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Author Topic: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?  (Read 11507 times)
marcus
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Posts: 59


« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2003, 03:44:32 AM »

Ian wrote:

Quote
premise needs to be up front and accessible to players in Sorceror otherwise you'd stand a good chance of ending up with drift towards theme-heavy sim.


Are you saying, Ian, that stating Premise up front is a method of preventing it from dominating play? If that is what you are saying, it strikes me as rather ironic.

Marcus
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Ian Charvill
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Posts: 377


« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2003, 04:20:35 AM »

Premise doesn't dominate theme heavy sim - premise (in the strict GNS sense) isn't there at all.  You do have theme, but theme's not premise.

By foregrounding Premise in Sorceror you are ensuring that Premise is what you get, rather than theme.

Does that make more sense?
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Ian Charvill
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2003, 05:25:32 AM »

Marcus -

Unlike a lot of these guys you're talking to, I haven't actually run Sorcerer yet - but. I think if you talk to your players about what kind of game you all want, decide on definitions for Humanity, Demons, and what aspect of interacting with Demons causes Humanity loss and why, you'll be off to the races. Then different situations which address premise should arise in play fairly naturally - you can almost think of GMing as throwing the question at your players in different ways, and how the question comes out will depend on how they and you pursue it.

So yeah, for my part, I think your 'crude summary' is good enough. It depends a little on what kind of game you want, though, how precise the specifications of these things need to be. Some posters appear to prefer games in which the definitinos of all these things are very 'tight', which it sounds from your initial post that you're a little nervous about. On the other hand, it's possible to let various kind of flex come into your definitions at different points, if that's where you want them.

In Sorcery and Sword, for example, the definition of Demons is rather broad, and the definition of Humanity, while narrow (primarily personal loyalty), is extremely flexible in application. So if you were running a game in the Clicking Sands, say, I would think that the precise meaning of Humanity would vary more from character to character and would probably take several sessions to really establish clearly in the players' and GM's minds. Similarly if you were using Sorcerer for Call of Cthulhu-inspired play, Humanity would be defined as sanity, and Demons would all be gibbering horrors from the dark - there the flex would be in what exact form of insanity each character would be struggling with, and that would be a particular 'flavor' for that character. In both these cases, both the precise nature of Humanity, and in the first case, the way Demons undermine one's Humanity, are open to great latitude of interpretation, even though the game is addressing the same Premise.

I don't think you have to worry about playing Sorcerer in the 'approved fashion' - but if you're wondering what the game does to address Premise and how to use the game to throw questions about values at your characters and players, I think it's helpful to realize the ways in which the game is set up to help you do just that. Because actually the game itself helps to address your initial worry - you can think about what would be a cool adventure for your group of characters, and the Demons/Humanity interaction will pull you back towards the theme you're wishing to address in your game over and over, in interesting and spontaneous ways. Or at least that's my theory about what would happen - and what I'm hoping to get out of the game when I can get some people together for a session.
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2003, 07:43:04 AM »

Okay.  Wait.

Marcus, yes.  You're summary is spot on.  Go for it.

(I admit I went more for a "How does Premise help Narrativist Play in General"; I hope it was still helpful.)

Ian -- and all who wish to raise their lances to him or come to his aid -- we are now about to have to define what the word "theme" means -- because it truly isn't a given at this moment.  

We are also about to beging comparing and contrasting how Premise or Theme work in Sim and Nar (or don't)...  Which is beyond the scope of this thread.  

I'd suggest anyone wanting to do this start up another thread and give it the clear focus of this issue.  It may be a topic worth pursuing... But it's not Marcus' topic, and I think the thread, as it stands now, is a worthy one for reference later.  I think we should leave it that way.

Christopher
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fahdiz
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Posts: 5


« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2003, 08:08:41 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I dunno, man, that post reads to me like those old arguments about what a fireball "really" could or could not do.


Not really.  It's simple ontology.

Quote
I think it's helpful to wrap your head around the idea that a nonexistent thing does indeed have a Need. Think of the Need as a sub-clause in the Binding. Think of the Binding as the character's commitment to having this nonexistent thing be here anyway.


At which point it *exists*, and is no longer a metaphor.

So if the Binding is in effect taking an idea, metaphor, what-have-you, and making it *real*, with *real* Needs and Desires, then we're on the same page - and that's the power of a Sorceror.  But once it is Bound, it is no longer a figment of the imagination - it is real, and thus terrifying and devastating to one's Humanity.

Except that still doesn't really get at the heart of Possession.  How can a non-existent thing take control of someone's body and mind?  It had to be *real* before it did so.  Perhaps some *other* Sorceror made it real, and some unlucky chap just happened to be in the way.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #20 on: December 10, 2003, 08:57:44 AM »

Fahdiz, the contradictions that are implied are part of the Sorcerer aesthetic. That is, it's cool that it doesn't make sense for these things to both exist, and not exist. If you don't think that's cool, then maybe the game isn't for you. Or you can play it slightly differently. But consider the possibility that it can be fun (because it is for some like me) before you reject it outright. The system is just a way to explore these things.

Marcus, that's almost it, but you've left out the other mandatory part, which is Kickers. These tend to narrow the focus down automatically some as well. That is, the player looks at the nature of Humanity, Demons, etc, and then decides what issues the PC faces right off the bat. This limits the subsequent action considerably.

Mike
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greyorm
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« Reply #21 on: December 10, 2003, 12:20:26 PM »

Ian,

Premise & Theme are not the same thing. In fact, multiple themes can arise from a single Premise depending on the results of play, so I agree that the definition needs to be discussed elsewhere (and I find myself agreeing with what you posted in the other thread along those lines).

Also, I'm very aware of the vast differences between novels and RPGs, but for the purposes of an illustrative metaphor for the case of how a group could stay on track with a Premise, I think the analogy works. Players engage the same sort of mind-set a writer does when he sticks to a Premise for an entire novel (or series thereof).

Quote from: Ian Charvill
Which is I guess a preamble to my one line contribution to the debate: premise needs to be up front and accessible to players in Sorceror otherwise you'd stand a good chance of ending up with drift towards theme-heavy sim.

I disagree; my Narrativist 3E game has a definite unspoken Premise, which I've identified in play, but my (non-Forge) players aren't consciously aware of. Yet we keep hitting on that Premise again and again in play, even (and tellingly) when I'm not looking to guide the action that way. The game, however, is not Sim or even in danger of drifting towards Sim because the players aren't simply exploring the Premise, looking at it, responding to it with examination.

Rather, they're reacting to it and developing it. This is the difference between similar styles of Nar and Sim in my mind.

Likewise, in Sorcerer, I've found that simply defining Humanity and Demons give rise to a very obvious Premise, which is usually inescapable; and though I don't prefer to play it this way, even left undefined at the start it gets fleshed out via play simply by virtue of what the players as a group choose to concentrate on, by what gets them going.

Quote from: Peregrine
Hmm, are you sure you want to do that. Every form of play, story evolution, story writing etc. etc. has an initial proposition of one form or another. Turning it into jargon may be counterprodictive.

The use of Premise to indicate Narrative Premise is very old news (or at least it is to me), and likewise seems in no way counter-productive.

All these arguments about the use of jargon or "non-intuitive terminology" seem like arguing over the use of the term "spin" or "flavor" to describe behaviors and elements of a quark (ie: Is "up" really a "flavor"?).

It's technical jargon, and its use must be considered in the context of the field/theory when one is discussing that field/theory. Otherwise, you spend forever trying to find a "good term" and never actually get around to exploration of the theory.

Quote from: marcus
it seems to be the general consensus that the fixing the definitions of Humanity and demon-nature, along with the Sorcerer rules themselves, will provide a degree of Premise sufficient to be getting on with.

Finally, for Marcus, yes, I'd say you have it right. The only other thing for you to consider in the equation is Kickers. These will give play definition and focus, and tell you what the players are looking for regarding the possible Premises arising from the interaction of Demons and Humanity.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
marcus
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #22 on: December 11, 2003, 12:39:54 AM »

I hadn't forgotten Kickers, but did not consider they were part of Premise. Should there be some attempt to ensure that the Kickers all relate to a particular question (being a previously-decided Premise)?

Marcus
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A.Neill
Member

Posts: 62


« Reply #23 on: December 11, 2003, 01:57:19 AM »

Quote from: marcus
I hadn't forgotten Kickers, but did not consider they were part of Premise. Should there be some attempt to ensure that the Kickers all relate to a particular question (being a previously-decided Premise)?

Marcus


Marcus -  my understanding is that kickers primarily serve to put a character in motion. If a player is well tuned into the premise when the game starts, a kicker may well be set up with that premise in mind. This may not necessarily be the case, and while the kicker may be resolved within the context of the premise later, a player may not have this in mind when the kicker is set up. So I guess there may be an indirect correlation, but not a causal effect!

Alan.
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #24 on: December 11, 2003, 05:26:37 AM »

I wonder if Marcus' new question should be a new thread.

Marcus, I tend to think players should just come up with cool kickers that pose an interesting conflict, and that whether or not they address Premise in any explicit sense should sort of be left up to the game to handle. If they do, great, but I think they're more to get some action and drama going right away, to get the character tied into what's going on right away - AND, to give the player some control over what's going on with her character, what kind of conflict they're giong to be facing, right away too. I think the in-play resolution of kickers will probably involve forcing the players to deal with value-laden questions, including those central to the game's Premise, but that the kicker itself should first and foremost be something cool and gripping that makes the player (and the character) care about what's going on.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: December 11, 2003, 07:33:23 AM »

Hi there,

I'm good with letting the Kicker question stay here in this thread.

Sean, that is a very interesting and almost perfect breakdown. I'm going to take a scalpel to it.

Quote
I tend to think players should just come up with cool kickers that pose an interesting conflict, and that whether or not they address Premise in any explicit sense should sort of be left up to the game to handle. If they do, great, but I think they're more to get some action and drama going right away, to get the character tied into what's going on right away - AND, to give the player some control over what's going on with her character, what kind of conflict they're giong to be facing, right away too.


This is very close, but I must quibble. The first part, about players coming up with Kickers which are cool to them, is crucial. Freedom about that coolness is also crucial.

The quibbly part is this: "tied into what's going on ..." I look at it the other way 'round entirely. The Kickers are what's going on. The GM must treat his own back-story and prep (to this point) as subordinate to the Kickers, in order to provide them with as much meat as possible.

Yes, it may appear that the Kicker hooks the player-character into the GM's prepped material, but that is a mis-perception based on habit - the cognitive process involved is precisely the reverse. It hooks the GM's prep into the player's material.

To clarify, a very specific Kicker means that the GM now has a considerable story constraint to work within, perhaps even necessitating a full re-write of everything he's prepped so far. A vague (but still cool) Kicker means that the GM has been given "permission" from the player to surprise him or her at a pretty basic story-level, i.e., the conflict. A bland Kicker needs "spiking," which is to say, transformation into one of the former two during the first session, with any luck via the player's decisions.

I think that's what you were indicating with your "control" clause, but I wanted to get it front & center.

Quote
I think the in-play resolution of kickers will probably involve forcing the players to deal with value-laden questions, including those central to the game's Premise, but that the kicker itself should first and foremost be something cool and gripping that makes the player (and the character) care about what's going on.


Spot on. Since the player cares about X, then X is primary, and the values-issues embedded in X are the Premise. If the Explorative elements of X are in line with the generalized Premise-concepts discussed so far by the group, then whammo - there's no stopping the upcoming creative explosion during play as long as no one shies away.

Another way of putting it is that the players in my necromancy game, once we discussed the Humanity definition, had no trouble coming up with their demons (resentment of dead father, triangle with dead lover and live lover, remorse over cannibalizing a friend to survive). Nor did they have any trouble with Kickers (see the relevant thread).

The human mind does all of the above without very much prompting, training, or effort; all it needs is appreciation. The only problem facing us is that the gamer mind has in most cases been rigorously trained to shunt this basic human skill out of the activity it calls "role-playing."

Best,
Ron
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fahdiz
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #26 on: December 11, 2003, 07:45:31 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Fahdiz, the contradictions that are implied are part of the Sorcerer aesthetic. That is, it's cool that it doesn't make sense for these things to both exist, and not exist. If you don't think that's cool, then maybe the game isn't for you. Or you can play it slightly differently. But consider the possibility that it can be fun (because it is for some like me) before you reject it outright. The system is just a way to explore these things.


No, don't misunderstand me - I haven't rejected anything outright, nor said that Sorceror couldn't or wouldn't be fun.  There are a lot of games based on paradox - but those paradoxes still tend to be grounded in some kind of reality.  Paradoxes in Unknown Armies, for example, are of this variety: "Epideromancers have total control over their bodies, but they only way they can get this control is to mutilate themselves - i.e. destroy the very thing that their power enhances."  That is, in my opinion, an easier paradox to roleplay than a paradox of being.

Meh, I'll just have to look into it more carefully, I suppose.
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"I agree with the realistic Irishman who said he preferred to prophesy after the event."
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #27 on: December 11, 2003, 07:47:26 AM »

Precision surgery there, Ron. Yeah, "the Kicker IS what's going on" is a better way to put it. I thought of that midsentence and so that's where the corrective clause came in, as you surmised.

This is, I should add, a great sort of RPG aikido for dealing with a perennial problem - how to get the players into the story? The GM frets and sweats over plot hooks, how to make the players and characters care, etc. etc. - but why not just let the player tell you what's interesting to them and hook themselves in to the story? Problem solved...
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Valamir
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« Reply #28 on: December 11, 2003, 08:09:00 AM »

Quote
This is, I should add, a great sort of RPG aikido for dealing with a perennial problem - how to get the players into the story? The GM frets and sweats over plot hooks, how to make the players and characters care, etc. etc. - but why not just let the player tell you what's interesting to them and hook themselves in to the story? Problem solved...


You would think it would be just that obvious wouldn't you.

Over in my situation thread on RPG.net, however, there were at least half a dozen posters...long time gamers...who absolutely could not see the "precision surgery" distinction Ron made above.  No matter how many times or in how many different ways it was explained to them, several of them keptl snapping back to "yeah, tie the characters back into the story...I've been doing that for years, nothing new here".  They just couldn't see the difference.  Couldn't even comprehend it.

It was enormously frustrating, yet an amazingly interesting phenomenon to observe.  I would guess there's probably even a clinical psychology diagnosis for that sort of perception disconnect.
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marcus
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #29 on: December 12, 2003, 12:38:54 AM »

Ron said:

Quote
Since the player cares about X, then X is primary, and the values-issues embedded in X are the Premise. If the Explorative elements of X are in line with the generalized Premise-concepts discussed so far by the group, then whammo - there's no stopping the upcoming creative explosion during play as long as no one shies away.


I may be misinterpreting the above quote, but isn't this saying that each Kicker carries with it it's own Premise, which may or may not correspond to the Premise arising from such matters as Humanity and Demon definitions? It is said that if the two coincide that will produce some sort of creative bonanza, but if players are by and large free to make up their own Kickers, then surely such coincidence is unlikely. In that case, would there not be multiple Premises?

This ties back nicely to my original posting that initiated this thread, challenging the need for a single Premise. In view of the importance of Kickers, and the importance of player freedom when designing them, if one assumes that Kickers are a source of Premise, then a single Premise seems all but impossible to achieve as a matter of practice.

Marcus
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