: Open House: Ask a Frequent Question...
This is not an "advance the theory" topic like the first open house was. This is a "What are you on about, Vincent? Catch me up!" topic.
"What do you mean by 'cues'?" "What's it mean 'thematic roleplaying'?" "Remind me why you hate 'SIS'?"
1. Comments are restricted to questions only. I'll post answers; none of the rest of you get to. Marginalia, however, you should feel free to use as usual.
2. Honest questions for your own benefit only, please. Oldsters, this means you: don't ask a question just because you think that someone somewhere might benefit from my answer.
3. Don't ask about anything that's the topic of a current post. We can talk about the fruitful void (for instance) down there in its own thread.
There are two kinds of people I'd especially like to hear from. Relative newcomers is the main one, but I'd also like to hear from the present and former Ennead. There must be a way for us to talk about this stuff.
Hey Vincent, when they talk about "disconnect" when you're playing a RPG, does that just mean "failure to communicate" or something? I've seen people use it different ways around here and the Forge, and it's not in the glossary or anything.
Huh. Feel free to tell me off if this is too much "advance the theory" and not enough "duh," but it's a question that I got a lot during my Finnish tour and didn't have a great answer to:
How do you divide clearly between fiction (we imagine this guy as a tough dude) and cues, in terms of resolution? Is an argument "we all know he's tough" sizably different in terms of your little diagram from "I have 'tough' written down on my sheet"? If so, where's the dividing line? Is it really the physical object? What about "I know I had 'tough' written on his sheet before I lost it"?
I mostly get what you are on about most of the time I think, just haven't been moved to speak much lately.
The biggest question I find myself having, and I'm not even sure it is really a "What are you on about?" question specifically, because I'm not clear if it is something you hold to, but I've seen it said here by others without disagreement, so here goes anyway:
What is up with the idea that it is only the players that matter, and that the characters don't matter? I'm probably expressing it poorly, but surely you recognize what I mean?
Obviously, this is true in a basic and trivial sense.
Obviously, it works reasonably well as a currative to the old "Well, that's what my character would do, so it isn't my fault" line.
As theory, it seems to lead in really crappy directions, and short circuit interesting directions as often as not.
Do you agree with it as theory? What is your take on it?
John: Hey Vincent, when they talk about "disconnect" when you're playing a RPG, does that just mean "failure to communicate" or something? I've seen people use it different ways around here and the Forge, and it's not in the glossary or anything.
I dunno, probably. If you link to someone's confusing usage of it I'll take a look.
Ben: How do you divide clearly between fiction (we imagine this guy as a tough dude) and cues, in terms of resolution? Is an argument "we all know he's tough" sizably different in terms of your little diagram from "I have 'tough' written down on my sheet"? If so, where's the dividing line? Is it really the physical object? What about "I know I had 'tough' written on his sheet before I lost it"?
It's really the physical object.
The idea is not to distinguish the cues from the fiction. The idea is to distinguish the cues from the interactions of the players. Remember that in principle all cues are identical to a single quarter (which we sometimes flip), that unrelated to the fiction. When we name them to correspond to stuff in the fiction, that's a simple mnemonic device, not revelatory of their nature. It reminds us how we use them, it doesn't say what they are.
The purpose of the whole cloud-smiley-d6 thing isn't to talk about how we play, but to talk about how rules work. Many game rules do not refer to cues at all, simply coordinating the interactions of the players and the game's fiction.
In those terms, "we all know my guy's tough" and "I have tough on my guy's character sheet" are both interactions - inside the smiley faces, now, right? The only difference between them is that the latter refers to a cue (tough written on the character sheet) and the former does not.
(And about your question about tough written on a character sheet present on the table vs. tough written on a character sheet present only in memory: can the rules tell the difference? Of course not.)
Have I said enough? It should be easy to construct rules which refer to cues and rules which don't, to compare the two. "If you have 'tough' written on your character sheet, then if in the game's fiction your character drinks poison, you all should have her survive" (coordinating cues, interaction and fiction) vs. "if everyone agrees that your character is tough, then if in the game's fiction your character drinks poison, you all should have her survive" (coordinating interaction and fiction).
Ennead, but One of Nine. There seems to be a tension, and forgive me if I’m missing it, but to my uneducated eyes it seems to go somewhat unexpressed, but the tension or at least the two poles which for me anchor the tension I think I’m feeling are on the one hand focused lasers and on the other kitchen sinks. —On the one hand, you’ve got these brutally clear algorithms which immediately snap everyone’s attention to This Interaction and These Stakes, around which are sedimented the signifiers of the other world which let you grab hold and run: guns and coats and Olde West townes; ice swords and mythic demons; pitch sessions and seasonal character arcs. And on the other, you’ve got the sediment itself: accreting another world bit by bit and mediated interaction by negotiated creation, that’s bigger and wilder and weirder and woolier and more real than anything you could come up with on your own, and while the process is certainly governed by rules unspoken or not, the rules themselves are secondary to the point.
Aw, but fuck, see, I’ve already stepped in it, by attempting to suggest that this is rules v. not rules, which it isn’t at all. There are rules, there are always rules, and I see the benefits to explicit and openly negotiated rules v. unspoken ad hoc and perhaps even unacknowledged rules, and I know the whole point is figuring out how to make group telepathy portable. —But it seems to me that in chasing that imminently worthy goal, something ineffable is lost: we’ve got all these gorgeous, intensely beautiful single episodes of singular types, and what I want is never-ending epic.
Oh, but it’s not that at all, either, since, exception proving rule, there’s no reason at all not to swing with Prime Time Adventures, say, for multiple seasons. Maybe it’s as simple as the difference between taking a pattern and building a world around it, and building a world and finding patterns within it? And it’s not the one is better than the other, or more Real, or better Played, it’s just that my temperament, maybe, fits better with the latter than the former (though I could just be taking a pattern I like and building a worldview out of it—ah, scratch that, needlessly, impishly meta). —But the former is the business of game designers, and the latter is what some gaming groups do, and the former is more easily generalizable and sharable, and the latter not so much, and this is an inescapable tension, unresolvable, and anyway.
Is there a question in all that? Huh. I dunno. Do you see what I mean? Am I talking out my hat or missing the point? Because while it seems like some of these games would be great for a Saturday afternoon or a couple of weekends here and there, heck, astounding, impressive, would generate anecdotes we could talk about for years, it’s still not what I would say invest in. Which is why I’m still on the sidelines, maybe. Or maybe I’m just shy and tired and set in my ways.
JK go "Long Term does not necessarily = Investment and short term does not = a shallow game."*
CS go "forms of depth which develop over time"*
KM go "Campaign Fallacy--"*
JK go "Not always, no."*
Charles: What is up with the idea that it is only the players that matter, and that the characters don't matter? I'm probably expressing it poorly, but surely you recognize what I mean?
Well, I have two answers, and which I give you depends on where you're coming from.
Answer one, if you're coming from "when we roleplay, something mysterious happens and our characters really come to life, it's cool!": you, uh, you do realize that you're making it happen, right? By doing things that you could identify and do more reliably, right? They aren't real, they don't cause anything, only you do.
Answer two, if you're coming from "when we roleplay, we use techniques that we can identify and we work together to create fiction": too right, characters are all that matters. Everything, the whole endeavor, depends on the characters, their integrity as characters, and the passion with which you play them. Without that, the fiction's dead.
The problem we have to deal with is that we'll be having a conversation with someone based on the latter, and they'll suddenly come out with something that reveals that they think the former. Real head-stumpers like "I didn't pass any moral judgement, my character just felt like gunning every last backstabbing bastard of them down" and "rolling dice interferes with your ability to engage with your character."
The further problem is that whether they actually think the former or not, what's really going on is that they object to the analysis of their play.
So we, I, take pains to be very certain that everyone understands that characters aren't magic - and that everyone is willing to critically examine and talk honestly about roleplaying - before I'll talk about how characters are magic.
CS go "That's a generic 'you' right?"*
CS go "Hard to read too!"*
CS go "Neat marginalia feature I hadn't noticed"*
ecb go "I am sorry I pulled that on you, C."*
CS go "No trauma"*
Troy: I don't understand Pawn Stance very well. Could you explain it to me and perhaps give an example?
The reason that the stances have fallen out of currency is that we've developed better ways to talk about the same things: where does the buck stop? What am I allowed to say about what, under what circumstances, and how are you allowed to respond? "Pawn stance" is just a particular cluster of who's allowed to say what about what.
It goes like this: I am allowed to say whatever I want about my character's actions, without regard to my character's integrity as a character.
Compare "author stance": I am allowed to say whatever I want about my character's actions, within the bounds of my character's integrity as a character.
Compare also "actor stance": I am allowed to say whatever I want about my character's actions, within the bounds of my character's integrity as a character, and everyone else is allowed to contradict me if they feel that what I say is too beneficial to me as a player.
There are politer ways to phrase this last, but whatever.
My advice is to not worry about the stances, but instead to focus on who gets to say what about what.
I have a couple guesses, but I hesitate to make them; they seem too provocative to me. Like I'm putting you up to something when I'm not, really.
Promise me you won't take them confrontationally and read on!
I guess that you mean that playing a game without investing in it, playing a game on a Saturday afternoon, is too dangerous to even try.
Or else I guess that you mean that playing a game by its rules, not by the techniques you've developed yourselves, is too dangerous to even try.
Am I in the neighborhood? There's some reason you don't just say "hey [insert a couple random friends], wanna see what's up with these Forge games? Come over after dinner on Friday, let's give [insert random Forge game] a go."
I don't think I understand what is meant by Creative Agenda. I used to think that it refers to what kinds of things a particular player enjoys most during play, but I have heard people explicitly say that this is not what it means.
So if I'm the kind of player that really enjoys communicating about important human issues through play, is that my CA, or is that a poor use of the term?
Collin: I don't think I understand what is meant by Creative Agenda. I used to think that it refers to what kinds of things a particular player enjoys most during play, but I have heard people explicitly say that this is not what it means.
So if I'm the kind of player that really enjoys communicating about important human issues through play, is that my CA, or is that a poor use of the term?
That's a government-work use of the term.
Replace "enjoys" with "does" and you're good.
"So if I'm the kind of player that really does communicate about important human issues through play, that's my CA."
So, notice that what you enjoy doesn't 1-to-1 predict what you actually do. First you have to deal with a) what you know how to do, b) what everyone around you is doing, and c) probably some other things too.
Also notice that what you do can vary from game to game, independent of what you enjoy.
And finally, notice that we're talking about a relatively large time scale. "So if I'm the kind of player that does roll dice to hit during play, is that my CA?" No. We examine your play as a work of fiction - on the scale of situation escalating into crisis, resolving into a new situation - to see your CA; we don't examine it moment by moment.
VB go "on time scale, think of it this way..."*
CMT go "Agenda"*
VB go "yep."
XP go "Individual v. Group"*
JBR go "It's a moving target"*
VB go "JBR, I think I'm going to pull rank on you..."*
VAX go "What something means is..."*
VB go "nonsense."*
Okay, I feel pretty good about that. More on Creative Agenda...
There seems to be an idea that you can only really have one Creative Agenda at a time. Is that correct? Does it follow from the definition? Or is it just too schizo to do more than one at a time?
Because when I think about what I do in a game like Vampire the Noun, it seems like some times I'm trying to come up with good practical solutions to problems in the game, and sometimes I'm making a point about some issue, and sometimes I'm just vicariously enjoying playing a badass. Am I wrong that this means I'm shifting between Creative Agendas as I play? Is there something dysfunctional about this?
(Part of the reason I'm interested in this issue is because different players in my gaming circle seem to have different agendas. I'd like to be able to accomodate as many of them as possible, but conventional wisdom seems to hold that I can't.)
VB go "aaaaaaiiiigh! owie owie owie!"
CMT go "Did I break you?"*
VB go "*head asplodes*"
VB go "*twitch, twitch*"
JCL go "let's see if I can field this"*
VB go "*whimper*"
VB go "I was right!"*
CMT go "Sorry about that."*
Because they're going to fall off the front page before this does: I've continued with Charles and Kip's questions in Long and Short, Dangerousness, and a little bit in The Story of My Life. I still owe Charles some more about character, I believe.
JCL go "I posted my take..."*
VB go "the prob I see..."*
JCL go "there's nothing preventing premise from happening..."*
VB go "that's a classic misunderstanding of 'address.'"*
VB go "...and I've replied to you there too."
JCL go "err, no..."*
Troy: Can you recomend some good exemplar games for Gamism, Simulationism, and Narrativism?
VERY problematic. You're asking me to walk out into the minefield.
Dogs in the Vineyard, played straight, will give you narrativist play. Kill puppies for satan, played straight, will give you simulationist play. I haven't designed an RPG that'll give you gamist play; I look to non-rpgs for my step-on-up fulfillment.
And here's me: kaBOOM!
Sometimes seeing examples helps cement me in a concept.
Game texts aren't good examples of the creative agendas. It's differences in the play of them that makes Dogs narrativist and puppies simulationist.
It's possible for some people to read a game text and see the play that'll follow. I'm no good at it at all, but some of the Forge folks have a gift for it - Ron especially, which you'll see bright and clear if you follow his Ronnies feedback posts.
All of which to say - if you want to learn the CAs, there are far better ways to go about it than reading game texts.
It seems like in many games I've run, the players don't play their characters with much plausibility- there doesn't seem to be respect for the internal integrity of the characters or setting. For example, some players will have their characters disregard social consequences or influences. I'd like a system which encourages more verisimilitude in this regard. But it seems like mechanics which force more reasonable reactions risk interefering with the players ability to make a statement. Can you see any way out of this dilemma?
There seem to be two major principals of game design which are often advocated around here, but seem like they could sometimes conflict.
One is Conflict Resolution, where it is important that the consequences of success or failure are defined in terms of the conflict, not the task, so that players aren't thwarted by a task which is successful but doesn't move them towards the desired outcome.
The other is Fortune in the Middle, where further choices are made after the dice are rolled in order to determine how a conflict resolves. This sometimes means that the ultimate outcome is different from what was anticipated.
Won't these two approaches often come into conflict? It seems like situations could arise where the stakes are clearly defined, but instead of success with the dice dictating actual success in the conflict, FitM could mean that the stakes are changed after the fact.
Is this a problem, or have I gotten confused somewhere? If it is a potential conflict, do you have any ideas how to try and resolve it?
Hi Collin, re: 27. Try looking at Wraith: the Oblivion for inspiration.
In it, each player plays their PC, a ghost, and *also* plays another PC's Shadow, which is kind of the character's dark side or self-destructive urge. The Shadow has special powers only it can access, and the Shadow's player can tempt the PC's player to help out by using these powers on the PC's behalf. Each time they accept, the PC gets Angst (no really, that's what the stat is called!) and when the Angst rating gets high enough the Shadow can take over the character for a while.
What makes the mechanic work is the way that the Shadow's powers make the temptations of the character into something that can tempt the player. What makes this mechanic so dramatically compelling is that it externalizes the mental process of temptation -- the discussion between the player and his or her Shadowguide is the character's internal monologue, and turning it into something all the other players can watch is almost always fascinating.
It could be improved in light of modern experience, but there's really a gem of an idea there.
Collin: It seems like in many games I've run, the players don't play their characters with much plausibility- there doesn't seem to be respect for the internal integrity of the characters or setting. For example, some players will have their characters disregard social consequences or influences. I'd like a system which encourages more verisimilitude in this regard. But it seems like mechanics which force more reasonable reactions risk interefering with the players ability to make a statement. Can you see any way out of this dilemma?
Sure. Make the versimilitude you're after essential to the players' ability to make a statement.
How you do this, precisely, will depend on a) the individual details of the versimilitude you're after and b) what the players are to make statements about. See for instance Dogs in the Vineyard, which is built at the intersection of x versimilitude and y meaningful subject matter.
Collin: Won't these two approaches often come into conflict? It seems like situations could arise where the stakes are clearly defined, but instead of success with the dice dictating actual success in the conflict, FitM could mean that the stakes are changed after the fact.
Is this a problem, or have I gotten confused somewhere? If it is a potential conflict, do you have any ideas how to try and resolve it?
Well, I mean, you're the designer, right? So don't make them come into conflict in your design.
FitM could mean that the stakes are problematically changed after the fact, if that's how you design it - but then it's on your head for designing it that way.
Too, stakes resolution doesn't require in principle that the stakes remain unchanged over the course of resolution. If you want to design a FitM stakes resolution mechanic where the stakes can change after the dice are down, go for it - just make sure that as the stakes change, all parties buy in. ("Make sure" as the designer, and that means mechanics.)
If you look across the indie RPG world at FitM stakes resolution rules, you won't see an example of your proposed potential problem. I've never heard of it happening.
So, some games seem to have a focused enough concept to keep all the players on the same page regarding what the genre is and what kinds of issues will be addressed through play, and thus the characters they create are unlikely to be incompatible. But those games only work when I want a genre and CA that I game I own is tailored too.
When I try to get a game together using a system with a broader range of possible focus, I often see players design characters that seem incompatible for the same game. Now, this can be improved to some degree by creating characters as a group and communicating about goals for the game. But when I have tried this angle, I've run into the wall that not everyone is equally articulate or even aware regarding goals for the game.
What kind of help could system provide? Have you seen any techniques that are good for making people aware of these issues and getting them all on the same page before play starts?
What do you think about systems that allow the stakes in a conflict to be one of the characters emotions or behavior? On one hand, they seem to interfere with the ability of the manipulated character's player to address premise, on the other hand, they might be useful for addressing issues such as manipulation, trust, betrayal, or love.
CMT go "By the way"*
VB go "Sure thing."
I run a lot of games, and play in a few, and I find understanding this design theory helps me do both better. Furthermore, I frequently tweak existing systems or design simple systems from scratch when I run games, which isn't maybe as serious as designing a game for public consumption, but seems to use the same principles, just with further constraints set by either the game system I'm working from, or the time limitations of making something from scratch for just a single game. I might be designing one of these mini-systems for a three session game in a couple of months.
I also have some ideas for more serious projects, but I'm not sure I'm ready to make the time commitment to do them well, and I only have the kernel of ideas, so I'm not sure how to get started. I'm kind of hoping further inspiration will come if I let the ideas percolate a little more. But they aren't a really active project right now, more something on the back burner.
VB go "Cool! Thanks."
Isk go "How to get started:"*
2 questions. (And, yeah, they're about Sim. Stuff happens.)
Sorry to start with religion again, but... there's a zen buddhist point of view; which contends that human drama is a bunch of overwrought monkey-chatter/ best to be transcended, not basked-in. Instead, blatantly 'empty' activities are advocated: "chop wood, carry water."
Monks often seclude themselves & collaboratively deny "theme" keeping silent and choosing rote ritual over interpersonal fireworks.
I'm talking about choosing a Sim path, not stumbling into it.
Given your affinity for Narr, Vincent-- I'm wondering if you think ALL Sim 'monks' are on a preposterous path, not worth taking. Or just the players who stumble into Sim's anti-theme rituals/ without understanding what they're missing out on?
In dance class, I ape the motions of the choreographer. Same in martial arts class: I'm in a receptive stance. I'm tempted to call this Pupil Stance (or Student Stance?, or Mimic Stance?) For a competent professional dancer, it isn't about mastering a learning curve. They don't need to prove themselves. Instead, it's about absorbing the nuance of unfamiliar movement. And it's still fun to do the dances, after they're familiar. Is this plain-old Sim/ or have I pinpointed an actual new stance here?
Curly go "(or Sponge Stance, or Yoga Stance?)"
Curly go "And no"*
Curly: Given your affinity for Narr, Vincent-- I'm wondering if you think ALL Sim 'monks' are on a preposterous path, not worth taking.
I'm not sure I can piece your real question out of your religious metaphor. Best I can, it's something like "do you, Vincent, think that people who knowingly reject thematic play can nevertheless be fulfilled by their roleplaying?"
The answer is that I hope everyone's basically happy.
But press me and I'll get into it with you, so let's pretend you've pressed me:
I have no confidence that you've successfully divorced thematic play from play using some of a certain body of techniques in your head. My concern with your question is that I'll say "sure, people can be fulfilled even if they knowingly reject thematic play" and you'll think I'm talking about director stance or scene framing or formal situation mechanics. You'll be like, "I've knowingly rejected Dogs in the Vineyard, thus I've knowingly rejected thematic play, thus my play is simulationist" - when in fact all you've knowingly rejected is one narrow approach to thematic play, and the thematic-or-not nature of your play is still unestablished.
Show me the people who've rejected thematic play, NOT who've rejected a particular approach to thematic play, and NOT who've rejected a particular way to talk about thematic play, and THEN we can talk about whether they're fulfilled by their roleplaying. I've never seen it, myself - I've never seen anybody have fun roleplaying when they weren't making thematic statements. That they didn't happen to identify what they were doing as "making thematic statements" isn't relevant a'tall.
Curly go "Thanks"
VB go "hey, Curley -"*
VB go "also, I spell your handle wrong!"
Curly: In dance class, I ape the motions of the choreographer. Same in martial arts class: I'm in a receptive stance. I'm tempted to call this Pupil Stance (or Student Stance?, or Mimic Stance?) For a competent professional dancer, it isn't about mastering a learning curve. They don't need to prove themselves. Instead, it's about absorbing the nuance of unfamiliar movement. And it's still fun to do the dances, after they're familiar. Is this plain-old Sim/ or have I pinpointed an actual new stance here?
I don't see that you're talking about roleplaying, so there's nothing I can say about stance.
In general, I don't find the stances interesting at all. They're obsolete. Finding a new stance would just mean pointing at a previously unnoticed cluster of who gets to say what about what, under what circumstance. Who cares? They all fit comfortably within who gets to say what about what, no need to give every possible arrangement its own name.
Curly go "GenCon & Actual Play"*
MS go "You are not alone."*
Tim: How concious are you in applying all the theory to a new design? Where do you start, and what checks do you do along the way to make sure that what you're doing does what you want it to in play?
Extremely conscious. That's what the theorizing is for. If I weren't using it at every single stage in my design, I'd stop doing it.
I start with my mantra: fit character, fit opposition, no way out but through, escalate escalate escalate, crisis, climax, resolution.
About checks: there's a skill you learn, which is to visualize actual play of whatever procedure you're designing. You learn to approach your procedure impartially, visualizing how it'll actually play, not how you hope it'll actually play. Cultivate that skill. I don't know how to cultivate it except to practice: imagine how it'll go, try it, did it go how you imagined? Keep practicing until you're reliably able to predict what'll happen.
As I design I'm constantly imagining my non-gamer friends or my rules-hostile gamer friends. My first check is "could I explain to Meg what to do and why to do it?" If I don't imagine I could, I revise. Next is, "if I explain this to Meg, will she want to do it?" If I don't imagine she will, I revise. Only THEN do I bother to imagine how it'll actually play.
And of course real playtesting is the only way to know.
Collin: What do you think about systems that allow the stakes in a conflict to be one of the characters emotions or behavior? On one hand, they seem to interfere with the ability of the manipulated character's player to address premise, on the other hand, they might be useful for addressing issues such as manipulation, trust, betrayal, or love.
...I run a lot of games, and play in a few, and I find understanding this design theory helps me do both better. Furthermore, I frequently tweak existing systems or design simple systems from scratch when I run games...
It wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn that, in your experience, staking the character's emotions or behavior in a conflict messes with the player's ability to address premise. That's ...mmm... broadly consistent with my experience too.
But it's clearly not an in-principle thing, it's clearly just a matter of how games are generally structured.
For instance, in almost every Primetime Adventures session I've ever played, there's at least one conflict like "what's at stake is, does my character throw him out of the house or let him stay?" This would be a terrible disaster in lots of games, but in PTA it works just fine.
My overall practical advice would be: use emotional manipulation mechanics only when they're exactly what your design requires.
Someone out there, I forget precisely who, has what he calls his "stealth gaming group." It's like 10 or 20 people. He sends around an email, like "this week: we playtest Bliss Stage," and whoever's interested, shows. So there's no expectation that everyone plays every game, and whoever's interested in running a game usually gets a few players.
I think that's the kind of thing people mean, but why "stealth" gaming? No idea.
MW go "I think it's the lack of overt planning."
BL go "It's James Brown"*
VB go "ah, James, that's right."
JB go "yup, 'tis me"*
I haven't seen so much (b) in the past year, now that you mention it; maybe we're getting somewhere.
You get to character-as-avatar by taking too literally the "space" metaphor. There is (or there used to be) a certain kind of physics-emulationist technical agenda whose adherants are (or were) very prone to this.
I say "shared imagined space" and they say (or said) "right! Your character is your representative in that space, and your game rules are its physics!" As though there were a space somewhere wherein your character was really walking around and doing things, bound by gravity and +1 to hit.
Makes me CRAZY.
But like I say, maybe all those people are gone now and the world's a better place.
JHK go "They are out there."*
JJWH go "Well, it makes ME think..."*
Me again, I'm still trying to get a handle on your response to the last question. When I see this:
I start with my mantra: fit character, fit opposition, no way out but through, escalate escalate escalate, crisis, climax, resolution.
I think "OK!" And when I look at say Dogs, all those components are clear. But what did it start from, and how many iterations did it go through? I guess I want to know more about your process. It's sort of an unfair question I guess, in that you've already answered it in a general sense. I can see it from the 50000ft view, but when I'm digging in my own holes I find myself losing sight of it. Does that just take practice?
Troy: "Is there a Reward System in Dogs in the Vineyard for the GM?"
Well, let's see. The GM is certainly a full participant in the game's reward cycle. And the GM is rewarded the same way the players are when NPCs escalate. But the GM isn't rewarded by fallout the way the players are. BUT, the GM craves resolution of the town just as badly as the players do, possibly more badly - resolution of the town is a tangible reward for everyone.
Can a group playing in a Gamist agenda examine a moral crisis at the same time? Or does that slam it into a Narrativist agenda? Or am I just speaking way too much in generalities for you to give a precise answer?
Troy: "Can a group playing in a Gamist agenda examine a moral crisis at the same time? Or does that slam it into a Narrativist agenda? Or am I just speaking way too much in generalities for you to give a precise answer?"
1) I can read your question thusly: can gamist play address premise? The answer is: no. I mean, monkeys might fly out my butt, too, but don't hold your breath waiting.
2) Or I can read it thusly: can play with moral content fuel step on up? The answer is: I expect so, but I'm not the guy to ask. It'd mean that the moral content is compelling primarily for, I dunno, who gets to answer it, not for what the answers turn out to be. A Trivial Pursuit of the conscience; a game about morality where you don't judge, you win.
3) Or thusly: can crunchy tactical play address premise? The answer is: yes, absolutely. What you're doing there is conflating a crunchy, tactical technical agenda with a gamist creative agenda.
Cues are anything that exists in the real world that the players call upon as they're deciding what happens in the game. Words and numbers on character sheets, dice, life stones, tarot cards, passages in the game book, maps, drawings. If you point to it, it's a cue.
Before Emily called them "cues," I was just calling them "real-world stuff." Cues is a) better and b) exactly right.
I'm having a little trouble reconciling IIEE and Fortune mechanics. Fortune in the Middle I think I have down no problem. But what about Fortune at the Begining? Where in the IIEE scheme of things does the roll hit the table? Is it still in the Initiation phase?
SLB go "Fortune at the Beginning is a chimera"*
Troy: "I'm having a little trouble reconciling IIEE and Fortune mechanics. Fortune in the Middle I think I have down no problem. But what about Fortune at the Begining? Where in the IIEE scheme of things does the roll hit the table? Is it still in the Initiation phase?"
"In the middle" and "at the end" don't position fortune in IIEE at all, in any way, ever, no matter what.
"In the middle" and "at the end" position fortune in the real-world decision-making process. Do you make mechanical decisions after you roll? Then it's fortune in the middle. Do you not? Then it's fortune at the end. (You can't roll before you make any mechanical decisions, since "I'm going to roll" is a mechanical decision, thus there's no fortune at the beginning.)
IIEE is all about the in-game, what the characters are doing at the moment of the roll, what in-game information do you establish before you roll and what do you wait to establish until after you've rolled. What IN-GAME information.
If you're a visual thinker, this might help:
We can come up with examples of FitM vs. FatE at every point in IIEE, if you're still struggling.
TC go "Makes Good Sense..."*
JCL go "I disagree about Fortune in the Beginning."*
VB go "JCL: fair enough."
Actually, V., I'd kinda like those examples. (... and though I think IIEE is a valuable concept, I think the term is just terribly hard to understand) Tell me what of this makes sense to you:
Intent: FitM; A game of politics, where changing minds is the currency. You clash whenever someone wants to do something you don't want them to do, so you roll and allocate dice toward what the character feels. FatE; first, you do all your court stuff freeform, then modifiers are set when the players want their characters to consider a course of action.
Initiation: FitM; A duel system where the moves you have available are dictated by the die roll. FatE; choose your maneuver from the list on your character sheet (... and roll for success under Execution).
Execution: FitM; you roll the dice and determine from them what your character can do this turn. FatE; you do something, then roll dice to see if it happens.
Effect: FitM; roll based on the effects you want and can ask for, then choose the effects you want. FatE:Decide what you want to happen, then roll dice to see if it happens.
I don't know if any of this is too terribly accurate, though it feels OK.
Troy, there are a lot of arrows. Consider that you can have a cycle of I1, Fortune, I2, Fortune, E1, Fortune, E2, Fortune if you want. You can take Fortune out of any of those spots, and as long as at least one remains, you still have a resolution system.
Shock: 0.2.0 is pretty explicit about this, actually.
Wow! That helps even more! That is a very useful post. Mind if I quote it some time? My origonal question had to do with a Fortune in the Begining resolution system. But the more I read what you wrote, Vincent and Ninja J, the more I see how it all works. Thanks to both both you for clearing that up for me. It answers exactly what needed.
I've always had a hard time understanding the term "Scene Framing". I'm sure that I probably do this, but I don't understand how the term is used by people and what it means for game design. Could you explain to me what is meant by "Scene Framing"?
Framing a scene just means saying where they are, who's "they," what time is it, what's going on - y'know, what's the scene, what's the sitch, what's up - and then calling the scene done when it's done.
So scene framing rules would a) determine who gets to say those things, and b) put constraints on what they get to say.
"The GM gets to say things like 'okay, that night, during Thuldar's watch, three guys sneak out of the bushes...' and 'while you're trying to get to the 7-11, Mitch, your car breaks down, and there you are by the side of the road...'" is a scene framing rule, I daresay the most common scene framing rule in roleplaying today.
"You can spend a coin to say 'fade to black,' ending the scene. The other players can contest this as usual" is a scene framing rule too. So is "the player says where the scene takes place, who's present at its start, and whether it's a Plot Scene or a Character Scene; the GM takes this input and opens the scene with a few establishing sentences." So is "you can spend one Spiff point to bring any named NPC you want into the scene, as the GM is establishing it."
As a designer, if you don't design scene framing rules, your players will almost certainly default to "the GM gets to say..."
AJF go "Is this where its at for playerless play?"*
VB go "scene framing rules are the new frontier, for sure."*
I think I know the answer, but I thought it would be interesting to ask anyway;
"Thematic play where the players participate in creating the theme" = narrativist play.
Recalling an earlier essay of yours, the theme is composed of three parts, right? The question, the answer, and the result. Like;
Is duty more important than family? Duty is way more important than family. Choosing family over duty contributes to the collapse of one's government and the loss of family anyway.
If I've got all that right then it would follow that narrativist play could result from the players creating all or just some of the theme. That is, some games already do the first part for you. They ask the question and then you get to answer it. Sometimes the game even encourages you to talk about the result.
What seemed interesting to me, and the reason why I made this post, to make sure I was on the same page, is that it seems like it would be interesting to play with what part of the theme the game text does and does not provide for you before you sit down to play.
SDL go "Interesting..."*
ERP go "Um, yeah..."*
VB go "yeah, you got me."*
CS go "Sort of a mystery?"*
BL go "Play Polaris"*
Ethan: Roleplaying's a literary dramatic form, like the novel, the comic strip, or the poem. As such, it concerns itself with characters, situation, setting, color, and its own set of techniques. What distinguishes roleplaying - that is, face to face roleplaying - from other forms, including computer roleplaying games, choose your own adventures, and interactive fiction, is the fact that the process by which it happens is the ongoing informed agreement of its participants.
WMW go "So you don't see ephemerality as an important component?"
VB go "insofar as I do..."*
VAX go "Ephemerality"*
FSF go "I love this definition"*
Looking at roleplaying as a literary form makes sense to me on one level - as a creation of meaningful thematic content through the use of the elements of exploration. And the "ongoing informed agreement" part makes sense. What I'm not sure I get is where the other major difference between roleplaying and the other forms mentioned is reflected.
The roleplaying game is not only reflexive - "ongoing informed agreement" and all that - but also ephemeral. There is no product, no artifact that can be shared by anyone other than the creators. Now, I know, you can be all post-modern and say that that's true for other forms of literature, but it seems to me a meaningful difference. What we create in roleplaying is just for us, right here at this table. Where's that stand in your conception of rp, Vincent?
Yeah, Mark, that's how I understood you. "Ongoing informed agreement" rules out non-ephemeral forms. That is, when you introduce any distance between creator and audience, you no longer have the possibility of ongoing informed agreement; instead, you split the participants very really into creator and audience.
I am not an art theoretician! I am talking out my butt!
ethan go "Dude."*
VB go "VERY SLOWDBLUY"
XP go "You take a pencil"*
VB go "transcripts and stuff..."*
DY go "But the Original Participants"*
Then I squawk. In what way is that "literary", a word that "literally" means "written"? And no, I'm not just splitting definitional hairs. I think talking about the product/process of roleplaying through the literary metaphor is potentially really misleading. The whole point of the literary endeavor is to produce a thing that conveys meaning to an audience.
Because there is no expectation of a separate audience, the aesthetic constraints on what makes "good art" at the roleplaying table are significantly different than they are for any other literary or artistic form, with the possible exception of some performing arts.
I think this is pretty strongly connected to what Brand was saying a while back about the whole "is it art?" question.
Yeah, and "literary" excludes TV and film etc. too.
Well, in my first draft I wrote "a form of fiction," not "a literary form," but I balked at excluding nonfiction. Do we have a word for "concerned with character, setting, situation, color and its own body of techniques" that's independent of medium and that doesn't distinguish between "true" and "made up"?
WMW go "Heh. We do, but it's colonized."*
IJC go "drama"*
VB go "roleplaying is a dramatic form..."*
I'm having a discussion with a friend of mine, let's call him Jeff, who's an actor, heavily involved with improvisational theatre. We've been talking about the kind of theatre he does (where the audience is, in fact, often involved, but the words "ongoing" and "informed" are tenuous), and we've been trying to compare it to roleplaying.
I have maintained all along that he's essentially in an RPG with these people, all without any of them realizing it. Am I right?
Here's an example of what they do: they develop their characters with the director of the performance ahead of time, they collaboratively write scenes involving the characters, or at least decide situation, and (often involving the audience when there is one) play it out on stage.
If they are unknowingly roleplaying, what other groups can we say are doing things within Vincent's definition? If they aren't, what's the difference?
DY go "About Ephemerality"*
WMW go "I'm not either"*
RC go "No game."*
WJW go "What's a game?"*
RC go "Yeah, what /is/ a "game"?"*
BL go "I think the classification of game or not is largely immaterial"*
BL go "Oops!"*
JAW go "What is the goal of an RPG?"*
BL go "JAW -- Yes!"*
MCM go "Improv is absolutely roleplaying."*
A game is, y'know, like Monopoly, Chess, Bridge, Red Rover Red Rover, Eat Poo You Cat, Jungle Speed, Virtua Fighter, Charades, In The Well, Nomic, Sorcerer, Bunko, Football, Final Fantasy VII, that Tron game with the laser motorcycles, Civilization II, Super Mario Bros, the fighty game, Fastlane, those "new games" hippies came up with with parachutes and giant rubber balls, Knots, Solitaire, Idiot's Delight, Hearts, Hockey, the knife thing that the android does in Aliens, Formula Dé, Model UN, the World Game that Emily can tell us about, Tai Chi, Truth or Dare, De Profundis, The Game (which I just lost, dammit), and German-style sword deuling whatever the name of that was.
I'm pretty sure that Dave's actor friends are covered.
DY go "Covered by game, or RPG specifically?"
AJF go "I just lost the game too."
VB go "DY: if they're roleplaying..."*
VB go "AJF: I don't think..."*
SLB go "NinJ: Wow. Cool link."
BL go "Taiji?"*
VB go "Ben, sure, why not?"*
mneme go "Game==RPG?"*
VB go "I defined roleplaying a couple posts up."
A game is any diversion (an activity or occupation with no direct bearing on necessity), mental physical or both, that involves behavior along a certain set of established rules or guidelines...is what I think.
NinJ go "Neccessity ?????a deep hole"*
NinJ go "Political elections"*
mneme go "pretend is a game"*
SLB go "Not all human activity is conflict."*
A while back, probably before you did that big facelift to the site, you had a post about the things that you felt were necessary to compose a complete RPG. I was digging for that list and couldn't find it. I think it was really good stuff and I was hoping you could either point it out for us or possibly re-author it.
Mark W: What's color good for? More specifically, how is it important/how can it be made important without turning it into situation/system/etc.?
Color is the concrete details of character, setting, situation and system.
What might be going on is that you're accustomed to thinking of a character's color as the character, etc.
Here's a character (with a hint of situation): a person having an illicit affair.
Here's the character, colored in: a man in his early 30s, well-off, married, educated, owning property, childless, having an illicit affair with another man, with whom he is not in love.
Here's a setting for him: a city with a substantial economic gap between its rich and its poor.
Here's the setting, colored in: London in the early 1700s.
So your concern - how do we make color important without turning it into character, setting, situation, system? - is groundless. Color is important, it's what makes character, setting, situation and system real.
WMW go "Let me tip my hand a little"*
Clinton: When do you know a game design just isn't going to work? At what point in the design process do you say, "Ok, fun experiment, but, you know, time to pull the life support."
Well, for me it's when it's been months and months since I thought about it, and then I happen onto it again, and I'm embarrassed by what I'd done. If I'm not embarrassed, hell, who knows, maybe I'll resuscitate the bastard.
Either that or when I've used so many of its ideas elsewhere that it's like a picked-over carcass, useless.
Sometimes I threaten to chuck a game mid-design, or while I'm at it chuck the whole stupid unrewarding endeavor OF game design, but that never works out for me.
I refuse to believe that Face of Angels isn't going to work, by the way.
What is it about play in which each player has a primary character that you like? You've said that you prefer this style of play (although you'd like to mix it up a bit more) over play in which player and character are less well connected. Why?
I may be running Dogs shortly. One of the things that confuses me about Dogs is the question of congruity between player morality and character morality. Now, for example, the culture in the setting is fairly strongly patriarchal, so a Steward who decides that he should treat his wife as an equal in handling the Stewardship of the faithful is fairly obviously following false doctrine according to the description of the Faith, but the decision over whether it really is false doctrine falls entirely to the Dogs.
This is fine.
Now, should the players have their Dogs judge based on the morality one imagines such a character in such a setting, who has undergone extensive training in the particulars of the Faith, might have, or should the players use their Dogs to make their own moral judgments about the world of the game, in which case we probably end up with a pack of feminist Dogs supporting egalitarian doctrine as though it were the established doctrine of the Faith. Do they have that power, or do they have to act covertly? Do you assume that there are other Dogs out there who are not PCs who's morality is congruent with the faith, who might be the next ones through a town that the Dogs have allowed to drift into an egalitarian faith, who are going to drag that Demoniacally influenced Steward and his wife out into the street and gun them both down, or do you assume that the world stops at the edge of the game? Even for a one-shot, it seems to me that those questions would come up in epilogue, even if they have no way of coming up in game.
Any answer to those questions seems fine, so long as it is somewhat consistent within the party. So, who decides which version you are playing? It seems to me that a frequent way for Dogs games to run (from what I've read of Actual Play Reports) is for the Dogs themselves to fall out over the moral questions, and end up gunning each other down. Frequently, the questions they split over seem to be questions where one player has their character accept the Faith's morality, and another player has their character react with modern liberal morality. Now those games in which nearly everyone ends up dead seem to be fun enough, but they basically mean there is no build from one session to another.
So either one of each of those decisions seems viable to me, but an incoherent mix of them doesn't (particularly for play lasting longer than a single session, where it becomes a little more important that the Dogs not end up gunning each other down half way through the first session).
Is this an issue you recognize, or am I off in the weeds here? If it is one you recognize, how do you recommend resolving it? Pre-game discussions? Avoiding making the moral dilemmas ones where my friends morality conflicts with 19th Mormon morality?
As long as everyone plays a Dog whose first loyalty is to the actual suffering people of the towns they're visiting, moral codes don't matter. Confronted with the pain and problems of a town, they'll find common ground and not shoot each other.
If you've got two crusaders of opposite stripe instead, yeah, that can go bad. Take comfort from the fact that if it goes bad, it'll be because Barry and Kim are going to be replaying, in concentrated form, the essential struggle of America's transition to modernity.
On the GM's side, though, choosing your issues is not at all the same thing as pulling your punches, and there's nothing wrong with choosing issues where the 21st century and the 19th agree. Love triangles, child abuse and neglect, a husband leaving his wife in the lurch, rape, robber barony, the Faithful attacking and robbing the Mountain People - those are hard-hitting issues the PCs will broadly agree about.
(If you read something else in this space a few minutes ago, yeah, I edited it, it was poorly considered.)