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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: My experience using Forge arcana  (Read 2061 times)
james_west
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« on: January 29, 2004, 10:34:26 PM »

I was very active on the Forge for a bit right after it started (I just looked - I'm member #26), learning about GNS, stance, scene framing, relationship maps, and the like. I've been inordinately busy for the intervening couple of years, and thus let my participation here lapse, but I have still been running games on a relatively frequent basis, with all of the Forge arcana in mind.

I thus thought I'd present a bit of a long view on how all this works in practice, from someone who is neither new to these concepts, nor one of their originators, and is using them to run games, rather than design them.


Scene Framing.
This is something everyone ought to get good at. Knowing when to start and end a scene - or a story - is one of the most important skills a GM can have. Since I started thinking about this explicitly, I think my ability to keep games fast-paced, and keep all the players' characters involved, has increased greatly.

Relationship Maps.
There are very few plots that can't be improved with the addition of a relationship map. I was recently running D&D-style fantasy, with the stereotypical get-the-superweapon-necessary-to-killing-the-lich-king plot. The people guarding the superweapon, though, had a complicated back-story with the lich king, and if you could figure out the relationship map, you could co-opt them rather than kill them. They didn't -have- to solve the scenario that way; with a clever enough violent plan, they could have just slaughtered everyone involved, but it made for a much better story if they did.

Stance and GNS.
I have found that traditional role-players are uncomfortable moving too far out of actor stance, moving into author stance only for "generating climactic and conflict-resolving moments". I have run Elfs and SOAP for both my friends and at conventions, and while people find them extremely fun, they're "not role-playing" in their opinion. They're both fun, but different enough that they don't feel like the same sort of game to people. Most role-players that I have encountered are reflexively simulationist; that's what they cut their teeth on, and that's what feels like role-plying to them. They'll occasionally, consciously, play explicitly gamist games (Champions brawl-of-the-week and the like), but that doesn't "feel" like role-playing to them, either.

More generally, most players feel uncomfortable taking on directorial stance at all. Explicitly, they state this as, "I don't want to mess up your backstory." They feel that their characters are operating in a world with fixed, but hidden, parameters, and for them to change this fixed, but hidden, world, will cause unforseen and most likely negative consequences. Also, I wonder a little about social dynamic. I have explicitly told folks that anyone who likes can run games, and that they don't have to be at my house - but they're essentially always at my house, and I run better than 90% of the time. I wonder whether folks feel like taking on directorial stance is a challenge to my authority as GM.

I think that what your typical role-player likes is to be able to pretend to himself that the setting is strictly simulationist (by this I mean that his decisions filtered through the games' rules and setting-oriented 'realism' absolutely determine the outcome of events), but with the GM fudging things so that the story turns out the way the players would like it to (in this sense narrativist), although he likes to be able to pretend to himself that this isn't true, with the occasional conscious resort to a big fight (thus gamist in tendency).

 All this aside, I find that it's useful to be able to think about this trichotomy of agendas, in consideration of 'what's fun' for your players, from day-to-day and moment-to-moment.

- James

(BTW, I'm not James V. West)
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Christopher Weeks
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Posts: 683


« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2004, 04:43:44 AM »

James,

I'd be interested also in how these factors relate (or how you observe them) in the games that you play, rather than GM.  What noteworthy successful experiences have you had in getting others to consider or use Forge arcana?

I only play in one regular, traditional RPG.  A few months ago, I suggested some ways that we might change the way we play looking to increase multiple stances and shared power without corrupting the essense of the game.  I don't think any of the players or the GM even commented on the ideas.  I also pointed the GM to some of Ron's essays, but I never heard back from him and didn't press the issue.

Have you had specific success along these lines?

Chris
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Alan
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2004, 06:33:39 AM »

Hi chris,

I'll just insert my two cents:

I too have tried suggesting some techniques to role-players not familiar with The Forge and also have gotten blank looks and little credit.  I think that whatever game system the GM has personally developed over time just doesn't include the concepts and doesn't offer any obvious reward for using them.

Playing games that have these concepts built in is the way I and many GMs I know learned - then we take the concepts and use them in other games.  Trollbabe and Universalis are great for learning Scene Framing, and Stances;   Sorcerer and Alyria for Rmaps.  These are also all narrativist supporting games, so they expose people to that aspect of GNS as well. Elfs is a gamist game that encourages author stance.  

So: Do you have the option of running some demo games for your GM?  It's really the best way to introduce the ideas.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
james_west
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Posts: 292


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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2004, 08:29:01 AM »

The only games I'm playing in regularly are online games being run by folks I've known since college, and frankly I could easily imagine them running precisely the same games fifteen years ago.

The games are thus intensively simulationist, with the GM for one game allowing this to result in horrifyingly unsatisfying narrative, whereas the other GM is a fairly subtle illusionist by bent, resulting in a reasonable narrative.

Which I think brings us to the Social Compact stuff that gets talked about a lot here. I joined one of these games after it had already been in progress for a long time, the other after it was already proposed and planned. After a game is started, it's a bit harder, socially, to try to get changes made to system or style; by joining up after the rules are already set, you're implicitly agreeing to them.

If I had been present during the proposal stages of these games, I would have pushed for use of a system with harder-core narrativism than I normally use for my in-person games. For online games in particular, I think that harder-core narrativisim makes a lot of sense for one strong reason; it spreads out the pressure of typing.

I think I agree with Alan, above, though - the best way to introduce people to the concepts is by playing a few of the 'concept' games he lists with them, to get them used to the ideas, and hopefully it'll leak into the rest of the games they play.

- James
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