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Author Topic: Thematic Generation Session with index cards  (Read 2418 times)
sirogit
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Posts: 503


« on: September 21, 2006, 02:51:39 PM »

I came up with this method of pinpointing good, personal and challenging themes for a game. I figure it could be used both prior to game setup or character creation, but could also be used in the middle of a game. Perhaps I'll try it out with a Burning Wheel or maybe DitV one-shot.

1. Get 10 index cards for every player.

2. Every player writes down ten things that they believe in and consider somewhat controversial on seperate index cards.

3. Players look through the index cards, and put a cross sign on the card if they personally hold a counterdictive belief.

4. Players choose 5 beliefs each to write a circle on, indicating that these are the issues they are most intereasted in exploring through play. They must be other people's beliefs.

5. Players may write a V to indicate veto on any cards, indicating that they do not want this belief examined in play.

6. Discard the cards with a V on them or either no circles or no crosses.

7. Players choose 3 cards to draw on for beliefs their characters strongly pursue or for beliefs the character strongly pursues a contradiction of. Different players may draw from the same card.

Reflections, refinements, suggestions?
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Josh Roby
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Category Three Forgite


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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2006, 03:03:58 PM »

Interesting thought.  I think 10 is probably a little too many (I don't know if I could think of ten controversial things I believe), especially with large groups (6 players x 10 cards = 60 cards to page through), but it's intriguing.

Tell us how it plays out!
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TroyLovesRPG
Member

Posts: 150


« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2006, 05:35:00 PM »

I like the idea of having players write something about anything. Many players tend to open up more when writing than when just having a conversation. Writing about the character is even better. I think it fosters good roleplaying and the use of cards is great. I think it would work, but I agree that 60 cards is a lot.

One solution is to create a logical set of story parts. Beginning, middle, end, etc. I thought of a modified tarot card layout. Essentially, any random set of ideas about a situation put together can form a story. The odd combinations may be interesting enough to pursue.

Each player thinks of a story concerning a hero, enemy, monster, etc. They address the following questions by writing the answers on separate index cards:

1. Whom is the subject of the story?
2. What is the current situation and how does it challenge the subject?
3. What happened in the past that leads up to the situation?
4. What are the subject's future hopes in resolving the situation?
5. What are some negative circumstances (enemies, problems, etc) that hinder the subject from resolving the situation?
6. What are some positive circumstances (allies, assets, etc) that help the subject resolve the situation?

The cards are sorted by element type and placed in six sets. There are three ways to select elements of the story:

1. Randomly draw a card from each set and create the story.
2. Each player receives a set and secretly chooses an element, but it musn't be their own. They reveal the cards and the story is created.
3. Each player receives a set. Starting with the first element (subject) a player chooses a card (not their own) and reads it aloud. The second player chooses the next element (situation) he or she feels would continue the story and so on... The story is created.

Troy
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2006, 05:14:22 AM »

Mmm ... index cards.  Yum!

Is there a reason you want to do this blind, as opposed to people tossing ideas out into the circle and immediately hearing "Oh!  I disagree with that," "Well I agree," "Cool!  Let's use it!"?

Seems to me that the blind method helps a little with overcoming shyness, but also confronts players with an empty page that might provoke writers block.  Did you choose based on those factors, or on something else?
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sirogit
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Posts: 503


« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2006, 03:07:22 PM »

I didn't really imagine this process happening in a void of other communication - I figured the index cards would be good for the management of the large amount of information.

I also think that whether a theme is likely usefull for a game depends on a small number of factors - Are there credible alternatives? Do some players just NOT want to go there? - which may be obscured by normal discussion. The cards are meant to make sure one thing is done, not to disclude other types of communication.
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TroyLovesRPG
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Posts: 150


« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2006, 03:34:36 PM »

To Tonylb: I think my recent experience with players (compared to 15 years ago) makes moderation a high priority. I find that many players try to dominate the conversation and it becomes more of a player to player competition instead of friends having a fun adventure. It could be that I want every player to get a chance and sometimes pulling an idea out of a hat works best. That they are the player's ideas even works better. Having players discuss themes, plots and storylines requires them to have open minds and entertain the ideas of others.

To Sirogit: Using six cards to write the information helps the players to organize their ideas. I speculated on the next step in the the process instead of just offering the idea: create element types and put those on index cards. I have found many great ideas in this forum, in the form of bits and pieces I took from various discussions. Try different card formats with your players and they'll let you know what they like. I'm planning on using this process (as I envisioned it) during the game I'm running. Thanks for the seed idea.
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epweissengruber
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Posts: 311

I like games! and theory! and The Forge!


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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2006, 04:51:34 PM »

I think my recent experience with players (compared to 15 years ago) makes moderation a high priority. I find that many players try to dominate the conversation and it becomes more of a player to player competition instead of friends having a fun adventure.

I am going to have my players construct new keywords for my upcoming heroquest campaign.  The keywords that they construct then become keywords of the factions, religions, etc. that they will be facing.

I too like the idea of having a procedure that guarantees input from all players.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2006, 04:23:12 AM »

I find that many players try to dominate the conversation and it becomes more of a player to player competition instead of friends having a fun adventure. It could be that I want every player to get a chance and sometimes pulling an idea out of a hat works best.

Welll ... yeah, that happens.  But, speaking as a designer who directly gets my hands into the guts of that (rather than trying to shut it down) I would suggest to you that your rules do not yet have the structure needed to either suppress that competitive instinct or to channel it productively.

Worst-case scenario:  What's to stop one player from vetoing every other player's idea.  Literally reaching out, taking the card, and writing "V" on it?

I suspect the basic answer is "social reinforcement," which is a fine answer.  But if you're counting on fostering that kind of social reinforcement anyway then why not use it to make the whole process easier?  And if you're not counting on fostering social reinforcement then maybe you need some more rules (you get awarded in play every time you get into a conflict about something you put a cross on, but that reward is reduced for every card you put a "V" on, or something).

Of course, saying "Well, I'm occupying a middle ground where I want social reinforcement, and want to encourage it through the system, but don't want to count on its just emerging willy-nilly from any group of gamers sitting at a table," and that would make a world more sense than my rough sketch "Do you have it or not?" above, but it's also much more in-depth.  The kind of thing we could bandy back and forth over the length of many posts, if that's your fancy.
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Adam Cerling
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Posts: 159

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« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2006, 12:09:05 PM »

I recently went through a few days of "facilitative leadership" training (basically, how to run productive meetings; more interesting than it sounds!) that taught ways of using visual tools like index cards to help guide discussion and achieve group consensus.

One lesson I took away from this was that the tools we use shape our thinking. Therefore I suspect that Sirogit's index-card method produces fundamentally different thinking than Tony's just-talk-about-it method.

One index-card based discussion technique we learned was this:
  • Create an "In" zone and an "Out" zone about the topic, where cards can be placed. We used taped-off squares on the wall, for sticky Post-It cards. (E.g., An In zone and an Out zone for "What do we want in our game?")
  • Have a silent brainstorming phase wherein people write their ideas on index cards and place them in these zones. Write ideas for the In zone on green cards, and ideas for the Out zone on red cards. (E.g., I might put "Tactical Combat" on a red card in the Out zone, and "Romance" on a green card the In zone.)
  • Have a Clarification phase. Without discussing whether ideas are in the correct zone or not, discuss the cards that are unclear until everyone understands what they mean. If any cards are duplicates of one another, consolidate them into one card.
  • Create a third zone -- "Further Discussion."
  • In no particular order, everyone silently starts moving cards they disagree with. The first time someone moves a card, it moves to the opposite zone. But the second time anyone moves that card (and you can tell, because of the color-coding) it goes to Further Discussion and stays there. Continue (silently -- very important!) until nobody wants to move any more cards.
  • At this point, you have a clear starting point of consensus: in the "In" zone you have everything you agree to include, in the "Out" zone you have everything you agree to keep out. All that remains is to deal with the Further Discussion zone.
  • The group discusses each item in the Further Discussion zone in turn, attempting to reach consensus on whether it should be In or Out. When consensus is achieved, move the card. Continue until there are no cards left in the Further Discussion zone.

Irreconcilable differences can still happen in the last step, of course, but when both parties are faced with all the ideas they've already agreed on (in the In and Out zones), I saw in my case that it made group members more open to compromise. E.g., I can think, "I wanted Romance in the game, but I'm already getting Political Intrigue, Alien Abductions and The 1950s... I can do without Romance this time."
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
TroyLovesRPG
Member

Posts: 150


« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2006, 07:21:55 PM »

This is related to index cards and also on a tangent.

I didn't use index cards this past Eberron session, but did ask the players "Where do you think this story is heading? What could happen?" Strangely enough, they talked amongst themselves about the repercussions of the tremors, city foundation, possible perpetrators and how to stop the out-of-control machinery. Instead of giving them information, I unwittingly asked them to speculate and imagine what could happen. It was great and I had no idea it was going to go that way. It seems that the players will fill the void when given the opportunity.

My style as a GM involves delivering some important information (on index cards) and the rest is just made up as the adventure unfolds. Yet, most of the players feel compelled to completely define their character, attempting to extrapolate what they will need without knowing the world or what they will be doing. I'll definitely have to rethink that. Maybe its better for the players to build their characters as a process when adventuring. Finding out things about the character that they never knew may seem convenient in one sense, but also legitimate in another. Sort of a self-discovery by trial of fire. We could use index cards for the players to write out ideas about their character, as they are playing the character. Afterwards, they can commit to certain abilities, skills and traits. Instead of creating a character completely, the players sculpt the character in place. It would be bizarre, but interesting.

In fact, one of the players forgot his character sheet and seemed perturbed. He was playing a psion but thought a rogue would be better based on the types of adventures and that the environment was urban. I told him to do it and keep the same level. The other players thought that wasn't fair and I gave them the option of making a new character. They were fine but just wanted to tweak them a bit. Changed a feat, moved some skill points and reselected known spells. They even came up with appropriate background information and reasoning regarding those changes. Wow! Totally happy players and it affected the game in the best ways.

Obviously, as a GM I placed myself in a position of always "telling" what was happening and not asking the players enough questions. There never seemed to be a problem, but something was missing. We found it!

Perfect! After a few posts and some discussion do we have any kind of agreement or acknowledgement?

I know that most of us like index cards and to state ideas. Did I miss anything?

Sirogit: it's your topic, please respond.

Troy
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