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GenEx: Not Just 'Jack and the Beanstalk'

Started by Le Joueur, January 17, 2003, 02:36:30 AM

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Le Joueur

I've been asked to whip up a GenEx for Jack and the Beanstalk.  While that's too narrow for me to create (beyond my meager abilities, but not impossible), I thought I'd give a try a quick "Children's Færie Tales" GenEx that you could play Jack and the Beanstalk with.

I'm pressed for time, so I'll just do this by the numbers, nothing fancy, no trimmings.
      This one will clearly be played with
Auteur Approach and I suspect that all playing must be Intentional in Approach and maybe at least the gamemaster playing Ambitiously (especially if any of the players do).[/list:u]
Now let's delve into the 'core' of the GenEx:

Central Concept
    It's all a morality play.  The game is built around the
Mystique of which moral will be applied.  Basically, the gamemaster chooses a moral to convey and keeps it to themselves.  The Auteur challenge of this is in foreshadowing, hinting, and yet never giving away the 'purpose' of the game.  It will be kind of fun to get Keepers out of the blue based on this Mystique.[/list:u]
    The Personae are the 'everyman' characters.  They also embody certain 'good qualities' inherent in mankind.  (Did I mention you need a little optimism for this?)  Usually this takes on a one-to-one ratio; however, in light of the moral being a
Mystique, it is sometimes necessary to be a 'good guy' and let the 'singular good quality' become obvious through play.  Alternatively, the 'singular good quality' can be chosen early and the gamemaster can tailor the moral Mystique to that.  (That's one of the benefits of group character generation.)[/list:u]
    "Children's Færie Tales" are set in the 'blank medieval world.'  Superficially, it presents a world seemingly without magic, yet as the story proceeds, magic appears at every turn.  That's part of what drives the story.  If a background character gets a 'speaking role' (more than a few lines, a name, value to the Personae), they also must either have magic or be affected by magic.  Your mother-in-law turns out to be an ogre, those beans actually come from a færie (and are themselves magical), and so on.  Players can take hints from the gamemaster that if a line isn't delivered by a character with, well...character, they aren't important.  The same is true for Props and Backgrounds; if it doesn't receive detail or reveal magic, just keep moving.[/list:u]
    Running Gag
      I haven't identified any Running Gags for this yet, a time problem; there may not be any.  These stories eschew depth of detail.  That, itself, might be a Running Gag; you may be running into magic and magical races all over, but they aren't 'organized.'  (The Background doesn't reflect their presence.)  Everything supernatural is treated as if unique, rare, and one of a kind (even though the Personae can't seem to get away from them or the Motif).[/list:u]
      A GenEx is made up of certain components; let's hit 'em all even though some may not be within the sine qua non of this GenEx.

        These are either the protagonists or supporting characters.  Protagonists get to 'say something' about the moral
Mystique; their actions and successes become commentary on that moral.  Supporting character always represent the contrast; they are reactive to the protagonist's proactive or an observer to the protagonist's actor.  Both receive Keepers for doing this; it's important to not starve the game of Experience Dice in this way, it is both the 'grease' and the 'fuel' for keeping the game at the 'daring, over-the-top' level that suits the genre.[/list:u]
    This is an important source for
Mystiques in the game.  For example, when you finally get to the cloud giant's treasury the magic harp reveals that your family is her true owner.  This is where you get those "I am your father" revelations, though I caution these shouldn't be a spur-of-the-moment creations, they don't need to be set up at the beginning either (a certain amount of improvisation can lend to the feeling of Intrigue).

If you finish the game feeling 'these characters are a little too interrelated,' you are doing it right; if you get that earlier, you missed it.  Family relationships are quite common (due to the source material).  A hidden twin heir-apparent, a step-father who abandons you to wolves, a sick grandmother, these are all Relationships built into the game.  Family feuds are another; your family is royal but usurped, the giant who stole your fortune, et cetera.[/list:u]
    All of these games build up to a final confrontation between the villain who exemplifies the opposite of what the Persona embodies.  This usually takes place in 'chunks' that each exist on a 'tension level' one step higher than the last.  A short game could go from innocently confronting a talking animal to baiting them out of their disguise at a family residence.  (Red Riding Hood illustrates the 'release valve' technique that
can be used; in some versions she is simply consumed - a lesson about 'talking to strangers' - in another she is rescued by a woodsman - a lesson about respecting your elders, right up to being eaten.)  Or it can go on longer, an infiltration, discoveries, capture and escape, a chase, and the climax (as shown in some versions of Jack and the Beanstalk).

One important point to remember is to stay away from complicated situations.  If there is a battle, it ends decisively; each scene not only scales tension on an upward spiral, but also creates a major advancement of the Circumstances.  Look for a clear revelation, imperilment, success, or setback, in each act of the game (that's how you know each is over).  One of the major challenges for the gamemaster is choosing how to open each act relative to moral Mystique and then let the actions of the players determine the outcome; obeying the Sequence Expectation of a Mystique is hard, but in this GenEx, worthwhile.

You can get Freebies for 'going with the flow.'  That's right, if you try to 'snatch defeat from the jaws of victory' in an early scene, you can get Freebies to ensure that.  This is the same as using more Freebies to beat the villain in the end (and some of those can be turned into Payback and used for Persona Development in a longer 'epic' game (though at that point we're getting more into the Iliad, I think Puss in Boots and [what was the title?] 'the tailor versus the giant' may go this way - picking up backers and resources along the way).[/list:u]
    Few of these games start with explicit Circumstances, usually revealing them as
Mystiques along the way (embedded conflicts, family feuds, unknown royal lineage, and such).  Unlike pulp fantasy, these stories don't usually thrust the protagonist onto the path of adventure; it's either their choice (to win the hand of the princess) or a coincidence ("You bought magic WHAT!").[/list:u]
    Like I said, generic medieval.  The more unremarkable the better, this focuses everything on the Personae and the moral.[/list:u]
      I can only think of a few, most are goals and rewards and while getting a lot of mention, seldom directly play a part.  The rest are items that activate certain aspects of either Personae or antagonists and should be designed as parts of the same.  (Can you tell I'm getting tired again?  Whoo, it's been a long day.)[/list:u]
        Usually they're lots of
Freebies for healing between scenes (unless the 'continued woundedness' serves the moral), this is a fairly over-the-top GenEx.[/list:u]
There are a number of features to keep in mind while creating your Personae in Scattershot (and I'm sorry I haven't taken the time to write the Emergent Technique for these yet, we only just quantified them last week).

    This is what the player or the group wants from the Persona.  Being it 'going down in flames' or 'saving the world,' the direction you set the character on seldom relates to their goals.  Written into the
Sine Qua Non, this can be source of many of the Gimmes the Persona can get.

The 'good quality' that the protagonist embodies will often appear here when known.[/list:u]
    These are the things that make you like playing the Persona, the 'cool bits.'  These are important to playing, but I can't think of any way they appear as a feature of the GenEx, but I've been wrong before.[/list:u]
      This is one of the more complicated things to put into a Persona.  It can be about the Persona's goals, but seldom is them.  Unrequited love is one example.  It is basically what moves the Persona no matter what.  Personally, I wouldn't play a Persona without one.  Many times it is what makes it impossible for a character to simply 'walk away' from a conflict.  You can get
Gimmes for suffering from these, where explicit.

This is another place that the 'good quality' that the protagonist represents can appear; many 'do-gooders' have this kind of Drive (think 'old cobbler and the shoe elfs').[/list:u]
    Basically anything the Persona wants.  There aren't many I know of in the opening acts of this GenEx, they are usually acquired as then tension spiral moves into its final form.[/list:u]
      These are 'built in' problems that the Persona faces.  (An 'unhealing wound' - for the duration of the game - is an example.)  Dangers and recurrent difficulties are right here.

      In this GenEx, a wicked stepmother is just one example.[/list:u]
        Promises to keep, destinies to fulfill, anything that the Persona feels they must do, outside of their goals, is what Obligations are.  You also get
Gimmes for suffering from these.

Cinderella felt this one very strongly towards her 'wicked' family, even though they were not her blood kin and she (in some versions) was of noble birth.[/list:u]
    These are secrets from other players in the game, including the gamemaster.  (See
the Emergent Technique for details.)

Since Personae are usually of the 'everyman' type, they rarely have these.  It is important to note that a gamemaster should be cognizant of these enough to be able to say 'no, I'm not going to reveal that Mystique just yet' about the other characters in the story (a prime tip-off that the players should 'stay interested' in them; this describes some of the social aspect of how Mystiques are played).[/list:u]
    I don't believe that protagonist Persona have these (part of being an 'everyman' character).  Supporting players should almost be ruled by what gives their Persona Character, getting
Keepers for this when crucial to the turns of the scenes.

I suppose on some level, being 'the most beautiful in the land' was handled more like character than an advantage in Snow White, I'm not sure much else works in this GenEx.[/list:u]
Remember, these are all the things we've gleaned for characters.  This list shouldn't be seen as a checklist for character creation, but I believe every Persona should have at least one or two in their Sine Qua Non (and probably a Drive too).

While every character needs an Origin, I don't think that detailed or ambitious Precipitating Events are common to this GenEx.  (Two more things I need to do an Emergent Technique on, we're still waiting for more of an inspiration over them.)[/list:u]I would've liked to provide a few Exemplars to get the ball rolling, but I don't have the time tonight.  Think Jack, think Hansel and Gretel [sp], think Cinderella (before Disney), and maybe even Little Red Riding hood.  Feel free to discuss, I'll be as helpful as I have time.  I'm also sorry that I'm getting a little brief and incoherent, I really need to sleep this cold off.  I do hope I've provided at least a jumping off point for this GenEx, so that we can discuss it in detail; I can't help but feel I've missed the 'mission statement' part of the description or something.

Oh well, maybe when I'm feeling better.

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!