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Author Topic: Why Should the Narrativist Premise be Pre-Set in Sorcerer?  (Read 11126 times)
marcus
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Posts: 59


« on: December 09, 2003, 03:40:34 AM »

Although on searching for it in the basic rules I cannot see it explicitly said, I gather that the "Premise" is supposed to be a pretty important thing to be decided upon in the initial design of a new Sorcerer campaign. For "Premise" in a Sorcerer context, I read "Narrative Premise". If I'm wrong on either of these points, someone please tell me.

To make sure I'm using the terminology correctly, Narrative Premise is referred to in Ron's 2001 essay in the following terms:

Quote
Narrativist Premises focus on producing Theme via events during play. Theme is defined as a value-judgment or point that may be inferred from the in-game events. My thoughts on Narrativist Premise are derived from the book The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, specifically his emphasis on the questions that arise from human conundrums and passions of all sorts.

Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?
Do love and marriage outweigh one's loyalty to a political cause?
And many, many more - the full range of literature, myth, and stories of all sorts.


What I really don't understand is how one (whether it be the GM alone or the whole role-playing group in plenary session) can fix something like this at the very start of the campaign. Surely different "human conundrums", moral and social issues are going to arise as play unfolds? Although a Narrativist Premise or "Theme" (which latter term I will now use for brevity) may emerge as one views a game in retrospect, I cannot see why one would want to play with this matter set beforehand and, even if one did so wish, how the group would confine its activities to exploring the preset Theme.

To make sure I am selecting something that really counts as a Theme, I will simply take Ron's first example. Just say the group decides at the start of a Sorcerer game that the Theme for the game will be "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". Now how is this decision important to the game?

As best I understand it (which is no doubt imperfectly), a Theme is something that is supposed to be relevant to not merely a single session of play, but to a whole series of sessions that hang on this Theme. If that is correct, how would one run a series of sessions all based on the Theme of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". It strikes me that various different "human conundrums" are likely to emerge in any given session, let alone a whole "campaign" (if this is acceptable terminology for Sorcerer, I don't know). Even making the majority of them relate to the question of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?" strikes me as a difficult thing.

To make matters harder, I gather that a Sorcerer GM is not supposed to work out much in the way of a pre-set plotline but rather let the player's decisions rule what happens. In the circumstances, it strikes me as rather harder for the Sorcerer GM to engineer the plot to keep bringing it back to the issue of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". Presumably, then, it must be left up to the players to a large degree to steer the game this way whilst the GM merely "facilitates". But are the players really going to be that well organised that they can come up collectively with a plot that concentrates on "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?", when I would have thought this would be hard enough for even a single guiding mind (the GM) to do?

If maintaining focus on the Theme is supposed to be an exception to the GM's role as mere "facilitator" of the players and is allowed to "railroad" the players in this particular only (and I think I've read a thread somewhere to this effect), then surely you would end up with a major GM violation of player authorship? Even if the players helped invent the Theme in the first place, if Theme is central to play, wouldn't the GM's actions in forcing this Theme in actual play tend to dominate the game?

Let us suppose that the group does, somehow, concentrate its playing activity on the theme of "Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?". Would this actually be an interesting thing? Wouldn't everyone be heartily sick of this issue after the first 10 minutes of play and want to Explore something else?

As you would glean from the above: basically, I just don't get it!


Marcus
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2003, 05:59:25 AM »

Hello,

Bad timing, my friend. I just went through this in detail with a couple of other people, and I also am spending a lot of time explaining this in my work on the Narrativism essay.

I'll quickly say that the essay you're citing is out of date on this issue. Premise as a term is now restricted to Narrativism, just as it was prior to that essay.

Oh yeah - and Premise isn't necessarily pre-set in any overly-specific way for a Narrativist game. Instances vary in terms of how "loaded" play is at the start. Most Sorcerer and HeroQuest games, for instance, start with a pretty general Premise and specify it further via play itself. Whereas in My Life with Master, the Premise is rock-solid at the solid, including fairly extensive customizing during all-group preparation. And at the other extreme, playing Universalis has to build the entire Premise, from the ground up, through play.

Anyway, though, I am very over-extended today and cannot give this discussion the attention and most especially the thread-references it deserves. So, I call on the Forge for help. Josh? Jesse? Christopher? Ralph? M.J.? Paul? Mike? Sean? And ...? whoever?

Please?

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2003, 06:24:11 AM »

First place I'd send you is Narrativism for the Soul

Also, for clarity purposes, I'd caution you on your substitution of the word theme for Premise.  Premise is the question, theme is the answer that results from play.  They are not synonyms.

Premise issues can be very narrow as those in the example you questioned or much broader.  By broader I mean a question that can be highlighted by many different "human connundrums" attacking it from a different angle.

For instance a Premise might ask "To what lengths will you go to preserve traditional culture?"  There are a ton of potential situations each with a different angle that you can throw out that touch upon this premise in a different way...the son who defies his father's wishes (breaks traditional culture) to run off to join a band of insurgents fighting to preserve that culture.  The father willing to committ murder to prevent his daughter from marrying a foriegner...and to avoid retributions against his village for the death of a foreigner, the murder he commits is of his own daughter.

Both of those items could come about in actual play and both represent different ways of addressing the overall premise of the game.  Questions like that could easily last many many sessions.  Ultimately, when one looks back over the sessions and sees the choices that were made, and what resulted from them, one can assemble a (or perhaps many) themes that were addressed through play.
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Calithena
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aka Sean


« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2003, 07:05:56 AM »

Hi Marcus -

One thing to notice up front is that Sorcerer deals with thematic/premise related issues more directly in its actual mechanics than many other games, even those with broadly similar 'narrativist' design goals. Specifically, you have Demons, and you have Humanity, and you get something from Demons that you want, but some aspect of that getting involves putting your Humanity at risk in the process.

Now, since 'Demons' and 'Humanity' are open to varying different interpretations, it seems as though you have to come up with some rough statements of what the Premise of your game is going to be up front in order to even run it. Or rather, once a group has defined Demons and Humanity and decided to play the game a certain way, they have also decided, at least in the broad sense, on the Premise of their game.

Does this mean it can't morph somewhat over time? No. Does this mean you can't start out sort of general and hazy and reach clarity in your first few play sessions? No...in fact, when Ron describes his GMing technique, it seems to me that this is more or less what he's doing.

Does every adventure have to deal relentlessly and monomaniacally with that same Theme or Premise in every one of its aspects? No...no more than great books always stay on focus in every single chapter. There's no reason you can't break out of that for a while and explore something else...except that, because of the way Humanity and Demons have gotten defined, it's always going to be lurking in the background, ready to re-emerge. And that will color all experiences in the game, but not necessarily dictate them.

Does this mean that Sorcerer might be better suited to 6-15 adventure minicampaigns, which Ron has suggested in various places are more the norm than many gamers acknowledge, than to endless explorations of the same characters built up over years and years of play? Possibly...I wonder if anyone with separate thoughts on that might wish to start a thread addressing the subject.
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Calithena
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« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2003, 07:11:27 AM »

Just to make it more concrete: the conundrum you suggest could be handled by Sorcerer in a couple of ways. One would be, say, by defining Humanity in terms of close personal friendship, and making the Demons sort of lawful entities, maybe totems, that demand sacrifice for the community.

Another, more complicated way, which IIRC Ron discusses in Sex and Sorcery, would be to have two axes of humanity - 'friendship' and 'community success' - and have Demons be entities of raw chaos, devoted to breaking down both kinds of connections between people. Then you might have some situations in which both kinds of humanity were at stake, and some in which the Demons (some aspect of dealing with demons, not necessarily the demons as agents) would cunningly let you have one to undermine you in the other.

Etc. There are variable possiblities for defining these things in all cases, and you don't have to have the absolutely tight focus from the outset, but you can't play Sorcerer without Premise, because the game builds it in at the beginning. Yeah, you could de-emphasize the premise in certain ways in play, but it seems to me that part of the brilliance of this game is the way it builds this basic conflict into the mechanics.

I hope I'm not too far off with all this - senior sages, feel free to correct me. The general point is that at least in a broad sense you already have defined your premise once you sit down to play Sorcerer, by way of your definitions of Humanity and Demons and the relationships between the two.
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jburneko
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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2003, 10:24:49 AM »

Hello,

What's been said so far is perfect so I'll just make some comments to back it up.

1) To reinforce Ralph's clearification:

Premise: Moral/Ethical Question defined (even loosely) before play.
Theme: Answer to the Question developed on a per character basis as the result of actual play.

2) Sorcerer's Premise In The Abstract.

There were a couple of mind-blowing discussions in these two threads:
Where is "Not-Here"?
and
Not-Here, Not Here-And-Now Plus Demons, and NaN
In these two threads Ron makes it clear that "default" Sorcerer is *NOT* predicated on the idea that everyday mortals exist in the mundane world but that Sorcerers are somehow "in the know" about what's REALLY going on and that hidden reality is based on the activities of these Demons.

The key is that Demons don't exist, not even "in game."  So to grasp "default" Sorcerer you have to accept this paradox, "Demons don't exist, and you've just bound one into your 'service.'"  The point being that Sorcerers ARE everyday mortals who have gone to great lengths and risks to accomplish the impossible.  Why?

That's Sorcerer's "default" Premise.  To what lengths are you willing to go to fullfill your desires?  How much of your "Humanity" are you willing to sell out to get it?  How far are you willing to bend to meet the Needs of these non-existent entities?  Note: That last question is powerfully metaphoric.

When you play Sorcerer you are asking and answering these questions.  These questions become codified when you define what Humanity means and what Demons are.  These questions become further codified when you finally have a specific character with a specific demon.

3) Concrete Examples.

One of my on going Sorcerer pet projects is my Ravenloft inspired Gothic Fantasy setting.  Here, I've defined Humanity as Emotional Sanity.  Demons are quite litterally ghosts and goblins and figments of the imagination.  The Premise becomes how far are you willing to go to satisfy your emotions?

Christopher Kubasic nailed this concept.  He played an aging noble named Karl whose wife was dead and his only son had left home against Karl's wishes.  Karl's demon was a golden haired 8-year old boy only Karl could see, the "perfect" son.  Karl's Kicker was that his real son had finally come home for the first time in years.

Do you see how the Humanity Definition + Karl + Karl's Demon + Karl's Kicker all relate back to The Premise defined above?

In another game I've run the flavor requested by my players was "Space-Western."  So, I defined Humanity as "Being Civilized" or respecting the rule of law.  So the Premise becomes "Are you willing to break the law to get what you want?"  This turns out to be a particularly BRUTAL Humanity definition because often the most heroic or "just" actions taken by the characters are Humanity LOSING ones.

The game took place on a space station (which was one of the PC's demons by the way) and one player was the head of security (i.e. The Sheriff).  His demon was a tin cup he carried with him always because it was the cup his father used to poison his mother.  Its Need was to have The Sheriff get drunk while drinking from it.  The Sheriff's Kicker was that he'd just recieved a report that his father and his outlaw gang had just been spotted boarding the station.

See how the Need of the Cup Demon becomes a metaphor for alcoholism in this example?  But again The Sheriff + The Cup + The Kicker all address the Premise.

Hope this was usefull.

Jesse
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2003, 10:56:28 AM »

Hi Marcus,

Good questions.  I know that I’ve struggled for a while with putting Premise into action for Narrativist play – and sometimes it was for the same concerns you raised in your first post.  Let me run down for you what I know, as well as clarify a couple of points for you.

First of all, please take immediately Ron’s point that while Egri’s example of Premise is usually pretty narrow and specific, the use of a fairly open-ended question for Sorcerer or HeroQuest is going to be just swell.  “What will you do to protect your culture?” or “What does it mean to be human?” are almost default Premises for HeroQuest and Sorcerer, respectively.  (They could, of course, be reversed with the proper settings, color, and so forth.)  Both will work wonders for serving as a Premise and getting a game going.

Now, to your specific concerns:

1) First of all, no one person at the table is “responsible” for keeping the Premise on track.  Nor the “players” in lieu of the GM handling it.  By definition the Premise is a question that everyone at the table is curious about answering.  It must have some sort of emotional and intellectual (if not vital and biological tug) that makes people wonder, “Yeah, how far would I go to protect my family?” or “What does it mean to be human?”  We all wonder these questions on one level or another, even if we never phrase them clearly, because we all make choices about whether or not to travel home for Christmas, where to take a job, whether to tell a co-worker you know the boss is angry at him because it might mean you get a promotion if he gets canned.  We live these questions.  One of the functions of Narrativist play is bring these questions out of the not-thought-out private realms of our brains and put them on the table for God and friends to see.

The idea, then, is that once you tag a Premise that everyone finds interesting, it sort of takes care of itself.  There’s no need to flee from it, since its fun to see how you might answer the Premise through the play of your PC.

2) But there’s also no need to obsess on it.  The Premise is not answer quickly or at once.  It is explored.  The GM provides lots of opportunities for the player to test his or her PC against the Premise.  The answer may change throughout the game.  (The answer may not.)  For example, in “Aliens,” Ripley is unwilling to face the danger of the alien menace for the sake of others at the start of the movie when she refuses Burke’s offer to go help the marines investigate the colony.  By the end of the movie she’s battling the Alien queen mano a mano.  In between she’s shifting her view on how involvled to get, how much danger to expose herself to.

Now, “Aliens” is a battle between humans and the xenomorphs.  The Premise is, “Is my life worth the safety of my community,” because the movie clearly defines two communities, each with warriors, mothers and children that need protecting.  As the movie continues, Ripley’s answer changes.

Now, keeping in mind that an RPG is a fluid exercise not limited by an in-amber plot like the fixed media of movies, the player gets to choose how to respond to these challenges as we go through the game.

3) Once the game is underway, the GM can provide these challenges by offering bangs and choices that either bluntly or subtly test the Premise.  If we were playing a scenario called “Aliens” and none of us had ever seen the movie and the movie, in some strange universe had never been made, and the GM cuts from one PC in the midst of the alien attack to the player playing Ripley and said, “You see the monitors crackling to static as the Marines are decimated,” that play choose what action Riply takes.  And by that choice - flee, get back to the ship, help the marines, whatever – answers the question.

Keep in mind two things – the player can always answer it differently later.  And there’s no “right” way to answer it.  Because there’s no “plot.”  Ripley can flee. And the aliens will hunt her ass down.  Even if she were to escape to earth, an infected marine would come back, with Burke’s help or somehow, and the question would still be up in the air.

And this: for the fun of it, Players start putting their PCs in circumstances that require choice and test the Premise all on their own.  It just happens.  (Again, it might be blunt or subtle.)

3) Answering the Premise is not the goal in Sorcerer.  Resolving the Kicker is.  So this actually takes a lot of the pressure off the Premise to be on everyone’s mind.  It’s like the music track in a movie.  You’re *not* thinking about it all the time.  It’s simply there, being tested.  But no on is obsessing about it.  Basically, if you’re working with player driven Kickers, and tossing them choices, questions and choices about human behavior are going to come up.  The Premise gives everyone a bit of a focus.  But it’s simply not that big a deal.

Which leads to….

4) It’s a tool for improv.  The reason no one needs to Railroad choices to the Premise is because having structure like Kickers and Premise and other Narrative elements actually are the tools used to allow everyone to get on with playing.  Instead of the GM’s plot, which his how we normally think, “Well, least there’s this to go on,” Narrativist play removes that big structure and says, “Okay, open playing field.  Go.”

But that’s just too much!  Too much freedom!  No structure at all would mean creative death!  So there are different tools: Kickers, Premise, Bangs, Relationship Maps – all of which do provide structure – but a quiet structure.  They give form to the play, without determining what the play will be.

In essence, something like Premise and R-Maps are akin to a color palette in a painting.  You can choose to use any color you like in a painting willy nilly, but you’ll end up with a mess.  Really.  The human eye won’t be able to pick out the forms because the colors will be all over the place.  Instead, you limit your palette to three to seven or so colors, and mix any colors you need out of those colors.  This means that even the new shades you come up with are “grown” out of the limited choices, and the who thing has a feel of unity while still providing variety with the newly mixed colors.

It hangs together.  It keeps things focused but varied.

That’s what these wacky Nar tools are about.  The GM’s Sim world or Railroad plot are too unified, and so the players chafe and strain for variety.  And what variety exists usually is all of the Players creation, and seldom tied to the GM’s work,  there’s too much variety – no unity.

These Nar tools give everyone at the table an improvisational “limited palette” to work from (“What does it mean to be human?”) and then, working from these limited choices, allows everyone to explore the Kicker, Rmap, Premise, Bangs and so on in any way they want.  It’s limited – but OPEN ENDED.  Hence, no boredom.

5) Watching how you, and your other players, explores the Premise – through the complications, through the choices made – is fun.  It’s not a matter of “how do I beat up this guy,” but “Why do I beat up this guy,” or “Do I beat up this guy, and if not, why not, and if not, will I endure the consequences.”  So, again, it’s not an obsessive exercise.  It’s about providing a foundation for creating scenes, actions, and choices no one could have anticipated and seeing how it all plays out to the end of the Kickers.

But why is it fun for the group to watch, and not just for he person exploring the Premise in his scene?  Because the Premise is shared.  Everyone is invovled in answering it, and so everyone is curious how someone else is going to answer it.

So, here's how it works in most games: John takes his Thief Zwaba and goes off to a little character bit with some internal sensation that only John can experience, and I have no context for as a fellow player.  But with a Premise, when John is exploring this same kind of action, I have a window into what's going on -- the Premise.  I have a context for the actions.  They're not John's actions alone -- they are part of the group's exploration of the Premise.

6) Final note: A lot of this stuff works best in tandem with other Narrative tools.  I’ve suggested as much in the points above.

Christopher
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2003, 02:48:32 PM »

Quote
Now, since 'Demons' and 'Humanity' are open to varying different interpretations, it seems as though you have to come up with some rough statements of what the Premise of your game is going to be up front in order to even run it.
Hah! The newcomer got it first. You don't have to do any more than state what the Demons and Humanity are, and you've got your overall Premise. Character Kickers will narrow that premise a little likely, play will narrow it specifically, and theme will emerge from the decisions.

The neat thing about Sorcerer is that, because of the Humanity mechanics, you can't avoid the premise. That is, you "do what the character would do" and the premise is addressed. Simplicity itself.

Nothing wrong with discussing the premise more if one wants, however. Just no need to do so.

Mike
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fahdiz
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« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2003, 05:14:17 PM »

Quote from: jburneko
The key is that Demons don't exist, not even "in game."  So to grasp "default" Sorcerer you have to accept this paradox, "Demons don't exist, and you've just bound one into your 'service.'"  The point being that Sorcerers ARE everyday mortals who have gone to great lengths and risks to accomplish the impossible.  Why?


Quote
Its Need was to have The Sheriff get drunk while drinking from it.  The Sheriff's Kicker was that he'd just recieved a report that his father and his outlaw gang had just been spotted boarding the station.

See how the Need of the Cup Demon becomes a metaphor for alcoholism in this example?  But again The Sheriff + The Cup + The Kicker all address the Premise.


A non-existent "thing" cannot have a Need.  Possession is a pretty specific thing, and "alcoholism" doesn't qualify.  You might categorize alcoholism as *obsessive* behavior, but you would never consider someone *possessed* by alcohol.

Metaphor is excellent - but it needn't be the driving force of the game.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2003, 05:22:14 PM »

Hi Fahdiz,

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

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.

Kind of gives me chills to think about it. I like the metaphor approach.

Best,
Ron
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2003, 08:28:34 PM »

Well, early this morning, minutes after he posted his comments in response to Marcus' question, Ron sent a note to me to get involved in this thread. Of course, I usually get here in the late afternoon or evening, and today was a long day of a lot of real-world problems, so it's fourteen hours later when I get the note, and I find myself wondering as I read through all of these wonderful posts what, if anything, I can add, or whether I've been rendered redundant.

I'm going to try, anyway.

On some level, I always see a connection between Ron's Sorcerer and Goethe's Faust.

I'm sure you're aware of Faust. He's the guy who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for all the pleasures of life. The Egrian premise in Faust is almost certainly something like, if you sell your soul to the devil, will you get what you want?--and the answer Goethe gives is that the devil will cheat you.

Now, Sorcerer is in a sense asking the same question: can you get what you want by selling your soul to the devil? However, there are a number of ways that this is made more interesting (as a game--I won't say that Faust isn't interesting as a story).
    [*]You don't make the deal up front; you get to decide moment by moment whether to go deeper into this deal. Will you risk a bit more of yourself for the chance to get a bit closer to what you want?
    [*]The deal isn't written in blood; it isn't even written in black and white--that is, because of the check system, you might get away with getting more of what you want without sacrificing more of your humanity. This makes taking the risk more enticing, because you know you might well get away with it. (You could achieve the same effect if the chooser didn't know how much humanity he had left, but this works better--the player knows that humanity is dwindling, but that he might be able to get away with this unscathed.)
    [*]The things you want are at least perceived as good things, in the main. In a soon-to-be published installment of Game Ideas Unlimited: Self Interest I reconsider the old D&D alignment category "evil" and show that what really makes it work is that it isn't exactly what we think of as evil--by the book, it's just putting your own interests ahead of everyone else's. More to the point, in the minds of many that's a virtue, a mark of wisdom. Thus to be an "evil" character in D&D is merely to espouse as the prime virtue the protection of one's own interests first and foremost, which is a perfectly defensible sort of virtue. Similarly, the things that Sorcerer characters want are frequently laudable. Unlike Faust (who was seeking as much worldly pleasure through debauchery as he could find, only to discover that he could never really become happy that way), we can see virtue in trying to achieve those character goals. It becomes a means and ends game--will you sell your soul to the devil to save the world?

    And probably the biggest one:
    [*]Having established this tension between selling your soul to the devil and getting what you want, Sorcerer then buries it under one of the uncounted guises that such decisions frequently take. Our demons are pride, alcoholism, violence, vengeance, order, honor, and a host of others we might never imagine were the terrible things they prove to be. Our soul is hidden in the values, the humanity we have defined in the game.[/list:u]
    Thus indeed, Calithena is right. You define humanity, and in opposition to that you place the nature of your demons. From that moment forward, every move you make asks you whether you'd like to sell your soul to the devil to reach your goal. From the moment you've put that much together, you can't escape the premise. In a sense, your character and his demon are the embodiment of the premise, and any time they interact, the premise is at the heart of that interaction, whether you say yes or no.

    Maybe I did add something. I hope it helps.

    --M. J. Young
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    greyorm
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    « Reply #11 on: December 09, 2003, 09:14:58 PM »

    Quote from: marcus
    What I really don't understand is how one (whether it be the GM alone or the whole role-playing group in plenary session) can fix something like this at the very start of the campaign.

    I cannot see why one would want to play with this matter set beforehand and, even if one did so wish, how the group would confine its activities to exploring the preset Theme.

    Similar to the same way most novels are developed and written with a Premise. Certain human conundrums may arise during the development of the story -- and I'm not talking about the writing here, but the development -- different directions the story could take, different themes the story could focus upon, but it is ultimately the Premise which is focused upon. It "keeps the story in line", so to speak. Simply, you're asking "How does a writer write an entire story centered around a Premise?" to which the answer seems obvious (at least to me).

    If that's not helpful at all, let me know, and I'll try a different direction. However, having said this, I have the feeling you're examining Sorcerer play from traditional "I play THIS character and he does THIS" and off the group goes, each player focusing on playing their guy -- immersing into character like an actor into a role. That's the root of the problem I'm seeing in the questions you've brought up.

    Ron's band analogy time: you're playing music, jazz, as it were...there's plenty of places you could go with the music, plenty of different places you could take it. But you don't just go everywhere, you, as a group, concentrate on the playing of complementary melody. The guy playing bass is the GM, guiding the beat and serving to keep the group on track, even though he doesn't control the actual music that comes out of the rest of the band.

    Quote
    Now how is this decision important to the game?

    Deciding on a Premise early on, rather than seeing what develops during play, sets the tone for player decisions in play and character backgrounds (ie: the Kicker), the scenes the GM develops and what is focused on in those scenes.

    Note that I said player decisions above, rather than character decisions. Very important. Characters don't exist. Players do. Players who can focus on a Premise and riff on it, who can create engagement with a situation which highlights that Premise. This is particularly important if the problem you are encountering is one of "I'm playing my guy and he would do/know this"...you as the player can say, "well, he might, but that doesn't really address the Premise -- alright, he does this instead, which does."

    Now, even though Ron has said you can let the Premise develop over the course of the game, I've found that for Sorcerer, I like to pin it down before play. Why? That's where my definitions for Humanity and Demons come from, that's how the game can consistently be about the Premise...because the game, the actual mechanics in play, are all about the Premise.

    Quote
    how would one run a series of sessions all based on the Theme

    Ultimately, it all boils down to Humanity. Humanity is usually defined as the axis of the Premise -- and demons are its polar opposite. Admidtedly, that's far more simple than it actually could be, and there are other ways to set it up, but for purposes of achieving a basic understanding of what you are asking about, there it is.
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    Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
    Wild Hunt Studio
    Peregrine Dace
    Member

    Posts: 6


    « Reply #12 on: December 09, 2003, 11:29:58 PM »

    Quote from: Ron Edwards

    I'll quickly say that the essay you're citing is out of date on this issue. Premise as a term is now restricted to Narrativism, just as it was prior to that essay.


    Best,
    Ron

    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.

    Peregrine
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    marcus
    Member

    Posts: 59


    « Reply #13 on: December 10, 2003, 01:01:50 AM »

    First up, thanks for the amount of time you have all invested in helping to answer my question.

    Secondly, although I must say that I found the wider definition of Premise in the 2001 essay (of which Narrative Premise was merely a sub-type) a more useful one than what is apparently to be the new definition (as well as closer to the natural meaning of the word), out of conformity with the new practice I will now use the word "Premise" only to mean the type of premise that was formerly known as "Narrative Premise".

    Thirdly, I follow the distinction between Forgista use of Premise and Theme, which I had erroneously thought were being used as synonyms in the 2001 essay.

    Fourthly, if I might be so bold to attempt a summary of the responses, in so far as they are relevant to the question of what I need to do to start a game of Sorcerer in what might be called "the approved fashion", 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. I am sorry to reduce many fine words to such crude practicality, but is this about the size of it? If not, what more should I (or, perhaps, I in conjunction with the players) do before starting?

    Marcus
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    Ian Charvill
    Member

    Posts: 377


    « Reply #14 on: December 10, 2003, 01:49:26 AM »

    Quote from: greyorm
    Similar to the same way most novels are developed and written with a Premise. Certain human conundrums may arise during the development of the story -- and I'm not talking about the writing here, but the development -- different directions the story could take, different themes the story could focus upon, but it is ultimately the Premise which is focused upon. It "keeps the story in line", so to speak. Simply, you're asking "How does a writer write an entire story centered around a Premise?" to which the answer seems obvious (at least to me).


    I may be projecting from my original problems with narrativism but it's pretty clear that theme doesn't exist in a play/novel in the way that it exists in narrativism.  You could fill entire library shelves (if not entire libraries) with learned people arguing over what the theme of a particular work is.

    I mean, take Hamlet.  Trying to set down a one line, incontravertable, theme for Hamlet is like trying to catch a bullet in a butterfly net.  And I think it's misleading to think of Hamlet as a special case.  Pick an episode of Buffy or ER.  Get three people to watch it and write down the theme.  You'll get three different themes and the similarity of them will be dependent on how similar the mindset of the three views is.

    Similarly how much readers of the Lord of the Rings like the film seems somewhat dependent upon whether they see the theme as about heroic destiny (in which case Aragorn is as good a focus as Frodo) or whether it's about the heroic struggles of unheroic men (in which case it's Frodo's show and Aragorn is just part of the supporting cast, speaking to the premise by way of contrast).

    Now, my point of confusion with narrativism came because simulationism is much closer to a play or novel in it's use of theme (perceptions of the theme is an individual, not a group concern, your theme may vary and you can only really speak to theme in retrospect).

    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.
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    Ian Charvill
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