[Dreamwake] the importance of saying "NO"

edited November 2013 in Actual Play
After the events depicted in THIS thread our group played two more sessions.
In the last one the importance of properly using "Veto" became apparent.
After eight sessions we barely ever use it as we are on the same page most of the time and, through active play, we learned to just present our ideas as non-intrusive suggestions... most conflicts are seamplessly solved within the normal flow of the game-talk.
But Veto is still an important tool that should never be forgotten!



Case One.
When Harlan and Freya met "Achmed, the best man" from a local cult of heretics and were actually presented with a young girl (my idea) they were both surprised... and so were their Players!
To me it was a very cool idea and Luca took it as just an amusing weirdness.
Dario (we discovered much later) didn't like the idea, but only espressed this with a mild "meh" comment, even though he seriously found the mismatching description somehow wrong and irritating.
So the game progresses and Achmed becomes quite an enigmatic and important character, and all the time Dario seems more and more irritated by something me and Luca fail to graps.
Finally we take notice of the situation and directly asked about it: Dario didn't know exactly why that character rubbed him the wrong way so much, but it did, and it kind of spoiled the game for him, like when you are seriously invested in doing something cool and "done right" and suddenly someone comes up with something stupid and inappropriate that, to you, sticks out like a sore thumb.
He said "I should have put the Veto on it" explaining that he instantly thought "damn I don't like this!" but he did not say it because he had gotten accustomed to the fact that just running along with other players' ideas had been mostly fine, up to that point.

The character's name was not important to me nor to Luca... it seemed like a good idea so we supported it against the "meh" expressed by Dario because we couldn't possibly imagine how much he truly disliked it.
And since Dario doesn't like to argue about other peoples' contribution to the fiction he felt more comfortable just expressing that "meh" comment, that went basically unnoticed.
Veto was the proper tool to use, expressing the "damn I don't like this!" concept with no arguing whatsoever and no possibility for the other players to misunderstand it.



Case Two.
Harlan and Freya had to perform a terrorist strike against NovaCairo in order to win the trust of an heretic group they were trying to infiltrate.
They also secretly needed to perform a terrorist strike against NovaCairo in order to fake the presence of a different heretic group that was not actually there.
They thought of using the former to perform the latter and, as good Players always do, tried to squeeze some extra help and resources from the boss of the operation.
"You will get the assistance of my best man!" ... and so I came up with the Achmed character.
I started with no specific ideas, but eventually the character grew on me... it had the potential to showcase some of the most disturbing reality-bending tricks heretics were capable of... so I started pushing for the character to be and act in a certain way.
Keeping within the rules I just described what I liked when I had the chance, and offered ideas and suggestions when others were the main voice.
I got very involved in this... I had this "Achmed Speaks the Truth" idea where this girl could make something true just by speaking it... and I was savoring the moment I could show such a surprise to Dario and Luca.
When finally an opportunity arised and I made my descriprion, I was met with an almost simultaneous "Veto! Too much weird and powerful, she definitely can't do that".
What?!
Without the Veto I would have argued that yes, being an Heretic and possibly an Abomination she could have done that, and that it looked perfectly fine (and actually uber-cool) to me... they were just surprised, but surprise is good, right?

Turns out they both (independently) clearly saw it coming and decided they did not like it, but having I not described anything yet, it was all cool... until it wasn't, so they put the Veto on the unwelcome bits.
I was completely blindsided, I didn't expected my idea to not be universally liked... the Veto told me clearly that I was not anymore on the same page as the others, it told me clearly that the others did not want the game to go too much down the rabbit hole with crazy reality-bending displays of unnatural power.
The result?
No arguing, no discussion, just a quick and effective "reality check" and a bunch of very cool ideas to substitute the "offending" ones.
In the end Achmed did something less scenographic but way cooler and more disturbing than what I originally came up with... with the added bonus of totally surprising me (in a good way).



Conclusions.
From what I'm seeing, the Veto mechanic is havin a "wave-like" development curve.
At first it is very important; people don't know each other and need it to get on the same page.
Then its importance fades, as players start to get accustomed to one another and work in concert.

Now I see it becoming important again as I noticed that the more we all get comfortable with the rules and the more the story flashes out and all the misterius bits start to make sense, the more we tend to "draw conclusions" in our heads.
This kind of ideas tend to have a certain inertia, making us a bit blind to what others may prefer; sometimes we all (independently) draw the same conclusion, producing a satisfactiry sense of mutual confirmationand reinforcement, and sometimes we don't, producing friction and dissonance.

Veto is essential here to help us stay on the same page, making the "Awesome, I knew it!" moments the majority, and turning the potential "Damn I don't like this!" ones into very satisfying "Awesome, what a surprise!".

Comments

  • edited November 2013
    I've been there myself with similar situations while doing collaborative storytelling. Someone says something, and you can tell that everybody else is wriggling in their chairs in dislike. No one says anything, because the irritating element will probably go away. I even remember one time, when we were playing a sword and sorcery adventure, where one guy made up that he attacked some goons with crab. Everybody else were looking at each other, but he was so in to it that we let it pass. Even years after, he still talks about it like it was some kind of highlight.

    I think "letting it pass" can be cultural/social, but I think it also can be part of the game as a social contract. In collaborative storytelling, you don't put your fun in front of the others and here is what happens when one player forgets that while the others are holding on to it. Do the others want to put they fun before one other by invoking veto?

    I have the same experience as you, that it's a wave-like development, but I wonder if putting your fun before others also could be something that you regress to from previous experiences.
    - you play a game where you put your fun before others. In a traditional roleplaying game, you fight for your character.
    - you start playing something that's more like collaborative storytelling. The group is trying it out, forming new relations in how to understand each other for this new format.
    - you have all found yourself and everything runs smoothly.
    - you forget what you learned with this new format.

    The reason why the last point happens could be several reasons. One thing I noticed is how the game can break when people are taking shortcuts. During that third step, the group all "knows" how to play - on how to set up the game - so they don't need to do it. I think it can be healthy to always go back and do the setup of a game again as a reminder of what the group doing and what the group is aiming for. Otherwise it can happen that you either regress back to an old playing style, or taking things for granted that doesn't seem important but still helps shaping the game in the way you want.
  • Interesting.

    Always assuming good faith and genuine desire to play this game with these people... in my experience most GM-full games require the selfless/collaborative approach you mention.
    I'm thinking about Montsegur 1244, Fiasco, Shock, Polaris, and others.

    You play with an eye always pointed at the overall story... is it good? is it interesting? is it enjoyable for the other players?
    Because you are, in a way of speaking, all GMs... the term GM-full is very appropriate.
    In a way you have to mind the same things a GM will mind; in a decentralized way, in a collaborative way, supported by effective mechanics... but in the end that is what you do, even when the final effect is to deeply involve you in the character's story (like in Montsegur)... you always are a bit Director.

    In Dreamwake I strived to have it go the other way around.
    I wanted it to be GM-less.
    One of the things I express in the rulebook is that you should play in an "egoist" way.
    Think about what you like, and "aggressively" enforce it! ...well, not with these exact words and tones, of course ^_^
    What the actual rules say is...
    The exact moment you find yourself wondering IF it’s time to use a Ritual Word it means IT IS
    The idea is that you have the tools to easily and instantly make clear to everybody what you like and how you like it and to instantly enforce it, and the others have the same tools, and those tools also balance and solve an eventual conflict between two or more players wanting to enforce different things at the same time.

    You can be "egoist" because this is the best way to show each other your respective true colors and help everyone play better for everyone else.
    More than any other mechanic, THIS is the core of the game, pretty much in the same way as "Objectives & Principles" are the core of Apocalypse World and Dungeon World ... if you don't use them, the game breaks.
    Or, in Dreamwake, it becomes GM-full, thus exposing itself to the risk of the wave-effect we noticed at our respective tables.
    1 - you play a game where you put your fun before others. In a traditional roleplaying game, you fight for your character.
    2 - you start playing something that's more like collaborative storytelling. The group is trying it out, forming new relations in how to understand each other for this new format.
    3 - you have all found yourself and everything runs smoothly.
    4 - you forget what you learned with this new format.
    How have you solved the Step-4 (you forget what you learned with this new format) problem?
    Do you just keep playing until the game somehow crashes, thus making the problem evident, thus allowing the players to conciously reset to Step-1 of the cycle?

    In Dreamwake the rules effectively set the starting point at Step-2 and then effectively "cage" the player's behaviour between Step-2 and Step-3 ... when Step-4 happens you are functionally just re-positioned at Step-2.
    In the first case I described (Dario not liking something), the Player had problems exactly because he did not follow the fundamental rule I quoted above.
    In my second case, the classic Step-4 problem presented itself but then was actually prevented, as the Players expressed their Veto and steered the narration towards a more collaborative path.
    Everybody else were looking at each other, but he was so in to it that we let it pass. Even years after, he still talks about it like it was some kind of highlight.
    This to me is a secondary but equally important issue.
    If I truly want something I should not be denied by the "tiranny of the majority"... not if we play with an eye to each other (so I feel like I have to refrain myself) ... not if we play for ourselves but get blocked by a Veto-like thingie.

    That is why the Veto mechanic both includes your right to say "No" and your duty to explain "Why Not" so that the Player whose description you just Vetoed can reformulate his idea.
    I found out that most of the time the problem is not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it... minor cosmetic changes often solve the situation, meaning that we BOTH get what we wanted, with minimal concessions.

    But then there are times when, damn, you truly want that one thing to be just as you imagined it.
    For these times Dreamwake offers the Disagreement mechanic... to have players "put their money where their mouth is" and have a clean way to make your idea prevail if it truly means so much to you.
    Basically it is a strictly regulated auction.

    So in the "crab guy" example someone in the group may have avoided such annoying description with a simple Veto.
    If it was not such a big issue, the thing could have ended there.
    If instead it was such a big issue, the crab guy could have used the Disagreement rule to have things go his way by paying Influence for it (imagine Influence points as the one thing representing XP, money, Fate Points, etc).
    In the process the others also have the opportunity to pay to have their idea pass... but bidding in an auction means you TRULY have to want this thing more than the other players.
    Especially when every participant pays his last bid no matter what the result is!
    So if you bid 5 and then the crab guy bids 6 and now you think bidding 7 is too much and give up... you still end up paying 5 points, even if the crab guy won (and pays 6).
    This means no artificial inflation... you either CARE enough to pay (and risk paying for nothing) or you let the others who actually care enough have it their way.

    That is exactly what happened when I wanted Achmed to perform freaky reality alterations, and the others stopped me with a Veto.
    I asked myself: do I care enough about this, or the alternative they present is good enough for me?
    They presented a very cool alternative for free, opposed to have things go my way at a possibly steep cost, so I rolled with it :)

    In about two years of playtesting Disagreement was only used a handful of times, but when it got used it was a lifesaver.
    The same situations in other games would have caused long discussions and have generated abundant social friction.
  • edited November 2013
    Always assuming good faith and genuine desire to play this game with these people... in my experience most GM-full games require the selfless/collaborative approach you mention.
    I'm thinking about Montsegur 1244, Fiasco, Shock, Polaris, and others.

    You play with an eye always pointed at the overall story... is it good? is it interesting? is it enjoyable for the other players?
    Because you are, in a way of speaking, all GMs... the term GM-full is very appropriate.
    In a way you have to mind the same things a GM will mind; in a decentralized way, in a collaborative way, supported by effective mechanics... but in the end that is what you do, even when the final effect is to deeply involve you in the character's story (like in Montsegur)... you always are a bit Director.

    In Dreamwake I strived to have it go the other way around.
    I wanted it to be GM-less.
    From what you write later, I can't really understand the GM-less part. I do see what you mean, but I can't still see the differences. But this is a sidetrack; I just wanted to make a note that GM-full and GM-less isn't probably good terms to describe how you play.
    One of the things I express in the rulebook is that you should play in an "egoist" way.
    Think about what you like, and "aggressively" enforce it! ...well, not with these exact words and tones, of course ^_^
    What the actual rules say is...
    The exact moment you find yourself wondering IF it’s time to use a Ritual Word it means IT IS
    /.../

    You can be "egoist" because this is the best way to show each other your respective true colors and help everyone play better for everyone else.

    Cool rule!

    What I feel is refreshing with your way of seeing it is that you can play collaborative with thinking from your characters perspective first. I would like to play like that some day.
    How have you solved the Step-4 (you forget what you learned with this new format) problem?
    Do you just keep playing until the game somehow crashes, thus making the problem evident, thus allowing the players to conciously reset to Step-1 of the cycle?
    Good question. I became aware of this problem last year, and my suggestion was what I wrote in my previous post: to always redo the setup. To always repeat mantras, like your rule about the ritual word. I played my game with eighty people in total, and it's always good with new people, but with my ordinary group that now played it a couple of times, the game kind of falls apart structure-wise. A structure will, like you said: "if you don't use them, the game breaks". Bad structures will break the game, and what I mean with "break the game" is "produce a bad story". A story that the group may, for example, not care about, not being excited about, not knowing how to proceed or similar things.

    It seems like you and I have similar solutions, seen from different perspective, on how to solve this issue. I'm currently searching for other solutions. Perhaps the game should always evolve into using new rules/mantras/structures, but I don't know how that could be handled.
    That is why the Veto mechanic both includes your right to say "No" and your duty to explain "Why Not" so that the Player whose description you just Vetoed can reformulate his idea.
    I found out that most of the time the problem is not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it... minor cosmetic changes often solve the situation, meaning that we BOTH get what we wanted, with minimal concessions.
    Playing with the ritual phrase "Try another way" from Archipelago and having the X-card present, I noticed another positive effect of having a veto rule. Because you're allowed to say "no" at any point, you can let more things pass. From the contributor, the veto also creates a safe zone, because you don't have to worry about what you bring forth because you know that the others are always allowed to say "no". Just by having that rule, you create an understanding in the group.

    The x-card is usually met with smirks and laughs when we introduce it, and I never seen it been used, but I think it's important to always repeat the introduction.

    ---

    I must say, it's been nice talking to you in these two threads. It's seldom I get a chance to talk to someone who has been playing these kinds of games and coming to the same stage as I have. Sure, I tour around in Sweden playing games and then I get a chance to talk to some people to share thoughts and take in others, but it's not enough for me.
  • In short. It seems like we've come to the same point in our playing. What intrigues me is that we then steered off in different directions. You're playing through the character and the world is what the character perceives, while I instead think of characters as tokens to be moved around to support a meta game. Both our goals are to create a story(?) but our means differs. At least when it comes to how to handle the character.
  • edited November 2013
    From what you write later, I can't really understand the GM-less part. I do see what you mean, but I can't still see the differences. But this is a sidetrack; I just wanted to make a note that GM-full and GM-less isn't probably good terms to describe how you play.
    In most games where there is not a GM the Players often act (and feel) in a director-ish stance.
    Dreamwake's entire bag of tricks tries to make Players act (and feel) as close to a true actor stance as possible.
    As a result most players told me (and I agree) that playing this game you feel almost like a traditional Player with a sort of invisible GM present at the table :)
    Cool rule!
    What I feel is refreshing with your way of seeing it is that you can play collaborative with thinking from your characters perspective first. I would like to play like that some day.
    We can arrange for a hangout demo :)
    That is... if you can stand my Borat-like english >__<
    Perhaps the game should always evolve into using new rules/mantras/structures, but I don't know how that could be handled.
    What do you mean by that?
    I must say, it's been nice talking to you in these two threads. It's seldom I get a chance to talk to someone who has been playing these kinds of games and coming to the same stage as I have. Sure, I tour around in Sweden playing games and then I get a chance to talk to some people to share thoughts and take in others, but it's not enough for me.
    Likewise :)
    Both our goals are to create a story(?) but our means differs.
    Indeed they may differ.
    In developing Dreamwake I never much cared for the creation of a story.
    My design goals were all focussed on how the Player felt playing his character (the whole Director/Actor stance thingie)... and to have the fiction related to actions and scenes look like I wanted it to be...
    I went to the microscopic level, the here-&-now, handling things like the immediate perceptions of the PCs, cutting out any possibility to actually dwell on the macroscopic level.
    My game has no inherent rhythm, no real managment of narrative times or story archs (aside for the very basic Intel-Action-FollowUp structure).

    Maybe this is the underlying difference?
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