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Author Topic: A thing  (Read 9417 times)
(Salacious Angel)
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« on: March 11, 2014, 02:14:46 AM »

Out of Character

I ran a rather freeform session a few days ago, and this is the document I cooked up in the few hours before it started (I would have made it longer, but  ran out of time). The session went well.

I'm not crazy. These things happened and these places are real. I swear I didn't make it up. Tell everybody. I can't be the only one who knows.
-Jake

Chassery
What they call the king's language. I can't really spell it properly in English or describe it because it's got all these sounds we don't use. Sometimes it sounded maybe Chinise and sometimes African. Popping, clicking and whistling. We never really learned to pronounce it so people always knew we were very very foreign. That got us in a lot of trouble. But sometimes it saved our lives! Here are a few words:

kwan - Fear. People use it a lot, and stick it in front of other words like we use 'phobia', but it doesn't necessarily mean irrational fear. So kwanbuckoo is a fear of wolves, which makes sense, and kwanmwotissa is a fear of children, which sounded kind of crazy until we heard about the West.

riyo - Water. There are people made entirely of water, called the Riyoyacka. Yacka doesn't mean anything, that I know of. They look pretty much human (and naked too) when just standing around but they throw themselves forward like they've been blasted from a hose instead of walking and they carry objects by wrapping around them even though they have hands. They don't speak. Apparently they don't eat either, and they drown people for fun, and they have a god who wants to drown the whole world. But they seemed pretty harmless to us. Long ago the Bronze Minister imprisoned thousands of them them in the far north where it's so cold they turned to ice. He didn't even need prisons.

teresa - Dollar. It sounds a lot like your name, which Kat always thought was funny but really just reminded me how far away home was. On their coins is a picture of the dead queen. She looks nothing like you.

brurt - Sword. In Cowalkut, people are obsessed with swords. Even very little kids have them, but they're not sharp. There are three types: ijedbrurt for fighting humans, zolombrurt for fighting the dead, and brurt-vol for fighting spirits. We saw men who wouldn't draw a ghost-sword to fight off bandits even though it was the only sword they had, and who got killed because of it.

doorways
I won't tell you how we got there the first time. Even though I could warn you a million times DON'T OPEN THE DOOR and explain all the frightening things we saw and all the sadness and danger maybe you'll do it anyway. We did. Still, if you get there somehow (I don't know how or why but you might) you'll need to know how to get back ou [MISSING] izards will tell you they can help you. THEY CAN'T. Their magic is all about deception and getting power over other people so they want you to put your trust in them and then they've GOT you.

storms
They're alive, and they talk. Their voices are really low and bassy, and no-one but us ever heard them, which is part of the reason people thought we were magical. It's kind of drawn out and mellow and reasuring until you catch what they're saying. Every storm, even the least impressive one, is trying to kill people. Remember Phillip back in school who could never not say what was going through his head? It's like that, only imagine he had a machine gun in his backpack.

wizards
I mentioned wizards before. They're really powerful and dangerous and you should never trust them.

gardens
A lot of people, even really poor ones, have carefully tended gardens. Their whole house could look totally ramshackle but their backyards would win awards. This is where normal people make magic. Flowers grow so huge you can make clothes from them, and you could rest in their shade. Herbs cure diseases and seeds planted in the right spot can grow into weird animals (I sketched a few of them for you). There are trees that can't be killed if the person who planted them is alive, so young men plant them and if they wither and die during a war their families know they're dead. Gardens are such serious business that you wouldn't burn your worst enemy's garden even if you wanted to shoot him in the street.

Lady Rotten
We never figured out why she was after us. She's the dead queen's 'sister' but she supposedly wasn't 'born' until the queen died. I don't get it either. Lady Rotten tried to take the queen's place place but the throne rejected her so she sits beside it instead. She's bloated, rigid and stinks just like her name says. She's not evil, though. Just very very bitter.

The dead queen
We only met the REAL queen once, when she lent us her ship to cross the ember sea. She was drop dead gorgeous and taller than anyone I ever saw, but she looked at us like we didn't exist. For a while she had me convinced that I didn't.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 08:43:58 AM by SA » Logged

Grengevir
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2014, 05:49:19 PM »

As usual, SA, the thing you have written is evocative and generally great. I just wish there were more of them.
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2014, 08:41:58 PM »

Thanks. These days my output is really compressed. I've abandoned my old style of setting creation à la Dystopia or Endless in favour of short projects with a specific adventure and thematic focus in mind, which allows me to better tailor sessions to player preference. Single post settings are where it's at.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 03:10:06 AM by SA » Logged

that's much better
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2014, 09:55:26 PM »

Yeah, time constraints have this major focusing effect on my work too. That said, I'm curious how this was applied in game. You've got some intriguing, dream-like stuff here.
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England.
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« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2014, 12:30:44 AM »

I've been roleplaying with the same group since I was fourteen. Each of us knows what the others want out of a session and we're all intensely imaginative. It's a waste of time for me to flesh out a setting we'll only play in once, twice or three times, so I just describe a few elements that make the setting distinct. Something evocative. Enough for my friends to get a sense of what I'm about. The more I describe, the more the world is circumscribed (this is why my writing is often ambiguous). Instead: "This is some cool stuff I thought up and I want it in here. What do you want in here?" Every setting is a group effort.

In this instance the PCs were a handful of teens fresh out of highschool. Teresa's sister Jacquelin (everyone calls her Jake; they're both Tomboys) had disappeared for a year with a couple of friends and when she returned she had all these crazy stories about another, more dangerous world. When she disappeared again, Teresa and her friends found their own way into the Otherworld in order to "rescue" her. Hilarity ensued.

When I wrote the "session plan" I had no idea Jake and Teresa were sisters. In fact, I had no more of an image of this "setting" than what's written in that first post. My friends had suggested "Thomas Covenant plus Chronicles of Narnia", so I ran with that, filtered through the narrative voice of Gene Wolfe's Wizard Knight. They decided who the Bronze Minister was, which helped me figure out why the Riyoyacka were imprisoned. They gave me details on the cultures of Cowalkut. They told me how the dead queen died, and why there are so many orphans in the West, and why Lady Rotten is so spiteful. Throughout the session they fed me suggestions, reminders, questions. They made the setting real by investing in its creation.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 12:59:35 AM by SA » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2014, 11:51:49 AM »

That sounds really fascinating.  It's utterly foreign to me and my brain starts spitting out questions - "But!  But!  But!  Immersion!  Control!  Campaign Longevity!  Verisimilitude!" - but I suspect this just is the vertiginous queasiness that results when being confronted by something so different from the way things are "usually done."
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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2014, 01:36:47 PM »

Steerpike

Immersion!  Control!  Campaign Longevity!  Verisimilitude!
All of those things are good, but I honestly don't think any of them are really being hurt by getting players invested in a setting by allowing them to join in its creation. grin

Too much "campaign longevity" just means that you're setting yourself for the game to end when everyone gets bored instead of on a high note when the current story reaches its conclusion, anyway.
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« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2014, 01:53:16 PM »

I think it depends - long campaigns have their own rewards (particularly playing the same character for a long period) - but there's much to be said for the "short story" format.
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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2014, 02:17:48 PM »

I'll second that. My group's favorite games took place within 6+ year campaigns. We still talk about the climax and the campaign as a whole with great fondness. Other players may prefer short adventures and one-shot games, but my crew preferred the immersion, complexity, and plot/character development of the longer campaigns. The key, I think, is finding the right recipes for the right palettes.  

EDIT: Regardless of style and preference, I do think that creativity and player engagement are essential ingredients.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 02:19:24 PM by Rose-of-Vellum » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2014, 09:05:04 PM »

SA

I've been roleplaying with the same group since I was fourteen. Each of us knows what the others want out of a session and we're all intensely imaginative. It's a waste of time for me to flesh out a setting we'll only play in once, twice or three times, so I just describe a few elements that make the setting distinct. Something evocative. Enough for my friends to get a sense of what I'm about. The more I describe, the more the world is circumscribed (this is why my writing is often ambiguous). Instead: "This is some cool stuff I thought up and I want it in here. What do you want in here?" Every setting is a group effort.

In this instance the PCs were a handful of teens fresh out of highschool. Teresa's sister Jacquelin (everyone calls her Jake; they're both Tomboys) had disappeared for a year with a couple of friends and when she returned she had all these crazy stories about another, more dangerous world. When she disappeared again, Teresa and her friends found their own way into the Otherworld in order to "rescue" her. Hilarity ensued.

When I wrote the "session plan" I had no idea Jake and Teresa were sisters. In fact, I had no more of an image of this "setting" than what's written in that first post. My friends had suggested "Thomas Covenant plus Chronicles of Narnia", so I ran with that, filtered through the narrative voice of Gene Wolfe's Wizard Knight. They decided who the Bronze Minister was, which helped me figure out why the Riyoyacka were imprisoned. They gave me details on the cultures of Cowalkut. They told me how the dead queen died, and why there are so many orphans in the West, and why Lady Rotten is so spiteful. Throughout the session they fed me suggestions, reminders, questions. They made the setting real by investing in its creation.

Sounds like an interesting way to handle the sort of fun, surreal, open ended material you deal with. I like the short format, but I tend to run games in the mystery genre, and usually with whoever shows up rather than a consistent group. So there are a few things preventing me from even trying anything this loose, normally. Still, good to hear it worked out well.
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I don't believe in it anyway.
What?
England.
Just a conspiracy of cartographers, then?

(Salacious Angel)
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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2014, 09:37:35 PM »

I gave up on Dystopia when it finally occurred to me that my players wouldn't - and justifiably shouldn't - give a shit about all the detail I was cramming inside it. We still played in it, and expanded the lore through play, but I never wrote anything for it, because my only audience would be TheCBG site members who (realistically) wouldn't have any use for it. So a few questions always nag me when I read other people's settings:

  • How much of your written material do you intend that your players read?
  • How much do they actually end up reading?
  • Whom are you actually writing all this for?

These aren't criticisms in the slightest. Simply curiosity. When I asked them of myself my conclusion was that I wrote too much.

ALSO:

Steerpike

"But!  But!  But!  Immersion!  Control!  Campaign Longevity!  Verisimilitude!"
If I learned only one thing from Apocalypse World (probably the case) it was to "look at your NPCs through crosshairs". Players fucking shit up is what makes everything work, so I encourage them to "kill my darlings" whenever they can. Their egos are more important than mine.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 09:52:01 PM by SA » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2014, 09:49:52 PM »

Mystery stuff is weird in that respect. I flesh out NPC motives and even if the players never discover the motives, those motives are still running in the background determining NPC actions that the party does interact with. So it's incredibly useful even if the thing itself never gets seen. Piled on top of that are a bunch of multi-use and reusable items like maps. All in all I think NPC statblocks take a lot more of my time than the rest of it.
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I don't believe in it anyway.
What?
England.
Just a conspiracy of cartographers, then?

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« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2014, 10:06:46 PM »

SA

Players fucking shit up is what makes everything work
This is definitely how Asura works. grin

My own personal answers are:
- As much as they want!
- Luckily for me, most people I've played with have actually read it pretty voraciously, and asked for more, even!
- When people ask for more, I try to write more.  I also often write about topics that pop into my head that I feel like could be developed better.
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« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2014, 09:12:40 AM »

Luckily it seems like my stuff gets used by others beside me, including some GMs, which is awesome - there've been at least 4 Cadaverous Earth campaigns not run by me, I think.  But, in general, I agree that if you're not deriving pleasure from world-building intrinsically (i.e. writing it for yourself - the prime motive for all good writing) then it can seem rather pointless, unless you're world-building as part of another project, like a novel or comic.
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« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2014, 08:10:29 PM »

SA

I gave up on Dystopia when it finally occurred to me that my players wouldn't - and justifiably shouldn't - give a shit about all the detail I was cramming inside it. We still played in it, and expanded the lore through play, but I never wrote anything for it, because my only audience would be TheCBG site members who (realistically) wouldn't have any use for it. So a few questions always nag me when I read other people's settings:

  • How much of your written material do you intend that your players read?
  • How much do they actually end up reading?
  • Whom are you actually writing all this for?

These aren't criticisms in the slightest. Simply curiosity. When I asked them of myself my conclusion was that I wrote too much.
I identify with this so much.
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I move quick: I'm gonna try my trick one last time--
you know it's possible to vaguely define my outline
when dust move in the sunshine

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