2006-10-02 : Conflict resolution sans stakes
Once upon a time there was this guy. He was loyal, he was smart, he was effective with violence, and he really wanted to be with this one woman. He was played by Bruce Willis. There were also these bad-ass villains who weren't what they seemed, and their ruthless plan came between him and the woman in question. So he undertook to use his smarts, his violence, and his will to defeat them. He'd have to figure out who they really were, who he could trust and who he couldn't, where to apply violence and where to run away, and then follow through without misstepping to do it.
(You should recognize this as a passionate character locked into conflict across the line of his passion, fit to take on his fit opposition. You should get that we'll escalate, escalate, escalate to crisis and resolution and that's a story. If you don't, go read my old piece about Creating Theme, and if you still don't, say so in Ask a Frequent Question, not in this thread.)
So Bruce Willis' character, this woman, and these bad-ass villains, right, and it's you, me and Mitch playing a roleplaying game. We've got a bowlful of dice on the table. The question confronting us, right now and urgently, is: can the villains win? Can they really beat Bruce Willis' character at investigation, deception and violence? If they can, it makes sense to roll dice for them. If they can't, it doesn't. So can they?
If you're playing Die Hard, they can't. (I could make it a study question: list at least 3 dysfunctional behaviors required when you're playing Die Hard but you roll dice for the villains anyway.)
Die Hard isn't the only possible movie you're playing, though. There's also 12 Monkeys, right? Same setup, opposite outcome: he doesn't beat the villains and doesn't get to be with the woman. There's Last Man Standing, too, with the same setup and another different opposite outcome: he beats the villains, but only after they good and prevent him from being with the woman (by killing her).
NOW it makes sense to roll dice for the villains. You roll dice for the villains to find out which movie you're playing. When we created that opening situation and started play, we didn't know whether this was one where Bruce Willis' character wins, or one where Bruce Willis' character loses. We still don't know; we won't know until the end.
In fact, we know even less than that. I can't think of a movie off the top of my head, but what if Bruce Willis' character turns out to not even be a hero? What if we take the same setup and because of the dice it turns out, quite organically, that he doesn't deserve her? He's too cruel, too cold; it gradually dawns on us that we aren't seeing how far he'll go for love and loyalty, but how far he'll go to preserve his sense of entitlement, how far he'll go to own her. (It wasn't Bruce Willis, but didn't Memento turn out this way?)
This is, if you ask me, one of the essential beauties of narrativist roleplaying as a fictional form. I would not love the medium as much as I do without this feature.
It's also something that lots of people get, without analysis, and intuitively dislike. Character death is one of its manifestations; I suggest that part of your* discomfort with the idea of dice-imposed character death is discomfort with the idea of not knowing what genre you're playing in.
Ron talks about this in Sorcerer as the sorcerer's story's four possible outcomes, by the way. I find that game and its supplements consistently rewarding to read and reread.
* I leave it to you individually to self-select into or out of "your." If you individually don't feel discomfort with the idea of dice-imposed character death, groovy. Obviously I'm talking to someone else.
1. On 2006-10-02, PaulCzege said:
2. On 2006-10-02, Vincent said:
3. On 2006-10-02, Ben Lehman said:
4. On 2006-10-02, Vincent said:
5. On 2006-10-02, Guy Shalev said:
6. On 2006-10-02, Troy_Costisick said:
7. On 2006-10-02, Kirk Mitchell said:
8. On 2006-10-02, Jye Nicolson said:
9. On 2006-10-03, Valamir said:
10. On 2006-10-03, Kirk Mitchell said:
11. On 2006-10-03, Curly said:
12. On 2006-10-03, sammy said:
13. On 2006-10-03, Vincent said:
14. On 2006-10-03, James Nostack said:
15. On 2006-10-03, Sydney Freedberg said:
16. On 2006-10-03, Sydney Freedberg said:
17. On 2006-10-03, Kirk Mitchell said:
18. On 2006-10-03, Neel said:
19. On 2006-10-03, Matt Wilson said:
20. On 2006-10-03, Vincent said:
21. On 2006-10-04, V. Micheal Ryan said:
22. On 2006-10-04, sammy said:
23. On 2006-10-04, sammy said:
24. On 2006-10-04, Ian Burton-Oakes said:
25. On 2006-10-04, Vincent said:
26. On 2006-10-04, NinJ said:
27. On 2006-10-04, Charles Perez said:
28. On 2006-10-04, Vincent said:
29. On 2006-10-04, Vincent said:
30. On 2006-10-04, Joel P. Shempert said:
31. On 2006-10-05, Rev. Raven Daegmorgan said:
32. On 2006-10-05, Vincent said:
33. On 2006-10-05, jmac said:
34. On 2006-10-05, John Harper said:
35. On 2006-10-09, Mike Masters said:
36. On 2006-10-09, Vincent said:
37. On 2006-10-09, Mike Masters said:
38. On 2006-10-09, Lisa Padol said:
39. On 2006-10-10, Vincent said:
40. On 2006-10-17, Brand Robins said: