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Author Topic: Current Game Text -- First Look Critique  (Read 7674 times)
Ben Lehman
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« on: July 01, 2004, 09:55:36 AM »

I look at this text with the assumption of a "new to role-playing" reader.  Is this a correct assumption?

Introduction:

It is never, ever a good idea to toot your own horn (this game's resolution system rocks on toast) in prose form.  I don't know why, but in prose it just sounds worse.  It is even worse for older RPGers, who have seen (and been let down by) this claim many times.

I would rather not have a list of "what Dogs is."  I think that this section would be much better served by a description of "how Dogs is played" which contains the exact same information.

I think I want the setting earlier.  At least, some parts of the setting.  Some idea of what it means to patrol the faithful.  I don't even know who they are until I'm done with the conflict resolution section, and by that time, I'm really confused.

d4 traits:  Is this a rewritten description?  Because it hits to game effects *right on*  Just perfect.  If I didn't read this carefully enough before, I was blind.

I am somewhat skeptical about the "no relationships with nothing but folks at the start of the game."  I *like* angsty backstory characters, and I'd love to have a relationship with, say, murder at the beginning of the game.  Or can you retroactively put this in the character's background during play?  If so, cool, but give a good example of spending free dice.  Can you do it during a challenge?  Right before?

On coats:  The parenthetical phrase "I have this picture in my head" is just awkward.  I would change it to "there is a..."  Wham!  You've just given the GM a great NPC for the training scenes that they can also safely ignore if they want to.  You can even say: This guy doesn't have to exist, he's just cool enough that he ought to.

Why are there no Indian women in the Dogs?  Is it a whole thing where the female dogs' role is social, and indians don't fit into society?
  That setting bit just gets under my skin, for some reason probably having to do with my liberal upbringing...

The "This is pretty advanced theology!" statement needs an in-setting qualifier == "For the faithful, this is..."

In the "new characters" section, doesn't the direct shuffle between Traits and Relationships violate the whole "relationships suck" principle?  If they, in fact, do suck, I expect to see a lot of shuffling into traits.

I feel that the "That shopkeeper from back east" needs some sort of introduction.  Very sudden.  I find this a lot in your writing.  It's not bad, necessarily, just potentially confusing.

The "relationship w/ shopkeeper's wife" at 1d10 is illegal according to the rules right above it.

I think that the "outline of play" skeleton needs meat.  Possibly even "Brainssss!"

You need to introduce what "falls under the stewardship of" before launching into the diagrams, dude.

Seriously -- skip the design manifesto.  I know that Ron does it in Sorcerer, but here I don't think it works.  It falls in with the "rocks on toast" thing.  If people play the game, and play it like you tell them, they'll get that out of the game.  If people don't want that, they won't like the game from the second they read the mechanics.  I just don't see why this is here at all.
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2004, 11:12:42 AM »

Ben!  Thank you!

I'm'a take on people's comments next week.  If I have any arguments with 'em I'll raise them then!

There is some truly ugly conservativism in the setting, no doubt about it.

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2004, 11:21:16 AM »

Also: how'd the "How to GM" chapter do for you?

-Vincent
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2004, 11:38:59 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
Also: how'd the "How to GM" chapter do for you?

-Vincent


That's, well, a sticky wicket.

See, you have to decide: Who is your guy?

Is it Adam, gamer newbie?
Or is it Betty, experienced and wized GM?

Because, if it is Adam, this sucks eggs.
If it is Betty, it rocks on toast.

Why does it rock for Betty?  Because it tells her not to do all the shit that she's tempted to do as an old-school GM, explicitly and in no uncertain terms.

Why does it suck for Adam?  Because it, frankly, tells him not to do a bunch of shit that he wasn't going to do anyway.  It makes gamer in-jokes that he doesn't get.  It makes him feel ignorant and talked down to, and ignorant and talked down to people get petulant.  And the last thing you want is a petulant GM.

Seperately
The colloquialism -- it's fine, but perhaps a bit overused.  That said, things like "hm, how to say this" have to go *right now*.  You're not talking to people, you are writing using a conversational style.  You have the luxury of time.  Think about how to say it exact way to say it right and the say it.  Don't fall into this "yes, er... maybe... er..." doubting yourself shit.  You are author!  You have it right!

In general, the whole text of "escalate escalate escalate" was put better and more succintly in "GMing between towns."  I suggest you edit so we don't have to read it twice.

yrs--
--Ben

edit:
P.S.  I am Betty.  I am the most Betty ever.  So, of course, I lapped that shit up.  I think its great.  It doesn't just rock on toast, it rocks on toasted pita bread.  But the point stands.
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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2004, 11:52:40 AM »

Yeah, I'm writing to Betty.  All that remains for Adam is the opening three or four paragraphs.

-Vincent
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2004, 12:09:13 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
Yeah, I'm writing to Betty.  All that remains for Adam is the opening three or four paragraphs.

-Vincent


BL>  Okay.  That's cool.  I do suggest going through the text with a fine toothed comb and saying "Adam or Betty?" at every sentence.  Just cut the Adam bits (except the beginning, which Betty will skip anyway).  They'll probably make Betty annoyed.

yrs--
--Ben
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2004, 12:57:59 PM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Seperately
The colloquialism -- it's fine, but perhaps a bit overused.


I am forced to disagree. I like Vincent's conversational style and I don't think it is a problem in this text. I honestly think it makes a lot of the rules more accessible. I personally don't write this way, but I think it's fine for this game. I didn't think it was overused (I loved the "swear in public" comment, for example).
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2004, 01:42:23 PM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
It is never, ever a good idea to toot your own horn (this game's resolution system rocks on toast) in prose form.  I don't know why, but in prose it just sounds worse.  It is even worse for older RPGers, who have seen (and been let down by) this claim many times.


I'm inclined to agree. Let the audience figure out how toast-rockin' it is by themselves.

Quote from: Ben Lehman
I think I want the setting earlier.  At least, some parts of the setting.  Some idea of what it means to patrol the faithful.  I don't even know who they are until I'm done with the conflict resolution section, and by that time, I'm really confused.


See? I'm not the only one saying this. Let them know what the damn story's about already. Don't hide it in there.

Quote from: Ben Lehman
On coats:  The parenthetical phrase "I have this picture in my head" is just awkward.  I would change it to "there is a..."  Wham!  You've just given the GM a great NPC for the training scenes that they can also safely ignore if they want to.  You can even say: This guy doesn't have to exist, he's just cool enough that he ought to.


Yeah, don't withhold from your audience. Let them see what you see. Don't equivocate it away.

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Why are there no Indian women in the Dogs?  Is it a whole thing where the female dogs' role is social, and indians don't fit into society?
  That setting bit just gets under my skin, for some reason probably having to do with my liberal upbringing...


Do you mean in chargen? Because I think that's just a "Complicated History" character

Quote from: Ben Lehman
I feel that the "That shopkeeper from back east" needs some sort of introduction.  Very sudden.  I find this a lot in your writing.  It's not bad, necessarily, just potentially confusing.


If you mean sudden, as in, what does this have to do with anything, I'm using this as a pull-quote to head the book. If you mean sudden in the context of its chapter, I have no comment.

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Seriously -- skip the design manifesto.  I know that Ron does it in Sorcerer, but here I don't think it works.


I don't think it works in Sorceror, either. It should be in an appendix.

Quote from: Ben Lehman
 It falls in with the "rocks on toast" thing.  If people play the game, and play it like you tell them, they'll get that out of the game.  If people don't want that, they won't like the game from the second they read the mechanics.  I just don't see why this is here at all.


I agree. That comment is lose-lose.

-J
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2004, 03:00:04 AM »

Some more thoughts about the Manifesto:

This is all available online, and anyone who buys your game will have internet access.  Just give a URL at the back of the book, in the resources section (you do *have* a resources section, don't you, Mr. Baker?)  People who are into that sort of thing will get it, and people who aren't can ignore it.

A brief explanation of "Writing in a conversational style:"

Now, conversational style prose irks me sometimes, but I recognize that as my own particular pecadillo.  However, there is a big difference between "writing exactly as you would say it" and "writing in a conversational style."  The first is the muddled, inaccurate sentences which spew forth from our mouths in daily conversation, and is totally unsuited for reading.  The second is clearly written prose with a strong point and firm arguments that is dressed up to look like it just sprung out of your mouth.

I think that you've got a good grasp on this, in general, but that the GMing section slips up a bit towards the first, which is bad, because it is downright confusing, especially with all the ifs, buts, maybes and ers.

yrs--
--Ben
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lumpley
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« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2004, 06:27:44 AM »

Oh good great grief, a resources section.

Just when you think you've got it in hand...

-Vincent
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2004, 11:38:20 AM »

You mean resources dice, or resources water?
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
lumpley
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« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2004, 11:42:59 AM »

He and I mean a "what movies to watch" section.  It'll go at the end with the acknowledgements.

-Vincent
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2004, 08:48:40 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
He and I mean a "what movies to watch" section.  It'll go at the end with the acknowledgements.

-Vincent


BL>  Movies, books, RPGs, Forge Threads, Radio Dramas... whatever :-)

yrs--
--Ben
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2004, 10:30:49 PM »

Right, right. I've been looking at this text all night and I'm thinking "This is like High Plains Drifter" or "Rashomon".

Samurai movies make excellent source material for Westerns, and vice-versa. I've got Sergio Leone on my shelf right there with Kurosawa, and I'd put Dogs up there if it was a movie.

So, yeah, High Plains Drifter (does someone's helplessness make them a good person?), The Outlaw Josey Wales (Is family the most important thing after all?), Rashomon (How do you make a moral decision when your information is so contradictory but true?), Yojimbo (Town's fucked up! Kick ass to fix it! Get lots of fallout! Yeehaw!), Un-fucking-forgiven (Pride leads down a dark hole...)...

...

What else?

Here's another elipsis:...
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
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