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Story Games Seattle Message Board Everything Else › Try a Different Way vs. Flow (Status Quo)

Try a Different Way vs. Flow (Status Quo)

Olympia, WA
Post #: 31
Hey y’all,

Instead of posting this on the Story Games forum, I was specifically curious about the answers of the Story Games Seattle folks. Sorry this is so long.

There is this rule that exists in Archipelago. It’s called Try a Different Way (TADW).

Archipelago III, 12th page

What do you think about that?

I don’t do that right now. Instead, when it’s someone’s turn to add something to the fiction, I make an effort to roll with it and make it fit. I’m real curious to hear your thoughts on this thing. It’s new to me and I’m thinking about it a lot. It’s stirring up all kinds of brain solids and making confusion gravy.

Below are some flippantly worded pros and cons and a question about how this would work in different games. This is a combination poll and discussion, so even if you agree with someone else, feel free to chime in.

Do you love the idea of Try a Different Way because:
-It is protection against always going gonzo.
-I’m dissatisfied with the fiction sometimes. Even though all the contributors were smart as heck, we made something that doesn’t go together right because we were moving so fast.
-It’s like the Veil, except you can Veil someone’s terrible idea.
-Even if we set tone and content at the start, there are no other controls once we push the sled down the hill. This is the control that’s missing. I’m tired of ending in the snowbank and digging our asses out.
-Don’t you ever get pissed off in Microscope when someone makes history about something really stupid and you’re not allowed to say anything? Something you definitely would have put in the NO section of the palette if you could have conceived of something as dumb as that on your own?
-Roleplaying should lead to a coherent story, like a novel or movie.
-I know everyone is too lazy to prep games, so this is a way to keep fiction quality high on fly.
-It could be used as an alternative to the Veil, since our version of the Veil emphasizes not talking about offensive material (no questions asked), and focuses on moving forward quickly, and Try a Different Way opens up a dialogue instead.
-(Or love it for another reason).

Do you hate the idea of Try a Different Way because:
-It feels like crap to have your idea shat on, this is especially bad for new players and meetups.
-This sounds like a way to play shitty status games about who is the best story idea maker upper.
-Discussion of whether or not to include things will slow the flow of play.
-I want my mind blown, and I’m worried I would use TADW to stay away from things I’m not immediately excited by.
-We can keep it from going gonzo just by having a conversation about tone at the beginning of the game. We don’t need this interrupting mechanic.
-When I don’t like someone else’s idea, I’m not seeing why they think it is cool. I need to work harder to understand why they think it is cool and come around to them.
-TADW is out-of-character, tabletalkin’ bullshit that will lower the intensity of play.
-Role-playing should have a flow, like improv .
-TADW is fine when it works, but it is too difficult to learn or teach.
-The excitement of quickly adding new elements and being forced to adapt is part of the great social interaction that I get from the current style of play.
-Enough other tools exist, and I am skilled enough, to keep the fiction from going gonzo without -Try a Different Way. This is in fact part of the challenge of playing these games.
-(Or hate it for another reason).

How do you think it would it work in:
-Penny for My Thoughts
-My Daughter the Queen of France
A former member
Post #: 6
So, so tempting, but I think that's because I am an elitist jerk. Short Version: Would I use this in pick up story games like the Thursday meetups? No. Would I use this in a group of people I know and trust in a game where we're aiming for tone? Maybe. But in that case, I'd just talk it out. "Bro, why are you going gonzo when we're doing a modern horror game?"

On games where the theme isn't as apparent, I could conceivably see this being useful. I've played a few games of Quiet Year where this would have been really tempting. We're telling a story with some serious community sundering politics, and you made a race of smurfs out in the woods that bleed candy? But even then, can you shit on someone's idea just because you don't like it? The Veil's there for personal safety. This feels like a super passive method of creative censorship whose intent would be better served by an open discussion. You're already invoking a break in the flow of play when you say it, so why not just talk about it outright instead of fishing for an answer closer to what you want? But like I said, I absolutely can see where this would be tempting to use. We're telling an awesome story, and someone has to go and be That Guy/Gal/Ze and not be on the same wavelength as the rest of us? Ugh.

Really, Quiet Year's the only time I could see this being a useful addition because of the highly structured rules on talking. I have no way of calling someone else out on ruining the flow of the game.
Jay L.
Bellevue, WA
Post #: 17
Oh man, so much to think about. I do feel like there's a need for a better way to start discussions about moments when a contribution sucks away the fun. The most common for me is when someone goes all gonzo. What I want to say in these situations is, "I love your energy, but I wonder if you could channel it differently." Whenever I do try to communicate about issues of tone alignment, I end up feeling like a giant ass. So, instead of a during play cock-block, I have been thinking about how to better set expectations of tone before play. I've been joking (half joking) about making a physical "Gonzometer" where we set some expectations on a dial, then when somebody breaks one you can hit a bell on the Gonzometer and everyone knows that the contract has been broken. Perhaps more appropriate would be a sheet of settings to quickly talk over before play.
Jay L.
Bellevue, WA
Post #: 18
There's also a question about when do you address things that make you unhappy, and what kinds of things. There's something to be said for going with the flow. You definitely don't want to have mechanics that encourage you to turtle up and never step beyond the bounds of your own expectations and comfort zone.

Then there's the opposite. When you want something in the story so hard, but nobody's giving it too you. All of which seems to me like stuff we should just be talking frankly about at startup. Maybe more games should build a palette, Microscope style.

Then again, perhaps when we're pitching games we should be more explicit about tone and expectations.

Try a Different Way seems so potentially disruptive to the social fabric of the game. And I don't know whether that's something I think should change (i.e. we should all just be more used to people wanting alterations to make the game more fun for them). I know that my primary concern, especially at the Meetups, is that everyone at the table is having fun. Should I prioritize that over my own enjoyment of the fiction that emerges? Is there a way to meet in the middle without someone feeling like their contributions aren't valued?
user 8261819
Seattle, WA
Post #: 10
TADR is essentially a veto. A polite way of stopping something from being enacted. However, "a veto only gives power to stop changes, not to adopt them. Thus a veto allows its holder to protect the status quo." (Wikipedia) In short, it keeps shit from going off the rails - a function which Jay clearly welcomes. The question is how to get the maximum number of Morgan's 'pros,' while lessening the impact of the 'cons'.

The first issue I see is that vetoes are most commonly unilateral (which is how TADR is currently constructed), though they need not be. There are systems that require majority vetoes, which have an entirely different tone. Imagine, for instance, if TADR required a silent majority vote. Something similar to Contempt, except with a substantial narrative result.

Secondly, the TADR veto seems to be based on preference. And preference makes for a pretty terrible debate point. Perhaps if players qualified their veto up front, by stating how the content would adversely affect the narrative, that would help. I believe this speaks to Mike's point about the need for open discussion. Also, I think using objective terms of content/narrative, and not my idea/your idea would help.

Finally, TADR (along with Holter's other meta-narrative prompts) open a whole can of political worms. They are rules for the table, as well as the game. We already have stuff like this (pitches, table scrums, the Veil), but nothing so pervasive. In short, such rules brings real-world issues of authority and social power to the gaming table. It's possible that these rules will produce a better story, but a less enjoyable game. Like the difference between a Supreme Court hearing and a rowdy lynch mob.
Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 359
I hate flat vetoes. It's a No with zero forward creative motion. Status quo (as Jerome accurately tags it) is not your friend. If you're against something, I think a much better mechanic is to provide some alternative.

player one: Then X happens!
player two: I don't like X! Y should happen instead!
chorus: fight!

I think it's far less painful to have your idea rejected in favor another idea. Just saying "nope" kills fun dead.
Olympia, WA
Post #: 32
Oh man, this is good stuff. Thanks to everyone for taking a minute. Okay, to keep it going I'll push back. I've addressed these to various, but am interested in any one who wants to chime.

Are there good points to having a button-like phrase, TADW, to start the discussion?

Can we make a social contract at the beginning of a game where we allow others to discuss our fiction input? We have the Veil already.

If a majority vote is required, won't that feel worse than just one person asking you to choose something different? Also, if just one person is dissatisfied, isn't that enough?
Would trying to explain why you don't want something in the fiction be healthy and happier than not doing so?
Is your preference on having a good time or making a rad story? (Obvious false dichotomy, but humor me here).

Offering another suggestion is a good way to monopolize ideas. TADW doens't just say no, it gives it back to the person who was coming up with something. Maybe offering a suggestion is like, "Hey, you aren't good at this. Here's a better option."
Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 361
To be fair, "try a different way" isn't an entirely flat veto. You are allowed to clarify what you dislike about the idea, compared to something like "you ask far too much" in Polaris or picking up contempt in Quiet Year where explanation and discussion is forbidden.

I would like "try a different way" more (or dislike it less) if you were _required_ to explain what you didn't like. It would be a lot less dysfunctional. But it still puts other players in the seat of judging your contributions, which I don't think is a healthy dynamic.
Jay L.
Bellevue, WA
Post #: 19
I definitely like clarity up front far more than the social pressure and stymieing effects of a veto during play. I hate the idea of putting a veto to a vote: "and then they all ganged up on me and told me that I suck."

My instances of dissatisfaction with tend to be subtle things about setting and color more than anything else (plus gonzo, which often, but not always, lives in those domains). People bringing stuff into the creative space that I would never have assumed anyone would bring there. That leads me again to setting more expectations up beforehand. I don't even think it would take more than a moment here or there.

As an example, I have played a couple of games of Kagematsu that have gone a little weird because of how dudes have set up their village girls. Next time I play, I'm likely to start character creation by saying, "The rest of us are all village girls. Let's tkae a second to get on the same page about what our village is like, and what we expect girls in the village to be like." Simple and easy. Then if somebody puts something into the fiction that goes counter, anybody who's bothered can say "hey, I thought we were limiting ourselves to girls like this..." instead of "I don't like that, try again."

I'm cool with objections to contributions if they are grounded in guidelines agreed to by all before starting up.
Jay L.
Bellevue, WA
Post #: 20
Oh, and Morgan, the veil is another beat entirely. We set up the veil as a safety valve. What I'm talking about is on an aesthetic, not a traumatic level. I think it's just about communicating better up front.
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