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Forge: Out of Chaos - Arbitrary Advancement and an example of a GM lost in the murk

Our Forge: Out of Chaos game continues. We decided to wave a magic wand and advance the characters to what seems like a reasonable “next tier” of effectiveness, giving Robbie’s magic-using character Cyir Level 3 with his Magic skill and Sean’s roguish/scoutish Wrosk improvement throughout his repertoire of skills. We made this decision after coming to the realization that by sticking to the advancement rules as written, we would need to play for several years before Robbie’s character would have access to much more than one or two low level spells per session.

I wanted to run a few city-style sessions, and Robbie and Sean were willing to humor me. The material I am using is from the write up to Gabor Lux’s Khosura from Fight On! Magazine (the city itself is described in issue 9 and the catacombs and dungeons beneath the city in issue 10, with an additional dungeon “sub-level” from issue 1), along with his collection of random encounters for cities, The Nocturnal Table. In adapting this for Forge, I’ve simplified things quite a bit (mainly by stripping down the number of factions in play) and replaced the creatures/monsters with some of my favorites from the Forge rulebook.

I don’t have too much more to say about the game in general at the moment, but I did notice something while watching our most recent actual play video that I thought might be of interest as a topic for reflection/discussion: I don’t like watching videos of myself, in general, and I’ve found I have an even harder time watching videos of myself trying to GM. However, I was going over the most recent video for our Forge: Out of Chaos game to refresh my memory about some details to aid in prepping for the next session, and made an interesting observation.

At the very beginning, you can see me struggling to set up the scene, not quite getting on how I want to present the information, wanting to give enough context to provide grounding for meaningful decisions, as well as wanting to get flavor/mood/color details across, but almost completely at a loss for words (painfully repeating the same non-information over and over again). Then at around the 4 minute mark, I decided that what I was doing wasn’t working and should just start in with the scene: i.e., stop being abstract, stop providing context, and focus on what the characters are doing, where they are physically standing, which NPCs they are currently interacting with.

Everything started working at that point! I don’t know that I would generalize from this to say that one should always avoid more abstract scene-setting, but I think the video is a nice example of someone struggling with murk and then refocusing on the basics of the medium to de-murkify the scene.

The embedded link goes to the most recent session and here’s the link to the playlist.

Actual Play
Fight On!


Ron Edwards's picture

You've provided an excellent companion experience to our game and discussion of Dialect, which I think showcases this issue as a design flaw, especially in comparison with their otherwise sharp and clear delineation of authorities (who and over what).

If it's OK with you, take a look at the opening moments of any of the Spelens Hus RuneQuest game sessions or the Undiscovered sessions, both of which absolutely require sensory grounding and a clear common ground of "where, who, and who is exactly where" for play to occur at all.

Sean_RDP's picture

This last weekend I ran a convention game and this was on my mind. I watched the 4eR Pyschadellic videos because I was curious again how you (Ron) got follks focused and headed in more or less the right direction. I will go back and watch the RQ and Undiscovered videos

Jon, I was going through this a bit yesterday when I ran the 3.5e game for Helma and Tommi. In our second session I was having a bit of trouble trying to tap into the energy from the first session and keep it going in the second, which I am not sure I did a good job of. From a player perspective, I did note you seemed to be trying to find good context for us and what was going on, and I think  you did that. We were moving to a totally new place and we had a bunch of baggage from the previous set of sessions to take care of before we could get rolling. So that was a lot that you had to juggle before we got into the new content. 

At least the first four minutes, which are all I've watched. I recognize that impulse to contextualize, as if providing background and reminders and meaning for everything up-front is what will get play to go, as opposed to the concrete elements of play, as you've identified. 

Thanks for calling that segment out; it's very informative and a great reminder.

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