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Narrative Control

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Games
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Narrative control is a podcast to reflect on the gaming experiences on Sean Nittner and his co-hosts. We present our reactions to game sessions, conventions, and other game theory. In turn, we're contributing to the existing conversations presented in podcasts, blogs and forums with our own perspective.

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Narrative control is a podcast to reflect on the gaming experiences on Sean Nittner and his co-hosts. We present our reactions to game sessions, conventions, and other game theory. In turn, we're contributing to the existing conversations presented in podcasts, blogs and forums with our own perspective.

iTunes Ratings

14 Ratings
Average Ratings
11
2
0
1
0

Yup it's good

By Tibe86 - Apr 22 2012
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I love this podcast and hope the conversation really does continue. It's definitely in my top 3 gaming podcasts.

Great little podcast

By Joshuaedeardk - Jul 03 2011
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Nuff said I'm tired but wanted to post.

iTunes Ratings

14 Ratings
Average Ratings
11
2
0
1
0

Yup it's good

By Tibe86 - Apr 22 2012
Read more
I love this podcast and hope the conversation really does continue. It's definitely in my top 3 gaming podcasts.

Great little podcast

By Joshuaedeardk - Jul 03 2011
Read more
Nuff said I'm tired but wanted to post.
Cover image of Narrative Control

Narrative Control

Updated 4 days ago

Read more

Narrative control is a podcast to reflect on the gaming experiences on Sean Nittner and his co-hosts. We present our reactions to game sessions, conventions, and other game theory. In turn, we're contributing to the existing conversations presented in podcasts, blogs and forums with our own perspective.

Rank #1: Narrative Control - Episode 79 - Character Driven Play

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Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have three awesome gamers that have played in some extremely character driven games with me. I brought them on to discuss what's needed in a game to give players the tools they need to drive a game, how do you keep player antagonism safe at a table, and what external threats are necessary to keep the action moving and prevent the game from turing into a soap opera.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Jon Edwards, Regina Joyner, and Karen Twelves

Lenth: 30:47

[00:27] Intro to the show[00:53] Welcoming my guests Jon Edwards, Regina Joyner, and Karen Twelves[03:13] What is needed in the game to give players enough direction to drive the game forward themselves?[08:20] Unstable situations with no status quo, and characters determining where the power would go.[10:54] What maintained the tension mounting between the characters? [15:04] How many external threats do you need to prevent the game from becoming a soap opera?[18:03] Handling player versus player conflicts in a satisfactory way. No hurt feelings, but no pulling punches either.[21:10] Keeping the game conformable and safe for you fellow players. Playing at the edge of your comfort level.[27:23] What you needed to keep your attention on the other player characters.[27:48] Ending with a satisfactory resolution that still leaves plot threads opens for another story.[29:59] Gratuitous self-congratulatory discussion of previous games (kept short to keep my ego from leaving the atmosphere). 

The converstaion continues...Here

Jun 10 2014

30mins

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Rank #2: Narrative Control - Episode 12

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Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control, Episode 12. This week Justin and I talk about players characters taking actions that disrupt the group, either by upsetting another player or by removing their character from the scope of the game.Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin EvansLength: 22:36Liner Notes[00:28] Intro to the show. Player characters taking actions that step on other players fun.[00:49] Battle of Wits, the card system based on the Duel of Wits from Burning Wheel at Sinistergame.com[01:35] RPGPodcasts.com Promo
[01:55] “That’s what my character would do” – We borrowed this topic from Episode 55 of Son’s of Kryos.
[02:51] Definition: Players taking actions that upset other players or take actions that remove their character from the story.[04:05] Preventative Methods: Come to an agreement about what the game is going to be about ahead of time.[04:26] One element to hash out: Situation. What is going on?
[04:42] Yeah, we found this one in Prime Time Adventures as well in the pitch session. This will define the theme of the game, the genre, and the characters or character archetypes.[05:22] Example pitch session: Ch-osh-kys. Clerks meets Office Space.
[06:13] Concessions we made to include all the elements we wanted: Hardware plus food.[06:45] Situation: The two stores have just been purchased and are merging together.[06:54] Characters: The Lifer, the snotty kid and the kiss ass manager.[07:20] Sets: Reinforces where conflicts will occur. Keeps things in the story.[07:50] More traditional format. GM presents a situation but the players still make an agreement about how their characters will interact with the situation.[08:57] Avoid throwing out ideas that will remove characters from the game unless that is presented as a conflict to overcome.[09:45] Fear the Boot (Episode 2) talks about Group Templates for creating characters. [10:00] Another example. A gladiator game that was about being gladiators slaves, not escaping. [11:18] Justin’s Game set in Cadwallon: Outside the city the world is at war, the “game” however takes place within the city walls as the character act on the behalf of the duke.[11:52] How to bring some of those “out of game” elements into the game for the players behalf and to make the story richer.[13:25] Corrective measures: What happens if player characters breath the forth wall anyway?[13:47] Possibly this is the time for the character to leave the game. Maybe this is a good time for their story to end?
[14:25] Escalate the conflict around that decision. Make it a hard choice to leave the game. Also, you could give the character and easy out if the player wants to keep the character in the game, but can’t figure out how.[15:19] Alternatives to allow for characters to leave the story:[15:28] Granting a solo session to a player. Justin and Sean disagree on this.
[16:33] Use the Living City technique and have the other players take the roles of NPCs in the character’s spotlight scene. This can also work well with simmering scenes.[17:52] What about players stomping on each others fun?[18:43] Create a cliff hanger moment. Pause the game and ask the offending player how they see this playing out? What direction do they think this will take their character in.
[19:40] Ask the potential “victim” how they feel about this.[20:22] Set stakes for the conflict. Stakes have to be agreed on by both characters. This allows both players to know what worst case scenario and how the character relationship might change.[21:29] Feedback. Let us know how if this is come up in your games. How has your group dealt with it?LinksBurning WheelSinistergame.comRPGPodcasts.comSon’s of KryosPrime Time AdventuresFear the Boot) CadwallonPost Feedback Here:Comments

Nov 20 2008

22mins

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Rank #3: Narrative Control - Episode 20

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Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control. This episode is a long one.  Justin and I are talking about Horror elements in stories and how to bring those into your games.Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin EvansLength: 53:23 - Told you it was a long oneShow Notes[00:28] Introduction: Horror in RPGs.  Breaking down the horror genre, distilling the elements and then talking about systems that back up those themes[01:33] Sean trying to scare Justin.  Can you just make a fear check?[02:10] Are we trying to scare the character or the player, or both?[02:40] Call out to Rich, who asked us to talk about genres and the games that fit into them.[03:30] What makes a horror story?  Different types.Definitions: Horror Genres. [04:00] Splatter horror.  Buckets of Blood!  Going for shock value.[05:35] Haunted House.  Alien: A Haunted House in space.  Suspense horror, hidden from the audience as well as the protagonists.  Excitement of piecing the clues together and the edge of the seat suspense.[06:50] Psychological Thriller.  Getting into the mind of the killer.  Warning: Spoilers.  Looking into the protagonists.  External conflict serves to spotlight the internal issues.  [08:18] Pimping the Dresden Files one more time![08:49] Monster hunter story.  Action/Suspense vs. Horror?[09:53] Survival Horror.  Hunted by the monsters.  The end is never certain.Elements of a Horror Story[11:27] Suspense. Will we make it out of here alive?  Not a very interesting question.  Only relevant in games where death is possible.[12:30] Spiral into insanity. Getting into the mind of the killer.  What happens to you?[13:12] Investigation.  Following the trail of clues.[13:44] Paranoia. Who can you trust?[14:50] Inevitable doom.  The story is about the struggle.[16:08] Hope and Despair.  Balances the story, give the protagonists a reprieve or a allow them to accomplish something important.Systems that support Horror Stories[18:08] Justin’s game in the Fate System.  This Modern Death said this wasn’t possible.  How will Justin use Fate’s internal mechanics to tell a horror story? “Cuts himself to feel alive” is still an aspect![20:20] Making the story personal to the characters.  Players handing out aspects to each other, using back story, etc.[23:13] Sanity decks.  A consequence for failing a resolve roll.  The cards give an aspect that reflects you’re loss of Sanity.  (Available at sinstergames.com soon).[25:29] Dresden Files RPG will be much grittier than Fate.   There are fewer Fate chips and the GM is given license to really pound on the protagonists.  Not quite horror.[26:35] Call of Cthulhu. One of the first games to offer a mechanic around sanity loss.  Sean has to get over his dislike of percentile system, but the sanity system was novel in creating consequences.[29:25] Unfortunately Cthulhu became an inside joke.  Ryan Macklin talked about this on Master Plan on his episode on emergent play.[30:55] Gumshoe. A game system designed specifically to facilitate investigation.  Each clue is found and then leads to another scene.[33:32] Roanoke.  Uses a Doom Counter to measure the final endgame.  Allowing players to put nails in their own coffins.[37:08] Dread.   The “pull” created an increasing level of danger… for everyone.  This makes the danger present visible to everyone.    Also, allows for a brief reprieve after someone dies.  Models survivor horror very well and creates a pacing system.[41:18] Don’t Rest Your Head.  Uses Despair to make bad situations worse, but that fuels Hope, which can buy a brief reprieve.  Creates an economy of despair and hope.[43:58] Don’t Rest your Head… again.  Players also have the ability to bring in horrific elements: Exhaustion and Madness.   Trading power for self destruction.  Players have to balance success against risking their character’s sanity.[46:55] World of Darkness.  How unimpressed Sean is by the lack of Horror on WoD games.  Very hard to create suspense.  Can work when playing mortals, but much less so than when playing monsters.  There is some support from the system: Willpower, Virtue, Vice, etc.  [52:00] Wrap up.  Looking for other suggestions for shows. Email us or get on the forums. 

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Feb 13 2009

53mins

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Rank #4: Narrative Control - Episode 8

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Pacing in games. Justin and I talk about mechanics and techniques we have used for pacing our games. These range from dice mechanics, to actual timers and at the end a discussion of player created urgency in the Sons of Liberty.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 30:20 Minutes

Liner Notes

[00:30] Show Introduction - Pacing Mechanics.
[01:24] RPGpodcast.com bumper
[01:42] Definition of Pacing. A couple useless ones first.
[02:00] Controlling the urgency in the game upping the stakes.
[03:19] Preventing analysis paralysis and encouraging immersion.
[03:47] Pacing built into most games, usually in combat systems. Something we are all familiar with.
[04:32] The same hit point system most gamers are familiar with from Dungeons and Dragons are used in Burning Empires to represent Disposition.
[05:47] Situation: Disarming a bomb in Spirit of the Century. Creating pacing for a non-combat conflict to create urgency.
[07:48] Another SotC mechanic extended skill challenge.
[08:15] How Justin used an extended skill challenge in a Firefly game to represent the race to find an outlaw before he was caught by a bounty hunter.
[10:42] Using props as a visual aid to represent margin of success and chance of failure.
[11:11] Skill Challenges in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons are very similar.
[12:10] This form of pacing comes form game mechanics.
[13:00] Bringing in outside elements. Sand timers, egg timers. Not giving players enough time to analyze all the information available.
[13:50] Introducing a mini game as a spotlight moment.
[14:45] How Justin escalated things even further, causing distractions.
[15:58] Potential backfire? Does this still work if the characters fail?
[16:37] Using a timer in My Life with Joker to trigger random events.
[18:24] Ding! Ding! Ding! A bank blows up!
[18:57] An extreme example in John Wick's Play Dirty.
[19:44] Applying the mechanics as in game effects. In a Matrix game "Time is always against you."
[20:49] Doom in Roanoke. Affects narration of end game.
[21:42] Sean was disappointed there wasn't more doom.
[21:52] Pace set by the players in Sons of Liberty
[28:54] Pacing is game agnostic. Try it out.
[29:04] Another RPGPodcasts.com bumper
[29:09] Show Recap
[29:50] Let us know what you think: narrativecontrol@gmail.com

Links

RPGpodcast.com Dungeons and Dragons Burning Empires Spirit of the Century My Life with Master Play Dirty Roanoke Sons of Liberty

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Oct 22 2008

30mins

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Rank #5: Narrative Control - Episode 22

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Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week Justin and I are talking about coaching players, helping them to contribute more to the game and get more out of it.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 29:39

Show Notes

[00:27] Introduction to the show: Coaching players.[01:17] RPGPodcasts.com promo[01:33] Trying to tell a story without context… it’s hard.[02:17] The old saying “It’s easier to tell as story with limits” – Is this really an old saying?[03:15] Coaching players: Helping them tell good stories.[03:25] A reading from Play Unsafe by Graham Walmsley. Sometimes at conventions players just want the GM to lead them through an adventure.[04:47] Why players might be afraid of doing something “wrong?”Establishing the theme of the game[05:32] When kicking off a game, make sure everyone is telling the same story.[05:55] In the beginning of a game establishing the theme of the game.  Make sure your players a buying in from the start.[06:39] Example: The spy genre is very diverse.  Pussy Galore and Jason Bourne don’t belong in the same story.[07:05] Fear the Boot “Group Template” - Players defining why their group is together and what they will be doing.[09:05] Randy’s idea: A reality TV show of drivers on the Doc Wagon.Establishing the goal or objective of the game.[09:45] Up front: What is the goal of the game?  Make sure that the characters have appropriate long term goals[11:03] Giving players short term goals they can achieve right away.  Example: Burning Wheel’s beliefs system. [12:27] Shadows of Yesterday uses experience keys to make explicit short term goals.[12:49] Kristin from This Modern Death suggested getting rid of the WoD Virtues and Vices and replacing them with activities you’re proud of and those which you use for coping.[14:22] Plot Cards.  Easy short term goals that you can give out randomly to the players.  This encourages certain scenes to come up.[16:27] Incentivizing player generated scenes with in game rewards (fate chips, drama dice, etc)[16:45] Justin’s Firefly themed plot cards at www.sinistergame.comGetting players to shine the spotlight on each other.[17:28] Players were more forceful personalities hoarding the spotlight?[18:03] What if the job of a player was to shine the spotlight on other people?  The idea came from Son’s of Kryos. You have to endure one of Sean’s stories.  Ways to encourage this.[19:42] Burning Wheel: The helping mechanic tends to benefit you more than using the skill on your own.[20:40] Sharing a common pool of XP and limiting how much each character can generate, so everyone has to participate to gain the group it’s greatest reward.[21:45] Fan Mail from Prime Time Adventures. Fan mail allows you to enter a scene with a supporting role.Rewards for good role-playing, make both hosts uncomfortable.[22:42] Many games include an XP reward for good role-playing.  Assigning a reward to the MVP and Workhorse.[24:40] Encourages people to continue hogging the attention and can disappoint other players.[25:09] We also see this at con games.  Swag going to the “winner” of the game. A good idea from Rich Taylor. Giving the reward to the player that made the game the most fun for everyone else.Games that rotate narrations, encouraging people to take the stage.[26:45] Prime Time Adventures (I know… again) gives out a random narration element, allowing different people to narrate every scene.  Not mentioned in the podcast but another game that does this is Dust Devils.[27:30] A similar mechanic in Zombie Cinema.  Choose a side in any conflict and decide if you want to ally, giving you a chance to narrate. 

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Mar 04 2009

29mins

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Rank #6: Narrative Control - Episode 11

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Hi, and welcome back to Narrative Control, episode 11. Justin and I are back to talk about framing scenes. Why and how to do it. Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans Length: 20:08 Liner Notes [00:29] Show Intro – Scene Framing [00:40] Special thanks to listeners William, Mikael, and Robin for correcting us (er Justin). We did in indeed steal previews from Prime Time Adventures. [00:56] This Modern Death Promo [01:33] Your in a 10’ corridor! [02:13] That is what a game without scene framing feels like. [02:52] Definition of scene framing: Location, who is present, and what is going on. [04:08] Why do we frame scenes? To avoid the tedium and get right to the action. [06:01] Scene framing described well in Prime Time Adventures. Something else in PTA as well. [06:54] In a Wicked Age – Driven strongly by scene framing. Nothing happens outside of a scene. [07:07] Scene Framing in Panty Explosion in 5 parts: Location, Mood, Action, Who’s There and Supernatural Activity [07:33] Strategies for framing a scene. Start a scene at the last possible moment. [08:34] To montage or not to montage? [08:54] Justin’s campaign. Nothing happens out of a scene. Much of the mundane is skipped. [09:22] Strategy for moving from one scene to the next. Ending with tension. [10:02] How to bring this to the table? Make the scenes personal to the characters. Each scene should matter. Take cues from the characters (aspects, keys, beliefs, virtues). Start them with a direction based on those cues. [11:43] Simmering scenes. Borrowed from Sons of Kryos and Ron Edwards. [13:10] Weaving. Bring up elements from one character’s personality or background in other character’s scenes. [14:00] Weaving us used constantly in My Life with Master. This prompted a lot of character interaction. [14:55] Situation Sheets from Full Light, Full Steam. Players writing a document of what kinds of scenes they would like to see. [15:56] Thematic Batteries. Require scenes that will charge these batteries. [16:49] Questions to ask your self in the scene: What happens if nobody intervenes? Who might profit or suffer from the conflict? Setting some stakes in advance. [18:26] Wrap up and recap of scene framing. Links: This Modern DeathPrime Time AdventuresIn a Wicked AgePanty ExplosionSons of KryosRon EdwardsFull Light, Full SteamPost Feedback Here: Comments

Nov 14 2008

20mins

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Rank #7: Narrative Control - Episode 80 - Conversations in Design

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Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode sparked from a twitter conversation between Luke Crane and I about design intentions. To hack or not to hack, Conversations in Design. Luke had thoughts. An hour of thoughts. Check em out! Note: This is an explicit episode.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Luke Crane

Length: 1:08:21

[00:28] Intro to the show – Interview with Luke Crane.[01:16] Luke prepared for an interview and to say things he probably shouldn’t.[03:03] Design process. Different when you’re working on a game and when people are playing it. [03:35] Luke’s History of Hacking.[07:40] Part of the hacking culture is the belief that games don’t work as written.[08:01] Difference between expansibility (developing products for a game) hacking (changing the rules)[09:35] Design intent for Burning Wheel – Make the system shoulder the work. [14:37] “If the game can do the heavy lifting, it should.”[15:04] The anatomy of Burning Wheel – See diagram below:

[16:27] Burning Wheel Refined – A very compact and tight game. “If you find a place in Burning Wheel where you’re fighting with the game…you’re playing it wrong.”[18:08] It’s very difficult to have a conversation with Burning Wheel. [21:05] Nobody has thought about Burning Wheel as much as Luke has. Three people made sudden insights that helped the system: Ralph Mazza, Kenneth Hite, and Thor Olavsrud. And those prompted the change form Classic to Revised.[26:16] Burning Wheel path to expansibility – Trait votes! [27:57] Burning Wheel is a heavy brick of game design… Apocalypse World was designed to be hackable! Fate has the same ethos. Designing for the culture![30:15] But... they have captured the audience so well that it stymies design. [31:52] People are still making D&D clones… so making a product that is hacked isn’t anything new.[32:30] Apocalypse World and Fate Core raising the bar for fledging game designers, but also creating a paper ceiling.[38:20] Vincent Baker designed all those game.[39:39] Discussion about the playability and enjoy-ability and good that has come out of Apocalypse Engine and Fate games.  Not about whether it is fun to play or not.[41:28] The state of RPG design in the aftermath of Apocalypse World and Fate in 10-15 years. Right now were playing with the new bounty we have. [42:47] Frustration of developing in the shadow of Vincent [and Fate].[44:18] The games have given Luke a new perspective on Burning Wheel and a new appreciation for it. BWHQ manifesto includes that we’ll never make a popular game and that’s okay.[46:40] Fate*World. Yep, it exists. Ryan Macklin posted it.[47:30] What is Luke looking for in the future from other designers?[49:54] The secret history of why this podcast is named Narrative Control. #notasecret[50:19] Value of expansibility content. New adventures, settings, new systems for specific uses. A plug for my own development of Stone Dragon Mountain [55:05] A gift for Vincent from Luke. Two soaring birds.[55:12] Board gamers are very good at articulating the components of their games. RPGs aren’t distilled down that quickly. [57:17] The political discussion about games is counter-productive.[58:08] RPGs are hard to talk about. They are on the cutting edge of “what is a game”?

The conversation continues...Here

No, actually the conversation continues on G+ here, herehere, and here. Also possibly here.

Jan 05 2015

1hr 2mins

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Rank #8: Narrative Control - Episode 78 - Pillars of Prep

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Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have two phenomenal GMs, Leonard Balsera and Todd Furler, on to talk about the rationale for running games either with low/no or very high prep, as well as their techniques for doing so.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Leonard Balsera and Todd Furler

[00:26] Intro to the Show[01:06] Introducing my guests Todd Furler and Leonard Balsera[02:10] Todd and Lenny represent pillars of best practices for different methodologies for running games.[03:10] Why choose one method or another? Reasons for high prep. Todd’s answer.[09:33] Reasons for low/no prep games. Lenny’s answer.  [13:50] What the GMs get out of it.[16:55] How it all happens? What are the techniques each GM uses? [48:17] Dodging pitfalls. What to do if you find yourself unprepared in a low prep? How do you prevent high-prep games from railroading players.

The converstaion continues...Here

Jun 03 2014

1hr 1min

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Rank #9: Narrative Control - Episode 24

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Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week I surprise Justin with 10 questions about his gaming preferences as an exercise to learn more about your players.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 45:17

Show Notes

[00:25] Introduction the show: An experiment asking Justin 10 questions.[02:17] Sorry about the sound quality.  Our new microphones picked up a lot more background noise.[02:54] This Modern Death Promo[03:49] What about role-playing games do you like?[04:23] How does playing RPGs make you feel?[08:16] What other activities make you feel the same way?[09:33] What do you look like/sound like when you’re enjoying a game?[11:47] What is a buzz kill for you, what makes the game not fun?[15:47] What limits do you have when gaming? What don’t you want in a game?[24:50] What do you want to happen at the end of a game session?Hmmm…. Not quite 10 there. Yeah, I missed some.  We’ll get another one at the end.[25:54] Questions are finished. Sean takes a minute to think… For the benefit of all, that minute has been edited out.[26:00] Sean’s idea for a game.  1920 Gritty Crime Story.[29:00] Justin’s revisions.[33:05] Recap of the questions.[33:38] Missing Question: What non-gaming activities do you like to do?[33:36] Continuation of recap.  Creating a proposal, followed by revisions.[37:31] Justin’s follow up question: Where there any answers that surprised Sean?[38:59] Continued speculation. We’re going to start guessing now.[41:31] Sean’s thought: these would be good questions to ask before starting a game. Post Feedback here: Comments

Mar 19 2009

45mins

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Rank #10: Narrative Control - Episode 34

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Welcome back to Narrative Control – Season Two!  Justin and I took a two month sabbatical to reflect on season one and plan for the new material.    This week we’re brining you Ira Glass.  He has a few Youtube videos up on storytelling that both Justin and I really enjoyed.  Here’s our take on how his advice applies to gaming.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 26:14

Show Notes

[00:32]  Welcome back to Narrative Control.  [01:07] Preview of Season two.  What is the new season all about?[02:16] Intro to this episode: Storytelling by Ira Glass (of This American Life)[02:49] Links to all four clips of Ira: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4[03:27] An excerpt from Ira’s clip. The building blocks of a story.[04:19] Our discussion on the antidote.  In RPGs the antidote is a sequence of scenes.[04:59] Made more complicated by every player acting as a storyteller and a protagonist.[07:07] Sons of Kryos talked about “weaving” threads together. [09:31] Passing scenes around like a hot potato. SoK talked about this a well![10:20] An excerpt from Ira’s clip. Raising questions and answering them.[10:57] Bait. Asking questions and the implication that you will answer them.   Our discussion.[12:06] What is that bugbear doing? Why is he running? Where is he running to?[12:50] Introducing new “bait” to keep the story interesting.  Mixing short and long term goals together. [13:59] An excerpt from Ira’s clip. The moment of reflection.  Why are you listening to this story?[14:21] Out discussion.  Not necessarily present in RPGs.  [14:50] An opportunity for reflection to allow players to understand what is going on in the heads of the other characters.[15:00] With Great Power has the Thought Bubble.[15:12] Sean’s L5R Game – Sapphire Magistrates.  Exposition created through character scenes.[17:31] Moments of reflect allow you to give a flag to other players so they can contribute to your fun.[17:53] Some settings make it VERY hard to share the meaning of an event to a protagonist.  This can be used to create suspense if we intentionally hold out on reflection to keep the audience guessing what something means.[18:56] Some systems that build in reflection.  In Inspectors there is the “confessional”.   Confessionals can completely change the meaning of a scene you just watched.[20:42] Montsegur 1244.  Everyone knows that the game will end with a reflection scene as the characters explain why they chose to convert or burn at the stake.[21:15] Roanoke has a moment of reflection tied to the Doom of the island at the end of the story.[22:39] Reflection baked into Dogs in the Vineyard.  Each conflict ends with traits changing to reflect on the conflict that just happened.[24:07] Wrap up: The anecdote, question and reflection.

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Jul 29 2009

26mins

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Rank #11: Narrative Control - Episode 48

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Hi, welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode starts with a response to an interview with Kenneth Hite and continues with Fattig and I describing games and stories that scare us, and our attraction to them.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 48:38

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show.  Our response to Canon Puncture #57, an interview with Kenneth Hite. [01:19] A clip from the Canon Puncture show.  “What is it about Cthulhu that is so grabby to gamers?” [02:14] Ever get the feeling that nothing you do matters? Why we’re drawn to this subject. [03:04] Do things that are meaningful and exciting to you and your life will have meaning… or it won’t. [04:13] Referencing the Canon Puncture show.  Horror techniques in the latter half of the episode. http://www.canonpuncture.com/?p=57 [04:48] Why do we come to horror in the first place? [05:36] We tell ourselves stories to marginalize our own fears and separate them. [08:00] A common sense of insignificance. [09:11] An apathy we experience knowing we’ll never stop the universe from falling apart. [10:28] Horror lets us try to punch inevitability in the face. [11:26] Agent Smith from the Matrix: The symbol of inevitability. [14:08] The “One Ring”: A symbol of corruption. [17:38] To fight the evil, you need to pick up the sword: The man apart. [19:21] The protagonists of RPGs a usually outside of the society they protect. [20:16] Showing PCs in relationships they can’t maintain because they are different: Gaming Gold. [20:34] L5R Example: Samurai who cannot maintain families. [24:32] Dresden Files example: Balancing mundane and supernatural worlds. [29:08] A powerful and moving evil must stand for something.  The evil exist as a theme of the setting. [34:59] The bad guy is a good thing. Getting all the evil in one place so it can be punched in the face. [37:24] Example of the bad guy having a lot of meaning:  Buffy, the hyena episode: The Pack [39:21] “It is not enough to succeed, others must fail” – Gore Vidal [42:27] The bad guy you know is right.   ala Watchmen

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Sep 13 2010

48mins

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Rank #12: Narrative Control - Episode 10

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Hi, and welcome to Narrative Control, episode 10. We're back on the Dresden Files RPG. This time Kevan and I review the roll of compelling aspects in the game.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Kevan Forbes

Length: 20:19

Liner Notes

[00:28] Show Introduction: Returning to the Dresden Files RPG.
[00:45]
Introduction to Kevan Forbes a Good Omens GM in Sacramento.
[01:19] This episode is a reflection of our play, specifically compelling aspects.
[02:13] Thanks to everyone who has given us feedback over email or on the forum. You guys rock!
[02:50] This Modern Death Bumper
[03:28] Greetings from Sean and Kevan
[03:54] The Compel Mechanic!
[04:07] Explanation of aspects from Fate and how compels work with them.
[04:54] Fate chips are much more precious in Dresden RPG.
[05:24] Comparison to compelling in Spirit of the Century.
[05:45] Example of a tough compel and the price to pay it off.
[06:38] How to use a compel #1: Plot Hooks
[07:49] How to use a compel #2: Binding the characters to the story.
[08:13] Example of a compel: The Vodou priest wakes up with blood on his hands.
[08:55] How to use a compel #3: The toolbox for adventure creation.
[09:40] How to use a compel #4: An alternative to the standard conflict resolution.
[11:40] Comparing compels to other games that give out cookies for game play (7th Sea, Buffy, Exalted, etc).
[12:43] I miss the reward system from other games when the players are performing exceptionally.
[13:17] Compelling, however, brings the characters deeper into the story.
[14:17] Keeping the fate chip currency moving with compels. An example from play.
[14:56] Fate chip economy!
[15:15] How to use a compel #5: Players compelling other characters
[15:38] How to use a compel #6: Moving the story along when players don't want to budge.
[16:47] A reward for good role-playing?
[18:11] Accidental Survivors Bumper.
[18:51] Review of the show. Disappointed with the audio quality.
[19:20] Request for feedback.

Links:

Dresden Files RPG Good Omens Games Evil Hat This Modern Death Accidental Survivors

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Nov 07 2008

20mins

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Rank #13: Narrative Control - Episode 29

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This week Justin and I talk about icebreakers, exercise and games to remove inhibitions and get everyone’s creative minds moving.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length [28:25]

[00:26] Intro to the show. Talking about icebreakers, getting people comfortable playing together.[00:54] RPGPodcats.com Promo[01:05] Did you go to band camp?[02:01] Why do we care about camp? Oh yeah, because we can rip off ideas from them.[02:55] Links to camp games: http://www.ultimatecampresource.com/site/camp-activities/common-ground-icebreakers.page-1.html, http://www.humanpingpongball.com/[03:39] Games at Gamestorm – camp style[04:39] Scalagrim the Barbarian Prince.  Our Icebreaker routine.[05:22] Part 1 - The Tale of Woe. Practicing “Yes, and…”  (a little over two minutes)[08:17] Part 2 – The Epic Journey.  Practicing reading other players flags and sharing the spotlight. (just over a minute)[10:41] Part 3 – The Oracle’s Answer. Practicing not interrupting each other and being flexible. (about a minute and a half)

(Total time for both explanation and performing the exercises, about seven minutes)[12:57] Recap of what we got out of these icebreakers.Games that have Icebreaker exercises built into them[14:56] Prime Time Adventures pitch session.  Gets everyone on the same page about what kind of game everyone wants to play.[15:43] Character creation in Spirit of the Century.  Building on each other’s pulp novel.[16:42] Dogs in the Vineyard accomplishment.  Playing out one question you ask about your character.[17:17] Mouse Guard Prologue.  A reward for recapping the previous game.   An icebreaker that also reminds everyone that happened last time and shows what parts they were excited about.[18:35] World of Darkness Preludes.  Often a longer event, but we’ve done it as a single session where everyone ran their preludes simultaneously.

Games that you could play with people who haven’t role-played before

[20:47] Once Upon a Time.  A card game with fantasy tropes.  Mixes card game elements (like Uno) and storytelling.[21:49] Are you a Werewolf.  A very scripted game that gets everyone talking, trying to discover the Werewolves.  Very much like reality TV elimination.Role Playing Games that act as Icebreakers themselves.[24:12] Breaking the Ice.  A game about two people meeting each other, but structured for two people (or more) learning to play a role-playing game.[25:43] Sons of Liberty.  A game that encourages fast play and, like Once Upon a Time has a very visible mechanic that aids you in narration.[26:33] Discussion of common elements in these ice breaker games.  Cards, cues, directions.  Let’s throw Zombie Cinema in the mix as well.

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May 06 2009

28mins

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Rank #14: Narrative Control - Episode 76 - Talking Torches

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Hi, welcome back to the show. This week I’m talking torches with Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo. We discussed GMing and playing Torchbearer! Host: Sean Nittner Guest: Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo Length: 1:35:16 [00:23] Intro to the show [01:36] Introducing the guests: Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo [03:48] Keeping suspense in the game. Setting player expectations to expect and enjoy the grind. [09:40] The system is definitely a game. Keeping focus on fiction instead of the mechanics are driving play. [15:27] Signal to the GM that stakes aren’t high enough? Bigger rewards, more consequential actions. [17:03] Counterpoint. Putting constant pressure on the characters prevents the players from exploring other options (camp, town, pursuing belifs/goals). Deciding on how hard to push. [21:23] Reluctance to back down. Player skill to recognize when it’s time to cut losses and run? GM and Player skill. [27:38] Torchbearer teaches you how to play it, but there are some growing pains. Signpost things of significance. [29:29] How beliefs function in Torchbearer, compared to Burning Wheel. Beliefs as signals to the GM, and as aspirations for a better life. [37:22] Tracking moving parts (Conditions, Light, Turns, etc.) Gaining mastery over time. Comparing playing in person vs. online. [41:08] Role of party leader. Doling out tasks (and conditions) to the other characters and giving the GM some time off as the players discuss their options among themselves. [47:47] Resource management for the GM. Tracking light, tests, etc. [49:19] Managing real estate on the table (players deck cards, fate/persona/loot/checks tokens), dice, character sheet, etc. [52:53] Tokens for check to signal to the GM when they have/need checks. Finding locations for check and setting Ob levels accordingly. Tokens in person, Roll20 online, etc. [55:04] Pacing, when to use make test, a conflict, and when to continue pushing forward with narration. [1:03:22] Another conflict litmus test, applying a broader scope of consequences. Using conflicts when that granularity is needed. [1:04:26] Burning Wheel HQ games and Apocalypse World (and hacks) both direct you to keep having the conversation of what happens until the fiction demands you go to the dice. [1:05:49] The game atmosphere is heavily curated by the GM. The more energy you put into describing the world and talking about what happens in the fiction, the more invested the players become in the fiction. Don’t be a tired, lazy GM! [1:11:02] It takes time to learn the game. Give that time for people to learn. [1:15:06] Keeping the fiction in front during conflict (where mechanical choices are made before the fiction is described). [1:24:02] The skills I want to see players develop are based on patterns in the fiction instead of a mechanics to engage. Learning strategy in the fiction by asking over and over “What do you do?” Good idea! [1:28:59] Best twists come from following the player’s lead. Knowing that they are doing makes it easy figure out what could go wrong. [1:30:07] Miscellany – Final thoughts. 2D cash dice right here!

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Apr 22 2014

1hr 35mins

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Rank #15: Narrative Control - Episode 72 - The System for Your Game

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Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re talking about methos for finding a game that will suit your needs. It's kind of the anti-hack episode (Episode 69) where our goal is to find you a system that will match your epectations without having to re-invent it yourself. We doing something special this year and hosting a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Soren Ludwig

Length:

Show Notes

[00:30] We’re doing good. In the holiday spirit we’re raising money for Doctors Without Borders. (see the link above)[01:20] Sean is moving to the Bay Area! My last Davis summer.[02:15] Fattig’s exciting story. The one not involving a donkey and three pounds of cocaine.[03:29] Soren Ludwig’s question: How to pick out a tabletop RPG.[03:57]Lenny’s strategy. Throw money at friends making games.[04:44] Welcome Soren![05:17]The only advice you’ll ever need from Lenny. Look for the name “Leonard Balsera” on the spine of the book.[07:07] And now we get back to the point, picking out a game (instead of hacking one)[09:09] Don’t focus on premise when looking for a game. What we dig is more focused around systems.[11:42] Instead figure out what do you want out of a system. [12:30] Some examples that lead us to Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies[13:35] Lets boil down what Soren is looking for in a game.[14:30] Looking for discovery and mysteries leads us to Gumshoe.[16:30] Asking the power questions of any game: Big Three and Power 19[19:11] Highlighting “what makes it about that?” by looking at the character sheet.[21:41] Places to find information about games. RPG.Net Reviews[24:00] Search on Story Games Forum[25:21]Actual play posts: Recommending The Walking Eye and Mom’s Basement and more at RPGpodcats.com [27:00] Talking to peeps! Asking people who have played the game, immediate friends, the twitters…[30:05] After a brief digression… is your Google-fu strong?[31:28] Lets pimp out Josh Roby for a moment. @joshroby[32:50] Go to cons and play lots of games… try them out. Local cons. Meet ups. Store game days.[35:50] After games are done, talk to the GM of a game. Trust us, they want to talk.[37:30] Online resources for playing: Online cons like AetherCon. Google Hangouts like CONcurrent[40:46] If you’d like to be on the show, please contact us at narrativecontrol@gmail.comsoon for s

Dec 06 2012

41mins

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Rank #16: Narrative Control - Episode 44

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Welcome back to Narrative Control.  Fattig and I are back this episode talking about creative constraints.  We went old school on this one, back to an episode of Have Games Will Travel  in 2006 where two of my favorite Pauls were talking about it.  Well, before I get a head of myself, listen to the show!Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric FattigLength: 28:50[00:27] Intro to the show. Two cons you should go to if you can:  DresdenCon – July 10th at EndGame in Oakland:  http://www.endgameoakland.com/dresdacon/ Good Omens Con 4 – July 17th also at EndGame in Oakland: http://www.goodomensgames.com/gocon[02:01] Boom! You’re in a room with nothing to do.  Of course Fattig figures something out![03:00] Creative constraints the stimulus to give your game texture and context.  [03:39] The conversation we’re continuing.  An interview with Paul Tevis and Paul Czege: http://www.havegameswilltravel.net/index.php?post_id=79107[05:33] Why constraints? How are they going to help you game?[06:24] Why I’m afraid of games without constraints?  If nobody has a say in your character they don’t care about it.[08:28] My experience with what happens when we start embracing those constraints.  Here’s the games that we’re playing that have put some constraints on us and made the game more fun because of it![09:47]  Dresden Files! Yes, it is real, go buy it NOW: http://www.dresdenfilesrpg.com/   We talk about the novels and compels (big shock)[15:07] Changeling – Harvesting emotions cause the players to reinforce the themes of the game. http://www.white-wolf.com/changeling/index.php?line=intro[18:21] Flagship Atlantis – A con game where play style was put under pressure by external card mechanics added to the game: http://seannittner.livejournal.com/tag/flagship%20atlantis[22:56] Lady Blackbird – PLAY THIS GAME! It’s free and it’s gorgeous: http://www.onesevendesign.com/ladyblackbird/  Keys that point you in different directions, forcing characters to choose what they really care about.Post Feedback Here: Comments

Jun 30 2010

28mins

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Rank #17: Narrative Control - Episode 23

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This episode Justin and I talk about what we’ve learned from video games and how we can draw inspiration from them and learn from their pitfalls.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 29:49

Show Notes[00:28] Introduction to the show – Inspiration from video games[00:40] Some great discussion on our boards about conflict resolution here and here.[01:05] Format of the show, inspiration, pitfalls and some personal stories.[01:29] RPGPodcasts.com Promo[01:37] Justin’s thrilling adventure.[02:52] Sean’s protest. Video games don’t have the story or role-playing that tabletop RPGs do.[04:00] Sean’s use of images, lore, etc from World of Warcraft in his Burning Warcraft game.[05:00] Erik Woodbury’s LARP: Peace at Arathi Basin.  Video game setting, using the strengths of a LARP.[06:15] Comparing the guessed budget of Feng Shui and Grand Theft Auto.  [07:34] Level design as an analog for quests.[08:17] Set pieces in games, the main encounters.[08:56] The boss fight.  A spotlighted encounter that required fighting with different tactics.[10:11] How this can backfire.  Make sure the character’s matter.[12:53] Save points. Logical places to stop a session. Ending the story on a high point.[14:30] Mouseguard session structures encapsulates the mission goals and makes sure they are resolved by the end of the session.[15:15] A warning: avoid the grind.  Examples of the grind in video games and then in popular role-playing game.[18:30] Justin’s fresh can of hate.  The Keep on Shadowfell. [20:21] Some advice from Dungeons and Dragons insider: Every encounter should be meaningful to the story and have stakes the characters care about.[22:04] A question of scaling.  Does the opposition scale with you?[22:57] Different systems scale in different ways.  In some systems this isn’t an issue. Examples of Burning Wheel, Dungeons and Dragons and Scion.[25:19] Justin’s story playing Oblivion.  A Minotaur in the inn?[26:40] Fallout 3, how scaling has changed in video games.[27:28] Sean’s analog in a D&D game where his character DID become more powerful than the status quo.  “Oh crap, it’s Sadric!” 

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Mar 12 2009

29mins

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Rank #18: Narrative Control - Episode 45

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Welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode Eric and I talk about what do when a player Freezes up at the table.  This idea came to us from Rob Donoghue’s blog post of the same name: Freeze (http://rdonoghue.blogspot.com/2010/07/freeze.html)

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 21:50

Show Notes

[00:00] My silly wanna-be cop intro. [00:28] Intro to the show. What to do at the table when someone freezes up at the table. [01:21] Our backlog of Rob topics from his blog: http://rdonoghue.blogspot.com/ [02:23] What to do at the table when someone freezes up? [02:59] Reasons people freeze up: Asked to make an important decision (analysis paralysis) or if a player is put on the spotlight to role-play when they aren’t ready for it. [04:00] A natural reaction to seeing someone freeze: Try to help, try to get the game started back up again. [05:46] Rule #1: Shut your pie hole [07:10] Rule #2: A little patience won’t kill you. [07:44] Take the time when someone freezes to reflect on what’s going on in the game.  See action and reflection in the episode about Ira Glass: http://www.narrativecontrol.com/index.php?post_id=509405 [08:22] Rule #3: Back their play. The Winner! [08:46] And here we tease you. [09:19] Back anyone’s play at any time.  It validates the other players. [10:52] Why Sean hates every planning session in the universe. [11:45] Why you would shut someone down… you’ve got a better idea… but it’s not. [13:16] An example of Actual Play where this shutdown happens: The Walking Eye  3:16 Actual Play – Session 1 http://www.thewalkingeye.com/?p=322  (Start a 2:13) [15:37] Your character is not the sum of what they’ve done before.  Find a way to make your character grow and interact with the new element. [16:15] Backing their play is especially important when someone has frozen up, as their confidence is going to be low and they need support. [17:00] What to do if the idea doesn’t fit in the game? [17:25] Rule #4: Don’t Assume. Ask.  The 4th Commandment! [18:37] Lots of reasons they might have frozen.  System, setting, situation… [18:47] An old episode of Sons of Kryos where Storm wasn’t on the same page as the others. http://sonsofkryos.livejournal.com/21712.html [20:51] You know when someone freezes. The trick is to watch your reactions.

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Jul 25 2010

21mins

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Rank #19: Narrative Control - Episode 67 - IP, setting expectations and understanding your players.

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Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. We’ve taken a break for Gen Con and my very own Big Bad Con and now we’re back in the saddle. Season 3 has a new format. We’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to David Miessler-Kubanek from dmkcreative.com. We’re talking about intellectual properties, setting expectations and finding out what’s going on with an unhappy player.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: David Miessler-Kubanek

Length: 32:01

Show Notes

[00:31] Welcome back to Narrative Control. Intro to the season three format.[01:22] Eric Fattig is out for today. Welcoming guest host Lenny (not Leonard) Balsera.[01:45] What real friends are for.[02:57] “Shuu Nittner” – A name that will never been used.[03:13] Sean’s current project – Apocalypse Galactica.[04:09] Lenny working on Fate Core and Paranet Papers for Evil Hat and just moved to Austin, TX.[04:34] Bringing on David Miessler-Kubanek from DMKcreative.com[04:57] David’s “Dragonfly” game (Star Wars mashed up with Firefly)[05:54] Problems started when some new players joined the game. Specifically a player with a LOT of Star Wars lore. Problem identified: One player’s expectations not matching up with the rest of the group’s expectations.[07:49] Lenny’s first salvo – setting expectations. Why do we do it? Not to adhere to them but to have a framework for talking about them when it comes up in the future.[09:34] David noticed a play style difference. One player who has read all the rules, knows all the mechanics, versus his own play style which was much less tied to mechanics. Problem re-identified: Player was unsatisfied by the mechanics, and uncomfortable with the rules system. Trad player walking into an indie game.[11:28] Communication was poor. Can we revisit that communication? Start the game over, start the discussion over?[12:40] Is David’s gaming style compatible with this player? Looking back, would he want to start up the game again with just a few of the players? All of them?[14:09] Problem re-re-identified. Is it hurtful or malicious to be concerned with whether or not a group is going to have a good time, if that means not including a previous player?[16:05] GM’s confidence being shaken by a bad experience. An experimental game with an experimental system. Was it his fault. What to do to get back in the saddle?[18:49] Role-playing games are a conversation. Internalizing that very hard to do. Identifying if the problem is about the game or the social dynamic? [19:56] Getting the conversation away from the trappings of the game. Problem is potentially fixable as soon as it is out in the open.[21:37] Often discussion in RPGs is about trying to manipulate the game “If I make it about how this system works, I’m not being a dick.”[22:52] “I want what I want for me. But I don’t want to look like a jerk, so I’ll use the game mechanics to get it.”[23:10] When it is the games fault. But that is still a human problem.[25:00] Regrets about the game. David starting the game back up again. The game was fine, the mechanics were fine. Start this bad boy back up again![28:01] Why setting expectations is important (redux)? It creates a foundation for change and a place for the conversation to start from.[29:26] The future of David’s gaming group.[31:01] Would you like to be on Narrative Control? Email us at narrativecontrol@gmail.com, hop on our forums, or tweet me @seannittner.

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Feb 28 2012

32mins

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Rank #20: Narrative Control - Episode 51 - Iron GM

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Hi, welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week, in addition to a whole bunch of news, Fattig and I are talking about the Iron GM competition held at EndGame.  Isikoff vs. Macklin!Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric FattigLength: 26:45Show Notes[00:27] Intro to the show.   Actually skip to 8:10 if you want to skip the news and get to the topic: Iron GM[00:55] We have a news segment?  [01:10] Narrative Control is up for a Golden Geek.  Please vote for us!  [02:11] Forums have changed.  Upgraded to a new version of Vanilla and moved hosts.[03:20] Game Chef.  Sean is an entrant. Check out my game “Burning Your Skin”[04:56] Big Bad Con – Less than a year away. [06:06] Fattig’s Life: Nothin[06:24] EndGame Minicon 10/16 [07:28] Today is 10-10-10 – Congratulations Erik and Ammy.[08:10] Iron GM – Our Topic[08:52] Iron GM:  The gauntlet is thrown – How it started.[10:15] Iron GM: Competition format compared to the show.[13:59] Iron GM:  The Play Experience – Made of awesome[19:33] Iron GM: Results – Brian Isikoff is the Iron GM.  Matt Steele and Mike Bogan are the next challengers.[22:44] Iron GM: Wrap up and review[24:12] Post game analysis: Sean’s Actual Play, Tim’s AP, 2d6 Feet’s Episode with Brian and Ryan[25:09] Iron GM will be at Big Bad Con Continue the Conversation... Here

Oct 11 2010

26mins

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