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Author Topic: [SoTC] Story Now without a net  (Read 2666 times)

Posts: 1012

« on: May 20, 2007, 09:05:47 AM »

After Gerry shelved our game of Hollow Earth Expeditions because Alex could no longer attend, I suggested we try Spirit of the Century.

For observations on the players and our group dynamics see:
[Hollow Earth Expeditions] Clash of expectations

I've GMed three sessions for Gerry and Jeff. I've been frustrated to find myself falling into the "GM provides the story model." I think this has happened largely because the two players are coming from that background and I just haven't reinforced my Story Now skills enough not to fall back into old habits.

After a few sessions, Gerry has begun to use the Aspects, especially to earn points for causing his own character trouble. He envisioned an arrogant, genius scientist, but left peronality traits out of his Aspects -- until he saw how he could be earning FATE points because he was playing arrogant. Some of the funnest (and most spectacular) scenes have arisen from Gerry's input. I think he steps into Director stance easily as he's one of those GMs with a lot of experience and enjoyment in unrolling a big story. (See my previous thread).

Jeff though, I believe, likes to stay in Actor stance. For most of the game, he's only used FATE points to activate Aspects, rather than working to gain them -- (I have been compelling from time to time, so the example of earning FATE points for activating Aspects is out there). He also doesn't use the placing of Aspects on scene or NPCs without prompting. I have the impression that his past experience and preference leaves the exploitation of mechanics outside his consideration. He doesn't complain about the mechanics, he just hasn't siezed them--yet. I expect he will if we have a chance to play more.

Here's the heart of this post: we had a scene where Jeff's character had followed a clue to locate his kidnapped girlfriend. Jeff's girlfriend had been kidnapped by his martial arts nemesis using the local Tong as manpower. The nemesis intended to lead Jeff through a number of fights, in order to test for the presence of certain secret techniques. As GM, I thought up a series of possible encounters. The players started by casing the waterfront, locating, and raiding a Tong drug warehouse. Gerry and Jeff battled through the thugs and the martial arts lieutenant.

Jeff went looking for a clue. I briefly considered a roll for find/no find, but realized that would be boring. So I just described how Jeff located a scrawled note with an address that I intended as another trap.

Play rolled on for a minute or so. Something felt wrong. I didn't feel right just leading them into another trap but I couldn't put my finger on the problem. So I gave away the secret (which the players had already quessed) and described how Jeff's character realized this was another trap. This felt like a let down to me, but the players accepted it.

Then it hit me! I should have had Jeff make the roll -- but to find the true location of the villain! Damn! But then I felt that the facts had been set into the SIS and I couldn't retract and redo. This might have been the rearing of old habits as well -- and it was reinforced by our history of play to that time -- I'd never seen Gerry or John rewrite anything that had been accepted in our 4 sessions together.

I realized too that this an example of a railroading technique -- the players roll to find a clue (or just find a clue) but the GM decides where it leads.

We've had one more session since then. In that one, I planned to give <john> the choice of pursuing the kidnappers further or stopping some villains who'd appeared earlier with plans to destroy New York. Somehow, I managed to mistime this bang and the players barely notice the robbery and conflagration across the street while they hammered on after the kidnappers. I think I should have introduced the choice at the opening of the scene, rather than in the middle of a long sequence of fights.

I would argue that Aspects are a great tool for Story Now, but SoTC doesn't have a supporting framework that makes that happen without bringing in other techniques. For Aspects to work well, the players and the GM have to come to the table with an intent to use them and highlight them. It's thematic highlighting that's missing from the formal rules. I found my old habits rearing up. I don't mean to say SoTC is unsuccessful or unfun. I do mean to suggestthat it can take some practice to hit the Story Now approach with it.

Anyway, GMing without a net has made me more aware of what I'm doing to contribute to how the game plays out.

- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Callan S.

Posts: 3588

« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2007, 04:57:19 PM »

Hi Alan,

Alot of other people here often use something like conflict resolution when it comes to the clue - so some sort of roll, the GM declares the fail stakes ("Your ambushed"), and...well, just pitch it to the players to declare the win stakes. Yeah, I can relate to it coming out flat - essentially it was your decision, so the only important thing was your decision - your not going to learn anything from your own decision that you don't already know. But with the dice involved, it's no ones decision - well, except the players choice to go to the dice, so whatever happens was driven by their choice (yet not determined by it!).

On thematic highlighting, hell, real life could do with thematic highlighting. There are plenty of situations in real life where you realise after the fact that there was a point of choosing. Yeah, if real life needs it, roleplay games definately need it! Heh!

How are the aspects going? Their pretty thematicly highlighted - is that perhaps enough to kick things along, without adding the villains destroying new york choice?

Philosopher Gamer
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