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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › What We Played: Slave Gaea (Shock)

What We Played: Slave Gaea (Shock)

Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 16
Slave Gaea (April 22)
Shock
players: Brian, Jason, Susan, Ben, Sylvia

With issues Forming Communities, Taxation, Nobility, Why Live and Boredom, we came up with the Shock: Unlimited Resources, in the form of an Eden-like colony world that seemingly magically creates whatever the colonists asked for... at least until we find out that the world doesn't want to help, it's compelled to. Yep, our own slave gaea.

Brian's epilogue of the liberated planet taking pity on the undeserving cultists huddled in the now-reverted desert and giving them an oasis had Susan howling in rage. It was beautiful.
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 17
I was thinking that we didn't bring the Issues back in as hard as we could have, but I think they crept in without quite announcing themselves. Marshall's revolution and Knightly's followers were all about forming communities, the Speakers to the World & Capt Stodd's entrenched authority were both nobility, and the whole "work ethic" angle was entirely Why Live, and so was Marshall's "must make something unique."

Taxation may have been the only Issue that got kind of orphaned, but out of five that's pretty darn good.
Brian
user 4369967
Seattle, WA
Post #: 1
I was happy with how things turned out, but I don't think anyone in the group used Issues beyond the initial setting setup. We probably needed Taxation to be already present in the setting. I chose Taxation for Knightly but that was really just a possible means to making people work (which is more Why Live). So when Marshall's artistic movement created the same drive to go do something, Knightly hopped on that and Taxation never manifested.

This may be a no brainer, but my observation after playing Shock is that conflict resolution depends far, far more on how the Goals are phrased than whether you succeed or fail. I think, for instance, Ara and Knightly had a comparable number of wins vs losses. But I was pretty timid on what I was asking for with Knightly's goals and his path went increasingly tragic despite succeeding--even though Knightly won both rolls at the end, he wasn't set up for any transformation of society or a leadership role; taking down Stodd was pretty much the most he could hope for. Ara's setbacks didn't block achieving her goal of freeing Gaea.

But then, tragedy was fun. I appreciated the disaster that was Knightly's mutiny.
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 18
This may be a no brainer, but my observation after playing Shock is that conflict resolution depends far, far more on how the Goals are phrased than whether you succeed or fail.
That is absolutely true, for all story games. Asking for interesting things will push your game in a pleasing direction, regardless of dice. In any conflict, both possible outcomes should be interesting. If there's a possible result that's boring, a mistake has been made. Tragedy can be great, victory can be great, but nothing should be boring or low stakes.

Ara never lost her goal, but she also always lost to her opponent's goal. I was fortunate because I wanted my goals more than I wanted to avoid what my opponent had in mind. I embraced the tragedy Jason pushed for (slaving for my relatives, even getting eaten by the planet) and used it to propel my story. Much like Knightly's expedition/banishment: instead of fighting it, you used it to your advantage to recruit loyal men.
A former member
Post #: 1
I wonder if there are good ways to teach that type of boldness in stake-setting. Story games seem very dependent on the ability of the players to frame dramatically interesting conflicts whenever the rules get involved, and the better you are at framing, the more fun you get to have as a group.

I hope I did a reasonable job with the tragedy I pushed on Ara - certainly, I was looking to Ben for cues about what kinds of horrible things might make his character more interesting to play, and then I was backing them up with a lot of dice - but always more dice in pushing my goals than in opposing Ben's.

That brought up a thought for me - I'm not sure when, as the antagonist, I'd want to push heavily into d4s rather than d10s. By framing my goal with the weight of a number of d10s behind it, I'm creating a conflict in my protagonist's mind: how badly do I want my goal, versus how badly do I not want that thing my Antagonist just framed. That choice feels very protagonist-appropriate; the question of "how badly do you want that" is one of my favorite elements of role-playing mechanics. On the other hand, I'm not sure to what extent I, as the antagonist, should be saying "how much do I want to foil your goal, as opposed to pushing for my own?"

As the antagonist (at least insofar as I understand the antagonist role) I'm not acting as a conventional player, furthering my own aims. I'm acting unselfishly - from my experience with more "traditional" RPG systems, I'd say I'm acting like a GM. And the job of a GM/antagonist, as I understand it, is to put a credible obstacle in the path of the PC/protagonist, so that when she succeeds, the victory feels meaningful. In this case, given the "how badly do you want that" die-type splitting mechanics, I feel as though that credible obstacle is the question of what you're sacrificing by putting too much weight behind your own goal.

To take the example from the beginning of the Slave Gaea game, when Ben said he wanted Ara to discover that the world didn't want to be used, and I said I wanted to put Ara to work for her uncle making luxury trinkets for her rich, lazy family members, I actually think I was playing kind of suboptimally. In retrospect, I'm very glad we both succeeded, because failing to discover the first lead onto Ara's main goal would have been a let-down; she wanted to free the planet, and knowing that the planet needs freeing is probably something I should have just let her have, and I should have pushed to try to incorporate my goal without conflict as well, because it seems pretty evident that both Ben and I thought it was cool: it gave her a reason to become disillusioned with her life, and go off and do something really interesting in later scenes. My goal wasn't a cost; it was just an opportunity to deepen Ara's story, and Ben had no reason to resist it.

I thought the last conflict between us ran better, when Ben wanted Ara to get the Ambassadors' help in unmaking the city and the forest, and I wanted the lead Ambassadors to kill her for trying to break their civilization. Despite the fact that Ben didn't really mind having Ara die in the last scene (and I knew that going into the conflict), that gave Ben the chance to frame his intent in the die-roll: all d10s, because it was much more important to Ara that she succeed in freeing the planet than it was for her to live through it - and led to a fairly straightforward, resonant scene of martyrdom, which seemed to work well as an end to Ara's story.

(Of course, my read on Ben's intent is entirely my best guesses from play, moderated by some distance in time from the session. I'd really be curious to hear his, and others', reactions to what we were doing in the conflict, and how the goal-framing and dice mechanics ended up working as an emotional arc.)
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 19
Good stuff Jason!

To take the example from the beginning of the Slave Gaea game, when Ben said he wanted Ara to discover that the world didn't want to be used, and I said I wanted to put Ara to work for her uncle making luxury trinkets for her rich, lazy family members, I actually think I was playing kind of suboptimally. In retrospect, I'm very glad we both succeeded, because failing to discover the first lead onto Ara's main goal would have been a let-down

That was a mistake on my part. I was hurrying to get the game rolling, but it was unwise to make the planet being unwilling a conflict. I should have just introduced it as minutiae and got everyone's buy-in. Sometimes when you're facilitating you're so busy explaining the rules that you forget to play ;)

As the antagonist (at least insofar as I understand the antagonist role) I'm not acting as a conventional player, furthering my own aims. I'm acting unselfishly - from my experience with more "traditional" RPG systems, I'd say I'm acting like a GM.

It is kind of like being a GM, but kind of not, largely because the person on the other side of the equation (the protagonist) isn't playing to win quite the same way as you would with a normal PC in a traditional game. You're both a step back, more in stance of author, pushing for interesting things to happen. Lots of players push for tragedy for their own characters (Caroline, I'm looking at you!). You're both more like GMs than traditional players, but more so for the antagonist.

That brought up a thought for me - I'm not sure when, as the antagonist, I'd want to push heavily into d4s rather than d10s.

Sometimes you just might not like an idea, or you might think failure is more interesting. Pure personal aesthetics are definitely legitimate motivators. Remember, the characters aren't guaranteed to meet their story goals. They can flat-out fail and still have an interesting story. Our previous game of Shock (Roots & Weeds) was a really good demonstration of that.

Take Ara for example: if she had totally failed to free the world and been destroyed in the process, that would have been just as awesome for me. So your d4s are just saying what you, Jason, think is the cooler outcome. It's already a win-win for the audience, because it's exciting either way.

I wonder if there are good ways to teach that type of boldness in stake-setting. Story games seem very dependent on the ability of the players to frame dramatically interesting conflicts whenever the rules get involved, and the better you are at framing, the more fun you get to have as a group.

It's definitely a practice-makes-perfect kind of thing. That's something that's particularly nice about a game like Shock -- since you're going through the whole story arc in a few hours, you can push for really big stakes without any downside. Only having three scenes per character really makes you to get to the meat quickly. And if it goes awry, heck, you get to start all over and try again for the next game. You can experiment and without long-term risk.

Now I really want to play some more Shock...
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