A Penny for Your Thoughts

Let's make a few definitions concrete. These that follow, despite being in my own words, are the definitions we use at the Forge and also the definitions that Egri uses in The Art of Dramatic Writing. (Allow me a gripe: my edition has it "The Art of Dramat!c Wr!t!ng." "The Art of Dramat!c Writing" I could see, but three bangs? Please.)

A situation is an arrangement of characters and setting elements. They're situated relative to one another, hence situation. Their relationships can be physical, nonphysical, whatever. If you want you can imagine the characters and setting elements as icons on paper, with webs of emotion, history and proximity drawn between them.

A situation can be either stable or dynamic. A stable situation doesn't demand resolution, a dynamic situation does.

Resolution is the process of a dynamic situation becoming, over time and action, a new situation. The new situation will itself be either dynamic - demanding a new cycle of resolution - or static.

"Murinus Mus is crazy with Twilight because Trey can't get her any more salamander eggs, because Declamare screwed up and the salamander burned down his home" is a situation. It's a dynamic one, on account of how "crazy with Twilight" isn't a sustainable state for Murinus Mus to be in.

Add "...and Murinus Mus is in Trey's room, to confront him" and you've embodied the situation in a scene. The situation will resolve over the course of one or more scenes.

Now add "...can Trey help her?" and you've got a conflict. The scene will resolve over the course of one or more conflicts.

-< Scene
---< Conflict(s)
-< Scene
---< Conflict(s)

Look upward from Situation: what is it when one or more situations resolve? It's a story. Think about, oh, Lord of the Rings. The dynamic situation "Bilbo gives Frodo the ring" cascades through a whole spawning series of dynamic situations to arrive at a lineup of stable situations at the end.

Conflict(s) -> Scene(s) -> Situation(s) -> Story

Conflict Resolution rules ensure that conflicts resolve collaboratively, thus scenes resolve collaboratively, thus situations resolve collaboratively, thus we collaboratively create story.

...Provided that we reliably have dynamic situations throughout play. And that's "what good are formal rules part 2": how do you reliably have dynamic situations throughout play?

On 1-6-05, Matt wrote:

I was thinking it'd be cool to have the game rules prompt the players in some way. Suppose it was like drawing a Chance card in Monopoly, except the card had some kind of situational kicker that you had to work into the scene, like "betrayed by a friend," or "burdened with responsibility" or something like that.

To make them meaningful, the players are the ones who write down the ideas. Have everyone contribute 3, and you have an evening of play all ready to go.

And with the right kind of understanding of all the characters involved in the story, the situations won't be terribly painful to apply on the fly.

On 1-6-05, John Kim wrote:


I'm not really getting the point about conflict resolution. You have suggested many examples of how the GM can, under task resolution, make the result irrelevant. And I agree that such abuse is generally legal under the system. But it seems to me that the GM can freely screw the players just as easily using conflict resolution.

Under an open system like HeroQuest, the GM can just set the difficulty arbitrarily high. Games like MLWM and Trollbabe sidestep this by not having variable difficulty, but the GM can still just wear down the PC by throwing in more conflicts (i.e. new enemies to fight, say).

So how does it "ensure" collaboration? I know my experience with HeroQuest was with an extremely railroady GM, for example.

On 1-6-05, inky wrote:

I don't think the trick is just knowing what unsustainable thing to throw in, but knowing when to do it. You can either complicate things by adding another scene with conflict that makes the existing dynamic situation worse, or by creating another dynamic situation entirely. And, of course, the players can resolve the conflicts*. There's a nice tension increase when the situation gets worse, and a nice buzz when it gets better, and the idea is to alternate between these two things to keep everyone engaged.

If you look at, say, a PG Wodehouse novel, the first part tends to be easing into the story by tossing in the overall dynamic situations and then a few spin-off conflicts (essentially, digging the protagonist into a hole). The long middle part is a combination of making some progress on the situations at the same time as more conflicts are getting introduced (and despite the minor buzz of successful conflict resolution which is keeping them interested, overall the reader is thinking Oh No!). Then finally the rest of the conflicts get resolved and we get a stable situation and a big buzz.

If the rules can moderate *that* pacing I'd be interested.

*I think the conflict/scene distinction isn't a good one, or at least not the way you've given the example above. Like, the overall question you care about in the conflict+scene is "Can Trey help her?" not "Given that Murinus Mus is in Trey's room, can Trey help her?" It's true that putting Murinus Mus in Trey's room is what brings up the conflict but, if anything, that suggests that scenes should be encompassed by conflicts, not the other way around. But it seems to me you could just drop the concept of scenes, unless I'm misunderstanding the point of them.

-Dan Shiovitz

On 1-6-05, Chris wrote:

Hi John,

You are correct, there is nothing inherent to conflict resolution itself that guarantees player input(and hence, collaboration). What DOES ensure player input as far as some of the games you mentioned, is some of the other features.

Let's say that player input can be addressed by a designer in two fashions: soft advice and hard mechanics. Most of the stuff in any given "GM's section" of a game is "soft advice", that is, there are no rules backing up what happens. This doesn't mean that it doesn't have a solid impact on the way the game is typically played.

There was no "hard" mechanic demanding that most people play D&D doing dungeon crawls- yet, if you read the DM's manual, that is what is -advised-. There are no hard mechanics in White Wolf games demanding that the story must be preplanned and the GM should have to force the protagonist's decisions, but if you read the Storyteller's section of any of their games, it's right there.

On the other side of things, Heroquest has the same sort of Narrator's advice to give the players input. Sorcerer(alone, without the supplements) and The Riddle of Steel both go light on the GM's advice, but if you look at key mechanics (Kickers, Spiritual Attributes), they cannot work without player's input. And then finally, you have stuff like Inspectres, Dust Devils, etc, where the player input is "hard mechanics" in the game. Trollbabe is interesting in that it specifically gives players the right to input on scene framing and introduction of conflict (and has narration rights to boot!), on top of the GM's advice.

Your experience with HQ is not surprising though, because it is "soft advice", many people out and out ignor it("I know how to roleplay, I don't need this."), which funny enough, happens also with Sorcerer and Riddle of Steel. When presented with games such as Inspectres or Dust Devils, many of these same people would say, "There's no way it could work!" or if given the chance to play, might even try to abuse their narration rights to -prove- that it couldn't work("See, there'll always be a jerk player if you give them too much power!" "Uh, dude, you're the only one tripping here...").

What conflict resolution DOES do, is that it is open for wider interpretation of WHY a given thing succeeded or failed, and how. Initially, this was seen as a way of protecting protagonists from the "whiff factor" of looking incompetant, which, though an issue, is not nearly as big of an issue as a complete lack of player input(in regards to Narrativist gaming and collaboration, anyway).

That point aside, I completely agree with Vincent in regards to Formal rules being an excellent means of making sure to keep introducing conflict at appropriate times, or at least providing useful tools for the group to do so.

On 1-6-05, Jason wrote:


Good question.


I would say that your idea of the Chance card is a good one. There are games out there that try to deliver this reliably. Torg comes to mind with the Drama deck.

I would say that any game that invites it's players to add complications on their own also has a similar feel. IIRC, there's a game in development over on the Forge called Capes that does this quite nicely for comic-book roleplaying.


I disagree a little with the Soft Advice/Hard Mechanics distinction. You can ill afford to ignore either if you want to play the game as designed - but that's just my opinion, I guess.

I agree with your point that a poor experience playing HeroQuest, Sorcerer or the Riddle of Steel is a result of ignoring some of that Soft Advice - however.

I also agree that when faced with Hard Mechanics - lots of folks with deeply ingrained traditional roleplaying pedigrees get the heebie-jeebies.

"Oh, it's you...

On 1-6-05, Vincent wrote:

John, Chris, Jason: nope!

Nothing I say applies to roleplayers who don't want to collaborate. They're on their own and they're doin' fine without me. John, I have no interest nor clue whether a GM could run MLwM or PTA or Heroquest by fiat. Probably but who cares?

If you want to collaborate, Conflict Resolution rules make it easy, natural and inevitable. Task Resolution rules make it impossible, unless you exercise the care and discipline required to treat them as though they were Conflict Resolution rules.

This is the final word on Conflict Resolution in this thread! This thread is for situation. Anyone who wants to argue Conflict Resolution with me should do so here, where it's on topic. Thanks!

Matt, Jason: like Whimsey Cards! Also, did I ever tell you about my Wholehearted Fantasy RPG? I'll post about it next, maybe.

Dan: beginning, middle, end - situations shouldn't be mostly resolving in the middle. Or to look at it another way, if the situations are mostly resolving, it must be the end.

Who here has read Primetime Adventures?

On 1-6-05, Jason wrote:


(and me trying to stay on topic)

Yes, Whimsey Cards! No Wholehearted Fantasy RPG, but you should tell us about it.

No to PTA as well - I haven't had the liquid income to buy a copy yet. It looks intriguing in some ways - but way off base in terms of my own personal tastes system-wise.

What about stories that have that classic "W" structure - where the heroes start out high on the left, fall to a low valley, climb out again by resolving situations, fall again, then rise again. A lot of novels, in particular, map to this general model of story. And lots and lots of situations can resolve at the peaks and we're still in the middle of the overall story. Classic example would be Fennimore Cooper's The Spy - where a whole bunch of situation resolves every chapter or so.

"Oh, it's you...

On 1-6-05, inky wrote:

Hmm, I think that by Vincent's definition, if it's resolving in the middle of the story, it's generally not situation, it's a scene or a conflict (which, right, is what I was getting at earlier). This isn't always the case; I think situations of the size Vincent mentioned above are small enough that you could make a story up of a couple of them.

-Dan Shiovitz

On 1-6-05, Vincent wrote:

My fault, for sloppily using "resolve." Here I got to all the trouble of setting up definitions...

What I meant was, situations shouldn't mostly be resolving to stability in the middle. I haven't read The Spy, but my uninformed guess would be that the situations in the middle of the W are still dynamic, even if the protagonists are up.

On 1-6-05, Chris wrote:


I'm not arguing with you by any means in regards to conflict resolution being a great (if not necessary) technique for collaborative play. I am saying that there's nothing inherent in it that prevents a group from assigning the entire conflict resolution to the GM's authority. That's neither here nor there though, and not worth really getting into.


Actually I don't think anyone -should- ignor what's in the rules, at least until they figure out if it works for them or not. What I am saying is, regardless of whether it is hard or soft, it is directly telling people how to play the game. Even soft advice has a place as evidenced by my D&D and WW examples. What is a problem is when it is ignored, but that certainly isn't the fault of the designer :)


On 1-7-05, Charles wrote:

I think I like weird novels. :)

Things don't need to be a constant flux of conflict -> resolution -> conflict to be interesting. Much of Lord of the Rings is about place and history, not about the conflict -> resolution -> conflict rollercoaster. Static situations are interesting (particularly since in a role playing game we don't necessarily know very much about the situation until we start exploring it), and a story can be told be primarily emphasizing the series of static situations that make up the vast majority of time, with the dynamic moments either glossed, or given as much time as they actually take up. If done well, this sort of thing can be very beautiful and powerful.

A rule system that emphasizes the dramatic structure of conflict -> resolution -> conflict risks neglecting the rich fabric of static situations that underly the drama of conflict -> resolution. If you play out the day to day lives of the characters, then the moments when things shift can be very striking and powerful.

For me, a system of formal rules needs to either handle well the exploration of static situations, or the soft advice needs to emphasize that the formal rules are only there for handling a sub-set of situations, and should really provide guidance for what sort of informal rules are best for handling the other types of situations.

I tend to think that informal rules are better for handling the periods of static situations, but I think that well explicated methods for developing and maintaining informal rules are a desirable thing.

On 1-7-05, Ben Lehman wrote:

How do y'all feel about situation resolution systems?

On 1-7-05, Charles wrote:

I'm not sure what a system that handled both dynamic and static situation resolution would look like. Never seen a formal one. Static situations don't resolve under Vincent's definitions, but scenes exploring static situations do, so maybe it would be a scene framing system. Do you mean a system designed to handle the question of where do you start and when do you decide that your done? While I am very interested in the exploration of the question, and I suppose a formal system might be interesting as something like a thought experiment or a toy, I tend to think that it is something best resolved through an informal system. So I'd be very interested in what sorts of informal systems exist for deciding situation resolution (do static situations resolve?), and how well they work for various different purposes.

On 1-7-05, Charles wrote:

Way back at the beginning: And that's "what good are formal rules part 2": how do you reliably have dynamic situations throughout play?
These seems to me to imply that formal rules are good for this purpose. I suppose they may be, if that is what you are trying to achieve.

On the other hand, I'm not sure why it is obvious that they would be, so my next question would be, how many stories are constructed using formal rules? How many good stories? Is there any reason to think that formal rules are better able to construct story than informal rules? Obviously, thoughtfully developed methods are better than unclear or inapropriate methods, but why formal over informal methods?

On 1-7-05, Chris wrote:

Hi Ben,

Are you referring to something like the Endgame Mechanic of MLWM? I think its a brillant idea, and good for helping a group synchronize on thematic pacing. I also think its typically an underused concept in pencil and paper gamist designs, though it appears in both boardgames and videogames of that nature.

On 1-7-05, Chris wrote:

Yeah, that would be an example. Essentially, any rule that resolves at the situation level, without needing to dip down into the individual conflicts themselves.


On 1-7-05, Ninja Hunter J wrote:

Jason, I don't know what your taste in rules is, really, but I can tell you this: your efficacy as a character is related to the relevance of your actions to your character's plot and the amount you contribute to the story (through the Fan Mail mechanic). Nothing's mentioned on your sheet if it's not a defining feature of your character, so the only stuff you have to use are the defining features of your character and your cleverness as a player.

It's a foregone conclusion that, if you're Aragorn, the only guy you can lose a swordfight with is Sauron, and even then probably not. If you're playing Frodo and you have to squeeze through an opening, you can.

What matters mechanically is not whether you succeed or fail, but what your failure costs you. It doesn't explicitly hurt your character (though it can, if it makes sense), it complicates the story. Didn't pick the lock? Better run from the guards! You have a trait called "No one gets the drop on me!" but you just lost the roll at the showdown? The bullet passed through the guy's heart, and as he fell, his gun went off and shot your boyfriend!

V: Incidentally, "highest dice win" works a billion times better than counting evens and odds.

On 1-7-05, Chris wrote:

Related anecdote to this topic:

I recently got to sit in with a group to see if I wanted to join them for regular play. They're a big group(8 people) who've been playing Legend of the 5 Rings for something like 5 years or so. During the night, I think the formal rules were applied 3 or 4 times.

Interestingly enough, the pacing was pretty terrible. Events in play were reaching a "climax" point, that folks had been waiting for for some time (I figure several sessions, maybe months), which ended anticlimactically. It was like stepping into the money shot moment for sloth porn- "Oh, and here comes the good part!"

The problem was, nothing in their formal or informal rules was designed to assist pacing and/or conflict introduction (aka, make that dynamic situation). Even D&D's wandering monster tables provide a form(if random) way of conflict introduction that helps keep the pace up. If the group had something similar to Primetime Adventure's rules for pacing "spotlight" sessions, they would have done much better.

On 1-7-05, Jason wrote:


Exactly so. The situations in the Spy are dynamic throughout. The main character is, in pretty much every chapter, resolving a sticky situation from the prior chapter and then immediately falling into a new dynamic situation. But, the overall situation of the protagonist relative to the overall story-arc, setting and other characters isn't resolving chapter after chapter.


What would exploring a static situation look like? Is this the equivalent of exposition? So characters spend time learning about the world around them, but little else is happening?

In my reading of Lord of the Rings, it's true that the dynamic situations don't come a mile a minute - and there's a lot of exposition and exploration going on - but that builds to climactic points that eventually get resolved one way or another.

Ninja: Thanks for the review of PTAs mechanics.

"Oh, it's you...

On 1-7-05, Vincent wrote:

Hey Charles, this is important: I haven't said anything about the pacing at which the dynamic situations unfold or anything like that. There's plenty of room in my construction for exactly the kind of play you're describing.

Particularly, you can't resolve a situation without first knowing it fully. "Fully" is locally defined and depends on the tastes and needs of the group-as-coauthors, per game. You have to do enough stakes-setting, exploration, description and other setup - and "enough" might be "an enormous boatload." Tolkein, if I may, spent very little time on static situations, and all kinds of time establishing what was riding on the dynamic situations' resolution. Those vistas, the history, the cultures, the Elvish poetry - he was showing us what could be lost and he was showing us the subtle-but-essential details of his dynamic situations. Exactly as you say: "If you play out the day to day lives of the characters, then the moments when things shift can be very striking and powerful."

The way you can tell the difference between playing out the day to day lives of characters in a static situation and playing out the day to day lives of characters in a dynamic situation is: the former is boring. Thus, if you're playing out day to day lives, and it's not boring, your characters are in dynamic situations and you're doing an essential part of resolution. Digressions, false starts, wandering inter-character conversations, introspection, a slow unfolding of what's what and how it all fits together - that stuff is only inessential if it's boring.

Now you're right: rules for creating and resolving dynamic situations are going to impose a certain pacing on your play. As always, choose rules whose impositions you like. Dogs in the Vineyard's rules play situations out at a fierce clip; only play Dogs if you want a fierce clip. That's another reason that adopting Dogs' rules would be inappropriate for my Meg's and Em's Ars Magica game.

Also, good lord do I not think that formal rules are automatically good at creating dynamic situations. I think that well-designed formal rules that suit the needs of the game you want to play make creating dynamic situations easy, easier than relying on raw instinct. Create a town in Dogs and you've got a dynamic situation for very little work. Create characters in Primetime Adventures, same thing.

Without the formal structure of Dogs' town creation rules, it'd be prohibitively wearying to GM that game from week to week. How many meaty situations can I expect one GM to come up with, unaided?

Read Dogs! Read Primetime Adventures. I think you may be surprised.

On 1-7-05, Matt wrote:

Not to derail the thread, but 'highest dice win?" Are you referring to Primetime? That would make it more likely that the winner gets to narrate. And that's bad. That's stricken from the will bad. If you don't like the dice thing, use playing cards and count red vs. black or something.

Back to the thread... Dogs interests me (wah! I haven't played it yet!) because it's hard for me to explicitly put it in either the character or setting situation camp, as many games are easy to do.

On 1-7-05, Ninja Hunter J wrote:

Matt, what you say is true, except that you just have to have a separate reading - any separate reading - of the dice for that to not be true. For instance, if the person with the lowest die narrates, problem solved. Since people are typically throwing 3 - 5 dice, the only effect it has is that it's slightly more likely to go to the loser (because the winner already has the highest die). Of course, more dice means greater likelihood of both, of course. I skipped that part, and in fact, in our last session, we wound up negotiating the outcomes most of the time, with the dice telling us who won.

Ignoring the "who narrates" rule was a mistake; they deferred to my judgement as Producer far too often, but I gotta say, I was on fire, so no harm done. "Highest wins, lowest narrates" is still way easier to do.

Man, this makes me want to play.

On 1-7-05, Chris wrote:

Hi Ben,

I think that Situation resolution is just the natural extension of Conflict resolution.

Once I figured out that you could do really long term conflicts with HQ, it just made sense to design Situation "goals" and run everything as an extended contest. Likewise with Trollbabe, although I (personally) think it would be hard to completely narrate a session on just 5 rolls. The difference between HQ and TB is that HQ allows for nested conflicts, so the Situation resolution still allows neat sub conflicts to fire within it.

MLWM does the same thing, because the Love stat serves as a "timer" for when situation resolution will start kicking in, while all the sub-conflicts are playing out (while modifying all those stats that make situation resolve). Inspectres and Metal opera, both had some neat endgame conditions as well.

Sorcerer, on the other hand, has this neat dual situation issue going on between the Kicker and the Humanity mechanic playing out simultaneously. The brilliant touch of Charnel Gods was that it effectively married Humanity and Situation resolution together. Dust Devils' "devil" mechanic also produced this effect.

Which, back onto the topic, are all good examples of formal mechanics at least providing the group as a whole a means of understanding how close to the climax/crisis point they are thematically, allowing folks to better vibe on the same tip. It also allows folks to input how fast they want the story moving, without having to say, "I want to end it sooner, I want to drag it out".

Informally, it requires either a very high awareness of the group dynamic or else a pause in game play to "step out" and have a Author stance discussion with everyone about what's going on in terms of pacing, which breaks the flow. With a Formal mechanic, folks don't necessarily have to take it to that level, but can still input to the group what they want going on, even if they're a new group and not familiar with each others' tells.

On 1-7-05, Charles wrote:

Vincent: Read Dogs! Read Primetime Adventures. I think you may be surprised.

Fair enough. I really shouldn't be challenging the virtues and range of systems I haven't even read.

One question though. I think you said that formal rules could handle slow paced, but most of the formal systems that are touted seem to be designed for fast paced. Could you point me to a formal system that is considered good for slow paced games?

On 1-7-05, Vincent wrote:

HeroQuest. I've barely played the game, but a few people I trust swear by it.

Let's see. Here are a few of Ron Edward's posts about his HeroQuest (then Hero Wars) game:
God damn it, I love Glorantha
, Goddess of rape? and Ending the story. I'm probably missing his best writeups.

On 1-7-05, Ninja Hunter J wrote:

Not that I think the system is any great shakes (and I've certainly never used it like Vincent has), but Pendragon is designed with the assumption that you get old and die. I don't know how it plays out, but if I get to play aging regent mother to the throne, I'd better well be able to deal with things that take a long time to come to fruition.

On 1-9-05, jwalt wrote:

"how do you reliably have dynamic situations throughout play?"

Well, to look at some games that haven't been released yet... Shreyas and I have been on a kick where we write conflict resolution systems that necessary require you to put a bit of yourself on the line (a character trait) and then are changed, for better or worse, through the process of resolution (Dogs started to get at this, with Fallout, but we're trying to take that and keep running). The change in character then leads to a different approach to your environment, which leads to other subplots/dohickies coming to a head and fostering more conflict. You might call this the Hedwig School of Conflict Resolution: "To be free, one must give up a little part of oneself..."

X-Ref: Torchbearer, Jonathan's Big Identity Game (aka Storypunk/etc.), The Wuxia Game, and recent Vesperteen developments, in that order. Looks like Vesperteen might actually do the equivilent of using accumulated Fallout to frame the subsequent scene/conflict, which'll be cool if I can make it work... (always trying to do too much!).

On 1-10-05, Tom wrote:

"how do you reliably have dynamic situations throughout play?"

I can think of a couple of answers to that -- but I think they both fly in the face of traditional RPG concepts.

1.) "And they lived hapily ever after THE END" -- If your game is predicated on the idea that it's over once the situation gets resolved, and there are rules that help push towards a resolution, then this will help drive people towards scenes that will advace the situation in a direction favorable to them. Most games have a "campaign" in mind where people go from one dynamic situation to the next, but I think it might be too easy to fall into a static sitatuion or to simply reduce the "Dynamic Situations" to a thin veneer to cover up the fact that you're just doing what you always do (in D&D -- kill monsters and loot bodies). In essence, these games "jump the shark" and just sputter out.

If, one the other hand you say, "Here's the set-up and once it gets resolved, we go play something else (or a completely new round of this game)." Well, now you better get crackin'. There's a countdown. All the cool stuff you want to do, you'd better hurry up and do because the clock's tickin' and once it's over, it's over.

2.) "He's not just my mortal enemy, he's a PC" -- Most RPGs assume a party structure where a group of PCs works for a common cause. Sometimes there's inter-party friction, but you can usueally count on everyone pulling together when a crisis hits. This isn't necessarily fatal to dynamic situations, but you might create them more reliably if the PCs are spread out throughout the conflict. If you've got more side, every viewpoint has a player who can articulate and defend it. Combined with #1 above, players will soon be stacking up scenes loaded with resolution so they can tug the story in their direction.

3.) "Here's your character, go" -- Pretty much all RPGs have the idea that you get to create your own character. If we break that, if a character is handed to a Player (or there's only a short list of pre-generated PCs to choose from), it takes some amount of power away from the players, but should ultimately result in more dynamic situations. If the GM can create a good set-up and populate it with interesting chracters (who all have some connection to each other), then more effort can be spent by the players in resolving the situation. No convoluted "you all meet in a tavern" stuff, no MacGuffins or oddball coincidences to pull you into the situation, and no uninvolved parties who could just walk away from it all (well, they could, but the set-up assumes they'd all lose terribly by doing so). All the PCs are in the thick of it and tightly bound into the story.

So that's what I'd do. I can't think of any game that consistently applies all three of the above ideas (Dogs uses some of them in differing amounts, Charnel Gods has that countdown clock from #1), but again, it's now less of a "game" and more of a long-from improv (only done in the imagination instead of a theatre).

On 1-10-05, Ninja Hunter J wrote:

Not to harp on the issue, but PTA applies all three of these in great wads.

On 1-10-05, Tom wrote:

J --

I haven't read PTA...yet (DID IT ARRIVE TODAY, MR. MAILMAN?)

But I'm not surprised.

It's trying to model a TV show which, at it's dramatic writing. The thing is that in order for this drama to take place, the writers tightly script each episode. In most RPGs, such scripting would usually come off as railroading. But if you want to establish rules that push games towards a more dramatic format, you have to be willing to constrain the playing field a bit.

On 1-11-05, Ninja Hunter J wrote:

Well, consider that playing PTA is more like writing the episode than scripting. There's a fair bit of negotiation that takes place - "OK, I want Phil to die by the end of the scene because I want him to come back later as a ghost and tell us what's going on. How's about that?"

You usually know what the story's going to be about because it's about the issues of the highest Screen Presence character. In my other group, we have a B-plot established at the beginning - "OK, this episode is about Buck's vengeance for his sister's death, but the B-plot will be about Calla's relationship with her new beau." This is particularly important when someone's got a SP of 1 and someone else has a 3. It's not so bad when they're similar characters, but when they're different, this is the technique we've been using.

Don't assume that you and your friends can't come up with a good story. It's not that it's a constrained playing field so much as a focus so everyone knows how to phrase their desires and when they should happen. It's extraordinary how well it helps you. Not that it doesn't take technique, but you really wind up making a top-notch story with greater frequency than when you have a GM.

On 1-12-05, Ninja Hunter J wrote:

(I just happened to see something I said above that was an error. I said,

"What matters mechanically is not whether you succeed or fail, but what your failure costs you."

What I should have said was, "What matters mechanically is not whether you succeed or fail, but what your success costs you."