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Author Topic: Art-Deco Melodrama, part 2  (Read 36632 times)
jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« Reply #45 on: November 05, 2001, 01:35:00 PM »

This is verging on me getting defensive which is not what I intend or like but I'm trying to be as clear as possible.  Perhaps just moving on to Ron's actual play analysis would be best.

Quote

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.


This may go back to me still not fully understanding what we mean when we talk about preserving the player's protagonism.  I don't understand how planning lots of details about motives and behaviors about the psychologist will deprotagonize the player or somehow shift the story from being about the character to being about the psychologist.  I'm not dictating HOW the character must react to whatever is going on with the psychologist be it good or bad, I'm just giving the player something to react to AT ALL.  Or beter giving ME as the GM a foundation for how the psychologist will react TO PAUL/EROCH.

Quote

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.


I'm also not talking about turning the game into a "Hunt The Evil, Save The World" scenario either.  Those were just cheesy examples that leapt to mind because they're easy.  As an example just making the Psychologist Joey Van Grayslokes brother would make me happy.  Now it leaves the question "Who does he side with?"  Does the psychologist insure that Chema never speaks in hope of covering up one more of his brother's fuck ups?  Or does he become inamored with either Chema or Eroch and turn his borther in?  These questions I can leave to actual play.  I can wait to see how Paul has Eroch treat the Doctor to decide which way the doctor goes.  But at least I have an element to hold onto while I roleplay the doctor.  I have some baseline motivation for developing his character.

Quote

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.


Eh, forget my players.  I'm being selfish at this point and talking about me on both sides of the table.  As a player if I have my character do something and the GM doesn't present me with something compelling as a consequence then I won't pursue that line of thinking any more.  If I'm the GM and the player does something that I haven't done any planning on AT ALL, even as subtle as making one character related to another, then I'm going to present that player with the most milk-toast presentation of that character because that's what's going to leap to mind.

Furthing the psychologist angle.  With just the added element of having the psychologist be Joey's brother I'll know what questions the Doctor would ask Chema and Eroch to try and figure out how much they know about the pregnancy.  I'd know what behaviors to look for in Paul's portrayale of Eroch that might endear the Doctor to their cause.  I know what questions the doctor would answer outright and truthfully and what questions the doctor would evade.

However, left as is, with waiting to see what Paul does, I'd revert to 'cold professional.'  Yes, the doctor is doing his best.  And, no, there hasn't been much progress.  I'd ask a few standard questions to try and get some background on Chema and Eroch.  Overall, nothing really engaging.  To me that runs the risk of Paul simply abandoning the psychologist as a milk-toast character with nothing of interest going on.

Is this clear?

Jesse
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James Holloway
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Posts: 372


« Reply #46 on: November 05, 2001, 02:14:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-11-05 16:35, jburneko wrote:
If I'm the GM and the player does something that I haven't done any planning on AT ALL, even as subtle as making one character related to another, then I'm going to present that player with the most milk-toast presentation of that character because that's what's going to leap to mind.


You and me both, sport. You and me both.

I have the devil-hell of a time with this kind of thing. I just have difficulty improvising things which are dramatic. This has the effect of leading characters toward the things I have prepared, which has the effect of railroading.

Problem: I don't know how to get around this except practice. A lot of the time, my players will help me out (unintentionally) by saying things like "hey, let's go talk to the therapist" and then getting distracted for ten minutes by something, while I'm frantically thinking about what would be good for the therapist to do.

But I don't know that I'm currently very good at coming up with good ways to use NPCs or other game elements without advance planning.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #47 on: November 05, 2001, 02:28:00 PM »

Quote

However, left as is, with waiting to see what Paul does, I'd revert to 'cold professional.'  Yes, the doctor is doing his best.  And, no, there hasn't been much progress.  I'd ask a few standard questions to try and get some background on Chema and Eroch.  Overall, nothing really engaging.  To me that runs the risk of Paul simply abandoning the psychologist as a milk-toast character with nothing of interest going on.

Is this clear?

Jesse


Well, it's clear, but I don't understand why you'd do what you say. Yes, if you run the character boring, the character will be boring. So don't do that. When (if) you get to the character have him behave in an entertaining fashion instead.

That's snarky, but I'm tryig to get my point across.

You don't have to pre-plan a character to have him behave in a way that will propell the story. Just figure it out on the spot, as play is happening. You tell us you can do this before play, why not during? During play you'll have the players cues to work with, which you wouldn't have before hand.

And you'll have Paul on the other end giving you those cues; he'll make most of it happen anyway, I garuntee. Even if you are the player in question, by the time you get to the psychologist, you'll have such a head of steam (from starting off on your kicker, or your demons need, or whatever) that you'll drive that scene. Unless the GM were to run it in a boring fashion or has some separate agenda for Herr Doktor. In which (latter) case the scene might just not work to enhance your characters story (which would be a shame; might as well have not included him).

Are we getting anywhere, or just circling?

Mike
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #48 on: November 05, 2001, 02:36:00 PM »

Quote

I have the devil-hell of a time with this kind of thing. I just have difficulty improvising things which are dramatic. This has the effect of leading characters toward the things I have prepared, which has the effect of railroading.


Well, then all the more reason not to have anything pre-planned. If you have nothing pre-planned, then you can't railroad toward something. Like you mention later, let the players go where they will. Once they get the hang of it they won't really need you anymore.

Have you guys played SOAP yet? If not downloadit and play it with a friend ot two ASAP. That'll learn ya.

Mike
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Ian O'Rourke
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« Reply #49 on: November 05, 2001, 02:47:00 PM »

Okay, I don't want to jump in here and distance Mike and Jesse, but I think Jesse is trying to make one simple point (and correct me if I'm wrong):

If he was to make the Psychologist totally up on the spot, he thinks there is a good chance he would not be as interesting or as dynamic compared to a characters he'd put some thought into beforehand.

I think that's all that's trying to be said. The argument is how does putting this thought in take anything away from the player characters (the central protagonists)?

Is the solution to go halfway, surely you could detail the psychologist as a character without defining any motivation with respect to the relationship map or his place in the drama.

Describe how he looks, his mannarisms, what he does when he's nervous, what he does when he's lying that sort of thing. That way you can play him when you decide he's lying when the scene is driven by the player.

I'd do that, then I'd be playing what I thought was a distinctive character I'd thought through, but his place in the drama was still purely driven by 'on the moment' player driven choices, avenues of questioning, etc.

Make sense? Or have missed the whole issue? Whatever, this process is very intrigueing.

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[ This Message was edited by: Ian O'Rourke on 2001-11-05 17:49 ]
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jburneko
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« Reply #50 on: November 05, 2001, 02:55:00 PM »

Mike,

I don't think we're circling per se but I think we've drifted.  Another thing I'm having trouble with is imagining something Paul could possibly do that would suddenly give me insight into the psychologist and his motivations that I couldn't think up in advance.

Sure, if the psychologist is delt with late in the story it would be better to put his personality and agenda (if any) on hold.  If Paul has gone off and done 10 other things I might come up with a great idea of how the psychologist fits in with those things.  I do this all the time in play.  But in this case the psychologist is right there in the kicker.  In all likelyhood going to the psychologist will be one of the FIRST things Paul does.  In that case, I can't imagine what Paul could do that would suddenly make me go, "Oh yeah, THIS is where the psychologist stands."

Which brings me back to what I was ORIGINALLY getting at.  I can't understand why the kickers are used as whispy twigs attached to the backstory rather than the roots on which the backstory stands.  If the kicker is the first thing the player is going to deal with then the kicker is exactly where I'd spend 99% percent of my planning time making sure that any sort of relationship map or back story organically grows from that kicker.  Making sure that no matter what the player does something engaging is the result.  And by that I don't mean making sure that all roads lead to rome, only that I've done enough planning so that the player won't wander into a creative void too quickly.

Jesse
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #51 on: November 05, 2001, 02:59:00 PM »

You're arguing on my side, Ian. Things like appearace and mannerisms are a far cry from Motivations which is what Jesse wanted to ascribe.

The potential damage? In truth, we're making a mountain out of a molehill. The one character probably wouldn't damage the game too much. But why make the mistake even once when its simpler not to? What can happen is that the scene in question can start to revolve around that pre-decided motivation.

Lets do a sample. Paul comes to the Psychiatrist because Whatshername has gone totally catatonic now (because Ron would do that). He's desperate. The scene should revolve around Paul's character trying to recieve some hope or solace from the doctor. If I have not preplanned the doctors motivations, I can now make him bad and thwart such requests for solace, or I can have the doctor be helpful. Anyhow, I can make the doctors actions revolve around Paul's.

If I had previously decided that the doctor was about trying to find out about the secrets of Paul's character's building, then I might feel the urge to drift over to having the doctor ask questions about Paul's characte and the building, all the while schemeing as to how the doctor would steal the plans or something. Whatever. It would no longer be about what Paul (not Paul's character, we don't really care about that) wants it to be about. He came here looking for some melodrama about medical advice and now he's getting something else entirely. Bad GM.

Sure, you could forget the doctor's motivation to play the scene the way Paul wants to, but then why have it worked out in the first place? Waste of time. Go with the flow...


BTW, for Sim play I'm all about the pre-planning. Heck, I even do (dare I mention it) Metaplot. But that's for another thread.

Mike
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #52 on: November 05, 2001, 03:07:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-11-05 17:55, jburneko wrote:
Which brings me back to what I was ORIGINALLY getting at.  I can't understand why the kickers are used as whispy twigs attached to the backstory rather than the roots on which the backstory stands.  If the kicker is the first thing the player is going to deal with then the kicker is exactly where I'd spend 99% percent of my planning time making sure that any sort of relationship map or back story organically grows from that kicker.  Making sure that no matter what the player does something engaging is the result.  And by that I don't mean making sure that all roads lead to rome, only that I've done enough planning so that the player won't wander into a creative void too quickly.


This is a big problem in understanding. You attatch too much importance to the backstory. It's called backstory because it is, essentially, unimportant. Scenery. The real story IS the kickers. The backstory is just what happens to be happening at the time to mix things up a bit.

You don't even need one.

Gasp! Oops, there, I said it. You could put all the PCs in a black box and just let them at each other, and probably drive a Sorcerer story. It's just going to be a little more colorful with other people around as well. That's all the backstory is for. How's the player going to wander off into a creative void with a demon at his back? If nothing else?

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #53 on: November 05, 2001, 03:12:00 PM »

Folks, oh my, take it slow here.

First of all, EVERYONE has raised good points. Random, Mike, everyone has stated a variety of ways that describe or encourage my willingness not to prep Dr. Heuttner.

Second, though, Jesse has a good point. He simply does not feel comfortable going into play with a character who could be very important with no motivational prep.

That's a PERSONAL distinction. It would be perfectly all right to prep the doc just as much as I did Van Graysloke, Hilda, or Beck, and in that case it would be OK to give him a big ol' spot on the relationship map, probably to Chema. Or even to go whole hog and make him someone's brother or something (although I would find that too pat, myself).

Why didn't I do that? Because, most importantly, I got a "funny creative itch" when I considered the doctor. You can see it in my post, when I get all excited by considering the Jungian angle. Ah ha, I say, this WILL be interesting. I utterly trust myself to improv the doc into motivated existence when the time comes.

Jesse says: if I don't prep the doc's motivation, when it comes time to play him, he won't have one and I'll play him as a faceless, voiceless blur.

I say: ooh, baby, I just KNOW that the doc will be great - whatever the hell that will be, I dunno, but that knowledge lets me go into play feeling assured that he's gonna make a difference.

It is now a matter of comfort zones, not a matter of argumentation, which is why Mike's enthusiasm is becoming irritating to Jesse. I strongly suggest that we leave it as follows:
1) Whoa, look, this technique is so far out of one participant's comfort level that he does not see it as useful to him.
2) That is perfectly all right. The technique is not mandatory.

A lot of good points got raised, all 'round the topic, in the last six or seven posts. But really, folks, let's call this thread. We've hashed it out as far as it's gonna go.

Best,
Ron
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Ian O'Rourke
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« Reply #54 on: November 05, 2001, 03:23:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-11-05 17:59, Mike Holmes wrote:
You're arguing on my side, Ian. Things like appearace and mannerisms are a far cry from Motivations which is what Jesse wanted to ascribe.


Quite possibly. I also think it might be a moot point, as is often the case in these games players do a lot of OOC discussion with each other and the GM, so even though the NPC is not detailed at the start of the game, he can be detailed before the session (he will be seriously encountered in) based on what the player has told the GM his motivations are.

As a result, if you don't feel comfortable doing it blind, agree a certain level of discussion so that planning before the next session can incorporate likely scenes (and a few notes based on the players drivers as he understands them before the session).

Anyway, shutting down as requested.
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Ian O'Rourke
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