[This is a response to Sam's thread over here
about emergent gameplay.]
[also - I am relating an experience. I'm not sure if I am actually presenting a question to be answered, or if I just want you to hear my tale of woe. Thanks!]
So a really, really traditionalist friend of mine came with me to story-game night last week. We played Storming
, and we had a blast. We played ancient Etruscans hunting down pirates, and the Big Bads were a pirate king and some siren-like creatures. Well, due to one of my character's People, a shepherdess who is my daughter, we ended up focusing on my daughter's secret boyfriend, one of the pirates, instead of strictly on the slaying of Bosses.
It got a little Shakespearean in its twists and turns, actually - I, the paranoid, Aegean father, was kept in the dark by the high priestess and the blacksmith's daughter, who were confidants of my little shepherdess. We fought pirates together, and when we found the boyfriend among their crew, the high priestess used Command to make him return with us to our city-state, and the smith-girl used Command to make him marry her (bear with me).
On the way back, the smith-girl turns to my Aegean and tells me she was so impressed by my battle-prowess that she's giving me the gift of a son-in-law: if I'll have him, the pirate youth will marry my daughter (I'm Greek and it's the Iron Age - it actually is
up to me...). So, I never find out about their secret romance, and they get hitched when we return home. Hurrah!
We never actually fight the End Boss (the sirens) - the GM makes a point of announcing that "ok, this scene has gone on long enough; you go to the siren-cave. It's empty! They fled your wrath. The End." We had so much fun chewing the scenery and focusing on the daughter subplot that we never got around to that. Not that we bucked the plot or anything - we followed it effortlessly, going by the GM's leads. But we jammed and improv'ed all over it. It was awesome, and my trad friend never batted an eye about "but the GM wants us to...!", not even in post-game discussion.
So - cue the promise of sorts that I'd made - it wasn't a "trade" per se, but I agreed to try out 4th ed. D&D in the hopes that it'd cement my friend's desire to give story-gaming a go. The cementing was probably unnecessary, but now I find myself about to play in a game run by someone who finds Storming
to be fringey in terms of its player agency. ^_^;;; cue irony alarm. Not that StWT doesn't have room for player agency, but the GM is supposed to prep an adventure ahead of time, and stick to it fairly closely. The rules for Command and Perception are structured enough that there are cool, social things you can do in the plot and still be within its borders - the GM can write up an npc's combat stats OR their motivations and knowledge, or both!
So. 4th ed. My GM tells me about an interaction between two prospective PCs - an airship captain ruins his career by taking a woman into a war zone to look for her missing family, and the family is already dead. He's severely demoted for indiscretion, she's a mother of dead children... a little guilt/resentment blob is in the mix, yeah? So I say, hey, what if I play a flagellant priest who blames the war's total devastation (if you're familiar with the Eberron setting, it's that kingdom of Sire or whatever that got WIPED) on the sinfulness of humanity and demi-humanity? And I mention a pretty overt social-contract-level desire to draw out the so-far latent conflict between the captain and the mother (the resentment I mentioned).
She gets concerned - am I going to be causing... dun dun dun... intra-party conflict?
I say, Hell yes! and then realize this is going to be a problem for her. So I talk down the situation, saying that my characterization won't monopolize the story, but that it's something I want to do. And yet, I grind my teeth to imagine I'll just be staying out of the way of her GM Story. Storming
at least has lots and lots of Color for me to fiddle with, and it's got heart, darn it. Oh, and the mechanics are fun. So even if it's all about some GM Story in Storming
, at least it's got a fun package. I'm not super crazy about the D&D package.
My friend, she's one of those GMs that, a la the Everway
thread, thinks an RPG is ...
Posted By: Eero Tuovinen... a vehicle for the GM to push his creativity at an audience, which is, as Jonathan or some other hipster out there said, so nineties.
This, I find tedious. I decided a long time ago that I'd rather be super-low-prep and see where people take things, instead of coming to them with a super-firm idea in place.
She says she's flexible, and tried to reassure me by saying I and the other players would be in charge of cool details and stuff, but it's totally Illusionism and that makes me weep. I was done with Illusionism by high school, realized I was done with it in college, etc. and I just don't want that to be what our game looks like. And yet, I really want to at least give this situation a shot, and see a) how it goes and b) if I can show how fun and painless a little player agency can be.
Now, all I gotta do is up the ante and get her into a player-agency-heavy game. Polaris
or something, anyone?
Any and all commiseration, thoughts, suggestions, etc., are welcome and encouraged.
Thanks for reading this whole big thing!