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How to play, not explaining play away

I'm boosting this comment from a prior post into its own post, because some collective feedback is just what this needs about now. BPG has put together the Directions Storyplaying - Experience Guide.
For more details,  click on the Slide settings  > "Open speaker notes" or download the Experience Guide PDF here.

BPG wrote about the specific changes he made in that comment, but for here, let's look at what's here rather than what was. Note that there is now one core resolution mechanic: Random Tables on the Fly, in which the group can set up either a single or cross-reference dice outcome track at the moment of resolution.

As I see it, this is a brilliant solution to the ongoing problem - long plaguing Primetime Adventures play - of asking/saying, "what is this scene about." Here, it's split explicitly between starting a scene simply with a number of elements in place, and discovering what the most plausible/enjoyable crisis-items are given whatever immediate conflicts pop up. It gets away from the tedious Lit 101 topic of "what is the conflict in this scene" and into the completely doable, transparent procedure of "oh shit what could happen now."

You've probably noticed the four-game inquiry that's been inadvertently created here in consulting - House of Spiders, Tales of Entropy, Be-Movie, and Directions Storyplaying - all of which aim toward shared/traded GMing, toward scene mechanics, and toward structural rather than fine-grained immediate variables. It's a great look at the applied logic that goes all the way back to Amber and Theatrix, through Universalis and Primetime Adventures.

If you're interested in the questions associated with this design "family," please take a look at this slideshow and see if you can try it out with some people - this is where we're seeing how it works as a teaching tool.



I've reviewed the material on the website for this game. I am interested by what I see, but confused about how player contribution relate to conflict resolution.

How do the random tabls relate to player conttributions to the fiction? Do the character efforts. If so, how?

- Alan


Good heavens! How did that get so garbled?

I meant: "How do the random tables relate to player contributions? Do the character efforts define what goes into the tables, or do the table dictate the outcome regardless of character action?

Ron Edwards's picture

H'm, I'm not sure if I'm answering what you're asking, but I'll try ...

The random tables are created on the fly, right there at the table. Therefore what everyone has said about what's happening, including what their characters are doing, are factored into the tables.

On the one hand, that excludes things that no one thinks is very interesting or important to resolve randomly, and on the other, it privileges things that people think deserve special note, and it seems to me that having stated that your character is passionately and furiously pursuing some line of action would go a long way toward getting the appropriate result into a better/more-likely outcome zone on the table.

I think that helps. Let me unpack my thinking a bit.

In most RPGs, players negotiate for conflict outcomes using skill rolls and the like -- representing how the character's fictional qualities affect the fictional outcome. If I understand your explanation correctly: during the play of a scene, the players in Storyplay contribute outcomes that seem appropriate and interesting to the random table. This would include any players desiere to have outcomes that reflect their character's compitence. 

On the other hand, I suppose it might be interesting play to include outcomes that seem to defy character compitencies -- then you have the option of portraying how the character remains compitent, but circumstances or a plot twist get in the way.

Ron Edwards's picture

That's right, in reference to two points.

  1. This discussion is right in line with what we discussed in the latest posted Monday Lab, [AA]IIEE[EE]!, specifically the large "schools" of how actions and events are ordered in play. One of the schools basically rolls "big," to find out how things turn out in general or regarding one specific outcome, in the context of many actions at once. This differs greatly from the other "school," which builds a sequence of actions linearly in in-fiction time until enough has occurred to consider certain issues resolved. Both have been around since the start of the hobby, e.g. in the contrast between Tunnels & Trolls and TFT: Melee. Directions Storyplay is an example of the former.
  2. Directions Storyplay does some neat things to avoid many of the associated pitfalls for this zone of design/play. One of the main things is to identify and address only the variables that seem important and stochastic, but also, it's able to address all of them. That might be opaque if you're not familiar with this zone, but if you are, you'll see that it's a big deal. The other main thing is that designing the table and rolling the dice doesn't happen until considerable play has already occurred in the situation; in other words, you don't make the table and then play to squeeze the characters into its variables, which is very annoying and shows up way too often in similar designs. So when the group makes the table, everyone will know quite a bit about the immediate location, extenuating circumstances, what every character is doing, what short-term consequences are looming, et cetera.

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