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Author Topic: [Brigaki Djili] A Core Mechanism for Communal Storytelling  (Read 1606 times)
Vulpinoid
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« on: September 27, 2009, 02:15:48 AM »

color=red]V[/colorV
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2009, 04:44:43 PM »

If there's one thing I've learned from running rustbelt, it is that you can always justify difficulty created according to an abstract pattern. If you scale animosity to character strength (in fact as D&D sort of does) or story dynamics, then abilities become guides to the scale of narration; they don't need to alter any of the probabilities. What the threat is can be decided by their ability to meet it, and what them trying to meet it does to the story.

If you take that idea and extreme-ify it, then a character who can "charm" any women with his speech meets a strange spirit who cannot be charmed, perhaps even a ghost of a betrayed women who distrusts his easy grace. But the character who cannot speak finds a chance to show his regard for his cousin's friend, and she warms to his kindness but she cannot overcome her discomfort about his speechlessness.

The same situation; an attempt to get the favour of an admired women, but the tone changes dramatically because of the characteristics of those involved.

Now the problem here is one that the current drawing system has; it only covers characters in isolation. The more arbitrary the pair of threat and ability for each character, I suspect the more tricky it will be to integrate them. If you consider the two examples above, how can they be made to interact? Are the incompatible?

That's why I suggest you put some thought particularly into how you want to do these interactions and links. This doesn't seem to me to be a game about opposed rolls, but about showing someone how to play your character in a way you can respect. I suspect if you can merge the idea of abilities-as-narration-guides with some way of making those abilities link the characters together, you may really be onto something.

On the mechanical end, I find it interesting that you can "tune" your bag to make different stories, and I imagine that could produce a lot of fruitful playtesting of what it does to the narrative form when you do different configurations. Perhaps the fruit of this procedure would form the equivalent of GMs pacing advice, but for the players.

One rule I might make is that if you have no chips left, then everyone puts a randomly chosen token into your bag, and then you draw from them. I'm not sure what this would do to the probabilities, but it would stop the simple rules-hole of the empty bag.

I quite like the idea of the narrator as an outsider who has come to hear the stories of the gypsies, like those folk story collectors of the nineteenth century, perhaps he can only ask questions?
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2009, 06:29:21 PM »

I quite like the idea of the narrator as an outsider who has come to hear the stories of the gypsies, like those folk story collectors of the nineteenth century, perhaps he can only ask questions?

That's good...and yes, the idea was that the visitor/GM comes to the group asking for a specific tale to reveal a certain series of events in the past. They would get a limited number of their own tokens which they could use to clarify events through further questions...

"But surely the spirit was more powerful than that, what else did he do to truly overcome it?" [Downgrades a successful scene into a new complication]

"But I have seen her scratches on a path marking stone, how did she reach the target if you say that she was frightened off by a pack of wolves?" [Upgrades a failure into a new complication].

I don't think the GM should be allowed to turn scenes into automatic successes or automatic failures, instead they bring new uncertainties into the situation and offer new impetus for the story.

As for truly defining the characters who's tales are revealed...I'm still bouncing a few ideas through my mind.

Idea 1: Five card tarot spread wrapped in a character sheet or scarf.

Place a major arcana card (or a note indicating one) in the centre of a large square scarf or bandana. Fold the four corners of a large scarf into the centre, concealing this inner card. Roughly halfway between the centre and the new outer corners, place four more cards (or notes), these outer cards will be minor arcana. Fold the outer corners in to the centre again, concealing the five card spread.

If a character finds things going their way, they may deliberately choose to unfold one of the corners to reveal the minor arcana card. They voluntarily redraw a success, within the narrative they suffer a penalty linked to the reverse aspect of the card. At any later time, if their card is exposed, they may redraw one of their failed tokens, within the narrative the character gains a benefit based on the regular meaning of the card.

As the game continues, cards are concealed and revealed at different times giving each character a more unique flavour rather than just a token drawing mechanic. If a character has exposed all of their minor arcana cards, they may expose the central card for some truly special story moments...

So far it's just an idea that needs a bit more refining.

V
 



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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Simon C
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2009, 11:40:03 PM »

Magical mysterious gypsies?  Really?

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Roma
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2009, 01:17:26 AM »

The beauty of using stereotypes and tropes is that you can cut through a lot of the crap when developing a setting.

So if you know that you're doing this (and can give a nod and a wink to your audience), then you can eliminate a dozen pages of cultural descriptions with a single word.

Of course, the core of the game isn't necessarily about the gypsies, they are just the vehicle for the storytelling. And whether a troupe's tales are lies or truth is purely in the hands of the players as they answer the question posed to them by their visitor.

I'll be the first to admit that the use of Tarot cards is playing to the stereotypes of gypsies, but I'll be including notes throughout the game about how other groups of storytellers from a more Nordic bent might use the symbolism inherent in rune-stones, while other groups might use the traditional mystic resonances of gemstones or anything else that might offer a distinct cultural slant.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Simon C
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2009, 10:38:09 AM »

The problem isn't that it's a stereotype, it's that it's a racist stereotype.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2009, 03:00:53 PM »

I can't follow that categorisation myself; as least as far as "mysterious and magical" goes, it's a stereotype (at least in my mind) that categorises people as embodying traits of their mythology. If people think that Celts like me are a mysterious and passionate group always going off on quests into the lands of fairies, I'll just laugh and not mind. If I do mind, it's because it's a stereotype (if an obscure and never used one!), not because it is more racist than other stereotypes!

If anything it is more positive than many, because it shows an interest in the differences between people in a cultural sense, not directly focused on material competition or war. You are assigning a group metaphorical power on the basis of their culture, a stance that contains a certain amount of respect for that reason, although it can be turned like any stereotype to racism, through means I'm sure you can imagine.

So that's where I was coming from, taking interest in the potential for mythological complexity among a group with links across my continent, and the potential for interesting story from a group with traditionally strong family ties mixed with the active spirit-world stuff I've come across in their mythology before.

V I'm not currently feeling the "tarot" idea. Whether it does have toxic associations or not, I can't see that working in physical play; you've got a real physical dynamic going on with the bags, and I like how they enable you to play anywhere; no one needs a flat surface of any kind! If everyone has scarves and cards and stuff in front of them that weakens that simplicity. Also if you are going to do some unveiling like that, I think something closer to texas hold-em would be better, in that whatever is revealed in the centre of the table influences everyone.

That links in to my first concern; you've got a good starting system for deciding the fate of one character, but I really think this needs an infusion of interdependency or mutual cultural effect, building links and metaphorical bridges between the characters, so it's not just them and their success, but their relationships.

I get the feeling I'm not communicating this well, but I wonder whether this simple system you have already satisfactorally covers whether people do well or not, full stop, and what it needs is some kind of positioning or flagging mechanic or whatever you call it, a way of players actually messaging to each other what parts of this story they are interested in seeing, and helping them stay on tone with each other, or at least closer to their expected concepts, so surprises stay "ooh" not "wtf". To make it easier to conceptualise, and to kill two birds with one stone, you could mix that into character differentiation. Equally it could be built into pre-set game settings like the norse thing, putting the synchronising before the game.

Now if you want to go more mechanical with this one, adding the equivalent of rerolls and stuff for this lovely new mechanic you've invented, fair enough, but I reckon this mechanic has enough flavour in it served without preparation!
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2009, 06:47:52 PM »

Alright, lets pull any histrionics or cultural dialogue out of this thread...

I'm purely asking about notions of game mechanisms in this instance.

If anyone would like to further discuss the nature of racism within roleplaying, we can always start up a new topic.

I've seen dozens of blog articles about the issue, and I'm sure there have been quite a few posts both here and at other forums. Some have been quite insightful and thought provoking, others have just been inflammatory...

"Hey you're racist"
"No, I'm not and here's a logical rationale behind my comments..."
"But you're still racist"

Let's get back to the mechanism under scrutiny...

If you played "A Penny for my Thoughts", you'll probably instantly get the point here...if not; go and play it, it's a really clever game.

Each character gets a chance in the spotlight, telling a fragment of a larger tale. These stories may be lone adventures, they may involve two or more characters working with one another, or they may involve a conflict.

Players begin the game with a very small number of tokens to add to their bags. They may choose to add any number of threat tokens, depending on how much adversity they wish to face.They draw tokens and the communal groups tells a story about this character depending on the tokens drawn (as indicated at the head of the post). Once the storytellers have drawn enough positive tokens to make a number of positive steps equal to the threat tokens in the bag, this immediate part of the tale is overcome with a "happy" ending. If the storytellers drawn too many threat tokens, the character may be taken out with a "sad" ending. If the tokens ever run out, then the story is left hanging...perhaps the players can narrate events into other people's stories that might fulfill their agendas.

Players will rarely come into direct conflict with one another...consider one player telling the tale from Snow White's perspective, while another player tells the story from the perspective of her evil stepmother. Their actions often infringe on one another's stories, but (depending on the version) they rarely actually meet one another and recognise one another for who they really are.

Like I said, I'm still really trying to work my head through the specifics. I can see some great potential in the ideas, but it's going to take some hefty playtesting and experimentation to get it right .

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Anders Gabrielsson
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Posts: 31


« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2009, 11:27:33 AM »

While the idea about the tarot cards seems cool, I think that in this case it is both an unnecessary complication and a mechanic that won't come to its rights. The beads and bags should be enough to keep the story going, and they may overshadow the tarot card mechanic.

I'd love to see a game that used that as the main mechanic, but I don't think this is the game where it fits best.
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