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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 75 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Engaging Narrative  (Read 5952 times)
Cassidy
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Posts: 165


« on: November 27, 2003, 10:53:44 AM »

It's been a while since I last posted on this forum. My introduction to the Pool has proved to be an epithany in my role-playing life this year; long may it continue.

Question:

Has anyone ever considered incorporating additional elements to the Pool designed to get the players creative juices flowing as a means of promoting an engaging and exciting narrative?

Rather than give the players a blank canvas and a pencil why not give them a blank canvas, a set of paints and a handful of brushes, as it were.

The most obvious thing that springs to mind for me is the use of cards of some sort, a bit like "Once Upon a Time" or "Everway". Something less generic though and ideally more pertinent to the setting or story at hand.

Any ideas, methods, insights anyone?
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HMT
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Posts: 66


« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2003, 11:49:56 AM »

The Guide could attach motifs to scenes. I think it's particularly appropriate to attach motifs to locations. Consider the enchanted stream in Mirkwood.
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qxjit
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2003, 05:06:43 PM »

We're actually doing something like this in the game I am GMing right now, and one of the players is also doing it with the game he is GMing.  We invented a system called "Cred" out of an idea I had to try to measure player Credibility more directly instead of derivatively (i.e. through character sheets and such).  In this case, the coice of "brushes" is not specific to any particular setting, but is tied to certain elements (meta or otherwise) commonly found in stories.  We have broken Cred up into 11 categories:

Action, Character, Complication, Mystery, Object, Past, Scene, Serendipity, Setting, Spotlight, and Twist

I won't go into how each of these work exactly, but their names are chosen to reflect the idea of what they do.

The system is pretty simple.  At the beginning of each session you get 3 new Cred (so you'll have 3 cred the first night).  You can invoke the Cred at any time to affect the game in a way appropriate to the cred.  Almost always this involves some level of narration (by you), even it is only to describe the object you have just introduced, or if it is to set the scene that you have just framed.  Each time Cred is used we make a note of what is was used for so that at the end of the session the group can talk about what uses of Cred they liked and what they didn't (or liked less).  If the group liked a player's use of a Cred, the player gets a free Bonus Cred of that type next session (just next session -- bonuses are not permanent, even if the Bonus Cred is not used).

Of course, this isn't the only system being used in the game -- it is basically used to override the system when one of the players has an idea that they want to incorporate into the game.  However, at least in the game I am GMing, I would say Cred is being acts as the primary system (especially when people have built up lots of bonuses), and the other system is secondary.

You could easily add types of Cred beyond what we have (we are considering Comedy and Color at the moment), and could add Cred specific to the game that is being played.  To date we have not tried the latter.

Is this the sort of thing your were talking about?

--Dave
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--Dave
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2003, 04:57:44 AM »

Hi there,

Cassidy, I'm with you on this. I'd say that the following games:

Pace, My Life with Master, Le Mon Mouri, Dread, Donjon, octaNe, Otherkind, Universalis, Trollbabe, Dust Devils, Violence Future, and others

... all owe a debt to The Pool in some fashion or another, or at the very least, represent some parallel thinking.

It's quite likely the single most influential idea in game design - not in terms of breadth (yet) but in terms of bang-per-buck/person. No one who plays The Pool escapes unchanged.

So it's not surprising at all that, in new games, either the idea gets mutated and incorporated into something else, or it gets a little "furniture" added in to help specify it.

[For the record, I think Soap, InSpectres, The Pool, and my own Elfs are kind of "the parents" of a whole wave of game design here at the Forge. Many of those new games are among the finest I have ever seen.]

Best,
Ron
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2003, 01:06:43 PM »

Thanks for the comments one and all.

Quote from: qxjit
Of course, this isn't the only system being used in the game -- it is basically used to override the system when one of the players has an idea that they want to incorporate into the game. However, at least in the game I am GMing, I would say Cred is being acts as the primary system (especially when people have built up lots of bonuses), and the other system is secondary.


This is what The Pool is all about for me, namely letting the players run with their ideas. The trick is allowing the players equal amounts of the spotlight.

Rather than "cred" we started using a "button" which is passed clockwise around the table during the course of play to determine which player has the GM baton at any given time. When the button comes around to you it is your turn to setup a scene or situation in the game and assume the role of GM until it's conclusion; sort of like SOAP. Players can opt to "pass" the button thereby waiving their right to setup a scene. If they choose to do this they take a die to add to their dice pool. It's simple, and it seems to work.

This reinforces the collaborative nature of play since there is no sole GM running entire show. When it's your turn to be GM you get the chance to setup a killer scene that you hope will get the other players buzzing.

Which leads me back to the question I posed. Sometimes the players need a spark to get a scene going and move the story along. I'm just scratching my head trying to come up with an inventive and interesting way of providing them with that spark.
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qxjit
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Posts: 20


« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2003, 05:30:03 PM »

Quote from: Cassidy
Sometimes the players need a spark to get a scene going and move the story along. I'm just scratching my head trying to come up with an inventive and interesting way of providing them with that spark.


Could you expand on the problem by giving a situation that has troubled you in actual play?  I'm not sure I fully understand the problem that you are having -- at least not enough to provide a useful suggestion.  From your comments in  Kenway's response thread it sounds to me like you are having very creative sessions, so I'm curious what is happening during the game that needs to be helped along.
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--Dave
Cassidy
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Posts: 165


« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2003, 12:06:39 PM »

Quote from: qxjit
Could you expand on the problem by giving a situation that has troubled you in actual play? I'm not sure I fully understand the problem that you are having -- at least not enough to provide a useful suggestion.


Sure, I'll try.

In our games when a player has the opportunity to assume the role of GM they have to set up a scene or situation that's going to provide some impetus to the story and engage the interest of the other players.

Sometimes they get a block; "GM Block" for want of a better term. The scene fizzles because the player acting as GM for that scene doesn't have a clear idea of what they want to set up. Sure they'll fudge something together but the scene just doesn't have the spark necessary to fire their imagination or that of the other players.

I reckon we play out a dozen scenes in an average session; a fizzled scene happens a couple of times a session. When it becomes clear that a scene is fizzling we cut it short and pass the GM hat over to the next player.

I recognize that a more formalised process to setting up scenes may help. As part of that process I want to provide the players with some mechanism intended to fire their imagination when needed, so that the scenes they set up have less chance of fizzling.

I think that players sometimes struggle to pull a scene together because they can't see the wood for the trees. What I mean by that is that there can be so many story elements and plot threads flying around that the players don't know what to focus on.

At it's simplest I suppose I could simply breakdown all the individual elements that constitute the story; i.e. characters, locations, areas of conflict, etc, and have them written on some index cards. When players are stumped for an idea they could draw say half a dozen cards and use one or more of the elements listed on the cards to form the framework of the scene they want to setup.

Elements that are central to the story would perhaps have more than one index card; minor story elements would only have one card. I suppose you could even have specific types of cards, a bit like your "cred" categories.

Does this help?
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qxjit
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2003, 09:48:30 PM »

Quote from: Cassidy
In our games when a player has the opportunity to assume the role of GM they have to set up a scene or situation that's going to provide some impetus to the story and engage the interest of the other players.

Sometimes they get a block; "GM Block" for want of a better term. The scene fizzles because the player acting as GM for that scene doesn't have a clear idea of what they want to set up. Sure they'll fudge something together but the scene just doesn't have the spark necessary to fire their imagination or that of the other players.


One immediate observation is that players are maybe not passing when they should, in terms of your "button" extension to The Pool.  Not everyone needs to have a good idea every time, and the other players (IMO) shouldn't feel pressured to come up with a killer scene every time.

Of course, it's still a good idea to foster creativity.  If your worried about players not seeing the big picture, breaking it down for them may not help as much as you want (though I don't think it could hurt). Maintaining relationship maps or keeping track of plotlines might help keep people looking at the whole story rather than the parts.

I'd be happy to keep going on in this discussion, but we're quickly moving away from things directly related to The Pool.  I'd suggest moving the discussion over to another forum (probably Actual Play since we're talking about your game in particular) if we're going to continue.

--Dave
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--Dave
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2003, 06:12:46 AM »

I agree. I will start a new thread in Actual Play at some point in the future on this subject.

Thanks for the input.
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James V. West
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2003, 01:43:24 PM »

Just wanted to say thanks to Cassidy and Ron and everyone else who has expressed interest in The Pool. It's nice to know something I suggested caught on, even if only in small circles.
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xiombarg
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2004, 09:08:17 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
[For the record, I think Soap, InSpectres, The Pool, and my own Elfs are kind of "the parents" of a whole wave of game design here at the Forge. Many of those new games are among the finest I have ever seen.]

At the risk of derailing the thread, which games were inspired by which "parents"?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2004, 06:24:19 AM »

Hello,

It's not a matter of direct parentage. It's more like bacterial sexuality, in which little genes get transferred around individuals, with reproduction being a different act entirely.

The four games I mentioned (to which I'll add Ghost Light and Wuthering Heights, now that I think of it) clearly affected the design of Dust Devils, Trollbabe, My Life with Master, Violence Future, Donjon, Otherkind, Paladin, Universalis, and Bedlam, among others.

I guess I don't understand the question very well. The various features of one or more of the "inspiring" games may be seen in tweaked and untweaked features scattered across the later games. There isn't any kind of 1:1 parentage going on at all.

Best,
Ron
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2004, 11:41:34 AM »

Collectively, I think those games address issues that haven't been adequately addressed: who gets to say what? When do you get to say it? How much can you say, and how absolute is it?

It's a testament to the Pool, I think, that it's spawned so many cool variants that explore those issues in different ways. I hope the trend continues.
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