Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Screen: Part 20

And here we are at issue 20!

Hindsight being what it is, and me being somewhat bored at the moment, let’s take a look back on what was written and see if there’s still sense to be found…

Part 11 is me taking on what I said in Part 10 about putting more about the player side of things into these articles. I am very pleased that the singular lesson ‘Players needing to run one game’ is something that makes sense to people, even if they refuse to follow the advice (Karen, that’s one’s for you irrespective of your empathy and respect to storytelling).

A slogan I’ve been seeing about lately is “Get Excited and Make Things”, which applies to storytelling as much as some things. More so than that, I come back to the Manifesto of Done, specifically the line “Doing something makes you right”. You’re ahead of everyone else if you cleave to these two slogans, even if you don’t have any ideas in your head at the moment.

Players, if you’re taking the reigns as storyteller for one game, you have at least one ally in the group; one person watching your back. And hopefully the rest of the players will be friends enough to encourage your efforts and spare your feelings.

Part 12: Warren Ellis, John August and John Rogers are writers whose sites I check, at most, daily. Sometimes it’s half-daily depending on what kind of day it’s been. John Rogers, in particular, I look forward to reading, most of the time because he’ll have some delightful commentary or insight into the screenwriting process and I enjoy applying these lessons to roleplay.

He’s also the person who inspired the idea of writing Behind the Screen with the stellar job he’d done with his articles.

Also, it’s bringing it back to basics: Conflict and Resolution, the heavy-lifters of story. Certainly the heavy lifters of roleplay. It’s a rare group that comes to a game and is happy to spend several hours hearing how everything has gone well for them with no problems at all. Even Munchkin players want conflict, if just so they can stomp it into the ground.

It’s also where I got the idea of shared responsibility in a collaborative story. I’ve touched on this before in discussions and earlier posts but I’m happy to have fleshed this out more and the moral is worth repeating again:

Make the story problems into character problems and make the character problems into the story. If you think there’s no room in the story for that, then what you’re saying is there’s no room in the story for your player-characters and that is just WRONG! Try harder. Or write the book/script.

Part 13: This, I think, is my favourite post and it’s the one that gets talked about with other readers most often. It was a turning point for me, especially when referring to other instances or opinions outside my own, as it gave it the faintest whiff of professionalism and it’s something I’d like to maintain for future instalments.

Death is change in roleplay and change can be quite painful to players. GM’s deal with change on an hour to hour basis so it’s less of a thing for us unless we have an NPC or setting we dearly love.

For players, change typically occurs in the following ways:

At the beginning, where the character is new, the idea of it isn’t quite coming out or other characters are clashing against each other.

When the GM decides to mess with your character’s shit. In particular, things that you may have spent points toward, like backgrounds and attributes. And this is perhaps one step away from death itself. Players will say the most hurtful things if you violate the sanctity of what they’ve spent points on, particularly if it’s on a whim. I don’t like doing it and generally refuse or, if I  do, try to replace whatever was lost with something equivalent. And I’m unlikely to change this, but it’s worth keeping this in the back of your mind.

Character points, ultimately, aren’t sacred cows. They are part of a character that are, in fact, open to be changed or exploited. BUT it should NEVER be done lightly and if you can’t work a story opportunity out of it then what the hell are you doing behind the screen?

I’ve seen players hand in character sheets whole, who have seen the investiture of points be swallowed up. It’s never easy because it represents effort and time they won’t get back. And a GM does not gather his/her friends to waste time (out of character conversations and what-have-you not withstanding).

Do it if needs to be done, it is a game of risk after all, but don’t expect to be thanked for it. At least, not in the same night.

Also, players, this is not black and white! It’s not a matter of “As my points in artefacts goes, so goes my character”. Don’t just throw the sheet at the GM and rant. At the very least, talk about what happened and explain. BE RATIONAL and DIPLOMATIC even if your character wasn’t.

…Wow, don’t know where that came from…

Oh, as I  referenced PVP and Penny-Arcade, you should know that they have a series of podcasts available for free download. It’s of them playing the D&D; system and not only is it fun, but it has one instant of character death that’s well worth the listen, even if it’s a ‘What Not To Do Just After A Character Died’ lesson.

The player whose character was killed also has a blogpost about it that’s well worth reading too. Easy to find with Google and I’ve spoiled enough.

Part 14: Hoo! Not my lucky number this. This was the post that was a chore to write. I’d been watching all of Alias which, despite it being responsible for the article running off the tracks, does have some interesting lessons about what and what not to do to shake things up in in-game. But there were more than enough times where I was ready to abandon the idea, write up a review/critique of Alias and keep the two separate.

Problem was that I couldn’t write anything else until I was finished with this one.

I do hope that readers stuck through the explanation of Alias to get to the point. I’ll try to condense it here for those who didn’t/couldn’t:

A show that costs a million dollars an episode to produce was willing to put it all out there to shake up a successful formula to keep things fresh and interesting…

…how much, really, are you risking in your roleplay group to do the same?

Wish I’d thought of that those few months back…

Part 15: Gun shy from the train wreck of Part 14, I decided to go back to the safety of genre-study, which coincided with discovering Hu$tle and Leverage. And the mechanics of replicating this genre into a game was a logic/mechanical problem that wasn’t going away until it was talked about. And it was talked about with a couple of GM’s, one of whom suggested the Joker option listed.

I haven’t tried this yet as I have little time as is, but I would like to.

Part 16: The game of Vampire I ran is the game I put on a pedestal above all others. Then. Exalted Abyssal is close to it, but somewhat lower. Colt Apollo is somewhat higher as that is incredible fun to run, but Vampire shall always be the game I measure all my other efforts against in terms of complexity, player involvement and enjoyment.

Also I was really jonesing for another Vampire game, as I’d made the acquaintance of a couple of White Wolf GM’s lately.

Also Kate Vernon and Kindred share the blame.

I would like to do it again but I wonder whether it would end up like most children’s TV I watched: Perfect to remember but horrid to watch now that I’m older…

Part 17: I still haven’t run a Pulp game but Colt Apollo makes a good patch for soothing those cravings. I would like to try this though to test theories of Munchkins in the genre.

Also I can go on about my love of Pulp to scary degrees, hence why it needed the second part.

Part 18: This was definitely the result of the Firefly conversation. A rant that had to occur and I’m glad I wrote it down as opposed to hit the GM over the head with it. It’s not an urgent thing to run, but it is something I wouldn’t say no to.

Part 19: The talk of sci-fi in Part 18, the issues of a Shadowrun game that’s just been finished, my adoration for Global Guerrillas and my frustration and yet another missed opportunity to put this into a Shadowrun story was the result of this article and like Athena sprouting from Zeus’s head, it was no less painful.

I’m very pleased to have been able to articulate things in something of a more cogent fashion than how I normally approach my frustrations with Shadowrun (bend the ear of the nearest GM or player until it falls off).

Perhaps one day I’ll try putting it into practice.

So here we are at 20. I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you but how I write these articles is very much along the lines of stream-of consciousness, so some parts ramble, some make sense. I’m taking the opportunity to go through all 19 articles and fix the copious amounts of spelling, grammatical and generally horrible errors, and plan to repost each to the Manifesto. So apologies to anyone who follows these with RSS readers.

Thank you to those who spend the time reading what I have to say. I do hope you enjoy it. I do hope you gain something from it and I do like it when people tell me they have.

Thank you.

Posted by Wordmobi

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