Creating the Scenario with the Character Sheets in Front of Me

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Adam Dray:
This is all about getting from Character to Situation. Traditionally, it's been the realm of the GM to figure out how the fuck to do that, and game texts haven't been helpful. Flags aren't enough. The other players need to know why you're waving that flag and what you hope to get out of play with it.

Giving some or all scene-framing power to the players is the other critical component. PtA lets you say, "I want a scene about X" and the GM/Producer frames the scene accordingly. Other games give more power to the players but the complaint is that it spoils immersion, whatever that is. ;) I think the scene-request style in PtA is a nice compromise.

Ideally -- say I, at first blush -- the scenario (Situation) should create itself from the character sheets and a simple process everyone can follow. But then I look at Dogs in the Vineyard and wonder if that's true there. I think it is. Town creation is a Setting process. The Situation is where Setting and Character clash. Dogs cleverly handles the Character --> Situation problem by putting it all in the hands of the players. Dump the Characters in the Setting and as players learn stuff they start reacting and Situation just happens. The rules are all about making sure nothing happens to prevent that ("Don't play God," etc.). But does Dogs use flags at all? I don't think so. I don't think the GM is really looking at the character sheets for things to push into the Situation. The GM is looking at the Situation to find ways to escalate to new Situations. The player brings in the things he cares about (traits) via dice mechanics. I think Dogs is a great example of a game that works without flags. Would it be a better game if there was a way for the GM to trigger more Situation involving a character's traits? I dunno, and I won't presume to improve a game that good.

Brand_Robins:
Quote from: Adam Dray on December 22, 2005, 12:43:49 PM

But then I look at Dogs in the Vineyard and wonder if that's true there.


Dogs has flags, they just aren't as strong or direct as those in other games. Relationships and traits often tell the GM something about the kinds of choices players are going to want to make. For example, in my online Dogs game there is a female character who has a relationship with another woman that is set at something like "The girl that wanted me to stay with her" and is explained as the Dog's (chaste) love that the character fled from because she wasn't sure how to deal with her feelings in the context of her faith.

You'd best believe that every other town or so I'm a gonna be putting some love between women trouble into the town, somewhere. Same deal with the character with the huge "argue scripture" traits -- someone in every town is going to end up bringing up scripture to try to convince the Dogs they are wrong.

However, you're very right that those flags aren't the same thing as TSOY keys or BW BTIs. That, however, is because there is one flag that is alway the same in Dogs: the trait/relationship "I'm a Dog" that interacts with the setting "Town Full of Sin." That is an inevitable explosion every time.

Dogs is very focused, very narrow in its approach. You know what the situation will be in every single game. You know what the characters relationship to that situation is every single game. So it still has those flags -- its just that the flags are preset. In TSOY or BW, otoh, you don't know the situation of every single game nor the relationship of every single PC to every single situation -- so you need more obvious, explicit, and flexible flags to get the same ability to create tension. Dogs does it by presetting things (Mountain Witch too, I guess), the other games do it by giving players the ability to set things themselves.

This also becomes a circular prosses as you go on. Dogs come into those preset situations, pick up fallout and do judgement and the GM watches what fallout they take and what judgements they make. He then pushes on those. Every judgement you make in Dogs is a kind of flag: because its a signal to the GM "push this issue harder in the next town." It's just that the flag comes up in play, in that fruitful void at the center of Dogs, rather than beign on the character sheet. I'd say that's fitting, and works, because in the end it isn't a Character Flag. It is a Player Flag.

Bankuei:
Hi,

Dogs' flags come in two ways- Stakes & Fallout.  A player arguing for "Do we kill him?" vs. "Do we redeem him?" are saying something right to the GM's face.  Fallout also tends to flag things because players will add or change Traits, Relationships, etc. that matter- the ones they don't care about tend to stay the same.

Chris

Josh Roby:
Adam, that link to the individual characters is the one thing that I find missing from the superlative Town Creation rules in Dogs.  As Brand points out, the GM can plan Towns in accordance with what's on character sheets (although that's a Good GM technique not specified in the Town Creation procedure), the "I'm a Dog" is always relevant, and the GM is directed to watch player judgments and push them in the next town.  And it works, sure, but I'm looking forward to the next step as you lay out, a specific procedure (like Dogs) that creates the Situation directly off of player input / character sheets.  Shock: does this; FLFS does this.  I believe PtA does this, but I think the gaming gods do not want me to play that game.

In any case, I want to see the procedure go:

Player Preferences -> Character Sheet -> Premise -> Situation Creation -> Scene Framing -> Roleplay

The straighter that arrow, the more on-target the game experience (I suspect).

Adam Dray:
I don't mean to pick on Brand, but I clicked "Quote" on his post. This applies to what Chris said, too.

Quote from: Brand_Robins on December 22, 2005, 01:19:53 PM

Dogs has flags, they just aren't as strong or direct as those in other games. Relationships and traits often tell the GM something about the kinds of choices players are going to want to make. For example, in my online Dogs game there is a female character who has a relationship with another woman that is set at something like "The girl that wanted me to stay with her" and is explained as the Dog's (chaste) love that the character fled from because she wasn't sure how to deal with her feelings in the context of her faith.


I don't buy that those are flags. They're traits and the player uses them to express what he wants, but they're not signals to the GM and nothing in the system tells the GM to use them to create specific situations for the characters.

Quote

This also becomes a circular prosses as you go on. Dogs come into those preset situations, pick up fallout and do judgement and the GM watches what fallout they take and what judgements they make. He then pushes on those. Every judgement you make in Dogs is a kind of flag: because its a signal to the GM "push this issue harder in the next town." It's just that the flag comes up in play, in that fruitful void at the center of Dogs, rather than beign on the character sheet. I'd say that's fitting, and works, because in the end it isn't a Character Flag. It is a Player Flag.

Are we labeling anything that generates Situation as a "flag" now? I don't think that's useful. A flag is something written on the character sheet by one player that guides other players towards certain kinds of play. Yes, the stuff in play is a "kind of flag" but it isn't what we've been discussing here at all. Is the fact that Bobby bought a Camaro a kind of flag? Yeah, but it isn't what we mean when we talk about flags and markers here.

Fallout could be a flag, but only if the GM pays attention. I daresay that sometimes, the GM doesn't know what the player wrote for Fallout until it comes up as a trait in a conflict later. A better flagging mechanic would be more explicit about getting this information into the hands of the GM.

Yes, the Dogs rules explicitly tell the GM to push a player to a conflict, get her to pass judgment, then say "really? what about this?" and escalate, escalate, escalate. I don't think any of that has anything to do with flags. I brought up Dogs as an example of a game that works just fine without "flags," as we've been using the term. I don't think there's an RPG out there that works without using some "kind of a flag" -- i.e., signals or communication between players.

A good flagging mechanic requires the players to signal what they want, tells them how to do it, provides procedure for getting this information into the hands of the people who can use it, and requires (and probably rewards) the other players to use it.

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