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Author Topic: A demoralising day  (Read 26984 times)
Le Joueur
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« Reply #30 on: April 23, 2003, 07:06:28 AM »

Hey Hyphz,

I was starting to worry that we'd hijacked your thread.  Glad to know you're interested.

Quote from: hyphz
Thanks for all the replies here folks - I'm sorry if I'm covering old ground.  I did wish to raise one big question about the 'No Myth' style, but I couldn't really express it in words on the previous thread, so I'll have another go at it here.

...The big question I've had about "No Myth" GMing is basically to do with how it can be kept flowing.  I mean, as far as I can see, you have to desperately avoid the situation where the players wind up saying "ok, we've exhausted all our leads; where else in this city is there for us to go?"

That might be the case in a Sherlock Holmes Genre Expectation, where all travel was as a result of finding a clue or something, but honestly, the only story I've seen lately that didn't just dump clues on the protagonist when he was stuck was, believe it or not, Beverly Hills Cop II.  Running 'Sherlock Holmes style' is exceptionally difficult (and I'd suggest only worthwhile when the player is willing to practically co-gamemaster).  The basis of "No Myth" style is just like all those movies where the good guy has used up all his clues and something simply 'falls in his lap' (usually with the retroactive back story that the investigation has attracted the interest of 'the powers that be').

Frankly this complaint is mostly a problem of pacing.  Don't give them enough time to even realize their leads are exhausted, hit 'em with something else.  I've yet to see the genre, in any sense of the word, that wasn't overflowing with potential tangential sideswipes just waiting to go.

Quote from: hyphz
Not only do you then have to make up an entire city on the spot (bit tricky, that),

Let me stop you right there, yer just not getting it.  In "No Myth" style, there never, ever, is "an entire city."  There really is nothing more to make up than 'the next stage set.'  The way it works is that everyone 'just knows' that there's a city 'out there;' the 'shape' of that city exists completely in the subconscious expectations the group has formed the game on; these are the Genre Expectations for 'the city.'  At no point does it need to be any more spelled out than Superman's Metropolis or Spider-man's 'back streets of New York;' do you ever recognize the numerous backgrounds in the panels from one issue to the next?  Nope, they're just 'filler,' a bit of 'artistic noise' to carry the 'feeling' of city without the detail that would detract from the story.

Let's resume the question:

Quote from: hyphz
Not only do you then have to make up an entire city on the spot (bit tricky, that), but when they decide where to go you're left either arranging that their choice advances the story no matter where it was (feels like a railroad, though it may not be intended that way) or telling them that nothing happens there (in which case you get to play a guessing game with the list of locations).  So there always have to be clues or leads or something

Hmm...this just isn't coming through.  How do I explain it...?

A railroad only exists to connect points on the map; the clues and leads are actually the tracks.  You aren't going to escape the sense of railroading so long as you provide a trail of clues; I can guarantee that.  Many players are so conditioned that they desperately try to find and follow these, knowing (by experience) that nothing else exists (true or not).  "No Myth" is as much a style to be learned by the gamemaster as it requires the above style to be 'unlearned' by the players.  These kinds of players, encountering "No Myth" for the first time will be confused because the gamemaster is no longer spoon-feeding them the next place to go, because there isn't any...yet.

I hate to point it out, but don't players expect that their "choice advances the story?"  "No matter what?"  Do you really have players who'd be happy when you go 'nope, you followed the wrong lead; this is a dead end.'  I doubt it; I expect they look to you for 'the right lead' so that the character's choice will advance the story, knowing full well that they, as players, don't really have a choice.  (Or more accurately, that they have Hobson's Choice; 'choose the horse by the door, or no choice.')

You aren't really providing clues and leads in "No Myth," you provide opportunities abundant.  The players are free to interpret anything as a clue.  Sounds like they'll quickly not find out whodunit, right?  Far from it.  Many times in "No Myth," you don't even know whodunit.  You toss all these chips on the table (people the players encounter that you've pretty much plucked out of a list of archetypes for the Genre Expectation) as play progresses, the characters the eliminate through investigation are crossed off your list of 'who could have done it' (with a few exceptions for plot twists).  If they take interest in a lead that 'short-circuits the game,' you shift gears and the principles take it on the lamb; use whatever Complication keeps the game flowing.  Whatever you do, you've got to shed the point A to point B mentality; point B only exists in the "Myth of Reality."

Ultimately, you simply have to give up the idea that there are always clues or leads (those are just tracks on the railroad; time to derail).  Back to Raiders of the Lost Ark, did Indiana and company follow clues to the final confrontation with Ravencroft and the Nazis?  Nope, all the clues had been used up, the treasure was safely in hand and the villains had gotten away; enter the final Complication, a u-boat comes outta nowhere and hijacks the plotline.  That's what I'm talking about; clues and leads don't get you there.

Quote from: hyphz
...The players have to know, by the time they leave Bill's, that their next destination is going to be Don's, or Bill's local pub, or the police station to turn Don in, or the hospital where Bill might have been treated for those scars, or or or....  Any of those is fine.  But, then the problem is: if there are clues and leads, they either have to be blatant, or the players can miss them.  And if they miss them, you get the "where else in this city?" question.  So how do you resolve this situation by always making sure there's a chain to the next step?

"Put the chain down and step away from the car!"

I just can't seem to make this point.  That chain is what is binding your adventures; following it makes you force the game, which is what you complained about in the first place.  Forget the chain.  Sure, the players are canny enough to know some of the places you list (probably the local pub, police station, or the hospital), it doesn't matter which they choose, you make something up.  If they pick the pub, grab a previously seen non-player character who knows they're after Bill; his flight will attract their attention better than making them go around the bar for interrogation.  If they go to the police station, the cops could 'cop an attitude' and try to rough them up for what they know (doesn't take much for a dumb cop to let something slip).  If they go to the hospital, maybe Bill isn't there but one of Bill's victims is and ready to spill (I haven't read the scenario).  The point is that it doesn't matter where they go, give them what they want; if they want information about Bill, it'll be there someway, somehow.  Heck, if they go home, waddya know, they live next to Don!  If the sit pondering (doing nothing), then have someone else who's looking for what they want come in.  Take whatever they want and create a Complication.

Your task is to figure out what they want to do with what they get.  If the resolution of the current circumstance doesn't clearly suggest a new one, you hit them with something terrible archetypical for the genre.  You need to realize that there don't need to be leads.  If the players don't act, they get acted upon; it's as simple as that.  Sooner or later, what they choose to do will give you a clue to where the game is going.  Remember, in "No Myth" you don't know the ending or whodunit or even what's next; all you know is 1) what has already happened, 2) what everyone would expect from a game like this one, and 3) what the players want.

And that's all you need.

Quote from: hyphz
I mean, yes, the business of interrogating the captured villain in M&M could have been done better, now I think of it: if they can't get the info from him, just have one of the *other* villains try to break him out of jail, fail due to the PCs, and fly off casually explaining their entire evil plan as he goes (heck, it's a trope).  But I've only just thought of that, a long while after the moment was past.  I'm not sure how to practice this. ;)

Here, you're getting what I'm saying.  This kind of improvisation comes more easily the more you've done it.  Until then suffuse yourself in the Genre Expectations and if that doesn't work, steal something you've seen or done before and just give it a new paint job.  If the players have the time to critique it based on previous experience, your pace needs to increase (fast enough and they'll never notice the 'steals').

Quote from: Garbanzo
My take on all the great advice from Fang and Christopher is to run the game with an emphasis on everyone enjoying themselves, versus an emphasis on the characters not seeing cracks in reality.

Because never mind the characters, if the players aren't having a great time, it just doesn't matter.

So pace the game, rather than construct a reality.

I couldn't have said it better myself.  Heck, I wish I could say it that well.  Someday.  Maybe.

Quote from: hyphz
The issue is this: suppose they go to the one starting location, can't get the information from the guy there, but work out he's bad and kill him. Now they need to know where to go next. But, they fail all their Search checks to find stuff in the place they're in now. With no clue, they say "where else is there to go?" And I freeze, because I can't make up every location in a city on the fly.

See this is classic railroading.  There is no place "to go next" unless you're railroading them.  'Killing dat guy' may seem like closure, but you've got to learn that even exit is an entrance into somewhere else.  Go back to #1, they killed the guy; that's done.  What are the reasonable repercussions?  How does that serve the overall game (like in terms of getting them to that final climactic confrontation)?  What parts of the Genre Expectations can you grab in purest archetype forms to give shape to these repercussions?

With no clue, use that "other villain" trick, 'cept this time he wants revenge or he wanted something the first had or he wanted to 'do da guy' or whatever, you've got the answer right in your hands.  Don't freeze, if you can't improvise something, just pick something you know that fits.  Do they need to go to a bar?  Describe the last one you were in.  Flying over the city?  Pick the neatest tall building you've ever seen.  There is no need to create new or unique information for anything.  If they can name the place they want to go (not proper names, although those can be quite inspiring), you must know what a 'generic [that]' looks like; that's all it takes.  This works for the lowliest phone booth to the grandest supervillain base.  If you've ever seen one use that, the more mistakes you make describing one you've seen, the more original it'll seem.

Quote from: Marco
What if I'm running something where the genre isn't established?

...As far as pre-defined situations: I find that they reward the player with logical outcomes of investigation or maneuver (strategy). They also allow complex plots without paradoxes (something my eyeball examination of no-myth would have problems with--I may be misunderstanding it).

If the Genre Expectations aren't established, set some.  Talk it out with the players; after all it's their expectations you'll be playing on.  Name some movies, books, or other media you have in common.  Otherwise make it up as you go; just use parts from things you know.  Having an 'open genre' means that the players will be more forgiving about potential non sequiturs.  (Remember to 'talk out' the Genre Expectations between sessions, just to stay on track.)

Admittedly "No Myth" is harder with investigation and strategy, but hardly impossible if you know your Genre Expectations.  See every good crime drama follows a pretty solid set of formulae.  As the investigation gets started, try to pick a few that interest you.  As play bounces back and forth between you and the players, you'll begin to see which 'fits better.'  Past that, they've given you the formula to follow, you just need to plug in the variables #1 (what has gone before) supplies.  If things go astray, it'll depend on how close to 'true crime' your Genre Expectations are; the closer the more willing all present will be to run into dead ends.  Otherwise feel free to dump clues right into their lap when necessary (read any of the source material, that's how it really works).

You aren't doing anything more than playing out what the players have given you.  The important thing to remember with "No Myth" is pacing; I've learned that once I've figured out which form to use and which variables go where, it needs to resolve very quickly.  Don't really know why.

Fang Langford

p. s. One more thing....

Quote from: Valamir
Quote from: hyphz
But, they fail all their Search checks to find stuff

This is the key sentence for me.  

Search rolls.  Blech.  Total nonsense and useless in ANY GMing style.

'Cept how Donjon uses them...or how I do.  If the players want to search, let them; don't make continuation contingent upon 'finding something.'  If they fail there roll, then simply make it that nothing was every there.  If they succeed, take that as a passport to the next Complication and go with it.  Don't hand them the answer simply because the dice like them, give 'em just more stuff to think about.  This is the heart of "No Myth" gamemastering; there can't be 'something to find' unless you subscribe to the 'Myth.'  It's okay if the players do (preferred I'd think), but you simply cannot.
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Valamir
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« Reply #31 on: April 23, 2003, 07:07:54 AM »

Quote from: hyphz

But then it's just my arbitary judgement of their roleplaying rather than a dice roll.  

Correct.  The burden of the GM.  Better arbitrary judgement that takes into account the enjoyment of the participants than random judgement that doesn't.

Quote
Oh, except I have to get them the information whatever they do or the session will end.

Correct.  Arbitrary judgement allows you to determine when and how to do this.  Random dice don't care if it ever happens, or how crappy your game becomes as a result.

Quote
So has the whole "No Myth" idea just fallen out of the window now?
 I'll let Fang discuss "No Myth"  That's his thing.  My comment was directed at that at all.  It was directed at the style of play that you were currently using related to published modules.  If you are going to play in that way those are the only 2 options.  The other options involve changing the way you play...which you may or may not be interested in doing.

Quote

But is it? I don't see that it is.  The GM *has* to give the players something with which to make a reasoned next move.  Otherwise, it's the "where else is there in this city?" problem.

See, right there you're bringing certain assumptions about the role of the GM into things.  I can assure you that there are many ways to play an enjoyable game that don't involve the GM *having* to do anything of the kind.  In fact in many cases it is the *players* giving the GM something so that the *GM* can make a reasoned next move.  

But that's a different topic altogether.  Let me summarize a bit more plainly.

You have before you 5 choices:

1) Give up gaming altogether
2) Continue to game but give up GMing
3) Continue to game and GM the way you have been even if that means the games suck.
4) Change the way you game and GM completely
5) Continue to game and GM the way you have been but get better at it.

Presumeably choices 1-3 are not desired.  That leaves you with basically 2 possibilities:

First, you may be stuck in a style of gaming that you're not enjoying; but its the way you've always gamed, its what you know, and you don't know how to break out of it.  That would place you in good company with many people here, and there are dozens of threads discussing this type of thing here.

Second, you like the style of game you play and aren't interested in toppling the apple cart and trying to reinvent what roleplaying means to you.  In which case, you don't need to learn a new way to play, you just need to hone your skills a bit more.

In this thread you've received a jumble of ideas...some assuming the first thing and advising how to change your mindset about gaming ("no myth" etc) and some (like Mike's initial post) assumeing the second and giving you advice that applies to how to do what your currently doing but make it work.

Perhaps you'd be best served by choosing which of these appeals to you more (or both) and starting seperate threads for them so the advice you get remains consistant.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #32 on: April 23, 2003, 07:09:19 AM »

Hi there,

I finally got a clue about how to discuss this.

Let's examine the two extremes, with an eye to the possibility that they are not the only options.

#1: The GM has secrets. Enjoyable play is generating (a) by the players lack of immediate access to the secrets, including some risk if they don't get them; and (b) by the players making decisions and perhaps rolls (i.e. uncertain-outcome) that get them access to the secrets in some satisfying way.

I maintain that if the GM is not skilled at distinguishing between (a) and (b), and if the players are unwilling to let the GM essentially set the pacing and content-per-unit-time of (b), then we'll run into serious problems. Not to mention that some people are simply disinclined to play at all if the GM has full input regarding "what's important" in the scenario, which is often the case in this mode of play.

Shall we use, perhaps, Call of Cthulhu play as an example? It's hard to find a touchstone since we don't play in one another's games. That's how I run CofC, anyway.

#2: There are no secrets. The GM has a slightly different role than the players, but "the scenario" is built mainly through improvisation by all parties. I'm talking not just about turning left or turning right, but about "what's going on" in the most basic back-story sense.

InSpectres is probably the most functional and fun game design I can think of that lends itself well to this mode of play.

Now for the big point: it's not an either-or issue, between #1 and #2. And there are many variables involved. Here are a couple of intermediary (or even off-the-spectrum) ways to break the #1/#2 dichotomy but still let the GM have secrets.

Possibility #1: the back-story, NPCs, and "what's afoot" may be very heavily GM-prepped. However, the player-characters' concerns and decisions determine, perhaps over time, the conflict(s) that will be of group interest. The GM has immense power in terms of NPC activity and so forth, including information that is not immediately available to the characters, but very little in terms of who is "against" whom, or what the ultimate themes produced through play will be.

The point is that finding out the secrets is not the point of play. The secrets exist as part of the GM's prep for running NPCs, and that's all. If the players find out any or all of the secrets, great. If the players do not discover the secrets, that is OK too - what happens is still important to them (or rather, to everyone), and that's what matters.

This is pretty much how Sorcerer is built to run, and as far as I can tell, it runs very poorly in any other mode unless various character creation or other prep options are seriously Drifted (as for con play).

Possibility #2: "what's afoot" is set in stone as the GM's prep, or secret if you will. However, the GM is not especially committed to keeping it secret, just to having its access be interesting rather than a big gimme. So no matter what the player-characters do, NPC relationships, physical locales, and even more are very shiftable during play. It's as if the GM can say, "They did this, so the gardener knows the next clue, not the chauffeur."

In this mode of play, the secret does belong to the GM and it isn't going to change its content. But how to get to it is very labile and may carry a lot of power as the players' chosen mode of attack and NPC-interaction will set a lot of the content of play.

This is pretty much how Castle Falkenstein is built to play, I think (judgment call based on play-experience, possibly limited, obviously). The setting is so interesting that the GM's secret takes on primary aesthetic interest for everyone.

I've presented these two approaches specifically because I think people mix them up, especially when the word "improvisation" is being used. In the first possibility, what's created through play (and technically improvised, although I don't think it's much like theater-improv) are the protagonist priorities. In the second, what's created through play are certain logistic elements of the setting and even features of the back-story (this is a bit more like improv in my mind, although kind of a back-room behind-a-curtain sort).

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #33 on: April 23, 2003, 07:56:11 AM »

On the search thing, if you decide not to change your play style, use the classic Illusionist technique that I call the "shifting target number". It works like this:

[list=1][*]Call for the search roll.

[*]Scan the results looking for the highest.

[*]Is the high roll not pathetically low?

[list=a][*]If it's not pathetically low, then he found "It". Depending on just how high or low the roll was, describe how difficult it was obtaining the information.

[list=1][*]If the roll was low (not pathetically low), then it was pretty much out in the open, or the target of the intimidation is a pansy.

[*]If the roll was high, then the information was secreted well away, or the guy put up a real struggle in giving away the information.[/list:o]
Note: Essentially you reward a high roll with an even more protagonizing description of the event than you would otherwise.

[*]If the roll was pathetically low, then the "failure equals adversity" effect comes into play. The player determines from a file that the info is in a safe. Now they have to figure out how to get the safe open. Something like that. [/list:o]
[*]If other players have very similar results to the successful high roller, then they get the same result as he does. Narrate it, like, "Bob you notice the file, and Janice, you notice Bob noticing the file."[/list:o]
Works like a charm. Very much like Fang's technique, except that you're fooling the players into thinking that you do have a set target. If you have to, pretend to do some math on a calculator or paper to complete the illusion.

Mike
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hyphz
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« Reply #34 on: April 23, 2003, 08:21:41 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
Hey Hyphz,

I was starting to worry that we'd hijacked your thread.  Glad to know you're interested.


Yes, I am indeed.

And, I'm not trying to defend "my play style".  I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this new one.

Quote

That might be the case in a Sherlock Holmes Genre Expectation, where all travel was as a result of finding a clue or something, but honestly, the only story I've seen lately that didn't just dump clues on the protagonist when he was stuck was, believe it or not, Beverly Hills Cop II.  Running 'Sherlock Holmes style' is exceptionally difficult (and I'd suggest only worthwhile when the player is willing to practically co-gamemaster).  The basis of "No Myth" style is just like all those movies where the good guy has used up all his clues and something simply 'falls in his lap' (usually with the retroactive back story that the investigation has attracted the interest of 'the powers that be').


Yea, that made sense in the superhero game, but I couldn't see how to work it in UA.

Quote

Quote from: hyphz
Not only do you then have to make up an entire city on the spot (bit tricky, that),

Let me stop you right there, yer just not getting it.  In "No Myth" style, there never, ever, is "an entire city."  There really is nothing more to make up than 'the next stage set.'


That's right, that's the way it *should* be in the style you're describing.  But that was my whole question: if one of the players runs dry on leads and says "where else is there to go in this city?" (not "where should we go now?" but "where is there to go?") then, well, you gotta answer that.  Probably with a list of places, and that list will then have to define the city if you're going to remain in any way consistent.  What if a player says "I go out of the house, turn left and walk two blocks down, what do I see?"  Now you've got to define part of the city and start working out a freaking *map* - because, for all you know, the players are going to sieze on that item of geography as a key point later on, so you have to remember it and stick by it in whatever else you improv.  It's exactly the fear of getting hit with one of these questions that scares me off the "No Myth" style.

Quote
A railroad only exists to connect points on the map; the clues and leads are actually the tracks.  You aren't going to escape the sense of railroading so long as you provide a trail of clues; I can guarantee that.  Many players are so conditioned that they desperately try to find and follow these, knowing (by experience) that nothing else exists (true or not).  "No Myth" is as much a style to be learned by the gamemaster as it requires the above style to be 'unlearned' by the players.  These kinds of players, encountering "No Myth" for the first time will be confused because the gamemaster is no longer spoon-feeding them the next place to go, because there isn't any...yet.


See, this could be part of my confusion.  You say that the players have to "unlearn" the idea that nothing else exists apart from the important places that are connected by the clues, yet you then say that there indeed *isn't* anything that exists except the important places that the characters decide to visit, and all that changes is how they're determined.

Quote

I hate to point it out, but don't players expect that their "choice advances the story?"  "No matter what?"  Do you really have players who'd be happy when you go 'nope, you followed the wrong lead; this is a dead end.'  I doubt it; I expect they look to you for 'the right lead' so that the character's choice will advance the story, knowing full well that they, as players, don't really have a choice.


Well, yes, but again, this could wind up with consistency problems as far as I can see.  I mean, if you provide an opportunity-rich setting in UA it'll mean that people from the occult underground are suddenly popping up everywhere the PC's go AND making themselves apparant, which is exactly what it's NOT supposed to be like based on the description of the setting.  ("Every unicorn you'll ever meet will tell you how rare they are.")

Quote

I just can't seem to make this point.  That chain is what is binding your adventures; following it makes you force the game, which is what you complained about in the first place.  Forget the chain.  Sure, the players are canny enough to know some of the places you list (probably the local pub, police station, or the hospital), it doesn't matter which they choose, you make something up.  


Yep, that's right - IF they choose one of those, I can make something up.  The problem is if they decide they haven't gotten enough information to make that sort of choice, and they decide to gather it... "I drive down Main Street drawing a diagram map of every business I see; and an artist's impression of their logos, as well!"  Essentially, the worry is that the players will make a choice which suddenly forces a whole bunch of stuff to exist - and be locked in for consistency purposes - so much that I can't make it up reasonably well.  

Quote
See this is classic railroading.  There is no place "to go next" unless you're railroading them.  


No, that's not what I meant.  I mean, the players now have to decide where their characters are going to travel to, and they have to have some information to use to make that decision.  If they don't, they go get it and.. euch.
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Marco
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« Reply #35 on: April 23, 2003, 08:28:54 AM »

No Myth?

I'm quite curious about this--I've got some questions. I'm gonna start a thread in RPG theory.

-Marco
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #36 on: April 23, 2003, 09:42:14 AM »

Hey Hyphz,

Glad I could shed some light on a potential style (not one I trying to force on anyone).  However, this thread is getting way too many quote-and-responds, so let me try to summarize.  (And by the way, thanks again for giving me a chance to try out yet another way of describing it.)

First a few disclaimers, I haven't played Unknown Armies (you'll have to pitch the Genre Expectations to me if you want any constructive input).  My only copy of InSpectres is the ancient freebie that I pulled together into a saddle-stitched book over a copier one day.  ("Make Booklet" - my hero!)

The problem I think is the kinds of questions you are supposing the players will be asking.  Given the players are comfortable not having the railroad tracks laid out before them (that'd by you going, "Go here, here, here, here, or here."), no one will ever ask 'where is there to go?'  They'll just say things like we go to the police station (every city has a police station) and et cetera; you are imagining that the players have absolutely no grasp on the Genre Expectations.  That's just not true.

If it really came down to "Where is there to go?"  You'd say, "Anywhere you like."  This is what needs to be unlearnt, the idea that the gamemaster holds all the possible options.  If it's a city, there should be fifty bazillion places you can think to go, like in any city you've lived in, that don't need to be spelled out in advance.  The trick is to think in terms of 'what would be at a Laundromat that fronts a numbers racket,' not to design one in advance.

More importantly, you've got to try not to give the players time to say aloud either "Where should we go?" or "Where is there to go?"  Learn to sense when they've run out of ideas; when that happens, hit 'em with an unexpected Complication.  Don't give them time to sit around with nothing to do.

And using archetypical locations won't create any sense of inconsistency because they're archetypes.  It wouldn't be archetypical if it were inconsistent.  For players who just go wandering around?  Hit 'em with a Complication; like I said, so Don's house happens to be there or there's a drive by.  (Why the heck are you characters playing Battleship anyway - "I go out of the house, turn left and walk two blocks down" - sheesh.  I have never see that happen.  Ask him where he thinks he's going; use that archetype.)  No player action should ever be let avoid the 'action;' is there a point to trying to be boring?

As far as remembering what you've created, if the players want to go back to somewhere they've been before, make it their job to remind you what happened.  (Remember #1?  You ain't supposed to be some historian, ya know; make them remember it, their memory is why their going there isn't it?)

So far I haven't been clear what the players need to unlearn.  You don't ever need them to think or know that the reality is a myth (I think that'd hurt the enjoyment of the game for some.)  The habit that needs to be unlearned is 'playing off the menu;' "Where is there to go?" is the players looking at the menu and being very uncreative or 'free.'  Needing a clue to 'find their way' from scene to scene is expecting you to lead them around by the nose, not creative, not free.  This is what they need to learn; "Where is there to go?" gets a "You tell me."  "What does this clue mean?" gets a "Where would you look for that?"  At first, it's a hard habit to unlearn, expecting the gamemaster to give you all your options, but once they do, their creativity will give you most of the input you need to improvise locations.

Once you've got players who think in terms of 'what to do' or 'where to go' based upon the Genre Expectations rather than a menu you provide, once they don't expect everything to provide a direction of where to go next, then they'll be ready to play in a "No Myth" game.  They'll respond to the Complications based upon how the want to rather than fishing for what you want.  This may sound confusing, but it makes them more susceptible to the "Myth of Reality."  They won't be thinking, "Where can my character go?" but "What do I want to do?"  The myth is something that it is dangerous for the gamemaster to believe in.

What then connects scenes?  Player initiative.  Sure they might get some pretty weird ideas of what to do, but since you are being guided by what 'seems right' for the game's Genre Expectations, you can't go wrong by combining the two (the weird direction the players have gone and the 'next Complication' the Genre Expects).

Evoking rarity amongst game elements is a ringer.  Many games say 'this is rare' or 'players should hardly never see this' and all I say is 'why list it then?'  Look at it this way; if there were all these 'hidden things,' wouldn't you expect them to chum around?  Sorta like a conspiracy?  After all, unless I'm guessing wrong, the player characters are 'rare beasts' too, right?  Have you ever read a story were the 'rare and mysterious' fails to show up?  I have to say that these games do a piss poor job of explaining how to make 'rare' seem 'cool,' 'cuz having them just not show up ain't cool.

Another thing, you seem really worried about things that just don't seem to happen.  Can you provide real, concrete examples of things like, "I drive down Main Street drawing a diagram map of every business I see; and an artist's impression of their logos, as well!"  It just doesn't happen and if it does, just say, "Okay, what do you do with it?"  I mean all I've seen this as was a player wasting their time.  If they want to do something this boring and tedious, just gloss over it.  Noting the details of a neighborhood is meaningless unless they do something with it; it is that action that counts, not some tired map of storefronts.

If the players try and "force a whole bunch of stuff to exist," don't let them.  (I mean what's the point; they aren't really 'going there' are they?)  Just breeze over it.  I mean, so what if they want a map, what's a map except a guide to places¹  Don't let the players sifting for details distract you from running the next Complication; if you can cloak the Complication in those details, do you really need to make the players figure it out when actually the characters are doing the figuring.  Just tell them what they want to know based upon your opinion of what the characters will glean from it.  (I mean, do I really have to invent a whole new alphabet, language, and grammar, so Indiana Jones can take a half an hour trying to figure out if something relevant is written on the tomb walls?  No, he just takes it in and you tell the player what Indie has figured out an hour later.)

Forgive me one quote:

Quote from: hyphz
The players now have to decide where their characters are going to travel to, and they have to have some information to use to make that decision.  If they don't, they go get it and...

They already have this information; I call it the Genre Expectations.  It has to do with anything one could reasonably expect to see, do, or find, in the narrowly defined genre given by the game.  Unless you are the sole creator of the game and somehow it manages to be not even remotely like anything the players have ever seen, not even in a 'this piece from here, that piece from there' way, then you don't need to be the source of that information.  They want to go to a bar?  Sheesh, who hasn't seen a bar, just make up a name.  They want to go to that villain's temple?  Describe it thus, "It's like the one in...you know with the...except this temple is all decked out with...."  The return and you want consistency, ask them what it looked like/was name/had in it; this just isn't your responsibility anymore (the other thing needed to unlearn: the gamemaster is not the source of all knowledge).

You absolutely must shake the idea that this information is your sole responsibility or that consistency is only your job.  If you don't 'let go' of the myth, not even for a second, I can't even begin to explain this.  Likewise all the worries you raise either boil down to two things: it ain't gonna happen or the players will forgive small mistakes.  Try it out, I think InSpectres has been cited as a game tailored for this.

Is this any clearer yet or should I go back to examples?

Fang Langford

¹ Okay a map can also be used to determine positional relationships, but outside of relevant relationships, it's all a waste.  Don't draw one.  If they want to plot something out, ask them what parts and then do the analysis their character's brains would; "You see that all the pins are in a straight line" is a hell of a lot better than designing a whole map with locations they've been to only and I mean only to reveal that fact.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #37 on: April 23, 2003, 09:56:54 AM »

{Edited to not the cross post with Fang.}

You're worried about nothing, Hyphz. Do you worry that your players in a "normal" game are going to walk away from the plot, and just start doing stuff at random? No? Then why would you worry about such illogical actions in another sort of game.

If a player asks you "where is there to go?" then indeed they are not ready for this sort of game. The appropriately Zen obfuscatory response to teach them th enew paradigm is, "I don't know, where is there to go? It's a city, think of some place to go in a city."

You are stuck in a very Setting first mindset. Of course Unicorns will tell you they're rare. Every time you meet them. Rarity in a game world has nothing to do with how often a character will encounter the rare thing. Certainly you have to keep things plausible. But that doesn't mean that the character is "just somebody" in the game world. They are protagonists. That means by definition that things happen to them that just don't happen to "just somebody".

So, in this play style, when the player says, "Well, I'll go check out one of those seedy dive bars where the criminals hang out." He should be pleased to find out that they guy he's looking for just happens to be there.

If you want a more Sim edge out of this, use Area Knowledge die rolls. Player says he's going to a dive that he makes up. He rolls. If he rolls well, then that dive is just like he described it with all the criminals in town there. If not, then he has to try again.

Are you starting to see it? Nothing exists at first. It's all created in play by the need of the plot.

Don't allow maps. "How do we get there?" should be answered by framing directly to the needed scene. "OK, you've driven to the seedy bar, and are currently looking about the room for your target. A big guy comes up and asks what 'your type' is doing in 'his' bar." Believe me, the player will forget about how far it was to the Bar.

Player says, "I drive down Main Street drawing a diagram map of every business I see; and an artist's impression of their logos, as well!"
GM response, "OK that takes about an hour. Make a note that you've got your copies. Now what do you do?" Do they get to see the map or logos? No. But they might get a bonus on a roll for having done this on a future roll.

Would you see all the logos it if it was a movie? No? Then why do the players need to see them? It's only important that the characters can see them.

This is all easy stuff to avoid or work around.

Mike
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #38 on: April 23, 2003, 10:31:11 AM »

Just something...

The player is haggling for a horse.  If they succeed on the roll they get a cheap horse, if they fail they get an expensive horse.  Of course, they don't have to buy the horse at either price.

Is the GM railroading?  I mean, the player gets the horse both ways.

The "Punisher" tries to intimidate the paedophile: he succeeds - he gets the information.  He fails, the paedophile gives him the diary of his last victim.  Cue high rank Helplessness rolls.  The player gets the information.

Is the GM railroading?  I mean the player gets the information both ways.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #39 on: April 23, 2003, 10:39:49 AM »

Hi Ian,

Here are a couple of threads that you might find useful:
Illusionism: a new look and new approach
So ... what is railroading (using illusionism terminology)

Going by the concepts in these threads, it is quite likely that the GM you describe is not railroading, but plain old contributing, much as he or she might contribute any information.

There may be some illusionism involved (if the player is in doubt but the GM is not), but that is not the same thing as railroading.

Now, railroading (as we defined it in those threads) is at least possible in your example depending on the Social Contract, but the basic fact that the GM has provided the information "no matter what" is not, itself, railroading under all circumstances.

Best,
Ron
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hyphz
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« Reply #40 on: April 23, 2003, 03:00:22 PM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
Hey Hyphz,
The problem I think is the kinds of questions you are supposing the players will be asking.  Given the players are comfortable not having the railroad tracks laid out before them (that'd by you going, "Go here, here, here, here, or here."), no one will ever ask 'where is there to go?'  They'll just say things like we go to the police station (every city has a police station) and et cetera; you are imagining that the players have absolutely no grasp on the Genre Expectations.  That's just not true.


Well, that's alright.  But, how would the players get the idea to go to the police station, if no information suggesting that it might be a good idea has been presented?  Reasoning has to work on some basis, or it's just guessing.

Quote

So far I haven't been clear what the players need to unlearn.  You don't ever need them to think or know that the reality is a myth (I think that'd hurt the enjoyment of the game for some.)  


But I think that they do.  In an illusionist game, the PCs have to reasonably follow the existing plot and not wander off in random directions; in a "no myth" game the players have to avoid making moves which require huge amounts of world information to be spontaneously generated at once (like drawing that map).  

If I gave I response like Mike suggested ("ok, you have the map (but I'm notably not telling you what's on it), now what do you do?") that would be no less of a 'slightly in-character smackdown' than the classic responses to an illusionism violation ("nothing interesting happens there - why don't you go to where you know the action is?")

Regarding the rest of the text, the only other thing I can see is that I've had bad experiences trying to involve these players in this sort of thing in the past.  The sort of attitude I got was (this is a paraphrase of what one of them said; he's a D&D GM so he used that as an example) "if I fight a dragon I want to know that it was always there. There's no satisfaction in fighting it, if it just appeared because I wanted to fight a dragon."  (And before you say it, this player is NOT a pure gamist.. he's likewise given me complaints about computer games where he said "Well, my heroic story was: our hero went from one city to another, but was killed by a bunch of lizards on the way.  What's the point of that?")


Quote

Have you ever read a story were the 'rare and mysterious' fails to show up?  I have to say that these games do a piss poor job of explaining how to make 'rare' seem 'cool,' 'cuz having them just not show up ain't cool.


Yea.. that's actually something I really found missing from UA, actually.  Basically, the book's divided into three levels based on how much of the setting the players know, but although it has plenty of OOC explanation, it never suggests how the first bit is found IC.  In fact, I might go and post that on the UA forum now..

Quote

Another thing, you seem really worried about things that just don't seem to happen.  Can you provide real, concrete examples of things like, "I drive down Main Street drawing a diagram map of every business I see; and an artist's impression of their logos, as well!"  It just doesn't happen and if it does, just say, "Okay, what do you do with it?"


Well, the most popular question of that type I've had before is "How far is the <whatever> away from <whatever>?", expecting an answer in metres.

Another problem is that these players have been known to revolt when their preconceptions are challenged.  In two games I was hoping to run (Godlike and Exalted) I told the players I hoped they'd develop the story a bit themselves, but they (one particular player especially) continued making purely defensive characters who were obviously just designed to survive random stuff coming at them.  When I asked them not to do this, one of them (in both games) responded by making a character who couldn't survive any action at all, and announcing that the character was a politician - thus giving him no link to the rest of the group (and forcing me to come up with a political system).  Needless to say, both systems were abandoned.  UA, at least, tries to bar you from making a purely defensive character.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #41 on: April 23, 2003, 04:38:39 PM »

Hey Hyphz,

Can you help me out here?  I'm not making sense to you.  Perhaps if you tried to sum up what I am saying, in your own words; then I'll understand what I'm saying wrong.

Quote from: hyphz
But, how would the players get the idea to go to the police station...Reasoning has to work on some basis, or it's just guessing.

Um, 'cuz it's a crime?  Really, your worrying about phantoms.  It's supposed to be "just guessing."  That's the point!  The Complications are there to keep them guessing and wondering and interested.  Too much Complication, the flow is blocked and the game dull.  Too little and the game becomes too easy, yawn.  If the Complications don't 'fit' the 'par for the course,' the players lose interest (the Genre Expectations are what they expected after all).

Quote from: hyphz
Quote from: Le Joueur
So far I haven't been clear what the players need to unlearn.  You don't ever need them to think or know that the reality is a myth (I think that'd hurt the enjoyment of the game for some.)

But I think that they do.  In an illusionist game, the PCs have to reasonably follow the existing plot and not wander off in random directions; in a "no myth" game the players have to avoid making moves which require huge amounts of world information to be spontaneously generated at once (like drawing that map).

Absolutely not!  As I've tried to say, there is no decision that players can make, that forces huge amounts of anything to be improvised.

Quote from: hyphz
If I gave I response like Mike suggested ("ok, you have the map (but I'm notably not telling you what's on it), now what do you do?") that would be no less of a 'slightly in-character smackdown' than the classic responses to an illusionism violation ("nothing interesting happens there - why don't you go to where you know the action is?")

Y'know, I'm just not seeing that.  Yer talking that moon-man talk agin.  How is "What do you want to do" anything but empowering.  Exactly what is a player supposed to do staring at your newly made map?  I just don't get it.  To me, handing them a map shuts them up, asking them "what's next" gets them involved.  I don't get it.

The real question you should be asking (even if you plan on foisting a map on them) is "what for?"  I mean it; what the hell do they do with a map?  What could they do with it that wouldn't be more streamlined if you just did that instead?  Think about it; ask yourself, as a player, what are you going to do with a map?  Now, how can't you just do the very same thing without it?  The same goes for that drawing of store fronts; what's it for?  What do they do with it?

Quote from: hyphz
"If I fight a dragon I want to know that it was always there. There's no satisfaction in fighting it, if it just appeared because I wanted to fight a dragon."

You're just not following.  It's not like "I wanna fight a dragon" and "You turn the corner and there one is."  Where's the Complication in that?  The game starts out, many sessions before when the player expresses an interest in pitting his character against a dragon (whether his character has this interest or not).  So you say, "where do you find one?"  They say, "I dunno."  And you offer, "Who would you ask?"  After that getting the location becomes the Complication.  Once they have the information, they say, "We go to the caves of Glondorak and seek the deadly Snarl."

Do you need a map to tell them that nothing happens along the way?  Do you need to know exactly how many leagues of untamed wilderness they won't remember later anyway?  I say no; these trackless wastes don't really exist anyway.  Why bother?  Just say, "After several days harrowing journey, you arrive at the cave entrance."  What difference does it make.  And so on all the way down the caverns to the lair of Snarl.

Would Snarl have existed before they asked in the map-making game?  No, you have to prepare it.  Does it exist in "No Myth" gamemastering?  Obviously not, the question is what value is added to the game to have a map?  Or more accurately a precise map?  Props are nice, but what's the point in killing yourself to make information that gets overlooked anyway?

The whole game is predicated on the idea that they pursue these grand quests.  Would there be a point to going all that way if there was no dragon?  Do the dragon's hit points matter before they get to it?  No.  Does having a map better ensure that the journey becomes more dangerous at every segment?  Not in my experience.  Does moderating the 'dangerousness' of each Complications?  Probably.

The point is, without a map, you don't need to fudge any results to get them where you need them.  That place isn't a 'place,' it's a amorphous Complication tailored to both the Genre Expectation and the characters' actions.  (That also comes up in the above example; it would be outside of the Genre Expectations for the dragon to "just appear."  There has to be 'the quest' which, abstractly, isn't anything other than a string of Complications faced by the characters as they pursue the conclusion.)

Quote from: hyphz
The most popular question of that type I've had before is "How far is the <whatever> away from <whatever>?", expecting an answer in metres.

And you respond, "Why?"  So's mine.  Of what use will you put such information?  If their planning travel time, why not ask in minutes instead of metres?  Moreover, if planning travel time, what exactly are they racing?  'Cuz if it ain't a race, how far or how long is meaningless.  If their trying to determine which is the shortest or fastest trip why not give that information instead.

Like I said, "Why?"

Quote from: hyphz
...purely defensive characters who were obviously just designed to survive random stuff coming at them.

That's because in their experience so much "random stuff" has ruined their fun.  This is yet another habit that need be unlearned, pulling 'a turtle' is simply dysfunctional play.  Expect, and request, better.

Quote from: hyphz
When I asked them not to do this, one of them (in both games) responded by making a character who couldn't survive any action at all, and announcing that the character was a politician - thus giving him no link to the rest of the group (and forcing me to come up with a political system).

See, this shows that "No Myth" gamemastering probably isn't for you.  If you are asking them to not do something, you are trying to exert some kind of control; I'm not surprised by the turtle behaviour.  "No Myth" gamemastering is about 'releasing control.'

The best tack I've found for the above situation is ask them if they want their character to be totally safe, if so tell them they get their wish and they must wait for the next game.  Then explain the Genre Expectations to them again and ask them how this character fits and what it would do in games like the one you are communally preparing.  If they want a politician character in a party of adventurers, make them an envoy; the adventurers take him somewhere, he negotiates.  No political system necessary, just a vague guess at international political stresses and you can fake it.  It's just the same with any other set up and if you cannot think of such a relationship, you don't have to; make them do it and call it a part of the Genre Expectations.

Survival has to stop being the issue!  Few Genre Expectations call for the death of any of the protagonists and those that do make it so enjoyable that it doesn't matter.  This is the flaw in using an old-fashioned rules system with "No Myth" gamemastering.  Death is not a Complication, it's the end of fun; get rid of it.  If you need that kind of 'win/lose' stakes, play a different game.

Fang Langford
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John Kim
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« Reply #42 on: April 23, 2003, 06:38:16 PM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
 
Quote from: hyphz
 In an illusionist game, the PCs have to reasonably follow the existing plot and not wander off in random directions; in a "no myth" game the players have to avoid making moves which require huge amounts of world information to be spontaneously generated at once (like drawing that map).

Absolutely not!  As I've tried to say, there is no decision that players can make, that forces huge amounts of anything to be improvised.

OK, what I think you are saying here is when the players start asking questions about the town, you don't answer their questions.  You have a couple of options: [1] gloss over it - i.e. saying "OK, your PCs learn what the town looks like" but not drawing a map for the players; or [2] distract them, i.e. don't answer their question but instead say "As you start looking around, a desparate looking man runs towards you..."

So the players aren't "forcing" you as GM to do anything by asking those questions, but you at least have to deny them an answer.  This means that the players do have to unlearn tendencies like asking for a map of the area.  (They will hopefully learn quickly by having their requests denied, but they do need to unlearn this.)    

Also, most of this depends highly on which genre is picked.  For example, my current game is in the genre of the historical Icelandic sagas.  For those, as you are reading it, it is really nice to have a map of Iceland and a family tree.  Many of the editions I have include such information with the main book.  It seems to me that part of your assumption is a genre which isn't concerned with details (like the typical superhero comic or action movie).
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #43 on: April 23, 2003, 07:04:23 PM »

Quote from: John Kim
I think you are saying...when the players start asking questions about the town, you don't answer their questions.  You have a couple of options: [1] gloss over it - i.e. saying "OK, your PCs learn what the town looks like" but not drawing a map for the players; or [2] distract them, i.e. don't answer their question but instead say "As you start looking around, a desperate looking man runs towards you..."

Or most likely, [3] find out why – id est saying "You name it, you can probably find it; waddaya like?"

Quote from: John Kim
So the players aren't "forcing" you as GM to do anything by asking those questions, but you at least have to deny them an answer.  This means that the players do have to unlearn tendencies like asking for a map of the area.  (They will hopefully learn quickly by having their requests denied, but they do need to unlearn this.)

Actually the players are forcing you to do stuff; that's mostly the point.  What the players need to unlearn is asking for information they aren't really going to use anyway.  For example, when I visit someone's house, pretty early on I'll ask where the bathroom is; I don't ask for a tour.  I might need the bathroom, but I hardly need to know where the walk-in master bedroom closet is.

I mean if it really comes down to it, cut to the chase; "Do you guys have anything you wanna do in town?"  If the answer is no; it's time to dig out some new Complication based on #1 or #2.  I hope that eventually they'll learn to say, "We find lodging and start combing the town for stories of dragons," or just "We find lodging, anything special about this town?"  Knowing every feature of town up front is a waste of time, asking for what you need, when you need it, isn't.  If the players want something out of the ordinary (like horseshoes after midnight), just let 'em, but be a tad difficult about it (Complicate it).  Why stop them?

Quote from: John Kim
Also, most of this depends highly on which genre is picked.  For example, my current game is in the genre of the historical Icelandic sagas.  For those, as you are reading it, it is really nice to have a map of Iceland and a family tree.  Many of the editions I have include such information with the main book.  It seems to me that part of your assumption is a genre which isn't concerned with details (like the typical superhero comic or action movie).

Good point.  The map is not very likely the most accurate in the world (little more than rough positions) and the family tree probably doesn't have a full bio of each, so none of this is outside of the Genre Expectations.  That's what I'm talking about and all this is shared information.  What formerly were secrets held by the gamemaster are now unknowns resolved by working out the Complications in a game.  No secrets, no detailed maps, just the information that's relevant at the time it's needed.

Yep, that's "No Myth" gamemastering.  (And the secondary function of Genre Expectations is to provide guidance of how to fulfill new 'secrets' to reveal.)

Fang Langford
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clehrich
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« Reply #44 on: April 23, 2003, 09:38:25 PM »

Something Hyphz said, and I think John seconded, really caught my attention.  Your players think they're stuck; you personally maybe can see lots of things they could do, but they can't think of anything.  So they ask things like, "Where can we go in this city?" or "Well, what is there to do now?"  What they're really saying is, "We don't know what we're supposed to do, so tell us."

Some folks here do not seem to have had this experience with players; others suggest that players like this are "not ready for" no-myth gaming.

This stuns me, frankly.  This is the #1 problem I have with players, no matter what I'm doing.  I find that a huge number of players (gasp!) love railroads.  They want it all clearly in front of them, so they can sort of semi-passively watch the pretty scenery and do fun shtick (color) things as they go.  The problem is that they ultimately find it somewhat dissatisfying, because they're really not putting anything into the game, and so they don't get much out.

So to my mind, the big issue is how to lead the players from their old habit -- "What do we do now?" -- into the new one -- "Okay, we're going to start making it up as we go along."  Now I realize that the latter case is not explicitly what Fang means, but in fact, few players will admit to the former, either.  Both are implicit, if you see what I mean.

I agree that there are some problems along the way here, lots of them, but I do not see that throwing complications at the players when they're stuck and frustrated is going to help.  Let's imagine the situation:

The PCs are standing around on the road, at the scene of a crime, and they're convinced (for some reason) that they shouldn't call the police.  They don't know what to do, and they think there's some Special Thing they should do, because that's what they're used to.  Yes, it's their Genre Expectation: railroaded game.  So you throw a complication: somebody pulls over and says, "You guys need help?"  Okay, they desperately cover up the body and get the guy to go away.  Now they start standing around again, because they don't know what they should do.  So now you have a cop pull up, wondering why there's all these guys standing around the roadside.  What happens now?  The players think -- though they may not say it -- "Okay, we failed, I have no idea what he wanted us to do but we didn't do it, this game sucks, I have no idea what's going on, now he's just going to punish us."  This then colors their interaction with the cop, and besides the whole dynamic is already sliding downhill.

Does this make sense?  If you say, "Well, you could..." the players will think, "Oh great, the Hint Hammer."  If you throw a complication, the players think, "Oh great, we failed."  It's a lose-lose situation.

Now admittedly I'm talking about a rather dysfunctional group here, but the whole point of analysis is to fix problems.  If you've got this group, and god knows I've seen a lot of them, I just don't think that throwing complications at them is going to work, because they're not in motion.  If they're doing something, you can complicate matters: Indy and the gang are heading home when the sub shows up.  But if they're just sitting around because they don't know what to do, having more Nazis break in isn't going to help matters.

Sorry, I'm rambling, but there seems to be this impression that the "Draw us a map" or "Where can we go?" thing is not actually going to happen.  It does.  Often.  So what then?
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Chris Lehrich
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