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Author Topic: [TSoY] Introduction to the system and conflict resolution in general.  (Read 8540 times)
donbaloo
Member

Posts: 39


« on: April 10, 2006, 10:47:04 AM »

Okay, putting aside my fear of being flayed for breaching posting etiquette of some sort or just making a Forge faux pas in general, I’m here to post our actual play report for Sunday’s session of The Shadow of Yesterday.  Forgive me if I post too little of the proper information or too much of the wrong information.  I already sense that this will be way to long but hopefully after a good chastising and some direction I can be more beneficial with future posts.

Personal Information:  This evening involved myself (hi, Chris here) my wife Melani and a friend, Paul.  I’ve played D&D off and on for 20 years, and my wife and Paul have been a part of our gaming group for 6 years now.  D&D is pretty much all we know but I have been checking into other rpgs over the past year, buying a few, reading them, and lurking on RPG.net and the Forge sporadically.  About a year ago I purchased Burning Wheel which opened my eyes to a dramatically different style of play than what we are accustomed to and it really turned me on.  I was a very active member of the BW forum for a while (howdy if you’re reading this Luke!) and simply put was in awe of the possibilities it held for my group.  Unfortunately, they were not.  Having a new crunchy rule set to learn coupled with having to wrap their minds around such a drastically different play style altogether led to an attrition of interest on the part of the rest of the group.  We never managed an actual play session with it.  We’ve been on about a year break from any gaming since then. 

I guess it would be important to note that I am always the GM in any of our games and that my wife and Paul are for the most part your typical, reactive players.  Historically they both tend to enjoy action scenes more than any other type, or appear to anyway.  It’s interesting that I always read Paul as being bored throughout most actual “roleplaying” scenes but he often claims afterwards that they were his favorite part of the game.  Anyway…

The Session:  Getting the itch to game again I pulled out my copy of TSoY that I printed out many months ago, discovered there’s a new version, downloaded it (no worries Clinton, I ordered the print version this morning) and studied up.  Calling Paul up I told him to come over so we could give this new rpg a try.  He was stoked to get a game going again.  So we gathered around and created characters after a very abbreviated introduction to Near, the five cultures, and the four races.

Character creation went very smoothly and everyone was impressed with that aspect of the game.  They liked the freedom of choosing skills and assigning their proficiency in those skills.  They took to the idea of Keys pretty readily as I had outlined there usage and role in the game earlier.  Paul’s comment on the fact that keys were the only sources of experience point was something along the lines of….”So I can kill a horde of orcs, giants, anything….and not get a single experience point?”  “Not unless your Key favors battle in some way.”  He was skeptical but interested.

I tried to bring a lot of what Luke, Thor and the gang had taught me over on the BW board to the table.  I tried to impress upon them the importance of building their characters in such a way that they “made sense” together in the same story.  There wasn’t a great deal of discussion back and forth between them on their concepts though and Paul ended up with a stealthy Ratkin from Ammeni (Key of Glittering Gold, Key of the Precious) and Mel whipped up a Khalean female spear warrior (Key of the Tribe) who masqueraded as a boy so as to participate in scouting activities.  I told them I’d like to retire for thirty minutes so as to prep some scenes before play.  We all went into this treating it as a one shot test drive just to get a feel for the system.

I had planned from the beginning to use the Rat Moon Rising adventure and even though I realized at the time that I had really botched some of the really good advice I’ve gained from Luke and crew I went ahead with it.  I think now that since I knew I was going to run that scenario I should have been up front with them concerning what sorts of issues we would be dealing with so they could have taken that into consideration for character generation.  None the less, I proceeded to convert the ability scores of the NPCs over to revised and immediately tried to come up with the opening scene that would draw them together.  We’ve never used cut scenes and so I just wasn’t comfortable running the game with cut scenes while teaching the new system.

Now historically, I’m the type of GM that preps for hours and hours beforehand constructing plot and NPCs, encounters, maps, etc…the whole nine yards.  Lots of time thinking about how things could work out and how I might react to that.  But I truly am tired of those ways am hoping this new style will work for us.  That being said it was still very hard for me letting go enough to just let things get created on the fly.  But that’s part of why I wanted to jump right in and play a session that evening.  I knew that if a week went by I would have too much time left to my own devices and I’d end up crippling the game style by shackling the plot.  I wanted to drastically reduce the opportunities we’d have for backsliding into our old play style of follow the GM.  Perhaps I went too far in the opposite extreme by not prepping anything really, but for me, a clean break is best.

  I decided the scenario would be set in Ammeni rather than Maldor so that I could more easily tie the Khalean to the story but kept the NPCs as is.  I opened the game by describing the opening scene, a clearing in a thin forest, and telling Melani that her character is out investigating the disappearance of two of her tribe’s scouts and stumbles upon Paul’s ratkin who is picking through the remains of what appears to have been a small battle.  She decides that she’s hidden for the scene opening.  I then introduce two Ammenite soldiers who are also out investigating the disappearance of a group of their men (Gerard and his band for those familiar with the scenario).

Some things to note here.  I implemented this scene because I wanted to use the soldiers as firing points for Paul’s Key of the Precious and hopefully even use them to insult Mel’s tribe so that she could also get the hang of playing her key.  Initially Paul asked what he was discovering among the remains and picked his pencil up to write down his goodies.  I simply replied with, “You tell us.  Describe what you’re doing and what you find.”  He was stunned at this notion and was uncomfortable with it.  He wanted to know what his limitations were and I simply asked him to keep it reasonable for our story.  This sounds simple but it was very uncomfortable and hard for us.  But he did a good job and narrated a little scene with him picking through the area, finding some silver, a copper ring, nothing big.  Okay, technically this is where I introduced the soldiers on horseback.

The soldiers ride up and ask what he’s doing here and what he’s found.  We say a few things back and forth and then they demand that he disarm himself (a bow) and lay his findings to the side.  Paul realized what I was doing and recognized the opening for his key.  I was still very much leading the way though and he just wanted to react to what I fed him.  I don’t know, maybe that’s still my role to continue at the forefront but I sort of hoped to see him take the lead in the scene.  So I declared an Intimidation (which isn’t even a skill I don’t think) and he resisted with Reason.  This was our first chance for setting success/failure stakes in a game so I told him if I won he had to lay his stuff to the side for them to pilfer.  He said if he won, he keeps his stuff and they left him alone.  It all sort of felt flat though and I thought what a shame it would be if the scene was resolved on this little roll with them leaving.  Maybe I should have increased the stakes to make it more interesting?

He failed and chose not to Bring Down the Pain, laying his stuff to the side.  One guy pilfers through some of the pouches and I say that he runs across a badge that belonged to one of their missing soldiers and now they want to pummel you for taking what rightfully belongs to the lord of the domain.  I think I probably went too far here by creating that, and Paul was stunned saying that if he knew he’d found a badge that could have gotten him in trouble he would have brought down the pain and fought that earlier result.  I told him that maybe I was out of line with that but lets roll with it just to see what happens.  (Maybe that should have been a part of the original stakes?  They win and they find an official badge and turn their ire upon you?)

At this point Melani’s character, watching from the hiding spot, wants to step out and get her spear point to one of the men’s backs, to threaten them into leaving the Ratkin be.  Stealthy success means she’s slipped up on the men (who are standing over the Ratkin) and is in position, failure they spot her.  She succeeds and lays the threat on the men and we figure we need another roll, an Intimidate, for her to run them off.  Success and they respect the predicament they’re in, surrender and leave; failure and they stay and continue the conflict.  I realize now that 1) perhaps we parsed this encounter down too much and that maybe her first successe’s stakes (sneaking up on them and putting her spear at their back) should have covered running the men off and 2)my stake in that last check should have been more significant.  Not just sticking around for more dice rolling but have the soldiers actually do something that shifts the scene in another direction more prominently.

Well, she failed the roll but decided to Bring down the Pain.  Here we begin to go back and forth with her using an unskilled Intimidate roll versus the soldier’s Competent Intimidate to back her down.  I used some insults on her tribe during the process in hopes she’d jump on her key but it never really happened.  We went several rounds without a great deal of harm being dealt out when the soldier changed his intent after one particular stalemate to “If he wins he beats you into unconsciousness with his rattan shortsword.”  She changed hers to “I kill him.”  At least now she was using her spear and an Adept skill where she could really do some damage.  I also explained that the other soldier would be joining the first in the battle and would be potentially adding bonus dice to the first with any unresisted attack checks.  We did this for a round with I think a stalemate and Paul’s character joined the fray.

When things went violent, Paul’s character, which had up to this point been lying on his back joins the BDtP, and he wanted to try and talk the men down.  We discussed it a good bit and tried to come up with a good way of doing that.  We finally decided that he could narrate using his bow to draw a bead on the second soldier, aiming and circling the battle basically shouting things like “Back off bitch or I’m gonna shoot!!”  In a couple rounds of unresisted ability checks against the soldier he achieves his intent by breaking the soldier…he shoots the soldier in the leg and he bows out of the battle screaming.  The first soldier then surrenders as well but only after I talk Melani into offering mercy instead of killing him.  Not sure if that’s even legit but it seemed reasonable to us.  She agreed and the soldier surrendered.

Okay, some points about that exchange and I’m gonna try to wrap up because I realize that a five page post probably isn’t the best way to introduce myself to the Forge.  This exchange totally turned us on to the system.  It was very clunky for us I admit, but we all agreed how absolutely rocking it would be once we fully catch on to it.  We liked how there were so many different ways to interact within bringing down the pain.  It was a unique moment when we realized that Paul using his Aim didn’t necessarily mean shooting arrows every round….but that he could use it to narrate an event that looked cool and worked functionally towards achieving his intent.  Not even sure if that’s a legit use of Aim but it was neat for us.  In essence he was using Aim as a stand in skill for Intimidate, so it kind of devalued skill selection in a way.  And this led to a little discomfort.

That was one of our problems actually, knowing when and how an ability could be used.  Is it just a matter of narratively finding a way to make your ability work even though it may not appear to be useful in the situation?  We also had a problem with the high number of stalemates between Mel’s character and the soldier.  It took a long time to make much headway through the harm progression due to that.  Eventually the narration falls flat because you keep getting the same mechanically ineffective result.

This scene provided Paul’s character 2 XPs and he thought it was cool that he was being rewarded for playing to his Key.  Real quickly…this scene led to Melani framing the next scene which was a visit to her tribal elder.  We were all super uncomfortable here because basically we weren’t sure who should have been setting the scene.  She merely wanted to visit her elder to ask for some soldiers to help on the search but then left it to me to I guess frame the scene.  It was a very flat scene with some roleplaying but really didn’t have much of a direction.  She did get some XPs for her Key here though, and Paul’s character managed to earn another point by swaying a moonmetal worker to give him a small piece of the metal.  We all thought it was lame that he could simply talk the man into giving it to him because it didn’t seem logical but we rolled with it.

There was one more scene after this where they met the Ratkin Squall and Melani negotiated the return of her tribesman who got mixed up in the ambush.  We stopped here because we were sort of floundering.  I was confused on how much of the actual story to give away to the characters, and how to go about giving it away.  It became increasingly difficult for us to decide at what point to make an ability check.  We came to the conclusion that we were probably narrating too far into a conflict before rolling the check and finding ourselves having to backtrack a bit to make the roll fit.  It was getting really difficult for me to figure out what scene to throw next from the scenario and how to make that scene feel organic and fit with the characters.  So we called it.

Now, we had a good discussion after the game which is something we’ve never really done before to try and get some concrete ideas on what was working and what wasn’t.  They liked the conflict resolution style more than our accustomed task resolution style.  We all felt that a better story could be told with it.  We liked Bringing Down the Pain and the idea that playing your Keys get you experience, though I didn’t see them really lobbying or pushing scenes towards their keys. 

One thing that was uncomfortable for us was the players framing scenes and how much leeway they have with that.  Surprisingly it was me wanting them to take the lead more in that area and not ask me to do it so much.  We also had some trouble deciding at what point, as a conflict begins brewing narratively, do we throw the dice.  As I said, we often found ourselves too far along in the narrative and had to back up to make the dice work.  We had trouble coming to grips with making your skills work for you.  Paul didn’t have Intimidate but used his Aim to stand in and serve the same purpose.  Is that a good way of playing this system?  And at what point can you say that something just can’t happen.  Paul swayed (unskilled check) one of the moon metal workers into giving him some moonmetal even though none of us thought that was very logical.  There’s no reason why the tribesman would have done that for a stranger, yet we did it anyway.

All of our problems I think hinged upon trying to break away from our follow the GM paradigm.  We didn’t really know if there were any boundaries there and I think it led to some careless narrative that would spin a bit out of control before we could bring it back in check.  I’m interested in hearing anything you folks have to say.  I know that a post of this length is probably punishable by death but I honestly didn’t know what would be important for discussion so I kind of included some of everything.  Help me help you help me.  If you can tell me where to focus I can elaborate on areas that will be helpful.

I guess my overarching question would be how can we make narrative play more comfortable for us and in what ways were we using ability checks wrong as far as driving scenes?  I’ll lead with this, I think the game would have been much smoother if I had handcrafted NPCs and some scenes that really put the magnifying glass on their characters rather than trying to use there characters as magnifying glasses for the scenario I had before me.  I’m up for discussing any aspect in which you guys may be interested.

I should note that we are all planning to play TSoY again this week but with personalized Key Scenes and NPCs created by me and Mel will create a new character.
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Chris McNeilly
James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2006, 01:41:42 PM »

Hi Chris, welcome to the Forge!  You're not breaching any etiquette that I'm aware of, but I wanna read through your post again carefully to make sure I've got everything.

I think that in the first conflict, you were probably acting a little out of line since the stakes involved them looting the stuff, rather than beating the ratkin up--and the player was right to feel a bit cheated by that.  It sounds like maybe you hadn't established a purpose for that scene when you started it--and when the existing conflict didn't generate the requisite level of excitement ("gee, I lose stuff that was so unimportant I got to make it up") you decided to increase the pressure.  Does that sound about right?  I have the same problem sometimes, but one does lose that habit with practice.

I'm glad you guys had fun.  For my money, the Shadow of Yesterday is a great game and seeing AP posts always makes me happy for some reason. 
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--Stack
donbaloo
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2006, 02:16:03 PM »

Hi James, thanks.  Hopefully if we can get our wheels greased on this new style wagon you'll be seeing more AP from me in the future.

I wanna say first and up front that I've been putting together so much advice over the past many months on how to run a game like this that I sometimes find myself perhaps getting some of it confused and just not applying it well.  And I'm sure that happened here.

First, I truly didn't have much of a goal for the scene and I guess that was intentional because I was under the impression that I shouldn't bring a concrete goal to the table.  Loosely my goal for the scene was to give the Ratkin a springboard for his Key.  I mainly just wanted to display the use of keys and get some Key-relevant ability checks under our belts and maybe give Bringing Down the Pain a go.  I was also hoping to be able to press Mel's buttons a bit by insulting her tribe and get her stoked about her Key.  Beyond that I thought maybe I'd get the chance to offer up some info about the story at hand through some questioning of the soldiers but that didn't really happen either.

Maybe I did press that scene a bit much with the Ratkin but I should clarify that I didn't go against any let it ride rules...the soldiers got their intent of searching the Ratkin's belongings.  I didn't tack the bullying on as an automatic thing post facto, I was gonna let it lead into another roll of some kind before anything really physical started happening.  And yeah, I was a little suprised that the Ratkin wasn't more upfront about using his Key of the Precious to keep his stuff.  I intentionally let him narrate his findings in hopes that his authorship would instill a bit more attachment to them regardless of how actually trivial they were.  It didn't pay off well though. 

Do you think a better initial stake would have been stated as maybe, "If they win you put your stuff aside for them to search and they find an official badge amongst your pickings?"  I didn't even come up with the idea of the badge until after the roll anyway but if I had come up with would it have been appropriate?
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Chris McNeilly
rafial
Member

Posts: 594


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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2006, 02:20:43 PM »

Hello Chris...  I think you have the main ingredient of success already, which is buy in from your players.  You guys will work the rest out over time.  One quick tip on applying the rules though --

Always be on the lookout for opportunties to chain tests, by rolling the SLs of the previous test over into bonus dice on the next.  For example, when Melani’s character sneaks up on the guards as a prelude to intimidating (i.e. scaring the crap) out of them, did you give her the SL of her sneak as bonus dice on the intimidate?  You should have.

Players will quickly figure this out and get creative with putting together chains of action to improve their chances of success.  More stuff, going on, more opportunities for cool narration.

Another comment on the Ratkin talking the smith out of a chunk of moon-metal.  I'm curious how you did that roll.  Here's how I would have set it up in your shoes:

"Okay, the smith is just some guy, but he's not gullible, so he should be Competent (1) in Resist.  And what you are asking for is very valuable, and not shared with outsiders, and you have no real reason why he should give it to you, so that's going to be a penalty die for circumstances".

So if the Ratkin was unskilled in Sway as you say, it'd be 0 + (roll with a penalty die) versus 1 + (straight roll).  Not a good chance.  However if he made it (let's say he bought of the penalty die with a pool point, and then rolled well), then yes, he's just that glib.

Also, did you establish some failure stakes for that roll? If the upside is very good (get a bit of moon metal) there should be a risk.  Perhaps the smith becomes suspicious and tells the elders that somebody is out to swipe the moon-metal.  Of course, as you found out, you need to be upfront with the player about those stakes.  However it's always better to have stakes where both outcomes are "something happens" that it is to have one outcome be "something happens" and the other be "nothing happens".
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donbaloo
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2006, 02:37:16 PM »

Ah, good point Rafial...no, we didn't roll that stealth over into Intimidate.  Noted.

The moonmetal scene was really flat and I think that was because we were uncomfortable with how much power a successful ability check can give you.  While we were struggling with that the narration suffered terribly.  I know that's just a symptom of familiarizing ourselves with the game and in the future the roll and the narration will fill more smoothly together.  None the less, I did give the Ratkin a penalty die because we agreed that it should be a tough roll.  And I'm pretty sure I gave the smith a 1 for resist.  Paul rolled high though and I rolled low.  The moonmetal was his.

Now your second point was one that I brought up immediately after the check and brought to everyone's intention.  I explained that I flubbed that a bit and that I should have set a stake for failure.  I really kicked myself for missing that as I think it would turned the carefree nature of the roll around and made Paul really question whether it was worth it to try.  I'm also wondering, will setting these scene driving stakes come more easily with practice?  We tend to bog down a bit while trying to come up with good stakes.  We love the idea of conflict resolution and success/failure stakes...but we're a little slow with their creation in practice.
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Chris McNeilly
rafial
Member

Posts: 594


WWW
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2006, 03:02:33 PM »

Quote
The moonmetal scene was really flat and I think that was because we were uncomfortable with how much power a successful ability check can give you.

I'm curious, did Paul express doubt about his stakes before the roll?  Because if both the GM *and* the player are saying "gee, I don't even think I should be able to roll for this", well then don't.  Set the stakes to something everybody can believe in.  (maybe the smith just *shows* the Ratkin the metal).  Remember that everybody at the table needs to buy off on whether the stakes even make sense in the first place.  For example, if I say "my character picks up that castle, and moves it to the other side of the river", it's pretty clear unless we are playing some kind of wacky fairy tale setting, that we don't even need to roll for it.  It's not going to happen.

My rule of thumb: if the players insists the stakes are valid, but the GM is dubious, then you probably should go ahead with the roll, with appropriate penalties and what not.  If the *players* aren't buying the stakes, then no roll.  Note that this means that even players who are not participating in the roll can criticize or suggest stakes.

Quote
I'm also wondering, will setting these scene driving stakes come more easily with practice?

I think so... one error that I commit, even to this day, especially with a system like TSOY where calling for rolls is so fast and easy, is that the dice hit the table long before stakes have been hashed out.  It takes a mental effort to stop yourself and say "so what is it we are rolling for?"

Possible techniques to help with this might include telling everbody "hey if you see anybody rushing to roll dice before there are clear stakes, call them on it".  Because the player that is watching the scene but not participating will often spot something is wrong before the two who are hot and heavy in it.  Also, you might consider putting the dice out of convenient reach for a session, just to break old habits.  After all, if the dice are already in your hand, you want to roll them.  If you need to reach for them, that might be just enough of a break to bring you too your senses.  Just ideas.
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donbaloo
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2006, 03:28:52 PM »

I'm not sure whether he was really doubting the stakes at the time.  I definatley doubted the stakes.  We're just so used to rolls typically providing such incremental advances in story and narration that it wasn't until after he was successful that he realized what had really just occurred.  He just chuckled and said, "Wow, that was easy.  I've got moonmetal."  It was very nonchalant and though it should have been a really big moment (in my mind anyway) it was very flippant.  I certainly think I could have remedied that if only I had set a failure stake that would have been representative of how big a deal it was to me.  I'm glad you pointed out the notion of buy in by all the players.  It seems as if it should be self-evident but sometimes the self-evident are overlooked.

Good point about getting hasty with the die rolls.  That's exactly what we were doing.  We were so jumpy to get a roll in that I think sometimes we would throw a roll in that didn't even need to be there.  I'll certainly try to make more clear that we must have stakes before dice hit the table.  I can see where a bad habit could be forming for us there.  Thanks again for the assitance Rafial...
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Chris McNeilly
Kintara
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2006, 03:51:00 PM »

First, I truly didn't have much of a goal for the scene and I guess that was intentional because I was under the impression that I shouldn't bring a concrete goal to the table.
Well, you're a player in the game (the GM is a player). You need to have goals. I'm not talking about goals as in, "I want THIS to happen." I'm talking more about goals like, "I want to see what happens when the players are confronted with THIS." There's still something concrete in that goal. You have elements that you want to put in conflict, and you want to see what happens when they are. Just vest your interest in the situation, not the outcome.
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a.k.a. Adam, but I like my screen name.
John Harper
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Posts: 1054

flip you for real


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« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2006, 04:00:27 PM »

Hi Chris,

It sounds like your group is having natural adjustment pains as you get comfortable with a new play style. The important thing is that you're talking about them and trying to hash them out. So it's all good. I do have a comment about this bit from your first post:
Quote
"So I can kill a horde of orcs, giants, anything….and not get a single experience point?"  "Not unless your Key favors battle in some way."

That's not quite right. The GM can give XP rewards for "key scenes", in addition to the regular awards for Keys. See TSOY Revised page 77. The idea is that the GM sets up situations beforehand that give 1-3 XP when the players encounter them. Key scenes don't have specific outcomes. So, you might have "Meet the Overlord" but not "Defeat the Overlord."

Your player is right that he doesn't necessarily get XP for killing things (the Key of Bloodlust is good for that, though). But Keys aren't the only source of XP in the game.
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donbaloo
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2006, 04:35:08 AM »

Thanks Kintara and John for the feedback...

Kintara-Advice on putting in conflict that I'm interested in seeing worked out noted.  I suppose I did have a hazy goal for the scene in that regard because I wanted to see how Paul would react to authority figures who threatened his attachment to his character's possessions and to discover whether Mel was truly interested in roleplaying out her pride in her tribe.  I wanted to see the reactions when I very overtly pressed on their Keys.  What I discovered was that they were hesitant to step up to their Keys and make things happen.  But I think instead of discovering how invested they were in their Keys what I got was feedback that was muddied by the fact that we were struggling to come to grips with a new system and a completely new style of play. 

John-You're right and I have to admit that even in play I sort of glossed over the notion of key scenes.  I got more wrapped up in hoping that they would drive some of their own scenes than I did in fully investing myself in the key scenes I had at my disposal.  As far as my answer to Paul's question though, it really did answer the meat of his intrigue.  For example, in the opening scene with the soldiers...our typical style of play would have closed that scene out and the players would have been rewarded xps for defeating the soldiers (whatever your definition of "defeating" may be).  I understand that for TSoY they would get XPs for just being in the scene in general but unless the player has a Key that rewards them for battle or physical altercation they don't get extra XPs for defeating the soldiers.  I just wanted that point to be clear for him because it truly is a break away from our standard game. 

Thanks by the way for adding your thoughts on these bumps being only adjustment pains.  I went through this while trying to pitch Burning Wheel to the group, trying to decide whether the play style itself was just new and I was meeting with inertial resistance or whether the style simply wasn't for my players.  I think that question is still to be answered but just having someone say "it sounds like natural adjustment pains" gives me more confidence that this transition to a new style is possible and should be expected to experience some turbulence.  From their reactions and comments post-game, I think you're right.
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Chris McNeilly
Chris Gardiner
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2006, 05:28:14 AM »

Hi Chris,

I just thought I'd chime in on this point:-

Quote
I'm also wondering, will setting these scene driving stakes come more easily with practice?  We tend to bog down a bit while trying to come up with good stakes.  We love the idea of conflict resolution and success/failure stakes...but we're a little slow with their creation in practice.

I'm in a similar situation, having recently started exploring this sort of play, and everything you say above sounds exactly like our first-session experiences. We're four sessions in now, and conflicts are moving much faster, better stakes are being set, and players are more actively seizing narrative control. So not only will you all get better at this stuff with practice, but you'll get better at it really quickly.

I was given two useful pieces of advice regarding stakes-setting that helped me a lot. The first was to enter into a dialogue with the players over the stakes. They often come up with great ideas for failure stakes, and it can be good to negotiate the stakes up or down to alter the intensity of the conflict. Initially, I was setting the stakes very high, and players felt they had to push the conflict all the way rather than accept failure (essentially always Bringing Down the Pain to the bitter end).

The second was to focus on what the player really wanted out of the conflict - is their intention really to harm this enemy, or do they actually want him at their mercy or humiliated in front of his fellows? Taking that step back to consider the root intention has been especially helpful in those situations where stakes don't immediately suggest themselves.

Finally, something I've found useful when it comes to encouraging players to exert narrative control (like when you asked Paul to invent what his ratkin found on the bodies) is, if they seem intimidated, just to suggest a couple of possibilities as examples (always make it more than one, so it's clear you're not ushering them in a particular direction). Whenever I've done this, the player has either come up with their own idea, or taken one of my examples and then changed it to make it something more interesting to them. After doing this a couple of times, they get used to it, and that initial "rabbit-in-the-headlights" reaction goes away.

Best of luck with the next session, and make sure to post another Actual Play about it!
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Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2006, 06:35:24 AM »

Hey Chris! Great to see you around again.

To build on Chris Gardiner's point:

If you're at a loss, try asking what the player would normally do in that situation in a roleplaying game. Once you've got that, ask why they want to do this thing; what do they hope will happen? More often than not, that will lead them to the stakes they want. Then it's just a matter of adjusting up or down based on the GM's stakes. It's just like setting Intent in Burning Wheel.

For instance, let's say that the current scene is at court. One of the players says she wants to make a speech. When I ask her why, she might respond: "I want to embarrass my rival at court." That's stakes. If she succeeds, she embarrasses her rival at court. Or, she might respond: "I want everyone to pay attention to me, so they don't see the ratkin assassin sneaking into the hall." Great. If she succeeds, everyone will be so busy looking at her that they won't spot the assassin's entry.

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donbaloo
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« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2006, 05:28:10 PM »

Hi Chris, Thor (good to see you again as well!).  Thanks for the good tips.  Chris, glad to hear that you guys are smoothing things out, the sharing of your experiences are encouraging...hopefully we'll follow suit.  I certainly was trying to lend some examples to play when Paul was setting his scene or making his stakes...the problem part of the time was that I was struggling as well.  And Thor, you guys really held my hand through a lot of this stuff earlier and even though our game was rough, those old discussions certainly helped.  There was several occasions in the game when Paul or Mel would call out an intent to say sneak up on someone or sway someone.  Just an empty ability check really.  I immediately followed up with "Why?".  And they would clarify.  Sometimes I'd have to ask why again and have them focus in even tighter until we'd get to the root of what they were trying to get accomplished.  That worked really well.  Thanks for the coaching on Intent in the past.

Now I have a couple of questions, one is about a specific intent and one is about player authorship privileges in TSoY in particular.

First of all, in the scene with the Ratkin swaying the smith for moonmetal Paul's intent for swaying was to get moonmetal from the smith.  We sort of stalled out right there and it became the intent, at which he was successful.  I've already said that the scene felt sort of flat and that was mostly due to me just simply overlooking setting a failure stake.  But still, at the same time, his intent fell sort of limp as well.  Looking back I almost think that the intent should have been more.  So far, in that game and setting, we really hadn't established any sort of currency or even wealth standards in general.  For all intents and purposes the moonmetal was worthless.  I know in my reading of the setting material that the moonmetal was very valuable but for our current game we really hadn't established any sort of value in it.  As a result the intent of getting moonmetal was just empty.  Should we have perhaps been more specific setting some sort of story effect for having moonmetal in his possession...something that made it worth having.  Something maybe along the lines of "If successful, I get the moonmetal and am accepted as tribe-friend."  That's just off the top of my head and is probably pretty lame as well.  Any thoughts on this?

Second, player authorship in TSoY.  Should I even be expecting or wanting the players to frame some of their own scenes or should they pretty much be following my lead in that regard?  Is it just a matter of leading them through my prearranged Key Scenes?  And within those Key Scenes, I've been assuming that a successfully achieved intent would at least temporarily provide authorship to the player.  That was what I took from Burning Wheel and just sort of anticipated it being the same within TSoY.  Is this wrong?  How much narrative power does a player have within a Key Scene?  For example, when soldiers approached in the first scene could Melani have just jumped in with a cool inspiration and tell us who those guys were and what they were doing even though I already had an idea of who they were?  Guess I'm just a bit confused on what areas of narration are hands-off in regards to each individual at the table and where is that line drawn that delineates where we stop collaborating and the Story Guide begins providing preordained facts about the scene?

Also wondering if I should consider taking this over to the TSoY forum in a new thread?
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Chris McNeilly
donbaloo
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Posts: 39


« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2006, 07:59:47 AM »

My last post I think was branching out into different areas so I split both of those sections of questions out into new threads in the TSoY forum.  The first I picked up with here, in Regarding Intent.
The second I picked up with here, in Scene framing and narrative authority.

I'm still up for any discussions on any player behaviour or problems we might have had with easing into conflict resolution and narrative play in general.

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Chris McNeilly
Judd
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Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2006, 08:38:47 AM »

Every AP thread should be this fruitful.

Great stuff.
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