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TOPIC: What does the ref­eree do now…?

What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #120

  • IanP.
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Mafia_​Puppet wrote:
Can you give an exam­ple of how the ref­eree isn’t still cre­at­ing the story in a player-​driven game?

An excel­lent ques­tion that brings us back to the orig­i­nal post quite neatly.

The dif­fer­ence between referee-​driven story and player-​driven story isn’t that the ref­eree cre­ates the story or the play­ers cre­ate the story. That is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that ref­er­ees get when they encounter a set of rules around player-​driven story for the first time. Under the referee-​driven story model, the ref­eree is free to cre­ate the sce­nario with­out any regard to the char­ac­ters that will play it. In fact the player char­ac­ters can be irrel­e­vant to the story as it is ini­tially unfold­ing — allow­ing for any group of player char­ac­ters to play through the sce­nario. As the sce­nario begins, the player char­ac­ters are onlook­ers to the unfold­ing events. As they become aware that these per­haps dispi­rate events that are occur­ring are in fact linked togerther they piece together the greater plot and become more cen­tral to it. Usu­ally though they remain reac­tive to events orches­trated by the ref­eree through NPCs.

Under the player-​driven story model, the ref­eree remains respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the sce­nario mate­r­ial. That respon­si­bil­ity is extended to weav­ing that sce­nario mate­r­ial around the play­ers desires for the game — in Blade, around the Pas­sion Attrib­utes of the play­ers. How the ref­eree links those PAs and which PAs from amongst all that are avail­able he chooses to incor­po­rate into the sce­nario is entirely his call. The result though is that the player char­ac­ters must be cen­tral to the sce­nario. The events that occur hap­pen because of them. They may be reac­tive or proac­tive at the out­set, but will be proac­tive through­out most scenes (as they drive the scene exit).

So in terms of pitch to the uncon­vinced ref­eree, part of it I think is to allay any fear that they have lost con­trol over devel­op­ment of the story. They are respon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing the sce­nario, for deter­min­ing which PAs this sce­nario will revolve around, for decid­ing which PAs will clash and which PAs will be sup­port­ive, and build­ing scenes around those PAs. The ref­eree is also respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing com­pli­ca­tions and throw­ing these at the player. So there is plenty of cre­ativ­ity still required by the ref­eree under the player-​driven story model.

Regards,
Ian P.
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Last Edit: 9 years 10 months ago by IanP..
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #121

  • Michael
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IanP. wrote:
But specif­i­cally, how do we pitch Blade to ref­er­ees who see the bulk of what they enjoyed about RPing dis­ap­pear when they are no longer respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the story?
Sorry; that was pretty much the best bit of adver­tis­ing I can do.

No, seri­ously, you won’t find me deny­ing that player-​driven sce­nario cre­ation does entail some loss of con­trol for the ref­eree, but those who feel a sense of panic at the thought I’d like to point to another referee’s expe­ri­ence with this style, to Auburney’s short account above. And if they’re still not sat­is­fied I would add that prep­ping for player-​driven sce­nar­ios is actu­ally much eas­ier and less work than prep­ping oth­er­wise. It is eas­ier because a look at the PCs’ Pas­sion Attrib­utes and the NPCs, organ­i­sa­tions and sit­u­a­tion already estab­lished in the cam­paign will almost always bring an imme­di­ate sce­nario idea to mind.

And as to less work, look here:

Mafia_​Puppet wrote:
Can you give an exam­ple of how the ref­eree isn’t still cre­at­ing the story in a player-​driven game?
To use a basic plot­line that every­body should be famil­iar with let’s assume prep­ping a sce­nario mod­eled closely upon the play “Ham­let”.

For con­ven­tional play the ref­eree first preps some hook to get the PCs involved, either being framed for some­thing in con­nec­tion with the old king’s death, or being hired to inves­ti­gate it, or being asked for help by some courtier friend of theirs, or what­ever. He preps the NPCs at the court and their inter­re­la­tions and back­sto­ries. He preps clues that the PCs can find, and means to find those clues. He preps obsta­cles and cer­tain threat­en­ing events. For all of this, he has a solu­tion to the sce­nario in mind: Let’s say expos­ing the mur­der and aid­ing Ham­let in gain­ing the throne.

In prep­ping for player-​driven play the ref­eree does not have to prep much of a hook to get the PCs involved; mak­ing “Ham­let” into a sce­nario is only pos­si­ble in the first place if the play­ers have PAs link­ing them to Ham­let or Ophe­lia or the Dan­ish Court. No hook needed, just a bit of set­ting up. The ref­eree does then prep the PCs at the court and their inter­re­la­tions and back­sto­ries. And that’s it. No events. The adven­ture will be the PCs enter­ing a highly dynamic and unsta­ble sit­u­a­tion and upset­ting it by their own actions, and deal­ing with the con­se­quences.

In play­ing (and prep­ping) this Hamlet-​scenario it is by no means the referee’s job to set an objec­tive. The objec­tive is the play­ers’ to deter­mine. Maybe they want to aid Ham­let and restore jus­tice. Maybe they find Ham­let too unsta­ble a young man to ever rule Den­mark and decide to do away with him. Maybe they attempt to install one of their num­ber as king of Den­mark. But what­ever it is, it is theirs to decide.

That’s the dif­feence in prep­ping. You don’t prep plot, you prep sit­u­a­tion, and leave every­thing else to the players.
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-​colored sun
Of secret worlds incred­i­ble, and take
Their trail­ing skies for vest­ment when I soar.

Clark Ash­ton Smith, The Hashish Eater or The Apoc­a­lypse of Evil
Last Edit: 9 years 10 months ago by Michael.
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #122

Yeah, that’s how my games go already. I think the only GM’s that don’t do it that way are from rollplay­ing games like D&D, M&M, hack­mas­ter…

But those gamist tools can’t be con­vinced with­out show­ing them. Every­one I’ve played with comes around to my group’s more nar­ra­tivist way of doing things. It’s faster paced, more immers­ing, and if done right still has plenty of gam­ing involved. But try­ing to explain it to one of those guys with words is like talk­ing to a brick wall. Espe­cially if they per­son is a GM. That usu­ally comes with dou­ble the ego you have to dance around.

When you say RPG, every gamer is going to imag­ine his own expe­ri­ences with it. And if they’re a tra­di­tional gamist, it’s going to sound ridicu­lous to them if you start talk­ing talk­ing about mechan­ics like SA’s. Espe­cially on the inter­net. The best way to per­suade some­one like that is to start from some­where they know, like intri­cate level design, and then segue into how indie mechan­ics have made it more immers­ing. Like SA’s, which tell the DM exactly what the play­ers are really inter­ested in, remov­ing that uncer­tainty that his hard work will go to shit or that he isn’t prepar­ing a paladin-​morality game for play­ers more inter­ested in Conan-​style drama and ass kicking.
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #142

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Michael wrote:
That’s the dif­feence in prep­ping. <strong>You don’t prep plot, you prep situation</strong>, and leave every­thing else to the players.

OK, so in terms of con­vinc­ing a ref­eree we can say that:
Your job is so much eas­ier under Blade.

Look­ing at the game you cur­rently play, your job between gam­ing ses­sions is to pre­pare a sce­nario. That involves cre­at­ing a time­line and plac­ing events on that time­line. Each event rep­re­sents a scene in the sce­nario that you have to flesh out, but there may be other scenes as the play­ers are tricked into fol­low­ing up events that are unre­lated to the main plot. The events on the time­line are dri­ven by the NPCs you have to develop, and con­nected together form a nefar­i­ous plot that cul­mi­nates in the final event on the time­line.

Under Blade, your job between gam­ing ses­sions is much sim­pler. You look at the play­ers PAs. You devise a sit­u­a­tion based around some of those SAs. The scene may sup­port the SAs or it may bring them into con­flict. You cre­ate the NPcs that will be involved, and a rela­tion­ship map that shows how all of the char­ac­ters (includ­ing the PCs) are inter­con­nected. You cre­ate a small amount of back­story to flesh out the con­text of the sit­u­a­tion. And that is the end of the prep — there is no plot devel­op­ment beyond the setup for the ini­tial scene.

How then would you describe the change in respon­si­bil­i­ties at the gam­ing table, dur­ing play?

Regards,
Ian P.
Fama nihil est celerius
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #143

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Mafia_​Puppet wrote:
I think the only GM’s that don’t do it that way are from rollplay­ing games like D&D, M&M, hackmaster…

I have a cou­ple of issues with this. Firstly, I don’t think there is such a thing as a rollplay­ing game. I know when I get into a com­bat in Blade I want to win it — for I under­stand the con­se­quences of los­ing, and I’m com­pet­i­tive. Does that mean I am in Gamist mode dur­ing the scene? Of course it does. Is there any­thing wrong with that? No there isn’t, not for Blade play and not for any other game.

Sec­ondly, I think you’re set­ting up a false dichotomy. The way we game is good, cor­rect, intel­li­gent. Any other play is bad, incor­rect, and stu­pid. It simpy isn’t so. The major­ity of the ref­er­ees run­ning a game right now are not play­ing Indie games. They’re not run­ning a game that sup­ports Nar­ra­tivist play mechan­i­cally. They’re run­ning a tra­di­tional RPG — D&D or Pathfinder or any of the other deriv­a­tives of that model, and gen­er­ally favour­ing Sim­u­la­tion­ist play. And they’re enjoy­ing what they’re doing, so more power to them I say.

In the end if we all agree that nobody can under­stand the won­ders of Nar­ra­tivist play unless they expe­ri­ence it then Blade and its ilk are doomed to dwell on the Indie fringe.

Regards,
Ian P.
Fama nihil est celerius
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #144

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Mafia_​Puppet wrote:
Yeah, that’s how my games go already.
I am not sur­prised to hear it. I believe that many ref­er­ees with gam­ing expe­ri­ence and a regard for their play­ers fol­low tenets like these. They are noth­ing we’ve invented, we’re just putting a name to them: Player-​driven sce­nario cre­ation. Where Blade of the Iron Throne is some­what spe­cial, even though by no means unique, is that does actu­ally sup­port this kind of play with its mechan­ics, with things like Pas­sion attrib­utes, Drama, Com­pli­ca­tions, and the like.

IanP. wrote:
How then would you describe the change in respon­si­bil­i­ties at the gam­ing table, dur­ing play?
I’d say that under your cur­rent style, your respon­si­bil­ity is to take care that events progress more or less in accor­dance with your ten­ta­tive plot out­line or out­lines of pos­si­ble plots. If play­ers hap­pen to progress to eas­ily towards the res­o­lu­tion, you throw addi­tional com­pli­ca­tions at them. If play­ers hap­pen to wan­der off into the com­pletely wrong direc­tion, you gen­tly nudge them back on course.

Under Blade, your job is to keep pres­sure on the play­ers. The play­ers will engage with the ini­tial sit­u­a­tion you’ve pre­pared in any way they choose. You have to enact the NPCs’ reac­tions to the play­ers’ actions, thereby pro­vid­ing sup­port and, more usu­ally, adver­sity for your play­ers. When­ever the play­ers become com­pla­cent or stall, it is your job to turn up the heat under­neath the PCs by hav­ing the NPCs seize the ini­tia­tive, thereby hit­ting the play­ers with unfold­ing events. By thus either react­ing to the play­ers’ actions or putting pres­sure on them by inde­pen­dent NPC action you are respons­ble for sus­tain­ing the inter­play between PCs and NPCs until some kind of res­o­lu­tion to the ini­tial sit­u­a­tion is reached.
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-​colored sun
Of secret worlds incred­i­ble, and take
Their trail­ing skies for vest­ment when I soar.

Clark Ash­ton Smith, The Hashish Eater or The Apoc­a­lypse of Evil
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #148

IanP. wrote:
I have a cou­ple of issues with this. Firstly, I don’t think there is such a thing as a rollplay­ing game. I know when I get into a com­bat in Blade I want to win it — for I under­stand the con­se­quences of los­ing, and I’m com­pet­i­tive. Does that mean I am in Gamist mode dur­ing the scene? Of course it does. Is there any­thing wrong with that? No there isn’t, not for Blade play and not for any other game.

I like TROS because its com­bat is gamist. I also don’t think rollplay­ing is bad. I love D&D. It’s beer and pret­zels gam­ing, but it’s really fun with friends. Espe­cially drunk friends.

A rollplay­ing game is just bad sim­u­la­tion­ist play and many main­stream games encour­age it. You talk to an npc? Roll diplo­macy! Check the chart! You fight? Your turn, roll! ROLL! ROLL! Every­one else wait and watch! No, don’t role­play with me yet, I haven’t looked up the NPC’s diplo dcs yet! Let me check if this elf hates you by rolling a ran­dom num­ber mod­i­fied by your stats and my check-​list of cir­cum­stan­tial bonuses that you man­aged to trig­ger. Etc, etc. Just because it’s inflam­ma­tory doesn’t make it imag­i­nary.


IanP. wrote:
Sec­ondly, I think you’re set­ting up a false dichotomy. <strong>The way we game is good, cor­rect, intel­li­gent. Any other play is bad, incor­rect, and stupid.</strong> It simpy isn’t so. The major­ity of the ref­er­ees run­ning a game right now are not play­ing Indie games. They’re not run­ning a game that sup­ports Nar­ra­tivist play mechan­i­cally. They’re run­ning a tra­di­tional RPG — D&D or Pathfinder or any of the other deriv­a­tives of that model, and gen­er­ally favour­ing Sim­u­la­tion­ist play. And they’re enjoy­ing what they’re doing, so more power to them I say.

In the end if we all agree that nobody can under­stand the won­ders of Nar­ra­tivist play unless they expe­ri­ence it then Blade and its ilk are doomed to dwell on the Indie fringe.

Regards,

I do not think it is a false dichotomy. I also never said their way of gam­ing was stu­pid. I obvi­ously don’t enjoy it, but first post, I specif­i­cally said rail­road­ing cam­paign books aren’t nec­es­sar­ily bad gam­ing. It can be loads of fun, but in some of its forms is barely more of a “role­play­ing” game than a WoW. Enter the room. Talk to the NPC. Roll diplo­macy. Get plot tick­ets. Go to next encounter. Kill mon­sters. Talk to NPC. Roll diplo­macy. Get plot tick­ets. Find Big Bad. Kill Big Bad. Get loot. You can do the same thing, though not as socially or dra­mat­i­cally, with an MMO. In some games, the only role­play­ing that takes place is when the player declares for his char­ac­ter, “I don’t think Thor would let her do that. He ties her up.” The things that you can do out­side of an RPG videogame such as dra­matic dia­logue, group sto­ry­telling, rela­tion­ship or theme explo­ration are only as present as the group decides, and the more those things are present, the more I con­sider it a real role­play­ing expe­ri­ence. Sit­ting around rolling dice and chat­ting with your friends is some­thing these peo­ple could do just as effec­tively with any num­ber of board games.

I do not think nar­ra­tivist gam­ing is the only cor­rect way to game. I think nar­ra­tivist ele­ments con­sti­tute the only real role­play­ing. It wouldn’t be a role­play game with­out sim­u­la­tion­ist and gamist ele­ments. But a civil war bat­tle sim­u­la­tion, the pre­de­ces­sor to D&D, was not a role­play­ing game no mat­ter how accu­rate a sim­u­la­tion it pro­vided or how fun a game it made. It was only by adding the most basic nar­rav­ist ele­ment of a char­ac­ter that the player pro­jected into a story, even if it was just to kill the bad guys, that we got role­play­ing games. And just like the early ver­sions of D&D were barely role­play­ing games beyond that basic fun­da­men­tal, so are some of the ver­sions of D&D that peo­ple play today.

Also, the longer GM’s have GMed, the more inter­ested they are in build­ing the story around the play­ers. There’s a rea­son so many of those hard­core Vam­pire the Mas­quer­ade play­ers used to GM games and the most pop­u­lar DND pod­casts involve group-​themed char­ac­ters. Lots of peo­ple end up get­ting hooked on the sto­ry­telling. But for peo­ple not inter­ested in sto­ry­telling, it is very hard to sell them on it. Pretty much for the same rea­sons drama club was for rejects in high school. Most peo­ple just want to play COD, not dwarf fortress. They want sim­ple and fun, not socially com­pli­cated and quasi-​intellectual.
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #150

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Mafia_​Puppet wrote:
A rollplay­ing game is just bad sim­u­la­tion­ist play and many main­stream games encour­age it. You talk to an npc? Roll diplo­macy! Check the chart! You fight? Your turn, roll! ROLL! ROLL! Every­one else wait and watch! No, don’t role­play with me yet, I haven’t looked up the NPC’s diplo dcs yet! Let me check if this elf hates you by rolling a ran­dom num­ber mod­i­fied by your stats and my check-​list of cir­cum­stan­tial bonuses that you man­aged to trig­ger. Etc, etc. Just because it’s inflam­ma­tory doesn’t make it imaginary.

There isn’t an RPG on the mar­ket that is designed to be played in this fash­ion.

Any RPG can be played in this fash­ion, if the gam­ing group decides to play it in this way.

Regards,
Ian P.
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #151

Yeah. And like I’m try­ing to say, it’s not really roleplaying.
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What does the ref­eree do now…? 9 years 10 months ago #152

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Mafia_​Puppet wrote:
Yeah. And like I’m try­ing to say, it’s not really roleplaying.

It’s not really any­thing. Nobody plays like that. It is pos­si­ble to play a game like that, in the same way that it is pos­si­ble to play a game in any num­ber of dys­func­tional and bro­ken ways that run con­trary to the design of the game. You’ve already said that all D&D falls under this dys­func­tional mode of play that you are describ­ing. It doesn’t. And all such a post does is put off a reader who plays D&D and is explor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of play­ing Blade.

Regards,
Ian P.
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