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What Games do you think are Neotrad?

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But I think we're all aware that module and adventure path play is SUPER common (see Pathfinder, or the modules that get created for 5e), and it's generally agreed upon that if you're playing a module you stick with the module.
I would agree here. In the groups I play in, we try to avoid the super rail-roady modules, but when we play longer pre-made adventures, the consensus is indeed: the GM tries to give the players as much freedom as possible within the constraints of the adventure, but the players also do not stray too far from the plot.


I'm assuming you've read a module, or something like one of Pathfinder's Adventure Paths? Just so we're operating from the same frame of reference?

Yes, obviously. If it helps I have a published Paizo credit, albeit not in an AP book per se. Continue?

The neo-trad question: I don’t want to get into that because it’s a lot of work to properly answer the question. To short cut the whole thing.

Yesterday’s Memories Today – Adept Play

Jesse had some issues but basically played Blade Runner as Narrativist. If you want to be lenient then Härenstam is just making Narrativist games. If you don’t want to be lenient then you’d have to contrast Apocalypse World, Mutant year zero and Underworld and analyse how their expected play styles are different, or if they are.

Or if you don’t want to buy underworld then just read:

How Do You Create Story?

That may sound massively tangential to the question you asked but I think it’s complicated.

The O.C question: When I run a Narrativist game, I always do a preamble. ‘Play your character like a human being, don’t hold on tightly to who they are because events may change them, don’t have an arc in mind, just play responsively to find out who your character becomes.’

If you’re doing that, then you’re doing Narrativism* (although if you’re doing it while the Gm is doing sts you may have big issues), if you’re not doing that then you’re probably doing OC play.

* yeah yeah it’s always more complicated.
Right, so I can give you some examples: My Seeker character in Stonetop starts play as a bit of a foolish girl that has some personal goals built into her backstory. Later she needs something done, and there's a young man, an NPC, whom she manipulates to go deal with this dangerous situation. The character wasn't drawn to be manipulative like that, it 'just happened'. This is learning about the character, growing the character conception, and as it turns out driving story (later we had to undo the screwup that resulted).

Yorath, my Stonetop Fox, suddenly faces immediate death from a supernatural threat that he's not equipped to deal with. Being a selfish kind of guy he calls on Helior to save him! I rewrite his instinct to 'praise Helior'. BUT he's not all of a sudden an upstanding guy! This is purely transactional with him, as that's how he views life, fundamentally. Helior is a big powerful being that helped him, so he's grateful and willing to pay back the debt, so to speak, but it isn't clear to what degree he's actually a changed man, yet...

Systems often help with this stuff in Narr game design. Like Takeo, my BitD cutter, he had a vice that was supplicating the bloodlust of the Oni which possessed his Katana (a fine weapon, a big edge for him). Later he came to really hate this Oni and finally got in exorcised, after which he took up a different vice, serving the orphans and their caretaker, although this became somewhat self-serving too as he trained some of them to become a cohort in the gang!

So I think a big recurring theme here is that

Aside from the implicitly insulting tone, and dismissive mien, and regardless of how VTM in the particular presented it, the reality is that play groups tend to want to use the rules-- just not all the rules, and the unused rules aren't the same between play groups.

For a VTM related example-- my group plays Vampire the Requiem 2e, I've seen people talk about not liking and not using the investigation system as presented in the base Chronicles gameline (and to be clear, its not presented in the VTR book) but my group really enjoys it, on the flipside I know people who swear on the group beats rule that later gamelines made default, but I wouldn't use that for this game since the individualized progression and lack of balance is part of the fun. Within this context the relationship of OC and systems is pretty self-evident, is that the systems are toolboxes, and you use the tools that you feel are useful to your ends.

That said, to be clear, I think this is a tough sale for you, because the games you now prefer were built on the premise that closed rule systems are more coherent and more functional. Its part of their central ethos, their core aesthetic values, its arguably (Edwards does so for example) the single thing that defines the movement-- I might as well be explaining Post-Modernist art to a Modernist while they tell me that the things Modernism does is supposed to be the point of a piece of art, or if you prefer, Romanticism to a Modernist while they explain that Modernism fixes the problems of Romanticism.

I also wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Brennan's self-assessment of his limitations, or his comfort level in handling that part of the game, having handled that part of the game improvisationally for years before getting into TTRPGs, I'd never seen anyone do it especially well, at least not if any degree of 'Step On Up' in Forge terms, is to be present.
My perspective on V:tM is basically that of someone who was around and very active in the RPG community when it first appeared. Our assessment was that the rules were simply badly designed and the whole "well, you don't really want to use RULES, do you!?" thing was totally post-hoc. The people who wrote the original system were simply indifferent, maybe even bad, game designers. They were great at fiction and meta-plot, and they tapped into a then-popular genre and subculture. Right people, right time, right fiction, well they got a lot of it right! Honestly, not to poop on V:tM, we pretty much dismissed it at the time after a quick study of the game, but I don't see much of value in it as a system, even today. If you want solid rules for the genre? I think it would be most fruitful to write something using PbtA or similar. However, the original game line and its various designers and writers have achieved a sort of cult status, so really it isn't about rules at all at this point.


Really? How?
By reading the next paragraph, page or chapter.

Here's an example from Dead Gods (p 84 - I opened up at random):

Whatever means the cutters use to infiltrate the ranks of the Tormtor alliance - disguise, garnish, magic, or just plain sneakiness - they find the high-ups near the rear of the attack, on a rise behind the advancing forces.​

I turned back a page to see how this is set up - "If the PCs manage to make their way through Erelhei-Cinlu and reach the Great Gate at the south side of the city, they witness a fierce battle." <read aloud text follows>

Here's another example, p 99 of Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (the heading for this is on p 98 - "Chased Out of the City"):

If the party didn't attach the bone naga ambassador, read <text>. If the party is reluctant to leave, continue: <text>. If the party thinks it has a better plan, add: <text>. If the party attacked the bone naga ambassador, read: <text> . . . Either way, go to encounter E5: Chased out of the City on p 108 . . . Encounters E6, E7 and E8 take place after the PCs have fled Zelatar and are wandering the plains around the city.​

Page 114 has a sidebar on "The Helpful Tiefling":

If the party is at a loss for how to deal with all these demons, you could take pity and point out a more or less human-looking tiefling that they encounter somewhere in the upper Demonweb . . .he offers some or all of the following suggestions <of actions the players should declare so that their PCs move to the next part of the adventure> . . . The tiefling doesn't care whether the Pact among Lolth and the demon lords succeeds or fails; he's here to report . . . for scholars in Sigil . . . Unbeknownst to the tiefling, his employers are the warden archons from the Tower of the Prophet.​

This is all pretty standard stuff, I think.


If the party can either attack or not attack the bone naga ambassador, in what way are their actions constrained? The book gives you lots of options to use the material, but there is still no requirement that any particular thing happen. As I said before, if the party behavior is quite different than what the author expected, it's going to play differently, and not just because the PCs are willful. All those if-thens are contingencies to keep the party "on track" in terms of using the material in the module, but the existence of all those possibilities is just a tacit admission that you can't make the PCs do any particular thing. I think the mere existence of such guidance shows that the idea PCs will "stick to the module" out of some sense of etiquette is unrealistic, if not meaningless. At the end of the day, a module is just a collection of people, places, and potential events.

I'm very skeptical of the assertion that because published adventures often propose a mostly linear series of events, players are beholden to only do things that have been anticipated by the module writer. I know that I, as a GM, certainly don't invest a lot of energy preparing in such a way that I assume the players will fall in line. One reason I haven't done a lot in terms of publishing modules is that I don't necessarily care for the effort involved in turning a one-page writeup, front and back, into a thirty page adventure suitable for a stranger to run, accounting for and writing out all the contingencies I would deal with intuitively. That a published module has written out some helpful information, forks, and ideas, does not mean you, or the players, are beholden to a specific course of action. It certainly does not mean the GM is restricted to running what's in the module.

I can think of very few actual play experiences I've had that were run this way. Even in organized play experiences, like Adventurer's League, there were very few rules about completing particular sections of content. At one point, I was on a FB group specifically about running a particular hardback adventure series, and there were whole threads about how the PCs interacted with certain NPCs or defined their own goals.

To me, the idea of a bunch of players showing up and thinking they have to "stick to the module," whatever that means, it just makes me feel a little sad. What happened to them in the past, that the spirit of curiosity and adventure was beaten out of them? Anything will stick to the module. Your job is to be interesting.


At one point, I was on a FB group specifically about running a particular hardback adventure series, and there were whole threads about how the PCs interacted with certain NPCs or defined their own goals.

To me, the idea of a bunch of players showing up and thinking they have to "stick to the module," whatever that means, it just makes me feel a little sad. What happened to them in the past, that the spirit of curiosity and adventure was beaten out of them? Anything will stick to the module. Your job is to be interesting.
I've said before that the primary job of players, the only thing that I'd put outside of the gameplay loop itself, is "wanting things." Obviously, that requires some GM collaboration. If you want to find your lost brother, I will have to kidnap him for you, and there's a whole field of "encouraging players to want things" we tend to call plot hooks. It's a category error to treat that as the complete set of what players are allowed to want though.

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