Asking Provocative Questions

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Asking Provocative Questions
« on: August 29, 2010, 02:04:47 PM »
[Not sure if this is the appropriate place in the forums for this, but whatever, if it belongs somewhere else, someone please move it.]

Just an observation from using the 'Ask questions' technique last night in the game I'm MCing.  (Not AW, incidentally. It's applicable to a wide array of games.) (Also, I don't know that this is going to be some huge revelation to anyone else, but it was definitely a 'eureka' moment for me.)

Asking questions like this inverts a kind of exchange that's common in games. 

Normal version goes something like this: Player asks GM a question. GM, having never considered the question before, makes something up on the fly; not letting on that he just pulled this 'fact' out of thin air, GM answers with conviction and authority.  In many games, a HUGE number of 'things' in play get generated this way.

Now, in in AW, when the MC asks provocative questions, it's the player who answers, usually coming up with something on the spot.  What this means is that the impetus of filling in the world becomes a group thing, rather than being channeled through a single individual.

Also interesting to me was that noone seemed to notice the 'flip', or that they were directly contributing to the creation of setting, story, situation, etc... Maybe because there's already a precedent for the GM to query players - it it's what you're asking that makes a difference in this case.
 

Re: Asking Provocative Questions
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2010, 03:58:02 PM »
The type of questions AW tells you to ask certainly are cool and a lot of fun when running a game! I found it not only stimulated my contributions as MC to be better, it made the whole process even more enjoyable, because I was like "wow, I never would have thought of that, but I know where to go with it now. That's awesome!"

With regard to your comment about how nobody seemed to notice or get weirded out by it, I have a notion there. I think that as roleplayers, we're all already used to this collaborative world building *thing*. PCs are used to the GM doing most of the heavy lifting, though, and having what areas they're allowed to define (character back story, friends, family, et cetera) as pretty constrained. Having the GM grant implicit permission to do more (by flat out asking for it, so maybe it's explicit permission) is a neat way to co-opt that habit and bring it into a more distributed play style. So I think that's pretty cool.

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DannyK

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Re: Asking Provocative Questions
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2010, 05:35:42 PM »
Yeah, people throw crazy stuff in there that I'd never dare to introduce as GM.   Like telenovela-crazy-awesome.  Stuff that will make their lives  harder and more interesting.

One practical thing I've noticed: people seem to get more  creative the more focused the question is. It's sort of like how the best Fiasco playsets have totally specific items in them.  General questions get reasonable mush, but if you ask, "why did you kill the only guy in town who knew how to fix the generator last week after dinner?"  then people get quiet for a second and say, "I was saving that orange for a SPECIAL OCCASION, all right?"

And the cool thing is, it's not just color, it's plot and character too, everyone is pissed at Wolf the Gunlugger for shooting the generator guy and Wolf, well, he's serious about his diet.

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Bret

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Re: Asking Provocative Questions
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2010, 08:13:29 PM »
Yeah, I think we're used to "writing backstory" for our characters as long as we're prompted to do so.
Tupacalypse World

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DannyK

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Re: Asking Provocative Questions
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2010, 11:26:34 PM »
I'm not really talking about back story.  Back story usually sucks, even when I do it.  It also seems to be this dramatic arc stuff with betrayals and meaningful moments that totally don't engage with the game at this moment. 

I think from now on when someone starts telling me their characters back story, I'm going to nicely say, "screw the biography, just tell me X."

I've tried games with fishing techniques before and it always seemed flat, but it's really clicking with AW.  I'm thinking of trying this with something FATE-based and generating all the aspects from this provocative question-and-answer technique.  It seems pretty powerful.

Re: Asking Provocative Questions
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2010, 12:38:14 AM »
I think I may have been a bit unclear with what I meant when I brought up backstory. I used to think backstory was teh awesomez. Now I'd much rather focus on what happens in play. But here's why I brought up backstory for this thread:

So, historically in traditional/conventional/whatever you want to call them games, players that are not game masters have been fairly limited in what they felt like they were "allowed" to create about the fiction without mediation by the game master. I cited back story as the most common element of direct player input into setting generation. In almost any other instance, the default "traditional" assumption was that players only added to fiction by what their characters did in the moment, or with the okay of the game master, or both.

The chain of reasoning I was trying to make goes something like this:

* AW tells the MC "hey, guy, don't just make up everything on your own, make the players do some of the work!"
* The method AW uses for that is largely telling the MC to ask questions (loads of em, and frequently provocative)
* In the first session, since many of these questions are related to "who is your character, where did he come from?" that's a familiar area for players not used to generating setting details
* Furthermore, and probably more importantly, in the first session and onward, the MC is leveraging his traditional GM authority in a really collaborative and awesome way - players get "permission" to add to the world when the MC asks them questions

So, I wasn't trying to highlight backstory per se, I was just saying that players not used to an active role in setting generation will get drawn in using fairly familiar game social dynamics and authority structures. The awesome part is that AW formalizes it and tells the MC it's part of his job to do it.

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Bret

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Re: Asking Provocative Questions
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2010, 08:57:58 AM »
I know you're not talking about backstory. I was saying that I think filling in the blanks on setting comes naturally to even the most grognardiest because we've done things like write backstory, which is the same sort of thing - filling in blanks about the setting with things that interest us and are relevant to our character.
Tupacalypse World

Re: Asking Provocative Questions
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2010, 10:43:58 AM »
I totally agree! Cool.