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System utilizing Director's Stance?!

Started by hardcoremoose, May 14, 2001, 05:47:00 PM

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I posted this over at RPGnet, but it really deserves to be here where the great minds can mull it over.  There's a game spinning in my head for which I would want to use a system like this, but for now I'll deal explicitly with the sytem and its base mechanics.

The idea here is to provide a rules framework for players that will be somewhat familiar to them while at the same time encouraging them to think in terms of Director and Author Stances.  I know Elfs does this, but since I don't own that game, I'm not sure how its rules work.  Here's my idea, and hopefully I'm not treading on a path already taken...

It would use marbles, stones (the kind for aquariums), or poker chips. They would come in three colors (for our purposes we'll say Red, White, and Blue).

You throw a bunch of these multi-colored stones (or whatever) in a bag (each player would have his own bag), and when necessary (when needing to resolve an action during the game) you blindly draw some stones out of the bag. How many stones you draw depends on how difficult the task is, and how skilled your character is (Skill subtracts from Difficulty, as with this system, you want to draw as few Stones as'll see why in a minute).

Of the stones you drew from the bag, you get to keep one of them. White takes precedence over Red which takes precedence over Blue. So if you drew a White Stone you have to keep it, but if you drew just Red and Blue you have to keep the Red. The only way you get to keep Blue is if you only drew Blue Stones.

This is where the Stances come in.

The Stones do not represent Success or Failure, at least not in any clear cut terms. They simply tell you who gets his/her way.

A White Stone means the *GM* decides the outcome of the whatever way he feels is best and most desirable for the story.

The Blue Stone means the *Character* gets to decide the outcome of the action...usually resulting in him succeeding at whatever it was he was trying to do.

The Red Stone is the weird one. It means the *Player* - that entity which controls the Character, but which is separate from the Character - gets to decide the outcome of the action. This *can* include success on the character's part (or not, it's up to the Player), but it *must* include some other consequence or effect that drives the story forward in a suitably dramatic fashion. The Player must add *something* to the story.

So how does this measure up?  Where might it go wrong?



Ron Edwards

Hell man, we're all startin' from scratch here. Try it and see how it works out!

Good games for comparison about all this include Story Engine (the group-resolution mechanics), (cough) Elfs, and Extreme Vengeance.



I think that Red should be for another player to decide.
I say this because Blue is (no matter how much you want it not to) always going to be role-played 'the player-as-character' because the player is trying to be their character 99% of the time.  

So you'd have:
White = GM
Blue = Player (character)
Red = Other player.

That, to my way of thinking, will define the Director stance more strongly.

I think it's a very beautiful and pro-immersion system.
Very role-playing.  

Jeff Diamond




I received a similar comment from a guy over at RPGnet.  Your suggestion may be the way to go, although I really like the idea of asking a player to step out of character and narrate the story for a while.  I don't care if he favors his character or not, so long as he does so in a dramatic way that is both entertaining and progresses the story.

On a side note, I just purchased Elfs.  *Just* purchased, as in 'it just showed up my inbox five minutes ago'.  I've been looking forward to seeing how Ron deals with this in his game (and I hope he spends my 10 bucks well).



Hey guys,

I have some questions for those of you experienced Narrativists out there.

Okay, you've seen my system.  Rather than suggest success or failure on the chracter's part, it instead determines who gets narrative control over that character when conflict arises.  What it doesn't answer is how much control, or more appropriately, how long that control lasts.

The answer I came up with was this:  Count the number of Stones that match the winning color (including the winning Stone itself) and that's how many lines of "verse" you can narrate before the narrative reverts to its standard perspective.  

I use the term "verse" because my game is set in and around the time of the epic poem Beowulf, and a good chunk of the design is aimed at trying to capture the feel of an oral tradition of storytelling.  If the players are capable and interested, I wouldn't mind seeing them trying to actually come up with real verse (anglo-saxon metre is easy to figure out).  But truth be told, "verse" serves mostly as a gamespeak way of saying "you can narrate X number of events (so long as those events pertain to the action at hand)" where X equals the number of like-colored Stones that were drawn.

An example might bear this out better.  Suppose you have a Hero who is trying to scale a wall.  He must draw some Stones to see how this wall-scaling pans out.  He draws five Stones, coming up with 3 Black Stones, 1 Red, and 1 White.  Black Stones belong to the GM and are dominant over the other two colors, so the GM gets to narrate the Hero's attempt at scaling the wall.  The GM has complete control over the Hero and the story as it pertains to that Hero for three verses (basically meaning he could have up to three 'things' happen to that Hero).  Legitimate "things" could be: the Hero successfully scales the wall (1 verse); scales the wall but is seen by the guards (2 verses), unsuccessfully scales the wall (1 verse), or even unsuccessfully scales the wall, breaking his leg in the fall and alerting the guards (3 verses).  Of course, the possibilities are's pure, unrestrained narrative at that point.

Like I said before, the narrative should be (regardless of who is doing the narrating)in third person and as poetic as possible.

My questions are many.  What Stances have I or should I being attempting to achieve to best convey this concept?  As Jeff pointed out, should the player be allowed to narrate his own character's fate?  Most of all, would this even be fun?  I'm okay designing for the sake of design alone, but I'm not going to waste a huge amount of time on something no one (besides myself) has any interest in.  Games, by their very nature, are meant to be shared afterall.



Jared A. Sorensen

One idea would be to have one character created and shared by the group (everyone gets to submit ideas during character creation).  Then, when it is your turn, you add 1/2/3/4 lines to the poem.  That way there's not a feeling of "a party" and you keep the familiar tone of the lone hero against fate...

You could also key some special stones to different kinds of verse.  Like, one stone might be represented as dialog spoken by the hero, another means that a secondary character should be introduced (not necessarily kept around, just introduced).
jared a. sorensen /


The idea of shared characters is starting to make its rounds in my post over at RPGnet.  I'll have to consider that, although I have a sinking feeling that this game is becoming so avant garde that hardly anyone would play it.  I'm considering backing off a bit on some of the more unusual aspects of  the game.

The idea that the various stones could represent basic elements of a story is interesting.  I had already suggested elsewhere that White Stones require a player to step into character and speak in dialogue, but I hadn't considered using Stones to repreent specific plot points.  Interesting...

I've been bombarded by a lot of ideas in a short amount of time for this little venture, and now I need to gain some distance and look at it objectively.  Oh well...

[ This Message was edited by: hardcoremoose on 2001-05-19 14:42 ]



Grab a copy of the excellent Once Upon a Time from Atlas Games. A lot of the concepts that are being talked about here are in that game. In particular, nobody really owns the characters in Once Upon a Time. The story's the thing, and the characters are used as the characters must be used.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management

Doc Midnight

I like this idea. For some reason I have the idea of using Rocks instead of chips in my head. Rocks would be heavier and if the system is based on "the less drawn the better" then Rocks, having a greater physical presence, could represent " Stress, Pressure, or somesuch" to a character/player.

I'd also make players supply their own rocks.

Doc Midnight
I'm not saying, I'm just saying.


Hey Doc,

Rocks are the item of choice, at least in my game.  Check out what eventually became of this idea by going down to Memento-Mori's forum and looking at 'The Moose Strike Back' thread.  And get a look at two other game designs with a similar mechanic - Jeff's GOLEM and Crayne's STORYBOARD, both discussed right here in this forum.