On Consistent Vision

edited October 2009 in Story Games
I'm still working this out in my head, so don't assume anything I say is set in stone. This probably comes across as more confrontational than I intend it, and I'm sorry for that.

Over in another thread, Ralph said:
Posted By: ValamirWhile its great for roleplaying to be informed by proven improv techniques, I think its a mistake to assume that there's a 1:1 translation between the two. Roleplaying has different needs. While a "no blocking" rule might work well in some cases, in others...blocking is a good thing. There are only two ways to manage a consistant vision. One is the Vulcan Mindmeld where everyone at the table is so perfectly attuned to the exact same thing that it just works. The other is to block things that are too far outside of the vision to be absorbed effectively. If nobody has the power to block...then the vision eventually frays or is diluted to the point of being unrecognizable.

Its different when everyone is just interested in riffing off of ideas and seeing where it goes, and every road is just as good as any other. But when you sit down at a table to achieve a specific thing but don't have any recourse response...then essentially everyone is held hostage to the individual whim of everyone else. Which in some applications is cool. It can be good to be forced out of a comfort zone and have to creatively respond to something out of left field. But other times its ass.
Four things pop into my head:
  1. Roleplaying and improv are different things, absolutely.
  2. What is important about consistent vision?
  3. Is this "consistent vision" thing only one person's vision? Then in what way does giving you the ability to block other people's contributions not hold them hostage to your individual whims?
  4. If you don't want to deal with on building other people's creative inputs, why are you playing a roleplaying game with them? It seems to me that building on what everyone brings to the table is at the heart of Story Now play.
What I'm slowly realizing is that I'm more interested in collaboration than consistency. I think it's because I'm more interested in roleplaying as process-oriented ("We're here to tell this story together.") than as outcome-oriented ("We're here to tell this type of story."), which isn't universal (nor better).

Does that make any sense?

--Paul

Comments

  • Sure.

    When I've played PTA with a group I noticed that when we stressed consistency of the setting, tone, or even the mechanics; it would usually block a player's input in some small way. Yet it feels like if there's no consistency, we're free floating without direction, which is boring. I try to strike a balance and read the players reactions as best I can.
  • edited October 2009
    Paul,

    I very much play to have a process oriented experience in which I give up control in order to create something that is a gestalt of different people's ideas. If I didn't want that I'd write, which I'm also not so bad at and do from time to time.

    However, that desire for process orientation and collaboration in no way reduces my desire for aesthetic or thematic consistency, does not mean that everyone has to have unmitigated or unmediated input, nor that I will not sometimes say "No, No, No" and have the game still be collaborative.

    The two things, while they might look like they're at odds, really are not. There are lots of ways in which blocking, consistency, and vision are part of collaboration and not a barrier to them. Especially in any mid to long length non-comedic genre.

    As for the answer to your question 3, well... isn't that what many of the "narrative control" systems are about? However inadequate they may or may not be, a lot of games are attempts to answer that very question.

    If you want me to tell you why I think consistency is important I can try. A short form would be that for me consistency isn't always an immediate obvious "yes that matches up" so much as it is an ability to meaningfully build upon each others work in a way that isn't undermining, surrealist (without meaning to be), or flip. Without that kind of consistency you aren't collaborating with the people at the table, you're just doing whatever you want in the moment. Over the duration the difference between me saying "no" to something you introduce to the game or me ignoring it later because I don't feel the need to be consistent with it is... well, not nothing, but it still kills collaboration.
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsA short form would be that for me consistency isn't always an immediate obvious "yes that matches up" so much as it is an ability to meaningfully build upon each others work in a way that isn't undermining, surrealist (without meaning to be), or flip.
    There's something in this that speaks to me, and I think it goes back to Ralph's comments about the Vulcan Mindmeld. Ultimately, successful collaboration gets you to a consistent, consensus vision. I think what I'm bumping into here is figuring out which one is the cart and which one is the horse differs from time to time and person to person.

    Hmm.
  • I don't know, Paul. I think blocking can be a way of collaborating. It's part of the negotiation process.

    I remember setting up a conflict, in Steal Away Jordan, like this:

    Graham: All right, so I go into her bedroom.
    Someone else: OK. So how about you definitely sleep with her, but the conflict is over whether it's consensual or not?
    Graham: Well, no, I really want this guy to be a good guy. Can we just do a straight conflict over whether we sleep together and see where that goes?


    So I think blocking can be a really useful and collaborative thing. One of the nice things about roleplaying is that, unlike improv, we needn't instantly play out what happens next. We can negotiate, and blocking seems an important part of that.

    I feel like this is a tangent, so stop me if I'm completely missing the point.

    Graham
  • Posted By: GrahamWe can negotiate, and blocking seems an important part of that.
    I think we have a disconnect here, as what I'm thinking of as blocking precludes negotiation.

    But more broadly, I'm thinking this is really the same issue I talked myself through last January.
  • edited October 2009
    Paul,

    I have no idea if this is relevant to the discussion or not. Something I've been pondering a lot lately is how easy it is to say, "No" by saying "Yes."

    Here's a simple example. Me: "Your house is on fire." You: "Yes and it's raining really hard." That example is pretty straight forward and might seem like a simple case of "wankery."

    But here's a more subtle example: Me: "The Baron attacks the Queen with a knife!" You: "Yes and I notice that the knife is fake and the queen is feigning shock!" The initial reaction might be, "Oooooooo...... cool twist!" After all there's now some kind of strange intrigue afoot! Why are the Baron and the queen staging an attack? It seems on the surface like you've *heightened* the drama, not diminished it.

    Except if you look up from the fiction for a moment you'll notice that "you" *completely* undermined the substance of my contribution. I contributed an a moment of violence and physical danger and "you" completely diverted that momentum into one of intrigue and conspiracy.

    So I'm really not sure of this issue of blocking/not blocking really has to do with always building. Because I can block by building.

    Jesse
  • Paul,

    I don't think I understand this. Can you speak in terms I might grok? How does consistent vision arise in your BW or BE play? Do you think you incorporate blocking into your BW/BE play?

    Thanks,
    -L
  • Jesse: Absolutely. Blocking isn't about saying yes or no. Blocking is when you don't let someone contribute.

    Luke: Blocking in BW/BE would be when the GM doesn't build the game around the player's Beliefs and ignores them in favor of his own ideas about the game should be.

    That said, I'm not really interested in talking about blocking, at least not directly.

    What I'm saying is this: I would rather sacrifice my personal, consistent vision of what sorts of things should happen in the fiction in order to help other get invested in and excited about the game by having their contributions included. (I'm sure there times that I don't, but this does seem to be my default mode.)

    The more I think about this, the more I think this is my reaction to a number of the comments and posts I've seen on Gnome Stew and the WotC blogs lately, mostly about "protecting" the GM's plot from the players. That stuff just rubs me the wrong way, but that's just my damage.

    Sorry to bring the self-analysis to the forum, folks.
  • Posted By: ptevisJ

    The more I think about this, the more I think this is my reaction to a number of the comments and posts I've seen on Gnome Stew and the WotC blogs lately, mostly about "protecting" the GM's plot from the players. That stuff just rubs me the wrong way, but that's just my damage.
    If this damage is wrong, I don't wanna be right.
  • edited October 2009
    Posted By: ptevisI would rather sacrifice my personal, consistent vision of what sorts of things should happen in the fiction in order to help other get invested in and excited about the game by having their contributions included.
    I think that partially comes with having a social socket, yeah? Where the experience of other people in the group is more important that the narrative contents produced.

    Though, I think that's where Luke says something like: "Have a fucking backbone and care about what happens! Are you afraid to care?!!" Because there's definitely also that dysfunctional thing that happens if everybody's facilitating stuff for each other, but nobody actually steps up to the plate and pushes the narrative anywhere interesting, because it might ruin someone's fun (Luke and Vincent's disembodied heads say: "Someone got upset! Hell yeah!!! NOW what are they doing about it?").

    And that leads me to think that Brand's right, that the vision stuff and the "everybody feels like they are contributing" stuff aren't really oppositional.

    I mean, sure, there are play styles / preferences which are very much "I'm not responsible for anyone else's fun" (which I've heard Harper say explicitly), where you expect other folks to step up to the plate and push back against the vision you express, and there are more supportive / inclusive styles and I think both of them are dysfunctional at extremes, where you either abandon someone to figure out where they fit in or are paranoid-ly coddling them to death. But I don't think any of us actually play around those extremes, yeah? Just the fact that we get together, throw down, and have a great time together makes me think that we live somewhere comfortably in the middle.
  • Posted By: Jonathan Walton Because there's definitely also that dysfunctional thing that happens if everybody's facilitating stuff for each other, but nobody actually steps up to the plate and pushes the narrative anywhere interesting, because it might ruin someone's fun (Luke and Vincent's disembodied heads say: "Someone got upset! Hell yeah!!! NOW what are they doing about it?").
    What does facilitating stuff for each other mean?
    Posted By: Jonathan WaltonAnd that leads me to think that Brand's right, that the vision stuff and the "everybody feels like they are contributing" stuff aren't really oppositional.
    Could you explain that some more?
    Posted By: Jonathan Walton
    I mean, sure, there are play styles / preferences which are very much "I'm not responsible for anyone else's fun" (which I've heard Harper say explicitly), where you expect other folks to step up to the plate and push back against the vision you express...
    Push back against the vision you express? Again, I don't really understand what is being said here.

    I am going to put this in Burning Wheel/Sorcerer terms because that is what has been on my table for the past x years.

    Can't folks lay the foundation of the vision before the game starts (ala World Burning or creating a one sheet) and then play the shit out of that game through their characters and their GM's responsibility without pushing against a vision or blocking or whatever but just doing what you've agreed to do with passion and gusto?
  • edited October 2009
    Sorry, Judd, I'll try to clarify.

    We've only played one session of my post-Ragnarok valkyries game, but in the first session John set out from the beginning pursuing an agenda (though I expect he was also making it up as he went). He got his valkyrie in trouble. He placed spies in Valhalla. He pocketed a sliver of an apple of immortality. He got his valkyrie captured by some fire demons. He started experimenting with the valkyries' mystical connection with the dead. I was talking with Ben a while later about being aggressive right from the point when play begins and Ben said: "Yeah, that's what I do too. I think the main risk is that you draw the attention and basically make the game about you." But that only becomes a problem if everyone follow's John's lead here, right, instead of pushing for their own part in the story. If everyone's like "Crap, how can I play a supportive role in John's story" instead of "Holy fuck, if he's going to do that, then I'm going to do this other crazy thing," then people aren't really pushing back against John's vision. And pushing against other players' creative vision can be like pushing hands (I think John actually used this metaphor in a conversation), a different kind of support. Like when I, as GM, got John's valkyrie captured, I knew I was pushing back against him in a way that he would appreciate, one that would give him opportunities to do cool stuff.

    And a lot of the indie folks really dig that kind of pushy, pseudo-aggressive narrative negotiation. I brought up Luke and Vincent above because, like John, I think they really dig that. And from what I know about you, I expect your play preferences are often for something like that too.

    But there's a different school of preferences and styles that doesn't work quite the same way, in my experience, and I hope trying to make this distinction isn't going to derail things too much from Paul's original point. But when I play with folks like, uh, Dev or Nathan Paoletta or Emily or Elizabeth, just to name some folks that I've played with, there's often a different energy at stake that isn't really like pushing hands but more like, uh, building a sandcastle together or something. My metaphors are abandoning me here. But instead of people's creative visions pushing against each other and creating interesting tension, they build on top of each other and aren't really in tension at all, in most cases. I'm trying really hard not to make one of these two modes (which are abstractions and don't really exist as pure modes anyway, just like GNS and all that) sound better than the other, because I enjoy both (and I'm not just saying that) and play both. Like, I can't imagine running Mouse Guard or Dogs or Sorcerer in a sandcastle-building style. I think that would kill them DEAD. But I also don't think I would run, uh, Sign in Stranger in a way that was based on creating interesting tension between player visions.

    Is that at all clearer? I also don't necessarily think these two abstracted approaches match easily to the distinction Paul is talking about, except that the sandcastle style, because of the way it works, does often make you semi-responsible for other people's fun, I suspect, and therefore may lean slightly more towards focusing on the process of cooperating with people rather than investing real passion into imaginary situations and characters. Though you still can still have both (I really hate trying to make absolute distinctions, can you tell?).
  • RyRy
    edited October 2009
    Posted By: Jonathan WaltonAnd a lot of the indie folks really dig that kind of pushy, pseudo-aggressive narrative negotiation. [...]
    But there's a different school of preferences and styles that doesn't work quite the same way[.]
    Yes! I've had FANTASTIC experiences with the kind of play you associate with Luke/Vincent/Judd, which I think of as pretty aggressive Story-Now kind of play.

    But I've also had FANTASTIC experiences with that other kind of play, which doesn't have a friendly name.* That's where I went to my buddies and said "Hey guys, I'd really like to tell this epic story. Would you guys like to play the protagonists?" We played 30 sessions of that, and it was still my most incredible campaign. Yep, it's story-before, required lots of trust, and the deck was stacked in the players' favor. It was still totally awesome.

    * Illusionist is a pretty loaded term. I like to say "Follow my lead" instead to describe what happens at the table.
  • edited October 2009
    Posted By: JuddCan't folks lay the foundation of the vision before the game starts (ala World Burning or creating a one sheet) and then play the shit out of that game through their characters and their GM's responsibility without pushing against a vision or blocking or whatever but just doing what you've agreed to do with passion and gusto?
    So lets say you, me, Luke, and Paul all get together to play Blossoms Are Falling. The three of you are totally hot about Japan, and excited about the game because Blossoms is fuck awesome, that period of Japanese history is amazing and underdone, and we all saw Seven Samurai the weekend before and were talking about it.

    We sit down and start making the situation together, we're working out this place where there is noble family and a monastery that are at odds over land, and both are starting to send petitions and threats to the capital. Then suddenly I say, "You know what would be awesome, if my guy was from Constantinople. Like, he's here to teach Sanskrit to the monks, which he learned in Afghanistan of course, and... yea.. he came down the silk road to China, but then had to flee China and now is coming to Japan on an invitation that one of the older monks made half jokingly when they met in the Tamrin Basin like 30 years ago..."

    What do we do with that?
  • edited October 2009
    Posted By: Brand_Robins
    What do we do with that?
    I know you weren't asking me, but my answer is, that if was specifically the group of guys you've postulated, I'd be jarred by the introduction of odd input but I'd be able to run with it because I'd trust that it would be okay anyway. Because it's THOSE guys, and the two I've played with I trust by experience, and the two of you I haven't played with I trust by reputation and by reading your ideas.

    BUT ... if the perpetrator of the Constantinople Gambit were some other person I didn't know well, or trust, then I'd be fairly agitated, enough to turtle away from investment in the shared fiction.

    Maybe that's the crux of what's useful in this thread. I dunno. It can't be as simple as concluding "it all depends", but that's the best place I can stake out at this point.
  • Posted By: Brand_Robins

    What do we do with that?
    I'd say that I wasn't sure that character concepts plays to Blossoms strengths and we'd go from there, I reckon.
  • So, there's blocking:
    "I have a line there."

    There's blocking:
    "I don't see it" or "that doesn't make sense to me" or "that doesn't fit."

    There's blocking:
    "No, that isn't consistent with my vision."

    There's blocking:
    "I don't want you to do that."

    There's blocking-with-interfering:
    "I don't want you to do that, so I'll roll the dice."

    There's blocking-that's-redirecting:
    "I don't want you to do that, what about this?"

    There's blocking-that's-questioning:
    "But would X really Y? Can you explain that to me?"

    There's blocking-that's-reprioritizing:
    "Let's ignore what might or might not be happening in X right now, and focus on Y."

    There's blocking-that's-ignoring:
    "Okay, sure. There's X. But you're still at Y."

    ...it sounds like people are conflating some of these things, to the detriment of the conversation.
    Like, Paul seems to be talking about the 2nd and 3rd, while Jonathan seems to be implying Luke is talking about the 4th and 5th.

    (These divisions drawn totally arbitrarily, without much forethought, to illustrate a point - blocking means a wide range of things in this thread already)
  • edited October 2009
    Judd,

    Right. And I think this conversation is about how we go from there -- for the whole rest of the game. Like, where do we say no, where do we say yes, how do we do it, what does do to the game, and so on and on.

    I've had a few games in my life in which the group was made of magic jelly and any kind of negotiation/blocking/collaboration just happened magically and transparently. The vast majority of the time, however, we've got to work at it. Having some knowledge and understanding of how that works and what different techniques for enacting it is always a good thing, I'd think.

    The problem, as Joe points out, is that its very easy to miss all the specifics of whats going on because all the words for it overlap so much and cover so much territory.
    Posted By: MickBradleyIt can't be as simple as concluding "it all depends", but that's the best place I can stake out at this point.
    Well, it does all depend. But I don't think it stops there. We can talk about what it depends on, and how the different modes work with different groups for different reasons, and so on.

    Just because things are relative doesn't mean they can't be understood more clearly, and for the profit of better gaming.

    Like, with my example above, what does it do to the game if Luke, hearing the Constantinople Gambit says:

    "Jesus Brand, what the fuck is wrong with you? I'm the GM and I'm not putting up with that shit. You play a samurai and shut your fuckhole."

    Vs Judd saying,

    "I don't think that fits the tone we're going for with Blossoms, what are you looking for here?"

    Vs Jonathan saying,

    "Oh fuck yes, and I'm that old monk and now I'm all pissed that you showed up because I think its going to weaken us so I totally want to get you killed."

    The ways that we deny, modify, negotiate, or embrace the outlandish suggestion are going to change the very nature of the game right? So when Paul talks about consistency and collaboration, I'm all like "Yea sure, but what about some specifics?"
  • Posted By: ptevisabout "protecting" the GM's plot from the players.
    *twitch*

    Don't touch me there.
  • edited October 2009
    I just played Paul's "A Penny for my Thoughts" in person for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was hella fun (we used the Mythos variant for kicks). It worked pretty nicely with only a few hiccups where people felt a bit self-conscious about their contributions, yours truly included. There were still a few moments where I (internally) went "really, are you sure?". And, I have to add, this was with a group of three of the people I'm usually most in tune with. The kicker is that Penny actually has a mechanic which could be construed as "blocking" - it frequently lets the active storyteller choose between two possible outcomes, and the person whose outcome did not get chosen has technically been momentarily shut down.

    APfmT is a great game and I would totally recommend it to most anyone. However, I think it works as well as it does because its fictional content is isolated into chunks, which may or may not be directly related, and the game is over in an evening or two at most. In my experience, in a longer "campaign", contributed fiction that's inconsistent with the overall vision (by which I mean the Platonic ideal of the vision shaped by the group's collaborative storytelling) will fester, much to the dismay of everyone involved including the original contributor. Similarly, the player-driven provision of game-altering facts in Donjon works well because the facts are limited in scope to dungeon adventures; if anyone could say anything about the world at large, which would then be present throughout the course of the campaign, the opportunity for a fictionally consistent, not too zany setting that's suitable for long-term play is rather slim.
    Posted By: ptevisIf you don't want to deal with on building other people's creative inputs, why are you playing a roleplaying game with them? It seems to me that building on what everyone brings to the table is at the heart of Story Now play.
    Yet Sorcerer, which presumably could be said to demonstrate Story Now play rather well, is a game where players' input is constantly being blocked and judged by the GM and by the other players. One of the Sorcerer GM's roles is to preserve the integrity of the fiction by narrating appropriate reactions to the players' actions, including "your action fails, because it's flat-out impossible". Another is to judge when the table finds an addition to the narrative particularly appropriate and award bonus dice for it. Story Now play is perfectly possible within this framework.

    I don't think there's a clear line which all RPGs should walk up to but none shall cross. How much control over the narrative is distributed to each participant in the game defines the nature of the game and is a game mechanic like any other. One might prefer games that lean one direction, or games that lean the other, or enjoy different games for different purposes. Story Now play should be possible in either, except perhaps rendered more difficult to pull off successfully in games with a high degree of central control. Sim play is generally easier to pull off the more central control there is, as long as everyone else has buy-in into the integrity of the central vision. Gamism couldn't care less and rolls initiative.
  • Joe is smart.

    I'm going to expand a bit on his stuff. All of those things are good in a well-designed game, and bad in a poorly designed game. There's no inherent value to them, except I guess that role-playing games probably ought to contain at least some of that, otherwise they're pretty dull.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • Posted By: Ryan Stou'nThat's where I went to my buddies and said "Hey guys, I'd really like to tell this epic story. Would you guys like to play the protagonists?"
    Ryan, I don't think that's the sandcastle-type play I was talking about. But otherwise, yeah. Sandcastle play isn't being in someone else's story (I can't even imagine trying to play Sign in Stranger that way), but about piecing something together from a bunch of different player visions, but not in a way that involves tension so much as polite negotiation. In my experience, sandcastle play is marked by a lot of folks saying: "What if X happens?" And then other folks go, "Yeah!" or "Hmm, maybe. What if it's more like X+Y?" And clearly some of that happens even while playing mostly in a more forceful style where you throw stuff out there and folks deal with it or resist it ("I stab him in the face!"), so it's more a question of... are you asking me or are you telling me about your creative contribution? In what ways am I supposed to respond (in the fiction / out of the fiction)? So both of the styles I'm talking about here are fundamentally cooperative, not strongly led by a GM or something.
  • As is often the case, I find that at this point in the thread there is nothing I would have said that Brand hasn't already said.
  • Posted By: Brand_Robins Luke, hearing the Constantinople Gambit says:

    "Page 55, 'The Nail That Sticks Up Is Hammered Down.' Sorry, man, but what you propose is against the rules"
    I'm not pimping my game. I really glad this came up. What if the game text addresses the issue (as Blossoms does)? Is that blocking? I don't think it is. It's constraints. I think that much of this can be handled with good game design.

    -L
  • So, actually Luke already has a wicked tool for dealing with blocking -- intent and task, and specifically the intent part, which I'm not seeing discussed much here.

    So there's this thing I've noticed in my games with Joe. Two of us, myself and Daniel, seem to have a "simulation threshold," similar to what Mike Holmes talked about when Clyde interviewed him on Theory From the Closet. Basically, we have concepts of how things work, both people and the premise of the game, and if somebody else introduces something that doesn't jive with that, we don't like it.

    Typically this happens when, for example, Joe guns for an emotionally-heightened conflict with lots of drama, and he introduces something that doesn't jive with either my expectations, or Daniel's. Worst case scenario, one of us will say "what? Come on, that's so dumb. No, that doesn't happen," and block the whole narration and the situation. Seeing Daniel do this helped me realize I do this as well, which is why I mention him (it's easier to be objectively critical of someone else than yourself and all that).

    Of course, the problem here is me, not Joe. I need whatever narration to be justified in terms of my world-view and game-view (my concept of the setting, the genre/premise, and the characters in it). Thing is, I can do this myself. Why should Joe have to figure out the way I think and cater to it? I mean, duh.

    So I do this instead: I go "Wait, that doesn't do it for me. I need this to make sense. What's your intent here?" And when he tells me what is the important stuff in his narration, I offer suggestions that will make that make sense for me. And usually he gets what he wants, I get what I want, and the narration is stronger for the collaboration.

    So an example:

    Joe: "My character rides a pterodactyl into the palace and lands in the throne room, dismounting with a flourish of her cape."

    Bad Johnstone: "WTF? There's no fucking flying dinosaurs in this game! That's so fucking dumb, shut up. You ride in on a horse. Damn!"

    But Good Johnstone says: "Huh? Wait, I don't like the flying dinosaur, that fucks up my idea of the magical radar system thing they have going. Is that necessary? What's your intent here?"

    And Joe replies: "I'm not stuck on the dinosaur, I just want to descend from the sky in a spectacular manner."

    And Good Johnstone suggests: "Oh, cool. How 'bout a flying carpet or a steampunk contraption, and we can introduce the inventor later on?"

    And Joe's like "Flying carpet for the win!"
  • Posted By: Luke WheelI'm not pimping my game. I really glad this came up. What if the game text addresses the issue (as Blossoms does)? Is that blocking? I don't think it is. It's constraints. I think that much of this can be handled with good game design.
    In situations like this, it often helps to think of the game text as a player who has previously participated, but is not currently present.

    Socially speaking, the game text requires an advocate, who may or may not correctly translate the intent or even the precise words of the text, to block on its behalf. We can treat this as a simple constraint on the events of play (i.e. things that don't occur to the players) if a single player is both transgressor and advocate / blocker (and, importantly no abortive attempt to add to the fiction occurs). This is just self-censorship based on the game text. Even this might have an effect on how that player interacts with the fiction later (see below).

    But if two or more players are involved then something actually happens which everyone is potentially aware. In this case it matters whether a blocked contribution to the fiction has an effect on the fiction. I'd argue that it clearly does - just as negative information is still information, a blocked contribution provides further context for the fictional situation in which is occurs. The samurai character who is not a monk from Constantinople is perceived differently from a samurai for whom we (the players) haven't made this conscious distinction.

    - Mendel S.
  • Posted By: Luke Wheel
    I'm not pimping my game. I really glad this came up. What if the game text addresses the issue (as Blossoms does)? Is that blocking? I don't think it is. It's constraints. I think that much of this can be handled with good game design.
    Much of it can.

    And in the case of Burning Wheel, its pretty obvious that there is a tool/design aesthetic in the game that is supposed to stop things like the Constantinople Gambit from disrupting the game. BW in general focuses on getting a consistent vision and some degree of naturalism into the world (largely, though not exclusively through life paths), and so its a particularly bad game in which to try the Constantinople Gambit.

    However, I've had other games (Over the Edge springs to mind) in which letting in all the variations of the Constantinople Gambit with no restrictions has resulted in amazing games that no one could have predicted. People bring out shit so zany that even Heavy Metal wouldn't have printed it, and rather than pounding down the nail that sticks out, we end up with a whole bunch of nails sticking out, covered in string and aluminum until the whole thing turns into a rococo postmodernist work of art.

    So, when you tell me "No, Shut your fuckhole" we get the game of samurai we came to play. Awesome. When Jonathan tells me "Yes, and even more I want to kill you" we get a game that is radically different than what we came to play. Which could be awesome, or could suck. In Blossoms I tend to think it would suck, because it works against the restrained nature of the game. In other systems it may rock hard.
  • Posted By: Johnstone
    Joe: "My character rides a pterodactyl into the palace and lands in the throne room, dismounting with a flourish of her cape."
    Bad Johnstone: "WTF? There's no fucking flying dinosaurs in this game! That's so fucking dumb, shut up. You ride in on a horse. Damn!"
    But Good Johnstone says: "Huh? Wait, I don't like the flying dinosaur, that fucks up my idea of the magical radar system thing they have going. Is that necessary?What's your intent here?"
    And Joe replies: "I'm not stuck on the dinosaur, I just want to descend from the sky in a spectacular manner."
    And Good Johnstone suggests: "Oh, cool. How 'bout a flying carpet or a steampunk contraption, and we can introduce the inventor later on?"
    And Joe's like "Flying carpet for the win!"
    Asking someone what they're trying to accomplish and then fitting that intent into the existing vision of the game is super important and does what every good GM should be doing - optimizing fun while maintaining an internally consistent universe. Hurrah for this approach.

    Often, though, it's my experience that players don't know why they want the flying dinosaur. I've said "Okay, so, that's not exactly fitting with my idea of the setting - what are you trying to accomplish" and they player will reply with "I'm trying to fly in on a fucking dinosaur. I just said that." and then I'm all FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU

    and don't know what to do.
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsHowever, I've had other games (Over the Edge springs to mind) in which letting in all the variations of the Constantinople Gambit with no restrictions has resulted in amazing games that no one could have predicted. People bring out shit so zany that even Heavy Metal wouldn't have printed it, and rather than pounding down the nail that sticks out, we end up with a whole bunch of nails sticking out, covered in string and aluminum until the whole thing turns into a rococo postmodernist work of art.

    So, when you tell me "No, Shut your fuckhole" we get the game of samurai we came to play. Awesome. When Jonathan tells me "Yes, and even more I want to kill you" we get a game that is radically different than what we came to play. Which could be awesome, or could suck. In Blossoms I tend to think it would suck, because it works against the restrained nature of the game. In other systems it may rock hard.
    So, basically you are saying that in good games without the constraint, then Saying Yes to group ideas and not blocking has resulted in awesome. And in good games where there is constraints, ignoring them would probably suck, and adhering to them would probably be awesome.

    That sounds about right to me.

    But seriously, blocking is about stopping the flow of creative energy. Blocking it. Diverting it is not blocking, especially when you're setting up the course of things in the beginning. It's like an improv group deciding on doing a soap opera, or asking an audience for a noun and a adjective to start a particular scene or game. Ignoring those agreed upon constraints is bad improv. The confusing part with RPGs is that the audience and the actors are the same, so you can't step out of a scene to ask "What do you want to do with that?" and other questions without necessarily destroying the scene. That would be disastrous to a passive audience, but not to an active one.

    So when a game book has a rule about the Nail that Sticks Up, or a list of classes that you must choose from, there's also some amount of trusting of the text that should occur. The designer probably put this here for a reason. If it makes the game worse for it, then its bad design, and I'm sure that's common. The rest of the time, you're trusting your fellow players.
    Posted By: skinnyghostOften, though, it's my experience that players don't know why they want the flying dinosaur. I've said "Okay, so, that's not exactly fitting with my idea of the setting - what are you trying to accomplish" and they player will reply with "I'm trying to fly in on a fucking dinosaur. I just said that." and then I'm all FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU

    and don't know what to do.
    Keep asking questions, and treat the player on the same maturity level if you have to. "Why are you trying to fly on a dinosaur?" is a place to start. You can either trust that the player is trying to have fun and improve the game for everyone, or determine that the player has no concept of this - and many don't - and then figure out if they are interested in playing with a group or if they just want an audience for their creative masturbation.
  • One thought here (and this thread is a furball so if anyone already said this, FINE, okay, FINE) that I often have is that consistency in an ongoing story is a bit of a trap.

    Look at comic books. Clearly a lot of people love continuity. They love that Spider-Man has this long involved life and that if a piece of it comes back up they can recognize it and have some kind of emotional reaction or connection to it. Well and good. But for god's sake, eventually you're in a fucking corner. There's nothing left to do, nothing left to change that isn't the core of the series, and if you're going to do that, why do you want to do it with an established title and world? Or, if you do it, then people are freaked because you did it to something they had an emotional connection with.

    What if we loved the story more than the continuity? Here I am thinking of the early, early Star Trek novels and short stories. Some of which were dreadful. Others of which were wonderful. And some of each category could be fit into a Star Trek continuity and some just wrecked the whole thing.

    So many story games are meant to be played forever and ever, or at least until someone moves away or breaks up with their girlfriend who is GMing or plays WoW instead, that continuity is just an unspoken assumption. There are 2 ways you can make continuity not a trap:

    1 - nothing is off limits - you can make Spider-Man about a noir detective who senses the 'webs' of relationships among people if you want
    2 - it doesn't go on forever - you tell the story of Spider-Man, and then you are done telling it.

    Most games that have a narrative structure (IAWA, Primetime Adventures, Burning Empires), go with 2.

    Most games really don't give you the power to do 1, though a few do (Over the Edge, as noted above.) You're expected to start a new game if you want to fundamentally change everything.

    Interestingly, With Great Power gives you very clear instructions to do what the comics did - and the experience of boxing that character in will be faithfully replicated! :)

    Okay, I don't know if that connects at all, but there it is and if it doesn't, FINE.
  • I think "Yes, and" has some extremely powerful mojo going on--and I think everyone here agrees, or this conversation would probably never arise. But I'd like to take a moment to tell you a little bit about my own take on how powerful "Yes, and"—emphasis on the "and"—can get.

    Thinking about it, at first, I agree, "Sure, blocking isn't always bad. Sometimes you have to." But, I've come to some of the most fruitful realizations in my life when I questioned whether you really "have" to submit to any of those many, many things that we shrug off and say, "we have to," enough to develop a habit. So, having thought that, I eventually wondered, "Do you?"

    Let's take that worst case scenario, where you want to really go there, and share a single, imagined vision of a specific moment in a specific place. Then someone comes screaming out of left field with this bizarre non-sense that comes out of nowhere. Yes, you could block it, and in blocking, basically tell them, "Hey, you know that whole thing I got you to buy into with the 'Yes, and' stuff, that we'd build up the positive, creative energy and affirm each other? I didn't really mean it, I mean, not really."

    Yes, sitting here, in theory, we could call this fellow to account for disrupting the story like this. We can bristle at the idea that we lied a little bit there about our commitment to collaborative play, and say, "Well, we had an understanding of what we wanted to do here, and the other guy broke that, so it's totally okay!" And maybe he did. Maybe this doesn't come down to the simple case where you thought you both understood the premise, but one of you had a very different idea than the other. Maybe he actually does want to derail the whole thing. Why? I mean, you've sat down to play this thing with your friend, and now your friend wants to wreck it. Why? Your friend obviously has not gotten something out of this, that makes him want to wreck it now. Maybe he even wants you to block him. He doesn't really believe that you really meant it about that collaboration stuff anyway, or he feels alienated from the game, and he wants you to confirm his sense of alienation by blocking his input. It seems to me that accepting that input because most crucial at precisely that moment.

    "Yes, and" does not mean the same thing as, "Yes." I have a game called the Fifth World. I don't really know what kind of creative agenda you'd say it supports; I'll leave such discussions to fine people like yourselves at some future time. I know that much of the game revolves around creating a rich vision of the future together, so "consistent vision" means a lot to this. It uses ritual phrases, and while I haven't finalized the exact wording yet, one of them basically means, "WTF, mate?" For precisely this situation--where someone flat-out contradicts established facts about the world. That challenges the person who made the statement, so they can do one of two things: they can say, "Yeah, you're right, I'm mistaken, it was actually..." or, they can say, "I know! That's what made this so strange!" and rather than being some bizarre, passing thing, you flag it as something marvelous and unusual, something significant to the story precisely because of its rarity.

    In other games, I think "Yes" goes with "and" for precisely this reason. You don't have to simply accept the new input unquestioningly. You say, "Yes, and everyone was amazed to see such a thing," or "Yes, and this is why that was significant," or "Yes, and we all wondered at what such a thing could mean." If a player throws out something unusual—"Red grass!"—that doesn't mean you have to shut him down. "No, jackass, grass isn't red!" That, to me, seems like an invitation to figure out why red grass makes sense here.
  • Posted By: jasonFor precisely this situation--where someone flat-out contradicts established facts about the world. That challenges the person who made the statement, so they can do one of two things: they can say, "Yeah, you're right, I'm mistaken, it was actually..." or, they can say, "I know! That's what made this so strange!" and rather than being some bizarre, passing thing, you flag it as something marvelous and unusual, something significant to the story precisely because of its rarity.
    That's pretty cool.

    "What the...?!"

    "I KNOW, right?"
  • Posted By: Alvin Frewer
    Posted By: skinnyghostOften, though, it's my experience that players don't know why they want the flying dinosaur. I've said "Okay, so, that's not exactly fitting with my idea of the setting - what are you trying to accomplish" and they player will reply with "I'm trying to fly in on a fucking dinosaur. I just said that." and then I'm all FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU

    and don't know what to do.
    Keep asking questions, and treat the player on the same maturity level if you have to. "Why are you trying to fly on a dinosaur?" is a place to start. You can either trust that the player is trying to have fun and improve the game for everyone, or determine that the player has no concept of this - and many don't - and then figure out if they are interested in playing with a group or if they just want an audience for their creative masturbation.

    Exactly on both points, Alvin. It's true that a player might not care about consistency in a game. But keep asking and you'll discover their intent is just to have their character do cool stuff again and again with absolutely no consistency or sense at all. And then you have to decide whether you want to keep playing with them or not, right?
  • edited October 2009
    There is no doubt that "yes, and" is a powerful tool. Sometimes you really wind up with two great tastes that taste great together.

    But sometimes I wanna say "fuck off" to "yes, and". Sometimes I just want to say "no". Sometimes I want you to keep your damned chocolate out of my peanut butter.

    And I think that's ok too.
  • Maybe, Ralph. "Common sense" certainly has your back. But I wonder if sticking it out and really committing to affirmation might get us somewhere better than we really expected. I think you can have a real commitment to "Yes, and" and a consistent vision.

    Heck, my whole game kind of predicates itself on that claim.
  • edited October 2009
    Also, Ralph, if you're having to say "NO" a lot, seems to me that something's not right in the group. Someone's on a different page or pushing in a tangential direction despite efforts to rein things in. Having a "NO" here or there is cool, but if you put your foot down to my ideas more than once (or maybe twice) a session, I'm probably going to find some other people to play with.
  • This kind of thing was one of the issues I tried to address when I designed my game "The Eighth Sea".

    I wanted the collaborative storytelling effect, but tried to reign it in to a degree by having a metagame currency that needed to be spent in order for players to introduce such elements to the narrative.

    A single coin could be used to bring in something plausable to the established setting (time period and location), an extra coin needed to be spent for soemthing that didn't really belong in this location, and another coind for something that didn't belong in this time period...if the introduction was to have a major impact on play or an immediate dramatic effect, then a further coin could be spent.

    The typical example I gave was a group of characters on the beaches of Normandy at an undisclosed date during World War 2.

    1 coin allows an allied paratrooper to fall into the scene from the sky.
    2 coins allow a Japanese zero pilot to fall out of the sky (wrong location, but roughly the right era), or a Gaulish warrior (roughly the right location, but the wrong time).
    3 coins allows an armoured samurai to run across the beach at one of the characters.
    An extra point makes any of these threats a vital part of the game rather than just window dressing.

    Others player can spend a coin to add something else about the introduced element, increase it's impact on the storyline, or twist it in some way.

    I guess it works in this game because it's about time travelling pirates (so you'd expect weird elements to pop up on a regular basis).

    A second effect ensures that players are only able to introduce such things during scenes when their character isn't involved. They take on temporary narration duties (and even the GM only has a limited number of these coins to introduce elements).

    I've found that while the currency effect allowed some very unpredictable games with some highly original twists, it has proven to really make people think twice about injecting gonzo elements to the game when this sort of precedent has been established by the group. Players trying to inject things that don;t mesh well with the rest of the group often find their additions become twisted to such a degree that they are unworkable...but players who inject ideas that really work well are rewarded.

    Just my experience...
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonAlso, Ralph, if you're having to say "NO" a lot, seems to me that something's not right in the group. Someone's on a different page or pushing in a tangential direction despite efforts to rein things in. Having a "NO" here or there is cool, but if you put your foot down to my ideas more than once (or maybe twice) a session, I'm probably going to find some other people to play with.
    So I recently finished working on a long piece of fiction for publication. As part of this process I would write stuff down, then change it, come up with ideas, then discard them as being unfitting, play around with plots and decide they were stupid and leave them out. I was, in essence, saying "NO" to myself multiple times a day. Yet, somehow, I don't think I need to find a new me to write with.

    Now, obviously, there is an issue here that Paul brought up above -- about how writing is product oriented (I'm trying to make a good story at the end, and the process of writing is not fun) vs play being process oriented (who gives a shit about the thing at the end, the moment to moment is supposed to be fun). And there are certainly times where repeated denial in the moment can lead to less than ideal fun.

    However, there are also times where a group being able to freely say "NO" when they mean "NO" rather than having to say "Um, sure" when they really mean "Oh Jesus Fucking Christ" can also lead to more fun in the moment. Especially if you look at it over time. I've frequently had groups whose first few sessions of a long form game involved a lot of "FUCKING NO JUST NO" but by the fifth or tenth session didn't have a single NO because we'd used those early blocks to well and truly align our creative vision.

    I dunno, maybe I'm an outlier, but I really do not believe that good collaboration is in any way the same as uncritical acceptance of each others ideas at face. I do think Jason has a point about how really embracing acceptance can lead to a good experience -- but its only one way to one kind of good experience. There are also ways in which being well and truly committed to bringing out the best and most compatible elements in each others play by having enough faith in each other and the robustness of the game to say no and be honest about things you don't like can lead to a different kind of good experience.
  • I have found that I have to say, "No," less often when:

    1) the players have all read the game and gleaned the flavor from the text and/or art

    2) the players have all agreed to model the game on some media that we all know - "This game is going to be like Song of Ice and Fire with the Arthurian elements cranked up a notch..."

    3) the table has agreed to a genre and all agree on the elements the genre makes up (RARE)

    I tend to blend the shit out of 1 and 2.

    The last time I could remember saying, "No," a whole lot was when we were playtesting Houses of the Blooded and one of the players had not only not read the text but was on a vastly different page than the rest of us. The rest of us had gamed for a long while and were in the zone together. Once he got used to our table, the tone of the game and swapped out of a problematic character, all was well.
  • Oh! We're actually talking about that old thing.

    Hey, look, it's an ancient livejournal post

    Forge-style, bitches.

    Shreyas has the five second version: 'I'm pretty sure that the "no" that does not create feelings of being blocked out from contributing is just a "no" on the surface, and underneath it's a status check - "Are we all on the same page?"'

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsI do think Jason has a point about how really embracing acceptance can lead to a good experience -- but its only one way to one kind of good experience. There are also ways in which being well and truly committed to bringing out the best and most compatible elements in each others play by having enough faith in each other and the robustness of the game to say no and be honest about things you don't like can lead to a different kind of good experience.
    The way you put this makes it sound like you consider these opposite positions. I think you can approach a radical acceptance of "Yes, and" with just as much honesty, faith, and commitment to bring out the best in one another. It does not have to mean uncritically accepting anything and everything. Precisely my point, actually.

    As you yourself mentioned, writing involves an entirely different process than playing, and saying "no" to yourself feels entirely different than having someone else say "no" to you.

    But most every game I've played has had some way to say "no." If either way has the potential to work equally well, I'd really like to see more of the type where we don't say no, simply because I don't see very many people going anywhere near that.
  • Getting into the habit of saying "yes" and "yes, and..." is just one way to break ourselves of fear. Fear of not being smart enough, or clever enough, or creative enough, or fear of being out of control, or whatever. But it's just a technique, not a law of nature. If you're saying "no" to something out of fear, you're probably doing something wrong. That's blocking. It's perfectly okay, though, to say "no" if your intention is to make something sweeter, or maintain consistent boundaries on an established setting or tone, and you know you're not just going, "oh, crap! what are we going to do with that?".

    There's a difference between saying "yes, and..." to an offer, and saying "yes, and..." to the scene/game/show/setting/whatever. Accepting the offer of a space cowboy flying a magic pterodactyl into the detective's office in a "realistic" gritty film noir type of game or scene is saying, "no" to the agreed upon setting.
  • Posted By: majcher
    There's a difference between saying "yes, and..." to an offer, and saying "yes, and..." to the scene/game/show/setting/whatever. Accepting the offer of a space cowboy flying a magic pterodactyl into the detective's office in a "realistic" gritty film noir type of game or scene is saying, "no" to the agreed upon setting.
    Hey, interesting spin.
    I like that differentiation.

    Posted By: JohnstoneJoe: "My character rides a pterodactyl into the palace and lands in the throne room, dismounting with a flourish of her cape."

    Bad Johnstone: "WTF? There's no fucking flying dinosaurs in this game! That's so fucking dumb, shut up. You ride in on a horse. Damn!"

    But Good Johnstone says: "Huh? Wait, I don't like the flying dinosaur, that fucks up my idea of the magical radar system thing they have going. Is that necessary?What's your intent here?"

    And Joe replies: "I'm not stuck on the dinosaur, I just want to descend from the sky in a spectacular manner."

    And Good Johnstone suggests: "Oh, cool. How 'bout a flying carpet or a steampunk contraption, and we can introduce the inventor later on?"

    And Joe's like "Flying carpet for the win!"
    This, when it legit happens, is solid win.

    I have the bad habit of getting very defensive and taking blocking personally (like it's an attack on me, or my capabilities). The ability to hear "we're going to workshop that idea" instead of "we're going to reject that idea" or "we need something different, but you have to figure out what" is really really good.
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