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Author Topic: Non-Chronological Play vs. Sudden Inspiration  (Read 3927 times)
Henry Fitch
Member

Posts: 149


« on: April 22, 2002, 04:40:57 PM »

I've just bought &Sword and devoured it in a day. (this was mostly accomplished while loitering in a fabric store, but that's neither here nor there.) It kicks a whole lot of ass. I have one major question, which I think is best represented by the following scenario:

GM: Okay Jim, as the demonic vilainess slips away into the shadows, she's taking a parting slash with her saber. (starts to roll dice)

Jim: Ooh! Ooh! Can she cut off my hand?

Players and GM: What the hell? Why?

Jim: Well, I think my story needs something to make it more interesting, and a crippling injury is always good for that. Plus, it'll give me a really intense relationship with this villain.

Gm: Uh.. that's actually pretty cool.. but didn't you fight with two daggers later in the story?

Bob: Yeah, while you were driving the man-apes out of the cathedral. During my coronation. Surely you remember my coronation.

Gm: Sorry, Jim. Both hands have to stay.

-----

What's the solution here? Does Jim have to keep that damned hand that he wants to get rid of? Should they retroactively change the future so that he only used one dagger? What's up?

Also, as a more-or-less unrelated question that is included here because I don't want to start two new threads at one, has anyone thought of one player portraying the Bound Demon of another? Anyone foresee problems with this?
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jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2002, 04:54:55 PM »

Two solutions come to mind.

A) Let the player lose his hand.  Then, make your next scenario take place between the current scenario and the corronation and have it center around how the player regained/regenerated his hand.  Or hell, don't even make it the next scenario just make sure it gets worked into the current scenario.

B) Remember to seperate desire and point from the details.  The point of losing the hand is that the player desires his character to have a strong emotional bond with the villain figure.  As long as THAT is achieved the details are less important.  Simply remind the player that in a future story he distinctly fought two handed and ask for ANOTHER way that the bond could be formed.  Deep scar on the cheek?  Loss of an eye?  Any of these will do.

Jesse
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Henry Fitch
Member

Posts: 149


« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2002, 05:00:18 PM »

I definitely like the first solution. The second one, hmm.

I may be focused too much on something that tends to creep up in my playing style, which is a great enjoyment of my character just as a character, particularly in terms of "coolness." It's by no means my primary reason for playing, but I might be annoyed if I thought of a great way to make my character "cooler" in my own eyes and couldn't do it. And sometimes a one-handed character can be very cool.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2002, 06:48:02 PM »

Hi Henry,

Dunno man, it seems like you'd be in exactly the same situation as an author writing short stories. He couldn't have the guy lose a hand, now could he? "Story now" presumes a certain commitment to the integrity of time and space, perhaps not to the level of a Marvel Comics fanatic of the mid-90s, but to some extent for sure. (Granted, no one can figure out the exact internal chronology of all the Conan stories.)

I agree with Jared in full that the goal is what matters, and especially if the GM and the other player were just as hyped about the "sudden personal connection" with the sorceress, the player would probably come up with something equally or even more cool, and do just fine.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2002, 07:47:55 PM »

Hey Henry,

This past weekend I submitted two posts to The Forge just minutes after Ron had submitted posts containing the same recommendations, and even though in both instances we were writing the posts at the same time, it looked like I was parroting his posts each time. So I'm glad of this opportunity to disagree with him.

I think you can play much faster and looser with the commitment to the integrity of time and space than Ron suggests. I'd let the guy lose his hand and worry about explaining it later. Hell, I'd let the guy be blown to smithereens and worry about explaining it later. There are a zillion possible ways a character could have been brought back to life, or restore a lost hand. I personally spent some time between sessions of my friend Tom's Theatrix game last summer planning how I could "Dr. Manhattan" my character back to life, in anticipation of somehow getting him dead during the game. If the situation raises the hackles of your play group, maybe have an out-of-character group brainstorming after the session to give the player ideas, but without actually settling on one of them. Then casually during the next session have an NPC ask him about his hand, or say, "I thought you were dead?" to see what solution the player went with.

I'm not sure I'd plan the next scenario around the character getting his hand back either. A foregone conclusion like that can make for some fairly boring gameplay. A better solution for me would be to make it a Kicker (or a Bang) for the character. The player who says, "My hand? I bought a used one from a merchant in Morocco," is the player I want in my game.

Paul
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Buddha Nature
Member

Posts: 94


« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2002, 09:29:17 PM »

Quote
"My hand? I bought a used one from a merchant in Morocco,"


Okay, just gotta say if I was drinking milk a moment ago, it would have been all over my keyboard.

-Shane
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Gordon C. Landis
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Posts: 1024

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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2002, 10:37:46 PM »

I'm going to support Paul here, with a slight caution.  Something that upsets planned/established "continuity" CAN be a GREAT opportunity for further creativity and innovation.  I think of Babylon 5, where the show had to adapt to the realities of Hollywood - losing actors, uncertain continuation, budget issues, etc - and still had the goal of conveying an established story arc.  I think they mostly managed to pull it off - and I think part of the reason for that is the producer BUILT IN to his concepts the opportunity for adjustments.

And that's my slight caution - If you're going to go Paul's route, plan it that way from the start.  And do show some restraint, or there *is* a danger of the storyline becoming a comedy of often-contradictory course corrections.

But yeah, the "lose a hand" thing does NOT strike me as a problem, unless the action was (in-story) chronologically REAL close to the "fight with two daggers" scene.  As long as your world/physics/etc. can support the idea of someone "getting back" a hand . . .  

Gordon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2002, 07:49:15 AM »

Hey,

I see which way the wind is blowing. You guys got all inspired by my Tomoe Gozen dies-in-the-first-story example, didn't you?

The big picture is this: go ahead and improvise contradictory material during achronological play ... if it does not de-value already-established "subsequent" events. The key is the difference between contradicting and devaluing. It all depends on the importance and interest of the two-dagger fight in the future.

Is that two-dagger fight pretty ... you know ... bland? Or is it cool as shit? In the former case, losing a hand now (or rather, earlier, in game terms) presents a logistic problem - h'm, getting a hand back now becomes a creative challenge of some interest, but not much emotional weight.

In the latter case, losing the hand raises a very, very interesting and profound question - we have to get that hand back, and the crucial issue is that the regaining of the hand must be equal to or greater, in terms of emotional content, than the upcoming (already-played) dagger fight. We have just created a major chapter in the history of the character, or else we have created a stupid, round-the-mulberry-bush detour in that history.

The Tomoe Gozen example offers the most extreme form. She does X, Y, and Z later in life. But she dies very early in the story, struck by lightning during a battle. This is really damn crucial, (a) because presumably the future stories are really kick-ass, and (b) the necessary transitional process must be a story in itself of some weight.

Dealing with (a) first. Speaking from a writer perspective, killing your hero early and bringing him or her back is a real thrown-down-gauntlet. You're saying to the reader, you know what? The conflicts that I'm dealing with later, and what the hero does to deal with them, are more intense and about different stuff than just "oh no my life is in danger."

Now dealing with (b). The scene following the battle consists of Tomoe fighting her way up from Hell, monster after monster. The funny thing is that they are not hard to kill, but the process of doing so becomes more and more disturbing, and less and less "worth it" as she goes. Now, flash-forward to the end of the book, following a variety of adventures in which her true moral impact has been at best ambiguous. At this point, she faces off against a true samurai, who has already bested her once. Prior to the duel, she realizes that "I have never left the road from Hell." The climactic duel consists of much more than determining whether she's a bad-ass (that's been established). It's about whether she is going to keep "fighting her way from Hell" (which means never leaving it) all her life.

So be careful. If you start improvising historical contradictions into play, you're raising the bar about how good and how deep your stories are going to have to be.

Best,
Ron
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Henry Fitch
Member

Posts: 149


« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2002, 09:02:22 AM »

Alright. I like this. That makes my hypothetical situation even cooler. Assuming the two-handed fight was emotionally important, then not only do you have a very cool getting-a-hand story ahead of you, but the fighting-in-the-cathedral gets even more significant in retrospect, because it's related to the new cool story. Alrighty.
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