Orders and How They Work
As defined by Marcus Johnston, orders can be "anything that tells me what you character is doing this turn." The TI game is very free form, with no forms, no templates, and no real boundaries to what you can do, except your character's pain threshold. Simply read the previous story, see what situation your character is in, and go from there! However, to help the new player, there are several examples of orders writing that we have. These are named after the player who used them most frequently.
Say, for instance, your character has to go to the bathroom. Fair enough, since nature is one call you can't put on hold, but this is not the sort of nit-picking situation that Marcus would make you write out. Okay, here we go from easiest to most complex:
The Paschal Method:
"My character moves out of the line of fire, unzips his pants, and takes a whizz."
Usually this method is noted by only a few short sentences and is not very detailed. This is just the "bare bones" of order writing and is the minimum you can use. It is simply enough to tell the storyteller what your character is doing. However, this gives more control to the storyteller over your character. If you like he does it, maybe you should go that way. Otherwise, if you feel like getting more involved with your character...
The Wooden Method:
"My character fires his gun, tells his friends to give him cover, then he rushes over to the burnt out column to take a whizz. As he does so, he cries out to the enemy gunners, 'Hey, buddy! Suck on this!'"
This method is slightly more complex, but basically reduced down to a few sentences, with the noted addition of dialogue. If you want your character to say something, write it out, and the storyteller will find a place to put it somewhere. Often, due to story constraints, your conversation might not go as planned, but it is likely that your words will find its way SOMEWHERE on the page.
The Bax Method:
"1. My character, realizing that he has to go to the bathroom, looks around for likely cover.
2. Seeing the burnt-out pillar beside me, he whispers over to his buddy next to him. 'Cover me, will ya? I gotta pee!'
3. My friends will provide cover fire, allowing me to dash over to the column.
4. If my friends DON'T provide cover fire, I will dash back down, and proceed to piss on my buddy.
5. If however, it works, once doing my business at the column, I shout out to the enemy, 'Hey, buddy! Suck on this!'"
This method is noted for it's detailed orders, outlining every step which their character might do. Often times, it's laced with contingencies "if plan A doesn't work, go with plan B", and allows the storyteller a good idea on how to proceed.
The Hohner Method:
"Josef had been pinned under fire for some time and the strain of the conditions had been getting to him. The cold, the mud, the dark stench. Finally, his body could take it no more, as he felt a push in his nether regions. The pain was unbelievable! Finally, turning to his trench mate, he called out over the shooting, "Cover me, will ya? I gotta pee!" His buddy nodded, instantly pouring a line of bloody fire into the trenches across from them, keeping their heads down. Josef only had one chance. Rushing from the trench, the bullets lapping at his heels, he reached the burnt-out pillar, unzipped his pants, and released the constraint inside him. It was like a waterfall of contentment; the steam rising from the phenomenal amount of piss. In his jubilation, Josef cried out, "Hey, buddy! Suck on this!" A few more stray shots zinged off the column, but the soldier smiled; they couldn't hurt him. Finally finished, he gave his trouser snake a little wiggle, then put it back in, zipping his pants tight. Now he was faced with a troubling question: How was he going to get back?"
This method is simply the player writing out his own story and handing it to the storyteller. Often times, as long as the player doesn't go too far, the storyteller will often send it back to the player as is, that is to say without changes. However, usually the player doesn't write the whole story, leaving the storyteller to fill in what happens next. This method makes the storyteller's job a lot easier, since he doesn't have as much to write, and he gets a better feel for his character.
Now, these are only examples of what you can do! Many players do a combination of a couple of these methods, but you have to go with what works for you. If you have a lot of time, and you would like to showcase your writing skills, write out your story! (Don't worry, I'll edit it before it gets sent out.) If you don't feel as confident about your skills, but like to get involved with your character, send me detailed orders, plus some comments on how to write your character. If you don't have time to give orders this week, send a few sentences. The choice is up to you! That's why we call this free-form... you're free to do whatever you want!
However, you do need to turn in SOME kind of orders, no matter how small, otherwise your character will die. Nothing personal, but this is a dark future, and people too often die... a few bloodied player corpses adds a certain spice to the game, plus inspires the other players to send in their orders on time. If you don't send in your orders on time one turn, don't worry, that's free; a sort of probationary term. Most likely your character will get wounded, but not much else. However, if you don't turn in orders the second time, he dies. If you try a "orders one week, none the next, orders, none" cycle, I'll probably kill off your character just out of a principle. I'm not a vindictive man by nature, nor am I a killer GM, but I don't think it's that hard to remember to send in a couple sentences over e-mail once a turn. If you have a pre-arranged absence or reason why you can't use e-mail (say your computer got fried), I understand, and I won't kill off your character in the interim. The only other reasons I would kill off your character is if A) another player tried to and beat your stats, B) you did something stupid, or C) you pissed me off. That's it!
Player Knowledge: All game information that is published by the Storyteller or told you by other players.
Character Knowledge: The information that only your character would know about through his own methods.
So, you're wondering, why am I bothering to mention this? There will come situations in which the player will know something will happen to his character but his character will be oblivious to the terrible fate about to befall him. For instance...
...Captain von Shrakenberg had been skulking about the bridge, annoyed at what he saw. After all, where had that ship they were supposed to rendezvous with gone? Something was not right but he couldn't put his finger on what.
Sword Ramirez had been waiting for an opportunity like this. Once the EFS Schaumburg had reached the optimum firing range, the Hialeah moved out of the moon's shadow and opened its gun ports. "Die Federation scum," Ramirez muttered, and hit the fire key.
END OF ACT IV
Fifteen minutes after I publish that, I will get an angry e-mail from Martin saying, "I scanned that system's moon! I can't be ambushed!" To which I would say, "It wasn't in your orders, Martin. Sorry." True, you had no idea that the ship you were about to rendezvous with had been destroyed. Now, (although I'm picking on Martin, and he would never do anything like this) say he writes in his orders something like this:
Captain von Shrakenberg passes by the sensor control and notices a fluctuation in the warp oscilloscope readings. This could mean only one thing... another ship! He quickly hit the GQ alarm and orders all batteries to open fire on the new reading.
To which I respond, "No, Martin, you didn't, because your character would not expect that possibility." Okay, I'll admit, it's not the best example. Most likely, I would let Ramirez take his shot, show the damage, THEN end the act, forcing Martin to write orders of what he does afterwards. However, the same principle applies. Your character can't do what your character doesn't know about. (So unless you have danger sense, forget it!)
Rules (C)2004 Marcus Johnston. All Rights Reserved.