Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dramatic Techniques: Q & A

In my previous post in this chain (http://detectmagic.blogspot.com/2014/07/how-to-make-people-tell-story-without.html) I brought up 10 beats or moves or agenda items that should be addressed if you want a dramatic narratives for your PCs. 

I'll reprint them here and then go into the lightweight techniques you can use to knock them out. 

  1. The PC's dissatisfaction, despair, or discontentment with the status quo. 
  2. What the PC's wants
  3. Why the PC wants it
  4. What made the PC this way
  5. What concrete plan of action the PC will take to get they want
  6. The PC's escalating dissatisfaction, despair, sorrow, or discontentment in failing to achieve what they truly want (repeatable, ideally 3x)
  7. The PC's escalating reaction to challenges to their way of thinking (repeatable, ideally 3x)
  8. The PC's ultimate decision to change mind or remain steadfast 
  9. The moment of truth, when things will go ultimately poorly or well for the character when viewed in retrospect
  10. The aftermath, where we judge the PC and his actions and convictions by seeing the effects they have and the presentation of those effects 
The techniques are actually very easy. They're not tied to any particular system or cycle, although they could be a game or exercise in themselves. 

There are two types of tech here:
  1. Active 
  2. Reactive 
  1. Ask questions, then frame scene. So is Gregor a pretty happy guy, or is there something wrong with his life in a big way? Maybe just in a malaise? Oh, his wife is being unfaithful? And so what is he doing about that? Nothing? And he wants to stay with her? Okay, let's see what it's like for him right now. Do you think he'd just be sitting at home while she's out with whomever? What's he doing while he's there? Etc. 
  2. Frame scene to have NPC ask. You as GM want to know why the PC wants what he wants. So: you hang out at the Blue Moon right? Well, you're there, and it's kind of quiet, when Igrild comes over and sits beside you. …
  3. Frame scene to twist. PC wants to convert home base village to his religion by building a giant shrine out of the bones of the monsters he's killed. He's just put the capstone on when a mob of old liners comes to destroy it; what do you do? Let all your progress be destroyed? 
  4. Frame scene to judge. Let's say that the PC from above stood his ground and drove off the mob. You can frame a scene to judge by having he funeral profession of he single person who died in the scuffle go very very slowly near the PC, old women spitting at him, etc.
  5. Create incentives. If you need to get your players to pursue the things their PCs want (and you may not need to; simply saying, "his is what you're supposed to do; this is what the game is about" maybe be enough), come up with some incentive system that ties into the game elements. Like Quest XP for taking the next step (whatever it happens to be, not a predetermined thing) toward the PC's goal. 
  6. Settle on resolution mechanism. You may need some way to finally resolve the issue, although resolution may be obvious from the fiction. If you do need a mechanism, I like ones that tie into player skill at the game. Implementations of such a mechanism are beyond scope for this post 
  1. Have NPC ask. "Why are you doing this? Why won't you just give in?"
  2. Have NPC judge. PC has set fire to rival suitor's farm. Reluctant accomplice says I can't be a part of this anymore, leaves. 
  3. Show outcome that invites judgment. PC and PCs family have refused to convert to the imperial religion despite knowing the dangers of non compliance. He comes home to find parents distraught: brother has been martyred by the empire. Then,
  4. Ask "How do you react?" The alchemist tells you that your little sister asked him about how much narxal root it would take to kill someone. [Player knows sister is suicidal.] How do you react?
You are either:
  1. Asking the player information directly, and framing scenes using the info they give you
  2. Having NPCs do your work for you, asking questions, presenting conflicting perspectives, showing the PC things that might make then reconsider 
  3. Playing out the effects of any mechanical support you've got going on behind the scenes
There's not one technique for one agenda item; you just need to get the agenda done, and the techniques are concrete steps you can take to get it done. 

This does not involve planning outcomes or moving through explicit acts or anything like that. As the precious post says, the players need not know you are actually performing techniques upon them. They're just answering questions and reacting to things. 

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