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 Post subject: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:09 am 
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This thread is designed for comments & suggestions from anyone not involved in the play threads.

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:29 am 
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Hi all,

spootyjunglecat wrote in Play: Setting Creation

I like the Musketeers idea, but thats sort of post 1700.

I thought that they were set in the mid 1620's, and that the REAL D'Artangian was from the 1650's.

But the limitation of 1700 Earth Tech AND trainig can cause problems with reloading times, as between 1610 and 1650 the European Powers improved their training. Starting with the Dutch and ending with the English.

Simon Burling

Have a good game!

Edited once to adjust the name of the topic.


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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:07 am 
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Thanks Simon

I was going to say that if the Musketeers are past 1700 I'll modify the date, because Musketeers are so TROS that it hurts.

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:58 pm 
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thats Spotty, not Spooty!

hehe..

good thing then!

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:03 am 
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I just want to take my hat off to Valthalion and his crew -- you're tackling a tricky task and you're doing fine.

I thought I'd post a little regarding my experiences with Shared Setting Creation (SSC). My only experience of this process is on these boards; The Parched Lands and What Price Freedom. So I'm no expert -- and I sympathize with those approaching this for the first time from a Simmy background.

Firstly, in The Parched Lands:



you'll see that out of the 70-odd posts in that thread we're about a third of the way through before we really started down the path that would eventually lead to The Parched Lands. For me, the crux of this is to not get hooked on the first idea that is thrown into the thread -- particularly if it is yours -- and to avoid specifics (in particular, character concepts). For me I knew we'd built an interesting setting when the character concepts started jumping out at me. If I'd gone in with a character concept in mind and tried to build the setting around that character concept there is little chance the ideas of the other players and referee would gel with mine.

Now, a little on theme and flavour. In The Parched Lands the first thing we sorted out was theme. In our case:

- Violent strife for egotistical reasons. Mindless violence for deeply selfish reasons. No honour, no glory, no cultural differences, no religious differences; violence is exclusively about personal gain.
- Spiritual temptation to deviate from harsh religious law.

Grettir said that we could start the creation process by nominating a theme or a flavour. Can I just say that for many players it is far, far easier to nominate a flavour than it is to nominate a theme. As such, I would much prefer to see the themes nominated first -- and consensus achieved -- regarding what sort of tale the group are going to tell through their characters and setting. These themes then underpin the flavour -- the flavour of the setting flows from the themes. In the case of The Parched Lands, the violence is caused by lack of resources in a desert setting.

After we were about half way through the thread Grettir summarized the themes and flavour. Our setting was established. The remainder of the thread covers character concepts for the players. So, onto characters for the players...

Firstly, in a Simmy game the only thing I as a player really have control over is my character. My character is mine. My character behaves exactly how I want it to behave. While the dice may determine that my character's actions are not always successful those actions will at least be determined by me.

In a Nar game you give up a bit of that stranglehold over the character. What motivates your decisions isn't so much whether the character, if it really existed, would act in a particular way under particular circumstances but rather whether the story you as a player want to tell through your character is best served by a particular decision.

SSC takes this idea a little further -- what motivates your decisions isn't whether your character's plot arc is best served by the decision, but whether the overarching story being told by the gaming group is best served by a particular decision. In other words there are times when you will take decisions because they really ratchet up the tension for another player.

SSC relies on the fact that every player contributes to the creation of every character. TRoS already (almost) requires this through SA creation; if there are no crossover points between any of the character's SAs then any scenario generated from those SAs will be quite lame. It is far better to have some degree of crossover between the character's SAs so that multiple players will find the one scene important.

SSC takes this much further. Character concepts flow from the setting (as defined by theme, flavour, and everything that has flowed from that general discussion). It is important to the play of the scenario that each player know everything about each character -- hence in What Price Freedom there was a thread that just had the character sheets. More importantly, each player needs to understand what each of the other players wants to get out of the game, what story they want to tell. The social contract extends to supporting the goals of your fellow players in-game; in other words, you'll be doing things because you know those decisions will send events in a direction that other players will find entertaining. Not because you find them entertaining, but because you were part of the discussion wherein they talked about what they wanted for the game. It is no longer the referee's responsibility to look after this aspect of the game. The responsibility is shared.

The journey from Simmy to SSC for the player seems to be about loss of total control over the character. What the player purchases with that loss of control over the character is an equal measure of control over setting creation. The referee doesn't say what the world looks like. The referee doesn't even say what the scenario will be about. All of that, plus the player characters, is created in common. I for one would happily give up an often obsessive control over the player character in exchange for a measure of control over the world and its events. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:34 pm 
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Very nice summary, Ian! :) And I'd like to echo your sentiment about the players doing well with this new and for them still unusual procedure.

If I were to counsel one thing in addition to what Ian has already said, it would be stresing even more not to get hung up on first ideas. Every participant, including Valthalion, should throw out a thematic or a flavour idea of his very own, and everybody should also comment upon everybody else's idea. Say what you like especially about an idea, what you dislike about it, and maybe also into what direction you would like to see it taken, how it inspires you. Also, if some idea totally doesn't work for you, say so, and say why. In the discussion, a picture of what people want and don't want will hopefully emerge, and once it begins to take shape, you can start to weave the ideas together and to mould their raw stuff into a setting and a campaign.

I wish you luck with your endeavour. It's not easy the first time around.

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:49 pm 
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simon burling wrote:
But the limitation of 1700 Earth Tech AND trainig can cause problems with reloading times, as between 1610 and 1650 the European Powers improved their training. Starting with the Dutch and ending with the English.
Can you elaborate on this? Do you mean improvement on the individual or the tactical level? AFAIK, the main improvement in that period was on the introduction of flintlock and perfecting the platoon firing techniques, though I haven't found a comprehensive comparison of the differences between those. Happy to hear more of it though. :)

Nor do I have a good resource on switching to paper cartridge. Osprey's Matchlock Musketeer sports plates of English soldiers of 1680s merrily equipped with wooden cartridges. Osprey isn't always accurate, I know.

As an interesting note to the period however, is that bayonets weren't invented yet, so, common infantry consisted of "pike" and "shot", first being the defensive unit and latter the offensive, the optimal ratio being 2 pikes per 3 shots. Also, as bizarre as it seems, the common tactic was to have shot units flanking a central pike unit. I can't even begin to imagine how that would work versus cavalry -- I'd figure the flanking shots would get butchered after the first volley or two. :? It seems to have worked though.

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:24 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
If I were to counsel one thing in addition to what Ian has already said, it would be stresing even more not to get hung up on first ideas. Every participant, including Valthalion, should throw out a thematic or a flavour idea of his very own, and everybody should also comment upon everybody else's idea.


Absolutely. When you look at the setting creation thread for What Price Freedom there were many ideas thrown into the mix that were, after consideration by everyone, cut from the eventual mix. And all the ideas that made it through to the actual setting were modified as part of the process of creating a cohesive setting.

Zoe wrote:
Secondly, my actual preferences in order are

1) theme:
Quote:
a world where things which we normally think of as being threatening or disastrous are actually necessary for the survival of those who live there
with the idea of working together to overcome.


I'm not sure whether this is a theme or a flavour. It feels a bit like a flavour because it looks like a description of the gaming environment rather than a description of a narrative theme that will be addressed by the gaming group in some way through the scenario.

Just for a moment, looking at a cataclysmic threat as a theme to be addressed:

For there to be conflict (in the narrative sense) I think the threat should be coming from someone rather than something. So the theme isn't about fixing a physical problem (something is wrong with our world and if we don't do something then we face extinction!) but rather dealing with an individual or people (Chokan and his people seem bent on destroying the Flower of the Sun -- if they are successful the sun will never rise again and everyone will perish!). By heading in this direction the game is less about exploration (let's work out what the problem is and then fix it) and more about narrative (Chokan and his people have been our slaves for generations; they do not share our beliefs regarding the Flower of the Sun -- how can we overcome these obstacles and convince them that all our lives are imperiled if the Flower of the Sun is destroyed?).

Zoe wrote:
2) Flavour/theme: Mixed Fae/Muskateers but focused on one Fae species (say, centaurs) and Muskateers working together to overcome sinister evil.


For me, the threat has to be internal to some degree rather than simply external. A mixed group of Musketeers and Centaurs heading off to overcome some sort of sinister evil feels more like Exploration than Story to me. But if this cataclysmic threat/event is being caused by the humans and centaurs in some way, then perhaps the player characters represent a final attempt to broker a lasting solution between the two peoples? This way, each character has a faction's interests to represent at the negotiating table, has suspicions regarding one or more of the others at the negotiating table, as well as having cultural imperatives that may well drive decision in particular directions. Underlying all of this is the certain knowledge that if a lasting peace isn't successfully brokered then all lose.

Anyway, keep throwing those ideas out there; comment on how you see other people's ideas working or not working!

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 11:52 pm 
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Firstly,

Thanks to both Ian and Grettir for your input, so graciously given!

Secondly, Ian, the major thing that your post shows me is how poorly I've communicated in my posts! I actually meant a few of the things you've suggested. Thank you! You've also given us more food for thought.

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:47 am 
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Zoe wrote:
Thanks to both Ian and Grettir for your input, so graciously given!


The sensitivity filter is in overdrive -- trying very hard not to step on anyone's toes nor curb anyone's vision. :)

Zoe wrote:
Secondly, Ian, the major thing that your post shows me is how poorly I've communicated in my posts! I actually meant a few of the things you've suggested. Thank you! You've also given us more food for thought.


The joy's of PbP -- you know what you mean, but how many words does it take to get that point across to your crew? So many times I've used too few and not got my point across. So many times I've used too many and given the impression that I am lecturing. :oops:

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:56 am 
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Zoe's ThemeTheme: "Reconcile, or die". This would be along the lines of overcoming inter-species hatred in order to survive. I envisage enormous tension not just between the two species/races but also within - opposition to change, fear, hatred, distrust, natural loathing, with the general populations convinced that reconciliation is suicide or mission impossible (or at least insanely risky), with just a few individuals convinced of the desperate need to forge a bond between the two groups. The threat could be something external (such as a third species) or a hidden, unexpected byproduct of their current conflict (eg overload of magic tearing at the fabric of time, etc, rather than the nuclear mutual extinction style of threat). Whatever the extinction threat is, I think it needs to be something world destroying or the destruction of everything good etc, not just culture destroying. (Personally, if they do make it, I would like to see them find a life not just 'back to normal' but enriched beyond their imaginations.)


Awesome.

With the nomination of just one theme and some non-specific detail the character-concepts begin to form in the imagination. Does my character truly believe that the threat is real? Does my character wholly support one faction or the other -- or is my character a consensus player, here to ride the coattails of others towards political success? This theme gives some bite to the flavour!

I wonder how the others will fall -- particularly on the question of internal or external threat?

Good stuff!

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 8:09 am 
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Zoe's ThemeTheme: "Reconcile, or die". This would be along the lines of overcoming inter-species hatred in order to survive.


With something like that, you're good to go. Like Ian said, it immediately gives you character ideas -- the guy who has suffered personally from the other species and is reluctant to reconciliation, the guy who has secretly been living in both species' worlds for quite some time already, etc.

Having chaired the now so-termed SSC-process many times in the real world and twice online, I can now make an observation that might help you in yours:

Both theme and flavour work well.

But for flavour to work really well, the group must, I think, already start out with a unified vision. For instance, I once chaired an SSC for an outremer-flavoured campaign, and we chose this flavour because we had all been recently been watching and talking about Kingdom of Heaven and decided to do something like t in role-playing. At another time, I chaired an SSC for a modern-day film-noir flavour, a flavour the group was excited about after having seen the Sin City movie and subsequently circulated the graphic novels among themselves.

But these settings -- Kingdom of Heaven and Sin City -- do of course come with an in-built theme; all decent stories do. In prepping a game flavoured by these stories, we asked ourself and discussed what we felt what they were about. This was not only enjoyable and enlightening in itself, it aso helped us shape our setting, making it more appropriate for our tastes than the model we drew upon. In effect, by choosing a fiction-inspired flavour, we were in fact choosing a theme alongside the flavour at the very same instant.

My group does all this quite naturally; discussing and dissceting stories and recommending them to each other is what we do and what we would do in any case, even apart from this activitiy's role-playing relevance, and I have never given it much thought. Having now done an SSC twice with other people, I realize that the flavour approach only works well if the participants happen to currently be excited about the same piece or group of fiction -- say, for instance, the Godfather movies.

If this isn't the case, beginning with a theme does in my opinion and experience work much better. And Zoe's is one that seems to work admirably well.

And don't forget that themes can -- to some degree -- be combined. Ian has given the example of The Parched Lands, where we communally decided to take two of the suggested themes -- the temptation to deviate from oppressive religious law and the violent strife for purely egoistical reasons -- and to combine them and have them shape the setting.

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:30 pm 
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Grettir,

Thanks for your input. It seems to me that theme is better place to start. I think what you have done at times is to seek a theme from a setting. Then use the setting to play out the theme. But that is quite an advanced concept.
An application of the basic method if that makes sense.

I think it is a bit more difficult in this posting environment. ( i have done it once before on the tabletop) There is a lot more rapidfire exchange in a group.

Anyway thanks again. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 10:52 pm 
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Theme: Reconcile, or Die

Hinwaith wrote:
I like this a lot. Very dramatic. Lots of scope for character response. The descruiption also suggests a quick resolution is needed. The threat is just about here! The potential for tension is huge.


I see this theme potentially working on many levels:

- There are those who believe that the threat is exaggerated; therefore the drive towards reconciliation is unnecessary.
- There are those who believe that the threat is real but also believe that the threat can be averted without reconciliation.
- There are those who believe that the threat is real and that reconciliation is a necessary first step towards garnering the resources necessary to deal with the threat.
- There are those who believe that reconciliation in itself is a noble goal to be pursued whether the threat is real or not.
- There are those who believe that reconciliation is worse than dying.
- There are those whose participation in the reconciliation process is underpinned by the goal of personal gain and/or factional gain.

A couple of historical situations that spring to mind here as supporting this theme:

The Fall of Constantinople in 1453:
Few in the West believe that Constantinople could ever fall but the Emperor and the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church see their situation as desperate. With the support of the Pope the Western kingdoms might well be persuaded to send troops and so an 11th hour effort is made to reconcile the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Suspicion though is rife between the two camps...

The Black Death in 1347/8:
You could have this apocalyptic event rising from a mystical origin. Secular and Spiritual authorities have to set aside their bitter rivalry and unite in order to bring together the resources necessary to find the threat and protect the people of the city.

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 Post subject: Re: Observation Deck
PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:34 am 
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I think you are all doing admirably. :)

Even though you seem to have settled on the Reconciliation idea I’d like to say that it seems to me as if the Misguided Idealism idea could well be worked in there, too. Maybe one or both sides who now face the need to reconcile have in the past not been enemies out of pure xenophobia or misunderstanding but had really good and maybe even noble reasons for disliking each other.

E. g. the Fay really stole away human children and left changelings behind, they actually did lead travellers astray to die in the forests or drwon in ponds, and much more of the most sinister faerie stuff. So of course the humans were entirely justified in hunting them down and in cutting and burning down their trees – they were just protecting themselves from the Fays’ depredations, right? But maybe this has long since gotten out of hand, with the humans now regarding faerie-hunting as some kind of dangerous and necessary and glorious sport – but still sport that has in spite of the faerie hunters’ undoubted valour and the many stories about them gone a bit out of hand…

Just one possibility I perceive how the idealism could be woven into the reconciliation theme…

Valthalion wrote:
I think what you have done at times is to seek a theme from a setting. Then use the setting to play out the theme.

That’s it in a nutshell. Every story that is truly moving/rousing has a theme. We seek out this theme of the story that is currently exciting us and in creating our setting cull everything from the story’s setting that doesn’t seem to support the theme and add new twists of our own that strengthen the theme as we perceive it. We thus arrive that at a setting that is a close kin to the parent story’s and certainly shares its flavour – and that is more than ready for us to explore the parent story’s theme with exactly the slant that happens to interest us.

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