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Author Topic: The Tale of the Unwilling Trollbabe  (Read 7385 times)
Jeffrey Straszheim
Member

Posts: 112


« on: June 17, 2003, 11:31:55 AM »

I think that my wife and I will continue her Trollbabe's saga this weekend.  I'd like to run some things by you folks.

Here is the basic situation -- I don't have any names yet.  At the foot of Spider Mountain there was a settlement of humans, as well as some scattered bands of trolls.  A year ago, a human wizard came from afar, passed through the human settlement, went up the slopes, and wasn't heard from again.  Since then, however, the spiders have bred, formed raiding parties, and have generally been a nuisance.  The trolls were driven from their lands, and have moved in with the humans for mutual protection.

OK, fine.  But the adventure isn't about them at all.  The stakes are at the individual level, and the subjects of the stakes are the wizard and his daughter.

The wizard, as you might guess, is behind the whole spider army thing. He traveled to spider mountain to gain spider venom for his research, but his magic backfired, and he's been transformed into a hideous half-spider monstrosity.  He cannot return home, or even be seen among humans.  So he's remained.  The spiders have made him their king, and he's done well for them.

Now, his daughter has come looking for him.  She's maybe sixteen, unmagical, but good with a sword and very brave.

This could go all sorts of ways.  The wizard could be transformed back into a human, and return home; the daughter could be made into a spider and join dad, or anything in between.

Here is my original idea for an opening scene.  Elsa, our Trollbabe, is meeting the leaders of the settlement (the troll leader and the human chieftain).  The daughter arrives, makes an appeal for help, then heads up the mountain.

Naturally, Elsa will decide to go along and help, leading to a fun story, right?  Of course.  Except my wife never does what I expect. Knowing her, it is actually more likely that she will say, "Have fun storming the mountain, babe.  I'm going to go check out the ale house."

This is good.  I'm not criticizing her behavior at all.  I've always made it clear she should do what the heck she wants as long as she does something.  But, y'know, it can be hard to respond to as GM.

So, here's what kind of help you want.  Pretend you're the GM. Pretend you're in just my situation and the player blows off the daughter.  What do you do next?
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Jeffrey Straszheim
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2003, 12:05:25 PM »

Why isn't the daughter the Trollbabe?
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Alan
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2003, 12:38:47 PM »

Hi Jeffrey,

To add another impertinent question: why does the Trollbabe have to go with the daughter?

Three principles of Trollbabe:

1) Let the player get involved however they like.

2) All the NPCs expect the Trollbabe to be involved just because of who she is.   This includes the thought that she is half and half and so involved with both races.  Also, she's an outsider/adventurer/obvious power and so will be expected to do something.

As Ron recommends in Sorcerer, make the NPCs more grabby.  Give each an agenda and a reason for each to recruit the TB.  Also, consider allowing the spiders to recruit the TB.  

List some ideas for encounters with conflict - put children in them,  put dogs in distress, have cute spiderlings fleeing a torched forest.

Keep giving different angles of entry until the player chooses to go with one.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Jeffrey Straszheim
Member

Posts: 112


« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2003, 03:27:15 PM »

Hi Alan,

Thanks for responding.

Quote from: Alan

Keep giving different angles of entry until the player chooses to go with one.


But this is exactly what I don't want to do.  Let me state my goals at a higher level and see if it makes sense.  What I want is for (1) the player to act freely, and (2) the stakes to matter somehow.  The utterly last thing I want is for my wife to think, "Oh, I guess he wants me to go up the mountain and the adventure starts when I do."  That's railroading, even if I do manage to tempt her up with a thousand threatened Bambis (or whatever).

Look at it this way.  In the opening scene, the daughter comes in; she plans to go up the mountain and find out what happened to her father, and she asks for assistance.  Now, what does the player know?  There is a mountain.  There are spiders.  There is a mystery about the wizard.  Surely at this point she will imagine all sorts of cool arachnoid adventures among the rocks and crags of Spider Mountain.

OK, she decides not to go.  I'd say she's made a very clear choice here.  So, if Muhammad won't go to the mountain ... well you know the rest.

That isn't my problem.  There are several ways to bring the conflict down into the settlement itself.  My problem is more short term, comming up with situation and conflict right now while I figure out how to work the stakes into the situation.

We had this problem last Trollbabe game we played, a few months back.  I was using the snow cat scenario from the text.  So, she sees hunters chasing the snow cat.  And .... she ignores them.  What do you do then?  What we did is have her continue her journey and come across the snow cat and hunters again.  This time she decided to help.  It struck me as pretty lame at the time.

There is a pathology I want to avoid.  If a player ignores a hook, I don't want to keep casting  similar hooks until she bites.  I want to forget the hooks and, well, follow her hooks.  It is not easy to do.

OK, enough rambling.  What I specifically want to hear is exactly what folks would introduce as the very next scene in the scenarios I've presented.  Let's say in both these cases.
    [*] Spider Mountain.  Girl is looking for help finding her father.  Player says, "Nah."
    [*] Snow Cat.  Cat chased by hunters goes by.  Character ignores them.
    [/list:u]
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    Jeffrey Straszheim
    Alan
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    « Reply #4 on: June 17, 2003, 04:32:31 PM »

    [Somehow in previewing my msg, I manged to post two copies of it.  I've deleted the first.  An identicle copy follows.]
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    - Alan

    A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
    Alan
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    « Reply #5 on: June 17, 2003, 04:41:31 PM »

    Quote from: Jeffrey Straszheim

    Quote from: Alan

    Keep giving different angles of entry until the player chooses to go with one.


    But this is exactly what I don't want to do. ..."Oh, I guess he wants me to go up the mountain and the adventure starts when I do."  That's railroading, even if I do manage to tempt her up with a thousand threatened Bambis (or whatever).


    You misunderstand me.  The idea is to throw stuff out until the player finds something they like, not to throw out hooks all leading the same way.  Things will happen around her and at some point, the player will find something that moves her to make a choice.  She can choose to help the daughter, defend the villagers, negotiate a mercenary deal, assassinate rivals, persuade rivals to peace, or even raze the village and marry the spider-king.  

    Remember, in Trollbabe, getting the player involved isn't only the GMs responsibility - it's also the player's!  If your wife is used to playing "in-character," this may take some time to unlearn.  You can help by encouraging her, the player, to make a choice to create a story that interests her.  Tell her straight out that you've got a situation going on, and she can make any story she wants of it.

    Another suggestion: ask her what kind of story she'd like.  In our TB multi-session game, the GM asked not only "where do you want to be next time?" but "What would you like to do?"
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    - Alan

    A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
    Bob McNamee
    Member

    Posts: 685


    « Reply #6 on: June 17, 2003, 04:43:04 PM »

    We've talked about problems like this in indie-netgaming.

    One helpful addition to Trollbabes as characters is some kind of agenda on their part. Chris Edwards character hinted at such on the character sheet. Carrying the emblem ripped from a soldier that killed his mother(?).
    That really helped provide some motivation!

    How I do it when planning out TB adventures, stakes etc.?

     Make sure that the character has to make some sort of choice, help/not-help, rescue/not rescue. Then make sure that either choice leads to something interesting for the "Player".


    In your case? Ok, TB decided not to help girl...split the community for or against helping her.
     Perhaps, reverse the races...the Trolls want to help her...hoping the Mage will leave, allowing them to get back their home. Humans don't want to help, perhaps they will actively try to stop the girl, imprision etc.

    Or perhaps they let her go up the mountain, while the babe has some cold brews and plays some darts. What then? Do a social/gambling conflict in the bar with some NPCs, then Do a cut scene showing the girl climbing the last bit of the mountain, clawing through webs etc.... What then? Perhaps she joins forces with the Mage, threatening a larger area with his new help... or perhaps he just will sacrifice her for more power... or perhaps he is waiting for her before beginning some arcane travel or conquest... perhaps she is just a rival who was lying, or an old lover etc.

    Or have her die falling ...just a few yards short of her father's cave...whatever.

    Show these cutaway scenes!
    The Player knows some of whats going on off screen... but the character  doesn't.

    The Player needs to know that their choice did make a difference is how things worked out.

    Hope some of this helps,
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    Bob McNamee
    Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
    Jeffrey Straszheim
    Member

    Posts: 112


    « Reply #7 on: June 17, 2003, 06:02:17 PM »

    I'm going to respond to these two together.

    (And I appologize if I seem wishy-washy in this conversation.  I'm trying to figure this out as I go.)

    Quote from: Alan
    You misunderstand me. The idea is to throw stuff out until the player finds something they like, not to throw out hooks all leading the same way. Things will happen around her and at some point, the player will find something that moves her to make a choice. She can choose to help the daughter, defend the villagers, negotiate a mercenary deal, assassinate rivals, persuade rivals to peace, or even raze the village and marry the spider-king.


    Quote from: Bob McNamee
    Make sure that the character has to make some sort of choice, help/not-help, rescue/not rescue. Then make sure that either choice leads to something interesting for the "Player".


    The danger I see with Alan's approach is this.  It still involves throwing out bait until something hooks.  However, each "no" on the way is a very powerful thematic statement.  Look at it this way. There is a snow cat in danger.  The Trollbabe doesn't help.  Now, imagine this is the first scene of a movie.  It mustn't be a throwaway scene.  It is a profound moral statement, and it must echo throughout everything that follows.

    I very much agree with Bob's statement, but getting it right is hard. Think of it this way.  The player cannot make a wrong decision.  The character can, of course, but we're not talking about that.  Each decision made is by definition correct, and it is my (the GM's) responsibility to validate it completely.  I didn't do that when we played.  I had her make the decision again so she'd get the "right answer".  I failed to make her "no" interesting.  Even now I'm not sure exactly what I should have done.

    Regarding Bob's suggestions for the Spider Mountain adventure. Splitting the races is a great idea.  If you thought of that on short notice then you're a smarter man than me.  My only reservation is that it might push against the edges of the scale and stakes; all of a sudden this is about a community, not a girl and her father.

    The other idea, using cut scenes, doesn't work for me.  We see the Trollbabe drink ale.  We see the daughter get killed (or whatever). Those were the stakes.  Alright!  Next adventure.

    Perhaps it would be more helpful to me if we focused on the snow cat adventure, since it's actual play rather than potential play. (This is an example of my wishy-washy-ness I refered to earlier.)  OK, so here you are, the GM.  You're sitting at the table covered with soda cans and dice.  You describe this cool scene with hunters chasing a snow cat.  The player doesn't care.  She says, "It's none of my business. I continue on."  Exactly what do you do next?
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    Jeffrey Straszheim
    Alan
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    « Reply #8 on: June 17, 2003, 06:33:15 PM »

    Quote from: Jeffrey Straszheim

    The other idea, using cut scenes, doesn't work for me.  We see the Trollbabe drink ale.  We see the daughter get killed (or whatever). Those were the stakes.  Alright!  Next adventure.


    Check out this thread.  It's almost a bible for TB preparation.  http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6585">trollbabe one-session adventures   Ron answers questions about preparation.  In particular, search for the word "rundle" for an example of his prep.

    Read the discussion about Stakes and Consequences not necessarily being the same.  Also, Ron mentions once or twice that Stakes and Consequences are only a guide for his GMing, not set in stone.  If the player goes with something else, do that.

    Quote from: Jeffrey Straszheim

    OK, so here you are, the GM.  You're sitting at the table covered with soda cans and dice.  You describe this cool scene with hunters chasing a snow cat.  The player doesn't care.  She says, "It's none of my business. I continue on."  Exactly what do you do next?


    I play on and offer other things from the situation I have prepared.  If she still doesn't engage, I might say: "You know, I notice not much is happening.  This game, Trollbabe, gives you lots of power to create the story.  My job as GM is just to create the sandbox for you to play in.  Do you, the player not the character, see anything here that might make an interesting situation to get your character into?"

    If the answer is no, then I ask, "What kind of story would you like to play?    We'll meet again next week and I'll have something prepared for that."

    The beauty of it is that Trollbabe doesn't require lots of prep so I'm not invested in any particular situation.  In fact, following Ron's advice, I have 2 or 3 situations all ready to go.
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    - Alan

    A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
    Alan
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    « Reply #9 on: June 17, 2003, 06:49:24 PM »

    Of course at some point, it may become apparent that my player prefers simulationist play decisions.  In which case, Trollbabe won't be very rewarding for her, even if she catches on to the player responsiblity to create "story now."

    In that case, it's just "Hey, why don't we play Exalted next week?"
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    - Alan

    A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
    Tony Irwin
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    « Reply #10 on: June 18, 2003, 04:35:08 AM »

    Hey Jeffrey,

    As the others mentioned, the idea of trollbabes being half-human, half-troll makes it easy to put the trollbabes in the middle. I've found that any kind of conflict between the two races forced my players to get involved - it wasn't really railroading (I think) because they picked their own sides and came up with individual solutions for resolving it.

    Quote
    Since then, however, the spiders have bred, formed raiding parties, and have generally been a nuisance. The trolls were driven from their lands, and have moved in with the humans for mutual protection.


    If you have the trolls and humans living very uneasily together then that can afford the kind of conflict that your Trollbabe will find herself in the middle of. Human children spitting at Trolls on the street, Trolls refusing to learn the human's language - that kind of stuff requires a response from players because the whole town wants to know which side the Trollbabe will take. Even if your wife takes her character to the bar, her drink can get knocked over by a troll vs human brawl - Troll/human conflict can forces her to figure out a stance to take on what's going on.

    Quote
    Now, his daughter has come looking for him. She's maybe sixteen, unmagical, but good with a sword and very brave.


    Again I'd bring in troll/human conflict. Humans are keen to see the girl end the spider problem so the Trolls can move back up the mountain. Trolls refuse to let her go up the mountain in case she incurs more wrath from the spiders - again the Trollbabe is caught in the middle and everyone's looking to her for a response. They're not asking "what are you going to do?" so much as "Are you a human or are you a troll?" I find that implying that question in lots of different ways usually gets responses and a commitment to being involved and helps to keep the Trollbabe the focus of the conflict because its her decisions that will swing it either way.

    Because the Trollbabe isn't really attatched to either the spiders or the girl I could see how the situation might not really demand a response. But because the Trollbabe is kinda human and kinda Troll, I've found that any conflict between the two usually does demand a response.
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    quozl
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    « Reply #11 on: June 18, 2003, 06:03:01 AM »

    Quote from: Jared A. Sorensen
    Why isn't the daughter the Trollbabe?


    This got ignored earlier but I 'd like to ask it now, rephrased.  Why isn't your player character also your main character?  If you want to get the player involved in the story, make them integral to the story.
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    --- Jonathan N.
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    John Harper
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    flip you for real


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    « Reply #12 on: June 20, 2003, 04:01:20 PM »

    Okay. The snow cat runs by, chased by hunters. The player doesn't care. Then, (offscreen if you want) the hunters catch the snowcat. They kill it. Or they sell it to a menagerie. Or it kills the hunters. Or it gets away. Whatever. Something happens, and the player has decided that she doesn't want to have a say in the outcome of this conflict. That's fine, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the conflict vanishes. It continues to a conclusion that may or may not impact the PC in the future.

    The NPCs of your world have agendas and are always acting to further them. They'll try to rope the Trollbabe in if they can. That's the whole point of playing a Trollbabe in the first place: Story comes to you and knocks on the door. If you don't want to answer the door (to stretch a metaphor), you can crawl out the window and sneak away, but you gotta do something. If your wife doesn't want to take a hook you throw to her, that's fine. But that means it's time for her to take action -- to follow her own initiative. Simply sitting back and waiting for the GM to toss a hook that you like -- that's not Trollbabe play in my opinion.

    The way I understand it (and the way I've played it) Trollbabe just won't fly if everyone plays only "in character" all the time. It's a necessary component of play that the players discuss the story and contribute in Author stance, as co-creators of the tale. Perhaps your wife is just used to a more traditional approach where she only makes decisions in-character and doesn't feel empowered to write the story herself.

    To answer your question more directly: What do you do when your player ignores the hook? How do you create Story Now? You don't. The player does. When she ignores the hook, it's up to her. She's telling you that she wants the reins. So, let her drive. "Okay. The snow cat disappears over the hill in a flurry of snow. The hunters give chase and are soon lost from view. What do you want to do now?" This is a question for the player, not the character. It's a direct question. What story do you want now? The player can call for a scene in a little snowy village miles away where she warms her feet and sips cider while she listens to the tales of a local bard about a fire wyrm that supposedly lives under the frozen mountain. And you're off.

    If the player is both ignorning your hooks and sitting and waiting for you to create the story... well, Trollbabe may not be the right game for the group.
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