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Steve D [userpic]

Walk the Line summary

January 23rd, 2006 (09:47 pm)
current mood: doing okay
current song: running up that hill

There's been a lot of questions about WtL, which inspired some thoughts on it...

Say you're a cowboy, hunting down a killer of men. Now, you've sworn that you'll never shoot a man in the back. Doing so makes you As Bad As Them. After a long hunt, you catch up to your prey. In that time, he's killed four of your friends, and he made them scream before they died. You hate this man. You REALLY hate him. You also know that if he sees you first, he's gonna kill you. Even if you have a clear draw, you're not sure you can take him down. And when you catch up to him, he's got his back to you. You have a choice, right now. You can draw and fire, shoot him in the back. You'll live. A monster will die. Or you can call him out, and pray to God you're faster than he is. One way you probably lose your life, the other you definitely lose your soul.

Some gamers, now, want to make that choice themselves. But to me, that seems too easy. That's just like saying "I kill the dragon". There's no risk. No element of uncertainty. Sure, you have to risk your life if you choose the moral action, but that's an old school risk. It's been done.

Others will say, I need to make that choice for my character. But has your character ever been in that situation before? Have you? I don't know if I'd pull that trigger, so how the hell am I supposed to know if my character would? You NEVER know what happens until you're tested. You can live with a man for a year, and then take him up to the edge of the volcano - and on THAT day, you meet the man.

And that's the risk of Walk the Line - not risking your life, but finding out who you really are. You ready for that?


Posted by: Adrian Forest (dalziel_86)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2006 12:18 pm (UTC)

Don't you risk depriving players of agency if you take the big moral decisions out of their hands? I mean, if you take that away, what exactly is it that's left for the player to decide?

Posted by: Steve D (d_fuses)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2006 02:11 pm (UTC)

Short answer: everything else.

Posted by: N (kilohansel)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)

I think Steve's stating that agency isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Sometimes we do things that we regret both before and after we perform the act. Sometimes we do things we don't want to do. Sometimes we just do things. The key element of agency for the players, then, is how the characters deal with the choices the characters have made, rather than the choices the players have made.

Posted by: lawbag (lawbag)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2006 02:52 pm (UTC)

I think questions like these DEMAND to be asked of your character, or in the case of a GM, you need your players to ask these questions of themselves.

Having a hidden reserve and making that choice, and revealing the soul of your character is powerful stuff.

Having a player finding out something that profound, having a player find out something that never ever though their character capable of....

now thats role-playing!


Posted by: Steve D (d_fuses)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)

Ayup. And adding dice helps make that less predictable than just telling it out.

Posted by: chaosandtwocats (chaosandtwocats)
Posted at: January 24th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)

I've been role-playing a long time- having games where people are challenged like that on a regular basis are rare, damn rare. I could start my rant about "roll-playing vs actual role-playing" but I sure it has been read as written by a drunken internet monkeya thousand times before.

On the other hand you could play a game where your thoughts are provoked along these lines as a deliberate mechanic of the game which is, frankly, genius.

Posted by: Ilan (kinra)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC)

It's such a good idea that it doesn't need to be based on Serenity. It can be based on The Unforgiven, or High Plains Drifter, or Sanjuro. It's Walk the Line: The Humanistic Western RPG.

Posted by: lawbag (lawbag)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)

any western game?

well thats deadlands and serenity/firefly.

you've often lamented how you dont get write ups from players - well Walk the Line will make demands of your players way beyond the normal input.

Posted by: joedizzy (joedizzy)
Posted at: January 24th, 2006 10:49 am (UTC)

So it's Paul Haggis' Crash: The Game? ;)

Good explanation, though. I'm quite interested in giving it a try now. But I'm not sure why it has to be tied to a specific genre (western)? The core idea seems fairly genre non-specific.

Does WTL have guidelines, if not rules to map out the genre or genre-mix you want before you start playing?

Posted by: Steve D (d_fuses)
Posted at: January 24th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)

Sure, but so many concepts are non-genre specific. Dogs in the Vinyard could have been about anything with a moral code. But what helps it sell is the setting.

Currently, I have guidelines for the eight most common types of dichotomies that occur in Serenity and westerns, and how to use genre conventions to create dichotomies and lines. I wasn't planning on doing that for other genres, but I might throw in a sidebar about it. And then there's supplements...

Posted by: Species Zero (specieszero)
Posted at: January 24th, 2006 06:05 pm (UTC)

I'm looking forward to meeting that man.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 25th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC)

As far as I'm concerned Steve, you're on the money.

I couldn't be more sick and tired of my group's years-long love affair with Anti-Social Personality Disorder. They believe they are upstanding and moral, and they'll turn around and wipe out an entire fishing village. Then they fail to understand why NPCs start treating them like the sociopaths they are. I explain this to them, but eventually they revert to the old "kill things and take their stuff" approach. They need some kind of morality mechanic--hell, I need one.

Looking forward to WtL


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