GNS and Drifting games

edited September 2011 in Story Games
I'm intrigued by what Moreno had to say here: GNS and making meaningful choices.
This part in particular:
Moreno said:
The right way to learn GNS, is to play a lot of games of the kind that move you screaming and kicking into a Creative Agenda you never experienced before. "A lot" of games because (1) not every one will works, you will be able to play most of them with your old CA, "forgetting" half of the rules and "remembering" rules that aren't there. But if you stick with it, you'll find some games that will shock you, and (2) because if you try only one, you will mistake all his techniques for "the CA". With a lot of different games you'll be able to see that the techniques are not the CA.
What kind of experiences have other folks had with what Moreno's talking about in point #1?

My initial post got eaten by S-G, but here goes:
My friend Allison and I played a game of Storming the Wizard's Tower set in the Iron Age Etruscan civilization. I was an old sailor, father of a shepherdess. Allison was a blacksmith's apprentice. We went, with a priestess and a Greek, to fight pirates who were raiding our shipping lanes. We found out that the pirates had captured a Siren and were forcing it to lure ships to their hidden island lair, and when we got to the island we sent the pirates packing.

Somewhere between setting sail and reaching the lair, Allison and I started arguing about my daughter. See, my daughter was pregnant. This happened because: we were having a heated in-character conversation and decided to tweak the rules for, well, Charged Conversations.
It was a slight change. I rolled Perception against Allison, got some hits, and then, during a scene between her and the baby-daddy, she told him that the shepherdess was pregnant.
Horrified, I spent a hit to ask Allison, Is your character lying? She thought about it, noted that she was required to answer truthfully, and then said, "No, my character is not lying."
Turns out, she had come made up with the pregnancy on the spot - - and, as soon as someone said it was true, so it was. Immediately, it became much more important to arrange the facts of my family situation than to continue the adventure.
We basically rocked out an awesome debate-through-characters centered on the question, "What is a father's role in a woman's reproductive decisions?" Straight-up premise exploration.
Things wrapped up with me talking to the baby-daddy, who performed admirably on our mission, telling him, "You've proved yourself, boy. If you want my daughter for your wife, you have my blessing." Of course, in-character I had no idea about the pregnancy, or the paternity; the dramatic irony was really awesome.
As the other players got involved in our conversation, the question kind of broadened into "Should women be subjected to men in any way?" It was really neat to watch my character, a staunch traditionalist, having no idea what was going on around him.
Anyway, the whole thing took long enough that when we reached the Siren's lair, the GM had to go home for the night, so he announced that the creature had fled the island and gave himself an out.

Basically, afterwards, we had taken a Step On Up game and moved it in an entirely different direction by changing a couple of lines in a sub-system. It was awesome. I've always found the Starting Relationships stuff to be really tantalizing, like they contain a Story Now sort of bent, and this particular adventure showcased that theme beautifully.
In my experience, the centrality of those Relationships positively correlates with how much "grip" you can get when trying to explore a moral dimension or ethical conflict in play. If it's just the party going into the wilderness or the dungeon to do a thing - not much of a personal or emotional angle to the experience. But when you have those relationships, and then apply pressure to them through the danger and imperatives of the adventure, there's some really badass dramatic material that emerges.

Who else has Drifted for great effect?


  • Hooray!

    This is one of the tricks designed into Storming the Wizard's Tower. I'm delighted you did this.

    By default, the game gives you tactical play with moral questions providing interesting texture. With very little effort, though - just by providing the right kind of content, like you did - you can switch the game over to moral play with tactical questions providing interesting texture. And then back again, if you want, monster by monster or situation by situation. Both are big fun, and the game's designed to hang out near that line and make the switch gracefully.
  • Where do you think Apocalypse World fits into this?
  • This reminds me of some of my favorite hardcore mission games. I played a D&D hack about 15 years ago that was based off plopping modules into the GM's world. The modules were run absolutely win-or-die: no fudging, no attempts at plot, a lot of effort on calibrating challenges and regulating strategic options, tons and tons of attention to managing spells and hit points and positioning to optimize effectiveness.

    And then we would leave the dungeon and get embroiled in the local politics surrounding what we'd just done: who wanted to hire us, who wanted to tax our lootings, which factions were competing with each other for those two things, whether the guy who told us about the dungeon in the first place would charge us for sharing more leads, what favors we had to do for whom to change the balance, etc.

    I kind of hate sitting and strategizing and looking at numbers while the fiction is on "pause", so the dungeons weren't my cup of tea. But having our wins and losses mean something in this greater reality made it more worthwhile, and the politicking and relationship-wrangling was something I really enjoyed.

    We didn't change any rules; we just totally changed which rules we were using. In the dungeons, tons of rules. In town, the only rules we interacted with were prices of goods and services.

    So, we bounced back and forth between Gamism and... something else.

    What was the something else? It wasn't just angling to enter the next dungeon in the best possible position, or "winning" the social game. It was about friends and loyalty and grudges and discovering the world's politics and economics and factions and history. Sometimes it felt like we were all pulling together with shared creative purpose, other times not. There was a bit of character development and pursuing pet causes too. It was nothing like what happened when we entered a dungeon.

    So, Zac, not Drift exactly, but hopefully on topic for what you were thinking.
  • Very on topic, Dave! In fact, I'd love to hear more what about what this means:
    Posted By: David BergIn town, the only rules we interacted with were prices of goods and services.

    So, we bounced back and forth between Gamism and... something else.
    Emphasis mine, obviously. What did you mean by this? Did you only use prices of goods and services as a jumping-off point for the fiction AND an absolute reference point of value?
    Weird. I can imagine having Nar play along the lines of evaluating everyone strictly in terms of their value, having to navigate that value, not step on the wrong toes, base priorities strictly on available resources... very interesting indeed!

    Tell me more!
  • Oops! Not what I meant at all. I just meant that our D&D hack included lots of fighty rules and few talky rules. So when we were in town talking, it was just free roleplay and we weren't interacting with rules at all.

    I just mentioned prices as the exception to that. Calling them "rules" is questionable, but the GM was very careful about making them logical and consistent, and that served as a sort of system for trading off bribes vs potions vs housing vs resurrection vs training etc.
  • Well, what do you mean by "weren't interacting with rules at all"?
    'cause you probably used character sheets as a basis of comparison, yeah?
  • Oh.
    I see.
    You mean that play was almost entirely talking and chewing the scenery, instead of being about other things?
  • edited September 2011
    Yeah. Mostly PCs going to find NPCs and talking to them. And PCs talking to each other about which NPCs to talk to.

    Our D&D rules didn't include any version of Bluff, Intimidate, Manipulate, Haggle, Read Person, Subterfuge, etc. So we just roleplayed it. There might be some spells that help that sort of thing, but I don't recall using any.

    There might have been an occasional Appraise check on an item...
  • In my experience, that's a not uncommon way to play D&D (maybe other games too, but I can't speak to it) with a group where you have a strong divergence of agendas (technical, creative, whatever).

    Part of the game is LIKE THIS, and this other part is LIKE THAT, and they serve almost completely different subsets of the play group.

    Usually the switch is clearly demarcated by something, too, like Dungeon Time vs Not-Dungeon Time, In Session vs In Sideband (chatter, e-mail, bluebooking), or even This NPC is for THAT kind of play, this other NPC is for THE OTHER kind of play.
  • My favorite hobby is taking Vincent's games and playing them as Right to Dream. I've done this with DitV, IAWA, and AW. I'm not sure we ever really changed/ignored the rules (I tend to really enjoy exploring system), but we definitely worked with different assumptions that the text had.

    Consider our game of DitV. We played by the book, I followed all the town creation rules and everything. But it was very clear that the moral decisions, while the focus of the game, weren't _real_. Our characters were supposed to come in with certain moral preconceptions, follow them through for the first few towns, and then get progressively disillusioned over time. There was no sense of moral surprise when decisions got made (our characters liked to shoot people, we didn't get far enough for a ton of disillusionment to happen), there was just the fun sim feeling of having gotten the genre right.

    I think, to relate it back to the original quote, we added the invisible rule: "Your character must follow THIS character arc."
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