Reversed mantras

edited February 2007 in The Best of Story Games
An interesting technique from improv is to take a well-known mantra, reverse it, and see if it still makes sense. Usually, it sort of does, in some circumstance.

Can we try this? I'll start with a reversed mantra. Someone else explain why it's useful (perhaps under a very special circumstance) and reverse a mantra of their own. And so on until we get bored.

So, someone explain how this could be useful:

In a conflict, lower the stakes

Then reverse one of your own.



  • Shit, that one is easy. Dogs flat out tells you to do this sometimes, and says GMs must be hardcore about it.

    Your PCs want the stakes to be that they kill the whole town or die trying? Have them start with trying to kill this one guy, and let what happens after that come from fallout and followup.

    Player wants to have a conflict to make the princess fall in love with him? Make it a conflict where he has to get the princess to notice him first.

    Now for my reversal:

    Get to the Bobs!
  • The interstitial scenes are where characters reflect and grow. All the actiony fighty bits are there to provide context, and to put character motivations into relief.

    Say no, or roll the dice.
  • Interestingly, this is basically the mechanism of the Drifter's Escape -- at any time, one player or another is empowered to over-ride the Drifter's actions with a "no, actually" thing, unless the Drifter makes a deal for it (the game uses cards and not dice, so it's "make a deal" and not "roll dice," but effectively the same.) This has the effect of making the Drifter powerless and buffetted about by the winds of life, until he actually stands up and does something about it.

    "The system is the means that the group disagrees about the fiction during play."
  • edited February 2007
    System invites its usage, and if it's there to resolve disagreements then people will disagree in order to engage the system. If someone says, "Anton shoots the gangster in the head!" then if someone else wants to reap the rewards of engaging the system, he'll create a disagreement, "Oh no he doesn't!" in order to get access to those rewards.

    Oh, crap, I have to reverse a mantra, too...


    "The more rules you write about a particular activity the less players will engage in that activity."
  • edited February 2007
    Because they'll spend so much time reading the rules and struggling to figure them out that they'll never get around to actually playing though them. People will be intimidated by mechanics that are not easily understood.

    System Doesn't Matter.
  • This is easy. You know all the rules about bullrushing, tripping, disarming and such in DnD? I never bothered, and apparently many a person never got Attacks of Opportunity. The more rules you have about an activity, the more like people will just stay away from it in order to avoid invoking all these rules, or alternately, their eyes will glaze over as they even try to read the rules.

    Hmm, reversed mantra, hard.
    game's rules should not reflect what the game is about."
  • In a way, we have the same reversed mantra?

    And to note, I explained the same thing Jonathan did, mine is not an answer to him.
  • The rallying cry of every freeformer out there, I would say. :) That's how much it doesn't matter - you don't need one at all.

    Sartnam! No, wait, that's just the word "mantras" reversed (which is what I did as soon as I saw this thread). How about... Oh, I know this one has been done before, but it's a good one....

    Heal things and give them stuff.
  • Posted By: Colin_FredericksHeal things and give them stuff.
    This is the goal of Chad Underkoffler's game "Dead Inside". Also, it is awesome.

    I won't drop a mantra, cause I think that Thunder_God's is still unanswered. Finish his instead.
  • Dead Inside was built on that concept.

    And if we go in that vain:
    Knowing or seeing mundane things strips you of your sanity

    And I have a way to explain this one actually.
  • Bad gaming is better than no gaming.
  • maybe we should start each response with the reversed mantra that we're grabbing
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: AnemoneBad gaming is better than no gaming.
    Experiencing bad gaming, analysing it and working out what makes it not work, is one of the best ways to improve your own gaming. Failures are a chance to learn.

    EDIT: Oops, a reversal. Um: Bored? Do Nothing!
  • edited February 2007

    Bad gaming is better than no gaming.

    I don't know if this "makes sense" or not, but I'm sure a lot of gamers have felt this way before i.e. "If I don't play in this game I (won't get to see my friends/won't be able to find another group/won't have a chance to "fix" my friends play styles)"

    OK, mine is...
    Go Pseudo-Play!
  • Posted By: ColinCCrossposted...
    OK, mine is...
    Go Pseudo-Play!
    This is true, as a means to expand the locations, backgrounds, basis, the frameworks of your narrativst games so you can focus on what is happening, by having more info handy and about when it starts.

    Mantra: Gahh dont know any from around here.

    here is one I have heard reverse

    The Thing is The Play
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: MeserachBored? Do Nothing!
    If you're bored, don't feel you have to do anything dramatic. Listen to the other players; react to them. Doing nothing is often the most interesting thing you can do.

    You are there to make the other players less awesome

    (P.S. If you can't think of a mantra, try 20 WORDS OR LESS: how YOU make games rock!. And feel free to answer "The Thing Is The Play" and "Knowing or seeing mundane things strips you of your sanity").
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: Graham WalmsleyYou are there to make the other players less awesome
    When you've got players going gonzo in your Universalis game, sometimes you have to talk them back down to earth. Certainly the ass-lightining shooting celestial lions singing the solo from freebird in voices like murder may be awesome, but it may not fit in your noir game of gritty betrayal.


    It doesn't matter how much your GM sucks, your game can still rule
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: Brand_RobinsIt doesn't matter how much your GM sucks, your game can still rule
    Easy one. Narrate cool outcomes and you'll encourage even the suckiest GM to do likewise.

    Mantra reversal:

    Rule 0: If you don't like a rule, DON'T YOU DARE change it!
  • Posted By: Thunder_God
    Knowing or seeing mundane things strips you of your sanity
    Two ideas:

    1. Yeesh, sounds like my life. What better existential horror than the mundanity of modern life? Never have we been more connected, yet never more alone.

    2. This totally sounds like a concept for a sort of Chthulu in reverse game, where you pklay characters so used to their delusions they have to do everythign they can to maintain them against reality to stay "sane". A sort of "Life Is Beautiful" RPG.
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: tadk
    The Thing is The Play
    Any sufficiently cool artifact or locations can spawn a whole game around it -- Elric's sword, Stormbringer. The giant cyclopean towers of Yuggoth. The Ringworld. The Hand of Vecna.

    My suggestion:
    When things get slow, send two people with guns out of the room.
  • Posted By: DannyK

    When things get slow, send two people with guns out of the room.
    Guns make everything easy. Point, click, dead. With a melee fight you really have to look the other guy in the eyes.... what could be more dramatic?

    Keep rolling dice until they fail.
  • "Keep rolling dice until they fail."

    That's how to play the Pool, according to some. Push the players to make rolls until that big fat pile of dice goes belly up, and then you have a whopper of a dramatic moment.

    If you're not having fun, don't talk to the other players about it.
  • Posted By: Matt Wilson
    If you're not having fun, don't talk to the other players about it.
    Sometimes a game won't hit it. If its all the time its a problem, but if there is just an off night sometimes its worth it to just let it go and get back on track fresh at a later time. Not having fun for 10 whole minutes is not a reason to stop the game and have a talk about our feelings.

    Roll Dice until you get the result you wanted before you rolled
  • Posted By: Brand_Robins
    Roll Dice until you get the result you wanted before you rolled
    ...with each dice roll subsequent to the first introducing a new complication. How far will you go to get what you want?

    Deliberately obscure your character's intentions.
  • "Deliberatly obscure your character's intentions."

    In normal RPGs we describe what our characters do, and then collectivly react to those described actions. Instead, a game where each player takes on two roles: the role of a ghost haunting a particular family in a gaudy, creepy house, and a member of that family. When it is your turn you describe what is occuring within the house, the particulars of the haunting as it were, and then everyone else roleplays how the family reacts to it, trying to decifer the ghosts messages so they can be sent to "the other side." Ghosts never get to speak or any of that stuff, they must communicate their deepest emotions and storys with actions that are blatently frieghtening to the family. Although actions don't exactly have to be malevolent.

    Railroad your players
  • Posted By: Kevin Allen JrRailroad your players
    In cosmic horror gaming, this is one way you can produce a mood of human insignificance. Similarly, if you have a game with a heavy use of destiny, railroading your players -- and getting them to try fighting it -- could make for some amazing "resisting fate" tension.

    Bring out-of-character drama to the table
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinBring out-of-character drama to the table
    Hell, that's the whole point of games like Zero at the Bone, or any game where you base your bangs on issues allegorical to metaphorical of issues the players are dealing with in real life.

    Here, I'll lob up an easy one:

    Always compete with the other players
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: Ryan MacklinBring out-of-character drama to the table
    Even if you're ever into those really hard-hitting character moments, that full-on macho nar stuff, you know someone is going to relate to the character's plight - and if you have a functioning group chances are they'll share a slice of horror from their own lives. Or maybe this is what happens when those lines are crossed, all the time...

    Say yes, or hold the dice
  • Posted By: Deacon Blues

    Mantra reversal:

    Rule 0: If you don't like a rule, DON'T YOU DARE change it!
    No-one did this one yet. In the interest of narrowing the field:

    The rules you dislike are the ones that challenge you the most. Challenge is to be faced, not denied. Face your fears that you may conquer them and grow as a person!

    (This sort of thing actually applies to game like DOgs, where taking a "if you don't like X about the game, remove it" attitude removes much of the games potency - even if you leave the rules intact, changing things like the religious elements or the in-setting view of homsexulaity and polygamy because it makes you uncomfortable is ducking a challenge.).

    There's two rervesed mantras still waiting above, so I won't add another.
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsAlways compete with the other players
    The Shab-al-Hiri Roach game I played in a couple weeks back was all about this, but it wasn't competing to win -- we were competing to be more awesome than the last guy.

    I haven't played Primetime Adventures yet, but I could see competing to be so awesome as to get Fan Mail.

    Competing for awesome can be, well, awesome. We're talking League of Awesomeness awesome.

    Looks like we still have one unanswered, so I won't add to the pile this time.
  • Posted By: SempiternitySay yes, or hold the dice
    Easy. Every time you want to make an action, another player can make a condition. If you agree with it, you roll your dice and get what you want; if you disagree, you hold the dice until later. For example, I say my character climbs on the other side of the wall unnoticed; some other player says he'll drop something from his pocket; if I'm OK with it, I roll the dice and either climb successfully or fall down or be noticed or whatever the resolution mechanic there is, and something's gonna fall down from my pocket; if I'm not OK, I hold the dice and tell that I think it's impossible to climb it here.

    What about Knock On The Door style of play?
  • I was going to make a joke about roleplaying Jehovah's Witnesses using the DITV rules but I think I'll pass and let someone else take this one.
  • "Knock On The Door" play most often occurs in Avon Hill's "Avon Calling" RPG. :)

    More seriously, a lot of social games could start off that way. Instead of a fetch quest for an item, you end up fetching people's votes or support. Kicking down their door is pretty counterproductive.

    (I'm really enjoying this thread. One of my old sci-fi games, Valence, is built on "Change the world or someone will change it for you," and I realized that it's already a reversal of "If you don't change the world, no one will.")

    Burning Wheel's front page says "Fight for what you believe." How about "Fight what you believe"?
  • "Fight what you believe"
    Easy, I like how easy it is to explain those things.

    You know fans? Yes, you're here after all. I have no problems with people who are fans of things I don't enjoy. If they make themselves or their hobby look ridiculous, I can snicker. But fans interested in my hobbies cast a bad shadow over me!

    Likewise, a fan doesn't care about things he's not into, but will fight what he believes, because how else would everyone else know how things are to the tenth decimal point, and how else will the writers know how things should go?

    And well, I'll repost my old ansnwered one:

    "A game's rules should not reflect what the game is about."

    BTW, I love this thread, it gives me a lot of ideas for mechanics for games.
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: Thunder_GodA game's rules should not reflect what the game is about."
    Rules are there to provide support for elements of the game which are or may become necessary, but which the participants lack the personal knowledge to simply roleplay through easily, which are likely to provoke argument or which are not sufficiently interesting to merit roleplaying through.

    Accordingly, a game about social intrigue probably needs rules for combat, but not for social intrigue, as the participants will be interested in roleplaying the intrigue but will probably want to get through combat relatively swiftly should it occur.

    Interestingly, this is broadly what I actually think.

    Edit: And to add to this, by having rules for the things the participants are most interested in, you force the participants to engage with mechanics precisely at the moment they most wish to be immersed in the game, so taking them out of the zone and into engagement with rules instead. Accordingly, not only are social intrigue rules unnecessary in a social intrigue game, by forcing the players to engage mechanically at that point you in fact damage the enjoyment of the social intrigue element.

    Which is why I don't like Dogs as it happens, everytime something interesting was about to happen we started engaging with a dicefest instead of just roleplaying it. The beauty is that for others, that is precisely it's strength.

    Ack, forgot my mantra: The map is your friend.
  • Maps are great! Seeing the juxtaposition of the pieces on the map, seeing what they're near to, seeing what's round the corner: it's all fuel for the narrative.

    All right, deal with this one.

    Play with people you don't like

  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: Graham WalmsleyPlay with people you don't like

    Because it takes you outside your comfort zone, and so exposes you to new ways of play and new types of stories.

    Don't let it ride, make them reroll instead.
  • Posted By: BalbinusDon't let it ride, make them reroll instead.
    Playing in a constantly changing environment where the change is not considered as something special. Can be anything from the game of intrigue to planescapish weirdness of magic. In game mechanics it can be implemented either as a link with real time (we reroll everything every five minutes) or as a GM's feature: the GM might have several tokens and force the players to reroll anything by spending those.

    And now... Talking is bad!
  • Posted By: RadaghastAnd now...Talking is bad!

    Don't Have a Coherent Creative Agenda
  • edited February 2007
    Posted By: Brand_Robins
    Don't Have a Coherent Creative Agenda
    ...because how else do you learn what creative agendas you favour?

    so... Don't let the players get comfortable!
  • If you're comfortable, you're not thinking. Note this can work both ways: there's the obvious nut-kicking-bang uncomfortable where you say "Okay, now your mom humps the policeman, whaddaya gonna do about it?" and there's the stretching-things-out-to-absurdity uncomfortable where you started with something nice and recognizable but the player choices just keep escalating things until you're pointing a gun at the president's head because you respect him so much.

    And: Include rules that are not important to the game.
  • Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyAnd:Include rules that are not important to the game.
    Just because you don't find them important doesn't mean someone wont. After all, you may be making the tool for others to use, but you're not actually the one using it or in charge of its use. So add a bottle opener, why not? In making at least a few extra rules available you may increase the utility of your game to people who do not buy into your railroading by design.

    Hrm, these are getting harder to come up with....

    Never think about the other players around the table, only think about the characters
  • I hereby motion to add this thread to "Best of Story-Games".

    It is indeed quite short, but it is also hard, full of useful techniques, innovative techniques and raw ideas.
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