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Author Topic: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2  (Read 36627 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2001, 09:57:00 AM »

Mike,

I believe the appropriate response would be, "You're out of your fucking mind."

More seriously, since we're NOT going to play, not even to PRETEND to play, that's not an issue. I really don't want to know what a player says he "would do," in response to one of my stated elements of play. I'm interested in what people are concerned about and so on, or what they think would or wouldn't make sense to them.

Best,
Ron

P.S. This is edited in: with any luck, the jocular nature of Mike's post and the jocular nature of my first paragraph are NOT going to be a cause for concern for anyone. We like each other. We are kidding around.

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-02 13:16 ]
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #31 on: November 02, 2001, 10:57:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-02 12:57, Ron Edwards wrote:
with any luck, the jocular nature of Mike's post and the jocular nature of my first paragraph are NOT going to be a cause for concern for anyone. We like each other. We are kidding around.


No we don't! You're my mortal enemy Edwards! (if they can't figure out we're kidding I say we keep em strung along...)

Anyhow, why don't you want to play with Paul, Tor and Jesse. They seem like nice guys. I suppose now you're going to cite Real Life and other such time constraints. Horse-hocky, I say! I can set you guys up an online group and you can duke it out via e-mail.

C'mon, y'know you want to do it. What do you say. In the name of science, man! Heck, if I made up a nifty character and had a GM work up a background and stuff, I'd know that I'd want to play.

BTW, do you always use detective novels for inspiration, or is that just your current kick?

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #32 on: November 02, 2001, 11:18:00 AM »

Among much tomfoolery, Mike asked,
"do you always use detective novels for inspiration, or is that just your current kick?"

I think that quite a few sources are functional. Most movies are stripped down to less than what sustains role-playing; ie, they are about the same stuff but are highly, highly refined and focused. Most quality fiction that is NOT especially prized by academia will do nicely. I especially like the 50s-60s American authors that either hit it big with a couple of books but who are otherwise ignored, or were written off forever as trash because people enjoyed them. Mario Puzo's early stuff is great, Herman Wouk, James M. Cain for SURE, even John Steinbeck, who wasn't adopted by Snob Criticism until after he was safely dead.

The so-called detective tradition is very high-yield, though, and the list of sources in The Sorcerer's Soul (especially since I expanded it for the book version) are astounding in the depth of their content. As you know, it really doesn't have anything to do with ACTUALLY being a detective. Lew Archer really didn't have to be a private eye, and the main character in Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White is just a painting instructor. Solving crimes is simply not the point. These stories are about the price of alienation.

Ultimately, I think they have their philosophical foundation in Camus, notably his books The Plague and The Myth of Sisyphus. In the detective stories, the SOURCE of the widespread alienation, and the SYMPATHY we have for those most profoundly affected, and the MANIFESTATIONS of that alienation (positive and negative) ... the terrifying line walked by the protagonist (who is alienated by the same things that afflict the villains, yet who retains enough humanity to try to stop them) is very important and matches the ethical premise of Sorcerer so perfectly, that this literary tradition is almost-endlessly inspiring.

Best,
Ron

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-02 15:34 ]
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #33 on: November 02, 2001, 01:39:00 PM »

Hey Ron,

I'm not sure I understand the question at all, since your post is addressed to Jesse but the question seems to be for me. It could be that you are asking WHO is actually "mapper" during play.

Actually, I was poking Jesse a bit to see if he'd twitch. It's an unfortunate habit of mine that's lost me a few girlfriends over the years. Remember when I tried to convince you to put the picture of yourself from when you earned your black belt on the Sorcerer dust jacket?

I just have this impression that when Jesse's playing, other players take the opportunity to coast and rely on his notetaking rather than their own, and that he probably ends up pretty consistently being the one to recap previous game sessions for the group before the GM starts running a new session.

I was teasing, but it wasn't malicious. I can tell that he's very much beyond that dysfunctional crap now. It was like when you remind one of your friends that you remember he had a curly perm for his school picture in 1980.

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-11-02 16:43 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: November 02, 2001, 03:31:00 PM »

Hello,

Well, the last few posts have wandered a bit. Let me do a bit of corralling and orienting.

1) I'm waiting on Tor's comments on my scenario prep, plus further responses or concerns from Paul and Jesse.

All others' comments are welcome, but on the same topic, please.

2) I'll give a wrapup for this thread, and then our FOURTH thread will begin with exactly what I would do during the first session of play, and the mind-set I'd have relative to both (1) "fixing" certain story elements in particular orders or at certain intensities, and (2) expanding or developing new story elements as they arise.

Best,
Ron
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Tor Erickson
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« Reply #35 on: November 03, 2001, 04:14:00 PM »

Okay, my first questions and comments are about the stuff that goes on in the GM's head vs. stuff that doesn't.  Is there some reason why the GM wouldn't address all the issues in character creation?  For example: if Richie's kicker seems kind of tired, why not just talk about it during chargen rather than trying to fix the issue retroactively (during play or elsewhere)?  It seems like the answer to this question could run along two routes:  1) you reach a point when too much time is being spent on char-gen and people are losing their focus (started to notice this today during our chargen session for sorcerer) or 2) you want to protect the author-sanctity of the player; in otherwords, trusting the player's motives and rationales for making the choices they do.  The question of when to push the player farther and when to step back is, of course, a very large issue.

Second comment/question: Size of the Relationship Map.  What kind of an effect does the actual, physical size of the relationship map have on the game?  When I say physical size I mean the actual number of relationships that will be revealed during play.  More particularly, is there a direct correlation between map-size and playing time?  Will a map-size of 9 relationships take considerably longer to play out than one with 3?  Or is it much more fluid than that?  Also, it seems as though in a large MacDonald style map there are more potential points of entry for characters, which seems more convenient for a group of protagonists (and for the GM).  Do you find, Ron, that a larger map makes for more believable and easier character tie-ins?

Third question; humanity and binding.  Did we ever determine what stats would be appropriate for the initial binding roll? Have we ever established a fixed definition for humanity?

General comments:  The extent to which the relationship map and backstory is a playground for the players (but not necessarily the characters) is finally dawning on me.  This is combined with my second realization that as far as I can tell, the PRIMARY PURPOSE of the RM and the BS is to give the players space to test, push, explore and especially comment on their characters and life in general.  Putting these two things together late last night was a major realization, and I'm both excited and nervous for my first real session of Sorcerer next Saturday.  
-Tor

[ This Message was edited by: Tor Erickson on 2001-11-03 19:18 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #36 on: November 04, 2001, 08:43:00 AM »

 This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-04 12:58 ]
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Tor Erickson
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« Reply #37 on: November 04, 2001, 01:36:00 PM »

Ron wrote:
Quote
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #38 on: November 04, 2001, 04:27:00 PM »

Next? New thread. This one's done.

I'll start it up soon.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #39 on: November 05, 2001, 01:04:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-02 12:14, Ron Edwards wrote:
Even more importantly, it is not Eroch's relationship to JVG that matters anyway. It is his relationship to Chema and to the psychotherapist. How are those going to change? Is he going to keep Chema in therapy? Are events that occur during play actually going to lead her to speak? How about the pregnancy itself? How do all the economic consequences of these events relate to the successful opening of his building, and how can he make sure it's successful? And then, with him having made those decisions or begun to, how are they going to reverberate into a variety of NPC actions that will have to be dealt with?


Hello Ron,

I know you declared this thread closed but I've been very busy the last few days and haven't gotten a chance to ask these questions.  The above paragraph exemplifies where your planning technique really loses me.  I absolutely agree with you that the above issues are the key and interesting issues regarding Paul's character.  It's true that as a Narrativist GM you don't know how Paul will approach these issues or if even all of these issues will come into to focus.  But what really throws me is that NONE of these issues are in any way shape or form directly anticipated or addressed in your planning.

Let's break it down:

"It is his relationship to Chema and to the psychotherapist. How are those going to change? Is he going to keep Chema in therapy? Are events that occur during play actually going to lead her to speak?"

The psychotherapist isn't even IN the relationship map or any of the back story.  Wouldn't you want to decide before hand if the psychtherapist is friend or foe?  Is the psychotherapist aware of Sorcery?  Does this therapist care about Chema or does he/she have some more evil purpose for her?

"How about the pregnancy itself?"

I see a coven of evil pedatricians turning innocent babies into demon spawn.  Cheesy and off the top of my head but this is the kind of personal customization I'm talking about that I don't see reflected in your planning.

"How do all the economic consequences of these events relate to the successful opening of his building, and how can he make sure it's successful?"

This one really blows my mind.  WHAT economic consequences?  I agree that the building is not only a great image but of vast importance but I don't see anything in your planning that would in any way shape or form threaten the opening of that building.  The land is bought.  The building is constructed.  Show up on opening day and cut the cord.  The deal seems pretty sealed and safe to me.  It seems to me that a good bang to plan would be something that threatens the building.

What this really comes down to, is that the kickers have been used to excelently hook our characters up to the back story and relationship map ripped from the source material.  HOWEVER, I don't see enough personalization of the conflicts.  Wouldn't an original relationship map that speaks directly to the obvious issues inherent in each character be a better choice?  I guess inherent in your planning I don't see anything that faciliates us addressing the key issues related to our characters.

As always, thanks for the insight.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #40 on: November 05, 2001, 08:10:00 AM »

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jburneko
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« Reply #41 on: November 05, 2001, 10:17:00 AM »

Forgive the quotes but I've got to address certain key points.

Quote

I ask you this: what is the ACTUAL RISK of not prepping in this fashion? What can go so horribly wrong if every last detail is not nailed into place? Why must the game-world be a four-dimensional Reality prior to play?


The risk I see is devaluing the obvious elements that are key to the players personal emotional involvement.  If I had preped this scenario, I would KNOW what Joey's motivations are and how to play him when he comes into contact with the playes because I would fully understand his motivations.  I know what he's willing to do and talk about.  I know when he'd lie and when he'd try to get the players to do something for him.  Same for Hilda or any of the other "major" characters in the backstory.  I know who they are and what they want and how to engage the PCs.

At this point I know nothing about the psychotherapist who  we both agree is a much more important character than anything going on in the 'meat' of the relationship map.  Okay, so if Paul starts out session one and says, 'I go to the doctor to discuss Chema's progress.'  If I as the GM don't say something compelling like, 'Actually, in our last session Chema spoke a single word but it appears to be ancient arameic' or even, 'I'd like to try this new experimental drug' then Paul isn't going to see any reason to continue to deal with the psychotherapist.  Because I know NOTHING of the psychotherapist and his relationship with what's going on I'm going to say something inocuous like, 'There's not much progress I'm affraid.  I'll call you when there are developments.'  I then run the risk of Paul, going, 'Okay, nothing of interest here,' and wandering off.  And then we never hear from or see the psychotherapist again.  Unless I have him call Paul with one of the afformentioned 'compelling' statements.

By the way Paul, this in no way reflects my expectations of you personally as a player only my fears of what I have observed to be 'typical' player behavior.

Quote

However, what I am doing is exactly the opposite sort of scenario prep, in which the various evil (grubby and pathetic really) schemes only exist to make the player-character hooks more solid and valid - to mature them into personal character conflicts which the players care about.

My job is to bring all of these relationships into center stage via the "pressure" of dealing with the scenario's other elements.


This is where I just stare blankly and go, yes but HOW, HOW, HOW, HOW, HOW, HOW?  If none of your initial prep speaks directly to the key conflicts, I just don't see how we get from one to the other.  I don't see how jealousy motivated murders perpetrated by Hilda are going to put 'pressure' on Richie's relation with his dad.  I don't see how Beck's cover up is going to put 'pressure' on Cyril's relationship with Jenny.  Even if I were the sole author of this story, alone in my room with complete control I can't see how to get from one to the other.
Quote


Quote

What you are calling "personalization of the conflicts," I would call, "The GM muscling in on playing the player-characters." The whole idea is for me NOT to dictate what Eroch is going to run off and do - but to allow Paul to tell me that, and by so doing, to give me, quite possibly inadvertently, a strong idea of how to employ certain plot elements.


Oh, I'm not saying you should dictate Eroch's actions.  But what happens when Paul has Eroch run into a scenario 'void' such as the Doctor which seems VERY VERY likely for session one and there's nothing there?  Even when you and I agree that something SHOULD be there.

Quote

The elements of GM prep exist only to bring the player- characters' kickers into maximal player emotional commitment. Nothing else matters - most specifically, not outcomes of any elements of back-story conflict. The only desirable outcome of play is that a player-character addresses the moral conflict at the heart of his kicker. The back-story exists to "heat up" that conflict.


HOW?  Oh, I feel so blind.  I just don't see how the backstory 'heats up' any of the kickers.  I see exactly the opposite.  I see Jenny and the Doctor and once David and Joey are dead Tobias and Chema all falling by the way side as we get sucked up into the 'meatier' going ons of the fixed backstory.

Quote

You may find this odd, but Jenny is a MUCH more important NPC than Beck. Why? Because she is the center of Cyril's Kicker. Beck (and everyone else) only exists to make that Kicker more important to YOU, Jesse, during play.


I don't find that odd at all.  But I don't see how we get from Beck being so well fleshed out and yet keeping the focus on Jenny.

Quote

Let me know if any of this is making better sense.


I understand WHAT you are trying to achieve.  I just don't understand HOW you're going to achieve it.

Jesse
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random
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« Reply #42 on: November 05, 2001, 11:02:00 AM »

Quote

At this point I know nothing about the psychotherapist who  we both agree is a much more important character than anything going on in the 'meat' of the relationship map.  Okay, so if Paul starts out session one and says, 'I go to the doctor to discuss Chema's progress.'  If I as the GM don't say something compelling like, 'Actually, in our last session Chema spoke a single word but it appears to be ancient arameic' or even, 'I'd like to try this new experimental drug' then Paul isn't going to see any reason to continue to deal with the psychotherapist.  Because I know NOTHING of the psychotherapist and his relationship with what's going on I'm going to say something inocuous like, 'There's not much progress I'm affraid.  I'll call you when there are developments.'  I then run the risk of Paul, going, 'Okay, nothing of interest here,' and wandering off.  And then we never hear from or see the psychotherapist again.  Unless I have him call Paul with one of the afformentioned 'compelling' statements.


(I hope I'm not butting in... and I hope this is appropriate to be included in this thread.  If not, let me know and I'll get rid of it.)

jburneko,

I think there's a cognitive disconnect here about how decisions about the game world need to be made.

You can make decisions about aspects of the world up front, before the game starts.  I think it's good to do some of this, to come up with details that might become important or interesting, depending on what the players decide to do.  But every time you make a decision about the game world before the game starts, you're limiting the possibilities for what might happen during play.  You already know, in this example, that the doctor has an idea for a drug program that might help Chema.  You might also come up with other plot details that are interesting or fun, based on the consequences of the drug program.  Then you've got an investment of time and energy in the doctor character and the drug-program plot detail: you want it to be important, because you've already given it some thought.

Alternatively, you can defer those decisions until play starts.  Suppose that Paul doesn't visit the doctor to check on Chema's progress.  That's great; you can leave that detail undefined.  If at some point Paul decides that his character needs to check up on what the doctor has been doing with his sister, you have an opportunity to think about everything else that's going on in the game world at that instant and see whether there's a possible correlation between the ongoing state of the therapy and anything else that's in the game world, and exploit that opportunity; or just invent something entirely new to flesh out that part of the game world.  

If there's a whole lot of other activity right then in the game, maybe the conversation with the doctor is a chance to take a breather from all the crazy stuff.  If there's not enough tension in the game, maybe the doctor makes some kind of revelation that shocks everyone.

By deferring decisions about what is happening in the game world, you can provide more room to the players to decide what is important in that world.  If Paul's immediate reaction to the news that Chema's pregnant is to fire her therapist, then maybe the doctor wasn't really that important after all.  If Paul decides to spend a lot of game time chatting with the doctor, then he probably is.  But the important thing is that it's the players' attention that defines what about the world is really interesting and important.

The relationship map and backstory are there as a springboard and as glue to hold the campaign together. They prevent players from just being concerned with their own personal corner of the game world, and provide them with details that they can play off of to further the story in their own direction.  The Bangs are there to keep the players engaged -- "whoops, I guess I can't just relax and take things easy; my creepy business associate's head just blew up."

Of course that's just my take on what these things are for; hopefully I'm not perverting the ideas too badly.  I think that this is all consistent with what Ron has been saying, though.  If I'm not too far off base, then maybe that explains why you're getting frustrated with Ron's answers: you're asking questions about how to do things during game prep when the answer is "I don't do those things during game prep."

Cheers,

rnd


[ This Message was edited by: random on 2001-11-05 14:04 ]
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jburneko
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« Reply #43 on: November 05, 2001, 11:37:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-05 14:02, random wrote:

If Paul's immediate reaction to the news that Chema's pregnant is to fire her therapist, then maybe the doctor wasn't really that important after all.  If Paul decides to spend a lot of game time chatting with the doctor, then he probably is.  


I totally get what you're saying.  Where my largely personal problem comes in is this: If I put a lot of planing into the doctor and the first thing Paul does is drop the therapist then great I can just drop the plot element.  The idea isn't to create a scenario that HINGES on the therapist being involved but only prepares FOR the therapist to be involved.

If on the other hand I DON'T put any planning into the therapist and Paul decides to spend a lot of time with him then things will be very boring because I won't have anything to SAY as the therapist because he doesn't currently relate to anything in my head.  Paul won't have the opportunity to make the doctor important because I haven't prepared to allow the doctor to be important.

Jesse
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #44 on: November 05, 2001, 12:19:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-11-05 14:37, jburneko wrote:
If on the other hand I DON'T put any planning into the therapist and Paul decides to spend a lot of time with him then things will be very boring because I won't have anything to SAY as the therapist because he doesn't currently relate to anything in my head.  Paul won't have the opportunity to make the doctor important because I haven't prepared to allow the doctor to be important.


That may be a problem. Ron is assuming that you can just make up stuff about the doctor to make him interesting given what has already happened on the spot. And if you give it a chance you might find that you can do this. I think that you're just afraid of walking the tightrope without a net.

That pre-game prep you feel that you need turns your tightrope into a rail. Sure it's sturdier, but you risk driving the game someplace other than it ought to be. Ron's contention is that you can't make up ANYTHING about the psychologist that doesn't relate to the character's protagonism, because doing so makes the game about the Psychiatrist, not the character. And it's hard to make stuff up about the psychiatrist that does relate to the PCs protagonism, because they haven't started play yet. Who knows what direction they'll go after the game starts? Conclusion - you have to wing it a bit. Ron's not saying don't make stuff up, just don't do it till you see where the game is going, and can make up stuff that reinforces the PCs stories.

Another problem that you're having seems to me to be about the level of events that have to occur to create "heat". This is a Gam/Sim leftover. One murder is in fact far more than you need to create all the heat you'll ever need. Given all the stuff going on in Ron's descriptiopn, I almost think that he's overdone it. You haven't forgotten that there are demons about, have you? Yes, in Simulationist or Gamist play saving the world regularly is important because things like that are part of what makes the sorts of premises available in those games engaging. Shouldn't be necessary at all in a narrativist game. The murder is just there to kickstart the players stories. It is not the story itself.

Ron, how about next example, you start with a dance instead of a murder to demonstrate how little you really need to establish a kernel around which to develop PC plot. I think that Jesse might really need an example of play of some sort, unfortunately. :wink:

One more thing Jesse, you mentioned your players. Keep in mind that if they are against Narrativism in general (like my Sim players) then this whole thing will not fly. They MUST be willing to create their share of the story or this sort of setup will not fly.

Miss anything, Ron?

Mike

[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-11-05 15:23 ]
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