Formal Scene Structure to Facilitate and Intrigue in Pavis Game: Feedback sought.

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Formal Scene Structure to Facilitate and Intrigue in Pavis Game: Feedback sought. Submitted by Erik Weissengruber on Sat, 12/05/2012 – 21:50

Robin Laws’ games are successful and popular because he builds his highly-focused designs based on his observations of actual play behaviours.  And Heroquest does a great job of bringing the experience of episodic adventure stories (in film, comics, and narrative) to the table.

The problem is that I need a little more structure than that provide by the pass/fail rhythm, or Heroquest 2.0’s advice on pacing a session by using strategically employed resolution methods.

So I have come up with my own scene economy and Narrator-moves to run an episodic game of intrigue and rebellion in the canonical Glorantha setting of Pavis, a city hewn out of the body of a giant statue animated by a mighty enchanter.

I do not want to give into arbitrary decisions on resistance levels, the scale of threats to the PCs and their goals, the long-term fate of the setting, or the proximity of the rebellion, civil war, and apocalyptic Hero Wars.  I do not want to engage in the (benign?) railroading that the current iteration of the rules tacitly endorse and which many players still come to expect from a story-heavy role playing game.

Also, I have to manage an ensemble cast of 8 PCs.

The previous session’s determination of Crises to be faced in the current session activates latent potentials from setting creation.  Each of the clan’s resources (Magic, War, Peace, Harmony, Morale) is associated with two of the factions from the setting, one faction being friendly or allied with the clan, one from an enemy, rival, or other out group.   Both factions need the resource and are prepared to engage the PCs to get access to it.

It is the narrator’s job to make the two factions’ claims to the contested resource matter to the players.  The challenge is to make the enemy or out group’s claim on the resource compelling.  The Narrator MUST think of compelling reasons why the PCs would choose to give precious resources to members of an out group and find ways to get their clan to go along.

The players are to push to aid the clan generated in setting creation: strengthen resources, transform accidental growth in resources into a permanent improvement, make up for losses, augment the clan’s magic, alter the clan’s values or rituals.  Each session’s long Extended Contest will deliver changes to the PCs AND to the resource which has been the centre of the evening’s activity.

So the genre is high fantasy.

My GM-principles
* Make Pavis seem real
* Make the Lunar occupation feel uncomfortable
* Give the players chances to be heroic
* Put their clan at risk, but give players the opportunity to intervene
* Allow players the chance to shape the setting through rituals, heroquesting, and shaping the clan’s relationship to other groups
* maintain the credibility of a world divided into the mundane, exceptional, heroic, superheroic, and the divine

Inputs into a Session
* current status of the clan’s resources (numbers determined at setting creation)
* current crises growing out of resource fluctuation (fictional positioning but relevant crises were determined by rolls at the end of previous session)
* Loresheets – elements of the setting that players paid for with Hero Points at the end of last session – are reviewed: the GM is to strive to include elements from the players’ chosen lore sheets in this session, failure to do so means giving 1 Hero Point to each player whose chosen Loresheet was overlooked. “Thank You” to Weapons of the Gods for tying together player interest in the setting, canonical matter, and in-game currency in their Lore Sheets concept.

Pre-Game
1) Review previous session’s activities
2) GM specifies the kind of crisis being faced and the factions involved
3) Lore Sheet review – specifying which ones are active
4) Clockwise, each player highlights the Rune of Interest on neighbouring player’s sheet (a use of this rune means it gets advanced by 1 at the end of the session)
5) Narrator highlights 1 Ability of interest on each player’s sheet (a use of this ability means it gets advanced by 1 at the end of the session)

During the Game
– Players put a check next to any ability on which Hero Points are spent
– Players put a “+” beside those abilities used successfully
– Players put a “-“ beside those abilities used unsuccessfully

Player Scenes (16)
– 8 Solo scenes (1 per player)
Like Color Scenes from Burning Empires – we get a slice of the player’s current activities and mindset, unlike BE players get one roll, most likely some kind of augment to a future use of an ability.)
– 8 Group scenes (1 per player)
Each player has a chance to engage with one NPC with whom they have a specified relationship.  Narrator may allow other PCs to be present with the understanding that other NPCs can thereby be present as well.  Such scenes could be resolved with any of the simple conflict mechanisms in the rules-set.
    – 5 NPC scenes
    – 3 specific kinds of scene
    (players may only have 1 of each)
    a) Clan Scene: a scene where a player tries to engage the clan leadership
    b) Team Scene: a scene where a player may set some inter-character planning.  I have grown tired of repeated “so what are we going to do” in-character discussions.
    c) Rune Scene: a scene where one of the 3 runes which ties the player to the magico-religious-cultural premises of the setting is at issue.
– The “hero” card: the player who grabs this may tie his or her individual successes to any of the clan’s resources.  The downside is that his or her failures will hurt the clan as well.

GM Side
– 2 Schemer Scenes (1 for In Group figure of note, 1 for Out Group figure of note).  These are unlike the scenes in Burning Empires or the players’ solo scenes in that the FoN’s do not roll dice.  This is solely for fictional positioning.  A leader of the town watch fuming at a previous defeat by Jo-Jo the Sword Master has every right to confront Jo-Jo in a later scene backed up by his 25 constables.  I cannot have the watchman’s fuming followed up by an entire Legion sweeping into the ghetto where the clan dwells.
– 2 Intrigue Scenes (1 for the In Group figure of note, 1 for the Out Group figure of note).  The Narrator frames the FoNs conspiring with each other, or with further different groups to gain further fictional positioning.  PCs may ask or be asked to be present.
– Extended Conflict: the GM calls for the session’s Extended Conflict when the full extent of the PCs fictional positioning has become clear.  He may bring it about before he has completed all of his 4 other scenes.  He may ask to bring it before the PCs have completed all of theirs, but may not do so without consent.  Results of this Extended Conflict help (or harm) the clan’s resource.

Closing Montage
– Crisis review: how was the crisis met in or through any of the conflicts or player scenes?  GM and players contribute to a montage revealing the fictional effects of the scenes.  This fiction should be taken into account in the next session.
– Also, address the consequences associated with the “hero” card.

Post Game.
– Give 3 Hero Points
– For any players whose chosen Lore Sheets were not addressed in the session, give a further Hero Point to the owning players
– Total up checks, “+” and “-“ marks.  The ability which earned the most of each type is advanced by 1.  (These stack with each other and with bonuses for being a Rune or Ability of interest)
– Players may chose to advance an Ability by 1 for every Hero Point they choose to spend, or a Keyword by 1 for every 2 Hero Points they spend
– players may purchase 1 new lore sheet each at a cost of 1 HP
– players decide which Lore Sheets will be active next session, including any just purchased
– advance the default difficulty by 1 (this is a faster increase than the rulebook suggests)
– hand shakes all around

All resistances will be set using the pass-fail mechanic.
 

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Updated procedures

Submitted by Erik Weissengruber on Thu, 16/08/2012 – 12:46.

Are available here:

 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xysQIVau5FszHqDyZ39CC6trk4SDbvdoWnwz…

Philmagpie's picture

YGMV

Submitted by Philmagpie on Wed, 16/05/2012 – 01:56.

Hi,

That is quite a formal scene structure that you are adopting, but my experience of HeroQuest suggests that it is a flexible rule system and should be able to cope.

What you describe reminds me very much of Robin Laws’ forthcoming DramaSystem setting of Hillfolk. You may want to take a look at his Blog for more details.

Happy Gaming

Phil

Formality

Submitted by Erik Weissengruber on Thu, 16/08/2012 – 12:44.

Yeah!

 

I was panicked when the first session had 7-8 players.  But we have slimmed down since then.

 

I look at it as a pacing mechanism.  When the bulk of the allotted scenes have happenend I just push onwards to some group extended contest. 

 

Most of the procedures have been internalized.  I find it easier to keep notes and review the session when I have a structure like this.

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