Narrative Control – Episode 60 – The LOST Episode

Welcome to the LOST EPISODE. The one that should have come before, but didn’t. Because sometimes there are things lost between the GM and Player. We’re talking about that communication.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Joe Harney

Length: 32:38

Show Notes
[00:24] Welcome Joe Harney. The Lost Episode.
[00:45] When things are lost between the players and GMs.
[01:13] GM as the window to the world.
[1:40] You walk into a cargo bay. What image in evoked?
[01:58] The cargo bay of Serenity.
[02:30] Value of a license setting. Establishes setting, tropes, situations,etc.
[02:58] Challenge: License settings are great… assuming you know them!
[03:28] Licensed settings require that you get everyone to a baseline understanding.
[03:45] The Battletech universe. Over 100 books. Outside our normal scope of understanding.
[04:20] Medieval Fantasy – more commonly understood settings and tropes.
[05:08] Using a setting with reflexive knowledge.
[05:54] The strength of the World of Darkness settings.
[06:25] The Tolkien Syndrome – Detailed descriptions that bore the players.
[07:14] And effort to “show not tell”.
[07:48] Focus on what the scene is about.
[08:12] The opening scene from CSI – Displaying a lot of information.
[09:00] Announce what a scene is about. You enter the scene to do X.
[09:37] Players trusting the GM to give them the information they need. GMs trusting players to take information and push forward in with it, not…
[10:02] “I attack the gazebo.”
[10:34] We’re not all looking to tell the same story, but we want our stories to be compatible.
[11:12] Discrepancies about what is actually happening in a game.
[11:42] Be willing to back up a step, if necessary.
[12:35] All the work GMs put in to their games, sad if it doesn’t come to fruition.
[13:16] Benefit of not planning a game. Nothing holding you to a plan if things change.
[13:40] Middle ground: Planning a game based off flags presented by the players.
[14:09] Discrepancy in expectations of consequences. A bugbear to untangle.
[15:25] GMing Seminar with Robin Laws and John Wick on what happens when GM and Players have different expectations of consequences.
[16:41] Easier to undo a calamity before it happens.
[17:10] The mood of the game can also shift into a different space if not held in check.
[18:04] This isn’t the game I thought I was playing.
[18:18] Inspiration for this episode: A LiveJournal post. Stakes not agreed upon in advance.
[19:15] Sacred cow turned into sacred-cow-burger.
[19:42] Why are we here? What is this game about. Are we playing to tell a cool story? Are we playing to win?
[20:46] Are those goals tied to game styles (traditional – narrative games)?
[21:43] Games that have specific mechanics to add story elements: Fiasco plot twists.
[22:36] Joe does some brain surgery.
[22:54] Win conditions, however, are easier to mechanize.
[23:20]Agree about what the game is focused on. Can I trust the GM to make mistakes.
[24:35] Secrets. Do you trust the GM to expose them? Burned players.
[25:28] They downward spiral of mistrust.
[26:01] GM afraid to offer up game elements that the players will “break”.
[27:46] The Superman metaphor.
[28:18] Tangingting… again. Player fulfilling power fantasies.
[29:32] Know where you are on the spectrum of “do you want win?”
[30:41] Hording the cool. Afraid that the cool will be lost if you spend it.
[31:15] Wrap up. Thanks Joe!

Direct Download: NC_Episode_060.mp3

5 thoughts on “Narrative Control – Episode 60 – The LOST Episode”

  1. Re: My Journal Post

    For some references: He wasn’t trying to rescue the hero, he was interested in owning the hero as a slave. The guy’s character was not altruistic at all (a trait which caused some friction between characters in the game). The character also had the opportunity to get back his defining trait (his driving skill), in the same session, but the player decided he wouldn’t bother.

    The thing is, there should be some element of risk (especially in a place like the goblin market), and when a defining element is ‘injured’ in a game, there should be the chance to recover it — though amusingly, I would have thought that being a Sin Eater was more defining than being a crack driver (which only showed up in one session of the campaign).

    Anyway, interesting to see my game referenced in the episode — I’m really interested in hearing the whole episode and looking at your other episodes. Thanks for drawing my attention to this!

    1. The situation is brought up in the show because from reading the initial post and the first 50 or so comments, I got the sense that the player felt duped. Whether he really was, is something I can’t tell without being at your table and significantly advancing my mind reading skills.

      The critique here, is made in a vacuum (we weren’t at the table, only hearing one perspective, etc) but I think it illuminates issues I’ve seen in other games. Different expectations on both sides of the table leading to frustration, playing to win, playing conservatively, not trusting each other, etc.

      It sounds from your comment (but not something I picked up on in the original post) that you were frustrated with the character’s lack of altruism and later the player’s unwillingness to accept your olive branch to make it better (warning in advance to listening, this wasn’t something I picked up on either, so you are depicted in the show, even if obliquely, as not giving him a way to back out, I apologize in advance as it sounds like that was an inaccurate assessment).

      That speaks to me that this episode might need a companion show to with it to the effect of what GMs need from their players: Willingness to explore, honesty about their goals, creating sympathetic characters, etc.

      1. Admittedly, it was a complicated situation. I had felt certain I had given enough indication that the goblin market was a treacherous place — the other players voiced concerns about going (they have been burned in the market before) — but it is sometimes the ‘easiest of a bad situation’ to get information or goods they need to further their goals.

        I had given the players some warning about the price of slaves in the market — in exchange for the slave, you need to give up something appropriate to the type of slave you’re getting. In the case of buying an Atlantean, it was suggested that the mage interested in the purchase would lose permanent dots in their Academic skill — a pretty hefty price for the mage.

        When the sin eater decided to go for the legendary hero, the warning was he would lose memories of a heroic deed they had performed. The player thought (I don’t know why) he would be able to choose the memory. The memory wound up being a period when he rescued an entire community from destruction, through incredible driving and shooting skills. I aimed for the driving skill (he’d not used it since that session), and the player protested. I offered the firearm skill, and he protested this as well.

        The players and I both mentioned he would be able to recover the skill (since this is a goblin market, nearly anything is for trade). The player just sat through the rest of the session, and didn’t get involved — even after another player did the legwork to recover the skill for him. After he left, he told another player to tell me he’d not be coming back.

        (More in Another Post)

        1. I will echo what Sean said in re: example in a vacuum. However, while Sean rightly claims that we weren’t there and we only ever got to read what was posted and then commented on, I still think it’s a “good” example.

          As you just said in the second paragraph on this response, you suggested a tangible “price”… losing dots in a specific skill.

          “Losing a memory” has no inheriant in-game mechanic, and thus was a meaningless cost in a mechanical standpoint. Once he agree to said “cost”, you then changed the price from an abstract memory to an actual mechanical penalty, namely the loss (albiet with the opportunity to recover it) of a skill. That’s the part where I imagined he felt duped.

          Don’t get me wrong, from your post this whole thing was extremely poorly handled from by your player. I hate nothing more than passive agreesive punks who don’t clearly communicate and then bitch about noone understanding what they meant to say. In fact, you’re probably better off without him in your game, in the long term.

          My point in bringing it up as an example was to merely highlight how stake setttings can go awry, and thus one needs to clearly articulate the risks and the rewards in order to not generate grief.

          1. True enough, and I don’t mind it being used as an example. I had thought I had been clear (via prior example), but perhaps I was not. I had considered mentioning more about the player, but I think it would be in poor form, and let that matter be. It was an interesting podcast, I will have to look at your earlier ones as well.

            Anyway, thanks for this!

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