So, as people know, Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt once created a deck of cards called "Oblique Strategies" to serve as prompts for creativity. Although mainly intended for use by musicians, the ambiguous nature of the cards' contents can often be applied to other artforms, including painting, dance, and - to a lesser degree - story-weaving.
That's where we come in. Below I've listed the contents of the original Oblique Strategies deck. Some of these cards work just fine for GMs, requiring neither modification nor translation. But some of em need work. Let's address those.
How to Play: Select a card that seems difficult to apply to GMing, and then - using metonymy or metaphor, complex conceptual Fourier translation or sudden flash of irrational insight - rewrite it. If we rewrite all of those "problem cards", we'll be left with a GM's Deck we can print out and use to test the limits of copyright law. Yay Hegemony!
OBLIQUE STRATEGIES - by Eno & Schmidt
- A line has two sides
- Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities
- Don't be frightened of cliches
- What is the reality of the situation?
- Are there sections? Consider transitions
- Turn it upside down
- Think of the radio
- Allow an easement (an easement is the abandonment of a stricture)
- Simple subtraction
- Go slowly all the way round the outside
- Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list
- Into the impossible
- Ask people to work against their better judgement
- Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance
- Infinitesimal gradations
- Change instrument roles
- Disconnect from desire
- Emphasize repetitions
- Don't be afraid of things because they're easy to do
- Don't be frightened to display your talents
- Breathe more deeply
- Honor thy error as a hidden intention
- Only one element of each kind
- Is there something missing?
- Use 'unqualified' people
- How would you have done it?
- Emphasize differences
- Do nothing for as long as possible
- Bridges -build -burn
- You don't have to be ashamed of using your own ideas
- Tidy up
- Do the words need changing?
- Ask your body
- Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate
- Consult other sources -promising -unpromising
- Use an unacceptable color
- Humanize something free of error
- Use filters
- Fill every beat with something
- Discard an axiom
- What wouldn't you do?
- Decorate, decorate
- Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle
- Listen to the quiet voice
- Is it finished?
- Put in earplugs
- Give the game away
- Abandon normal instruments
- Use fewer notes
- Repetition is a form of change
- Give way to your worst impulse
- Trust in the you of now
- What would your closest friend do?
- Distorting time
- Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame
- Ghost echoes
- You can only make one dot at a time
- Just carry on
- (Organic) machinery
- The inconsistency principle
- Don't break the silence
- Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them
- What mistakes did you make last time?
- Consider different fading systems
- Mute and continue
- It is quite possible (after all)
- Don't stress one thing more than another
- You are an engineer
- Remove ambiguities and convert to specifics
- Look at the order in which you do things
- Go outside. Shut the door.
- Do we need holes?
- Cluster analysis
- Do something boring
- Define an area as 'safe' and use it as an anchor
- Overtly resist change
- Accept advice
- Work at a different speed
- Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them
- Mechanicalize something idiosyncratic
- Emphasize the flaws
- Remember those quiet evenings
- Take a break
- Short circuit (example; a man eating peas with the idea that they will improve his virility shovels them straight into his lap)
- Use an old idea
- Destroy -nothing -the most important thing
- Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency
- The tape is now the music
- Be dirty
- What are the sections sections of? Imagine a caterpillar moving
- Intentions -nobility of -humility of -credibility of
- Imagine the piece as a set of disconnected events
- What are you really thinking about just now?
- Assemble some of the elements in a group and treat the group
- Shut the door and listen from outside
- Is the intonation correct?
- Look at a very small object, look at its centre
- Children's voices -speaking -singing
- Feed the recording back out of the medium
- Towards the insignificant
- Simply a matter of work
- Not building a wall but making a brick
- Revaluation (a warm feeling)
- The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten
- Idiot glee
- Be extravagant
- State the problem in words as clearly as possible
- Disciplined self-indulgence
- Always first steps
- Question the heroic approach
- Lost in useless territory
- Always give yourself credit for having more than personality
- Faced with a choice, do both
- Tape your mouth
- Get your neck massaged
- Do the washing up
- Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element
- Spectrum analysis
- Twist the spine
- Left channel, right channel, centre channel
- Lowest common denominator check -single beat -single note -single riff
- In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly
- Would anybody want it?
- Retrace your steps
- Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place
- Once the search is in progress, something will be found
- Only a part, not the whole
- From nothing to more than nothing
- Be less critical more often
I remember looking throughnickwedig - Tue, 05/28/2019 - 07:54
I remember looking through these and trying once to make a game out of them (for the Indie Games Mixtape charity project http://www.jwalton.media/mixtape ) but I never finished that game. The plan for that game was to hash these things out at the table as you played. Specifically, it used a different trick I've done for oracle play in lots of other games (based on a technique in A Penny For My Thoughts): You draw a card and ask two players to each describe what it means for the scene. Both give a description of what the card means in this scene. You then choose one to be the true one, and the player who wasn't chosen gets to be the person who next draws and decides.
7. Think of the radioIreneDB - Thu, 05/30/2019 - 08:13
Rather than radio, try "think of the table".
I really like this idea...Paul T. - Mon, 06/03/2019 - 19:24
...but it seems to me that the list serves its purpose well as is. I skimmed through and they all seemed like good head-scratchers... after all, that's the whole point, isn't it? For it to be, you know, entirely oblique? :P
Oblique not Opaque!Tod - Tue, 06/04/2019 - 00:09
I agree that most of 'em can probably stay as they are, but there are a few that lean so specifically into music or sound production, I figure we could easily replace those with more fitting replacements for our particular creative territory.
A similar discussion...Paul T. - Wed, 06/12/2019 - 18:53
You might enjoy this link from the Gauntlet forums:
Jason is discussing some similarly "oblique" ideas, and there's some fairly lively discussion happening. It might inspire some thoughts!
I don't find these kind ofNathan H. - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 08:30
I don't find these kind of things incredibly useful, creatively. I mean, if you're stumped, froze on some detail or confused, a card that's not related to the why isn't going to help much, and don't you want yourself to ask questions?
I mean, if story is an attempt at making meaning out of life/death, it seems weird to place this in the hands of something that doesn't connect very easily with the meaning that was eluded to previously, or partly constructed.
Do you have these kind of problems crop up in rpgs? It just seems like a neat thing, more than it's filling a needful role. Do you get what I'm saying?
Story is all about the change of perspective that happens, usually through hardship. The Eno cards are an attempt to playfully change perspective, without all that story shit. They're an attempt at jump-starting a different creative view.
It's why I think I Ching isn't great for storytelling. Why would you want something that already answers/resolves the questions?
I bought the cards a decadeNathan H. - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 08:40
I bought the cards a decade or so ago, and they weren't helpful to my problems(music-making), which are more logistic, real-world stuff. Like how do I get a bunch of people together to do this thing? How do I get time to do this? How do I make this and still keep my shitty day job?
I think there are "cool idea-things that we want to fit into role-playing games" and "idea-things that hopefully make an aspect of our role-playing better".
I think those are different things.
16. Change instrument rolesIreneDB - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 20:26
Instead of "change instruments" try; "Change an NPC"