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What is the point of GM's notes?

The reason why I don't like the comparisons to jazz et al is because there is intense structure, boundaries, constraints, encoded rules in what we're doing.

I don't know enough about jazz, but it seems much more akin to Unstructured Freeform TTRPGing than Structured (and very rules-and-roles-binding) Freeform in Story Now TTRPGing.

I totally get the comparison because of the "Ask Questions and Use the Answers" aspect of play is pervasive (well south of omnipresent, but its pervasive enough). But while I'm GMing, the structure of play is sitting in my brain constantly, occupying a not-insignificant part of my mental bandwidth.
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The reason why I don't like the comparisons to jazz et al is because there is intense structure, boundaries, constraints, encoded rules in what we're doing.

I don't know enough about jazz, but it seems much more akin to Unstructured Freeform TTRPGing than Structured (and very rules-and-roles-binding) Freeform in Story Now TTRPGing.

I totally get the comparison because of the "Ask Questions and Use the Answers" aspect of play is pervasive (well south of omnipresent, but its pervasive enough). But while I'm GMing, the structure of play is sitting in my brain constantly, occupying a not-insignificant part of my mental bandwidth.
In my experience ...

Writing songs with more-or-less pop structure is ... intensely structured and constrained. It's not writing sonnets or villanelles, but there are strong, tight limitations. The process of finding the music that goes into those songs is ... often more free than that.

The above holds as true for composing with others as it does for composing alone.
 

Honestly, I can't think of an experience that it reminds me of. You know what.

It actually may remind me of rolling with a Blue Belt who I'm better than in all ways but he has a decent bottom game with a good guard and one reliable sweep. I'm testing him, he's testing me. But I'm the primary facilitator of what is happening, and he's got enough surprises that I'm on my toes and curious about what is going on next.

And we're both very cognizant of the constraints at play here (because neither of us want to hurt the other person or get hurt while we're sparring).

That is probably what it reminds me of. Its a creative dance but its absolutely structured and constrained and one party is the primary facilitator of the action.
 

In my experience ...

Writing songs with more-or-less pop structure is ... intensely structured and constrained. It's not writing sonnets or villanelles, but there are strong, tight limitations. The process of finding the music that goes into those songs is ... often more free than that.

The above holds as true for composing with others as it does for composing alone.

Then that sounds entirely applicable. What you're talking about I'm entirely ignorant on, but it definitely sounds apt.

I was just bringing up the Freeform Jazz angle (of which I'm nearly equally ignorant on to what you're talking about)! I understand the sentiment, but my understanding of it is (a) the collective energy is similar to what is happening at a Story Now game but (b) the lack of constraints/structure is particularly different (but, again, I'm willing to concede that I have no idea what I'm talking about here and that Freeform Jazz is actually much more constrained and structured than I know!).
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Then that sounds entirely applicable. What you're talking about I'm entirely ignorant on, but it definitely sounds apt.

I was just bringing up the Freeform Jazz angle (of which I'm nearly equally ignorant on to what you're talking about)! I understand the sentiment, but my understanding of it is (a) the collective energy is similar to what is happening at a Story Now game but (b) the lack of constraints/structure is particularly different (but, again, I'm willing to concede that I have no idea what I'm talking about here and that Freeform Jazz is actually much more constrained and structured than I know!).
I was never a jazz musician, but my understanding is that there's more structure to even the "freest" jazz than it might look like.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
The music comparison only goes so far. At the surface level I think it has something to say, perhaps, but it falls apart when you push it too hard. Some games are like jazz, where everyone has the central idea and everyone is riffing and playing off that. If you push that simile any farther it falls apart, but that doesn't make it less apt.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The music comparison only goes so far. At the surface level I think it has something to say, perhaps, but it falls apart when you push it too hard. Some games are like jazz, where everyone has the central idea and everyone is riffing and playing off that. If you push that simile any farther it falls apart, but that doesn't make it less apt.
I think any metaphor comparing one experience to another is likely to fall apart under close examination and/or differ among people. Creative-type experiences aren't really any different.
 


darkbard

Hero
That is a really thoughtful, interesting and circumnavigated response.

I'm glad we got these thoughts down now. I'll be interested in revisiting them in a little bit of time as things get more intense and complex (in terms of stakes and the consequential downstream effects of one approach to a situation or a string of situations vs another). We're not in "tutorial" mode, but we're definitely just "warming up the engine" for the drag race to come.

Thanks for this response. I'd be curious what your wife (I know that is weird for me to say that, but I'm not going to name drop her) thinks in comparison to her experience with other systems.

@darkbard , what do you think about the above (you obviously have a TON of experience with Dungeon World at this point as we're probably 20 sessions in or something?) thoughts from prabe. What do you guys think about the above and how you guys are oriented toward your own characters, each others characters, the unfolding situations/setting/story, the actual play.

@hawkeyefan and @Fenris-77 . Dungeon World is a different game in particular ways from Blades (some of them extremely meaningful), but there is a huge amount of overlap (as you guys know) in key ways (principles, agenda, level of myth, nature of the action resolution snowballing machinery). What do you guys think about the above and how you guys are oriented toward your own characters, each others characters, the unfolding situations/setting/story, the actual play.

Where do you guys agree with prabe and where do you differ?

Been a moment, but I have some time to set down some scattered thoughts in response.

First off, I have to note that character immersion is not a high priority for me and, like @prabe, I don't think it's ever really been a part of my RPG experience. That said, immersion in story is a high priority, and I think our game propels us perpetually forward into the emerging fiction. Further, I would go so far as to say that our (seemingly everexpanding) cast of NPC characters as part of "the party" (however fraught that term seems to me) is crucial to immersion in/inhabitation of story (as we discussed in another recent thread). It's not just that I want to watch as gameplay develops out of Alastor's actions and their consequences, but I also want to observe how these affect his protege, Rose, for example, and shape the story we imagine revolving around her.

For me, the play process has been much more of leading and following Alastor than being immersed in or inhabiting the character. This is probably quite noticeable as I almost always speak in third person during our sessions, only occasionally speaking directly from Alastor's perspective. (Aside: I don't think person is necessarily equivalent to where inhabitation lies, but it might as well be for me.)

Immersion in story very much comes about by both (1) play principles and agenda, like (a) the GM asking questions and using the answers and (b) filling the characters' lives with adventure and (2) mechanical resolution, where the tension built before the dice determine resolution is more substantial, in my estimation, than the d20 model and its probabilistic and often binary outcomes (I know there are systems that complicate the latter, but those aren't within my personal experience). There are no dull moments in this game! And the snowballing effect of the resolution system ensures that.

My wife has a useful example of how this inhabitation of story helped immerse her in Maraqli's character in the scene of the excavation site of the dragon well. When her wand surged with electrical feedback and ricocheted down the well, she felt the story required Maraqli jump down after it (using the Stormrider aspect of a custom spell Storm Aura), and thus she inhabited Maraqli's impetuosity in the moment, following the story as it demanded her action.

In another vein, my wife has another useful insight into how those who advocate for "in character viewpoint" only might view our game: they might have the perception that her character, at least, is inconsistent (a charge we see plenty of posters level at Story Now gaming broadly) but that on a deeper level the process of "ask questions and build on the answers" has helped her understand Maraqli in ways she didn't earlier in play, that these seeming-inconsistencies are actually more reflective of the Whitmanesque "multitudes" of human complexity. As a specific example of this, Maraqli from the beginning has been depicted as a bookish and insular (in terms of focusing on study and theory as opposed to the more tangible aspects of the physical and natural world) arcane scholar. But when you and she had some back-and-forth about the nature of the mad dryad's primal and elemental magic, Maraqli discovered (perhaps seeing something of herself in this feminine figure) how turning to Druidic magic can help heal the fraying fabric of the arcane Tapestry that subtends the world. Mechanically, she has taken Expanded Spellbook as an advanced move, but more importantly my wife has learned something new about Maraqli: that she too is connected to the primal powers of the earth (with, perhaps, all the tropes of Great Mother that play out in one of our underlying themes of Girl Power, aka Sisterhood of Vengeance).

Returning to me, I think the priority of immersion in setting has allowed me to shape the PC of Alastor as a legitimate mentor figure to the NPC Rose. By allowing the thread of fostering Rose to become central to play, genuine immersion in a sense of powerlessness to protect her, as when we just faced the ancient blue wyrm Avorandox, rise up in play. And, though we spoke about this "in person" in the post mortem last session, this bears repeating here: If Rose's last Volley against the dragon had struck true, the beast would not have escaped us, and the characters' goals in the scene would have been successfully completed. But the fact she missed led to a much more satisfying situation, for the tension is drawn out, we must lick our wounds quickly and pursue the dragon, and the lack of resolution in the moment feels (oxymoronically) more satisfying and cinematic. Were we "immersed" only in character, I don't think this response would be possible.
 

darkbard

Hero
There might be a sense there wasn't much of a way to make much difference to your character's success in the build process. There might be a feeling there wasn't much in the way of tactical choice mattering. There might be the thought that the things that emerge in the story are emerging at the whim of the dice (especially after someone earns 3 XP within 7 minutes of play) and not out of any putatively objective sense of action-consequence--especially not as the result/s of character choice/s.

Because of your rhetorical framing, I can't tell if these are suspicions you yourself entertain or whether you are speculating about outside observers here. Regardless, I'm curious to find out how you feel once your characters advance to fifth, sixth level or so and have an opportunity to see more advanced moves in play, particularly at the cost of the hard choices of taking some moves over others. I have definitely found that my opinion before playing DW that the mechanics of character build are almost besides the point to the fiction or unimpactful was unfounded, for example.
 

Been a moment, but I have some time to set down some scattered thoughts in response.

First off, I have to note that character immersion is not a high priority for me and, like @prabe, I don't think it's ever really been a part of my RPG experience. That said, immersion in story is a high priority, and I think our game propels us perpetually forward into the emerging fiction. Further, I would go so far as to say that our (seemingly everexpanding) cast of NPC characters as part of "the party" (however fraught that term seems to me) is crucial to immersion in/inhabitation of story (as we discussed in another recent thread). It's not just that I want to watch as gameplay develops out of Alastor's actions and their consequences, but I also want to observe how these affect his protege, Rose, for example, and shape the story we imagine revolving around her.

For me, the play process has been much more of leading and following Alastor than being immersed in or inhabiting the character. This is probably quite noticeable as I almost always speak in third person during our sessions, only occasionally speaking directly from Alastor's perspective. (Aside: I don't think person is necessarily equivalent to where inhabitation lies, but it might as well be for me.)

Immersion in story very much comes about by both (1) play principles and agenda, like (a) the GM asking questions and using the answers and (b) filling the characters' lives with adventure and (2) mechanical resolution, where the tension built before the dice determine resolution is more substantial, in my estimation, than the d20 model and its probabilistic and often binary outcomes (I know there are systems that complicate the latter, but those aren't within my personal experience). There are no dull moments in this game! And the snowballing effect of the resolution system ensures that.

My wife has a useful example of how this inhabitation of story helped immerse her in Maraqli's character in the scene of the excavation site of the dragon well. When her wand surged with electrical feedback and ricocheted down the well, she felt the story required Maraqli jump down after it (using the Stormrider aspect of a custom spell Storm Aura), and thus she inhabited Maraqli's impetuosity in the moment, following the story as it demanded her action.

In another vein, my wife has another useful insight into how those who advocate for "in character viewpoint" only might view our game: they might have the perception that her character, at least, is inconsistent (a charge we see plenty of posters level at Story Now gaming broadly) but that on a deeper level the process of "ask questions and build on the answers" has helped her understand Maraqli in ways she didn't earlier in play, that these seeming-inconsistencies are actually more reflective of the Whitmanesque "multitudes" of human complexity. As a specific example of this, Maraqli from the beginning has been depicted as a bookish and insular (in terms of focusing on study and theory as opposed to the more tangible aspects of the physical and natural world) arcane scholar. But when you and she had some back-and-forth about the nature of the mad dryad's primal and elemental magic, Maraqli discovered (perhaps seeing something of herself in this feminine figure) how turning to Druidic magic can help heal the fraying fabric of the arcane Tapestry that subtends the world. Mechanically, she has taken Expanded Spellbook as an advanced move, but more importantly my wife has learned something new about Maraqli: that she too is connected to the primal powers of the earth (with, perhaps, all the tropes of Great Mother that play out in one of our underlying themes of Girl Power, aka Sisterhood of Vengeance).

Returning to me, I think the priority of immersion in setting has allowed me to shape the PC of Alastor as a legitimate mentor figure to the NPC Rose. By allowing the thread of fostering Rose to become central to play, genuine immersion in a sense of powerlessness to protect her, as when we just faced the ancient blue wyrm Avorandox, rise up in play. And, though we spoke about this "in person" in the post mortem last session, this bears repeating here: If Rose's last Volley against the dragon had struck true, the beast would not have escaped us, and the characters' goals in the scene would have been successfully completed. But the fact she missed led to a much more satisfying situation, for the tension is drawn out, we must lick our wounds quickly and pursue the dragon, and the lack of resolution in the moment feels (oxymoronically) more satisfying and cinematic. Were we "immersed" only in character, I don't think this response would be possible.

Just want to quote this and say I'd give 20 * the xp if I could.

This is the kind of response that should be bookmarked for these types of threads so people can reference it easily. So much of this insight/explanation is apt to dozens of discussions we have around these issues.

I hope participants in this thread (and those who are viewing but not commenting) really look at this, read it twice, and digest what was said (particularly the last two paragraphs).
 

Because of your rhetorical framing, I can't tell if these are suspicions you yourself entertain or whether you are speculating about outside observers here. Regardless, I'm curious to find out how you feel once your characters advance to fifth, sixth level or so and have an opportunity to see more advanced moves in play, particularly at the cost of the hard choices of taking some moves over others. I have definitely found that my opinion before playing DW that the mechanics of character build are almost besides the point to the fiction or unimpactful was unfounded, for example.

I think this is very apt.

It takes a fair bit of playing DW to understand the implications of move x made vs move y made (and the amplifying effects on situation and setting of a configuration of moves and resolution made vs another set). Same thing for build choice. The first order effects and downstream effects are extreme and only get noticed after a certain level of exposure and post-mortem digestion of what has transpired.

Its certainly not clear from just reading the text (and likely not clear from just a few sessions of play because the paradigm is so different from standard D&D).
 

darkbard

Hero
Not sure!

Maybe @darkbard has some insight into how strict/not-strict he feels I am about fictional positioning > moves triggered in DW. If he has an example where he felt I was particularly lenient, particularly strict, or just about right may help anchor the conversation!
This is a tough thing to peg down! I mean, one of the great strengths of Story Now gaming is following the fiction in the moment, and if a player paints a compelling picture for fictional positioning, wouldn't anything less than permissive adjudication run counter to the game's principles? Further, the ultimate outcome is offloaded onto the mechanics, so that constrains player advocacy. I think this is one of the beauties of Blades: player decides which attribute is at play, and negotiations set the position and effect.

That said, Alastor the Paladin hardly ever rolls DEX checks. And I like it that way! 😉 (Note: this does not lead to any great degree of success at his action declarations, as his accumulating pile of XPs bears witness.)
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Because of your rhetorical framing, I can't tell if these are suspicions you yourself entertain or whether you are speculating about outside observers here.
Would you believe both? I am genuinely not slagging on the game--my wife and I are enjoying the hell out of the campaign, and I more or less understand why the game works the way it does. (And my enjoyment of the campaign hasn't resolved my deep ambivalence about the game.)
Regardless, I'm curious to find out how you feel once your characters advance to fifth, sixth level or so and have an opportunity to see more advanced moves in play, particularly at the cost of the hard choices of taking some moves over others. I have definitely found that my opinion before playing DW that the mechanics of character build are almost besides the point to the fiction or unimpactful was unfounded, for example.
I'm curious myself. Among other things, I'm curious to see if our characters will survive that long, considering the way dice (mal)function in this house. As far as advancing my character, I'm just sorta going with "the best defense is a good offense" unless something else makes more sense in the narrative.
 
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This is a tough thing to peg down! I mean, one of the great strengths of Story Now gaming is following the fiction in the moment, and if a player paints a compelling picture for fictional positioning, wouldn't anything less than permissive adjudication run counter to the game's principles? Further, the ultimate outcome is offloaded onto the mechanics, so that constrains player advocacy. I think this is one of the beauties of Blades: player decides which attribute is at play, and negotiations set the position and effect.

That said, Alastor the Paladin hardly ever rolls DEX checks. And I like it that way! 😉 (Note: this does not lead to any great degree of success at his action declarations, as his accumulating pile of XPs bears witness.)

On this, two thoughts:

1) I absolutely agree that "how you Defy Danger" is essential to carving out and differentiating thematic archetype in a game like Dungeon World; eg tough/strong Paladins with shields are going to be Defying Danger Con (taking the blow and enduring) when dealing with sword/hammer blows or breath weapons or AoE attacks coming at them from the x axis and will be Defying Danger Strength (powering through/deploying force head on) when dealing with a grapple/overrun/tackle attempt/effect by an opponent/obstacle while the deft + technical + guileful duelist is going to be DDing Dex and Int.

2) However, there will be rare cases that don't afford them that kind of thematic differentiation; eg they'll be dealing with extreme cold with Defy Danger Con (or perhaps Wisdom for mind over matter) and cave-ins (like last game) with Defy Danger Dex (because you have to get the hell out of the way..."enduring" doesn't do much good in dealing with a cave-in because now you're buried!).
 

darkbard

Hero
Would you believe both? I am genuinely not slagging on the game--my wife and I are enjoying the hell out of the campaign, and I more or less understand why the game works the way it does. (And my enoyment of the campaign hasn't resolved my deep ambivalence about the game.)

I would! And I certainly haven't thought you're slagging on your game with @Manbearcat. What's more, I do believe you can enjoy it thoroughly and yet still hold some ambivalence. Again, I will be interested to see how you feel after another half dozen sessions or so....
 

pemerton

Legend
What there has been (for me, my wife may be having a different experience; I haven't spoken to her about this) is immersion into story. I wouldn't say it's been constant, but for me immersion into story roughly never is constant, in roughly any medium--so that's me, not you or the game.

The experience most-closely tracks with college-age-me sitting in a room with friends, all of us writers, and passing around stories for 15 or 30 minutes at a time, or maybe one of the small handful of times a band I was in set out to write lyrics together. There's a lot of bouncing off each other's ideas, and a lot of curiosity about where the story will be when it gets to be time to contribute.

<snip>

I have a sneaking suspicion some of the people in this thread would see it as not too much different from "passing the conch." There might be a sense there wasn't much of a way to make much difference to your character's success in the build process. There might be a feeling there wasn't much in the way of tactical choice mattering. There might be the thought that the things that emerge in the story are emerging at the whim of the dice (especially after someone earns 3 XP within 7 minutes of play) and not out of any putatively objective sense of action-consequence--especially not as the result/s of character choice/s.

<snip>

The decision to describe defeating a spirit as it being pulled into the sword (because that seemed ... cool); the decision to describe throwing off a later possession as involving using the sword to cut myself; the decision (at character advancement) to take the Heirloom move, instead of my more-typical kill-things-more-quickly approach. It wouldn't have worked without the GM's decision that "downloading" the Old Speech from the sword was a plausible use of the move. The decision to go intimidating there was the situation in-game cutting across the player's sense of fairness, in a way that landed more negatively on people mostly like Toru--people who had already lost roughly everything.
Traditional skilled play of the fiction is fairly important to me, even when it comes to Story Now play. I think it's a big part of my preference for games with more open ended (snowballing) resolution and a decent amount of prepared scenario design over no myth play. I suspect I am probably a more strict referee than Manbearcat when it comes to running Dungeon World
when it comes to Dungeon World / Freebooters I tend to be pretty strict about the fictional positioning required for moves. It's been awhile since we played together though so I cannot be sure, but I find I have a stronger referee bent than most GMs I have played under when it comes to Dungeon World.
I think skilled play of the fiction does not necessarily have to rely strongly on geography and physical space. I think what you prep is just as important as how much you prep. When leaving the dungeon behind we can continue to focus on physical space, how well fortified a particular area is, and other such concerns. That definitely benefits from less myth because trying to navigate those sorts of questions beyond a narrowly confined physical space is untenable as the physical space we care about increases. My own games feature less of a focus on those sorts of details.

My favored approach is more what Paul Czege calls a social crawl. Prep looks a lot like the scenario design in Blades in the Dark, town creation in Dogs in the Vineyard, fronts in Apocalypse World and the Sorcerer NPC/location venn diagram thing. A lot of focus on competing factions, NPC agendas, obstacles between PCs and their goals.
For me personally that feeling of being in a writer's room is something I have always tried to avoid. For me personally what I have always enjoyed about Story Now play is that by making players responsible for protagonism and GMs responsible for honest adversity we can get to a point where we all get to be an audience and like active participant while keeping the act of authorship in play to a bare minimum.

<snip>

When we start to embrace the authorship side of things we provide like this release valve that can be used to tune the tension down.
Campbell's posts here spoke quite strongly to me.

I think that by Campbell's standards I am probably not a strict referee in my adjudication of fictional positioning, I have felt this particularly in my GMIng of Cortex+ Heroic - I think I may have begun with too relaxed an approach and then it becomes hard to tighten it up. In Traveller I think I've done a better job - perhaps because the system encourages a bit more of the traditional allocation of roles/responsibilities to players and referee as participants. My Burning Wheel GM is good in this respect (ie strict on fictional positioning)!

I agree that authorship - by which I think @Campbell means directly deciding outcomes rather than relying on the resolution processes - defuses tension and makes things easier. This is why I like the BW approach of having Circles and Wises checks be standard action resolution: the player gets to put forward a "suggestion" but if it matters (if there are genuine stakes relative to the PC's agenda) then a difficulty is set and the check is resolved and the player can learn that things are different from how s/he would have hoped them to be.

I'm not 100% sure what is meant be inhabiting the story (cf inhabitation of one's character) but I think forcing things through the process of action resolution is a way of making the situation more vivid from the in-character perspective. I don't play much (cf GMing) but again am reminded of my BW game where the GM was trying to force me into a duel of wits with my mother - in which she would try and persuade me to give up my errantry and stay with her on our estate - and I sidestepped by praying to lift the burdens from her. When the dice for prayer were being rolled my heart was in my mouth. If it had failed I would have felt a little bit broken, like my character!

EDIT on this point: most of the prep for this had been done by me, as part of my PC building. The GM didn't have to do much in advance. What he did have to do - and what he did - was to bring my prep to bear on me via my character.

I am not convinced that success-with-complication helps if one wants heroic play.
If "heroic" means something in the neighbourhood of "power fantasy" then I would agree. But I think it is compatible with playing a character who feels like someone committed to heroic goals. Complications don't need to be narrated in such a way as to present the character as a loser, or the universe as fundamentally indifferent or even hostile to him/her.
 
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Emerikol

Adventurer
I do think it is interesting that some acts in Story Now would be viewed as practically cheating in my own style of gaming. I imagine the same would be true in reverse. The social compact is just entirely different.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think maybe my comparison to experiences that were pretty explicitly authoring ones--both the collaborative writing exercise, and the experience of making music with others--may have let people to focus on the authorship aspects, when what I was thinking of was more the collaborative parts of those experiences.
If "heroic" means something in the neighbourhood of "power fantasy" then I would agree. But I think it is compatible with playing a character who feels like someone committed to heroic goals. Complications don't need to be narrated in such a way as to present the character as a loser, or the universe as fundamentally indifferent or even hostile to him/her.
My (very scant) experience with DW has done little to persuade me that persistent partial success feels heroic. Obviously, different people will feel differently about that.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
@pemerton

Were you planning on responding to this?

 

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