Kim: pacing, balance and additive play

Not everybody is hooked into LiveJournal, but Mr. Kim always has interesting links and comments. Recently:

jhkimrpg: Additive vs. Negational, and Blocking
Additive Play
So I discussed some about what additive play is in the Additive/Negational post. So, additive play is play where there is no negative input. If someone suggests something, that thing is accepted as truth. Everyone else accepts that and goes on to add other things to the fiction.
Taken broadly, this applies even to questions. For example, if in an improv scene, I were to ask you “Are you on your way to the Chesterfield meat market?” — then the non-blocking thing to do is to say “Yes.” By saying no, you would be shooting down my idea. By asking that question, I introduced the element of the Chesterfield meat market — and additive play is based on the idea that each element should be used and built upon. In comic improv, you might respond with an elaboration like “Yes, I’m taking this ostrich there to be slaughtered.” This accepts the meat market, and adds the ostrich.
In Paul’s podcast, he expressed that one of the problems of blocking in improv was that it can turn into a status clash — where the actors are trying to put down or deny other actors’ input. I think that is true, but there is also plenty of room for status clash within additive play. Actors vie to dominate the scene by jumping in first to define more. By keeping a steady stream of output, a fast-talking improv actor can easily dominate others in the scene.
This rewards aggressiveness and speed of judgement in terms of the social discourse. This is a good thing in many ways. It means that you have fast pacing, and that you will likely get through any resolution quickly.

To those who have been in F2F Amber games, this may sound quite familiar or put words to something you have felt in play. Kim’s comments briefly touch on ‘Push/Pull’ (one of my favorite little gems from Mo, who is now here rather than there.)


(And if you have time, Push/Pull gets a very nice over-view by Brand here.)
So in a game system like Everway or Amber, how to support creative additive play without encouraging the Wanker Rule*?
Pacing is critical.
The ‘talking stick’ or a half-eye on the clock or the ’round-the-table-clockwise’ method I used to use are decent ways to remember to shift the spotlight. It’s not exactly comparable to ‘fast cuts’ in a movie, but you really do want reaction and input from each person in turn. You want to get the whole cast to remember that ‘reaction shots’ are coming up when the GM turns to them.
When everyone gets the habit of being ready to layer a bit into the shared creative, those good habits benefit the whole crew.
*Wanker Rule: If you find a way to interpret a rule that clearly damages the play environment, sabotages other people’s fun or is just plain nonsensical, don’t use the rule in that way.
In other words, don’t be a wanker.