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November 8 LRPGSW Meeting Notes

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  • vbwyrde
    Nov 8, 2006 - Meeting Notes ... Attendees: Mark, Peter Another fine meeting of the LRPGSW at the Cobblestone Pub! Since Peter and I have never met before we
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2006
      Nov 8, 2006 - Meeting Notes

      Attendees: Mark, Peter

      Another fine meeting of the LRPGSW at the Cobblestone Pub! Since
      Peter and I have never met before we first got to know each other
      over dinner (mildly broiled brook trout with rice and vegetables,
      with my drink of preference, Rum & Coke, while Peter had an appetizer
      and a non-alcoholic beer). I took the opportunity to welcome Peter
      to the LRPGSW and tried to give him some ideas as to the sorts of
      things we're interested in, what we've accomplished so far, and what
      I would like to do for my part in the group. I mentioned my hope to
      provide essays to the Mythopoeia Society Newsletter at some point.

      We then began on a particular question, and over the course of the
      next two hours or so we drummed along with lots of perspectives,
      theories and possible solutions. The question that started it all
      off was this: How can Gamesmasters better bring their Players into
      their Worlds?

      The discussion began with the rueful observation that many Players
      may not be really all that interested in the World per se, and often
      enough do not appear all that interested in the story aspect of the
      game. We noted that Gamesmasters put a lot of heart and soul into
      their World-Story, usually, however, though not always, and for that
      we do kind of hope for and somewhat expect that our Worlds will be
      appreciated and enjoyed by the Players. After all, most of us are
      kind of like authors who embark on creating amazing Worlds because we
      feel we have something to share. We're story tellers and the Worlds
      we create embody a great deal of those stories. So it is something
      of a thorn in the side when the Players skip right past, over and
      under the story in order to get at what they want: The Game

      So we meandered around the topic, far and near, this way and that,
      for two and a half hours. I will only be able to record a certain
      portion of what we discussed, all of which was quite fascinating, and
      I apologize for not being able to record it all, but there was too
      much for that. So here are the highlights:

      I suggested that we think of Gamesmastering the story in a special
      way that draws the Players into the World. This can be done by
      sprinkling tidbits of sensual description about the ordinary aspects
      of the World to the Players, much as C. S. Lewis does in
      the "Chronicles of Narnia". He often includes descriptions of
      things which the reader takes to be rather ordinary, though in their
      setting of the mystical-magical landscape of Narnia take on a special
      characteristic of being ordinary in an odd place, thus throwing light
      on the World, and also drawing the reader into that World via things
      with which they have familiarity. Such as the banquet at the cabin
      of the Beaver and his dear wife, or tea with Mr. Tumnus. This is a
      technique Gamesmaster's might adopt in some fashion to do the same.

      The GM should also, we think, have a substantial enough understanding
      of their World to bring the Players into it. This is somewhat
      difficult to know when it is done as it is very subjective. But the
      GM should really know their World very well so that when Players
      enter it they have a sense that it has a real presence, and is not
      merely the gossamer, vanishing fancies and whims of the Gamesmaster.
      The World should have substance, and it should even embody Meaning,
      if it is to aspire toward a Literary Quality.

      I went on to suggest that the World should convey, where effective,
      both the attributes of being ordinary and "There", and also extra-
      ordinary and entirely "Other" so that the Players will find it
      intriguing and yet familiar at the same time. The interest and
      realism that the GM brings to their World will help to bring the
      Players into the World as a World, and not merely a stage setup for
      them to strut about on, bashing monsters and racking up points and
      treasure. We think a World should be more than that, and assess that
      we are at the infancy stage of Gamesmastering as an art form.

      We noted that Players, a lot of them, are more interested after a
      little while in the game mechanics, the rolling of the dice, and the
      winning of points, than they are in the story itself. This is why
      the story must be paramount in the GM's mind, so that it remains
      steady despite the Player's tendency to want to play the game as a
      game, rather than as a story experience. When the story is good,
      however, the theory goes, the Players will become immersed and it
      will flow naturally. This is the Ideal.

      We discussed in relation to this the different types of GMs and
      Players that have been identified in Game Theory circles as the
      Gamist, Narrativist and Simulationist game styles. We had a few nods
      over the late and great debate on RPG-Create regarding GM-Limiting
      Rules which we both followed with interest. Peter and I seem to be
      cut from the same cloth as Gamesmasters, finding the same aspects
      intriguing, and feeling that certain popular directions are not
      really all that advantageous to our storytelling purpose. We also
      noted that the core of the game itself, forged as it is out of the
      Middle Earth of Tolkien, and further back into the Saxon mythologies
      of the ancients, finally to rest with the great storytelling shaman
      of the olden days. How some story themes are intrinsic to all
      cultures, and how Gamesmasters who are aware of these elements of the
      ancient stories can understand and maneuver his or her World more

      We then wandered into my current favorite topic, Shamanism and
      Gamesmastering. I kind of went around the mulberry bush on the
      topic, explaining what I mean by it and how it would apply to Role
      Playing Games. Is the Gamesmaster really a form of Shaman, taking
      the Players on a group journey through their 'OtherWorld' as their
      kind of Spirit Guide, I ask? If so then we speculated that the GM
      might make out for the OtherWorld him or herself to find the divine
      inner-stories with which to return and bring with them into the game;
      a kind of shaman's quest for GMing source material, perhaps? We also
      touched briefly on the psychoanalytic possibilities, and I explained
      a bit about how and why I created the Elthos Cosmological System – to
      aid in story telling by providing a comprehensive series of Symbolic-
      Shamanistic correspondences. So it is important for the Gamesmaster
      to understand the substance and meaning of their World, and the
      stories they wish to reveal from within it should be meaningful
      intrinsically, regardless of how the Players behave. Yet we agreed
      that Perfect Gamesmastering is an art whose time has not yet come. I
      proffered the idea of the Enlightened Gamesmaster, which I believe is
      alluded to but not quite achieved in 'The Glass Bead Game' by Herman
      Hesse, and believe is as possible as a Zen Monk is possible. It's
      simply something that has not yet been done. Yet Role Playing Games
      are really so new and the art has not yet had time to catch up with
      the comprehensive multi-faceted effort involved with running a Great

      Peter brought home the realization that there appears to be a
      division between City and Country Gamesmasters and Players. The
      City dwellers are on hyper-mode. There's so much to do in the City
      and everyone is in a much bigger rush than in the country. Thus City
      Players, we think, may be inherently more Gamist than their less-
      rushed country cousins. Thus the story aspect of the game may be
      more natural among country Players. On the other hand, City
      Gamesmasters can afford to be more choosy about whom they allow to
      play their games as they have more choice. So it's a trade off.
      Perhaps the suburbs is the balance spot?

      In relation to this we talked a bit about the necessity for
      Gamesmaster's to establish a kind of anti-wishy-washyness in order to
      keep the Players from having expectations of freedom of action which
      can be disruptive to the game, and worse yet, convey somehow that the
      World is not solid. A lot of GMs waste their effort trying to
      appease or pamper their Players in order to keep them interested in
      their Worlds. This is a big mistake, we feel. The way to keep
      Players interested is to have a really Interesting World, and to
      Gamesmaster that World with style.

      When we discussed the idea that the Gamesmaster should provide some
      discipline to their game sessions, I thought of teachers, and how
      they manage kids in the classroom. In order to get through the
      lessons of the year they establish certain rules and criteria of
      behavior, and the good teachers do not deviate from those rules. The
      teachers who manage to maintain a balance between discipline and
      creativity are the most successful, and so the same may apply as well
      to Gamesmasters. Somehow discipline is one of the important
      attributes of a good game.

      We also talked about how to begin a game successfully, and tried a
      little thought experiment where Peter "rolled" me up a character and
      I saw how he introduces a new Player to his world so that we could
      review the style and think about various ideas on how to improve our
      game introductions. We gabbed about different possibilities and gave
      examples of different styles. We both agree that the start of the
      game should be impressive enough for the Players so that if not
      utterly hooked, the start of the game should at the least not lose
      them. I think a slow build up from `interesting maybe' to `wow
      amazing' should occur of the course of a campaign season, myself. In
      2004 Spring Season Campaign I brought the game story forward from
      Rabbit Snaring and Fishing, to a wolf attack, to arms and armor, to
      magical battles, and then home again back to the barn and their
      parents and soggy socks. So there is an idea of a lift from and
      return to home, or the ordinary world. Shamanisticishally speaking,
      of course. :)

      We also touched upon the fact that girl Players are usually very good
      for a story oriented game (as opposed to the gamist orientation) and
      how we've both noted that female players have frequently proven to be
      real forces to reckon with in the game, and very worth having as
      participants as they bring the female perspective into the story.
      That's a good thing we feel.

      We discussed the idea of coming up with a kind of Gamesmaster's
      Roadmap, or Guidelines for Gamesmasters which we don't think has
      really been adequately done in print yet. Peter may take a first
      crack at that, and so we can give it our reviews and critiques when
      that comes along.

      It also occurs to us that maturity of the Players and Gamesmaster is
      important to the conducting of a Literary Quality World. You
      wouldn't have much luck introducing small kids to the opera, but for
      adults it can be an extremely rewarding experience. In the same
      way, a Great World (truly Literary) might well be wasted on a group
      of Players whose only interest happens to be in a video-game-like RPG
      experience. So the Gamesmaster must also be on the lookout for the
      best, most creative and theatrical Players as well.

      How the Gamesmaster's selection of the Rules System he chooses to
      run, whether it be D&D, or Vampires, or Dogs in the Vineyard, also
      will influence how Literary the World is likely to be. What I am
      thinking is that some rules systems which are very complex may be
      also burdensome to the story with interruptions to do calculations
      and/or disruptions do to miscalculations and so on. The more complex
      the rules, the more likely they are to burden the story. Thus, I am
      trying to focus on a streamlined set of rules, the ODS, which I
      actually created last March 1st for the LRPGSW. We discussed their
      possible uses for our group and so depending on how things go we may
      give the ODS rules a whirl when we want to run an experimental fast
      game to demonstrate a GMing technique or discussing GM strategy.

      RPGs are like theatre. Gamesmasters are a fusion of director,
      author, referee, historian, and so on. How the Gamesmaster pulls
      together all of the skills and knowledge necessary to create and run
      a Literary Quality World is something which we'd like to continue to
      discuss and work toward. We'd also like to try running various
      Rules Systems as a group of Gamemasters so that we can study them and
      discuss their merits and critique them. We're into the idea of a
      mutual collaboration society.

      Lastly, we talked about a few ideas that City Gamemasters might use
      to try to slow down their City-folk Players: The GM expresses that
      the Players should slow down and play the game unrushed. The GM
      creates a Game Space in which the right atmosphere and mood is
      created. The GM establishes good lighting, a musical background of
      whatever sort fits the genre of their game. Candle light can be used
      to enhance the atmosphere, as well as the use of certain country
      aromas such as cedar wood or pine. The objective being to create a
      separate space which in numerous ways draws the Players out of their
      City-Mode and into the Game World.

      Well, that's kind of it in a nutshell. Thanks Peter!

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