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Author Topic: Motifs as questions  (Read 4336 times)
Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« on: March 16, 2003, 04:55:42 PM »

Hi all,

I had this revelation a couple of days ago when I was putting together the characters for a TQB one-session.  I wanted one of the characters to be a young knight, promising and talented, who had shamed himself on the battlefield by some act of cowardice.  I wanted this to be the guiding motif of he character but whenever I thought about it I imagined it as something like "coward +2."  And that never seemed to work.  I couldn't wrap my mind around using that to call for rolls within the game (though maybe I'm missing something: could it be used to call for rolls in the game?  anyway, that's not the point of this post).  Finally it ocurred to me to write it instead as "Fled the battle of Fell Keep +2."  This way it makes it a question to be resolved in the game, rather than a statement.  We know young Sir Caledor, to his great shame, fled a battle, but what that means in terms of the session itself is totally open.  Now he has the chance to use his cowardice motif as a tool for redemption, Boromir style, and until the defining moment comes in the game when he's given the opportunity to redeem himself, we don't actually know if he's a Coward or not.  

Actually, now that I'm writing this I see how "Coward +2" might work in the game, but I think it would a different character than one with the "Fled the battle of Fell Keep +2" motif.  

How does this interpretation of motifs mesh with those of others?

Tor
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2003, 06:13:50 PM »

Actually, I think the big "oooh-ahh" about TQB for me is the flexibility of Motifs, which is more opened than even traits.  The big benefit is that when I think "motif", I immediately think of things ranging from a recurring image, to flashbacks, music, events, or even more abstract stuff.  

The beautiful flexiblity of this is that you can have the character you mention use their MOVs or MODs to constantly reveal more bits and pieces of the battle they fled.  Was it cowardice? Confusion?  Trickery?  Simple bad luck(unconcious and horse panicking)?  Was it to fufill someone's order("You must live, deliver this...")?

Great stuff.

Chris
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Bob McNamee
Member

Posts: 685


« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2003, 06:26:18 PM »

An example of the Motifs of my character from the indie netgaming Banana Republic game...

Salvador Geraldo (Owner of BBC Uno)

Pawn of the Internal Security Minister +2
Enemy of Dissidents and Pirates +1
Available to highest bidder +1
Secretly loves Feray Ferrino +1
Drinker +1
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Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2003, 10:50:23 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei
Actually, I think the big "oooh-ahh" about TQB for me is the flexibility of Motifs, which is more opened than even traits.  The big benefit is that when I think "motif", I immediately think of things ranging from a recurring image, to flashbacks, music, events, or even more abstract stuff.  


Okay, this is exciting.  I feel like I'm almost getting what you're saying, but I'm having a tough time pinning it down.  I mean, one of the points of motifs is that you have to be able to use them to call for a die roll, right?  Things like "Big strong Knight +2" are easy to grasp for me: it's basically like having a good sword skill or a high strength.  Now, I know this kind of thinking is obscuring something really important about TQB for me, but I can't seem to able to tear down the veil between "Big Strong Knight +2" and "Haunting Music +2."  How do you use the second one to generate a die roll?  

Quote

The beautiful flexiblity of this is that you can have the character you mention use their MOVs or MODs to constantly reveal more bits and pieces of the battle they fled.  Was it cowardice? Confusion?  Trickery?  Simple bad luck(unconcious and horse panicking)?  Was it to fufill someone's order("You must live, deliver this...")?

Great stuff.

Chris


Yeah!  I had only been thinking of using in-game play to elaborate on the future repercussions of the incident of cowardice, but I completely missed leaving the actual event up to actual play.  That is too sweet.  Do you got any examples that arose from actual play?

Tor, getting pumped on TQB
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Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2003, 10:55:50 PM »

Hi Bob,

So, do you see the motifs you've listed for your character as set-in-stone descriptions of your character or as issues that will be resolved or elaborated in the game.

For example, is it significant that the motif is "available to the highest bidder +1" rather than "Sold out to Lopez in '91 +1"?  Maybe we need to take a look at the story that you drew them from...

Tor
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2003, 01:37:06 AM »

Quote
Now, I know this kind of thinking is obscuring something really important about TQB for me, but I can't seem to able to tear down the veil between "Big Strong Knight +2" and "Haunting Music +2." How do you use the second one to generate a die roll?


Well, since we're talking an rpg and not a movie, some things are still hard to translate, such as "Haunting Music" unless of course, you are talking some kind of mystical thing, such as ghost music or some other plausible reason to insert it at will.  In a movie, it would be a character's theme music(Luke, Darth Vader, etc.).  

In particular, I'm thinking of two examples of great motif usage.  One is the comic book, Kabuki, by David Mack, which is an awesome exploration in the use of motif.  The second, is the anime Hakkenden, in which motifs are used throughout the whole series, very similar to Kabuki in style.

While haunting music might be a good cinematic theme, try something like this:  "The Cresent", you can use it for any scene with the moon, sickles, eclipses, barely opened eyes, sunrise/sunsets, helmet motifs, a hand cupping a fist, wierd stuff like blood pooling in that shape, etc.  Most of this is used rather well in Kabuki.

On to "how to use it", obviously if you (as a player) are asking for a die roll, you can introduce it into a scene, provided it is (I want to say, cinematically...) plausible.  So using the cresent idea, if you can introduce it any of the ways above, or anything else you can think of, boom! +2 dice bonus.   If you are a player wishing to assist another player, obviously the scene is probably established to some degree, making it a bit harder to engineer, but still possible.  

"John rides hard to deliver the message..."
"Hey, I want to add some dice in!  Selene looks up at the Cresent moon, wondering if John is under the same sky...cut to cresent moon, pan down to John, who is...(+2 Dice)"

See, the beauty of it is that motifs establish some cool mini-scenes, the current scene, and also establish a connection of abstract influence and theme.  Another viable motif is to pull up a phrase or saying that can be used over and over("Use the force Luke, the Force will be with you, always").  Other good ideas include family/group motifs(flags, insignias, crests, green eyes, "All for one and one for all", etc.)

Quote
Yeah! I had only been thinking of using in-game play to elaborate on the future repercussions of the incident of cowardice, but I completely missed leaving the actual event up to actual play. That is too sweet. Do you got any examples that arose from actual play?


I haven't had a chance to run TQB yet, but I'm looking forward to it.  Consider it to work just like any other flashback you might find in movies, that reveals a bit, and another bit, perhaps totally altering the situation at hand.  Consider Usual Suspects and Fight Club for two obvious examples.  

Looking at your example, perhaps Sir Caledor finds himself in a duel with a rival...
"Was it your duty to your liege to turn your backside to another man's lance?  I do my blade disservice slaying a harlot in chain!"

Roll, MoV, Flashback to Caledon crying over his lord's dying frame...
"Forgive me!"
"...Worry not young knight, you have chosen a braver route than most...we ride on to heaven, but I charge you with a heavier duty... protect the Lady, see to it that she is not dishonored, spirit her away, protect her until your dying day..."

Skip forward to now
Sir Caledon wiping his blade clean, rival lay dying, look of shock..."No dog, my duty requires that I live...while yours is only to risk your life over words..."

The cool thing here is that the player can either prescript the whole battle, and just choose to reveal parts at a time, or can retroactively change it and reveal things that are the most interesting and fitting.  Check out Usagi Yojimbo for another good comic with a similar twist on the Flashback battle as a source of continuing conflict.

Chris
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2003, 11:51:54 AM »

As it happens my character Belenus the Jackal from James' playtest has two Motifs that I think are pertinent to the discussion. First, he has Cowardice, and second, he has Overcoming Instinct.

I think the key to understanding Motifs is to dissociate them from the character entirely. They are "owned" by the bard, and only relate to the character in that the character is part of this particular Romance for which the bard has particular motifs. This is made pretty obvious by the rule that says that you can use a Motif in a scene even if the PC isn't present (which rule also ironically links the Motif to the character by implication, but..).

I can't claim to have used this feature (though I think Imay have and just have forgotten). But, for example, I could use Cowardice to inject a Monologue into - say - a fight scene with other PCs. An MoV could be about overcoming cowardice, perhaps, while a failure could mean that I narrate somebody's PC running from a battle. Given that I can do this for another character, the de-coupling should be obvious. It's the bard that owns the Motif.

Anyhow, this means that Haunting Music is probably OK. A little out-of-game, but that's not specifcally mentioned as being required. Anyhow, whenever you want to insert somthing, look for a way to do it where Haunting Music would be appropriate. Ned's character is in a tomb poking about. You have an idea, and use the Haunting Music. When you get the MoV, you narrate how the subtle background music becomes more and more intense as Ned's character approached the coffin and crescendoes as he opens it to find his dead brother. Perfect.  

As for the other Motif, it's totally a question. The character is in the process of overcoming his cowardice and other instncts. Will he succeed? Won't he? We'll know some time next week.

Mike
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Paganini
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Posts: 1049


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« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2003, 12:08:13 PM »

Mike,

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I can't claim to have used this feature (though I think Imay have and just have forgotten).


Actually, you did . . . I think it was in the first session. You used "Doomed" on the knight that Agravain met right before the battle with The King Of A Hundred Knights.
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Bob McNamee
Member

Posts: 685


« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2003, 01:07:31 PM »

I think I used "doomed to love one above station" for the garden scene narration.
Doomed is pretty versatile!

I think of the Bard / motif things as one part character, to 3-4 parts akin to writers/artists director producers.
Folks like Frank Miller, McFarlane,even Roddenberry, M Night Shyamalan, Hitchcock, etc ...who become know for certain stylistic qualities to their stories.
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Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
Bob McNamee
Member

Posts: 685


« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2003, 01:10:42 PM »

or a tongue-in-cheek example

Oh God, BLANK always plays a Thief...
and if a Thief doesn't fit the setting/system he always plays the closest thing to a thief that exists.
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Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2003, 06:20:02 PM »

Hey Fellas,

All right! Your points have helped me a lot to pin down "that thing that I was missing" in TQB. I'm printing this stuff out right now and hope to incorporate some of it into the 1-page write-up I give to the players.  

Still... my understanding of the rules is that director power springs from MoVs and MoDs.  In which case, wouldn't the player have to wait until their motif appeared via Guide narration before they could utilize their motif to generate a roll?  And I realize this is revealing prejudices on my part, but with motifs like "Crescent" what's to stop a Player from buying "Crescent +3" right at the beginning and never using anything else?

Your flashback example was really helpful as well, Chris (once I figured out what the rival meant by "chained harlot," at first I thought it was a prostitute in chains...um...but now I think it was just old English for a knight who's a big pussy, right?).  I think that the Usual Suspects is an interesting example, because on close inspection of the film flashbacks actually re-write events that have already been established as fact.  Same goes for Fight Club.  Though in a movie like 12 Monkeys, it all works on the "putting the puzzle together" idea, where every flashback dovetails perfectly with what has already been established, while changing our understanding of the action at the same time.

Okay, one more thing about motifs as we've been discussing them (disassociated from the characters, in Mike's words).  As has been pointed out previously it's important that the dice rolled give some indication of success or failure.  It seems that when you dissassociate motifs from characters, it becomes more difficult to determine what success and failure mean.  Again, with "Big Strong Knight +2", it's fairly easy to interpret success and failure in regards to the motif.  But with "Crescent +2" it becomes much more difficult... unless, I suppose, the MoV/D is unrelated to the motif that was used to generate it....  hmm.

Tor
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Paganini
Member

Posts: 1049


WWW
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2003, 06:28:55 PM »

Quote from: Tor Erickson

Still... my understanding of the rules is that director power springs from MoVs and MoDs.  In which case, wouldn't the player have to wait until their motif appeared via Guide narration before they could utilize their motif to generate a roll?


No. I don't know how recent the TQB draft is that James has up, but in the current version a player can call for a roll any time he has an Idea. It works out a bit like Shadows if you've seen that game.

Quote
And I realize this is revealing prejudices on my part, but with motifs like "Crescent" what's to stop a Player from buying "Crescent +3" right at the beginning and never using anything else?


Nothing at all. The real question is, why would that be a problem? Remember, dice in TQB are all about import. If the Crescent motif is so important that the player dumps a bunch of dice into it and uses it all the time, then that's the way he wants to play. :)

Quote

As has been pointed out previously it's important that the dice rolled give some indication of success or failure.  It seems that when you dissassociate motifs from characters, it becomes more difficult to determine what success and failure mean.


As per the Idea rules, the player expresses both outcomes ahead of times in a general, quick summary sort of way. So a MoD might actually be a character success if the player was aiming for a dramatic failure. It's an interesting incarnation of FitM.
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Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2003, 06:31:49 PM »

Oh, and I have actually read some Kabuki.  It was the issue (or collected issues) where she is dying and getting all surreal.  I guess I need to go back and take another look at how he deals with motifs, as we've been discussing them.
Tor
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2003, 09:39:00 PM »

Cool...

Quote
Still... my understanding of the rules is that director power springs from MoVs and MoDs. In which case, wouldn't the player have to wait until their motif appeared via Guide narration before they could utilize their motif to generate a roll? And I realize this is revealing prejudices on my part, but with motifs like "Crescent" what's to stop a Player from buying "Crescent +3" right at the beginning and never using anything else?


Since you have seen Kabuki, I highly recommend you look at it again, preferably in a collected novel, so you can see how motifs get used over and over, intertwined and changed.  Kabuki herself has several motifs that are hers alone, but also connected to other folks.  

So what prevents a player from using the same motif, over and over?  I suppose if someone actually is creative enough to work the same one into every scene, I'd be amazed.  I really think the "limiter" is social contract about how much is too much.  Usually most characters kick about 2 or 3 motifs in order to keep the variety going on.  As I put it, I called it cinematic plausibility, but really its social contract.    With 3 options, you can be sure of never getting boring with it.

Quote
Okay, one more thing about motifs as we've been discussing them (disassociated from the characters, in Mike's words). As has been pointed out previously it's important that the dice rolled give some indication of success or failure. It seems that when you dissassociate motifs from characters, it becomes more difficult to determine what success and failure mean.


My only requirement is that the motif appear in the MOV/MOD in some fashion...Traits describe the methods used that result in failure or success.  
Motifs describe the "cinematography" and style used to narrate things.  

So what is success or failure when you have the "Cresent" motif?  Easy, its all a matter of how you want to fit it in.  Take a classic superhero fight on top of a rooftop.  Hero wins, stands all triumphant, cool, by his badass lonesome on the rooftop, cresent moon looming overhead.  Hero loses, takes a plummet, falls into a puddle reflecting the moon, distorting the image, which quickly is mixed with blood...

See, the limit to motifs is a creative challenge to the player to put them in the action in an interesting way.  It's a lot harder to fit motifs into the scene that folks are visualizing than it is to say, "I big, I strong."  As players you need to have a good sense of your character thematically(and perhaps visually or auditorily) to pull off motifs.  Second, you have to be constantly thinking of the "style" of your character, its a very strong excercise in protagonism on the parts of the players.  You get limited director stance to insert your motif, and more if you succeed.

Chris

(Oh, yeah, other good comics for Motif Goodness- The Watchmen and Earth X.)
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2003, 12:48:26 PM »

And the mechanical reinforcement of the social contract is the GM given dice. If you do Crescent, Crescent, Crescent until it's boring, you're going to be getting one die each time. Only by creative assertion, and variation are you going to be getting the three die bonuses.

This also prevents you from doing Ideas every ten seconds.

Eventually the lack of bonus dice translates into a lower pool, and less control.

Mike
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