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Author Topic: [Forge Midwest]Interview with Ron Edwards  (Read 26372 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2007, 03:01:42 PM »

Hey, if anyone wants to follow up on topics or questions or whatever from the interview, please feel free. I'd be happy to discuss them here.

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2007, 06:34:26 AM »

I wish Clyde had asked a little bit about Spione: what it means to you, and where it fits in your corpus of non-professional work.  (Fine, fine, it's not an RPG, but one can still ask about an interviewee's side projects.)
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2007, 07:28:40 AM »

Hi James,

That's because in my internet peeking I didn't come across Spione:. I'll pencil that in for Gen Con's interview.

Hey Ron,

One thing I wish I had asked is if your thoughts on White Wolf's products were based on personal experience in groups you had interacted with?
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Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design.
clyde.ws, Clyde's personal blog.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2007, 12:56:18 PM »

Hi there,

James: Spione is a political act on my part, but not in the sense of inflicting (much) polemic on other people. I'd like to make a game, or rather, a constructive social creative act, out of reflecting on the Cold War. Bluntly, I think most of the former western bloc is blinded by a false triumphalist myth, and I think it's resulted in horrific errors in the real world, even before 2003, and in fact, even well before 1991. I think the consequences of that myth are literally culture-destroying for the U.S.A.

Spy fiction (of the type I'm talking about) has always been dissident fiction. It can even be a way of leaking information to the public to get through overly-classified filters. Even when not written literally, it asks the right questions. I think that if you just ask a person what they think of communists or the Iron Curtain or whatever, then you'll get a lot of mythological bullshit as answer, and the person will probably even believe he or she is being sincere. But if you do Story Now with the same issues as context, with the conflicts being specific to spies in Berlin, then you (and everyone involved) will find out what they really think, or better, what they'd really like to know.

The game itself is only a piece of the book, and the game-activity itself is only a piece of the website, which contains activities that are worth whole websites in and of themselves. So it's an important piece, but not the only or even the central one.

The reason I didn't design it as an RPG, write it as an RPG, or market it as an RPG, is that what I'm trying to do has literally nothing to do with fan-based fantastic-spy adventure, nor with the trappings-obsessed, self-referential, rather insular role-playing subculture. The habits and priorities most commonly found in that subculture (and I know this well because I'm part of it) are exactly the wrong way to address my goals with Spione. I'd really prefer not to see it in an RPG store or discussed at an RPG site.

Clyde: my comments on White Wolf games are based on a handful of attempts to prep and play Vampire or Mage on my part, as well as detailed and repeated discussions with people who'd played (I'm talking about the original Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage). I'd say maybe 80-100 people in all, from the early 1990s to around 2001 or so. That's not counting any discussions I've read on-line, all face-to-face, and usually in the context of playing some other game with them, especially early versions of Sorcerer.

All that said, I am still quite motivated to play a game of Wraith one of these days. That's the only one of that original pack which seems to me to have put its money where its mouth is.

Best, Ron
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HighmoonMedia
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« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2007, 09:27:29 AM »

Coming into the forums and discussion via Clyde's interview as well.

All that said, I am still quite motivated to play a game of Wraith one of these days. That's the only one of that original pack which seems to me to have put its money where its mouth is.
Could you explain how?

See, I understand the basic idea of your Story Now concept, but I'm not grasping the actuality of it. The way I see it, (IMO good) games are composed of a balance of Story Before, Now and After; yes, I, as the Storyteller (using the WW term) bring to the table a premise and an opening situation (Story Before); but as we play, my players take their characters into the story, shape it, mold it, break it even, forcing me to adapt the premise based on their actions (Story Now); then when the session/game's done, we discuss it and fill in the gaps with new narrative to arrive at a final product (Story After). If I had to quanitify it, I'd say it's a 20/70/10 split.

I'd also like actual examples of Story Now mechanics and rewards, just so I understand what you are refering to.

I'd like to say that the interview left me in a mess of emotions; my gut reaction was that you came across as pedantic, therefore I'd simply dismiss anything you said, but that's childish (not to mention unfair, because I have no right to make personal judgement calls of the type). I'm trying to understand your statements, because I can see your point, I just can't quite grasp it, and I'd like to.

The truth is I like the Storyteller/Storytelling system, so I want to understand how you think it is flawed, so I can see if it has indeed affected me and my group's play in any way, and either find a way to fix it, or know what to look for in a replacement system.

Thanks.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2007, 11:55:20 AM »

Hello, Daniel. Welcome to the Forge!

You are not describing a hybridization or any kind of split of Story Before, Story Now and Story After.

From your description, you are describing Story Now. That's all.

Your Story Before is not pre-planned story. It's simple preparation, in this case preparing a situation. Sorcerer is a good example. It calls these Bangs. (When the players themselves come up with it in Sorcerer at character creation, it's called a Kicker.)

Story Before is when someone, usually the game master, prepares the resolution of the game's story before hand. It's frequently referred to as "railroading."

Your Story After is Actual Play that examines Story Now. It is not Story After. Story After is when people don't actually create a story in play (I'm talking about story as Ron defines it -- a series of fictional events that resolve). Story After involves no actual fictional resolution, but instead inventing resolution of story elemens after play is over. It is retroactive.

Finally, you do seem to be describing Story Now, though more information might help illuminate.

As for the Storyteller system, I highly recommend you take your use of that system and post in Actual Play. That would be great! I'd like to see that, actually. You can post about what you do when you actually play with friends using Storyteller, what you like about it, and maybe ask some questions about how you can go about improving your experiences during play.

EDIT: Don't take my request as a moderator, by the way. Just a request from a fellow Forge visitor. This Adept Press forum particularly is Ron's forum, and he has say in all this stuff. Just me trying to offer some help.
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Matt Snyder
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HighmoonMedia
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« Reply #21 on: May 30, 2007, 12:49:27 PM »

Hello, Matt, and thanks for the welcome.

You know, putting Story Before (SB, SN, SA hereafter) as railroading, and SA as Actual Play suddenly makes it very clear; thanks for that.

The Storyteller games that I'm am mentally referring to are a few years old, so I don't know I could reconstruct anything resembling an Actual Play post at this point. I can tell you that, clearing away as much haze as I can from my memory, they involved a lot of talking; it was not uncommon for us to have entire sessions of 4-6 hours in which no dice was rolled aside from the fidgeters in the group. It's not that we weren't having conflicts, but that there were many times when the actual conversation of the PCs and NPCs, coupled with some quick looks at the stats as they appeared on the page to see how any particular individual measured up against another, got the story moving where stopping to roll dice might have broken the flow. For a short time I also had a table of pre-rolled d10s and whenever there was a need for a dice roll, I'd scratch these off as they got used up. My priority was to keep the story going.

I will be starting a new Victorian Age Vampire game with my wife this weekend using the NWoD Storytelling system, and for this game I had already planned to keep Actual Play reports on my blog, so maybe once I start getting those in that will help me see areas that may need addressing.

Thanks for your help, Matt.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #22 on: May 30, 2007, 01:38:44 PM »

Interesting, Daniel.

Ron's actually really good at offering some insights that you might find helpful, and I think he'll likely respond to your description of play (and do it better than me, he's just got a good knack for it).

For my part, what strikes me is that your group was using a system (informal, little to no dice) that was not actually the Storyteller system. Which is fine. Lots of groups play like that. So, my question to you is, why bother using that system at all? This isn't an attack or anything, just urging you to think on it. It seems pretty clear, at least in the games you're describing here, that you don't want to use the system in the book. By your actions, you and your group are saying "We don't trust the system presented in these books to get what we want, so we're going to go our own route and make up a system that barely has anything to do with these rules in the book."

What I would urge you to consider is this: Would identifying another system, another set of rules BETTER help you achieve what you want?

Ron is very good at recommending such systems, and I can help as well. As can many, many others here. But the choice is really yours. If you're happy with this play, great. If you are not, I think you're bound to find a lot of helpful information and suggestions here. So, ask away!
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Matt Snyder
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--Yogi Berra
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: May 30, 2007, 03:04:11 PM »

Hey guys,

This exchange caught me in the middle of a few other obligations, so it'll be a little while before I can reply. Everyone else (not Matt), let's keep it from becoming a dogpile, OK? Let's hold off until I can find a couple of minutes to compose.

Best, Ron
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HighmoonMedia
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« Reply #24 on: May 30, 2007, 04:10:47 PM »

Hey again, Matt.
For my part, what strikes me is that your group was using a system (informal, little to no dice) that was not actually the Storyteller system. Which is fine. Lots of groups play like that. So, my question to you is, why bother using that system at all? This isn't an attack or anything, just urging you to think on it. It seems pretty clear, at least in the games you're describing here, that you don't want to use the system in the book. By your actions, you and your group are saying "We don't trust the system presented in these books to get what we want, so we're going to go our own route and make up a system that barely has anything to do with these rules in the book."

I don't know that I would go as far as to say we weren't really using the Storyteller system, but rather that we were using it whenever we needed to fall back onto a system at all. I mean, no one needs a system to tell a story, but when it was relevant, we used the Storyteller skills/merits/flaws/magic thingamajiggers/etc. as our base. I honestly cannot recall that we ever completely threw out the system, though I do admit there were times when we just chose to resolve a conflict via interpersonal play rather than by rolling the dice. Thing is, this is something every group I have ever played with has done; granted, it was done less and less the younger we were and/or with D&D, but it has happened at some point or other.

I actually do like the Storyteller/telling system, and for the most part I can count on it to serve as my mechanical backbone whenever I need one. I didn't enter RPG with White Wolf, and I've used a good number of systems out there during my gaming life, so it's not like I default to WW because it was my first or because it's the one I know best (that would be D&D/d20 on both accounts); I use it because for a particular type of game I run it serves my purposes. Now, whether that is because the system is optimal for my style of game, or because I don't know any better, I will grant is still up in the air; when you don't know other options, can you really say you have a favorite?

As to why we use the Storyteller system, aside from the fact that I really like it, it is also a matter of convenience for my wife: she's not a gamer, so the whole idea of learning systems and such is very much not appealing to her; she's really into creating a story and developing her character, but the gamey bits are a necessary evil. Except for Storyteller; when we met and she started reading through my books, Vampire really caught her attention, lover of Victorian/Gothic literature that she is, and the system was not so complicated that she would just discard it outright. The character creation process actually helped her materialize a lot of the ephemeral ideas she had about her character, and the way the system worked was simple enough that she didn't feel it was obstructing the story, as she felt when we tried playing D&D once. We've used Storyteller ever since, so she feels very comfortable with the system, knows how it works, knows how it can help her actualize aspects of her character so as to bring out what she really wants to accomplish and give me fodder for story development.

What I would urge you to consider is this: Would identifying another system, another set of rules BETTER help you achieve what you want?
Ron is very good at recommending such systems, and I can help as well. As can many, many others here. But the choice is really yours. If you're happy with this play, great. If you are not, I think you're bound to find a lot of helpful information and suggestions here. So, ask away!

To be honest, I personally do not have a problem with trying a different system that may help me achieve certain things better. Getting her to try it may be a struggle, but one I believe I could eventually overcome if the system is simple enough to stay out of the way and robust enough to help her bring her character to life in the game as close as possible to how she has imagined it. (As an aside, I just got Spirit of the Century, and here is a game that, so far, could do the trick.) I'm open to the idea, which is why I asked of Ron for examples of how Stoyteller fails to bring about Story Now, so I can see how those apply to my game and if indeed I need to look at possible options.


This exchange caught me in the middle of a few other obligations, so it'll be a little while before I can reply. Everyone else (not Matt), let's keep it from becoming a dogpile, OK? Let's hold off until I can find a couple of minutes to compose.
Thanks, Ron.
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brainwipe
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« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2007, 01:30:42 AM »

Having dipped in and out of the Forge for years, I've only managed to take the big things from it. For me, the interview did well to sum up big things I'd missed and other things that I might have missed if I'd not heard it. I know I've come into your place, Ron, I do hope I'm welcome.

I completely agree with the idea that gamers can pick up habits in their formative years, habits that are difficult to break. I'm not sure Brain Damage is quite the right term for it. Certainly in the UK, there is a difference between a physically damaged brain and 'incorrectly' trained one. I don't want to get into the semantics of neuron/learning theory (part of my PhD thesis) but I certainly agree with the sentiment. I know loads of people that protect a game because they were introduced to it in their formative years and have a blindness to well argued reason. Vampire is definitely one of those.

The convention idea that Ron described is how things should be. While I was still undergraduate at the University of Reading (UK), we had a thriving Games and Roleplay Society and threw a couple of "conventions". A few tables were reserved for a Magic TG competition but a large proportion was just set aside for gamers, be they roleplayers, wargamers etc. As the day pushed on to about 9ish, a band set up and we got quite drunk and then tried to play more games, with hilarious effect. GenCon UK was a bit like that at the end of the 90s and I'm hoping GenCon UK (1 mile from my house) will be like that.

One huge benefit of listening to the podcast is to hear The Passion Of The Edwards (Hollywood, take note!). Text can be terrible at conveying emotion, regardless how good a writer you are. To actually hear The Passion Of The Edwards does bring Ron, The Man into focus from Ron, The Legend. It's a demystifying process that certainly reduces the pantheon effect caused when someone has created something truly great.

I fully understand that the world the Forge was born into has changed but I do hope it can keep going as long as it is relevant. If nothing else, it's a good community of people who now have history together. That, if nothing else, is worth preserving.

Thanks Clyde and Ron, it was a great thing to do. Let's have another!
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HighmoonMedia
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« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2007, 12:01:42 PM »

On a subject unrelated to my other conversation above, I finished the interview this morning and the last part, where Ron talks about the idea that founded the Forge, its purpose, as well as the whole ashcan process, was just excellent. Like many others out there, I had taken the Forge to be more of a club, and listening to Ron's explanation was like seeing something for the first time. I've never been a Forge-hater, but I certainly bought into the elitist idea for a while there, which is certainly not the case the more I look around.

I'm finding that a lot of my preconceived notions being challenged of late, which is a good thing.

In any case, great interview overall (even if it made me somewhat mad at the beginning Wink ).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #27 on: May 31, 2007, 04:10:03 PM »

Hi Daniel,

My apologies for the delay. I only have about half an hour (and will be away for some time after that), so I'm not sure whether I'll be able to compose what I want to say.

I greatly appreciate your thoughts and points upon finishing listening to the interview. Those, as well as any reflections or thoughts that will occur from this point on, are more important than reactions you experienced during listening. In fact, I probably should stop there and dismiss the latter, refusing to discuss them, simply because they were merely reactions. At the risk of going back on my word, I think that's what I'd like to do.

One of these days, I might compose something along the lines of "ode to the White Wolf loyalist who won't play it," or perhaps an alternative title would be "you've pulled one hand out of your ass, why not the other?" If I do, then I'd ask you to direct your attention, please, to the sticky thread which leads this forum. This is a party forum in many ways, very likely because if it weren't, I would have no reason to post except to answer rules questions. It's not an attitude or context that I've seen anywhere else on the internet, and I hope that my points in that thread can help you see where I'm coming from. In the tequila zone, what I say might have any effect whatsoever, and so instead of trying to paint a certain picture of myself or prompt a certain reaction in you, I'll say what's on my mind with some disregard for those things.

So the abortive piece which I began to compose a few minutes ago would have been needlessly provocative, considering the larger/more-important framework, i.e., that you liked the interview and are experiencing a bit of a sea-change in viewpoint, and also considering that you probably aren't quite yet attuned to the party-tequila context, meaning, rude speech and a hit-or-miss style of offered views. It wouldn't be dialogue, even; it'd be some kind of beatnik stand-up rather than dialogue, permitting you to take what fits or ignore any and all, whatever.

I probably won't ever write it. Why should I? Why bug people who don't want to be bugged, when it's also so clear that people who want to move on or to see what's up (on my mind) will eventually - given a little kicking and screaming - work through it themselves? I am still amazed, because I've never seen people pull themselves kicking and screaming toward an alternate viewpoint, when all the while I keep saying, "Look, you don't have to listen, and if you think I'm wrong, then OK, sure, call me wrong, I won't mind." Nope, they keep pulling themselves over, and protesting loudly the whole way. It's pretty wild.

Anyway, I think my point here is that you arrived at least a little bit willing to look for a fight, but now, even upon completing your first post, and certainly now that you've finished listening and had a bit to think, you aren't in that mental position at all, after all. So I'm happier that way and so are you. Why dig back into that post for me to try to refute what you don't really think anyway? An exercise in internet bullshit, is what that would be.

So ... umm ... I guess I'm saying that I'm not going to address your questions from the first post, at least not in the context of the first post. However, I don't want to shut you down, either. If, now, there's any direct question remaining that you really, really want an answer to, please let me know, and I will take it up.

Best, Ron
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HighmoonMedia
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« Reply #28 on: May 31, 2007, 04:38:23 PM »

Hello, Ron.

You know, my gut reaction was to think, "I didn't come here looking to pick a fight!" So I went back and re-read my first post, and lo and behold, yes I did, at least it comes across like that. So I agree, let's throw out that first post and start again.

I'm gonna go and read up a few things first then come back and rephrase my questions anew.
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HighmoonMedia
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« Reply #29 on: May 31, 2007, 09:19:01 PM »

Okay, I did a bit of my homework, so let's try this again:

I read through the original thread of the "brain damaged" comment, and I now I have a clearer idea of your opinion of how WW messed up the "storytelling" experience with their system. It stings a little because I could recognize a lot of events we experienced in our "really good" Vampire game; I'd never stopped to think that those things that happened were, to whatever extent, tied to the game. The roll/role dichotomy floored me, I have to say, because 95% of the gamers I interact with define themselves along this axis and I'm forced to think about the effects it has had on our gaming experience.

Water under the bridge now, though. Let's move on to fixing stuff.

Focusing too much on the system itself may be irrelevant, but given that I'm about to start a new Storytelling-powered game this week, I'd like to ask specifically: what are some mechanical elements of this system that you consider are counterproductive to the Story Now goal. I will be using Storytelling for reasons I explined above, so my goal is to try to identify problem areas where I could try new alternatives to achieve Story Now, something I know my wife will enjoy very much, given her focus for playing is precisely to develop the shared story.

I would also like to have a couple of examples of games/mechanics that reinforce Story Now, if not to use the actual game, then to know how to adapt the system I am using, or simply to understand how mechanics can support the concept. Because it's the book I am reading now, I'm thinking Aspects in SotC/FATE are an example of a mechanic that fosters Story Now, but I wouldn't mind confirmation.

Matt's reply to my first two posts actually helped me understand Story Before, Now and After quite well, so thanks for that.

So, to sum up:
I get the idea of Story Now; now what I'd like to have are a couple of examples of mechanics that foster and support Story Now, so I both know what to look for in a game in the future  and understand how to apply this to my own games (played or created). Because I'm gonna be using Storytelling in the game with my wife, at least for the time being, but if I'm going to go under the hood and tinker with it, perhaps even invoke the Golden Rule, I'd rather it be towards to goal of achieving Story Now rather than to impose my vision of the plot upon the player.

Hope this is better articulated.

(I am also curious as to how Wraith achieved, however much, the promised storytelling as opposed to, say, Vampire or Changeling. I also understand this is nothing but morbid curiosity and me totally looking at the tree instead of the forest, so it's not really a big deal.)
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