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Author Topic: Unstated bits of TROS  (Read 15255 times)
Bankuei
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« on: December 05, 2002, 10:34:30 PM »

TROS, like any good fighter, is sneaky.  It looks pretty straightforward, then folks starting finding out a lot of the rules and ideas in it are just a feint, counter and oops! What the hell was that!?!

First, let's start with some preconceptions that need to go:

•The planned adventure-
Players can raise or drop their SA's in the middle of the game, even change them to their complete opposite.  What happens to your "big villian" when one of the PC's decides to join up with him, because his "join the dark side" speech actually made sense?  Although you can start with preplanned SA's, you never know what someone is going to do with them.  You can come up with a strong set up, but you never know what the end is going to be.  Folks interested in better ways to play with this should search for Scene Framing, Kickers and Bangs, in Actual Play, RPG Theory, and the Sorcerer thread folders.

•Players are heroes, but just part of the world
If the players are the protagonists, the story revolves around them, not anyone else.  The players can't be heroes and not have input on how the story works.  You have to kill the overwhelming GM desire to "tell" a story, as opposed to "set up" a scene and let it play out.  Don't think of it as a book, or a tv show, think Sim City or the Sims.  You put the players in situations and see what happens, encouraging neither one nor the other.

•The climatic "fair fight"
You can have fights, you can have climatic ones.  You'll never have fair fights.  All fights are dangerous.  Even if you lowball the general opponents, a single cut can remove someone as a viable opponent, unless they've got their SA's stacked on high.  If your players are playing smart, there'll be no fair fights.

•Conflict is a fight
Fighting is a simple form of conflict, entertaining on one level.  It's a whole other thing when you realize that if you fail this fight, the evidence the king needs to know the identity of which of his 3 brothers tried to poison him doesn't make it through.  In TROS, all fights are for your life.  It's when you're fighting for more than just your life, that things get interesting.

To better state it, conflict is an issue that doesn't just die with one man, doesn't disappear with one clue, and can't be "ruined" or solved by players with one act of magic.  

If your one true love's soul is trapped in a seal holding back the demon masses, do you free her?  Do you search for another way to stop them?  Do you take her place?  No one spell makes that answer for you.  

If your father orders you to kill your sister, because she holds a terrible secret, do you obey?  If you kill her, can you trust your father?  Will he ask more from you?  If you don't, then what?  Would you kill him to protect your sister?  What if you do, and then it turns out he's right?

How do you do this kind of conflict, after measuring adventures in Challenge Ratings and Hitpoints?  Easy, SAs.  SAs are your greatest strength, and any GM worth their salt will focus the conflict on them, making them your weakness as well.  There's also the #1 way for you as a player to say, "This is what I want our game to be about"

•Big backstory, no actual ties

In too many games, you come with a rationale for why your character is the lone drifter, usually some story involving a demon king murdering/capturing/converting your family, being your father, drow, and some freaky prophecy about you being the chosen one, and someone giving you scars in such a manner so you look like a badass. Oh, yeah, and you make 2 to 20 pages of backstory no one ever sees.  Ever.

Screw that.  Here you get family and friends to fight for, against, alongside with, etc.  You wanna know my history, listen as I scream my lineage before I lop your dog-chewed Nemedian head off and throw it at your father.    Some folks fight cause they're lawful good, me, I fight cause I know if I fall, so does my wife, my son, my mother, and my best friend.  Go watch Braveheart and Gladiator.  You'll see the difference.

And you don't need to know everything about the culture or the area.  Sure, its fun to have the world shaking conspiracy every so often, but go see Seven Samurai for a 3 hour movie about one village, 42 bandits, and 7 samurai.  It don't have to be big to rock the casbah.

So where do these preconceptions come from?  Other games, habits, whatever that folks have picked up and assume apply to all rpgs in existance.  Good things to search for on the Forge are: Scene Framing, Bangs, Kickers, and read up in Ron's article on GNS about Narrativism.

Am I saying that this is the only way to play TROS? No, even Jake doesn't lay that kind of stuff down.  What I am going to say is, if you're play it like D&D, you'll get D&D with extra gore.  If you come in without the preconceptions, you'll see very quickly where the big "ooo-ahh!" comes from.

Anyone else have some unstated bits of TROS?

Chris
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prophet118
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« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2002, 10:54:09 PM »

well combat can be quite a bit longer than in most other games i have seen, or it can end with one simple hit..

i ran the simulator using Geralt and Rapier Case... that fight lasted for about 25 minutes in real time, but ended with Geralt getting his temple and chest punctured at the same time..lol

i do like that though, its an unpredictable thing, and i honestly think thats what scares most D&D players... get some white wolf players, and they just say "well duh"...........then use some cheesy power.....lmfao
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2002, 11:32:59 PM »

I just wanted to chime in and thank Chris for a great thread topic/post/thingie. I for one would like to hear your other observations, guys.

Jake
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2002, 11:38:22 PM »

Chris puts a lot of stuff out there. Wanna kow the real advantage to this style of play? Here's the big secret. It's much easier.

Know what, Shane? I'm a shitty GM, too! But even I can do Narrativist TROS. You say that when playing "freewilled" that your players lack guidance. Know what? This makes them just like every other player who's ever played. That's the normal situation. Every time a player takes the field with a character in Harn, if the GM doesn't have a plot, yes, it all just stands still.

"Um, I guess we go to the tavern and get some beer."

As Chris is trying to point out, TROS gives the players a place to start. If you work with them, and put in a little effort into ensuring that the SAs that they take are compelling to the players (not just the characters), then they will start with their own pre-defined guidance.

But that's not all. The GM does have to do something in Narrativism to get it all started. See, it's not completely "freewilled" play at all. The GM does have to do something that does look like railroading a bit. That is, they GM has to prepare a conflict for the PCs that links into their SAs.

But this is as easy as pie, for two reasons. First, if a player has "Protect the Princess" as an SA, then all you need for conflict is to threaten the Princess somehow. The players in their selection of the SAs are telling you what adventures to write them into. And secondly, since these hooks are going to take your whole session getting through, you don't have to prepare anything else, really. The players don't care that the Inn of the Five Wenches in Slachistan has gabled roofs. Describe the stuff up if you want for color, but you'll find that what the players are intersted in is solely that they man they are hunting is at the Inn. What's on the menu quickly becomes irrelevant when the guy who killed your sister is there.

Now, you say, what's different from this than from the typical railroad adventure? And the difference is that you only present[i/] the conflict. You don't as GM say anything about how the players resolve the issues. This is the only tricky part. You have to present conflicts that have many possible solutions. If the only way to save the Princess is to fight the dragon, then you have railroaded the solution. But if the "threat" to the princess is a marriage proposal from a neigboring principality, and the Princess does not want to be married, then the player has some decisions to make. And that's what's interesting.

Watch for that moment when your player gets that devious twinkle in his eye as he considers just how his character will deal with a merchant who he thinks might possibly have swindled him.

A great technique is to place the character in a situation where he has to decide between two priorities. Protect the Princess, or Duty to the king. One player may decide that duty to country and liege is more important. Another may decide to chuck the Duty SA, and take up a Passion SA for the princess, realizing that the character has fallen for her.  

Get the picture? You simply present a problem with many possible solutions, and the players create a plot by figuring out how their characters solve it, exactly. The cool thing about TROS, is that sooner or later somebody will draw blade, and blood will fly. Almost can't get around it as a solution at some point. The only question will be what they are fighting for.

As such, do not go to a dungeon. :-)

Make all the "opponents" just normal humans who have goals that are diffferent from the characters, or who's actions will instigate trouble. Make quite a few, and figure out some network by which they are entangled. People who, if hurt have people behind them who care. Bring the PCs into contact with these people, and, viola, instant adventure. Before you know it, someone's head will be rolling in the street, and everyone will be nodding, not only about how cool the fight was, but the nifty decision of who to fight in the first place.

To accomplish this all, check out the stuff Chris points out. Lots of cool techniques that make your job even easier. For example, using Bangs, the player basically writes the first session or two worth of conflict for the GM. Now you have literally nothing to do but describe cool scenes, and play the NPCs. Sweet.

Mike
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2002, 06:20:05 AM »

Chris and Mike really put something into perspective for me here.. I think one of the problems I have as a player in most gaming groups is that my characters are either created with an agenda, or get one quickly, whereas most are content to go where the GM leads, even if it's away from the previously followed plot points.
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prophet118
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« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2002, 06:58:07 AM »

well the great part is that with the SA's... the players cant moan and complain if they are only saving princesses... especially if thats one of their SA's...lol

it does hand the player more control, saying that "yes this is what my character does, thinks and feels"... and of course the destiny SA adds alot... but can be dangerous

my wifes sorceror has a destiny, very interesting, but hardly something she really really really wants to happen soon in the game "to become to most powerful sorceror, after death".... i think thats about how its worded..lol
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ShaneNINE
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« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2002, 07:27:38 AM »

Ok! I keep hearing about narrativism and illusionism and a bunch of other stuff like that that you all use to refer to gaming. I need a primer. Where can I read about all that? Are there particularly good threads?

Quote
"Um, I guess we go to the tavern and get some beer."


That's funny. One of the players actually said that after they got to a town where they were supposed to find someone and question him. The guy wasn't there. So the leader says "Well, I guess we'll go to the tavern and get some ale." :) It was one of those staring at each other moments.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2002, 09:16:41 AM »

Quote from: ShaneNINE
Ok! I keep hearing about narrativism and illusionism and a bunch of other stuff like that that you all use to refer to gaming. I need a primer. Where can I read about all that? Are there particularly good threads?

My first suggestion is kinda odd. Don't bother with those terms. Look up the stuff Chris talked about, and stick to the principles that we layed out, and it'll work.

But, if you're just the curious type, and want to get into the theory, well, there's the GNS article in the articles link. Any shorter definitions are as likely to get you into trouble as to help. Further research should be done on the GNS and Theory fora.

But, just to get you into trouble, here are the pat short definitions of the terms you mention. Narrativism involves players making decisions in play based on addressing questions of a moral or ethical nature that are relevant to them as players (not neccessarily to the characters). Illusionism is play where the players just decide PC action based on "what my character would do" thinking, and the GM then uses behind the scene methods to ensure that something resembling a story occurs. The classic example of an Illusionist technique is asking players which road they want to go down, and then having the encounter with the Gol fort happen no matter which they take.

Essentially the difference is that players realize that illusionism is occuring when it is (not the specific instances, neccessarily, but that the GM uses it overall), and some players don't like it. They would prefer to join with the GM in authoring the game's themes.

That all said, the reason I told you not to look them up is that there isn't any particular decision to be made here. Players prefer what they prefer, and it's best to just cater to them in the way that you feel will work best. As such, the methods that we've suggested, and described above will support all your play of either of these methods. TROS is designed well to support that range of styles.

The only difference in how you do each of these with respect to the methods sugested, is that in Illusionist play, you do make the decisions for how the characters will resolve conflicts. You just do it in inobvious ways. This is actually much more difficult, but if the players completely fail to be engaged by their SAs (likely a failure during chargen), and the conflicts that impact them, then you are forced back to illusionism.

Essentially, the narrativist rout co-opts the players efforts in creating the story. The only high effort parts are A) ensuring that the players really like their SAs in terms of the stories that can revolve about them, and B) coming up with Bangs: those conflicts which engage their SAs, but leave the decisions open for the players.

In the long run, however, this is about half as much work as figuring out before hand how it will all go, and then figuring out how to successfully drive the characters through it.

Mike
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Bankuei
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« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2002, 10:26:48 AM »

Quote
Chris and Mike really put something into perspective for me here.. I think one of the problems I have as a player in most gaming groups is that my characters are either created with an agenda, or get one quickly, whereas most are content to go where the GM leads, even if it's away from the previously followed plot points.


Which really links into another piece of jargon, but one that is totally valid to TROS-protagonism.   To lay it out, the protagonist is the main character of the story, that is, the story is based around the actions and decisions of that character.   The opposite theme-deprotagonization, is when you strip the player characters(who should be the protagonists) of the ability to have input in the story, or even over their own characters' actions and reactions.

For a very basic idea, if I create a master fighter, he should be good at fighting.  It is deprotagonizing to curse him to be weak and unable to fight for the campaign.  It basically blows up my character idea without my permission.

Most players, have what I call an "unstated story" about their characters when the create them.  When you make a character, you typically envision the cool sorts of adventures you want to see them in.  Then in actual play, when railroading happens, you never see those adventures, and so, are left unfufilled.   Going back to my example, if my warrior is a barbaric raider who wanders the land, I don't want to be playing court intrigue.

The terrible thing is, when players are unfufilled, they don't know why they're not happy with the way things turn out, but then they come back for more, because "This time it'll be different!"  It is absolutely just like an abusive relationship, "Baby, I'll change!", etc.  Whether you're talking a new setting, more spells, different levels, and most systems out there, when you railroad, you railroad.  

The reason folks can't think of it otherwise is because few games have addressed actual play, improvising, or driving a game based on something other than challenge ratings and hit points.  Then you have videogames which can tell a great story, but it, too is railroaded.  With these examples to draw from, most gamers don't realize that there's more ways to play.  

When the GM tells the story, the players don't.  When everyone contributes/makes the story, then no one person is telling it.  For most GMs, it requires letting go of a lot of control and safety nets, and being willing to accept that anything could happen.

In the TROS game I played with Clinton Nixon, several things occurred that even he, as a GM, didn't plan for; A minor NPC became the major kickass sorcerer serving the wrong side, the King somehow survived what should have been a public assassination via magic    These were not small plot changes, these completely altered the way the story came out.

Either the GM's happy little story & prepackaged world lives, or the player characters live.  One has to be sacrificed for the other in terms of making a good story.

Chris
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Brian Leybourne
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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2002, 04:48:41 PM »

Quote from: prophet118
well combat can be quite a bit longer than in most other games i have seen, or it can end with one simple hit..

i ran the simulator using Geralt and Rapier Case... that fight lasted for about 25 minutes in real time, but ended with Geralt getting his temple and chest punctured at the same time..lol


Yeah, when/if I update the combat sim, I'm going to add the fatigue rules in there, that should speed up the long fights.

Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
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prophet118
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« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2002, 09:06:43 PM »

that would rock man, cuz right now im using the combat sim as a way to make sure i get the flow of it..lol
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LordIvan
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« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2003, 07:50:53 PM »

Ummm.... forgive me if I'm a little out of line here... But what makes this unique to TROS?

It seems to me that our gaming group has been doing this for years... irrespective of the system... Star wars d6, homegrown, white wolf, deadlands, amber, and, may the saints forgive me... D&D.

But obviously we weren't _really_ roleplaying, because we weren't playing TROS. You need a lethal combat system and spritual attributes to do that.

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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2003, 08:18:02 PM »

Quote from: LordIvan
Ummm.... forgive me if I'm a little out of line here... But what makes this unique to TROS?


BL>  Nothing at all.  Most of us have been doing it for years, too.  TROS, systematically, makes playing this type of game easier.
  I don't give a flying fuck about narrativism.  I really don't.  And I'm a theoryhead.  I run and play TROS because I like what it does for me -- it takes the headache out of playing the type of game that I want to play -- the type of game which generates real fear, moral doubt, and heroism amongst the players.

Quote

It seems to me that our gaming group has been doing this for years... irrespective of the system... Star wars d6, homegrown, white wolf, deadlands, amber, and, may the saints forgive me... D&D.
But obviously we weren't _really_ roleplaying, because we weren't playing TROS. You need a lethal combat system and spritual attributes to do that.


BL>  Hey, the two best games I've ever run were D&D (2nd and 3rd ed)  I just had to strain and twist to make them work under the awkward system.  (I should NOT have to give a serial killer a magical weapon just to make him dangerous, damnit!)
  You seem wildly predisposed against this game and its players, and there is probably nothing I can do about that.  But I don't think that anyone here is out to get other RPG players.  We play TRoS because we have fun with it.  And, if you're having fun, you're role-playing right.
  So many people here say "this is REALLY role-playing" because they have been wanting to play this sort of game for a long time, but haven't been able to, because the standardly available systems have not supported their style of play.  Finally, they are REALLY role-playing -- by which I mean that they are having fun with their games.  If you can support your style of play with other systems, go you.

  If you dislike dramatic stories and brutal combat in RPGs, you won't like the Riddle of Steel, and more power to you.  If you like those two things, this game will be good for you, and don't let the fans' enthusiasm get in the way of you enjoying it.

yrs--
--Ben
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Bankuei
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« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2003, 08:47:50 PM »

Hi Ivan,

I had thought this thread long dead, but if you'd like to continue discussion on it, that's cool by me.  By no means am I saying that TROS is the "only way to play".  What I AM saying though, is that what many folks consider "Standard Play" doesn't fly with TROS.  

If you and your group have been playing in a similar manner with whatever system, cool.  I'm sure you and your group would have similar issues with someone coming in who plays according to the mythical "Standard Play".

My initial post is aimed for folks who haven't considered that there is more than one style of play, and are coming to TROS and not understanding why it doesn't match up with what they're used to.  At no point do I say that TROS is the only way to roleplay, or that you have to get all that dramatic to be "roleplaying".

Chris
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LordIvan
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« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2003, 09:34:06 PM »

Quote
 You seem wildly predisposed against this game and its players, and there is probably nothing I can do about that.  


Sorry, my original comment was perhaps a tad over the top (at least the last line of it.
 I'm not wildly predisposed against the game - More bewildered and perhaps a little annoyed by the fact that most of the rhetoric I've seen on TROS seems to be aimed at telling me that I've not really roleplayed before until I've played TROS.
 Agree with you completely on the fact everyone likes a different style of game, and thus not every game is for everyone.
 My main source of contention/confusion/concern with TROS is the fact that half the folk seem to wildly claim that a characters goals and story is the most important thing about a ROS campaign, yet then they and the other half keep talking about this great complicated, realistic, and above all, deadly combat system.

 So - my question is this - granted, a little tension is good in a game and scene to keep you on your toes... BUT if combat is so dangerous - How the hell do you keep your character alive long enough to actually achieve any goal or storyline?

If you do it by avoiding combat, then whats the point of a complex combat system?

How have people been running it? In actual games, how does this _really_ pan out?
 Do you have so few combats, that character death is not an issue? (and - well, lets just say that I quite enjoy the odd combat in a game, and its a shame if you spend all your time avoiding a fight.)
 Or do your characters get in to many scraps, and lose characters left right and center? (I hate loosing a character, as my GM can attest :) )


 No theory, talk of how SA's change it all - I want to hear how a real, long term TROS campaign actually runs - Both combat, and what SA's do to characters decisions, and why it made it easier for you as a GM. How it affects the play.
  I personally don't want to play a game where I'm to worried about my character to actually ever DO anything to follow my characters goals, or anything remotely resembling fun.

Bankui - The thread isn't dead as long as someones trolling :) I wouldn't bother reading this if I didn't have some interest in the entire thing. It's not just to light peoples wicks. And thanks for the clarification of the intent of your original post - If I'd caused offence, I do apologise.

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