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Author Topic: stumbling toward an introduction  (Read 5524 times)
Paul Czege
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« on: October 04, 2002, 08:32:22 AM »

It's one thing to do a good job writing an RPG document like the http://www.123.net/~czege/nicotinegirls.html">Nicotine Girls rules, detailing character creation, conflict resolution mechanics, and ancillary instructions. I'm realizing it's quite a challenge of a higher order to write a publish-level game text. I have been going forward under the belief that the next incarnation of My Life with Master playtest rules should demonstrate some transition in that direction. And I've been stumped by the "Introduction." You gotta help me!

The back cover blurb on the Pharos Press edition of Paul Kidd's Lace & Steel starts:

LACE & STEEL was written to explore my favorite fantasy genre, and open it up as a properly detailed game environment which could be enjoyed by others.

The actual introduction echoes the same:

Lace & Steel is an attempt to create a fantastic game environment. With Lace & Steel I have sought to capture the elements of swashbuckling romance that are missing from the bulk of fantasy roleplaying games....Lace & Steel is highwaymen waiting by a mist-shrouded road, or the ferocious clash of cutlasses on the quarter deck. It is gallant young men scaling palace walls to visit their sweethearts. It is duelists meeting in the grey light of dawn, and plotters gathering in torch-lit cellars...

It is a Simulationist: Exploration of Setting introduction for a Simulationist: Exploration of Setting game.

The introduction to Erick Wujcik's Amber RPG begins with a quote from Zelazny's Hand of Oberon:

"What would another generation have been like?"
"How can such a question be answered? I have no idea." -The Hand of Oberon

That's where you come in, the players and Game Masters of Amber....For players, this means becoming part of that new generation, playing a character whose parents are as powerful as gods, a character who is inheriting those powers in full measure.


It is a largely Simulationist: Exploration of Character introduction for a Simulationist: Exploration of Character game. I considered something similar for the introduction in My Life with Master:

"The character of Fritz, Dr. Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant in James Whale's Frankenstein (1931), torments the creature (played by Boris Karloff) until it kills him. No explanation for Fritz's behavior is given in the film, but it isn't hard to speculate that he was strangely jealous.

You, dear player, are about to find out for yourself why a minion does the things he does."

Not bad.

The introduction to Le Mon Mouri begins with an excerpt from the fictionalized "Journals of Thomas Cold":

I awoke on the deck of a dark ship, naked and shivering. All along the deck I saw men, women, and children wandering, pale and numb, whispering to each other and themselves in the still air...

It continues with great effectiveness, revealing the ship's destination, depicting some of the horror of the setting by describing a woman tearing at her own flesh and discarding the chunks over the rail, and revealing how the viewpoint character chooses his name, all in less than 200 words. I consider the use of fiction in Le Mon Mouri to be just about perfect. It delivers setting, insight into the game's atypical genre, and skillfully avoids the fiction overload you see in White Wolf games. And my initial thinking for My Life with Master was to do something similar, a fictionalized letter by a minion, reflecting years later on her time under the control of a Master:

"Dearest Henry,

It is only now, after the passage of these many years, that I find the strength to put pen to paper and write to you of..."

Two things are holding me back: 1) I suck at writing fiction, and 2) unlike Le Mon Mouri, I don't need to deliver a specific setting. I'm thinking lately that the game's delivery of a specific fictional interpretation of setting and conflict with the Master would have a constraining effect on a new group as they set about Master creation. I think it might be quite counterproductive. What do you think?

The introduction to Vincent's OtherKind begins:

When people get iron weapons, they get bold in the night and in the wilderness.

It lays out the game's conflict in the very first sentence. And what follows is exposition, not fiction.

I'm thinking that's where I need to be, or perhaps more rightly, somewhere between what OtherKind does and what Amber does:

"You are a minion. The town below has no idea what lies in store for it this evening. But you know, because you're it. You sure don't feel good about the things you do for the Master..."

What do you think?

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2002, 09:50:26 AM »

Paul,

If you can it something as effective as Le Mon Mouri, go for it.  I also think that totally hit the target as a piece of game-related fiction.  However, my immediate reaction to the journal piece was to withdraw in horror.  I've read enough first person White Wolf journals to have become heartily sick of 'em.  That is my particular scar, but unless you have something incredible and different to offer in this vein, my recommendation would be to avoid it.

The short intro paragraph is likely to be a lot more fruitful.  My guess is you ought to focus heavily on color, something like the Lace & Steel example, or even a second-person blurb like:

You serve Master.  Master is your World.  You love Master.  You hate Master.  His approval is your Sun and Moon.  But tonight....  Tonight He demands you fetch Him the black-haired girl in the village, the girl you have watched from afar these many years, the girl who conjures the few jewel-like moments of your childhood, hazy recollections of warmth and love, before the coming of Master.  The girl will go to the vats.  The girl will cry.  The thought of her tears enrages you.  You must serve.  You cannot bear to do so.  Cast yourself at Master's feet and beg His Mercy.  Or hurl Him from the battlements....

CHOOSE.


This is just an example of what you might try.  It can be way more terse.  I could slice this one in half easily, make it a lot stronger in the process.  It's far, far too long as is.   Anyway, you might consider staying away from outright telling the reader the player takes the role of a minion.  Rather, show it in your fiction piece, and use Gothic style (gratuitous capitalization, romantic vocabulary, plenty of tormented introspection).

Best,

Blake
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2002, 10:25:03 AM »

Well, so what's the first-sentence layage out of My Life with Master's conflict?  As a statement, not a question.

Sometimes the people you most love are the ones with the pitchforks.

maybe.

-Vincent
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Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2002, 11:23:35 AM »

Obviously, it depends on how tongue-in-cheek a tone one wants to give the game.  Vincent's version struck me as a bit glib and cheery at first, but in conjunction with the title, it's beginning to grow on me.  Mind you, I think the title MLWM is brill.  Most of what I've read about game examples and flavor here lends me to think Paul's going for a darker texture.  Of course, if I'm wrong, someone please castigate me.

Best,

Blake
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2002, 11:36:17 AM »

Hey Blake,

Funny thing about this game, the tone.

When Paul first told me about, I was like "Cool, going for the tongue-in-cheek thing, eh?"  And his response was "No...it's supposed to be serious."

And at  some point Vincent saw it, and unless I'm mixing up my stories, I think he pretty much thought it would be a great vehicle for darker-than-dark humor.

And then the infamous GenCon playtest happened, and a great deal of laughing was shared by all.

And during our playtest back home...well, I think the tone has been a bit more serious, but there was at least one incident that stands out in my mind where something horrible happened, laughter ensued, and everyone afterwards wondered "What the hell were we laughing at?"

Horror and humor go hand-in-hand.  And it's not just necessary for the relief of tension - although that's important - but a great vehicle for self reflection, in that when we laugh at something horrible, we immediately have to ask ourselves some questions.  And in a game like Master, where boiling the flesh off of dead infants and crossdressers being publicly raped (don't ask) are common occurrences, the slightly skewed humor is probably necessary for the fun factor to come through.  No reason the text shouldn't reflect that, IMO.

Take care,
Scott
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2002, 11:56:11 AM »

Hey Blake,

Most of what I've read about game examples and flavor here lends me to think Paul's going for a darker texture. Of course, if I'm wrong, someone please castigate me.

Going into GenCon, not yet having played the game, I thought it would be gloomy. And the text of the playtest rules document probably reflects that assumption. But what came out in playtest with Josh, Mike Holmes, and my girlfriend Danielle, was an incredibly over-wrought melodrama of horror, pathos and desperation. I had no idea the game would be so hilarious to play. Vincent had seen the rules, and anticipated that aspect, if I recall. I certainly didn't.

I think what I need to do with the introduction is play it straight, and just mention elsewhere that players should expect humor to emerge http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3494">from satisfied genre expectations.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2002, 01:11:09 PM »

Hey guys,

All very cool.  Much appreciated responses.  I completely agree about horror and humor and their quixotic relationship.  Humor is, of course, a coping mechanism.  Makes sense to laugh at really scary stuff in that context.

(BTW, I hope to -- cross your fingers -- playtest MLWM this weekend.  We'll see.)

Intro graphs ought, at any rate, to be tightly focused with what you're trying to achieve.  Color, situation, setting, theme... not sure how many of those you can fit in without bulking the prose up.  Can you sum up the game in one sentence, without being tongue in cheek?  If so, there's your basic statement.  Cut, zap, stitch, and inject as needed to hit the right tone and set the right hook.

Best,

Blake
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2002, 05:22:58 PM »

Vincent had seen the rules, and anticipated that aspect, if I recall.

Errata: Scott has informed me that he also foresaw the humor element.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2002, 05:30:47 AM »

Quote from: Blake
I think the title MLWM is brill.

I agree.  My Life with Master is gold.  You could almost leave it at that, My Life with Master in big letters and then launch right into the character creation rules.

Which wouldn't solve the more general problem of exposition, where and how, of course.  But you've got a punchy summary of the game's conflict right there already.
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2002, 02:21:06 PM »

Quote
CHOOSE.


I think you ought to get Blake to write your intro. That's pure gold there, Blake.
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2002, 03:42:43 PM »

Thanks, Seth.  Appreciate the kind words.  I think there are many, many excellent ways one could approach an intro for this game.  The example I provided was just one take, and perhaps one of the more basic ones at that.  I'm willing to bet that Paul, his protests aside, is plenty capable of crafting something really cool that fits MLWM far better.

Best,

Blake
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