Friday, January 22, 2016

In Medias Res - Why can't we just have all Action?

The Anime Hai to Gensou no Grimgar triggered this post. It was an experience which had promise at first but then failed right after (only 2 episodes ).

The story began in Medias Res, a technique that's hard to do in a TRPG but can be doable with enough GM skill. It had action then it goes to Flash back and proceeds to TELL and not SHOW (show vs tell in TRPGs and Storytelling).  I got angry and skipped it, and skipped some more and some more (30 sec to 1 minute) and would go back if the new scene made me wonder - but it didn't. It was the classic "Yankee in Camelot" trope.

The thing that struck me about the show was: why did the Action have to end? Why could it not keep going? Why can't it be sustained as long as possible? Why can't it be like the Shepard's Tone?

Link to the Wikipedia Sound File Example.

Sheperd's Tone is an Audio Illusion that seems to keep increase but doesn't. Its interesting and relevant because Priming and Anchoring is what is "spoofed" by the illusion. (Drawing again from Daniel Kheneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.  )

You can keep escalating the Story but never running out of things to do. You don't need to climb a higher mountain, you just need to see the height of the mound amidst its circumstance. You can prime circumstance to make something humble awesome. This is why I recommend checking out Framing Effects and Non-Fiction Writing. There are tools that allow you to make a game awesome with less.

Now going back to the Anime that triggered it, why couldn't we learn everything there is to learn about the characters: their weaknesses, backstory, personality etc. in the details and how they deal with challenges? They are not always going to do things the same way as everyone and that says something about who they are, where they're from, and what they want to be.

The GM comes in by asking these questions and cueing in the Players when these things would color their decision. Every (cognitive) dissonance or internal conflict the PC has is shown in a circumstance of scarcity and they have to draw the line,  be very creative about their compromises, or deviate from who they think they are (and reconsider who they think they are).

So in Summary:

  • work towards more engaging activities and circumstance.
    • Combat, 
    • Adventure, Ventures - Journeys
    • Trials
    • Social Conflicts
    • Schemes 
    • Enterprise
    • Planning and Execution
    • etc... every moment can be engaging. Ask players what do they find engaging. And gain the skill of making any of these exciting and engaging. 
  • Master pacing because it will allow you the Shepard's Tone without burning out. 
    • Pacing includes Scaling, which I will cover in the future. But you probably can figure it out: anchoring the adventure based on the priming effects you (the GM) uses to set the Scale and Scope of the challenges. 
  • show and not tell, 
    • In the Activities (above) let the character's likes, dislikes, what they want, who they are, etc... color their action. What makes "running" PC Z's "running". What about is tactics and strategies describe the PC. 
Wow - nothing like disappointment and the inspiration to rework it to something "better" to inspire me to think this through and write.  

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