the game as is the false reporting of “20’s.”  Both are considered cheating and are expellable offenses.  Players have been expelled in the past for such breeches.  The core element of the game is, “deal with what happens.”  This type of “cheating” totally drains the emotional energy from the game and is unfair to the other players who do abide by the “rule” and face the consequences square on.

5.  I am no statistician and during the game I am typically so wrapped up in what is happening that, again, I don’t know if I can give a truly objective answer.  However I have seen some pretty wild runs of numbers.  In the 25+ year history of the game, back in Easterling days, there was a series of seven consecutive “20’s” rolled in a row.  I’ve seen the folder where all the players signed a paper saying, “I was there!”  Excluding that event, I saw a player roll something like thirteen 1’s in the span of twenty rolls.  Conversely, there is a player at the table who does seem to regularly have amazing runs of “20’s” fairly regularly, especially when the shit hits the fan.  Me – I tend to roll on the fairly poor side.  I’ve monitored my rolling on a number of occasions and have had games where nearly two thirds of my rolls have been ten and under.  I have noted that when things really start heating up I do “notice” more “20’s,” but I think that is more the result of selective memory than true objectivity.

… I'm just trying to get a handle for what the mechanics really are.

Funny you should ask that question because that is the one the very questions I originally came to the Forge to discern.  I spent allot time in the Theory boards working my way towards solving that question, and without this being a slight at any level whatsoever, they closed just as I was making progress.  Perhaps I would have been better served by posting more in the AP threads, I don’t know.

However, I do know that the resolution mechanics are neither “task” nor “conflict” based.  The best theory or idea I have at the moment is that all rolling of twenty sided dice in our game serve as guide to positiveness or negativeness (on a continuum) of what will be narrated – whatever that might be.  “1’s” and “20’s” are a sort of “quantum” jump outside that continuum.  Something “fate” altering or changing happens as a result of such rolls.  The key to play is in the player’s ability to, for lack of a better term, “bricole.”  There is no winning or losing, no right or wrong, just the ability of the players to deal with problems in a creative yet setting limited manner.  The die rolls are used mostly to indicate the quality or nature of the entailments of making of a decision.  Theoretically every decision is complicated with many different tradeoffs/entailments involved with whatever choice one faces.  The die roll mostly indicates whether “fate” has been kind or not by indicating just how much of a problem (or not) those tradeoffs/entailments are going to be.  It is very important to note that we frequently don’t know the extent of what those entailments are.  These entailments are where the fictional world really comes alive.  So its not some much the resolution of the conflict that is being rolled but nature of the consequences of the choice.  This leaves lots and lots of room for narrating outcome.

For example – a player is tracking orc tracks and at one point roll’s a 1.  This could mean anything from he lost the trail, that the orcs find the tracker, that another encounter finds the tracker, that tracker is so bound up in his tracking that he ends up walking into quicksand or through a stand of poison ivy.  Or maybe he falls down a small hole spraining an ankle, bemoaning his bad luck when not 30 seconds later a small gaggle of orcs passes right near where he had been standing just moments before.  Or maybe the character gets temporarily lost but learns from his “mistake” and gets two checks in tracking.

Or maybe a character is in the wild taking a quick water break and the GM has him roll a 20 sided and the player drops a couple of 20’s.  This too is open with possibilities.  Maybe he encounters Gandalf.  Maybe he encounters a man or woman near death and decides to delay his important journey a bit to help them out knowing this will cost him.  As it turns out the injured person could be a very important NPC.  Maybe the PC finds a dropped sack of gold or maybe a map.  Maybe he is encountered by a group of Rangers who escort him out of the area because it is being overrun by Orcs.  Fate.  The dice are really indicators of whether life at that instant will turn out well or not – whatever that character is doing.

… or the GM may forgo a roll altogether.  Or may ask for one when there seems absolutely no reason for it.  However, many times we don’t know exactly what we are rolling for though we are certainly free to deduce what the reason might be.  Again, more abduction, induction and deduction.

I hope that I have answered your questions to some satisfaction.  Let me know if you have more questions of that I have done nothing but confuse you more.

Precious Villain, Caldis I will respond to your posts separately.
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2006, 01:20:33 AM »

Hi Precious Villain!

I’ve been pondering your post for a while trying to figure out a way to respond to it coherently, which probably means I’ll be all over the map on this one.  My apologies ahead of time, but at least forewarned is forearmed!

I get your point about the odds and all that, and as far as the frequency of in which certain seeming unusual numbers coming up fairly frequently I am in agreement.

The topic I would like to take on is the issue of Illusionism, even if it is only “mild.”  :)

It is my understanding that Illusionism means that the GM is deprotagonizing player choices, though the players are not aware of it (either by negation or removing the choice itself).  In the example you provided with the “mystery rolls” I’m not sure what choices are being negated or what choices might be being withheld from the players.

However, using the situation you provided, I will describe how our table would handle it.  This will help me clarify my thoughts to myself and hopefully for you as well.

The GM would frame the scene using appropriately descriptive words while introducing the situational needs of the characters.  IOW the reasons why each of has for being at such a God forsaken place and even worse, why we “need” to enter it.  Note - that the reasons/motivations the GM provides are almost always unique to each player character present.  These motivations are based upon player interests, each character’s individual history as well as the GM’s own interest in seeing how the players cope with the Situation.  Typically he’ll add at least one and frequently several NPC’s to the mix to act as his agents within the game.  They usually used to create some sort of tension with the group to, as he says, to stir up the pot (not plot!).

Before we enter some conflicting interests are introduced and then we are on our own.  We may choose to enter or not as we see fit.  He can cajole through the NPC’s, the use of intuition to impart information to the PC’s, use of environmental prompts but he always leaves room for an out if a player chooses not to bite.  However, every decision carries some sort of consequences, so if a PC says, “Screw it.  I’m outta here, its just too spooky,” and takes off he must understand that through long history of the game itself that traveling by one’s self is incredibly dangerous, especially near places like graveyards.  The choice is still always open to the player, but no decision comes without cost – which is totally cool.

Yet despite all the dangers and some discord within the party, the players press on and enter this vile place.  Rolls are called for a number of times.  Someone rolls a ‘1’ and the GM might say, “Your intuition is telling you that this is a baaaad place.  Put a check in your Intuition skill.”  Or he might say, “You see some movement just at the periphery of your vision, but you can’t make out if it was really there or not.”  Or the ‘1’ might mean one of the NPC’s starts to freak out.  Or maybe there is an encounter.  Icky!  Perhaps a gust of wind comes up blowing out some of the torches or lanterns.  Maybe the horses start shying and we now are faced with the decision to press on without our mounts (which contain lots of important gear) and the decision of whose going to stay back and guard the horses or try to force them on or turn back and face the consequences of our failure.

Now lets go back to the player character who becomes “possessed.”  We rarely have save or fail situations.  Said character is given cues and clues that something “bad” is going, he might see things that others aren’t seeing.  He might “feel” something whispering inside his head.  At this point the player has the opportunity to decide how he is going to react to all this while staying true to his character’s established history.  He may feel his hackles go up or a chill crawl down his spine or the feeling that something is trying to claw its way into his consciousness.  However the GM does not wait forever for the player to make his choice, if he can’t decide time rolls on and because the PC hasn’t done anything then the “take over process” will continue without any resistance.  Again, the player is given a number of opportunities but he must seize upon them, the game isn’t stopping for him to make his choice.  Actually one the tenets of our game is that it is better to make a decision, any decision even if it is a bad decision than to make no decision at all.  One of the favorite stock pressure cooker tactics is for the GM to have an NPC call for a PC in a really tough situation to, “Do something!”

See the key to our game is to give the players plenty of opportunities to make decisions, and this happens at an ever-increasing pace.

Now, the die rolls are really regarded as indicative of “fate,” one of the more Themes in LOTR.  So low rolls are a tilt towards the negative, while ‘1’s are a fairly sharp turn to the negative.  The converse is true for high rolls.  High rolls tilt the situation toward a more positive set of circumstances while “20’s” usually result in a fairly sharp turn to the positive.  Rarely are “1’s” or “20’s” absolutes in like the save vs death in D&D as this would be totally deprotagonizing.  This philosophy is reflected in such matters where the PC would be dominated or taken over by a single roll.  Sim lies in the decision making process – take away the opportunity to make a decision and you’ve just excluded the player’s input to the game.

These “mystery rolls” are really indicative of what “life/fate” is going to throw at the player characters.  We do have combat rolls, which are obviously labeled as such.  We also have “hero saving throws” in which the player is notified of what he is rolling for – which is a last roll given to a player whose situation has grown so dire that he is facing imminent death.  This is a roll to see if something happens that might shift the course of events that might spare the character’s life.  If he is successful this does not mean he gets off light, but merely that death has been staved off for the moment.  He still might be captured and dragged down a hole somewhere, but at least he isn’t dead and this means the player still has opportunities to make decisions.

Even in combat itself we rarely use exact numbers.  If a rolled number plus the player’s to hit bonus is pretty high we rarely bother calculating the exact value.  Overwhelming is overwhelming and that’s good enough to keep things moving at a pretty fast clip.  A middling number might get a second roll with the player having to roll higher than the first roll.

Basically high is a good as per the circumstances while low is bad, again according to the circumstances.  Thus many of these mystery rolls reflect those circumstances are really are not really so mysterious if the players are paying close attention.  (Abduction, induction and deduction.)

What really matters is the player’s intentions, via his actions, have an effect on the unfolding of the situation.  As long as this happens there is no is no illusionism.  Its not necessary for the GM to have a plot.  In fact it is far harder to GM a Sim game with a plot in mind that it is without one.  Game prep usually includes drawing up what Ron calls relationship maps, establishing the local power players in the area and motivating them, finding a way to create that nights party with some measure of plausibility, creating the necessary motivation, throw everything in an every hotter cauldron and seeing what happens.

“1’s” and “20’s” usually mean something rather unusual happened, which then might cause a total realignment of the party’s goals or circumstances.  This is cool because we are immediate thrown into a mad scramble that requires quick thinking on the spot, which is both challenging and stimulating.  One time a PC was stuck in a tower and was going to executed very soon.  The GM had the PC make a roll.  “20.”  Roll again.  “20!”  Ugh. Roll again.  “Tweeeenty!”  Am I ever going to get a break?  Roll again.  “Tweeeeeeeeenty!”  The table is all cheering and screaming knowing that something really cool is about to happen.  Looking out of the tower winder the PC in question sees for warriors rise over a rolling hill running toward the castle.  The play complained, “Four twenties in a row and this is all that I get?”  A few moments later the four men were followed by thousands of men.  Given the four twenties this was totally justified.  What we found out later, from the GM prep notes, the GM felt it was time that said PC should die.  Obviously this did not happen.  However it was an absolutely wonderful and emotional moment!  The players at the table were all screaming and shouting in joy at this turn of events.

Yes the GM does place certain elements into play but that does not mean the players have no effective input.  One time a PC was presenting a case to lord that he need prepare for war because a large contingent of barbarians were on the way to attack his keep.  During all this GM was nodding his head, but was somewhat incoherent.  At one point while the PC was making a particularly passionate plea, the lord looked at the PC and asked him if he liked cantaloupes.  Sound of needle being dragged across a record!  In this case the GM had designed the NPC lord to be deranged, but how that was to inserted into play was totally open, if it was to happen at all.  While the player’s intent to convince the lord went down the toilet, the player still had many opportunities to respond to what was going on.

Yes the GM has great power to narrate, but it is constrained by the nature of the world, the local circumstances, the PC in question, etc.  Actually I once complained to the GM when I made a go at GMing, that figuring out what to do with “1’s” and “20’s” was incredibly difficult to which he replied, “No shit!”  He’s not interested in seeing his story come to pass; he’s interest in seeing what the players are going to do.  The dice rolls keep things spicy and interesting.

I don’t know if any of that made any sense, I am pretty tired at the moment.  Feel free to ask for clarifications or any other question.

Thanks!
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2006, 06:12:41 AM »

Hello,

I am fascinated by your apparent denial of reality, Jay. The reality is apparent to anyone who's followed your threads over the last year.

A ton of guys are in a room. They are all rolling dice constantly, 1d20 at a time. Cary cherry-picks the 1's and 20's as his "story control" moments and improvises his way toward further conflicts and toward outcomes that he prefers, or deems will generate the most fervent response. You guys essentially act as his creative unconscious, and he acts as its manager and editor. With that many people rolling that many d20s per unit time, 1's and 20's are going to pop up all over the place. Ralph's point about sequential 20s is a good one (and leads me to be highly suspicious of many of them), but that's not relevant to the basic point, which is that Cary has dozens of opportunities to say "he snaps his bonds!" provoking cries of response, with you guys all laboring under this weird illusion that this has anything to do with dice-based task resolution. It's not. You guys play via a Drama mechanic, specifically Cary's, as cued by you all rolling like little madmen.

He is obviously a master of building suspense, whipping all of you into a frenzy, and recognizing when to change his mind. You do realize that, right? Cary was not prompted into not killing off that guy because the four 20s told him to. He changed his mind because the sequence of 20s got you all hot and bothered, and he knew when to satisfy the urge that had built up. It's clear to me that his notes are his springboard for improvising during play. It's also interesting, I think, to point out that if the guy had rolled a 3 or something for his first roll, Cary would have had his character executed, and the bunch of you would have wept and wailed just as intensely as you did for the character's survival.

All this is reinforced by a strange, extensive degree of infantilizing among the lot of you, such that you emotionally subordinate (or open up) to his descriptions and verbal cues. The net effect seems to me to be more like a gestalt self-help group, or perhaps a revivalist meeting, weeping and gnashing their teeth at the direction of a leader, than a role-playing game. Your characters are vehicles for the release of unbridled emotion, and it also seems clear to me that you, and probably the others, prepare yourselves for this experience, partly through a kind of self-hypnosis. You revert into that state when describing character creation, which is why your posts about that have an almost repugnant quality of pseudo-Tolkien, feverish chanting.

I asked a long time ago whether any women played, and you were surprised at your own answer that, why, no, they didn't, or if they showed up, never returned. I rolled my eyes. A room full of hyper-emotionalized, hyper-dependent men, with bulging eyes and the veins sticking out on their necks, all overreacting to the cues of one guy who directs their responses as with a conductor's wand? No wonder any woman who wanders in gets outta there like a candy-assed baboon. I'm only surprised they don't go directly out the window.

Selective memory plays a role too. You don't ever describe basic roll outcomes, all the 3's and 11's and 16's. You only talk about 1's and 20's, including sequences of them. There seems to exist a kind of sea of "blah" dice outcomes which are mixed up in a verbal ferment of shouting in response to Cary's overt direction ("The NPC says, look here!!"), and then the 1's and 20's pop up, as I say, as a solid 10% cue for Cary to make important stuff happen.

And finally, all this fascination with the Tolkien canon is a tremendous mental dodge on your and probably everyone else's parts. Everything in play is Cary's bitch, including the source material, and including anything you guys make up to go with it. It's totally malleable clay, or better, a totally transparent lens through which all of you pretend to be generating some kind of fiction, when the raw release of emotion is really the priority at the table.

When are you going to understand what you actually do, in that room, with these people? This is your men's therapy group, and in psychological terms, a rather disturbing one. It builds dependency rather than achieves any sort of honesty or closure.

I'll carry on with one last point of advice - you should stop rhapsodizing about Simulationist play in an authoritative manner. The intensity of your feelings during play has nothing to do with the SIS, but rather has everything to do with your connection with the group and with Cary. It's all Social Contract. Your group may well have a Simulationist Creative Agenda, but it is a tiny, thready little arrow in the Big Model of your play-experience, not a robust anchor through which everyone connects.

Best, Ron
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