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Season 3

Season 2

Season 1


Hi, and welcome back to the show! This week I'm speaking with Whitney Beltrán about her just released kickstarter for Bluebeard's Bride.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Whitney Beltrán

Length: 29:55

We discussed the origins, the goals, and the play experiences of Bluebeard's Bride. Check out these links:

Bluebeard's Bride Kickstarter
Bluebeard's Bride G+ Community
@BluebeardsBride on Twitter
@the_strix on Twitter
Sean's AP Report from Origins

The conversation continues...Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_085.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:04am EST

Hi, and welcome back to the show! We're talking to Kate and Hakan about how awesome language is and how they use it in their games!

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Kathryn Hymes and Hakan Seyalioglu

Length: 51:05

Inspired by listening to Alex Roberts (Backstory)

Games we talked about:

Sign - A game about being understood
Dialect - A game about language and how it dies

Gushing about Dialect:

Truckers on Mars - a game that's structure was built around the language we made! Not what I expected.
Procedurally generated scenes that were very compelling. 
Secret Sauce: mayonnaise in the sun... actually, it's "can you tell a story while building a language?"
Language creation as a window into people and identity.
You pick the things that are important to you and build off them.
Friendship as a byproduct of games.
Sean's hypothesis: Any subject that people are passionate about could be turned into a game. Discuss!
Game as non-dogmatic, non-prescriptive way to share your passions.
People who your game connects with are kindred.

Responsibility of the Designer

Making sure that you're respectful to the subject matter of your game and the communities that identify with the subject matter.
Lessons learned from sharing sign with the deaf community and getting feedback.

Conventions we've just been to or are going to soon:

Origins (Hakan and Sean)
Go Play Northwest (Kate, Hakan, and Sean)
Gen Con (Kate, Hakan, and Sean)
Big Bad Con (Kate, Hakan, and Sean)

Panels at Gen Con Kate and Hakan are on:

Gaming community

Welcoming new players to the community.
Nurturing a fledgling community and new players.
Mouse Guard is a great game for new players. 

Language in Design

Fundamental to identity and relationships.
Uniquely human.
We absorb a ton of information through language.
Ritual Phrases for the win!
Hopscotch, the Larp. Kate and Hakan's next game!

The conversation continues...Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_084.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:08pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to the show! Over a year later and we're back! John Harper came on the show to talk to me about how his gaming style affects his design and all the pieces of the venn diagram that make for a good times at the game table.

Note: There is occasional profanity during the episode, but nothing so egregious that I would add the explicit tag. Also this is a long one, over two hours. We're making up for all the time we missed!

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: John Harper

Length: 2:12:35

Inspired by Alex Roberts (Backstory) and Marcelo Ferrari (The Curators) to start recording again.

The Nuke
Trust in Me
Judd Karlman - The Githyanki Diaspora
The "What would John do?" direct play for John's GMing advice for my game starts at 01:33:50!

Games we talked about:

Blades in the Dark
Apocalypse World
Burning Wheel

Games we referenced:

Blades in the Dark - Bloodletters (Actual Play | Youtube VODs)
Blades in the Dark - Doskvol Spectral Society (Actual Play)

Products we're plugging:

Undying (Buy | Discuss | One Seven Design Hangout

Cons we're attending:

Origins (Sean)
Go Play NW (Sean and John)
Gen Con (Sean)
Big Bad Con (Sean and John)

The conversation continues...Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_083.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:41pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have Rob Donoghue and Vincent Baker on to respond to episode 80 and discus their thoughts on the current state of design.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Vincent Baker and Rob Donoghue

Length: 45:14

[00:26] Introduction to the show. Welcoming Vincent and Rob.
[01:46] Vincent’s reaction to episode 80.
[08:00] Rob’s reaction.
[09:13] Defining Design. Where I get it all wrong.
[15:40] Distinction between GMing, Expansibility, and Hacking.
[19:08] Seeking authority on "how to do it right."
[23:32] Design intent for Fate and Apocalypse World.
[24:50] Impact of Fate and Apocalypse World on the design sphere.
[38:36] Adding to the influences available in design.
[40:37] My roast of Luke. I am not Stephen Colbert. 

The conversation continues...Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_082.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode was recorded many moons ago (June 2014), lost, found, and released! A bunch of fantastic perspectives on sincere emotions in games. 

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Matthew Klein, Avery Alder McDaldno, and Shaun Hayworth

Length: 47:52

[00:27] Intro to the show. Amazing experiences gaming with Avery McDaldno, Shawn Hayworth, and Matthew Klein.
[03:26] Do you seek to get an emotional response consciously in game, or do you let it occur as a result of the action in the game?
10:40] Does this ever backfire and force an emotion that is artificial?
[12:30] How does it happen? How do you know that your group is ready to play an emotional game?
[20:25] Prime your emotional responses upfront. Example: Bliss Stage, Monsterhearts, Ribbon Drive.
[25:47] Finding the safety valve – looking at the system and playing good faith.
[28:20] Game length affecting emotional capacity. Intensity wearing you down.
[33:02] When is this a detriment to game? Being mindful of triggers. Using X-cards. Taking breaks.
[43:30] Check yourself.
[46:16] Gamers needs changing with age.

The conversation continues...Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_081.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:44pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode sparked from a twitter conversation between Luke Crane and I about design intentions. To hack or not to hack, Conversations in Design. Luke had thoughts. An hour of thoughts. Check em out! Note: This is an explicit episode.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Luke Crane

Length: 1:08:21

[00:28] Intro to the show – Interview with Luke Crane.
[01:16] Luke prepared for an interview and to say things he probably shouldn’t.
[03:03] Design process. Different when you’re working on a game and when people are playing it.
[03:35] Luke’s History of Hacking.
[07:40] Part of the hacking culture is the belief that games don’t work as written.
[08:01] Difference between expansibility (developing products for a game) hacking (changing the rules)
[09:35] Design intent for Burning Wheel – Make the system shoulder the work.
[14:37] “If the game can do the heavy lifting, it should.”
[15:04] The anatomy of Burning Wheel – See diagram below:

[16:27] Burning Wheel Refined – A very compact and tight game. “If you find a place in Burning Wheel where you’re fighting with the game…you’re playing it wrong.”
[18:08] It’s very difficult to have a conversation with Burning Wheel.
[21:05] Nobody has thought about Burning Wheel as much as Luke has. Three people made sudden insights that helped the system: Ralph Mazza, Kenneth Hite, and Thor Olavsrud. And those prompted the change form Classic to Revised.
[26:16] Burning Wheel path to expansibility – Trait votes!
[27:57] Burning Wheel is a heavy brick of game design… Apocalypse World was designed to be hackable! Fate has the same ethos. Designing for the culture!
[30:15] But... they have captured the audience so well that it stymies design.
[31:52] People are still making D&D clones… so making a product that is hacked isn’t anything new.
[32:30] Apocalypse World and Fate Core raising the bar for fledging game designers, but also creating a paper ceiling.
[38:20] Vincent Baker designed all those game.
[39:39] Discussion about the playability and enjoy-ability and good that has come out of Apocalypse Engine and Fate games.  Not about whether it is fun to play or not.
[41:28] The state of RPG design in the aftermath of Apocalypse World and Fate in 10-15 years. Right now were playing with the new bounty we have.
[42:47] Frustration of developing in the shadow of Vincent [and Fate].
[44:18] The games have given Luke a new perspective on Burning Wheel and a new appreciation for it. BWHQ manifesto includes that we’ll never make a popular game and that’s okay.
[46:40] Fate*World. Yep, it exists. Ryan Macklin posted it.
[47:30] What is Luke looking for in the future from other designers?
[49:54] The secret history of why this podcast is named Narrative Control. #notasecret
[50:19] Value of expansibility content. New adventures, settings, new systems for specific uses. A plug for my own development of Stone Dragon Mountain 
[55:05] A gift for Vincent from Luke. Two soaring birds.
[55:12] Board gamers are very good at articulating the components of their games. RPGs aren’t distilled down that quickly.
[57:17] The political discussion about games is counter-productive.
[58:08] RPGs are hard to talk about. They are on the cutting edge of “what is a game”?

The conversation continues...Here

No, actually the conversation continues on G+ here, herehere, and here. Also possibly here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_080.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:58pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have three awesome gamers that have played in some extremely character driven games with me. I brought them on to discuss what's needed in a game to give players the tools they need to drive a game, how do you keep player antagonism safe at a table, and what external threats are necessary to keep the action moving and prevent the game from turing into a soap opera.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Jon Edwards, Regina Joyner, and Karen Twelves

Lenth: 30:47

[00:27] Intro to the show
[00:53] Welcoming my guests Jon Edwards, Regina Joyner, and Karen Twelves
[03:13] What is needed in the game to give players enough direction to drive the game forward themselves?
[08:20] Unstable situations with no status quo, and characters determining where the power would go.
[10:54] What maintained the tension mounting between the characters?
[15:04] How many external threats do you need to prevent the game from becoming a soap opera?
[18:03] Handling player versus player conflicts in a satisfactory way. No hurt feelings, but no pulling punches either.
[21:10] Keeping the game conformable and safe for you fellow players. Playing at the edge of your comfort level.
[27:23] What you needed to keep your attention on the other player characters.
[27:48] Ending with a satisfactory resolution that still leaves plot threads opens for another story.
[29:59] Gratuitous self-congratulatory discussion of previous games (kept short to keep my ego from leaving the atmosphere). 

The converstaion continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_079.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to the show! This episode I have two phenomenal GMs, Leonard Balsera and Todd Furler, on to talk about the rationale for running games either with low/no or very high prep, as well as their techniques for doing so.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guests: Leonard Balsera and Todd Furler

[00:26] Intro to the Show
[01:06] Introducing my guests Todd Furler and Leonard Balsera
[02:10] Todd and Lenny represent pillars of best practices for different methodologies for running games.
[03:10] Why choose one method or another? Reasons for high prep. Todd’s answer.
[09:33] Reasons for low/no prep games. Lenny’s answer.  
[13:50] What the GMs get out of it.
[16:55] How it all happens? What are the techniques each GM uses?
[48:17] Dodging pitfalls. What to do if you find yourself unprepared in a low prep? How do you prevent high-prep games from railroading players.

The converstaion continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_078.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:17pm EST

Hi, welcome to the show! This week I’m reflecting on the emotional impact of a particular LARP I was in at GenCon, how to facilitate that kind of play in general, and how to port those experiences to tabletop. My guests are awesome LARPers, and other players in the game Lizzie Stark, Emily Care Boss, and Jason Morningstar.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guest: Lizzie Stark, Emily Care Boss, and Jason Morningstar

Length: 54:10

[00:27] Intro to the show
[01:30] Introduce the guests to the show
[02:20] Premise of the show, a very moving game. How did it happen?
[03:30] Always have a debrief at the end of a game. Time to discuss what people got out of the game. How it impacted them.
[07:38] Establishing buy-in and setting expectations early on.
[09:23] Transparency at the beginning of a game.
[11:07] Model that your willing to use the tools your suggesting. X Card, Cutting, Breaking.
[13:00] Start with a sharing circle. Talk about something that relates to the topic of the game. Get people comfortable with the subject matter.
[16:18] Management techniques. Raising your hand.
[17:08] Sharing an experience, doing silly things together or sharing part of yourself.
[18:51] Starting with a high-trust environment.
[21:03] Discussing physical boundaries.
[22:39] Meta-techniques: Fist Bump, Monologues, etc.
[25:51] Handling players that are not buying into the premise. How to help them engage.
[32:59] Lowering the stakes through game design.
[34:08] Debrief ideas for RPGs (Games on Demand). Other people doing debriefs.
[36:31] As a game designer, think about entry points and exit points for your games.
[37:15] Verify the players feel that their input is important and needed.
[38:06] Meta techniques allow GMs to add there enter the game and check in with players. Tools for talking about the game in the game.
[41:20] Players will get lost from game if they don’t feel valued.
[41:39] Character non-monogamy.
[44:27] Jason is running The Upgrade at Big Bad Con!
[45:10] How these techniques apply to tabletop

The converstaion continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_077.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:57am EST

Hi, welcome back to the show. This week I’m talking torches with Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo. We discussed GMing and playing Torchbearer!

Host: Sean Nittner

Guest: Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo

Length: 1:35:16

[00:23] Intro to the show
[01:36] Introducing the guests: Shaun Hayworth, Josh Curtis, and David Gallo
[03:48] Keeping suspense in the game. Setting player expectations to expect and enjoy the grind.
[09:40] The system is definitely a game. Keeping focus on fiction instead of the mechanics are driving play.
[15:27] Signal to the GM that stakes aren’t high enough? Bigger rewards, more consequential actions.
[17:03] Counterpoint. Putting constant pressure on the characters prevents the players from exploring other options (camp, town, pursuing belifs/goals). Deciding on how hard to push.
[21:23] Reluctance to back down. Player skill to recognize when it’s time to cut losses and run? GM and Player skill.
[27:38] Torchbearer teaches you how to play it, but there are some growing pains. Signpost things of significance.
[29:29] How beliefs function in Torchbearer, compared to Burning Wheel. Beliefs as signals to the GM, and as aspirations for a better life.
[37:22] Tracking moving parts (Conditions, Light, Turns, etc.) Gaining mastery over time. Comparing playing in person vs. online.
[41:08] Role of party leader. Doling out tasks (and conditions) to the other characters and giving the GM some time off as the players discuss their options among themselves.
[47:47] Resource management for the GM. Tracking light, tests, etc.
[49:19] Managing real estate on the table (players deck cards, fate/persona/loot/checks tokens), dice, character sheet, etc.
[52:53] Tokens for check to signal to the GM when they have/need checks. Finding locations for check and setting Ob levels accordingly. Tokens in person, Roll20 online, etc.
[55:04] Pacing, when to use make test, a conflict, and when to continue pushing forward with narration.
[1:03:22] Another conflict litmus test, applying a broader scope of consequences. Using conflicts when that granularity is needed.
[1:04:26] Burning Wheel HQ games and Apocalypse World (and hacks) both direct you to keep having the conversation of what happens until the fiction demands you go to the dice.
[1:05:49] The game atmosphere is heavily curated by the GM. The more energy you put into describing the world and talking about what happens in the fiction, the more invested the players become in the fiction. Don’t be a tired, lazy GM!
[1:11:02] It takes time to learn the game. Give that time for people to learn.
[1:15:06] Keeping the fiction in front during conflict (where mechanical choices are made before the fiction is described).
[1:24:02] The skills I want to see players develop are based on patterns in the fiction instead of a mechanics to engage. Learning strategy in the fiction by asking over and over “What do you do?” Good idea!
[1:28:59] Best twists come from following the player’s lead. Knowing that they are doing makes it easy figure out what could go wrong.
[1:30:07] Miscellany – Final thoughts. 2D cash dice right here!

The converstaion continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_076.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This episode we talked to David McBride about handling a back-seat GM.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Leonard Balsera, and Eric Fattig

Guest: David McBride

Length: 52:05

[00:27] Intro to the show. Explicit episode in both English and French.

[01:26] News: Fattig got a HOUSE!
[02:17] Fate Core is at print!
[04:08] Welcome David McBride to the show. Is it David or Dave?
[05:20] Regular player in a weekly group, very close friend – he back seat GMs games.
[07:03] Seven players, two hour sessions, powerful (11+ refresh) characters.  Brave GM!
[07:42] Big fight in the game – Player suggest using another system to adjudicate it.
[09:59] Does the player reflect the group consensus or is he an outlier?
[11:44] What happened? How does the story end?
[12:53] Starting point. Have you talked to him about this?
[13:33] Sean sympathizes. I could be that player.
[15:02] Worth noting that this behavior is not done out of malice. Look at his contributions.
[16:47] The GM itch. The Kinsey scale. Permissive games like Dresden encourage the player contributions.
[18:18] Concrete advice #1. Systematize and put constraints around how you are going to take input AND give the player something to be in charge in the game.
[20:50] Co-GM as an option.
[22:00] David has the dream group.
[23:44] How do we take this creativity and enthusiasm and channel it positively into the game?
[25:36] Familiarity may be contributing to the overwhelming flow of contributions. A history of GMing together.
[28:07] Dresden Files specific solution: Give ownership of specific locations.
[29:43] Where does the frustration come from?
[36:05] The issue at hand is reaching a saturation point. When it’s too much.
[35:57] This might be something a player needs to get out a game that they aren’t getting.
[38:04] Player expressing what they want out of a game.
[39:21] Get some pints!
[39:56] Easier to do when you’re not in the middle or running a game.
[40:52] Layout the process. A guideline for future communication.
[41:30] Bring it to the group. Diffuse tensions with transparency!
[43:20] Sean: But, but, but…
[45:25] Fate Specific – Setting aspects give guidelines where what input is appropriate and what isn’t.
[47:26] Recap. Practical Advice #1 – Give the player something to have authority over in the game.
[47:53] Recap. Practical Advice #2 – Talk to them about what’s going on. Don’t treat it like a problem.
[48:22] Recap. Practical Advice #3 – Recognize this comes from a place of love.
[48:53] Recap. Practical Advice #4 – Establish a baseline – a format for presenting ideas.
[49:21] Recap. Practical Advice #5 – Open the channels of communication to the group.

The converstaion continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_075.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:58pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to Austin Smith about hierarchies in game settings.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Austin Smith

Length: 52:26

Show Notes

[00:26] Introduction to the show. Brining back Austin Smith from Episode 70.
[01:20] Austin’s games. Built into the game setting was a hierarchy. Problems presented by power.
[03:24] Using hierarchy to reinforce an aspect of the setting. Embrace what it tells you about setting.
[04:43] How we deal with question of hierarchy in fiction is very different from the way we deal with it in life.
[07:25] If someone is pulling rank to get what they want, lots of other things have gone wrong.
[08:21] Orders vs. strong personal convictions. Good hierarchy drama!
[09:10] When we talk about hierarchies in a RPG, we are most often talking about them as they are portrayed in fiction.
[09:50] Authority allow a GM to present different ranked characters with different challenges.
[11:09] Make sure the players are using these potential conflicts to maximize drama between characters.
[11:56] Firefly game – NPC captain who was ignored and wasn’t developed. Another Firefly game, agreed to run without a captain.
[14:59] One way to handle an authority figure NPC. Pass the character around to the players.
[16:35] Ashen Stars handles the issue by giving the captain authority only while on the ship, but authority stops there.
[18:33] Werewolf does the same thing, where each pack member is in charge of their own niche.
[18:51] Authority is contextual. In TNG Picard is always deferring to other people.
[19:34] Difference between rank and status. Improv technique form Keith Johnstone’s Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre.
[21:17] We learn interesting things about character when high ranking characters have low status.
[22:57] In L5R rank was circumvented by having each character be a member of different clans.
[24:13] Hierarchies were avoided in games. Why was this? Avoiding being set up to fail.
[25:35] Dichotomy of wanting strict hierarchies in the setting but not wanting it to affect the game.
[27:18] Choosing how much hierarchy we want to enforce in our setting.
[28:28] Example of how this is handled in a setting. Worf kills Duras. Gets a stern talking to.
[30:23] Authority is best used with discretion in a game. Will it make for an interesting consequence to invoke authority?
[34:01] Lenny’s death haiku “Dude, you really suck.”
[34:17] Difficult to find the balance between actual consequences and making look like there are consequences.
[35:37] Different play styles made it difficult to get a consensus on how an authority figure should act.
[36:00] Example of our Blue Gene game that we have had to stop the game in play to question an action before it happens when it would threaten our ability to justify its acceptance in the setting.
[37:59] Player leader as antagonist? Discuss.
[39:40] System also effects this. Does the system let you force someone to do something, or does it just allow you to put pressure on them?
[41:22] Recap. Discussing the buy into to the authority. How would law enforcement work if mutants existed (ala X-men). How real is realistic?
[42:44] Ask what questions are meaningful in the story. How would normal people deal with having amazing powers? How do you respond to unknowable threats around you?
[44:59] Authority in the face of the unknown. Nobody has the answers. Authority in those cases just means you have a bigger gun to shoot yourself in the foot with.
[46:00] To ask questions, you need to give yourself permission to talk to about these things on a player level.
[47:36] Rich storytelling options to be mined. High ranking characters don’t have the opportunities to see things you can at a lower level.
[48:52] Have NPCs skip levels and not play the game right to cause intrigue.
[50:22] Some examples of mechanics for using authority form Apocalypse World: Leadership and Pack Alpha.

The converstaion continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_074.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to Jamil Walker about presenting non-violent opposition for his PCs. This really touched on a cornerstone of our GMing styles. It’s a good 40 minutes. Have a listen!

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Jamil Walker

Length: 42.16

Show Notes

[00:26] Introduction to the show. Jamil Walker from comes on to talk about non-violent opposition.
[01:08] Explicit warning on!
[01:26] Discussion about GMing styles. How does a player self-identify what kind of GM they are looking for?
[02:59] Diversity in the hobby making the term role-playing game and elusive term.
[05:55] Cons using symbols to designate content of games (legend). Big Bad Con will start using something like this.
[08:18] Welcome Jamil Walker to the show. Playing Apocalypse world and trying to fight the knee jerk reaction of going straight to violence.
[09:43] Constant violence stalls character development long term.
[10:28] Apocalypse World tools for creating interwoven threats: Fronts!
[11:55] We start the cult discussion.
[12:15] Violence does work as an impetus to action. A threat you can’t ignore.
[13:24] Branching out to find other threats they have to respond to.
[14:00] Cult example, everyone leaving the hold to enter the wasting desert.
[14:42] What do the player characters care about?
[15:09] Real life example: Being blackmailed for breaking company policy, stakes are losing your job.
[16:01] Back to the cult. Threatening to change your home. Arguing with your boon companions…risking becoming a pariah in your own community.
[17:28] Trap with Apocalypse World: The setting depicts people focused only on survival but he process of play proves that image wrong.
[18:11] Start with questions. Find out where the dependencies are and work with those.
[20:04] Connect problems to scarcity – deny things. Have an NPC say “no”.
[22:28] Stop thinking about people in terms of their fantastic characteristics, and think of how people say no to you.
[24:04] Superman’s real Kryptonite – People being afraid of him.
[25:18] Push the denial strongly. Let the players initiate the violence.
[26:37] You can get a lot of mileage out of the repercussions of violence.
[27:35] Make NPCs as fickle as needed to present opposition.
[28:04] Give the players things. Allow them to win. Give them something they care about.
[29:09] Enforcement of denial. How’s it work? Jamil’s notes.
[30:52] Slow your roll there… use the details of the setting.
[33:44] Someone lied. Lies start a chain of consequences.
[35:16] It’s okay for the players to feel on top of the world. It makes defeat that mush more brutal.
[37:00] Letting the players win. Legitimate victories chip away at the problem of “only caring about being alive”.
[37:55] Get excited about their victories and defeats. Put your own emotions on the table.
[41:18] With that knowledge… you should run a game at Big Bad Con.
[41:37] Want to be on the show? Emails us

Jamil’s notes from the show:

The trap of violence is that it demands action

Threaten What The Value

•      Their peace
•      Their resources
•      Their loyalty
•      Their homes
•      They’re resources

Give them stuff. Love it to death. Then break your own heart

To “Push There”

Threaten something they have (object/relationship/group/resource)

•      Someone wants to destroy it (to rebuilt, to consume, to make example of)
•      Someone wants to change it (to serve a new purpose, to signify something malevolent)
•      Someone wants it for themselves
•      The thing they have disagrees with them
•      The thing they have wants something harmful

And threaten via:

•      Greater numbers (violent or non-violent)
•      Denial of resources (shelter, supplies, protection)
•      A tempting offer (away from the thing being threatened)
•      A direct threat or warning

Someone can’t (or won’t) give them _______ because:

•      someone else says they can’t
•      they don’t think you deserve it
•      they don’t want to do _____ anymore
•      they don’t have it anymore (taken, spoiled, burned up, ran out)          
•      they don’t want what your offering in exchange (anymore)
•      their supplier died/moved/cut them off.

The converstation continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_073.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:17pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re talking about methos for finding a game that will suit your needs. It's kind of the anti-hack episode (Episode 69) where our goal is to find you a system that will match your epectations without having to re-invent it yourself. We doing something special this year and hosting a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders

Online fundraising for Narrative Control Holidy Fundraiser

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Soren Ludwig


Show Notes

[00:30] We’re doing good. In the holiday spirit we’re raising money for Doctors Without Borders. (see the link above)
[01:20] Sean is moving to the Bay Area! My last Davis summer.
[02:15] Fattig’s exciting story. The one not involving a donkey and three pounds of cocaine.
[03:29] Soren Ludwig’s question: How to pick out a tabletop RPG.
[03:57]Lenny’s strategy. Throw money at friends making games.
[04:44] Welcome Soren!
[05:17]The only advice you’ll ever need from Lenny. Look for the name “Leonard Balsera” on the spine of the book.
[07:07] And now we get back to the point, picking out a game (instead of hacking one)
[09:09] Don’t focus on premise when looking for a game. What we dig is more focused around systems.
[11:42] Instead figure out what do you want out of a system.
[12:30] Some examples that lead us to Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies
[13:35] Lets boil down what Soren is looking for in a game.
[14:30] Looking for discovery and mysteries leads us to Gumshoe.
[16:30] Asking the power questions of any game: Big Three and Power 19
[19:11] Highlighting “what makes it about that?” by looking at the character sheet.
[21:41] Places to find information about games. RPG.Net Reviews
[24:00] Search on Story Games Forum
[25:21]Actual play posts: Recommending The Walking Eye and Mom’s Basement and more at
[27:00] Talking to peeps! Asking people who have played the game, immediate friends, the twitters…
[30:05] After a brief digression… is your Google-fu strong?
[31:28] Lets pimp out Josh Roby for a moment. @joshroby
[32:50] Go to cons and play lots of games… try them out. Local cons. Meet ups. Store game days.
[35:50] After games are done, talk to the GM of a game. Trust us, they want to talk.
[37:30] Online resources for playing: Online cons like AetherCon. Google Hangouts like CONcurrent
[40:46] If you’d like to be on the show, please contact us at narrativecontrol@gmail.comsoon for s

Direct download: NC_Episode_072.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:01am EST

Hi all, while I would love to put out more episodes of Narrative Control, there are two mitigatging factors. One, we haven't had any "calls" (no content) and all the hosts have been strapped for time due to other projects or obligations (no means). 

I'm still pretty far from calling NC over. Though we've clrealy podfaded since season 2, I've got a plan for this podcast and I see our current situation as an obstacle, not a defeat. So, I'm going to take some time offline like we do between seasons to mull over what to do with the rest of season three. We'll play some games of Fiasco or Poker or Penny and see what brilliant ideas pop into our minds.

Though I really like the "Cartalk" format we've be doing, we'll have to reconsider if it's a viable for another 29 or so shows. Either way, myself and the co-hosts will be back after a bit (for small or large values of a bit) with more Narrative Control. Looking forward to it!

Category:general -- posted at: 8:03am EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to Rich Rogers about a transgressive experience he had playing in a game and review both what he could have done differently and what both GMs and players should watch out for so that they don't cross over boundries inadvetantly.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Rich Rogers, of Canon Puncture and RPG Crosstalk

Length: 50:27

Show Notes

[00:28] Welcome to the show. This episode is explicit because of the content. Specifically character rape.
[01:17] Welcoming the hosts on board. Discusson of secrets. Sean presents his theory.
[03:37] Lenny's thoughts on secrets... or is that what we're really talking about?
[05:53] Eric's crazy project. Building the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A)

Presentig the situation

[07:42] Bringing Rich onto the show. Rich tells us about the game.
[09:50] A failed carousing roll results in his character being raped. We ask some clarifying questions.
[11:20] Player reacton: laughter and ridicule.
[13:06] After the game reaction from the group: tweets celebrating the game.
[13:54] Rich's reaction: leaving the game.
[16:12] Our follow up questions. Reponse from the GM. Other experiences with the players.

Breakdown of what went wrong

[16:50] Issue: using lines and viels requires a discussion in advance, not after the fact.
[17:58] Issue: failure stakes never made explicit. Consequences way out of scope. Discussion of narrative authority, who gets it?
[20:33] Suggestioin: Speak up when uncomfortable. Consier what is the worst thiing that will happen? It is okay to not be okay with something.
[21:56] Issue: players response. Taken seriously and with respect virtually any subject matter can be handled with respect. But the reactoin here was ridicule.
[22:39] Issue: deprotoganoizing a PC. A really hot button for Sean.
[23:35] Issue: appropriteness of the content and the player's reaction. Lenny plays devil's advocate.
[26:16] Suggestion: When playing online, pay much more attention to what is going on with the other players because of the missing the body language.
[27:27] Suggestion: elaboration on how to respond, halting the game right there and discussing what's going on in the game.
[28:22] Suggestion: negotiate out of character, don't work within the narrative.
[29:18] We have to laugh because it is so awful. Sean's experience watching Brazil unprepared.
[30:23] 30 minutes into a game, hearing this, we're surprised Rich didn't just hang up the call.
[32:09] Suggestion: Games can handle very serious, transgressive and contovercial issues. First thing to do is to check in with the other player.
[33:55] Recap of suggestions: Call the GM on the carpoet or leave the game. Be very clear in skype/online games to communicate intent and check in with each other.
[36:25] Issue: it feels more uncomfortable to object the longer the game goes on and the more the other players buy into it.
[37:21] Issue: recap of he players response. In some ways even more offensive than the GM's actions.
[39:42] Suggestion: If you bring a new player into a game, evaluate your existing group dynamic before trodding ahead.
[40:35] Suggestion: Response to the players is the same as response to the GM. Call them on their response.
[40:56] Sean is so upset by players teasing each ohter. It's bullying.
[42:37] We wish we had more practical advice. We're angry on Rich's behalf.
[43:02] Rich is not only upset about what happened in the game, but also about his reaction.
[44:00] Issue: how to deal with players who are teasing you in game?
[46:18] Suggestion: The people watching this going down (a 3rd party) should call people out on this.
[48:07] Closing thoughts. This happens to other people. We've heard these stories.

The converstation continues...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_071.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:23pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to Austin Smith about both dropping clues to your players, keeping them attached to the outcomes, and introducing a rich setting.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Lenny Balsera, and Eric Fattig
Guest Caller: Austin Smith

Length: 1:01:36

The conversation continues… here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_070.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:11am EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to Joe Harney about hacking settings from one game into the system of another’s. In this case we focus on Gordian Knot of Settings: Shadowrun

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Joseph Harney

Length: 45:07

Show Notes

[00:25] Intro to the show – Hacking settings to systems.
[00:55] Joe starts the call. Used to run Shadowrun, but the system doesn’t do what I want it to do.
[02:36] What isn’t the existing system doing? - Discuss
[03:41] Are you interested in changing or emphasizing parts of the setting as well? – Discuss
[05:11] First suggestion – Prime Time Adventures for interpersonal drama.
[06:33] Discussion – PTA will not provide the level of crunch some players are looking for.
[07:14] Tangible advice – Pick a system that allows you to identify: X is important -> assigned to Y mechanic.
[07:35] One system that does this well: PDQ – Scoped qualities.
[09:30] Tangible advice – If you know another system with a high concept similar to the game you’re converting, those might be early options
[10:12] That’s Leverage – Same high concepts, just need race, magic, and cyberware
[11:33] Cortex+ is very easy to represent what is important: they get a die.
[13:08] Challenge: Represent the exclusionary force between Magic and Cyberware. Discuss.
[19:05] System: Don’t Rest Your Head – Hackable so long as there is a limited number of places to gain power from.
[20:53] General advice: Find games that focus in design toward a concept that closely matches the concept of the game you want to run.
[21:50] This flies in the face of the idea of using a generic system (Gurps, FATE, d20, etc.)
[22:43] Focused games also self-identify what won’t work. Example: Dogs in the Vineyard
[24:06] If you were doing d20 Shadowrun look to Spycraft.
[25:10] If you want to do a ton of work reskin Apocalypse World
[27:07] Hacking Fate – Time required to develop it. Using skills vs. stunts to represent.
[30:30] How tight or how loose do you need to enforce the setting expectations? – Discuss
[32:12] Introduced a new group to the setting. Concerned that the existing mechanics would turn off new players.
[33:09] The foundation of your hack should be relevant to what enthuses you about a setting.
[34:33] Decide what mode of play you want. Combat-centric? Investigation? Interpersonal Drama?
[35:24] You will have more success selling your own enthusiasm than anything else.
[35:40] Challenge: Present a world where the consequences of actions matter.
[36:33] Suggestion: Technoir. Tools for developing, as you play, the web of interconnections.
[37:33] Challenge: Present juxtaposition of technology and magic.
[37:51] Suggestion: Look at Mortal Coil as it helps you define what magic is (as well as what is important in the setting). Mechanizes that which is special.
[38:39] Tangible advice – Read a lot of games. Steal liberally.
[41:16] Suggestion: Making the world respond: Fronts from Apocalypse World
[42:19] Suggestions: Aspects from Fate or Distinctions from Cortex+
[43:20] Recap of practical advice.
[44:31] Want to be on the show. Emails us at or post on the forums.

The conversation continues… Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_069.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:10pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to David Bozarth talking about selling players on complicating their characters.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Dave Bozarth

Explicit. This episode contains a smattering of explicit language.

Length: 37:14

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show. Dave Bozarth coming on and talking about adapting your play style to the group, games that help sell players on character complications and Rob Donoghue’s “The Trick”
[00:55] Daniel Hodges of the game Victoria had me on his podcast Penny Red. You can download it here.
[01:22] Want to be on the show. Email us at or on the forum
[01:53] The hosts arrive, Eric Fattig and Lenny Balsera
[02:04] But I digress. I just play tested Durance. Here’s my AP report
[02:40] Dave recounts his situation. A player character that killed off his brother because he was a liability.
[04:15] Our discussion begins. Why was this a problem and not just grist for the mill of character drama and story?
[04:33] What happened next? Was this discussed?
[05:26] What system were we playing? Mage. System isn’t going to help us here.
[06:22] More context. Was this important in the setting?
[07:06] Future of the game? Did it keep going?
[07:27] Player motivation: Dodging the issue or generating new conflict?
[09:22] A common occurrence. Players protecting their characters from weakness, liability and responsibility. Result = no story.
[12:01] Some games work really well for power fantasies and crazy awesome competence. Leverage!
[12:58] A Hard sell. Selling players on accepting weaknesses. Ideas?
[13:45] Suggestion: Show how connections to the game can be strengths as well as weaknesses.
[15:19] Suggestion: Dropping offers meaning fewer offers made. More of them made to other players? Would this satisfy the player?
[17:27] Suggestion: If this is something that seriously detracts from the game experience. Play a different game?
[17:52] Changing the group dynamic, other players doing the same thing.
[18:28] Good experiences playing Apocalypse World.
[18:55] Players accepting complications in that system.
[19:10] Use the system! AW will change your game.
[20:37] Suggestion: Talk about how you are mimicking the success/complication model from Apocalypse World.
[21:47] We are pretty horrible about knowing what we really want.
[22:10] Suggestion: Conditioning the group. Play enough games with explicit rules for complications so that they can be made implicit in other games.
[22:53] Sean’s “Plot Hammer” voice.
[23:11] Forming new habits. Changing old capital “H” habits.
[23:35] Suggestion: Being explicit with the group about what you like. Positive reinforcement of players embracing change, consequences, etc.
[25:50] Some systems are better for encouraging this.
[26:55] Suggestion: Maybe you should change your GMing style.
[29:00] Suggestion: Many players give a lot respect to the “system” over a GM’s style.
[30:00] Suggestion: Point to the mechanics and get the player’s feedback so you’re not in the line of fire.
[30:57] Rob Donoghue’s “The Trick” – Threatening the things “around” the players.
[32:27] Looking at an iconic (vs. dynamic) character. Jack Bauer.
[34:32] Learning which buttons to push.
[35:25] Suggestion: Authoring your own tragedy. Sometimes players just want to control that.
[36:00] Set an example: “Die in the first scene!” We’re playing weekend at Bernie’s and I’m Bernie.

The conversation continues… Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_068.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:15pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. We’ve taken a break for Gen Con and my very own Big Bad Con and now we’re back in the saddle. Season 3 has a new format. We’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to David Miessler-Kubanek from We’re talking about intellectual properties, setting expectations and finding out what’s going on with an unhappy player.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: David Miessler-Kubanek

Length: 32:01

Show Notes

[00:31] Welcome back to Narrative Control. Intro to the season three format.
[01:22] Eric Fattig is out for today. Welcoming guest host Lenny (not Leonard) Balsera.
[01:45] What real friends are for.
[02:57] “Shuu Nittner” – A name that will never been used.
[03:13] Sean’s current project – Apocalypse Galactica.
[04:09] Lenny working on Fate Core and Paranet Papers for Evil Hat and just moved to Austin, TX.
[04:34] Bringing on David Miessler-Kubanek from
[04:57] David’s “Dragonfly” game (Star Wars mashed up with Firefly)
[05:54] Problems started when some new players joined the game. Specifically a player with a LOT of Star Wars lore. Problem identified: One player’s expectations not matching up with the rest of the group’s expectations.
[07:49] Lenny’s first salvo – setting expectations. Why do we do it? Not to adhere to them but to have a framework for talking about them when it comes up in the future.
[09:34] David noticed a play style difference. One player who has read all the rules, knows all the mechanics, versus his own play style which was much less tied to mechanics. Problem re-identified: Player was unsatisfied by the mechanics, and uncomfortable with the rules system. Trad player walking into an indie game.
[11:28] Communication was poor. Can we revisit that communication? Start the game over, start the discussion over?
[12:40] Is David’s gaming style compatible with this player? Looking back, would he want to start up the game again with just a few of the players? All of them?
[14:09] Problem re-re-identified. Is it hurtful or malicious to be concerned with whether or not a group is going to have a good time, if that means not including a previous player?
[16:05] GM’s confidence being shaken by a bad experience. An experimental game with an experimental system. Was it his fault. What to do to get back in the saddle?
[18:49] Role-playing games are a conversation. Internalizing that very hard to do. Identifying if the problem is about the game or the social dynamic?
[19:56] Getting the conversation away from the trappings of the game. Problem is potentially fixable as soon as it is out in the open.
[21:37] Often discussion in RPGs is about trying to manipulate the game “If I make it about how this system works, I’m not being a dick.”
[22:52] “I want what I want for me. But I don’t want to look like a jerk, so I’ll use the game mechanics to get it.”
[23:10] When it is the games fault. But that is still a human problem.
[25:00] Regrets about the game. David starting the game back up again. The game was fine, the mechanics were fine. Start this bad boy back up again!
[28:01] Why setting expectations is important (redux)? It creates a foundation for change and a place for the conversation to start from.
[29:26] The future of David’s gaming group.
[31:01] Would you like to be on Narrative Control? Email us at, hop on our forums, or tweet me @seannittner.

The conversation continues.... Here!

Direct download: NC_Episode_067.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Hi, welcome to the last episode of Season 2.  Warning, this one is explicit.  This episode is my farewell for a time as well as the bloopers from Season 2.  Good times in here!

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Justin Evans and Eric Fattig

Length: 25:29

Show Notes

A few minutes of me talking about the show followed by 20 minutes of our mistakes.  Have fun.

Direct download: NC_Episode_066.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:30am EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control. As season two winds down Fattig and I are doing our last standard show (66 will be a bloopers and a discussion of the future).  This episode we’re talking about unconventional conflicts, like chases, heists, and escapes.  How to make those kick ass in RPGs as much as they do in fiction.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length 45:56

Show Notes

[00:30] Intro to the Show: Unconventional Conflicts.
[01:04] In a movie unconventional conflicts are awesome, but many RPGs don’t do it well.
[01:49] Inspired by a recent episode of Sharkbone, episode 48 with Leonard Balsera.

Examples of awesome conflicts to bring into your game.

[04:52] Escape – Running out of the collapsing temple
[06:19] Heist – Steeling the scroll of Anuba
[07:13] Environmental – Surviving the Fire Swamp
[08:49] Chase Scene – The Fugitive fleeing from the law.
[10:56] Fighting the Unbeatable Monster – Fighting the T-Rex or the Zombie Apocalypse

Why don’t these unconventional conflicts work in RPGs

[13:04] Poor mechanical support for non-fight conflicts
[16:52] When the table doesn’t agree on what the conflict really is
[19:39] The challenge that only engages one of the player characters

Systems, components and Idea that help to bring the awesome…and how they work

[22:16] System: FATE/Dresden – Unified Conflict System
[25:33] System: Mouse Guard – Conflict System with changing skill sets and teamwork
[26:31] Setting: Mouse Guard – The environment is the enemy!
[28:19] System: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition – Skill Challenges
[30:19] System: Smallville – Stress in many forms (anger, exhaustion, etc) and raising tension.
[33:27] System: Wushu – Principle of Narrative Truth and constant threats.

Principles to derive from these games.

[36:39] Teamwork – Making every player an integral part of the conflict.
[37:35] A Hit Point system – Given every conflict a granular win/lose condition.
[39:50] Both sides must threaten each other – The lock is messing with you!
[40:58] Offering Variety – changing up the conflict and changing the mechanics to suit.
[42:11] Cool losing conditions - Sean’s tribute to an actor who is great a losing conflicts.

[44:06] Last regular episode of Season 2. Bloopers up next.

Continue the conversation…Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_065.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:22pm EST

Welcome to a little Narrative Control experiment.  Three very short episodes on very small topics all released in short order.  This show is the Lennisode.  Two great ideas I ripped off from Leonard Balsera.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 16:24

Show Notes

[00:25] Intro to the show.  Three minisodes.
[01:00] Greetings Lenny? Leonard? The Lennisode, not the Jennisode (
[01:36] Based off two bits of advice Lenny gave out. Hack away.
[02:20] The 15 Minute prep for games. Frame three scenes with punch!
[03:35] Example of trying this out: Dresden without prep.
[09:01] Reward players for making decisions that have bad consequences either way.  From his LJ
[14:14] Players will be more engaged in a choice they make.

Continue the conversation…Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_064.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Welcome to a little Narrative Control experiment.  Three very short episodes on very small topics all released in short order.  This show Fattig and I are talking about getting your players excited about the NPCs, places and things in your game.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 15:59

Show Notes

[00:25] Intro to the show.  Three minisodes.
[00:55] Situation: Players don’t care about the thing the GM created.
[02:22] The point of the players caring is to give you ways to motivate the PCs.

What are four possible ways that you can draw them in?

[03:20] Make the thing actionable.  The players can make a difference.
[06:08] Giving the players a compelling reason to care about the place or person.
[07:44] Tying locations to the PCs.  Make them mirror the PCs.
[12:38] Think in terms of terrain vs. background. Create assets that players can fight over.
[15:24] Setting they can punch in the face!

Continue the Converastion…Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_063.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Welcome to a little Narrative Control experiment.  Three very short episodes on very small topics all released in short order.  This show Fattig and I are talking about how to implement a Retcon in your game.  How to turn back the clock.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 17:06

Show Notes

[00:25] Intro to the show.  Three minisodes.
[00:55] The Recton. How to get a game back from over the edge.
[01:16] Suggestion given to use by Alan Smithee
[01:20] Example: Werewolf: The un-huntering.
[05:09] When should you retcon? Your choice. We’re not telling you when to do this.
[06:14] Alan’s suggestion on how to retcon.  Zoom back into a frame.
[07:00] There is ALWAYS a frame in place, because we’re playing a game.
[08:04] Returning back to the example: we got it wrong
[08:36] Example: Three guys in a bar retelling a story.
[09:23] Example: Ocean’s 11.  You see one thing, but it’s an illusion, then you see the “real” version.
[10:07] Example: Film edition, cut out the junk
[10:44] Example: XXXXtreme Street Luge. The game is played as a retelling of the action. 
[12:47] Example: The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries
[13:18] We do this all the time as gamers. “Oh remember that time…”
[13:30] Merlin movie. Told by very old Merlin. Some things can be fudged.
[14:38] Players need to believe at the end of the day that what they do cannot be unwritten.
[15:04] The retcon should be told in the style of the game.  Keep the story close to the original.
[16:15] Thanks Alan for this idea.  Showing us how to save our bacon.

Continue the converstaion...Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_062.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:22pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week’s episode was inspired by this blog post by Karen Twelves  It’s kind of the analog to Episode 36 – Dare to be Stupid.  That episode assumes we’re all shooting for a heroic end, what if you’re shooting for tragedy?

Length: 42:08

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Karen Twelves

Show Notes:

[00:24] Intro to the show. Something wasn’t quite right after Dead of Winter
[00:50] Reading from the post:
[01:23] Hello from Karen. Her blog and soon to be appearance on 2d6 Feet in a Random Direction
[02:05] How this is going to sound like Episode 36 – Dare to Be Stupid. And how it’s different.
[03:11] Playing one-off (one shot?) games. No investment in them surviving the game.
[03:36] I didn’t get all my character can do if I didn’t destroy them by the end.
[04:30] But…but…it may not be the game everyone is playing. Is this what everyone wants?
[06:21] Emo porn is its own reward.
[07:19] Bringing your own experience of loss or suffering to the game.
[07:57] The other side of the spectrum of playing power fantasy games.
[08:28] Characters are real when they have suffered.
[09:17] If you know things are going to go badly, it’s a different mode of play.
[09:37] But what about my agency?
[10:27] The game needs enough elasticity to continue play even after horrible things happen.
[10:59] Example: A character died in the first scene of Dread.
[12:11] There are great games for exploring power fantasies as well.
[13:37] How to do it? Make it fun to pursue doom for you and the others.
[14:14] Add to your failures.  Complicate them.
[14:55] Collaborate with the other players to find the best “worst” idea possible.
[16:11] Spend all those Fate chips. Make sure you can’t refuse a compel. Another way to collaborate.
[19:01] Looking at the Dread tower, it’s a perpetual sword over your head.  Pull those blocks!
[19:51] Working to sabotage your own efforts.  In Fiasco, keep trying to put the gun in your mouth.
[20:36] In Cthulhu when the professor finds the alien texts, OF COURSE you will try to translate it!
[21:15] In a one off game, you don’t have time to make a conservative or stoic character interesting. Put on the ring.
[22:48] A bit of proof.  Three examples of game that Karen was in where emo porn was awesome.
[21:11] Carl’s Smallville Game – Breakfast League: Angsty teenagers with powers.
[27:59] Ryan Macklin’s Dresden Game – Emissary of the Dragon making all the wrong moves.
[31:07] Sean’s Apocalypse World Game – Heart of Darkness. A healer who had to decide who lives and who dies.
[40:47] Wrap up. What it’s all about.

Continue the convestaion... Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_061.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:03pm EST

Welcome to the LOST EPISODE.  The one that should have come before, but didn’t. Because sometimes there are things lost between the GM and Player.  We’re talking about that communication.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Joe Harney

Length: 32:38

Show Notes
[00:24] Welcome Joe Harney.  The Lost Episode
[00:45] When things are lost between the players and GMs.
[01:13] GM as the window to the world.
[1:40] You walk into a cargo bay.  What image in evoked?
[01:58] The cargo bay of Serenity.
[02:30] Value of a license setting. Establishes setting, tropes, situations,etc.
[02:58] Challenge: License settings are great… assuming you know them!
[03:28] Licensed settings require that you get everyone to a baseline understanding.
[03:45] The Battletech universe. Over 100 books. Outside our normal scope of understanding.
[04:20] Medieval Fantasy – more commonly understood setting and topes.
[05:08] Using a setting with reflexive knowledge.
[05:54] The strength of the World of Darkness settings.
[06:25] The Tolkien Syndrome – Detailed descriptions that bore the players.
[07:14] And effort to “show not tell”.
[07:48] Focus on what the scene is about.
[08:12] The opening scene from CSI – Displaying a lot of information.
[09:00] Announce what a scene is about.  You enter the scene to do X.
[09:37] Players trusting the GM to give them the information they need.  GMs trusting players to take information and push forward in with it, not…
[10:02] “I attack the gazebo”
[10:34] We’re not all looking to tell the same story, but we want our stories to be compatible.
[11:12] Discrepancies about what is actually happening in a game.
[11:42] Be willing to back up a step, if necessary.
[12:35] All the work GMs put in to their games, sad if it doesn’t come to fruition.
[13:16] Benefit of not planning a game.  Nothing holding you to a plan if things change.
[13:40] Middle ground: Planning a game based off flags presented by the players.
[14:09] Discrepancy in expectations of consequences.  A bugbear to untangle
[15:25] GMing Seminar with Robin Laws and John Wick on what happens when GM and Players have different expectations of consequences.
[16:41] Easier to undo a calamity before it happens.
[17:10] The mood of the game can also shift into a different space if not held in check
[18:04] This isn’t the game I thought I was playing.
[18:18] Inspiration for this episode: A LiveJournal post.  Stakes not agreed upon in advance. 
[19:15] Sacred cow turned into sacred-cow-burger
[19:42] Why are we here? What is this game about.   Are we playing to tell a cool story? Are we playing to win?
[20:46] Are those goals tied to game styles (traditional – narrative games)?
[21:43] Games that have specific mechanics to add story elements: Fiasco plot twists.
[22:36] Joe does some brain surgery.
[22:54] Win conditions, however, are easier to mechanize
[23:20]Agree about what the game is focused on.  Can I trust the GM to make mistakes.
[24:35] Secrets.  Do you trust the GM to expose them?  Burned players.
[25:28] They downward spiral of mistrust.
[26:01] GM afraid to offer up game elements that the players will “break”.
[27:46] The Superman metaphor
[28:18] Tangingting… again.  Player fulfilling power fantasies.
[29:32] Know where you are on the spectrum of “do you want win?”
[30:41] Hording the cool.  Afraid that the cool will be lost if you spend it.
[31:15] Wrap up.  Thanks Joe!

The conversation continues... Here!

Direct download: NC_Episode_060.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:44pm EST

Welcome to episode 59.  Fattig and I are talking about Player versus Player awesomeness in games.  We’ve got fears, trepidations and we talk about how we’ve overcome then and the amazing stories we’ve seen come out of doing so.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 54:58 (yep, sorry another long one, but it is worth it)

Show Notes

[00:22] I stab your character in the back… Well I stab YOU in the face!
[01:17] Intro to the show: Player vs. Player
[01:26] Player vs. Player baggage.  Lots of bad experiences.
[04:11] But… pvp can make for the most awesome experiences in the game.

Examples of great PVP.

[05:06] Example the one: L5R – Al-Saleen and Tso Lou discuss balancing love on the edge of a blade.
[09:02] Example the two: L5R – Rei and Tso Lou opposite sides of empire building.

Why player versus player is awesome.

[14:26] Knowing that players are your antagonists raises the stakes and the tension at the table.  Players are more alert and attentive throughout.
[15:59] Players can do more when they have meaningful interactions between the other PCs because they aren’t limited to the GMs bandwidth.
[17:06] PVP gives the GM a chance to step back from center stage and manage the game.  Gives the GM a chance to see the bigger picture.
[19:03] It is more fun for the GM if he or she doesn’t have to be the only source of antagonism.
[19:24] Players make the BEST antagonists! NPCs take a lot of work to portray and players can easily dismiss them.

[24:00] How do we do the good and not the bad

[25:50] Ensure there is never a one-sidededness between PCs, they must always have a chance and always have something to lose.
[26:50] Creating constraints.  Players need a sandbox that will demonstrate what are appropriate actions and consequences.
[29:35] Plenty of external threats to make the player conflicts precious and dangerous.
[30:44] Use a system where players can bounce back from defeat.  Apocalypse World: Player vs. Player moves.   Burning Wheel: Explicit stake settings that are negotiated.  Smallville stress just ups the ante and makes the conflicts more intense.  Dogs in the Vineyard relationships can move from problematic (d4) to beneficial (d6+) as the result of fallout.
[38:38] Player versus player conflict should not be a zero-sum game.  We can give and take different things that we value differently.
[43:29] Examples of games that bring player versus player action.
[43:43] The Gift
[46:54] Duneville
[50:15] So much awesome that can come out of player conflict.  The game doesn’t need to be about PVP, just make a safe space for it to happen and watch the magic.

[51:30] News of the <blank>!

[52:17] Dundracon coming up! – You can be a god in my game!
[52:50] Good Omens 10 year anniversary
[53:01] GM Seminar in March at EndGame.
[53:33] EndGame Minicon April 9th – 5th anniversary of Minicons

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Direct download: NC_Episode_059.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:38am EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control in 2011.  After a break for the holidays we're back and talking about Social Antagonits.  How to make them work and why the are so awesome.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 54:07

Inspired by Ryan Macklin's article on Making Sypathetic Antagonists

Show Notes

[00:22] Intro to the show.  Happy New Year!
[00:38] Topic: Social Antagonists

News of the Episode

[00:59] What just happened?  Dead of Winter
[02:35] EndGame Minicon
[03:19] Pimping Duneville.  Check out Smallville
[05:17] Big Bad Con  Book Rooms here: Hilton Oakland Airport
[05:59] Gazebo Deathmatch
[06:56] RPG Crosstalk – A shared Podcasting Forum
[09:04] Finding Ryan Macklin’s post on sympathetic antagonists via twitter.
[11:14] A reading from Macklin’ post.  His three reasons for sympathetic antagonists!
[12:39] Our discussion drifted to Social Antagonists.  People you can’t punch in the face.
[13:20] The recurring villain you don’t have to sell.  Conflicts bind the characters together rather than splitting them apart. 

Examples of social antagonists

[14:57] Uther Lightbringer: The moral authority.
[15:79] Tsuruchi Nadu. Our lord and commander in L5R.  A terrible leader.

Characteristics of good social antagonists

[24:25] The social antagonist is part of the same rigid organization that the players are (your boss, your lord, your co-worker, your schoolmate, your business partner, your family, etc).
[27:07] The social antagonist is not secretly EVIL.
[33:31] The social antagonists needs a sympathetic drive.  A reason to exist that is legitimate.
[35:13] Social antagonists can do more interesting damage.  Turning you friend against you, steal your money, demote you, attacking your other relationships, etc.
[38:09] Social healing is also more interesting.  Repairing from a cut is pretty boring.  Repairing a relationship is fun and makes for more exciting interactions.   One persons’ gain is the others’ loss.
[39:44] The conflicts with social antagonists are ones we can relate to.   We’ve all been in conflicts like these.
[42:59] Sometimes you work together.  Social antagonist that are “on the same side” or have the same goal that is really important.  
[49:56] Social antagonist can escalate conflicts and then de-escalate.
[52:24] PCs can fill these roles.  The players can be each others’ social antagonists.
[53:26] Go discuss it… on RPG Crosstalk

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Direct download: NC_Episode_058.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:28am EST

This episode I've got Rob Donoghue and Judd Karlman on skype talking about the NewHotSexy Apocalypse World.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Rob Donoghue and Judd Karlman

Length: 46:35

Show Notes

[00:27] Sean sits down with Judd Karlman and Rob Donoghue to talk about Apocalypse World.  

[01:03] What about Apocalypse World sparked interest?
[01:28] Short answer: Vincent Baker, the author of Apocalypse World.  
[02:55] On Vincent's writing style and how it informs the game.  
[04:30] Enumerating your tools so you can use them better.
[05:39] Judd feels Vincent moves share a kinship with Bangs from Sorcerer.  
[06:17] These principles work in other games as well.  
[08:35] It's OK to ponder what happens next as the MC.
[08:55] Judd and Rob compare Apocalypse World to Dogs in the Vineyard, Vincent Baker's previous game.   
[10:36] Using examples in game text.
[11:10] Examples of not only how to do things right, but how things might go wrong.  
[12:30] Writing for player versus player.  
[13:33] The Apocalypse World character dynamic: "We're not talking about a party"
[15:30] Rather than attacking the character directly, assaulting their interests. 
[18:04] The Apocalypse World conflict system.  Greater costs means every conflict matters.  
[20:05] A core conceit of Apocalypse World: playing your character like a real person.  
[21:33] Curing indifference through giving players stuff.  
[22:08] Relationships emerging in Judd's game
[23:13] Encouraging the MC to ask probing questions.
[24:39] Two player trends: Focusing on the narrative versus focusing on the moves. 
[27:59] Some of the vagaries of the system: highlighting certain moves for experience.  
[29:13] "The ability to change what's the focus of the character that session is huge."
[30:15] The process of choosing what stats get highlighted.  
[31:22] The legend of Ryan Macklin.  Thirty XP!
[33:49] Visible experience makes it easy to identify which players have had the spotlight for a while and which need more love.
[36:43] A D&D example: negotiating a truce with an enemy army.  "Well we defeated them.  So we want their XP"
[37:16] Apocalypse World avoids XP shenanigans by making every roll count.  
[40:36] Some final tips from Rob and Judd for running Apocalypse World. 

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Direct download: NC_Episode_057.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:23pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week we're talking about the sacred cows at the gaming table. What are the things that a player doesn't want to see changed about their character.  Brought to you by a conversation between Sean and Leonard Balsera.  

Length: 38:59

[00:27] Welcome back to the show.  We talk about the RPGGeek's GoldenGeek Award.  We didn't win, but congratulations to YSDC: Cthulhu Podcast
[01:28] Shout out to Leonard Balsera of Evil Hat, lead system designer of the Dresden Files RPG and assistant designer of Spirit of the Century.  
[02:05] High stakes gambling in Vegas! Wagering on RPG minutiae at Neoncon.
[03:37] The crux of the episode: What changes result in the character not being fun anymore
[03:48] Advancement versus change
[04:04] Examples of change in Golden Geek winner Dresden Files and in Dogs in the Vineyard.
[05:28] Changing a core concept of a character.  Does it break the character?
[06:27] What is fixed and what's open to change.  Fred Hicks' concept of "the character sheet as a love letter to the GM"
[07:10] Beliefs in Burning Wheel; more about what is your character going to do.  
[08:11] An example of a persistent trouble: Alcoholism in Iron Man.  
[08:42] An example of a more evolving trouble.  
[09:10] Fattig's favorite foibles. 
[11:52] Why would we change a persistent character element.
[12:26] Dresden example: A compelling plot twist that makes sense.  But it affects the character to the detriment of the characters fun.  
[13:47] Mage game.  Changing a character element that doesn't break the character.  On the contrary, it drives the character forward.  
[15:34] Sean drives a player bonkers in Silver Age Sentinels
[18:05] Players want to change on their own terms. 
[18:25] Finding the untouchable elements on your own character sheet.
[20:29] Make no mistake though, change is critical.  
[21:02] Communicate with your GM.  Let them know what is core that you don't want to let go of.  
[21:29] The character sheet won't tell you what the character wants to change versus what they want to hold onto. 
[22:27] As a GM, pay attention to the brainstorming sessions, and ask questions.
[24:28] "Just because your characters really good at something, may not be what they're about.  It may be about not doing it."
[25:15] The Odd Couple: a recurring problem.  
[26:38] Reading into a player's favorite issues based on tone
[27:25] What to do when communication fails, and a sacred cow gets trampled in play.
[29:40] A core concept changed in play in a moment from Burning Wheel.  
[31:28] Recognize that something's gone wrong, and talk about it afterwards.  
[35:59] If you do change something about the character as the GM, give the player options.


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Direct download: NC_Episode_056.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:26am EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode starts with a rather raspy intro as I lost my voice while doing the editing, but rest assured the main portion of the show was done with all voices intact. This episode Ryan Macklin came on to talk with me about a tweet he made regarding player trust.  It resonated with me and I knew it would make for a good show. 

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Ryan Macklin

Length: 33:27

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show. Sean’s raspy voice
[00:52] On with Ryan Macklin.  In front of the mic rather than in front of the coffee.  Responding to this tweet.
[01:39] Player trust. What are we talking about? How did it resonate with Sean?
[02:02] Reactions one: Players jealously guarding their parts of the story.
[03:13] Reaction two: Players ignoring other player’s plot threads.
[03:58] Ryan’s confessional – Way back when he was a wee babe.
[04:32] What it feels like when people won’t validate your offers.  Why players turn away from each other?
[05:19] When story elements have mechanical effects, they become more precious.
[06:14] What to do when players are playing their own private game.
[07:35] Causes for players not to trust each other.
[08:36] “Why’d you eat my girlfriend?”
[09:12] Ryan’s game. A Fate Heist game.
[09:59] Game started with the characters distrusting each other.
[10:46] Players not familiar with collaborating on the narrative.  Oh... and I narrowly dodged being knifed by Ryan.
[11:49] Players all trying to do their own thing, intentionally separate from each other.
[12:20] Trusting the GM not to pull a “gotcha”. Player-GM baggage.
[13:49] Assertions of players being rejected/ignored.
[16:32] Secrets – notes passed.  Making a public secret to encourage players to make their characters vulnerable.
[17:42] How do we address this distrust?  Player-GM baggage, Player-Player baggage. “in character” distrust.
[18:14] It starts with the GM, who has to start forging connections between PCs by asking them questions.
 [20:57] Game rewarding players for taking risks or doing things together (example: compels)
[23:00] Players building trust by backing another player’s offer.
[24:51] In a game of hyper competent sexy cool people, make the first thing you do make them look like hyper competent sexy cool people.
[25:18] Two set of advice here. How to encourage it as a GM and as a player
[26:10] What do we do if we realize in the middle of the game that this has happened?  GM pulling back and creating interactions between the PCs.
[28:15] As a player, talk to the table about what’s going on in the game.  This is risky:  Schrödinger’s cooperative game.
[29:28] Advice to players who don’t want to share.  You’re characters will be more awesome if they have changed and gone through trials.
[30:31] John McClain is the dude who gets the crap kicked out of him and is awesome because of that.
[31:19] Or just bring a taser…
[32:26] Closing, thanks to Macklin and a few bits to date the show.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_055.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:07pm EST

Hi and welcome back to the second Narrative Control props show.  This episode we're continuing the conversation of props in your game.  We'll be talking about food, music, pictures, props you can hold and skype + wierd stuff!

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Show Notes

[00:28] Intro to the show.  A continuation of Episode 53.  More props.

[01:05] Food! Breaking bread while you bash some heads.  This segment will make you hungry.
[02:09] Sushi in an L5R game.  
[02:50] Sean brought coffee and doughnuts to his Dresden Files Chicago PD game.  
[02:57] Division through beer: Sean's running of The Gift.
[04:08] Be a rock star and drink a Rockstar.  Sean's Exalted Unplugged game.
[04:26] Root beer kegs.  It turns out they contain a lot of root beer.
[05:06] A little game music.  
[05:15] Sean's Matrix game: even a ringtone can evoke a sensation.  
[05:42] Recording audio for use in games.  Simulating a telepathic link in Mage: the Awakening
[08:03] A game where music is central to the game: Sean's Exalted Unplugged game.  
[09:20] Where music falls short.  An example from a Buffy game.  
[09:58] Sean recalls a misstep from his Mage game.  
[10:32] Avoiding mistakes in music.  Also, Fattig mispronounces Haydn.
[11:40] One last example of music used well in an L5R game
[12:17] Pictures!
[12:30] How pictures can help your games.
[13:27] Brainwash your players! Or maybe not.
[13:43] Bringing the swamp to life in Apocalypse World.  
[16:14] Stuff you can hold.  Adding some weight to your games.  
[16:47] The objects of Apocalypse World. Turns out rusty crap is mostly free.
[17:45] A skull and gas mask for an Apocalypse World game.  Not as free, but re-usable come next Halloween.
[18:07] One man's garbage is another man's prop.
[18:51] Keep your props safe to handle.
[19:33] An box of evidence from Sean's Dresden cop game.  Variety is key.
[21:21] Tailoring the prop to the setting.  Variety versus a central object.
[21:59] Weapons as props.  Usually a bad idea, but Sean did it once.  His story.
[23:40] Draped cloth in The Gift.  Turning an ordinary chair at a con into throne.
[24:43] Mouse ball! A prop used in an icebreaker for Mouse Guard.
[26:17] The miscellaneous category.  Props that defy categorization.
[26:42] Gods and Heroes.  Using Skype in a game.
[30:35] How not to use props.
[31:51] Finding inspiration for your game through props.
[32:33] A cautionary tale of a terrible prop. Warning, moderately gross.
[34:29] Players should always be able to engage a prop if they want, but don't force it on them.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_054.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:00am EST

Hi and welcome to Narrative Control.  This episode and the next are all about props we’ve used in games.  This show we’re talking about maps, apparel and dressing up existing game elements like dice, character sheets, etc.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length:  34:00

Show Notes

[00:28] Intro to the show.  Talking about props. 
[01:40] We already talked about some of this in Episode 17 – Included props on the cheap, documents and customized character sheets. Check it out
[03:30] Maps… the forgotten prop. [04:39] Map of Bel in Apocalypse World:

[05:29] Island map for Agon.  Showed which gods held dominion. Blank version.

[06:31] The Map of Rokugan showing off all the problems we had to handle.

[08:28] Territories in Mouse Guard. Big Map: 

Little Map:

[10:30] The map of our memories in 4E.  I put in mud pots for you Babe
[11:50] Dress like the fiction. Costumes.
[13:06] Gnome spies got (from such classics as Gnomes Like Us, Dr. Gnome and Gnome Impossible) got different hats for each important NPC
[12:48] Put on a Chiton when you play a Greek.  Dressing up for Agon: 

[15:30] Liberty spikes and “distressed” wear for Apocalypse World:

[16:22] Laurel wreaths for the gods: Laural wreaths at Amazon.
[17:02] Getting costumes at local costume shops, like this one at UC Davis: Enchanted Cellar
[18:21] Mons in our L5R game. Badges of office, clan, family or post.
[20:07] More subtle effects.  Dresden Files cops game, I took the role as the police chief, I kept adjusting this:

[22:07] Dressing up the existing gaming elements: Dice, character sheets, game currancy (style dice, fate chips, artha, etc).
[22:50] Police Dresden game: Badges on Fate chips made with Token Tool
[23:31] Used Gwendolyn and Liam for Persona and Fate in Mouse Guard: 


[24:05] Matrix: There is no spoon.  Currency in RAM:

[24:49] More generic. Poker Chips: Discount Poker Shop. [25:43] Apocalypse World: Shotgun Shells.

[26:53] Mouse Guard – Dice color matched the cloaks:

[27:51] My Life with Joker: Purple and Green Dice at Chessex
[28:12] Burning Empires.  Blue became the color of the common people.  Nobody wanted the blue dice.
[29:03] Burning Wheel. The Gift.  Dwarves get red dice, Elves get blue.
[29:44] Character tents
[30:00] Pretty character tents.  Clear picture frames at Bed, Bath and Beyond
[30:36] Including other bits like characters keys (from Shadow of Yesterday), aspects (from Fate), etc.
[31:12] “Dude, where’s my sword?”  Players poking each other in the keys.
[32:23] Aspects on sticky labels to add to character tents.  Here’s my Mouse Guard traits:

[33:26] A hint of the topic to come soon.   

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Direct download: NC_Episode_053.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:33am EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week Fattig and I are responding to a blog post and follow up email from Loyd Case.  The topic: Indirect Effects.  Also, I’ve got some news about Neoncon, notably that I’m attending AND that I’ve started up a new show “This Just in… From Neconcon”.  Also, check out the official Iron GM.  The regional qualifiers tournament will be hosted at Neoncon.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 30:16

Show Notes

[00:26] Introduction to the show – Indirect Effects from Improbable Insights.
[00:46] I’m going to Neoncon and I’ve got a show to go with it. This Just in…. From Neoncon
[01:00] First show is an interview with Rone Barton about Iron GM.  The contest is still open.  If you’re going to NeconCon, sign up!
[01:52] Who is Loyd Case? How I met him?
[05:50] A reading from Loyd’s blog post. Or… where the show begins.
[06:33] We’ll be talking about indirect effects in terms of conflicts were number of actions is limited. (Combat rounds, scene economy, etc)
[08:10] Reminiscent of the Teamwork episode when we talked about the combo move merits.
Examples of Indirect Effects
[09:03] Burning Wheel – Linked Tests
[10:34] Fate – Blocks and Maneuvers
[12:26] Combat maneuvers common to many systems – Disarm, Grapple, Knockdown
[14:29] Dungeons & Dragons 4E – Conditions and movement.
[17:01] The appeal to the Indirect Effect. Richer fiction, more player collaboration, the fun of plan coming together.
[19:27] Indirect effects that change the playing field, open up new options, close off others or change the cost and benefit of existing options.
[20:26] A board game example: Attack cards in Dominion.
[22:42] Pitfals of indirect effects.  Delaying the awesome.  The moves not amounting to much.  Or the effect doing too much.
[27:04] GMs need to be mindful of intent with indirect effects.

Continue the conversation… Here

Direct download: NC_Episode_052.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:51pm EST

Hi, welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week, in addition to a whole bunch of news, Fattig and I are talking about the Iron GM competition held at EndGame.  Isikoff vs. Macklin!

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 26:45

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show.   Actually skip to 8:10 if you want to skip the news and get to the topic: Iron GM
[00:55] We have a news segment? 
[01:10] Narrative Control is up for a Golden Geek.  Please vote for us! 
[02:11] Forums have changed.  Upgraded to a new version of Vanilla and moved hosts.
[03:20] Game Chef.  Sean is an entrant. Check out my game “Burning Your Skin
[04:56] Big Bad Con – Less than a year away.
[06:06] Fattig’s Life: Nothin
[06:24] EndGame Minicon 10/16
[07:28] Today is 10-10-10 – Congratulations Erik and Ammy.
[08:10] Iron GM – Our Topic
[08:52] Iron GM:  The gauntlet is thrown – How it started.
[10:15] Iron GM: Competition format compared to the show.
[13:59] Iron GM:  The Play Experience – Made of awesome
[19:33] Iron GM: Results – Brian Isikoff is the Iron GM.  Matt Steele and Mike Bogan are the next challengers.
[22:44] Iron GM: Wrap up and review
[24:12] Post game analysis: Sean’s Actual Play, Tim’s AP, 2d6 Feet’s Episode with Brian and Ryan
[25:09] Iron GM will be at Big Bad Con

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Direct download: NC_Episode_051.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:28pm EST

Hi, welcome back to Narrative Control.  It’s our 50th show! Commence fanfare now!  This episode is another response to a post from Rob Donoghue.  Why I try not to go to 11?

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 37:21

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show.  We’re 50!
[00:47] I remember the excitement of my first con.  I want to bring it to you at Big Bad Con
[01:17] Intro to the show. Why I try not to go to 11? By Rob Donoghue
[02:29] Excerpt from Rob’s post
[03:11] One of my favorite games to run is “The Gift” , which is all about instigating conflict.
[04:13] This came to our attention because of a Fiasco game we were in. 4-Ever “I don’t think these guys really have it.”  Our outcomes were really mediocre but we loved it!
[08:02] We sustained excitement throughout the game because our victories were so minor (in comparison to other Fiasco games) but so important to our characters.
[08:57] No murder and no sex in this game… it was downright puritanical for Fiasco.
[09:29] Other Fiasco games where we have slapped on gratuitous violence and sex and it always feels slapped on and artificial.
[11:50] Player egos get involved.  Feeling like you need to impress the others at the table.
[12:06] This happened in a Burning Wheel game (in the Burning Warcraft game) where the stakes got blow out of proportion.
[14:14] NPCs that go to 11? The quickly become one-dimensional and they are hard to scale back down.
[19:09] Players that go to 11? Become “that guy” who always goes over the top, or has the same reaction.  Makes it hard for your character to grow.
[20:41] Gaming is about what you are going to do in a situation.  If you’ll do the same thing every time, what is the point of putting you in that situation.
[23:24] Sean’s regrets having the “crazy” character.
[25:42] Some games really push towards conflict, like Burning Wheel. The 24 Effect! We become immune to 11.
[29:30] Dig a little deeper into the system and into the characters by taking a break from the game and reviewing the character’s beliefs.  Ask the questions, what do you think should happen next?
[30:59] Re-evaluate the stakes of your conflicts.  If they feel over the top, consider bringing them back down to a personal level.
[33:06] I think you know it when you’ve crossed the line.  You feel less confident in your actions, they seem farfetched.
[34:05] Its okay if you’re doing something over the top to stop, rewind a bit and dial the stakes down a bit.
[34:36] Apocalypse World says in the text “you should act like your character is a real person.”
[36:06] Closing: Why not go to 11? To make the characters feel more real.  To highlight their moments of awesome.  To keep them from becoming one dimensional.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_050.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:48pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode I’ve got Shaun Hayworth on from This Modern Death and we’re talking about teamwork as it compares to niche protection in terms of giving each player a roll in the game and each character spotlight in the fiction.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Shaun Hayworth

Length: 38:24

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show. Teamwork vs. niche protection
[00:53] We have our obligatory bad joke. At least we kept in under a minute
[01:25] Inspiration for this show. Our Atlantic City Dresden Files game.
[03:40] Every game, at its core, has an intention that players get to play.
[04:36] Original idea of how to keep everyone involved: niche protection.  Some examples: Dungeons and Dragons, White Wolf, and Shadowrun.
[05:42] Where niche protection fails.  One role eclipses another or one role isn’t important in the game.
[06:32] Example: Non-combat concepts in games that are built around a combat system.
[08:33] One alternative to niche protection is to focus a game around a character’s motivations rather than role in the party.  Shaun super fanboy waxes poetically on Burning Wheel.
[10:36] We’re all in favor of driving characters by motivation.  It doesn’t have any real downside, but it doesn’t always give everyone a role when all the character are involved in a scene or conflict.
[11:16] Some mitigation: tie the characters together.  Make sure the players are talking.
[14:10] Sean defines teamwork as: The overall goal of the group is not achieved until everyone has put their efforts in and the outcome reflects those efforts.
[15:19] Mouse Guard conflict system.  In each volley of an exchange a different mouse takes lead and the others support him or her.
[18:27] Burning Empires. Firefight is all about teamwork.  One character makes a command role to issue out actions to others (who can intern aid in that command role to give themselves more actions).
[20:44] Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies.  Vehicle Duels bring in all members of the crew to make it work.
[23:30] Freemarket.  Ganging up on the Super user.
[25:54] World of Darkness games.  Teamwork merits in Hunter and Werewolf.
[28:26] The game that inspires a lot of teamwork…. Dresden Files.  Partially the fate system but specifically in the “using help” section of Thaumaturgy.  This is huge.  Adventure worthy!
[37:59] Teamwork is manageable in games, where niche protection isn’t always.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_049.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:00pm EST

Hi, welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode starts with a response to an interview with Kenneth Hite and continues with Fattig and I describing games and stories that scare us, and our attraction to them.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 48:38

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show.  Our response to Canon Puncture #57, an interview with Kenneth Hite.
[01:19] A clip from the Canon Puncture show.  “What is it about Cthulhu that is so grabby to gamers?”
[02:14] Ever get the feeling that nothing you do matters? Why we’re drawn to this subject.
[03:04] Do things that are meaningful and exciting to you and your life will have meaning… or it won’t.
[04:13] Referencing the Canon Puncture show.  Horror techniques in the latter half of the episode.
[04:48] Why do we come to horror in the first place?
[05:36] We tell ourselves stories to marginalize our own fears and separate them.
[08:00] A common sense of insignificance.
[09:11] An apathy we experience knowing we’ll never stop the universe from falling apart.
[10:28] Horror lets us try to punch inevitability in the face.
[11:26] Agent Smith from the Matrix: The symbol of inevitability.
[14:08] The “One Ring”: A symbol of corruption.
[17:38] To fight the evil, you need to pick up the sword: The man apart.
[19:21] The protagonists of RPGs a usually outside of the society they protect.
[20:16] Showing PCs in relationships they can’t maintain because they are different: Gaming Gold.
[20:34] L5R Example: Samurai who cannot maintain families.
[24:32] Dresden Files example: Balancing mundane and supernatural worlds.
[29:08] A powerful and moving evil must stand for something.  The evil exist as a theme of the setting.
[34:59] The bad guy is a good thing. Getting all the evil in one place so it can be punched in the face.
[37:24] Example of the bad guy having a lot of meaning:  Buffy, the hyena episode: The Pack
[39:21] “It is not enough to succeed, others must fail” – Gore Vidal
[42:27] The bad guy you know is right.   ala Watchmen

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Direct download: NC_Episode_048.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:33pm EST

Hi, Welcome to the show.  This episode Fattig and I are talking about another Rob Donoghue article: Druid’s vs. Color.  What happens when the description of a power all flavor and has no mechanical effect?

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 24:38

[00:29] Intro to the show.  Flavor vs. Crunch.  Inspired by Rob Donoghue ’s post
[00:46] Excerpt from Rob’s article.
[01:56] Rob’s stuff. Don’t read it all or your head will explode as per Panty Explosion
[03:09] The cons of a disconnect between a powers description and its effect: breaks suspension of disbelief.
[04:18] Pro: gives players total liberty to add in any flavor or description to the game.
[05:45] A moment of silence
[05:47] Ahhh… the Druid.  I loved the wild shape power so much… and then I found it did nothing (or Rob told me so).
[06:67] Wild shaping doesn’t mean anything.  You can be a Bearmotar!
[07:44] Bearmotar can make diplomacy rolls!
[08:21] Beast form powers balanced with human form powers
[08:32] Sean’s major problem.  Beast Form powers are powers that only a druid can do anyways.  So how does wild shaping do anything?
[09:50] Narrative Control’s first split.  Fattig disagrees.  He’s wrong.  But he’s got an argument.  Giving mechanical effects can get broken very fast.  His proof:
[11:24] Why Wizards did this? Balance.  Druids work exactly like every other class. 
[14:01] Where do they give back some oomph to the Bearmotar?  Feats.  Is this enough? That you can spend a feat to make your power actually mean something mechanically?
[16:17] We still don’t agree.   Sean’s story of Sadric
[17:27] Fattig: “Well, you can die inside a little. Cause I think it’s just fine.”
[17:53] Skills in octaNe mean nothing. 
[18:44] I hate mechanics that feel like they are just wasting time.  Most combat mechanics.
[19:51] Fattig gets the soggy Doritos!  Customizing powers to suit your character is awesome.
[21:04] The evolution of 4.0 from 3.5 putting a focus back on the narrative and away from the mechanics.
[21:41] An all flavor game that I LOVE: Wushu  gave me a lot of freedom.  Here we come soggy Doritos.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_047.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:55am EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week Fattig and I are responding to an email from Adam Thoma about using a resources stat in game.     We’ve got some insights from our own games.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 30:41

Show Notes

[00:29] Intro to the show
[00:57] Happy Birthday Narrative Control. We’re two years old.
[01:08] Greetings from Sean and Fattig. 
[01:33] Go Play SF Bay Events. Checked them out on Facebook: Twitter:  Website:
[02:54] Played a little Apocalypse World with Carl Rigney.
[03:29] Announcing Big Bad Con (  Like:  Tweet @bigbadcon
[05:09] Fattig has moved
[05:29] Sean is working out.
[05:50] Email from Adam Thoma – How do you use resources in your games.
[07:51] What is the effect using a resources stat? Pros! 
[12:40] Where a resources mechanic has caused frustration.  Cons!
[14:05] Haggling
[21:35] Other cool ways to uses resources as a stat: Ammo checks, Spellcasting capacity, etc.
[26:18] Making these things precious adds weight to their meaning in the story.  Creating conflicts out of events that are trivial in other games.
[28:41] Thank you Adam for sending us the question. This episode is for you.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_046.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:12am EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode Eric and I talk about what do when a player Freezes up at the table.  This idea came to us from Rob Donoghue’s blog post of the same name: Freeze (

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 21:50

Show Notes

[00:00] My silly wanna-be cop intro.
[00:28] Intro to the show. What to do at the table when someone freezes up at the table.
[01:21] Our backlog of Rob topics from his blog:
[02:23] What to do at the table when someone freezes up?
[02:59] Reasons people freeze up: Asked to make an important decision (analysis paralysis) or if a player is put on the spotlight to role-play when they aren’t ready for it.
[04:00] A natural reaction to seeing someone freeze: Try to help, try to get the game started back up again.
[05:46] Rule #1: Shut your pie hole
[07:10] Rule #2: A little patience won’t kill you.
[07:44] Take the time when someone freezes to reflect on what’s going on in the game.  See action and reflection in the episode about Ira Glass:
[08:22] Rule #3: Back their play. The Winner!
[08:46] And here we tease you.
[09:19] Back anyone’s play at any time.  It validates the other players.
[10:52] Why Sean hates every planning session in the universe.
[11:45] Why you would shut someone down… you’ve got a better idea… but it’s not.
[13:16] An example of Actual Play where this shutdown happens: The Walking Eye  3:16 Actual Play – Session 1  (Start a 2:13)
[15:37] Your character is not the sum of what they’ve done before.  Find a way to make your character grow and interact with the new element.
[16:15] Backing their play is especially important when someone has frozen up, as their confidence is going to be low and they need support.
[17:00] What to do if the idea doesn’t fit in the game?
[17:25] Rule #4: Don’t Assume. Ask.  The 4th Commandment!
[18:37] Lots of reasons they might have frozen.  System, setting, situation…
[18:47] An old episode of Sons of Kryos where Storm wasn’t on the same page as the others.
[20:51] You know when someone freezes. The trick is to watch your reactions.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_045.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:10pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control.  Fattig and I are back this episode talking about creative constraints.  We went old school on this one, back to an episode of Have Games Will Travel  in 2006 where two of my favorite Pauls were talking about it.  Well, before I get a head of myself, listen to the show!

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 28:50

[00:27] Intro to the show. Two cons you should go to if you can:  DresdenCon – July 10th at EndGame in Oakland: Good Omens Con 4 – July 17th also at EndGame in Oakland:
[02:01] Boom! You’re in a room with nothing to do.  Of course Fattig figures something out!
[03:00] Creative constraints the stimulus to give your game texture and context. 
[03:39] The conversation we’re continuing.  An interview with Paul Tevis and Paul Czege:
[05:33] Why constraints? How are they going to help you game?
[06:24] Why I’m afraid of games without constraints?  If nobody has a say in your character they don’t care about it.
[08:28] My experience with what happens when we start embracing those constraints.  Here’s the games that we’re playing that have put some constraints on us and made the game more fun because of it!
[09:47]  Dresden Files! Yes, it is real, go buy it NOW:   We talk about the novels and compels (big shock)
[15:07] Changeling – Harvesting emotions cause the players to reinforce the themes of the game.
[18:21] Flagship Atlantis – A con game where play style was put under pressure by external card mechanics added to the game:
[22:56] Lady Blackbird – PLAY THIS GAME! It’s free and it’s gorgeous:  Keys that point you in different directions, forcing characters to choose what they really care about.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_044.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:26pm EST

Narrative Control episode 43: David Mamet’s drama.    Fattig and I are talking about a letter written by David Mamet to the writers of The Unit about creating drama in every scene.  Good stuff!  I found this because Josh Roby linked it on twitter.  Here’s the article:

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 25:08

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Direct download: NC_Episode_043.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:56pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode Fattig and I are talking about getting games off the rails.  Whether its intentional or accidental, if the gamers are frustrated by the lack of influence the players have, here are some things we think help.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig

Length: 27:52

Show Notes 

[00:26] Intro to the show. A response to my own LJ post about railroading and the frustration it causes both players and the GM:
[01:48] Best game EVAR! Let me tell you what you do Fattig. 
[03:01] This story sucks. Blame Nittner for it.
[03:55] Sometimes games get so heavily scripted that the players lose their voice in the game.
[04:32] Tour de Thea 7th Sea module example.
[05:34] The players perspective: surprising and frustrating. 
[06:34] Benefits of a strong story structure for players: Clear direction. Support from the GM if they follow that direction.
[07:30] What does the GM get? Best case scenario: Telling an awesome story. Worst case: A giant headache and enormous amount of work.
[09:27] Why does this happen? Perception. The GM feels the need to keep things moving and give everyone direction.
[11:50] A fair concern, what will happen when the GM says “You’re in an inn… what do you do?”
[13:05] Another factor: Pride. I’m going to tell the BEST STORY EVER!
[14:11] The Narrative Control drinking game.
[15:30] The new paradigm. Everyone contributing to the game in amounts that make them happy.
[16:38] Some player empowering techniques: Setting stakes, framing scenes and narrative control.
[20:18] Addressing the issue directly.  Talking about the game before it ever starts.  Describe setting and situation. 
[21:41] Establishes an environment to create characters and stories out of.
[23:00] Adding an arbitrary pacing mechanic that ensures the story is moving forward independent of the players or the GM’s actions.
[24:14] Some examples: My Matrix Game, Burning Empires.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_042.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:07pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control. This episode I yoinked an excerpt from Things We Think About Games.  “Take Your Turn Already”

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Eric Fattig Length: 25:08

[00:26] Intro to the Show and to Eric Fattig
[00:44] Open Design Podcast Promo
[01:18] Welcome 2010 and some bad audio (it gets better soon)
[01:35] I love introducing my co-hosts wrong.  Eric Fattig takes the stage.
[02:10] “Take Your Turn Already” – From Things We Think About Games  by Will Hindmarch  and Jeff Tidball.  Also, the audio improves here.
[02:51] Reading time with Sean
[03:24] Classic board game example: Placing settlements in Settlers of Catan
[04:57] How this applies to role-playing games.  Mechanical stumbling blocks in crunchy games.
[05:22] This still happens in rules-light games as players hesitate over choices about what to do regarding their character and the plot.
[05:37] Sean’s loathes planning sessions.   John Wick’s “Dirty Dungeon” from Wilderness of Mirrors.
[06:22] Our L5R game runs in a round robin style of play so we definitely see it when someone holds up the game because they can’t decide what to do.
[07:26] All you need to know is “Be Cool”
[08:00] Player agency.  How does it apply here?  We all want to do something cool, which can cause us to stall when we can’t think of something cool to do.
[09:06] How do board games address “bad decisions”?  Catch up mechanics, immediate penalization that corrects behavior, and victory point mechanics that rate performance after the fact.
[10:52] A fear players have that a bad decision will affect them in ways they don’t want for an extended period time.
[11:55] Many games mechanically are forgiving. You can lose a few hit points and keep smacking firbolgs in the face.
[12:54] Story elements however can be less forgiving.  There are things the GM can do to encourage people to take chances.
[13:40] Lead by example.  Create NPCs that have made mistakes and survived and become more interesting because of it.  Make flawed characters the norm.
[17:20] Take things out of game.  Let the players know that you will give them a warning if they are about to do something that could make the game un-fun.
[18:42] As an extension of this, negotiate stakes so the players know what will happen before the dice are rolled.
[19:54] The players can also help.  If they are rooting for you, you feel a lot safer in taking risks.
[21:50] It’s fun to be spontaneous.  It’s not like our characters have forever to decide what to do.
[22:47] In World of Warcraft, My #2 key is bound to Charge just for Arthas.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_041.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:51pm EST

This episode Erik Woodbury and I are talking about character death and how that affects the players in the game and the story ramifications.    This was inspired by an article from Judd Karlman on the Burning Wheel forums.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Erik Woodbury

Length: 27:15

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the Show.   My celebration of holiday cheer.  Our thoughts on how to make Character death more satisfying in game.
[01:44] What’s up Justin?  I mean an intro to Erik Woodbury.
[02:38] Judd’s post.  A discussion took place on both his LiveJournal here: and the Burning Wheel forum thread here:
[03:00] An excerpt from Judd’s post.
[03:55] Putting Erik on the spot.  Characters of his that have died.
[04:44] What character death means to Sean? The end of player agency in the story.
[05:11] Agency is the ultimate currency in any RPG.  Doing stuff is what makes it fun.
[05:35] Erik recalls his character’s “death”
[07:00] An unfinished story is incredibly frustrating
[07:11]  The “crap” death – a meaningless, unexpected, and one that doesn’t advance the story.
[07:50] What about games where death isn’t permanent? Resurrection, Cloning, etc.  Satisfying in games that address it in the fiction.  In other games though, Death becomes cheap.
[09:45] We’re not advocating pulling punches though.  Death is a powerful effect on the game.
[10:01] The “crap” death though leaves a player feeling cheated.  Roll or die situations are way to binary.  Worse the confrontation is meaningless.
[10:40] Sean’s mini rant on PCs that rush headlong into violence in games where death is very setting appropriate.
[12:33] For the death to be satisfying, it’s got to be meaningful to the players.  The “good” death.  My death meant something.
[13:10] A TPK minus one.  Awesome Deaths where everyone sacrificed themselves to make something happen that was needed in the story.   
[14:50] Dying and feeling like you achieved something that doesn’t make you lose agency.  Something changed specifically BECAUSE your character died.
[16:00] What to do after death? Balancing a new character. Re-integrating with the existing group.
[17:57] Characters die and then sometimes players will keep trying to tell their story.  Gaming after death? OOTS ( does it, but does it work in an RPG?
[19:35] Find a way to wrap up the character’s story. Allow for player narration and story crafting.  Man we like the word “agency.”
[21:04] Song of Ice and Fire books, the last three (of four books) are all about a single character’s death.
[21:38] Total Party Kills (TPK).  This can be awesome, but most of the time it means there has been a breakdown in communication.
[24:02] A mis-designed encounter on the GMs part.  When challenging becomes overwhelming.  This is largely affected by system.
[25:07] How does character death vary in one-shot games vs. campaign games? 

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Direct download: NC_Episode_040.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:38pm EST

This show Justin and I are talking about a method of giving players the ability to do some more of the story crafting in traditional games.   Asking questions as actions in game.

Length: 22:49

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Links:  Virtual Play #34 (

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Direct download: NC_Episode_039.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:28pm EST

We’re talking about trust at the game table.  How much do you need trust your fellow players? Does the game you’re playing change how much trust you need? What games address trust around the table?

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 23:04

Show Notes

[00:28] Introduction to the show.  Continuing a conversation from Josh Rensch’s blog
[00:45] Woops. This was supposed to be episode 35.
[01:24] Sorry Josh, this impersonation was made before we met. 
[01:37] Amorphous Blobcast Promo
[02:26] Josh Rensch is a cool dude.  He sent me stuff.
[03:00] He’s continuing the conversation on his blog… and hey, so are we in Season 2.
[03:56] Josh’s conversation with Fear the Boot.
[04:18] An excerpt from his post.  Done in my best “badass” voice.
[05:18] A little present for BG_Meg
[06:12] My first impression of Trust – Cheating in the game.  It doesn’t bother me.
[06:54] It is more nuanced that just cheating on dice rolls though.
[07:20] John Wick talks about why we shouldn’t need rules to handle cheaters in games on his LJ.
[08:06] A situation where you can’t control who you are gaming with: A convention game.
[08:36] Suspend expectations of the players until you’ve played with them for a while.  Escalate your presence in the game as you see your players commitment to the game.
[09:32] Cheating is just one issue of trust.  What about players trusting each other to all have the groups best interest in mind.
[10:37] The type of story you’re going to tell and how you have fun playing may be very different between players.
[11:11] Justin starts faulting himself.  I’d edit it out but it’s so rare that he admits fault, I had to make it public.  Allowing one player to take fun away from the other players.
[12:35] What did Justin do?  Players admitting that they aren’t having fun.  Justin’s reaction.  Taking time out.
[14:22] I’ve seen games where conflicts roll up from the characters right to the players and people leave with hurt feelings.
[14:51] Sean’s experience feeling frustrated and tired at the end of a game.  My reaction… this is not a therapy session.
[17:05] How do specific games handle this.  Many games talk about “in game” trust.
[17:20] Paranoia puts it up front that your characters are disposable, don’t take it personally.
[17:34] Any time you need to collaborate more at the table, you need to trust each other more.
[17:45] Montsegur 1244 is a tragedy, which is an extra effort to play and requires more trust to tell this game.
[18:32] Accidental plug or intentional pimp?
[18:47] When I trust another player, I’m willing to be hopeful even in a tragedy.  I know we’re watching out for each other.
[19:49] What sort of play experience we all want is something to establish early on, preferably before the game starts.
[20:07] Polaris also requires a lot of trust in the players around you.  The ritual protects you to some degree, but also allows the “mistaken” to intentionally deplete your character by offering undesirable twists.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_038.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:44pm EST

This week Justin and I talked about Exploring the Premise, taking time out of the game for exposition about the setting, the characters and their place in the story.  This episode continues a conversation we found on Rob Donoghue LiveJournal post of the same name here:

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 26:45

Show Notes

[00:28] Intro to the show – a response to Rob’s LiveJournal entry.
[00:55] Definition of the Premise in a story.
[01:18] Super Intelligent Hamsters!
[01:41] Justin reads the first paragraph of Rob’s entry.
[02:55] What we imagine Rob sounds like.
[03:12] Sean’s argument with a friend about exploring the premise vs. facing conflicts.
[08:55] Exploring the premise is there to give the audience (the players in this case) a chance to learn about the characters and settings and begin to care about them.
[10:02] A unique situation in a role-playing game.  Each player is contributing to the premise, which requires it to stay flexible.
[11:54] Another reading from the book of Rob.
[12:25] Games with nothing but conflict make you wonder what the conflicts are about. 
[13:05] A recount of “The Sword”
[13:48] A system that leans toward constant conflicts: In a Wicked Age. (
[15:50] An opposite end of the spectrum: Gumshoe (
[19:14] Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum: Dungeons and Dragons 4E (
[21:59] Another method of weaving action and exploration in the extended skill challenges in Spirit of the Century (
[23:00] Transitioning between exploration and conflict scenes.  Sean’s example, with Scalagrim the Barbarian Prince of course.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_037.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:00am EST

Hi, and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week’s episode was a bit delayed.  Justin and I both went to GenCon last week and my recovery time is not what it would have been 10 years ago.  But here the episode is, edited and with better audio quality than the last (cheating on account of the fact that the last one was recording at a con).  This week Justin and I are talking about one of John Wicks’s Play Dirty videos.  John, as always, has some great ideas, thing we wanted to expand on, specifically playing to fail, or in other words “Dare to be stupid.”

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 25:04

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show and a super short GenCon review.
[01:05] Promo for White Wolf blogcast:
[01:33] A failed roll.  Wait. I still find Lando?
[02:47] Inspired by John Wicks’s Play Dirty Video: Players, Players Everywhere (
[04:20] Succeeding all the time doesn’t make for a good story.  Heroes aren’t de-protagonized by failure.
[05:56] A paraphrase of John’s youtube clip “Do Stupid Stuff.”
[06:25] This is counter to our intuition.  Both of us usually want to see our characters succeed.
[07:05] Why do we feel the need to succeed.  Fear of hitting a dead end or having their characters become failures.
[08:21] Fate System.  Aspects describe both strengths and weaknesses of the characters.  Encouraging player by giving them a fate chip for being compelled to foible. (
[10:00] Also puts the idea out there that you start the game flawed.  We agree in advance that you’re going to stumble over something of your choice.
[10:49] Mouse Guard. Explicit encouragement to fail.  Story structure -> Twists -> Advancement! (
[12:19] Players can also put their characters at more risk using their traits.  Encouragement to stack things against yourself.
[14:38] An example of using traits against yourself.
[16:30] This is something that players have to get used it.  It appears counter-intuitive at first.
[17:00] A voice from a player “Anytime I hear the word "Fail" I cringe” (
[18:22] Does externalizing the threat remove the sting of failure?
[19:51] Justin: It feels strange to look for ways mechanically to defeat myself.  I’d rather put more at risk for a greater reward.
[20:55] Consequences stated up front in Burning Wheel and they are negotiated between the players and GM.
[21:54] What about times when heroes just fail? Example: Harry Dresden fails all the time.
[22:52] Failure is fine… but the story can’t end.  This happened all the time in Burning Warcraft (

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Direct download: NC_Episode_036.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:03pm EST

This week’s episode was recorded in EndGame at Oakland during Good Omens Con 3 in July 18th.  Paul Tevis, author of A Penny for My Thoughts played a game of Penny Justin and me and then recorded interview with us about the game.  And now you have it… the story behind Penny.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Guest Host: Paul Tevis

Length: 37:55

Show Notes

[00:25] Intro to the show, an interview with Paul Tevis at Good Omens Con.
[01:49] Excerpt from “A Penny for My Thoughts” from the Orphic Institute
[04:19] The rules are simple, but this piece shows “how” to play this game.
[05:18] Design decision: A book that could teach you the game during play.
[06:33] The three ingredients for Penny at Game Chef: Currency, Memory and Drug.
[07:43] Penny is a very procedural game, so the rules can unfold as you’re playing it.
[07:59] The trick is making it fun.  Memory triggers and presenting the rules in the fiction.
[10:09] Everyone sitting at the table is playing.  One player takes the role of the Reader, but they still play with everyone else.
[11:10] Excerpt from play.  Learning the rules.
[12:52] Structure of the game divided by ritual phrases.  Inspired by Polaris.  Helps transition into and out of the game.
[15:37] The ritual phrases bakes in the reflection scene.
[16:07] Keeping things short, specific and evocative. Based on experience with improv.
[17:37] Elements inspired by improv: “Yes, and…”  “And” is harder than we think.
[19:15] “Yes, and…” also acted as pacing mechanic to string the questions together.    And creates momentum.
[20:00] Sometimes “No” means “Yes.”  Divining what people want.
[21:24] Specific influences for Penny: The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen and 1001 Nights.  Creating incentive to do collaborative storytelling. 
[22:07] Core principal: Listening to what kind of stories the others want to tell and giving them what they want.
[24:07] If the character sheet is a love letter to the GM, Penny is an ongoing dialog.
[24:31] Penny engages all the players all the time.  Avoids the turn taking that leaves players out.
[25:28] Compared to In a Wicked Age.  The Facts and Reassurances document is analogous to the Oracles.  It makes sure everyone is on the same page about the content of the game AND allows that content to be swapped out for any setting.
[28:10] Playing without a net.  I made Paul an international bank robber.
[29:09] Publisher hat kicked in.  Support for new settings on the Orphic Institute. 
[30:14] Penny as a character creation session.  A rich development of the characters on an emotional level.
[31:45] Creating connections between your characters in the memories.
[33:12] Design question: How much of explaining the rules and the implications of the rules during the procedural text.
[34:11] Some competition to offer the best actions.  “A Smack Talk for my Thoughts”.
[36:56] Continue this conversation over at or

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Direct download: NC_Episode_035.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:49pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control – Season Two!  Justin and I took a two month sabbatical to reflect on season one and plan for the new material.    This week we’re brining you Ira Glass.  He has a few Youtube videos up on storytelling that both Justin and I really enjoyed.  Here’s our take on how his advice applies to gaming.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 26:14

Show Notes

[00:32]  Welcome back to Narrative Control. 
[01:07] Preview of Season two.  What is the new season all about?
[02:16] Intro to this episode: Storytelling by Ira Glass (of This American Life)
[02:49] Links to all four clips of Ira: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
[03:27] An excerpt from Ira’s clip. The building blocks of a story.
[04:19] Our discussion on the antidote.  In RPGs the antidote is a sequence of scenes.
[04:59] Made more complicated by every player acting as a storyteller and a protagonist.
[07:07] Sons of Kryos talked about “weaving” threads together.
[09:31] Passing scenes around like a hot potato. SoK talked about this a well!
[10:20] An excerpt from Ira’s clip. Raising questions and answering them.
[10:57] Bait. Asking questions and the implication that you will answer them.   Our discussion.
[12:06] What is that bugbear doing? Why is he running? Where is he running to?
[12:50] Introducing new “bait” to keep the story interesting.  Mixing short and long term goals together.
[13:59] An excerpt from Ira’s clip. The moment of reflection.  Why are you listening to this story?
[14:21] Out discussion.  Not necessarily present in RPGs. 
[14:50] An opportunity for reflection to allow players to understand what is going on in the heads of the other characters.
[15:00] With Great Power has the Thought Bubble.
[15:12] Sean’s L5R Game – Sapphire Magistrates.  Exposition created through character scenes.
[17:31] Moments of reflect allow you to give a flag to other players so they can contribute to your fun.
[17:53] Some settings make it VERY hard to share the meaning of an event to a protagonist.  This can be used to create suspense if we intentionally hold out on reflection to keep the audience guessing what something means.
[18:56] Some systems that build in reflection.  In Inspectors there is the “confessional”.   Confessionals can completely change the meaning of a scene you just watched.
[20:42] Montsegur 1244.  Everyone knows that the game will end with a reflection scene as the characters explain why they chose to convert or burn at the stake.
[21:15] Roanoke has a moment of reflection tied to the Doom of the island at the end of the story.
[22:39] Reflection baked into Dogs in the Vineyard.  Each conflict ends with traits changing to reflect on the conflict that just happened.
[24:07] Wrap up: The anecdote, question and reflection.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_034.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:33pm EST

Narrative Control - Episode 33

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode marks the end of Season 1 and offers a glimpse into Season 2.   Following that is the combined mistakes we've made over the last 10 months in a long series of bloopers.  Warning, many of these cuts were originally made because of profanity, so this episode is most definately explicit. Not safe for work or kids.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 23:09

Show Notes

Sorry, not for this.  The first five minutes is a wrap up of Season 1 and intro Season 2.  The next twenty is nothing but bloopers.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_033.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:30pm EST

Narrative Control - Episode 32

Hey all.  This week is a little long.  We’ve got two guests on the show, a convention to talk about and secrets to spill.  Check it!

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Guest Hosts: Shaun Hayworth and Kirstin Hayworth

Warning: TMD + Con + NC = Swearing.  Lots of it.  Not safe for work (or kids)

Length: 38:49

[00:27] Intro to the show.  We’re at Kublacon with Shaun and Kristin from This Modern Death to talk about secrets in games.
[00:41] Where did I just wake up?
[01:31] Talking about secrets and segues.
[02:07] The games we’ve been in and how they handle secrets. 
[02:33] Sean’s Game – The Gift.  Lots of secrets.  We kept them secret from the players and I think it could have been improved if the players knew in advanced.  Actual Play write up here: (scroll down a bit)
[05:29] How did the secrets get revealed.  Some were pushed for, others revealed to just some players,  and one I revealed in the middle of the game. Thus leading to what should have been a secret: A hall full of naked dwarves.
[06:30] Justin’s Game – Serpents in the Garden, a Fallout 3 LARP.  All of the players had secrets they could afford to trade.  Secrets turned into currency.
Comparing open (known by all players) vs. closed secrets.
[08:15] The conversation continued on This Modern Death… A link to the forum thread where the controversy started:
[09:55] How secrets “can” be awesome if the reveal is just right.  How hard is it to make this happen?
[11:47] The excitement of everyone knowing the secret and pushing to see it revealed.
[13:08] Making a character out of a secret. Where does this go?  Telling stories to yourself.
[13:57] Sean’s disaster of a segue.  Recapping value of open vs. closed secrets.
Getting player buy in to reveal player secrets.
[15:41] Assure the players that revealing secrets won’t ruin their character.  Also getting an agreement from the other players not to step on each other’s fun.
[17:02] How this compares between campaign play vs. one shots.  Allows the players to moderate each other.
[18:13] When everyone knows about the secrets they are better at determining when they should come up.
[18:39] What about the player who enjoys the power of having a secret?  Make it into currency.  Allow them to trade the secrets for power or other secrets.
[19:38] As the currency starts flowing, let the secrets come back around.
[20:52] Use secrets as actual currency for plot elements.  Buying from the “secrets” vendor.
How to make the secrets come out in game
[21:46] Give the player a benefit for revealing their secrets. 
[22:17] Use that technique in Dread mechanically by allowing them to get free pulls by revealing their secrets.
[23:19] Segue to point 4! What are some good ways to make it happen.
[24:40] Incentivizing it.  Any system that has cookies you can hand out (fate chips, drama dice, etc).
[24:45] The GM can set expectations in advance about how and when secrets will be revealed.   Using an act structure that dictates when secrets must come out.  Also works as part of the pacing mechanic.
[26:25] More love for Luke Crane.  In Burning Wheel secrets move at the speed of plot.
[28:36] Having secrets revealed in advance, talked about outside of character, will push towards them being revealed in game.
[29:07] Confessionals.  Giving space for characters to speak directly to the audience.  
[30:43] How will this work in games that it is not genre appropriate?  Featured in Inspectres, but could be used in any game as a confessional scene, an interstitial scene, a journal entry, or as a thought bubble.
[32:06] One left… I hate it. Character Goals to get information from another.
[33:00] Secrets are best given voluntarily, not because of a malicious action of another player.
[33:32] This can work better in a large game like a LARP where secrets are traded around.
[33:58] Character goal secrets can also be something you want to reveal instead of hide.
[33:38] Going off script here!  What if you want to share a secret but don’t know how.
[37:50] Our secret goals…

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Direct download: NC_Episode_032.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:43pm EST

This week Justin and I are talking about timelines in games (flashbacks and flash forwards) and out (campaign length, how to end games, etc).

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 28:26

[00:27] Intro to the show. Talking about timelines in game and out.
[00:49] Telling stories about our characters.
[01:50] One way to tell stories in game is to use flash backs or flash forwards
[2:00] Justin pains me with a discussion of Lost
[03:10] Talking about timelines on two levels.

Flashing back and flashing forward

[03:30] We display our ignorance to games who incorporate time manipulation in their games.
[03:58] A LARP that flashed back and flashed forward throughout.  They worked from the far future and past closer to the present.
[06:15] This allows you to start on a very dramatic note.  Starting with tension in the present by using Flashbacks to explain how you got there.
[06:52] Flashbacks are very useful for fleshing out the backstory.
[07:14] Starting with a normal scene and flashing back (or forward) to a very tense one.
[08:06] Allows the group to ask a really specific question about the characters or the story.
[08:52] Potential pitfall of a flashback:  Plot immunity.   Opportunity to create relationships or beliefs.
[10:13] Flash forwards can tell us what scene we should be building towards.
[11:28] Potential pitfalls of flash forward: Players working against the story you are presenting.
[11:56] Something that you want to look to your group for buy in.

Structure of games

[13:02] Asking the question. How long to I want this game to run?  How should it end?
[13:29] An awkward Highlander reference.
[14:22] Prime Time Adventures uses a 5 or 9 episode season.  This works really well with the spotlight dynamic.
[15:24] Some games don’t pace the number of game sessions but they do work strongly towards and end game.
[15:54] The Shadow of Yesterday: Transcendence – Your character is written out of the story.
[16:35] Burning Wheel: Emotional Attributes force characters to leave the world in different ways.
[17:39] Dust Devils uses  harm  to push towards “The End”.
[18:29] My Life with Master constantly pushes towards the end of the game (and consequently the end of the characters).
[20:32] Creating a good end game… we don’t want to let the fun end.
[22:27] Taking away the sting of games ending.  Talking about the game afterwards.
[24:00] Building in time to debrief games at the end.
[25:10] Most LARPS end with all the players sharing their plotlines with each other.
[25:39] End long running games with a discussion of what the group will do next.  Removes some of the fear of the “cool” part ending.
[27:28] Ending this podcast with an assurance that there will be more cool ones to come, and you can remove the sting by coming to the forums.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_031.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:30pm EST

Welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week Justin and I respond to a old post by Vincent Baker on suspense, what cause it and how to add it to a game.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 25:08

Show Notes
[00:28] Intro to the show.  What causes suspense in stories and how to recreate that in your games.
[00:39] promo
[00:47] Do you ever doubt Jack Bauer will stop the terrorist in 24?
[01:43] What do we learn about in the first 23 hours?
[02:10] The question isn’t will he make it, but what does he have to do to get there.
[02:24] I didn’t think of this.  I read it on Vincent Baker’s blog.
[02:49] Suspense: What will the protagonist have to go through and how will they change?

Techniques we have used to create suspense

[03:33] Setting stakes that are not directly tied to the character goals.   Make the stakes involve the cost of success. Thank you Mario Brothers and Jim Butcher.
[05:18] Negotiating the stakes between GM and the players.
[05:56] Using dice cups to prolong the suspense.  Yup, we stole this from Sons of Kryos.
[06:51] Use several conflicts that create twists in the plot, still moving towards the final outcome.
[07:28] Scarcity of player resources (fate chips, action points, etc).  Players investing their resources for success.
[08:24] Using physical tokens to represent resources.  Players can see how they’ve got let.

Specific systems that have suspense building elements

[08:59] Gumshoe removes the rolling from investigation, but allows players to invest in their findings.
[09:58] Buying success in Wilderness of Mirrors.  Betraying your fellow spies.
[11:27] Resource points also act a pacing mechanic by establishing the number of obstacles you’ll face.
[11:58] Another post of Vincent Bakers: Chalk Outlines, which uses concessions to create twists.
[15:23] Schauermärchen. A different take on pass the stick models. 
[19:00] Polaris. Players creating twists for each other using a very ritualized format.
[20:34] Changes in the fiction are more meaningful than reducing player resources.  Discussion of hit points in Dungeons and Dragons vs. Sanity Loss in Call of Cthulhu.
[21:39] A variation of the core Spirit of the Century rules for consequences  instead of stress.
[22:25] Mouseguard has both conditions (which are meaningful in the fiction) or twists (which complicates the story)
[23:30] Shadow of Yesterday has the option of bringing down the pain to raise the stakes of a conflict.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_030.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:50pm EST

This week Justin and I talk about icebreakers, exercise and games to remove inhibitions and get everyone’s creative minds moving.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length [28:25]

[00:26] Intro to the show. Talking about icebreakers, getting people comfortable playing together.
[00:54] Promo
[01:05] Did you go to band camp?
[02:01] Why do we care about camp? Oh yeah, because we can rip off ideas from them.
[02:55] Links to camp games:,
[03:39] Games at Gamestorm – camp style
[04:39] Scalagrim the Barbarian Prince.  Our Icebreaker routine.
[05:22] Part 1 - The Tale of Woe. Practicing “Yes, and…”  (a little over two minutes)
[08:17] Part 2 – The Epic Journey.  Practicing reading other players flags and sharing the spotlight. (just over a minute)
[10:41] Part 3 – The Oracle’s Answer. Practicing not interrupting each other and being flexible. (about a minute and a half)

(Total time for both explanation and performing the exercises, about seven minutes)

[12:57] Recap of what we got out of these icebreakers.

Games that have Icebreaker exercises built into them

[14:56] Prime Time Adventures pitch session.  Gets everyone on the same page about what kind of game everyone wants to play.
[15:43] Character creation in Spirit of the Century.  Building on each other’s pulp novel.
[16:42] Dogs in the Vineyard accomplishment.  Playing out one question you ask about your character.
[17:17] Mouse Guard Prologue.  A reward for recapping the previous game.   An icebreaker that also reminds everyone that happened last time and shows what parts they were excited about.
[18:35] World of Darkness Preludes.  Often a longer event, but we’ve done it as a single session where everyone ran their preludes simultaneously.

Games that you could play with people who haven’t role-played before

[20:47] Once Upon a Time.  A card game with fantasy tropes.  Mixes card game elements (like Uno) and storytelling.
[21:49] Are you a Werewolf.  A very scripted game that gets everyone talking, trying to discover the Werewolves.  Very much like reality TV elimination.

Role Playing Games that act as Icebreakers themselves.

[24:12] Breaking the Ice.  A game about two people meeting each other, but structured for two people (or more) learning to play a role-playing game.
[25:43] Sons of Liberty.  A game that encourages fast play and, like Once Upon a Time has a very visible mechanic that aids you in narration.
[26:33] Discussion of common elements in these ice breaker games.  Cards, cues, directions.  Let’s throw Zombie Cinema in the mix as well.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_029.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:00pm EST

Justin and I heard an episode of HGWT:FAFGM (#34) about structuring stories in RPGs and thought “Huh”.  Here’s the 25 minutes that followed our monosyllabic revelation.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 25:35

[00:28] Introduction to the show.  Talking about story structure. Hippies vs. Engineers.
[00:57] Survey:
[01:19] Have Games Will Travel: For a Few Games More: #34.  Story structures.
[01:56] Dirty Hippies and Stinking Engineers
[02:11] Story Structure: A pattern that we fall into or actively follow when telling stories.
[02:47] Hippies: The original gamers playing moment to moment and allowing story to follow from their actions.   Allowing for more surprises, creativity, and immersion.
[05:07] Engineers:  A gamer who wants to structure their game and drive towards specific goals in each game.
[07:02] Games with known ends: Grey Ranks, Roanake, Polaris.  These games are one step closer to being engineered.
[07:36] Montsegur 1244 is very structured.  A story told in four acts.
[09:50] Distinction between Hippie Indie Gamers and Story structures Hippies
[10:29] Dungeons and Dragons:  A total hippie game.
[12:07] Patterns that we can draw on: Plays, TV shows, playing published adventures.
[15:15] Another engineered game: Dirty Secrets.  We all know when it will end but now how it will end.
[18:00] Zombie Cinema : Also engineered, also without a GM, also uses a board.  Hmmm… are we noticing a trend.
[19:49] Did the mechanics restrict the game?  Yes, in a good way.
[22:00] A negative experience engineering a game.  Some players really groove the hippie experience.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_028.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:00am EST

This week on Narrative Control Paul Strack, Mike Parker and I talk about monsters in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons and what we’ve learned from the designers of the game.

Hosts: Sean Nittner

Guest Hosts: Michael Parker and Paul Strack

Length: 27:04

Show Notes:

[00:30] Intro to the show.  A sit down with Paul Strack and Mike Parker to talk about how 4E got monsters right.
[00:49] A RPG Podcast Survey:
[01:14] Intro to the guys… some portion of Good Omens (
[01:35] Planning the next Good Omens Convention – July 18th.
[02:13] 4th Edition does Minions really well.  Seen in other games: Feng Shui, 7th Sea but usually they never pose a threat.
[03:15] Not the way mooks are depicted in fiction, which is to heighten the tension of the story.
[03:50] Mike’s use of Minions to shake up a fight and change expectations.
[04:30] The difference is that in other games, everything about a minion is scaled down so not only are they easy to take out, but they also don’t pose a threat.   4th Edition breaks that, lowering their damage and hit points but keeping their defenses and attacks on par with the players.
[05:33] Usually they have some powers up their sleeve as well.
[06:00] Minions can really help the “big bad” giving him advantages… correction though that the 4th edition folks will catch, grab immobilizes and doesn’t grant combat advantage, but you get the point.
[06:41] Comparing to more recent incarnations of minions.  A Spirit of the Century minion. 
[08:02] Mike’s adaptation of Minion in his Hunter game.
[08:48] Can this scale up with supernatural powers?  How do minions fit into the horror genre?
[10:17] How to put it in other games?  One hit kills but they have teeth.
[10:39] What about groups of minions? Can they be treated as a unit and still be a threat.
[11:44] Making minions complimentary to the Big Bad’s plans.
[12:27] Prevents the “everyone clobber one guy” phenomenon.
[13:35] The Solo monster.  The idea that you would treat a single big boss differently
[14:26] In most games the big bad is scaled up in all aspects making him more dangerous but also more frustrating to fight.
[15:47] What makes solo bosses work in Dungeons and Dragons and how to we port that into another game?
[16:10] They formalize how they break the rules.  If you are big you get extra tricks.
[16:54] How about in a very narrative game? Take PTA for example.   Give the big bad a bigger buffer that you would usually have.
[18:10] The Spirit of the Century chase mechanics.  A very back and forth system that rolls several conflicts into one.
[18:55] Giving the main villain some form of plot immunity.
[19:42] What about a stake setting game? Should we negotiate stakes to protect antagonists?
[21:49] Polaris and the formalized player negotiation, how to scale the escalation of consequences.
[22:40] We get the same things for Solo bosses as we do for minions.  Scale them up on in certain places.
[23:30] Monsters are treated statistically different.   In other games we see this break down as powerful villains become incredibly complex to create and to play.
[25:00] Save a lot of time for both the GM and the players
[25:46] The rule of three.   The bag guy needs 3-4 abilities because that is all the time he’s going to live.
[26:00] This is a very gamist attitude.  If you can give up on simulation it will be rewarding.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_027.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:30pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  Here's a snippet I cut from last episode about PDF vs. Print media.  It seems like a good conversation to be having right now.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Justin Evans
Guests Hosts: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Sullivan

Length: 9:29

Show Notes

Check out the Podcast Survey at:

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Direct download: NC_Episode_026.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:31am EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week we’ve got guests… guests who like us are broke but still want to game.  So we’re going to talk about how to get your game on during this tough economy.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Justin Evans
Guests Hosts: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Sullivan

Length: 22:35

Show Notes

[00:29] Introduction to the show: Gaming while broke with guests Shaun Hayworth and Kristin Sullivan from This Modern Death.
[00:57] Editing issues.  Trying to keep these shows in the 20 to 25 minute range. 
[01:19] A short episode (number 26) will follow this one about PDF vs. print media. 
[01:47] This Modern Death Promo
[02:22] Kristin introduces the show for us. Our normal introduction… only longer… and with sniping.
[03:40] Money spent on microphones (and maybe kids) prevent us from having a lot of money to buy gaming books
[04:10] Some game systems are expensive to get into: White Wolf, Shadowrun, Dark Heresy.
[04:37] Even some indie games are expensive.  Burning Empires is beautiful but it can set you back.
[05:51] John Wick talks about how games really haven’t gotten that much more expensive:

Starting at the bottom: What free games are out there

[06:36] Dan Bayn’s “Wushu”.  Core game and Matrix supplement:  Free settings on  Wuxalted, an Exalted Wushu adaptation:  Wuxalted Redux Wiki:
[06:57] Rob Bohl’s “Misspent Youth”:
[07:02] Spirit of the Century SRD:  Shadow over Yesterday:  The 2.5 Version:  The 3.0 Wiki Version:
[07:35] Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 SRD is still available:
[07:58] Ben Lehmans “XXXXtreme STREET luge”:
[08:08] Four Color System (the old Marvel RPG mecahincs):
[08:20] Development on the Forge:
[08:33] 24 Hour RPG submissions: (Click on “Entries”).   Game Chef:
[08:49] Jared Sorenson’s challenge to create and market a game in 30 days on the Story-Games forum:
[10:07] Getting in during the development process.  Play-test games.

What about spending a couple bucks

[10:22] Houses of the Blooded.  FIVE BUCKS for the PDF:
[10:48] Going to local conventions at game stores… like Good Omens Con:
[11:17] Many game stores do demos of games.
[11:25] International Dungeons and Dragons day:

Sources for old games

[12:02] Buying from convention flea markets, Ebay, local used book stores.
[12:54] Old games work looking at again: Castle Falkenstein and James Bond
[13:26] Good deals on Fred Hick’s blog.  Check it out here:   Some other designer blogs not mentioned in the podcast:
John Wick:
Vincent Baker:
Paul Tevis:
Jason Morningstar:
Ben Lehman:
[14:08] Shaun’s pearl of wisdom: Pay attention to the internet.
[14:45] The Ashcan front:
[15:20] Game chef anthologies:
[15:43] Another $5 John Wick Game: Wilderness of Mirrors:
[16:23] Very cheap… sometimes free PDFs on and
[17:13] Repurpose existing games into something else.
[17:30] Lots of reasonable indie supplements.  Roanoke for $10:
[17:43] Listen to podcast about games:
[18:22] Borrow from your friends.  Pass books around your circle of gamers.  Should we take good care of our books? 
[19:57] Shaun’s method of getting over the new-book feel.
[20:50] Pimping all of our forums and such.  Kristin’s Brain Place:


Not mentioned in the show, but very useful is John H. Kim’s list of free games on

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Direct download: NC_Episode_025.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:26pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week I surprise Justin with 10 questions about his gaming preferences as an exercise to learn more about your players.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 45:17

Show Notes

[00:25] Introduction the show: An experiment asking Justin 10 questions.
[02:17] Sorry about the sound quality.  Our new microphones picked up a lot more background noise.
[02:54] This Modern Death Promo
[03:49] What about role-playing games do you like?
[04:23] How does playing RPGs make you feel?
[08:16] What other activities make you feel the same way?
[09:33] What do you look like/sound like when you’re enjoying a game?
[11:47] What is a buzz kill for you, what makes the game not fun?
[15:47] What limits do you have when gaming? What don’t you want in a game?
[24:50] What do you want to happen at the end of a game session?
Hmmm…. Not quite 10 there. Yeah, I missed some.  We’ll get another one at the end.
[25:54] Questions are finished. Sean takes a minute to think… For the benefit of all, that minute has been edited out.
[26:00] Sean’s idea for a game.  1920 Gritty Crime Story.
[29:00] Justin’s revisions.
[33:05] Recap of the questions.
[33:38] Missing Question: What non-gaming activities do you like to do?
[33:36] Continuation of recap.  Creating a proposal, followed by revisions.
[37:31] Justin’s follow up question: Where there any answers that surprised Sean?
[38:59] Continued speculation. We’re going to start guessing now.
[41:31] Sean’s thought: these would be good questions to ask before starting a game.
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Direct download: NC_Episode_024.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:45pm EST

This episode Justin and I talk about what we’ve learned from video games and how we can draw inspiration from them and learn from their pitfalls.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 29:49

Show Notes
[00:28] Introduction to the show – Inspiration from video games
[00:40] Some great discussion on our boards about conflict resolution here and here.
[01:05] Format of the show, inspiration, pitfalls and some personal stories.
[01:29] Promo
[01:37] Justin’s thrilling adventure.
[02:52] Sean’s protest. Video games don’t have the story or role-playing that tabletop RPGs do.
[04:00] Sean’s use of images, lore, etc from World of Warcraft in his Burning Warcraft game.
[05:00] Erik Woodbury’s LARP: Peace at Arathi Basin.  Video game setting, using the strengths of a LARP.
[06:15] Comparing the guessed budget of Feng Shui and Grand Theft Auto. 
[07:34] Level design as an analog for quests.
[08:17] Set pieces in games, the main encounters.
[08:56] The boss fight.  A spotlighted encounter that required fighting with different tactics.
[10:11] How this can backfire.  Make sure the character’s matter.
[12:53] Save points. Logical places to stop a session. Ending the story on a high point.
[14:30] Mouseguard session structures encapsulates the mission goals and makes sure they are resolved by the end of the session.
[15:15] A warning: avoid the grind.  Examples of the grind in video games and then in popular role-playing game.
[18:30] Justin’s fresh can of hate.  The Keep on Shadowfell.
[20:21] Some advice from Dungeons and Dragons insider: Every encounter should be meaningful to the story and have stakes the characters care about.
[22:04] A question of scaling.  Does the opposition scale with you?
[22:57] Different systems scale in different ways.  In some systems this isn’t an issue. Examples of Burning Wheel, Dungeons and Dragons and Scion.
[25:19] Justin’s story playing Oblivion.  A Minotaur in the inn?
[26:40] Fallout 3, how scaling has changed in video games.
[27:28] Sean’s analog in a D&D game where his character DID become more powerful than the status quo.  “Oh crap, it’s Sadric!”

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Direct download: NC_Episode_023.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:52pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This week Justin and I are talking about coaching players, helping them to contribute more to the game and get more out of it.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 29:39

Show Notes

[00:27] Introduction to the show: Coaching players.
[01:17] promo
[01:33] Trying to tell a story without context… it’s hard.
[02:17] The old saying “It’s easier to tell as story with limits” – Is this really an old saying?
[03:15] Coaching players: Helping them tell good stories.
[03:25] A reading from Play Unsafe by Graham Walmsley. Sometimes at conventions players just want the GM to lead them through an adventure.
[04:47] Why players might be afraid of doing something “wrong?”
Establishing the theme of the game
[05:32] When kicking off a game, make sure everyone is telling the same story.
[05:55] In the beginning of a game establishing the theme of the game.  Make sure your players a buying in from the start.
[06:39] Example: The spy genre is very diverse.  Pussy Galore and Jason Bourne don’t belong in the same story.
[07:05] Fear the Boot “Group Template” - Players defining why their group is together and what they will be doing.
[09:05] Randy’s idea: A reality TV show of drivers on the Doc Wagon.
Establishing the goal or objective of the game.
[09:45] Up front: What is the goal of the game?  Make sure that the characters have appropriate long term goals
[11:03] Giving players short term goals they can achieve right away.  Example: Burning Wheel’s beliefs system.
[12:27] Shadows of Yesterday uses experience keys to make explicit short term goals.
[12:49] Kristin from This Modern Death suggested getting rid of the WoD Virtues and Vices and replacing them with activities you’re proud of and those which you use for coping.
[14:22] Plot Cards.  Easy short term goals that you can give out randomly to the players.  This encourages certain scenes to come up.
[16:27] Incentivizing player generated scenes with in game rewards (fate chips, drama dice, etc)
[16:45] Justin’s Firefly themed plot cards at
Getting players to shine the spotlight on each other.
[17:28] Players were more forceful personalities hoarding the spotlight?
[18:03] What if the job of a player was to shine the spotlight on other people?  The idea came from Son’s of Kryos. You have to endure one of Sean’s stories.  Ways to encourage this.
[19:42] Burning Wheel: The helping mechanic tends to benefit you more than using the skill on your own.
[20:40] Sharing a common pool of XP and limiting how much each character can generate, so everyone has to participate to gain the group it’s greatest reward.
[21:45] Fan Mail from Prime Time Adventures. Fan mail allows you to enter a scene with a supporting role.
Rewards for good role-playing, make both hosts uncomfortable.
[22:42] Many games include an XP reward for good role-playing.  Assigning a reward to the MVP and Workhorse.
[24:40] Encourages people to continue hogging the attention and can disappoint other players.
[25:09] We also see this at con games.  Swag going to the “winner” of the game. A good idea from Rich Taylor. Giving the reward to the player that made the game the most fun for everyone else.
Games that rotate narrations, encouraging people to take the stage.
[26:45] Prime Time Adventures (I know… again) gives out a random narration element, allowing different people to narrate every scene.  Not mentioned in the podcast but another game that does this is Dust Devils.
[27:30] A similar mechanic in Zombie Cinema.  Choose a side in any conflict and decide if you want to ally, giving you a chance to narrate. 

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Direct download: NC_Episode_022.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:57pm EST

Narrative Control - Episode 21

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control.  This episode we’re turning 21 and celebrating by getting a little drunk.  The podcast is a long one (largely due to our inebriation) and it veers from our usual format.  The first twenty minutes is a comical review of a d20 Module, The Pleasure Prison of the B'thuvian Demon Whore, which arguably couldn’t have been taken seriously even if we were sober.  The rest of the show (almost an hour) is our recap of DundraCon 2009.    We also welcome a new voice on the show, Josh Curtis, who tells us how to be an “Elite” game master.

Also… we’ve got the explicit tag on this one for a reason.  You’ve been warned.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Justin Evans, and Josh Curtis.

Length: 1:14:23

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show.  Game module and convention review.
[01:13] What is an Elite Game master? I guess not Sean.
[02:08] What are we doing? A review of The Pleasure Prison of the B'thuvian Demon Whore.  Actual play!
[20:00] What are we doing here? Celebrating our 21st episode.
[21:18] Introducing Josh Curtis
[22:48] Hungered for some good gaming and found it at DundraCon!
[23:39] Review: “The Gift” – Sean’s Burning Wheel game.
[30:00] Review: The Pajama LARP
[31:52] Review: Deathwish, a variant of Dust Devils
[33:28] Review: “Firefly: Lap of Luxury” – Justin’s Firefly game, using FATE mechanics.
[34:53] Drunk morons singing.
[35:28] Episodic Con games. Win or Fail?
[37:38] Josh’s comparison useful backstory vs. GMs giving too much irrelevant information.
[42:30] Review: “The Hand You’re Dealt” – Rich Taylor’s Werewolf: The Apocalypse game.
[44:19] “Oh Shit, there I was!”
[45:26] What else was good at the con? Not the food.
[46:39] Review: Zar and Superhero LARP… actually mostly just bullshit.
[48:12] Review: Zombie Cinema
[54:32] Review “Ribbons” Justin’s Horror game, using FATE mechanics!  Eat that TMD.
[01:07:something something] End of the show… we’re really tired. Not sure if this part is worth listening too but by this point in the editing, I got too tired to cut.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_021.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:33pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control. This episode is a long one.  Justin and I are talking about Horror elements in stories and how to bring those into your games.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 53:23 - Told you it was a long one

Show Notes

[00:28] Introduction: Horror in RPGs.  Breaking down the horror genre, distilling the elements and then talking about systems that back up those themes
[01:33] Sean trying to scare Justin.  Can you just make a fear check?
[02:10] Are we trying to scare the character or the player, or both?
[02:40] Call out to Rich, who asked us to talk about genres and the games that fit into them.
[03:30] What makes a horror story?  Different types.
Definitions: Horror Genres.
[04:00] Splatter horror.  Buckets of Blood!  Going for shock value.
[05:35] Haunted House.  Alien: A Haunted House in space.  Suspense horror, hidden from the audience as well as the protagonists.  Excitement of piecing the clues together and the edge of the seat suspense.
[06:50] Psychological Thriller.  Getting into the mind of the killer.  Warning: Spoilers.  Looking into the protagonists.  External conflict serves to spotlight the internal issues. 
[08:18] Pimping the Dresden Files one more time!
[08:49] Monster hunter story.  Action/Suspense vs. Horror?
[09:53] Survival Horror.  Hunted by the monsters.  The end is never certain.
Elements of a Horror Story
[11:27] Suspense. Will we make it out of here alive?  Not a very interesting question.  Only relevant in games where death is possible.
[12:30] Spiral into insanity. Getting into the mind of the killer.  What happens to you?
[13:12] Investigation.  Following the trail of clues.
[13:44] Paranoia. Who can you trust?
[14:50] Inevitable doom.  The story is about the struggle.
[16:08] Hope and Despair.  Balances the story, give the protagonists a reprieve or a allow them to accomplish something important.
Systems that support Horror Stories
[18:08] Justin’s game in the Fate System.  This Modern Death said this wasn’t possible.  How will Justin use Fate’s internal mechanics to tell a horror story? “Cuts himself to feel alive” is still an aspect!
[20:20] Making the story personal to the characters.  Players handing out aspects to each other, using back story, etc.
[23:13] Sanity decks.  A consequence for failing a resolve roll.  The cards give an aspect that reflects you’re loss of Sanity.  (Available at soon).
[25:29] Dresden Files RPG will be much grittier than Fate.   There are fewer Fate chips and the GM is given license to really pound on the protagonists.  Not quite horror.
[26:35] Call of Cthulhu. One of the first games to offer a mechanic around sanity loss.  Sean has to get over his dislike of percentile system, but the sanity system was novel in creating consequences.
[29:25] Unfortunately Cthulhu became an inside joke.  Ryan Macklin talked about this on Master Plan on his episode on emergent play.
[30:55] Gumshoe. A game system designed specifically to facilitate investigation.  Each clue is found and then leads to another scene.
[33:32] Roanoke.  Uses a Doom Counter to measure the final endgame.  Allowing players to put nails in their own coffins.
[37:08] Dread.   The “pull” created an increasing level of danger… for everyone.  This makes the danger present visible to everyone.    Also, allows for a brief reprieve after someone dies.  Models survivor horror very well and creates a pacing system.
[41:18] Don’t Rest Your Head.  Uses Despair to make bad situations worse, but that fuels Hope, which can buy a brief reprieve.  Creates an economy of despair and hope.
[43:58] Don’t Rest your Head… again.  Players also have the ability to bring in horrific elements: Exhaustion and Madness.   Trading power for self destruction.  Players have to balance success against risking their character’s sanity.
[46:55] World of Darkness.  How unimpressed Sean is by the lack of Horror on WoD games.  Very hard to create suspense.  Can work when playing mortals, but much less so than when playing monsters.  There is some support from the system: Willpower, Virtue, Vice, etc. 
[52:00] Wrap up.  Looking for other suggestions for shows. Email us or get on the forums. 

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Direct download: NC_Episode_020.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:34pm EST

Hi and welcome back to narrative control.  This week Justin and I are talking about board games, specifically what we’ve taken from them to improve our role-playing games.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 20:40

Show Notes:

[00:29] Introduction: Using principals from board games in your RPGs.
[00:57] Promo
[01:03] Hey Sean, do you like Math?
[01:32] Character sheets are full numbers… one big story problem?
[02:33] Board games have a very focused play.  We all know what the game is about.
[03:33] Using physical representations of math (poker chips, tokens, glass beads, etc)
[05:22] This helps a GM gauge the status of the player characters.
[07:07] Using a “board” i.e. a battle map and miniatures
[08:35] A counter system to measure the external threat (e.g. doom counters).
[09:27] Mapping out extended skill challenges
[11:41] Game Mastery’s “Item Cards”
[12:32] Physical Representation of a Mechanic.  Mini games inside the game.
[13:29] Using timers to create tension and enforce urgency
[13:50] Dread’s mechanic.  The Jenga Tower
[14:19] An example of bringing this all together.  Zombie Attack!
[17:34] Preventing player analysis paralysis.
[19:10] Closing. Let us know how board game elements have improved or detracted from your games.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_019.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:50pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control. This episode continues our discussion on running games at conventions. This episode is about how to get the game started quickly and get the players into the action.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 24:36

Show Notes

[00:26] Introduction to the Show: Hitting the ground running
[00:56] Canon Puncture Promo, er maybe Atomic Ray Podcast Promo
[01:46] Part II of running con games. How to get the game rolling quickly.
[02:46] Starting games with a bang. Showcase each character’s ability.
[03:45] Teaching the mechanics to the players.
[04:41] Start by making sure you’re players are equipped with everything they need.
[05:21] Provide a quick summary of relevant rules.
[07:25] Teach rules as needed.
[08:27] Focus on the mechanics that you are going to be using for this game
[09:15] Providing “half-baked” characters.
[09:50] See what you can trim from the system and setting to make it manageable.
[11:48] Setting exposition in game.
[12:02] Focusing on one portion of a setting.
[12:20] Give each character an agenda.
[13:50] Some systems provide these: Burning Wheel, SotC, etc
[14:05] How to provide direction if the system doesn’t have a mechanic for it.
[16:09] Creating interconnections between player characters
[16:39] You know what sucks?
[17:41] Woops… should have been in the last episode. Playtest your games.
[18:44] Watch the clock and jump to endgame when it time is short.
[19:54] Short circuit the end conflict if necessary
[20:23] Making sure all the players have had the spotlight.
[20:41] Factoring in cleaning up after the game.
[22:11] Summary and request for feedback
[22:25] Make sure you know the game mechanics well yourself.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_018.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:53am EST

Hi and welcome back to a “regular” version of Narrative Control.  This week Justin and I talk about preparing for convention games.  The first two thirds of the show covers creating a strong threat or plot and creating props.  The second portion begs the question, is preparation really necessary?

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 32:06

Show Notes
[00:27] Intro to the show – Preparing for Convention Games
[00:46] This Modern Death Promo
[01:35] Conventions coming up that we are excited about: DundraCon, Kubla Con and …. GEN CON!
[02:04] To run a good game we have to prepare, or do we?
[02:47] What experience you want to give your players at a convention.
[03:03] Teaching new players the game.  Important?
[03:31] Start with a central threat or plot that will engage all of the players (and their characters)
[04:00] Story shaped by system or system picked to fit a story?
[05:09] Generating characters that will have a common interest.
[06:18] Opening scenes used to introduce the story, the mechanics and excite the players.  Idea from Prime Time Adventures that shows start when something major has just changed.
[07:23] James Bond movies make a great format for con games.  Start with an opening vignette that shows the protagonists full of awesome and lead into the main story.
[08:08] Gnome Spy Games:  Gnome Impossible!, Dr. Gnome and Gnomes Like Us.
[08:45] Many conventions games spoof popular media. Win or Fail?
[09:55] Win! Gathers interest, sets expectations and creates familiarity.
[10:27] Fail. Players might not take the game seriously.
[11:37] Props!  Justin and I both love them.
[11:53] Definitions: Props are anything you physically provide for the players, including dice, character sheets, nourishment, your appearance, etc.
[13:05] Character sheets.  Make them evoke the feel of the game as well as provide easy access to relevant game statistics.
[14:50] Props can eat up a lot of time, hopefully not a lot of money.
[15:38] Examples of cheap props.  Tape cassette character sheets.
[16:58] Call of Cthulu published adventures came with props included.
[17:45] My experience with “One Ring” regarding props.
[18:20] Backfired for Justin, players hording props.
[18:46] Props that can’t be hidden! Daggers, Amulets, etc.
[19:59] Some other cheap and easy props.   Templates in Microsoft Word (faxes, form letters, resumes, etc)
[20:16] Paper props for Fantasy Games.  Making them yourself?
[21:14] Some resources: Gamer the Podcasting and Ronin Arts.
[22:18] Wear your props! Another cheap creation I used for My Life with Joker.
[23:39] Build to your strengths. Make props that are fun for you to create.
[24:00] High Tech: Justin’s pseudo-CDC website for the characters.
[24:40] Is any of this preparation necessary?
[24:58] Some pickup games are really designed to be played on the fly.  Example of Spirit of the Century.
[26:06] Pickup plots guarantee that they are character driven.
[26:27] Different genre’s.  What about pickup horror?
[27:57] In pickup games, it is important to have the players invest in the creation.  Creating characters and feeding ideas to the GM is part of the fun!
[29:16] Setting expectations before the game starts, helps people play to the strengths of that genre.
[30:04] Dogs in the Vineyard.  A game that works well as a pickup, specifically because of the early introduction to the system and setting.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_017.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:09pm EST

Happy new year and welcome back to Narrative Control. This episode, recorded just after Christmas (on Boxing Day in fact) is a reflection of our 2008 and our hopes for 2009.  This episode as also much more relaxed than any we’ve done before.  You might like our antics or you might be frustrated by the lack of concrete useful information.  If the later, don’t worry I’ll be streaming a “regular” episode shortly.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 33:41

Show Notes

None this time.  Not that I couldn’t do show notes for this episode, but we don’t hit bullet points like we normally do.  The first half is about what we loved in 2008 and the second half is what we’re looking forward to in 2009.  Enjoy.

Direct download: NC_Episode_016.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:38pm EST

Hi, welcome to Narrative Control Episode 15. This week Justin and I tackle different resolution methods (task, conflict and scene), give a couple examples, talk about the strengths and weaknesses, and as always talk about ways we use them in our games.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 24:00

Show Notes

[00:32] Introduction to the show. Task, Conflict and Scene resolution.
[01:03] A lot of podcasts celebrating 2, 3 or even 4 years of syndication. Check them out at
[01:47] Brilliant Gameologists Promo
[02:03] My New Years Resolutions… not
[02:20] What are we talking about?
[02:38] Task Resolution Definition by way of example.
[05:13] Consequence of failure in task resolution.
[06:22] Conflict Resolution defined by Justin.
[07:13] Consequences of successes or failure in conflict resolution.
[07:54] Player narration either way.
[08:08] Settings stakes
[10:45] Comparing Task and Conflict resolution.
[11:40] 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons skill challenge. A blend of the two.
[12:27] Examples of systems that use conflict resolution. Wilderness of Mirrors, Shadows of Yesterday, Chalk Outlines.
[14:47] Mixing the two. Games that aren’t explicit about resolutions. Don’t Rest Your Head, you can go either way.
[15:14] Example of combining the two in a 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Pirate battle. Task resolution became too tedious. Macro vs. Micro mechanics.
[18:16] Justin unveils it… Scene resolution. Ending each scene with a lead.
[20:23] Task vs. Conflict resolution. Final Showdown!
[23:00] Closing. Let us know what you think. What have your experiences been?

Brilliant Gameologists
Dungeons and Dragons
Wilderness of Mirrors
Shadows of Yesterday
Chalk Outlines
Don’t Rest Your Head

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Direct download: NC_Episode_015.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:05pm EST

Hi and welcome to Narrative Control, Episode 14.  This week Justin and I talk about bringing indie games to your table.  We share some of the resistance we’ve experienced as well as offer some advice for how to get your group to open up and try one out.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Justin Evans

Length: 18:01

Show Notes

[00:28] Intro to the show. Bringing indie games to your kitchen table.
[01:03] Give credit where it’s due.  Thanks to you Mikael.
[01:36] Battle of Wits cards. domain name down.  Backup URL:
[02:07] Narrative Control Holiday Schedule.
[02:45] RPG Podcast Promo
[02:55] Sean’s problem.  Cream is available.
[03:16] Sean’s other problem. I want to play indie games.
[04:56] I’m missing cookies.  That must be the problem.
[05:22] Perception of indie games. Lack of familiarity. This is something new. I don’t know what that is.
[05:52] More responsibility being placed in the hands of the players.
[07:09] Traditional games don’t have a mechanic for handing over narrative control.
[08:20] Idea that Indie games are one-shot games.  This could discourage players who want to see long term games and character progression.
[10:24] How I’ve been able to convince my group to try a game.
[10:28] Lead by example.  Want to play a game? Run it!
[10:58] Focus on just the first session of a game.  Character creation or a pitch session.
[12:28] Focus on the setting or genre of the game rather than the system. 
[13:34] Justin’s synopsis of my methods: be sneaky, sugar coat it. Thanks Justin.
[13:48] Try to tailor games to the player’s interest.
[14:18] Are there any gateway games? Have I been gushing about Fate enough already?
[15:15] Start with a gateway system or hack in indie elements into traditional games?
[17:06] Request for feedback.  Let me know if you’ve had the same frustrations or if you have some other solutions.

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Direct download: NC_Episode_014.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:09pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to Narrative Control. This is my 13th episode, my 4th show on the Dresden Files RPG, but my first... numero uno interview. Fred Hicks, from Evil Hat was kind enough to share one of his afternoons talking to me about Dresden files, reviewing our experiences as play testers and share a little behind the scenes look at creation of his games. I had a great time talking to Fred and I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, interviewing Fred Hicks

Length: 31:13

Show Notes

[00:29] Intro to the Show – Interview with Fred Hicks
[00:51] Links to Battle of Wits not resolving. Email us for a copy:
[01:24] Show was recorded with Skype and PowerGramo – How did it sound?
[01:54] This Modern Death Promo
[02:31] Welcome to _a_ Fred Hicks
[03:03] First Question from a listener Mikael – Talk about Points of Tension
[03:10] Fred has discussed this before with Ryan Macklin at Master Plan, Episode 33
[03:46] Points of tension start around resource management, always wanting more.
[05:10] This should move the character from a static state and tilt them in one direction
[06:10] In Dresden Files RPG this is expressed in trading Free Will for Power.
[07:15] Which is more important? System or Setting? Neither and Both!
[09:20] Structure of the aspects also affects this. The "Theme" aspect in particular drives the conflicts.
[10:45] The Character Sheet is a lover letter to the GM. I love you, but do these things and I'll love you even more.
[11:37] Don't Rest Your Head created to some extent to bring the level of character pain Fred had been looking for.
[12:00] Where did the idea of a love letter to the GM come from?
[12:56] What you want is on the character sheet. Giving weight to the soft want.
[14:34] The Kirk effect!
[15:38] Second Question - Anticipated format of the game. Dresden Files is pitched as a campaign game.
[17:38] Advancement system is going to center around major story arcs as a unit of time.
[18:43] Major milestones - Raising Refresh (new powers!) and joining a new weight class.
[19:02] Minor advancement - Gaining a few skill points or parts of character evolution, shuffling skills and aspects.
[19:47] Characters changing is interesting, not necessarily getting more powerful. Change is cheap. Growth takes a long time.
[21:23] Third Question - Changes from SoTC. Stunts and Damage system!
[22:10] Stunt creation is now explicit. Empowering players to create their own.
[24:20] Supernatural Stunts are where the system really enforces the feeling of the Dresdenverse.
[26:02] Fred's goal is to publish a game sticks close to canon but leaves doors up.
[27:00] Damage System. Getting hit HURTS!
[28:00] Consequences are so proximate that you're always fearing them coming on.
[29:07] Broken, Bruised, Bleeding, Demoralized and Scared as Hell - The way a Dresden fight should end.
[29:50] An example of social conflict: Harry in the car with Marcone the first time they meet.


Evil Hat
Dresden Files RPG
This Modern Death
Master Plan Podcast

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Direct download: NC_Episode_013.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:25pm EST

Hi and welcome back to Narrative Control, Episode 12. This week Justin and I talk about players characters taking actions that disrupt the group, either by upsetting another player or by removing their character from the scope of the game.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 22:36

Liner Notes

[00:28] Intro to the show. Player characters taking actions that step on other players fun.
[00:49] Battle of Wits, the card system based on the Duel of Wits from Burning Wheel at
[01:35] Promo
[01:55] “That’s what my character would do” – We borrowed this topic from Episode 55 of Son’s of Kryos.
[02:51] Definition: Players taking actions that upset other players or take actions that remove their character from the story.
[04:05] Preventative Methods: Come to an agreement about what the game is going to be about ahead of time.
[04:26] One element to hash out: Situation. What is going on?
[04:42] Yeah, we found this one in Prime Time Adventures as well in the pitch session. This will define the theme of the game, the genre, and the characters or character archetypes.
[05:22] Example pitch session: Ch-osh-kys. Clerks meets Office Space.
[06:13] Concessions we made to include all the elements we wanted: Hardware plus food.
[06:45] Situation: The two stores have just been purchased and are merging together.
[06:54] Characters: The Lifer, the snotty kid and the kiss ass manager.
[07:20] Sets: Reinforces where conflicts will occur. Keeps things in the story.
[07:50] More traditional format. GM presents a situation but the players still make an agreement about how their characters will interact with the situation.
[08:57] Avoid throwing out ideas that will remove characters from the game unless that is presented as a conflict to overcome.
[09:45] Fear the Boot (Episode 2) talks about Group Templates for creating characters.
[10:00] Another example. A gladiator game that was about being gladiators slaves, not escaping.
[11:18] Justin’s Game set in Cadwallon: Outside the city the world is at war, the “game” however takes place within the city walls as the character act on the behalf of the duke.
[11:52] How to bring some of those “out of game” elements into the game for the players behalf and to make the story richer.
[13:25] Corrective measures: What happens if player characters breath the forth wall anyway?
[13:47] Possibly this is the time for the character to leave the game. Maybe this is a good time for their story to end?
[14:25] Escalate the conflict around that decision. Make it a hard choice to leave the game. Also, you could give the character and easy out if the player wants to keep the character in the game, but can’t figure out how.
[15:19] Alternatives to allow for characters to leave the story:
[15:28] Granting a solo session to a player. Justin and Sean disagree on this.
[16:33] Use the Living City technique and have the other players take the roles of NPCs in the character’s spotlight scene. This can also work well with simmering scenes.
[17:52] What about players stomping on each others fun?
[18:43] Create a cliff hanger moment. Pause the game and ask the offending player how they see this playing out? What direction do they think this will take their character in.
[19:40] Ask the potential “victim” how they feel about this.
[20:22] Set stakes for the conflict. Stakes have to be agreed on by both characters. This allows both players to know what worst case scenario and how the character relationship might change.
[21:29] Feedback. Let us know how if this is come up in your games. How has your group dealt with it?


Burning Wheel
Son’s of Kryos
Prime Time Adventures
Fear the Boot)

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Direct download: NC_Episode_012.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:37pm EST

Hi, and welcome back to Narrative Control, episode 11. Justin and I are back to talk about framing scenes. Why and how to do it.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 20:08

Liner Notes

[00:29] Show Intro – Scene Framing
[00:40] Special thanks to listeners William, Mikael, and Robin for correcting us (er Justin). We did in indeed steal previews from Prime Time Adventures.
[00:56] This Modern Death Promo
[01:33] Your in a 10’ corridor!
[02:13] That is what a game without scene framing feels like.
[02:52] Definition of scene framing: Location, who is present, and what is going on.
[04:08] Why do we frame scenes? To avoid the tedium and get right to the action.
[06:01] Scene framing described well in Prime Time Adventures. Something else in PTA as well.
[06:54] In a Wicked Age – Driven strongly by scene framing. Nothing happens outside of a scene.
[07:07] Scene Framing in Panty Explosion in 5 parts: Location, Mood, Action, Who’s There and Supernatural Activity
[07:33] Strategies for framing a scene. Start a scene at the last possible moment.
[08:34] To montage or not to montage?
[08:54] Justin’s campaign. Nothing happens out of a scene. Much of the mundane is skipped.
[09:22] Strategy for moving from one scene to the next. Ending with tension.
[10:02] How to bring this to the table? Make the scenes personal to the characters. Each scene should matter. Take cues from the characters (aspects, keys, beliefs, virtues). Start them with a direction based on those cues.
[11:43] Simmering scenes. Borrowed from Sons of Kryos and Ron Edwards.
[13:10] Weaving. Bring up elements from one character’s personality or background in other character’s scenes.
[14:00] Weaving us used constantly in My Life with Master. This prompted a lot of character interaction.
[14:55] Situation Sheets from Full Light, Full Steam. Players writing a document of what kinds of scenes they would like to see.
[15:56] Thematic Batteries. Require scenes that will charge these batteries.
[16:49] Questions to ask your self in the scene: What happens if nobody intervenes? Who might profit or suffer from the conflict? Setting some stakes in advance.
[18:26] Wrap up and recap of scene framing.

This Modern Death
Prime Time Adventures
In a Wicked Age
Panty Explosion
Sons of Kryos
Ron Edwards
Full Light, Full Steam

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Direct download: NC_Episode_011.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:38pm EST

Hi, and welcome to Narrative Control, episode 10. We're back on the Dresden Files RPG. This time Kevan and I review the roll of compelling aspects in the game.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Kevan Forbes

Length: 20:19

Liner Notes

[00:28] Show Introduction: Returning to the Dresden Files RPG.
[00:45] Introduction to Kevan Forbes a Good Omens GM in Sacramento.
[01:19] This episode is a reflection of our play, specifically compelling aspects.
[02:13] Thanks to everyone who has given us feedback over email or on the forum. You guys rock!
[02:50] This Modern Death Bumper
[03:28] Greetings from Sean and Kevan
[03:54] The Compel Mechanic!
[04:07] Explanation of aspects from Fate and how compels work with them.
[04:54] Fate chips are much more precious in Dresden RPG.
[05:24] Comparison to compelling in Spirit of the Century.
[05:45] Example of a tough compel and the price to pay it off.
[06:38] How to use a compel #1: Plot Hooks
[07:49] How to use a compel #2: Binding the characters to the story.
[08:13] Example of a compel: The Vodou priest wakes up with blood on his hands.
[08:55] How to use a compel #3: The toolbox for adventure creation.
[09:40] How to use a compel #4: An alternative to the standard conflict resolution.
[11:40] Comparing compels to other games that give out cookies for game play (7th Sea, Buffy, Exalted, etc).
[12:43] I miss the reward system from other games when the players are performing exceptionally.
[13:17] Compelling, however, brings the characters deeper into the story.
[14:17] Keeping the fate chip currency moving with compels. An example from play.
[14:56] Fate chip economy!
[15:15] How to use a compel #5: Players compelling other characters
[15:38] How to use a compel #6: Moving the story along when players don't want to budge.
[16:47] A reward for good role-playing?
[18:11] Accidental Survivors Bumper.
[18:51] Review of the show. Disappointed with the audio quality.
[19:20] Request for feedback.


Dresden Files RPG
Good Omens Games
Evil Hat
This Modern Death
Accidental Survivors

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Direct download: NC_Episode_010.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:44am EST

Hi, and welcome to Narrative Control. This week's episode has two segments. The first half covers using previews to prime your next game. The second section is a review of my experience running Good Omens Con. I review all the steps and hopefully offer up some useful advice.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 23:48

Liner Notes

[00:28] Show Introduction: Previews and Running Conventions.
[01:32] Bumper
[01:54] Part 1. Definitions of Preivews
[02:04] Okay, the real Definition of Previews
[02:14] Justin's Bleeding Edge Stuff
[02:57] Modeled after previews to TV shows, designed to get players excited about the next game.
[03:48] How Justin uses it in his game. Players create brief (vague) scenes for the next game.
[04:35] Incorporating them into the next game.
[05:08] Can be difficult if you don't know how long the game will be.
[05:48] The players end up giving you fuel for the games.
[05:59] What if you can't find a place to fit the preview in? Does it feel forced?
[07:48] What about players framing their scenes including the preview?
[08:50] Allowing the players to fill in the details.
[09:58] Sean has requested scenes in advance form players. Mixed results. Do previews ever have these troubles?
[11:03] Keep the previews short and vague.
[11:33] Authoring other player's characters into your previews?
[12:30] Players enjoy the spotlight being put on them.
[12:51] Sean's superior math skills
[13:05] Bumper
[13:12] Part 2. Good Omens Con
[13:42] Stats: 60 attendees, 14 games, and a Guest GM: Carl Rigney
[14:16] Covered by
[14:28] Instant Pre-Order for Don't Loose your Mind
[15:30] The History of Good Omens Con
[15:48] Both Cons were Chartiy Events: Alemeday Food Bank
[16:49] First starting thinking about this early 2005
[17:38] Location. Find a place to host the con. EndGame hosted our con. They Rock!
[19:12] Date: Pick a date where there aren't other convetions going on
[19:42] Round up GMs.
[20:26] Coordinante the game sign ups.
[21:12] Feeing of running a con is great. A chance to give back to the gamer community.
[21:20] Sean's Mantras - Scratch someone elses back first.and "Free is Good!"

Good Omens Games
Don't Loose your Mind

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Direct download: NC_Episode_009.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:43am EST

Pacing in games. Justin and I talk about mechanics and techniques we have used for pacing our games. These range from dice mechanics, to actual timers and at the end a discussion of player created urgency in the Sons of Liberty.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 30:20 Minutes

Liner Notes

[00:30] Show Introduction - Pacing Mechanics.
[01:24] bumper
[01:42] Definition of Pacing. A couple useless ones first.
[02:00] Controlling the urgency in the game upping the stakes.
[03:19] Preventing analysis paralysis and encouraging immersion.
[03:47] Pacing built into most games, usually in combat systems. Something we are all familiar with.
[04:32] The same hit point system most gamers are familiar with from Dungeons and Dragons are used in Burning Empires to represent Disposition.
[05:47] Situation: Disarming a bomb in Spirit of the Century. Creating pacing for a non-combat conflict to create urgency.
[07:48] Another SotC mechanic extended skill challenge.
[08:15] How Justin used an extended skill challenge in a Firefly game to represent the race to find an outlaw before he was caught by a bounty hunter.
[10:42] Using props as a visual aid to represent margin of success and chance of failure.
[11:11] Skill Challenges in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons are very similar.
[12:10] This form of pacing comes form game mechanics.
[13:00] Bringing in outside elements. Sand timers, egg timers. Not giving players enough time to analyze all the information available.
[13:50] Introducing a mini game as a spotlight moment.
[14:45] How Justin escalated things even further, causing distractions.
[15:58] Potential backfire? Does this still work if the characters fail?
[16:37] Using a timer in My Life with Joker to trigger random events.
[18:24] Ding! Ding! Ding! A bank blows up!
[18:57] An extreme example in John Wick's Play Dirty.
[19:44] Applying the mechanics as in game effects. In a Matrix game "Time is always against you."
[20:49] Doom in Roanoke. Affects narration of end game.
[21:42] Sean was disappointed there wasn't more doom.
[21:52] Pace set by the players in Sons of Liberty
[28:54] Pacing is game agnostic. Try it out.
[29:04] Another bumper
[29:09] Show Recap
[29:50] Let us know what you think:

Dungeons and Dragons
Burning Empires
Spirit of the Century
My Life with Master
Play Dirty
Sons of Liberty

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Direct download: NC_Episode_008.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:47am EST

Hi, welcome to Narrative Control. This episode Justin and I talk about high prep vs. low games and the advantages and pitfalls of both.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Length: 29:33 Minutes

Liner Notes

[0:27] Introduction to the show. Zero prep vs. high prep games.
[0:55] bumper
[1:16] Cage Match! We want two winners
[1:32] Definitions: Zero Prep games.
[2:21] Example of a zero prep game: Spirit of the Century. Pickup or zero prep? The same thing?
[4:40] Even less prep: In a Wicked Age using oracles.
[6:51] Story starts being developed during character/setting creation. Creates situation and conflict for the GM to use.
[8:10] Definition: High Prep game
[9:57] May create different player motivations. Instead of directing plot, pursue developing character or find a reason to connect to the existing plot.
[11:00] Foster antagonism between the GM and players?
[12:40] Listening to Have Games will Travel: For a Few Games More. Paul talks about different types of stories.
[14 :44] More examples of low prep games: Universalis. Players sit down with a blank slate and bit on story elements to include.
[15:35] Prime Time Adventures. Pitch session is zero prep. From then on, low prep.
[17:07] Games that include a mechanic to push the story forward. Shab-al-Hiri Roach and Sons of Liberty and Polaris
[18:54] Show Notes (not schnotes, just in case you thought you heard me wrong but didn't)
[19:32] High prep games examples. Dungeons and Dragons, White Wolf games, Call of Cthulhu and Shadowrun.
[20:04] John Wick's method for combining low prep mechanics in high prep games: Dirty Dungeon. Method from Wilderness of Mirrors
[21:11] Win and Fail of low and zero prep games.
[21:23] Win! Low prep games offer a great time savings.
[22:42] Win! Player Buy in. They like it because they built it.
[23:35] Fail. The game could be potentially less coherent. Different players with different ideas about what the game is about.
[24:45] Fail and Win! Investment in the game for both GM and players.
[25:00] Win! Less pressure on the part of the GM.
[27:04] What happens if someone isn't exited about a game?
[28:33] Try swapping back and forth. Spice it up!
[28:44] Closing notes. Lets us know what you think at or email

Spirit of the Century
In a Wicked Age
Have Games will Travel: For a Few Games More
Prime Time Adventures
Shab-al-Hiri Roach
Sons of Liberty
Dirty Dungeon
Wilderness of Mirrors

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Direct download: NC_Episode_007.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:40am EST

Hi and welcome to Narrative Control. This week's episode is an actual play report from a Burning Wheel game that I played in with the guys from This Modern Death. The game setting is heavily inspired by the HBO show Deadwood and it rocked hard. Warning, as per fitting with the genre, this show has an explicit tag, though truthfully I don't think we were nearly as bad as we could have been.

Length: 22:47

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Sullivan, and Randy Davenport

Liner Notes

[0:30] Thanks for the feedback from last episode
[0:53] Burning Las Vegas got me thinking about Burning Wheel
[1:21] Experimenting with actual play reports
[1:45] Bumper
[1:52] Introduction to the hosts
[2:34] What is Burning Deadwood?
[2:58] Discussion of the show Deadwood
[3:40] Deadwood isn't setting, its situation
[4:40] Orks be here!
[4:50] Game defined by the character's motivations
[5:26] A group of players looking to be screwed with
[5:50] Brief background on the game.
[6:11] Levi, the fire and brimstone priest of Zoltek
[6:50] Player vs. Player conflicts built into beliefs: "The wizard must burn!"
[7:02] Role of religion in westerns
[7:48] Woops, the wizard botched his spell and turns a forest to crystal
[8:27] Gunning for a Dual of Wits with a torch in hand.
[8:55] The story is driven by the players but we all got suprised a few times.
[10:00] Seans's strategy: Rally the congregation against the Wizard!
[11:04] Converting the mother of the son to turn against her child. Evil priest!
[12:00] Oddly anti-climatic ending that was very satisfying
[13:20] Pet peave of Sean's: Players don't recognize authority figures. How does it play out differently when they are controlled by the GM vs. another player?
[14:28] Group dynamic. These are people climbing the food chain, not the heroes of the dawn.
[15:06] The mechanics support this. NPCs have some serious weight to throw around.
[16:06] NPCs and PCs use the same tactics, and death is easy.
[16:58] Separate plots advancing during the game.
[17:44] Players opting to screw themselves over made the game rock.
[18:58] Opening scene as a foreshadowing for the themes of the session.
[19:13] Character driven story meant we could split up and move the story forward
[19:37] A very restricted geography keeps the characters running into each other.
[20:58] Burning Wheel mechanics make it unnecessary to have a story scripted, everything moves forward from a starting condition.
[21:39] Thanks to Shaun, Kristin and Randy.

This Modern Death
Burning Wheel

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Direct download: NC_Episode_006.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:01am EST

Hi, and welcome to Narrative Control. This week Justin is back and as usual we're giving our own spin on a much beloved topic. We're talking with me about hacking systems. Everything from porting games into different settings to combining our favorite mechanics.

Liner Notes

[0:28] Introduction to the show. Hacking systems.
[0:50] The show is a bit long. Let me know if it is too long. Email us:
[1:42] bumper
[1:58] What we mean by hacking systems.
[2:36] Justin's current game. A hodgepodge of games:
[2:52] Cadwallon - Setting and Dice pools
[3:28] Wushu mechanics - Detailed bad ass combats on the fly.
[3:52] Fate - Stunts
[4:04] Shadows of Yesterday - Experience Keys for experience and character flags.
[5:00] How has this been accepted by the players? Pros and Cons
[6:17] Is this play testing a new game?
[7:08] Sean's accidental hack of Prime Time Adventures with Exalted.
[7:39] Removing screen presence to allow equal importance for con games
[7:53] Allowing every player narration rights.
[8:30] Changes made specifically for the con environment.
[9:07] Change fan mail to allow the producer to grant fan mail.
[9:40] Other reasons to hack games? Games that don't have strong social conflict mechanics.
[10:38] Hacking Duel of Wits from Burning Wheel
[10:55] Why? Players want to do actions in a game that involve a complex and fun mechanic.
[11:38] Brining it together. Molding mechanics to fit in the core game so players aren't learning completely separate systems.
[12:33] Systems that are very easy to borrow from: Wilderness of Mirrors, Fate
[15:17] Games with great mechanics and situations screaming to be ported into other settings: Dogs in the Vineyard
[15:34] Using In a Wicked Age by swapping out Oracles
[17:03] A Battlestar Galactica oracle on
[17:25] Don't get Sean started on shnotes
[17:36] My Life with Master has a very thin setting, easy to move. Sean ported it to My Life with Joker.
[18:47] Some games that are tightly coupled with their settings. Value in playing the game as intended?
[19:08] Dozens of setting hacks for Dogs in the Vineyard but the original setting has so much character, don't discount the value of playing a straight dogs game.
[22:10] Settings that have benefited from different systems: Exalted using Prime Time Adventures and Wushu/Wuxalted
[23:30] Exalted Unplugged
[24:12] Shadowrun alternative systems: Prime Time Adventures, Burning Wheel and Don't Rest Your Head
[29:46] Our parting worlds on hacking systems. Try it!

Shadows of Yesterday
Prime Time Adventures
Burning Wheel
Wilderness of Mirrors
Dogs in the Vineyard
Sinister Game
My Life with Master
Don't Rest Your Head

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Direct download: NC_Episode_005.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:57am EST

Hi, welcome to Narrative Control.  This episode is part two of Burning Las Vegas, the city creation process for the alpha test of the Dresden Files RPG. We run through the locations we created in Las Vegas, the personalities we put there and how we intend to use these in our games. Plus, there's a little insight into Sean's vampire aversion. Listen and laugh.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Erik Woodbury

Liner Notes

[0:27] Intro to the Show - Burning Las Vegas, part 2
[0:50] Promo for This Modern Death
[1:44] Creating Locations - What this does for the game
[2:16] Player contributions create investments immediately
[2:54] Why Sean won't include vampires in his games
[3:22] Dealing with gambling
[3:39] Location #1 - The Strip - How much granularity do we need to define now?
[5:16] Location #2 - Voodoo Lounge - A hang out and safe area for supernaturals. Changes we made in the real world.
[6:22] Erik is a real pain in the donkey.
[7:18] We're accepting donations to go to the Voodoo Lounge. Yeah, right!
[7:40] Aspects: "Let your inner party animal out Discrete Inquiries; Apply Within" and "You only start trouble once." - How we combined a few themes to create make these aspects.
[9:49] Location #3 - Fremont Street Experience - Home of the mob.
[10:40] Aspect: "You're only safe under the lights." This place represents the conflict between the old guard and the new powers
[11:50] Why we create an utter mundane, Grandpa Tony.
[14:13] Location #4 - Las Vegas Country Club Resort - Why the high rollers won't be coming here.
[15:13] Aspect: "Power Plays on the Back Nine."
[15:45] Characters in the story will be coming here to make major changes. The player characters will be movers and shakers.
[16:50] How the books may end up differing from the game.
[17:28] Location #5 - University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Home of the Rebels
[17:58] A stripper who met her husband at a strip club... it could happen to you.
[18:34] UNLV Student Body - Finger on the Pulse of the parties, entry point to other places in the city, built in victims.
[19:50] Professor of Aberrant Psychology - A source of local lore.
[20:44] Other locations we haven't detailed here but we've got on the web site:
[21:33] Our Area 51 Operative
[22:37] The steps to follow
[23:14] Fred Hicks Promo
[23:26] Closing and contact information

This Modern Death
Evil Hat Productions
Dresden Files RPG
Jim Butcher's Website
Burning Las Vegas

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Direct download: NC_Episode_004.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:01am EST

Hi, welcome to Narrative Control.  This episode is part one of Burning Las Vegas, the city creation process for the alpha test of the Dresden Files RPG. We introduce the Dresden Files and then step through our process of picking a city and giving it life. Next week, part two will wrap up with the locations and personalities we created.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Erik Woodbury

Liner Notes

[0:30] Mashing things up. A few changes.
[0:33] New co-host Erik Woodbury
[0:50] Brian Isikoff invited me to be a guest on Episode 38 of 2d6feet in a Random Direction
[1:18] Burning Las Vegas. Alpha Play Test of the Dresden Files RPG.
[2:15] Bumper
[2:37] Introduction to the Dresden Files novels setting
[3:58] Step One - Pick a City. How we chose Las Vegas.
[4:53] Brainstorming cities
[5:54] The issue of Primacy
[6:19] Our difficulty settling on one city. Trying to avoid stereotypes
[8:56] Step Two - The theme of the Las Vegas
[9:38] Vegas is a crossroads for the world
[10:08] Potential themes: "Luck be a Lady tonight", "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas", "The haves and have nots", "A holiday for morality", "That's nothing, just wait till you see what happens next weekend" and "Grandfather Thunder is displeased."
[11:18] Focusing these aspects on themes that would be easy to use in game and that would push the story forward.
[13:15] Conflict between "Sin City" and "Entertainment Capital of the World"
[14:50] Our personal experiences in Las Vegas
[16:54] Our final picks for themes
[17:17] How Aspects will work in Dresden Files RPG (as per Fate)
[18:20] Little known fact. Las Vegas means "The Meadows"
[18:51] End of part one, intro to part two: Locations and Personalities
[19:09] Contact information

2d6 Feet in a Random Direction
Evil Hat Productions
Dresden Files RPG
Jim Butcher's Website

Live Journal Entries for Burning Las Vegas:
Viva Las Vegas
The Entertainment Capital of the World
Fear and Self Loathing in Las Vegas

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Direct download: NC_Episode_003.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:00am EST

Hi, welcome to Narrative Control. This episode is on Living City, a technique of giving conrol of NPCs to the players and allowing them to bring more life to your world as well as turn the story in the directions they are exited about.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Liner Notes

[0:38] Introduction – Living City
[0:40] Source – John Wick's Play Dirty
[1:28] Justin answers “What is Living City?”
[3:00] How it's done. John Wick's example: NPCs given to player.
[4:39] Pitfalls with antagonistic or knowledgeable NPCs?
[5:30] Disseminating information through the players.
[6:00] Sean's use of a similar techniques in his Mage: The Awakening game.
[8:30] NPC Information: Name, Nature, Aspects and Motivation
[9:47] Bread Crumbs. How changing information on the cards can throw players off balance.
[11:15] The technique gives players who would normally be out of scene a chance to play.
[11:29] How to make up NPCs on the fly: Sins and Virtues cards.
[11:47] Show Notes vs. Schnotes battle returns
[12:23] Back to Sins and Virtues...
[14:55] Why would you create a Living City? New plots, granting players narrative control, more believable NPCs.
[17:50] Some of the most interesting interactions happen between players are taking the roles of NPC.
[18:08] More emotional involvement between PC and NPC vs. PC and PC?
[19:45] Pitfalls. Too much information shared? NPCs not coming to life? GMs gets left out? GM needs to be more prepared.
[21:58] Burning Dresden City Creation. Entire group creates locatoins and personalities.
[23:25] How to contact Narrative Control

Wicked Dead Brewing Company
Shnotes siting - Beware!
Sinister Game
Dresden Files RPG

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Direct download: NC_Episode_002.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:01am EST

Hi, Welcome to Narrative Control. This episode is on Backstory, a quick technique for GMs to use at the start of games to connect characters to each other and to the story

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Liner Notes

[0:28] Show Introduction – Backstory
[0:48] Source: Brian Isikoff
[1:40] Where we first learned about Backstory
[2:58] This has been talked about before on 2d6 Feet in a Random Direction – Episode 8
[3:44] Sean’s first experience with Backstory – Questions Brian asked me.
[5:40] Backstory is part of the game itself.
[6:45] How this helped resolve the “Leader” role
[8:10] Used to fill a gaps in a long term game
[8:36] Established player buy in
[9:30] Does this give players Narrative Control?
[9:45] What if players throw curve balls at you?
[10:45] Method 1: Roll with it
[12:20] Method 2: Establish the genre in advance, tailor response to fit the theme
[13:54] Where could Backstory present problems in long term games?
[15:21] Paul Tevis and Remi Treuer on limitations of endowments in role-playing
[16:15] How to work in Backstory in a long term game.
[16:40] Other games that incorporate back story like elements: Dread
[19:10] Shaun Hayworth tweaked Dread to be more like Backstory
[20:40] Other games that contain similar character creation elements: Spirit of the Century, Dogs in the Vineyard, Prime Time adventures.

2d6 Feet in a Random Direction, Episode 8
This Modern Death
Have Games Will Travel, Episode 98

Spirit of the Century
Dogs in the Vineyard
Prime Time Adventures

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Direct download: NC_Episode_001.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:24am EST

Hi, Welcome to Narrative Control.  This is our first episode.  It focuses on what the show will be about, a continuation of a conversation.  What conversation you ask? Stop reading and go listen to the show.

Hosts: Sean Nittner and Justin Evans

Liner Notes

[0:28] Show introduction
[0:36] Dedication to Kristin Sullivan (of This Modern Death)
[0:58] Main Topic: What is this show about?
[1:16] The But-one-Justin
[1:50] Being a pretentious ass – Name dropping Ryan Macklin of the Master Plan Podcast
[2:52] (Sean got the name wrong and called it .net, Tool!)
[3:30] Sean: This show is about our gaming experiences and our reactions to those.
[4:38] Justin: One big conversation about a hobby we all love
[5:00] Inspiration from other podcasts
[5:40] Who might be interested in Narrative Control
[6:32] Can we expand on the “Agony and Ecstasy of games”
[8:53] “Show Notes” vs. “Shnotes”
[11:00] Who is Sean? Why is Sean?
[12:38] Good Omens – A group of GMs that Justin and Sean are part of.
[15:57] Who is Justin Evans?
[18:15] Why is Justin podcasting?
[19:39] Geek Philosophers or Pretentious Tools?
[20:42] Justin expands on “keeping the conversation going”
[22:40] We’d like to hear what you have to say
[22:56] Closing

This Modern Death
Master Plan
Good Omens



Direct download: NC_Episode_000.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:23pm EST