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  1. #31
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    Hmm, I can see how that might work. I am going to have to give it some thought and figure out how well I might be able to pull it off.

    Thank you for the explanation. Please, feel free to share more! I am intrigued, but I think I need to sleep on it to really digest it.

 

  • #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by fusangite
    Thoughts on creating a metatextual campaign...

    First off, I'll begin with my metaphor. Imagine that you're looking at an attractive abstract pattern on your computer screen. It may be that someone has carefully drawn this pattern pixel by pixel or it may be that the pattern is actually a Julia set-- an infinite abstract pattern generated by a single complex equation.
    *Snipped well-put analogy*
    It's late, so if I've misinterpreted what you've said here, please, let me know.

    I agree with you; that the more compelling story is reflected into itself, but I don't see Jungian archetypes or usage of Campbellian deconstruction to create story as a bad thing. IMHO, modeling a campaign on the synthesis of two or more specific myths/stories is a fine way to find a creative direction, and I don't see that as exclusive to the idea of using a broader approach, and filling in the blanks. Certainly it takes a lot more work to do that with broader concepts (say the "Mythic Hero" rather than specifically honing in on "Rama" ), but the reward is (at least the perception of) more degrees of freedom. It's a trade-off, and either method, if carefully executed, can work well.

    Synthesis is one method of story design, but something you've also hinted at is a pure "What-if" question. I call it the interrogative method. What if:

    Humans were mutated orcs?

    Magic was nanotech?

    All sentient beings were actually the pets of a greater being, and the world was the cage?

    The game world was actually the place where bad folks go when they die? (One I once considered using)

    This kind of questioning might not result in the same strength of story direction, but can result in a world every bit as vibrant as one built around the synthesis of two or more ideas. Either one can be self-reflective; the themes can hold on the macro scale as well as the micro.

    For the record, Morningstar uses both methods.

    I've started rambling a bit, but this is a fun discussion. I'll stop for now, but I'm enjoying this.
    Explore Morningstar: Age of Majesty at WorldsWorkshop.com

  • #33
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    Hmm, by now I'm seeing that the words "metagame" and "metatext" are more divergent in meaning than I originially thought. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    I have run a few games with metatext elements over the years. The one with the most powerful (and heavyhanded) metatext was a Mage game where the campaign started with the characters being kidnapped to a "pocket world" built around the world of The Wizard of Oz. They didn't realize it at first, but as soon as they found Munchkinland, complete with the conniving mercantile members of the Lollipop Guild (subtle, huh?) they were on to it. It didn't take them long to figure out that they had to make their way to the Emerald City to meet the Wiz if they wanted to get back home.

    Now in that case, one could argue that this was actually character knowlege because their characters were from the modern world and presumably had a chance to see the movie or read the books. Regardless, they had a lot of fun dealing with the various elements of the pocket world from the flying monkeys to the apple-throwing trees to the poppy fields.

    This sort of metatextual basis for a story or world helps lend it structure and I think it can be an aid to the GM in determining what sorts of challenges the party will encounter over the course of the campaign. But, like any sort of structure, it can also be confining.

    Sometimes, especially if they haven't yet identified the metatextual basis for your story or world, the players want to take things in directions that will make it difficult to continue the thread of your metatext. This will of course depend heavily on how tightly the story is bound by that metatext and it may not present a problem at all. You can also try to invent alternate paths that they can follow that still maintain the concept of your metatext. For example:

    Let's say that your metatext is following some myth that calls for the heroes to confront a "powerful dragon". You dangle the following plot threads in front of the party:

    A powerful dragon is terrorizing the Black Peak mountains and must be stopped.

    The lord of the Serpent Isles has been building up his navy and appears as though he may be readying for an attack on the western coast of the kingdom. The king has asked that you pay him a diplomatic visit to determine his intentions.

    The new head of the Thieves Guild, Manny the Viper, is much more violent than his predecessor. Violent crimes, some directed at the City Watch itself, have skyrocketed and this needs to be dealt with. Killing The Viper or simply arranging for his overthrow by a less violent Thief are both options.


    Those are pretty blatant, but I haven't finished my morning coffee yet. Anyway, I think the big question you should ask when thinking about adding significant metatextual elements to your game is: Will this enhance the experience for the players (including me) or at least not hurt it. It's ok to do it even if you have players who haven't read the source material and won't pick up on it. But I'd be careful about anything that required specific events to occur in specific order or at a specific time for the campaign to be a success.

    And, if any of my players are reading this, there is no metatext to the current campaign. I'm just making that crap up.

    Or maybe I'm lying when I say that (muhahahahah!).

  • #34
    fusangite --

    Interesting stuff. I recommend you drop by The Forge (www.indie-rpgs.com) They're very heavy on discussion of RPG theory, and in fact have discussed many of the things you bring up. It'd likely be mutually beneficial for you and them for you to bring some of these ideas over there.

    in fact their discussions of GNS (Gamist, Simulationist, Narrativist) theory seem to map to mechanical, textual, and metatextual.

    There's also the benefit that nobody posts responses like "I dunno man, I just like to have fun", because they're there specifically to discuss theory.

  • #35
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    I don't see how fusangite's model maps to the GNS model, really. Sure, his mechanical consideration and the gamist perspective are a close match, but what is textual? Narrativist? Then what's the metatextual?

    No, I think the two models, while both are operative, can't be matched to each other.

    Personally, I like the GNS model better, because it describes play styles, while the fusangite model are three overlapping layers. I still think the metatextual layer is a bit dubious, at least in terms of how I understand it, though.

    "I realize that I am generalizing here, but, as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care." Dave Barry

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    Hey, Fusemastah,

    That's surprisingly similar to how I plan novels. Or maybe not surprisingly.

    Take two different mythologies, bounce them off each other, and whammo -- idea that PCs didn't see coming.

    My current d20 Modern campaign -- which, arguably, boils down to "Secret Battle against Werewolves and Mermen Using Alien Tech" came from a ridiculous attempt (by me) to handwave a way for both the Land-bridge-from-South-America-to-Africa theory of Atlantis AND the Antarctica-used-to-be-temperate-but-the-crust-shifted theory of Atlantis to be correct (when, according to most scientists, neither theory is correct, by any stretch).

    Long long time ago: Race of early humans found alien tech, advanced extremely rapidly. Conquered its small continent, kept other humans as slaves, worked on plans to wipe out rest of humanity in order to wipe slat clean. Alien tech included gene-resequencing and mass teleportation devices. These guys were the Old Atlanteans

    Long time ago: Slaves of these guys found out what was gonna happen and rebelled -- they teleported a large section of the continent of Atlantis partway across the world, also activating a doomsday device that would repolarize the Earth and shift Atlantis into the antarctic zone.

    Some time ago: Old Atlantean survivors adapted themselves by resequencing DNA for cold-weather adaptation and survival without most of their technological resources (ie, they grew fur and resistant to common weaponry). Unable to mount an assault against the New Atlanteans (the descendents of the slaves, who established their own indomitable island with the best remains of the Atlantean tech), the Old Atlanteans opted for revenge, and used their teleportation device to rip New Atlantis from the middle of the Atlantic ocean and drop it to the bottom of the Pacific (where nobody is looking for it, where no research ever puts it, and where it is soley to make it easy for my PCs to get to it, since the campaign is based in California and Washington state).

    A little while ago: The New Atlanteans survived briefly at the bottom of the sea, since they possessed energy shield technology, and were able to resequence their DNA before it failed and let the water crush them and most of their city. They opted for a new form that would enable them to survive underwater (ie, gills and other amphibious features).

    Today: The PCs scrounge around for all kinds of Antlantean ruins, trying to figure out why some sources say that Atlantis was Antarctica and some sources say that it was in the Atlantic ocean, but nobody ever says it was in the Pacific, which is where it seems to be now. And werewolves and merpeople keep attacking the party to recover artifacts, and the PCs have no idea why.

    Two mythologies get smushed together, and voila -- metatextual campaign, sorta.

  • #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Dyal
    I don't see how fusangite's model maps to the GNS model, really. Sure, his mechanical consideration and the gamist perspective are a close match, but what is textual? Narrativist? Then what's the metatextual?

    No, I think the two models, while both are operative, can't be matched to each other.

    Personally, I like the GNS model better, because it describes play styles, while the fusangite model are three overlapping layers. I still think the metatextual layer is a bit dubious, at least in terms of how I understand it, though.
    Oh My -Frickin- Lord!

    Did anyone else just get hit in the head with the Mechanical-Textual-Metatextual <-------> Gamist-Simulationist-Narrative metatextual conspiracy-theory?!?

    Smash those two together and you get the metatextual thread about RPG design where people post on all three levels! Some respond to the content, some respond to the metatextual construct and others just because it's on a message board!

    PS

  • #38
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    ø Ignore fusangite
    RSKennas says,

    I agree with you; that the more compelling story is reflected into itself, but I don't see Jungian archetypes or usage of Campbellian deconstruction to create story as a bad thing. IMHO, modeling a campaign on the synthesis of two or more specific myths/stories is a fine way to find a creative direction, and I don't see that as exclusive to the idea of using a broader approach, and filling in the blanks.
    The Campbell/Jung approach is good for creating fantasy worlds. However, in such worlds, the metatext is merely allusive; it cannot be predictive. The advantage to more deliberate metatextual construction is that the players can use it to make deductions about current and future events in the campaign.

    Certainly it takes a lot more work to do that with broader concepts (say the "Mythic Hero" rather than specifically honing in on "Rama" ), but the reward is (at least the perception of) more degrees of freedom. It's a trade-off, and either method, if carefully executed, can work well.
    Agreed. I returned to D&D because it affords my characters a different kind of freedom. In an imaginative world, you can only go to cities the GM has already constructed. In a mytho-poetic world, you can go to any city you want but the problem is that wherever you go, it will become what the world structure requires it to be.

    Humans were mutated orcs?

    Magic was nanotech?

    All sentient beings were actually the pets of a greater being, and the world was the cage?

    The game world was actually the place where bad folks go when they die? (One I once considered using)

    This kind of questioning might not result in the same strength of story direction, but can result in a world every bit as vibrant as one built around the synthesis of two or more ideas.
    Yes it can. But, as you can see, only the text will allow people to "figure out" what is going on. A metatext of this nature does not provide for a third level of play or an alternate system of deduction. As such, while technically a metatext, it is only accessible to the players in hindsight.

    I don't wish to argue that mytho-poetic worlds are more vibrant than imaginative worlds. The reverse might well be the case; the problem of the imaginitive world (as you have described above) is that it only permits play on the textual and mechanical levels. For a level of play to work, there must be some predictive value associated with it. What you are creating above is a world which has a metatextual level in which the players are bystanders. All worlds have metatext (whether consciously placed there by the GM or coughed up via some "Jungian slip") but only some (ie. mytho-poetic worlds) permit metatextual play.
    A Fusangite

    -----------------------------------

    “one must depart from the province of Lean-tong, north of Peking and that after travelling 12,000 li, the traveller would reach Japan, and thence to the north, after a journey of 7000 li, arrive at the country of Wen-Schin (the painted people). Five thousand li from this country towards the east is Tahan, which is 20,000 li from Fusang.”

    -- A 6th century account of Fusang, the country across the Pacific from China.

  • #39
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    ST says,

    I recommend you drop by The Forge (www.indie-rpgs.com)... They're very heavy on discussion of RPG theory, and in fact have discussed many of the things you bring up. It'd likely be mutually beneficial for you and them for you to bring some of these ideas over there.
    I just signed up this afternoon. Thanks so much for pointing me in this direction; it looks like my kind of board.

    in fact their discussions of GNS (Gamist, Simulationist, Narrativist) theory seem to map to mechanical, textual, and metatextual.
    I've got to go with Joshua on this. Simulationist play and narrativist play are both textual approaches.

    Takyris, your story sounds quite interesting but I'm not sure it would yield metatextual play. Archaeology and pre-history have pretty impoverished symbol systems. Are there ways for people to decode what is going on in a non-textual way?

    Finally, Joshua, I have no problem with the GNS model; it is clearly descriptive. What I am realizing, though, is that what I am really doing is describing the three predictive modes for play. Mechanical, textual and metatextual play all work off distinctly different models for predicting how future situations will play out. I would tend to think that situationist and narrativist play both work off the textual model for predicting outcomes.
    A Fusangite

    -----------------------------------

    “one must depart from the province of Lean-tong, north of Peking and that after travelling 12,000 li, the traveller would reach Japan, and thence to the north, after a journey of 7000 li, arrive at the country of Wen-Schin (the painted people). Five thousand li from this country towards the east is Tahan, which is 20,000 li from Fusang.”

    -- A 6th century account of Fusang, the country across the Pacific from China.

  • #40
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    Speaking of predicting outcomes, I think now that I understand your model better and what you're trying to do, it seems that players catching on and finding the game predictable is one of the greater dangers of engaging in the type of metatextual layers you're trying to incorporate.

    "I realize that I am generalizing here, but, as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care." Dave Barry

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