Bill White's roleplaying game design blog, with emphasis on narrativist or story-heavy games.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Rune Saga: Narration Constraints

It's probably worth it to think about how to establish bounds on what can be done by the narrator (that is, the person with narrative control at a given time). The issues that matter I think include the following:

(1) Is the narrator acting as PC or as DM? That is, is he thinking advancing the dramatic interests of a particular character or about providing adversity to that character?

(2) Is a particular character involved in the narration the creation of the narrator or of somebody else (and was that person involved in the contest for narration rights or not)?

(3) How does the narration implicate the character's, um, character? That is, to what extent is the narration something happening to the character or something chosen by the character? Call the former "external locus of control" and the latter "internal locus of control." Internal locus narration creates the character's persona, and this is [unexamined assumption] something that probably belongs to the character's "owner" (that is, creator) [/unexamined assumption].

(4) To what extent does the narration extend or contradict what has been specified in previous turns? Or, better, how consequential is the narration?

So in the post from Jan 19, Joe's initial narration invokes Andaman, Melina, and the Heartshard. He's bringing them into the scene in order to frame up some possible tough choices for Daemien. Joe leaves the specific threat unspecified; Andaman may be going to kill or hurt Melina, or maybe he's a romantic rival. But it's clear that Joe is acting as the DM. Andaman and Melina are characters he created, and so he has "ownership" of them. The Heartshard is something I created, and so I guess I have ownership of it. Should I be able to veto Joe's assertion that the Heartshard has the power to lead its possessor to that which is alien to the Wild Wood? I want to argue that the DM-function trumps ownership in this case--especially because there is a runic motif that Joe is invoking to justify the inclusion of that element in his narration (i.e., ghot luemas, a thing of blood). The narration ascribes intentionality to Andaman (he is tracking something) and emotions to Melina (she's lost and afraid), which is something that's okay to do with a character you created.

So now when Andaman comes face-to-face with Daemien, who gets to say what happens, and what are they allowed to say happens? Winning the die roll is important, as is DM/PC role assignments, as are character creator rights, as is adherence to the meaning of the runes and glyphs involved in the narration.

DM wins roll for own character -- very strong narration rights.
DM wins roll for other character -- strong narration rights.
DM loses roll for own character -- strong veto.
DM loses roll for other character -- moderate veto.
wins roll for own character -- strong narration rights.
PC wins roll for other character -- weak narration rights.
PC loses roll for own character -- strong veto (internal locus)
PC loses roll for other character -- weak veto

This still needs work.

1 comment:

Bill White said...

Let me add that the discussion on Vincent Baker's blog "anyway" about the connection between push/pull and IIEE will definitely help me sort this out.

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A communication Ph.D., I teach public speaking and media-related courses in the middle of PA. I do research on scholarly/scientific communication, and I write & play roleplaying games.