Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Bang Musings

Started by Lisa Padol, February 06, 2006, 10:16:27 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Lisa Padol

I think I have stumbled on a truth about bangs, or about a type of not-bang.

Last session, I confirmed that Dave's character, Andreas, once again spent his evening having sex with Ysabel. The next day, she told him not to worry if he'd heard that she was to get married. She'd get out of it somehow, and if not, well, she knew how to use sorcery to deal with a husband (that is, summon a Possessor demon into unwanted husband). Then, she headed out.

Now, Andreas could have done any of a number of things. He didn't have to let her leave. Dave chose to have him stand there stunned. Not a bad scene, as such.

Nevertheless, in retrospect, I think that this made a lousy bang. The essence of a bang is that the character has to do something, correct? A bang should encourage the character to be active, not passive.

Live and learn -- it certainly wasn't a disaster, but it's not a bang.

Or is it? If Andreas had reacted differently -- grabbing Ysabel, saying "Sure, I'll help", deciding to spy on her, or any other more active response -- then, would it have been a bang?

Or am I overthinking, and it's just a bang?


Eero Tuovinen

It's a bang regardless of player reaction. Bangs don't always go bang, and the GM rarely knows which bangs will make players go wild. That's why you need to have several in your bandolier. Also, you don't know whether there'll be a follow-up; Andreas might act later on, when Dave's integrated the new piece you presented to him.

That said, whether this one is a bang depends on whether you have an interesting take on his passive stance. A bang is a bang when the situation is volatile, meaning that the most likely courses of action (whatever you think most likely) will produce dramatic play. This is largely a matter of GM preparation; the very same scene frame might be or not be a bang, depending on whether the GM is inspired by it or not. If you have, prior to play, lots of ideas about where the situation might go (many possibilities) as well as interesting takes on most of them (interest in the possibilities), then that's a bang.

Whether this particular situation was a bang depends on the degree of volatility. Personally I don't consider anything where player inactivity stops the situation on it's tracks a proper bang, but that's because I play with pretty passive people most of the time, and am thus used to building bangs that go into action whether players turtle or not. My first thought when reading your post was to affirm a possible reaction to the situation from the world - perhaps Ysabel was trying to make Andreas jealous, and is now going to complain to somebody else about his uncaring attitude. If I had something like that prethought, I'd know that my bang is bangier, as it's covered against the (totally valid) player choice of doing nothing.

The three requirements of being a bang:
1) multiple options of progressing (so there's player choice involved)
2) good chances of drama (the likeliest player choices are covered)
3) GM preparation (it's not a bang if it happens spontaneously)
Without the first it's participationism, without the second it's dull, without the third it's not the GM preparation tool known as a Bang.

The reason I'm harping on your essentially correct understanding is that not doing anything is also a valid choice. You shouldn't necessarily think that a bang has to require player action. It's just as valid to just offer the opportunity for action, but also ensure that something interesting happens if no action happens.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Peter Nordstrand

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Peter Nordstrand

Hear hear! I agree with Eero. Doing nothing is a valid response to a Bang.

Oh, and sorry for posting prematurely above.


Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


Sometimes those moments of shock are a sign of a truly great bang.  Watch the player and see if he really was digging it.

If he was, you can amp it up and you have a bang in your pocket with that NPC for later.

"She calls and says that she is haflway through the summoning ritual in her wedding bed but something has gone horribly wrong."

Sometimes you've just got to let that bang marinate.  It sounded cool to me, Lisa.

Lisa Padol

Thanks. I think I was conflating two issues.

The first was the question of whether it's a bang when there's no obvious sturm und drang reaction. Answer: Yes, it is. Cool.

Dave seemed to enjoy it, and he had Andreas react quite actively to another bang I dropped later on.

I love the idea of the phone call on the wedding night. Pity it ain't a modern setting. Then again, the odds of there being a wedding night for Ysabel, as opposed to a situation spiraling out of control, seem small to me. And she could always send a carrier pigeon. Or a messenger. Or I could just save the idea and use it in a later campaign.

The second issue is something I've noticed at odd intervals, on both sides of the GM screen (metaphorical -- I never got the hang of using those contraptions) and overhearing other folks gaming, especially one 7th Sea session. It's not about bangs, but about group dynamics.

The 7th Sea session I overheard at Neutral Ground was what crystalized it for me. The GM was playing the father of one of the PCs, arranging a wedding for his son. Father and son kept trying to have the last word. It seemed to me -- and I may have been completely wrong; I don't know the gamers -- that the GM-player and the other player were invested, out of character, in getting in the last word. I don't think there was serious out-of-game stuff going on, just the desire to get in the last word. If this was conscious, it was probably in a my-character-wouldn't-take-this-guff-from-your-character way.

Now, I wrote down a lot of things on index cards before last session. This really helps me -- even if you grabbed the cards away from me before the session, the act of writing makes me remember the stuff better. And one bit I wrote down was the bang the NPC was to drop in Andreas' lap. When I don't write them down, I'm more likely to forget to use them.

So, I was also worrying about whether I was too focused on getting in the jaw-dropper line. I don't think so. Dave is not shy about getting a word in edgewise. I was not reading from the card -- I glanced at it, remembered which scene should come about then, and we played the scene. But, I don't want to pick up the habit of playing to Get In The Last Word.