LoGaS

GM responsibility and constraints on PC backgrounds

Some various thoughts about GM constraints on world building vs Player Character backgrounds over at Facebook.LoGaS

Christopher LaHaise says:

The thing is, I prefer not having to extrapolate as a game master. If it isn’t explicitly said in the game book, then it doesn’t ‘exist’ officially. And I like things being tidy and official. I’ve noticed with LoG&S I’ve had to do a lot of extrapolating, and this kind of annoys me from time to time, because it means if I’m comparing notes between my view of how RAW with another GM, there’s going to be crossed wires. And that might become more problematic when we’re talking characters.

‘Well, my character did XYZ, because of these reasons’.
‘Err, that kind of physics doesn’t work in my setting, because of these other reasons’.
‘Huh’.

For example – how does a Gossamer L&L (Lord or Lady–ed.) take over a world and ‘claim it’? Is it a ritual? Is it just by being there long enough? Is it sheer force of will? Do they have to go someplace special? Does it involve use of power? All of these? None of these?

How does a L&L make artifacts? How do they make companions? Where do these come from? This is the kind of thing I often wonder as a game master, and what I REALLY want to know as a player.

IMC (in my campaign), the GM is very involved with approval of PC creation and background. This is not always the case with other GMs I’ve played with. Sometimes, a GM asks if you have questions, and if you don’t, the GM says ‘ok we start next weekend’ and you are off and running.

Christopher’s question above, touches on a reason why I consistently want to know more about your PC, and generally ‘sign off’ on what you have written into the PC’s backstory. Because every Player in my game is authoring legends and possibilities to the universe just by creating a Player Character. If I cannot wrap my head around the idea of your PC, or the legends that brought them into the game, then I’m not going to be as supportive of your intent as Player.

And that’s not good for the game, the GM, or the group going forward. That is a misunderstanding waiting to happen.

Case in point:

I write and run many convention games. I review the PC creations (weeks before the game is run) even though we are only likely to play that game for 4 to 6 hours. In recent memory, I ended up with a complete disconnect in the game as run between the Player intent and the GM narrative, even though I had exchanged a half dozen lengthy emails with the Player about the PC background to hone the creation process and wrap my head around what the Player wanted.

The Player made clear that the PC was very fond of outwitting Royals of Amber, and sticking it to them in their areas of expertise. But the PC was always willing to help ‘fix up’ the pranks and conflicts that resulted from showing up the Royal. The PC was supposed to be a ‘shake hands and all’s fair’ sort, within the Family Game.

But in actual play, behind the scenes of this PC legend, there were forces set into motion to take down this PC because of the string of successes and public pranks inflicted on the powerful. Payback was brewing.

End result, things blew up, and yet the Player was sideswiped by a storyline he did not see coming. The Player did not have fun, and I had to apologize for a rough finish to the game over the disconnect between us.

The importance of the anecdote is not just GM fallibility, but the idea that helping clarify the PC concept gives both sides better idea of the narrative and ‘fences’ of the story to come. Without some idea of PC backstory ‘why?’ and legend, you don’t have fuel for immersive narrative collaboration.

Now the other part of Christopher’s question is about what is ‘official’ and what isn’t between the rules, the game, and other GMs. What does the rule set say about creating things the rules have not specifically included?

Well. Um.

Actually, while Lords of Gossamer and Shadow is a step up in clear communication from the predecessor Amber Diceless Role Playing Game, the power of a diceless game and the collaborative space between a GM and Player is the actual fuel for expanding and making the game your own. So specifically, if the Player doesn’t write it into their background, it does not exist in the Player’s half of the collaborative space.

That does not mean it doesn’t exist in the GM’s half of that collaboration. It has to.

So the answer to Christopher’s question is, extrapolate the missing info, or invent something, or ask more questions of the Player, and/or provide a placemark in your GM notes for the Universe to have some mechanism for answering that missing info. So like some twisted version of the old Champions game, you do have to pick your ‘special effects’ with your PC story.

Did your PC legend come from scifi or magic? Well then, your dominion of a Gossamer world probably involves that same source. The hitech gal learns the ultimate hack codes. The sorcerer supreme fella finally takes over from the Ancient One.

Does your companion have special powers in a mundane package? Again you really should get the Player to tie this into their back story. How did you meet the shapeshifter horse you ride through the Grand Stair? Where did you acquire the golden belt that becomes a 30 foot tall beast?

My GM solution to gaps in the rules (or a PC’s back story) is that this is where the GM has to step up and make it all reinforce the narrative. How can I strengthen the story? How can I speed up the game? How can I make the group thread together more strongly? How can I illustrate the wonder of the Grand Stair through these little details, and also make it more exciting for me to be part of the canvas shepherding this narrative along?

For the Player or GM that finds this kind of sudden improvisation rather challenging or producing anxiety, it may be good to have a cheat sheet list of mysteries/narratives that can source your answer.

This list might be a genre list, or something from the Tropes wiki so you can avoid cliche. Perhaps showing this to the Player prompts them to give the GM the missing bit of info, or a promise to write up a little paragraph about the Artifact or Extra Power.

And then you can decide how it fits into the Greater Puzzles the Player does not know about yet.

Save

Crossing the Forbidden, and not Breaking the Universe, and GM responsibility

Some various thoughts about Shapeshifting in the LoGaS discussion group.LoGaS

The short answer is, yes, I’ve used these (shapeshifting) rule tweaks in my campaign and in convention play. I try not to use convention play for any examples, because I feel Players in a 4 to 8 hour game that only happens once (or maybe continues) will do madcap things and make choices that are certainly NOT long-term immortal mindset.

YMMV

IMC (in my campaign), the GM is very forthcoming with OOC warnings, and impartial to Players going across forbidden lines where they might/shall lose control of some aspect of their PC. Sometimes that becomes a story about ‘getting back’ to normal once the crisis is over. Sometimes it becomes a learning experience where the PC discovers something new about themselves.

Generally, I find Players do NOT want their PC changed by the GM and so they take these warnings seriously. In conventions, I see a more mixed reaction, where the Player may see more ‘spotlight time’ if they take the chance and dance across the Forbidden. There are certainly some Players who are OK torturing their PC concept and grabbing more face time with the GM.

As I say above, I’m pretty open and informative as a GM. I consider my advice to Players as not only their own Expertise (Attribute wise and/plus immortal experience) but also I definitely want it to be more than clear that if you go into a Forbidden Art, you may find you lose something of your original PC concept. Or you may find something new and wondrous about your PC, or perhaps you’ll just be trapped in a story line about how much your PC regrets having pulled that trigger. As seems obvious in the rulebook, owning a power sometimes means living with a certain forced perception.

As the GM, I’m your partner in perception. Just like Stuff changes how you interact with the Universe, and how people tend to see your PC, I think bigger pools of power, Exalted, or Primal, or Terrifying, etc, will tend to warp your PC’s perceptions to align with the power.

In other words, is Dworkin mad, or does he just see the Universe in a way no one else does?

GM responsibility here is not to steal authority from the Player or deprotagonize him/her, but to act as the altered perception filter. This is certainly dangerous territory for the Game Master. A bit too much, and the Player thinks you’ve ruined the PC. A bit too little, and it appears the Universe rewards crazy risks with insane amounts of unearned power.

What is the guide? Most rules do not actually address crossing the line into Forbidden Arts.

I think the guide is actually story tension. The GM and the Player both want the story to have tension. It isn’t going to be fun if the choices are gone. It’s not going to be fun if the tension is gone, or if the GM keeps saying, ‘No, your new bloodlust means you attack your friends on sight’. At the same time, it cannot be ALL FUN because there are costs to breaking the Forbidden. And the PC cannot be unchanged because they DID choose to touch/claim/swallow the Forbidden.

It’s also not bad if the other PCs are now looking at the changed PC as if they are a train wreck. Story tension, in effect, for everyone.

Ambercon 2016 report: Pendrad! elegant Fae masters of mayhem

LoGaSSo yes, my experiment with the diceless RPG Lords of Gossamer and Shadows, continued at the latest Ambercon 2016 (#acus2016).

Pendrad! had another turn this year.  And the third time is the charm. I felt all the elements of the new system performed well, and the PCs were driving well inside the Infinite Stair.

In sketchy form, the game began with reminders for the PCs of the team of Fae involved, and news that a member of the team from previous adventures had been killed. Death among the Fae being very tragic business.

Game Start: Intel that the Countess has been killed near Chaos. Intel that Chaos intends to destroy ‘LALA’ and her world. Khans assign the PCs to find ‘LALA’, her world, and to divert Chaos. Team enters the Pendrad.

The Fae are pretty terrific at staying out of sight and you don’t know what they’ve seen, where they’ve been, (and the part the Khans like best) what they are up to. For your normal Amber Players, this is a 180 degree turn around.

However, events conspired to have the Fae Facilitators find out the Agora was being taken over by Bastiano troops and the Chaosians were already aware of where ‘LALA’ was located. About halfway into the game, the Fae were tracking down a huge incursion of Chaosi troops into the Grand Stair itself.

Everything that the Khans had been concerned about is coming to pass. Chaos will own the Stair or break the Lords within it until they do own it.

And the eventual story was confrontation. The team decided their mission instruction gave them lease to take the Chaos faction out before they could report back to Thelbane on their information.  And then they confronted 2 Logrus Masters, 5 sorcerers, 3 enslaved sorcerers, 5 knights of the black zone, and 20,000 armed slave heavy infantry.

This was not exactly an ideal way to test the LoGaS combat rules in my Fae/Amber/Grand Stair mashup.

However, it went very well. The Khans had appointed a leader, the PCs had adjusted to the dynamic, and the Leader managed to sift and sketch a battle plan that each of the various Fae saw used their strengths and wile to best effect. The battle was a thing of terrible beauty (which is mostly how this GM sees the Fae in my expansion of Amber mythology.)

The 2 Logrus Masters were the High Priority Targets, of course. Neither of them managed to complete the Summons of the Logrus. So basically in game speak, they were crippled before two rounds of combat passed. Even their shapeshifting heals did not prevent the coup de grace moves from taking them out immediately after they went down.

I think Corwin would have applauded. I was pleased and relieved I did not need to restart the game.

Perhaps the most significant strategy was the Fae never had to chat about any actions from plan to action, once things started, the Fae did not stop until the Stair was a flood of bodies and blood. They wiped them out and then left quietly.

Lady Vala and Shatterlight will not have a battle with Chaos forces, and no one is the wiser.

 

Broken Logrus is…. what?

You could take the hints of Logrus failures, imperfect Logrus, and various strangenesses of the Abyss and mash them together.LoGaS
Add tobasco sauce…  sorry, copying from Dworkin’s notes here.
We already know there is a pile of skulls outside the entry to the Logrus (I blame Zelazny) and so we can imagine that most forms of imperfect Logrus are even more lethal than Logrus itself. (Red wire? NO BLUE!) After all, even successful Logrus initiates deal with insanity for a long time afterwards.
So cross the streams a bit, look at Umbra from the Lords of Gossamer and Shadows… a power that is guaranteed to make you insane, reveal the flaws in everthing, rewrite you if you receive a near fatal injury, and lose control of your shapeshifting.  That sounds like screwed up Logrus to me.
And also, it is so weak that while it looks powerful to all those shadowfolks, it can be dismissed by Logrus or Pattern.
And it cannot even bring you a pizza.
Of course, if you can find a pizza shop, Broken Logrus Masters never have to PAY for pizza.

LoGaS the powers of gossamer, control of contents

LoGaS

From the community google+
Control of Contents is narrative driven.
Changes follow the flow of powers or disruption results.
Order powers require more context support.
Chaos/Sorcery powers require less context support.
Deletion or Cosmic changes disrupt context.
Context disruption leans to Entropy.
Context is crucial to Order changes and scale requires:

* small changes happen using world pieces in place already
* medium changes build from many small changes or may require the addition of a new world components that facilitate the change–else most folks will know something unique changed. Unless the world is full of unobservant folk (gossamer for dummies).
* large changes build from many medium changes or may require the addition of many new components to facilitate the change.
* cosmic changes guarantee some confusion and chaos. The world may be unrecognizable.

I think each GM would then handle where on the scale the PC proposed change would be.

Ambercon US 2015 after action report

Ambercon US 2015
after action notes

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1 : Thursday, April 10, 2014 – 7pm to midnight

Agents of the Argent Rose: City of Hope

A wide ranging exercise in hurry up and talk to each other. Attacks from last year’s game had only seemed over, but a bigger threat rolled out of the night. The family is big enough and events were busy enough that not everyone was in one place until the end.

Corwin’s secrets are almost all put on the table. Almost.
The Muse Queen appears in Paris to remind Corwin of his obligations.

Next year could be very interesting.
Simone has a birthday. Parties will be everywhere.

GMs
R.F. McCaughey

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2 : Friday, April 11, 2014 – 9am to 1pm

Infinite Amber: Strange Roads

First time ever game. New faces and old and reworked a PC of mine to work in the wide universe of JP’s Infinite Ambers. Lots of complexity here. Lots of possible enemies and counter forces.

This will be hard to track as a serial game unless I manage to join it consistently. Liked the way it played very much.

GMs
J.P. Brannan

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3 : Friday, April 11, 2014 – 2pm to 6pm

An Unkindness of Ravens

Low power game where a bit of daring kicks a lot of ass.

This year the team seemed to gel very fast and we just tore into our tasks. Doormen not around, and so we just moved from point to point, ratcheting up the mission points.

Well, we did set ourselves up for some future crunch time with a momma Dragon. Nothing’s perfect.

GMs
Erik Florentz
Kit Kindred
David A McCreless
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4 : Friday, April 11, 2014 – 8pm to midnight

House of Justice and Doom

Benedict is dead. But the only people who believe it in their hearts are Ben’s kids, who felt him die.

This was very intense roleplay and the scions of Ben challenged the Big Bad straight off head to head. They did not prevail, but they brought a bunch of good intel back to Amber with them.

Then they promptly dared the king’s displeasure, the silver city in the sky, and also the idea that they might be too valuable to be used in pressing Amber’s response on the Big Bad.

Lots of face time, discussing the weaknesses of Amber’s order, lots of context between the kids. Very nice game. While these games are always one shots, this game had serious legs and could be an excellent warfare campaign. I really loved where the Players went with their characters.

GMs
R.F. McCaughey

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5 : Saturday, April 12, 2014 – 10am to 5pm

The Pendrad: Shining Liquid Universe, Discovery!

Good team. Lots of exploration. Lots of magic and discovery of the possible weaknesses of the Lords of the Gossamer worlds.

And some tricky Fae politics also.

This year the players really did up the arcane weirdness of the Fae really well.

I hope to bring this back again next year.

GMs
R.F. McCaughey

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6 : Saturday, April 12, 2014 – 7pm to midnight

Lost in Amber

Experiment in time, place, and memory. Players at an Ambercon get walked into the Chronicles of Amber just at the narrative point where Corwin is confronted by Eric in the library.

Hijinks ensue as Players interfere.

Selfies with the Pattern Room are just some of the highlights we got to.
Corwin is very manly, 24/7.
Lots of fun.

You’d be surprised how many important items your memory of the books plays false when you have to figure out ‘what comes next?’

GMs
Anne Delekta

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7 : Sunday, April 13, 2014 – 11am to 4pm

The Company: Youth Eternal

LOGAS game with the Josiah Company, searching for a lost exploratory team that vanished 2 centuries ago on the Grand Stair.

I made a new PC and was very pleased with the way it worked. The Prof isn’t someone who says a lot or makes a lot of splash, but I felt he was right on target for the scenario.

What helped with that was a really good cast and double GM strength to match the six Players. We had a very sweet team on the stair experience.
This game is a keeper.

GMs

Tara Kunkel
Kris Kunkel

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8 : Sunday, April 12, 2014 – 7pm to midnight

The Soft Cimmerian: DeathGlass

Anyone who has been following this Rebma game since 2008 knows this is a very eccentric bit of RP. The Amber/Rebma characters are not center stage, but the Knights of the Afanc Glass are.

We started early, opening the game at 6PM. We ran a whole bunch of Gallant family RPing until about 1220AM until we struck the plot square on. In that six hours, we covered kids, politics, inheritance, ancient history, marriage, love, and we invented a new “most important attribute” for the character sheets. Much of the theme danced with Rebma’s true relationship with Amber instead of the one that gets glossed over in the novels.

We also demonstrated that Llewella and Moire do things very differently and advice from one does not work with plans of the other.

At the point where some serious treason talk was being thrown around, the Gallants sat down with the Queen and talked her through a new approach to diplomacy with Amber. And it worked very well. It also kept Bleys out of the story, which saved the GM about 2 hours of hijinks.

And then Random wants to know what Queen Moire is doing attacking Chaos with a ‘DeathGlass’ when there is a peace treaty. Oops!

Fantastic group of Players. I must consider closing this game to new faces, as this year was the first time I bent reality (the original premise) to allow an extra spouse in the poly-marriage. No end game in sight here. I’ll run this as long as the original players want to see it.

GMs

R.F. McCaughey