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So, about that Wraith game....

Started by GreatWolf, June 07, 2007, 05:12:01 PM

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Clyde L. Rhoer

Hi Ron,

Alrighty. I understand why WW games don't support Narritivism out of the box, so it seems the discussion is that Clyde 90% understands Narritivism, and that last ten percent is keeping him from understanding some stuff. *laughs* I always seem to be at 90%.

Let's hit the points that I understand. I understand the game can't make me do something. I understand that a Brujah not being able to turn into a Ventrue means that they are niches, and not factions as I was seeing them. I understand that analyzing GNS is based on long term decisions, a pattern of decisions if you will.

Now let's hit the points I'm having trouble with. I think I understand what you are saying about everything coming from the player. Let me try restating.... What I was trying to say is that in a Simulationist group I would be making my choices on being right, or true, to something. For instance perhaps being true to the setting, or the character, etc. Reinforcing the dream, by being true to it. I'm hoping I understand that well as Sim seems like home in my understanding of the agendas.

In a Narritivist group my decisions would be based on... I'm not so sure here. Passing Judgment? So we're taking a stance on the issues?
Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.

M. J. Young

Clyde, I'm going to call your attention to an article at Places to Go, People to Be entitled Theory 101: Creative Agenda. If you've not read it, it may help put a different perspective on all three agenda, what it means to be an agendum, and how the three may be identified and distinguished. It is, of course, an introductory article, but many have found it helpful in giving a foundation for understanding the concepts.

Disclaimer: Ron has never, to my knowledge, commented on that particular article series, although Vincent "Lumpley" Baker reviewed it before publication and thinks highly of it.

I hope this helps.

--M. J. Young

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I owe you some commentary, M.J.

Clyde, your statements in that post are very strongly on-target, regarding Simulationist play. Regarding Narrativist play, we should probably specify a little whether we are talking about what it is, or what it feels like. Those aren't the same thing. I am convinced that coherent play, with a strong SIS-foundation and a humming-along reward system, feels pretty much the same no matter what the Creative Agenda is.

The reason I bring this up is because when I say, "Yes, it's about passing judgment," people have been known to react by thinking it's some kind of out-of-character, abstract, philosophical, highly self-reflective experience which has very little to do with "I jump over the chasm! 'Yahhh! You bastard!' I'm swinging my bastard sword two-handed at'im!"

But playing Narrativist is founded on such statements and such interactions, just like any or most other good fun play.

Best, Ron

Ron Edwards


I started reading my copy of 1st-edition Wraith (which a very kind person sent me a while ago, when I was lamenting that I couldn't find one), and dammit, I'm having a terrible time getting through the mess in order to enjoy the strengths.

The trouble is, I'm spoiled by Doug Bolden's Ghost Light. Now that is a game about ghosts, and it remains as playable and wonderful today as when I first reviewed it for my and Ed's original Hephaestus' Forge back in 1999. My review does read a little rough today (note my misleading examples of Narrativist games, all of which were chosen for familiarity's sake and which I consider Narrativist only in that a determined Narrativist-inclined person can get them into usable shape mainly through subtraction rather than addition), but the main points are valid. Ghost Light really scratches my itch for "you play an ethereal dead soul" (note, not a dead guy). If I have to concern myself with my dead-soul character's Agility, I mean, it's already draggin' me way off the beam. And everything I read about Mentors and Circles, oh, I can't stand it.

I do like that Shadow business, though. 'Port that into Ghost Light, and ... wow.

Best, Ron


I hear that.  The most powerful game of Wraith that we played was a  wraith trying to talk her son out of suicide on he Christmas Eve after she had died.  No Tempest,  no Circle, no Stygia.  Just a wraith fighting to save her son.  And, honestly, most of the fighting was with her Shadow, which was trying to interfere.

And Wraith is a classic example of a great idea let down by its system.  Strength for a wraith?  Huh?

My dream port of the Shadow idea is to Sorcerer, actually.  Demons are all Possessors and are actually shards of the sorcerer's personality that he has hitherto suppressed.  Sorcery becomes the means to tap your own dark side for power.

Hmm.  I keep thinking about this idea.  Maybe I should just break down and do it....
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown


I just wanted to say that this thread is being helpful to me as well in understanding all the issues that Clyde has brought forth.

A quick question, and not to derail, but in most of these conversations about WW, I keep seeing the phrase "the first four games" or variations thereof. Why is Changeling left out/singled out of the conversation? Does it succeed where the others didn't? Or is it that it failed in different ways than the other four? Curious about it...

Ron Edwards

Hi Daniel,

That's me who keeps being careful about that phrasing, because I want to speak only from my observations. I was not able to parse or keep track of the many small and large changes that Vampire, for instance, underwent through editions and revisions, including its face-lift two years ago. I don't know Changeling, or Adventure!, or Trinity/Aeon, or any of the other late-1990s White Wolf games. I did try to read Demon and Hunter, but have not made much headway. Of the more recent games, the only one I'm familiar with enough to speak about is Exalted.

Most of my comments about playing any of these games is drawn from discussions with others who played them intensively (some of whom thought they were enthusing at me and recruiting me to play), from the period relatively soon after publication, so maybe from 1992 or so through 1998 at the latest.

Best, Ron


Got it.
I'm not sure that Changeling would be much different to what you are describing. There are no clans/tribes/etc. but the niche divisions you are describing instead take the form of actual races (Satyrs as the hedonists, Pookas as the eternal tricksters, Trolls as the muscle-bound honor-driven tanks, etc.). There are organizations that sort-of define your attitude, the Seelie and Unseelie courts, but although staking an allegiance to one of them at chargen is a mandatory step, you can sidestep these or abandon them altogether during play without much loss to the overall system.

I get the feeling that Changeling had its own set of problems to deal with, not the least of which was the complete change in resolution mechanics from 1st to 2nd edition (aka. the bunk cards fiasco) and the fact that it never truly stated, outright and without vacilation, what the game truly was about, thus giving rise to the general consensus that Changeling was a frilly silly game and did not belong in the WoD.


Check out Dark Ages: Fae for a way to approach changelings without the obvious niches.  I think it's the much better of the two games.
Kent Jenkins / Professional Lurker


Hi Ron,

People in other parts of the internet will no doubt soon be wailing and gnashing their teeth about it (...but...but I played AD&D2 and had fun! waaah!!! - and no doubt more than a few of them did), but your long post about player groups vs. character groups really crystalized for me what the bitter 'role-play vs. roll-play' arguments of yore were all about.

The 'team' can permit a lot of individual character expression, but there's a social constraint that keeps it in check. Likewise individual self-expressive characters can work together against adversity that happens to be jointly meaningful enough or generic enough, but if Being This Guy is the center of play, then there's a different social constraint which serves as a different bottom line.

As with all this stuff I do think there are a pretty fair number of groups who just managed to work out having both things at the table through consensus, some having more fun than others. But where the consensus wasn't found, and the problems emerge, that's where the ugly bitterness comes in.



Jasper the Mimbo

This thread finally brought me out of lurker mode after quite a while.

First, I'd like to thank everyone here for addressing something I've been talking about for years and getting very little posative response or understanding about, which is the Great Idea/Weak Execution phenomina that is so prevelent in RPG's. World of Darkness and Rifts were always my poster-children whenever I'd bring it up. It's really sad. I love the referance material that White Wolf puts out, but the system and the playstyle encouraged by it are so painful that they render an otherwise amazing setting unplayable. This thread should be linked to the "System Matters" threads in game theory as a great example of exactly why system is so critical.

Secondly, the discussion on how Naritiveism works in practice is handy. The other two play styles I always had an intutive knack for understanding, Narritivism is a bit more ephemeral. Ron, we will discuss this further in August.

Interestingly enough, the most rewarding game I've ever been in was a Vampire game where I played an escaped Gargoyle slave. The weak system actually forced us to become Naritivist gamers. (this is before I even knew the term, or that play styles could be classified) We hated how the system functioned, so we began gaming in a way that called for as little dice rolling as possible. We'd sometimes make it for 4 or 5 hours and only ever touch the dice once. Generally things were just decided by what it seemed like the character's should be capable of, wheather or not it was supported by the system. As long as it was interesting, drove the story, and it seemed like it was within the relm of a character's abilities, the dice were ignored. Many times it was just a comparison of "dots" when there was conflict. Something like:

Me "I found the psycho priest I've been tracking? I'm obfuscated, right? I want to scare the bejesus out of this guy. Can I turn on Gleam of the Red Eye while I'm obfuscated and just look like a pair of glowing eyes and a hazy, indescernable, bat-winged outline?"
Storyteller: "I don't remember anywhere that the rules talk about using those abilities togeather, but It sounds reasonable. You've got an 8 dice intimidate normally, and this seems like something this fellow would be afraid of. He also has a willpower of 6. He feezes in place and wets himself." No dice needed.

The important thing to note here, is that we had fun and told a great story *in spite* of the system. I'd imagine that most people that played White Wolf, or Rifts, or Ad&D2ed will realize that they had similar experiences if they think about it objectively.
List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.