Help me figure out a way to make Open Book info dumps for a "narr-stein"!

edited June 2016 in Story Games
What I'm talking about:

Braunstein: An open-ended, (generally) miniatures using, competitive, one-time, multi-player/multi-faction presentation game which incorporates aspects of classic "secrets and goals" LARPs in its set up.

"Narr-stein": Taking the general shape of a Braunstein, and beating it around to make a non-competitive, GM-less, story making game to be played with only 3-5 players ( but still multiple characters/factions with competing goals).

What I'm trying to figure out:

The easiest way to create some kind of short and sweet document that open books all the kinds of stuff that you'd have for a "secrets & goals" larp, as well as overall suggestions for things like tone, necessary basic background info on the setting/situation, and possible
events/twists, or even just clichés/tropes that would likely fit with the overall shape of the scenario.

So, the idea here is to a lot of GM type prep on the scenario designer end, but reveals it all to the participants. In the actual play of the thing, even though the designer is likely there, they're just another participant. Where the group collectively goes with those raw materials is part of the fun and the surprise. Which characters are important when it's over, whose story ends up being the focus, what twists/clichés/tropes are used or unused is very much up to the play group, not the GM/Scenario designer.

Anyway, i'll start with this quote from WarriorMonk in a different thread about group brainstorming and so on, since it fits with a bit of what I'm trying to figure out. How can I use some of these suggestions to create what I'm trying to build, and what are some other ideas?

Also, those of you with actual layout skills, no matter how basic, I'd like your input on simple functionality. hat physical or electronic form does this item take to make it usable?

Good stuff from WarriorMonk
That's because the easiest way to adapt we have is to copy behaviors, so naturally new players try to copy the GM behavior and go straight into authorial mode. It's not so easy for everyone, some players think they have to come up with quality material in the spot and shy away, while others are up to the challenge or inspired and might end up overdoing, depending on the game. That's where usually the GM intervenes by simplifying things for shy players and guiding/blocking the extrovert ones.

However if you try brainstorming all together the setting creation part at the start of the game by using simple questions to inspire players and taking note of whatever the extrovert ones say, you get some interesting side-effects:

-It's a pressure-free instance of the game where players get the chance to module the amount of input and learn it's a conversation where everybody is supposed to talk at some point, with the GM working as a moderator.
-If they all get at least some part of their input validated it's easier for them to further invest in the fiction and get enthusiast about it.
-Everyone gets on the same page on what's the game about, what expectations everyone has about the theme, genre and atmosphere, as well as what's the setting's background.
-Having already invested in the setting and inspired by it, they will be ready to make characters that totally fit that setting and make a more cohesive group.
-It doesn't have to mean everything is set in stone, the GM can still surprise them and reveal different real facts behind what their characters knew from rumours and stories. Whenever setting creation is done I warn the group that all this is what their characters know and may not be necessarily the complete truth.
-The workload of the GM is reduced while the quality and variety of the material may even get increased from her usual output, since you have more heads working on the same thing. All the GM needs to do then is edit a bit, connect the dots and can later add as much as she wants.

Some important requirements to make this work:
-The GM should use short precise questions, otherwise things may get out of hand quickly.
-The brainstorming shouldn't take too long. Personally I use eight questions and most of the time I don't even ask them all; I stop when we get a clear premise and an inmediate objective since that's usually enough to start playing.
-The GM should give everyone the same amount of spotlight and use at least one or two of their inputs.
-If somebody is trying to push too much, it's time for blocking a bit and move the spotlight to another player, or ask the group what they think about what the first player said.
-Using some dice rolls to decide things is great thing at this part if the game's conflict resolution is based on dice, it's a good way to introduce this main mechanic without still giving toomuch info about it.
-The GM should be mentally ready to play unsafe and impro a lot, as well as prepping nothing but modular bits that can get used anywhere or discarded without ruining the game experience.
-The GM would need to follow the players and keep the game moving on when they doubt, instead or trying to lead them to places, people ans scenes she has prepped.
-The GM should be totally open-minded about players personal tastes, since these are the ones that will built the world. If she's got a strong sense of what she wants from the game she will end up editing too much. It can still work if the GM puts some clear limits before brainstorming, though.

Comments

  • Glad of being of help! ^_^

    The actual questions I use for setting brainstorming are:

    1-List races in the setting, but do not detail them yet (ignore this question if you're all just going for human)

    2-Are there gods in the setting? Do they matter for the story? If yes, each player can make one by stating the concept embodied by such entity, name and roll a d6 to gauge the importance of their cult and amount of followers. This same roll can be used to help define the relationship between gods, though players are free to state is it's antagonic, if they are relatives, etc. Also, if you find it interesting, explain how mortals show their adoration for their god. (I completely skip this whole pont when playing sci-fi

    3-GM chooses one player to draw the map of the place (whether it's a campaign or single game, start with just one country or kingdom, or maybe a ship/single planet/star system for space opera) Then each player gets to add one important place or landmark and add it on the map. The stranger the better! (it's also good if later on character creation they relate their character to that place in some way, maybe born there, being there before, losing someone dear there, has to go there for some reason, etc)

    4-Set the level of technology for the setting. Roll the dice to see how advanced is the place you are, the higher the more of that technology is available where you are, lower could also be interpreted like nobody around knows how to make those things or even fix them.

    5-What does the economy in this place revolves around? They do all kind of stuff sure, but elsewhere they are recognized for a single activity, what is it? When you have agreed on one, roll a single dice to determine how well is it going right now. Write down that number, then roll another d6 and add that amount of zeroes to the right of the previous one, that's the actual population. Don't worry if it ends up being a 10, it probably means some disaster just happened and it's time to find those 10 people and get the heck out of the place. You can all interpretate those numbers in whatever way you want that you find the most interesting.

    6-Name the one main threat all the people in this place fears the most. Then name the only hope this people have against that threat (it may be the PCs)

    7-If you still can's see the outlines of a story there, Introduce a mystery that it's still unresolved in this place. It doesn't have to start big, it can be as simple as "why are cats dissapearing from the place?" It can become really important later through the session.

    8-What does the party usually do as a group? Bounty-hunters? Explorers? warriors from the same clan? This one is important to give the group a common goal/ground, They can still have a personal agenda though.


    So far this and my character creation process take more or less 30 minutes and give more material than I can use on a single session. Some questions are skipped and if I ever add others they are mostly related to whatever the players introduced for their characters, where all the rest of the material comes from.

    I also roll a couple of d6 taking care that they land over the map. One is the place where the adventure starts and the other the place where they are headed (or makes more sense they are headed to according to the current situation, they can still chose to go anywhere since it's not like we're railroading them anyway). Also the result on the dice tells us how dangerous the place is. They may be fleeing grom a dangerous place to a safe one, going to attack the main threat from their HQ, escaping from one place to challenge the threat directly or if both numers are low, escorting someone or taking a message somewhere (and the danger will be mostly on the road)

    While this procedure doesn't necessarily produces all kind of stories, so far it has made interesting ones with clear goals for the characters. It does produce a living world yet there are still enough blanks to fill through play and doesn't give the GM too much clues about how things are going to end. So most of the time whenever players come with a plan of action I just go with them and add some obstacles in the road. I've never needed to go to another game with a pre-planned story or premise on my head again.
  • You might check out Flying Monkeys' LARPs like Super Sparkle Action Princess GX and The Bell.
  • I'll have to check those out.

    Very strange, but the game I was working on has a very similar conceit to the set up for Super Sparkle Action Princess GX .
  • I thought it might! It sounded really similar to that type of setup. I haven't run it yet, but with the falling cost of cheapo digital video cameras, I definitely think it's feasible.
  • Yeah, the whole bit mentioned in the description of Super Sparkle, that the characters have to create an episode with only a rough outline and sketchy notes, is essentially what the set up for this game of mine is too, although it isn't so much about the behind the scenes hijinx.
  • WarriorMonk:
    That's great to see that written up. I can use that for those occasions when a group of old pals get together, and want me to GM something oldskool on the fly. Believe it or not, it happens to me a fair bit. I could see that working greta for some of the older games we all know and have an itch to play every now and then ( Boot HIll, Star Frontiers, Gamma World, and of course, old D&Ds!)

    The thing that caught my eye is the choices at several of the steps for the players to engage with. Matthjis Holter made a game a while back that was similar, where a step is read out by someone, then everybody makes certain choices before you hit the next step.

    I've been thinking about how that warms everyone up, so that's definitely going to be in there somewhere.
    -The GM should be mentally ready to play unsafe and impro a lot, as well as prepping nothing but modular bits that can get used anywhere or discarded without ruining the game experience.
    -The GM would need to follow the players and keep the game moving on when they doubt, instead or trying to lead them to places, people and scenes she has prepped.
    -The GM should be totally open-minded about players personal tastes, since these are the ones that will built the world. If she's got a strong sense of what she wants from the game she will end up editing too much. It can still work if the GM puts some clear limits before brainstorming, though.
    Thee ones quoted are some of the specific things I'm trying to figure out how to work in to the info dump.

    ( Man I hate the term Info dump ,but it kinda fits...)

    The first one is the big one, having bits that can be used or discarded. As a GM with some prep, I'd normally be keeping those kinds of things to myself ( possibly hinting at them with rumors). With the way I'm trying to set this up, I guess I need to put them into the info dump in some fashion, but emphasize they're just there for inspiration.

    The second one you noted fits into that same issue that I'm having as well. While I want o give folks some ideas of possibilities, the goal isn't to force it. They seem like they should be in the info dump, because they fit with the overall concept, but a bit part of the overall idea is to see where the play group takes those things ( or which they ignore).

    To give a slightly better idea of what I'm trying to figure out, have you ever seen the movie Barton Fink ? If you have, the game concept is a bit like what ol' Barton is tasked with. Look, make me a wrestling movie. Classically, those kinds of flicks have these elements. This is what you have to work with. We ( the studio) wants your spin on this.

    Now I need to mush that down to something easily usable that I can hand around to players, and it has to be fairly small. Maybe the size and shape of a Little Golden Book or similar.

    How would you (everyone reading, not just WarriorMonk) do something like that, but also incorporate a phase of player choice decision points as part of the pre-game warm up brainstorming?
  • edited June 2016
    BTW, does anyone know any proper terms for a team of people who take the rough outline of a film concept, then work it into a script? Is it something really obvious?

    Heck, is there a technical name for a bunch of general concepts and rough outlines of possibilities for a story dumped on that sort of team?
  • 1 - Screenwriter
    2 - Idea ("From An Original Idea By")
  • Why am I not surprised that they turned out to be that simple...
  • WarriorMonk:
    The thing that caught my eye is the choices at several of the steps for the players to engage with. Matthjis Holter made a game a while back that was similar, where a step is read out by someone, then everybody makes certain choices before you hit the next step.
    Ah, most probably I picked it up from him then, though some of this came from Burning Wheel and DitV, I didn't reinvented the wheel with this anyway. You should probably check those too, you may find some more interesting stuff.

    The first one is the big one, having bits that can be used or discarded. As a GM with some prep, I'd normally be keeping those kinds of things to myself ( possibly hinting at them with rumors). With the way I'm trying to set this up, I guess I need to put them into the info dump in some fashion, but emphasize they're just there for inspiration.
    Ah, of course, those bits that I prep I totally keep to myself until needed, so I can cecycle them for another games. Those are usually monsters, NPCs and places with a twist or some depth (as this is really hard to impro). Also, you could have loose details, like a note that says "This skeleton's posture looks like he was reaching for the right wall when he died, and it's still clutching a trinket in his hands. His clothes are both pierced and burnt."
    or "The paintings in the walls depict people (dwarwes, elves, whatever) joyfully sacrificing their newborn to a figure in golden shining armor"

    So what matters here is having things that could inspire specific emotions or work nicely as twists in general, specifically trying to go out of your usual input because you will totally be improvising that anyway.

    The second one you noted fits into that same issue that I'm having as well. While I want o give folks some ideas of possibilities, the goal isn't to force it. They seem like they should be in the info dump, because they fit with the overall concept, but a bit part of the overall idea is to see where the play group takes those things ( or which they ignore).

    To give a slightly better idea of what I'm trying to figure out, have you ever seen the movie Barton Fink ? If you have, the game concept is a bit like what ol' Barton is tasked with. Look, make me a wrestling movie. Classically, those kinds of flicks have these elements. This is what you have to work with. We ( the studio) wants your spin on this.

    Now I need to mush that down to something easily usable that I can hand around to players, and it has to be fairly small. Maybe the size and shape of a Little Golden Book or similar.

    How would you (everyone reading, not just WarriorMonk) do something like that, but also incorporate a phase of player choice decision points as part of the pre-game warm up brainstorming?
    Heh, haven't seen the movie but that sounds like my life. I'm an advisor/editor for different comic artists, so I'm used to give them suggestions on how to tell the stories they want to tell. It wasn't easy at first of course, you will often have a tendency to cut and edit your own tastes in whatever story people present to you. As an editor, doing that is unnaceptable, though as a GM you can (and sometimes you must) still intervene.

    One easy technique is to give your suggestions and then say "but you can do anything you want, you probably have a better idea" carefully using a tone that makes clear you're not challenging people to do it better than you, but minimizing your own input instead. At this point you've got to check everyone's faces to see which one is thinking it harder or maybe already smiling; then say their name as a prompt for them to just drop any idea, whatever it is. Next you have to embrace that idea, mix it with the setting, give it some support, add excuses that made it sound like a great plan and then go with it.

    If you have more than one person dropping ideas, give priority to whoever has talked less or hasn't gave an input in a while. Once players get the idea of who get's priority when adding input, they will find it fair and roll with it.

    Add over this anything you can do to give players confidence about their input and things will start flying. The key for the GM is to embrace concepts and turn them into shining gems, make them common sense for the setting even when they sound stupid. Specially if they sound stupid, as there are usually the sort of things players will say first in purpose, to lighten up the atmosphere a bit and/or get out of the spotlight, as they will be quite tense at first trying to come up with quality material in no time.

    Whoever gets their input validated in this way, surprisingly doesn't lower the quality of their next input, but raises it instead though they stay relaxed. This does wonders for the game flow.

    In any case, if players don't have any ideas at that point, they will still have your suggestions and you will have your prep to keep things going. If players asks questions, try to ask them back to them and start over the process again.

  • Interesting stuff there WM!

    When I was trying to put together a text for doing something like one of these Narrsteins, I started writing to the reader, with the assumptions that whoever the reader was, they'd be putting this together and presenting it. It wasn't really a rulebook in a more traditional sense.

    One thing that came up when discussing the whole "running" of one of these things was that the designer/presenter was to avoid being a GM in the traditional sense, but on the flip side, they were still probably going to want to lead-by-example and demonstrate techniques, with the idea that other players would then mimic the behavior.

    So, not officially GM, but still kinda-sorta doing some of that stuff, and that fits with some of the stuff you're talking about, especially where it comes to getting players' ideas in and making sure everyone has some input.

    I'm starting to get a feel for this more now. I think at this stage, my main thing is figuring out how to cut absolutely everything back to its most core essential elements, to allow maximum interpretation on the part of the players, while still giving something to work with.

    I suspect some of the challenge for myself is to impose some restrictions in length in whatever format the physical thing takes. While I'm not sure what actual form it would take, I guess limiting myself to space equal to a standard sized piece of typing paper, front and back, would be a creative restraint worth exploring. I might not actually stick to it, but the restriction should be good as a measure. If the I-dump s taking much more than that, it's too damn long!
  • A GM not really doing adjudication is pretty normal for Big LARPs; the whole concept of White Wolf LARPs is the players interacting with each other and adjudicating their own abilities. The main thing GMs do in these contexts is teach the system.
  • Unless you write/type fast I'd reccomend using only the front. Or maybe, one paper for a map and another for the data, It's just that when we were brainstorming, interrupting for too long to take notes ruins the timing, to the point that you would need to start the emotional part of the process over again. For me it means I can't always write down everything, or maybe that I should ask players for clarifications after the complete process is done.

    However, conceptually you should limit the material brainstormed to whatever you can use in a single session, or even less, to answering the basic questions: what? who? how?. You can leave the why for the players to find. Then you put some things in the horizon: places the players can go to, challenges they can overcome, interesting people to meet.

    I was thinking of a similar idea for the old tavern approach: PCs get into the tabern and instead of trying to railroad them into plot hooks, how about the GM lets players come up with the rumours/phrases their characters heard? Its another way to introduce the players expectations into play.

    Wouldn't anyone who has given their character a backstory expect to see it included in the main plot somehow? Why can't the tavern be the perfect place for it? Just let the player come up with what kind of thing would make his character react instead of second guessing what could be based on his story; or worse, instead of trying to ignore it and force them to take interest in whatever the GM has prepped?

    On top of that, when you limit players to come up only with bits of information, things never get out of control. The GM can still decide what is truth and what isn't. Perhaps they misheard a part or the rumour isn't about them but about a similar case. Whatever it is, you already have the players willingly investing in it instead of trying to capture their attention.

    You can even let all the process a sort of competition between the players, since they all get to heard whatever they want. I mean, it would be up to the players to convince each other about what lead should they follow, right? which I believe will definitely make them compete to come up with good reasons to make other players follow their interests, so the best rumour wins.
  • edited June 2016
    A GM not really doing adjudication is pretty normal for Big LARPs; the whole concept of White Wolf LARPs is the players interacting with each other and adjudicating their own abilities. The main thing GMs do in these contexts is teach the system.
    I was thinking more what a "temp" GM does in a scene-setting game with distributed GM type authority/rights/responsibilities, and teaching that stuff.

    Basically though, yeah...teaching folks to take care of that stuff themselves, rather than looking to a more traditional type GM role.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________

    FWIW, the thing I'm working on has no In-fiction rules at all. It's all player level tools and methods.

    It really is pretty much like "Hey guys, you are a screen writing team. The studio has provided this (point to printed book thing) a general idea/elevator pitch, some ideas about common clichés/tropes for this kind of film, some ideas for subplots, a semi-developed list of characters and some motivations for them, and hints at conflicts."

    "The studio has roughly this ( point to miniatures and layout) to work with in terms of sets, actors, extras, and costumes. Assume you have whatever small scale props you need for the story (within reason)."

    "Your goal is to take all this as a basis and make a 'film' with it in a limited amount of time. The more scenes you get done and the more it comes together and wraps up in the limited amount of time we have to play, the greater the level of 'win' the group has achieved. "

    ________________________

    WarriorMonk:
    In general terms, I'm imagining that first set of things I mentioned up above is what I have roughly 1 -2 pages of space to cover. Or, perhaps more accurately, the equivalent of a piece of paper folded into a square and 8 of those panels to work with as a creative constraint for presentation.

    It would be a bit different from the questions you set out, although I can see some good reasons to turn it into questions as opposed to statements, or questions wrapped up with statements.
  • I would cut the "wrap up" requirement. Just have it be "shoot scenes, do it with still photographs from your phone, your score is as many scenes as you can get done in a single ongoing narrative, try to get a higher score than everyone else". Hollywood never wants to stop making sequels, we'll use it all somewhere!
  • Who is "anyone else"? It's a group activity.
  • Every other group who ever plays the game. Get yourself some leaderboards! Posting the results of the game on tumblr should be part of the game.
  • That's the problem with being the local ne'er do well, nobody takes your suggestions seriously.
  • edited June 2016
    I have some preliminary hills to get over, even before I consider that one.

    If I had more resources to work with, I'd seriously consider something like that.

    If I was shooting more for a TV episodes feel than a feature movie feel, I'd also shoot for that.

    If it was something I felt that I could pull off weekly/bi-weekly or even consistently once a month, I'd consider it.

    If I thought I could pull multiple groups together on a regular basis, I'd consider that.

    Now, what I had considered was some kind of "academy awards" ceremony after a bunch of these games had been done and completed.

    At this stage, I'm more interested in getting these things successfully off the ground than in linking events. Not against discussing it, but your suggestions jump waaaaay ahead of where I am and what I'm shooting for immediately.
  • Here's the "world creation" topics from my game "Utpost". It takes place on an isolated outpost in space.

    1: Purpose. Why is the outpost here? Is it a mining colony, a prison, a scientific expedition, a military outpost? Discuss together.

    2: Place. Where is "here", exactly? A planet, a moon, a space station in orbit around a black hole? Give very rough outlines, no details. Discuss together.

    3: Details. The GM chooses from a set list of questions or makes up their own. Each question is directed to ONE specific player who gets to answer it. This is partly to keep one player from dominating and partly to speed things up. Example questions: What are the sections of the outpost? What sorts of sounds can be heard here? What's the biggest threat faced by the crew? How many people live here? What do they eat? What's the command structure like? What's the worst job? What is everyone trying to avoid thinking about?

    After this, characters are created by making up jobs (engineer, chief of security, xenobiologist), then giving each character a focus and a relationship to another character from a set list. Finally, gender and names.

    ---

    This setup works very well to create very different outposts with good player buy-in. Things that everyone needs to be on board with (the broad strokes) are agreed on through consensus, details are made up by individual players, and anything that is important to get right is picked from a set list (you need to seed the game with good relationships, so players are not allowed to create their own).

  • This setup works very well to create very different outposts with good player buy-in. Things that everyone needs to be on board with (the broad strokes) are agreed on through consensus, details are made up by individual players, and anything that is important to get right is picked from a set list (you need to seed the game with good relationships, so players are not allowed to create their own).
    That's a great summary with helpful examples. I'm not sure how to directly translate it across, but I do like the way you order that list.

    Get them working on the broad strokes first, which hopefully gives them some ideas and also helps build mutual confidence when it comes time to ask individuals to fill in certain info by themselves.

    I like it as a good lead in to main play. It also gets them thinking in more than mono-character play terms.

  • I'd try to capture some of the tropes (plot beats, genre expectations, etc.) with in-play materials. In particular, I like the idea of concretizing some of the key tropes in the gameplay materials themselves. In my mind, one of the major benefits of a B-Stein-like setup is the utility of things like objective lists. In practice, we can hopefully emergently elicit a significant chunk of tone/genre/setting, which means without having to first cram it into the players' brains in an info-dump.

    I'll think out loud here to show what I mean. Imagine this:

    You've got, say, four factions, each with a main character mini and a couple of supporting character minis. Each one gets a half sheet of paper (printed out, and preferably standing up b/c it's on a card stock base or something). The paper has the name of the faction, pictures of the three characters, and their names. So you have, say:

    The Chivalric Order of the Golden Hawk

    * Sir Gavin Oakhorn (brawny guy in golden armor with big, stylized hawk wings on the shoulders)
    * Meric Winterbottom, Squire (short, pudgy fellow; no helmet)
    * Captain Overhill (guy in golden armor with an enormous two handed sword)
    Okay, so we've got a reference for the characters in play. Cool, but nothing unusual. But we then also have a second half-sheet of paper, also standing up next to the faction sheet. It has a list of objectives, each with point values; if the player achieves the fictional objective, he/she gets the points. (Points are mostly for bragging rights--they'll not be perfectly balanced, and that is fine. The point is to inspire and motivate certain kinds of actions.)

    Importantly, there are 2-3 times as many objectives as can reasonably be accomplished during the scenario's designed timeframe. This means that the player can prioritize the objectives that she finds interesting, with lots of room for "personal takes" and so forth. So, for example:

    (Golden Hawk) Objectives:

    * Find out which of the City Guard have been extorting money, and bring them to justice. (3 pts)
    * Take possession of the Holy Relic from Emric the Artifact Seller, display it in the Forum, and escort it back to your ship at the Docks. (8 pts)
    * Execute a member of the Dark Cult. (2 pts)
    * Return the Lost Child to her mother in the Guild District. (4 pts)
    * ...and so forth. Probably one or two more "big" ones, and one or two more "small" ones.
    In the objectives list, we've hard-coded ideas about this little order of righteous paladins: sniffing out corruption, being holy, rescuing the innocent, etc.

    Then, we build out the rest of the scenario's setting with other lists. I'll give some examples below as I go (just literally creating on the fly). Ultimately, it'll look a lot like a normal fish tank or secrets and powers larp.

    But before that, it's also important to note that we will have a "neutral" list, both of characters and objectives. This is how we hard-code in some possible events to inspire/motivate the players. It will also allow us to have something like plot beats without having a GM. Again, we'll have more events that can actually happen in the game. Some of the events will interface with the objectives from one or more factions, while others will not, so that players can have freedom to flesh out how their faction might respond.

    For example:
    Neutral Characters
    * King Athon
    * Prince Kellor
    * Emric, Artifact Seller
    * Lost Child
    * Lost Child's Mother
    * Poor Boy
    * A Giant Crocodile in the Swamp
    * etc.
    Neutral Objectives:

    * The King presents a formal address in the Forum. (8 pts for each player)
    * Crocodile attacks Poor Boy in the Swamp. (3 pts)
    * Criminals attack the market. (6 pts for each player)
    * Fire in the Guild Quarter! (3 pts)
    * A merchant (Emric) is robbed in the Market. (4 pts)
    And some other factions, whose objectives will interface with the neutral objectives to drive some plot points. (Examples below.)

    Then we'll only need some basic kind of system for movement and actions--different flavors of this will change the way that the factions interact, of course. My preference tends to be toward movement zones (e.g. the Keep, the Market, the Forum, the Royal Gardens, the Docks, and Swamp, the Merchant Quarter, the Guild Quarter, the Slums, Silver Hill, etc.) and for simple roll-offs for narration rights. (I'd also be inclined to give each faction a simple power or two--like a once-per-game reroll if helping an innocent/causing chaos, or the ability once per game to automatically escape if captured, etc.)

    Other factions:

    The Cult of the Shadowed One (aka The Dark Cult)
    Objectives:

    * Infiltrate the Town Watch's headquarters. (3 pts)
    * Capture an innocent child for a dark ceremony. (4 pts)
    * Publicly assassinate the King or the Prince. (9 pts)
    * Start a fire to cloak another of your activities. (2 pts)
    * Steal the Holy Relic for a dark ceremony. (6 pts)
    * Etc.
    The Woodsmen (aka The "Anarchists")
    Objectives:

    * Interrupt the King's address with your own message of revolution. (7 pts)
    * Kidnap a wealthy noble for the ransom money. (4 pts)
    * Capture and release the Giant Crocodile in the city. (2 pts)
    * Steal the Holy Relic for the ransom money (and the sport of it!) (6 pts)
    * Etc.
    The Town Watch
    Objectives:

    * Arrest any criminals that cause mayhem. (3 pts/ player character arrested; max 9 pts)
    * Kill the Giant Crocodile that has been terrorizing the slums. (4 pts)
    * Protect the royal family from harm. (5 pts)
    * Shake down a merchant for protection money. (2 pts)
    * Etc.






  • edited June 2016
    So, would players be playing factions monogamously?

    One of the things I've been trying to work into the idea of "narrsteins" ( I hate the name, but let's just roll with it...) is that one of the ways they differ from Braunsteins is that they aren't really competitive, and that in-fiction wins/losses by characters have no bearing on player level win/loss.

    Also, because I am a bit of a dirty hippy, there really are no Loss conditions, only Wins. How you ( the participant) feel about those wins is up to you.

    [Edited to add, after more mental digestion]
    I like the general idea of the bullet lists, and keeping the whole thing simple. Maybe that's a good Creative Constraint for the person designing the thing: If ya can't get the info down to bullet points, yer doin' it wrong! Go back and rework it until you can!


    Here's another thing I've been thinking about: Area movement.

    Stephen, you mentioned this in your last post, and I'm already kinda inclined towards this anyway. I'm not entirely sure how I'd approach it, so I'll blab in the next post about what I'm looking at, as well as concerns I have.
  • So, a tangent about movement in a Narrstein context, the way I imagine it working based on some prior tests and general concepts.

    Areas(locations) and area (location to location) movement
    I'm coming at this from the PoV of a tabletop minis gamer and the related aesthetics. What that means is, I want to have a big table layout that looks cool. I'll probably be using 3D terrain, but maybe some 2D terrain also. I certainly don't want to move stuff and reset it much at all during a session of play, although if there are two or three sessions, that's a little more up for grabs.

    In theory, if I had a 4' x 6' table, I could just divide it evenly into 2' x 2' sections and have each section be a location ( for a total of 6 sections). Each could be different, and each section a relevant location. Truthfully, this would be easier to do with some of the 2D pdf terrain I've bought in the past, with maybe some slight modification.

    In practice, stuff is a bit messier. Things don't tend to fit neatly into 2' x 2' sections.

    Issues on defining areas:
    How to show the boundaries of locations?
    Are location boundaries changeable based on needs of fiction?

    Issues moving between areas:
    I'm not sure how I'd go about this. I'm not sure I absolutely need to though.
    Can it work just like in a verbal game? So the gang was at Kastle Drakula, and now they're back at the Pizza Shop in this new scene.

    Does it only matter to the extent that the fiction needs to follow some sense? Is here a rule to put in about it? Like asking "Does anything happen along the route? Does something happen in another location first?"

    Movement within a location/area during a scene
    Okay, so this is the one where I am strongly tempted to use some more traditional minis type mechanics, and yet, I think I may well be wrong to do so. Also, while I talk about movement, some of this stuff relates to weaponry ( range/reach) as well.

    My most basic inclination here is to answer questions like:
    How far does this shoot?
    How far can this character move?

    With How far would it make sense in a movie? What might interfere in a movie, just for drama's/genre's sake?

    ...and then simply either come to a group conclusion or a quick roll of some sort when players differed.

    OTOH, there's that old school part of me that says, maybe some basic guidelines are necessary, or at least helpful.

    Some working thoughts:
    Generally, Main characters are going to be near the center of a location when a scene starts, or at least partway onto the location from the boundary, if it's a scene about main characters entering the location and that's important.

    A main character can move roughly the equivalent of 1/4 of the distance( faster characters may move about 1/3, but there are some sort of restrictions on that which other characters might not have. For example, horsemen or cars should be faster than characters on foot, but have more maneuver problems to deal with) across the location in one move before checking to see if some other thing happens, but...

    Anything likely to cause a pause or slow down to that movement probably does cause a slow down of pause in the movement. Show the slower movement or obvious pause pint, then to check to see if something else happens.

    Opposition characters ( in opposition to the focus characters of the scene) tend to move slower, mostly to increase tension. Everything they do tends to be foreshadowing and set up, before the hammer finally falls.

    And, since we're off on this tangent, I guess, being caffeinated, I'll talk a little violence&action, narrstein style in another post.
  • Some thoughts on Action and Violence, minis-using Narrstein style
    Okay, so I tend to think in terms of stuff where there's likely to be action and violence, but some of the things I'm going to suggest come into play with other sorts of character to character conflict as well.

    Mooks:
    Let's think of these guys as a sort of dangerous, often slow moving, terrain. They might be Good Guy Mooks, or Bad Guy Mooks, and most things apply to both. They're extras if this was a movie. Heck, from scene to scene in a movie, they might even be played by some of the same people with a costume and make up change if the budget is an issue.

    Mooks fighting mooks is a lot like a traditional minis game, but we're going to jump more to results than the finer points of weaponry/range/rate of fire and so on.

    Two opposing forces of mooks of about the same size, quality, and preparedness tend to attrit one another over the course of multiple "turns". Attrit here is just wargamer slang meaning they tend to bump one or two of the opposition off each turn. They tend to seesaw back and forth who is winning, with little bits here and there of maneuver, suppression, morale failure, and so on. If you're using some kind of nod mechanically to wargaming, it might turn out that one side slowly begins to win.

    If one mook team clearly has an advantage over the other, the side with the advantage tends to attrit 1-3 times as many as the other side each turn. Sometimes, it shifts over the course of the scene. One side is the plucky defenders and the other side is the invasion force. The plucky defenders cause great carnage initially, but if the invaders aren't stopped, soon they'll be swamped.

    If one side has everything going for it, the beleaguered side is mostly there to act like a speed bump. Most of the scene is probably about escaping the death trap that is developing and maybe giving a few stinging licks in return.

    The sad truth is, mooks are kinda useless on their own. It's main and secondary characters who make the difference in these things.
  • So, would players be playing factions monogamously
    That's what I had in mind when I wrote it.

    I don't think it would work very well for all the factions to be controlled by anyone willy nilly, since a lot of the potential drama comes from the interaction of different goals in a particular location (e.g. the king will make a speech in the forum: different potential goals include killing the king, interrupting his speech with revolutionary propaganda, guarding the king, kidnapping a noble, capturing the relic (x2 different factions), and guarding the relic.) I'm afraid that complete character promiscuity would have Czege-principle-like implications, where it's not that much fun to have one person control two opposing factions (this is true in my experience).

    On the other hand, something I've never tried-- but could be cool!-- would be to have each player have one character per faction (so 4 players=4 major named minis per faction). Each turn, a player could activate one (or more, I suppose) of those characters. In practice, some players might prefer one or two factions and mostly play them, which would be fine, while others (like me) would prefer to spread the love around and just activate wherever I could cause mayhem/drama/action. This would also allow some intrafaction infighting, which could be interesting design space. Like I said, I've never tried it, but it could be interesting!
  • edited June 2016
    So, a tangent about movement in a Narrstein context, the way I imagine it working based on some prior tests and general concepts. (snip)
    Yes! I was working on a post about this in the other thread. Movement is key to toy-play, I think.

    My layout tends to be on a 4x6 table. Sometimes I also play on a 3.5' square end table, too, for a drama-y game. Buildings and key terrain are usually built from LEGOs (I really need to post some photos one of these days). Key terrain includes stuff like an oasis, some ruins, mountains/cliffs, stalls in a market, a campsite, whatever. I use cut out pieces of felt (grey, couple colors of green, blue, brown, black) for terrain features, like a lake, a bog, an area of woods (if I don't want to build a bunch of trees), gravel/sand, or whatever.

    I've been thinking a lot about movement issues too in the past couple of weeks. Right now, I like this solution:

    Zones
    If it makes sense for the scenario, divide up the area into zones. A grid works nicely, but it doesn't really matter--just make sure each area is reasonably demarcated (not with a literal boundary, just with a cluster of setting pieces; if it's the market, put in a few market stalls and some neutral civvies. The grid doesn't have to be equal: I've been experimenting with things more interesting than a 3x3 or 3x4. Like: three zones in the top, a large rectangle in the middle, and three zones in the bottom. So the large, central zone is adjacent to everything--a town center, for example, or the common space on a spaceship.

    Moving Between Zones
    To move between zones, players have to announce that they're doing so--it usually takes one turn to move into an adjacent zone (not diagonally). The zones are not necessarily geographically contiguous within the fiction, so it might take longer (2-3 turns?) to move from one zone to another.

    Moving Within Zones
    Within a zone, I don't use any movement rules, just fiction-first principles. When I was a kid, you'd just move the piece wherever it needed to be to do the action, and I pretty much do that here: movement is free as part of a reasonable action. (Like, "I dive behind these crates over here to take cover." And then everyone is like, "Yeah, that works!" or "Wait, weren't you up on the balcony? How'd you get way over to the other side of the warehouse?" or whatever). If the movement is really drastic, like running from behind cover, down a dock, and jumping onto a ship, then I usually count that as the whole Action for the turn. (So, rather than "you get free movement with your Action," a big maneuver or stunt or displacement count as the Action itself: "okay, you dive to cover, but you have to slide down the ladder and zig-zag across the warehouse to the pile of crates, so you can't shoot back this turn.")
    Issues on defining areas:
    How to show the boundaries of locations?
    Are location boundaries changeable based on needs of fiction?
    These are questions I'm still working on. Depending on the scenario, it seems to sometimes make sense to use ad-hoc zones. This is especially true with a traditional layout, where all the geography is contiguous (this part of the battlefield runs together with that part of the battlefield, without a fictional break). In that case, I think ad-hoc zones is the way to go--you can't just teleport over to where two guys are fighting in order to interfere with the fight, because during the duel they are effectively "in a different zone," which means you'll need to take at least one turn to go over (further, if you're in a much different part of the battlefield--one turn to go through the orchard, one turn across the river/plains, and a third turn to get into the forest to where the fight is happening, for example). This also means that movement (at least gross movement) is announced ahead of time, which is a key principle for fictional continuity. (We need development and cause-and-effect, to avoid childish "and then this totally unexpected thing happens that changes everything!", which can ruin my adult sense of the fictional narrative/story.)

    But these are ad-hoc--if the guy is in a helicopter, then the whole battlefield probably counts as one zone, and he can just fly over and attack. This means that it is possible to have asymmetric zones (depending on weapons, vehicles, etc). With multiple characters, this can get messy fast, and I don't have a good solution.

    But then again, I rarely play with these traditional-style setups (like a WW2 battlefield or whatever). Instead, my layout usually represents a much bigger space--a large city or a whole region. So the zone movement stuff above is more abstract. (I get the sense that your geographic scale is different than mine--or rather, than I use a collection of zoomed-in bits of scale, like those illustrated maps with little magnifying-glass pullouts where an area is detailed on a much more human scale.)

    Thoughts? (I'm still mulling over your "working thoughts," which are really insightful, especially about initial positioning and movement of main versus minor characters. I'll probably have some thoughts later.)
  • Action & Combat, regarding Main and Secondary ( supporting) characters
    It's not always all that clear who the main and secondary characters are right away. You just kind of play it by ear as the game/story develops. Eventually, you'll figure it out just based on which characters seem to be of interest to the players. Those characters have names and they'll end up being the focus of scenes.

    Main characters and secondary characters, the Good guys
    The sad truth is, these characters suffer crap a lot. They're constantly getting into trouble, even if they aren't going to look for it. What's the main difference? How much the audience is interested in them, and how likely they are to come to a bad end.

    Main characters tend to get the crap kicked out of them a lot (but seem to usually bounce back later), lose lots of stuff, have set backs and go on. Main characters may get captured or put in another awful situation, but seem to make it out of it mostly on their own, possibly through luck or previously unknown skill. They may appear to die, but tend to survive through some unlikely means and reappear later. If they do die, it's dramatic, and probably near the end of things. Usually one Main character death in an entire story is a Big Deal. Unless George RR Martin is writing, then all bets are off. Or maybe you're playing Downton Abbey, the miniatures game, then it's like ne or two per season , max.

    Secondary or supporting characters are much more likely to suffer being dead-dead, or captured, but unable to escape on their own. Again, not always clear initially which are Secondary and which are Main. It develops organically through play.

    Good Characters like this are commonly threatened by enemy Mooks, and treat them dramatically as threats to take seriously. Players should too, even if mechanically we know that's probably not all that true. When Good Guy characters have to deal with Baddie mooks. unless they are really specifically trying to wipe them out, mostly neutralization of the immediate threat is the goal, and it's likely to succeed. If a Good Guy character specifically targets an enemy mook with their pistol, enemy mook probably goes down ( dead? We don't know. No one cares, either). OTOH, knocking a bunch of crates over on a couple baddies tends to work wonders, too. ( Are they dead? Knocked out? Need to take several turns to get out from under them?)

    Main and secondary characters, Bad Guys
    Some of this same stuff applies here. Usually it's a little bit clearer who is Main and secondary from the jump off. Baddies mostly deal in being frustrated. The main goodies just plain slip through their fingers yet again, leaving them cursing! Theirs are constant almost-victories. OTOH, baddie characters are absolutely Hell on Goodie Mooks. Really, if no Goodie Character intervenes, baddie characters tend to go through Goodie mooks like a hot knife through butter. Unlike Goodie characters, Baddie characters almost never show any respect for enemy mooks' capabilities, and almost no regard for the lives of their own mooks. Main Baddies tend to have one way or another of wiping out several goodie mooks per turn ( methods vary) and secondary baddie characters, at least a couple. Goodie mooks really are speed bumps for these guys.

    Main vs. secondary, either type
    The main character will win after struggles in even circumstances. although may suffer some kind of ongoing debilitating circumstances. The secondary character's only real hope is to slow the main character down for a while, have another character intervene, accept capture, or somehow affect an escape from the circumstances of the scene.

    Main vs. Main
    It's attrition, but dramatic attrition over the course of several turns or scenes. Generally, Bad Mains get the advantage earlier, and Good Mains have some advantage near the end of play, but things should always be a bit up in the air. Good mains are more in danger if they haven't had too many set backs for good characters, especially if there haven't been any deaths of supporting or main characters. Depending on how gritty you're playing, there's even a chance that all of the main characters are in danger even in the final scenes. If they all buy the farm, it's reasonable to expect that there's a sequel in the offing, unless the genre was horror or a Star Wars prequel.
  • The ad-hoc zone is pretty much where my brain is at.

    I'd thought about just letting players decide what the scene encompassed by laying out glass beads to show the boundary as part of the scene set up, and then having some sort of simple, functional guidelines for allowing/disallowing other stuff to enter the scene as it progressed. I was thinking of giving that guardian-of-the-scene-boundary duty to a player as part of the set up for scenes as well.

    Moving within the scene boundaries? I'm pretty much right there with you. I figure that we all managed it mostly successfully as kids, there's got to be an easy way to do it as adults.

    Some part of the method seems like it should be mostly a nod to pauses to see if anyone else at the table disagrees. If they do, then goto disagreement resolution mechanic. If not, play on.
  • edited June 2016
    I really like the idea of having a "scene arbiter" who makes sure that new things are introduced in a way that preserves the fictional logic! This could be an individual office--if we're doing gm-less, like I think we are both interested in, then it could be whoever sets the scene (in the case of rotating scene setting duties).

    We could also use an Archipelago-style ritual phase (or AW Principle) to preserve zone integrity. "Foreshadow your move, please?"

    In general, I really like the way that zones and scenes go together. In a miniatures-based game, you always want to see a tight alignment between the physicality of the thing (space/zones/movement, figures) and the narrative (scenes, characters)!
  • FWIW, I also tend towards trying to make a collection of zoomed in locations, but aesthetically tied together if that makes sense.

    Trying to think of an on-the-fly example. Hmm.

    I dunno, say Star Wars, and you're focusing on Tatooine. I have no idea what the thing is gonna be about, but let's just grab ideas.

    There's gotta be a Cantina, with space to move around inside it. Multiple rooms.
    A moisture farm, towards the other table end, again with rooms to move around inside it.
    A space port/dock area with a ship. Kinda warehouse-ish.
    Jabba's place with multiple rooms.
    Some form of desert/badlands. Cliffs/dunes, maybe a Jawa crawler or a Tusken raider camp.
    Maybe another desert location. for purposes of a chase, pod race, or monster, or trotting out Jabba's sail barge and skiffs. Sarlacc optional.

    And around all of those built up areas, maybe some smaller buildings or market stalls. Maybe even a stormtrooper garrison outpost. None of that stuff has much in the way of buildings with interiors though. It can even be rather small scale compared to the interiors, possibly even 2d standup backdrops in some cases.

    The main locations/areas/whateverwecallems are assumed to be further apart than the actual on table distance, so some kind of recognition is required for game play/fiction creation. This wouldn't be a case of where Jabba's Place is 15" away from the Cantina location, therefore if a mini moves 12' inches blahblahblahblah...

    They're just plain different locations. w might try to tie the table together visually though.
  • I really like the idea of having a "scene arbiter" who makes sure that new things are introduced in a way that preserves the fictional logic! This could be an individual office--if we're doing gm-less, like I think we are both interested in, then it could be whoever sets the scene (in the case of rotating scene setting duties).

    We could also use an Archipelago-style ritual phase (or AW Principle) to preserve zone integrity. "Foreshadow your move, please?"

    In general, I really like the way that zones and scenes go together. In a miniatures-based game, you always want to see a tight alignment between the physicality of the thing (space/zones/movement, figures) and the narrative (scenes, characters)!
    I'm wondering if we could also steal a bit from Fiasco. When it's your turn to start a scene, you get some input into it, but then get to choose whether you want to "play" in the scene or "administrate" the scene.

    Not quite sure how to work that either, but it seems like there's something fruitful there as a possibility.

  • Okay, cool! That's helpful clarification. I do it pretty much exactly that way, too!

    Sometimes my locations/sets are a bit disjunctive, like a big interior cave set (with multiple rooms for a bandit king's hideout), and then with two small, adjacent areas, like one with as mountain path between cliffs and another with a trail that crosses an alpine meadow and river. When I did that layout, the interior was like 4 times as big as the two exterior areas combined. So it doesn't always look uniform in scale, though I like it to be tied together thematically/aesthetically. Sometimes it turns out more like two+ adjacent layouts rather than one large layout.
  • That's completely the way I've been looking at those things. Heck, some of that stuff you mentioned even parallels a layout I'd put together for a Hollywood style Transylvania layout. The two biggest pieces were Drac's ruined castle and the town inn. It was if stuff got smaller scale, but represented more space "around it" the further you moved away from those main locations.

    Your wilderness locations are almost exactly the same as the ones I used too, which makes me laugh. Of course there's a dangerous mountain pass! And of course it's its own location! If it wasn't, and this was a more traditional approach to minis, characters would avoid it! Boring!

    It would be like playing an Indiana Jones inspired game, having a rickety bridge over a deep chasm, and never using it because there might be danger if you do!

    You use it because there's danger in a Narrstein!
  • Oh, forgot to mention it, but yes, Stephen , I also think that a modified form of Archipelago would be just about perfect as a core set of rules for this general type of miniatures play.

    Rafael Chandler at one point wrote a more minis oriented version/variant of Archipelago that he titled In a Grail Epoch, but sadly he pulled it down for further development, and I don't think it has been put back up anywhere. I was sad when that happened, because Grail was practically perfect, IMO, for these purposes.

    Most of the mods I'd do on either of them were either things like you just mentioned ( add a couple of minis-oriented Ritual Phrases or add some functional 'watchmen' roles for players much like where in Archipelago players have final say over certain sorts of setting elements.) or they were modifications meant to do with levels of restrictiveness that tend to go along with miniatures use that are not present in the more open-form setting creation used in those two games.

    Between those two games though, about 90% of the mechanics I'd desire are already in hand.
  • I appreciate everyone who has participated n this thread. It is going a bit cold. For those of you interested, I'm going to start another thread about a couple of broad types of minis using, semi-dirty hippie games/activities in a new thread. I hope you'll all jump over there and post a bit.


  • Rafael Chandler at one point wrote a more minis oriented version/variant of Archipelago that he titled In a Grail Epoch, but sadly he pulled it down for further development, and I don't think it has been put back up anywhere. I was sad when that happened, because Grail was practically perfect, IMO, for these purposes.
    A Grail Epoch is still available on web.archive.org
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140911223655/http://rafaelchandler.com/agrailepoch.pdf

    I hope this is OK for Rafael: I read the game and it seems very good to me. I hope that he will pick up the idea for further development, or will allow others to do so. This stuff is cool!
  • Thanks for the link! That's a later version than the one I'm familiar with, so cheers!
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