2008-01-07 : Another year's worth

When last we left me...

Since then:
Sorcerer, yes indeed, at last.
Then Dreamation, whereat I played some Dogs in the Vineyard (and some Mechaton, but if I were counting Mechaton we'd be here all day).
Then I played The Mountain Witch, but in pre-WWI Europe.
Then I played Psi*Run.
Meanwhile I played playtest sessions of Firestorm: Battle for the Slave Planet, Rock:, Steal Away Jordan, Miss Schiffer's School for Young Ladies of Quality, Poison'd, and more Sign In Stranger.
Then I played Shooting the Moon.
Then GenCon, whereat I played D&D, Adventures in the Land of 1000 Kings, Poison'd, and Ganakagok.
Then Tony Dowler solved my last In a Wicked Age design problem and I played it a lot.
Then I played more D&D.
Then I played Primetime Adventures again, concurrent with most of what follows.
Then a couple of playtest sessions of Red Sky A.M.
Then I didn't quite play my Ars Magica hack, an awful lot.
Then JiffyCon, whereat I played more In a Wicked Age, plus InSpectres.
Then I played a dangerously sexy playtest session of Mispent Youth, which I mean to write about still.
Then I played a session of In a Wicked Space Age.

And up next? I don't really know. If it were up to me alone I'd get to play Space Poison'd, Beowulf, more Red Sky A.M., some Storming the Wizard's Tower - and come to look at it, my list is made up entirely of games of my own design (with significant Joshua-age in Beowulf). I'd like to propose that it's because they're all active in my mind where they're easy to find, not because I'm fundamentally selfish.

1. On 2008-01-07, Vincent said:

Hey I made good and wrote about our Mispent Youth game: [Mispent Youth] Five predictions about Rebekah, Molly and Larry.

Meg, Julia, Rob, come dispute with me about the probabilities I assigned.


2. On 2008-01-07, Meguey said:

I didn't so much dispute as chime in. I should do a list like this someday.


3. On 2008-01-08, Julia said:

Maybe we could corner Rob at Dreamation and ask persuasively for a second round.


4. On 2008-01-08, Gregor said:

Red Sky A.M. ... blinks ... I'm really looking forward to that one.


5. On 2008-01-09, misuba said:

Seconded on Red Sky. Do tell?


6. On 2008-01-09, Vincent said:

Add a playtest session of Synthia post-Jiffycon.

Red Sky A.M. is a space marine game. It's fun. I have some design decisions to make about it, mostly about how much space marine color I'm going to provide up-front vs procedures for making up your own space marine color.

Let's see. I believe that the last time I posted publically about it was here: 2005-09-21 : The Red Sky A.M. Fishbowl.

Taking its sweet time, yes it is.


7. On 2008-02-05, Christopher Kubasik said:

How did the Sorcerer game go?


8. On 2008-02-06, Vincent said:

It went mixed.

It really highlighted to me the creative differences in our group. Like, which of us really prefer characters to be likable, and which don't; which of us prefer what kind of provocation from our rules; which of us want to choose the broad arc of the story and which of us want it to choose us. (GNS-heads: I mean our creative differences within our shared creative agenda.) Most of the time, our creative differences are at worst something we compromise about - more often they're a source of good dynamic friction. I can say more about that if anybody's interested.

But with Sorcerer, there was no compromise, and no playing off each others' different creativities. I don't know if it was partly where we were at, or if it was all uncompromising Sorcerer - dunno. Could be all Sorcerer.

Anyway, the result was that Julia and I had fun, Meg and I had a little fun, Em and I had functional non-fun, and J and I had nonfunctional non-fun, until a half hour of extreme fastforward basically after the game had ended. (I was the GM.)


9. On 2008-02-06, Christopher Kubasik said:

"I can say more about that if anybody's interested."
I'm interested!

I notice the fun was between you (as the GM) and each individual Player.  So there was no creative kibitzing between the Players?  (That usually happens when I play—social, creative kibitzing.)

I realize that isn't the same thing as having rules that bring Players together to find/build creative compromises.  That's the distinction you're talking about, yes?

And I'm sad to hear people had non-fun. I hate it when that happens.

Oh, one more thing: the "likable" characters.  Is that the people felt their characters weren't likable, or that they didn't like other people at the table playing characters they didn't find likable.  (And how does this fit in with, say, these same people playing Poison'd?)




10. On 2008-02-06, Vincent said:

Good question, "so there was no creative kibitzing between the Players?"

Rules to bring us to compromise isn't really what I'm talking about, no. I'll try this: you know how Sorcerer has rules about protagonists that are both particular and uncompromising? We didn't all buy into them.

I hope nobody's offended by my analysis here:

Julia was psyched. She played by Sorcerer's rules and she got a Sorcerer protagonist.

Meg, Emily and Joshua all resisted Sorcerer's rules, to various extents. Emily least, Joshua most ("you mean I have to choose powers for my demon? But ... I don't want to! This reads like Champions, which I hate! Why can't I define my demon's powers in play? ... And what do you mean I have to fight to defend my character's relevance? Why is my character's relevance even at issue?")

Emily buckled under and played a Sorcerer protagonist by the rules, but didn't enjoy it a bit.

Meg played a non-protagonist, and was happy to do it. She played a fun-scary high-level supporting cast person. She had to skirt around Sorcerer's rules to do it.

Joshua didn't buckle under, hated his character, disliked the rules, and couldn't wait for the game to end.

So, of course there was lots of kibitzing. We're very social players. But because of the general creative incohesion, Julia's kibitzing (for instance) didn't help Joshua, and Joshua's didn't help Meg, and so on. Nobody really got what anybody else was doing, so nobody could really help anybody do it.

The likability thing - it was as big a problem that Joshua made his character so unremittingly unlikable as that Meg wanted so badly to like hers. Julia and Emily were willing to play their characters and find out how likable they'd turn out to be; Meg and Joshua both resisted that in their own ways.

And, yeah, this group hasn't played Poison'd together. They've all played it, but not all at once, and I don't have any desire to change that. I'll play Poison'd with Julia anytime, with Em when she wants to, with Meg under certain very limited circumstances (only if she'll play a pirate with a Soul of 6 who WILL become captain and WILL keep the rest of the crew in line - I don't think Meg can enjoy the game otherwise), and with Joshua probably never.

This isn't a big deal! Shock: is the same way for us, with different people in the various slots. I expect Meg's new game to be the same way too. We can play lots of games together happily, but not all.


11. On 2008-02-07, Christopher Kubasik said:

Hi Vincent,

Thanks for the answer. That all makes sense.

Another question, if you don't mind and have the time.

You are a game designer, and I—am not.  So you're going to look under the hood of the rules more than I do.

I'm curious about what you mean by "Sorcerer has rules about protagonists that are both particular and uncompromising?"

I'm not questioning whether it's true or not.  I've just never seen them that way.

Also: Relevance.  People have to defend their PC's relevance? I might have done this without thinking about it, but what does this mean? If I've been doing it (or have forced by players to do it) I'd like more insight on that.



12. On 2008-02-09, Vincent said:

I'll try! I think "particular and uncompromising?" and "defend relevance?" are the same question.

In Shock:, if you lose a conflict, you get points that make it more likely you'll win future conflicts. Every setback is guaranteed momentary. In Sorcerer, if you lose a conflict, you go into the next one at a disadvantage. It's possible in Sorcerer to lose and lose and lose. This by itself isn't what I'm talking about, but it's an example of what I'm talking about - this little mechanical difference represents a philosophical difference between the games, incompatible constructions of the player's role in creating the shape of the game's fiction. I mean that this difference is borne out over the whole of play, it's not just a blip.

Hm. Ron once wrote something about how the sorcerer is always the john, and the demon is always the hooker, but which one is the other's bitch? You play the game to find out.

In Shock: (and a variety of other games, Primetime Adventures' philosophical children), your PC will be the bitch or not depending entirely on how you choose to portray her. You don't have to fight for it, it's your choice, and you never have to play the bitch if you don't want to.

In Sorcerer, on the other hand, your PC will be her demon's bitch unless you somehow win otherwise.

Who gets to decide if your character's a good person? Who gets to decide if your character's sympathetic? In Shock:, you do, and the game's system is there to back you up. In Sorcerer, you don't, the game's system is there to do it, and you have to deal with that.

In our Sorcerer game, Meg wanted to play a sympathetic character no matter what awful things she did, and she short-circuited the game's rules to do it. Joshua wanted to play an unsympathetic character no matter what grace the world offered him, and he short-circuited the game's rules to do it too.

Funnily enough, Meg's short-circuits were easier to accommodate and more fun to play around than Joshua's were.

Does any of this make sense? Did I answer your questions?


13. On 2008-02-10, Ron Edwards said:

I'll try to, by modifying what I'm reading.

Vincent wrote: "Who gets to decide if your character's a good person? Who gets to decide if your character's sympathetic? In Shock:, you do, and the game's system is there to back you up. In Sorcerer, you don't, the game's system is there to do it, and you have to deal with that."

I'd re-phrase the last sentence as "In Sorcerer, you don't, but you can try, and the game's system throws a monkey-wrench into your efforts. It's a real monkey-wrench, meaning that things can go much better or much worse. Outcomes are not controllable or negotiable in Sorcerer."

I think the contrast to Shock is valid and that this is definitely a style/mode thing, illustrating the tremendous diversity within the Narrativist CA.

Best, Ron


14. On 2008-02-10, Joshua said:

Hey, now! you have maybe 50% control over your Protag in Shock: By losing early you *influence* the outcome ??? and often the moral character of the Protag ?????but you actually have very little control.

Like, Vincent, your dude in the Clone Revolution ?????totally failed to become a good person, despite your use of the rules to your advantage.


15. On 2008-02-10, Vincent said:

I set him up for that, though. The other people at my table had accomplishment-oriented, not moral, story goals, and Shock:'s rules were there for them too.


16. On 2008-02-11, Joshua said:

Because that's the question you were asking about your character.

But you're right; if your guy's Story Goal is an external accomplishment, success and failure doesn't affect your Protagonisthood. But you can put that in the balance if you want. That's pretty interesting. I'd never thought about it that way.


17. On 2008-02-11, Ron Edwards said:

I was thinking more about this too and wondering if my comment wasn't unfair. It strikes me that Shock *can* support as-iffy protagonism as in Sorcerer, but the game isn't written in that fashion and my inclination, as a player, is always to rely on that PRO- prefix as a given thing. Much as in most movies, one doesn't have to grapple with the protagonism of the lead character, it's just there. That's not a bad thing at all, and I think (in application) it's one of Shock's strengths. The point is the issue, not the person, ultimately.

However, the opposite is a valid artistic option, if difficult and unsettling. Some films provide examples, and not surprisingly, they're the ones I often reference for Sorcerer: Live Flesh, Unforgiven, and like that.

Looking back over science fiction that I've known and loved, especially the real stuff (I make no apologies for saying that) which Shock is based on - or more accurately, DOES - I see that protagonism is quite solid and often very simple, and thus effective.

Whereas in the pulp, darker-marginal action, and offbeat horror sources for Sorcerer, the opposite tends to be the case.

Best, Ron


18. On 2008-02-11, Joshua said:

I was thinking more about this too and wondering if my comment wasn't unfair. It strikes me that Shock *can* support as-iffy protagonism as in Sorcerer, but the game isn't written in that fashion and my inclination, as a player, is always to rely on that PRO- prefix as a given thing. Much as in most movies, one doesn't have to grapple with the protagonism of the lead character, it's just there. That's not a bad thing at all, and I think (in application) it's one of Shock's strengths.

Ron, playing iffy Protags is one of the "Hacks" on page 66. Just like giving yourself a negative Story Goal. They're counterintuitive but robustly supported.

The point is the issue, not the person, ultimately.

Yep. And that's why it only matters if the Protag is clashing *about* the Issue, not which side zie's on or if zie's successful in that clash. Sometimes, it turns out your guy was just there to get crushed by history.

You do, however, get a say in what happens

Who gets to decide if your character's a good person? Who gets to decide if your character's sympathetic? In Shock:, you do, and the game's system is there to back you up. In Sorcerer, you don't, the game's system is there to do it, and you have to deal with that.

You should talk to Dave Cleaver about his Christian missionary on Europa. He made that guy as a villain and realized all too late that he was actually kind of a good guy doing good things. You don't get to decide, but you get a vote.


19. On 2008-02-11, Christopher Kubasik said:

I have now become confused.

Vincent writes:

"Who gets to decide if your character's a good person? Who gets to decide if your character's sympathetic? In Shock:, you do, and the game's system is there to back you up. In Sorcerer, you don't, the game's system is there to do it, and you have to deal with that."

Ron writes:

"In Sorcerer, you don't, but you can try, and the game's system throws a monkey-wrench into your efforts. It's a real monkey-wrench, meaning that things can go much better or much worse. Outcomes are not controllable or negotiable in Sorcerer."

Wait a minute.

The Player may not control the outcome of actions, but he can certainly choose how his or her PC behaves—and that's what determines whether someone is a good person.  Right?  How do the rules of Sorcerer rules determine whether the PC is a good person?

Caveats: Of course Sorcerer characters who are committed to doing a host of bad things—but they'll have to do good things too to avoid going to Humanity 0.

What are you guys talking about?


20. On 2008-02-11, Ron Edwards said:

Actually, I was thinking and writing a little too close to one another with both posts. There's something substantial in the dialogue, but what it is, and what it has to do with the mechanics, is eluding me.

The one thing I can tease out is the random factor in Humanity checks, such that it's possible for a string of Humanity-threatening or Humanity-enhancing acts *not* to result in the respective decreases and increases. But that's not the totality of what was cooking in my mind.

I'll just have to cook it more before posting further. This thread is clearly some kind of productive thought-provocation, though. I'll let you know when I get there.

Best, Ron


21. On 2008-02-11, Christopher Kubasik said:

Hi Ron,

I'm up for you taking your time.

And I, too, am intrigued with this thread: what makes a PC a "good person," what makes them sympathetic, defending a PC's relevance, and what all this has to do with the rules... I do believe there's something very interesting here, but I'm just not seeing it clearly yet.



22. On 2008-02-12, Christopher Kubasik said:

.... and add to the list in my post above the notion that players ended up playing PC's they didn't like or didn't want to play.

I can almost see how the game's base premise might lead people down this path (but I think this misses that crucial ingredient that the rules explicitly require: a protagonist we can get behind in one way or another.  Even Vic Mackey on The Shield has moments were we get behind him).

But if I'm understand Vincent's posts correctly, there seems to be something about the rules that forced people into this situation and I'd love to hear how this works/happened.



23. On 2008-02-12, Ron Edwards said:

Yeah, me too.

Cough it up, Vincent.

Best, Ron


24. On 2008-02-12, Vincent said:

But you've turned it all around! Sorcerer's rules were the victim of the situation!

So okay so check this out. In Shock: you write on your character sheet your story goal. Recently I wrote on my character sheet "I have a change of heart about this business of butchering clones for their organs." As you play, you aren't allowed to resolve that question until certain conditions come true, and most usually the condition that comes true that allows you to resolve the question is "it's your last turn! Time to resolve!"

Now if I'm playing your antagonist, that question drives my beef with you - like, my antagonist in that game played the hospital and my career and my children and everything in the world that wanted me to NOT have a change of heart about butchering clones.

Okay, right? At character creation time you write down the question your character's game will end with. The game's rules are built and designed for no purpose other than to get you there with a bang.

So here's Joshua creating his character for Sorcerer. He's been having general probs and irritation, and now he's struggling to create a kicker. Finally he comes up with one: "I get a new girlfriend."

Cool. I build my antagonism on that. I'm like, how's his demon feel about this new girlfriend? What's this new girlfriend's angle? How does she fit in with the other players' characters? How much grief WILL this make? (hint: a lot).

But I'm pretty sure now that what Joshua meant was "story goal: I get a new girlfriend." He had this picture in his head of how his character's story might go, and there was a new girlfriend at the end of it. Would he get her? Would getting her get him out of this crappy relationship with his demon? Let's find out!

So when I made his kicker be the start of the story instead of the end, when I gave him his new girlfriend in the opening scene, it totally borked his game.

(And in fact, in the last hour of the last session, on fast-forward, his guy dumped his new girlfriend, we played out the collapse of his relationship with his demon, and he found a NEW new girlfriend who WAS the resolution of his character's story.)

In order to play the game he wanted to play, like I said up top, J had to ditch out of playing Sorcerer. Sorcerer's rules didn't make the situation, the situation was J's (and Meg's and to a lesser degree Em's) reluctance to really play Sorcerer.

Now, is this related to "who decides whether your character's a good person? Who decides whether your character's sympathetic?" I think it is. I think that the difference between a story goal in Shock: and a kicker in Sorcerer isn't merely logistical, but has subtle effects on who's willing to assert what about whose characters. But I'm not sure I can back that up yet.


25. On 2008-02-12, Christopher Kubasik said:

Hi Vincent,

So, the game went south because people weren't actually clear on how to play the game?

Because not only was Joshua completely unclear on what a Kicker was, but, unless there's some rockin' context for why getting a new girlfriend matters, you accepts a perfectly limp Kicker.  (That's no criticism of Joshua for suggesting it, since he apparently had no idea what a Kicker was or what it's supposed to do.)

Listen: I'm not going to demand more words on this if you want to stop talking about it.  I want you to know that.  My now my curiosity is piqued.

What was Joshua's frustration and probs about even before the Kicker (that sounds like the meat of misunderstanding right there, as far as I'm concerned.)

Could you (and I mean this as an open, honest question) tell me what you think a Kicker is, cause it's sort of a thing that demand a choice on the part of the PC—and "I get a new girlfriend" sort of fails that in spades.

What's this Antagonism from the Demon thing?  It suddenly makes sense you keep referencing Shock: (a game I LUUUUUUV by the way.)  It sounds like you were mapping tons of stuff from Shock: onto Sorcerer—which would, you know, screw things up.

How come the game didn't stop immediately for a re-write once it was clear that what Josh thought was the end goal for his PC was actually the start of the story?  I mean, that's huge!

Can we step away from Shock: for a moment.  The compare and contrast isn't working too well for me, actually.  You keep telling me bananas are long and yellow and apples are round and red, but I really want to hear more about in what way apples are red and how round they really are.

As it stands, given (at least from what I've read) this strange snafu over Kickers, I'm not sure if what you're describing as the Sorcerer rules is actually a rules issue, or what was presented to the players at the table to play.

What did you tell the Players?  What did they think they had to do to create a character?  What did they think Sorcerer was?  What diid you think it was?



26. On 2008-02-12, Vincent said:

(Joshua's character's demon was his magically reanimated dead previous girlfriend. "I get a new girlfriend" seemed like a fine kicker to me under those circumstances, played as a kicker not as just an event.)

Hey, you're doing this "what went wrong? Was it Sorcerer? Must defend Sorcerer!" thing, which isn't remotely called for.

Like here: "I'm not sure if what you're describing as the Sorcerer rules is actually a rules issue, or what was presented to the players at the table to play."

There is no rules issue. Also no presentation issue. Julia was enthusiastic about playing by the rules and it was great. Joshua tried to compromise his creative needs with Sorcerer's rules, and it didn't work so well. Duh. What I take away from the game is a clearer picture of my group's creative differences.

You can read about the game here and here, if you want.


27. On 2008-02-12, Christopher Kubasik said:

Cool. Thanks.


28. On 2008-02-12, Vincent said:

I don't intend to shut the conversation down! I'm happy to answer questions you have after you've read those, but I think those will answer a lot upfront. And I'm finding the compare/contrast with Shock: interesting, personally.


29. On 2008-02-12, Ben Lehman said:

I'm finding this interesting to watch along with.


30. On 2008-02-12, christopher Kubasik said:

Well, as long as Ben's entertained, it's all worth it!


I'm not—really, really not—in defend Sorcerer mode.  I'm confused (and a little frustrated) by the fact that I can't get a clear answer to how the rules of Sorcerer determine if the PC is good person.

So, I proceed with trepidation. I just want that on the table.

Is there a chance you could tell me how Sorcerer's rules dictate whether a PC is good or bad, sympathetic or not?



31. On 2008-02-12, Julia said:

My understanding is that the PC doesn't have to be good or bad specifically. The PC is a protagonist, and despite her flaws, should be sympathetic to the player. At least that's what I tried to do. So being good or bad is not the point. The key is to be sympathetic.

I'm the Julia who played this game. I liked my character. More to the point, I sympathized with her. I can't say she was a good person. She was deeply flawed and she made poor choices, but in the end, I totally sympathized with her. I even hoped she got her demon husband back, because I could sympathize with the notion that where she took very little joy in anything (by my design, of course), her husband made her happy.


32. On 2008-02-12, Joshua said:

Well, my remembery is that getting a new girlfriend was, precisely, a Kicker. The "Story Goal", if I could be said to have one, was to get my real girlfriend back. Coming to peace with her death (which was the really significant part, and what finding new love really represented) was, in Shock: terms, failing my Story Goal in a way that I still liked the outcome (also see Shock:1.1 pg. 66).

I think the issue was fundamentally aesthetic. Julia, Emily, and I all made what turned out to be these perverse and cripplingly sad versions of ourselves and I was already squirming. I had a lot of concern that the dude was going to be all the weakest, saddest, most selfish parts of myself and the Kickers I was imagining were all along the lines of, "You're a weak, sad, and selfish person who fucked things up! Oh, and you're lazy and have no genuine talent! Go!"

Romantic collision seemed great, by comparison.

(And thanks, Chris! I love hearing that people are happy with the game!)


33. On 2008-02-12, Vincent said:

Christopher, I'm just groping toward it, so no, I don't have a clear answer for you. I have some unclear groping though if that'll help:

So we're all pretty comfy by now with "a game's rules organize who gets to say what about what, when," right?

A game's rules also, on top of that, dependent upon that, organize who's willing, who's provoked, who's inspired to say what about what, when. We haven't talked much about this - it's hard! - but it's the real work of rpg design (who gets to say what about what, when, being the dead simple rudiments of rpg design).

So now. My proposal is that Sorcerer's rules in action create a social environment in which whether your character is a good person, or a sympathetic person, is especially open to the other players' judgment. Going into play, you can't presume that the game - the social environment created by the rules in action - will treat your character as automatically good, automatically bad, automatically sympathetic, or automatically unsympathetic. Here's the important part: you can't presume, even if it's perfectly clear to you which your character should be or must be. You can't presume that no one will be inspired to reach into your understanding of your character and change it, without your consent, from good to bad or bad to good.

Other rpgs, especially the Primetime Adventures clan (including Shock:), you CAN presume that your character will be good, bad, sympathetic or unsympathetic, more closely matching what you're certain she should or must be. There is a cleaner, stronger, clearer link between what you intend your character to be and what she in fact is.

To play a villain in Sorcerer, you create a sorcerer for your character, and maybe she'll turn out to be a villain, who knows! Maybe you don't get to play a villain this time. To play a villain in Primetime Adventures, you create a villain for your character.

How does Sorcerer do this? Well... it's not just by having carryover bonus dice or by having random humanity checks, although those both contribute. It's by arranging its rules such that occasionally, by chance, kicker->demon->want->need->rituals->stats->carryover bonus dice->humanity checks offer up a result that makes your character look like a shit even when you didn't think she was one, or that gives your character grace even when you thought she'd used her grace all up.

There! Groping, unclear. Good as I can do, I'm afraid.


34. On 2008-02-12, Joshua said:

Other rpgs, especially the Primetime Adventures clan (including Shock:), you CAN presume that your character will be good, bad, sympathetic or unsympathetic, more closely matching what you're certain she should or must be. There is a cleaner, stronger, clearer link between what you intend your character to be and what she in fact is.

You can predict with greater accuracy, yeah. It's pretty central to the game that those predictions are often wrong, though. Ideally, you're right about them just often enough that you're surprised when they're wrong. But even *that* turns out to be largely in control: your assignment of your Fulcra affect how much you're affected by randomness and how much you're affected by other players' input.

This is the first time I've really tried to articulate this and it should definitely go in the Hacks section when I do. So, um, groping over here, too. You could call this a "group grope" I suppose.


35. On 2008-02-13, Ben Lehman said:

There's a base assumptions thing going on here:

In PTA, Shock:, etc you make a character, decide what sort of person the character is, and play them. You might find out that you're wrong.

In Sorcerer (and others), you play the game to find out what kind of character you are playing. Deciding "I'm playing a character that is just like this" beforehand isn't just premature, it's hubris.

It seems like the oft-discussed "protagonist or not" is a subset of this divide.



36. On 2008-02-13, Vincent said:

Ben! Excellent.

Do you have any thoughts about how Sorcerer's rules make this be so?


37. On 2008-02-13, Ben Lehman said:


Here's my thought on the matter after a showering.

In Shock:, particularly (although also in PTA to some extent and in MLWM), you decide beforehand what's at stake* in the game, and what remains is to determine the means by which it reaches crisis. I make my guy, he's a member of the clone army, and I go "my story goal is to express my individuality." Maybe expressing my individuality is going to end up being this complicated thing between me and this one engineer in my unit, or maybe it's going to involve subsuming the entire earth into a hive mind consciousness under my authority, but ultimately it's going to come down to me expressing individuality. It's the means, and the means only, that are to be determined.

In Sorcerer (and lots of other games), my character has the means written down on his sheet: Sorcery, violence, suasion. What we determine during play is not those means, but rather, what is at stake? Why is this guy doing this?


* Can I use this term in an ordinary sense without people being confused and thinking I'm talking about Dogs-style conflict resolution? It remains to be seen.


38. On 2008-02-13, Ron Edwards said:

This is the best on-line group-grope I've had in years.

I completely agree with your points, Ben.

As a minor aside or footnote, which does not disagree with anything anyone's said: one of the things I like about Shock is that the ending of a Protagonist's story *can* occur relatively unexpectedly. Maybe not right away, but earlier than one's formal last turn. I think that without this flexibility (to let Situation rather than System do the talking, as it were), Shock would be less fun.


39. On 2008-02-13, Joshua said:

Ben: very good distinction. Now I have to grope it to find out what it means to me.

Ron, yeah. I get an email from someone every so often that says, "I resolved my Story Goal a turn early! I couldn't stop myself! We tried, but everything else seemed so forced! I'm so fraught!"

And then I rub their bellies and they're OK and they go to sweet sleep and dream of electric sheep.


40. On 2008-02-19, christopher Kubasik said:


That's cool.


After thinking about it for a couple of days here's what my brain came up with:

"In Shock:, you know who you are and the Goal is the end point of what "who you are" wants.  In Sorcerer, the Kicker asks a question and in answering/resolving that question you discover who you are."

There's a kind of vertigo in the Sorcerer method—which I think has a lot to do with how someone is going to take to the game or not.  (As Ben points out, a PC in Shock: is a known quantity—which right now I would call "rooted.")

So, to swing it back to morality:

Given the preceding conversation, Sorcerer precludes you from saying your character is good at the start (which Shock: and Primetime Adventure—but nor is he bad.  He's still Human, and that's the yard stick we measure by.

Instead, the rules have you make choices (human or inhuman) for the PC during play, driving the Humanity up or down until the Kicker is resolved and the morality of the character is revealed.  It's those choices to take actions that drive Humanity up or down, and that is where the Player is in control of the PC's morality.

But, as Vincent pointed out, in Sorcerer it's not just the Player who is making moral judgments for the PC.  Everyone at the table is judging the PC.  The rules determine that as well.  In a game of PtA, I can have my PCs blow through a crowd of innocent bystanders with bullets to stop the Terrorist - but I'm still a good guy because I'm playing Jack Bauer.  In Sorcerer such an action creates a moment of judgement that puts the PC's Humanity rating at stake.  I'm still thinking through the implications of that.

Hi Julia,

Just in case there's confusion about this, I agree with everything you wrote.  I was asking question to catch up with things Vincent had written.



41. On 2008-02-19, Brand Robins said:

Ben, Ron, Vincent,

Shit, you guys just made something go ding, ding, ding in my head.

Like all of a sudden one of the biggest sources of creative friction in my group just came clear in a lighting stroke second.

I'd fumbled around with this idea before—gestalt vs emergent and all that—but never had been able to put the exact finger on what was going on vis a vis characters.

Basically, I like to find out why my guy is doing what he does, and most of my group likes to find out how they're going to do it.

And there it is. Shit.


42. On 2008-02-19, Ben Lehman said:

Chris: I'm not sure. You seem really fixated on the player character's isness here (not surprising, since you're a Sorcerer guy.) But the fact that the means in Shock: aren't nailed down except vaguely is really important, I think. It's not "rooted vs. unrooted." It's "what's nailed down in game text vs what's nailed down before play vs what isn't nailed down during play vs what isn't nailed down ever?"



43. On 2008-02-19, Ben Lehman said:

Or, rather, what is nailed down during play.


44. On 2008-02-22, John Harper said:

Good group-grope, indeed. Man, I didn't know how much I was missing this kind of thing (even as a spectator). Turns out, a lot.


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