[IAWA] Three questions for GMs

edited September 2008 in Play Advice
Questions that arose from yesterday's IAWA-Mirrorshades-Skype game

1) GMs, what role do you play in scene setting? Have you ever refused a player's scene requests or pushed back hard against them? Have you messed with the parameters of the scene, adding or deleting characters, or changing the setting? If so, why?

2) Is the GM free to generate an off-the-cuff NPC if they want to? Like if they think the world really ought to be biased towards one character (like the Mayor in the benefit scene) can they invent an NPC to give the favored character more firepower? Or is that too heavy a thumb on the scale?

3) Who decides which characters may participate in a conflict? That character's player? The GM? The people who initiated the conflict?

Comments

  • I was thinking about #2 during that game, as well...
  • edited September 2008
    For question 2, during the playtest (when the game had a different name), I asked Vincent your question 2, and the answer, then, was yes it's okay. The game has changed a bit, but I think it's still valid.
    When I wanted to do it, it had its roots in the tensions established by the initial oracle and brainstorming of characters phase. If your adding a new character, I imagibe you should keep in mind the relationships established already, and use it to enhance thwe stuff already in play, rather than creating an PC to take the action in a completely different direction. But that's probably obvious.

    For question 3, I think this is a group decision based on the details of the fiction. Basically, anyone who wants to can join the conflict as long as they can describe how that happens without hitting any other player's "What? That makes NO SENSE AT ALL" buttons.

    For question 1, I don't know how much authority the GM has tp push back or deny the player's requests. But everyone has the ability to add to a scene, and redefine the setting though those additions. I think again it's a group decision whether to veto or alter those additions - but even if it's the GM's, I would expect a some discussion and negotiation before anything is vetoed by anyone.
  • edited September 2008
    1) I take a heavy, heavy hand in scene framing. I try to follow Vincent's words in the book on how to do it -- that's good stuff. Players can "request" of course, and I listen to them, but as GM in the Wicked Age, I use my scene framing powers like a hammer.

    2) Yep, you can create NPCs on the fly.

    3) "If someone takes action and you can and would interfere." That's the whole of it. No one is in charge, specifically.
  • 1. We discussed it as a group and went with the best idea. But I like John's way, too.

    2. Yes.

    3. "Who wants in?", was how we did it, I think.

    Graham
  • Posted By: John Harper1) I take a heavy, heavy hand in scene framing. I try to follow Vincent's words in the book on how to do it -- that's good stuff. Players can "request" of course, and I listen to them, but as GM in the Wicked Age, I use my scene framing powers like a hammer.
    Yes. When I play, my default technique is to look around the table, figure out which two characters' meeting would cause the most trouble, then have that happen.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • Posted By: johnzoGMs, what role do you play in scene setting?
    I basically set the scene like I would in any other game - who is there, where it happens, and so on. The players I have played with really only have had general suggestions for how things should go.
    Posted By: johnzoIs the GM free to generate an off-the-cuff NPC if they want to?
    Whether they are "allowed" to or not is really not my sticking point - as you may have read in other threads, I'm continually frustrated by my attempts to figure out how many NPCs I should create, which ones I should create, and so forth. In brainstorming mode, I can easily get 10-20 characters from 4 Oracle pulls without much trouble. That's not ever going to work in a chapter of a game. So I have no idea how I am supposed to decide which ones are the best or how many of them I should have.
    Posted By: johnzoWho decides which characters may participate in a conflict?
    The GM adjudicates who can interfere, players figure out if they would.
  • To IaWA players and GMs, on a very closely related subject:

    You know the "Alan's Best Interests Diagram and Tutorial" method, where you draw connections to "points of contention" when declaring Best Interests? Do you have any ideas/tips about how to use that diagram to frame scenes, or otherwise inform your play? I bet we can come with a few "tricks" using that diagram, if we brainstorm for a little while, but maybe someone's already got some?

    John, did you get any use out of our diagram during our game? If so, do you have an example?
  • Paul --

    Do you have a link for that tutorial? Google reveals nothing.

    The other question I'll answer later; I don't have the diagram here right now.
  • I do what John does, although I make liberal use of the suggested "Where are you right now?" and "What are you doing?" get-a-player-to-frame-a-scene tricks.
  • So much of this is subjective and based on group makeup I hesitated to answer, but I guess if you're looking for data points I can oblige...
    Posted By: johnzo1) GMs, what role do you play in scene setting? Have you ever refused a player's scene requests or pushed back hard against them? Have you messed with the parameters of the scene, adding or deleting characters, or changing the setting? If so, why?
    I did most of the framing in the game I ran, trying to be mindful of player spotlight time, pacing, and the different ways of approaching a conflict.

    I never had to refuse or push back against a scene request. We just talked things out.

    I never really "changed parameters" per-se, because we all sort of agreed on them going in. I guess I looked for consensus on basic details during framing, and then said "go!".
    Posted By: johnzo2) Is the GM free to generate an off-the-cuff NPC if they want to? Like if they think the world really ought to be biased towards one character (like theMayor in the benefit scene) can they invent an NPC to give the favored character more firepower? Or is that too heavy a thumb on the scale?
    Are they free to? Yes. Would I? No. I found myself consistently making 3 or 4 NPCs and resolving myself to making sure they were important. Everyone else was window dressing.
    Posted By: johnzo3) Who decides which characters may participate in a conflict? That character's player? The GM? The people who initiated the conflict?
    We would talk these out usually. I guess as GM I tried to look at who could logically be in the scene and set those initial conditions, but I was open to suggestions.
  • Hello,

    1) I am very aggressive in my scene framing when I GM, "In A Wicked Age.." This recently was a problem because I do take requests and suggestions seriously but by default I will keep pushing things forward to my liking and a player didn't realize that it was Kosher to say, "Hey, wait, wait, I want to do this thing" and felt like I kind of ran over them. I will run over you if you don't stop me.

    2) I avoid generating NPCs mid-Chapter. I also ALWAYS take ALL the remaining characters after the players have chosen the PCs. I consider this to be a creative restriction the GM. You're dealt a hand, now play it.

    3) Strictly by the rules anyone who wants to participate in a conflict can roll for initiative. And anyone who is the current Challenger can declare who must Answer them.

    Jesse
  • When I get stuck, I look at a PC and wonder "what's the worst possible thing in the world that could happen to this PC?" Then I try to make it happen. Usually that means creating an NPC of some sort and throwing them into the mix.
  • I use that diagram almost every session (13 in the same continuity so far) and I've never used it as a reference once the game starts moving.

    Don't forget to draw maps, maps, maps, and to write timelines. I think that's suggested towards the back (maybe in the multiple chapters section?)
  • Posted By: Ryan StoughtonI do what John does, although I make liberal use of the suggested "Where are you right now?" and "What are you doing?" get-a-player-to-frame-a-scene tricks.
    #1 I'm similar, though I've only run about four sessions, two games.

    The answer to "so what were you doing while that was going on" may lead to the Player effectively framing the next scene (I was attacking the invader's siege engines - well that's not happening without a fight so off we go) or creating ingredients off which I frame the scene (I was finding Bodkin, 'well Bodkin is at the Leprechaun court right now, so I think that means you continued to evade the leprechaun guards and burst in upon the court').

    #2 Hasn't come up much, the NPCs have been ones created off the initial run at least in general (e.g., there's leprechauns on the general list, I can always create a new leprechaun).

    #3 This has been a GM "putting you both there" thing or Player, "I'm there too" thing or GM as "soul of NPC" saying "well I would be there" (e.g, so you're attacking the seige engines, well the Barbarian Chieftain is there overseeing their final construction as you do that, so you're conflicing him). My games have involved 2-3 players so there haven't been lots to "want in" on a scene and people have respected "that's someone else's scene really" lines.

    Rob
  • My humble advice is: the fewer NPCs in conflicts the better. The player characters should be the ones duking it out.

    I usually wind up with a maximum of two statted NPCs. Of course I'm also a big fan of collapsing the list of Oracle characters ("the merchant is also the widower and is also the long-lost son!")
  • 1. I ran the game with a basic version of PTA's scene framing rules, mostly because I was just dead tired, and it worked pretty well. I do have to say that I would prefer to frame them myself, though. That way I can still show off a little bit and control the pacing and mood of the story. Although if a player actually requests a scene or a moment, I almost always say yes, unless it simply wouldn't make sense. That is pretty fun too, because then I can go: "Well, what can I do to turn this scene on it's head?"

    2. I usually never need to make a new NPC because I'm the one framing the scenes, heh. That way I can work in the original NPCs from the oracle. Also, that slight familiarity with those characters make their entrances a little more cool. I have created new NPCs during play, but I only bother statting them up when they are actually involved in a conflict. I think it's good to introduce a new character this way every now and then. This way the players never feel entirely "safe" with a un-statted NPC.

    3. I always let the players decide if they want to be in the conflict. If they don't, hey that's fine.... Tyagar rips your arm off as he intended.
  • Posted By: Ben RobbinsMy humble advice is: the fewer NPCs in conflicts the better. The player characters should be the ones duking it out.

    I usually wind up with a maximum of two statted NPCs. Of course I'm also a big fan of collapsing the list of Oracle characters ("the merchant is also the widower and is also the long-lost son!")
    Collapsing the oracles is awesome, but so is expanding them. We played in a game with an oracle that ended with: "...armed with stick and stone" Not only was the armed character a PC, but we also had two very memorable NPCs named Stick and Stone, who were obviously fighters.
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