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Facilitating illusionist retcon story techniques

Started by Christoffer Lernö, October 24, 2002, 02:53:50 AM

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Le Joueur

Again, Christoffer, I'm really convinced that you looking at 'the usual suspects' and none of them is to blame for the problems you cite.  (And why don't we call "Effect First" EF instead of F?  It's less confusing.)

First of all, thank you for clarifying your method (with a little editing on my part):

Quote from: Pale FireWhat 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. [EF] 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.

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 EF.

    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 monster is now leaving lake X", then I'm doing EF.[/list:u]It seems a little counter-intuitive that this is better. In the former case I've carefully tried to sim-style 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.

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

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

You're also running things EF 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.

The benefit of pure EF is that the actions will be exactly what the GM thinks the narrative needs, and not a "filtered through the system" kind of thing.
Okay, that makes things a lot more clear.  As far as this explains things, the basic difference between Intuitive Continuity and EF is that the IntCon gamemaster thinks up the whole raison d'etre at the moment of, but essentially before, putting something into play.  In EF, the justification for the "Effect" is left until needed.  (Semi-EF happens when more detail is added after IntCon insertion.)

And then there's the problems you list.  I just don't see them being associated with what you give as the conflict.  Let me explain.

Quote from: Pale FireFor me personally, I tend to end up in semi-EF land. This is a very unsatisfying 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 EF. There are a lot of potential conflicts, not to mention you might get prevented from running EF when you really need it.

I've found that I drift into semi-EF 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 EF 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.
I don't think that's it at all.  This doesn't sound like rules-problems at all.  Nor does it have any ring of GNS either.  The problem you seem to be having is about consistency.  Consistency is important in every mode of GNS decision.  The only difference seems to be that you are conflating setting-consistency with Simulationism and implying that it doesn't matter to Narrativism.  Setting consistency has no direct relationship to any GNS priority (well, perhaps Simulation/Exploration of Setting, but that is only a part of GNS).

Why do I suggest the problem is one of setting consistency?  Well, what are the hazards of EF or semi-EF gamemastering?  You seem very worried about conflicting with something that is already 'in there' or perhaps reaching a point where 'what you are running' is impossible compared to 'what you have already run.'  Most of this implies there is some immutable setting (or expectation of the consistency of an immutable setting).

If you're going to do any kind of EF, or even retcon, you have to let go of the idea of a concrete setting.  Stories aren't based on concrete settings, that's something the author often puts in as an afterthought during rewrites; games don't get rewritten (well not often enough to count), so they retcon.  Basically it comes down to a question of do you want a concrete setting or a good story?  You can't have both.

Oh, you can create the illusion of a concrete setting, but before you do that you have to shake off the idea that there really is one.  And that's what you seem to be having problems with.  As a retcon Illusionist gamemaster, are you expecting to fool yourself?  No?  Then don't even think that the setting is remotely concrete; remember nothing exists until someone mentions it.  This is key to EF.

The second part is 'finesse.'  Can you add "Effects" that you won't have to conflict with later?  Sometimes you think out their 'place' in the setting (IntCon as you've described it), sometimes not (EF).  It's okay to have an idea for a setting, the trap is thinking that changing it violates it somehow.  As long as you realize that nothing that has not been said is true, the finesse part comes with practice.

I've pretty much always played this way (and it works for any mode or style of play I can imagine).  I don't have the luxury of prep time, so I have learned to improvise everything.  While that isn't what you're talking about here, what I do with it is.  Since I am not working from a prepared or concrete setting, I only have three things to work with; archetypes, clichés, and expectations.  The most important ability I have learned to gamemaster this way is being sensitive to what my players expect out of the archetypes and clichés of the game we're playing.  When I expect to run something where there may be confusion with, I take time at the beginning of the game to explain enough of the game so that everyone 'knows what to expect.'  (I like this idea so much I wrote a game based on it.)

Now, consistency is an important goal, but I do not put consistency of setting above consistency of play.  I carefully choose where and when to violate the archetypes and the clichés and generously use expectations to avoid lengthy descriptions.  Everyone expects a metropolis to have crowded streets and tall buildings, but do I need to describe each in detail?  Nope, if it comes up I EF it; "you crash into the side of the building sending a hail of razor-sharp glass shards falling to the street below."  Was it a 'glass tower' before they crashed into it?  Nope, it wasn't anything because nobody had mentioned it, but 'glass towers' are hardly unexpected in the archetypical metropolis.  If someone then tries to lift or move the same building, they can't; glass walls won't support it.  This is EF right?  By depending on the clichés and archetypes, I know that my EFing won't run into conflict later.

Take your 'lake monster' idea.  If you stick to the clichés about lake monsters, then you don't need to worry about later inconsistencies.  Care need only be taken when the cliché is broken (a powerful tool, used correctly).  Admittedly if there are 'tight' rules about 'lake monsters' in the game, you may run into problems, but then those rules aren't conducive to EF play are they?  It's not a matter of 'relaxing' the 'lake monster' rules; it's a matter of having rules that suit EF.  Actually, 'relaxing' rules to suit specific EF instances will create the inconsistency that you sound afraid of.  That still doesn't make it a 'too many rules spoils EF' problem, it makes it a 'Anti-EF rules are bad' problem.

Quote from: Pale FireI want to make a point that this kind of effect-first-retcon-later is different from bang-driven play or similar plot creating methods.
Again, you're blaming something not involved.  I rather think bang-driven play is almost exclusively EF.  You create a bang; does it have to be IntConned into the game?  Not usually.  In fact, many I have read scream EF at me.  I remember one (could someone look this up for me?) where the bad guys surprised the player character in the shower.  Had someone sent the bad guys?  Were the bad guys looking for the character before he started showering?  None of that is necessary.  Heck, when a player creates these bangs they are resoundingly EF.  The expectation of the game was that bad guys did these kinds of things; it happens, no surprise (well, no loss of suspension of disbelief in the game-world), no justification needed.

Quote from: Pale FireThe 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 feel cheated because he won so easily and maybe didn't get the chance to roll all his damage dice and all.[/list:u]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).
See, these are consistency problems, not rules or EF problems.  If the players feel that Bob should have a swing first, then they don't really what a cool retconned story do they?  They want Bob to have his go.  I say, put it on the line.  "Do you guys want a cool story or Bob's hit?  You can't have it both ways.  (I wasn't going to kill anyone, after all.)"  The "demigod swipe" is a deus ex machina (in more ways than one) and should be expected by players who want the illusion of participating in a 'good story.'  If they can't handle so simple a cliché, tell them to forget about the story.  If they go for Bob's swing, they don't want to play retcon Illusionist anyway.

(And stop assuming there will be problems.  Try it out before you expect these conflicts.)

Quote from: Pale FireSure 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.
This has nothing to do with Gamism, it has everything to do with Protagonism.  Even a Narrativist or Simulationist can want to 'get one last shot in;' it's the nature of identifying with your character.  Superficially, it looks like a rules problem, or a 'winner takes all' problem, but ultimately it has more to do with expectations and consistency.

"Pretending to use the same system" will have a hard time avoiding disillusionment when it becomes obvious.  Sure, if you want to play retcon Illusionist with another system you have to have drift, but if it is built into the system, then no drift and no pretense is needed.  Again, this is not a matter of 'too many rules' but rules that don't work for retcon Illusionism.  (I suppose you could argue that that's too many anti-EF rules, but you could certainly make a game that has even more rules that accentuate retcon Illusionism, so gross volume cannot be taken as the measure.)

Quote from: Pale FireSo it would seem that a system facilitating EF 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.
If you're making "Narrativist decisions" are you retconning?  That would be 'Narrativist interpretations,' right?

It seems to me that a system for facilitating EF would not imply an inviolate world that exists before or 'outside of' play.  The world would be a group of archetypes, clichés, and expectations that play would explore the detail and character of.  There wouldn't be "you reach a lake of so and so size and depth surrounded by such and such scenery" that would get violated when a 'bigger than the depth of the lake' monster crawls out.  It's just a lake, when the monster crawls out players go 'oh, it’s a big lake.'

The Trick with EF and Gamists is playing on their expectations of 'fairness.'  You aren't playing fair in a retcon Illusionism Gamist game, you're most likely playing for thrills.  Inviolate odds have a nature of grinding the Gamists' characters into the ground every once and a while, and while that's a valid form of play, Gamists accepting EF gamemastering aren't expecting that.

I expect all EF gamemastering is about playing on expectations rather than worrying about 'messing up' the setting.  I rather think that a game that came out and talked specifically about EF gamemastering would be a refreshing change (and a lot easier to play) over having to drift anything else into retcon Illusionism.  You are doing a great job exploring the writing for some of the oldest unwritten rules about improvisation.  I must say I am impressed, keep up the good work.

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

Mike Holmes

I think you've totally missed Christoffer's point, Fang. You have this particular view of Illusionism which I don't think others agree with. In my view, for example, what Christoffer brings up about the rules screwing you is exactly the issue. In what I call Illusionism, half the techniques are what some people call "Cheating". They are about ignoring the mechanical results and creating story despite those results, while leaving the feeling that you did use the system. I am aware that you think this is dysfunctional, but it's a method that I claim works just fine. You might not have a problem with the mecahics, but then your methodology and results are not what I think he's looking for.

All I see above is you dismissing what he thinks is the problem without any reasoning at all (two sentences, no argument, just dismissal), and then substituting your own idea of what the problem must be.

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Le Joueur

Hey Mike,

Quote from: Mike HolmesI think you've totally missed Christoffer's point, Fang.

...All I see above is you dismissing what he thinks is the problem without any reasoning at all (two sentences, no argument, just dismissal), and then substituting your own idea of what the problem must be.
I don't think so.  I specifically tried not to bring my own ideas and feelings about Illusionism to the discussion.  (For example, I don't consider retcon a form of Illusionism; many do, so I don't use the word outside of the way I see it used locally.)  I worked completely from his words and examples.

Christoffer starts off with a discussion about "rear construction story" and then goes through retcon and talk about "a more 'solid' definition of reality" with a discussion of the ordering of cause and effect.  His remarks about rules are nebulous at best, but his examples come back time and again to setting-based, "definition of reality" (his words) issues.  I felt that the other responses were concentrating too much on what he said was the problem and didn't really address the examples.  (Heck, the 'golden rule not on topic' point suggests that abandoning rules is not the issue.)

Walt supplied a great piece on how an Illusionist game can approach great literature, yet Christoffer went right back to his retconning thoughts.  That said that to me, his fear was consistency not rules.  (While being consistent with the rules might be a part of it, what rules govern the lake monster or the horror noise?)

How does talking about consistency and pro-EF rules not talk about his problem?  How does "what are the hazards..." dismiss anything?  His examples, horror stories (a little vague), the lake monster, Bob kills the Goblin King, Bob is swiped by the Demigod, don't revolve around 'breaking the rules' (well, Bob's do, but my point was those were rules drifted to Illusionism, not Illusionist rules); they're about consistency.  What made the noise in the horror game is inconsistent if the answer turns out to be 'nothing could have,' the monster's reason for leaving the lake is inconsistent if you can't find one, Bob's swing (or being swung on) is inconsistent if not handled the same way any other time; all of these speak more to consistency, and less about rules (the undrifted kind).

I really believe (and we'll have to wait for Christoffer on this) that "In the GM is pretending to use the same system the players are, then the GM can't overtly break rules" is about the problems associated with drift, not a new set of rules that might be supposed.

How can we answer his original question: "Are there more efficient ways to facilitate this type of illusionism?" without delving into why he's having a problem?  I hardly see suggesting an underlying problem as "no argument, just dismissal."  I did not simply 'substitute my own idea,' I offered a potential underlying problem.  Perhaps I suggested the solution to the problem a little early, but I didn't see much point in waiting until tomorrow for an answer.  If I saw the underlying problem wrong, my post can be skipped.  (Not by you of course.)

If you want to address "what he thinks is the problem," then why don't we answer, "Are there more efficient ways to facilitate this type of illusionism?" and "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," and the original question, "Is there anyone having experimented along these lines?"  Can we do this without talking about what the underlying problem might be?

Not without hearing from Christoffer first.

Fang Langford

p. s. And for the record:

Quote from: Mike HolmesIn what I call Illusionism, half the techniques are what some people call "Cheating". They are about ignoring the mechanical results and creating story despite those results, while leaving the feeling that you did use the system. I am aware that you think this is dysfunctional, but it's a method that I claim works just fine."
You are incorrect.  When have I ever said it was dysfunctional?  I've said it was difficult, but not dysfunctional; why do you keep insisting this is what I said?  (I specifically stated "Illusionism is not described as dysfunctional," way back here.)  Besides, I don't really want to engage in a 'what I said you said' argument, so I never mentioned anything about what I thought of your response.  Should I have?
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!

Mike Holmes

Of course it's about consistency. The question he's asking, IMO, is how do I make play look consistent, without actually being consistent. That's what Illusionism is. So, sure, no problem we can just consider the Situation to me maleable. Fine. But what about the mechanical examples he gave? How do you solve those problems? Your response seems to be, well, just play them out as written, and don't worry about it, beacuse it'll all take care of itself.

But it won't. There will be occasions where the dice come up and say, hey, Jim is dead. And I don't want Jim dead. So if I don't have some method to fix that, the story I'm building breaks. That's a problem. How does consistency fix this problem? Or rather how do you propose to build in consistency in the mechanics, and still allow him to get away with what he want's to do?

Sure, some of the description he gives is of setting-based problems. But they are presented to let us know what style of play he's talking about. The "problem" comes in when he points out that the mechanics of a game like his can screw over his story. What he want's to know, it seems to me, is how can I make better mechanics so that I can better perform Illusionism. That is, how can the mechanics seem both to be solid and arbitrary, and simultaneously allow the GM to do what he wants? It's a reasonable question. If one potentially without a good answer.

If you want to look more closely at his motives, be my guest. But I certainly don't think it's neccessary.

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Le Joueur

Hey Mike,

To all of which I say FitM.  A system that answers in detail what happens at the end of resolution will not allow much Illusionism as you define it.  FitM will.  FitM 'with teeth' especially; Jim isn't dead, the dice say that Jim's life just got really, really complicated.  The dice are "in the Middle," so the gamemaster says what this complication is.  Is he dead?  Unconscious?  Sent to another dimension?  After the die roll, only the gamemaster can say.  This works especially well if you don't break everything down into +1 or +2 or 'that is a scimitar from Mu and it does 20-101 points of damage.'  'A big sword' hurts a lot, but isn't defined as doing cutting or impaling damage; that is left to colorful description.  The 'colorful description' rule hides a lot of Illusionism without making it illegal and could be a wealth of rules itself.

I am proposing building mechanics that don't, themselves, make consistency an issue (like those drifted in the past).  Take out the issue of consistency from the rules and open up a whole world of Illusionism.  These rules will play as written.  More so if the players expect deus ex machina and the like, once in awhile.

I agree the mechanics he has drifted in the past "screw over his story."  That's because they're pass-fail mechanics that 'take over' the game.  Like the halcyon chasm problem, these rules get to say 'you fell to your death' or 'you made it.'  I'm saying make different rules.  Use FitM mechanics that complicate the story rather than dominating it.  You win big at the casino, how much?  The rules don't give a number; neither does the gamemaster, just 'real big.'  The actual impact on the game is malleable, now we know you're rich, but not for how long.  To be consistent you might voice it in fractions, "Well, a year has come and gone and now you've only a quarter of what you won."

I think there is a good answer, but addressing the cause of the problems, not the problems themselves, can only get at it.  Patching drifted rules will only beget more patching.  Until we address why the drifted rules fail in the first place can we begin to start over and create something better.

I think the EF discussion would be crucial in how to apply the FitM rules for this theoretical game.  Arm the gamemaster with more than 'make stuff up' and you get both consistency and the ability to create Illusionism.  I think the most important component of such an EF chapter would be to say something like 'suit the impact of the die roll not to an absolute standard but to the scope of the situation.'  'Real big winnings' at the beginning of a 'cycle' would be relatively small in comparison to those at the climax, but it'd seem consistent because it suited the situation at hand.

Now all that needs be done is for Christoffer to describe what he wants and how he can do it.  (I kinda liked the magic stuff he was doing until you shot it down; the only thing I thought was wrong was that he didn't have enough 'dials' built in yet and it needed the stuff being talked about here.  A spell of diamond creation whose results are a few, crappy, low-grade diamonds at the beginning of the adventure and many big, high-quality ones at the climax offers both the flexibility and the consistency.  To me.)

Now what I want to know is what Christoffer thinks....

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

Walt Freitag

Some points quoted from earlier in the thread:

Quote from: Robert
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.

Quote from: And earlier, Fang
Quote from: Pale FireThe 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).
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).

Fang and Robert's points both concern the issues of scale. But these issues are much more complex than either implies. For every scale, there's an appropriate context. Maintaining continuity means preserving the context. So one cannot separate scale from context from continuity. And where there's any narrative quality involved at all, there's never only one scale, context, or stream of continuity; there's a hierarchy of them.

For example, I find it quite easy to imagine rules where you take damage and then decide someone must be swinging a sword. All it requires is a context such as, you and the other person are fighting and the other person has access to a sword. In such a context, many sorts of mechanisms could actually work in the way described, including some of the kind of fortune in the middle mechanisms that are highly regarded here. On the other side of the coin, I could easily describe an example that makes the monster coming out of the lake sound just as absurd as the unexpected sword blow, by hypothesizing an insufficient or inappropriate context for the event.

I'll have to follow up more on this later.

- Walt
Wandering in the diasporosphere

Christoffer Lernö

Ok forgive me Fang if I'm misunderstanding your point, but it seems to me like you take EF to be simply about IntCon techniques and retconning narrative.

On one level, it's definately that, but pure-EF involves EF decisions on the fundamental level.

Q: "Why does suddenly the lights go out in the horror adventure?"
A: "Because the effect of that would increase tension"

If you make decisions prior to the effect then you're not EFing that element. It's not about improvising effects from a cause as I think Fang is into. (If I would for example first decide that the monsters are making the power go out, I'm not doing pure EF).

It's about the fundamental story decision making... Do I interpolate them from an established cause or do I first put in the effect I want and then interpolate what have cause it?

Another example:

GM: "You come to a broken bridge, you see traces of combat everywhere, but not a sign of bodies"

There are a few ways the GM could have prepped that scene. Maybe the GM have thought up these trolls that live under the bridge, or maybe something of significance has happened here that's essential to the plot. Either way those things could have been established long before the characters find the bridge. From written down, to thought out in the beginning of the adventure, to just before they reach the bridge.

Neither of that is EF though.

EF is if the GM simply is announcing the situation without having decided what has happened.

If the GM is only applying EF on certain levels (say the plot) then it's semi-EF, if it's applied on every level it's pure EF.

My horror games are run pure EF style. I have an idea of a story thought up at the beginning, then I start running that setup, improvising details (that in itself is not EF). I mostly allow the players act themselves but throw in events which I don't bother to create causes for. Instead I leave it up to the players to look into, and in that way generate even more story.

If you look at the horror story I ran with Nathan and Chris written up here you have an example of a story made through pure EF.

The problem is one of consistency as rightly identified, but I think it's different from what Fang perceives it to be.

Let me give an example here:

1. Rok, Sue and Bollo is decide to make their camp near a lake.
2. GM decides this is a magic lake.
3. Rok goes to look stupidly at his reflection and idly play around near the water which strangely does not ripple (the GM just made that up)
4. Finding this interesting Rok, smashes his hand on the water to make a splash.
5. The GM makes up that a hand formed of water shoots up and grabs Rok.

What follows might involve Rok trying to get free of the hand which tries to drag him down, and his friends might come and try to and help him get free.

Now naturally the players are interested in having the GM making this "fair" and make a difference (for example) between Rok struggling and Rok being helped by Bollo who's bodybuilder frame should make a difference.

Running this in traditional sim can be very difficult, because the GM has to make some really quick judgements on the spot: How strong is this hand compared to Rok? How strong compared to Bollo + Rok? What if Sue helps?

All these problems make it difficult to use EF, which is why EF is difficult to use as the core principle. When you know the system might be a problem, you go by cause first (defining an entity within the system) and then apply its effects. That way you know the effect is possible to calculate within the frames of the sim system.

However, the amount of bookkeeping and predefining makes this a less fast flowing technique than the ideal EF situation.

If the system is well internalized by the GM, it's sometimes possible to make "on the fly" rule estimates. This helps running EF.

There is another thing to think about in assisting EF, namely the predictability of a mechanic. I mentioned this before as a desireable trait because. I said,  it helps tweaking. But I never specified what tweaking.

Actually I've come to understand that what I mean was reverse-engineering rules on the fly. For example, the hand... maybe I know that I want it to be able to drag down Rok, but if he gets the help of Bollo it's supposed to be a 50-50 chance. In games which are more transparent it's often possible to come up with a game mechanic which would create such a behaviour. In others, let's say Shadowrun as a good example, it's very hard to say when you have a 50-50 chance and how to input stats and stuff into a mechanic that gives you the desired behaviour.

Games that allow the GM to create theats that are relative to character abilites ought to be very helpful for this.

To sum things up:

In pure EF you create narrative situations effect first. The problem comes when the players expect to interract with these effects within the simulationist system. At that time, the effect needs to be translated into a in-system defined cause or the players cannot interact with it within the mechanics.

There are no sim games I know of which actively supports this reverse engineering of effects into cause.

I have proposed that maybe a mechanic could be made so that the effects could be plugged directly into the sim mechanics. Some concerns are lack of detail within the effects and such things.

Other than that, I can see that games in which it is easy to create mechanics from a "desired type of outcome" is helpful once the system is internalized. Predictability makes things nicely explicit for the struggling GM. It's important to note that usually all the GM would like is to have something like "long shot", "small chance". "50-50", "good chance", "sure thing" to plug into the system as possible outcomes. The problem comes when players want to interface their special abilities and stats with those chances.

A few useful rules from a more practical standpoint (if we can't make a game which strongly facilitates this) would be:

* Simple rules for extending a set difficulty to variations in abilities. For example if the GM decides that Rok has a 50-50 chance, what is the chance if Sue tries who is weaker? What if both Rok and Sue does it. Some rules where this is really intuitive and simple would help because the GM only needs to worry about setting the threat relative to ONE character and then the rest follows.

* GM usable threat ratings to set abilities and difficulties according to player abilities. For example, the GM wants to put up a 50-50 chance to cross chasm. What does that translate into with the Sim mechanics? An effective "desired effect to system" translation would be very good to have. Preferably to deal with any situation, but if not then at least for some.
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Quote from: wfreitag
So naturally, no one's created anything like it since? :-b

I believe its been reprinted by a British fan group.  I have "100 plots", "100 patrons" (I think) and "100 cargoes"

Good ideas, these.  Yes, I totally agree with the thrust of the post above: a book discussing the whys and wherfeores of long distance journeys in medieval europe, the trials and travails, and the motives that compel people to undertake them anyway woudl arguably be much more useful than many RPG products extant today.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci


It may be that Christophers concerns should be tackled more like "genre expectations", in Fangs parlance.  What is described above is loosely what I have thought of as Dramatism; the construction of dramatic forms, with or without significant content.  The content can be "back filled" into the space created for it, in principle.  I don't have a rules system for this: but I speculate that something could be built which exploited dramatic structure convention to this effect; have you seen Theatrix, Christopher?  It's not what you are looking for, but might be grist to the mill.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

GB Steve

Quote from: contracycle
Quote from: wfreitag
So naturally, no one's created anything like it since? :-b
I believe its been reprinted by a British fan group.  I have "100 plots", "100 patrons" (I think) and "100 cargoes"
That's probably the 101 series from BITS, a Traveller support group.

GB Steve

EF (Effect First, in case you came in late like me) is something I've used quite a few times in my games.

I tend to run games based on a few loose ideas and then fill in the details as I go along. One technique I often use is to base elements on the game on player (or character) expectations. I just listen in to their discussions as to what is going on and riff of that.

I've found this technique very useful in mystery games, in particular whodunnits. If the PCs are checking up on leads there comes a point when all the background work tends to become repetitive. I wait for this to happen and decide that their current lead is the good one, or their current hypothesis. I then have to back-fill so that it makes sense.

The only game where EF was the prime generator of 'what was going on' was an Unknown Armies game called The Donner Diner. I had decided that the PCs get caught in a snowstorm in the Rockies and have to spend the night together at the Donner Diner.

The players did not know they were playing UA. I wrote up their PCs based on feedback from telling them that it was a modern game with weirdness. UA is good game for getting interesting characters and we ended up with a Wanderer Archetype (Ash from Evil Dead), a shrink and his self-cutting patient (who'd been almost convinced that his magic was not real) and a coke-head failed sports star.

The game was driven by the tension between the PCs, thrown together and not really compatible, and the first weird event (finding a corpse).

I just then piled up the horror clichés, mostly following on from players' suggestions. Things happened so quickly that they never had to to question the actual logic of the situation because it fitted with the logic of the horror film.

If the internal logic, the conventions, of the situation works, like in bad but exciting movies, then the players are less likely to question things.


Christoffer Lernö

QuoteIf the internal logic, the conventions, of the situation works, like in bad but exciting movies, then the players are less likely to question things.
Here you're onto something I thought of writing up but ended up completely forgetting about - the internal logic of the situation...

You can't set up EF if what you're doing will have players stand up and declare "hey that's not possible!". Problems can range from mechanical ones (such as having NPCs die from single bullet wounds of weak guns in Shadowrun or assassinating a high level NPC with a single dagger stab) to setting problems ("magic doesn't work like that in Tolkien's books!")

This is partly why horror works so well EF-style. In horror it's usually "anything weird goes".

Contra: Could you give me the story on why Theatrix is good? I don't have a chance to get the game and check it out where I am.
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Theatrix is heavily based on formal dramatic structure; the 3-act play with pinches and twists inserted into those acts to give an outline of what kind of scenes you "schedule".  Secondly, it discusses GM fiat in task resolution, so that you are deciding success or failure of an action based on dramatic need - whether you want to increase or release the tension.

Thirdly, it has a very interesting take on resolution, and its single greatest feature IMO is something I often cite in discussions of whiffing - a one-page, 4 panel picture displaying 4 possible outcomes to a specific task, showing different interpretations of the outcomes.  These were based on an array of two elements - success or failure, and whether the character is competent or incompeten.  So one picture showed a competent success, another a competent failure, aother an incompetent success, and the last an incompetent failure.  This is given as a mechanism for kinda "smoothing over" the fact that the GM is choosing the outcome; it actively promotes protagonistic play by preventing mandated failures for dramatic need being big whiffs.

There are some other rules involving how players can make statements to makes things True in the game world.  These are less known to me as I have not used Theatrix in play; its not my thing but its great library filler.  Some good things to chew on for the habitually sim player.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Theatrix also presents the technique of using flashbacks to increase the effectiveness of the character in the present. I think it may have pioneered the technique, although if anyone knows otherwise, correct me.


Christoffer Lernö

Interesting. I'll take some time and digest that and see if I can make something useful out of it.

I know I know. Right now it looks like I'm taking shots blindly in the dark, but it all springs from a single source. Trust me :)
formerly Pale Fire
[Yggdrasil (in progress) | The Evil (v1.2)]
Ranked #1005 in meaningful posts
Indie-Netgaming member