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Author Topic: [Basic D&D (Moldvay)] dead elves and grave robbing thieves  (Read 20124 times)
Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #15 on: November 22, 2006, 04:50:08 PM »

Jon,

In your recent reply to Ben, you end by noting that you're a little unsure about which kind of game you'd like to play these days. I'd like to see where that takes us, if you're interested. I'm on my way out the door this morning and won't be back until later tonight, but I'd like to ask: what kind of games do you play these days, and with who? What is it about what we've said in this thread in particular that makes you wonder about what kind game you'd like to play? Now, we can talk about this in CA terms, but my own preference is to not sweat the terms at first. That's something we can turn to once we've got a basic shared context for what we're talking about: what games you're playing, who with, for how long, what sorts of game activities you keep coming back to, and so on. I'll happily provide the same on my end.

Rich
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Jon Scott Miller
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #16 on: November 22, 2006, 05:20:18 PM »

Rich,

Thanks for your reply. Currently, I'm playing nothing, but I'm getting ready to play a fantasy game I have been working on. I plan on playing it with some first-time players within the next couple of weeks.

The game is based on an earlier design I did; both wed some techniques from games like D&D and BRP with a set of rules for Passions and rules for a Humanity stat. I thought I was working with a Narrativist CA, but this thread has got me thinking . . . It's possible that what I am actually looking for is a game that simply does a better job than D&D or BRP of generating a believable or interesting storyline as a byproduct of play. Perhaps what I really want is game where players succeed in overcoming obstacles to further their character's Passions, much like success in D&D is measured in large part by XP from treasure gained or monsters killed. The only difference would be that the players get to choose which goals net their characters XP; and this may do little more than provide some incidental Color, for all I can tell.

The game I have been working on is actually inspired in part by years of dysfunctional and semi-functional play of earlier editions of D&D. I thought that what I was doing was designing a game that uses a lot of the same tropes of D&D-type fantasy, but which supports a Narrativist CA. But now I am more confused than ever about what my CA actually is, and what it was back when I used to play D&D.

Jon

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Ricky Donato
Member

Posts: 156

Just chillin'


« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2006, 06:47:24 PM »

Hi, Jon,

I think your best bet is to post a new thread about an example of the dysfunctional play that you mentioned. Describe what happened among the players, what happened in the game fiction, and what you did and did not like about each. I for one would be glad to then discuss with you what you are and are not looking for in a game, and what kind of game can make those things happen.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2006, 04:12:46 AM »

Hi Jon,

Cool. I'm going to disagree a bit with Ricky about what your best bet is, actually. I think you're better off not getting caught up in too many fast moving threads at once. I think we can talk about a few concrete examples of play right here, and take our time. I'm slow. I think slowly. I need to chew things over, and I don't have a lot of time every day to commit to posting. I like it that way. I think your best bet is to hold off on getting into a bunch of other threads right off.

Also, as far as your game is concerned, I think your best bet is to not muck around with the rules at this point, since you already have a draft. What you want to do now a) play it like crazy, b) watch everyone at the table (including yourself!) carefully, c) reflect on the session, chew it over, but don't change anything yet, d) play like crazy!, and repeat that cycle until you start to see the patterns of behavior that develop over time. Then you'll be ready to revise it to make it a) keep doing the stuff you like, only better! and more often!!, and b) stop doing the stuff that just isn't working. Frankly, critical observation and reflection on play is worth a thousand pages of the glossary and a thousand threads at the Forge without that play, and I'm confident in saying that Ron would tell you the exact same thing. Furthermore, you've already identified your new game as (in part) a reaction to past dysfunctional and semi-functional play, one that you've written to address what wasn't working. What that tells me is you've already done a lot of that play -> reflect -> play -> reflect process already. What you need to do now is take that game and start playing the hell out of it to see if it's working.

I think, in this thread, our best bet is to get really concrete about what I mean about that process. Let's try this: I'll talk a little about that process up there in terms of my own D&D play, using both the Moldvay Basic set game and our D&D 3.5 game as points of reference. Ben's played in both, and he may have different angles on some of these things, so I'll expect that on stuff where we saw the same event really differently from me, he'll let me know. I'm also pretty curious about some of your semi-functional and dysfunctional D&D experiences, and what versions of D&D they were with, and if it was the same groups of players, and so on. Now, in my case I'm not actually writing a game that responds to my D&D play (I'm pretty happy with it). But you are, so feel free to say, "So this thing that always happened when I was playing D&D that wasn't working, I figured one way to fix it would be to do this instead, so that's what I put in my game." Also, don't be shy about saying, "You know what, that thing you're saying was absolutely the coolest thing about play? That doesn't sound like it would work for me. In fact, that's something I was hoping to avoid." I'm cool with that. I'm not made of glass :-) As far as what CA you're working with (or looking for), I don't want to jump the gun on that. I really don't have enough information to speculate intelligently about it yet. There's plenty of time for coming back to that.

I'll be back with some talk about my own concrete D&D experiences, along with observations and reflection, later. Some of it is already in my first post, actually, and my and Ben's other posts in this thread, so I'll come back to bits and pieces of it. I might get back to do this later tonight, but I might not be able to do it until tomorrow. But I will be back, and I will get concrete about that play, observe, reflect process I talked about in the second paragraph.

Rich

(edited to fix a couple of annoying typos I thought I'd already fixed)
« Last Edit: November 23, 2006, 04:16:11 AM by Rich Forest » Logged
Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2006, 08:27:27 AM »

Hi Jon,

Ok, Iím back. Iíve been thinking about this a bit, and Iím going to focus on two things. 1) This session of Moldvay Basic D&D with Ben Lehman, and 2) Our ongoing 3.5 campaign, and how they relate. Iíll talk about things in big model terms, and in terms of creative agenda, as youíve indicated some interest in the big model and CA in particular.

Hereís what Iíd like from you, if youíre interested: Iíd like to ask you to play the role of asking me questions and evaluating what Iím saying, letting me know where Iím not making sense, and so on. Youíve already shown that you have good questions to ask, which Iíve partly (but maybe not yet thoroughly) addressed. In the process, Iíll also welcome comments about how D&D isnít/wasnít/hasnít worked for you that youíve tried to address with your game.

Iíll be referring to the major terms from part one of the glossary, as well the big model diagram. We wonít need anything else. Youíve raised some questions about creative agenda, which weíll get to, but Iíd like to start with social contract and work my way down through the model first. Iím not holding out the creative agenda as a mystery, though: itís pretty straightforward Step On Up (gamist) play. We wouldnít be playing D&D 3.5 if it wasnít. I donít mean that trivially, either. I am not one of those folks who is ďstuckĒ playing D&D because itís all I can find players for. I have no secret yearnings to be playing something else. Itís consistently giving me and my friends the experience weíre looking for. Aside from wishing that prep were faster, my main complaint is that Iím geographically separated from my friends back home so I canít break out minis and battlemaps when we play. I yearn for dioramas!

Ok, now Iíll start with the social contract. I have two to describe: one for my game with Ben last week, the one that I started this thread about. The other is about our main campaign. First, the game last week.

I originally encountered Ben through the Forge. It just so happens he studied Chinese and lived in Beijing, and he finds reason to live and travel in China. I first actually met him when he came through Hong Kong. I picked him up at the airport. Heís come through town three or four times while Iíve been here, and heís played in the main D&D campaign as well. When he comes to town, we meet up in coffee shops, talk a lot, and often also fit in a game, though it hasnít been the top priority. (We played Donjon one time he came to town, Dogs in the Vineyard another time, and this Basic D&D session this time.) We certainly did come to Basic D&D with plenty of preconceived notions: in particular, that itíd be a decent system for facilitating gamist play, and that itíd have a relatively small social footprint. Oh, and we also both like talking about game mechanics. When we chose Basic D&D, we were both interested in seeing how the engine runs, so to speak.

Ben also has played in a few of the sessions of the ongoing 3.5 campaign, so Iíll give you some of the social context for that. I've gamed with everyone face to face in the past, but this campaign has all been played online. The players are all friends from back home. Two of those players, Ben T. and Josh, are friends from my hometown. Weíve been gaming together since high school. The other two are Chris and Bill, both guys I met at college, though Bill only played through the first phase of the campaign (to about 5th level) before dropping out due to other commitments. So it's mainly Ben T., Josh, Chris, and me who have shared the largest number of sessions in the long running campaign. Chris is a pretty strong booster of getting sessions together: if we go too many weeks without one, heíll generally be the first guy to send out a ďhow about this weekend?Ē notice. Iím always happy to see those, even when Iím too busy to prep for a game. None of our SOs game, so game night is ďpoker night,Ē in a sense. Just the guys. Thereís sufficient commitment from the guys that we manage to arrange time to game in spite of the 12 hour time difference. That has meant balancing them getting up early with me staying up late, or vice versa, to fit in games. I only have time for one ongoing game, and this is it. There are other games in Hong Kong that I could get into, and Iíve visited a couple to play once or twice, but Iím always clear when I do that to let them know I canít commit to joining those groups regularly. My game with my friends back home is the game I have time for. Gaming isnít the only way I stay in touch with these friends. I keep a livejournal for friends and family, we email, and some of us share a workout schedule via a google calendar. This is obviously a thumbnail sketch, but itíll be sufficient for our purposes.

Now Iím going to move down a level to exploration and the shared game fiction, but first Iíd like to mention some things about creative agenda. Remember, in the big model these are nested boxes, and creative agenda cuts across these boxes and accounts for our shared aesthetic, creative orientation, for the things about our gaming that we keep coming back for. Itís best not to think of it in terms of motivations in individualís heads. It also best not to expect it to necessarily be some kind of explicitly talked about, formalized matter. It ainít, or it doesnít have to be, at any rate. With Ben L. and me, sure, creative agenda does tend to be explicitly talked about in big model terms, but thatís a legacy of the fact that we met through the Forge. With the rest of the guys, we donít really talk about gaming in big model terms. That doesnít change the fact that I can say that everything I learned about mature, honest Step On Up game play, I learned from gaming with Josh, starting back in high school. (The roleplaying context for that was Street Fighter: the Storytelling Game.) I learned to articulate it through the Forge, and to analyze it. This, in turn, helped me to reflect on it more clearly, and I think my contribution to our gaming is better because of that. But our game was already pretty coherent before I came to the Forge, and I learned to Step On Up in practice by gaming with the guys back home (with Josh way ahead of the rest of in terms of promoting a mature, coherent creative agenda in the group).

Iíll be back with exploration in my next post. Right now, Jon, Iíd like to turn it over to you for a bit. Weíre at the social contract level. Is there anything I seem to have mentioned, or hinted at, or not mentioned but should have, etc., that you think might prove relevant and that youíd like to know more about? As far as your own D&D gaming was concerned, you mentioned it was problematic at times. I noted that for me, D&D 3.5 really is my game of choice right now. Was D&D (and which version?) your game of choice when you were playing it, or did you feel a bit like you'd gotten stuck with it? I know a lot of people do feel like they're getting stuck with it due to its popularity, and they do all sorts of things to try to make it do the things they'd rather be doing. I did when D&D 3.0 first came out, and in my case, it was a mistake. Did this play into your experiences with D&D? This is a matter of social contract as much as it is of system.

Rich
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Paul T
Member

Posts: 369


« Reply #20 on: November 25, 2006, 03:24:24 PM »

Ben,

I have been thinking a lot lately about ways to facilitate dungeon crawl-type games in the format of a pick-up or low prep game. It sounds like Basic D&D was very well equipped for this sort of situation. Unfortunately, I got involved in RPGs through Heroquest (the boardgame, not the RPG) and AD&D, and missed out on Basic D&D. As a result, I was fascinated by the part of your account dealing with the prep for the dungeon itself:

I generate the dungeon entirely using the standard dungeon generation rules in the book.† These rules are given as optional, and I do fudge room placement a bit, but I'm trying to stick closely to the rules when I can.† I use monsters that I have in mind particularly, though.

So my dungeon is a long buried, millenniums-old elven tomb, partially unearthed by recent earthquakes, with some mysterious bits.†

[...]

I did some stuff for the rest of the dungeon, but as you'll see below, we didn't get that far, so I won't go into details.

[...]

On the DM's side, you have a list of about 20 monsters, a simple random table for if you're truly stumped, and a dungeon generator that I could write onto my palm with room to spare.  That's system, let's talk color: As opposed to the 3.5 DMG's "100 plotlines" which are confusing and, well, there's 100 of them, there is a list of 10 very solid adventure ideas with fleshed out paragraphs discussing the different possible outcomes.  See what I'm getting at?

Am I right in reading your account, that you did not do any prep until you were sitting at the table with Rich? In other words, you prepared the dungeon while he created his character? And you had time to prepare something that didn't even get entirely played out?

I didn't realize that Basic D&D had a "dungeon generator". I presume it worked by rolling dice on table. I'd love to hear more about it, what worked, what didn't, any particular clever features--it can really fit in the palm of your hand?

Which parts of the dungeon, above, came from the generator, and which from purely from your imagination? (Is "millenium-old tomb unearthed by earthquake" your own idea, for instance? What about those "mysterious bits" you mention?)

To note: I have no real pre-thought-out way to avoid this trap.  I'm prepared for Rich to come up with an idea to avoid it, and basically decide whether or not I find it cool enough, but it doesn't really come up.  I do know how it works beforehand, though.

[...] until stumbling across the statues (the tomb now closed again and hidden) marking the entrance to the tomb.  Knowing something was up, they spent a good while screwing about with the statues until Git happened to luck into grabbing a hand and triggering the trap.  It doesn't mark him with a sign, it just burns him badly, but the tomb still opens. 

Also, the four-statue trap was your own invention, right? Was it purely a puzzle/challenge for the player, or was there a game element (like a roll of some sort) to it? I didn't really understand how it worked from the write-up. Was there some way that the player could tell that he was supposed to grab one of the hands, but that there might be a danger in doing so?

And what the same player encountering the trap about the second time around? Were there any "firewalling" issues? How did that play out? Rich?

I'd also love to hear about the 10 solid "adventure ideas". In what format are they presented? What makes them particularly workable, in your opinion?

It sounds like they crammed a lot of useful information into a small space.

Thanks for the writeup!


Paul T.
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Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #21 on: November 26, 2006, 05:27:00 AM »

Paul,

I can speak a bit to your question about the four statues trap, which sets me up to talk about something Iíve been thinking about.

Ok, the statue trap. I deal with the statue trap at the entryway twice, once with each party. The first time, Ben describes the four statues and the shifted earth. When he describes the statues, he sort of poses with his arm and hand, showing how the hand of the one is outstretched. So right away, I have one of the elves (Lorm) basically ďshake handsĒ with the statue. The sort of open hand gesture that Ben made is what prompts me to make that move. 

Ouch, damage, and the door opens. No real craftiness is involved on my part. I basically just fell for the trap, so to speak. Now, in spite of the symbol it gave Lorm, I chose not to have Wight do the same. I didnít want to sacrifice the hit point, even though I had a sense I was taking a risk in not getting the mark.

Ok, letís cut ahead. The elves are dead, Iíve generated new characters, and here they are in front of the statues. I know the trap is there from the previous adventure, and I even know itís ďa trapĒ because when I poke around Ben gives me my Detect Traps roll for being thieves. I fail that roll. Now what?

I kind of thrash around a bit at this point. I donít want to lose the hp. I try a bunch of different things to get in, but itís all pretty ďlaundry listĒ in style. Basically, I just go through my equipment lists trying various things, applying the ten foot pole as a lever to a statue, and stuff like that. I even end up having them camp because I canít come up with a good workaround for the trap. Eventually, I know I'm out of ideas and I'll have to bite the bullet and take the hp loss. I've just gone from 4 hp to 3 hp, and there are four ghouls waiting downstairs for me, and I know it, but I can't figure out a good way around the damn thing. So I basically have Git stumble across the hand-shaking bit so the door will open. At that point, the only real characterization I had in mind for the characters was ďslightly bumbling thieves,Ē so I played to that. Ben picked up on what I was up to -- when I had Git bumbling around the hand, climbing about on the statue, he activated the trap (as I was hoping he would).

In retrospect, I could just as well have been more direct with the bumbling. I could have said something like, ďGit bumbles around, climbing on the statue, and in the process he grabs ahold of the statue's hand.Ē I didnít do that, so it took a bit more climbing around the statue than it had to before Ben activated the trap on me. Thatís basically a technical blunder on my part. I was leaving Ben to do a bit too much ďmind readingĒ by not just being clear about why I was bumbling around climbing on the statue.

That technical blunder didnít take away from the functional nature of the whole scene from the standpoint of creative agenda, though. In terms of agenda, I had an opportunity to show off some cleverness, but instead I did a laundry list equipment activation thing that just didnít cut it. Thatís why I was forced to take the damage. It wasn't a huge loss, but it was a loss. But failures like that come with the territory. Fortunately, I was moderately more clever once I did get inside. Scenes like this are pretty straightfoward parts of Step On Up play, in my experience. Now, when you tell gaming stories about this sort of play, it's easy to get caught up in talking about how clever you were, and to skip over the stuff where you weren't particularly clever. (Like I did in the first post of the thread.) That can give a deceptive impression that it's dramatic clever success followed by dramatic clever success! It isn't -- there's plenty of failures too, big and small. These failures are functional parts of play, though.

Now that I'm thinking about it, that f'n statue trap got me twice. The first time, I can kind of excuse it, but the second? Jesus.

Rich
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Jon Scott Miller
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2006, 08:15:50 AM »

Rich,

Sorry about being slow to reply. I tend to move slowly in general, and my time is limited as well.

I don't have any questions yet about what you've posted so far. I might need to think about it some more.

In response to your query, here is some information about my past gaming experiences and the current project I am working on. I have played several different rpg's, mostly D&D, AD&D, Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, and WFRP. Much of my gaming has been dysfunctional. When I was young this was not because of a mismatch between system and CA, but probably because I was not a capable enough GM to handle the systems properly.

I stopped gaming and picked it up again in college. I think my CA's had changed from Gamism and Sim to Sim and Narrativism. Unfortunately I largely stuck with the aforemntioned games of my youth (though there were also excursions into games such as Pendragon and Pumpkinland). I will take two brief examples of Actual Play using older versions of D&D to illustrate what was going on.

In the first case I was playing Basic D&D. This was a game I played on an irregular basis with some of my family when I was home from school for the holidays. We were using the old D&D module Keep on the Borderlands. At this point my CA certainly included Narrativism. I made changes to the module that I thought would result in more interesting storylines, such as making the lord of the keep a devotee of a demon god (unbeknownst to his pious wife), who was a rival to the demon god of the EHP who had disguised himself as a holy friar. There were also conflicts between the NPCs in the keep and NPCs in the surrounding wilderness. The various conflicts were mapped out in a little diagram, and the idea was that the PCs would be hooked into it one way or another.

The actual play was mediochre. There were at least two problems. One was that I didn't do a good job working with each PC's storyline. This was mainly due to not making things either open-ended or dramatic enough. What emerged in terms of story seemed predictable and lacking much drama.

This was especially egregious, since one of my players, Greg, even took the Director stance and had a grest suggestion for what should happen to his character, but I didn't follow up on it as a GM (and of course there was no way in D&D for him to make it happen directly). Basically, he had killed a monster of some sort that was wearing a suit of demon-possessed armor, and, instead of shunning the armor as I had assumed, he decided to wear it. I can't remember what powers I gave the armor, but his character's relationship with it was akin to that of Elric with Stormbringer. Greg's character was fighting the followers of the demons, using the power of a demon. Greg even made his character act increasingly bloodthirsty and callous. His suggestion was for there to be a sort of showdown between his PC and the demon of the armor, but I never actually followed through as a GM. The campaign ended after several climaxes of sorts, but Greg never got to play out the demonic showdown.

The second problem was that the rules and perhaps the format of the module did not support my Narrativist CA very much. There was a lot of combat, which was fine in principle, but in practice the fights were often boring because we didn't care so much about how many hits it takes to kill a goblin. D&D combat is geared for either Sim or Gamism or both, and the details of the fights had virtually no narrative significance. In several of the larger battles I think we all got a little bored.

The second actual play case was with roughly the same group of players, a year or so later. It was a one-shot game using 1st edition AD&D set in Lankhmar or some other big city. As I recall this was s sort of medieval urban crime drama, and it went better than the previously mentioned case of actual play. This might have been a case of a semi-successful drifting of the AD&D rules towards a Narrativist CA, but the details are hazy in my mind. I remember the prep began with a true Relationship Map, and that the PCs seemed to be more effectively involved in the various circles of intrigue. The players had a good time deciding who they would ally with and what risks they would take. On the other hand the actual possible outcomes were probably not open-ended enough, and there wasn't a whole lot of convincing premise-addressing going on. Nevertheless, it was this experience (among others) that probably kept my interest in role-playing alive and inspired the current game I am working on.

I would like to talk about that game some and how it was influenced by actual play experiences with D&D, but that will have to wait until I get another chance to post. I have not started playing the new game yet, but one of my players (who is completely new to rpg's) made a character last night, and we got a good creative buzz going. Assuming that this is the proper place to talk about my new game (I'm still unclear about that), I'll post about it later.

Regards,

Jon

 

   
 
     

 
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Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2006, 06:59:35 AM »

Hi Jon,

Your analyses of your own game sessions are insightful. I can relate to some of what youíre saying about finding that your agenda and your game arenít matching up, and some of the problems that can arise (and often, be introduced) from the GMís chair. While I come at D&D with gamist assumptions now, a couple times with 3.0 I tried doing narrativist oriented play, to somewhat mixed effect. (Partly because the system wasnít particularly suited to it, but also because I brought a mishmash of GMing notions to D&D that clashed with that.)

Which is to say, your actual play examples are familiar to me as well. Iíve had experiences that were similar to the ones youíre describing: where I had a decent setup for premise addressing play, in terms of NPCs with conflicts of interest, and with real human problems and issues that could have been addressed, but I didnít really quite know how to take I had and follow through in the session. I wasnít engaging the players in the process, or allowing themes to be addressed through actual play. So we had a couple abortive attempts at narrativist play (though I wouldnít have recognized it consciously as such at the time). These attempts were only intermittent for us, and I never did get a good handle on how to go about narrativist play myself before I started seeing how it was done in some games at the Forge, and especially through playing those games. For us, these incoherent sessions only arose in side sessions, when weíd take a break from our main game and run a one shot or short duration series of sessions in some other game. Our main gaming with Street Fighter was pretty coherently gamist in style. Itís funny that I could handle coherent gamist play with Street Fighter but at the same time was bringing all the wrong assumptions to D&D, not playing to its strengths at all. I simply didnít transfer techniques I learned playing one to the other. I think my players were a lot better at making the transfer; they seemed to have a lot fewer hang-ups with D&D in particular than I did.

From what you describe of your problematic experiences of actual play, I get the impression that youíre right in thinking that a narrativist CA is what youíre after. Iím wondering, what was it about our descriptions in this thread that made you second-guess that? Was it our general enthusiasm, or was it the particular set of things we were enthusing about (e.g., the stuff you discussed with Ben, which he talked about in terms of providing context for the gamist play)? If youíd like to compare how me and Ben talk about our gamist play in this thread with an example of us discussing a shared narrativist play experience, I have a thread from March that you might find interesting. Last time Ben was in Hong Kong, we played Dogs in the Vineyard, and it was a powerful session. I think it provides a particularly good parallel here because both of us were involved in both games (and Ben GMed both), but with distinct creative agendas each time. Hereís a link to that thread: Dogs: Cold Falls.

My main interest right now is whether youíre feeling more confident in your assessment of what creative agenda youíre looking for, in light of what weíve talked about so far and in light of how me and Ben played Dogs versus how we play D&D. What are your current thoughts on the confusion about agenda that you expressed earlier? 

Rich
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Jon Scott Miller
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #24 on: November 30, 2006, 05:41:02 PM »

From what you describe of your problematic experiences of actual play, I get the impression that youíre right in thinking that a narrativist CA is what youíre after. Iím wondering, what was it about our descriptions in this thread that made you second-guess that? Was it our general enthusiasm, or was it the particular set of things we were enthusing about (e.g., the stuff you discussed with Ben, which he talked about in terms of providing context for the gamist play)?

It may have been a mixture of both, but mainly the latter. Right now I am really interested in playing a game that uses the tropes of D&D fantasy. After reading about the careful thought that you put into the setting and situation of the Moldvay D&D game, it made me think that maybe what I was really after was just a more effective or carefully constructed version of old-school D&D-play. I am still a little unsure, but I'm leaning toward the Narrativist CA with quasi-D&D-Color idea.

The kernal of the idea I have is as follows: what would D&D-type fantasy be like if we took the characters seriously as dramatic protagonists? There is dramatic potential in this genre that is often untapped. What stories the characters could tell us, if only we would let them (etc.).

I picture the play of the game as approximating a grittier version of the Dying Earth novels (i.e., without the wit), with some typical D&D tropes added for good measure (i.e. dwarves, elves, and dragons). Ideally the conceit of the scenarios would be as in D&D--dungeon crawls, wilderness forays, or medieval fantasy detective stories (for the city adventures)--but they would be written so as to support honest-to-goodness open-ended and premise-addressing Narrativist play.

Despite some initial prep, I have put off designing a scenario in detail, because I am still not entirely sure how to go about this. (Currently I am using the method for designing scenarios in Sorcerer's Soul as my model.) Traditional dungeon adventures are often quite linear, and I haven't quite figured out yet how to change that. (Right now, I'm mainly setting up several different factions both in and outside of the dungeon, which the PCs will hopefully be able to interact with in interesting and unpredictable ways.)

Regards,

Jon
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Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #25 on: December 01, 2006, 06:54:29 AM »

Hi Jon,

If youíre using the relationship map method in Sorcererís Soul as a model, youíve got a very good tool in hand for strong narrativist facilitating game prep. Out of curiosity, how closely are you following it? I ask because the blood (kin) and sex stuff really sets it apart from some similar methods of setting up narrativist facilitating play, but Iím not clear on how well that would mesh with ďD&D-likeĒ dungeons, unless the players are expecting to approach the inhabitants not as monsters but as, well, human. Is your set up more like the relationship maps in Sorcererís Soul in the sense that it focuses on permanent relationships like kinship and sex, or more like a broader conflict web like Chris Chinn talks about? That's an issue worth considering in your prep. Both are useful tools, but the emphasis on permanent, blood and sex relationships in Sorcererís Soul is a) a pretty important aspect of the relationship map but b) may be hard to use to its maximum advantage in a dungeon based scenario, where the inhabitants are typically approached as monsters, factions or no. 

Also, I suspect that some of the D&D color might work against you, depending on how much experience your players have with D&D. (And I say this as someone pretty fond of D&D color.) And by this I mean, the more experience they have with D&D, the more likely it could cause problems. There are a lot of game-specific habits and practices that people build up over time playing a given game (in this case D&D), which theyíll associate with that game, and they may well transfer certain associations and assumptions over if the D&D color is a strong cue for them.

Iíve done it in my own somewhat mottled history of introducing narrativist notions into D&D, where I was the one bringing in certain assumptions that unwittingly sabotaged otherwise promising narrativist set ups. The ďD&D assumptionsĒ I ended up dragging along with the color were not, in general, bad assumptions in and of themselves: but they did muck up my narrativist goals. This can happen just as well for the player as the GM. So if people come into the game with prior D&D experiences of some sort, this could lead to misunderstandings about what the game is about. I donít know if itís inevitable, but itís probably worth chatting about up front, as far as what people are expecting to get out of the game.

It probably sounds like Iím doomsaying here. Maybe I am, actually, though Iíll be interested in hearing how this goes. You are working with a different system, and if your reward mechanics are narrativist facilitating you may have some success. Iíll go ahead and suggest that youíd be better off starting with a village and manor with internal strife and troubles, or a castle and its inhabitants and their troubles -- something with very human NPCs and conflicts -- rather than a dungeon. The dungeon format is great (and can be quite open-ended) for certain kinds of play, but Iím not sure itís particularly well suited to narrativist play, even with the incorporation of various factions. Especially if any of the players have D&D experience and the D&D tropes cue them to approach play in a certain way from the outset. 

Of course, I may not be telling you anything you donít already know here. You already noted that itís a bit of a challenge figuring out how to integrate the ideas youíre trying to implement from Sorcererís Soul with a dungeon setting. This is something I actually donít have a lot of experience with: my dungeons are basically underworld deathtraps filled with loot, as far as what theyíre built to do. There's plenty of love for the setting and color involved in them, and they incorporate our "setting flows from system" approach, but they're basically deathtrap dungeons in function. Iím tempted to just open the floor to suggestions from other voices, but I think itís probably something thatís worth having its own thread. What do you think?

Rich
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Paul T
Member

Posts: 369


« Reply #26 on: December 01, 2006, 06:08:06 PM »

I just couldn't resist, after the mention of Sorcerer-style r-maps and traditional dungeons in the same breath:

The idea of a typical-looking dungeon that is actually full of familial trouble sounds kind of exciting... monsters getting into disfunctional family relationships, interbreeding, etc... is kind exciting.

Dungeon of Doom: the Soap Opera.

Next episode: the beholder keeps batting her lashes at the minotaur, but won't share the decaying corpses of her victims with him... how can he figure out what's in her heart?


Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #27 on: December 01, 2006, 06:49:41 PM »

Not to get too off-topic ...

The Haunted Ruins, a RuneQuest supplement by Greg Stafford, presents exactly this situation. Arguably one of the finest scenario/setting books ever written.

Best, Ron
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Simon C
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Posts: 495


« Reply #28 on: December 01, 2006, 10:52:55 PM »

I wonder if one could put together "Dungeon Creation Rules" along the same lines as DitV Town Creation?

What do the Denizens want?

What will happen if the adventurers don't come?

and all sorts of other things.

If nothing else, it'd make for a richer dungeon delving experience.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: December 02, 2006, 03:46:56 AM »

Hey guys,

We're jacking the thread, me included. Let's stop.

Rich, this is a good time for you to evaluate the thread and decide what you'd like to do with it. Everyone else, let's stop posting until Rich tells us what's up.

Best, Ron
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