I do not wanna play in your story!

edited June 2011 in Story Games
(Sort of a rant, but an honest question/statement. This is not about any particular situation that I am in currently, just a general statement on "A" gaming outlook.)

So, a GM has a story that he wants to tell. Not as "Part" of the game, but as the "Whole" game. They are not quite railroading, as you can take many tracks, but you will always arrive at the same station. Now, lets say that he puts a lot of effort into it, and it is a good story.

Is it rude to just tell him that this is not what you do for a role playing game, it is what you do for a book? Now, go write that book so that we can get back to the RP. (well maybe you could say it in nicer way, but you get the picture)

This is often what I want to tell my GM's. I don't know, I tend to see this time, and time again, where the GM has a "Story" to tell, and it irks me to no end. I am usually the one running the game, about %95 of the time, and it just baffles me when a player asks me after a game "So, what did you have in mind for how that would play out?" In a situation like that all that I can think of is, do I tell him the character did not even exist until about 30sec before you started talking to her, and that I did not have a "Story" in mind, that his actions created the character only moment before? Or, lie to him and make him think that I had some sort of master plan?

Comments

  • It would be rude. They enjoy one playstyle and you enjoy another. No need to belittle their style.
  • If you're in the game, for the love of god be honest about what you like and dislike.
  • What Ben said. Be honest and direct about your preferences (but, as Eric said, there's no need to be rude about it, or belittle theirs).

    This means picking and choosing who you game with. The other person is under no obligation to adjust to suit your tastes.
  • I think we can all sympathise with the original post.

    Seth, do you ever want to play within a GMs story? Because sometimes I do, even though I can see where it's going. Superhero gaming is a good example. I know exactly where my superhero story is going: I'm going to win. I usually like that, even though I know the ending.
  • Seth, I can empathize.

    For several years I thought I didn't enjoy roleplaying games because I was playing in situations where the GM had a fixed story and no matter what we did, nothing changed. It was frustrating for me. Then I discovered people who didn't GM this way and games that didn't allow for that type of GMing and all of a sudden I was in love with RPGs again!

    During my honeymoon stage, I was so in love (and granted young), I couldn't understand how people enjoyed pre-fixed GM stories. But I was wrong. I run a local gaming social club and have connections with hundreds of gamers. I often run polls and time and time again, I've found that large numbers of people want to play in a GM's story. Not even just gamers who are used to it, some people new to gaming also want the GM to tell them a story and make limited choices within the confines of that story's structure.

    Ultimately I came to realize, there wasn't a right or wrong way, just different play styles.

    You asked, "is it rude to just tell him that this is not what you do for a role playing game, it is what you do for a book, now go write that book so that we can get back to the RP?"

    I would say yes. His RP style is fairly common, so I would feel strange saying he is doing it wrong. And if there are people who enjoy it, how could it be wrong?

    Your style of play sounds like fun to me! I suspect we would have fun gaming together. But it isn't fun for everyone. Different people like different things and that's totally cool. Now if a GM says there isn't a pre-fixed story and your choices matter, and then they quietly makes sure your choices don't matter and don't ruin their plot behind the scenes… then I think that is uncool. It’s one thing to want different things, it's another to lie about it and not respect your friend's wants.
  • You should certainly talk about this, because you're playing games in order to enjoy them, and if you don't enjoy the style of the game you're in, you should do something about it.
    However, this doesn't mean the playstyle you described is inherently wrong or "not RP", as you put it. It's a viable playstyle, and there are players who prefer it too. The fact that you don't like it doesn't make it a wrong playstyle.
  • The thing I don't even get, at this point, is, what the fuck does it even mean to play in a game like that? In what sense is that "play"? What is that the *players* (via their characters) actually *do*?

    Matt
  • edited June 2011
    Matt,

    You get to experience the world through whatever-it-is that let's us experience the world imaginatively. You get to make actions occur and speak the words that your character would do or say as you interact with the world. If the GM's story is fun or engaging or emotional or profound or anything along those lines, you get to sink into the experience.

    You don't do this from the point of view of driving the story or altering the world. Your real impact is contained pretty much at your the edge of your character's flesh. But for people who want to "feel" the world, experiencing that world and those events at the flesh's edge is all anybody really needs.
  • Indeed, when a player wants to completely immerse himself in the world and the characters, not having any responsibilities for the story is beneficial. If I want to completely feel "what's it like to be such and such", then I don't want to consider anything other than what my imagined character would do within the imagined situation, with no regard to story or fun or interest, because those things would break the immersion.

    Another thing is, I don't think it's as black and white as it's made out to be. The degree of control the players can have over the story is a scale, with essentially passive listeners at one end and complete sharing of narrative power at the other end. There are many points in the middle as well.
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: DeliveratorThe thing I don't even get, at this point, is, what the fuck does it even mean to play in a game like that? In what sense is that "play"? What is that the *players* (via their characters) actually *do*?
    I think you know really, Matt. You play your character, within a fairly constrained plot.

    It might not be your sort of fun, but many people enjoy it.
    Another thing is, I don't think it's as black and white as it's made out to be. The degree of control the players can have over the story is a scale, with essentially passive listeners at one end and complete sharing of narrative power at the other end. There are many points in the middle as well.
    True! I think we tend to set up a strawman version of railroading, for rhetorical purposes. "Isn't it awful when players have no input at all?" "Oh, yeah, that's awful."
  • The vast majority of players are more than happy to play someone else's story.

    That's one of the funny things about Lacuna. You can run it as if you have a story to tell but in reality, you're just adding details and colour, piling up information, sticking it to the players, directly telling them what to do even. Some go with the flow, some rebel and do their own thing, some get confused.
  • Posted By: ODDinAnother thing is, I don't think it's as black and white as it's made out to be. The degree of control the players can have over the story is a scale, with essentially passive listeners at one end and complete sharing of narrative power at the other end. There are many points in the middle as well.
    Absolutely true, and it's those points in the middle where the vast majority of games belong. The ones at the extreme ends are very, very rare.

    (and yet, the vast majority of internet discussions will be about the extreme ends, while hearing anything at all about the points in between them is very, very rare. There's probably some kind of Law behind that.)
  • You have a different play style from this GM. The fact that people are coming up to you asking what you had preplanned shows that. They think they know what you are doing and because they think you have a story planned they are more comfortable interacting with it. As we discussed in another thread recently, when players don't think there is a story - that they have to come up with the story - their creativity can be killed fast.

    I used to so Star Wars d6 games 20 years ago that I concieved as half hour TV shows (in other words very straight forward). I gave them an openning hook and let them run with it. They could do whatever they liked but I knew who they would meet next. It was the person they needed to meet for the episode to chug along. If I needed them to be captured I would have them suddenly surrounded by 100+ storm troopers (just like what happens in TV shows). It was completely me deciding where the train stopped but it was up to the players what they did with it. These games were completely successful and totally in keeping with what your GM is doing. I've done a lot of other kind of games before and since then so I'm cool with difference but for those who want more of the same we can't fault them for their conscience.

    Chris Engle
  • I was in a game 2 years ago where the GM promised me the game wasn't a railroad. And then he railroaded me like you wouldn't believe, nothing we did, said, or rolled mattered if it contradicted his pre-planned notes. I was really frustrated. The GM is also a nice person in general and offered to drive most of us home. On the drive home, the rest of the players kept praising the game and wanted to know the GM's secrets. "You did a great job keeping us focused on your story, we need to get better at that when we run games, tell us your secrets!" I was the only one in the car who wanted a different experience. And that's ok, except for the part where the GM lied to me to get me to play. But remove me from the picture and the game was perfectly functional.
    Posted By: MatrixGamerYou have a different play style from this GM. The fact that people are coming up to you asking what you had preplanned shows that. They think they know what you are doing and because they think you have a story planned they are more comfortable interacting with it. As we discussed in another thread recently, when players don't think there is a story - that they have to come up with the story - their creativity can be killed fast.
    Great observation. I've also seen this a bit. Players sometimes feel uncomfortable when they realize the GM doesn't have the story pre-planned.

    From an immersion stand point, some feel it's not real if we are just making it up. Of course when we talk immersion, different people feel immersed by different things and there is no standard.

    But a lot of players also like the "GM tells the story" style who don't care about immersion. I've seen this with new players. They find the activity fun but don't want to take it too seriously and having the GM do most of the heavy lifting allows them to sit back, hang out, and focus on the parts they enjoy with minimal work. I would guess that many people on Story Games dislike video game cut scenes or linear video game stories. But a lot of top selling, positively reviewed games have these features. People like different things and that's ok. That all said, that's why I love Story Games and indie games in general as they give us more options to support different styles of play (even those that are less financially viable).
  • Quite a few years back (before I knew the indie/story-game movement even existed) I was in a group playing Shadowrun on a weekly basis. We were two players that shared the duty of GM'ing. I put a lot of time into preparing adventures (runs) for the other players, and looking back on it they seemed to love my "railroaded" adventures (of course I can't be 100% sure, but all the signs were there, smiles and enthusiasm, positive discussions of the game after hand, and anticipation towards next weeks game aso).

    The other gm were very variable, sometimes he prepared, but other times he came totally unprepared to the table, and allowed us to do whatever we/our characters pleased. That was rarely well received, and I remember players telling me afterwards that if that GM did not have some adventure planned next time they would consider skipping the game next week. Letting the players do what they wanted with the story led to a dull and uninteresting game for that group, they were there to be guided through the gm's story and see the big reveal at the end.

    Now I have played and read a lot of story-games, and I still meet the scepticism of more traditional players when I try to explain that we "make the story up as we go". I've had questions like "So there is no adventure then?" followed by a disinterested shrug when I confirmed that there was no pre-written structure to follow.

    I still play more traditional and railroaded games regularly and enjoy them quite a bit, but it's not hard to see that some people prefer one or the other.
  • I would add that perception is everything. A GM can design an extremely open-ended scenario, then give it to a group of players who only want to do things that are impossible, unlikely or stupid. They will then feel railroaded, as everything they try is blocked by the GM or system. This often happens when the GM doesn't make choices clear and doesn't communicate the world clearly, or when the players aren't really paying attention.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyA GM can design an extremely open-ended scenario, then give it to a group of players who only want to do things that are impossible, unlikely or stupid outside of the borders of verisimilitude as the GM defines them.
    You say potato, I say waffle fries.
  • edited June 2011
    It is sad the way the middle vanishes.

    I think this is in part because talking about the specifics of RPGs online leaves so many gaps in what actually happens or happened at a table, which leads to all sorts of assumptions, (and don't even get me started about how lame language can be describing things as complicated as what people are or are not doing while playing or not playing a character while making up fictional incidents), which leads to people not really talking about what people are really doing at the game table -- which leads to a lot of frustration.

    Extremes, even if they don't even exist that much, allow for clarity. Which is sad.
  • Posted By: Eric ProvostYou say potato, I say waffle fries.
    Yep, you got it right, as my last sentence explained. :)
  • Posted By: thadrineI don't know, I tend to see this time, and time again, where the GM has a "Story" to tell, and it irks me to no end.
    A few months back, I was playing in a really well-done Call of Cthulhu adventure a friend of mine did up. It was one of the most fun I've had playing in a CoC game. At teh end, she said to me "Thank you for playing in my story."

    I thought about this, because my initial response was a bit of disappointment. I felt like...it's hard to describe, just like a very discordant note happened. But then I reflected on why I was disappointed. The game didn't suddenly suck because she said that. It was because I've been retrained due to a lot of conversations like this to thing "GM wanting to tell a story" = "bad GM." And that isn't the case. Far from it.

    "GM has a story to tell" and "GM is totally flying by the seat of his pants" are two ends of one axis. "Amazing GM" and "Amazingly awful GM" are two ends of another axis. That we can often plot far into the "GM has a story to tell" x "Amazingly awful GM" quadrant doesn't mean they're equivalent.

    I'd suspect that people who do have a disinterested shrug at "no pre-planned adventure" have had experiences in the "GM has a story to tell" x "Amazing GM" quadrant and the "GM is totally flying by the seat of his pants" x "Amazingly awful GM" one. But because people read into correlation, you get the reactions detailed above.

    - Ryan
  • If someone told me "thanks for playing so great in my story," I might not give them shit about it, but I would be kind of offended. There's no way I'd get through a session of an rpg without making it my story, too.
  • Posted By: Ryan Macklin"GM has a story to tell" and "GM is totally flying by the seat of his pants" are two ends ofone axis."Amazing GM" and "Amazingly awful GM" are two ends ofanother axis.That we can often plot far into the "GM has a story to tell" x "Amazingly awful GM" quadrant doesn't mean they're equivalent.

    I'd suspect that people who do have a disinterested shrug at "no pre-planned adventure" have had experiences in the "GM has a story to tell" x "Amazing GM" quadrant and the "GM is totally flying by the seat of his pants" x "Amazingly awful GM" one.
    This! Great post!
  • A few years ago (at Origins, I think), Jared Sorensen and I sat in on a game of Marvel Superheroes run by our friend Nick Logue. Nick has written for both WotC and Paizo in the past and his stuff is very well received.

    Anyway, Nick's game had 11 players. And whenever you rolled for something, Nick basically looked at the dice and told you what happened, including the description of your character's actions. Nick was flying by the seat of his pants and making it up as he went along, but the input from the players was fairly miniscule. This was Nick's show and we were the audience.

    And you know what? Jared and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We even said to each other as we were walking away that Nick basically did many of the things we hate in roleplaying games. But it was great because Nick is a fantastic storyteller. Body language, voices, descriptions, plot twists...he's excellent at all of it. But the other side of that coin is that if it had been anyone less entertaining than Nick, we both would have left that table within five minutes of sitting down.

    It was kind of an eye-opening experience. We both walked away with a much better understanding of why people might enjoy an experience like that.

    Personally, I prefer to play in games that are more responsive to players' choices, but I can appreciate the fun in playing the other way...if someone like Nick is the GM.
  • There's also the idea of WHERE the story is located. In a typical Call of Cthulhu scenario the story is something that is 99% over and done with. The investigators are taking actions that uncover the story usually up until the final moments where they likely intercede directly in the story's final moments.

    This is sort of related to some stuff I really noticed in the D&D Essentials material. Kevin Weiser once described D&D is "Overcoming challenges in exotic locales". I think that "exotic locales" part is REALLY super important. A lot of the fun is in uncovering history and lore about the ruins you're in and seeing how that pieces together with the motivations of the NPC villains even those villains are just boss fights at the end. This is very video game like but there's a lot of fun to be had in it. You do that across multiple locations and NPCs and you end up with a very interesting interwoven campaign with twists and reveals that totally not dependent on the PCs taking particular actions. They just have to explore and be curious.

    Jesse
  • Posted By: Thor OA few years ago (at Origins, I think), Jared Sorensen and I sat in on a game of Marvel Superheroes run by our friend Nick Logue. Nick has written for both WotC and Paizo in the past and his stuff is very well received.

    Anyway, Nick's game had 11 players. And whenever you rolled for something, Nick basically looked at the dice and told you what happened, including the description of your character's actions. Nick was flying by the seat of his pants and making it up as he went along, but the input from the players was fairly miniscule. This was Nick's show and we were the audience.

    And you know what? Jared and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We even said to each other as we were walking away that Nick basically did many of the things we hate in roleplaying games. But it was great becauseNickis a fantastic storyteller. Body language, voices, descriptions, plot twists...he's excellent at all of it. But the other side of that coin is that if it had been anyone less entertaining than Nick, we both would have left that table within five minutes of sitting down.

    It was kind of an eye-opening experience. We both walked away with a much better understanding of why people might enjoy an experience like that.

    Personally, I prefer to play in games that are more responsive to players' choices, but I can appreciate the fun in playing the other way...if someone like Nick is the GM.
    Great story!

    Nick is indeed special (a 2 time fullbright winner, world theater professor, world class martial artist, 18+ years of acting and stage fighting experience). A phenomenal story teller!
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: JesseThere's also the idea of WHERE the story is located. In a typical Call of Cthulhu scenario the story is something that is 99% over and done with. The investigators are taking actions that uncover the story usually up until the final moments where they likely intercede directly in the story's final moments.
    Yes, but it depends what you mean by story.

    Sure, in terms of "overarching mystery", the Investigators have no impact on the story. But if story means "How my Investigator's life changes" or "How the Investigators interact", then the players completely control that story. And that is what Cthulhu players play for.

    Which has an impact on the rest of the thread, of course. Just because the GM plans a scenario doesn't mean she controls the story.
  • I guess what I was trying to get at is the idea if that the stuff that I do get to "control" is *truly* meaningless in terms of the game's outcomes (and that word "outcome" can mean many different things, as in games as diverse as CoC and Jeepform), then I'm not in any sense engaging in the activity of playing a game. You have to take away a great deal and use a lot of illusionism in order for an RPG to sink to that level—and, as pointed out upthread, there are many other things that can be wrong with a game besides simple railroading. But it certainly is possible.

    Also, I completely understand peoples' skepticism about the "reality" of the game-world if there's *nothing* pre-planned. I do like games that are purely create-as-you-go but for certain styles of game, particularly a lot of adventure games, I think the GM having pre-planned material can be really helpful. It can even be necessary, for instance in the case of Rune's ShadowRun game. I've played in some really great games where the GM had a lot of pre-prepared material and was absolutely faithful to it; I've done it myself a time or two.

    But wanting the GM to have pre-planned material is a far cry from a true railroad where the players' decisions make no meaningful impact whatsoever (and, yes, such games are extreme examples, but they do exist!). In fact, IME real railroading means disregarding some of your prep because you have to be dishonest about stats and dice rolls.

    Furthermore, I get not wanting meta input into the game! Again, I've played in some great games where the expectation was for everyone to be in actor stance the whole time as much as possible.

    So, let's take the most classic example of a pre-planned, linear set of encounters (and using a game system with little to no meta input from the players)—à la most 4E modules. (Leaving aside for the moment the fact that there are legit questions about whether or not 4E-as-played-by-many-groups is actually an RPG.) The clear rubric for me of "whether or not this is actually an RPG or just a railroad*" is whether there are real consequences for failed dice rolls or failed encounters. If things just continue as they would have otherwise... why did we bother to have that encounter again?

    I bring this up because of Zac in Virginia's thing about his friend's 3.5 game. My fear there is that the only time the players will get to have any meaningful impact is in combat—which is fine for certain playstyles—and the combats will be meaningless, not in the narrative sense, but mechanically meaningless. I don't know—I hope I'm wrong.

    Matt

    *Again, I'm not saying that all RPGs have to have huge amounts of meta-level player input into what the game is about or anything like that. I'm simply saying that if all meaningful outcome axes are pre-determined (which, again, can mean things other than simply the "plot"), then it's not really much of a game, is it?
  • What do people reckon is the best value for buck in terms of preparation for GMing a session?

    At the moment Im thinking its working on a cast of NPCs and their motivations and goals.

    But Im interested in hearing otherwise, or 'yes and...'
  • I would have to say the same. And meeting those NPCs, and usually only half of their motivation, is the only sort of track I will lay down. After that my general method of creating a story is to have NPC X do something that just seems a bit off, based upon what the players already know. I do it mainly because of the table chatter I here, or because we just need something interesting to happen. Then between sessions I try and figure why "X" would have done "Y." Often I do not even have to figure it out, as the players start coming up with their reasoning, so I just steal it, and it also makes them feel as if they are good detectives.
  • It depends on the game! See how far NPCs and motivations gets you in Poison'd, Cthulhu Dark or Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.

    I think you should go and read a book about something tangentially related to the scenario.
  • edited June 2011
    Also a good value: pick the thing you are the slowest to make up on the spot, or that you don't think you are good at making up on the spot, and spend your prep time making a toolbox of ready-made parts you can assemble when you need to.

    For example, if you're bad at names, take a half-hour on the internet and just make a big ol' list of appropriate first and last names. Then whenever you need to name a character during a game, pull out your list, pick a first and a last name, and you're done. (I like to cross off the names I use to avoid repetitions.)

    Or if you aren't great at describing locations and their contents, take some time outside the game and just let your imagination run wild. Write down the best stuff you come up with, and revisit it a few times before the game to refresh your memory of it and to refine your ideas. Then when the players suddenly decide to go investigate the crime boss's secret warehouse, you can file off the serial numbers on the "scary abandoned factory" and "filthy crime-ridden docks" you thought about earlier and use the warehouse-appropriate parts of those descriptions to make that place more interesting.

    The point is, while you won't need to use this stuff all the time, you'll always be able to use it when you really need it. That's well worth the effort, I think.
  • Posted By: stefoidWhat do people reckon is the best value for buck in terms of preparation for GMing a session?

    At the moment Im thinking itsworking on a cast of NPCs and their motivations and goals.

    But Im interested in hearing otherwise, or 'yes and...'
    It really depends on the game. This has become an impossible question to answer without knowing what game you're playing, what the game is trying to accomplish and the tools it provides.
  • Posted By: Thor OWe even said to each other as we were walking away that Nick basically did many of the things we hate in roleplaying games. But it was great becauseNickis a fantastic storyteller. Body language, voices, descriptions, plot twists...he's excellent at all of it. But the other side of that coin is that if it had been anyone less entertaining than Nick, we both would have left that table within five minutes of sitting down.
    Exactly - what it all comes down to, for me, is expectations and whether they're met or not. I had a miserable time in a convention scenario a while back because it was heavily scripted: we were on a railroad, and we could ring the bell on the train or maybe blow the whistle, but we were on a track. But the GM was doing impressions, making puns, generally doing physical comedy. If I had approached it as a comedy show where I got to speak a line or two now and then, I probably would have enjoyed it.
  • Posted By: JuddPosted By: stefoidWhat do people reckon is the best value for buck in terms of preparation for GMing a session?

    At the moment Im thinking itsworking on a cast of NPCs and their motivations and goals.

    But Im interested in hearing otherwise, or 'yes and...'
    It really depends on the game. This has become an impossible question to answer without knowing what game you're playing, what the game is trying to accomplish and the tools it provides.

    How do you mean?
  • Well, to speak for Judd for a moment, let's say we're playing Pendragon.

    First of all, Pendragon is kind of rail-roady to begin with. And I'm not even talking about playing The Great Pendragon Campaign. But let's assume we're using it. The cast of NPCs and their motivations are pretty much set. And generally, there is "an adventure." It might be chasing down the Saxon attacking a nearby town. It might be going off to meet with a witch to see if she can help lift a curse on a local keep. But there's a thing you do, and you go do it.

    So, what is the best bang for the buck in prepping Pendragon? You're looking for tests of Traits and Passions. Each Player Knight has Character Traits and Passions of such high a value that they can be tested to see if the Knight is going to do something compulsively, and often against his best interest, because that's who he is. And even if the Player Knight is not compelled to make a roll to determine behavior, by making a choice between two opposed Traits, the Knight must make a check beside that behavior and see if that behavior goes up during the Winger Phase.

    By being tested, we learn who the Knight is. Which is a big part of the game.

    So, knowing you have an adventure, solid prep is making to lay in moments where the Knights must choose to behave one way or another. Finding ways of doing that, sometimes tailored for the Knights on key Traits or Passions, sometimes not, is a really valuable part of Pendragon prep. It is where a lot of the game is going to shine.
  • Supposing we look at Steve's question this way - AW suggests both that you create PC-NPC-PC triangles (a bit like Stefoid's r-map) and lists of threats. Supposing, hypothetically, you only have time to do one. Which will make the game more fun?

    I'd argue the lists of threats. It's more direct than an r-map - in play, you can pop up a threat and that's instant action. Players will need to do stuff. If all you have is the triangles, you'll have to think - how can what this NPC wants turn into a conflict the players need to get involved with?
    In fact - the way I see it - r-maps are pretty much a tool from which to create threats/opposition/interesting stuff - they're a tier removed from the conflict - and you have to be careful to design your r-map so that it's an untenable situation and conflicts emerge.

    OTOH, middling GM here. And the lines blur together. If I make a threat "If Big Bob doesn't get his tractor back he's going to kill your buddy Daisy" ... that's kind of a little r-map, ain't it.

    Are we totally derailing the thread? Is that cool?
  • I'm suddenly super-excited about where this is going, and i'll jump to a new thread if that happens. But not before i play devils advocate!

    What I Prep:
    (NOTE: i've only really ever prepped games for a select group of my friends, all of whom i am very close to, and know very well what they want)

    NPCs.
    NPC motivations.
    Major Events that could Happen In The World.
    Major Choices that Happen To the PCs.
    Maps.
    Maps of places they'll go back to, marking what changes the PCs have made on said locations.
    Theme songs for NPCs.
    Theme songs for Locations.
    Theme songs for certain fights.
    Theme songs for certain character intros/exits.
    Deaths.
    The outcome of some Conflicts (combat and emotional/debate).
    Changes in powers.
    Changes in role amongst the players.
    Who the Character 'belongs' to (GM or PC or someone else).

    There is no amount of Prep i would ever say never to. I have prepped a lot of games, i've gotten better at doing it as i did so. Most of the 'improvement' in prepping a game comes from knowing your players and what they want and making it happen in ways that both excite and surprise them.

    Generally speaking (with a host of caveats i cannot list) i believe "the more you put yourself into something (thinking, musing, practicing, loving, prepping) the better it will be." I see Prep for a Game as just putting more effort into the thing. The payoff is equal to your effort. And i realize, at the same time, it can just be you digging your own grave. I've had more than a few games where i was super-certain that the players were going to love whatever element i'd prepared only to have them 'derail' things by going in a whole new direction. What quadrants of the Macklin Axis do i belong on? "GM has a story to tell/Good GM" and "GM is going by the seat of their pants/Bad GM"
  • Posted By: jdfristromSupposing we look at Steve's question this way - AW suggests both that you create PC-NPC-PC triangles (a bit like Stefoid's r-map) and lists of threats. Supposing, hypothetically, you only have time to do one. Which will make the game more fun?

    I'd argue the lists of threats. It's more direct than an r-map - in play, you can pop up a threat and that's instant action. Players will need to do stuff. If all you have is the triangles, you'll have to think - how can what this NPC wants turn into a conflict the players need to get involved with?
    In fact - the way I see it - r-maps are pretty much a tool from which to create threats/opposition/interesting stuff - they're a tier removed from the conflict - and you have to be careful to design your r-map so that it's an untenable situation and conflicts emerge.

    OTOH, middling GM here. And the lines blur together. If I make a threat "If Big Bob doesn't get his tractor back he's going to kill your buddy Daisy" ... that's kind of a little r-map, ain't it.

    Are we totally derailing the thread? Is that cool?
    Threats and bangs are more or less the same thing, right?
  • Posted By: stefoidThreats and bangs are more or less the same thing, right?

    That's what Vincent Baker said in the influences section of AW but I don't see it - my understanding is a bang is supposed to be a tough choice: "The girl or the schoolchildren, Spider-Man!" - but a threat doesn't necessarily start that way - "Big Bob is pissed at you."

    Maybe what Vincent meant is that when you have a bunch of threats with countdown clocks bangs will emerge - although at first the player might say "Big Bob is pissed at me? Whatev. I'm going to keep scouting the strontium junkyard for my missing mutant dog" then you escalate - "Big Bob's kidnapped Daisy" - now they've got that hard choice you were looking for.


    (Totally unrelated side note on bang prep: something I realized in the mall the other day is if a parent has two children and they run off in opposite directions - bang.)
  • Keep in mind that while some people define Bang can be defined as a dilemma ("A situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, esp. equally undesirable ones") that's often a limited, small way to go with them. Certainly I don't use them that way.

    It's just a moment that demands action or a choice in one way or another, tied to things that the character (and thus, the Player) cares about.

    Jumping from dilemma to dilemma often feels artificial, constrained, scratchy and strange, in my opinion. And, certainly, that's not how Bangs were defined in Sorcerer, where the term comes from.

    Of course, people should use Bangs however they think is best and is most effective for fun at the table.

    A Bang from last night, in the Sorcerer & Sword game I'm running:

    Giaus, Priest of the Goddess of Death, started off at the last session to find the home of gods of humans his empire are fighting. He wants to know their origin. He had sent the Goddess of Death along with his acolyte as she travelled back to the Fortress in the woods.

    At the start of the session, as Jesse describes Giaus heading into forest, he describes how he's using the Link he has with the Goddess to make sure Lucia's journey to the Fortress is going well. I say, "No. You sense fear. You sense the stench of orc blood. The Goddess of Death is rushing back to you."

    I didn't describe much more. But I don't have to. Now Giaus, knowing something unexpected has occurred, needs to take action. There are many actions he can take.

    I see Bangs like a truck that comes along and rushing into the side of your car as your driving through an intersection: sometimes you see it coming, sometimes it is in the moment of smashing, and sometimes the accident has already occurred. But always you're left with, "Okay, right now, what are you doing?"
  • Posted By: Christopher KubasikAnd, certainly, that's not how Bangs were defined inSorcerer, where the term comes from.
    Oh? (Pages through copy of Sorcerer.) Huh. How about that. I guess threats and bangs are practically the same thing.

    Where did the dilemma definition come from, I wonder.
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: JuddPosted By: stefoid This has become an impossible question to answer without knowing what game you're playing, what the game is trying to accomplish and the tools it provides.
    How do you mean?

    I use the tools the game hands me. If the game doesn't hand me tools, I probably won't be playing it long.

    Burning Wheel hands me the players' beliefs, instincts, relationships, reputations, affiliations and traits all crossed up with the campaign's situation. Those are the things I'm day-dreaming about as I think about the game, as I burn up monsters or NPC's.

    Sorcerer hands me kickers, demons and everything on the back of the character sheet.

    Apocalypse World hands me MC moves, threats/fronts and all of the little descriptors in the playbooks.

    Houses of the Blooded has aspects, family, domain/seasonal complications.

    So, when you ask what the best practice is for doing prep as a GM, I say that best practice for me is to choose one's system wisely so that the tools the game puts on the table helps us all have a solid game.
  • A threat doesn't really equal a bang. A bang could be a message from your dead dad on your answering machine, which I guess threatens one's...expectations?

    I dunno.

    A bang is just an introduced situation that the player is compelled to deal with and there is no right or wrong answer in how they choose to do so.
  • edited June 2011
    Right.

    My truck analogy doesn't mean physical threat (though it could be!). Just this: You think you're traveling one way -- whether that's about a relationship, a plan of action, a goal, an expected victory, a day simply going well -- and something comes along to change the expectations/facts/situation.

    I had a Bang in a Sorcerer game where the PC found out his wife had been cheating on him. That's a Bang: Now what?

    (I'm pretty sure the truck analogy in my head actually comes from the opening moments of the pilot of SIX FEET UNDER, when the bus strikes the father's car. That moment is a BANG in everyone else's life, and launches lots of responses and choices for the characters... But none of it is a physical threat.)


    I think the "dilemma" thing comes about because a lot of EXAMPLES of Bangs have been dilemmas. Stripped of any context of the actual players, characters or situation of actual game, dilemmas offer an easy way of saying, "Something like this." This is why, in my view, the "moral choices" of video games are usually so blunt. Lacking any knowledge of what might be a compelling moment of reflection and choices of behavior for the player holding the controller, we say, "Well, do you want to do the good thing or the bad thing?" The lack of any context leads to extremes to differentiate choices. In the intimacy of actual play with real people who have made clear what their interested in playing in, however, Bangs can be much more tailored and subtle.
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