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Author Topic: MOVers and Shakers  (Read 3037 times)
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« on: January 08, 2003, 11:59:05 AM »

Hello James,

One of these days I think I'm going to dip my toe in the Pool.

Before I do, I'd like to ask a couple of questions if I may.

First question...

Some players are better at creating and verbalizing vivid descriptions than others. I suspect that in a game like the Pool that empowers player through the use of a MOV a couple of our players would struggle since narrative finesse is not their forte.

For one reason or another they are the kind of players that don't like the spotlight on them. I realise that the Pool doesn't require players to make a MOV and these players would probably always take a die instead of taking a MOV.

Conversely, I can envisage other players almost always taking a MOV because they would get a real kick out of being the centre of attention and would have confidence in their ability to directing play. I can see that a MOV would be a key feature game feature for these players.

Given the makeup of our group, and the egos and personalities involved, I see this as being a potential problem.

Maybe I'm being over cautious but I can envisage the less narratively adept players developing the feeling that they are somewhat dis-empowered because they are loathe (for whatever reason) to step up and make a MOV.

Have you ever encountered this problem?

How can I coax these players from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end without them drowning?

Second question...

Showing my roleplay roots a little, but here goes...

In play, I envision that some conflicts for the characters are going to be easier (or harder) than others.

The Pool appears to treat all conflicts exactly the same and the potential difficulty of conflicts is never openly mentioned in the Pool.

The Pool suggests that the GM allocates 1-3 GM dice to the player, but never actually says why?

Are these dice allocated to denote the GMs perceived relevence and/or importance of the characters action?

i.e. 1 dice if the players action is pretty meaningless and inconsequential to the story. 3 if the action is something that would provide a brilliant plot twist, in keeping with the character, etc?

Or do the GM dice denote denote the GMs perceived "difficulty" or the task at hand.

i.e. 1 dice if the players action is difficult. 3 dice if it's pretty easy.

I must confess that I'm fighting the urge to tweak the Pool so that more difficult contests would require more than 1 success.

What is your take on the GM establishing a difficulty for contests in the Pool? Is it unnecessary?
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James V. West
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Posts: 567


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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2003, 01:25:40 PM »

Quote from: Cassidy
Some players are better at creating and verbalizing vivid descriptions than others. I suspect that in a game like the Pool that empowers player through the use of a MOV a couple of our players would struggle since narrative finesse is not their forte.


I've encountered this myself. Being the one calling the shots is really alien territory to some players.

The rules don't ever really require that someone giving a MOV engages in any kind of acting or lavish narration. All it says is a player can do these things, and gives guidelines for things not to do.

I suggest letting less spotlight-oriented players get by with giving more cut-n-dry MOVs at first. Let them just kinda address the GM directly, if need be, and just say what they want to happen. "I wanna not get knocked down that hill...and I wanna...I don't know...maybe have him trip over his own staff or something...", see? Then, although it isn't fully in the spirit of the game, you could step in as GM and give those desires a fuller narration.

The benefit of doing this is that you could stretch the player's desires for the MOV a bit, showing him or her what a MOV can be like: "Hagger trips Mort, but Mort--getting fed up with this jackass' bullying--grabs Hagger's robe and literally throws the man over the hillside. As he rolls and tumbles--a ball of black and yellow silk--silver coins begin to spill out of his purse, making a sparkling trail down to the creek below. Naturally, there is a lot of foul language to boot."

After doing this once or twice, you'd want to start encouraging the player to stretch his or her own MOVs within the guidlines defined by The Pool. I think that, if a player likes the game, he or she will eventually latch on to the idea and you'll never have to narrate for them again.

Quote

In play, I envision that some conflicts for the characters are going to be easier (or harder) than others.

The Pool appears to treat all conflicts exactly the same and the potential difficulty of conflicts is never openly mentioned in the Pool.


There is no need for difficulty levels in The Pool. It just ins't that kind of game. I'm not the guy to talk to about Narrative or Gamist, or Simulationist concerns, but this game really is all about storytelling. In a story, there's no such thing as levels of difficulty, only levels of importance. And in this game that importance is placed entirely in the hands of the players. If they really want to narrate a conflict, they'll throw more dice (if they have them). Wether the conflict involves brain surgery or making instant pudding makes absolutely no difference.

Quote

The Pool suggests that the GM allocates 1-3 GM dice to the player, but never actually says why?


Those dice are there for the GM's own descrepency. They can be used to help bolster a roll when a player's Pool is low or empty and his Trait Bonus is not that great, or they can just be thrown in when the GM is excited about the conflict too.

Quote

I must confess that I'm fighting the urge to tweak the Pool so that more difficult contests would require more than 1 success.


I've always supported any attempt to muck with the rules and alter the game to better serve a specific setting or premise. But I really implore you to try it as is before changing anything. Just do a short game and see how it goes.

Tweaking the rules to require more than one success is, in my opinion, a very bad idea. It's hard enough to get that allmighty 1, but getting several of them would become nigh impossible in many cases. If you add this kind of rule, but leave everything else the same, I think you're asking for trouble. Pools will dwindle much more rapidly than they normally do. You could find youself 30 minutes into the game and every player is sitting there with no dice to roll.

Not to mention it adds un-necessary complexity to what is supposed to be a very simple game.

I hope some of this is helpful! I look forward to hearing about your experiences with the game.
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2003, 02:19:43 PM »

Thanks for the reply James, much appreciated.

From what you say the adage "Lead by Example" seems to be the best way of easing players into the Pool.

The reason I mentioned 'difficulty' is because of concerns that some players may over extend the MOV in ways that would to me as GM (and possibly the other players), negatively affect the believablity of the story being told.

eg:

GM: Unarmed and cornered, you face 6 of the Kings guard, swords drawn they tell you to surrender.
Player: "Come and get me you bastards."
(GM hands the player a die, player uses 1 trait die (ex-soldier) and gambles say 4 from his pool)
(Player rolls 6 dice, gets a 1, elects to make a MOV and then narrates how he disarms one of the guards and butchers the other 5).

Given the tone and established facts of this imagined scene such a MOV is way over the top. It would be hard for me as GM (and maybe the other players too) to rationalize the players MOV and still maintain a sense of believability in the story that is being told.

That's an extreme example granted but it is something that a certain type of player might do if they over extend their MOV.

Of course, if I were GM I could step in, tell the player that their MOV is not appropriate given the established tone and facts of the game, and then give the player some pointers on what would be more appropriate. That's an interruption to play I'd rather avoid if possible. I'm just concerned that some players may get a little bit carried away with their MOVs.

Until I jump into the Pool (and I will, soon) I know I'm second guessing my players but thats only because I want their experience of my games (and the Pool) to be a positive one.
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James V. West
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Posts: 567


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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2003, 02:40:47 PM »

Quote from: Cassidy
Thanks for the reply James, much appreciated.


No problem.

Quote

From what you say the adage "Lead by Example" seems to be the best way of easing players into the Pool.


Exactly!

Quote

Given the tone and established facts of this imagined scene such a MOV is way over the top. It would be hard for me as GM (and maybe the other players too) to rationalize the players MOV and still maintain a sense of believability in the story that is being told.

That's an extreme example granted but it is something that a certain type of player might do if they over extend their MOV.


I think any decent person would not do this once they understood the social contract you and your players have set down. But if someone persisted, I'd just as soon not ask them back again. But that's me.

Your GM-interrupt power is the best way to establish what will be toloerated early in the game (if it even comes to that). Once people get it, you shouldn't see much in the way of abuse.

Also wanted to point out that even if you tweaked difficulty by requiring more successes, you're still going to have to deal with the guy who gives the really over-the-top MOV when he does get that successful roll. You won't have solved that problem

Sounds like you already understand the game pretty well.
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Paganini
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2003, 05:06:05 PM »

Quote from: James V. West

There is no need for difficulty levels in The Pool. It just ins't that kind of game. I'm not the guy to talk to about Narrative or Gamist, or Simulationist concerns, but this game really is all about storytelling. In a story, there's no such thing as levels of difficulty, only levels of importance. And in this game that importance is placed entirely in the hands of the players. If they really want to narrate a conflict, they'll throw more dice (if they have them). Wether the conflict involves brain surgery or making instant pudding makes absolutely no difference.


Rock on, James! :)

Quote

Those dice are there for the GM's own descrepency. They can be used to help bolster a roll when a player's Pool is low or empty and his Trait Bonus is not that great, or they can just be thrown in when the GM is excited about the conflict too.


I suggest using the Rule of Three, which is that whenever the GM gives out dice (whether gift dice, reward dice, etc.) he *always* chooses from 1 to 3. No special cases.

I just want to point out one thing about the "over the top MoVs." What Cassidy is describing is not a problem with the Pool. It's a potential social contract issue that can arise in any game in which players have a large degree of director-style control.

It's not a matter of abusing the system; it's a matter of the participants not having a shared vision of the game's desired progression. This is why it's important to discuss this stuff up front. You see, when Cassidy wrote:

"Given the tone and established facts of this imagined scene such a MOV is way over the top."

I was thinking "What tone? What established facts?" Your post doesn't tell us your group's accepted conventions. Without that context, the text that you wrote is a great example of how the Pool should be used. In this kind of game it's not up to the GM to try and conform play to his own unique vision. Let your players do what they want. That's the whole point of the MoVs. Players have the power. Not you. If you don't prefer to play like this, that's groovy. It's all personal preference. But PLEEEZE don't try to make the Pool into something it isn't!
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2003, 03:59:36 AM »

Quote from: Paganini
I just want to point out one thing about the "over the top MoVs." What Cassidy is describing is not a problem with the Pool. It's a potential social contract issue that can arise in any game in which players have a large degree of director-style control.


I agree. This is not an issue solely with the Pool.

Quote from: Paganini
It's not a matter of abusing the system; it's a matter of the participants not having a shared vision of the game's desired progression.

This is why it's important to discuss this stuff up front. You see, when Cassidy wrote:

"Given the tone and established facts of this imagined scene such a MOV is way over the top."

I was thinking "What tone? What established facts?" Your post doesn't tell us your group's accepted conventions.


True, I should have. One aspect of our social contract is that the players are expected to play in a consistent and coherent fashion based on the elements that the player has defined for their character (i.e. their background, motivations, traits, etc) and the established setting and premise of the game.

To be honest I do not want players overdosing on directorial control that MOVs allow. Initially, I would probably limit the acceptable scope of their MOVs to their own characters and game elements that directly affect their characters. Over time, I would hope to widen the scope of MOVs little by little, as the players become more adept at the controlling the narrative.

Paganini, you have a big advantage over myself inasmuch that your Indie Netgaming Group allows you to roleplay with experienced players many of whom are game designers in their own right. They are better able to grasp the nuances of a game like the Pool than a group like ours who have had less exposure to innovative RPGs.

Our group only plays once a week and the Pool is a significant departure from the staple RPGs we are used to playing. That's why I feel inclined to limit the degree of directorial control that the players have, at least to start off with, as a means of easing the players into the game without them going crazy.

I really would like to run the Pool with our entire group however I think I'd run it with 3-4 players first to bypass some of the inevitable flak I can see coming my way. I know at least one player would undoubtedly abuse the Pool. I'd rather not have to deal with the hassle of reining him in.
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Paganini
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2003, 06:44:33 AM »

Quote from: Cassidy

True, I should have. One aspect of our social contract is that the players are expected to play in a consistent and coherent fashion based on the elements that the player has defined for their character (i.e. their background, motivations, traits, etc) and the established setting and premise of the game.


It sounds to me like the Pool would be a fairly good fit for your group, convention wise. It specificaly requires that MoVs be consistent with pre-established information. However:

Quote

To be honest I do not want players overdosing on directorial control that MOVs allow. Initially, I would probably limit the acceptable scope of their MOVs to their own characters and game elements that directly affect their characters. Over time, I would hope to widen the scope of MOVs little by little, as the players become more adept at the controlling the narrative.


I think this is a *really* bad idea. The Pool is, basically, about letting the players be the GM for a limited amount of time. It doesn't limit *what* they can do as the GM, just *how long* they get to do it. If you're always there in the background trying to make sure that they do a good job... ack! If you want to ease your players into the idea of narrative control, how about trying a game that just uses less of it? Donjon, for example.

Just one note: In my experience the typical response of players who are not used to this sort of thing is not to go over the top and shred the social contract right and left. The most common response is for players to freeze up and not know what to say. "You mean I can say anything I want? But won't that screw up your story?" Etc. etc. If you make the situation clear up front it helps.  "I don't *have* a pre-set story, the story belongs to you. When you get a MoV you can say anything you want, as long as it doesn't contradict things that other people have said."

Quote

Paganini, you have a big advantage over myself inasmuch that your Indie Netgaming Group allows you to roleplay with experienced players many of whom are game designers in their own right. They are better able to grasp the nuances of a game like the Pool than a group like ours who have had less exposure to innovative RPGs.


Well... uh... yeah, it's true I do play with a bunch of GMs. But not *everyone* in the group is an old hand at this stuff. I think you might be surprised at how quick your players catch on to the Pool. The Pool is pretty simple in function. It doesn't take that long to really grok what's going on.

Just, for one session, drop the idea that the game can be abused. It can't be, not through normal use. It can only be abused if someone breaks the rules, which is what you're there to keep an eye out for. Tthe idea that as a GM "You're in control! It's your game! Make the players do what you want!" is incredibly ingrained into RPG culture. With the Pool, you have to completely throw out that idea. The players are all *almost* as much the GM as you are. I think Bob (McNamee) did more narrating in the Indie Net-gaming Pool game than I did. :)

The story you produce may be nothing like what your group normally does. Your flow and pacing may be totally different. But at least try it as written once and see what happens. Until you actually see how a game interfaces with your group, it's practicaly impossible to say what will happen.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2003, 07:11:28 AM »

Hi Cassidy,

Dude, I'm with Nathan on this one. His observations about what people do with the MoV first-time-'round are what I've observed many times, with many different people, of many different backgrounds in role-playing.

You're being kind of ... you know, sure that a scene such as you describe would be out of line at the Social Contract level. Are you sure that it's out of line at that level or at your habitual comfort level?

Anyway, no biggie. Nathan and I are providing food for thought, not telling you how to play. If you'd prefer to go with the standard you're describing, then that's fine, but do recognize that it's common for people to try to "defend" Pool play from abuse with add-on provisos before they play, then to complain when their defensive measures overwhelm play.

Best,
Ron
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James V. West
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Posts: 567


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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2003, 07:54:41 AM »

Nathan, Ron, well spoken.

I wanted to point out that I'm the creator of the game and even I have expressed concerns over potential abuse in the past. Yet...I've never witnessed a single instance of "abuse".

I really hate all the Pool puns (well..."hate" is a strong word), but playing The Pool is like learning to swim in one. Some people need to ease in slowly (by playing a game with a bit less director control, such as Donjon as Nathan suggested, or with exteneded support by the GM [or other players] as I suggested) and some people will be better off diving right into the deep end.

In fact, this is true of any game that doesn't fit into the classic rpg model, be it Sorcerer, InSpectres, Universalis, or what have you. It's the equivalent of taking an old-school metalhead to a  jazz improv. Before the night's over he's either going to be headbanging or hot-footing it out the door.
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2003, 09:36:12 AM »

James, Ron, Nathan, thanks for taking the time to respond.

Taking your suggestions on board I think I'll run the Pool as is, no modifications, just a very simple story that can be run in one session.

I'll be sure to let you guys know how I get on.
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Bob McNamee
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Posts: 685


« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2003, 01:18:11 PM »

You're right Nathan... I did narrate more...

But, in the Four-Color Supers Pool playtest I GMed with two of my players I didn't narrate on a roll even once!
 (we  adopted the Monologue of Defeat from Questing Beast too, which ended up making all of their rolls either a Victory or a Defeat)

My narration ended up just nudging the game along here and there in between their narrations... but it was all in Genre, they liked the game, and we had a good time!

Bob McNamee
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Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
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