[Legendary Lives] Three games to talk about

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David Berg:
Hi Ron,

Different worlds, man.  "Produce a good story" was never a high priority in my groups.  This means I never experienced some of the difficulties you mention (like "How do other people contribute to my good story?"), but we also never had story-creation as glue to allow us to use other techniques you've certainly gotten great mileage out of.  For example, with our focus on virtual experience, it became problematic to split up the characters, because if your guy wasn't in a scene, you felt like you weren't playing any more.  I still have "keep the party together!" instincts, and it's always fun to step outside of those when playing with folks who are good at cutting back and forth between characters' scenes.

I still like my missions, but nowadays I always integrate them with character goals.  If the characters have a reason to want to do the mission, and success or failure repositions them with respect to stuff they care about, then the players can dig in and not fall back on crap like the posturing you mention.  Giving the players the option to pick and initiate missions also makes a big difference, I've found.

Sorry about the misreading on character murder.  Honestly, your Forge Midwest session sounds equally fun to me either way!

I'd be curious to hear your take on the relative virtues/vices of Legendary Lives' state of "it's up to you to decide and communicate what your game will be about, but we've given you tons of jumping off points!"  Not sure if I'm whiffing on the intended purpose of this thread, but out of the Fantasy Heartbreaker talk, that's what grabbed me.

Ps,
-Dave

Ron Edwards:
Hi Dave,

My call is that Legendary Lives doesn't give you jumping-off points. There's a distinct and procedurally-bounded gap between the end of character creation and the phase that might be called "practical prep," meaning preparing to play with these characters and these people as the first or next actual session.

As a contrast, the original Cyberpunk was a little different: you had some similar stuff in character creation, with lifepaths and all - but given that the text was extremely specific regarding what play was like and what characters did, and most importantly the creative goal of doing so, there was only a little "jump" between the end of character creation and the combined prep-and-then-play phase I'm talking about. As I recall, all you really needed was for everyone to know what sort of immediate environment the characters were in, what sort of group they were in (if there was one), and who might be in authority over them.

Granted, that game wasn't entirely seamless at that point, and there were in fact breakdowns in groups whose members (meaning people, not characters) couldn't arrive at a local mix of certain fictional and thematic variables, much as in Champions. I won't list the details because there are several issues to talk about at once and that gets confusing. My current point is that in prepping and playing Cyberpunk, the characters' personal back-stories and color could conceivably and procedurally feed into the next practical step in getting to play. But in Legendary Lives, the gap at that moment yawns open into a black hole. I have no doubt that the Williamses have their own way of hopping it. But what that way is, I don't know. If the GMing text in the game itself is an indicator, then it seems to be along the lines of a fairly step-by-step adventure into which any characters can conceivably be dropped. But GMing text in rulebooks is notoriously untrustworthy in terms of what the authors actually do in their own games.

Don't get me wrong regarding the Legendary Lives text. The GMing material is very lucid and helpful if one is making an adventure into which to drop a grab-bag of colorful and eager player-characters, for players who are happy to enjoy your adventure. It's simply unknown whether that's what the Williamses do in their own games, and that's not a criticism, that's normal for our hobby.

To sum up, I think your summary is too simplistic, for a crucial bit of create-and-prep-and-play which has received almost no critical attention in discussions to date. I've just tried to describe two games which on paper look quite similar in terms of character creation and what tools are available, but in practice operate differently. If I can spot the difference between just those two, then clearly there are vast differences and a much broader range of tools to discuss.

Best, Ron

Larry L.:
What Ron doesn't mention is that I almost jumped with glee when he pulled the Legendary Lives book out of his bag. I've been wanting to play this since I read a review in Dragon 195. (That's 1993!) Thanks for running this, Ron.

As fondly as I remember the lifepaths in Cyberpunk... Legendary Lives blows Cyberpunk out of the water.  Ben managed to turn a bunch of random rolls into a pretty fucked-up sexy backstory. I got a character with a ton of personality. (I missed Willow's chargen because I was off printing the very necessary character sheets.) This is stuff you don't come up with from scratch. This is old-school "emergent" table-rolling at its very best.

Hey wait... were there actually two separate Serpentines named Asp and Seth, Ron, or are you continuing to get the name confused above? Cause it occurs to me maybe I should have gotten that little detail nailed down a little more solidly before stabbing some dude in the face. Oops!

Ron Edwards:
Hey Larry,

Thanks for reminding me about that! It was great to have your enthusiasm about the game at the table, and I hope this thread inspires some more people to try it out. "The further adventures of Gootch" would make a fine saga.

As far as plain content is concerned, yeah, Legendary Lives has the best lifepaths I've ever seen. But in terms of translating that material into "what're we gonna do?" at the practical prep level, the first Cyberpunk was a lot more straight-into-it (although not 100% smooth).

Asp was the character's name, going by the range of name options given in the book for Serpentines (and Willow's character's name, Ctine, was an excellent and in fact very pretty example of working with that range). "Seth" came into it when I half-exasperatedly said, "We might as well call him Ssssseth, though," strictly as an aside. There wasn't any Seth in the story actually.

So yes - you had Gootch stab Willow's boss right in the eye. The same one who instructed her to get Ra'ed to steal the machine. And whose soul Ra'ed then ended up binding into the machine from Gootch's knife, making a nice savage outcome that Asp did, indeed, get his machine after all.

My favorite part of all this concerns the various Lying and Sincerity rolls conducted among the three characters (Ra'ed and Ctine, then Gootch and Ra'ed), which in combination had everything to do with what each character knew or believed at any given moment. That's really what made our story.

Best, Ron

Christoph Boeckle:
Hello Ron

You got my attention where you state that what this game's rules achieve in combat is hard to achieve with percentile dice-systems. I know you've got a lot to say about how dice are used since before the "System does matter" article (BTW, any chance we'll see the dice discussion taken from the Sorcerer mailing list you had on the old version of the Sorcerer site again?)
I suspect that you're not just saying, "percentile sucks", since Legendary Lives is a percentile dice-system. How come this one managed it despite the d%? Are there other dice-techniques that inherently start better off to achieve such logic and cinematic results in combat, given similar overarching structure of resolution? If yes, how?

I enjoyed your detailed comment on this game's very rich and interesting character creation system, and how it stops short of generating Situation.

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