4 out of 7 cried



  • edited August 2011
    All quotes are from David's post above.
    Posted By: David BergArgh, sorry, I was unclear! I didn't mean "What do the players do while the GM's mouth is moving?" I meant, "What do the players do when given a moment to respond, butnotgiven the fullyou're in chargeopportunity from the GM?"
    Ah, now I think I understand why we're struggling a bit with this discussion. Our wires are crossed.

    The only time I take control of a character is when that character fails a stress check. Under all other circumstances, the player is free, and encouraged, to be the director of his own shot or scene.
    Anyway, what I really want to know now iswhichof the things on your list (the one you just posted) I get to dohow frequently.
    Whenever you're on camera and I don't have control of your character because he failed a stress check. That's why I don't ask a player, "What do you do?" I always ask, "What does the audience see?" That's your queue to direct.

    Things get a little challenging in ensemble shots, because it can be hard to identify the owner of the scene. But if you think about it, rarely in a movie do you really see everyone on camera at the same time. The camera usually bounces from character to character, so each character owns his shot, even if he doesn't own the whole scene.

    Many times, a simple shot is a perfectly efffective shot, so players tend to be sparing with the kinds of techniques I described in my list. But they're actually available to the player any time he's on camera. If I or another player have a different technique in mind, we'll briefly discuss our ideas, figure out which we like best, and reshoot the scene if necessary.
    Player spotlight scenes are [total scenes] minus [GM-steered scenes] divided by [number of players], right? That sounds like a tiny fraction of the total play time.
    I don't think it's as small as you might imagine. I only start each scene. After that, I jump in to play an NPC, describe an event that occurs, or call for a stress check based on something I heard or saw. If none of those things are happening, I stay in the background.

    Don't get me wrong, it's still a traditional RPG, in that the GM probably talks about as much as all the players combined. The actual amount that I talk depends upon whether the scenario was designed to be plot-heavy or role-playing heavy. I'm embarrassed to admit that most of my scenarios are the former because I like a robust story. But any time I find myself frequently stepping on role-playing, the following year is likely to have a role-playing-heavy scenario.
    Do players get to narrate cuts, flashbacks, character-revealing content, etc. when they haven't been explicitly handed a spotlight scene?

    If not, I would assume that players have much more frequent opportunities to make the audience cringe or gasp, via a quick action or line of dialogue. Is that accurate?
    Yes, if I'm the owner of the scene, players can take the spotlight from me and insert content. If another player owns the scene, that player has veto power. If the nonspotlight player wants to add a significant amount of content or something that will have a very high impact, and it occurs during someone else's shot or scene, I often ask the nonspotlight player to get my or the spotlight player's attention first because whoever's directing may be on a roll and want to control the timing of when the new content appears on screen. But entering or leaving a scene, saying something in character, dictating the actions or words of a minor NPC -- things of that magnitude are available to all the players at all times. Except when they're under the effect of a failed stress check, that is.
    P.S. I love your list, and, for what it's worth, I look for similar things across many games too.
    Thanks very much, David. In my pulp games, I give huge amounts of directorial authority -- far more than the examples above. Pulp lends itself well to that sort of thing.

    - Todd
  • Interesting. Hmm. I'm still trying to reconcile "employ those directorial skills!" with an immersive, plot-centered game where the PCs feel powerless and there's enough character-to-player emotional overlap to elicit tears. Will ponder further...

    Let's say I've got a vision for my scene, and I'm building it up slowly for cinematic effect. What dictates when and whether you interrupt me for a Stress check?
  • edited August 2011
    David, I can understand why it might seem as if the directorial authority is at odds with a game where PCs occasionally feel powerless.

    It might help to remember that all of the directorial techniques and behaviors I listed a few posts ago (Capture the Magic of the Medium, etc.) don't usually change the story itself -- they change how you tell the story. So if in one scene, your character runs into a his arch-enemy the bully, and I call for a skill check when you try to get away and the roll fails, your character is in a bad way unless somebody comes to your aid.

    If you're a disciplined player, you'll use your directorial authority to most effectively elicit sympathy from the audience while your character gets the snot beaten out of him, rather than to try to engineer a miraculous escape. In the meantime, if another player has already sent his his character to come to your rescue, I have no reason to prevent that from happening -- but I'll control the timing of when the rescuer shows up. So yeah, I guess I do sometimes limit the players' directorial power for a specific effect. Perhaps that's what John was talking about.

    Hmm. I'm coming to the inescapable conclusion that there are a lot of things that I do unconsciously when I'm GMing. It's entirely possible that all of this analysis I've been offering is just hokum, based on a flawed perception of how I think I run a game.

    Anyway, like many other GMing techniques, the success of this one is strongly influenced by the willingness of the players to tell a moving story, rather than a story in which their characters overcome all adversity without breaking a sweat. I think that by reinforcing the tone of the game, I help make it clear what types of things the audience should expect to happen to the characters. This, in turn, makes it easier for the players to allow such things to happen.

    Oh, and to answer your question, I'll call for a stress check as close to the stressor event as I can. Often, that's immediately after the stressor. But if a failed stress check would interrupt the flow of the scene and not significantly add to the story, I'll usually delay the check until the end of the shot or the scene. For example, if I can tell a scene will have several stressful interchanges in it, I'll usually call for one stress check at the end, to kind of cover the scene as a whole. That's what I would do in the scene you described above, where you're trying to build up to something.

    - Todd
  • Excellent! Let me see if I can synthesize this. Players do more expressing of their character than they do meaningful authoring of anything outside their character (they can't control what NPCs do, right?), but their tools for expressing their character are extensive. Method acting is cool, but so is describing camera movement, inserting flashbacks or cuts, and introducing content that helps you get at what you're expressing.

    The plot, the backstory, the world logic, the NPCs, the other PCs -- none of these are up for grabs. What my character does in the midst of a stress response isn't either. My character's screen time is dictated by the GM. But within the province of my non-stress-crazed character, I have a lot of flexibility and options for how to show them off when they're on screen.

    Accordingly, the most important thing for me to do in play is to express my character in the ways important to the audience of this movie. This audience isn't interested in how badass, clever and effective my character is, so it's a waste of my time and energy to problem-solve on their behalf. What the audience wants to see is how the unfolding plot affects them. Whatever cinematic tools are best for communicating that should be invoked with gusto.

    Does that sound accurate? I may still be biasing this toward my initial expectations, so don't hesitate to correct me! But your distinction between changing the story vs changing the telling, and your example about evoking sympathy during a beating rather than avoid a beating, are perfectly in line with my first inklings.


    P.S. I've been working on recognizing all my unconscious GM behaviors for years. It's hard! Thorough reporters like John help, though.
  • David, your summary feels right. There are some things I've done differently from your description, but I can't say at what frequency.
    Posted By: David BergP.S. I've been working on recognizing all my unconscious GM behaviors for years. It's hard! Thorough reporters like John help, though.

    - Todd
  • Thanks for helping me nail down the active side of player involvement. I think equally important is the passive, or should I say receptive side. Caring about the plot is pretty key, right? "What's going to happen next? What old questions will it answer; what new ones will it pose? What's the ultimate reason why all this is going on? How will this all come to a point of resolution?" (And the the more active, "When the resolution comes, will I be able to sway it?") The players need to get into the story, to invest in following its twists and turns.

    Your skill as a storyteller may make this natural and easy, Todd, but it's still important to me to note it. If a given player has no interest in using their convention time to be audience to someone else's story, I think this probably isn't the game for them. Right?

    So, to sum up: it's vital to express your character, it's vital to absorb and care about the GM's story. It's probably also important to invest as audience in the other players' expressions of their characters. Hmm. For players, that may about cover it!

    What do you think?

    John, I'd be happy to hear your take too.

    I think I could effectively pitch this to players... Todd, I get the sense that you're good at eliciting buy-in even from people who didn't fully know what they were getting into, so this may not concern you too much. I think it could be a big help to a lot of other groups and GMs, though, so I appreciate you working on it with me!

  • Posted By: David BergIf a given player has no interest in using their convention time to be audience to someone else's story, I think this probably isn't the game for them.
    I believe any role-playing game is better for having its players recognize that the "story" is something they share in creating, and that sharing is dependent on them all taking part in, or observing, the scenes.

    It's not like you are an audience to the scenes of others; you are more like the script writer looking at one scene for inspiration and possibilities in the next. As long as all players stay in the game, the creative flow is easier to maintain.
  • edited August 2011
    Tomas, I'm trying to communicate this play style as distinct from other RPGs. "Be audience to a story" isn't meant as compared to watching a movie, it's meant as compared to playing an RPG where (e.g.) you get some GM authority, or shape the entire direction and content of the game with your character choices.

    There are upsides to being audience! You get to encounter the kind of careful reveal that can only be pulled off by an auteur with extensive control of their medium! But some players demand more activity and input, and "audience" conveys where this game falls on that play spectrum.
  • David: I understand that. I'm trying to help define what we do, and why it is so important. So I'm trying to say how we are active, actually, when in audience stance, in a role-playing game. Tried to reformulate it like "script writer" to get that point through. So I'm not disagreeing with you in this. Sorry if you misunderstood me.
  • I think you're making a good point, but I'd put it pretty far down on the list of things to tell players in order to prime them to embrace this play style. I think if you start with "shared story creation" and "script writer" you'll prime them for something else entirely, especially if they've played (or heard of) story games.
  • Thanks, David. Of course; discussing the theme here, and presenting the play style to a bunch of players, is something we have to approach in different ways. I would not talk about "script writer" at all, to players. I like the way Todd is doing it. Seems both simple and effective to me, and that's the way to go. If you make the method too complex, the players will fail to get it, and the game will crash.
  • I've not played in this game, but I've played in other games Todd's run, and it's always been a blast. I haven't cried during them, but they weren't that sort of game. (And I skipped the spoilers for this one.)

    I have cried in character during games, usually larps. The emotion's real, and I wasn't detached, but neither was I in danger of losing touch with base reality. I did cry during "Vengeful Dead", but that was a special case -- the tears came from pure out of character laughter.
  • edited September 2011
    David (Artman): I get time, and trust. But how do you define/describe space? Can you tell me more?
  • Latecomer in the thread here. I don't think I've cried before during any tabletop rpg, but I rarely cry during movies, and the few times I have have been right after break ups. Big fights or break ups with people I love are pretty much the only time I cry, really. I have however cried from online roleplaying but I think that was largely due to some problems I've had with that medium. The times I've been brought to tears all involved always IC muck style rpgs where something in the story either created a huge rift between a character my pc was close to or just plain killed one of us off. Part of what hit me hard was the tragedy in the story but another big part would be realizing that my only connection to this person I enjoyed playing with was through the game, so by losing the in character relationship our actual relationship was effectively cut off, making it difficult to seperate my character's feelings of loss from my own. I've been hit pretty hard by finding out someone I wanted to play with but didn't know yet had their character killed off or otherwise removed from play due to a traumatic event too. I think the frustration of trying to keep up with people who were online a lot more than me was sometimes part of it, where between two of my sessions my character's best friend or whatever went through a whole story arc that led to cutting them off from whatever plot or character development I had been working towards with them. Another part of it must also be that I have privacy in an online situation where in person I don't want to make everyone else uncomfortable, but those added elements coming together seemed essential to pushing me far enough to cry.

    By the same token similar situations hit me hard in tabletop games, but usually only in longform games where I've had time to grow attatched to characters and at worse I tear up. A random and meaningless, nonconsentual PC character death often bothers me a lot too, as a similar combination of the in game tragedy, not being able to continue to play scenes between my character and theirs anymore, and the player of the character who died arbitrarily (unfairly in my mind) losing their agency to impact the fiction. Probably another reason that bothers me is my first experience with roleplaying, where the GM quickly killed me and my friends characters off within a few minutes after I failed a dex check to not spill my beer on an overpowered NPC.

    Part of me is jealous of people who talk about crying in tabletop games, partly because I wish I was that good of a method actor, and partly because I wish I had the courage to allow myself to express emotions that openly. The other part of me is glad that it's easy for me to seperate my feelings from the fiction for the most part.
  • I've cried dysfunctionally five or six times (because of problems with the group or with values or limits), but “functionally” (e.g. the game produced an intended, valuable emotional response) like somewhere between three to five times. Once recently in a GM-less AMAZING game with some people who I hope read Story-Games. We played band members who lived together and had strong emotions about everything. The band’s name was “Oh, Coco”. For those who were in that game, get back into my life and let’s play some more games!

    I’ve also cried over character death combined with rude players — not sure which category that falls into. It is “functional” that the game created such a bond to the character that I missed it and dreamt about levels yet to come. But it was dysfunctional in that the tense situation was aggravated by a tasteless player.
  • Oddly, my first thought when I read the original post was "this is unusual???", but then I realised I've been totally spoiled by Fastaval.
    That's not to say every game I've run there has resulted in tears, (the writers of several lighthearted comedies would likely be rather disappointed if they had) but every year, out of the 8-10 games I run, at least two will result in tears. I've had a player feel physically ill when he went to draw money for the bar during a break in a game about alcoholism, and I cried a little during the same game when the 13 year old daughter came home, roaring drunk, saying she'd never felt so good before.
    I ran a game about love, where the woman chose the wrong partner to spend her afterlife with, and the second the choice was made, the player broke down in tears and didn't stop crying for several hours and a few liters of tea. (Husker du? by Morten Jäger).
    A player in Galaxic Echo (freely available in English) couldn't stand up for a good quarter hour after the game because her legs were shaking too badly.
    Several death scenes in Dulce et Decorum (also freely available in English) led not only to tears, but many, many tearful goodbyes post-game.

    Aaaand that's pretty much how I spend my easter :-)
  • Awesome thread. And a great reminder that the lines between various artforms... are not lines.
  • Ja, awesome! And truly; the defining traits of our artforms are not the boundaries, but rather the more or less dynamic principles that lays the foundation for our expressions within them.
    * * *
    I've been off this forum for a long time, but to get a reminder like this thread is truly inspiring. Several of the most meaningful postings I've ever read in this forum, belongs to this thread.
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