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 Post subject: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 8:34 am 
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A warning: If perusers of this thread don’t have a clear picture of shared story creation in role-playing, this thread might easily not make sense. These basics have been talked about in this thread.

The first tool of shared story creation I would like to talk about is the Kicker.

The kicker is a close relative of the SA, but it goes farther as the SA. Where the SA does point the referee in to the themes a player is interested in, the kicker tells him most specifically what a player wants his character’s story to be about. A feudal knight character’s SAs might set him up to be torn between his strong religious believes and his feudal duties to his lord, and a refreee can interpret this in any way he likes. The same feudal knight’s kicker might specifically state that the character is called upon by his nefarious lord to aid him in his bloody and land-grabbing feud with a local monastery.

But what is a kicker? Here’s my definition:

Quote:
The kicker is an event or a realization the character experiences in the very moment play commences, and it is a realization or an event that can be ignored only at great cost to the charater, and the reaction to which requires a choice.


So here we have got this guy (PC); and then this happens to him. The “this” is the kicker. Let’s return to the feudal knight above. The player creates the character, complete with SAs – a powerful Drive to serve his count, and a firm Faith. The character has high potential for conflict, but he is still static – until “this”, the kicker, happens to him. In his case, it might be the following: “Sir XY was called to the Count’s court, along with all the other vassals of the count. Here, the Count declares an escalation of his long-standing feud with a powerful monastery, that he will no longer tolerate the abbott’s arrogance and that his vassals are to prepare for an assault on it.”

And here’s the deal: The kicker, and everything in it, is created by the player himself, not by the referee.

In the example above, the knight’s player establishes the monastery and the abbott, the Count, the feud between the two and the escalation to violence all on his own. For his kicker, he need not work with facts about the setting already established by the referee, he can create new ones, and he tosses them to the referee: “Here’s my character, and here’s the situation he faces. Make an adventure out of it.”

All kind of aventure fiction utilizes kickers. For Frodo in LotR, the kicker is the realization that he actually owns the One Ring. For Luke Skywalker in Star Wars it is Princess Leia’s holographic call for help to Obi Wan Kenobi. For the biblical Moses, it is the Burning Thorn Bush. What these, and all, kickers have in common is that they can not be safely ignored, and that they require a decision on part of the character experiencing them. The kicker literally “kicks” the character into action, forces him out of his previous, often complacent life. It jump-starts the story’s action, and down a very specific alley chosen by the player.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 3:21 pm 
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Problems with kickers, no. 1: Weak kickers

If a kicker runs completely counter to the referee’s conceptions for the campaign, he might exert some influence over them. At the most heavy-handed, the referee might simply veto something about the kicker and ask the player to make up a new one. The obvious problem with this is that a player might have designed his character with this specific kicker in mind all along, and that any such interference decreases authorship by the player. A less extreme measure would be to encourage the player to rework some aspect of his kicker, but not require it. I resort to this measure once in a while in a tight spot, an it usually works quite well, but I know a player who resents any referee interference with his creation, viewing himself firmly as the prime author and demanding to be allowed to choose freely what the story will be about; and by and large, I agree with him.

Therefore, I do strongly discourage any and all interference by the referee; that’s what the player wants out of the game, so give it to him.Only in a pinch, when you feel that a kicker would ruin the setting in a way you are not willing to stomach, exert some influence.

But there are other instances still, when some kind of referee input into the kicker might be desirable: When the player creates a “weak” kicker for his character.

A weak kicker can be one that does not entice the character strongly enough to act, either because the consequences of inaction are not dire enough, or because the motivation to act is too weak for some other reason. Consider for a moment Luke Skywalker and his kicker, the message by Princess Leia. This is a kicker for sure, but not a particularly strong one. It kicks Luke into action, because Luke is a dreamer yearning for adventure and excitement, but would it have worked for somebody of the complacent disposition of Sam Gamgee? Rather not. And the kicker does also contain no visible consequences for inaction. Luke could conceivably ignore the message and go on with his dull and uneventful life as farmboy without any ill effects to himself.

Another form of weak kicker is one that seems to be resolvable too quickly and easily. An example for this is once again Luke Skywalker. His message-kicker is resolved quickly – get R2D2 to Obi Wan Kenobi and the situation is resolved, you can return to your uneventful life as a farmboy.

In case of a weak kicker, the referee is required to spike it. Spiking a kicker means making it more compelling or dramatic without changing its essential nature. It means adding something to the kicker, not changing it, as the referee is not to exert any authority over the kicker. Let us again return to Luke Skywalker and the message. The first scene of this story is R2D2 playing his holographic message. To spike this kicker, it would be possible to have Luke’s uncle enter the workshop immediately after the message has been played, before Luke had any chance to react, and bring news that the sandcrawler from which R2D2 was recently bought has been destroyed, obviuosly by Imperial troops looking for something. By adding this to the kicker, without changing anything about it, the pressure on Luke has been increased considerably, and his decision what to do about the message is not so casual anymore.

It is important to note that spiking of kickers, if necessary, is done before the character has reacted to the kicker. Spiking is not a technique to get the character to behave in a certain way, it is not used to make a player reconsider his decisions, it is used to lend additional gravity to the initial decision. In the Luke-example, the spiking information about the Imperial activities has to come before Luke has reacted to the droid’s message, not after he has already decided to do nothing at all.

Problems with kickers, no. 2: Weaving it all together

Fine, you may say, I have got three players, and every single character has a kicker of its own – and the kickers don’t fit together. How am I going to make an adventure out of this?

The answer lies with the communal decision on a theme for the campaign, and with communal character creation, which, in TRoS terms and even by its rules, is to lead to compatible SAs. The characters are interested in the same things, and therefore their kickers will be usually about compatible things.

Let’s return to the example of the pious knight called on by his lord to wage war against a monastery. Let us assume that the theme for this entire campaign was chosen to be exploring “how the commandments of faith are often at odds with the requirements of daily life”. One player has chosen to address this theme by use of a knight torn between his faith and his feudal obligations. Another player has created a kind-hearted and pious village priest wrestling with his great romantic love and also desire for a pretty young widow struggling to support her three small children. His kicker is him learning that the brutal village reeve, a widower himself, intends to wed the widow, who on account of her poor economic situation and the reeve’s influence will be unable to resist his advances.

So far the priest-character. But his player knows fully well all details of the knight-character, and he uses them to create points of connection between the knight and the priest. He decides that his priest is actually a member of the monastery the knight is to wage war against, and that his village is owned by the monastery. In addition, he decides that the village reeve from his kicker has been appointed by the abbott, and that the two are on best terms. With this constellation, it is virtually assured that the priest’s and the knight’s paths will eventually cross, but nobody can at this stage say how. The characters might become allies or enemies, but it is as yet impossible to tell which it will be.

(Constellations like these are one of the beauties of shared authorship. Nobody can guess what will happen, how the PCs will eventually interact, and even the referee will be surprised by the events.)

So weaving the kickers together is actually often easier than it might seem. The players are strongly encouraged, even required, to create characters whose spheres of interest do somehow overlap, either in a friendly or an antagonsitic way. Every character has his own tale, but players and referee will work to make these stories intersect, and to make the various characters part of each others’ individual stories.

I hope this doesn’t sound too vague, and that I was able to convey how this works. It is very obvious in play, but it is complicated to explain.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 8:54 pm 
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So how do you handle the situation where the kicker of one player interferes adversely with another PC? So rather than the issue being bringing them together, the problem is that one kicker looks like it will adversely affect the enjoyment of another player.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:11 pm 
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I don’t view this as a problem at all. The player characters need not collaborate, only the players have to. Conflicting kickers mean that the characters won’t work as team, but that they will work against each other. In itself, this does not affect anybody’s enjoyment adversely. Instead of a story about characters working as a team, you simply get a story about characters working against each other.

To once again return to the example of the knight and the priest: Their kickers, and some effort by the referee, will lead them together. Wether as allies or rivals is not important, all that matters is that they are somehow part of the same story, the story of the clash between the monastery and the count. Real problems arise only when the storylines arising from the kickers do not intersect at all.

Does this answer your question, or am I too vague? The problem is that it is not easy to answer this in more than sweeping terms without a very specific situation to talk about at hand.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:52 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
So how do you handle the situation where the kicker of one player interferes adversely with another PC? So rather than the issue being bringing them together, the problem is that one kicker looks like it will adversely affect the enjoyment of another player.


Here's an example:

Player 1: This is a redemption plot arc for my character. He's reached the cross-roads and has a Damascus-road moment. Father Michael (established NPC) guides him through the process. My character decides to abandon his lifetime pursuit of destruction and mayhem and become an acolyte of Father Michael, joining the Order and yada yada yada.

Player 2: OK, I'm going to start this one by killing Father Michael -- it's a complete vengeance-fulfillment scenario for me. From there she descends into this complete drug-fueled funk -- with her life's quest fulfilled, where to now?

The players author their kickers so its not a consensus thing...?

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 6:07 am 
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First of all, these are not proper kickers. Both players state what their characters will do, but kickers are about what choices the characters face. While both kickers make it clear what kind of game the players want, they do not introduce any kind of dilemma for the characters and do not involve any tough, consequential choices; both should by thoroughly reworked.

Player 1 should establish some turning-point situation in his character’s life, probably where he meets Father Michael and is deeply impressed by this man, but where giving up his vilolent ways, just for one act, entails some kind of loss for him – maybe he is the member of a violent street gang and will loose his friends’ respect and worse if he listening to the admonitions of Father Michael.

Player 2 has not only made up no kicker, even if it were, it would be a “weak” one requiring “spiking”. His character starts off by killing Father Michael, thereby completing his lifelong quest – the kicker, if it was any, would be resolved much too quickly. If you wanted a “moral degradation as the result of obssessive vengeance”-scenario for a character, the vengeance shouldn’t be too easy to enact. And apart from this, the kicker of killing Father Michael in the form proposed by you is not a kicker. Where’s the tough choice in it, and where are the consequences of the decision? Both of these are essential to a kicker.

To restate: A kicker is not about character actions, it is about the character undergoing something or realizing something. Him acting upon this event or realization is the reaction to the kicker, but not the kicker itself.

But let’s work with your example anyway. The events you describe would indeed be disruptive. But the kicker is part of the character creation (the final one) and therefore a consensus thing – but not between player and referee, but between player and all other participants. When a player introduces a kicker that next to precludes another players enjoyment, this player should speak up, and the involved parties should discuss their respective kickers and see what can be done about the situation. In your example, does it really have to be the same priest for both characters? Isn’t it enough when it is two different priests from the same parish, for instance? I have never seen an instance where the players were not able to straighten probems like that out.

The characters and kickers proposed by Ian make me want to point out one more thing about shared story telling: It is usually better to have a theme in mind for a character (let’s say redemption, as with the first character proposed), but no resolution to it. Create a character who is ripe for redemption, but do not decide that he will actually redeem himself – the resolution is what the story is about. Guide your character through a sequence of scenes and find out through play if he is able to redeem himself, or if he is too far gone. This does usually make for a more interesting game, and for one with a more natural feel – you don’t have to move your character towards a specific goal (redemption), no matter what, you simply have him wrestle his demons from scene to scene and explore if he comes through or if he fails, whatever turns out through play to feel right.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 6:43 am 
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Ian’s question about players’s story ideas clashing violently entices me to write abou the creation of characters apt for shared story creation. First and foremost, and this is kind of the Golden Rule, it is about consensus. If any of your ideas for your character causes a great deal of problems or uneasiness for others, desist.

But let’s look at important steps of character creation.

An optional first step in character creation is holding a communal discussion on theme and setting of the upcoming campaign. I recommend this, as it gives focus to the campaign and also gives a general idea what the characters’ personalities (and thus their SAs) will be like, but it may be too “artsy” for some. One way to start this discussion is proposing a few themes like “revenge” or “xenophobia” and then think about a setting throughout which the theme settled upon echoes strongly; for “revenge”, one might for instance choose the classical Western genre from movies like “Unforgiven” or “Once Upon A Time In The West”, whereas the historical crusader kingdoms might be an interesting backdrop for the theme of “xenophobia”. Another possibility is to start out by proposing a certain interesting setting, like for instance Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, and then go looking for a theme fitting this setting. But however this is done, these are communal decisions, and one should arrive at both setting and theme acceptable to every participant.

Once theme and setting are decided upon, players start proposing character concepts. It is almost vital that these concepts are developed communally, with everybody voicing his opinion on everybody else’s character. Proposing details and twists for other character concepts than one’s own is strongly encouraged. Nobody is required to use these ideas, but I have often seen one or two nifty facts about a character arise from such propositions. Apart from proposition, all participants, players the same as the referee, should voice any disapproval with anybody else’s character concepts. If a detail of a concept is obviously problematic for many participants, it is usually better if one drops this detail; enjoyment of the game is after all the highest goal, and some characters can really sabotage this enjoyment for many players. In my games, I have made it a ruling that anything opposed by a majority of the participants can not be included in a character concept, but this might be going too far for some; still, players should at least be strongly advised to reconsider anything about their character concepts meeting with strong disapproval.

Apart from the above, there are a few additional requirements for player characters. The first is establishing some connection between the characters. If a theme for the campaign was agreed upon, you have it easy, every player character should merely be equipped to address this theme. Don’t create a thoroughly worldly player character for a game with the theme “how the commandments of faith are often at odds with the requirements of daily life”; a character like that won’t fit the theme. If you have no unifying theme (and I recommend to have one), this step will be less easy. Instead of a thematic unity, use the SAs in the regular way to establish some kind of emotional bond between the player characters. It is not necessary that the characters feel similarly about the same things but to be tied together they have to care about a few common things. If some characters are deeply loyal to some duke while others hate him passionately, you have established a common interest that will lead the characters together; it is enough that they all feel strongly about the duke, they don’t have to feel the same about him.

(Of course, if the characters were to start out as a traditional “group”, simply caring about the same things, no matter how, is very problematic, and stronger bonds would be required. But you being experienced role-players, I don’t need to tell you this.)

The second thing that is required for player characters fit for shared story telling are connections to NPCs of their own creation. The more NPCs in a character’s backstory, the better; I would consider two NPCs the character cares about one way or another the absolute minimum. Don’t let players create the “loner who cares for nobody”. Instead, ask your players to link their characters firmly with the game world by means of NPCs they feel about strongly. And tell your players to remain sketchy about their NPC. Actually fleshing them out to any degree of detail will proove very awkward later on (I’ll talk about this later). To return to my example of the pious knight, “Sir XY still is on best of terms with Sir AB, whose squire he used to be, and who is something like a second father to him” is just about the right amount of detail.

(Remaining sketchy allows for creative space. Facts about these NPCs can be added later, during the game; whenever something seems to add to the story, bith players and referee can create these facts on the spot. Right in the middle of session 3, a wayward son of Sir AB would feel just right? Bang, you’ve got it.)

And encourage your players to link their characters by use of their NPCs. Let’s once again retun to my example of the pious knight and the tempted priest. The knight has his mentor Sir AB as a connection, and the priest has the young widow he loves. The priest’s player, seeing the knight’s player creating Sir AB, pounces upon this fact – he decides that the young widow’s late husband was killed by Sir AB, maybe ridden down callously. This is the kind of connection that players should establish between their characters, connections that will come up later during the game.

The final part of character creation is coming up with the Kicker, but chances are that the players have already formulated a very clear idea of the Kicker while creating the character concept. Like everything else about character creation, Kicker creation should be public, and all participants should voice their opinions on each others’ Kickers.

So you need a theme (optionally, but recommended), and characters linked either by their SAs or thematically and firmly rooted in the setting through a few NPCs of the players’ creation, you need a few links between these NPCs, and Kickers (addressing the theme, if any). And there has to be a mutual agreement about all these things.

Now all you still need is an “adventure”. And adventure creation is what I am going to talk about next, after any questions.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 7:06 am 
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Grettir wrote:
...The kicker, and everything in it, is created by the player himself, not by the referee...


Ian Plumb wrote:
The players author their kickers so its not a consensus thing...?


Grettir wrote:
...the kicker is part of the character creation (the final one) and therefore a consensus thing – but not between player and referee, but between player and all other participants...


So the referee has as much input into the individual kickers as anyone else at the table. That sounds reasonable. The initial description made it sound like it was done by the player in isolation -- and I couldn't see how that would work except through coincidence.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 7:39 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
So the referee has as much input into the individual kickers as anyone else at the table. That sounds reasonable. The initial description made it sound like it was done by the player in isolation -- and I couldn't see how that would work except through coincidence.


I am glad you pointed this out and gave me the opportunity to clarify. In my eagerness to ascertain that the referee is not to have any authority over Kickers, I made it sound as if Kickers were created without any input by others participants - which they aren't. They are as much liable to input by others than is the entire character creation; the referee's input is just no more special than anybody else's, even though he has to subsequently work with the Kicker.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:03 am 
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Grettir wrote:
In my eagerness to ascertain that the referee is not to have any authority over Kickers, I made it sound as if Kickers were created without any input by others participants - which they aren't. They are as much liable to input by others than is the entire character creation; the referee's input is just no more special than anybody else's, even though he has to subsequently work with the Kicker.


It sounds good - I'm all for it. IMO, Kickers work regardless of the group or individual's priority of play. Even if Exploration is your thing, suggesting a Kicker to the referee is a good idea -- you as the player clearly want to head down that path and whether you or the referee created the plot arc is irrelevant to the other players. To them its all part of the rich tapestry of the gaming environment, and the more people coming up with ideas the richer that gaming environment will be.

Good stuff Grettir!

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 10:46 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Good stuff Grettir!


Thanks – but the actual credit for inventing the concept of the Kicker would have to go to Ron Edwards.

And the next tool of shared story creation I would like to introduce is also an invention by Ron Edwards – Relationship Maps.

Narrativistic play, with many different storylines initiated by the various players’ Kickers, does not lend itself to plots prepared by the referee, not even in the vaguest of outlines. Instead of presenting the characters with some kind of problem, it is better to merely drop them in the middle of a conflict-laden and volatile situation and let them maneuver their way through it; their actions will make the situation blow up.

These situations are easily culled from existing fiction. Crime fiction and all fiction involving some kind of dreadful secret somebody want to keep covered up at any cost lends itself particularly well to this. One looks at a piece of fiction, identifies the key conflict/secret and the main players, and draws an abstract map of their interactions at a suitably dramatic moment. Then the situation is ported to the game setting and the player characters are linked into it.

I am going to demonstrate this by use of the play “Hamlet”. Here is what the relationship map of Hamlet, at the moment before Hamlet encounters his father’s ghost, would look like:

Image

As you can see, the map contains the key protagonists (Hamlet, his dead father, his uncle King Claudius, his mother Queen Gertrude, Polonius, and Polonius’s children Laertes and Ophelia) and basic notes on their relations before the dramatic action starts to unfold. You probably know the play, so I don’t need to tell you that this situation is ripe with tension. It hangs in a delicate balance, and as sson as anybody starts to exert pressure on the protagonists, it will start to come apart.

For the purpose of role-playing, one would have to port this relationship map to another fictional setting. Instead of the Danish royal family, the protagonists could be the leaders of a mafia clan, or they could be the heads of a wizard’s guild, or the royal family of Stahl, or the heads of a large company, whatever. The possibilities are limitless. One merely needs to change the names and maybe the gender of one or another protagonist, and maybe also change some minor detail about the relations, or add or remove one or two protagonists – in short, one adapts the relationship map to one’s own game.

And then you link the player characters into it.

The best possibility to do so, but also the most difficult one, is to directly replace one or the other protagonist of the map with a PC. It is a rare coincidence when a character fits the bill closely enough that this is possible, but when he does, a very intense game does often result.

But a character will more commonly be linked to the relationship map by use of the NPCs his player created for the Kicker or the backstory. And to guarantee a high level of interest on part of the player, one does better use an NPC the character really cares about, if possible one who is involved with this character’s Kicker. The character’s strong interest in this NPC will draw him into the relationship map, and his actions will nbalance the relationship map’s delicate balance. Drop a player character with an agenda of his own (his Kicker) into Hamlet’s royal court of Denmark, and watch the body count rise.

And remember how I told you that the NPCs in the characters’ backstories should deliberately be left sketchy? That is to faciliate the referee linking them to the backstory. The player has stated that his character has got “a sister whom he loves dearly”? Make the sister into Ophelia, put the character into Laertes’ place, have him suspect that prince Hamlet only toys with his sister’s affections and watch what is going to happen. Or the player has decided that his character “has a feud to the death with another nobleman”? Make Laertes into this other nobleman, and watch how the player character wanders around the relationship map, trying to find allies against Laertes.

A relationship map is a wonderful device to launch player characters into a dramatic situation. The player chaacter action will upset the fragile balance of the relationship map, and will set a story in motion. But the characters’ actions and the NPCs reactions are usually not enough to keep the story going; for this, the referee’s involvement is required. How this is done without Railroading is what I will talk about next, after addressing possible questions and remarks about relationship maps.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 11:32 pm 
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I doubt we could credit Edwards for inventing concept mapping, which you have used to organise relationships. :)

Anyways, I've tried mapping NPC relationships twice or thrice using Cmap Tools. With my 200+ NPCs, the picture got quite messy and very noninformative. Any organisational/structural tips that could help through this? :geek:

I've thought about mapping the power groups instead, but I've never really gotten around to actually do it.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 2:26 am 
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higgins wrote:
Anyways, I've tried mapping NPC relationships twice or thrice using Cmap Tools. With my 200+ NPCs, the picture got quite messy and very noninformative.


IMO, there is no point mapping the relationship between so many NPCs. In a campaign that runs for years you will have lots and lots of NPCs detailed but there is no useful purpose in mapping their relationships.

IMO, it only makes sense to do so at the scenario level. A releationship map is context-sensitive. How does Father Dumas feel about the Widow Gonthier at this point in time -- now that he has learned that her son is also his son? Over the course of a life people have relationships with many, many people -- to record a relationship at that level would be to hide the useful information amidst a plethora of detail. Instead, you take the two or three families/institutions relevant to the scenario, map the relationships between the individuals, and connect the relationship Map with the PCs somehow.

I understand Grettir is a big fan of minimising the scene preparation and simply activating the Kickers and let the PCs drive scene exits and scene entry. Just in the context of relationship maps, you might have certain events occuring ex-camera or in-camera that alter the relationship map in a particular way -- so you might have a Before and After version of the relationship map prepared that takes into account the possibility of certain scenes taking place or certain events occurring. The event in question may never happen but at least you've considered the consequences if it does.

I really like Relationship Maps for TRoS. They are a very useful tool and provide, over times, a nice visual history of the web of relationships between long-term NPCs and the PCs.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:12 am 
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higgins wrote:
Anyways, I've tried mapping NPC relationships twice or thrice using Cmap Tools. With my 200+ NPCs, the picture got quite messy and very noninformative. Any organisational/structural tips that could help through this? :geek:


My largest maps contained still less than 20 individual entries, so no help from me, sorry. I do mine from hand, which is probably much quicker than using any programs.

higgins wrote:
I doubt we could credit Edwards for inventing concept mapping, which you have used to organise relationships.


Where I have seen it done first was the White Wolf supplements, detailing the coteries. But the difference between these maps and the relationship maps as presented here is that mine/Edward's maps only ever present a highly fragile situation, one that might last for a short time, but that is ripe for coming apart quite soon - and even sooner with the PCs' involvement. The use of the relationship map not to present setting material, but as practically the sole preparation for an adventure is, as far as I know, a novel one, as is the necessity to link the PCs firmly into the relationship map.

Like Ian has pointed out:

Ian.Plumb wrote:
A releationship map is context-sensitive. How does Father Dumas feel about the Widow Gonthier at this point in time -- now that he has learned that her son is also his son? Over the course of a life people have relationships with many, many people -- to record a relationship at that level would be to hide the useful information amidst a plethora of detail. Instead, you take the two or three families/institutions relevant to the scenario, map the relationships between the individuals, and connect the relationship Map with the PCs somehow.


That’s exactly it. For a relationship map, the referee chooses a very particular moment in time, a moment of increased stress for the relationship depicted. And he counts on the PCs to further increase this stress, right to the point of breakage; that's why he links them into the map. To use relationship maps for scenario creation, any relationships that don’t matter for the scenario you have in mind are not included in the map. If you look at my Hamlet-map, you will note that the important character of Horatio is for instance missing. I chose to leave him out because Horatio is basically an observer without an agenda of his own. Virtually all that connects him to the map is his friendship with Prince Hamlet, he has no strong connection to anybody else, and his absence has no impact on the map at large. This doesn’t mean that during play you can’t have a Horatio character. Halfway through the game it might become politic to have such a character, and then you can have him appear (maybe returning from his studies abroad :) ), or this might never become desirable; anyway, he needn’t figure in the relationship map.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
I understand Grettir is a big fan of minimising the scene preparation and simply activating the Kickers and let the PCs drive scene exits and scene entry. Just in the context of relationship maps, you might have certain events occuring ex-camera or in-camera that alter the relationship map in a particular way -- so you might have a Before and After version of the relationship map prepared that takes into account the possibility of certain scenes taking place or certain events occurring.


Being indeed such a fan of minimising scene preparation, I would argue that this is an unecessary workload. The “events occuring ex-camera or in-camera that alter the relationship map in a particular way” are what I am going to talk about next, but suffice to say that, without having any pre-planned plot (remember, shared story-creation), all the referee can do is prepare a number of possible events, which can easily be mutually exclusive. Preparing the subsequently possible changes to the relationship map is a lot of work. Instead, when I am really surprised by a development and need time to think about its consequences, I simply tell my players so. Knowing that I am frantically juggling with all their ideas, they have never begrudged me those five minutes break from the game.

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 Post subject: Re: Tools of Shared Story Creation
PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:11 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
I understand Grettir is a big fan of minimising the scene preparation and simply activating the Kickers and let the PCs drive scene exits and scene entry. Just in the context of relationship maps, you might have certain events occurring ex-camera or in-camera that alter the relationship map in a particular way -- so you might have a Before and After version of the relationship map prepared that takes into account the possibility of certain scenes taking place or certain events occurring.


Grettir wrote:
The “events occuring ex-camera or in-camera that alter the relationship map in a particular way” are what I am going to talk about next, but suffice to say that, without having any pre-planned plot (remember, shared story-creation), all the referee can do is prepare a number of possible events, which can easily be mutually exclusive.


I agree with you -- however, I was pointing out that relationship maps are useful outside of shared story creation. In traditional RPGing they are still a great way of visually representing what is happening -- and if you prepare two or three of them where one is the Before and a couple of them are Possible Afters, you still have a very useful tool that can assist the referee greatly in their preparation. This is particularly true in terms of preparing commercial scenario product, where these pictures represent pages of explanation.

Grettir wrote:
...without having any pre-planned plot...


Just a quick question -- do you think that your players haven't got any pre-planned plot in their heads when they enter a gaming session?

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