Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Game Mastering and Playing: Framing in Opportunities part 1

I realized that identifying my own opportunities is the freedom and burden I look for in a game. The freedom to look for other paths, strategies, and to ask different questions. This is the ideal that I work towards. That even in the small set backs and failures having it as a goal makes me better with every try.

One of the reasons I was really attracted to the Harvard Case Study method as a game-mastering technique was because it made the GM enable the players to find their own solutions. The players have to find the solution, and the focus was working with the ambiguity, ignorance, and uncertainty. That after creating the sandbox, I (or We) want the players to ask interesting questions, try different things, and challenge the status quo.

My most recent studies talked about finding small wins to scale up: which is what leveling up and RPGs are about... but with the catch that We create our own opportunities. That we are using empathy, critical thinking, and expertise to ask different and challenging questions. Its one thing for the GM to provide a leads, its another when the GM can create fertile ground for players to develop their own.

Seeing in Opportunities

There is a system mechanics debate about what makes a combat round or an action round. In gurps is second by second, many systems work with 3 (White Wolf systems have this), to 5-6 seconds (and for a while this was my favorite). Old School games use Minutes! L5R 5e emphasized in moments and many Narrative Games emphasized in Significant Activities. 

Seeing time in Actionable Opportunities is an expansion to the Significant Action system used by Narrative Mechanics but was something I used when I played airsoft or used in real life. Its almost existential (as it deals with consciousness) that: time is useless in amounts we cannot use! Looking at the narrative in the currency of Opportunities means we need to prepare so that we can better take advantage of them.

Designing combat and actions around what opportunities can be opened or created is a powerful framing tool / or question that lets me figure out what the players can do, what I can do as the GM, or what I can do as a player. 

Whats Different, What can be Implemented? 

Many game-mastering talks emphasize various parts of game-mastering as important. They all begin to sound very similar over time and may muddy priorities. Framing in Opportunities means adding the questions: 
  • "Where is the Opportunity here?" 
  • "What opportunities can be observed?" 
  • "How can I see opportunities in this situation?"
  • "What conditions do I need to meet?""
  • "When are these opportunities available?" 
I can generalize that every useful suggestion must give me a set of questions I can ask myself as I review my work and my strategy. If anyone is to give me any help it is to give me more ways to Frame Questions I can ask myself. Over time some questions will prove more useful than others, but in m preparation I have to have a stock of questions 

The IFORESAW, MESO, Topics/Targets/Tradeoffs, BATNA/WATNA, etc mnemonics all serve to ask as many thorough questions to eliminate threats and blind sides to the problems we face as we scan from the proximity to the horizon. Framing is a Discipline with a lot of subskills that can be adapted to many situations - and one such simple adaption or tool for our toolkit is Framing in Opportunities. 

Remember the Course of Action Method I talked about?

Narrate by General to Specific: Strategy > Action > Objective. (Or in any order as long as you have all 3 elements).

When I'm trying to word what strategy I will frame my questions in Opportunities (see questions above).

  • Actions is "What I'm going to DO?"
  • Objective is "What are the results I want to achieve?"
  • Strategy is "What are the opportunities I'm trying to create or find or would be available to me?"
Note that this can be reversed or mixed around: 
Objectives (What are my Goals?) > Strategy (What Opportunities do I need or looking for?) > Action (What do I need to do?)

If I can practice always having all three elements (to make sure they are always there its better to follow a pattern - either specific to general or specific to general) would be a good habit. Even in communicating with others having all 3 elements would be more specific - once they get used to it.

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