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Author Topic: No Myth Gamemastering  (Read 11900 times)
Le Joueur
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« on: April 29, 2003, 04:19:04 PM »

First, let's see if we can centralize the No Myth Gamemastering Style.

The most important thing to remember about gaming is that it's all made up!  Every bit of gaming is make-believe, nothing is real and if you stopped, none of it would exist once you forgot it.  Keep that in mind.

The next thing to remember is that gaming only happens when you share it.  This is important, but shouldn't override the first point.  So far we've got this stuff that is shared make-believe.

Okay, now we get a little more traditional.  Let's divide the gamers into players and a gamemaster.  And we'll have the players make up Personae to use in the shared make-believe.

Sounds like every kind of gaming so far, right?  It is.

Now let's turn our attention to something every game has, but few get that explicit about.  I calls 'em Genre Expectations.  This is the where, what, who, when, and how of the game.  (And while we're at it, let's say that 'game' is a sequence of shared make-believe events, as to not confuse it with the printed stuff.)  Older games communicate this through fiction, examples of play, references to works of fiction, and of course via the mechanics that explicitly show you what you can do.  One problem inherent in some of the oldest games is they assumed you 'just knew' some of these things.

Wait, did I forget something?  Oh yeah, Mechanix.  A game's gotta have rules don't it?  But why?  If you follow the Lumpley Principle, it's because they facilitate reaching agreement over 'what happens' in the game.  That's plenty good for shared make-believe, but I don't follow.  I put two other uses before that one.  Simply, they protect your right to say 'what happens' (while simultaneously communicating that clearly to the others) and they help 'inspire' things you might not create on your own.  So Mechanix give you the 'right of way,' they inspire play, and communicate what happens in the shared make-believe (the Lumpley Principle).

It might sound kind of strange, but that's all you need.  At least for No Myth gamemastering, that is.

It works like this; the players make Personae suited to the Genre Expectations using the Mechanix to establish 'what they get to do,' the gamemaster thinks up a 'big deal' that also suits the Genre Expectations, play starts with what the players do with their Personae.  That's right, the players go first.  (Now if the players want, they can have the gamemaster offer a starting Circumstance, otherwise they can from either their Personae's Background or the Genre Expectations.)

No Myth gamemastering is reactive (actually, I'd say all gamemastering is; more on that later).  The players do something (largely through their Personae in the shared make-believe) and the gamemaster reacts to it.  The make-believe is created and controlled entirely by the players.

But because of this, it frees the gamemaster to emphasize what the group values (pick your favorite GNS mode or Scattershot Approach or 'cool bit' from the Genre Expectations here), instead of attempting to control or 'believe in' the shared make-believe.

Without the gamemaster's affect on the game (we'll assume the players won't be doing this themselves), the players can simply pursue their interests to the shortest conclusion.  What makes the game more interesting than such a short-circuit are the Complications.  Gaming is about 'the journey' not 'the destination.'

Since the gamemaster has nothing 'at stake' in the game (like the players with their Personae), this frees him up to take a more 'big picture' look at play.  He can offer Complications using any kind of personification and always skew their affect based upon the 'group agenda.'  The only consistency necessary is that within the minds of the players.  (One error often made by novice gamemasters is thinking that a fully realized setting automatically creates consistency; there is no such guarantee.  Players' minds are fickle, it's easier to fool them than to 'fully realize' anything.)

It's important to understand that the 'group agenda' is composed of many things.  First and foremost is the social aspects of gaming (I can't say anything about that so this is all I'll say about it).  Then there's what attracted the group to the Genre Expectations.  There's also 'how to play' (another social aspect, but GNS and Scattershot Approaches cover it well enough), 'what to play' (this comes out of the Genre Expectations too), and lots of other side issues (like suspension of disbelief, consistency, verisimilitude, and many others).  These are what are foremost in the gamemasters technique, not 'what happens' in the game.

So in order to orchestrate Complications that suit what everyone likes to play, the gamemaster works most of what he does towards a concentration suited to the 'group agenda.'  This is 'the big deal' I was talking about.  There are many and various ways to relate what the players choose to do to the central issue (and I'll leave that for another article), the point is that's all the gamemaster does.

It doesn't matter what kind of boondoggle the players send their Personae on, if there is a way to channel that towards 'the big deal' then play will apparently do what the players want.  In fact, by not telling the players that whatever they just did was nearly retroactively connected to 'the big deal,' you create this magical sensation that implies their actions are realizing a game just like they wanted.

It's central to No Myth gamemastering that this 'big deal' is not a concrete make-believe 'thing.'  Remember, the gamemaster 'has no stakes in the game.'  What it is, is whatever 'fits' the Genre Expectations 'when the players get there.'  If the Genre Expectations call for a big face-off at the end of the game, this face-off is the 'big deal.'  The gamemaster does not choose who the Personae will face-off with he just makes sure that someone they encounter will be 'on hand' and 'mad enough' that a face-off is unavoidable.

The steps that take the players to the conclusion of the game are completely chosen by them, are composed of 'things' the gamemaster selects, and given relevance to the 'group agenda' by the gamemaster evidencing the relativity these have to it.  Each step is basically a Scene that confronts the player(s) with some kind of Complication.  The 'things' that populate these Scenes are more than just people, places, and things; they can be relationships, plans, organizations, and many other things.  What matters is that these 'things' make the Personae's lives more Complicated.  Success or failure against these Complications only decides what Complications will be dealt with in the future; none of them block the game from reaching 'the big deal.'  (One of the problems novice gamemasters run into is investing 'things' in play with personal stake and allowing in-game rational consequences to block play from reaching these 'things;' if Complications are only allowed to describe the bases for future Complications and not considered to block or open play, they no longer produce these problems.)

Simply put, you choose the next Complication based on one or more of three things:[list=1][*]What the Personae have already done.

[*]What you can reasonable find in the Genre Expectations.

[*]What the players are doing right now.[/list:o]Such Complication is predicated on the idea that no matter what the result, it brings play 'closer' to 'the big deal.'  (You can just as easily do this retroactively as at the formulation of it because the details of the Complication are not set until they are actually said aloud.)

Play proceeds from Scene to Scene, addressing Complications that spring from these three sources, growing ever closer to 'the big deal' along the lines of the 'group agenda.'  The gamemaster keeps altering the yet-to-be-mentioned details of everything in order to make this happen because he has nothing 'at stake' in the game.

Now comes the hard-to-swallow part.

As far as I can tell, all gamemastering is simply a derivative of No Myth gamemastering.  Every other style adds something, but none of them ever take anything away.  I know that some people will raise alarm bells, but I believe I can support this point (and that's what this thread is for; so let's hear them).

Just to make things a little simpler to discuss these points let me frame one important concept: 'flexibility.'  Two of the most traditionally added things are a map or a plot.  That seems to invalidate my supposition that all gamemastering is derivative from No Myth, doesn't it?  No.  No matter how many 'inflexible' parts you add, there will still be times that the gamemaster must 'make stuff up.'  At that point we're right back into No Myth (base it on History-GenEx-Actions).  Just because you reduce the 'flexibility' does not mean you leave No Myth behind, because that 'flexibility' always lurks there ready to fill in any gaps found in play.

One other point to be made (essentially because people keep only imagining Narrativism as the only 'group agenda' of No Myth) is that it does Simulationism just as well.  If you need a better description of the 'group agenda' for this, take a trip to the top of this page and go look at the articles section for Ron's article on Simulationism.  I will always maintain that it is easier to focus on 'sharing the dream' if you don't spend much time on 'fully realizing' a setting and work at...well, 'Trompe le Joueur' (unless you have Jesse's player).

So, whaddaya think?

Fang Langford
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Bankuei
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2003, 05:00:21 PM »

Hi Fang,

I follow you on that No Myth can fit GNS in any fashion.  Of course, since you are making the claims that all GMing styles are related to No Myth, I'm going to ask the obvious question:

What about the folks who buy into the Myth?

That is, the GMs and/or players who believe that "the map", the "backstory" or the "plot" is real.  I mean, the central crux to No Myth would seem to be the same as "If it doesn't show up in play(get communicated) then it doesn't exist".  But many people believe that it does it exist.  

I mean, I know and you know that before it leaves your mouth and gets consensus by the group, it doesn't exist.  But what about those folks who do believe it?  How are they playing by No Myth?

Chris
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2003, 07:34:22 PM »

Hey Chris,

Thanks for asking the obvious question.  I suppose the obvious answer is that people convince themselves of a lot of things that aren't true, but leaving it there would be a cop out, wouldn't it.

Quote from: Bankuei
What about the folks who buy into the Myth?

,,,What about those folks who do believe it?  How are they playing by No Myth?

Okay, the No Myth version of "the map," "the backstory," and "the plot" is that these are structures crystallized out of the Genre Expectations.  The No Myth 'solution' is that when these become so inflexible they 'get in the way' of what the group wants to do, you simply change what hasn't been said.

See, outside of the Forge, I don't call it No Myth.  Around the studio, there's never been any question of the validity of the unexpressed.  Time and again, I've been surprised that people have so much trouble gamemastering because of certain inflexible notions they hold.  Why hasn't anyone discussed this before?  Because most of the time it never comes up.  You get discussions about non-dysfunctional gaming like Illusionism and Participationism; what they do is simply say (alternatively) 'hide the inflexibility better' or 'the players can accept some inflexibility.'

This in no way invalidates any functional style of gamemastering anywhere.  What I've called No Myth gamemastering here has always been my 'compass point' to direct people who say 'but that doesn't work for me' around.  I'm in no way saying that 'here is what everyone should play.'  I'm saying that 'here is the root, check out the features you've added that you don't seem to like.'

Reading Walt's Transition procedure was like a wakeup call.  He basically explained how to give up inflexibility, 'a slice at a time.'  First here and there, later in general, and finally in total, Walt laid out the pitfalls of inflexibility.  It gave me a perspective I hadn't had before.  I've been running various 'near' No Myth games since I first gave up modules decades ago; I'd even rarified my form under conditions that I simply had no preparation time.

At first it was a matter of 'loosening up' more and more parts of play.  Then it was 'letting go' of concept after concept.  Finally, I didn't even think of it as flexibility at all, but natural responsiveness.  At each level, I learned to work more and more with 'what my players wanted' and less 'what I thought they wanted.'  Having come this far in such tiny increments, I was constantly confounded by what I didn't realize was the difference.  Reading Walt's step-by-step procedure woke me up.  I realized that I could see all gamemastering as 'what I did' with things 'bolted on.'

It's a fascinating perspective and I think crucial to Transition theory.  However I find that I am not presumptive enough to say that I understand all other styles enough to categorize other styles according to my 'compass point.'

Now categorizing 'people who believe' isn't as simple as your question makes it seem, because not every style that 'believes' makes use of all the same 'beyond No Myth' components.  For example, a game that relies upon non-dysfunctional cluemaster play is dependant upon the Genre Expectation that 'what happened' is reflected in the Background, Props, and behaviours in the Relationships.  Since we're talking about 'a concrete past,' players are quite willing to give the gamemaster 'space' to realize the correct details relative to what they are curious about; they provide the flexibility that affords a more concrete Background.  One obvious feature of such a game is 'limited scope.'  The players trade 'complete freedom' for the opportunity to be cluemasters and avoid areas 'on the map' marked "Unfinished."

This wouldn't work at all for the Genre Expectations needed for "Module Play."  This form is founded upon a concrete sequence that not only spells out geographical limitations, but the interactions 'at' them and the avenues between them.  You can certainly 'believe' in the components and how they all relate, but the 'way you play it' is different.  Instead of the players being flexible so the gamemaster can employ the inflexible background, the gamemaster must be flexible in order to afford the players the ability to 'jump through the hoops' presented by the module.  This is why it's turning out so different from Illusionist/Participationist use of 'Force.'  It's almost the opposite of 'Force,' where the gamemaster must be 'patient' while the players 'work it out.'  (I'd go so far as to suggest that applying concepts like 'Force' may be misleading for how their grounded.)

And that's just two 'ways of the believers.'  In order to say anything definite about a style, I'd need a definite style to speak about.  The only general thing I can say about gamemasters who "buy into the Myth" is that the flexibility has to be there somewhere.  Find it, accord it, and have non-dysfunctional play.

Also, in games with the most 'Myth behaviour,' you'll see a lot of No Myth occurring at 'street level.'  If play takes place in a bar with a map, a list of patrons, and notes about all their affiliations, you'll almost never see a complete wine list, a diagram of how the 'back of the bar' is laid out, and a timetable for when external events interfere.  These things are said to be improvised on the fly, but isn't that just 'street level' No Myth?  Like Mike (was it?) said, if you can do it there, why not everywhere?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Verisimilitude, realism, plausibility and such based upon the gamemaster believing in the Myth and attempting ever better levels of simulation of [something] are a waste of effort.  Over the long term, noticeable failure is inevitable and frequently gets passed over by social contract.  Why take that chance?  (Is it really worth the effort of creating all the 'unnoticed successes?')  While I'm struggling to write it, I am quite confident a treatment of 'Trompe le Joueur' should be quite instructive; effectively you only worry about when the player 'might notice' and work to fool them at those points.

So I guess the ultimate answer to "How are they playing by No Myth?" would be "When the have to make stuff up."

Fang Langford

p. s. If you have any specific styles we could dissect, I'd be more than happy to delve.  It'll help me recognize the 'options list' available and ultimately make Transitional gaming a reality.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2003, 08:40:57 PM »

Hi Fang,

Thanks for the quick and indepth reply.  I'm completely with you on the understanding that this has been a form of gamemastering that you've been pushing for a while, the means of explaining it is all that's changed.  

Quote
Also, in games with the most 'Myth behaviour,' you'll see a lot of No Myth occurring at 'street level.' If play takes place in a bar with a map, a list of patrons, and notes about all their affiliations, you'll almost never see a complete wine list, a diagram of how the 'back of the bar' is laid out, and a timetable for when external events interfere. These things are said to be improvised on the fly, but isn't that just 'street level' No Myth? Like Mike (was it?) said, if you can do it there, why not everywhere?


Which is what I agree with.  So basically No Myth is at any point where the group(players individually or as a whole), consciously or unconciously recognize that the "game world" is just a collaborative bit of imagination, whether we're talking "minor detail improv", "Oops, I forgot to add the bonus, you did succeed", or full blown improv/retcon stuff going on.

Quote
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Verisimilitude, realism, plausibility and such based upon the gamemaster believing in the Myth and attempting ever better levels of simulation of [something] are a waste of effort. Over the long term, noticeable failure is inevitable and frequently gets passed over by social contract.


And I'm with you on this one completely as well.  

Now, on note of something a bit more indepth with your No Myth style.  As you've said in other threads, the Genre Expectations create certain events (Boy meets Girl, etc.) that can be played out regardless of location, characters, etc.

How flexible or unflexible are you on holding those events to occur?  Do the events (individually) have to occur, or can you skip some/modify others/combine a few, etc?  Not that I'm taking your idea as a "strict regimen" but I'm trying to get a better understanding of how you run it.

Now, to take a quote out of order, but the one that I think will open up its own can of worms...

Quote
Instead of the players being flexible so the gamemaster can employ the inflexible background, the gamemaster must be flexible in order to afford the players the ability to 'jump through the hoops' presented by the module. This is why it's turning out so different from Illusionist/Participationist use of 'Force.' It's almost the opposite of 'Force,' where the gamemaster must be 'patient' while the players 'work it out.'


This is pretty much what I've been pushing in my articles at rpg.net.  Basically I took the idea that the players come to the table, not knowing what is going to happen, but absolutely ready to play, because their characters serve as creative tools to inspire "how to play"...that is, the information and idea that is their character never leaves the player not knowing what to do.  Flipping the idea, I pretty much push for the GM to develop the same sort of tools instead of specific A,B,C happens, whether in a prescripted form or a flowchart of options.  This really isn't much different than what Ron's been saying with Sorcerer's Soul.  

The only two major differences(which may be my misunderstanding, please clarify if so):

1) No Myth has events planned, although "how they happen" is open to interpretation, vs. no events are preplanned, but simply brought up on the spot

2) No Myth encourages "being patient with the players while they work it out" vs. driving the players to do something via bangs and scene framing...

Please let me know if I got this clear, or garbled the message along the way.

Thanks,
Chris
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2003, 06:05:40 AM »

Hey Chris,

Good questions!

Quote from: Bankuei
...As you've said in other threads, the Genre Expectations create certain events (Boy meets Girl, etc.) that can be played out regardless of location, characters, etc.

How flexible or inflexible are you on holding those events to occur?  Do the events (individually) have to occur, or can you skip some/modify others/combine a few, etc?  Not that I'm taking your idea as a "strict regimen" but I'm trying to get a better understanding of how you run it.

This is kinda complicated to answer.  The way I read what you're saying leads to two seemingly conflicting answers.  Here's why: it's possible when you ask about these 'events' you mean fairly limited examples, like "Boy meets Girl" requires that certain 'spark' and it should be evident or simply that you cannot 'add the love interest to the cast after this point.'

Granted the latter, I'd have to say that the sequence of 'events' should be strictly adhered to.  Given the former, I'd say a certain amount of flexibility is an absolute must.  This gets further problematic when you realize that different Genre Expectations require more rigid structure than others.  For example, the comedy romance movie Genre Expectation would require the principles meet, spark, and the audience will see it.  In a regency romance novel Genre Expectation, the "Boy" is pretty much dumped on the "Girl" and dealing with the repercussions of that is a lot of the play.  There's a subset of the comedy romance movie Genre Expectation where the girl is strictly a component of the Background (not 'played' by anyone) who acts like a 'force of nature' to all those around her (this kind of movie usually has the "Boy" wind up with another "Girl" entirely and often it appears to be 'just any girl' who slowly dominates the hidden "Girl" role in the film; all of these are "Boy meets Girl," but only in this last one is the event 'not as important' as the conflict with the 'force of nature' "Girl."

So I guess the answer is that it is a "strict regimen," but only as strict as the Genre Expectations require.  That puts it way ahead of most things, sorta.

Quote from: Bankuei
Quote from: Le Joueur
Instead of the players being flexible so the gamemaster can employ the inflexible background, the gamemaster must be flexible in order to afford the players the ability to 'jump through the hoops' presented by the module. This is why it's turning out so different from Illusionist/Participationist use of 'Force.' It's almost the opposite of 'Force,' where the gamemaster must be 'patient' while the players 'work it out.'

This is pretty much what I've been pushing in my articles at rpg.net.  Basically I took the idea that the players come to the table, not knowing what is going to happen, but absolutely ready to play, because their characters serve as creative tools to inspire "how to play"...that is, the information and idea that is their character never leaves the player not knowing what to do.  Flipping the idea, I pretty much push for the GM to develop the same sort of tools instead of specific A, B, C happens, whether in a pre-scripted form or a flowchart of options.  This really isn't much different than what Ron's been saying with Sorcerer's Soul.  

The only two major differences (which may be my misunderstanding, please clarify if so):

1) No Myth has events planned, although "how they happen" is open to interpretation, vs. no events are preplanned, but simply brought up on the spot

2) No Myth encourages "being patient with the players while they work it out" vs. driving the players to do something via bangs and scene framing...

I don't think that's quite it.

Given my above conditions, I'd say that we're talking about three different things here.

What you quote me on is 'No Myth gamemastering using a module.'  Both players and gamemaster alike 'submit' to prearranged scenario.  In Walt's description (what I was working from), the players must 'do all the work' to find the portals from section to section without gamemaster use of Force.  In No Myth gamemastering, you'd be there helping them (still no use of Force).

Due to the vague nature of language, No Myth gamemastering could actually be both of your #1.  On the one hand, like I said earlier vague 'events' are ordered but not exactly planned; on the other, unplanned 'events' are "brought up on the spot" in the order (with given strictness), but at no special frequency, as given by the Genre Expectations.  Heck, some Genre Expectations don't even give a list of 'events,' but 'module play' would so I am talking narrowly here.

Your #2 is clearly 'No Myth gamemastering using a module.'  It underscores how I realized 'the whole Force thing' for Walt's "Module Play."  'Non-module' No Myth gamemastering would actually use bangs (in the form of Complications) and scene framing (in the form of 'cutting to the chase' Scene preparation), almost exclusively.

So you can see how I look at No Myth gamemastering as the 'root' that everything is derived from, non?

I personally see Personae not as 'inspiring play' (unless you use Avatar Approach), but more as 'granting access to play.'  Using 'prescripting' and 'flowcharts' are something that can be added to No Myth gamemastering, provided additional 'sacrifices' on the parts of the players.  I believe that Personae should be allowed to "leave the player not knowing what to do," sometimes, especially for Swashbuckler and Joueur Approaches (if the player desires), because in certain situations this can be seen as the Persona forcing the player to do certain things; this does not accord with some people's playing styles.

I'm not sure how this relates to your style (are you saying you do use 'flowcharting?') and I haven't read Sorcerer's Soul, so I'll have to let you fill me in.

The real problem that's likely to come up is some Genre Expectations require the use of a number of Sequences or fragments of Sequences, but many don't!  A lot of Swashbuckler Approach Genre Expectations avoid them (or only call for the smallest of fragments); that obscures this part of No Myth gamemastering because people will read the need for Sequences as predominant.  It isn't, the need to address Scenes and their results abstractly (as Complications) is the core concept, even where Sequences are not evident.

Does that clear up the whole Sequential cycles of No Myth gamemastering issue?

Fang Langford
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clehrich
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2003, 07:41:14 AM »

A few questions, not particularly linked together.

1. Some genres have very clear rules/structures, while others do not.  Many of the discussed examples over the last month have referred to genres with very clear structures: high pulp (Indiana Jones, Star Wars), romantic comedy, etc.  If I understand correctly, you're saying that the only real roadmap the group needs is that provided within the genre.  

So for example, in a wild kung fu movie, when a PC really cocks up in a fight in the sense that he has his butt handed to him by a better martial artist, you've got a relatively limited set of options.
    Go on a personal quest to be a better martial artist, in the sense of overcoming personal weaknesses
    Stop fighting and start listening to the ancient guy who keeps telling you you hints and so forth, and learn the Super Art from him
    Go find a Great Master to study with
    Study with the guy who kicked your butt[/list:u]This all seems pretty clear to me, and you've given lots of examples elsewhere; I just include this as a different type of example.

    Now what happens if the genre doesn't have such clear expectations or structures?  See, I had this problem with the "how to do it" material in
Theatrix: it all seemed to be predicated on the assumption that your game would be mostly pulp.  But what if it's not?  What if your game is gritty and mysterious, and relatively low-action?  Is there some way to formulate rules for yourself about building Complications and generally guiding toward the Big Deal?

2. How do you prep for No Myth?  How much pre-built stuff can you have without its becoming Illusionism?  I realize there's going to be no single answer to this, but I'd be interested in your thoughts here.

3. How do you do No Myth when you have multiple GMs, swapping around freely during the game?  Or does this just make things easier?

4. Can you be a little more specific about formulating and evaluating Complications so that they don't seem like setting up hoops, but rather developing and improving the game by, well, complicating things?

5. You've mentioned the "Cluemaster" player before.  Is there any way to make use of this player's tendencies in No Myth, considering that there's really nothing to "figure out" that's actually already true, since nothing is already true unless it's overt?
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Chris Lehrich
Bankuei
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« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2003, 08:55:04 AM »

Quote
So I guess the answer is that it is a "strict regimen," but only as strict as the Genre Expectations require. That puts it way ahead of most things, sorta.


According to GenEx needs, gotcha.

Quote
What you quote me on is 'No Myth gamemastering using a module.' Both players and gamemaster alike 'submit' to prearranged scenario.


Sorry, my confusion, I had read the above thread as "No Myth" overall, as opposed to making the distinction.

So in general, basically No Myth is the understanding that the game is imaginary, and the concession to be willing to adapt or alter the "game" according to the group needs, correct?  At its heart, it seems that No Myth can at its basis, be summed up in the ability to "make stuff up" and that the rest of No Myth is simply the extension of that basic concept?

Am I with you here, or missing something vital?

Chris
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2003, 11:12:34 AM »

Heya Chris,

Quote from: Bankuei
So in general, basically No Myth is the understanding that the game is imaginary, and the concession to be willing to adapt or alter the "game" according to the group needs, correct?  At its heart, it seems that No Myth can at its basis, be summed up in the ability to "make stuff up" and that the rest of No Myth is simply the extension of that basic concept?

Am I with you here, or missing something vital?

If you reduce, yep; the same could be said about gaming in general.  No Myth gamemastering is my attempt to 'get beyond' this simplistic point of view.  Y'know, to spell stuff out, to lay out some parts, to get it into a format that allows me to approximate what Walt did for 'fairy tale Illusionism' to No Myth gamemastering as a step by step process.

What is perhaps vital is that you can't just dump any old piece in and expect non-dysfunctional gamemastering.  Using a module with No Myth gamemastering requires certain other additions; sometimes these kinds of additions can conflict with each other.  No Myth gamemastering is my attempt to capture a 'start point.'

But otherwise, yeah; that's it.

Fang Langford
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2003, 01:29:28 PM »

Hey Chris,

Good to hear another voice (improves the sample).

Quote from: clehrich
1. Some genres have very clear rules/structures, while others do not.  Many of the discussed examples over the last month have referred to genres with very clear structures: high pulp (Indiana Jones, Star Wars), romantic comedy, etc.  If I understand correctly, you're saying that the only real roadmap the group needs is that provided within the genre.  

So for example, in a wild kung fu movie, when a PC really cocks up in a fight in the sense that he has his butt handed to him by a better martial artist, you've got a relatively limited set of options.
    [*]Go on a personal quest to be a better martial artist, in the sense of overcoming personal weaknesses
    [*]Stop fighting and start listening to the ancient guy who keeps telling you hints and so forth, and learn the Super Art from him
    [*]Go find a Great Master to study with
    [*]Study with the guy who kicked your butt[/list:u]This all seems pretty clear to me, and you've given lots of examples elsewhere; I just include this as a different type of example.

    Now what happens if the genre doesn't have such clear expectations or structures?  See, I had this problem with the "how to do it" material in Theatrix: it all seemed to be predicated on the assumption that your game would be mostly pulp.  But what if it's not?  What if your game is gritty and mysterious, and relatively low-action?  Is there some way to formulate rules for yourself about building Complications and generally guiding toward the Big Deal?

    Ah, yes, the question and the answer.  Truth is most "genre" as people understand them (most definitely) don't give a clear set of expectations.  In fact, I've discovered that I have a talent for gleaning those that I am familiar with.  That's a good thing for me as a publisher; it means I can make money selling those.  I don't intend on ever trying to package a 'you do it yourself' Genre Expectations kit.  I don't think my writing ability is up to it.  However, I am collecting a list of 'everything to check for' for myself and my product line; with that I should be able to create them quickly and inexpensively.

    The only thing I will provide is information on 'kit bashing' (an old railroad modeling term - I think - for taking parts of several models to make something more the way you want it, especially when you don't have the skills to scratch-build it) in each supplement (most often a single set of Genre Expectations in one package).  That way you could pick up the 'Noir Detective' and 'Cthulhu' supplements, blend elements of the latter into the structure of the former and have a game very like the HBO movie Cast a Deadly Spell.

    I might add a catalog of elements as a user driven forum on the Scattershot Website, but that's going to at least have to wait for the world's first set of Genre Expectations to be written.

    Quote from: clehrich
    2. How do you prep for No Myth?  How much pre-built stuff can you have without its becoming Illusionism?  I realize there's going to be no single answer to this, but I'd be interested in your thoughts here.

    I prep for No Myth gamemastering by clarifying the verbal Genre Expectations I'm going to be using.  I might thumbnail some inspirations to draw upon when my creativity goes flat.  Beyond that it's a matter of becoming very familiar with the Personae that will be employed in the game; they often define what to concentrate on (or at least research) merely by their Sine Qua Non.  Really a lot of what 'goes into it' is actually negotiated at the opening of the first session.

    "Pre-built stuff" almost always has to be 'on the table.'  Many times this attitude will either bother traditional players or confuse people with Participationism.  Many traditional players are very entrenched in the idea that the "pre-built stuff" is where the 'Mystique and intrigue' comes from.  I find that the repercussions of the players choices are often more than enough mystery for most people (few are the people who take an external viewpoint of the 'big picture'/long term results of their Persona's actions).  That an the amorphous 'big deal' I've selected; actually continuously flirting with the unknown (like "Wouldn't you like to know," but more sophisticated) seems to be more than enough Mystique to whet the appetites of most players.  (You quickly learn how to hint at half-formed ideas as though they were concrete with this style.)

    The reason it isn't Participationism is because there is no real application of Force.  You don't usurp the "story-impacting decisions made by the player characters" except in the broadest sense and almost after the fact.  When Venkman pisses off the EPA inspector in Ghostbusters, I don't imagine that the gamemaster of 'that game' had any idea that Peck would figure so highly in the final confrontation.  Was it use of Force to move the 'Peck' title over to the 'space available' for a trigger event for the final confrontation?  I think it was the opposite of Force; I believe that 'converting' Peck specifically empowers the player's choices, making his character even more the protagonist.  I suspect 'Force' hasn't been well enough defined to figure this one out.

    Quote from: clehrich
    3. How do you do No Myth when you have multiple GMs, swapping around freely during the game?  Or does this just make things easier?

    Well, first off you have to be very clear on 'how you respect the Mystiques of others,' right away.  Since Scattershot gives Proprietorship of Mystiques even to the players, this shouldn't be a big problem.  Once you understand that nothing else can be 'fixed' that isn't 'on the table,' yeah, it does make things easier.  We call that Gamemasterful Sharing (see the Model in this Forum).

    Quote from: clehrich
    4. Can you be a little more specific about formulating and evaluating Complications so that they don't seem like setting up hoops, but rather developing and improving the game by, well, complicating things?

    I could, but this thread would get both long and wonder off purpose, better I direct you to my weblog, where I give Ghostbusters 'the treatment'.  You can find a whole slew of examples of Complication handling (but you might need to rent the film first).  It's me thinking out how to explain the very thing you're asking about.

    Quote from: clehrich
    5. You've mentioned the "Cluemaster" player before.  Is there any way to make use of this player's tendencies in No Myth, considering that there's really nothing to "figure out" that's actually already true, since nothing is already true unless it's overt?

    (You mean explicit right?)

    Sure, outside of using 'higher' than Self-Sovereign Sharing, you could ask them to always 'think out loud' and use their theories as a menu to create reality out of (don't forget special orders!).  Otherwise, you could pull that one player aside between sessions and 'talk it out.'  Mostly, I've found that thinking backwards in terms of clues works a little better ("Yeah, the killer must have touched that; you find a fingerprint."), but that requires that the Cluemaster is investigating (and expecting to investigate) a concluded Circumstance.  'Tracking' is a really hard thing to do it 'straight' No Myth gamemastering.

    This is a tough one to answer specifically because Cluemaster-suited games have very special Genre Expectations.  If we could narrow the scope of the question more, I'd have a better time figuring out the solution here¹.

    Definitely food for thought though, thanks!

    Fang Langford

    ¹ That's right kiddies; I haven't completed thinking this one out yet.  So you're there live, as it happens!
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    clehrich
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    « Reply #9 on: May 02, 2003, 09:06:38 AM »

    Quote from: Le Joueur
    Quote from: clehrich
    5. You've mentioned the "Cluemaster" player before.  Is there any way to make use of this player's tendencies in No Myth, considering that there's really nothing to "figure out" that's actually already true, since nothing is already true unless it's overt?
    This is a tough one to answer specifically because Cluemaster-suited games have very special Genre Expectations.  If we could narrow the scope of the question more, I'd have a better time figuring out the solution here.
    Okay, let me try to narrow the scope.

    So as a setup, I start with something that sounds really complicated (about which I know very little, actually), and then the players all come up with additional complications of their very own, so the end-result is that we start with a hideously complicated situation and world.  Now in this world, the point is that there are Big Secrets, things Man Was Not Meant To Know -- sort of like Call of Cthulhu, but we haven't decided to stick to the mythos at all.  Again, sort of like Unknown Armies, but without Avatars or any definite background.

    We all know, then, that things are complicated, that there's occult magical stuff going on, and that there are lots of secrets to find out.  These secrets might reveal themselves through the most seemingly irrelevant clues: the radio is playing "Take the A Train," so maybe the secret is in the subway station nearby.  That sort of thing.

    Now the trick is that the players think there's something pre-planned here.  They don't believe -- or don't want to believe -- that I have no idea what's going on.  They assume that I know, say, half of what's going on, and that it's their job to Figure It Out.

    As a mode of play, this has some advantages; this is part of why CoC and UA are fun to play.  The problem is that the secrets are usually so hackneyed.  "Oh, look, Deep Ones.  Ho hum.  Oh, I'm sorry, my character screams and runs, eek, shiver with fright."  Blah.

    So what I want is to use No Myth techniques to scare the bejeezus out of them.  The surprise is real, you see, because I'm surprised too.  Furthermore, the characters can't get stuck following a wrong thread, because there is no wrong thread to follow: all roads lead to terror.

    Now the best player to have for a game like this, in a traditional mode, is a Cluemaster.  He's the guy who's paying attention to every detail, and fitting together pieces in his head, and who suddenly figures it out.  "Aha!  So this subway line is laid out exactly like that sigil we saw in the abandoned temple!"  This is a good thing.  If you're working No Myth, I'm betting it's best to have more than one, if you can manage it, which means using No Myth techniques to create Cluemasters.

    The problem is that I, as GM, do not know such things much in advance.  If I've got really active Cluemasters, they're trying to jump the gun, because that's how they succeed.  This gives the characters a tactical advantage in lots of situations, because they can show up for the ritual before it's reached its climax, not just in time to see the love of one character's life have her heart ripped out by Deep Ones.  And you have to respect this, to some degree: it's part of the genre, unless you're doing really hard-core Lovecraft (as CoC does not), that if you figure out the mystery before it comes and bonks you on the head, you get some chance to do something about it before the world gets devoured.

    So here's me, the GM, improvising weirdness happily.  What I'm not doing is deciding what it all means.  So what I want to do, you see, is to encourage the Cluemasters to figure it out for me.  The problem is that sometimes the Cluemaster comes up with something stupid, and floats it to see if maybe I'm as blah as he fears.  He's trying to get my measure, you see?  So I need to reward him partially, but not completely, unless the Clue he "figures out" (read: makes up a solution to) is way cool.  I then take credit for it.

    Now I'm to some degree figuring this out myself as I write, but I think more is needed.  I need to be funelling wacky stuff at the players, but not swamping them; I want them to be Cluemasters, not lost (a problem I've had running this sort of thing in the past).

    Got any insight here?  How do I think about, or rethink, the concept of Complications so as to provide for this situation?  How do I pace things to keep them Cluemastering instead of simply lost?  How do I create Cluemasters when their Clues are not right or wrong until they make them possibilities, at which point I evaluate the degree to which they are right and thus add something to the reality of the game?

    Anyway, I'm hoping that's enough to get you to think through your fingers, as I just have.  Looking forward to it...
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    Chris Lehrich
    Emily Care
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    « Reply #10 on: May 02, 2003, 01:42:18 PM »

    Hi Fang, Chris, all,

    Quote from: clehrich
    3. How do you do No Myth when you have multiple GMs, swapping around freely during the game?  Or does this just make things easier?


    Probably depends on the preferences of the group.  I'd want to have no single gm, but allow all to have the same creative powers and responsibility to protagonize eachother and keep track of the continuity. [aside:It's pretty much how I game right now (crossed with Plotless Background Based gaming, which is quite different actually)  Or something like that, I'll have to quantify it one of these days since theory is catching up with us.]  I can see other folks enjoying being able to simply concentrate on being in their character and having one person be dedicated to running the world.  So long as all the elements were blended together and continuity was kept (if desired) all different arrangements would probably work well.

    Quote from: clerich
    4. Can you be a little more specific about formulating and evaluating Complications so that they don't seem like setting up hoops, but rather developing and improving the game by, well, complicating things?


    I'd love to hear more about this too. I'll have to read that link Fang gave.  It may help that there are no hoops, just wrinkles brought about by what seem to be likely consequences of events.  The fact that nothing has to be klodged together since everything brews together and arises organically out of what is of interest to the participants is very much in your favor when making complications.

    in a later post:
    Quote from: clerich
    So what I want is to use No Myth techniques to scare the bejeezus out of them. The surprise is real, you see, because I'm surprised too. Furthermore, the characters can't get stuck following a wrong thread, because there is no wrong thread to follow: all roads lead to terror.

    That puts in nicely.  In our three-player co-gm'd game we all come up with plot and everything else, which we lovingly refer to as "three times the grief."

    Glad to have this added to the discourse. Thanks, Fang!

    Regards,
    Emily Care
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