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    • CommentAuthorMoreno R.
    • CommentTimeJun 3rd 2009
     

    Hi Ron!

    It's happening often, when we play Spione (yesterday, for example) that, at the end, there is a point in the middle of a flashpoint where we could stop right there, ending the story there would be perfect, but it's not allowed by the rules.

    For example, yesterday, there was the last supporting cast member left, with both spies dead. This supporting cast member was the daughter of one of the principals. That principal was an old man who hated what he had become (a spy, cynic and disillusioned) and wanted a better life for his daughter. So, when during the last flashpoint the cards showed two aces near a joker, the ace player did choose to narrate that she will become a spy, too. It would have been the perfect (bitter) ending right there, but there were still five cards to narrate, every one of them negative. We could have narrated her death, or imprisonment, or define other things (like the fact that she would never be unhappy o always alone) and use the fate deck to decide her fate, but in any case it was a unnecessary coda to a story already ended.

    To tell the truth, this is not a problem in play: usually when we all agree about this we simply stop the game. But I got curious about your reasons for not explicitly allowing, in the written rules, this manner of stopping the game by unanimous consent. There are thematic reasons for having left this kind of ending out, or it's simply something like the ending of My Life With Master, where the fact that the players can simply declare the Master dead during the endgame if the rolls are so unlucky that the ending is too drawn out is something simply left unstated, trusting that every group will find a way to have the Master die anyway at the end?

  1.  

    Hi Moreno,

    I cannot absolutely speak for what will be the most fun for you, and you should do what is in fact the most fun, but I recommend trusting the system and playing it all out according to the Flashpoint cards.

    Here's what I think. There may be ... well, a certain standard degree of closure that's probably most common and most reinforced by Hollywood movies. A certain degree of tragedy, or triumph, or appropriate coincidence, or punishment. Through exposure and familiarity to these stories, people have developed a standard or perhaps value-system which indicates what makes a story "enough." The actual timing and structure of the stories themselves are very similar despite the different kinds of closure and (of course) despite the many different settings. Setting becomes merely a stage set.

    I don't think the spy context in Spione is merely setting for a standard story-structure. It's about spying. It's really about spying in the same way that the novels that inspired it are. I built the Flashpoint mechanics to make the people the spy is close to the victims of an exponentially-increasing load of negative consequences. That's what those cards in your array were: the consequences of having been a spy, which are - and here's the point - far worse than what a viewer finds "satisfying."

    If you were comfortable with that particular degree of bitterness, i.e., saying it was "perfect," than at least according to the design philosophy of the game, that isn't enough. The goal is not a satisfying ending, it is a horrific one. Whether the chain of negativity drove down through this one woman's life or whether it was spread across a variety of characters doesn't matter. The fact that it would be so excessive is part of what I was aiming at.

    It may be that my whole Hollywood hypothesis is wrong or doesn't apply to you and the folks you play with. Even so, that's not necessary for my point. My point is that whatever ending strikes you as "just right" is by the design philosophy of the game too kind as long as there are Flashpoint cards left.

    This does raise the question of whether the mechanics force a story into becoming dumb or sadistic melodrama past a certain point. I don't think that has to happen, though. I think it's like a door of creativity and artistic challenge to take hold of that incredible load of terrible events and distribute it either upon a character through time or across characters in a way which is perhaps not as neatly appropriate as the initial "best" stopping point, but does make it absolutely, unequivocally clear that the world of the spy is morally, politically, and emotionally bankrupt. And due to that, the harm it breeds upon those who never deserved it is far worse than anyone wants.

    Of all the spy authors, Graham Greene probably had the best vocabulary for what I am trying to describe and what I tried to design the game toward. He'd call it damnation.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorMoreno R.
    • CommentTimeJun 4th 2009
     

    Hi Ron!

    Thanks for the detailed answer. It's always very interesting to see these "behind the design" bits, the reasons for the choices done during the creation of a game.

    I can't really say how much I am influenced by Hollywood movies, seeing that it's an influence that probably began even before I had any concept of "story" as a child, but it's obvious that they must have had some influence. But I don't thinks it's only that. Sometimes, showing exactly what "bad things" will happen to a character can lessen a ominous ending that did leave it to imagination. Sometimes, not knowing is worse that knowing.

    But after writing the first post, and reading your answer, I thought about how I could have worsened that character's situation without ruining that ending, and (with the help of your reminding that I can go across time) there were other endings even more satisfying. (The game is a play-by-post, and it's still going). Yesterday I was thinking about asking the other players if they wanted to stop there, but seeing that it was not the first time that a situation like this happened I wanted to ask you about it. After your answer, I thought more about the situation of the character, and come up with a (very bleak) ending that I even prefer more than the previus one.

    I know that I am simply repeating what you said in your answer, but I want to restate it in my own words because I want to concentrate on a single point: it's a creative challenge. Don't stop when you get the fist ending that is "good enough" (or, being this game, "bad enough" for the characters). Go on, and find a even better, more satisfying one using the cards that you have left.

    Thinking about it, why stop before the end? The real reason is insecurity, about our creative capacity, and about the game efficacy. After years of playing incoherent games where a good ending was rare (most rpg campaigns stopped simply when people got bored enough...) we are somewhat trained to grab a opportunity for a good ending as soon as it appears, not trusting the chance of another one happening by. Or our capacity of creating another, better one using the rules of the game.

    Playing Spione by the rules push us over that block, and force us to face our own creativity. And this "behind the design" bit has showed me another facet of this great game. Thanks again, Ron!

  2.  

    Thank you for the kind words. I am really glad that this rules-set leads in that direction.

    Best, Ron