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Hantverksklubben 20: Insertions

Again we barely managed to get enough people to run a session of Hantverksklubben yesterday, but that's ok! Three people joining is pretty standard by now. As usual, the original play report is in Swedish and can be found at rollspel.nu here. This will be a slightly polished Google translation, so if you can read Swedish, the original is probably going to be better written.

We got to play together last night, too. Me, Kim and Lukas.

Since Lukas finally showed up, we finally got to the theme that has been at the top of the list since we started Hantverksgruppen: Inserting things into other people's scenes. Here are our topics of conversation before the game start:

  • Fear of stopping the flow of the scene
  • Lovecraftesque
  • Using a signal to mean "I want to say something"
  • Take breaks to "let people in"
  • "You can come in later, if you want"
  • Make it explicit already in the scene setting. "You play the storm."
  • "Bird in ear" technique
  • Be clear about what kind of scene you are setting. Do you have a specific idea, or can I jump in and pull it in a new direction?
  • Can provide more dynamic play, more surprises
  • Stop conflicts, prevent secrets from being revealed
  • Throw in unexpected events, not just people
  • Point out things you have noted. Director?
  • Invite third parties, ask questions

Brief summary of the story:

The fearless adventurer Brigitte LeLoup is about to make her perhaps greatest discovery ever: A French research team has managed to decipher a long unsolved language from an extinct people in the Amazon and has found nothing less than a description of the road to Eldorado. Together with the academic Michel, and reluctantly in partnership with the unpleasant English adventurer "Tony" Lutherton, she embarks on a life-threatening journey. She will face horrific storms, inhospitable jungles, unfaithful betrayals, and the people of Eldorado, who are not as extinct as you might think…

A rather stereotypical 1930s pulp story, albeit with a bit of innovative details, such as that Eldorado's people consisted, not of humans, but of masks, which were now worn by jungle monkeys and gave them intelligence and some form of telepathy. It was a fun story. Nothing heavy and emotional like last time, but something more light, but the techniques we played with kept it interesting anyway.

As for the theme, I do not know if we made any revolutionary discoveries. We said before the game that we were generally open so that people could throw things in the middle of a scene that pulls it away in a completely different direction, and we worked a lot with communication about this when setting scenes. So much, in fact, that when one of us jumped into the middle of a scene, it was seldom unexpected, even though it might still pull the scene in a new direction. Since we were only three players and we worked with this, you never got a quiet moment, but all three were continuously involved in all scenes. I found this a bit exhausting, but not so much that it was a real problem (like when we ran "Describe to activate other participants", session 7).

The trick we used the most was probably to let a third player play "the jungle" or "the storm" or similar, or just "the apartment", as in giving descriptions of what it looks like there. That kind of division of authority was a bit interesting. Kim set the scene when Brigitte came home, and Tony tricked her into her apartment. He played Tony himself, because he had an idea of ​​what he was going to do, and I played Brigitte. Had I set such a scene in a regular session, I would have set the scene with some descriptions of the apartment, or possibly asked some questions to the person playing Brigitte. Instead, Kim "outsourced" the descriptions of the apartment to Lukas, allowing him to focus on what he wanted to do with the scene, while activating Lukas and involving him in the scene. It also meant that the descriptions did not end when the dialogue started, as they often do in such scenes. Good trick!

Two scenes that turned out really well may not have had much to do with the theme. They were about the two times where the characters fought against the elements. In one they were on a boat in a storm and in the other they walked for weeks through the jungle. I have experienced these types of challenges, where the characters fight against nature, as quite rare and difficult to achieve in a good way in role-playing games, but here they instead became some of the most memorable in the session.

In the storm scene, I played the storm, Kim played the crew and Lukas played Brigitte. I think this division was an important part of it going well. I could focus entirely on bringing the storm to life, describing the high waves and really going all out in a way that I think is important for this type of scene to work. I interrupted them, talked about how their cries disappeared in the wind, and worked to create interesting situations, especially the one where Brigitte was holding a rope, to the other end of which a sailor thrown overboard was desperately clinging. I described how the ship's coffin from the cabin had gotten loose and began to slide towards the stern where Brigitte was standing. It was a gripping moment where she was forced to let go and let the sailor be swept away by the waves so that she herself would not be crushed by the coffin.

In the jungle scene, I used a trick from the "Scene setting" session instead (session 3): We simply took turns making short descriptions of one or a couple of sentences to describe the long journey through the jungle. This trick works great for this type of montage scene. You can get long descriptions of events without it becoming a monologue. Instead, everyone is engaged and participates throughout the scene. A lot happened during that scene: the food started to run out, a carrier was killed by an unknown predator, the monkeys, who would prove important later, were introduced, people got sick, Tony possibly killed them during the night so that they would not slow down the expedition , and so on. It gave a good feeling for the long and arduous journey in a way that was fun and interesting to play through. I think this technique is really suitable for this kind of "zoomed out" event.

One thing I'm less happy with is how I got a fixed idea at the end about how things hung together (that Eldorado's people were monkeys controlled by magic masks) and pushed it pretty hard, including that I shot down an idea that Kim threw in in my scene, and then jumped into Kim's scene and inserted my own idea. I let myself get a little too fond of my own idea and used the open approach that we have in the group to force it. It was a cool ending and so on, and no one took offense, but in retrospect I would have wanted to be more open in this situation. Good lesson, anyway!

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

As usual there are too many things to think and talk about! Front and center for me is how to determine or know whose scene this is, or better, what that even means. I doubt it means anything at the general "what is role-playing" level, but I'd really like to get a lock on what it meant for this session among the three of you.

Regarding playing things like storms and so on, at the risk of sending people to go watch and listen to me talking, the presentation I give in Space/Light/Oxygen seems relevant. I talk about "people vs. furniture," and "awakening" the latter into people, including the subcategory of being adversarial.

Simon Pettersson's picture

Front and center for me is how to determine or know whose scene this is, or better, what that even means. I doubt it means anything at the general "what is role-playing" level, but I'd really like to get a lock on what it meant for this session among the three of you.

Ah, yes, that's a good question! For the purpose of the theme of this session, "someone else's scene" generally means a scene you're not involved in, i.e. you didn't set the scene (we do rotating scene setting), nor play a character in it. However, we sort of sidestepped this in the session by explicitly inviting the third player into the scene, either as a specefic thing ("the storm"), or just as a "you can step in any time you like".

Does that clarify things?

Ron Edwards's picture

It does!

On a purely selfish or intellectual note, the "experiment" would have been tighter if the group had maintained a specific type of scene ownership, so the question of inserting things into others' scenes would have been identifiable or variously answered in play. However, obviously, you, Kim, and Lukas are not anyone's guinea pigs and having a good time is the real priority.

Thinking about it some more ... perhaps the insight for me is that scene ownership is not itself particularly useful as a concept. Fiction/play (whatever we call it, "story" even, whatever) doesn't occur without scenes - they are a given, not an option, not a "tool" or "component." Your session provides a lot of power regarding how we may participate, while a scene is played, rather than mine vs. thine regarding the scene as a whole.

Simon Pettersson's picture

On a purely selfish or intellectual note, the "experiment" would have been tighter if the group had maintained a specific type of scene ownership, so the question of inserting things into others' scenes would have been identifiable or variously answered in play. However, obviously, you, Kim, and Lukas are not anyone's guinea pigs and having a good time is the real priority.

Yeah, we're "experimental", but not in a scientific sense. The priority is havibg a good time and learning skills and techniques that can be used in future gaming.

Thinking about it some more ... perhaps the insight for me is that scene ownership is not itself particularly useful as a concept. Fiction/play (whatever we call it, "story" even, whatever) doesn't occur without scenes - they are a given, not an option, not a "tool" or "component." Your session provides a lot of power regarding how we may participate, while a scene is played, rather than mine vs. thine regarding the scene as a whole.

Yes, that's a good takeaway. I think "ownership" is present to varying degrees as a social, if not technical, fact around the table. And that degree can be adjusted through communication. One big lesson we've leaned during these sessions is that in the (relative) absence of formal constraints, communication about intentions is important. So I can set a scene saying "I've got an idea that I want to introduce. You'll see where this is going", or I can set it saying "I don't really have any plan here, so if you get a fun idea, just run with it".

There will be different social feelings about the ownership of the scene in these cases. In the first case, you can absolutely add some color, but if you start the scene with a spectacular conflict, I might be miffed and feel you've taken my scene from me. In the second, I'd be thrilled. And, to be clear, the first case doesn't necessarily mean I have an idea on how the will end, just on what it's about.

Rod_A's picture

Hi Simon, it's really cool to read about these sessions and see the sheer quantity of figuring-stuff-out that takes place. Like, when I was orbiting the world of OSR blogs around ten years ago, a frequent topic was "how do we make overland travel interesting, or should we even bother", with the best solution going seeming to be "one person prepares a bunch of map spaces and puts things in all of them". A lot of work even for a obsessive creator, and at least in my experience, playing in these spaces still entailed a lot of not-very-compelling wandering around and looking for the thing to get excited about. Your jungle trick neatly fixes this on multiple levels -- we get the eventful travel narrative, but it doesn't drag, and it's not all on one person's shoulders. It would be neat to see something like this find its way into a game where you also roll dice to hit the monsters, level up and all that jazz.

Simon Pettersson's picture

Thanks! The way we do it is very collaborative and director stancy, but I wonder if it would work well with a more traditional setup, too. The GM says a thing, everyone takes turns saying a thing, etc. 

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