Three Levels of Play

fusangite said:
People keep putting these words in my mouth. If you cannot offer a credible justification for your character doing something, they shouldn't do it. So no -- I don't think people's characters should make decisions that are "completely irrational from their characters' point of view."
Well, if you'd quoted the other part of what I said in that paragraph, it wouldn't have come across as putting words in your mouth. My real question was in the part you didn't quote:
Although granted, you did make the caveat that in-game justification is a requirement. Of course, if you do that, I don't see what the big deal is. You can never completely excise metagame considerations from play, so it seems to be an implicit assumption of anyone who wants to minimize it that you don't really have a problem with it per se as long as your decisions are justified in game. Maybe some people want to push even beyond that where possible, but I don't really see how that could be done anyway.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

BSF

Explorer
Interesting mind food.

If I understand Fusangite correctly, he does everything he can to design the game to work on the character level as well as the player level as well as the rules mechanics level. Multiple aspects to appeal to a variety of tastes.

He is trying not to make a judgement value on who is playing the game "better". He is just focusing on providing "fun" and yuo can pick the style(s) that suit you. As a result, bonus exp for RP is inappropriate since it would imply a value system that he is trying to eschew. Am I understanding this correctly Fusangite? In that context, I _think_ I understand the difference between meta-textual, textual, and mechanical.

I am intrigued.

As a DM, I do not do much to create a meta-textual game for the players to wonder about. I would be very interested in picking up any tips in that regard. Like Rel, I try to be aware of the metagame considerations. Things like the CHA skill based character is not going to be happy in an all-combat game and the STR based fighter will get bored with constant political intrigue. But, Fusangite seems to be referring to something outside my scope of experience. So, if you have the time, would you be kind enough to elaborate on how you go about creating the meta-textual environment?

Thanks!
 

fusangite

First Post
BardStephenFox asks,

Am I understanding this correctly Fusangite?

Yes. Absolutely.

So, if you have the time, would you be kind enough to elaborate on how you go about creating the meta-textual environment?

In a similar vein, Particle_Man says,

How much time does it take to add the metatext details to a regular campaign, or else to do a metatext campaign from scratch, compared to a nonmetatext campaign?

Hmmm. I don't think I've ever tried to express this in writing before. Please bear with me.

I see two main ways of doing metatext in games: story-based and world-based. Story-based metatext can be grafted onto an existing campaign world whereas world-based metatext requires a ground-up approach.

Story-based metatext is pretty easy but somewhat less satisfying and more likely to impinge on the free will of player characters. For story-based metatext, what you need to do is find one or more classic archetypal stories (e.g. Beowulf); optionally, come up with a variation on the story and begin moving your characters along the tradtional narrative but with some kind of twist. Disguising traditional or archetypal narratives is actually pretty easy; usually just situating the story in your campaign takes care of that.

All you need to do is figure out which parts of the story matter to you and proceed from there. If I were to do a Beowulf adaptation, the things I would keep would be:
(a) the three part structure Grendel (Earth), Grendel's Mother (Water) and the Dragon (Fire)
(b) discovering his sword could not damage Grendel's mother and fighting her with his bare hands until he could steal an ancient magic sword from her hoard
(c) the dragon being wakened by someone raiding the hoard of an ancient and forgotten race
(d) Beowulf having to hold his breath a ridiculously long time to fight Grendel's mother

First, I would disguise the setting by moving it ahead into the high medieval period. Then, I'd probably change Grendel so that he was clever and more obviously some type of earth elemental.

Second, I would probably connect Grendel to the evil water elemental creature some other way but maintain their objective: to destroy the human city that sits on the territory that was once theirs. Obviously, I'd also design some kind of special immunities and vulnerabilities for the evil water element creature.

I would probably also add an air element creature at the end because that is suggested by the way physics works in D&D.

World-based metatext is challenging, exciting, requires research but actually doesn't take any more work than traditional world building. What is different is when you do the work and what kind of work it is. But I'm going to pause here and resume my explanation once I've had dinner.
 

Thomas Hobbes

First Post
Yowza! Really interesting stuff. Like others here, I've only ever really thought about entertaining my players on the mechanical and textual levels. I never thought "metatextual" was a word I'd hear outside of a literature class, let alone one that I'd use in a D&D context.

So anyway, thanks a lot for posting this, and I eagerly await the rest of your advice on how to incorporate the metatextual.
 

Teflon Billy

Explorer
Fusangite said:
...In my best games (ones where I'm not hampered by the D&D rules system), every puzzle I create is solveable on both a textual and metatextual level...

Your D&D games are way better than those "System Designed to Mirror the Works of William Blake" games.

Your best games, however, are Gamma World games.
 
Last edited:

cptg1481

First Post
Oldest, most primitive D&D experience mechanic

fusangite said:
...Now, to the question of experience as described in the DMG: this gets right to the heart of why I am running a D&D game. I deliberately use the oldest, most primitive D&D experience mechanic because I want to tell a particular kind of story. Over the years, my players have become very cautious and fear engaging in violent confrontations. Essentially, I have chosen to use D&D in the past two years because I want to tell stories that contain violence.

Dude, while I may agree and disagree with you on some levels, I appreciate the depth of thought put into your statements and find it provocative. I think it is funny to watch the squirming posts of those who must somehow feel threatend by your interpretations as if they would somehow be bound by them if they just said "not my style but I appreciate your points".

I was just wondering what the oldest and most primitave D&D experience mechanic that you refernce is? Is it the AD&D EXP system where one gets EXP based on the gold he takes from the dead enemies? Or is it just the recommended method in the DMG without bonuses for roleplaying and plot advancement?

Totally, not a critique, just a question.

Captain G.
 
Last edited:

fusangite

First Post
I was just wondering what the oldest and most primitave D&D experience mechanic that you refernce is? Is it the AD&D EXP system where one gets EXP based on the gold he takes from the dead enemies? Or is it just the recommended method in the DMG without bonuses for roleplaying and plot advancement?

I meant, generally, a system that involves both experience points and levels, with experience points based solely on physical danger. But yes, right now, I'm using the DMG CR method without the roleplay and plot advancement bonuses.

Totally, not a critique, just a question.

Hey -- if there is one thing I'm not online, it's sensitive. I wouldnt especially mind being berated if someone felt like giving me a hard time.
 

fusangite

First Post
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.

Most campaign worlds are constructed pixel by pixel -- some gigantic bitmap that someone has lovingly created; let's call that the imaginative campaign world. The kind of world I find most exciting is one which is, instead, generated by a single complex equation; let's call that the mytho-poetic campaign world. The difference between the two types of world is what happens if you zoom in or move off the screen. If you zoom in on a section of the imaginative campaign world, depending on its resolution, you will either find a carefully hand-drawn scene or blocky pixelated images. On the other hand, if you zoom in on a section of the mytho-poetic campaign world, you will initially see blocky pixelated images-- these will then resolve to images as detailed at the larger image. If you move off the screen of the imaginative campaign world, there will either be nothing or another, adjacent bitmap. If you move off the mytho-poetic campaign world, you will experience much the same thing as if you zoom in: blocky images resolving into smooth detail. Of course, the speed with which the image resolves is based on two things: the speed of the processor and the difficulty of the equation.

Sorry for the lengthy extended metaphor. So, what does a good campaign world equation look like? A good mytho-poetic world is constructed much the way you make a conspiracy theory: substitute correlation with causation. Examples of good world equations: What if the 7 angels of the 7 churches of Asia plus the Son of Man are the same people as the Eight Immortals of the Tao? What if Arthur's original quest for the Holy Grail described in Spoils of Annwfn took place in the Americas and the key grail artifacts were actually the key artifacts described in the Book of Mormon? What if the nine worlds of Norse myth were actually the outer nine planets of the solar system?

Start with one preposterous instance of a myth system, science, historical event or epic story appearing symetrical to some other myth system, science, historical event or epic story and you'll soon find other correspondences. In the Eight Immortals story, there was the text in the Book of Revelations that only someone whose name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life could enter the New Jerusalem taking on new meaning when it was noted that one of the ways the Monkey King of Chinese myth became thrice-immortal was to erase his name from the list of fates of all mortal beings. With the Holy Grail thing there were the different forms of the grail corresponding to different Mormon artifacts: the Lance of Longinus/Javelin of Teancum, Sword of Laban/Excalibur, the grail carved from the emerald which broke from Lucifer's crown when he was cast down from heaven/one of the Seer Stones of Zarahemla.

So, to write a mytho-poetic campaign, you come up with your conspiracy theory-like idea. Then you do heaps of highly selective research to find little facts which, taken out of context, make your theory appear credible. Then, you should be able to deduce roughly what each part of your world is like based on the interplay of these ideas. Of course, you still have to do work when characters do something unexpected and you need to do some episode prep but I find that I do 50% of my total campaign prep at the beginning while I'm fashioning my conspiracy theory and the other 50% preparing for individual episodes. But I find my total campaign prep time is about the same.

OK -- all for now.
 

Particle_Man

Explorer
This is interesting! I think it would be cool if you wrote up some adventures/campaign worlds and sold them, actually.

That said, does the metatextualness rely upon at least one player having read the same books as the DM? Because otherwise, except in some "big myth"/"big fact" cases like Norse myth and the planets, I don't see how players will get the correlations. For instance, I don't think any of my group would have gotten the whole Beowulf/Elementals thing. Does that happen a lot with metatext? Or can one use more "obvious"/"popularly accessable" metatexts, like what if "Star Wars" were mapped onto "Lord of the Rings"? Maybe this is a case of tailoring it to shared knowledge between the DM and at least one player.

On the other hand, even if there is no "light going on" in the players, I could see that borrowing two ideas and smooshing them together can make a good framework to hang a world on. It follows Koestler's theory of creativity in humour, science and art, which holds that you have two matrices, well, smooshed together. Like the respected professor that sits on a chair that collapses under him. The "show respect" matrix meets the "physical bodies that are unsupported fall to earth" matrix, and humour results.

I am not sure I got how the pixel metaphor maps on to the mythopoetic world. Do you mean that the whole world has a metatext, a country has the same metatext, a city has the same metatext story, etc.? Or do you mean that the world has one metatext plot, a country has one chapter of that plot, a city has a few metaphors in one chapter of that plot, etc.?
 

fusangite

First Post
Particle_Man said:
This is interesting! I think it would be cool if you wrote up some adventures/campaign worlds and sold them, actually.

That said, does the metatextualness rely upon at least one player having read the same books as the DM? Because otherwise, except in some "big myth"/"big fact" cases like Norse myth and the planets, I don't see how players will get the correlations. For instance, I don't think any of my group would have gotten the whole Beowulf/Elementals thing. Does that happen a lot with metatext?

It does sometimes. There are ways around it -- hinting at what the texts are, picking, as you suggest, accessible and recognizeable texts, not caring whether the players "get it"; if the game is in an alternate earth, you can always have the characters discover references to the texts you're using, if not, you can import your own versions of these stories into your campaign world and write your own variants on these myths or pieces of fiction. Obviously, how much you want your characters to engage the metatext will condition what kind of source texts you use.

Or can one use more "obvious"/"popularly accessable" metatexts, like what if "Star Wars" were mapped onto "Lord of the Rings"? Maybe this is a case of tailoring it to shared knowledge between the DM and at least one player.

It's important to find points of symetry that look superficially obvious and are not a stretch in the mind of the DM. I'm guessing the way in is the istari/jedi: Radagast/Yoda, Gandalf/Kenobi, Saruman/Vader. And what of the two Blue Wizards?

I am not sure I got how the pixel metaphor maps on to the mythopoetic world. Do you mean that the whole world has a metatext, a country has the same metatext, a city has the same metatext story, etc.?

Yes. Every place, every city, every character is derived from the single central equation. You're only inventing part of it when the characters decide to go there; many of its features are implicit in the metatext of the campaign.

Or do you mean that the world has one metatext plot, a country has one chapter of that plot, a city has a few metaphors in one chapter of that plot, etc.?

This is also often true. Or rather, it is true of the places the GM intends for the party to go. But when the party chooses to go somewhere else entirely, the GM doesn't simply invent the place they go to, he also deduces it from the big campaign equation.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top