Best practices for playing Follow

Follow could be worth trying out as GMless option, after the group gets more used to GMless games, but with some caveats. Follow is most successful when players stay close to the story archetype and genres the Quests are built for, and when everyone is committed to the same tone. Follow will automatically create creativity, so one shouldn’t try to be overly clever or creative or try too much; doing so can often create a sprawling and unsatisfactory story. Just naturally build on each other’s contributions instead of trying to force things or throw in unexpected or clever twists. As stated above, Follow builds the creativity in the story automatically as an emergent property; it will arise naturally as the story unfurles. So to be successful in Follow: 1) Don’t try too much, or try to be clever, just make a scene that would naturally follow from the previous one; 2) Agree on a tone and make sure players stick to it; 3) Focus on believablity; Gonzo is almost always a bad idea; 4) Keep the story focused and tight and build on other player’s contributions; 5) Don’t stray to much from the Quest’s story archetype; staying close to the Quest’s story archetype keeps players on the same page and telling the same story— archetypal stories are archetypal for a reason.

P.S.S.
I have some great alternate success/failure rules for Follow if your interested. I also have some suggestions about how to approach and contextualize success/failure in Fiasco. With this approach to Fiasco my group has never had an unsuccessful session and we’ve played it a lot.
@Jeff_Slater posted this in another thread, but I wanted to spin it off and dig in.

I want to hear more about your alternative success/failure rules, Jeff, and any success or failure stories other people have about Follow.

Comments

  • I've only played Follow once, but it was a great experience. A four player game, two players' first-ever rpg. My experience was that it's worth reiterating that there's no in-scene resolution mechanic. If your character wants to do something, they do it. Part of giving in scene decisions weight, then, is to encourage players to introduce consequences whenever they feel right.

    The other thing that helped us enjoy it was a willingness to 'workshop' a resolution. When someone dies as a result of a scene (or betrays the Fellowship), it's worth coming to an agreement about what makes sense (for the tone and logic of the story), rather than going with the first thing that's said. Those out of character conversations helped put us on the same page about what felt 'right' for our shared narrative.

    @Jeff_B_Slater's point about Gonzo stuff rings true for me in any GM-less game. In the middle of a final crossroad of a Kingdom game, a player described his character riding in on a walking tree and destroying part of the city. Talking trees and mass destruction were both totally new elements to the story. It had little to do with the events leading up to it. It was dramatic and memorable, but it made the prior events (quiet interpersonal drama) seem retrospectively irrelevant.

    Shared expectations about tone are key, but you don't know the tone up-front, because you haven't started creating it yet. So, it's been useful for me in games like Follow to check in-mid game and say "It feels like we're making this kind of story. Is this how it feels to you?" Choosing crossroads (Kingdom) and challenges (Follow) are a built-it times to do this. It's worth taking advantage of them.
  • I've played Follow once, and I feel like I have to post about, because I played with Jeff!

    I don't have too much of great detail to say about it; the game wasn't terribly good, in my opinion (I'm talking about our playthrough, not commenting on the design, here), and we struggled with freeform conflict resolution occasionally. I didn't feel that the story hung together or that we really agreed on what we were playing, and the game didn't help us a whole lot.

    I could see it going a lot better with a more careful approach, and some of Jeff's advice, above, could have helped. (I'd say we followed most of it, but picking a more obvious/archetypal storyline might have helped us, instead of the weirdo dystopian future thing we came up with.)

    I could look up our notes on the game, if that would help or be of interest to anyone.

    Jeff, if you remember about the game in more detail, I'd love to hear your take on it!
  • I've only played it twice.

    Interestingly the first session with experienced Story Gamers kind of sucked. We played very collaboratively, complying to each other ideas like in improv theater. There were no real conflict between the characters. The story became dull.

    Then years later I tried it out with my students. This was very cool! They were competing with each other but in a cooperative way. A lot of friction happened between PCs and the voting became exciting!

    Strangely I think you should try to 'win' with your character but be ready to fail!

  • Strangely I think you should try to 'win' with your character but be ready to fail
    Hmm, I think I agree with this. In character, push a divisive agenda to the hilt. When voting, try to be objective and choose outcomes that fit the themes and stakes of the story.
  • @Ben_Robbins
    @Paul_T

    I apologize for taking so much time to respond to both of your posts. I’m very interested in discussing Follow hacks, approaches to gameplay, actual play, etc., but just haven’t felt like writing long posts lately. To do your questions’ justice my responses will have to be pretty thorough and lengthy; and, I’ve had weird energy issues lately—or maybe I’m just the laziest person on earth? Anyway, sorry for the delay. I will try to respond tomorrow or at least within a few days, and wanted to touch bases to let you know. Thanks :)
  • No problem, Jeff! You don't owe me anything. And you're welcome!
  • No worries, Jeff! It's not like there's a rush or a deadline.
    Hmm, I think I agree with this. In character, push a divisive agenda to the hilt. When voting, try to be objective and choose outcomes that fit the themes and stakes of the story.
    That captures a lot of what is baked into the game. Your character only starts with two big data points:

    - What you want from the quest, which must be something different from what everyone else in the fellowship wants.

    - And what you want from the person to your left but which they are unwilling to give you (and a third data point being what the person to your right wants from you, and which you are unwilling to give them)

    So while the characters all want the quest to succeed in the broadest sense, the table should be littered with starting conflict. By definition the team is not on the same page.

    That's also why there's there's the separate steps of "what does your character think" versus "what do you think" in challenge resolution, to highlight the distinction between character conflict and player collaboration.
  • I played Follow twice, once in at a Con and once at an open blind-night RPG thing I host in my town.
    I think the second was the most significative since the other two players come from a D&D only diet. So we played the Criminal gang seed, but in Waterdeep.
    The game shines in outline the complex internal dynamics of the gang.
    The flow of play did naturally resemble the one from the Greek tragedy: a lot of talking scene with the actual action being only told.

    It worked pretty fine, indeed.
  • The flow of play did naturally resemble the one from the Greek tragedy: a lot of talking scene with the actual action being only told. .
    We found this, too. Our favorite flow was: one scene preparing for a big event (battle etc) the next scene debriefing it, with most non-conversational action happening off-stage.
  • I often think that moving most non-conversational action off-screen and focusing play on in-character dialogues is a good technique for GMless gaming. Certainly, many of the problems we had playing games like Follow and Fiasco were all about managing on-screen events outside of conversation (with a physical confrontation being the easiest example of that).
  • edited January 31
    Paul, could you clarify what you mean by your last comment? I’m not sure I’m following how play would flow, and an example would be really helpful. What would moving non-conversational action off screen look like? That kind of just sounds like telling the story primary by way of group discussion, negotiation, and consensus, which would amount to a lot of plot summary and not much moment by moment emersion or surprise—but I don’t think that’s what you mean, is it?
  • Jeff, I think the Tabletop Fiasco episode (I mention it because I know you've seen it) is the best recorded example I can think of. Easily 90%+ of that game is people talking to each other in-character. There's fairly little interaction with setting, objects, inner conflict, or physical action. As much of play as possible is characters talking to each other.

    This also usually happens quite naturally in freeform chatroom play, and other freeform practices (occasionally including improv theatre). @moconnor summarized it well, just above, in the context of Follow.

    Saying what your character says is the easiest thing to do in the sense that you don't risk stepping on anyone else's authority/territory in doing so, so it's very functional.
  • edited January 31
    @Paul_T
    Ahh...I get what you’re saying. This is similar to our GMless vs rotating GM discussion. I think that the style you discuss above, in which the exchange of in-character dialogue makes up most of the game, is very common in GMless games, and that’s the style I’m discribing, and differentiating from the rotating GM-style, in our other conversation. Thanks for the clarification :)
  • That's very much how I play most story games (including Follow). The big battle is in the background, usually described in scene framing, and the scene is the characters hunkered in the trenches blaming each other for the last disaster, mourning their dead friends, or arguing whether the plan to take out the guns will get them all killed.
  • That's very much how I play most story games (including Follow). The big battle is in the background, usually described in scene framing, and the scene is the characters hunkered in the trenches blaming each other for the last disaster, mourning their dead friends, or arguing whether the plan to take out the guns will get them all killed.
    The had a scene like that in our game, with two of the character hiding from a Medusa behind a hay cart.

    Sometimes I wondered if that "Greek Tragedy" technique come from the bias of playing a bunch of games with a combat sub-system and what's related.
    This is quite philosophical and has zero impact on the actual play. Still, the answer is probably yes.
  • I haven’t played Follow yet but I played Fiasco a few weeks ago and that was the first time my gaming group had tried a GMless game before. I think I had the toughest time adjusting out everyone even though, or maybe because I’m the GM in all of our games so far.

    The other players really took to it though, one of them said it was their favorite game out of any we had played so far. But pretty much everyone but me was uncomfortable framing scenes on their own and almost always chose the option of having the other players frame a scene for them. After a while though we stopped worrying about that and just let anyone who had an idea for a scene put it out there.
    Paul, could you clarify what you mean by your last comment? I’m not sure I’m following how play would flow, and an example would be really helpful. What would moving non-conversational action off screen look like? That kind of just sounds like telling the story primary by way of group discussion, negotiation, and consensus, which would amount to a lot of plot summary and not much moment by moment emersion or surprise—but I don’t think that’s what you mean, is it?
    I think “telling the story primarily by way of group discussion, negotiation, and consensus” totally describes what was going on. Not that there wasn’t acted dialogue between players, but there’s at least one player in the group who does not speak dialogue hardly at all. If we surprised or entertained each other it was more often because of what we suggested or how we described something. And it wasn’t as though we really knew where the story was headed.

    I can totally see how focusing on dialogue could speed up the game and make it less cumbersome and I’ll probably point that out to the group if we try something like that again. Even though we were focusing on something GMless systems don’t exactly handle well it was still a really great experience for everyone, so I thought I’d share that.
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