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jeudi 14 décembre 2017

Strategic Gamemastering, part 4: Matrix campaigns

You've read all three installments of the Strategic Gamemastering posts, and you're telling yourself that while the method certainly could work for one-shot scenarios with strongly divergent characters, you are still in doubt that the THACO tool could manage the several pre-written adventures, modules or 50-scenario campaign that you have bought for your favorite game.

Your main issue is that if, in accordance to the process described in Part 3 of Strategic Gamemastering, you decompose a single scenario into its base components and enter them into the THACO for subsequent exploitation, the player-characters will enter the scenario in a manner certainly consistent with their own objectives or background, but probably not in the manner envisioned by the scenario author but by each following their own creative agendas.

Since player-characters will be entering the narrative threads of the scenario in an uncontrollable and unpredictable manner, there is also a definite possibility that the scenario will unfold in a manner wildly different from the author-driven narrative direction. This, of course, implies a massive uncertainty as to whether the ending of the scenario will match the beginning of the next campaign scenario as envisioned by the campaign designers !

These reservations are quite legitimate. However, the Strategic Gamemastering method also provides for long-winded campaigns and even follow-up campaigns. This post will show you how.

Lire la suite...

jeudi 6 juillet 2017

[Stratégie de maîtrise] Strategic Gamemastering traduit sur PTGPTB !

L'équipe de Places To Go, People To Be a eu la bonté (et le courage) de traduire en français intelligible mon premier billet de la série "Strategic Gamemastering". Qu'ils en soient loués et remerciés !

Voici le lien vers la traduction du billet :

"La maîtrise de jeu stratégique"

Les billets suivants de la série "Strategic Gamemastering" sont accessibles via les liens ci-dessous :

lundi 25 juillet 2016

[Tactique de maîtrise] Les descriptions synesthétiques

La mise en œuvre de descriptions captivantes est l'un des piliers d'une narration réussie. Ce billet explore la manière dont le recours à la synesthésie peut constituer un outil utile pour raccourcir les descriptions tout en les faisant s'adresser aux émotions et au ressenti plus qu'à la seule raison.

Lire la suite...

mercredi 2 septembre 2015

Strategic Gamemastering, part 3: Flags, THACO, and plot hook writing practices

Readers have brought my attention to several articles on flag framing. Basically, "flags"are all data objects on the character sheet.

If you haven't done so yet, I urge you to go read these insightful articles by experienced gamemasters.

Flags and cues

Flag usage, especially as described in the last article in the above paragraph, does cover a lot of the ground also covered by the first article on strategic gamemastering. Flags, however, are not limited to the character sheet : everything on and outside the character sheet is a valid data flag and can be exploited.

Furthermore, the second installment of the strategic gamemastering articles goes further, by:

  • providing a categorization of the cues/flags, which has consequences regarding the manner in which said cues can and will be exploited by the gamemaster
  • presenting the THACO tool as a rational, and systematic management of cues/flags, not only for designing plot hooks and/or an adventure based on player-character data, but also for managing the evolution of said cues/flags over the course of the game and campaign.

The THACO in comparison to other tools

The THACO tool is not a conflict web and has never been designed as such.

The THACO is a systematization tool designed to represent in a visual, efficient, and reproductible manner all GM mental processes related with the Shared Imagined Space at a specific time. The successive THACO diagrams over a campaign can show the evolution of the characters as well as that of the setting

The THACO incurs consequences for the manner in which the GM creates his adventures.

Being a systematization tool for any game data, not limited to the use of the PC character sheet flags, regular use of a THACO tool incurs further consequences in the manner the GM will read adventures & NPC descriptions created by third-parties: everything is a flag, including any and all data in an adventure and/or NPC fluff & stats, and the THACO-using GM will be decomposing said adventures and NPCs into their constituent objects (flags).

Let's try it with a quite straightforward adventure:
A herald announces that the princess has been kidnapped by a dragon, looking for vengeance after the kingdom's armies drove him from the land many years ago. The aging king offers a reward for whomever will rescue the princess and return her to her sire. Unbekownst to the king, his daughter the princess is in league with the rebel barons. They plot to overthrow the king and crown his daughter, using this kidnapping as a pretext to approach the king in order to assassinate him.

Decomposed into a THACO and combined with the preexisting character THACO rows, then color-coded for obvious commonalities, we obtain this:

PC_THACO_and_Adventure_THACO

Note that the adventure objects are not decomposed into the Background and Objectives rows, but into "Setting" and "Events to come" rows.

The simple color-coding of identical objects makes the "Youth" thematic appear, which might bring some promising interactions between the two characters of the young mage and the princess. The dragon, of course, is the focal point of many important thematics.

For the next steps of remote linking & GM-decision linking, we've dispensed with the links that had been established between the player-characters, and focused on the links between the PC and the adventure. The result would look like this:

THACO_adventure_complete

Only a few links are required to immediately perceive which angles might be the most effective to embroil the PCs into the plot. The assassination thematic in PC#3's background row would normally fit the plot by the rebel barons, and could be linked to the adventure "Political instability" theme, but depending on how the PC approach plot, such a link presents a risk of putting the assassin PC directly at odds with the rest of the group: this is an example of "Opposition linking" which I described in the second installment of the Strategic gamemastering article.

Consequences on plot hook writing practices

Let's (tamely) fantasize for a moment. What if adventures and NPCs were already decomposed before the strategic GM begins to work on his THACO?

Nothing prevents the writer of an adventure or an NPC from taking a few minutes to decompose said adventure or NPC into its elementary components.
These components would not be character cues or flags, but adventure and/or NPC cues.
If the author were to organize these elements in a simple THACO, possibly with a color-code for common objects, the GM could then directly add the adventure and NPC rows to his THACO.
The point is that this simple and admittedly obvious work, since no one knows the objects composing an adventure, a campaign and/or NPCs better than their inventor, enable the author himself to dispense with the tedium of having to create and list the plot hooks to his setting, scenario or NPC.
These plot hooks would become readily apparent as soon as the GM :

  • integrates the relevant object rows to the THACO of his own gaming group;
  • performs the three steps (color-coding, remote linking & decisionary linking) of THACO integration.

Conclusion

The only question that remains is whether adventure & NPC writers will pick up the practice of creating a synthetic table of the THACO objects in their own works, in order to speed up the process through which a GM gets hold of said adventure or NPC, and makes the PC interact with the associated plot.
I strongly hope that they do, because decreasing author effort while simplifying the life of GMs seems to be in everyone's interests.