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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: GMing the Pool  (Read 2829 times)
Cassidy
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Posts: 165


« on: January 12, 2003, 04:59:17 AM »

Hello all,

I'm in the process of preparing to run with the Pool and I find myself wondering about how best to actually do it.

Normally, if I was DMing a traditional RPG (say something like MERP), I would do quite a lot of preparation beforehand, familarizing myself with the setting, establishing broad plot outlines, possible situations and dilemmas, NPCs, etc.

Through the course of play the players would use these game elements as the building blocks for the story being told. The players (via their characters) would influence events in game and a story of sorts would unfold.

In GNS terms the games I tend to run have a strong emphasis on SIM play inasmuch that the game is set up to promote exploration of setting, character and situation. I employ directorial control to drive the story along influenced by the actions of the characters. Play progresses, situations arise, the players act and I react based on my objective interpretation of their actions.

In the Pool instances of play that would normally be under the directorial control of the GM can be controlled by the players. The players are not necessarily limited by their characters as the only means of influencing play. Consequently the narrative control of the game is at times shared and everyone has the potential to direct the course of the game in ways that were previously the remit of the GM alone.

It occurs to me that preparing to play the Pool requires a different approach to that of preparing to run a traditional RPG.

Given the collaborative narrative of actual Pool play I feel inclined to get  the players actively involved in the preparation of the game even before play begins.

While I as GM can establish the setting and propose a premise and some potential plotlines the input of the players themselves seems vital if eveyone is going to be playing the game with a shared perspective and a common goal in mind.

To that end I am considering having a brainstorming session with the players first session. For a literary analogy consider it to be "Chapter One" of the story being told.

I would as GM present some initial ideas and propose a premise that I feel would be engaging to the players to get the ball rolling. I want to encourage everyone to put forward their own thoughts and ideas on what they see as being potential game elements worthy of inclusion, ideas are bounced back and forth, relationships between the elements can be established and (hopefully) agreed upon.

An element could be a person, a group, a kingdom, a location, an event, potential conflicts, an established situation, an aspect of history, an item, virtually anything that by consensus of the players can be used to provide fuel for collaborative storytelling.

The brainstorming session will hopefully give each player the opportunity to 'get involved' and feel that they are collaborating. In addition I hope that it will fix in the players' own minds the realisation that although I may be GM I'm not the one 'running' the game - they are.

I realise that 'brainstorming' is a fairly loose term and would perhaps require some structure if it were to be acheived smoothly and thus create a set of coherent plot elements that players can confidently use during play. I have faith in my players though, they can be a very inventive bunch.

With the story elements agreed upon by everyone and the stage set then (continuing the liteary analogy) the page would turn and play would commence on "Chapter 2".

Maybe this approach to preparing to play the Pool is something that people have already tried and may already using.

In any case it seems like an ideal way to establish a framework for promoting the kind of collaborative narrative that the Pool uses in play.

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2003, 07:49:40 AM »

Hi Cassidy,

What you're experiencing is fear.

Your brainstorming proposal sounds, to me, very much as if you're trying to establish the possible range of What Can Happen during play, before you play, in order to "keep things from getting wild."

Why?

Perhaps it's that you are used to knowing those parameters, setting them yourself, before usual play. So now, aware that The Pool doesn't let you do this, you want to do it anyway. If your plan is to "make sure" that "we" are all "on the same page" ...

... do you see my point? It looks to me as if you're gazing worriedly at this new thing and seeking hard to make sure it doesn't bite.

Dude, it's all about biting. Let it bite. Here's why I say that.

1) You, the GM, are the one who does all the narrating in the absence of MoVs. That's lots, lots, and lots of input you provide during play. MoVs give you cool stuff and signals to use, just like people think sourcebooks do, except that MoVs work much better.

The Pool is not a bunch of people playing "whose story is it anyway." It never turns out like that.

2) The players are just as good as you, and in a body perhaps much better, at understanding themes and meaningful outcomes. They'll want to do that just as much as you, and in a body perhaps much more. Their input doesn't have to be corralled.

Provided with the basic five elements (and Character is determined by them anyway), then they'll know exactly what to do, once they get used to the idea that they can provide it instead of merely receive it.

3) A chat before play is necessary - sure. But it's all GM-based stuff just as with a "regular" role-playing game! People never understand this - they think (wrongly) that The Pool "must" be some kind of mutualistic, multiple-GM, create-setting-together type thing. It's not. You provide the setting, the set-up, and tons and tons more stuff to the players, at the outset - and you continue to do so as play progresses, just like usual.

It's just that your pre-play work is lessened by being aware that you don't have to railroad outcomes, or tailor conflicts such that certain outcomes are "most likely." You don't have to set up the ending, but rather cherry-pick the amazing input from the players, and influence play by playing as a player, rather than God-on-High.

That's all. I strongly recommend that you not brainstorm in this fashion but provide a setting, a map, a basic situation, etc, just like you do in your usual play.

Best,
Ron
I think you're trying to make sure that the story operates within parameters that you can feel safe in. I don't th
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2003, 09:39:45 AM »

Hi Ron,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Your brainstorming proposal sounds, to me, very much as if you're trying to establish the possible range of What Can Happen during play, before you play, in order to "keep things from getting wild."


Yes, I am concerned about the possibility of a player taking the game off on a tangent and/or introducing some element to the story that the other players consider to be a load of bollocks and have no interest in.

Quote from: Cassidy
While I as GM can establish the setting and propose a premise and some potential plotlines the input of the players themselves seems vital if eveyone is going to be playing the game with a shared perspective and a common goal in mind.


Knowing what the other players want (and don't want) from the game strikes me as something that the players should be aware of if their  collaborative efforts are going to create a mutually engaging and enjoyable story.

By the way, does anyone have any transcripts of play using the Pool. I think I'd find it useful to read through some play examples to give me an idea of play in practice.
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Paganini
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2003, 10:28:16 AM »

<snipage>

Quote from: Cassidy

Given the collaborative narrative of actual Pool play I feel inclined to get  the players actively involved in the preparation of the game even before play begins.


<snipage>

This is good. I think up front discussion about tone, setting, content, theme, and so on is absolutely required for games in which the players are largely responsible for creating the story. For the Banana Republic game we spent about a week in email creating characters, discussing theme, and so on.

That game was somewhat unique in that the entire thing was a flashback. We played the final scene out first then jumped back to the beginning of the events leading up to it. Heh heh heh... bet it's the only game ever run in which the majority of the characters die in a nuclear explosion in the first scene. :)

Your approach looks excellent to me. If you use the pre-game discussion "brainstorming" to establish a common ground for the group, it should to some very good focused play.

Edit: I wrote this post before reading Ron's reply, and while I agree with him in spirit, I contend that mutual understanding is a Good Thing. As with any RPG, the group needs to decide before playing "what they will enjoy imagining." I didn't get the sense from Cassidy's post that he in any way intended the brainstorming to be "here's what you can't do in the game." It seemed to me more of a way to make sure that the game was something that everyone had a vested interest in imagining. This is basically what we did for Banana Republic.

We do have actual play transcripts from the Banana Republic game. The pre-game discussion is also avaiable in the archives of the Indie Net-gaming yahoo group. You can get access to them if you join. (Hint hint. :)
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James V. West
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2003, 07:08:42 PM »

Hey Cassidy

When I play, I usually just dive in like I would with any game. I do some prep work and have a lot of stuff sort of tucked away and then I just let the story go where it needs to go and pull out the prepped material as needed.

Of course, you can do a lot of prep work and work with the players to establish a context for the game. There's nothing wrong with that approach.

Check out my other game The Questing Beast. TQB actually addresses the need to establish a solid setting concept with all players involved in the process--the result is called an Accord. The game is basically The Pool with an Arthurian anthropomorphic theme.

I think my advice, though, is to plan a very loose, short game of The Pool with no extra prep work of any kind. Just do what you normally do and be prepared to let some prepped elements fall by the wayside as the story moves through it's motions. Do this and see first hand how the game works. Then go for something more elaborate, if that's what you want.

Good luck!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2003, 07:32:10 AM »

Hi there,

To clarify, my argument is that The Pool requires no unique form of pre-play discussion.

Best,
Ron
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2003, 09:58:20 AM »

Although I'd originally planned to run a one session Pool game I don't think that would be enough to get a proper feel for the game. On reflection I think I'll run a 3-4 session game, no special prep (as James/Ron suggest) and see how we get on.

Thanks for the input everyone - you've given me lots to think about.
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