The Forge Archives

General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 08:16:13 AM



Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 08:16:13 AM
You can see the Story Hour (http://rci.rutgers.edu/~bowell/freak/20041120.html) for my first session of this chronicle at the chronicle's website (http://rci.rutgers.edu/~bowell/freak/).  I've been told that Story Hours are not popular to post here, so I'll get to the crunch so to speak.

I have to say that after my experiement with open session design, I don't think I'll be doing it again.  It either doesn't play to my strengths as a GM, it doesn't work right at my table, or I've done something fundamentally wrong that I can't wriggle out of.

I don't want you to think it didn't wind up as a good session.  I think it did.  My players (all but one anyway) really enjoyed it and even the one who had problems still overall liked it.

Historically I've prepared for games by writing out a fleshy outline for the session, then diverting as needed.  I think that without that bedrock to work from, I get panicky.  I felt out of my depth and I honestly had a knot in my stomach for some of it.  I think I threw more supernatural stings out there than I would have had I been prepared.  

The one player who had a complaint felt that the supernatural had been revealed too quickly.  He wanted a build-up for his PC.  I don't think that had anything to do with open session design problems though, or my poor dealing with it.  It was just something I'd decided . . . the supernatural would exert itself in a strong and obvious way, though the explanation for it wouldn't necessarily be clear or make sense.

--

A brief outline of the game:  Ricky and Harris's kickers really drove the game (and that was nice, I will probably reuse Kickers if I can figure out a good way to do so).  I got Manny's too late to think about or use, so I used a bang (his cousin getting shot) that I had planned for him.  There were really two plots that were united by the Tarot thing.  There was the haunted computer and the mask and the vampire (though it may not be a vampire, and they certainly don't have much reason to think it's one in character) stalking Ricky.  The vampire plot is a thread for next time: they know his name and believe he killed a bouncer.  They even sort of know what he looks like.  The computer thread got dealt with (the mask was destroyed, and its evil was evidently linked to the evil in the computer), but the antagonist who wanted the mask is still out there.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: TonyLB on November 24, 2004, 08:58:51 AM
You've got a lot of moments in the story where one of the player's characters says or does or just thinks something that is intensely strange and without explanation.  Example:  Ricky and Manny notice Harris has brought the mask, and ask him why, and he says he doesn't know.  It didn't even occur to him.

It's not clear from the story write-up:  Were those moments created by the players, or by you?


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 09:00:16 AM
That specific example was something I injected.  The point where Ricky said that they wanted a table for four . . . that was a joke by the player and we decided it would be something that felt "right".


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 09:03:24 AM
I should add: the feel was not, "The GM is making my character do this," but rather the mask as an NPC, injecting its will and using its powers.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 24, 2004, 09:25:51 AM
Can you explain what you mean by "open session design"?

I see your use of the term kicker. Does that mean that you were using Sorcerer methodology? And then using the WoD system?

Did you do any prep at all? This would not be the Sorcerer method, and, while I know some people completely wing it like this, it's not something that's generally recommended by anyone I know. You should always do some prep.

Or was this just some experiment to see if you could run a session sans prep?

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 09:29:52 AM
I started a thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13401) here about this.  I was trying to do an open-session-design style for the first game of my new chronicle.

Ordinarily what I would do would be to create an outline of what I expected to happen, fatten it out with details, then diverge as need be.  E.g.,

* The editors give the PCs a story assignment to check out this warehouse that's going to be torn down that has a big ugly face painted on the side that's considered a local landmark.
 * It's actually a haven for some shadow-beasts that will kill anyone who gets in from a belated wasting sickness if they get to touch you.
* If the PCs research it they will find out. . .

And so on.

This time, instead, I gave myself a mood, a theme, a very basic outline, kickers and a few bangs.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Trevis Martin on November 24, 2004, 11:04:25 AM
Wow Rob, tough experience.

I think you might be making some mistaken assumptions.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

I rarely go into play without a solid idea of the situation at large as developed through a backstory.  That's one of my major inputs into the game as a GM.  That and good solid NPC's that are in action trying to achieve what they want.  I can imagine it would be tough to do that stuff in a vacum.

Using kickers and bangs and r-maps and letting the players take the story where they think its interesting doesn't mean not prepping anything at all.  It just means you don't decide the characters decisions beforehand.  You come up with a solid situation up to the point of play and NPC's and any other setting material you need.

Anyway, I'm glad the kicker stuff seemed to work out for you.  

Trevis


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 11:17:12 AM
Judd (Paka) has encouraged me to keep posting here and throw up my next outline to compare and contrast the old style to the new.  I think I will do that.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 24, 2004, 01:33:32 PM
Well, hold on, two things that I still am not sure about. He said he did have some bangs and a basic outline, Trevis. Rob, just what did you have prepared?

Doesn't sound like any less than I usuall head in with. But it's hard to tell for sure.

Second, again, what system were you using? If you were using WOD, you were "swimming upstream" unless your players are all pretty much into narrativism when playing other primarily sim games.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 01:39:34 PM
Mike, I was using the new World of Darkness game (aka nWoD or WoD 2.0).

As far as the players' tendencies, I'm not really sure how to classify them.  They are largely ignorant of GSN, and most of them would probably scoff at it.  Some of them have limited experience with the games popular here (Judd has run Harris's player on a Dust Devils game and a Dogs in the Vinyard game along with me).  Most of our time together as players we've played D&D 3.0 or 3.5 (and with two of them, earlier versions of D&D).  We played some 2nd Edition Vampire stuff, as well as Trinity, Aberrant, and innumerable other systems.

I will replicate my notes-sheet that I went into this game with on my next post.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 24, 2004, 01:41:51 PM
1st session notes

Kicker call:  Give me something that happens to your character that is potentially supernatural, to which he must react.

Kicker Response:

Harris:

Crap. It's after three. Getting a little old for these pub crawls. My eyes feel astringent. Wish smoking would get banned in bars here like in the City. At least I can sleep in. Gotta have some water, or I'll feel like royal hell tomorrow, er today. Funny. I always lock my door....Holy shit! Look at the mess! I've been robbed!...Wait, TV's here, DVD player, computer...what is my computer doing? it looks like it's downloading something...those characters look like cuneiform; what the fuck!?

Perhaps he's finally eBayed something real, and the loser of the bid is a being of supernatural might.  It has ransacked his home looking for the artifact and not found it.

Ricky:

Ricky is hanging out at an all ages club.  He is feeling a little tired so he goes to the bathroom to splash some cold water on his face.  He is alone in the bathroom.  He wets his face and looks in the mirror.  Behind him in the reflection he sees a teenage boy staring at him with a knife stuck in his stomach and stab wounds surrounding the blade.  Blood comes out of his mouth.  Ricky spins around to help the boy only no one is there.  Ricky looks back in the mirror and sees the boy is still there.

The young man Ricky sees might be a vampire who was Embraced by a guy who was his "lover" before turning him.  The kid was ghouled first and kept in a state of ever-childhood.  I think that the kid's mentor is gone now, but he hunts the same places Ricky frequents, and has noticed and liked his flair. He's considering fucking with the guy for fun, or maybe taking him in.

--

Bangs:

Manny's hanging out with one of his cousins, and there's a drive-by.  The cousin takes a hot one to the head and is bleeding to death, and the cousin's girlfriend, through a veil of tears, insists he take them in the Freak Jersey van to La Sagrada Joven del Jardin (the Sacred Girl of the Garden), a peri-teen "saint" from the Latin ghetto that supposedly heals people.

Ricky meets a girl he used to know, Carmen.  She went to high school with Manny and was a popular girl who, unlike most, was nice to him and defended him when people gave him shit.  She's eighteen now, and turning tricks.  She's obviously been beaten badly, and recently.  She asks Ricky for a cup of coffee, and breaks down and tells him her whole terrible past, mentioning the guy who beat her.

Harris's ex-wife is dating a new guy and her behavior is changing radically.

All of the commuters on a particular subway car have been struck semi-catatonic.

A woman who's under investigation for murder says that something ate them.  Shades of Susan Stewart.

Our hero finds warnings about some terrible threat recorded in his own voice that he doesn't remember making.

Recordings of conversations our heroes thought they were having privately start turning up

PCs are run off the road and left for dead after publishing something innocuous-seeming.

PC finds a journal in his own handwriting detailing things that he doesn't remember happening.

One of the PCs are suddenly being treated like a leper.  People are avoiding contact with him, giving him strange looks, etc.

Suddenly, the faces of everyone around you transform into those of twisted, hideous beasts.

A long-term friend treats you (literally) like a stranger.

--

Theme: Knowledge can be deadly.

Mood: Unreasoning horror.

(that is, terrifying things that are in part that way because they defy sane thought or logic)

--

Act One: Characters are introduced to the supernatural in an undeniable way.

Act Two: Characters process this, possibly trying to get a story published.  Whatever their reaction is, it will hopefully involve interacting with the world of the supernatural.  Consider Bangs to involve them more if they seem disinterested.

Act Three: Characters discover that the World of Darkness, when pushed, pushes back.

--

Setting notes to touch on:

Detail the work environment.  Try to let all the coworkers get "seen".

Try to involve Ricky's grandma and Manny's mom, as they are their touchstones on the supernatural.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: TonyLB on November 24, 2004, 03:05:04 PM
Interesting.  Your Bangs seem more like... well... Color, to me.  

On some level, those sorts of wierd happenings are just what people in this sort of story should expect.  A train full of people going semi-catatonic doesn't actually require a response from them.  Especially if the train still goes to the subway stop they want.

Did they drive forward the Kickers in practice?  If so, could you give an example?


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 25, 2004, 05:19:40 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
On some level, those sorts of wierd happenings are just what people in this sort of story should expect.  A train full of people going semi-catatonic doesn't actually require a response from them.  Especially if the train still goes to the subway stop they want.

Right, true.  What I should have said and didn't was that if I used these I would personalize them.  So for the train example, it'd be something that happened on a train they were on, or perhaps which happened to them along with the other passengers, or to someone they loved.
Quote
Did they drive forward the Kickers in practice?  If so, could you give an example?

To tell you the truth, I didn't use them except for Manny's drive-by, which I used as his Kicker.  The Kickers themselves kept me busy.

The problem was I never knew where things were going and I found myself kicking out more examples of the supernatural, and more overtly, than I probably would have had I had an outline prepared.

The other big problem, besides me foundering and putting out too much supernatural stuff or too obvious stuff was the constant sense of unease I had where I always felt like things were going to sputter out.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: TonyLB on November 25, 2004, 05:52:10 PM
So your problems are that you didn't know where things were going, and you didn't have the control to assure that things didn't sputter out.  Yes?

If those two items are deal-breakers for you then, yeah, you probably aren't going to like 'open session design'.  I read that (perhaps incorrectly) as placing much more of the responsibility for making the story fun in the players.

The thing is, if you give away all that responsibility then there's the very real chance that your players won't live up to it.  They can tell a really boring story.  And if you're being good about not stepping in and taking over at the first sign of boredom then you'll just have to sit there and be bored and disappointed along with them.  

I can speculate, based on the Story Hour, but you're the only one who will know:  Did you give the players enough power that they could have screwed up and told a crummy story?  Or did you reserve for yourself the power to make sure that it went in a direction you liked, even if everyone else was dragging the other way?


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 26, 2004, 05:43:44 AM
It's a good question, and I'm not sure of the answer.  Let me answer it indirectly and let you draw your own conclusions.  When things were spinning their wheels, I often goosed it with freaky shit happening.  I also spent a lot of time saying, "So what are you doing now?" though I usually do that even when I have stuff planned.

What I didn't do, and what I don't do even when I have an outline, is have some NPC pop up and say, "Okay, this is what you have to do now."

(Well, okay, I did that sometimes but only when it made sense for the situation--such as when the characters were "cops" in an Arcana Unearthed game for example.)


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 26, 2004, 06:30:20 AM
That's a very clear answer.

In the method of play that Sorcerer involves, at the point where wheels are spinning, you throw in a Bang. I can see precisely why you felt that things might sputter out, and why the people playing felt that there was too much revelation of supernatural stuff. Just having freaky stuff happen doesn't provide the player with anything to create off of.

Bangs are very specifically defined. They catapult the character into some situation from which he cannot maneuver without making some character relevant decision - and moreover, it has to really be a decision. That is, there can't be an obvious answer. So, for example, putting something in the character's way to fight is not a bang. Because what is the option that says anything about the character? If you merely put something "freaky" in front of the PC, all the player can do is have his character act appropriately. No decision to be made about the characters values, or which impact any of the characters issues, etc. It's not about the character, it's about the player reacting to the GM's events.

Sorcerer play is not some "open session" format. Nowhere does it indicate that the GM shouldn't have some well thought out options for what might happen. Not what must happen in all cases, but even some things that will automatically happen.

Put another way, again, I'm not surprised at you or your player's reactions. I don't know of any advice from anyone that says that the GM should go in not having some very good ideas about how to make the game move forward if/when the players aren't driving it forward.

The only time where you should say, "What do you want to do next?" is when you've presented at least two (and probably a lot more) very obvious options for doing interesting things. Better, in fact, is to have that NPC show up, and say not, "Here's what you have to do" but "Here are two things that are interesting to you, which will you persue?"

Also, another thing to consider is to propell the player into Author stance by addressing them as the player and not as the character. IOW, "What scene do you want your character to be in next?" can often be much more effective, because the player can then act outside of character knowledge. He doesn't feel limited to "playing the character" thinking that bumping into somebody through coincidence is illegal. Instead he'll say, "Can my character bump into Bob at the bar?" And you're off and running. Far more options are open to the player when this is the case, than when he's simply supposed to "be" the character.

Now, all of this said, one can be prepared to propell play like this with incredibly little information. My session prep can sit on a 3 by 5 card, and has bullets like:

* Bob goes to Mary and asks her to kill Rollo for the magic diamond.
* Rollo finds Mary and confesses his love for her.
* Mary finds a book of spells including one to bring back her old lover from the grave.

I typically have about 3 per PC. Bangs like this get the players going such that it takes a while for the wheels to start spinning again. In fact, after enough of these, you need very few, because the players start to have an idea of things that they want their character to do. So asking what scene they want then gets a response, and you don't need to pull out as many new bangs to get things going.

But this all requires that the players get a sense of what's going on around them. The most important rule of all of this, is to reveal, reveal, reveal. This sounds contradictory to the player complaint that the supernatural was too prominent, but I refer here to revealing what the NPCs are about in terms of what they want from the PCs, and what their general motives are about. You can pace in the introduction of things like the supernatural this way by simply making this element of color have more weight in later bangs. That is, in some games there is no supernatural, right? So obviously you don't need to have that to propell play - Bangs are about values, not about nifty stuff happening. So you can color with the nifty stuff at whatever pace you feel like.

But unless the players have some real information to work off of, they can't ever answer even the "what scene next?" question. Put yourself in their position - could you proceed with the amount of information that you have currently? If not, give them more information to work with.

Lots of traditional play methods in the past have been about NPCs being obstacles to learning information - but this is so problematic for any but the most GM plot driven style of play that you have to learn to let go of it right off. Instead think of NPCs as the means by which you deliver to the players the information that they need to either feel the weight of a situation such that they feel that they've made important decisions when they do, or that they know enough to be able to put themselves into situations that are like this themselves.

BTW, this is a true for gamism as it is for narrativism. Sans all the clues, and whatnot, there's no "game" to play. All too often scenarios are designed such that a bad skill roll at some point will deny information to the player that's critical to their success. That's like having a game where you flip a coin and on heads you win - it doesn't allow for player intelligence to affect the outcome, which means it's not really a game.

So, to recap, always have Bangs that are based not on random happenings, but on events that not only you understand, but which the players will understand, and which relate to the character involved (no just to having events proceed along some timeline or something). The players expect, and reasonably so, that you're going to provide something off of which they can create - some few players can create in a vaccuum, but these are rare, and won't even do so unless you make it clear that this is the mode of play you're going for. So have something for them.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 26, 2004, 06:35:40 AM
I take your point, and I'll consider it.  I should say that things weren't always, "something weird happens," sometimes they did call for player reaction.  Also, I'm not sure how well actor stance would go over with this group.  They prefer to "be" the character as much as possible, and seem not to like looking behind the curtain and being able to decide what's going to happen next.  But I may consider giving it a try.

Also, while I was concerned about there being too much supernatural, and one other player was, I'm not sure how the other two felt.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 26, 2004, 07:37:35 AM
I'm trying to give a vision of one sort of play that hangs with some of the tools you seem to be trying to use. If you want a more traditional game, then why not go back to the outlines that seem to have worked for you in the past? It sounds like your players might not like narrativism, possibly, if they only like to "be" the character.

If, on the other hand, you want to try the new mode out, simply prepare more of the stuff that had the players "reacting." Remember the other key about Bangs - if you can predict what the player will do, it's not a bang. Bangs leave a choice in the player's lap that must be his alone to make. If the answer to the bang is obvious, then it's just another event.

Using bangs, you may not have to have the players get out of "being" the character much. This does mean more work for you, however, as you'll be the only person at the table making the mode in question happen.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: DannyK on November 26, 2004, 10:34:13 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

Lots of traditional play methods in the past have been about NPCs being obstacles to learning information - but this is so problematic for any but the most GM plot driven style of play that you have to learn to let go of it right off. Instead think of NPCs as the means by which you deliver to the players the information that they need to either feel the weight of a situation such that they feel that they've made important decisions when they do, or that they know enough to be able to put themselves into situations that are like this themselves.


This so true, and it really runs counter to some of the standard procedure for running White Wolf games.  I like to think of the NPC's as being like characters in a Shakespeare play: usually you get a good idea of their personality and their issues after the first scene in which they appear.  Dickens novels are another inspiration for me, in terms of clear, bold characterization of NPC's.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 26, 2004, 11:08:44 AM
Heh, speaking of Shakespeare, I've actually used asides at times to inform players about NPCs motives and such. Or just narrated "parentheticals" like, "'I'm going off to fight the war,' he says," I say in character voice, and then in my own, "But in reality he's just running off to Canada."

This, of course, will disturb the "immersion only" player.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Judd on November 26, 2004, 12:44:30 PM
Rob,

I agree with what Mike has said in his previous posts.

I suggest that you stick with Kickers.  The players seemed happy with the last session, even if you were uncomfortable with your last sessions' level of prep.

I'd suggest sticking with Kickers and preparing the outlines that you usually use for making a game, that I am better are rife with implied bangs that work for you.  Please post this in another thread for the next session so that we can see how it worked.  Using kickers and bangs in non-Sorcerer games is nifty.

Also, you should really buy Sorcerer.  It is well worth owning and I think it will help refine this process for you and spell out the terms that you are throwing around here.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 26, 2004, 06:58:48 PM
Once I've digested the WoD stuff I own, I will definitely consider Sorcerer.

And I think what I'll do is come up with my standard outlines, and then try to come up with a bunch of bangs as well.

People are saying that bangs shouldn't be used to goose players into action . . . when is it appropriate to use them, then?


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 26, 2004, 07:02:40 PM
I asked one of my players (the one who was dissatisfied in part by the last game, Harris's player):

"How would you feel if, instead of saying, 'My Guy is going to go to the bar now,' you could instead say, 'I want My Guy to go the bar and run into Bob.'"

He asked, "Am I a player, or a GM?"

I said, "Player."

He thought for a minute, then said, "I'd have to think about it but I don't think I'd like that."

My reading between the lines suggested to me that he might like it if one of his players suggested that when he was GMing, but I'm not sure.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: TonyLB on November 26, 2004, 07:25:18 PM
Quote from: RobNJ
People are saying that bangs shouldn't be used to goose players into action . . . when is it appropriate to use them, then?

Ummm... are they, in fact, saying that?  I don't see it, but maybe I'm just missing it.

That's a fascinating conversation with your player, by the way.  I wonder whether he'd be more comfortable if he had to spend a "Drama Point", or tap his "Story Widget", or some rules-based restriction in order to authorize him to take that sort of narrative control.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 26, 2004, 07:28:33 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
Quote from: RobNJ
People are saying that bangs shouldn't be used to goose players into action . . . when is it appropriate to use them, then?

Ummm... are they, in fact, saying that?  I don't see it, but maybe I'm just missing it.

Okay, what for then?
Quote from: TonyLB
That's a fascinating conversation with your player, by the way.  I wonder whether he'd be more comfortable if he had to spend a "Drama Point", or tap his "Story Widget", or some rules-based restriction in order to authorize him to take that sort of narrative control.

I would suspect, knowing him, he probably wouldn't really want that at all.  Spending a Willpower Point point to get 3 additional dice is different than spending a Drama Point to say, "I'm going to meet that important NPC in the bar."

I think that it may just be that my group prefers to "be" (or, techinically, to play at being) rather than to "play".  They never want to know things their characters don't, if possible.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Trevis Martin on November 26, 2004, 08:03:09 PM
Hey Rob,

I think there is some confusion about bangs.  It hasn't been said in the thread so far that you shouldn't put in bangs to inject some action.  What is being said is that bangs aren't merely clues, hooks, fights, wierd stuff or something to motivate the players to bring the characters to a particular place or person.  A bang can include clues, fights and weird stuff and make no mistake, bangs do cause action, usually a lot of it.  

Mike said it best in his message above

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Bangs are very specifically defined. They catapult the character into some situation from which he cannot maneuver without making some character relevant decision - and moreover, it has to really be a decision. That is, there can't be an obvious answer. So, for example, putting something in the character's way to fight is not a bang. Because what is the option that says anything about the character? If you merely put something "freaky" in front of the PC, all the player can do is have his character act appropriately. No decision to be made about the characters values, or which impact any of the characters issues, etc. It's not about the character, it's about the player reacting to the GM's events.


Its not being said that you can't use bangs to goad action or whatever, what is being said is that a lot of what you are mentioning aren't bangs because the characters are responding to events as best they can rather than being put into a place where they have no choice but to make a significant decision in a situation where it is unclear what is the best thing to do.  By best thing to do I  do not mean best in the tactical sense but best in an ethical sense.

Does that make sense?

best,

Trevis


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 26, 2004, 08:08:20 PM
Trevis, that does make sense.

But I ask, then, when does one whip out a Bang?   It is not necessarily to goad action, but then what is it for?  When does one introduce one, and when does one let the plot trundle along as it's doing?


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Trevis Martin on November 26, 2004, 08:28:14 PM
Well, to speak from my experience, I do use them to inject action into the plot.  I think of it as bang and consequences.  Usually what happens is that a bang is dropped and there is a series of scenes that play out from that.  Sometimes the series is long, sometimes it is short.  If consequence scenes (and by that I mean anything that the player wants to do, confront or pursue as the result of a bang)  When there are still a lot of flowing consequences and a sense of direction I generally let it trundle along.  I feel the focus slipping and I drop another bang.  

There are exceptions of course, sometimes a series of consequence scenes will lead into another bang.  It is sometimes a matter of feel and interest.  If you sense players are loosing interest or focus then its time to drop some bangs.  Now some bangs fizzle and have very little or no conseqence.  The player simply isn't interested in expanding on the consequences of it.  That's fine, that's why you develop a series.

Does that answer your question?

best,

Trevis


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: TonyLB on November 26, 2004, 08:38:36 PM
Yeah, Trevis said it better than I was going to.  But, also, you yourself said it a while back....
Quote from: RobNJ
The other big problem, besides me foundering and putting out too much supernatural stuff or too obvious stuff was the constant sense of unease I had where I always felt like things were going to sputter out.

That feeling of unease?  That's the sign that you need to use a Bang.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 26, 2004, 08:47:37 PM
The truth is I didn't use the Bangs I had in mind, since the Kickers seemed to drive the plot along.  In fact, the one Bang I used, in place of Manny's not-yet-evident-to-me Kicker, rather fizzled out.

So it seems I had correctly in mind what Bangs were to be used for, I just didn't wind up using them.

I think that Judd is right, though.  That my old outline style probably had a lot of implied Bangs, and that I was working off of what my players would give me.

Thanks, everyone.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 26, 2004, 08:49:46 PM
Let's make it very clear. Bangs are meant to spur movement in the plot. No doubt about it, that's precisely what they're for. In fact, in order to get them to work, you can be quite heavy handed in some cases.

What Bangs are not, are situations in which the player only has once choice. That is, they are not meant to spur the action in one particular direction, they're meant to spur it on in any direction the player likes. A good Bang can't be "walked away from," it forces a decision that displays the character. It just doesn't force a particular choice to be made in response to the situation.

Is that clearer?

Example, being attacked by a monster that wants to kill you, is not a bang. Because what choice does the player have? It's defend yourself or be killed. No real choice.

But what if the player gets the drop on the monster, and finds out that it's really a mutated little girl? Does he kill it, or capture it to see if he can change it back? Or just let it go off to kill more people? If you don't know which choice the player will take, then that's a bang.

The way to create bangs is to look at the character issues that the player has built in. Kicker first. Then other obvious stuff.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Trevis Martin on November 26, 2004, 09:04:19 PM
Rob,

Quote from: RobNJ
The truth is I didn't use the Bangs I had in mind, since the Kickers seemed to drive the plot along.


Yeah, I've had that happen. Especially in the first session. The amount of players you have affects it too. The less time you have the less likely you are to use a lot of bangs.  In fact the kicker is really a bang.  Its often said  that its the first bang. The only thing special about the kicker, is that its player generated instead of GM generated.

best,

Trevis


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 26, 2004, 11:36:33 PM
Well, and the Kicker, being the first Bang, and indicative of what interests the players, should inform the rest of the Bangs. It's hard to make Bangs in a vaccuum, you have to consider something about the player's interests in making them. When there's a kicker, all other Bangs should be involved with ramifications of play of the kicker.

If the kickers were running play, then you shouldn't have had the wheel's spinning feeling. That is, if they're really driving play, then no, you don't need another kicker yet, you're doing fine. But that's not what it sounded like above was happening.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 27, 2004, 05:28:09 AM
I guess what I meant was that the bangs I had in mind diverged from the path of the Kickers, and the Kickers hadn't yet had a chance to finish playing out.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 27, 2004, 07:39:53 AM
Right. Which seems to be the problem right there.

If you're using a kicker, that's your cue as to what sort of things should be further Bangs. Not that all Bangs have to be 100% about the issue that the kicker presents. But most of them should be; and those that are not would do well to be informed by the kicker as well in some way. Most importantly, they shouldn't distract from the story that the kicker, well, kicks off.

What I think you're missing is the idea that all of the plot centers around the kickers. And when they're resolved, that's a good time to consider ceasing play. A kicker should probably take at least a couple of sessions to resolve, and possibly a lot more. Kickers aren't just an event that gets the ball rolling, then to be resolved in the first session, and left behind. They are the key to the entire "campaign" (or chronicle, to use WOD parlance).

As a little exercise, try finding a common premise amongst the kickers, and then make a title from that. Then think of that as the title for the game. So, for instance if you have two players, one with some problem with his son being kidnapped, and another that deals with a man having an affair (note that neither of these are kickers as stated, they'd need a lot more fleshing out to be valid), then you might call the game Family Affairs. And use that to inform your prep and what sort of Bangs are appropriate.  

If/when a kicker is resolved, then what happens (at least in Sorcerer play) is that the game doesn't continue unless another kicker is presented, and everyone wants to continue playing - at least the GM in addition to the player in question. The resolution of the kicker is the resolution of this portion of the game.

I'm not sure if I'm stating this well. But, again, the Kickers taken together are the core around which the entire game is put together. Any other prep has to take that into account. Because, again, the purpose of the kicker is to indicate what interests the player. If you go outside of that, you have to rely on other indicators as to what's interesting to the player. This can happen, often organically in play - but you'll see that happening as you go along, as long as you keep everything focused on ramifications of the kicker.

Sorry if I've gone on too long about this. Just trying to be crystal clear.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Robert Bohl on November 27, 2004, 08:55:15 AM
Mike, don't worry first of all.  If I feel you're being pedantic I'll tell you and I will know you don't mean to be.  You have not been, though, and I don't think it'll be a problem in the future, either.  Nor has Trevis, or anyone else on this thread.  Even if I don't wind up using these tools or wind up using them in a very different from from how you (plural) might, that doesn't mean anything you had to say here has been worthless.

Okay, disclaimers aside, I think I've finally come to understand something I wasn't getting before.  In fact, in the Kickers and Bangs examples I've read, something never made sense and now I think it's congealing to something resembling sense.

To whit:  The Bangs should work in concert with the Kickers, and the story, to further them.  They should not be additional cool events, they should address the plot and move it along if it needs it.

Now, figuring out how to construct Bangs that are open enough might be a problem.  But I think this is what Paka/Judd meant when he said that I had been doing them all along.  My outlines served as Bangs that would be introduced as needed to move the story along.  If read by someone outside they may read like railroading, but the way they actually get used is the way that it sounds like Bangs are meant to be used.

I should say that two of the Kickers (the ones I had time to ruminate on) are probably going to drive the action for the entire chronicle, or at least this subset of it (let's call it a season).  The only new concept for me, then, is Kickers.  And the Kickers have been a real success, and I think I will probably use them again in the future.


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 29, 2004, 12:07:18 PM
Quote
To whit: The Bangs should work in concert with the Kickers, and the story, to further them. They should not be additional cool events, they should address the plot and move it along if it needs it.


By George, I think he's got it! :-)

Right, they're not just there to mix things up more, or add more action to the events that are occuring. They're there to give the players opportunities to make decisions about things that are important to the character, which in this case has been indicated by the kicker.

And I bet that you do leave things open enough with the bangs that you have. Again, the test is: look at the Bang you've just written. Do you know how it will play out? If yes, then rewrite it so that there's an actual choice in there. If so, then it's good to go.

This isn't garunteed, BTW, some players will just not see a Bang as open enough. This is why you have a few per player. Expect some Bangs to fizzle, and be happy about the ones that work well.

And, lastly, don't entirely rely on your prep. Lots of times you'll see a better idea in play. Go for these.

Mike


Title: [WoD 2.0] Freak Jersey, Actual Play
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on November 29, 2004, 12:48:32 PM
Vincent Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard (not played it yet, but read it) addresses this point very neatly. His technique is to look at how your players answered the last moral dilemma you threw at them and then throw back an even harder choice along the same themes; the role of the GM is to keep saying, "you'd do that? Even in this situation? Even now?"

To expand on the example somebody gave above:

The players defeat the monster and discover it's actually the murderous were-form of a normal little girl. BANG: Do they kill her to ensure she'll never hurt anyone again, or do they try to save her somehow when her continued survival in itself puts innocents at risk?

If they choose to kill her, then you keep putting them in situations where they could save many people by sacrificing one, but where the price gets higher and higher. E.g. that nice hardworking father of four over there, he's got a demonic parasite in his blood, and it's using his body as a base-camp to work nasty spells -- but you could just pop a cap in him and save everybody -- like you did to that girl...

If they choose to save her, then you keep putting them in situations where they could save the one by risking the many, but the one is less and less clearly worthy of salvation. E.g. sure he ritually murdered two elderly ladies and their cats, but he had a traumatic childhood -- like that poor girl...

This "even now" principle of moral escalation means you're not just giving players what they want, but you are presenting them consistently with the kinds of choices they've already made clear they find interesting.