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Author Topic: Re: The Conflict is Yours  (Read 23999 times)
Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #30 on: February 02, 2003, 05:58:09 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Jason, it sounds to me as if you have some assumptions about GMing and the GM's notes. Your posts say, to my reading anyway, that the process is either referencing a flow chart, which to me includes arrows and "go here, then there, or here" kind of planned directions, or it's improvisation. You also suggest that the chart is very useful while GMing in the way that Fang is talking about.

All of the above is my reading of what you've presented. If I'm wrong, let me know.


Quote from: Le Joueur
Who said anything about 'going without crutches?' I'm not communicating here; I already suggested character hooks and 'neat turns' (or twists) in a list. How is that not a valuable tool, a crutch if you will, for improvisation?


Ron, my assumptions about it having to be one way or the other was my interpretation of Fang's response to me.  I don't believe such a dichotomy need exist, but I got the impression he did and I was trying to refute it.  Judging by his response, and his agreement with yours, I'd say that was not what was meant.

Quote from: Le Joueur
Then get rid of the "flow" in your chart, the "and then this" part, because that's where it stops being improvisation and starts being control. (For that matter, throw out the "chart" part too, because a chart implies positional relationships, almost as much 'flow' as before; the only chart that might be handy is one that implies relationships rather than order.) There is nothing 'organic' about putting events in a predetermined order. An 'organic' list of hooks and turns would be almost deliberately out-of-order; this I suggested.


It was a short post, and I don't think I conveyed the structure for the chart very well.  I think you hit the heart of the dispute with your comments about 'organic'.  I see two valid approaches to such a chart (atleast two that we are discussing), but there is a big difference between the two of them:

(1) A chart of events and turns that might happen pieced together in a logical chain.  Basically, mapping out your plot, but leaving some options open.  The chart is structured on scenes, or events that might happen.  For the approach we are discussing in this thread I fully agree it would be better as a list of ideas, without the chart.

(2)  A chart starting with a single event (or hook) that grows outward based on 'what if the players do this? or this? or this?' questions, leading to 'then this might happen'(s).  The chart is structured around these AND|OR|NOR gates (Find bad guy, Kill?: Yes|No| Ignore|Befriend).  Basically, it's about trying to account for all the variables of player actions before the game starts; planning ahead for the curve balls; letting the game go where it whilst, but with you as GM doing your best to predict the future (albeit with a little logical 'where it whilst-linkage' so you can cut down your calculations).  In reality you cannot account for all the variables, but you can try to trim the suprises.  If you don't freeze under improv pressure, you probably don't need such a chart.


I'm suggesting (2), and I think you are seeing (1).  I had to get that out, and I've got a lot more to say on the issue.  However, I'll pick the subject (and likely the dispute ;) ) back up at a later date in a more appropriate thread because....

Quote from: Le Joueur
That's fine; you can run a game any way you want. Until I've completed the description of 'shared control' gaming, tossing in 'use this to Transition to rollercoasterism' won't do anything but obscure the understanding of 'shared control' gaming. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Transition, I invented the term after all. You can't Transition from a form until you can do it; I think a thread about Transition would be excellent, just not here. I'm trying to keep this thread on track to explain what is apparently a really tricky gaming technique.


Whamo!

You're dead on.  I was offering up a solution to the 'what if I can't?' and 'what if they won't?' questions.  But, in doing so I went and introduced methods for Transition, or even more complicated: methods for GMing different styles simultaneously to appeal to the needs of different players.

So you're right, I'm gonna drop it.  I'm very interested in seeing where this thread goes, and I don't want to see it lose focus either.

- Jason
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- Cruciel
Le Joueur
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« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2003, 09:01:19 PM »

Quote from: cruciel
Quote from: Le Joueur
Until I've completed the description of 'shared control' gaming, tossing in 'use this to Transition....'  ...I think a thread about Transition would be excellent, just not here. I'm trying to keep this thread on track to explain what is apparently a really tricky gaming technique.

You're dead on.  I was offering up a solution to the 'what if I can't?' and 'what if they won't?' questions.  But, in doing so I went and introduced methods for Transition, or even more complicated...So you're right, I'm gonna drop it.  I'm very interested in seeing where this thread goes, and I don't want to see it lose focus either.

'For now,' I hope; you've got some good ideas going there and I don't want to sound like I'm shutting you down in any way.  I anxiously look forward to threads about Transition from you (and maybe you might research some of what I've done with it so far).

Quote from: cruciel
I think you hit the heart of the dispute with your comments about 'organic'.  I see two valid approaches to such a chart (at least two that we are discussing), but there is a big difference between the two of them:[list=1][*]A chart of events and turns that might happen pieced together in a logical chain...but leaving some options open.

[*]A chart starting with a single event (or hook) that grows outward based on 'what if the players do this? or this? or this?' ...Trying to account for all the variables of player actions...doing your best to predict the future[/list:o]I'm suggesting (2), and I think you are seeing (1).


Actually, no, I was thinking of #2.  Predictions quickly become 'gates' to herd players to; it is still based on the vanity that you, the gamemaster, even can predict player input.  That's what I'm talking about is giving players tons more input (whether they know it or not).  If you try to predict it, heck if you actually do predict it, then the players aren't really having an input because you are interacting with your predictions rather than their actions.  Even if you simply use the chart of predictions as suggestions, you'll be likening potentially unplanned actions to predicted actions, filtering play into the responses to the predictions rather than actual responses.  (Not that it matters in this thread; I hope to take this up later.)

Fang Langford
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2003, 09:13:13 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
I'm not going to say that I hope you're someday soon going to cobble all this together into an article.  I'm going to say that you will do so.  Yah yah, job wife kids, blah blah, excuses excuses.

<dialogue voice="drone" class="xombi-like">Yesss, massster....</dialogue>

Quote from: clehrich
1. Every now and then, in anything but a freeform one-shot, you're going to want something predetermined.  I realize that the basic point of shared GMing is, if I understand you right, precisely that you don't do this, but every now and then there's a reason to.

I need to stop you for a second, actually you have predetermined things all the time.  These are the McGuffins I've been talking about moving 'in front of' the direction play is taking.  Bob's point brings this home quite well:

Quote from: Bob McNamee
Regarding the Deathstar...
If it were me and I really wanted to have a Deathstar (while not being sure exactly what it was), I'd do a Cut Scene very early on...
    Leia in Vader's custody arrives to be questioned by Tarkin the commander of the DeathStar...[/list:u]or even better,
    The Vader choking scene in the meeting room concerning the missing plans, Technology and the Force...[/list:u]As GM I still don't know what a Deathstar is...or where it is...just that it's a terrible weapon.

Bingo!  Notice, even though it reveals a juicy bit coming up, it neither tells what we have to do about it or where it actually is; I mean, it's the deathstar, even if it isn't anything else, it's mobile!

This is a thing, not a consequence.  Defining a "sequence" ahead of time (and that's a major and specific sequence, to be differentiated from a 'reaction'), denies the players their input as well as a chance to obviate that sequence.

'Reactions' are a different animal completely.  The 'reaction' a thing might have can be highly predictable; Jabba hates welchers, the empire hates rebels, the police hate crime, these all lead to fairly predictable 'reactions,' but not predetermined sequences of events.  You don't know that Jabba will keep Han frozen (his predicted reaction didn't include getting a frozen welcher); you don't know that the empire will send the deathstar to Yavin (but since little else is detailed about the empire at that point and it's time for the climax, you could hardly do anything else - the unknown was that 'the rebel base' would even be created - until you had them escape without blowing up the deathstar).

Back to our regularly scheduled question:

Quote from: clehrich
One example would be when the story in an extended campaign has just turned temporarily into a mystery: who whacked this dude?  You don't have a precise answer to that, you don't have a complete story of how it happened for them to go dungeon-crawl-hunt-for-clues on, but there is something you have decided on about this.

Actually, the 'surprise murderer' has got to be the #1 hardest game to improvise.  I'm not saying you don't know who did the killing, I'm saying you don't plan how they find out.  You don't know enough about the crime scene (this is not Sherlock Holmes we're talking) to give them all the clues.  They investigate; you give them clues commensurate with the pacing of the story.  If they're getting it early, you toss out a few red herrings; if they're missing it quite late, you make up some really obvious clues.  The point is, you know 'whodunnit' the whole time, just not how this will come to light.

Quote from: clehrich
Alternatively to continue the SW example, suppose I thought of the Death Star as a way-cool idea, and had an NPC mention it pretty early on so everyone would know about it.  Now I really don't want to railroad more than I absolutely have to; the one thing I need (for whatever reason) is for them to go to the Death Star.  I don't care why, I don't care whether they blow it up, I don't have a map of it, nothing.  I just need them to go there.

See Bob's example above.  You're so close I'm pulling out my hair here; go ahead talk up the deathstar from the very beginning, both in and out of the game, it doesn't predetermine how they get there.  It's the same as 'do you want to play a daring escape' (which by the way, you didn't mention was 'from the deathstar'), if they say 'no' the deathstar is quietly tucked into your pocket until later.  See, you can mention it, you can even build it, you just don't let them know where it is, because you don't know either.

The players go here, the players go there, the players are going to get everywhere eventually.  (Liberally apply 'force' when necessary to keep them moving; direction is irrelevant.)  Until it 'feels' appropriate, you keep sliding the deathstar into the 'near future.'  Let's say they don't want a 'daring escape;' okay, the deathstar isn't there, you harass them a little and toss out clues to what the deathstar is capable of and see where they want to go.  (I know, I know, 'we don't know where to go next' is what they'll say; turn to Han's player and say, "You've got connections, where would be the best type of place to put down?")  The point is, you want the deathstar, be patient, the time to 'spring it' will come, just be ready.

Quote from: clehrich
Again, if I hear you right, you would say that such railroading is very, very dangerous, because it encourages GM-control backsliding, and encourages player passivity.  What you have here is a major point that is invented by the GM and not the players, which is in itself problematic.  So do you have any advice for sharing the game with them when there is one thing you just have to get to?

It's not railroading any more than putting a McDonalds in every town you go to forces you to eat fast food.  It'll probably happen, sooner or later, you're just ready for it.  My advice?

Be Patient.  Let them come to you.  If you have to 'hide' the plans (the bait for PC#2 or any other bait you have in play) on the deathstar; just make sure in that case that you treat their plot to 'sneak in' as completely foolproof.  Rest assured they won't need any help messing it up (let them pick the times to make 'stealth rolls' and such, 'let' them screw it up).

Or not.  So they go to the deathstar, steal the 'hidden plans' and escape unnoticed.  If you've made it scary enough, they'll respect the deathstar for what you want it to be; success!  Next let them figure out how to deal with it.  (That's the point right?)  Secret rebel base?  Sure, give me a minute.  Dogfighting to get to the Achilles Heel works great as a 'thing,' a major point, to 'hang on to for later.'

Quote from: clehrich
2. I think I get your point about sharing vs. Director Stance.  You don't need to be open with the players about what you're doing as such, you just need to share with them and flirt when they won't share back.  Is that more or less right?  And can you explain flirting a bit more?

Sounds like you've pretty much got it.  If I could explain flirting, I probably wouldn't have married the second girl I dated (okay, I was really lucky and am really happy).  I'm not sure where to start.

They've got something you want, action.  You 'hold all the cards,' or so it seems.  Tease and please, show them a little shoulder, but don't take off your shirt.  Bait and switch, watch for the social cues; don't turn into a tease (one who flirts and never delivers).  Come through on the bait the second before the chase becomes boring.  (No matter how cool the bait is, they'll either want something else in a nanosecond, or it'll be 'more trouble than it was worth' to own.)  A negligee is sexier than nudity and don't forget to turn off the lights at the right time.

I've always felt 'the seduction' was a very powerful analogy for gamemastering like this, but have been insecure about talking frankly about it (in front of the kids).

Quote from: clehrich
3. Can shared gaming go well with Director Stance?  I think your point is that it's not about stance, and that telling the players, "You will write the plot now" is intimidating and counter-productive.  But does this approach work well when the players do jump out and direct?  Is it best if it's done like the Confessional in InSpectres, where Director Stance is done in-character, or does that matter?

Oh, absolutely.  Heck, you could 'share gaming' for a bunch of games and then 'come out of the closet' and describe, in detail, how they've 'been doing it' all along and then show them Director Stance (or just Author Stance).  In Scattershot, we have differing amounts of Sharing, Self-Sovereign, Referential, and Gamemasterful; each isn't a 'level to hold to,' but a maximum allowed.  I haven't seen any problem using differing amounts of explicit sharing with 'shared gaming.'  In fact, I can only imagine that Director Stance might only make it easier; one caution though, don't go with a 'mixed group' (some players comfortable with Director Stance and some not), it'll lead to hard feelings.

Quote from: clehrich
4. Does shared gaming help with immersion?  Not that immersion (I mean players being "in character all the time") is necessarily the goal, but does this promote that style of play?

Well, if you mean, 'does it work for people who don't care to do any deliberate meta-game stuff,' then yes, definitely.  Those are the guys I perfected it on.  The better I got at flirting, the more they liked it (and the less prep I needed).  Like flirting, you've got to get good at reading their cues, both in and out of gaming.  Listen to what they liked (without prompting them to tell you, players can be so abashed).  Repeat that kind of stuff.  Talk up examples of what they like.  (Heck, that's why I used Star Wars in the first place.  It's a common, 'wouldja like it like Star Wars' question.)  If you get good enough at flirting and are sensitive to what they would say was their favorite parts of their characters (you can focus on these things safely), they won't even know that you're letting them 'do all the driving.'

And about the "<squats in lotus position before the feet of the master>."

Cut it out, yer making me blush.  Really, this is how I've been gamemastering and prescribing gamemastering for almost a decade.  I'm surprised that this time everyone loves it.

Quote from: clehrich
While I hope you'll remark on those questions above, it looks to me like I should read more or less everything on the Scattershot forum, then ask questions.  So I have a question: where do I start?  It looks to me like the Gaming Model thing should perhaps be first, but what then?  Since Scattershot is an emerging game, not a done deal that can be referred back to, a road-map would really help me a lot.

Hmm.  I'm not really that far.  I suppose you'd best brief yourself on Just the Mechanix, nothing too in depth, just catch the proprietorship and reward stuff.  Next head down to The Scattershot Gaming Model to get the basics.  Then start working your way through the "Emergent Techniques;" I'd like to be able to lay them out in the order that I created them, but I don't have that in front of my (our server keeps bombing, I'm writing this mostly off line).  You probably don't need to dwell on all of the Emergent Techniques at once, but the Sine Qua Non, Genre Expectations, and especially the Genre Expectations and Experience Dice ones are crucial.  Then go back over the Ambitious Approach article because that brings the Approaches into best focus.  Now go back over Just the Mechanix in depth, ask a few questions about how to play, then you'll be ready to pick your....

Yeah, I know I don't have any Genre Expectations done yet.  Did I mention our production schedule is 'as fast as grass grows?'  I wish creating a Genre Expectation was simple so you could just covert whatever you like, but it turns out to be one of the hardest concepts to explain how to do.

At least I'm finally getting up to speed on my 'how to gamemaster' sections.  (Thanks everyone!  This has been amazingly stimulating to the creative process.  Did I mention this happens to be my writing style?  Explain it a coupla dozen times then edit all that together?)

Fang Langford
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clehrich
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« Reply #33 on: February 02, 2003, 09:26:20 PM »

Fang,

The only thing that bothers me here is that it sounds so damn easy.  I've got these couple-inch-thick 3-ring binders for some of my games.  Sigh.

Thanks a lot.  I'm working on my Scattershot reading list now.  See you in the forum.
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Chris Lehrich
hyphz
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Posts: 157


« Reply #34 on: February 03, 2003, 05:34:12 AM »

Hi Fang,

So, I'm getting the ideas here, liking them, and I'm gradually coming up with a bandolier (I *love* that metaphor) for my UA game.  And I just want to clarify the sort of things that can be done here.  (If you want to know the stuff I have so far I'll post it, but I don't think it's relevant to the general discussion, especially since Star Wars is being used as the yardstick example.)  I know you can have characters and things on it, but can you EVER have scenes on the bandolier at all or does that lead to railroading?  Moreover, how deeply can you define the characters on the bandolier so that their interactions don't become completely predictable and create predefined scenes?  What is the distinction between a scene and a 'bang'?

Secondly, what kinds of 'little stuff' can you put in?  What I mean by 'little stuff' is that the players suddenly go quiet and frozen and you don't exactly want to toss in one of the big items (because a) it'll make the plot look disjointed and b) you'll run out of big items too fast), but you need to stir things up.  The obvious thought I have here is PC action consequences, because you can't run out of them (even doing nothing might have consequences for the PCs) and they create coherentness rather than disjointedness; but as you don't know the PCs actions in advance, consequences have to be generated on the fly rather than pre-prepared.  So, is there anything you can pre-prepare and slip into the bandolier for this sort of situation?
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Valamir
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« Reply #35 on: February 03, 2003, 06:11:23 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
Really, this is how I've been gamemastering and prescribing gamemastering for almost a decade.  I'm surprised that this time everyone loves it.


That's probably because this time you did it without the latin ;-)
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #36 on: February 03, 2003, 08:01:42 AM »

Quote from: hyphz
But it took time and I don't think I'd have been able to do it on the fly, which is my ongoing worry.


Just a thought about this.  Don't be afraid to be stumped.  My first UA campaign was great.  In fact, I'd have to say that it's in my top three best RPG campaigns ever.  I'm also fairly experienced at improvising and making it all up.  I can fake it with the best of them, and rarely will my players ever know that I was totally lost.

But.....

At one point during this UA game, my players took a hard right turn away from my concept of where the game was going.  (They did so literally as well.  They turned off the interstate and headed out into the wastes of South Dakota to find a place to live.)  This was NOT what they were "supposed" to be doing.  They were "supposed" to be going to Seattle.  But, as they rightly pointed out, given the information that they had learned, they had zero reason to go to Seattle.  I wasn't going to force them to keep going "my" way.  I had to improvise.  What was I going to do?

I'll tell you what I did.  I stared at them blankly and said, "Uh, guys.  I'm totally stumped.  Let's end the game now and I'll get back to you next week."  (Thankfully we were wrapping up the session at that point anyways.)  My players didn't mind.  In fact, they respected my desire to provide quality GMing for them without blatant railroading against their desires, and they were willing to give me the time to gather my thoughts.  So I took the next week to figure things out, and I was able to return and pick up the game without another hitch.  That hard right turn led to some great roleplaying moments (ask me about Nina sometime) and an excellent climactic ending to the campaign.

So don't be afraid to say, "Duh" and gather your thoughts.  Maybe it will only take a few minutes.  Maybe you'll need to think about it longer.  Just be honest and upfront with your players.  We all have creative lapses, and I think that your players would rather wait for you to gather yourself then be artificially railroaded down a path that they do not wish to take.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
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coming soon: Showdown
Le Joueur
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« Reply #37 on: February 03, 2003, 09:29:36 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
The only thing that bothers me here is that it sounds so damn easy.

Then I am doing it right.

See, all this began as a series of deconstructionist debates oh so long ago.  I eventually settled on 'shared gaming' as the central most 'style' to all styles of gaming.  (One thing you do deconstructing from examples is to find the least modified version to compare everything else to.)  If I can turn this discussion into a decent article, I will be able to use it as 'unmasked gaming' and create templates to reveal all common 'styles' known and traditional to gaming.  (The major driving force behind the 'shared gaming model' has been trying to comprehend how 'gamemasterless live-action role-playing games' compare to regular tabletop.

One thing that confirms this theory is that it is so simple.  (Simplicity is a hallmark of 'unmodified anything.')

Quote from: hyphz
So, I'm getting the ideas here, liking them, and I'm gradually coming up with a bandolier (I *love* that metaphor) for my UA game.  And I just want to clarify the sort of things that can be done here.  (If you want to know the stuff I have so far I'll post it, but I don't think it's relevant to the general discussion, especially since Star Wars is being used as the yardstick example.)  I know you can have characters and things on it, but can you EVER have scenes on the bandolier at all or does that lead to railroading?  Moreover, how deeply can you define the characters on the bandolier so that their interactions don't become completely predictable and create predefined scenes?  What is the distinction between a scene and a 'bang'?

Scenes?  Certainly, but you have to be careful.  Such a scene cannot depend on circumstances 'going a certain way;' think of them as 'orphan scenes.'  In the example, the scene where PC#2 teaches PC#1 something about using the Force; that's an 'orphan scene.'  It coulda happened back when the lightsabre first changed hands, it coulda been a drop-in at any time during on Tatooine, it coulda even been above the hanger at the deathstar before the rescue, you might even note that it has to come before the climax, just not why or when.  It just rides along on your bandolier waiting for the appropriate opportunity.  Choosing it for the 'long drive to Alderaan' is just good pacing (what else can you do other than say 'you're there?').

What you need to avoid is 'this comes right after...' types of scenes.  They make you force their occurrence, and while they work great in other loose 'gamemaster controlled' games, they aren't appropriate here.  Lessee, the 'Greedo scene' is one, so is 'teaching the Force,' the 'goodbye to Dak' scene was too (even though it got cut from the film; it is important because 1) it mighta been good by on Tatooine or goodbye at the rebel base, location didn't matter, and 2) it is just as easily dropped if 'enough' gets going, sacrifice-ability is plus), these scene happen 'in the middle, somewhere.'  Even better are scene fragments and 'establishing/reinforcing' bits; things like the 'walking carpet' comment.

Actually, when dangling off the bandolier, predictable characters are best.  You know who they are, you know what they want, you know 'how far they'll stoop;' what you don't know it where they are, why they're there, why they came up, or what they lead to.  You aren't defining they're interactions or relationships if they're on the bandolier, you only want to know what they're good for.  You might have had a pawn broker/used speeder salesman that doesn't get used, you might have a spy looking for droids they don't encounter, even a 'lazy stormtrooper,' these things are handy to cut down on the 'last minute improvisation' if you find that's a problem.  One of the strengths of the WEG Stars Wars book I saw at Gen Con some years ago was the list of archetypes; I know they were for character generation, but gosh if they didn't make fine bandolier characters.  What you avoid is 'why this character must come up' and 'how they meet this one;' these strangle the natural flow.

Occasionally, you have a major character that you want to come up.  That's when the flirting takes place.  Likewise, the more major the more they should be able to show up by proxy.  Jabba the Hutt is one example, he shows up by proxy in A New Hope (the 'Greedo scene' - you know, his name always stuck with me as an example of uncreative improvisation; he's there to remind us of Han's greed right?) because he's crucial to PC#3's motivation; his appearance is still pretty much scrapped because the game didn't go that way.  Turns out you wound up using stormtroopers all over the place to keep things moving.  (Which way?  Any way.)  Other than that, major characters can turn into McGuffins; you keep moving them in front of the players.  Darth Vader is the prime example here.  Except the cut scene where they threaten Leia (remember it still doesn't establish that the deathstar is necessarily at Alderaan, it coulda already been on its way to Dantooine [sp] if the players opted not to have a 'daring rescue'), nothing says he's on the deathstar until you decide to kill off PC#2 (Bob's gonna be gone anyway and he wants a new character; might as well make this count).  Likewise, I'd say he only appears in the dogfight, because it was turning out that it was going to be the ultimate climax (you want all the 'players' present for that); he coulda just as easily been off pursuing other 'empire business' (save that guy for later).

To be honest, I haven't been able to purchase Mr. Edwards' fine works so I can't really make the call on 'Bangs.'  I leave it to anyone who knows to compare with the above, if they so desire.  I'm inclined to believe (and I'm just guessing here) the items on your bandolier are primarily the ingredients you use to make or solve a Bang.  (Pick a place, a character, and some bait; mix well.)  I thought Bang-theory was mostly about scene framing or how to handle the drives of the characters; I'm not sure that applies or restricts sharing principles.  I think you can have both.

Quote from: hyphz
Secondly, what kinds of 'little stuff' can you put in?  What I mean by 'little stuff' is that the players suddenly go quiet and frozen and you don't exactly want to toss in one of the big items [because, 1) it'll make the plot look disjointed, and 2) you'll run out of big items too fast], but you need to stir things up.  The obvious thought I have here is PC action consequences, because you can't run out of them (even doing nothing might have consequences for the PCs) and they create coherentness rather than disjointedness; but as you don't know the PCs actions in advance, consequences have to be generated on the fly rather than pre-prepared.  So, is there anything you can pre-prepare and slip into the bandolier for this sort of situation?

Well, like I said, you can't preplan or expect consequences.  Those are, in essence, the entire flow of play.  The players act; you serve up the consequences.  This is one of the places where Mystique theory gets a work out.  The Mystique, 'what the plans for,' drives the game by attracting all sorts of consequences to the players, but you don't tell them why, just how.  Say I was planning some 'sneaking about on Alderaan;' I'd be keeping an ear open to whom they revealed they 'had the plans' to so I could serve up the consequences of 'word getting out' especially how valuable they'd be to groups other than the empire.  Since Alderaan is history, I forget about that.  The point is I keep my eye on things pertinent to the Mystique (why everyone wants these plans).  Other consequences the players themselves are perfectly right to be able to predict; 'We shoot our way out of Mos Eisley,' 'Don't plan on going back there, kid.'

Other than that, I'd say there are two groups of "little stuff" that can be used.  The first I don't know if you'd actually put on your bandolier (unless you were feeling exceptionally uncreative); these are genre and setting specific "little stuff."  Since the Empire is a totalitarian police state, you can pretty much expect the 'stormtrooper shakedown' everywhere you go.  This isn't relevant to the ongoing game, but makes for excellent tension suppliers.  (Remember the 'these aren't the droids you're looking for' scene?  Pure tension intensifier, "little stuff" that doesn't even need to be planned, but shouldn't be forgotten.)  When I write a Genre Expectation, I'm always trying to abstract these for Background elements; they are great for reinforcing 'the feel' of the game.

I basically call these kinds of "little stuff" the product of a Dynamic Background.  (Did I mention that yet?)  Most games come with a published Dynamic Background, it means there's 'a lot of stuff going on' some of it dangerous (sometime to life and limb, sometimes not).  Whatever the game offers by way of avenues for personal advancement (inside the game, not levels and such) makes the game dynamic; if 'you can make a killing' at something, it's dynamic.  If these are 'times of trouble,' it's dynamic.  The "little stuff" that reminds you of this 'dynamic quality' is exactly what I'm talking about here.

The other kind of "little stuff" is things that give 'shine' to the player characters.  I usually lift them off the character sheets long before play (I like to load up my bandolier too).  PC#3 is greedy, PC#2 is the soul of honor, PC#1 is a great pilot, these are some of the core elements of what make these characters who they are.  For Scattershot, I quantified this 'centrality' in the Sine Qua Non Persona Development Technique.  Using a Sine Qua Non, I can harvest this stuff real quick for later.  Then, whenever thing get 'stuck' (like you offered), if I can't serve up trouble, then I toss in one of these.  Pace them out well and the characters each have 'their time to shine' semi-equally.  Specific applications are perfectly welcome on the bandolier so long as the don't start with a 'after such-and-so, this happens' or a 'immediately before those events happen, this does.'  These have to be 'orphans' too.

Jeez, this is really going on at length.  I'm getting a bit lost myself; could someone make a list of the kinds of things you can put on a 'bandolier?'  I haven't got such a list in my notes, but it's obvious I'll need one.  Maybe it'll shake some of the other parts loose so we can cover some more bases.

I want to thank all of you for this invaluable opportunity to 'shake the cobwebs out' in terms of what I've planned for Scattershot's 'how to gamemaster' section.  You've made an immeasurable contribution to me putting it in 'regular terms' instead of gamer-speak.  Thanks!

Fang Langford
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #38 on: February 03, 2003, 09:35:03 AM »

Quote from: GreatWolf
So don't be afraid to say, "Duh" and gather your thoughts.  Maybe it will only take a few minutes.  Maybe you'll need to think about it longer.  Just be honest and upfront with your players.  We all have creative lapses, and I think that your players would rather wait for you to gather yourself then be artificially railroaded down a path that they do not wish to take.

I just want to take a moment to reinforce Seth's words.  Part of the heart of 'shared gamemastering' is being honest.  When you're dealing so closely with trust issues going both ways, there's no reason to try and support the traditional 'the gamemaster knows all' mystique.  It just isn't productive.  If they catch you flat-footed, tell them so - make it a compliment if you can - and then figure out what it'll take to get things going again.  A second, a break, time between sessions; you're only human, take what you need.  I guarantee they'll only respect you more for it.

Fang Langford
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clehrich
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« Reply #39 on: February 03, 2003, 10:10:51 AM »

Just a totally different concrete example here, which I hope you'll all "deconstruct."  (Not quite sure what you mean by that here, but that's a subject for private messages.)

Years ago, I was in a game run by Ken Hite (I mention the name because a lot of you know of him).  It was a Pulp-type campaign, entitled "The Insidious Doctor Fang and His Zeppelin of Doom."  There were about a zillion players (ten or eleven, I think), every one a fairly classic pulp type.

Now Ken is not exactly Mr. Share.  He railroads heavily, but we all pretty much accept this, because the stuff that happens along the way is lots of fun, and because we know that if we can gob-smack him really effectively, there will be intense social fun happening.

So one fine day the PCs find themselves trapped in a sub-hold of the sunken Titanic.  This turns out to be a Dr. Fang deathtrap, like so many others.  The hatches seal behind us, there are no working knobs on the inside, and water begins very slowly rising in the hold.  Dr. Fang's voice comes through a hidden speaker, essentially saying, "Ha ha ha, now you all die, and my plans for world domination will succeed!"  Oh, what will the intrepid PCs do?  Cliffhanger, end of session.

Next session, we come up with some way out.  First important point here: Ken had no idea how we would get out.  He expected us to use our "cool PC special pulp schticks" to get out.  So the old assistant to Nicolai Tesla comes up with a way to use his belt buckle and a dangling light to create an arc-welder and cut through the hatch.  Sounds cool, so it works.

So now we get into the escape sub, overpowering Fang's mooks, and are ready to go anywhere we like.  Ken has made VERY CLEAR that we're supposed to go to Murmansk.  But we've been discussing this amongst ourselves, and we think Murmansk sounds like a giant death-trap.  So we tell Ken, "We're not going to Murmansk."  "What do you MEAN you're not going to Murmansk?" says Ken, peeved.  "Nope, we're going to Casablanca.  There we can hook up with the international arms dealers, and get at Fang that way.  Besides, Ken, you can do your Sidney Greenstreet impression."  Ken wambles for a bit, then says, "Okay."

So point two: Ken lets us do whatever the hell we want, even though it means discarding the vast majority of what he's got planned for Murmansk.  At the same time, we've just established a short-term social contract: if he lets us go to Casablanca, we can't just wander around the streets looking for something to happen.  We have to hook into the plot immediately, working to do so, and we've even told him we're going to go to the Blue Parrot (where the Fat Man will be waiting).  So Ken doesn't have to improvise everything; he's got a scene, a setting, and a cool NPC waiting for him, created by us.

Setting aside Ken's usual railroading practices, does this fit into the Sharing concept?
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #40 on: February 03, 2003, 10:55:12 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
"The Insidious Doctor Fang and His Zeppelin of Doom."

...Setting aside Ken's usual railroading practices, does this fit into the Sharing concept?

Take from the point of 'already in the deathtrap,' I'd pretty much have to say yes.  

"Sounds cool, so it works," is what it's all about.  Although this implies a heavy, 'if the gamemaster doesn't like it' that isn't as much sharing as I'd like - heaven knows this is so entrenched in tradition, it's a hard one to shake.  However, if the gamemaster secretly watches everyone else's reaction and takes the majority choice (without telling anyone) it carries perfectly well.  This has always been one of the biggest sticking points when gaming with strangers; what one person thinks is cool can quickly be something that really wrecks 'suspension of disbelief' for another.  ("Hey, there's just no way....")

One of the major components of Scattershot has been 'outing' this social reaction into Technique (or rules as most people call them).  I go into great detail about who is the Proprietor of what and the whole resolution system is supposed to be built mostly on the idea that the recipient of an action determines the results (as limited by the capability of the actor), even when they are one and the same.  Everyone is supposed to 'feel comfortable' with the likelihood of this kind of pulp action in the game (Genre Expectations should display this), so a player won't feel insecure about if it will work (is it cool enough for the group) and the recipient cannot disallow the action on a successful roll (although technically, a 'failed' roll means the actor is the recipient).

Also, if we're setting aside "Ken's usual...practices," that'd better include having planned Mumansk and 'discarding it.'  With 'non-control gamemastering' there shouldn't be anything to 'discard.'  You might skip things on your 'bandolier,' but you won't be 'discarding them' precisely.  (This is mostly a semantic observation, you get the idea obviously.)

Another part that needs to be 'set aside' is the wambling.  If he's sharing, there is no moment of 'do I allow this?'  It has to be strictly 'what do I do with this?'  The gamemaster is no longer the 'gatekeeper' of what does or does not happen in 'shared gaming;' he has to 'roll with it' just as much as the players do.

A lot of 'shared gaming' implies that same "short-term social contract" over the whole length of the game.  The bulk of 'unlearning old habits' come from recognizing this style around the whole group.  The first thing is usually easy and comes as a result of using bait enough times; the players hook into their own plots as a result of pursuing the bait.  Bait is a tricky idea to use because it literally has to predispose nothing.  'You've got the plans everyone wants,' 'there's a lot of money in it for you,' and so on, these cause activity, but don't tell you what to do with anything (where to take the plans or how to spend the money).  Give someone the artifact of the realm and see what they do with it; 'give them enough rope.'  The 'trouble' they find isn't organized into a plot, it's just plain harassment; their reaction is the plot.

Outside of these concerns, yeah, this sounds like a resounding example of 'shared gaming.'  It even demonstrates how 'shared gaming' is what people tend to 'fall back on' when things don't go the way they plan.  (Further confirmation that I may be onto something as 'root gaming.')

Fang Langford

p. s. I'm dubious about the synchronicity of the heavy's name....
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« Reply #41 on: February 03, 2003, 11:25:40 AM »

Got it.  The reservations and qualifications are precisely the ones I intended, so we're clearly on the same page.

Just one thing:
Quote
I'm dubious about the synchronicity of the heavy's name....

Eh?  Lost me there.
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #42 on: February 03, 2003, 12:23:53 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
Just one thing:
Quote
I'm dubious about the synchronicity of the heavy's name....

Eh?  Lost me there.


I'm not a doctor, but I am insidious...

Fang Langford
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Valamir
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« Reply #43 on: February 03, 2003, 12:32:31 PM »

Yeah, but now that we know you have a Zeppelin at your disposal you have no excuse not to come game with us :-)
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #44 on: February 03, 2003, 03:15:50 PM »

Quote from: hyphz
(I couldn't get Trigger Events out of them for love nor money.. well, one of them, the Punisher player, said that 'His wife and children had been killed by criminals' which is at least a motivation to act, if nothing to do with the occult.  Nobody else could think of one that was sensible.  ("Once I was kicking a guy's teeth in and after about five minutes I realized that he was really hard and there was an unknown army around.")

(One beef I have here with the gamebook, is that I showed them the examples.  Problem is, they are written by professional writers who know the setting.  All they did was intimidate the players.)


It'd probably help to lower the bar a great deal, rather than showing them the examples in the book.  Start by paraphrasing the ones in the book - a paragraph or so each, then add a few others keeping them simple.  I don't know...

"Once I was kicking this guy's teeth in - he just took it.  When I was done, he just thanked me, got up and walked off.  The thing is - I saw him in the street the next day, not a scratch on him, not a bruise.  He just nodded to me like nothing happened."

or

"First semester at college, I turned on the TV to watch the Simpsons and all I got was fuzz.  Then all of a sudden, really clearly, I saw my father's face and he just said "Goodbye".  Then the show just came on as normal.  Ten minutes later my mum phoned to say there'd been an accident."

Just simple weird stuff.
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Ian Charvill
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