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Author Topic: [carry] Gun-butts, dope, non-mutual masturbation, and massacres  (Read 10465 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: February 25, 2007, 05:45:33 PM »

Hello,

I've been trying to organize a game of carry for ages, but keep screwing it up or getting blocked by hassles. Finally, last Tuesday night, we sat down to it. I'd hoped to have more people, but ultimately the group was me, Tim A, Tim K, and Chris. With only three players and a GM, I decided to drop Fire Squad Charlie, for a total of 11 characters in the platoon.

We started with a little chat about Vietnam, including a couple of maps I'd printed out and some geography - it surprises me how many Americans with strong opinions about the war don't even know the layout of the Indochina Peninsula and what "south" and "north" Vietnam really meant in that context. Being me, I couldn't help but bring up the earlier history of the war and getting sort of mad. All this chat turned out be useful, though, as it ended with the comment that none of the characters in the platoon knew a single thing about any of the stuff we'd just talked about.19-year old kid from Hoboken or somewhere, some basic training, and wham, you're there.

We made up the burdens and chose Grunts, with the following results (burden entries are listed in order):

Elmo Smith (accuser), played by Chris
- V.C. run ... the ones who don't run are brave V.C.
- shoots out of bloodlust
- the brave V.C. get to die quick

Wendell White (brawler), played by Tim A
- writes letters every day
- has a girlfriend back home
- all of the above is used as a cover to hide his homosexuality

Tommy Bunting (invincible), played by Tim K
- never let buddies die (fear)
- won't form lasting relationships, keeps distance
- paranoid: everyone hates him and will get him

Not a warrior, a soldier, or a companion in sight ... uh oh.

I'd like to play a few more times to be sure, but all of us found the mechanic for initially distributing dice to be pretty fiddly for little perceived gain. On the other hand, there might be some strategy that becomes more evident after you know the game better, and the rules indicate as much too. I mean, not strategizing in the sense of dominating the game, but in the sense of focusing or broadening how you're about to play, relative to your Grunt's profile.

We did the social contract chat as well, discovering that almost all of us had career military family members who'd served in Vietnam, and that none of us saw any reason to restrict content. As you'll see.

What happened in play

I started with a squad scene, when the platoon discovers a weapons cache in a village and the villagers go all sullen and silent. I worked off the descriptions of other squad members (Fodder) and presented a situation which was mostly defined by lack of communication - the commanding officer's few memorized, mispronounced phrases were not generating any results, and it was damned hot and sticky. The upshot of the scene, as it turned out, was that Smith instigated a massacre.

As we worked through the mechanics of a squad scene, it was immediately obvious that having two physical knuckle-draggers be privates with a lance corporal accuser would bode no good. There was no mechanical effect that subordinated them to him (as in an action scene), but still - predictably and appropriately, the other two characters started off pretty submissive, in not directly opposing Smith. And as it turned out, Chris won the roll, in trying to goad the higher-ranking officers into extreme action, including his very nasty abuse of some of the women (a rifle butt to the face).

I confess that I waffled about narrating this resolution, being squeamish. But then I sucked it up and accepted that Chris had won - OK, the intra-squad conflict is resolved: the Americans start using force, including shooting. Once having committed to it, I didn't want to walk the story away from the situation, and decided that we could move straight into the consequences as an action scene.

So, we went into an action scene in the middle of said massacre. I found my stride in this one, as I learned quickly to narrate results of stated actions and sub-frame each one to put tremendous pressure on the CO. The more I could stress out Chris' character (Elmo) with immediate crises, the more likely he'd give orders that the other Grunts would be disinclined to follow, or at least would have to grapple with. This is Sorcerer territory, as well as Dust Devils and Trollbabe - my kind of GMing.

The scene went through a couple of rounds of narration, with the final one being one of the Fodder (Steinbeck, Smith's fire squad commander) actually confronting him at gunpoint as the bloody-faced woman armed a grenade and flung herself at both of them.

Chris won the roll again, and instantly found out how much fun it was to spread destruction throughout the squad. He was perfectly happy to wound his own Grunt from the fringe of the grenade blast, to hurt another Grunt, and to lose a couple of guys from the platoon. He ruled that the Fallout made the Grunts' burdens increase.

By the way, regarding Fallout, we used a rules modification that Nathan had suggested: Grunts whose burden die had been contributed, in the winning pool, take Fallout as the narrator sees fit without spending Fallout points. It means the Fodder really get ripped by the Fallout points, and that burdens guarantee Fallout for their users, but without those two effects diminishing one another. I like it.

We all observed that the role of narration per round is absolutely crucial. Even though it's not significant in terms of points or dice, it has everything to do with each person's stated actions and responses for the next round. This is an effect that we don't have a jargon term for - the pure impact of narration on the SIS at a small action-by-action scale, which is a key element in Sorcerer, Trollbabe, Dogs, Dust Devils, Shadow of Yesterday, and HeroQuest (extended conflict) play that is very very hard to explain to a person who has only experienced (a) highly traditional Fortune-at-the-End or (b) wide-open scene-level narration of the My Life with Master or Primetime Adventures sort. It is the single weakest element of design in most of the games that I brought home from GenCon, but it is beautiful and shining in carry.

All right, looking back over those first two scenes, I developed Fodder as characters to varying degrees, with good effects. However, in the remaining scenes of the session, I didn't really live up to that, with one exception, with the result that their deaths or other fates weren't as strongly imagined. So, note to self, when playing carry, take the time to give lines and a brief visual bit to as many Fodder as possible.

The next squad scene concerned the three Grunts hanging out at night, smokin' dope, and getting into an argument with Steinbeck, who was still pissed off at Elmo and wanted to make an issue of it by telling him to get rid of his stash. It was basically Smith vs. Steinbeck in a pissing match, including a couple of punches, and Chris ended up losing this one since the other two Grunts backed off from siding with him, and Wendell stood up to everyone to settle the fight down. It also led to our first Profile change, as Wendell shifted from brawler to invincible.

Well, that just led to the perfect setup for me, a bit that had lurked in my mind as soon as I'd read Wendell's complete burden. It's another squad scene: late at night, Wendell and Tommy are sacked out in their tent. (I had Chris sit this one out, as all three scenes so far had mainly been about Elmo.) Wendell wakes up to realize that Tommy has chosen this private moment to jerk off. And Wendell's lonely, latent as latent can get, and he's shifted to invincible, and hey, maybe what happens in Vietnam stays in Vietnam.

Tim A nodded. Yup, it was time for Wendell to see if maybe Tommy might, you know, want company in the activity. Through three rounds, the conflict saw fantastic system use, because Tim A's dice pool had refreshed to capacity due to his profile change, and Tim K's pool was occupied only by high dice. That meant that as Tommy resisted, he was forced to use higher dice - i.e., a Violent approach given his profile. The horrible thing about it, dramatically, and you should have been there to see all four of us groan out loud with sympathy, was that Wendell switched to Honorable for his last roll in trying to acknowledge that he'd made a mistake ... and Tommy's only mechanically available approach was Violent. Tim K won that roll, and thus an outraged and embarassed Tommy beat the crap out of Wendell, who didn't even put up his hands to resist.

So next, it was time for another action scene, and I decided to follow up on the whole weapons cache idea to have the platoon detailed to creep through some VC tunnels to an arsenal that had been located, and destroy it. We probably butchered about 100 things about actual combat and layout for the historical period, but to make a several-round story short, it was totally disastrous for the platoon. Wendell made another Profile shift to warrior. As it turned out, I won the roll this time, and killed off or otherwise eliminated every remaining Fodder character except for Steinbeck ... and also ruled that the four of them were 100% captured by the Viet Cong. I used Fallout (both free and points) to raise burdens left and right.

Well, the four of us are all working stiffs, and at this point we'd hit nearly three hours of play after starting a bit late. We called play for the evening and will pick it up from there next time. I think we've got about one squad scene and one action scene left before endgame.

Rules questions

Our main questions pertain to orders during action scenes.

1. As we currently understand it, it seems like the high-ranking Grunt will never lose more than one die during these scenes. Is that correct?

2. Can the Grunt CO use his burden die in action scenes? If so, does it add, or is it his single die that he can use?

3. Increasing one's burden die means trading it with a die from the un-owned dice pool, right? What if the right size isn't there?

And finally, more generally and most importantly, is it absolutely set in concrete throughout play that the highest-ranking Grunt is giving orders to the other Grunts in these scenes? I know the rules say that that player can take over the fodder-CO's role, but in doing so, is his burden die for his Grunt still available? (which doesn't seem to make sense) What about situations in which the Grunts are extremely widely separated?

Comments and praise

This is a great game. I see it as the powerful offspring of Dust Devils, not necessarily in terms of what Nathan has played and what inspired him, more in the sense of looking at the families of techniques in modern Narrativist design.

I partticularly like the real-life timing and fictional scope of play, as the game is eminently playable in a solid evening. This really qualifies as a short-term power-puncher. I also like the fact that you can play it many, many times and it will always be very different based on which Grunts are chosen and what burdens are generated.

The system shows the strength of some kickass playtesting. The incredibly solid and powerful system is integrated with solid and powerful issue, and that issue is partly generated by the play group rather than simply shoved at them up-front.

As for the direct resolution system, I suggest that it really shines in how narration interacts with the SIS, influenced by (as in totally requiring) the dice, but still highly organic and creative. It's very much like Nine Worlds and Sorcerer in this feature. It also leads to me reiterating everything I've said about stakes in the past year, which fortunately Nathan has heard first-hand and thus I will not bang on about it here.

Nathan, I know you acknowledged it on your blog, but I'm gonna repeat and extend it ... I think all the text examples need re-writing, big-time.

Best, Ron
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2007, 07:59:27 PM »

I got to finally read carry a couple of weeks ago, after we got it for our web store and it found it's way from Helsinki up here. No play yet, but I'm very excited by the game and pleased at the positive surprise of discovering it: it's very much in the Dust Devils vein of doing things, with a firm system. I've been saying that it's either carry or 1001 Nights that is my immediate favourite from the Gencon batch of games we received at the end of the year. I'm more of a WWII kind of guy myself (and, therefore, telling everybody how I'm going to soon convert carry to play in the Winter War), but there's some teenagers here in Upper Savo who dig American Vietnam stuff; it was very gratifying to be in a small local convention this weekend, selling carry to one guy who's been playing Vietnam stories with Dust Devils rules on and off for a year and a half now, and who hasn't bought anything else from us yet. He's totally not the GM type normally, but I'd like it if I got to play the game with him in the GM seat.

We all observed that the role of narration per round is absolutely crucial. Even though it's not significant in terms of points or dice, it has everything to do with each person's stated actions and responses for the next round. This is an effect that we don't have a jargon term for - the pure impact of narration on the SIS at a small action-by-action scale, which is a key element in Sorcerer, Trollbabe, Dogs, Dust Devils, Shadow of Yesterday, and HeroQuest (extended conflict) play that is very very hard to explain to a person who has only experienced (a) highly traditional Fortune-at-the-End or (b) wide-open scene-level narration of the My Life with Master or Primetime Adventures sort. It is the single weakest element of design in most of the games that I brought home from GenCon, but it is beautiful and shining in carry.

I hear you. In Finnish discussion I've called this quality the "narrative context of conflict", because it's about the constraints and definition of the conflict arena. Because it is totally key to how Shadow of Yesterday and The Mountain Witch (both of which I played humongously last year) function on a higher level, I've had lots of practice with perceiving and appreciating the phenomenon. It's all about the shared understanding of the imagined space in terms of setting, character and situation. A related concept I've introduced in Finnish discussion is leverage, which is the fictional position a character has in terms of the envelope of potential stakes (ie. what the player can legitimately ask for in the stakes); the difference between games that let leverage affect the envelope strongly (TSOY, TMW) and games that don't (MLwM, PTA) is striking, especially when you learn to utilize and enjoy the fact that your avenues of action are constrained realistically (I'm using the '80s term intentionally to convey the feel) when leverage is in play. Your leverage from moment to moment is a very natural pacing tool for the action in games that use it (this pacing is largely taken up by the concept of "scene" in games like MLwM, by the way) and I nowadays feel that that is the way to the "realistic narrativism" I was trying to understand during the summer of 2005.

I'm mainly yapping about the above to make sure that I am discussing the same phenomenon, by the way.
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2007, 08:08:31 PM »

Something that Ron mentioned, but I think is deserving of further discussion is the way in which carry supports an evolving conflict resolution. To use an example, I'll point to the scene wherein Tommy beat the shit out of Wendell for coming on to him.

I think that most of us have seen a movie or read a book wherein a latent homosexual is beat up for what he is. Looking at my dice and the type of action that I was going to have to take with my character, Tommy, I was half a step away from groaning at the simple cliche of it all. However, the way in which carry handles conflict made the scene something else entirely. But let me begin with a more detailed recap...

After Ron rather aggressively framed Tommy into a masturbation scene, Tim A immediately knew what Wendell was to do. Well, Tommy's first reaction wasn't violence, but instead simply to attempt to extract himself from what was up to this point nothing more than an awkward situation. Swinging the tent door open, however, he realized that the camp was anything but deserted, and with his pants unzipped he could hardly walk around casually -- especially because he was already paranoid and generally freaked out about Wendell. So he turned back into the tent and towards an inevitable conclusion.

Somewhere around this time we had begun to use the actual conflict resolution mechanics. As Ron said, I looked at my dice and realized that they were all high -- meaning that I would be forced to act violently in the end. But my dice weren't all d12s (I think there was a d10 or something similar in the mix). This meant that I could attempt to escape and attempt to badger Wendell verbally before moving to physical confrontation. But I knew that I only had a chance or two before violence. Not only did this mechanic heighten the overall tension, but also gave me room to embellish on Tommy's character to make the scene a bit more interesting and powerful.

Now, I always had the option, the choice, of moving straight to violence, but by pushing the game mechanics, I think the scene really came alive. We were able to make it unique to the story we were all telling. And I while I always knew in the back of my mind that Tommy would end up pummeling Wendell (I was dreading it for the entire exchange), using the mechanics to draw out the scene organically created something more than any simple single dice roll ever could have implied.
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2007, 08:19:04 PM »

Hey Ron,

I'm really pleased right now, thank you for posting this. It sounds like the game performed exactly as it's supposed too, which is always good to hear! I like how the creating-Burdens-to-character-choosing process worked to create immediate tension, which can sometimes take awhile to build up with three players.

Anyway, the game sounds like its humming along, so let that be a blanket "hell yah" response for all of your post, and I'll respond to specific issues individually.

As for the initial dice selection being fiddly: it is, a bit. But it gives a dice distribution among the table that I have observed over a number of sessions of play to work how I want it to; it may be that there's a less fiddly way to achieve the same result, but looking for it hasn't been worth it to me, thus far.

1. As we currently understand it, it seems like the high-ranking Grunt will never lose more than one die during these scenes. Is that correct?

That is correct.

Quote
2. Can the Grunt CO use his burden die in action scenes? If so, does it add, or is it his single die that he can use?

Huh...I think I haven't thought about that. Uh, yes, he can, and it adds to his one dice he normally gets, and he has to inflict fallout on himself without paying for it.

Quote
3. Increasing one's burden die means trading it with a die from the un-owned dice pool, right? What if the right size isn't there?

That is correct. Uh, I haven't had it come up, but you should go ahead and grab the right size from your dice bag, or whatever. Go ahead and put the old Burden die into the out of play pool.

Quote
And finally, more generally and most importantly, is it absolutely set in concrete throughout play that the highest-ranking Grunt is giving orders to the other Grunts in these scenes? I know the rules say that that player can take over the fodder-CO's role, but in doing so, is his burden die for his Grunt still available? (which doesn't seem to make sense) What about situations in which the Grunts are extremely widely separated?

The person playing the highest-ranking Grunt always gives the orders to the other players. Whether, in the fiction, it is that character giving orders to the other characters, or whether he "jumps into" the role of the Sergeant, or whether he phrases orders as "it makes most sense to..." or "you know the Sarge would want you to...", can be situational and change from Action scene to Action scene within a game. The mechanics of it do not change, and if the player is taking on the Sergeant for an Action scene, he could incorporate orders to his character into the orders-giving in order to make that characters dice make sense, or whatever.

Does that answer your question?

And I have one thing that makes me jump up and down and go "Yes, yes!":

Quote
As for the direct resolution system, I suggest that it really shines in how narration interacts with the SIS, influenced by (as in totally requiring) the dice, but still highly organic and creative. It's very much like Nine Worlds and Sorcerer in this feature. It also leads to me reiterating everything I've said about stakes in the past year, which fortunately Nathan has heard first-hand and thus I will not bang on about it here.

The way I've been phrasing it is that it's the friction between the in-fiction events and logic and the mechanical reward system that really drives play and makes the game sing. I'm always, always pleased with how the game requires serious role-playing in order to be a rewarding game experience, and it sounds like it worked for you guys just right.

Yay!

And finally...
 
Quote
Nathan, I know you acknowledged it on your blog, but I'm gonna repeat and extend it ... I think all the text examples need re-writing, big-time.

*sigh* Yeh. I am the worst example-writer in the universe. I hope things weren't too confusing.

Anyway, thanks again for playing my game. I'm looking forwards to hearing how it finishes up!
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Nathan P.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2007, 08:24:15 PM »

Hi Eero!

We are definitely discussing the same thing. My slight adjustment to your term would be "narrational" rather than "narrative," because the latter term often carries implications about scene and story structure at a larger scale, and we really are talking about, well, about talking.

I think my most recent discussion of the issue is in [Sorcerer] Orthogonal and oppositional conflicts, although it's pretty central to my points about narration in [Dead of Night] Werewolves! Men with guns! Mom! too.

Hi Tim!

I agree. The really hard-hitting system element of the scene relied on the fact that Tommy did have a chance, although small, of resolving the scene quickly and relatively neutrally ... because we all knew that if that didn't work, the remaining options were all very grim, as Tommy's burden was kicking in just as hard as Wendell's.

Just in case some folks aren't seeing it, when Tim K says he knew the scene would end in violence, he's speaking in terms of looking at the dice when there was still a chance it wouldn't, and realizing the chance was pretty small. My point here is that the existence of that chance was key to how we responded to the scene. Fortune is a good thing in RPG design, properly placed and integrated into resolution. That means not merely managing conch-style speaking rights, and not in the currently widely-repeated sense of explicit pre-roll stakes which amount to pre-roll narration.

Hi Nathan!

You've answered my questions very well, and yes, now I understand the rules for action scenes better. We didn't violate them, in our session, but now we can use the real rules to cover a variety of possible ways to parse the options.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2007, 08:38:10 PM »

Hi Eero,

I forgot to mention that I completely and totally agree with the term "leverage," especially if we focus our attention on the fictional characters' relationships to the conflict, rather than on players' input or any sense of advantage at the real-person level.

Best, Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2007, 05:38:22 AM »

I enjoyed the write-up and was pretty much nodding my head based on my limited experience with carry.  One question/comment - you saw more profile switching than I did.  In fact, I don't recall any in a four hour game. 

Nathan, your suggested fallout mod sounds fantastic.  That alone seems guaranteed to amp up and focus a session in a horrible way. 
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2007, 05:55:31 AM »

We had three Profile switches, each one dictated by a dice pool being emptied. I'm pretty sure this was facilitated by having multiple rounds in action scenes, such that the lower-ranking characters lost a lot of dice in them. (Note that the ranking Grunt is the one who didn't have a Profile change, which is why I asked Nathan about that feature of action scenes - whether he could only lose one die).

Another detail is that each squad scene had a lot of rounds as well, with Approach switching, and in them, dice didn't necessarily get given to other individuals in such a way that everyone ended up with the same number of dice he started with. I think that Tim A may have given away more dice than he received, for instance. I like this feature of the system.

And on a minor but related note, when assigning Fallout, both Chris and I chose to increase Grunts' burdens rather than to diminish their dice pools. So that's an avenue of emptying pools which we did not see in our session, but which would have forced Profile changes even faster if we had.

I guess I'm having a hard time seeing how a group could play for several hours without a single person emptying his or her dice pool. The only way I could imagine it is if action and squad scenes were typically resolved by single-round rolls, i.e., no Pushing in the squad scenes and no "OK, this happens, now what" from the GM to require more rolls in the action scenes. I think we had as many as four rounds in our first action scene, three at the least.

I assume no one assigned Fallout such that dice were taken out of players' pools?

Also, perhaps players decreased their Burden dice size in order to resist a Profile change? Did that happen at all when you played? In our group, no one did that even though they knew they could - apparently we like the heavy Burdens.

Best, Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2007, 06:01:07 AM »

As I recall (and I hope Jeff, who GM'd for me at NC GameDay, will jump in) the majority of our conflicts were resolved in a single round of die rolling.  I didn't empty my die pool during the game, and I do recall increasing my Burden die size steadily, so that wasn't a factor. 
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2007, 06:49:16 AM »

The frequency of Profile change is dependent on a lot of factors:

*The Grunts chosen (smaller dice pools mean more frequent Profile changing)
*How "intense" action scenes are, as measured by number of rounds of orders
*How long squad-scene conflicts go, and the relation of the dice-swapping to:
*The at-the-table chemistry of the group, and the amount of dice that move to the GM as opposed to the other players, which tends to correspond with the relative adversity being put forth by each, but not always

The last one bears a little bit of explanation. The overall intent of the system is that dice will be going to "reward" other players and the GM, either for entertaining play, providing adversity for your character that you appreciate, or both. It is designed with the assumption that the GM will be receiving dice at a similar rate to the other players, but this isn't always the case. I have observed that, with some groups, the players shy away from giving dice to the GM, regardless of the events of play (this has a slight, slight correspondence with player who come from a fairly traditional play background).

Now, this isn't really a problem, but it does mean that in those groups that don't "support" the GM, player dice pools are larger and Profile change is infrequent, especially if people aren't pushing as hard in conflicts.

A general observation that I've made is that you can really tell how well a group is engaging with the fiction of their game by looking at things in the system, like frequency of Profile change, the progression of Burden dice, and the general movement of dice around the table. Which is pretty cool.

(Oh, and Ron, the design choice behind the ranking officer losing less dice in Action scenes is precisely that it means that he's less prone to Profile change, putting him in at least some kind of tension with the other characters. As other characters go through all these changes and see the ranking officer maintain, it creates another fictional vector for inter-squad tension.)

Anyway, I hope this sheds some light on the matter.
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Nathan P.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2007, 02:47:37 PM »

Hi there,

Nathan,

Quote
... the design choice behind the ranking officer losing less dice in Action scenes is precisely that it means that he's less prone to Profile change, putting him in at least some kind of tension with the other characters. As other characters go through all these changes and see the ranking officer maintain, it creates another fictional vector for inter-squad tension.

Tim A will be pleased to read that. It's exactly what he speculated to be the point of the mechanic, pending our confirmation that we were doing it correctly. It certainly reflects what's happening in the fiction of our game, aggravated by the fact that the CO Grunt is an accuser played by a very imaginative person. I bet you can see all manner of badness coming out of that.

Jason, now I'm getting a better idea of the range/tuning possible for the system and I think I see how our groups tuned the dials a bit differently. It looks like the key variable is the rounds per action scene. If the group tends toward one-round scene resolution, hence one-die lost per person, then pools won't deplete quickly. Also, maybe you guys also started with more dice per character than we did, based on the months in. I think our characters had five dice in their pools to start.

I'm really liking the current game, but now I also want to play again with higher-ranking characters, with more months in, and more noble-type profiles.

Best, Ron
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Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2007, 12:47:48 AM »

Hi Ron,

I'd like to know how the scene between Tommy and Wendell was framed without being deprotagonizing for Tommy or "against what Tim K pictured his character to be". Or better yet, how did you as players manage the framing?

I could see all kinds of players who would never let me frame such an embarrassing scene for their characters, but I must say, I find the technique most intriguing. Any recommended reads to the topic?

Thanks!
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Regards,
Christoph
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2007, 03:51:16 AM »

But that's the definition of framing, Christoph; you only ever set up a situation that the pertinent players agree to. So the answer is that you can frame a masturbation scene if and only if the player agrees. So you ask the player (or rather, everybody understands that your frame is subject to group approval) and then set it up. Can't be deprotagonizing if you as the player agree that it's a reasonable situation for your character to end up in.

As to how to get players to agree to potentially embarrassing scenes... you can't, it's not up to you to try to convince them. If a player doesn't want to go into something he feels uncomfortable, it's not going to happen in any good way. Stick to material the group can get behind.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2007, 05:21:01 AM »

I'm really liking the current game, but now I also want to play again with higher-ranking characters, with more months in, and more noble-type profiles.

My first thought when I read about your squad was "what a bunch of thugs!"

It's definitely a strength of carry that it can be tuned within a wide range of group preferences and still deliver a satisfying play experience.  That said, I think the game demands a certain level of commitment from the participants that will allow really hardcore scenes to be framed.  You have to be OK with your characters being abused, altered, and destroyed by others as well as yourself. 
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2007, 06:04:19 AM »

My thoughts were exactly the same, Jason! Not one warrior? Geez!

Your other comments lead perfectly into my response to Christoph and Eero. Here goes ...

Eero's right. I'd like to extend his points into actual moment-to-moment play issues.

1. We had agreed to no restrictions on content, in terms of comfort or discomfort. That means the only restriction is plausibility (more on that in a minute).

I'd like to dwell on the comfort/discomfort point for a minute. I think that many such agreements are false - people say they have no restrictions or are willing to play anything in a Vietnam setting, but they are merely tuning their dial to familiar semi-macho, sadistic content, or maybe lots and lots of blood which might as well be ketchup in their minds.

But the issue isn't just grossness or extremity in terms of violence. It's really about emotional honesty, both regarding the internal features of the fiction and to addressing those features with future announcements and actions. This group has played what might be called Primal Sorcerer, and we are now literally fearless with one another, emotionally.

When we said, "no restrictions," we were really saying, in Meg's terminology, I Will Not Abandon You. Let me know if you're familiar with her breakdown of this aspect of Social Contract (and the alternative, contrasting option); if not, I'll post the links.

2. We had all read Wendell's burden. We knew that male-male sexual contact or its possibility is there to be used in this game. It could go one of two ways. (a) It remains as subtext, the kind of thing in which a knowing audience member could spot the signs even though none of the characters really act upon them directly, and Wendell's conflicts become weird and tortured because of it, but explained explicitly. (b) It emerges as direct conflict based on provocation. Both are great things.

3. It all goes back to the techniques-issue of authority: this is about situational authority, and in the case of carry, the system relies on centralized situational authority. "Relies on" does not mean everyone else has to sit there glumly while the GM says "And now we begin a scene in which all of you are smeared with Vaseline ..." It means that the GM holds the rubber stamp and his or her judgment is trusted. It's a responsibility. In this case, given the harshly violent action scene and the also-violent squad scene, I opted for an intimate squad scene next as a contrast, and Wendell's burden was sitting there with all its agonizing tensions, just perfect toward that end.

That leads me back to the single constraint I mentioned in #1, plausibility. There's Tommy, in the tent at night in the jungle, with his tentmate snoring away. He's a young guy far from home, and he lives in a world of adrenalized terror contrasted with astounding boredom and discomfort. All four of us at the table knew in one microsecond of reflection that to say "But he wouldn't do that!!" is ludicrous. Of course he would. Men would. Any of us would.

Such a response leads to protagonization, rather than its opposite. This is not a superhero comic and Tommy is not Wolverine. Wolverine is an adolescent fantasy character, and first and foremost in adolescent fantasy is that a hero does not jerk off, and hence identifying with him means that the reader does not either, at least for a while in his own mind. Tommy, however, is a young guy, far from home, subjected to shocks, tasks, and conflicting messages that I for one can only shudder at. This is not an adolescent fantasy story (or for that matter, game). When Tommy acts like a human, it humanizes him.

Now it just so happens that Tim K is the youngest among our group, and (forgive me Tim) he is right at that point, mid-20s, in which his entire relationship to other men at large is undergoing radical change. Christoph, you referred to masturbation as embarassing ... well, for many men past that age, it's not. It's private in the specific personal sense, but highly public in the general sense of familiarity, reference, and humor (not the distancing sort, but the farcical or all-too-familiar sort).

I saw Tim K blink when I started the scene. I saw his wheels spin for the microsecond: plausibility, check; relevance to Wendell's character, check; comfort zone with the rest of us, check (note that the three of us were not speaking in mocking terms, but rather, the two other men delivered guttural grunts, rueful smiles, and short nods).

All of this is intended to reinforce and to explain Eero's point. Tommy is Tim K's character, not mine. Although I had framing responsibility, it's still a responsibility and not a whip. By framing that scene, I was asking him if this works for him as Tommy's primary author. If Tim K had seen any objection which worked, and if he chose to exercise that objection, it was well within our social contract to do so. I think it was interesting for him to discover that he had no objection.

In every instance of functional scene framing, there's a moment of confirmation, what some people call buy-in to the scene itself. We looked around the table, and after that visible microsecond of processing, Tim K said, "OK."

Best, Ron
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