Review of the D&D Next Pre-Generated Characters

May 25, 2012

I haven’t had a chance to play any of these guys yet, but these are my first impressions.

Cleric of Moradin

This guy is a tank at AC 18, the highest of the pregens.  And the second-highest HP total.  If you want to wade into battle and don’t want to get hit, play this guy.

His main attack is warhammer at +4 to hit and 1d10+2 damage, so he can dish out the pain as well as soak it up.  Add an additional 1d6 damage if you’ve got crusader’s strike up, which you probably should.

You also get the usual clerical healing stuff, turn dead, etc, but stick to hitting things with your big stick.

Cleric of Pelor

Unlike your dwarven buddy, you’re not going to be wading into combat too much, even though your AC and HP are just fine.  You’re a laser cleric and medic, shooting up enemies from afar and patching up your pals.

Main attack is radiant lance at +6 and 1d8+4 damage.  Range of 50 feet on it.

Searing Light does an absolutely disgusting amount of damage, especially against the undead, so keep that in mind.

Don’t forget to use all your herbalist toys.  And you’ve got some holy water too.

Dwarf Fighter

Your AC isn’t so great, but you’ve got lots of HP, and you can lay down the hurt.  Greataxe at +6 to hit, 2d6+7 damage.  That’ll get their attention.

With the Slayer theme, you don’t even have to hit your target to hurt them.  Use this with your crossbow and just shoot anywhere you want.

Hang out beside your dwarven cleric buddy and just beat them all down.

Rogue Halfling

You’re going to be spending a lot of time hiding.  A LOT.  So make sure you get very intimate with the rules around hiding and stealth.

You usually be shooting at range, usually with your sling, which is +6 to hit, 1d8+3 damage.  Probably with another 1d6 damage from sneak attack, which you should be getting most of the time.

You’re carrying around a bullseye lantern for some reason; make someone bigger than you carry it around.  You can always steal it back later.

You’ve got an actual job from Trade, so try to pick something interesting, like haberdasher or prostitute.

Elf Wizard

You’ve got a terrible AC so don’t think about wading into combat, as tempting as shocking grasp may be.  Hang back with your friendly cleric of Pelor and shoot people in the eye with magic missile, or perhaps the occasional ray of frost — especially handy if an enemy goes prone at the feet of your smashy friends.

Your magic missile only does 1d4+1 damage, but it never misses, so just keep spamming it out there.  Sleep and burning hands are pretty decent too, but note that they both effect all creatures in the area, including your friends.  Also familiarize yourself with what the ‘cone’ shape is in this version.

You can cast light at will, but you’re still carrying around 10 torches for some reason, so give those to someone who needs them.

Use mage hand at every opportunity, of course.

The background feature Researcher is an absolutely fantastic ability; use it every chance you get.

Overall: It’s a good bunch of characters.  Every one of them is tempting to play, for different reasons.

A Review of the D&D Next Bestiary

May 24, 2012

Back when AD&D was brand-new, the first book they published was the Monster Manual.  So I’m going to start off my reviews with this file — The Bestiary, 24 May 2012 version.

The first thing to notice is the range of creatures, from 25xp cave rats all the way up to 450xp trolls and beyond.  It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that the 1st-level PCs might run into any of these.

Fire Beetle:  I’ve always liked these little cheerful glowing guys.  I’m a big fan of monster dissection and trophy-taking.

This guy is worth 100xp, has a +2/1d6 attack, and has 5 hp.  I like to see that in a monster.  One good whack from a two-handed weapon and he’s done.

Looks like weapon damage types (“piercing”, in this case) is back, which is fine by me.

It’s nice to see sections on Combat, Habitat and Society, and Legends and Lore.  For me it’s the right level of just enough information.

Berserker:  It’s nice to see monsters that are people.  Can always use more of those guys.  And they’re Neutral, if violent.  So you can’t really feel too good about just killing them whenever they show up.

Rage is a nice ability.  I like how it says that they get +5 hp, but doesn’t get into what happens if he falls out of rage, loses those hp, and it would kill him.  That’s the sort of judgment call I’d rather see left up to the DM instead of spending a bunch of words on.

Immunity to fear is a perfect touch.

Bugbear:  Solid all around.  Get a version of backstab which looks pretty sweet.

I miss the lack of Number Appearing and Treasure, but I can live with it.  Still, I’d be tempted to pull them out of an earlier version.  It’s the sort of thing that’s nice to have and easy to ignore when not needed.

A monstrous god is mentioned, which I’ve always got some time for.

Giant Centipede:  Huge bugs are also just fine in my book.  Its venom ability, at first glance, looks fine.  And hey, more monster dissection, and the implication of poison-using PCs, which I’m a fan of.

Dark Cultist:  More people monsters, but evil this time.  You can tell from their oozing sores.  They use the same spells as cleric PCs, which I think I’m in favour of.

Our first really serious combat monster is here, the Dark Priest, with AC 20, 65 hp, a +4 attack doing 1d6+2+1d8 damage, and some spells.  Looks like a handful.

Looks like the Far Realm is still around.  I’m happy about that.

The bit in the Legends and Lore entry about witchfinders is a nice touch.  There’s enough here in these two pages to build the foundation for a good adventure or three.

Gelatinous Cube:  Just wouldn’t be D&D without these blobs.  It has all the usual goodies associated with them.

Gnoll:  Good to see them, and they’ve got their own language again.  And their usual dread demon lord.

Demonic Frenzy is a bit weak to use as a full action.  I’d probably let him do it once a round for free, or make it an aura, or something.

We also get a statistical breakdown of common weapon load-outs, which I sorta like.  I’m not sure I need the exact frequencies, but I don’t mind them.

Again, enough here in a couple pages to put together a few adventures.

Goblin:  Of course we’d have goblins.  And they’re Neutral Evil, so I think we’re back to the ninefold alignment system.  Fine by me.

Their backstabby abilities look good, and introduce some synergy which is nice.

We get some nice background on them, and more weapon loadouts, and it’s pretty solid.

Gray Ooze:  Ennhh, not sure I really need this when I’ve got a gelatinous cube.  On the other hand, their corrision ability is nice and implies that the DMs can take away the PCs’ toys, so that’s good.

Hobgoblin:  And we’ve got Lawful Evil monsters too.  They’re their usual organized warmongering selves, and I’ll be using them.

Human:  Good old humans.  Interestingly their Int, Wis, and Cha scores are below “average”.  Always need to have some of these guys on hand.

Kobold:  The usual, although these ones don’t bark.  2 hp keeps them nervous.  Some of the higher-level ones are pretty legit.

Medusa:  Unexpected, but nice to see.  Dual attacks.  Gaze aversion is nice and lightweight, and we get basically a save-or-die effect.

And we get a sanctioned use of the medusa’s severed head.  I don’t see anything about the clever use of a mirror, but she’s not immune to petrification herself so it seems vaguely plausible.

Minotaur:  Another Greek classic goon, with 132 hp and an axe that’s great.  It’d be fun to stick one of these guys in a labyrinth.  Also interesting to note that as big and tough as he is, he’s still only got a 19 Strength.  Stat inflation may have been conquered.

Ogre:  The littlest giants.  Hints at bribing them for safe passage are appreciated.

Orc:  Good old orcs.  Can’t have too many orcs. These orcs are much like the rest.

Owlbear:  Everyone loves owlbears and their cuddly hugs.  And, holy crap, they nest in trees!  I didn’t see that one coming.  And their eggs are valuable, so it’s a good time for everyone.

Rat:  No one loves rats, but they’re always around anyway.  The version of disease we get with the dire rat is much more like a poison, but it’s okay.  Wouldn’t be hard to houserule in some more serious disease rules, I would imagine.

Skeleton:  Looks like the mindless undead are back to being Neutral instead of some variety of evil.  I can see the arguments for both sides.  They resist non-bludgeoning damage, which I’ve always sort of liked.

Apparently they sometimes “deliver simple messages” which I really need to work into an adventure at some point.

Stirge:  Of course, I have a particularly-soft spot in my heart for the humble stirge.  These ones are a little more lethal than some other versions.  Looking forward to throwing some at a party.

Troll: Big, evil, rubbery, regenerationy, flammable.  The usual.  Its vulnerability to coup de grace is a bit surprising; not sure I’d actually let my players get away with that.  Especially since the Legends and Lore implies that it wouldn’t work.

Wight:  Corporeal soul-suckers.  Good reason to carry that silver dagger around with you.  Pretty solid.

Zombie:  The usual slow lumbering sort.  Sadly, they cannot do the hustle.  Spontaneous zombie plagues are a nice touch.

And that’s that!  Overall, a pretty good collection of monsters in only 34 pages.  I think I could run quite a few adventures with just what’s been collected here.  Not sure which playtest file I’ll tackle next.  Probably lay into the pregenerated characters.

Several character portraits circa 1888

April 3, 2012

A couple of pages from Harper’s new monthly magazine, Volume 76, Issues 451-456, 1888 which look like they’d make good character portraits for a Victorian-era game, or possibly even Spirit of the Century.

The beloved Giant Shrew

March 19, 2012
Giant Shrew

Giant Shrew

Shrew, Giant

No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d8)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 180′ (60′)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 2 (bite)
Damage: 1d6/1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 19

Giant shrews are rodents, and in some ways resemble giant rats. However, shrews have slightly longer snouts and are burrowing animals with reduced eyesight. They can jump up to 5′. Giant shrews are able to echolocate in a fashion not unlike bats, by emitting small squeaks. With this kind of “vision” they are able to see 60′, and this may be blocked with the spell silence 15′ radius. A deafened (and thus blinded) giant shrew has an effective AC of 8 and suffers a –4 penalty to attack rolls.

Giant shrews are insectivores, and are highly territorial. They will attack trespassers, and are extremely fast. They automatically have initiative on the first round of combat, and have a bonus of +1 on the second round. Giant shrews are fearsome, vicious fighters and they are extremely intimidating.  Any opponent with 3 HD or fewer must succeed in a saving throw versus death or flee.

(from Labyrinth Lord)

These things are crazy for a 1-HD creature.  There’s gotta be easier ways to gain 19 XP.

The ancient salt mines of Wieliczka

March 14, 2012

This blog post is old but it’s new to me, and it is BLOWING MY MIND.

Map of the underground salt mine

Map of the underground salt mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, yeah, go read that blog post, and be inspired.

Fate Corps: Skills as Aspects as Qualities

October 17, 2011

Let’s start with skills.  What *is* a skill, or a Strands-of-Fate attribute?  What is Strength+2?

It’s basically an Aspect that’s always invoked, that you never have to pay for.  So why doesn’t it look like an Aspect?

Let’s consider a new thing: Qualities.  A Quality is a type of Aspect, or perhaps an Aspect is a type of Quality.  Unlike an Aspect, you don’t need to pay to invoke a Quality.  It’s always invoked, all the time, for free.  Also unlike Aspects, Qualities are often ranked.

So, what is Strength+2, really?

Maybe it’s Strength+2 (Ninja [+1], Way of the Tiger [+1]).  Or it could be Ninja+2, or (Weightlifter +3, Over the Hill -1.)

“Ninja”, here, is a Quality, and it adds +1 to this character’s Strength.  Perhaps it also adds +2 to his Endurance, and maybe even -1 to Empathy.

That whole thing about “Hey why am I only Ninja when I pay Fate Point for it?” goes away with this implementation.  You are Ninja all the time without paying for it.

This undermines the idea of Aspects as primary characterization, somewhat — and I think that’s a good thing.  If “Ninja” is really central to your character, then he should probably be Ninja all the time.

It’s already invoked (or, depending, compelled) all the time, so it’s not really valid to try to invoke it again for another +2.  You’re already Strength+2 by dint of being Ninja — try a different Aspect.

However, it’s entirely valid to invoke or compel Qualities *for effect*.  You want to spend a Fate Point to have a smoke bomb?  Dude, you are Ninja — of course you have a smoke bomb.  Spend the point and be good.

Similarly, compels for effect are also valid.  If you’re Paladin all the time, then off you go to save the princess from the evil necromancer.

It’s a fine way to implement things like races.  If you are a dwarf, then get the Dwarf+1 quality to your Endurance.  But take Dwarf-1 to your Comeliness.  If you also want to be particularly dwarfy, then sure, take a “Dwarf Among Dwarves” Aspect as well, if you like.  There’s also another way to do it which I’ll mention in a bit.

What else works like Qualities?  Consequences, that’s what.  Say someone breaks your arm.  That major consequence can be the Broken Arm -2 Quality.  You don’t get paid off with Fate points every time your opponents take advantage of your broken arm. You just get the -2.  Maybe to every roll, maybe not.

So say you’ve got a scene in a place where it’s really dark.  Sure, you could make that a Dark Aspect on the scene.  Everyone pay up if you’re hiding better because it’s Dark or stumbling over things.

Or you could make it a Quality.  Dark:1.  That’s a +1 to some skills and a -1 to others; you could enumerate them all by skill and trapping if you really wanted to, but you probably have better things to do.

So someone might want to hide in the Dark, but might want more than that +1 bonus.  How can they get it?  One way would be to Invoke For Effect — “Hey, it’s Dark in here, right?  I use my Perception to find some Shadowy Shadows to hide in, and Invoke for Effect.”  So that character is placing the Aspect “Shadowy Shadows” on the scene, and getting a free tag on it, for an additional +2.  Assuming they make that roll, of course — the GM could make it really easy (“Oh yeah, there’s shadows everywhere, no problem”) or really difficult (“It’s totally dark — every part seems just as  shadowy as every other part”) or anywhere in between.

So our old friend who is a Dwarf Among Dwarves would perhaps rather do things this way — just make ad-hoc invocations of his Dwarf Quality to put Dwarf Among Dwarves on himself, and then tag it.  The possibility of a skill roll is what makes this different and inferior to buying the Aspect outright.

So what’s the real difference here between Aspects and Qualities?  Should that dark room have the Dark Aspect, or the Dark Quality?

This gets into the philosophy behind what’s going on narratively with Fate Points. What’s the difference between the guy who is Strength+2 and the guy who has the Strong Aspect?

The difference, in my opinion, is free will.  It’s about choice.  The Strength+2 person is strong all the time — when they’re asleep, in the shower, etc.  The Strong person can choose to make an extra effort to lift that heavy thing.

When it comes to scenes and things, I like to imagine a robot or giant insect or other thing with no free will or volition.  Is that robot having problems moving around that Dark room?  Then it’s probably the Dark Quality.  Or can the giant insect move around without problems, although a human could easily take advantage of the shadowy darkness?  Then that points towards the Dark Aspect.

It can also help build up difficulties.  Why is this wall +3 to climb?  Well, it’s Wall +3 (Tall+1, Slippery When Wet+3, Ivy-1).  That implies the mechanical effects of waiting around until it stops raining.

There could very easily be two characters in the same game, in the same party, and one has Ninja as a Quality and the other has Ninja as an Aspect.  That’s no problem at all.  Quality Ninja is Ninja all the time.  Aspect Ninja is only Ninja when he feels like it.  Qualities are truly the “this is what this character *is*” part of the game, while Aspects become “this is what the character *can be when he feels like it*” part.  It can even become a part of character ‘advancement’, if the character changes his Aspect to a Quality, or vice versa.

Assessing:  Unlike Aspects, Qualities are almost always self-evident.  You don’t need to roll to know that the wall is tall and wet, that that guy over there is a cop.  You might need a bit more finesse to know that a particular guy is Cop:+2 and not Cop:+1, but even that’s probably easier than noticing he has the Aspect: Behind On My Mortgage Payments.

Manoeuvring:  I’ve actually already covered this, although you may have missed it. If a character wants to give the room the Dark Quality, as opposed to just the Dark Aspect, can he do that?  How?  In fact, I’ve already told you how you establish new Qualities — it’s what attacks do, by establishing consequences.  Indeed, that is what distinguishes the ‘attack’ version of ‘I shove him off balance’ from  the ‘manoeuvre’ version.  If your character wants to add the Dark Quality to  the room, he makes an attack — perhaps against the lighting.  And, yes, this means  that, finally, you can literally attack the darkness.

Levels:  In some systems, the player characters are just flat-out better than the average person.  One way to do this is to give those characters a Quality like “Centurion:+1″ that applies to every skill there is.  The average person might default to +0 on a skill, but the PCs default to +1.  Why?  Because Centurion, that’s why.

You could use this to level up the party.  After a while, everyone is Centurion:+2.  This does two things:  It increases all their skills by 1 (probably) and it  increases the minimum skill default by 1.  That’s a characteristic of level-based systems (like the various D&Ds) in contrast to skill-based systems (like the various GURPSs.)  In a level-based Fate game, you would know that 3rd-level characters have at least a +3 in every skill — Endurance, Wealth, etc.  That can make scaling some things a lot easier — you can determine, for example, that every 3rd-level character can survive a point-blank shotgun blast from a 1st-level enemy.  Without a level system, you generally don’t know that.

Qualities As Skills:  Consider this enemy:

Ninjas! — Ninja+2.

By which I mean: this guy has a +2 in the Ninja skill.

What the heck is in the Ninja skill?  I don’t know.  I mean, I *know*, just like you do, but it’s not written down anywhere.  I know what the trappings are associated with that skill.  Stabbing the characters with his sword, climb up walls, etc.  Trying to sell the characters life insurance, not so much.

Is that superior to listing out every enemies’ Strength, Fists, Melee Weapons, Athletics, etc etc etc skills?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If you don’t know what the trappings of the Ninja skill are, you’re probably a lot better off with the extensive list.

Does this turn the game into Risus?  Yeah, sort of.

Is this the same as the Quality of Ninja+2?  It’s certainly very similar.

Of course, the Ninja skill and all the ‘usual’ skills are not mutually exclusive.  You could customize up this guy:  Ninja+2, Swords+1, Climbing-1.  That guy is +3 to hit you with a sword, +1 to climb up a tree.

Is that exactly the same as a 3rd-level Centurion?  It is looking pretty similar, isn’t it.

So, that’s Qualities.  Give them a try.

Ark II in the Land of the Lost

October 4, 2011

SleestakSo I wrote a little thing.  So little, in fact, that you might as well just read it; it’ll take less time than me trying to explain it.

Download Ark II in the Land of the Lost

Vocabulary of Locutions

August 26, 2011

I ran across this list in a palmistry book, and it really seemed like something well-suited for character generation, or plot generation, or whatnot.

Entries include things like “Character (Good) but sadly influenced by women; will however conquer fortune anew” and “Intrigue based on the fancies of love and sure to be suddenly annihilated”.

Anyway, feel free to take a look.

http://stirgessuck.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/vocabulary_of_locutions.pdf

A brief introduction to Muldurr

April 28, 2011

MuldurrOur group is starting up a new foray in Ravenloft, and so I needed to take off my DM hat and make a character for myself.  His character sheet will follow; in the meantime, here’s a brief introduction:

1.  Muldurr is a human avenger.  Avengers are those guys who roll 2d20 when they attack; they are divine strikers.

2.  Muldurr’s background is that he was raised by a cult!  Those Vecna-worshippers had evil plans for him, but he was rescued by opposing cultists, err, worshippers, of Ioun.  This experience however left him with a strong grasp of history.

3.  Muldurr worships Ioun. He’s all about seeking lost knowledge.  If there’s a book bound in human skin and dripping blood, he’s the guy who is going to read it.  He always opens the box labelled “WARNING DO NOT OPEN.”

4.  His avenger build is Censure of Unity, which means he wants to have all his friends around.  His attacks do +1 damage for each ally adjacent to his target.

5.  He is the Perception monkey at +14.  He’s also good at Heal (+14) (although he can’t provide any real healing) and History and Religion (+12 each.)

6.  He’s pretty good at taking out the undead; two of his three at-wills do radiant damage, and his encounter-power channel-divinity does 4d10+5.

7.  He wears a pretty excellent hat.

Questions about Rules:

1.  Divine Guidance power:  I’m not entirely sure how the timing is supposed to work for this.  Should I say I want to use it:
a. before my ally rolls;
b. after my ally rolls but before he knows if it’s a hit or miss;
c. after my ally knows he has missed
or what?

2.  Carnage weapon enchantment:  Say I’ve got a power that does 2W damage.  What’s the maximum amount of possible bonus damage?  +4 or +8?

Narrativist IF: Does it exist? Can it exist?

April 20, 2011

The following is an embarrassingly length response to one of Emily Short’s blog posts.  You may want to skip to the end.

A brief introduction to GNS

Consider someone playing an RPG.  Why are they playing?  What makes it fun for them?  What is their primary concern?

Actually, let me back up for a minute.  Why do we care?  What is this theory trying to accomplish?

The underlying phenomenon that GNS was built to address is laid out in the first two sentences of the GNS essay:  “My straightforward observation of the activity of role-playing is that many participants do not enjoy it very much. Most role-players I encounter are tired, bitter, and frustrated.”

The theory arises out of that observation, suggesting that people are unhappy because they don’t know what they want, or they aren’t getting what they want, or that the various people in the game want different things that are functionally mutually-exclusive.

Anyway, to get back to the immediate question of why people are playing and what makes it fun for them:  these considerations overall are referred to as a person’s Creative Agenda.  There are three distinct Creative Agendas that are widely-recognized:

* Gamism, or “Step On Up”.  This is about the players, the real people, meeting the challenge of the game and (hopefully) overcoming it through their own skills.

* Simulationism, or “Right to Dream”.  This is all about exploring the game and all its various pieces.

* Narrativism, or “Story Now”.  This is about Addressing the Premise and producing Theme; more about those terms later.

One may note at this point that the Creative Agendas refer to a person’s priorities at a particular moment of play.  So it’s not really correct to refer to someone as a Gamist or as a Narrativist.  However, it’s very useful to occasionally discuss people’s typical preferences over time, such that someone who tends to like and enjoy adopting the Creative Agenda of Simulationism can generally be referred to as a Simulationist and everyone knows what we mean.

It’s also not really correct to refer to a game as Narrativist or whatnot.  But again, some games tend to provide better support for certain Creative Agendas than others.  So if we say, for example, “Primetime Adventures is a Narrativist game” then people usually understand that we mean that it provides support for players with the Creative Agenda of Narrativism, and we usually mean to imply that it does not provide much support for pursuing the other Creative Agendas.

GNS and non-RPGs

With all those caveats behind us, we can start considering how the Creative Agendas might apply to computer games in general and interactive fiction specifically.

Simulationism is fairly straightforward.  Videogames such as, well, The Sims, as well as the various versions of Civilization, the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, and many others provide strong support for the sort of player activities which characterize the Simulationist Creative Agenda.

On the interactive fiction side, games like Savoir Faire, Delightful Wallpaper, and Rover’s Day Out can be very enjoyable to Simulationist players.  The fun comes from observing the simulation, exploring it, learning its rules, and applying those rules to bend it to your will.

Gamism is also fairly straightforward.  Any game which might reasonably support a competition probably has good Gamist support.  So we have classics like Tetris and Pac-Man, all manner of first-person-shooters, and so forth.

Gamist interactive fiction is more unusual.  Games with lots of puzzles, particularly very hard ones, can be enjoyed by Gamists.  I would put Varicella and The Duel That Spanned the Ages into this category, among others.

I may be in danger of implying a false mutual-exclusivity here.  Such is the danger with my increasingly-loose usage and abuse of the terminology.  It’s possible to play Civilization with a Gamist bent, and one can play Varicella while pursing a Simulationist agenda.

Back to Narrativsm

Finally, we arrive at the burning question of the hour, which is:  are there any Narrativist interactive fiction games out there?

My description of Narrativism was pretty weak, so let me start (again) there:

Narrativism is the agenda of Addressing the Premise and producing Theme.

A Premise in this sense is a problematic aspect of the human condition.  Some examples include:

* Is the life of a friend worth the safety of a community?
* Can love overcome all obstacles?
* Does faith lead to salvation, or destruction?

One of the big deals with Narrativism is that the Premise must be answered through play; it cannot be pre-determined.

Consider a game like Photopia.  It’s a good game, I would say; it was worth experiencing.  Is it Simulationist?  I don’t think it’d be very enjoyable if I used it in pursuit of a Simulationist agenda; there’s not really enough game in there.  Similarly, it’s hard to consider it a Gamist piece, either.

Can a player pursue the Narrativist Creative Agenda through it?  It depends to what degree you think the author is demonstrating his own predetermined Premise to you, and how much freedom you, as a player, have to decide the Premise on your own.  I don’t think I’m being too controversial when I say that the Premise of Photopia has been written and expressed by the author, though.

If you skipped everything else, here’s the conclusion

In the general case, interactive fiction tends to be much like regular static fiction when it comes to Narrativism.  In a standard novel, the Premise is not a question — it’s a statement, by the author.  Yes, the life of a friend is worth the safety of a community.  The novel serves to prove that, in its own specific case, the Premise stands.

So, on its face, it would appear that we’re out of luck when it comes to Narrativist interactive fiction.  It does not seem to be technically possible to pursue that particular Creative Agenda.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been playing pretty loose with our terminology, and perhaps it’s all caught up with us.  It’s not possible for any game to be literally Narrativist, nor is it possible for any person.

Narrativism merely describes a category of answers to the questions of: why am I playing this game?  Why do I find it fun?  It seems fair to me to say that a Narrativist game is nothing more or less than a game that’s likely to be enjoyed by people who tend to pursue the Narrativist Creative Agenda.

If we accept that, then I think there is Narrativist interactive fiction after all.  It includes works that are primarily concerned with Premise, with addressing and advancing the Premise, and with drawing the player into complicity.

Interactive fiction is particularly well-suited to advancing the author’s Premise, because it affords the reader the unique opportunity to become complicit in the story.  You may wish dearly to believe that, for example, theft is never justified.  But, with skill, a good work of interactive fiction can cajole you into going along with a theft.  Or it can go very badly — it’s very hard to like an otherwise stellar work if you find yourself deeply offended by its Premise.  Such are the risks involved.

Examples of such games include Floatpoint, Slouching Towards Bedlam, and Vespers.


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