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Author Topic: question: when the GM narrates in The Pool  (Read 8980 times)
Paul Czege
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« on: September 18, 2001, 11:12:00 AM »

So far, I've run one session of my scenario for The Pool. Near the end of the session, Scott Knipe found his character Grazel Deathsower face-to-face with Sgt. Aminar "the raper" Korg, having caught the man in the act of assaulting a young boy. Grazel was cut and bruised, and without any dice in his pool, but he waded into the shallow bath where Korg stood naked, but armed, and himself uninjured, determined to kill the man.

I gave Scott two dice, and he rolled a success. Desperately needing to replenish his pool, he elected to add one to it rather than take the monologue of victory.

Which means the GM narrates the outcome.

So I narrated a series of taunts from Korg, and a sequence of exchanged sword blows that ended with Grazel catching eyes with the boy, who lay bruised and in shock on the tile floor, and then dramatically sweeping his sword back to take Korg's head clean from his shoulders.

And it was probably a great contribution to Grazel's significance as a character within the context of the scenario. My question is, what's the expectation for the GM when narrating the outcomes of scenes where the player has elected to take the die rather than the MoV? Should the GM narrate a simple, rather ordinary success? Or should he narrate the way I did, as if I was protagonizing a character by taking an MoV for him? Or should he use some kind of criteria for determining how dramatic and significant the narration should be? If so, what criteria would you use?

Paul
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Jeffrey Straszheim
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2001, 12:19:00 PM »

In my own games so far I've narrated very little when a player chooses not to take an MoV. To narrate the entire scene as you did takes too much away from the player's ability to chose actions for her own character.

My current thoughts are to play the game using drama resolution and only roll dice at special moments.  Of course, the player may always opt for a roll (to get an MoV).

For instance, in the example you presented it might go like this:

==============================================

Player: Grazel charges forward and tries to impale him.

(Now, if the player had dice in his pool, he might choose to roll now, just to get an MoV.  Since he doesn't, we move on.)

GM: He steps aside and you go past, the two of you circle around each other.  He taunts you.

Player: I attack again, first feinting low.

GM: swords clash.  Make a roll with two dice.

(The player rolls 2 dice plus any trait bonuses.  We will assume he succeeds and takes one bonus die).

GM: your feint suceeds and he looks in horror as your blow catches his neck, wounding him.  He is bleeding quite dangerously.  He begins to flee, but is weakened.

etc.

======================================================

You'll notice I didn't kill the villian outright.  That's just a personal option of mine, but I like to keep death infrequent.  Of course, the player may later take an MoV if he wishes him dead.

BTW: there is a rather new version of The Pool rules at the website. They disallow an MoV in cases where no dice were bet.
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Jeffrey Straszheim
jburneko
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2001, 12:29:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-09-18 15:12, Paul Czege wrote:

My question is, what's the expectation for the GM when narrating the outcomes of scenes where the player has elected to take the die rather than the MoV? Should the GM narrate a simple, rather ordinary success? Or should he narrate the way I did, as if I was protagonizing a character by taking an MoV for him? Or should he use some kind of criteria for determining how dramatic and significant the narration should be? If so, what criteria would you use?


I haven't played The Pool but I've read a lot about it and personally I would say that it's all about 'vision'.  What I mean by that is that the Player has a vision of the course of events and the GM has a vision of the course of events.  The dice alter and prioritize those visions.  

When I play on either side of the table I'm constantly running the current scene over and over and over again in my head.  Each time it's a little different because of either rules interventions or player nonpredictable input.  In the case of The Pool the rules tell you who's vision takes precedence, the player's or the GM's.  If the player takes the MoV option he's effecitvely saying, I want this to go the way I envision it.  If he hands it over to the GM then he's saying I'm willing to accept the GM's envisionment of it.

And that's how you should handle it.  You should narratate the way YOU see the scene going.  And I think, in this case that's what you did.  If the player's envisionment and GM's envisionment line up well then all the better.

Just my thoughts.

Jesse  
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2001, 01:23:00 PM »

My thoughts tend to go with those of stimuli ... in my reading of The Pool, ONLY the player gets a Monologue of Victory. When he or she succeeds, the GM does NOT get a monologue of victory but only uses the stated actions prior to the roll as the guideline for what happens.

Step 1: everyone knows what's being attempted (or more accurately, what conflicts are afoot and what's at stake).

Step 2: the roll - let's say it's a success. THIS MEANS THAT THE CONFLICT RESOLVES IN THE PLAYER-CHARACTER'S FAVOR, AND THE STAKES AS DEFINED END UP FAVORABLY AS WELL.

Step 3a: the player opts for a Monologue of Victory, in which case the player may ADD to the situation, adding (perhaps) further favorable or complex nuances.

Step 3b: the player opts for a die-add to the Pool, and the GM merely sticks with Step 2 and specifies its details.

That's how I look at it anyway. I don't see the GM ever getting what I'd call a Monologue of Victory.

Paul's example troubles me a little, because, if I'm reading it correctly, it removes some of the player-character's "intent" stated prior to the dice-roll - actually diminishing the conflict and its resolution, rather than either adding to them or keeping them as stated.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2001, 01:49:00 PM »

...if I'm reading it correctly, it removes some of the player-character's "intent" stated prior to the dice-roll - actually diminishing the conflict and its resolution, rather than either adding to them or keeping them as stated.

Scott's stated action was to kill Korg. My narration of the outcome elaborated on that with some uncertainty in the initial few sword blows, showcased the intensity of the conflict by drawing attention to how Grazel was clearly the victimized boy's only hope, and culminated with a cinematic beheading. But the resolution itself was in keeping with Scott's stated intent. Grazel killed Korg.

Is that diminishing? If my narration had been, "Okay, you fight and kill Korg," that would have been remarkably diminishing.

I guess I'm not following.

Paul
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James V. West
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2001, 05:31:00 PM »

I posted a reply to this earlier but its not here! I guess I zigged when I should have zagged.

What I said was that Stimuli basically had it right. When the player is in MoV mode he is narrating a scene. When he's not in that mode, the game flows like any traditional rpg would. The GM describes what's happening and the players respond. Therefore, in my opinion, Paul's narration sounds like it was a bit too much.

But ultimately this is a matter of the style the group prefers. The only thing the rules really tell you is that when a player opts for a Monologue then a Monologue is exactly what he gets.

When Scott did not take an MoV in such an obviously important and dramatic scene, I think Paul was responding to the drama of the situation and trying to make it great. That's part of a GM's job, right? So hats off to him. Perhaps what he might have done a bit differently was to draw the action out, adding more die rolls. Perhaps Scott could have built up a couple of dice in his pool and then would have been more willing and able to take the MoV he wanted. That puts the narrative power of that dramatic moment into Scott's hands.

I think that the extent to which an action succeeds without a MoV depends fully on the style of play and the importance of the scene. If this were just a relatively mundane encounter, then there wouldn't have much fuss made about it. Scott's roll wins, Paul describes the bastard's hideous death and the game moves on. But with a scene charged with such drama, I'd suspect more attention would need to be paid to it.

Now look at me, I'm rambling!

James V. West
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2001, 07:52:00 PM »

Just because I feel obliged to respond to any thread that bandies my name about so recklessly...

I hear what you guys are saying, but I didn't have a large problem with Paul's narration.  I wouldn't want the GM to always exercise that much control over my character, but in this instance I found it quite entertaining.  

Oh, and it wasn't a sword that beheaded Korg, it was a big nasty, scythe-like axe (you know, the kind Frazetta draws on all those Death Dealer pictures...) :smile:

Take care,
Scott

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Paul Czege
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2001, 09:19:00 PM »

Hey Scott,

I wouldn't want the GM to always exercise that much control over my character, but in this instance I found it quite entertaining.

What motivated me to start this thread was recognizing that my decisions about how to narrate the outcomes of dice rolls were pretty gut-level, without any kind of guiding principle behind them. I mean, if I had depicted Grazel as particularly brutal perhaps, driving Korg to his knees with a crippling gut wound, then cutting off the man's genitals and stuffing them in his mouth before slitting his throat, that would have been a problem, right? It's not like a player character assigning traits to another player character in InSpectres, is it? In this case, it's portraying the player's character, not just offering an observation that may or may not be adopted by the player and the audience. It just so happened that what I did narrate didn't violate your concept of Grazel, but it could easily have done so. In the previous session of Silent Tamatama's Theatrix game, I played an NPC talking to my character, while he played my character. But he played him carefully, almost neutrally. The question that started this thread was whether the GM should narrate dramatic protagonizing outcomes when the player turns down the MoV, or whether he should narrate fairly neutral outcomes in an effort to keep his hands off the player's concept for the character. And I think the wide range of opinions voiced so far, from people who're actually playing the game, is evidence that it's an important issue.

Right now, I'm comfortable with my gut-level decisions. And I think that if you had said, "Stop! Grazel would never do that" in the middle of my narration, perhaps if I'd described him cutting off Korg's genitals, I'd probably treat it like the rule for ending the MoV and leave off narrating at that point. I just wanted insight into how other people have been handling it.

It may not have been clear, but the original question wasn't at all about the GM getting an MoV. It was whether the GM, in those situations when the player turns down the MoV, should be trying to narrate something as dramatic and protagonizing as an MoV on behalf of the character as the player would have done if he hadn't turned it down.

Sorry I misremembered the scythe-axe.

Paul
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And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2001, 06:42:00 AM »

Hi Paul,

On re-reading, I realize that I misunderstood. I somehow managed to perceive that Korg's death was ACCIDENTAL.

Given that, I'm all-OK-happy with the bastard's death scene. Paul's narration seems well within my #2 outcome, giving full respect to the stated stakes/conflict and adding a tad o'detail.

Sorry about being so dense,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2001, 07:13:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-09-18 21:31, James V. West wrote:
Perhaps Scott could have built up a couple of dice in his pool and then would have been more willing and able to take the MoV he wanted. That puts the narrative power of that dramatic moment into Scott's hands.


I think this is the best answer so far (no surprise it's from the designer, the man with the original vision). If the Player doesn't get an MoV, then I'd think that it is the GM's responsibility to move the scene forward to a point where the player can try again and either get an MoV or fail. If Paul wants to protagonize Scott's character, but not steal his thunder, describe a back and forth battle in lovely detail or add some dialog which reveals some fact, anyhow, something such that when Scott does get his MoV (or fails) it is that much more dramatic.

I really like this concept. The player gets the end result protagonization of the character, but the GM helps move the story forward and build drama in such a way as to facilitate that protagonism. Neat.

Mike
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2001, 07:38:00 AM »

Hey Mike, James,

I'd think that it is the GM's responsibility to move the scene forward to a point where the player can try again and either get an MoV or fail.

The hesitation I have with this is that Scott's stated intent prior to the dice roll is to "kill Korg." The number of dice I handed him were based on what he said he was intending to do. And since he rolled a success, I really think that should be the outcome. It seems awfully de-protagonizing for the GM to narrate the player into the situation of needing to make another successful dice roll. Don't you think?

Paul

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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Jeffrey Straszheim
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2001, 09:21:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-09-19 11:38, Paul Czege wrote:

The hesitation I have with this is that Scott's stated intent prior to the dice roll is to "kill Korg." The number of dice I handed him were based on what he said he was intending to do. And since he rolled a success, I really think that should be the outcome. It seems awfully de-protagonizing for the GM to narrate the player into the situation of needing to make another successful dice roll. Don't you think?


I don't think there needs to be one right answer here.  A lot has to do with how you (as GM) want to pace things.

When the player chooses not to take an MoV, I see a few options:

1. Kill Torg outright, as you did.

2. Wound Torg (or whatever) and set the player up for more rolls.

3. Wound Torg (or whatever) and play out the scene using drama resolution, with the understanding that the player can ultimately defeat Torg.

The first and third options both reward the player similarly, insofar as one roll grants victory, but the third option lets him play his character.

Also, it might help to think in Hero Wars terms here, and look at option 1 as a form of "simple resolution", 2 as "extended resolution", and 3 as a hybrid.  What matters is how you want to pace things.  The player should use his MoV's if he wants to pace things differently, and if you're using option 3, he can request another roll.



[ This Message was edited by: stimuli on 2001-09-19 13:23 ]
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Jeffrey Straszheim
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2001, 09:36:00 AM »

Actually this hits on a key question I had with the Pool.  First I'll say that my study of it has been only cursory at best, so if I've totally missed something please be gentle.

My understanding was that succeeding on the die roll did not directly translate to Success at the activity.  My understanding was that succeeding at the die roll gave the OPTION of taking a MoV and it was this MoV that translates to Success at the activity.  In my mind passing on the MoV in order to take a die also meant passing on the opportunity for victory (essentially trading the victory for future dice), allowing the GM to narrate some not optimal outcome.

It seems in Paul's example that Scott got the best of both worlds.  He got to take a die AND he got to be victorious in the endeavor.  The only thing he gave up was phrasing the actual victory precisely as desired, but since Paul was so accomodating it sounds to me that he got pretty close to what he would have MoVed himself?

Obviously there is no "right answer" because as long as all involved parties are happy it was "right".  But is this act by Paul really an example of extreme GM generosity judged by how the rules "expect" (note the intentional "") the game to be played?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2001, 09:46:00 AM »

Hi Ralph,

I'll defer to James V., of course, but my understanding of the textual, canonical Pool is that success at the dice roll results in success at the activity. The MoV is an add-on.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2001, 11:43:00 AM »

I think that you're interperetation is correct from a rigorous sense, Ron, but that does seem unsatisfying, then. Essentially, in exchange for an extra die, then, I am left to the GMs devices for purposes of protagonism. Sure, I'm supposed to succeed, but I don't get to state the success as I'd like to. Seems like a crummy trade; there's no cost or justice.

Instead I'd suggest to James that he clarify this in a different light, and say that the GM's responsibility in this case is to specifically create a sort of interim success from the roll that builds suspense or drama, and that then allows for the player to either fail (in which case this is the danger of the trade-off) or to get his MoV. In this way, the trade becomes a further gamble which is more in line with the game goal as I see it.

Sure the player stated that his goal was to kill the baddy. In this case the GM's interperetation can be that the PC has done something that gets him closer to that goal (and might also include some inconsequential reversals). Isn't that a sort of success? And I can see it being sooo dramatic. Instead of it being just I win or I lose, instead you can essentially lengthen the scene and take more risk and get more story out of the conflict. That's cool.

As an example, Paul might have narrated something like, "You swing your huge axe at him, but he ducks your blow. You slip and fall under the water and he dives on you wrapping his mitts around your neck and holding you down. Instead of panicking, however, you thrust your legs forward and propel him back across the pool. As you rise you fish for your axe and resume your fighting stance. The raper also rises up slowly with a sick grin and says, you must have a thing for the boy." Back to square one essentially, but the character is really seeing red, now, and the players are hopefully even more engaged in the outcome, hopefully.

At this point, you roll again and on success Scott could have a great MoV moment just like Paul had for him (and if narrated better than I did/more specific to the scene, it may have been a much better moment than otherwise). A failure at this point might result in a neutral outcome; the boy is saved but the baddie escapes, for example (or the opposites for a really dark game). This then becomes a collaborative effort, and leaves character protagonism in the hands of the player. And it adheres to the spirit of the gamble essential to the Pool.

I could see this being expanded upon a bit too in the game.

Just my take.

Mike
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