Concepts From Elsewhere

The following concepts developed at other sites are useful for understanding Play Passionately.

From The Forge’s Provisional Glossary:

Creative Agenda

The aesthetic priorities and any matters of imaginative interest regarding role-playing. Creative Agenda is expressed using all Components of Exploration, but most especially System.

Story Now

Commitment to Addressing (producing, heightening, and resolving) Premise through play itself. One of the three currently-recognized Creative Agendas.

Premise (adapted from Egri)

A generalizable, problematic aspect of human interactions. Early in the process of creating or experiencing a story, a Premise is best understood as a proposition or perhaps an ideological challenge to the world represented by the protagonist’s passions. Later in the process, resolving the conflicts of the story transforms Premise into a theme – a judgmental statement about how to act, behave, or believe.

Address Premise, to

To establish, develop, and resolve a Premise during play, with emphasis on the decisions made by the protagonist characters.


The point, message, or key emotional conclusion perceived by an audience member, about a fictional series of events. The presence of a theme is the defining feature of Story as opposed to Transcript.

From Meg Baker’s and Emily Care Boss’s blog “Fair Game.”:

In [I Will Not Abandon You], the social agreements are:

I as a player expect to get my buttons pushed, and I will not abandon you, my fellow players, when that happens. I will remain present and engaged and play through the issue.

I as a player expect to push buttons, and I will not abandon you, my fellow players, when you react. I will remain present and engaged as you play through the issue

In [No One Gets Hurt], the social agreement is that we know where each other’s lines are, and we agree not to cross them.

From Vincent Baker’s blog “anyway”:

As far as I’m concerned, the purpose of an rpg’s rules is to create the unwelcome and the unwanted in the game’s fiction. The reason to play by rules is because you want the unwelcome and the unwanted – you want things that no vigorous creative agreement would ever create. And it’s not that you want one person’s wanted, welcome vision to win out over another’s – that’s weak sauce. No, what you want are outcomes that upset every single person at the table. You want things that if you hadn’t agreed to abide by the rules’ results, you would reject.

The challenge facing rpg designers is to create outcomes that every single person at the table would reject, yet are compelling enough that nobody actually does so.

From The Forge, Ron Edwards on Primetime Adventures and Stake Setting:

…I think that conflict is best understood as a fictional clash of interests between fictional characters. What we, the real people, want is not necessarily represented by the dice or whatever – those, instead, represent the strengths, nuances, and ultimately the outcome of that fictional conflict. The virtue of using such methods (and I specifically include wholly-verbal methods when they are well-organized, as in Polaris) is that they dictate the conflict will be over, in however many rounds or currency units or draws they take – ultimately, the pacing of the conflict, who wins and who doesn’t, and the fact that it hits a point in which it cannot be endlessly negotiated, is what gives the fiction a coherence that it rarely, if ever, achieves through unconstructed group dialogue.

What I’m saying is that it’s a good idea to define conflict as the first tricky thing, and to define participation in that conflict as the second tricky thing. Some aspect of the procedure needs to isolate the fictional interest of the fictional character, as perceived by that character at this moment, as the kernel of the fiction – so that all these nonfictional, real-person influential elements can proceed as they might for a particular game. There are different ways to do this. In PTA, it’s done via character ownership: if you are playing Bucky Ball, the cheerful squirrel in this physics-educational kids’ show, then you must stand up for Bucky in the context of conflicts he’s embroiled in. Basically, someone, using some thing that’s fixed in place by the rules, has to.

What I’m saying is that defining conflicts … as being about what the players want, gums up the beauty and functionality of these two tricky things’ interactions. Why is that such a bad thing? Or, what do I specifically mean by “gums up”?

Because it removes the “audience” component of the role-playing experience. Whether Bucky Ball can overcome the malevolent influence of this episode’s villain by using his wave/particle duality to be in two places at once, is fun and interesting. Whether Bob or Diane gets his or her way, respectively, in terms of what happens, is a real-person power struggle and is automatically divorced from the fiction, rendering it merely the bitch of their momentary social jockeying for control of something. Bluntly, doing it the way I’m talking about is story creation; doing it the [resolving what the player wants way] is a bid for attention and status.

From The Forge, Chrisopher Kubasik on Sorcerer

…every group of players (the GM and the Players) will have to find thematic material that authentically intrigues them.  If this isn’t done, if the group simply grabs “Betrayal” off the shelf of Lit 101 in the hopes it’ll make the game fly, there will be trouble.

The truth is, if the players all pick definitions of Humanity, Demons and Lore that are compelling to them as people they will in turn create PCs that are compelling to them as people, and the game will spark with a great many emotions, lots of investment in the characters, passions and experiences.  There should be nothing arbitrary or mechanical about any of this.  It shouldn’t be a debate, nor should Bangs fly at the Players with no concern for the continuity of the fiction or setting.

BUT — this all only works if the players are genuinely concerned about the issues at hand.

This is why grabbing generic issues off the Lit 101 shelf almost guarantees failure.  The test of a successful Nar game is not whether there’s something thematic going on.  It’s whether there something thematic going on that is alive to the players.

From Bacchanal © 2005 by Paul Czege, reproduced with permission.

In Bacchanal, you are thrust by dice to the fore of the stage to fabricate and describe scenes of erotic transgression. If this doesn’t induce anxiety, and the game isn’t with your lover alone, then you aren’t doing it right.

Know also that the other players are an initially interested audience to the scenes you’ll describe, but that you’ll need to work creatively and take risks to maintain that interest. In the heat of play it’s easy to focus your efforts on the creative demands of the dice. But you’ll lose your audience if you do. Playing Bacchanal well is a matter of preserving and developing the interest of your audience despite the dice.

And so, some tips:

ƒ    Consider, before narrating a scene, how you feel about what you’re preparing to describe. If you’re not feeling vulnerable, not nervous, consider what you might describe instead that would feel vulnerable. In a live game like Bacchanal, the interest of the audience is more powerfully captured by how you feel about what you narrate, than by the details.

ƒ    On a related note, recognize that over-reliance on pornography and graphic violence in your scenes is a way of defending against exposure and vulnerability.

ƒ    Control your anxiety by playing with people you trust not to hurt you, and with the knowledge that the emotion you bring to your play is what commands the interest of the audience.

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