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Author Topic: Facilitating illusionist retcon story techniques  (Read 2960 times)
Christoffer Lernö
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Posts: 822


« on: October 23, 2002, 10:53:50 PM »

I've been thinking about successful illusionism a lot lately. I've come to the conclusion that pretty much all the consistently good rpg experiences has been with GMs running illusionism with what Ron calls a "rear-constructed story". I've been thinking about my experiences as a GM too, and I've found that the degree of player and own satisfaction has been directly mirroring the amount I've used this "retcon technique".

I hope it's clear what I mean? It means creating a story "events first" around the players and then retroactively construct a story out of it. GM motivation for something happening is "because it keeps up the pace and the adds to the atmosphere" (or something similar) rather than "this [established fact] will cause these things to happen". (Is this considered vanilla narrativist priorities for the GM?)

I only know one way to promote this way of GMing, and that is by reducing the amount of rules the GM has to follow. Looking at "The Evil" you see this primitive principle at work. However it is only really trying to remove the obstacles a more complex system puts up (which can be avoided once the system is well internalized incidentally), it's not really promoting anything.

I don't really know how to achieve this though.

Let's look at the facts (feel free to dispute them):

* The GM plays effects first.
This is made much harder if all or many of the effects in the game world has to be determined by die rolling, because then the GM should really first define the cause of the effect, then roll if the effect appears. It's obvious that this is problem.
Most traditionally games are cause first, effect later (if ever). Note that this corresponds somewhat to Fortune-in-the-Beginning/Middle/End in a way. In FitB and FitM we have the effect (generated by fortune) retroactively motivated by the player and/or GM. We could call the effect-first GMing as Effect-in-the-Beginning and compare that to the standard Effect-in-the-End of traditional game mechanics.

* When the "cause" is ready to be discovered it is created by the GM.
This is in a sense not unlike the "discovery" of the story created by some games with heavy directorial mechanics, such as Donjon (correct me if I'm wrong!) In a way, the GM actually is exploring the story alongside the players. In any case - in games with a more "solid" definition of reality, it's more difficult to come up with causes, but it's far from possible.

* The players are supposed to act like the effects have a cause
If an effective illusionism is upheld, the player won't have a clue that the GM is improvising the story, but I don't see why particionism wouldn't work. However, the characters obviously have to act as if an effect always is prelinked to a cause. Or in other words, the players should pretend or believe that in-game causality is actually upheld. That means the GM has to try to maintain the illusion.

Hmm I'm saying the same thing over and over again I think.

Now for the question: are there more efficient ways to facilitate this type of illusionism? "Removing rules" seem a little too primitive :) It seems that providing different rules for GM and players would help things along, but I'm not sure what those differences would be.

Is there anyone having experimented along these lines?
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Andrew Martin
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« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2002, 11:58:24 PM »

Quote from: Pale Fire
I only know one way to promote this way of GMing, and that is by reducing the amount of rules the GM has to follow.

I've been seeing this a lot in the complex RPGs, where the GM is very often given the Golden Rule and encouraged to toss out all the rules the players are expected to play by! :( Very unencouraging for a novice GM that's got the book and wants to know how to run a successful game that fun for all the players (from my own personal experience).

Quote from: Pale Fire
Now for the question: are there more efficient ways to facilitate this type of illusionism? "Removing rules" seem a little too primitive :) It seems that providing different rules for GM and players would help things along, but I'm not sure what those differences would be.


I've been working on eliminating the GM, so making one set of rules for all players, by distributing GM powers back to the players (after all, they had that power before the game started!). Of course, this doesn't work for you, 'cause you want Illusionism?

Quote from: Pale Fire
The players are supposed to act like the effects have a cause. If an effective illusionism is upheld, the player won't have a clue that the GM is improvising the story, but I don't see why particionism wouldn't work. However, the characters obviously have to act as if an effect always is prelinked to a cause. Or in other words, the players should pretend or believe that in-game causality is actually upheld. That means the GM has to try to maintain the illusion.


Consider an audience watching the PCs, like a play, TV show, or movie. Events happen to the characters, and sometimes the characters find the causes of what's happened, usually because the events happen and usually adversely affect the characters who then are motivated to find and stop the cause of the events. (Two goons burst in, armed with pistols!) Similarly for the PCs, provided the events adversely affect the PCs, they'll want to stop them happening again.

If the events don't adversely affect the PCs (there's rain outside), then the PCs logically wouldn't bother to do anything about it and so would be tempted to break the illusion for something to do.

Have a look at the Shadows playtest: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3939 I was particulary struck by how the GM started off with no preparation, but came up with several story ideas, which he didn't have to use! Instead the players drove the narrative along. Could a similar system work for you?
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Andrew Martin
Christoffer Lernö
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Posts: 822


« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2002, 01:27:55 AM »

I think the "throw out the rules that don't work for you" is kind of a poor apology by the authors who thereby acknowledge that the system probably won't be possible to run without in-play modifications. So they just tuck that in without bothering to give any guidelines on how such modifications should be played out at all.

Eliminating the GM isn't what I'm looking for. I'm quite happy with having a GM. The GM allows a single direction in the game and information that might be hidden from the players as well as the characters. There are other enjoyable ways of playing too, but they are different from the game I'd like to construct right now. Anyway, this thread was about illusionism. In other types of games this problem might not even arise.

Quote
If the events don't adversely affect the PCs (there's rain outside), then the PCs logically wouldn't bother to do anything about it and so would be tempted to break the illusion for something to do.

I think what you mean here is that by keeping the game going and giving the pcs things to do, people are more likely to accept illusionism? If so then that's an interesting observation.

Quote
Have a look at the Shadows playtest: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3939 I was particulary struck by how the GM started off with no preparation, but came up with several story ideas, which he didn't have to use! Instead the players drove the narrative along. Could a similar system work for you?

The Shadows isn't an illusionist system by a longshot. I'd have to push things hard to see any similarities. On the other hand my horror game is pretty much overtly illusionist (no need to provide a link to it, it doesn't have any interesting mechanics) and still all I needed was a basic idea to get the story rolling. But of course the difference is that in Shadows the GM's role is minor, whereas in The Evil wouldn't be anything without a GM to prod things along.

I think both work well because they are primarily powered by the same basic method. I'm gonna avoid GNS here because I still don't know how to apply it's labels to this situation. What I'm thinking about is that the GM's decisions as well as the player's (to a smaller extent in the Evil, but it's certainly present) work towards expanding the initial set-up into a tale that captures the interest of the players and the GM.
Whatever the intial setup is, the adventure will drift towards something that both GM and players more or less agrees is interesting to explore the outcome of.
Compared this to many other styles, including pre-loaded illusionist stories. These don't guarantee the satisfaction of the players. However, here we have a way of telling the story in which everyone pretty much has a say (done correctly). It's more formalized and clear in shadows, but in the process you lose the ability to run pure actor-stance for the players, something which might be desireable in especially horror.

Sure you can do horror any way, but I'd argue the feel would be different. So what am I saying? I'm saying that deep down, the reason the games work well is because the adventure (goddamit, what do we call an adventure that is created in play if not a story?? After the game is finished, we can look at it and call it "a story". I want a word to define what the players and the GM together has acted out in a session!) is created with thought to the experience for the players first, rather than a "cause first" approach.

This way the players can explore things they themselves created, which tends to be what they are most interested in exploring anyway.
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Marco
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« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2002, 05:34:54 AM »

Quote from: Pale Fire
I think the "throw out the rules that don't work for you" is kind of a poor apology by the authors who thereby acknowledge that the system probably won't be possible to run without in-play modifications. So they just tuck that in without bothering to give any guidelines on how such modifications should be played out at all.


I've never completely bought into this. It may be true in some cases, but it's villified here and, I think, unjustly so.

I've always read it as either "we know house rules are going to happen in a lot of cases and we're not arrogant enough to think we know better than you what will work for you" or "here's a set of rules that covers a lot of ground--often at different levels of abstraction--if you want to change the level of abstraction for a given element, we endorse your right to do so."

I admit that I may be being overly generous to some games--but really--if I buy a game and there's a passage that reads "if you change *anything* you aren't playing my game and I don't endorse that" I'd be like WTF?

More on topic:

I don't especially like the term illusionism (I think the fact that it has to be stated strongly that it's not derragoratory with the caveat that everyone has to be into that sort of thing is telling).  I also don't think that even in a heavily back-loaded (retconned?) game events will have "no cause" (I suspect the GM will have something in mind for each event, even if that something changes during play).

My impression is that in this sort of game if the GM can't keep up with the players it will eventually fall apart. To fascilitate that, the players should provide potential arcs they'd like to see their characters do. Something along the line of "here's this guy and he gets involved in *these* kinds of stories ..."

So long as the players are giving signals about what they want the game to be about--and how they want to see the world react to their character--the GM will have a good deal more guidance in the creation of events.

Also: the tool that most fascilitates the GM avoiding unwelcome outcomes of the dice is the GM's screen.

-Marco
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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2002, 07:56:23 AM »

The history of rules in traditional RPGs can be seen as a war (often an overt one) between players and Gamemasters, or more precisely Gamist Players and Simulationist Players and Game Masters.

Get four or five truely honest to Pete Simulationists in a room together and they can play a full bore sim RPG with a minimum of rules and consulting of rules.  There is a shared understanding of "how things are supposed to work" that facilitates the ability to interpret plausible outcomes from a minimal number of mechanical inputs.

Throw a player with Gamist priorities into the mix however, and things become more difficult.  This has nothing to do with good or bad roleplayers and everything to do with getting enjoyment from different aspects of the game.  Maximizing character effectiveness through skillfull application of player choices is the defining feature of Gamism.  It is entirely incidental to pure Simulationism.  A pure Simulationist will often knowingly make poor player decisions in order to better simulate a character (I've known historical mini gamers who've issued irrationally reckless...aka stupid...orders to their troops because they know that was the kind of commander a particular officer was, and to play him prudently would be a poor simulation).  In practice historically, both groups of preferred play style typically villify the other.

The increase in rules volume and detail (what I call Simulative Bloat) in many sim games is easy to understand in terms of Simulationists despirately designing rules that (the hope) will force Gamists to play in a Simulationist manner.  Since the Gamist cannot be relied upon (in the minds of these types of players) to voluntarily hamstring himself on the basis of that's what would make sense given the situation, we need to add large volumes of rules that will enforce this hamstringing upon him.  Encomberance rules are a prime example of this.

This tactic, however, is doomed to fail because a true Gamist gets great joy in finding ways to use the rules to increase character effectiveness in ways that simulationists still find undesireable (thus encouraging even more rules).  No this doesn't mean Gamists are munchkins.  Thats often nothing more than a term applied by gamers who have 1 priority to a gamer with a different priority.  Finding ways to "win" by making maximum use of the rules available is a staple feature and attraction of most every kind of board game out there.  In that sense it is the Simulationists who possess the "odd" behavior.

At any rate, The Golden Rule IMO can best be seen as a safty valve.  It is the end result of years of anti gamist rules bloat in games that really don't on their own require that many rules (except to enforce a certain style of play) patched with permission to throw out rules you don't "need".

Translation:  We wrote a ton of rules so you as GM would have ample ammunition to ward off those dastardly gamists, but if you're playing with "mature" gamers and find you don't need the rules feel free to ignore them.  They are there to keep "the wrong sort" of players in line.

In my mind this is the real underlying reason for "The Goldon Rule"

Its not so much a lazy cop out as it is wistfully wishing that the rules weren't "necessary" to begin with.  Its not an acknowledgement of the inevitability of house rules as it is an indication that the rules have a specific use and if that use isn't necessary they can be ignored.  That use is not (in the case of Encumberance rules) to calculate how much a character can carry...no...true simulationists can determine "what's reasonable" to carry without such detailed rules.  The rules are a weapon against "abusive" players and if you're "fortuneate" enough not to play with such players than you won't need to pull out all of these weapons.


This is the history of Role Playing as its been played out ad naseum in Role vs Roll debates and "mature gaming" vs "munchkin players".  Its subtley (and sometimes not so subtley) embedded in most large scale traditional commercial RPGs of the past couple decades.  One of the great (IMO) features of Arrow Flight is that Deep 7 had the stones to just come right out and say it.  They didn't sugar coat it or hide it in coy language.  They came right out and said "We hate gamists and this is why we wrote these rules".

Few other games are that direct about it, but that sentiment is behind ALOT of the game design choices of the past several decades...how to prevent "abusive" players from "screwing up" the game.

Another sentiment that has had almost as much play in game design is the corollary:  "how to prevent GMs from screwing up my enjoyment of my character".  This can be seen in most of the earliest designs as limits put on the GM's ability to inflict harm on characters...e.g. saving throws, and a chance to detect traps before they go off.

Once you understand the warring priorities of different types of gamers that have been embedded as "standard" roleplaying techniques in RPGs over the years, and you see how in an attempt to cater to the widest possible audience you see rules which support obviously conflicting priorities in the same game the meaning of the Forge's use of incoherence becomes much clearer.

You can also see why GNS's biggest benefit is allowing people from differing priorities to discuss these differing priorities and begin to understand the appeal and enjoyment of other styles to other gamers and to recognize their own preferences and begin to sift through various rules to find ones that reinforce their preferences.
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2002, 08:38:42 AM »

The "Golden Rule" discussion is interesting but not on topic. :)
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2002, 09:06:37 AM »

Hey Christoffer,

I'm going to go outside of Forge convention by breaking this down into small chunks, but you raise a lot of interesting issues that seem to get blurred together in your thinking.  I'd like to 'tease them apart' and then offer a solution.

Quote from: Pale Fire
I've found that the degree of player and own satisfaction has been directly mirroring the amount I've used [the] "retcon technique".

I hope it's clear what I mean? It means creating a story "events first" around the players and then retroactively construct a story out of it. GM motivation for something happening is "because it keeps up the pace and the adds to the atmosphere" (or something similar) rather than "this [established fact] will cause these things to happen". (Is this considered vanilla narrativist priorities for the GM?)

I only know one way to promote this way of GMing, and that is by reducing the amount of rules the GM has to follow.

Okay, I think that's your first mistake.  You acknowledge that 'internalized' rules make this easier, so that indicates that it probably isn't a matter of rules complexity.  In fact, I'd suggest that in some cases it's rules conflict with your preferred style of play.  Rather then tossing out the baby with the bathwater, I'd suggest that you don't deem 'amount of rules' the villain.  (Taken to it's ultimate conclusion means that no rules is best; I don't think that follows.)

What is needed then are rules that not only allow or condone ret-conning, but support and enforce it.  Pacing rules are one example, crisis-climax-resolution rules might be another.  (Or at least guidelines.)

Quote from: Pale Fire

* The GM plays effects first
    This is made much harder if all or many of the effects in the game world has to be determined by die rolling, because then the GM should really first define the cause of the effect, then roll if the effect appears. It's obvious that this is problem.

    Most traditionally games are cause first, effect later (if ever).[/list:u]

I think there's an inherent problem here of scale.  I swing my sword and you take damage is cause and effect.  I can't imagine rules were you take damage and then we decide I must be swinging my sword (especially if I was doing something else at the time).  On the other end of the scale we have 'catching the criminal in the act;' said criminal must have prepared to sneak into the bank and open the safe, but until they're found, none of that matters.  You can't really constructively combine these two levels of scale and then say that everything should be ret-conned.

This is a different problem than 'too many rules,' in fact, I'd say this results from too few of the kind you want.  Letting dice determine the 'result' and then 'going looking' for the cause sounds ideal for 'exploring the narrative.'  I think the problem comes when a rule system throws too many die rolls in the way of that exploration.  This isn't a problem with having die rolls, but what they do.

Quote from: Pale Fire

* When the "cause" is ready to be discovered it is created by the GM
    In a way, the GM actually is exploring the story alongside the players. In...games with a more "solid" definition of reality, it's more difficult to come up with
causes, but it's far from possible.[/list:u]

I think that if the system was oriented to reinforce 'finding a cause' rather than simply 'emulating reality,' then the system would be a beneficial force rather than the impediment you describe.  If anything, I think 'scene length' might be at fault here.  Run too long of a scene and you don't get those breaks to ret-con everything into a consistent whole; you're faced with a dwindling possibility, because play has already eliminated too much.

This reminds me of some of the experiments we've done with the murder mystery genre.  Time and again I wanted to not choose who the killer was, letting play sort that out.  The times it didn't work usually resulted in everyone having an alibi.  Times it worked seemed to happen because the detective solved the case too early.  Now that I think about it in ret-con Illusionist fashion, I expect provided that we stopped every scene and 'talked it out' as a group, I could see what had been eliminated by the players (and decide if that was accurate) and then move forward in a fashion to sustain the mystery without 'giving anything away' (or deciding things in advance).  This would be all the better if there were a system of rules that promoted this kind of 'rest stop' and ret-con; maybe you could even reward the players for identifying what was 'open' and what was 'closed.'

Quote from: Pale Fire

* The players are supposed to act like the effects have a cause
    If an effective illusionism is upheld, the player won't have a clue that the GM is improvising...in other words, the players should pretend or believe that in-game causality is actually upheld. That means the GM has to try to maintain the illusion.[/list:u]

Or it means that the players should be rewarded for 'playing along.'  If they go outside of the genre (say shooting the multiple murderer, unprovoked, the second the realize who it is), it will be as bad for play as if the gamemaster failed to support the mystery of whodunit.  Instead of expecting them to believe or requiring the gamemaster to fool them, how about rewarding them for 'hiding their eyes?'  Make the players equal partners in supporting the mystery of the game, have them respect and be rewarded for respecting, the nature of the occlusion.  Get everyone working towards making the story interesting, not just the gamemaster.

Quote from: Pale Fire
Now for the question: are there more efficient ways to facilitate this type of illusionism? "Removing rules" seem a little too primitive :) It seems that providing different rules for GM and players would help things along, but I'm not sure what those differences would be.

Is there anyone having experimented along these lines?

As a matter of fact, yes.  My baby steps along this line are in formalizing the Mystiques Technique.  If players are rewarded for abiding by the Mystiques and the Genre Expectations, then the game gains the 'room' for the gamemaster to explore the Mystiques just as much as the players (and the authority to 'manage' them in accords with the principles of Proprietorship).
    Take a Scooby Doo game for example (I've been playing around with this idea a lot lately).  Who says the gamemaster has to decide why the kids stop somewhere?  Anyone can, as long as it's spooky.  Let's say it's the woods and they're camping out.  First Shaggy and Scooby goof around a bit (I'm sure their pumping up their
Experience Dice doing that) and then someone declares that scary eyes are watching them and there's a wolf howl; does it have to be the gamemaster?  Not yet.

So they go into the woods to investigate.  Someone finds a set of tracks, another person says their wolf tracks, but then Velma points out they're bipedal tracks.  Is this the work of the gamemaster?  Maybe, but not necessarily.  So they follow the tracks; following wolf tracks is kinda boring so they go into a cemetery.  This I see as gamemaster interference; notice how spontaneous it all seems?

So they look around and one of them notes that the tracks go to an empty, open grave.  Now they're looking not just for a werewolf, but for the ghost of a werewolf.  Does that make sense?  This is Scooby Doo, should it?  From there it goes to a spooky sawmill and the gamemaster gets to play cat and mouse with the gang.  In between they discover (create) a boat with a tilting deckhouse, barrels with tubes sticking out of the top, and lots of wool.

I imagine that the group stops every scene or so and talks about the clues they have.  When they 'have enough clues' the player who 'figures it out' whispers it to the gamemaster (if it isn't the gamemaster who 'discovers' it) and then they cook up a wacky trap to catch the villain.  Everyone knows that the villain is wearing a rubber mask and trying do use fear to cover some kind of illegal activity.  Really, it plays out a lot like InSpectres sounds like it would, except without the confessionals.

(Did I mention this is an actual episode?  I only watch the '69 & '70 seasons.)[/list:u]I think the most important point is that, at the first possible moment there is enough clues, the game resolves into the climax; this could only happen if there were breaks to 'think things through' (I think).  You'll notice that 'having a campout' had nothing to do with 'sheep rustling,' but 'the cause' was explored along the way by everybody.  (I expect someone got a stylistic bonus for the wolf-sheep thing.)  And this would only work supported by more rules that are in line with ret-conning and so forth (not less) as long as neither the scale of scene or "cause" got too far out of bounds (which could be handled by still more rules, not less).

Is this what you're talking about Christoffer?  If you want, I can elaborate on the 'Scooby Doo Game' theory because I'm pretty sure we won't get the license on that (or make the game).  I need to know how this compares to what you're looking for.

Fang Langford
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2002, 09:59:45 AM »

Quote
Now for the question: are there more efficient ways to facilitate this type of illusionism? "Removing rules" seem a little too primitive :) It seems that providing different rules for GM and players would help things along, but I'm not sure what those differences would be.

Is there anyone having experimented along these lines?


If you're thinking specifically in terms of tabletop RPGs, the answer, to my knowledge, is no. Some of the most universal systems (including Scattershot and Universalis) could, I believe, accommodate such experimentation, but the actual rules for doing so aren't there. I've made quite a few suggestions along these lines sprinked through the Ygg threads, but I haven't completed, let alone tested, any of the hypothetical tools I've spoken about.

Looking at it through a much wider lens, a vast amount of experimentation has been done in interactive storytelling from the "how do we modify the functioning of a world-simulator to produce outcomes with narrative qualities" side of the problem. Which is, although it may not be instantaly apparent, the issue here. Do some Web searches for Narrative Intelligence, Erasmatron, Agent Stories, Dramaton, the Carnegie-Mellon Oz Project, Zoesis, and whatever ratholes they might currently be throwing money down in the Media Labs at MIT and Stanford.

Most of this is computer stuff. So what does it have to do with illusionist GM tools? It's all about decision-making. Specifically, how to produce an outcome in which the final whole has desired overall qualities, when the only decisions one is able to make concern what happens next in the immediate present? More specifically still, how to do so when two or more parties share the power to influence the present? More specifically still, how to do that algorithmically without relying on the intuitive cognition of a live author?

It might appear that that last requirement doesn't apply in this case. But doing it by relying on the intuitive cognition of a live author is what you, me, and other illusionist GMs already do. Facilitating doing so, in your stricter meaning of "facilitating" that requires going beyond merely getting out of the way, means creating systems for decision-making that make at least some of those decisions better than a GM who's winging it (if the system is supposed to help you or me or others already satisfied with this form of play) or systems that make most of those decisions at least a fraction as well as a GM who doesn't know how to wing it (if the system is supposed to make this form of play accessible to wider audiences). That's perhaps not biting off as big a problem as the computer-based narrative intelligence folks have, but it's still a big chunk, full of gristle and mighty hard to chew.

And more bad news: if you do look into the references above, you'll find a large amount of ingenious labor and remarkably limited success. So it's not clear that there are many lessons to be learned there and applied here, except perhaps where some of the pitfalls and blind alleys are.

The best hope for useful new tools for intuitive continuity illusionism is not in procedural systems for resolution, but in resource materials. I've ranted before about the fact that setting sourcebooks most closely resemble the output of this type of play. Take any engine, and try putting the output in where the fuel is supposed to go, and the results will be poor. That's why many GMs "reprocess" the fuel by disassembling the elements of a setting book and picking and choosing among them. But don't interpret that to mean that the books of five hundred NPCs or fifty spaceship deck plans are the answer either. I believe that's because many of the most important "elements" that GMs extract from sourcebooks are not individual characters or locations or things, but more abstract entities such as "situations" in their most abstract sense. So where's the "Book of 100 situations, suitable for any setting"?  Where are the random encounter tables that not only index "situations" instead of individual entities, but do so in a manner that's context-sensitive for various larger-scale situations that may already exist?

Thinking about the fuel also helps in terms of thinking about the runtime engine (that is, runtime GM tools). Okay, so you have a new situation that you want to use in the game. How do you actually put it in play? No one ever walks up to Luke Skywalker and says, "there's a galactic war and the good guys are losing, what do you want to do about it?" It's a series of encounters, entanglements, and revelations. Each situation has to act (even if only in the GMs mind) like its own little storyteller, looking for opportunities to cross, or better yet merge with, the player-characters' paths. Furthermore, the unrevealed portion of any situation should be subject to adaptive change to better fit the established narrative as influenced by the players' choices so far. Can that be done in any systematic way? Maybe.

I suspect you'll have these tools in your hands sooner if you write them yourself than if you wait for someone else to write them. (I wish that weren't true, that I could put a lot of effort into such things myself, but in my present life circumstances I can't.)

- Walt
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2002, 10:12:18 AM »

Wow. All I can say is, "Well said", Walt. That's a really effective and insightful parallel you draw.

Thanks,
Mike
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Robert K Beckett
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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2002, 11:37:02 AM »

Quote from: wfreitag
So where's the "Book of 100 situations, suitable for any setting"?  Where are the random encounter tables that not only index "situations" instead of individual entities, but do so in a manner that's context-sensitive for various larger-scale situations that may already exist?

- Walt


Excellent post. All I have to add is that what what you are talking about sounds like "76 Patrons", one of the most popular supplements for original Traveller. It was basically a bunch of unrelated adventure seeds.

Each entry included about a paragraph's worth of description for the players and then a GM section of about another paragraph. The GM section had a list of 3-4 different background scenarios. The GM could choose whichever scenario seemed most appropriate or fun.

It wasn't context-sensitive, but it sounds somewhat like what you're talking about.

RKB
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Robert K Beckett
Walt Freitag
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2002, 02:01:37 PM »

Interesting, Robert. How did I miss that one? It sounds very cool and very useful. And the "choice of background scenarios" sounds like at least a rudimentary version of the context-sensitivity idea.

And it was popular, you say.

So naturally, no one's created anything like it since? :-b

- Walt
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JMendes
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2002, 06:26:16 PM »

Hullo, :)

Quote from: wfreitag
So naturally, no one's created anything like it since?


In reading your previous and excellent post, I can't help but be reminded of Icar's plotline management tools.

Cheers,

J.

P.S. I'm sure the link to Icar is available somewhere here in the forge...
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2002, 06:48:11 AM »

I've done some more thinking on this subject. It's hard to get anywhere though. My best method so far has been trying to compare how adventures done this way contrast with other methods. Should we for the time being classify this as IntCon.... ? Let me brand my own term "Effect First". Hey can I shorten that to F? :)

First off, it's kind of a tangled mess right now as far as the concept goes. I want to make a point that this kind of effect-first-retcon-later is different from bang-driven play or similar plot creating methods.

What I mean by "Effect First" doesn't isn't intimately bound to the plot, it's a way to look at how events are added to the narrative from the GM's point of view. F can be applied both to game events and to the plot itself, I argue that it's most powerful when it's applied to both. This is not to be taken as nothing can be preplanned.

It's also important to differentiate pure F and semi-F play. There are some things you only get from playing pure F.

For me personally, I tend to end up in semi-F land. This is a very unsatifying mode of play really and full of potential hazards. This tends to happen when you have a kind of plot and NPCs driving the story and then try to flesh out that with F. There are a lot of potential conflicts, not to mention you might get prevented from running F when you really need it.

Pure IntCon then, is when GM is thinking effects first cause later.

If I think: "Oh, they need something to happen at this lake, maybe I can put a monster in it. Ok I chose monster X. Now from the monster X's point of view, what happens?" - and then the encounter takes up from there. Well if I think like that I'm NOT doing F.

If I on the other hand think: "Oh, they need something to happen at this lake. Maybe I a monster comes out of it? Ok I chose monster X. The monter is now leaving lake X", then I'm doing F.

It seems a little counter-intuitive that this is better. In the former case I've carefully tried to sim-style tried to let the monster act reasonably, whereas in the second it just pops up as if it was a wandering monster straight out of D&D.

The point of course is that monster X might very well be given a retcon:ed explanation of why it is there.

You're also running things F style if you're GMing horror and as the pace winds down you give them a sound or something scary to happen even though you yourself don't know what the sound means or why the scary thing happens.

In the first monster case which I declared wasn't F, could be an illustration of problematic semi-F if the GM later wants to explain why there was a monster in the lake.

The benefit of pure F is that the actions will be exactly what the GM thinks the narrative needs, and not a "filtered through the system" kind of thing.

I've found that I drift into semi-F play when I play games where I'm employing rules both to NPC and PC actions. If the NPCs are governed by much simpler rules (either through tweaking the system, ignoring rules or as endorsed by the system) that facilitates pure F play for game events.

I think this comes because on one hand the GM would be best supported by a game which supports Narrativism and on the other the players should remain playing Sim.

The question is, how do we referee this situation.

For example in combat:
Bob the Mighty Barbarian (controlled by the Player) is attacking the Goblin King (GM). Bob rolls pretty high, and gives a result which would knock the Goblin King out. The GM on the other hand it would be a whole lot more dramatic if the Goblin King died.
BUT, if the GM says "oh, you killed him", then Bob's player might cheated because he won so easily and maybe didn't get the chance to roll all his damage dice and all.

We also have the example from "protagonizing the setting" where the GM whips up an effect for the boss that might be dramatic, but which seems to break the rules of the ordering in the combat system (hey Bob should have been able to swing before the Demigod swiped him to the ground because that's how it works in this system).

Sure we're partly talking about Gamist players here, but it's also about player disbelief in the GM illusion.

In the GM is pretending to use the same system the players are, then the GM can't overtly break rules.

So it would seem that a system facilitating F would be a system which explicitly allows the GM to make Narrativist decisions while at the same regulating these so that the players can feel like they're playing Sim.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2002, 08:38:44 AM »

Wow, this is hard to respond to. I've written a couple big essays, and thrown them away.

First, what you are proposing is exteremely difficult to come up with. How can a system itself support it's ease of adulteration, while simultaneously seeming to be unaduterated to the players in result? The more you make the adulterability obvious in the text, the more you make it obvious that the system is not arbirtary, and that the GM is in control. Further, I see nothing wrong with the normal ("Vanilla") Illusionist model which is to use hard Sim system, and just encourage the GM to use Illusionist tactics in the text. Perhaps even teaching the better ones. That works just fine.  

That said, I suppose I could envision system that might have some of the effect you're looking for. Let's look at a hypothetical example:

Most of the rolls are conducted by the GM in secret. The GM is honor bound by the text to report the events as determined by the dice to the players. In fact, to keep him honest, the players are allowed to each, say once per session, look at the results of a roll, after the roll occurs to ensure his honesty. In addition, however, the GM had a resource that he is allowed to expend, in order to ignore the rules, and just create whatever he wants. A player peeking at that point would note the expenditure, and see that all was well (perhaps the GM places a token in a bowl every time he does so, and then transfers it out to a second bowl of "used" tokens, that way the checking player can audit the GMs use).

Alternately, instead of a resource, the GM can roll a separate die that assuming it comes up a certain way, tells him that he is free to create.

All seems to be a long way to go to get the desired effect, however. Again, I'm not sure that the standard Illusionist method isn't better.

Ron's suggestion with Arrowflight is that by limiting a players effectiveness, and making his ability to affect the game mostly color, that this would allow for the GM to create Illusion more easily. I would contend, however, that this slips quite a bit towards Participationism. The players will likely strongly feel their inability to affect events (while possibly very much enjoying the process of being a color adder).

Mike
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Robert K Beckett
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« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2002, 08:43:37 AM »

Quote from: Pale Fire


So it would seem that a system facilitating F would be a system which explicitly allows the GM to make Narrativist decisions while at the same regulating these so that the players can feel like they're playing Sim.


Which is a pretty good description of Illusionism in general, right?

In planning and running a session, a GM makes all kinds of decisions: Narrativist decisions ("This will make for a good story.") and Sim decisions ("This fits with the "reality" of the game world and the expectations of the players").

This happens in Illusionism but in Illusionism, Sim is prioritized in direct relation to the immediacy of the decision. So an Illusionist GM wouldn't (overtly) fudge a damage result to get a better story any more than he would map out the continent using a complicated algorithm/die roll combo. One situation is immediate and thus calls for a Sim approach, and the other is way in the background and thus calls for a Nar approach.
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