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Arrowflight and illusionist game texts

Started by Robert K Beckett, October 23, 2002, 05:21:14 PM

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Robert K Beckett

Quote from: Ron EdwardsOne of the most interesting design features of Arrowflight (which I believe is the single most overt and effective illusionist game text I have ever seen) is that character diversity is fairly high in terms of Color, but exceptionally limited in terms of attribute and ability range (i.e. System).


Ron, what makes Arrowflight such an effective illusionist game text?
Robert K Beckett

Ron Edwards

Hi Robert,

In my readings of RPG texts, decision-driven Narrativism (covert Author stance as the main means to express of Premise/Theme) and Illusionism (GM front-loads or rear-constructs story) are usually present as nuances, to be deduced or pieced together from meta-speak comments or referenced rather than stated outright. This is because those texts overtly subscribe to the Impossible Thing ("The GM is the author, the players direct the actions of the protagonists") and the above two functional modes of play are what examples and how-to text are forced to slide into.

In my view, for example, such text in The Whispering Vault slides into Narrativism, and in Legend of the Five Rings it slides into Simulationism-Setting with a strong dose of Illusionism.

Whereas in Arrowflight, the Impossible Thing is indeed impossible (i.e. not stated as the goal), and the Story, per se and as such, is overtly the GM's job. The job of the players is to immerse, which as deduced from multiple examples in the text, means literally to cooperate with the stated story cues and to enjoy the experience of "my character" in it.

I'm not inferring, either - sometimes it's very explicit. The GM is literally ordered by the text to keep the players "in line" with "your story," through overt means if necessary but preferably through nudging them with rewards and by enthralling them with the coolness of the experience. The player is enjoined to enjoy whatever happens, explicitly because it makes sense in System and Setting terms (see the text on character death; it's unique in RPG texts and very revealing). Metagame priorities on the part of the players are explicitly discouraged, and those of a Gamist bent are scorned (including the most scathing dismissal of Gamism I think I've ever read). Their definition of "character" in role-playing even relies on the GM's creative interpretation of that role in his story.

Before anyone reads this as a criticism, I must say: this is a vast improvement over covert/deceptive game texts which rely on repeating the Impossible Thing. I keep saying it, over and over: Illusionism is functional, especially as long as you avoid strongly Narrativist and/or Gamist players (who will almost certainly hate it). The advice throughout Arrowflight both articulates and legitimizes the necessary GM skills and techniques of Illusionist play. The only possible part that seems to be missing is how to engage a given character into a given scenario, but that is alleviated to some extent by what I describe in the source thread for this one - that in Arrowflight, all starting characters are very very similar in game-mechanics terms and capabilities.

(Side note: the resolution system in Arrowflight represents a fascinating blend of different resolution-principles found in, respectively, Little Fears and The Riddle of Steel. I'm not kidding - if you can imagine a system which utilizes many great aspects of these two games, apparently very effectively, this is it.)


Emily Care

That's an excellent review.  Where is Arrowflight published?

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games


See, I told you when you picked it up that it was a good solid game.  10 years ago it probably would have been my favorite game of all time before all you vile evil Narrativist types corrupted me :-)

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Emily, it ain't a review yet, 'cause I haven't played the game yet, but I will one of these days; got my scenario all ready and everything. Then I'll probably be repeating myself a tad in the real review ...

Arrowflight is published by Deep 7, and as best as I can tell it's an independently-published game, ie "indie" at the Forge.

Yup, Ralph, you nailed it when we talked about it a while ago. The only troublesome areas I have with the text are found in the denunciations of Gamism, but I've been known to take potshots of my own at game-modes I don't enjoy, so I can't speak to that with too much righteousness. (Arguably, the author of Elfs can't speak to anything with righteousness, actually.)


Robert K Beckett

Robert K Beckett

Mike Holmes

Sounds like the text also encourages some participationism. That comment where you pointed out how it says that players should take the plot hooks provided, and "play along" adding mostly just their own characterizations. The illusionism seems more predominant in the GM instructions.

Seems to be going for something right in between say, CoC, and L5R. Which makes me tempted to try it out. Other than the CharGen balance, do the rules seem to support the Sim indicated? Do the rules seem to give the feel of a fantasy world?

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