Methods for conveying starting info for a Not-Braunstein Story Game

edited September 2014 in Story Games
Important Info for the rest of the discussion!

Read this link first!
http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/460/defining-story-games/
Okay, everyone read that, right? Because I'm going to use a couple terms along the way, "adventure game" and "story game". The way I'm using them is as per the write up in that link up there.

So I think that Braunsteins are the bees-knees, at least conceptually. They're an early type of RPG, maybe really the catalyst games that produce RPGs. Look around for threads about them.

However...I like me some story games, and at the end of the day, even played casually and in good humor, Braunsteins are adventure games.

So I want to take the basic concepts of Braunsteins, do some up in all of their minis-mongering glory, but play them more like story games.

Now I've talked about this before. In fact, I feel a bit like a Mad Scientist at times, as the suggestion that minis can be used with story game, rather than adventure game, approaches seems at least a bit of a hard to grasp concept for, well, almost everyone I talk to online. Sigh.

Let us just assume, for a moment, that it can in fact be done.

What I want are some suggestions on conveying the basic starting info for the situation/game/scenario to the participants.

In a Braunstein, there are usually competing factions. Each has one or more characters, and each of those characters has goals and resources. Usually also the setting/situation implies the possibility of certain dangers that are looming on the horizon.

In a B'stein, that stuff is usually at least partly secret info, on individual player sheets about their faction. That works for an adventure game.


For a story game, maybe not.

For a story game, it seems to work better when all of the participants have open access to all the starting info. That's how you can, as a group, starting point the characters and their interacting drama at each other, right? Or, as a group, start to develop certain points of drama-clash and events, making it unique to that player group on that particular day of the session.



So howabout it folks?


What are my best means of taking the scenario recipe ingredients, and conveying them to the players?


For something to work with as an example, I wrote up a Braunstein ( adventure game) scenario a while back. How could I take that same info, and turn it into a useful format for a Not-Braunstein (story game)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lpnWpbjYqtWg0qOfterC1LcUsR5zMf3wGD460S5nJQ8/edit

Comments

  • edited September 2014
    Two quick off topic notations.
    Important Info for the rest of the discussion!

    Read this link first!
    http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/460/defining-story-games/
    Okay, everyone read that, right? Because I'm going to use a couple terms along the way, "adventure game" and "story game". The way I'm using them is as per the write up in that link up there.
    I got my fingers slapped when I thought story games had the same definition as you do, but it's actually an umbrella term for all kinds of roleplaying games (freeform, LARP, "traditional"/adventure games). You even post this at a site called Story Games that defines story game like this. If you want to talk about games that creates a story or a narrative, refer it to a term of it's own, like narrativistic games or story-focused games.

    I do think adventure game is a good term, and a non-RPG playing friend of mine once said that adventure games for computers seems more similar to tabletop roleplaying games than computer roleplaying games. I agree.
    So I think that Braunsteins are the bees-knees, at least conceptually. They're an early type of RPG, maybe really the catalyst games that produce RPGs. Look around for threads about them.
    I think it's common decency to not exclude new people by telling them to "google it" (or something similar). Here is a link that explains Braunsteins. I haven't read the link myself yet, and I feel I can't take part in the discussion until I do. It's a requirement for this thread that you didn't provide. That's laziness or elitism. My view of it, but your pick.
  • I think it's common decency to not exclude new people by telling them to "google it" (or something similar).
    Funny you should mention - I now have a hostile reaction to the term "Braunstein" because the first thread I saw about it involved a poster saying (subjectively paraphrased by me) "I can't/won't explain it, but it's not like anything else you're doing, go educate yourself".
  • edited September 2014
    OK, so I brought up some critique and now I feel I have to be constructive. I can say that I have no experience in this, but my brother started out with roleplaying games and wargames, he changed to Nordic freeform and LARP during the 90s and then went back to wargames in a similar manner to Brainstein. When I watched him set it up and play it out, it felt more like historic reenactments, but instead of dressing up and fighting, the whole scene occurred at (at least) one table. I got the same feeling when I now read the already linked thread above, and the play document that was linked in that thread.

    I'm not a huge fan of the board game Britannia because you have to know the full sequence of the game to be able to play it good, and it's a 5-6 hour long game. What I noticed was however that the history buffs really enjoyed playing it because they felt the history were playing out before their eyes. Me? I know that the second world war was around the time of 1940s, and that's it. It felt the same thing occurred when my brother played those huge diorama games; it had an element of winning, but the the real answer was to understand how the Allies could defend that hill and how it changed the course of the war. That all sides had their own view of why the hill was so important.

    If you could do that with miniatures, but with any kind of story, it would be really interesting.
  • Yo, all I'm really looking for is how to convey the info people.
  • Cool topic! A first thing that pops into mind is to have the players be involved in some segment of the scenario creation.

    There are lots of ways that could go. For example, perhaps the designer of the scenario might create factions and their objective, but then have players create relationships (alliances, orthogonal goals, etc.) at the beginning of play. In this case, the challenge for the designer would be to create factions that could end up pointing at one another in various ways. (This could be helped, for example, by writing two major objectives for each faction, and allowing the players to choose just one as a victory condition.)

    As far as the question of how to communicate these things, then, I'd suggest clearly delimiting a) the fixed scenario elements, as opposed to b) the elements that players will generate, choose, or customize (with any normal game procedure).

    Theoretically, different Story-Brauns could do any combination of "a" and "b". So, one game might come with fixed setting elements and factions, but ask players to create faction goals from scratch, to point the factions at one another, and to choose a looming danger from a list of three.

    Another game might just provide a bunch of minis and ask players to form their own factions, but it might have explicit constraints (like all the factions having identical goals [as in a race/McGuffin scenario], and it may also have a GM controlled faction with existing goals or event triggers).
  • Other complicating questions:

    Should a Story-Braun always have objectives that involve creating change for the factions/characters of other players (I.e. a social goal) rather than achieving some sort of external goal?

    How would going GMless change a Story-Braun set-up?
  • edited September 2014
    In this case, the challenge for the designer would be to create factions that could end up pointing at one another in various ways.
    Ok so now I'm picturing a modified take on Relationships and Needs from Fiasco.

    Perhaps: (1) Designer creates Factions; (2) Players all choose a Faction; (3) Each Player chooses or rolls another Faction to have a Relationship with, then these Relationships would be... (a) detailed by the Players themselves; (b) rolled off a chart (perhaps with objects/locations already built-in, like "the trust of the king" or "control over the banks"), or (c) Each Player rolls on a "provocative question" chart and they must answer collaboratively (eg, "What are you and X rivals for?" or "Why do you and X despise each other so?")

    That last option was inspired in part by Eske Andersen's "Rebel World".

  • edited September 2014
    Other complicating questions:

    Should a Story-Braun always have objectives that involve creating change for the factions/characters of other players (I.e. a social goal) rather than achieving some sort of external goal?

    How would going GMless change a Story-Braun set-up?
    I think some sort of social goal, if I understand correctly what you mean, is what would make it more than an artsy miniature war game. So probably.

    OTOH, I'm not entirely sure I understand properly, so could you hit me with an example?
    __________________________

    And actually, I was thinking GMless from the jump. A bit thick of me not to have mentioned that. I've tried something similar with the use of Mythic GM emulator before, just myself and another player. In that case, there had to be some mental separation on my part between my role as the scenario setter upper and as participant in play.

    In that one, there was the setting, followed by a specific chunk of the setting, zoomed into a smaller chunk of it. Then two or three situation elements (pregame events) mentioned. That set the scenario.

    Finally a type of group was specified as being a the core of events with a broad goal, but no actual characters specified. Characters ended up being created on the fly at the beginning of play.

    In support was a decent pool of miniatures geared to the scenario, including way more than needed for the focus character group. They would come in later as NPCs. Some of them were there as obvious, probable threats/encounters for the focus group of characters, given the setting and situation



    Anyway, the upshot involved, primarily, separating duties of Designer from referee, going with the flow as characters and events developed, but still having a preliminary mental pool of "stuff" that could be thrown in if events got laggy.

  • edited September 2014
    In this case, the challenge for the designer would be to create factions that could end up pointing at one another in various ways.
    Ok so now I'm picturing a modified take on Relationships and Needs from Fiasco.

    Perhaps: (1) Designer creates Factions; (2) Players all choose a Faction; (3) Each Player chooses or rolls another Faction to have a Relationship with, then these Relationships would be... (a) detailed by the Players themselves; (b) rolled off a chart (perhaps with objects/locations already built-in, like "the trust of the king" or "control over the banks"), or (c) Each Player rolls on a "provocative question" chart and they must answer collaboratively (eg, "What are you and X rivals for?" or "Why do you and X despise each other so?")

    That last option was inspired in part by Eske Andersen's "Rebel World".

    I'm liking the provocative questions part.

    Are factions entirely necessary even? They are in B-steins proper. Are they maybe merely an organizational convenience in this sort of Not-B-stein?

    I'm also wondering if, even with factions, whether anyone needs to control them at all, as a single player. Could they merely exist as set up back ground, and then the players, in play, end up deciding which parts of it to engage with?

    So in that link to the scenario I wrote up, the game might end up focusing on the family, and everything else is merely background, suggestive of possible events. In another game, that same set up becomes a story about the rivalry between a pair of wizards, and everything else is merely background and side story.

  • I'll narrow the initial question a bit.

    What are some ways to speed up a basic info-dump where everyone will ultimately need to have the info.

    It's a No-Secrets Among Players situation. There can be plenty of secrets between the characters.
  • If I may, I'd suggest putting the information up on line for people to access that way. It gives everyone the information, and does so very quickly.

    - chirine
  • I think I'd use the internet for the main info, along with any sort of invite, so there's that.

    I guess I'm thinking of formats that work at the table for people who either didn't read the stuff sent by email, or who ended up as tag-alongs or walk ups.

    Rickard:
    I posted that initial, Read this First link specifically because I was using a non-standard usage for the terms. I mention that right away. The link is to a page written by a long-time Story-games member and game designer. I'm pretty sure that counts as due diligence for the conversation, no?

    As to not providing a link to something describing Braunsteins...well jeez, I don't see people doing that whenever they talk about Dungeon World, or Fiasco, or D&D (any edition), or any other game for that matter, so I simply didn't feel it was necessary here.
  • edited September 2014
    Randomly determine an initiative order for all players. On their turn, each player rolls 1d6 and consults the table below:
    1. Point at another player's faction and describe why you oppose them
    2. Point at another player's faction and describe why you support them
    3. Point at a location on the map and describe why you target it
    4. Point at a location on the map and describe why you defend it
    5. Name an object, locate it on the map and describe why you want to possess it
    6. Name an object, locate it on the map and describe why you want to destroy it
    Any player after the first may opt to not roll, but instead take the opposite view to something another person has said.
    Example: If you chose to attack the Castle of Evermore, I might forsake my roll and describe why I defend it against you.

  • Asif:

    So are you thinking of that as a preliminary stage of play ( a form of set up), or something to use during play?
  • Preliminary.

  • edited September 2014
    That would be a great tool for crash-building a scenario.

    ------

    So I'm seeing a few things from the suggestions on what could be a good, broad method

    Designer needs to self limit a bit, and leave room for pre-game fleshing out by the other participants. Because of the nature of Braunsteins, the designer of the scenario is almost certainly going to be a participant. (it would be exceedingly rare, but not impossible, for a designer to not be a participant. Rare enough to not consider. Strangely, that thing I wrote and linked is an exception to that...)

    So basic setting and situation and maybe environment are definitely in the hands of the designer. (entirely crash-building a scenario would again be an exception to this, but again, a rare one).

    [Crash-building would be something like: "Okay, everybody show up at the FLGS Saturday at 10am and bring 5-10 interesting miniatures. We'll build a scenario on the spot, based on the stuff we bring and whatever terrain isn't being used that the shop has on hand"]

    Broad but ill-defined factions, perhaps not named, is probably also in there. This one seems like a good place to get all-participant input. Perhaps the initial conflicts are there already, but not fleshed out?

    The provocative questions concept seems to pair well with the roll chart idea. I also like the response back concept, instead of a roll on the chart. I'm thinking Question Cards, but with a response back instead of reading a card and filling in the blanks?

    The chart gives some good, basic set ups for Question/Answer pairings. It may be a pointer some broadly applicable question types that can be modified by specific scenarios.

    Stepehn P's comment about social goals might be something that somehow always fits in there as well, at least for a Not-Braunstein, perhaps in the build of the question cards.
  • edited September 2014
    This is all great!

    One other (related) thing that I've been thinking about is objectives. Like, that linked-to scenario (which is awesome, by the way!) has a few types of objectives. Some show a minis lineage: be in a certain position at the end of the game, for example, or possess a certain object. (Note that these aren't necessarily "bad" story objectives, just ones whose emphasis *might* need refocusing.)

    Other objectives are more amenable to a story-first focus, like those that are directly pointed at other characters (eliminate your rival, betray your boss, break up such and such a couple and get together with one of them) or those that are tied to plot points (lead the hydra into the middle of the camp, stage a familiar rescue).

    In a Story-Braun, I'd like more of the latter. That's not to say that I don't love the positional ones--I'd just want them to be refocused around the character motivations. (Like: *why* does this pirate want 20 gold pieces? Or else, if they're "just greedy," how far are they willing to go to get them?)

    There's also a second dimension to objectives that might be relevant. One way to make a not-Braun might be to prioritize story or plot-level objectives over personal/individual character-focused objectives. Like, the "lead in the hydra" or "refuse to pay the pirates" objectives create plot structure (a climactic hydra attack or family vs pirate fight). These sort of objectives can help provide the three or five act structure that some story-games favor. Think of Archipelago's destinies--they help all players get on the same page regarding story outcomes. These could even be objectives that all players share! (ETA: more about shared or table objectives to come!)

    Finally, I think that communicating objectives is critical. At the least, each player needs their objective written on a note card and set up tent-style on front of them so that everyone knows their objectives. (In other words, I'm echoing the importance of player-level omniscience.) I also incline toward group-created (improvised) objectives, but I think there is room for a spectrum--think of players selecting objectives from a list (perhaps like Keys) or being assigned them (like many one-shot games do).

    Edit: one other thing--there's no reason why objectives have to be limited to imperative form. In addition to "do this!", there could be options (either/or). The objectives could also be flexible ("destroy the credibility of the likely election winner," "trade for the most valuable item" when new items are constantly being added or discovered, etc.). They might also be questions: Who will you betray at the last moment? Who will deserve your just revenge? For whom will you sacrifice yourself? Let's play to find out!
  • edited September 2014
    Man that's some good stuff right there.

    Yeah, that scenario is very much built on minis wargame roots. The positional goals ( " Be with X character/thing and within 12" of a table edge") are probably the most obvious example of that. For a Not-Braun, mechanically, I might not even bother with much in the way of movement rules at all. If you can get away without them in most story-games, you an get away without them here ( or at least exceedingly loose ones).

    Anyway, for a not-Braun, I'd probably keep the core concept of the goal, and get away from the physical space aspect.

    ______________________________________

    I like the idea of shared/table objective and an act structure. Anything you want to expound on about that concept is greatly appreciated.

    Possibility:

    I'd been thinking before about a set up that was composed of three acts for this sort of thing:

    Act 1 is composed of about 4 scenes* and is the development of the general concept, setup for later action, and a chance for everyone to start choosing the bits they think are important among all the fictional stuff possible. Between scenes, some not played but described, this is going on elsewhere type narration. Basically foreshadowing. Kinda like Threat/Front development in Dungeon World. Act 1 is kind of a culling process also. Stuff not ever talked about starts to fade away in importance.

    A break and general brainstorming follows. More questions created now? free talk about what the participants want/don't want?

    Act 2 is again about 4 scenes. Here it's about bringing plotlines together and answering some of the questions group is focusing on. here the between scene, not-scenes are to force stuff to a head and set it up for...

    [Insert snack break and brainstorming again here]

    Act 3: One big single scene. It's miniatures using, and they're probably at least semi-action oriented, so Act 3 is the Showdown/Big action scene sprawling across the board. It comes to a head and wraps up.

    * Actual number of scenes is by number of players. 2 players= 4 scenes. 3 players =6 scenes. In either case, two each.
    4,5, or 6 players, one scene each. Don't play with more than 6 players. Not-Brauns I see as smaller play group size affairs than Braunsteins.

    That's about as far as I'd gotten. it needs a lot of work.

    What I'm thinking now about that, given the suggestions folks have been hitting me with is that Act 1 is still pretty heavily influenced by the designer. I'd have already somehow conveyed a lot of what I think the general rub of the game would/should be about by any pre-written sorts of questions and other ideas that are somehow communicated. By Act2, all that has been winnowed down and is being brought into focus by the participants, so maybe before Act 2 is the time when non-designer players are really taking control of thing and shooting it in the direction they want it to go. That's when it truly starts to become a group created event/game/story.

    _______________________________________

    Now, about the note cards...


    I love note cards. Really, it's embarrassing how much I love them.

    The thing is, I start to run into a technical/physical problem with them with a Not-Braun: The table is filled with stuff and real people are unlikely to always be in the same spot. In fact, there may not even be chairs at the table. They may be elsewhere for relaxing and chatting at non-play breaks rather than around the table.

    What other thing could I use that would do something similar? Or, is there a way to use notecards still, but account for that problem?

    ( I like the idea of a big, mobile chalkboard, but that seems out-of-budget. Probably. Hard to carry around even if in-budget)



  • I love dry-erase whiteboards. You can get small ones (8"x11") for about $6, and larger ones (24"x18") for $15.

  • A mat of plain canvas fabric, liberal application of gesso, and chalkboard paint will get you a roll-up chalkboard.
  • Okay, another longer post to come tonight, but right now a brief comment about notecards/etc.: if the minis have been chosen in advance (and not crash designed), it might be possible to print out a medium image (like 3" square) of the mini and paste it to a large notecard. Then, line them all up along an edge or two of the table. That way the objective is linked visually to the mini. (This only works for individual objectives, of course, although I suppose there could be faction colors or symbols or something.)

    Also, I love me some whiteboards, so I second Aslf's suggestion. I have two, and they work great.
  • edited September 2014
    A mat of plain canvas fabric, liberal application of gesso, and chalkboard paint will get you a roll-up chalkboard.
    Really? That's amazingly clever. How durable is it?

    Stephen P:
    Thanks to a tip from J.Morninstar, I scored a cheap laminator off Amazon. I knew it fit somehow in all of this, but now you've really got my gears spinning. Hmm.

    Edited to Add:
    Now that I think about it, while not as cool as a wipe-board, dry erase board, foam core sheets and small portable easels might do the trick too. Especially if they were paired with a small folding table like a card table. Gives the rules quick reference sheets and scenario stuff a place to live, along with any non-used/ temporarily unused miniatures away from the main table.
  • A mat of plain canvas fabric, liberal application of gesso, and chalkboard paint will get you a roll-up chalkboard.
    Really? That's amazingly clever. How durable is it?
    Well, it's not as durable as a laminated mat would be, but you can apply a new coat of chalkboard paint to refresh the surface as needed, which I think makes up for it. You can also use chalkboard paint on the foam-core sheets you were just talking about and create much lighter chalkboards than the traditional wood-mounted ones.
  • While somewhat off topic I wanted to toss it out there:

    I think the operating definitions you're using for story games and adventure games are pretty clear and comprehensive. More so than any others I've found since coming here.

    What I find most interesting about them is that by those definitions I would never have come to this site, as I view those types of 'story games' a subset of party games (also called theater games) as opposed to rpgs (even though they are CLEARLY rpgs by nearly any definition, except the one I use). Though I also play those type of games, I distinguish a clear and hard line between them and adventure games.

    I also notice that inherent in my experience of adventure games is the stuff you bring up in the 'You got Story in my adventure game' section. While what you describe in that section is technically true, in my practical experience it's been an irrevocable part of the social contract of the game thereby rendering any such distinctions irrelevant.

    I bring this up because I think there may be some value in an offshoot discussion about both of these things: operating definitions of story games/traditional games/etc, and also of the duality between social contract rules and internal game mechanics/rules.
  • I didn't write the Ars Ludi stuff. Someone else did. I just borrowed it for this thread.
  • That's Ben Robbins. Microscope, etc.

  • I can't believe I forgot his name. Sorry, Ben.
  • edited September 2014
    So, okay, For those of you who looked over that Braunstein scenario I wrote, any thoughts on backing it all up and turning it into a Not-Braunstein?

    What sort of info should be there? What is too much info/direction?

    Let's assume the wargame-ish mechanics will be dropped straight away. Mechanics will be more like a scene based game along the lines of Fiasco or maybe Archipelago.

    ( I actually am finally getting around to painting the minis, you see...)
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