Advice for new "story now" GMs


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I do think that's where my mind is catching. I'm not really sure what the difference between the two is. Because every discussion I've had about "story now" and related things makes a big deal of how important being fiction-first is. So, what would it look like to have a game that was pointedly not fiction-first, but still "story now"? Or is this a stacking affair, e.g. you can be fiction-first without being "story now" but you can't be "story now" without being fiction-first--and if so, what is the secret sauce that boosts mere fiction-first into "story now"?
Well, I don't recall exactly the whole taxonomy of this sort of thing. There's 'fiction first', 'fortune in the middle', 'fiction after', etc. However, I think if there's resolution in there, then there will always be something that triggers it and selects what kind it is. Then there will be at least a post-resolution 'what did that mechanical outcome imply'. I think its more interesting to talk about where does the fictional position arise from, and who gets to define it? As I say, you could run 4e, and do so in a largely story now way, and still say "I use Steel Serpent Strike on the Ogre", which is pretty much not fiction first, right? That works, its expected. The situation, the context in which the ogre arose, and why it was placed there, and its impact on the trajectory of the fiction, that's what makes it SN, or at least Narrativist, in nature. The fighter took the Giant Killer feat and acquired a Giant Killing Broadsword because he wants to kill giants (for plot reason X, whatever). This ogre is here because its an appropriate giant-class creature and he can enact his "I want to kill giants" on that. Its probably a foretaste of giants to come too!

And that's what makes it Story Now, that the story was created NOW. My AD&D Ranger's hatred for demons was not SN, it was something I made up AFTER the character got attacked by demon worshippers. It was dramatic enough, no argument, but as a player I wasn't involved in any sense in building that story at the start. Later I would go find demons and such, that was my shtick, but even after years of play it didn't really relate to anything about the character except what was devised AFTER the action happened. My BitD character OTOH was a specific construct, which I invented in order to play out a certain kind of story, which had to thus arise AFTER the character and in response to the character.

And so I think fiction first can be employed in trad play, and I think story now is not totally dependent on fiction first resolution. However they seem natural allies as techniques go.
 

  • Fiction-first as I see it is about working from fictional position and driving momentum through the linkage between system and fiction. It has some other technical features that I see as important but not salient here.
I have a simpler definition. Fiction First means "tell the story, then roll the dice." PbtA is the poster child, tell the GM what you are doing in character, and the GM will select a move (or just tell you that you did whatever it was) and you will then roll dice to see what the outcome was, which is the setup for your next trigger (and may have mechanical consequences as well, or trigger a new scene frame).
  • Story-now as I understand it is about premises relating to themes; it's about casting who you are and what you believe into questions that cannot help but play out dramatically in ludic-narrative. The "play to find out" mantra of story-now isn't exceptional in general, it's exceptional in particular: it's a derivative of Callois' observation from 1958. It's not play to find out what happens next - a fundamental truism of playing a game - it's play to find out how problematic questions resolve. Experienced and realised dramatically in the moment via the lusory player-subject duality, rather than known from a preexisting draft of the story.
It simply means the trajectory of the story is not limited to specific pre-determined options (though the universe of choices may depend on genre to a degree). The fiction arises out of character dramatic considerations. But I think what you are saying is pretty much along those lines. Frankly I don't need to be too picky about these definitions to use them effectively.
 



clearstream

(He, Him)
Full disclosure: I hate the term "fiction first", I think it's just stupid. Games cannot be fiction-first, only particular mechanics can (and even that is murky). AW has a plenty of moves that are very explicitly not fiction first: spending Barter at the start of the session, or changing highlighted stats, or moving Hx don't flow from the fiction, they flow from the real world.
For sure it's not totally consistent, as has been remarked by others, and DW even less so. But here's Vincent on something he has in mind for AW...

Apocalypse World’s philosophy is: use the real things, the dice and stats and so on, to give momentum to the fictional things. The design is a roller coaster, with ascents, moments of suspense, dizzying drops, sudden curves, moments of terror, moments of exhilaration.

The game’s real components do a lot of different things in a lot of different ways, but they’re all in place to serve the excitement and momentum of the fictional action.
Emphasis his.
 
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loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
Now I'm thinking, "things flow from the real world, not from the fiction" is pretty good advice for Story Now.

Insulating the game world from the real one and treating it as a separate reality is a staple of trad play, but it's a counterproductive approach to Story Now. The setting, the PCs, the NPCs exist, first and foremost, for the people at the table, after all.

Also I'd say that the principle "Never speak the name of your move" is maybe bad for new players and MCs? Like, it's great when everybody at the table is already familiar and comfortable with the game, but when you are learning the ropes, some explicitness can help.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Now I'm thinking, "things flow from the real world, not from the fiction" is pretty good advice for Story Now.

Insulating the game world from the real one and treating it as a separate reality is a staple of trad play, but it's a counterproductive approach to Story Now. The setting, the PCs, the NPCs exist, first and foremost, for the people at the table, after all.

Also I'd say that the principle "Never speak the name of your move" is maybe bad for new players and MCs? Like, it's great when everybody at the table is already familiar and comfortable with the game, but when you are learning the ropes, some explicitness can help.
Strong agree. As I put it upthread...
Use of the metagame so that "when a player 'really means it' then their character's impact on play needs to increase" as perhaps best demonstrated in BitD.
The embedded quote is Edwards.
 

Strong agree. As I put it upthread...

The embedded quote is Edwards.
Reasonable, strong argument against trying to the 'system doesn't matter' lines of argument. Games like D&D, most trad generally, doesn't do this. 4e's doing it in spades, with keywords to heavily point to how to color things and layer in additional stuff and signal where you can use fiction to do appropriate stuff.
 

pemerton

Legend
Now I'm thinking, "things flow from the real world, not from the fiction" is pretty good advice for Story Now.

<snip>

I'd say that the principle "Never speak the name of your move" is maybe bad for new players and MCs? Like, it's great when everybody at the table is already familiar and comfortable with the game, but when you are learning the ropes, some explicitness can help.
I'm in two minds about your second para. On the other hand, as soon as I read your first para I though "Make your move, but misdirect"!
 

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