Categories: RPG, Informative pages, The web of events

06/13/10

Permalink 01:26:50 pm, Categories: Informative pages, 666 words   English (US)

Some more informative pages : our vision

I'm still working on this, but here's some important stuff, according to me :

Our vision

We believe that role playing games are first and foremost a creative activity. We believe that role players, dungeon masters and players alike are very creative. This is why Avalanche is an unfinished product. We believe can you finish this story better than ourselves; that including you in the creative process can only improve Avalanche. This is not a story where you are the hero. This is a story where you are the author. We believe that you should create the very own fabric of the culture you are part of, that you shouldn’t and wouldn’t be a simple beholder of the upcoming adventures to come. We need you to finish this book.

We believe that the creative process has more value than the final product itself. This is why you will encounter different maps representing the same reality in Avalanche; even some drafts. In the course of this creative process, which must be as free for the creators as possible, multiple, even concurrent, versions of the same truth might arise. This is good. Because there is no truth, not even some author’s truth. As authors of Avalanche, your truth is as good as ours.

Aparté. An existentialist approach: our head fake

Avalanche, as you will see, comes from a long march. It has evolved and changed over time, but it never lost touch with its designer’s value. I won’t hide it, as the author of Avalanche I do have a strong background in philosophy; and it reflects in Avalanche. My personal position is that of an existentialist, with a stronger preference for Rorty than Heidegger or Sartre. What would be my personal interpretation of what this philosophy teaches? Mainly, two important concepts. One is the “essence”, the thing that described you; or at least, the way the others might described you. Is it from an economical, sociological, psychological, biological point of view? It doesn’t really matter. There are different points of view of one self’s essence. On the other hand, there is the existence, the things you do.
I would say that from an existentialist point of view, what defines you is what you do, for which you have freedom. Note that the existence is anchored in a strong cultural and historical asset and is projected through time. Time does matter, as it is limited. This existence that defines you must be understood through time; your choices are not infinite, you cannot do everything.

Back to role playing games. What is called “metatime”, the real time elapsed into the imaginary world is maybe one of the aspect less exploited in the history of this hobby. Does time matters in a typical campaign? I would say no; at least in the product common in the shelves. But would be like a product that would try to take this element into account? This is what Avalanche is attempting.

Remember that this is our head fake. You might or might not discover it. You might or might not want to play it. It’s up to you. But if your players are asking themselves “what are we doing with the time with have left?” Or “what is our place into the world?” you are playing it. If a character comes to say, for example, with “I am a knight, I see myself and the world sees me as a knight, but given the possibilities at hand, I doubt that my actions would reflect this knighthood”, you are playing it.

What is Avalanche about you might ask me? Sure, it is about a civil war, it is about hard dilemmas about the humans’ survival, it is about the abuse of nature, but this would not be my answer. Avalanche is about finding one’s place into the world. It is about questioning one’s value. Avalanche is first and foremost about one journey of self’s discovery.

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05/23/10

Permalink 02:06:43 pm, Categories: Informative pages, 599 words   English (US)

Preface

It is common practice to "open" a rpg book with some kind of literature, describing the world from a main character's voice. Well, this may turn out to be useful and informative to the reader. So, here we go (note that this text still needs editing) :

Preface

Ethernya. This is a dark land. As far as history can tell us, as only fragments of the old time remain, all the realms were united under the authority of the Empire. A despotic power, ruled by Aldor, the one and only true god, the deity of good, truth and justice. His truth and his own interpretation of justice, of course. Not much is known about the downfall of the Empire, except maybe that it was due to Aldor’s madness. I remember being born in those times, on the cold ashes of the Empire. I remember the short peace that follows, my ascension as the god of hope, fairness and reconciliation; unwilling to take any power into my own hands. And then came the black orcs, demons expelled from the Outer World, the blood moon that oversees us, home of the undead, the wretched and the wicked. The orcs first slaughtered the dwarves, then the humans; enslaving them all, spreading like a black disease. Is there still hope in such a dark place?

Ethernya. This is a land out of time. As the humans made their last stand, united with their allies, against the upcoming demons, most of the human and black orcs’ heroes were banished in the course of the battle, to the Outer World. The exact reason is unknown to me, but I was part of the exiled. Following this, Gulmther, the black orcs’ god of chaos, began a quest to bring back his allies. But dealing with such matters is pure folly; he should have known better. Creating a breach in time and space, all the great heroes seem to move from one space to the other, from one time to the other. Gulmther’s madness might well lead us to the destruction of our world. Or, maybe to our own madness.

Ethernya. This is a land of unwritten past history. As I revisit various moments of the history of the world, the hands of Gulmther is upon me and Ethernya. Things have changed; there are not the same anymore. Black orcs appears and plot a new course for the history. To bring back the exiled, the god of chaos needs to alter the events of the past to his favour. History is not granted and it is still to be written; new chapters echoing in the future.

Ethernya. This is a land of one self discovery. I can’t explain it, but each travel in time, each new version of a chapter of the history of Ethernya comes with its burden. Glimpses of my conscience seem to emerge from time to time, but memories of my own identity, as the reincarnation of the hope bearer, has somehow dissolved. Who am I exactly? This question arises each time and the answer is never granted. Actions should define who I am and only through them can I claim the legacy of my name. But those are hard choices. Every time. Choosing reconciliation over violence, fairness over justice and hope over indifference is never easy. But I can’t fail.

Travelers, if you meet me over your voyage, let’s hope that we shall cross words instead of steel. But remember, I have chosen stakes for which I am willing to die.

Supposedly written by Theobald.
Location and time unknown.

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03/06/10

Permalink 10:10:49 am, Categories: RPG, 1823 words   English (US)

Introducing Francis

This is Francis' first post on the forge, following up my original AP thread

1-About the game we had
The first 2 sessions were interesting because we introduced 3 new people to rpg, but the game itself was "bugged", if I may say. As a player, I was feeling the world of Avalanche as rich and well detailed, but everything felt "flat". I mean no color and even if my character had some goal in life, he didn't have anything special to do who would justify telling a story. I mean by that : the GM didn't give us (me and the other players, we're feeling the same on this) a lead that would logically forces use to go out of our day-to-day life. No special event forcing us to action. Just like in a movie, introduction – breaking event –first resolution – and so on. Why do I use movie example ? Because every one sees story meanly thru movie now, so it's an easy start for new player.

My point of view of the 2 first games
So we keep our normal life all on our on side, searching for clues in our respective circles about the strange events and persons we witnessed. Trying desperately to find something to put our character in action (I don't mean necessarily fighting) and forcing them to work as a group (making the game more interesting, instead of waiting each turn for small story parts). So we learned a lot about the city and the people in it we were suppose to know (all the characters were people having a lot of circles in the city ; so on this part I think it was a lack of briefing) and of course about the new events and some secrets of the city our players were not able to know before we start.

I think the problem was in the preparation. Most of the people around the table are administrators (except for me) or something like that, so they all speak the same language. I mean, they all agree on a planning of the evening (wtf does it have to do with rpg in the first place) and the time frame for each part. Result : players were rushed to create characters and received very little about the background of Avalanche and specifically about the city of Carcandasse. In other words, we should have use more of the product in the first session. It's natural right ? We should have taken the first evening to create characters, give info about the world, talk more about what game we want to play, what medieval time looks like (many people have very different vision of it, so we need to decide what it's gonna be for use in the game), same things about fantasy and magic (same problem here) but we didn't need more details about what is a rpg ; the players understood very quickly what it was about : telling story with friends is a thing we all did when we were kids, so no problem here.

To follow Sebastien's comments about the game
So to follow what we had been said before, I only saw action in the third game. At the end of the second session, we asked questions to the wrong persona. We wanted to know who raped-tortured-killed the sister of one of the character (a doctor who ran the official honor of our tavern) and we asked the captain of the city guards. He is the cousin of another character (an officer in the guard) and in the first session the character insulted him by showing no respect and telling him he have no honor (oups!); and to make things worse he is the one who kill the poor girls.

So I decided he would try to kill his cousin the same night and get ride of 2 problems that way. So bang! We got right into the action and the night became a night of survival. But the players surprised me and dealt with the thug (the captain didn't want to be linked to the job, so he hired thugs) and, as the boss of the thugs hated the captain, they teamed together to go kill the captain. So we went from "survival night" to assassination night.

My point of views as a GM (Type of player, type of game master, the game,the story, the tempo)

1- Answering questions
A/If Francis is playing "rules light" what is he taking less notice of? Personally I'd not force him to use the full rules for the sake of playtesting, (although as I say I can see the argument) but rather ask him to say exactly what he isn't using, and how what he is using effects his decisions. That way you know how widely to apply insights found in this testing.

First you have to remember we had 3 news players to rpg. They were testing rpg in general ; we were testing BW in particular.
1- all the fighting rules were so different from the basic ones, so I kept fighting like the basic rules.
2- the experience stuff was too much :
A- because I make many « non so essential dice rolls » they would have upgraded their skills too fast.
B- keeping track of each die roll on your characters sheet was too much for them also ; it was breaking the rhythm of the game.
3. The fate, persona, deeds were also too much stuff for them and they didn't need it to help them play their Beliefs and Instincts as they already played it well (they are not power gamer, but new players, so on that part they don't have bad rpg habits).
4. When I called a dice roll I would always say in a general way why I need 3 or 4 success ; no specific evaluation. As long the players don't complain I don't explain myself (keep the rhythm again). If one complained (always Sebastien) I would create explanation then.
5. Because as a game master I also play with my guts instead of my head, I tend to avoid explanations (thus, using my head). Also, note that I feel a story does not need a rational structure. The rational part should be before the game, during preparation.
6. Like Sebastien said before, to me, rpg is « karaoke acting » so all the stuff you use, should help acting. Off course, as some players are more in the 3 persona mode, others prefer 1 person style (actor stance, my personal preference). But to my experience, when things get dirty (big fight for instance) most people switch to first person mode (in stress situation we act, we don't think) and, I think, it creates better story. You know how people tend to do stupid stuff when they don't thinks ? That's what makes a good story (damned it ! did i really just killed the guy ?) !!

So to answer your question what affected my decision is : did this help me give them a good taste of what rpg is about ? No ? I wouldn't use it. Playing a game is not about rules, but how the GM can feel the beat of the game and use the best of each players, just like in theater/movie making, you are a storyteller and an actor director ; but you don't control their decision (actually if you are good enough, many times you can deeply influence their decision).

One thing that scared me before the game was that I didn't know the players very well. So how should I tell things ? What is the type of game they like (action, romance, investigation) ? What types of movies, novels, music do they listen to ? What did they know about medieval time ? What subjects do they like and which one do they hate ? Can I talk about sensible stuff like child abuse or would they get piss off ? To know well yours players is a very important things for a game master ; the better you know them, the better will your game be.

B/Why would I ask to throw dices at some point where, from Sebastien's point of view, it was totally irrelevant to do so ?
What Sébastien is calling "bluffing", is very important to me for 2 reason :
1- Like he said, because it keep players in the dark about what is important in a large scale (the "pre-written storyline") and what is at a smaller scale (the story of the characters). Of course, killing the king of a rich and strong nation is obvious. But as a GM you have to show things the ways the character see them (according to your talent, of course). So one roll, many results, and some unknown to the players ; life is a big game and we never have all the cards in ours hands (even as a GM).
2- It also helps me having a more "free form" game, where even me (GM) don't know where the story will go. So what happens if they miss that roll ? The story may take a new turn. You may ask me : but this new part, what use (meaning) does it have in the story ? Easy to answer : creating story is always meaningful. Life might seems "meaningless", but since we talk about it, narrate it, thru a "storyline", it is, in fact, always "full of meanings". So I never, during play, really bother about it. Is it useful or not to the story (is it worth throwing a dice ?) is of no importance since it is always about the story we are creating ; so, yes, it ought to be important.

During preparation I would think about it, as to have an idea of the general direction, but sometime I have to say : the hell with preparation and let's go with the wind ! As long I feel things go right or go in a new direction we like, I make the call. To me success vs failure in a roll of dice doesn't mean "players vs gm version of the story". It only gives realism and helps create changes of direction in the story.
It's even more easy when you have a good background you can use. No fear of having to improvise "cheap stuff" or have to say to the players : " oups, I’m not prepare for this, we stop here for tonight ".

So I would call for many « not so important » rolls during the game ; 3 times more than Sebastien actually. It also keeps the players focusing on the game, gives a better rhythm, makes things look harder to succeed (no single roll and voilà the commander of the city is dead). It forces the players to create a story with a little bit more details, and helps them see the story with keys elements and sub keys element (tension points). And of course, no roll, when it would be too easy for the character and the situation doesn't ask for it.

So I follow this principle : rule is universal in is principle but is adapted in is application.

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02/17/08

Permalink 11:56:48 am, Categories: RPG, 170 words   English (US)

New frontier ?

I'm taking part in this discussion at the forge, talking about service based model and how, in a world where almost everything can be copied, can we produced things that can't.

It all started with a link toward a blog's article about this which, of course, I advice you to read.

Also, it turns out the author is a speaker at TED.
You don't know this site ? It is great !!! I strongly recommend you take the time to sit and take a look around.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Je participe à cette discussion sur the forge, où nous parlons de services à valeur ajoutée et comment, dans un monde où tout, ou presque, peut être copié, créer des "choses" qui ne le peuvent l'être.

Toute cette conversation est partie d'un article d'un blog, que je vous invite fortement à lire.

Et finalement, il s'avère que l'auteur du blog en question est un intervenant de TED.
Vous ne connaissez pas ce site ? Courez-y immédiatement et prenez le temps d'y jeter un coup d'oeil.

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11/14/07

Permalink 01:57:41 pm, Categories: RPG, 554 words   English (US)

Details or not details ?

Surfing on The Forge lately, I discovered a Quebecer, Patrick Pelletier, who was presenting his project, Kissanil.
After a couple of posts, I proposed him a face to face meeting, since we are both living in the same city.

Without going into the details of our conversation (you can follow Patrick's presentation on the forge, and I invite you to give him a hand), a big difference toward our respective goal stroke me.

So, where I did find common rpg products useless because they provide me with TOO much details, Patrick found them useless too, but because they didn't provide ENOUGH details !!!

Of course, here, I'm not making any kind of judgement : others may have needs very different from mine. What really strikes me what that our respective product are on the opposite side of the spectrum of the possible (well, I guess I'm exagerating here ... but, I'm only talking about the fluff aspect).

So, where Avalanche presents itself as a 1000 pages campaign, without any details (up to the DM to create them), Kissanil presents also itself as a 1000 pages book, but full of details. Where Avalanche presents almost no secondary characters for a given city, Patrick's product presents over a hundred !!!

That said, I can understand Patrick's needs ; but I surely understand they are different from mine. And after all, what matters most to a rpg designer, I believe, is to be able to present its product ; its strength and weakness.

So, what level of details are you looking for ?

-------------------------------------------------------------

Sur le forum de The Forge, j'ai découvert, il y a quelques semaines un Québécois, Patrick Pelletier, qui présentait son propre projet, Kissanil.
Suite à quelques échanges sur le forum, je lui ai proposé une rencontre, compte tenu que nous vivons dans la même ville.

Sans entrer dans les détails de notre conversation (vous pouvez suivre la présentation de Patrick sur the forge, et j'en profite pour vous inviter à l'aider), une divergence d'objectifs concernant nos produits respectifs m'est apparue comme frappante.

En effet, là où je trouve les produits traditionnels offerts sur le marché comme non adéquats à mes besoins parce qu'ils me fournissent TROP de détails, Patick ne les aime pas qu'ils ne lui fournissent pas assez de détails !!!!

Naturellement, ici, je ne porte pas de jugement de valeurs : certains ont peut-être des besoins très différents de moi. Ce qui m'importe davantage ici c'est de voir que nos deux produits sont aux extrémités du spectre des possibles (je sais, j'exagère ... quoique, ici je ne fais référence qu'à la partie setting du jeu).

Ainsi, là où Avalanche se présente comme un livre de 1000 pages, avec très peu de détails (charge au DM de les improviser), Kissanil se veut également un livre de 1000 pages, mais couvrant tous les détails possibles. Là où Avalanche ne présente pratiquement aucun personnage secondaire pour une ville donnée, le produit de Patrick en décrit plus d'une centaine.

Cela dit, je peux comprendre les besoins de Patrick, mais surtout qu'ils ne correspondent pas aux miens. Et après tout, ce qui importe réellement à un créateur de jeux, c'est sa capacité à décrire son produit ; ses forces et faiblesses.

Alors, quel niveau de détails cherchez-vous ?

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