Episode 118: Chekhov’s Gun (Narrative Techniques)

Hosts: Scott, Todd, Timo

Congratulations to Lexx and Megan on the birth of Kara: The Chosen One!

Jank on Demand: January 21st, around 2-8pm.
The Walking Eye Donation Drive

What did we play (10:33)
Apocalypse World: Todd, Timo
Eclipse: Scott, Timo
Portal 2: Timo
Lady Blackbird: Todd

Main topic: Chekhov’s Gun (Narrative Techniques) (22:50)
Chekov’s gun is a concept of design that applies very well to theatre, but less well to gaming. Nevertheless, it provides a framework that can be applied to gaming in an interesting way.

Rants (01:00:00)
Todd: Don’t be whiny just because the story didn’t go where you thought it would go.
Scott: Ready Player One,

and How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe
Timo: A week in to 2012, and I’m already hemorrhaging money.

Other Links:
The Hunger Games
Tim Curry
Discworld
Arkham Asylum
Arkham City
Contagion
In A Wicked Age…
MacGuffin
Fiasco
Shock
Play Unsafe
Transmedia
Andrea Phillips’ blog
Zombie Cinema

You have been listening to The Jank Cast, copyright under the creative commons license. You can find out more about us at jankcast.com. You can send comments and feedback to feedback@jankcast.com We are sponsored by Chicagoland Games, and encourage you to get in touch with us via our Facebook page, Spooky Outhouse Forum (it’s a little quiet, but we’d love to get it going again), Twitter or Google+. Now go out and roll some dice!

6 thoughts on “Episode 118: Chekhov’s Gun (Narrative Techniques)

  1. Another excellent cast.
    Chekhov’s Gun is an excellent tool…
    …especially if you’re running a game for masochistic sheep. Chekhov’s Gun eliminates on of the most enjoyable aspects of gaming, that of problem solving. What’s better than the party coming up with an outside-the-box idea and using it to overcome an adversary/obstacle. Dresden Files does this better tnan any game.
    Using Chekhov’s Gun takes away the party’s incentive for creativity and replaces it with an incentive to collect trivial items mentioned in descriptive text. It takes away any sense of accomplishment, because the gm provides the Deus ex Machina.
    It’s basically the GM saying to his group “Since I know you’re too stupid to come up with an interesting way of surviving the game, I’ve provided something for you. But you were too dumb to realize that the antique fireplace iron was what you needed to beat what was obviously a fae troll.”
    I’m guessing Timo’s used this in a game or two. Any examples of it being used without sadistic glee?
    Damn Swedes 🙂

  2. Great cast, as always. Looking forward to the next AP of APOWO. Need to hear about Goldie biting off someone’s fingers!

    I had a thought about Chekhov’s Gun: what about props? In a sense, Chekhov’s gun is precisely that: a prop on the stage. Being, as you know, a prop kinda guy, and having brought a gun as a prop the last time we gamed Dogs — and NOT firing it! — I was wondering to what extent bringing real objects to the table have an impact on your discussion. I guess I would say that my gun, at least in the service of Dogs and specifically that last session with Brother Joshua, did sort of act for me at least as a kind of “character magnet.” What I think I mean by that is that the object itself had something fundamental to do with the character, allegorically speaking. So the gun might have represented Joshua’s potential for internal combustibility, for instance. The object itself, when turned either on someone — whether an enemy or oneself — also offers up more dimensions to Joshua: I found myself asking, “is he the kind of character to shoot himself in the head?” Dogs in general is a good game to bring up in terms of Chekhov’s guns for obvious reasons. We all carry our own very special gun, but also hat, coat, etc. But when I brought my real gun to the table, how did its physical presence make it more like Chekhov’s gun?

  3. Hey, why am I the one getting thrown under the bus here? I’m the one that said that Chekov’s gun has no place at the table. I would feel offended, if I actually cared about other human beings.

  4. Yeah, Goldie totally bites a dude’s finger off and then manages to score a date with her super crush Roflball in the same night. Goldie’s a baller.

  5. As we learned last session, Goldie is Rose’s role model. “Get outta my bar!” *stabstabstab*

    The biggest problem with foreshadowing, Chekhov’s gun, etc. is that they’re techniques for an artist to use on an audience. We want to feel that delight or dread when the details snap into focus and we suddenly know where the story is taking us. But in gaming, I want to be both artist and audience. I can’t purposefully surprise myself. All I can do is contribute to a creative foment that will allow me to accidently surprise myself, and be surprised by the other players.

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