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Author Topic: Interview with Vincent and me  (Read 16356 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #30 on: December 19, 2007, 07:24:58 AM »

Hello,

I understood you correctly, then. My question was addressed to Dave, but certainly anyone is free to ask it. Your perception about that is correct, and it's still correct. I plan to answer the questions that are asked, just as I did my best to answer yours. There is no confusion.

Best, Ron
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Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #31 on: December 19, 2007, 02:11:55 PM »

Cool!
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Regards,
Christoph
Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #32 on: December 28, 2007, 08:38:07 PM »

Hi all,

I enjoyed the interview.

The two sections that made a big impression for me were the discussions about site agenda/moderation/mechanics, and the quick discussion about Dogs.

I found myself nodding as I to Ron's comments about what it's like moving across web sites where the moderation isn't especially clear.  I found that last year, when I finally threw up my hands and gave up on many of the sites, I was often frustrated that the sites I was posting at didn't have a clear purpose or agenda.  I didn't recognize this at the time, however.  I'd get frustrated that people would make strange, often specious comments, and that other members of the site wouldn't rise up en mass to address the nonsense.  I became my own version of a bully -- trying to enforce policies of discourse and a responsibility to logic that no one had asked me to enforce.

I'm only repeating or paraphrasing things Vincent and Ron said, but it's really about the agenda of a site.  If the agenda is, "Let's post things about RPGs..." well, okay... But then ANYTHING is of value as long as it's posted.  And that's a pretty low bar for success.

(At some RPG sites comparing the number of daily/monthly posts of one web site against another is the mark of success.  That's like saying, "Well, I spoke more words than anyone else today, so I'm a better speaker."  Um, okay.  I guess.)

So the question is, Why have a site? Why post? 

While I don't post often, the site I enjoy reading the most still remains The Forge.  The posts are informative, imaginative, and geared toward concrete examples of play.  Other sites seem to move in cycles of inventing/writing about RPG conceptual terms that never seem to  nail these ideas down in examples of actual play -- and seem to encourage people to flip out when examples of actual play are asked for.  As if connecting what you claim people do with actual people actual doing them is some sort of small-minded imposition that misses the bigger point of talking about RPGs.

I really enjoyed Clyde commenting about how he started using his real name at The Forge, gave up his handle, and never went back.  Years ago, when I first showed up, the lack of handles was one of the reasons I stayed.  I had never been part of the Internet culture, didn't get handles.  They seemed a way to hide and created a "persona."  My attitude was, "Who the hell cares about your persona?  Who the fuck are you?"  I created a sig for a while: "Adult, human names. They prove you're adult.  They prove you're human."  Some people were pissed.  But I can say it wasn't about stirring up trouble or, in my view hyperbole.  It really was a choice about being an adult and being human.  Ron used the term "homunculus" in the interview to refer to the "thing" that people carry around when they've got a handle (or keep posting as if they have one).  Exactly.


On a personal note, I have found that the strange creep of identity politics (or whatever awkward name should be used) to be a sad thing to move into RPG discussions on many of the new sites. 

I'm not talking about raising the issues of sexism or racism, at all, nor people bringing to the table what matters to them.  I'm saying that at many sites, where certain cliques are in place, there's a kind of "I really am more enlightened than you, and when you say what you're saying, I can tell you, you're actually betraying an unenlightened racism and not asking about the rules at hand...." when, in fact, the person was asking about the rules at hand. 

"You're not feeling your white guilt the right way," is the phrase I use to sum up this frame of talking at people.  I'm not sure where the heck it came from, but I don't think it's doing anyone any good.  (And Vincent, thought I respect your work, I am looking at you.)


I found the discussion of Dogs and how people, again and again, don't understand how Faith and Religions work in the game interesting.  Like Ron and Vincent, I don't quite get the confusion.  I think Vincent's comment that the GM has to play the game as if there is no God was concise, informative and to the point -- and I think that it will do little good to help confused people leave their confusion behind.

The discussion touches on bigger questions for me -- the bog assumptions people make about the internal logic of RPG worlds; the need to give up the power of their choices (and their PCs choices) to the decisions and authority of the GM and more.  I'm not sure if I'd need to hear more about this in another interview.  I'm always just sort of amazed at how dull people are when it comes to assuming what an RPG is, how certain conventions from a half-dozen games define for so many what "works" and what makes sense.

I'm not saying those conventions don't make sense for some games.  I'm saying, I'm amazed that when people are confronted with a game like Dogs they can't wrap their head around the notion that their characters get to make choices about morality that define their character -- without the GM or an Alignment system to use as a crutch -- and their brains freeze up and simply can't move forward into that space at all. 

I'm not sure any fruitful discussion could come of this subject -- especially on the Internet -- but it does baffle me.  Is it really just RPGs?  Gamers?  People in general who don't want this responsibility of accepting the fact that they make decisions every day that have consequences and it's simply dumped out into the open in this weird little hobby? 

What is it about people who want to make sure their tales (the tales they tell, the tales they hear or see) are so scrubbed of any content or complex points of view?  This clearly isn't a matter just of games.  Most pop culture (of all times -- fairy tales and the rest, included) -- depend on simple morality and an avoidance of actual issues.

But living as we are in dangerous times, I find this inability or lack of desire to actually participate with narrative except in the Fairy Tale style genre (a genre I love by the way), to be terrifying.  It makes The Other too convenient, too easy, and absolves us of all responsibility for our actions and examining our responses to threat. 

What I have loved about finding The Forge -- and especially Story Now -- is that there are means of creating stories in the tradition of the tales I love as much as Faiy Tales -- the Greek tragedies, Shakespeare and more.  And yet the point of view of so many people is, "Let's make Robotech again!"  And that's fine.  But I'm really more interested in going to town with how it's complicated to be a person, how society and life are complicated.  And I still haven't found the people to go full steam with that agenda.

Again, it's not that I expect everyone to jump on board with my agenda -- they already have theirs.  What fascinates me about the reaction to Dogs is how, for so many, the game exists in a null set of logic for so many, where the game simply doesn't work, or, perhaps more strangely, gets reinterpreted into a religious tract where the GM forces the players to be gun wielding religious fundamentalists who have no choice in how to behave.  I mean, even here, it's like asking people to do a Mensa puzzle to wrap their brain around the game's logic. What is that about?  That's a really interesting question to me.


Clyde, thanks for conducting the interview.  Ron and Vincent, thanks for participating.

As a side note: Ron! Congratulations!

Happy New Year to All,

Christopher

edited to fix a key typo at CK's request - RE
« Last Edit: December 28, 2007, 09:25:07 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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Marshall Burns
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« Reply #33 on: December 31, 2007, 12:34:06 PM »

Hi,
Is there a transcript of this anywhere?
I only have internet access through public terminals at my local library, and the connection is too slow for the mp3.

-Marshall
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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« Reply #34 on: January 01, 2008, 04:58:07 PM »

Hi Marshall,

If you want to send me an email at theoryfromthecloset via a place called gmail dot com, and reference this conversation I'll burn a CD and mail it to you. I can't afford to have transcripts made.
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Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design.
clyde.ws, Clyde's personal blog.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #35 on: January 02, 2008, 08:54:22 PM »

Hi Christopher,

PART ONE

I hope that interview spurs, at least for one person at one site, some positive action about agenda and comportment. I agree that if all people want is an internet version of a self-affirming, go-nowhere hangout, then there's no reason they can't have one, or a hundred. My hope is that if some one or few folks want something else, they recognize what it takes to get it, and start taking steps.

Here's my nagging personal question about that issue, though: why do people who know full well the problems and hassles that we're discussing here, continue to frequent the sites in question? Why did you, for instance, post and post as the "do it right" bully for so long? Why does Matt Snyder go bang his head against the wall at a site in which defying and frustrating him with illogic has become a status symbol? Well, these are rhetorical questions and not answerable except for a given person about themselves - no one owes me an answer about them. And maybe the phenomenon reflects the people's degree of good will that they bring to a site, which is commendable. But at this late date, I think it's time to reconsider the effort.

Your points about calls for actual play bear special attention. Looking at what happens at Story Games, when someone poses some idea or makes some claim about role-playing, and when another someone says "Where's the actual play," I typically see it read as meaning, "Prove it!" I think that's counter-productive and, well, rude; at the very least, it's not going to serve as a door to understanding a valid idea. A lot of my ideas have been used as big sticks by over-eager Forge participants on other sites or among their acquaintances, and the net result is to piss people off and, incidentally, to get me personally vilified as some kind of cult leader. The actual-play concept for discourse is just another in that long line.

Which is not to diminish the primary point that the proposition is most likely not very strong anyway. Again, based on my readings of the posts, the first someone is often talking out of his or her ass, if not actually dishonestly (also sometimes the case). I think a given website can be tagged as a place where either this sort of thing gets head-smacked at the very outset, or it doesn't. If it does, then cool. If it doesn't, then bringing the desire to critique at all to that site is a vain hope from the start, because the person is probably just angling for status at the site, or trying to say something without saying it, as with a case we've discussed privately in detail.

-----

PART TWO

Regarding identity politics, check out this article from Zmag, ten years ago: Editorial: The personal is the political?!
...

Great, isn't it? I'm restraining myself from unleashing bolts of rage at what that article criticizes, left and right, all and sundry. Talk about cultural malaise; this is the curse of our times. "I sleep with rutabagas, that makes me political. I'm done!" "I shop at XYZ supermarket, that makes me political, I'm done!" "I have this haircut, that makes me political, I'm done!" Fucking consumerism co-opting dissent. Who would have thought it would ever have become this complete? In retrospect, I might even be able to point to the month, I think, when I heard a nasty wet "snap" in the atmosphere, denoting the inflection point of the transition, sometime in 1985-86.

-----

PART THREE

You're a bit harsh on how dull "other people are," don't you think? Well, OK, this is the tequila forum, after all. A bit of excess is part of the fun.

Quote
I'm not sure any fruitful discussion could come of this subject -- especially on the Internet -- but it does baffle me. Is it really just RPGs? Gamers? People in general who don't want this responsibility of accepting the fact that they make decisions every day that have consequences and it's simply dumped out into the open in this weird little hobby?

You know my thinking on this. I think there's a general subcultural flaw in gaming, as currently constructed, which I think got fairly well outlined in the Infamous Five postings. The good news is that this flaw is rapidly disappearing, internationally, due to about a dozen activities which emerged from this site. I also think there's a specific pathology that applies to the little part of it that you and I like the most, which is the whole brain-damage issue. That concept is steadily progressing through the usual steps which end at "Everyone knows that, it's obvious" - about the 70% mark, at this point. All of this is highly specific to gaming, however.

Regarding pop culture in general, my first response was to disagree with you, because I think over-blown symbols and extreme fantasy can be powerful vehicles for dissenting views or at least for grappling with problematic conditions. But maybe that's a matter of definitions, and maybe I'm thinking too broadly. To focus on here-and-now today, I agree with your point, because I think our current pop culture, well, isn't. I think it's a consumerist effluvium from yesterday's pop culture, and that we as a culture are currently struggling to create a new one, in extremely adverse conditions. As long as the conceit that one (or anything) can be apolitical persists so widely, then we'll have to keep struggling.

Quote
It makes The Other too convenient, too easy, and absolves us of all responsibility for our actions and examining our responses to threat.

In that, we are agreed in full. There's a reason that my creative energies are now turned toward communist spies, Arabic terrorists (as we call them), Cuban soldiers, and Asian insurgents, drawing upon different but related points in my and my parents' lifetimes. I am also discovering, over and over, the truth and nuances of Walt Kelly's phrase: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Quote
What fascinates me about the reaction to Dogs is how, for so many, the game exists in a null set of logic for so many, where the game simply doesn't work, or, perhaps more strangely, gets reinterpreted into a religious tract where the GM forces the players to be gun wielding religious fundamentalists who have no choice in how to behave. I mean, even here, it's like asking people to do a Mensa puzzle to wrap their brain around the game's logic. What is that about? That's a really interesting question to me.

As you know, I agree with you, although my reaction is usually one of frustrated expostulating rather than interest, so my real interest lies in seeking successful play-accounts as counter-examples. We're blessed with a bunch of them lately. Jesse's current thread seems like a perfect example of people who share your agenda, understand the rules of this particular game, went into play with no pre-conceptions about what the story would be, and emerged as authors of a story they'd created, there and then, about important stuff.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #36 on: January 03, 2008, 01:31:01 AM »

Regarding identity politics, check out this article from Zmag, ten years ago: Editorial: The personal is the political?!
Pretty tangental, but that article describes and also continues a particular blindspot, from how my eyes read it. I mean, if someone came and yanked your your wallet out of your pocket, you'd see them as an assailent - as an enemy, at least for that moment. The article instead describes, from one example, the civil rights situation of black people as a fault in the system. It's like describing the guy yanking your wallet as sharing some sort of system with you - but there's just a fault in the system. For me the disturbing bit is just behind that - it's treating what their doing as if its part of something, some system you agree with. It would seem horribly easy, with just the right pressures and forces, to reverse the complaintents proposal that it's a fault and instead put extra emphasis on their agreement with the system. Ie, in the heat of the moment get them to just think about how they agree with the system and legitimize it - institutionalise the wallet grab. Even if the offender does change behaviour, it's not acknowledged they were wrong, they were just following the system 'incorrectly'.

On topic, jesus, no wonder when it gets that murky a whole bunch of shit turns up in various associated activities.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #37 on: January 03, 2008, 07:42:20 AM »

Hi Ron,

Here's my nagging personal question about that issue, though: why do people who know full well the problems and hassles that we're discussing here, continue to frequent the sites in question?

Although I don't "owe" you anything, I already discussed this with you on the phone, so I'll post here: For me it was because the people I know in real life and meet with at local cons post on those threads.  I think that connections made in the flesh trump (or lead) Internet connections -- at least for me.


...when another someone says "Where's the actual play," I typically see it read as meaning, "Prove it!" I think that's counter-productive and, well, rude; at the very least, it's not going to serve as a door to understanding a valid idea.

When I ask it, it's because I can't figure out what the person is saying.  Someone on Story Games can say, "Let's talk about Thematic Calibration..."  But I need  pictures to go with the words to know what's going on in that thread.

Do people use the "actual play" request as a stick to beat people up?  I'm sure they do.  People do all sorts of things.  But now we're in the realm of intentions and what the person meant.  It still doesn't seem too much to ask that if people are going to talk about RPGs they are able to reference something from the actual play of RPGs.  This isn't String Theory.  It's like Football or Pokemon -- it either happens in play or it doesn't.


Regarding identity politics, check out this article from Zmag, ten years ago...

This had nothing to do with what I was talking about -- but you clearly wanted to share, and I'm glad you had the opportunity!


You're a bit harsh on how dull "other people are," don't you think?

Yes. I was.  Good call.  I was thinking of all the 40 page Dogs threads I've read on this point-of-confusion, but I was overstating by a long-shot.  Thanks for the reality check.


because I think over-blown symbols and extreme fantasy can be powerful vehicles for dissenting views or at least for grappling with problematic conditions. But maybe that's a matter of definitions, and maybe I'm thinking too broadly....

I'm surprised you thought that's that I was dismissing "over-blown symbols and extreme fantasy" -- I mean, what???.  But I'll move on, and your point about "consumerist effluvium from yesterday's pop culture" is my point exactly.

On the other end, No Country for Old Men, There Will be Blood, The Shield, and other movies and TV shows deliver what I want in spades. 

The problem with "extreme fantasy" at the movies is economics -- the more expensive the budget the greater desire to never, ever offend anyone.  The job of a summer blockbuster is roll everyone in, give us a lot of visceral jolts, and roll us back out into the sunshine.  That's not a function of fantasy or overblown symbols.  That's about the contemporary economics of Hollywood.

Christopher

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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #38 on: January 15, 2008, 10:06:37 PM »

Okay, I got some technical glitches worked out and finally listened to this thing. Good stuff. This thing Clyde does is nice.

There were several topics that came up I'm interested in discussing, I'll have to organize my thoughts on these first. (But the gist is: Yay!)

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Marshall Burns
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« Reply #39 on: January 18, 2008, 02:30:06 PM »

Ron, Vincent, and anyone else,
Ok, I got to listen to it now (thanks again, Clyde), and here's something I'd like to talk about.  It was mentioned that, in DitV, if someone makes a lethal-force move against your character, you can "Give" and take the bullet between the eyes and just die.  Self-authored character death? That is fan-frickin'-tastic!

Now, maybe people are looking at me like I'm crazy at this point, so I'll explain where I'm coming from.  Why would I voluntarily let my character die?  Simple:  for the sake of the emotional and aesthetic impact of the story that is being created through play. 

I'm trying to get this kind of dynamic into one of my own games (The Rustbelt), to even a radical degree as one of my design goals: I want to see at least one PC die in every session.  Not because of bad rolls or "rocks fall and everyone dies," but because it benefits the story so that the players let it happen.  I'm beating my head against the wall trying to figure out ways to encourage this. I've come up with a resolution system in which you roll not against a difficulty but a "Price," such that your rate of success is determined ultimately by how much character is willing to pay for it in blood, sweat, tears, and humanity. (And that "willing" is explicitly provided entirely by the player, as blatant, pretense-free Author Stance).  If the Price is high enough, it means death, but accepting that death also means accomplishing whatever the goal in question was.

But I worry that this isn't enough.  There's a trait I've seen among many, many roleplayers I've met, that I think of as the "My Guy mentality," where they become attached to their character as something beyond a tool for achieving the aim of play.  You can tell these people from the way they say "My Guy slew a dragon" or "My Guy became the king"; they really say it with capital letters.  It seems that most of the time the character is an extension of their ego and adolescent-like power fantasies -- which disturbs me.  Maybe there's nothing wrong with it, but it disturbs me.

Then there's also this strange mental tautology I keep seeing:  "Death = Ultimate Failure."  I don't get it.  Maybe it's because I'm largely ignorant of the history of the hobby, but I just don't get it.  Especially in the Story Now mode of play.  I mean, consider ANY of Shakespeare's tragedies, and the role that protagonist death plays in them.  Now, who in their right mind would say that those deaths are failures on Shakespeare's part?  And, of course, in Story Now the players are in Shakespeare's position, sitting in the author's chair.

I get the impression that though voluntary PC death is mechanically possible in DitV, it doesn't happen very often, if at all.  I'm guessing that it's related to those two things I mentioned above, but there might be more to this.  Which is what I want to discuss:  why people are reluctant to do this, and how can a game encourage them to break through that reluctance?

-Marshall
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #40 on: January 18, 2008, 03:27:13 PM »

Speaking of story-game mode, as you put it, my experience is that people will throw their characters off a cliff if that's what the story is about. Simple as that. You don't get it often in DiV because it's not really worked up as a tragedy, but try Polaris; I haven't yet heard of a Polaris campaign arc that didn't involve one or more characters dying horribly and wholly with player-authorization.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #41 on: January 21, 2008, 09:23:33 AM »

i]want<must<adding<
Quote
why people are reluctant to do this, and how can a game encourage them to break through that reluctance?means, but it cannot provide the ends<The Fruitful Void, based on my phrase and illustrated in a variety of neat ways by Vincent. His Role-playing theory hardcoremust<adding<
Quote
why people are reluctant to do this, and how can a game encourage them to break through that reluctance?means, but it cannot provide the ends<The Fruitful Void, based on my phrase and illustrated in a variety of neat ways by Vincent. His Role-playing theory hardcore
« Last Edit: January 21, 2008, 09:27:26 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Marshall Burns
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Posts: 485


« Reply #42 on: January 22, 2008, 02:52:19 PM »

Wow.  I don't know what to say except that all of this is quite heartening, and also a tad stunning.  Thanks.

-Marshall
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Marshall Burns
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Posts: 485


« Reply #43 on: January 25, 2008, 10:52:02 AM »


note that only players roll in Elfs, and usually their announced actions signal rolls to the GM, rather than the other way around.

Hey Ron,
Can you clarify that?  I mean, what is "the other way around?"  See, the way I've always done things is this:  the players announce their actions, and the GM (usually me) says, "Okay, you've got to make a Response roll vs. X difficulty for that to succeed; if you fail, (blank) might happen," and then the player rolls their dice.  How else is it done?

-Marshall
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #44 on: January 25, 2008, 04:32:58 PM »

It can be done lots of ways. The specific difference I was talking about is more complex that my quick comment could capture.

The first issue concerns who rolls at all.

In many games, the GM rolls for his or her characters' actions much as players do for theirs. This is neither good nor bad; it's what happens in Sorcerer, for instance, just as much as in GURPS or whatever.

I think the first game in which the GM never rolls, just the player, was Legendary Lives. There are a few others too. Elfs is like that.

The second issue concerns who calls for rolls, or rather, when someone rolls, who had to speak before that. In most of the play I experienced before 1996 or so, this was highly tuned by a given group. In one Champions group, for instance, people played much as you describe - the players say lots and lots of stuff, and when some of is a conflict or difficult in some way, the GM says "roll." In another group, it might be very different - during most of play, the GM hits the characters with a lot of stuff that absolutely demands specific rolls, most typically Perception or defense rolls of some kind, and the player-prompted rolls usually occur only within the strict framework of combat routines. (One can also find these extremes, and the spectrum between them, across Call of Cthulhu play.)

Now let's put these together. In Elfs, only players roll. Taking damage, for instance, is the result of an abysmally missed attack roll. Also, in Elfs, what the characters do is fantastically wide open across all the options, regardless of the situation, and there's really no way for the GM to say "X happens, therefore you have to roll for [whatever]." Although the GM can and should set up outrageously funky mini-situations (the model is early AD&D modules, in fact), what ensues is indescribably unpredictable. That's so because the players do God Knows What and the GM has the fun of responding totally verbally, riffing off and mechanically applying the results of their rolls.

Does that make sense? I'm fond of Elfs and I am sad that it hasn't been more widely played. It ain't parody; it's satire, and as such can cut pretty deep.

Best, Ron

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