*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 21, 2019, 01:58:48 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 26 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2 3 4
Print
Author Topic: Narrativism and Bobby G  (Read 14162 times)
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« on: October 29, 2001, 08:49:00 AM »

Hey,

So last Tuesday, I got a chance to play D20, finally! It was the new Star Wars, and I leaped into action with my Twileek bodyguard and translator for my friend's character, a Wookiee senator.

My comments on playing D20 itself are pretty extensive, and I'll be happy to talk about them later. What REALLY interested me was that the scenario was a perfect exemplar of something which - oddly enough - I had JUST FINISHED discussing privately with some Forge members a few days before. I'd dubbed a certain brand of scenario design "the Bobby G scenario," and lo and behold, a couple of days later, there I was in the middle of one.

What is a Bobby G scenario?
1) Begin with mysterious events happening to player-characters, whether it's assassins leaping from an alley or a fellow dying in the character's arms after giving him a small foreign coin, or a letter from Aunt Sally that is curiously unlike her in tone and penmanship.

2) Provide elaborations and clues, either by introducing an attack or murder for people who got mysterious hooks, and clues for people who got violent hooks. All investigations about "what's behind it all" must be stonewalled VERY distinctly, but the various clues, including "word on the street" or forensic details of previous scenes or whatever, all point to a key individual who may know what's going on.

3) This individual is Bobby G. (I made up this name in the course of a conversation about this topic, and it stuck. It seems perfect to me for no good reason.) Bobby G may be a local crimeboss, which is probably his primary manifestation. More rarely he's a kindly old expert of some kind, or perhaps an ambiguously interesting lower-tier bad guy, or even someone like a crusading D.A. The point is that Bobby G is an NPC with an agenda and power-base of his own, and the player-characters MUST find him to discover what to do.

Here things get very customizable. Maybe the issue is that they have to FIND Bobby G - or maybe they have to FIGHT his minions to get to him - or maybe the problem is that they must CUT A DEAL with him - or something. A "quest" variant may be inserted, in that Bobby G assigns them a project which has to be completed, or maybe it's really basic and they just have to rough him up.

All that customizing isn't anything but window dressing. Bobby G will eventually tell them about the Big Villain and the Big Villain's Plan. In the most common variant, Bobby G is himself suspicious about the Big Plan and would prefer that his low-level villainy or interests not be threatened by such things.

They might be told where the Villain will strike next, so that they may be there to intercept him. They might be told about the location of the Villain's base, or a password or secret entrance. No matter what, the information from Bobby G allows them to confront the Villain and put an end to the Big Plan.

Sound familiar? Played in something like this, a time or two? GM'd something like this, a time or two? I'd number my Bobby G experiences, as GM or player, in the hundreds.

The vast majority of role-playing scenario design seems to be a matter of "doing Bobby G differently" time after time. It doesn't matter what setting you're using or whether the characters wield mutant powers, arcane magics, +3 longswords, pistols, zap guns, or nothing at all. Just customize each of these: the hooks themselves, the threat level of the elaborations, what the villain is out to accomplish, who Bobby G is, how hard is it to get to him, what he wants or what must the characters do regarding him, and what he can tell you about the villain. Voila, expert GMing forever.

A couple of other nuances include (1) whether the players must be shepherded with great effort to want to visit Bobby G (Terry, Doc Midnite, calls this the "Panama Canal" style of play), (2) the extent to which the railroading is acknowledged, and (3) whether the villain-fight fits Jesse's point about climactic confrontations, in that they are mainly concluded through GM Drama anyway.

So what's my point? I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away. There is not a shred of story creation happening anywhere. It's a fine template for Exploring Other Things or for setting up arenas of competing/testing. But the claim of a Bobby G scenario to a "plot" is much like the claim of a science fair project to "hypothesis testing," or the claim of an Easy-Bake Oven to "cooking dinner."

Again, we are talking about the Impossible Thing - it looks as if you're creating story just by playing characters, but you ain't. If you're interested in Narrativist play, the Bobby G scenario is the first thing that has to go.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2001, 09:18:00 AM »

Thing is, the Bobby G scenario is easy.

So easy in fact that 90% of our TV, Cinema and popular fiction is based around it too.

Roleplayers like it, they want to know that if they were the heroes in those media, they'd do it better/faster/cooler.

And because it's familiar it's ideal to hang something else off of.

It's like the theory there are only 60 stories and everything else is just window dressing. It may be true, but we're still willing to read/watch/play those 60, cos the devil is in the details (the characters/the location/the theme/the mood etc).

In the end, we're all rather fond of Bobby G.

Just my thoughts.


Matt

_________________
http://www.realms.org.uk
Home of Lost Gods and Agency 13

[ This Message was edited by: Matt on 2001-10-29 12:19 ]
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2001, 09:26:00 AM »

Matt,

I disagree. Die Hard is not a Bobby G scenario. Neither is Aliens. Neither is Dangerous Liaisons, nor The Maltese Falcon, nor even Mortal Kombat, nor even the average soap opera. I suggest that NO story that really interests us is a Bobby G scenario; stories that are only interest us if they REMIND us of stories that aren't (many sequels and imitations rely on this method). Interesting movies and stories, no matter how lowbrow, are about Stuff, and the characters interest people because we care about Stuff too.

I do agree with you that there are only so many "plots," although I would specify that to Premise. I do not agree that the Bobby G construction is an effective way to create them; in fact, its very use indicates that NO plot creation is going on in the session at all.

Again, there is nothing WRONG with using Bobby G scenario construction - IF one is not professing to be "creating story" in doing so.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2001, 09:47:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-10-29 12:26, Ron Edwards wrote:
I disagree. Die Hard is not a Bobby G scenario. Neither is Aliens. Neither is Dangerous Liaisons, nor The Maltese Falcon, nor even Mortal Kombat, nor even the average soap opera. I suggest that NO story that really interests us is a Bobby G scenario; stories that are only interest us if they REMIND us of stories that aren't (many sequels and imitations rely on this method). Interesting movies and stories, no matter how lowbrow, are about Stuff, and the characters interest people because we care about Stuff too.


Heh, 90% was exaggeration. I'll be more careful next time :smile:

As I said, it's used because it's something easy. But I don't believe any other plot is somehow more valid because it's not easy. The story is as much in how the characters react to their situation as what the situation is. We care about the characters, how they grow and evolve through their experiences. If they happen to be experiencing the Bobby G scenario, is it a bad story? A cliched one perhaps, any less narativist, I remain to be convinced.

Matt


Logged

joshua neff
Member

Posts: 949


WWW
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2001, 09:55:00 AM »

Matt--

The point is that if the characters are "experiencing" the Bobby G story, then yes, it's bad narrativism, which isn't about "experiencing" stories but creating them, together, collaboratively.

Now, as always, if everyone's having fun, then no worries, nothing to see here, move along. But if you're the kind of person (like I am) who finds "experiencing" a story, where the GM stonewalls your attempts to do anything except what s/he had planned & doesn't let you do certain things (like confront an NPC) until the "right moment", extremely frustrating, then the Bobby G senario is a big thorn. I played in a game that had a variant of the Bobby G senario fairly recently, & it was one of the most frustrating games I've played in in a while.

[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-10-29 12:56 ]
Logged

--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2001, 10:48:00 AM »

What's the problem? Did somebody say that this was a Narrativist scenario? All you Narrativists gotta stop worrying that our Simulationist scenarios are not Narrativist.

Or

Sounds like a personal problem, Ron. Do you really see a lot of Narrativists running stuff like this? And while were at it, is any pre-plotting at all allowed in Narrativist games? What is the point at which plotting a Narrativist game makes it non-Narrativist? Certainly you allow for certain events to be pre-planned.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2001, 11:03:00 AM »

Hi Mike,

"Sounds like a personal problem, Ron. Do you really see a lot of Narrativists running stuff like this?"

What I see are people who PROFESS to be creating stories and people who WANT to be creating stories running stuff like this. I see a very strong dichotomy mentioned over and over that one either is not story-oriented ("dungeon crawl," "hack and slash") or is story-oriented (Bobby G, endlessly repeated).

As for the "personal problem" issue, I'll write that off as a joke and leave it.

"And while were at it, is any pre-plotting at all allowed in Narrativist games?"

Depends on what you call pre-PLOTTING. You refer to "pre-planned events," which are of course a major feature of role-playing under nearly any circumstances. That is not pre-plotting, in my book; that is preparing for plot to be formed during play.

Pre-plotting is defined by having OUTCOMES of scenes predetermined, specifically those scenes in which the player-characters are supposed to be exercising personal judgmental and playing a pivotal story role.

Narrativist role-playing is not necessarily improvisational; many events may be established during preparation and carried through in play. However, as long as we're talking about the significant actions of protagonists, that's a different issue. You'll see how that plays into my Sorcerer prep soon.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Marco
Member

Posts: 1741


WWW
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2001, 12:09:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-10-29 11:49, Ron Edwards wrote:

So what's my point? I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away. There is not a shred of story creation happening anywhere. It's a fine template for Exploring Other Things or for setting up arenas of competing/testing. But the claim of a Bobby G scenario to a "plot" is much like the claim of a science fair project to "hypothesis testing," or the claim of an Easy-Bake Oven to "cooking dinner."





1. It reads a bit like you're suggesting that 'real-roleplaying' = Narrativism. It's this:

Quote

"... have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism"


that's confusing.

2. Who would claim that was Narrativist by your definition? How could they? Who did?

3. Story creation is happening every second the game runs, no matter who's doing the talking or what was pre-plotted.

I think it might be time to drop some of the special terminology.

Since story-creation is defined as:
"The creation of a story by shared, Narrativist game-play" I'd suggest calling it a Player-Created-Story and not 'a story.'

Whithout that clarification it reads confusingly. A story obviously was created. Players who were there could have (and maybe were) emotionally engaged. It could have all the literary characteritics of theme, foreshadowing, etc. It could have been a great story and those who participated in it could have come away with the tingly feeling that one gets when one writes a great book, watches a great play, or reads a great novel. None of that, as I'm sure you'd agree, hinges on Narrativist gaming.

-Marco

[ This Message was edited by: Marco on 2001-10-29 15:11 ]
Logged

---------------------------------------------
JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
http://www.jagsrpg.org
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland
Marco
Member

Posts: 1741


WWW
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2001, 12:23:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-10-29 12:55, joshua neff wrote:
 But if you're the kind of person (like I am) who finds "experiencing" a story, where the GM stonewalls your attempts to do anything except what s/he had planned & doesn't let you do certain things (like confront an NPC) until the "right moment", extremely frustrating, then the Bobby G senario is a big thorn.


Where I'm from that's just called 'bad-GMing.' I can assure you it's just as frustrating in Simulationist play as anywhere else.

-Marco
Logged

---------------------------------------------
JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
http://www.jagsrpg.org
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland
Doc Midnight
Member

Posts: 24


WWW
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2001, 12:30:00 PM »

Mike, It's not really N vs. S as far as I'm concerned. It's really just bad story telling in a RPG context. If I'm writing a Doc Savage novel, then it's entirely possible that the Doc will have to run the guantlet of shifty stool pigeons before getting to the point that there's something nasty beneath Antarctica. In that case though, Doc is my captive little chew toy and he ain't goin no where till I say so.

In RPGs, the players tend to have to stumble about just to get to Bobby G. Hell man, that could take hours. What's so Simulationist about that? Where is it written in the I.C.E products that you gotta go see the right gnome at the bar before you find out who MAY HAVE stolen your holy artifact.

I think Narrativism is about more than that. I would imagine that anyones games could be about more than that if one was alerted to the fact that this was boring as all heck.

Bobby G. isn't even the worst of it. The worst is when the Panama Canal effect is on. That's when the GM is shoehorning the players so tightly just to get them to Bobby G. that they start to choke on the improbable hapening all at once.

Doc Midnight



Stuff Mike Said:
What's the problem? Did somebody say that this was a Narrativist scenario? All you Narrativists gotta stop worrying that our Simulationist scenarios are not Narrativist.

Or

Sounds like a personal problem, Ron. Do you really see a lot of Narrativists running stuff like this? And while were at it, is any pre-plotting at all allowed in Narrativist games? What is the point at which plotting a Narrativist game makes it non-Narrativist? Certainly you allow for certain events to be pre-planned.

Logged

Doc Midnight
www.terrygant.com
I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2001, 02:25:00 PM »

Marco,

No, "real role-playing" is not Narrativism. ANY discussion of "real role-playing" specific to a mode is synecdoche.

Perceiving such things in my comments is projection on the reader's part.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2001, 01:51:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-10-29 12:55, joshua neff wrote:
The point is that if the characters are "experiencing" the Bobby G story, then yes, it's bad narrativism, which isn't about "experiencing" stories but creating them, together, collaboratively.


As I said "The story is as much in how the characters react to their situation as what the situation is". The fact that the story is about the characters emotional journey makes it less narativist? Plenty of stories focus on this rather than the action, using the action merely as a backdrop to the real story. We're not allowed to have these layers in our roleplaying? Perhaps I'm just using the story part of the narativist definition in a different way to you.

I feel that the criticism of Bobby G is more in the repetitive/bland overuse of the scenario, rather than a flaw in the scenario itself.

Quote

But if you're the kind of person (like I am) who finds "experiencing" a story, where the GM stonewalls your attempts to do anything except what s/he had planned & doesn't let you do certain things (like confront an NPC) until the "right moment", extremely frustrating, then the Bobby G senario is a big thorn.


But that's a problem with the way the GM is running the scenario, not the scenario itself. To my mind this is criticising the framework, for how people decide to use it.



Matt



Logged

Jack Spencer Jr
Guest
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2001, 06:11:00 AM »

I don't know.  The Bobby G senerio has a plot.  It's just a very cliched plot.  They must've used in in Magnum P.I. about 100 times out of some odd 160 episodes.  I still like that show.

At some point it probably was an original plot. I was collecting Cliffhanger Serials on tape at one time (personal fav: The Adventures of Captain Marvel) and it seems to have been a cliche then, too.

I suppose that you could come up with a highly original plot but later it could prove formulaic and reuseable and then before you know it, BANG! your highly original plot is a cliche, just like Bobby G.


Oddly enough, this all strikes me as similar to how Stephen King described his own writing in Stephen King On Writing.  (If this starts to hijack the thread, this discussion should probably move to another thread. I tried to start a thread on On Writing before with no takers.  

Basically, King says he writes very situational.  Misery, for example, is "two people in a house."  He set up the characters and the general situation in his mind and, well, "watched" it play out.

A good thing for Rob Reiner, James Caan and especially Kathy Bates he did let Misery play out naturally.  He originally envisioned a completely different ending with Paul Sheldon's skin being used to bind the last Misery novel, and the rest probably being fed to the pig.  What happened was his own characters surprised him and the Misery we have today grew organicly out of the situation.

This sounds a lot like narrativist play, or a narrativist technique.  Strange because i've always thought the old "set up the situation and then see what happens" deal was a simulationist technique.  I guess it ain't necessarily so.  In either case, it sounds like King would be a blast to play with if you could get past the whole celebrity thing.

hurm...you guys had better do it, then.

Bobby G is plotting.  King says some negative things about plotting in writing like how most of his plotted novels (Rose Madder, Insomnia) with the exception of The Dead Zone "try to hard."  What he means, I think, is that they feel contrived.  As contrived as Bobby G.

Sort of like Hitchcock's direction for Tippi Hedron.  Her character was supposed to climb the stair to find all the birds up there.  She was having trouble rationalizing why her character would go up those stairs by herself or at all after all that had already happened.  She asked Hitch what her motivation was.  He said "Because I tell you to."

Plotting can indeed be contrived if overused.  At other times it's useful and keeps a work of fiction from being a stream-of-conciousness mess and help you focus on a goal.

I had just picked up Catcher in the Rye.  So far it was just Holden Caufield complain about nearly everything, and all, until his roommate mentions the girl he's about to date was someone from Holden's past.  Suddenly it was like "Ah, now we're going somewhere."  The girl may turn out to be a dead end we never hear from again, but maybe not.  (Don't spoil it, please  :wink:   The point is, the story suddenly seemed to be going somewhere.  Maybe it was plotting, maybe it wasn't.  In either case, it sure helped me sustain interest.

In the end, plotting is "easy."  Easier, perhaps, than letting the story grow out of the situation naturally.  WHich is probably why there are standard scenerioes like Bobby G (and a few others no one has coined a name for yet).  Not everyone who plays an RPG is interested in the story or not interested in it to put a huge amount, or even modest amount of effort into it.  Hence why a scenerio like Bobby G winds up being used hundreds of times.  It is more satisfying storywise than dungeon crawl yet no where near as deep as pure storytelling things.

Or such is my view.
Logged
joshua neff
Member

Posts: 949


WWW
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2001, 06:21:00 AM »

Matt--

My bad. I typed "characters" when I should have typed "players". If the characters are reacting, sure that's fine, as long as the players aren't just reacting. The problem with the Bobby G senario as Ron put it forward is that it pretty much exclusively calls for the players to react to what the GM has put in front of them. That's fine RPGing, bad narrativism. What the Bobby G senario is, essentially, is railroading. Railroading is fine as long as everyone is having fun. But it's not "creating a story" & it's not narrativism.
Logged

--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2001, 06:28:00 AM »

Hi folks,

A great deal of the responses have convinced me that people are laboring under that false notion that "plot" and "characters" are independent things.

This distinction is an artifact of the Hollywood studio days, when writers, actors, directors, and studio heads all played various and often-strange roles in getting a story created. I am very familiar with the epigraphs or quotes from this culture and consider most of them highly suspect.

A character (of the sort we are discussing, specifically a protagonist) is a person whose actions make the story. They may be REactions - in which case the situation they're thrust into is not of their making (best immediate example, North by Northwest). They may be PROactions - in which case the situation is most definitely of their making (Citizen Kane, perhaps). They may be a mix (The Godfather). The characters exist and matter to the extent that they act upon things.

A "plot" is a litany or account of the persons, the situation, and the actions taken to deal with it. There is no other meaning of plot; it is not something apart from the characters.

Role-playing with an eye toward story-making has a terrible time with this, because in many cases the GM provides more "plot" that can be justified without consulting or bringing in the characters. This forces railroading and hence destroys the notion of the players determining the actions of protagonists.

My most serious objection to a Bobby G scenario is that no story of ANY kind is permitted to be created. There is no "emotional journey," as one may insert any PCs into the situation and nothing changes except for coloring-in. Their decisions aside from those that conform to the Bobby G expectations are literally irrelevant; anything they care about besides the villain's Big Plan is so much piffle. The only content of interest becomes the MacGuffins and the details of the villain's Big Plan - although the impacts or relevance of these things to the main characters is always the same, dissipating that interest.

I stand by my original claim. Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to creating stories through role-playing.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3 4
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!