Narrativism vs traditional techniques

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  • We play to find out what the new situation is compared to the old one. We do that by making stuff up.
    Well, are you doing that together, or is the GM doing that?
  • How we do that is pretty much the 'whole' question of design. So for instance when deciding what's in the world it’s about saliency. What I require of the GM, is to have control of ‘the salient points of the narrative’ not the whole game world. So plates might be wallpaper. Whether I steal a watch I just made up, might be wallpaper.
  • Let’s say we’re playing Feng Shui and our characters are in a kitchen fighting bad guys. If we construct visual images in our heads then everybody has a different ‘movie’ playing. We’re all picturing the kitchen in different ways and with different levels of detail. When I say I grab the plates I’m grabbing the plates that I see in my minds eye that are there by virtue of it being a kitchen. On the other hand the GM might say there no plates there if that’s salient. Then I revise the picture in my head.
  • Years ago I was playing a game where I was a revolutionary in a peaceful city, the citizens ethos was all about harmony and getting along.

    Over the course of about 8 sessions a lot of shit went down and I ended up giving a speech in front of a mob, I was inciting them to looting and violence.

    The GM decided that no roll was required, the citizens wouldn’t riot, they were after all ‘peaceful and committed to harmony and getting along.’

    So after the game I was pissed. Not because I didn’t get my way but because I thought there should have been a roll.

    At the time I blamed all this on the system ‘It should have been say yes or roll the dice, then I would have got my roll.’

    Now I think system is a secondary concern. For the system to even matter in the first place, me and the GM must have been onboard that this was a dramatic moment. That maybe my words would incite the citizens to violence, that we’d decide it with a dice roll.

    Whether the mob would riot is a salient point and I wanted us to be in this together in finding out what would happen.
  • @2097 when you were doing full on 90's style GM stuff. Did you ever wonder what would happen? Like if you introduced something (with no prep) did you wonder, what will the players choices and the dice do to this situation to move it forward into ways I haven't imagined?
  • I’m borderline spamming and what follows is a reiteration of a lot of what has been talked about. This is just checking we’re on the same page about fundamentals before we get to prep/information separation.

    Imagine two people talking, making stuff up, Bob and Sue.

    Bob: A weary traveler
    Sue: staggers through a desert
    Bob: hungry and pained
    Sue: on the horizon a city
    and so on: of lapuzi and gold
    the traveler shields his eyes against the sun
    sees the city and smiles
    heads towards it
    within the city a callous prince reclines on a couch covered in rarest furs
    he rings a bell of glass to summon his favorite concubine
    she is there in moments, all smiles and bows
    but when the prince isn’t looking,
    the faintest sneer plays over her lips

    If they’re on the same wavelength they might have generated a lot of dramatic questions.
    That poor concubine, what’s she going to do?
    What’s the traveler after in the city?

    Continue play will answer these questions and generate more. This is the play to find out stuff and a method of finding out.

    Now why not just use this method instead of any other? The inertia of tradition? Yeah for the most part. I’d have a better time using the above system than say Fiasco. Is it better than Burning Wheel though?

    Let’s put Burning Wheel aside for a moment and get more fundamental. Let’s ask what the player/GM division brings to the above and if we we’re getting really technical, along what lines we’re splitting stuff up. (Can the player make up plates, cities, callous princes?)

    For me the rough division allows me to inhabit a character and make choices as a character, and have hopes for the character, and that’s special in a way that just narrating stuff isn’t. Why only play one? Well the biggest reason is because what do I do if two characters I own interact?

    So that’s a case for ‘only play one character’ and ‘gm/player’ division of stuff. My previous story might also be a case for ‘sometimes use the dice’.

    Do we agree that the above mechanics do get us emergence? They generate questions which we wants answers to and some of those questions will be decided by the player ‘what does he do?’ some will be decided by the dice in response to what a player does ‘what effect does his course of action have?’ and some will be decided by the GM because of what NPC’s do and what elements are brought into the sis in the first place.
  • Let’s say we’re playing Feng Shui and our characters are in a kitchen fighting bad guys. If we construct visual images in our heads then everybody has a different ‘movie’ playing. We’re all picturing the kitchen in different ways and with different levels of detail. When I say I grab the plates I’m grabbing the plates that I see in my minds eye that are there by virtue of it being a kitchen. On the other hand the GM might say there no plates there if that’s salient. Then I revise the picture in my head.
    I understand this. But the reason I bring it up in this context is less about saliency/wallpaper and more about stance/role-division.
  • edited June 2019
    Oh, you got to that in your future posts. I'll dig in to them once I've gotten some breakfast. But, Alexander… I think we've more on the same page than you think…? Why are you so afraid of just saying we agree? I get confused ← edit after reading I see that we do agree♥
  • @2097 when you were doing full on 90's style GM stuff. Did you ever wonder what would happen? Like if you introduced something (with no prep) did you wonder, what will the players choices and the dice do to this situation to move it forward into ways I haven't imagined?
    Two answers:

    In the full on 90s era
    No. I didn't. I saw myself as a story teller, movie director. It was almost all improvised but I was the one spinning the yarn, wanting to surprise & entertain & impress them. I'd sometimes go like "OK, and now we enter your apartment... let's hear what you have in there" and have them describe their own apartment and be amused by that. That does not qualify. So I get why peeps might be "oh, she didn't play 90s style the right way", I'll add: Buuut...

    Later when I was looking for "rules" just prior to mirror story
    Yes, my goal at this point was to reach some sorta meaningful "play to find out". We were running Fate and each scene was set in order to resolve a meaningful stake question.
  • Why only play one? Well the biggest reason is because what do I do if two characters I own interact?
    Also the rule I set up was not no more than one character per player, it was no more than one player per character. So that the character can be fully realized with one consistent "soul" at the helm… is that stupid idk

  • Oh, you got to that in your future posts. I'll dig in to them once I've gotten some breakfast. But, Alexander… I think we've more on the same page than you think…? Why are you so afraid of just saying we agree? I get confused ← edit after reading I see that we do agree♥
    If I ever come across as curt or combative it's because my natural writing style tends to veer in that direction and if try and make it more palatable it takes me twice as long to write stuff :(
  • edited June 2019
    If I ever come across as curt or combative it's because my natural writing style tends to veer in that direction and if try and make it more palatable it takes me twice as long to write stuff :(
    Thanks for the explanation♥
    Like if you introduced something (with no prep) did you wonder, what will the players choices and the dice do to this situation to move it forward into ways I haven't imagined?
    Let me add to my previous answer with not only what was going on with my mindset but also the technical practices here.

    Most of the time we were doing diceless.

    When we were using dice like a d20 when we were ostensibly playing Drakar or whatever, I wasn't even looking at the die rolls, just deciding. (Yeah I know!)

    When we brought Fudge dice & adjective scale back after a while I was kinda barely doing fail forward. More like fail-super-minor-setback. (These days I hate fail forward. I want failure to be consequential.)
  • Why only play one? Well the biggest reason is because what do I do if two characters I own interact?
    Also the rule I set up was not no more than one character per player, it was no more than one player per character. So that the character can be fully realized with one consistent "soul" at the helm… is that stupid idk

    Stance stuff is the topic I'm most interested in. I started off as a myguy/immersionist but a few games really complicated the issue for me and I think I have a very different take on it than I used to.

    Do you have any thoughts on why Fate didn't pop? Do you remember the sort of stakes you used to set?
  • What I found about stance was that it was really important to make significant decisions as my character (that’s a simple way of putting it but we can maybe unpack that more later).

    Initially I thought describing plates and that kind of stuff would mess with my immersion. It turns out that it didn’t, except in some cases it did. When I looked at the cases where it did I started noticing similarities that tied into how I express my creative agenda and how conflict was resolved.


    As an example:

    So I like IAWA but I can’t play my character full bore because when we hit the negotiation phase I have to give for the good of the story. I’m making important decisions based on aesthetic criteria that conflict with what my character wants.

  • Stance stuff is the topic I'm most interested in. I started off as a myguy/immersionist but a few games really complicated the issue for me and I think I have a very different take on it than I used to.

    Do you have any thoughts on why Fate didn't pop? Do you remember the sort of stakes you used to set?
    Like "werewolves in your office, will you drive them off or will they kill you or will you flee or w/e".

    One big problem that isn't related to anything in this thread was how the econ would break down when there were too many or too few fate points available.

    The few moments where it really did pop was when something was prepped a little more solidly. I wasn't trying to do blorb, but accidentally the blorbier the moments the better. That was true both for our Diaspora campaign and our Fate Core werewolf cyberpunk campaign.
  • edited June 2019
    What I found about stance was that it was really important to make significant decisions as my character (that’s a simple way of putting it but we can maybe unpack that more later).

    Initially I thought describing plates and that kind of stuff would mess with my immersion. It turns out that it didn’t, except in some cases it did. When I looked at the cases where it did I started noticing similarities that tied into how I express my creative agenda and how conflict was resolved.
    So I'm working hard on a DM phrase list to fix things in as unintrusive of a way as possible.

    So while they normally say "are there some rocks here" and I can answer gloracularly, if they say "I grab a rock and…" without asking, if there are rocks there I just think "good guess" and nod along, if there aren't I ask where they got it. I try to not sound sarcastic or passive-aggressive with my voice. Like not "Oh, where did you get a rock, you little…". More like genuinely curious. Often they can find a good answer "I go get some pieces of the broken gargoyles on lev five" and that's salient because that adds to the time it takes to do the task.

  • edited June 2019
    Yes, formalizing "constructive seriousness" is what I am coming to too. Until last month, I was all "see which factors matter so youcan feed this dedicated system that will do the follow up on consistency for the players". And on the other side : aesthetic vetoes and stuff. Now I am like : if you want consistency, don't block, just ask a follow up question. It's super easy and productive.
    This is to show that item #3 of the gloracle is where hippies camp on your building grounds.
  • if you want consistency, don't block, just ask a follow up question. It's super easy and productive.
    If you're the DM… I really miss playing in a blorby game.
    But my plan is to add some custom NPCs next time I run a module. Ofc I can't immerse too much in them since it's my responsibility to stolen car them & crosshairs them. But still
  • Maybe in your setup only the DM can answer it, but what prevents a player from asking a follow up question ? I mean this rather as an encouragement than as a question proper.
  • information separation
    If there isn’t a solid “offscreen” game state, there’s no need to hide notes, hide a map or whatever.
    I’m not at all convinced that this follows.

    If you go west, you’ll find living there either the goblin raiders, or the gnoll traders, depending on how the journey plays out, but it’s still a discovery to be made when you reach the place.

    It’s going to be either the Duchess, or the butler, or the priest who’s the murderer, depending on how the investigation goes and how you build your case, and even the GM doesn’t know which is true, but we reach this through investigation and building the case, not open information consensus

    I guess this might be the crux of your argument in many ways: you seem to be saying that you need to commit to full blorb or to full whatever-is-the-opposite (no-myth?), otherwise you’re missing out on savouring either to the fullest, and a lot of the pushback is coming from people who feel they’re two great tastes that taste great together: they do subvert and oppose and prevent each other’s expression to the fullest, but that contract might be precisely what some people enjoy.
  • edited June 2019
    If you go west, you’ll find living there either the goblin raiders, or the gnoll traders, depending on how the journey plays out, but it’s still a discovery to be made when you reach the place.

    If there is no prepped “west” or “murderer”, there is no information to hide. You could play something like Lovecraftesque and have everyone involved in building the “west” or “murderer”.

    I guess this might be the crux of your argument in many ways: you seem to be saying that you need to commit to full blorb or to full whatever-is-the-opposite (no-myth?), otherwise you’re missing out on savouring either to the fullest

    It’s kinda like putting an all-beef patty in a vegetarian soup. Or just a tiny shot of gin in a non-alcoholic punch bowl.

    It’s not the “deception” angle that I’m talking about, but the fact that that soup is no longer vegetarian, that punch bowl is no longer non-alcoholic, and that offscreen fiction is no longer canon.

    Playing “twenty questions” is a fundamentally different game from “twenty questions, but I don’t even have an answer in mind, I just want to challenge myself to see how long I can keep you guessing”.

    and a lot of the pushback is coming from people who feel they’re two great tastes that taste great together: they do subvert and oppose and prevent each other’s expression to the fullest, but that contrast might be precisely what some people enjoy.

    Or it might be inertia/tradition. Or disbelief. Disbelief that someone might actually want to believe that the game world is real.

    People might really like beef soup and gin punch even after trying vegetable soup and fruit punch. But we have some commentators saying they don’t even believe vegetable soup or fruit punch can even exist.

    Shimrod, you brought up the traditional technique of information separation. Of havign a GM role while the players are having their characters make actions in the game world.

    But when there’s quantum raiders/traders in the west, or a quantum duchess/butler/priest holding that garrotte… isn’t it utterly meaningless. I played this way for many years. And I just can’t.

    Obv the challenge element of trying to guess what number you’re thinking of breaks down if you’re not really thinking of a number, you’ll just say “no” until we’ve said 99 random numbers and then say yes on whatever number is the very last one.

    But it’s not just the challenge element. It’s also the discovery element. “Exploration” in the three pillars sense, not the GNS sense. We open the lid and what do we find? Turns out there’s nothing there. Because you are just making things up.

    It’s also the story or drama element. Our characters want to make meaningful consequences but we can’t do that because everywhere we turn there’s just smoke and mirrors. We are ghosts, we are shadows.

    Sure, we can turn to each other, collide with each other, which I’ve acknowledged above. At least we know that our selves are solid. A drama game just needs the four walls and each other’s faces to stare coldly into. Full Blorb in 5 seconds of prep “wall wall wall wall table chair chair go”. Awesome games have been had.

    But that’s not what you’re talking about with your [raider|trader] west and your [duchess|butler|priest] murderer. You’re asking us to get hyped up about discovering / exploring / not knowing / finding out something when there is nothing to discover, explore, wonder about, or find out.

    “But Sandra”, everyone says, “there are awesome stories to be told about someone travelling west or someone investigating a murderer and we can tell those stories with much less work by just improvising it all! And those stories will me much better and tighter than flailing around in the blorb!”. YES. But the traditional techniques both set up the wrong expectations, and they are a waste, they get in the way of taking advantage of all the creativity you have around that table. Play Lovecraftesque, play Nerver av stål, play any of a bunch of games that work with this goal.

  • It isn't just a matter of being a lot less work.

    It's also a matter of GM burnout.

    Fully Blorby ( I hate that word, a lot) play requires an enormous commitment of time and energy for the GM, even if they are only using pre-made material and appropriate random charts.
  • I hate that word, a lot
    I think I should take another break from S-G.
    It isn't just a matter of being a lot less work.

    It's also a matter of GM burnout.

    Fully Blorby ( I hate that word, a lot) play requires an enormous commitment of time and energy for the GM, even if they are only using pre-made material and appropriate random charts.
    I want to teach it and make it easier. Including for myself because it is a lot of work yes.

    But I'm not saying do blorb. I'm saying if you're not doing blorb, don't do traditional techniques.
  • I want to teach it and make it easier. Including for myself because it is a lot of work yes.

    But I'm not saying do blorb. I'm saying if you're not doing blorb, don't do traditional techniques.
    FWIW, I agree with you on the last sentence. I don't think Trad techniques are necessarily good when you're trying to do something far different.

    As far as Blorb itself, have you asked yourself in a serious way how far you are willing to go for that and why?

    To me, a lot of this seems like a mental exercise somewhat removed from the implications of it's deployment in practice.

    For example, I could see someone willing to commit to designing for and GMing bloboriffic play for one relatively self-contained "adventure" ( however may sessions, but a relatively small number).

    I could see a sequel, or two, with significant time in between playing them ( it takes time to create that level of blorbiness, even employing random charts appropriate to the setting).

    What I have a hard time imagining is a single GM committing to doing this long-term with real fidelity and neutrality with a consistent group of players.


    You've said you want to play a character in this style of game. Would you consistently, perhaps for years, commit to doing it as GM for other people? Could you foresee doing it without slipping into some of the bad ( not-very-blorby) habits you're against?

  • As far as we know, Sandra does, indeed, do just that on a regular basis (sometimes more than one session a week!). It’s certainly possible for some. :)

    I agree that it’s not realistic for many/most gaming groups, though.
  • Yes, we are on year five, or I think a little more than that.
  • edited June 2019
    Well, let's see how that turns out.

    Those '90s techniques evolved from earlier, presumably fairly Blorby playstyles, and undoubtedly did so for a good reason.

    Does the wheel get re-created in some fashion, even while knowing what we now know?

    For that matter, how hygienic is the blorbitude? How far in advance do highly detailed blorborriffic areas get created, when a big part of play is actual exploration?


    The next dungeon/town over? One in each cardinal direction, plus the ones from each of those?


    How does it work with, say, a science fiction genres, as opposed to fantasy genre, where you're dealing with the issue on a multi-planet, planet-wide scale?


    How do you avoid playing into your players' interests in the name of a consistent world?


    Now, I could see all of this working with either rotating groups but consistent "modules", possibly paired with rotating GMs and varied worlds/settings. I could see it working with, weirdly, old school Gary Gygax multiplayer campaigns with 20+ people, highly valued GM neutrality, and a fairly simplistic game concept like OD&D ( Get Rich or Die Trying!).


    I just have a hard time imagining it with a less bloodthirsty concept and a smaller group size that you play with consistently.


    And, while I can see a single person committing to it as designer/GM, I just don't see how that works out well in the long-term for that person, nor do I see how it encourages anyone else to take up that same level of commitment.
  • I use a lot of modules.
  • I use a lot of modules.
    Fair play. I certainly would under those self-imposed restrictions.

    What qualities makes a pre-made module good for blorb-committed play?
  • edited June 2019
    What qualities makes a pre-made module good for blorb-committed play?
    What I want is locations with problems and goals. I don't want a "funnel" type structure, I want them to be able to go pretty much anywhere. The Lost Mines of Phandelver was good, as was B4 The Lost City, and Curse of Strahd. The castle is right there on the hill, or you can go explore the country side and there is plenty there. I placed the Deep Carbon Observatory and Carrowmore in Barovia.

    We've been doing a jungle hex crawl (with a couple of dungeon here and there on that hexmap) for the last year and change, and are in a big dungeon now.

    I had an idea a while back that I haven't really tried out yet that would be sort of a compromise between creating the entire country in advance, which is what I would've wanted to do a la this overly ambituous setup, but I've never been able to actually do that, between that overly ambitious methond vs the "create each hex randomly as we go along" method which I think is not solid enough.

    That compromise is the quest queue. That blog post is just a sketch, it needs some more codifying (exact distances per tier primarily). That way I could create new modules (using random generators online, using my own homebrew stuff, using finished modules from other people [both from WotC and from third party]) without quantuming them them or forcing them, just placing them on the quest queue. I haven't really tried it because a lot of the time I use modules where there is a lot of stuff already. A big region + a buncha dungeons.

    I used the big region map from the railroaded adventure "Corsairs of the Great Sea" and let them loose using it as a sandbox, I had placed a buncha the Yawning Portal dungeons nearby too, but they also did explore one of the sites from that railroaded adventure. I let the factions and agendas from the railroaded adventure be true, I just threw out the timeline; just used the starting situation.

    I experimented with "an island rises from the bottom of the sea" to change it from scripted ("when the characters reach this or that level") to be a daily die roll. "Did the island rise today" But that experiment, well, the campaign ended before that happened.

  • Just get the starter set and run it blorbily and then build from there.♥
    That's what I did.
  • edited June 2019
    Oddly enough, I think the “endless prep” problem, while real, is kind of a red herring in this thread.

    However - and this is the odd part! - once we understand how to determine “saliency” this whole problem goes away and we can have any mixture of blorb and non-blorb that we want. So, in a way, it’s the key to unraveling this whole topic.
  • What do you do to confine play within an area to allow better blorbiness? I mean, at the campaign level.

    How does it impact play if players seem intent on ignoring content and going off the map, so to speak.

    How do you react to that? In game, out of game?

    What kind of setting works best with blorbiness? Is there a point at which a setting is effectively mined out for your purposes?

    At what point is it legit to re-use unexplored blorbied-up areas? Or is it really never legit, and the temptation to do so is treading on thin ice?

    BTW, none of this is entirely theoretical. There are two different old TSR RPGs from the '80s that I'd like very much to run like you're suggesting. Each time I've tried to do so, my players tend to immediately run off the map, and I can't say I have any in-world, in-fiction reason, legitimately blorbily prepped, to stop them from doing that. Each time, it led me to improvise on the spot, something that would seem to fly directly in the face of world consistency and pre-existence.

  • What do you do to confine play within an area to allow better blorbiness? I mean, at the campaign level.
    I can't claim perfect Klockwerk systems, but I have an answer that reflects our attempts.
    We agreed as a table to stick to the region on our world map. Each marked location is an adventure site (most of them from @Fuseboy).

    image
  • edited June 2019
    How much do players know before play starts about the adventure sites?

    Really, I'm just asking if they know they exist on the map.

    How important are the non-adventure site hexes?

    Also, just shooting to the chase, does any of this have application to anything that isn't fantasy with a heavy emphasis on exploration/looting?

    Not trying to be mean there, but I have a really hard time envisioning any other genre that works with it.
  • About “half-myth”… A “no myth” game was defined as a game where things weren’t true until they had been established in play; hadn’t entered the SIS. Opposite of blorb pretty much.

    ...

    I am frustrated/jarred by Burning Wheel because it whips me back & forth between two different modes of play.
    Yeah, but in a half-myth game, there are some / many things that are objectively true. There are some things that are nailed down, even if they remain off-screen for the time being. Typically, for example, stats of major NPCs, locations of major cities or dungeons, maybe the stats for a certain magic item. Parts of the backstory / secret history of the world. (There's even a special reward in BW for getting invested in the GM's hard-prepped stuff, the Deeds point.)

    The thing you're missing about BW is because of your failure to consider the possibility of a fourth way.

    -It isn't aiming for 90's style trad illusionist bullshit.

    -It isn't aiming for "pure" story-game, where we are all 100% collaborating together to build the world and the events.

    -It isn't aiming for blorb.

    The thing BW is aiming for necessitates some mix of hard-prepped and improvised setting elements. I think maybe "Dramatic Protagonism" or something is a good name for it.

    Think of it this way: to a vegetarian, you shouldn't put even a small amount of grilled hamburger meat in the meal. But to a non-vegetarian, it's perfectly fine to mix meat and vegetables to achieve whatever it is you *are* aiming for in that meal.
  • What do you do to confine play within an area to allow better blorbiness? I mean, at the campaign level.

    How does it impact play if players seem intent on ignoring content and going off the map, so to speak.
    When I've done this, we discussed explicitly how the game would be about exploring a given map. Nothing off-map would be played through at the table.

    It could happen! But it would be like, "OK, Alice takes the next ship back to Amland. Alice's player, do you want to play Henchman Bob for the rest of the session? You'll need a new PC for at least 6 sessions, since the trip to Amland and back is 3 months each way."
  • How much do players know before play starts about the adventure sites?

    Really, I'm just asking if they know they exist on the map.

    How important are the non-adventure site hexes?

    Also, just shooting to the chase, does any of this have application to anything that isn't fantasy with a heavy emphasis on exploration/looting?

    Not trying to be mean there, but I have a really hard time envisioning any other genre that works with it.
    This map is player facing. They follow the travel rules right on the map sheet. We play Torchbearer, so there are player-facing rules on how to research a location or find rumors about the opportunities there.

    The non-adventure hexes only matter when they fail a travel roll or break up travel with camping.

    I have only gotten this style of play to work in Torchbearer because of the pace/scale of travel, lack of long range communication (in game), and the multitude of adventure sites to draw from (in real life).
  • Yes, exactly. Agreement, understanding, social contract. Creative Agenda. Etc. Nothing about “blorb”, by itself guarantees good play.

    I’m also fully on board with what Deliverator is describing. (In fact, I find it really weird that we have to talk about it all, given that the majority of Narrativist games until fairly recently ALL worked this way or fell into that “camp”.)

    I’ve seen a lot of people come to that understanding from a limited reading of “GNS” categories, though: that “Narrativist” means we all make stuff up with no grounding basis, even though that creative agenda and those techniques have nothing direct to do with each other.
  • Oh, @komradebob, loving these practical questions.

    When they leave the map

    So there are basically three techniques.

    Just telling them

    Out of character. “For this campaign, please stay on the continent of Chult. That’s the only place that I have prepped.” If they try to leave, remind them.

    If they keep trying to leave, you have prepped to small or too badly. Scrap the campaign and start over.

    Random encounters

    This works really well. They can go out and do whatever. Nearby we have tier 1 truths, if you go further we’ll have tier 2 truths. Here are some real prepped villages, further away there are random villages. Here we have some real dungeons, further away there are random lairs.

    Some sorta barrier or wall like the magical mists surrounding Barovia

    This is awful! It’s not unblorby at all—it’s actually cool that there’s a diegetic reason to stay—but it becomes really hard for the players (if they are in identifying stance) to leave these be. Trying to crack the puzzles of these mist walls ate up a couple of sessions of our CoS campaign. And it comes across as super railroady and forced even though that’s not the intention.

    What are best settings?

    So a flat open map is best. Following a river isn’t great. Deep Carbon Observatory is a module that has great content but from the player’s side it came across as really railroady. First the events in the city flowed into each other so well that they felt linear/scripted and then going upriver also felt literally linear.

    Obv lower tech = easier prep. If they have flying carpets, spaceships etc you need to prep at a different scale and a different granularity and density.

    Can settings be mined out?

    Yeah, we’ve had four different kinds of campaign endings, and I’ll add a fifth & theoretical one.

    Setting mined out

    This happened in our Lost Mines campaign, they had pretty much done it all. That was unsatisfying to me because I have the attitude that if you do it all, you’re no longer choosing what you do. I think I’m gonna try hard to make “never-ending” campaigns in the future.

    Campaign scrapped & unfinished

    This happened to our Princes of the Apocalypse campaign. I just didn’t want to keep running it. I loved the NPCs but the book was so hard to use.

    Some major setback led us to taking a break

    I’ve had three “never ending” campaigns because I had rules that allowed me to add content to them, not that we had gotten anywhere near finishing what I had put in before campaign start. al-Qadim (two separate campaigns), and my two homebrews Glitchworld and Bladen Faller.

    First aQ campaign
    A popular PC got petrified and I was just really anxious to get started with Princes
    Glitchworld campaign
    My fave city got burned down! So much for having a stolen car mentality, I got so bummed out
    Second aQ campaign
    We had a lot of players drop out (because of moving cities) and one of the parties got TPKd. Took a break from running after this.
    Bladen Faller
    Played one session, but one guy (a 3e player who I hadn’t played with before) was a big jerk and also it became painfully obvious that I hadn’t prepped enough, unlike my previous homebrew, Glitchworld. [Note to self: An Echo Resounding much better than ACKS when it comes to prep. But that was the experiment.]

    To me the most satisfying campaign end was that first aQ campaign. We still had a lot of things to explore and we were like “OK , the campaign is in a good place, we just lost a major PC, let’s take a break from it and do something else, I really want to do Princes, it looks so cool”

    A predetermined ending condition

    This, while better than “mined out”, isn’t great because it isn’t as open-ended as I like. For our Curse of Strahd campaign I had decided that the campaign would end when Strahd died. (It took a bunch of PC parties dying before that happened.) I pitched it to the players as less of a funnel, and more of a… there are a hundred loaded rat traps in this dark room. One of them is red. When the red one has snapped, we’re gonna turn on the lights and wrap it up.

    My current campaign started with a similar ending condition: the campaign would end when the players have decided what to do with the soul monger and then done that thing. Try to use it, stop it, destroy it, steal it, control it, annihilate it, ignore it… whatever. But then it’s over. Buuut I think the next campaign will have a lot of continuity with this one, I’ll set it nearby and we can have a shared history with this campaign.

    A predetermined amount of sessions

    This isn’t one I’ve tried yet but was an idea I had. 12 weeks, only counting weeks where we’ve played at least once.

  • Re-using unexplored areas

    Quantum placement of areas in general

    So there’s this classic example that I think is not legit which is from “How to be a GURPS GM” page 26.

    A classic example is an adventuring party traveling through the wilderness and coming to a fork in the road. Assume the GM has created a small keep as an encounter, complete with some memorable NPCs and a few adventure hooks. If the GM has already told the players the keep is along the left road, or given them a map showing the keep on the left road, then in the game world that’s where the keep is. If they choose to travel the road on the right, there is no logically consistent way they will arrive at the keep.
    However, if the keep was not previously mentioned, the GM can place it along whichever road the party chooses to travel – if they go left, it’s along the left road; if they go right, it’s along the right road – and as far as the game world (and the players) are concerned, that’s where it has always been. Similarly, the keep the GM created doesn’t have to be a keep. If the party knows the keep is along the left road, and they choose to travel the right road, perhaps they eventually come upon a cross- roads inn, where many of the same NPCs and adventure hooks from the keep now reside.
    To some, this may seem somehow sneaky or underhanded. However, enjoying an RPG is about the willing suspension of disbelief – players want to lose themselves in an imaginary world for a time, pretending to be a fictional character. As long as the wires behind the scenes, holding the sets together, don’t intrude into the game, most players don’t care much about how they get to the fun. They just care about getting there.

    To which I say… why is there even a fork in the road then?

    Even sandbox hero Kevin Crawford has “you should have a bunch of prepared sites in your folder to pull out” and I’m like, uh, I’m not so sure that’s legit.

    I always want to move all content “through the gloracle” somehow.

    I’d rather put the keep on the random encounter table than to “force” the players to visit it using those tricks.

    In my game though, almost all sites are fixed to the map rather than reside on the encounter table. I’d rather try something like the “The Quest Queue” if I wanted to place content randomly because of the idea put forth there: information=agency.

    That said, I normally just use a map that have locations hard placed already. It’s not like it’s hard to have a bunch of dungeons placed around a town…? I don’t have to be super familiar with the dungeons before the players go there. Just skim through them.

    When is it legitimate to reuse unexplored content?

    If it’s a new campaign. If the players didn’t even hear of the site, it’s fine to just copy it over to a new location on the new campaign. If they heard about it but rejected it (maybe because they didn’t have time to go there, or because they didn’t want to go there, or they tried going there but didn’t like being there), then I ask them. That was the case in our first aQ campaign, I had placed B4 The Lost City and The Caverns of Thracia near the city of Mahabba and also generated a bunch of city stuff in there and smaller dungeons in the city, some homebrew, some stuff out of Red Tide and from a random city book. The players briefly visited the Caverns of Thracia (and lost a couple of PCs there) but decided to concentrate on the Lost City which to them was more interesting [because it was a more newly opened up area diegetically, I had decided that “a pyramid had been uncovered in a sandstorm” whether the Caverns of Thracia was more “meh it’s been there for a while” in their estimation] and also they had just had a bunch of deaths in the Caverns of Thracia.

    So when I later wanted to place the Caverns of Thracia in another campaign, I asked them (ooc) for permission to do so. [In the end that campaign hasn’t started yet.]

    If you’re still in the same campaign, I don’t think it’s legit. The players might still go there later. They might still go back to that left fork and go see that keep, in the GURPS example.

    The “Tomb of Annihilation” module is a hexmap that’s kinda sparsely populated. It says “Feel free to move areas around so that they get in your players path” and I was like “nuh-uh, that’s against our table’s social contract” and stuck with their listed locations. (With one example: I decided (for myself, this wasn’t something I ran by the players) that IF the characters got dragged off to a goblin village, I’d use the “goblin village” location and move it, letting it stand in for “a generic goblin village” and change the name. Them getting dragged off to a goblin village, or even them stalking some goblins home to their village, felt kinda unlikely to happen and they were more likely to stumble over the real location of that particular village. [In the end neither happened.]) To fill out the hex map I added in stuff from Knights of the Dinner Table and from Fire on the Velvet Horizon.

    I did feel on thin ice with that goblin village thing!

    I also went through my notes and I found one super unblorby thing. One of the NPC houses that the party used for a base for a while had brewer’s tools and he was established as a brewer. There’s nothing in the module about that that I can find? I guess I thought that was wallpaper…? But we have so many rules for using brewers tools to purify water…? Not sure what I was thinking with that one!! But it’s just back to trying to do better♥

  • I agree with @Deliverator 's BW summary. I think there are even good guidelines for how to tune your prepped/ improvised Burning Wheel material:

    Prep a tense situation. Present it big-picture before play, continuing showing new details of it when relevant. (This is the blorb half, a snowballing crisis that does not only exist to mirror Protagonist actions).

    When introducing new elements, make them challenge player beliefs. (This is the non-blorb part, where the GM is improvising [or selectively incorporating] the most dramatic content, rather than disclaiming decision-making.)

    It works, for me at least.
  • @Deliverator I made a new thread about that.

    You've convinced me that it's not illusionist etc etc (or rather, go to that thread for deets) but I just personally get jarred by the way BW whips me back & forth between what for me is two completely separate activities, living in the world vs being creative. It's like bicycle karaoke or underwater oilpainting or dancing&compiler-debugging, it's just doing two really difficult things that I don't want to do at the same time. Being a character in the book vs being an author of the book.
  • edited June 2019
    (I'll move this reply to the "half myth" thread)
  • In fact, I find it really weird that we have to talk about it all, given that the majority of Narrativist games until fairly recently ALL worked this way or fell into that “camp”.

    Listen. A lot of really good design out of the Forge, out of the OSR, out of here came from someone asking the question “OK, almost all games do XYZ. But what if it’s bad to do XYZ? Let’s play with that thought a bit”. Burning Wheel itself: almost all games say don’t look up rules while playing. But what if we should look up rules while playing?

    I’ve seen a lot of people come to that understanding from a limited reading of “GNS” categories, though: that “Narrativist” means we all make stuff up with no grounding basis, even though that creative agenda and those techniques have nothing direct to do with each other.

    Right… which Ron said in his pro-blorb-video.

    But. You’ve also argued for how technical agenda and creative agenda are almost completely orthogonal and I’ve argued that… if you are not doing blorb you don’t need to, or shouldn’t, use traditional techniques. I’ve gone through the techniques one by one. Spending a buncha time writing that up. C’mon and be a mensch Paul and share some of the proof burden here.

    Are you [speaking to Paul and only Paul now] really saying that using the traditional techniques straight up without disrupting them, when doing unblorb, is a jolly good idea?

  • I agree with @Deliverator 's BW summary. I think there are even good guidelines for how to tune your prepped/ improvised Burning Wheel material:

    Prep a tense situation. Present it big-picture before play, continuing showing new details of it when relevant. (This is the blorb half, a snowballing crisis that does not only exist to mirror Protagonist actions).

    When introducing new elements, make them challenge player beliefs. (This is the non-blorb part, where the GM is improvising [or selectively incorporating] the most dramatic content, rather than disclaiming decision-making.)

    It works, for me at least.
    I'd wanna... add the new elements on some sorta gloracular "queue" such as an encounter table, to get a "disclaim decision-making" layer inbetween me and them. But since beliefs are ever-changing in BW they might've gotten obsolete by the time they happen, if they happen.
  • edited June 2019
    Sure, I can engage with some of that. Would be happy to!

    First of all, let me see if I can summarize what I see as arguments you've brought forward so far, and then maybe you can do the same for me. How does that sound?

    Ok:

    The basis of this thread is the idea that doing Narrativism (for the sake of this thread, I think this can be treated as "rpg play with an interest in an exciting story we all get invested in, as its main priority") with traditional techniques (which may or may not include blorb; not sure on that one) is a bad idea.

    Is that a fair summation of your thesis here?

    Now, given that, here are the arguments I think you've made in this thread:

    1. Using traditional techniques sends the wrong expectations to the players, who may assume that "blorby" methods are being used in the game.

    Breaking that expectation can harm the game and/or people's enjoyment of it.

    2. Therefore, if you're playing a Narrativist game, you should make it crystal clear that it's not "blorby", and, furthermore, you should do that by avoiding traditional techniques.

    3. You've outlined five "pillars" of traditional, blorby play, and you feel that they go well together, support each other, and create a whole that's coherent and strong and solid.

    Is that a fair summary? Did I miss anything important?

    Are there further points you feel you have proven (or at least argued strongly)?

    Are you [speaking to Paul and only Paul now] really saying that using the traditional techniques straight up without disrupting them, when doing unblorb, is a jolly good idea?

    I think I've been fairly clear on this:

    * Doing "Narrativism" with traditional techniques can be challenging and difficult, and it's certainly easy to it wrong.

    (This is analogous to how doing "good blorb" is challenging and difficult, by the way.)

    * There is, however, an existing school/tradition/culture/design lineage of Narrativist games with traditional mechanics, and they're really fun to play.
  • The basis of this thread is the idea that doing Narrativism (for the sake of this thread, I think this can be treated as "rpg play with an interest in an exciting story we all get invested in, as its main priority") with traditional techniques (which may or may not include blorb; not sure on that one) is a bad idea.

    Is that a fair summation of your thesis here?
    That is incorrect.

    My thesis is

    Unblorb with traditional techniques is a bad idea.

    Corollaries:
    Fully blorby narrativism with traditional techniques are fine.
    Fully blorby non-narrativism with traditional techniques are fine.
    Unblorby narrativism without traditional techniques are fine.
    Unblorby non-narrativism without traditional techniques are fine.
    Extremely hippified or disrupted traditional techniques count as "without" for this purpose.

    The whole "narrativism" thing came about because you asked me in PM if I was aware that you could do narrativism with traditional techniques. In hindsight, I should've said "yes as long as it's fully blorby narrativism".
  • Have we defined "traditional techniques" in this model?
  • You've outlined five "pillars" of traditional, blorby play, and you feel that they go well together, support each other, and create a whole that's coherent and strong and solid.
    Yeah, that should be four, because putting "resolution mechanics" in there was dumb of me.

    It's weird that they aren't the principles on how to run games blorby (which are, instead, the three tiers principle, the wallpaper saliency principle and the saliency time zoom principle). Instead, they are the scaffolding necessary for the "trip" experience; the classic player/GM separation pretty much.

    Are you [speaking to Paul and only Paul now] really saying that using the traditional techniques straight up without disrupting them, when doing unblorb, is a jolly good idea?

    I think I've been fairly clear on this:

    * Doing "Narrativism" with traditional techniques can be challenging and difficult, and it's certainly easy to it wrong.

    But that wasn’t the question. The question was doing unblorb (which narrativism can be but does not have to be) with traditional, non-hippiefied techniques.

    For example, let’s say a hypothetical take on Burning Wheel, “Yearning Wheel” / YW, did not have the circles roll or the separate types of wises. The player-facing mechanics were all in support of the traditional player/GM separation and were not hippiefied. On the GM side of things, in YW, they’d still be instructed to forcefully introduce elements designed to challenge specific character beliefs. A mechanic that the player might be told about in a two minute conversation but that isn’t visible/apparent through mechanical interaction.

    Is YW a good or bad game? For the purps of my (arguably unproven) thesis, YW is a bad game.

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