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Old Feb 22nd, 2012, 01:14 AM
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The Johnstoning Technique (Story Teller Use)

The Johnstoning Technique




“Those who say ‘Yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘No’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”
— Keith Johnstone

Thematic Music

The Johnstoning Technique is the primary method for use of multi-character interactions to be prepared for the Story Teller Module at Eternity's End, though it has a wider variety of storytelling applications that are especially useful for freeform PBP games.

"Johnstoning" is named for Keith Johnstone, author of Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre.

If the Story Teller article being prepared is a solo adventure, this technique is not needed, this is only for use of 2 or more PCs in a given scenario.

All Story Teller rules apply as outlined.

Step 1) Determine How Many Participants are Involved

Remember, there is a word count to be filled for each PC regardless of how the workload ends up getting split up and also that the room renter is the final arbiter of the article. If someone who didn't rent the room wishes to leave, their character must be pulled from the submission entirely and the story edited to reflect this.

Step 2) Determine Initiative

Generally the honor of the first assertion goes to the room renter, but it doesn't have to. Anarchy is fine in a familiar setting, but a more structured method will help bring out those with quieter voices. The exact method doesn't matter so long as it's agreed upon. A simple solution is to roll a d100 and go in order from highest to lowest, rolling again to solve any ties. It is recommended no more than 5 PCs attempt a single story teller submission.

Step 3) Assertions

Once initiative is determined the next step is to make an assertion. An assertion is a definite, bold statement related to the topic for the round. If starting with defining the parameters of the game world that the adventure might take place in, the first assertion might be "The world is populated entirely by shape shifting dragons".

An assertion should be a single sentence without much detail as the other players will need a chance to expand on the idea. Avoid being either overly mild or overly detailed; offer something exciting and interesting, but leave room for others to develop the idea.

So “Our city is ruled by a king” is boring (isn't that practically every fantasy city?) but “Our city hosts the a tower of magi, which has been working on developing a spell of reanimation to raise all the dead from the last 100 years so that they can take over the world” is much too specific. Just “Our city is home to a tower of dark magi” offers a good start, and lets others offer their own spin on the idea.

Step 4) “Yes, And...” or “Yes, But...”

Depending on how you determined initiative the next player responds with a “Yes, And...” or “Yes, But...”

for example:

Player 1 Assertion: The world is populated entirely by shape shifting dragons.
Player 2 Yes But: Yes, but it's not actually a world, they exist in the astral plane.
Player 3 Yes And: Yes and their home in the astral plane is slowly being eroded by the encroaching plane of shadow.
Player 4 Yes And: Yes and shadow beasts plague the shape shifting dragon residents in the darker more decayed areas and will likely prove problematic for the PCs.

An important rule in improvisation is, “Don’t try to be clever.” In other words, don’t try too hard; contributions should create open-ended stories, not provide lavish but limiting details. The concern is not so much to create descriptions as to build relations of ideas.

Also remember that the goal is to spur exciting stories, not to make life cushy for the characters. If everything goes their way all the time, the PCs will quickly find themselves becoming Mary Sues. Stories thrive on conflict introduction, tension and finally, after struggle, resolution. For more information on adventure crafting see [[gm guides]].

Please note that a "Yes But" should never be translated into a "No" that isn't the spirit of creative improvisational collaboration. See Vetoes below.

Step 5) Next Round.

Once a particular idea has been agreed to be well enough established the next phase begins by moving to the next player who makes another assertion and then the next round of “Yes, And...” or “Yes, But...” begins.

Step 6) No and Vetoes

Each player holds a single veto, which may be used only once in a round. A player doesn’t need to use his veto; it only exists to forestall something so objectionable that the player absolutely does not want it as part of the campaign world. It’s always far better to shade a contribution in your preferred direction with an extension or a limitation, but the veto exists in case you absolutely can’t see a way to make someone else’s idea work for you.
A veto can be applied to an initial assertion, or to any extension or limitation. When a player announces her veto, the interrupted player then has a chance to replace his contribution with another, which obviously must provide a different detail; you cannot replace the assertion “The encroaching shadow beasts have laser swords” with the nearly identical “Laser swords are used by the encroaching shadow beasts.”

If you don’t like laser swords, note that you could avoid using the veto, and instead claim, “Yes, but... the laser swords produce light which significantly weakens the shadow beasts, so they are more for intimidation and show than functional use.” Of course, the asserter might complain that you’ve subverted the entire purpose of the assertion (to establish an army of shadow beasts with laser swords) — and might even feel tempted to veto your limitation.

It’s okay to stop and talk about your desires or your purpose in offering an assertion, an extension, or a limitation; this is a cooperative rather than a competitive game, and there’s no point in playing if it isn’t fun.

If you find yourself unable to reach a resolution, you can try a poll or majority vote of all the players. But even if you end up setting aside the improvisation entirely for a while to talk out some details of the adventure and setting, that’s perfectly fine. The entire goal, after all, is to create an adventure and setting that meets everyone’s needs and desires, and any means that lead to that end are a legitimate way to create the story.

Vetoes are not intended to be used competitively, or to stifle someone else’s ideas, only to give a player a rarely used brake if she simply can’t abide an idea. Once a player has used a veto, he does not receive another until the next round (i.e. after everyone has made an assertion on the topic).

Step 7) Writing the Story

Once the adventure setting and plot are reasonably determined, work out any IC details and split up the workload. It is recomended to work straight through as a group and continue to make assertions as well as "Yes and" and "Yes but" throughout the construction of the story.

Players should not write actions for another character, as that is always bad PBP practice. A certain extent of this may be allowed within a group that is closely familiar, but generally it's with the understanding that everyone will speak up if they are uncomfortable with something and that their views and wishes will be respected by the group.

Suggestions can be made to players, but in no case can a player force another player into doing something they aren't comfortable with for their character. In such a case where an issue like this is not being resolved a player should consider leaving a room.

Live Example:

Player 1 Assertion: The world is populated entirely by shape shifting dragons.
Player 2 Yes But: Yes, but it's not actually a world, they exist in the astral plane.
Player 3 Yes And: Yes and their home in the astral plane is slowly being eroded by the encroaching plane of shadow.
Player 4 Yes And: Yes and shadow beasts plague the shape shifting dragon residents in the darker more decayed areas and will likely prove problematic for the PCs.
Player 1: I think that's resolved everyone good?
Group: Yes.

Player 2 Assertion: The quest giver is massive ancient dragon.
Player 3 Yes But: Yes but he's in disguise at the inn as a tiefling wizard
Player 2 Veto: Veto, I wanted to meet a huge dragon early in the story
Player 3 Explanation: Yes but how are you going to fit a huge dragon into Eternity's End? And he's a shape shifter, so it just makes sense he'd be in disguise.
Player 2 Explanation: Fair enough. Veto Dropped. If we can though I'd still like to meet a huge ancient dragon though.
Player 1 Resolution: Situation seems resolved, the Dragon is in disguise as a tiefling wizard.
Player 4) Yes but when he convinces the PCs to come through the door on the mission, the door opens far above the landscape of the world and the PCs have to ride on his back to get safely the ground.
Player 2) Thanks for that 4, that's even more awesome than I was hoping for
Player 1) Yes and while riding the dragon the PCs view tons of full sized dragons flying in the distance.
Player 2) Yes and when they land, they find themselves in some ancient ruins.
Player 3) Yes and they are covered in magical runes
Player 4) Yes and the runes protect this area from the encroaching shadow realm, this is a safe place.
Player 1) Sounds good, everyone happy?
Group: Yes.

Player 3 Assertion: The quest is to reverse the tide of the encroaching shadow
Player 4) Yes and in order to do so they need to ignite an astral sun
Player 1) Yes and Which is actually the remaining essence of a dead god
Player 2) Yes and to ignite it the dragons will have to worship the god to rekindle his spirit
Player 3) Yes but the dragons are not religious and will oppose this option
Etc...

Last edited by Quori; Feb 7th, 2013 at 08:15 PM. Reason: Updated EE Links
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