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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 05:51:01 AM



Title: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 05:51:01 AM
So, I'm having a really hard time getting new players (new, as in new to DitV and new to this style of gaming) through character creation and a town in one sitting, though I have lots of opportunities to do just that.  There's a lot going on in that first session, which I'm sure many of you can sympathize with or remember.

1)  Teaching the players how to create characters.
2)  Teaching the players the rules.
3)  Teaching the players the techniques.
4)  Initiations.
5)  Actually playing the town.

I find that, in one reasonable sitting, we can typically create some characters, go through initiations and possibly get through half or less of a town.

To remedy that, I've been working on a lot of techniques for myself: pushing for more aggressive scene framing, in media res beginnings, revealing thw town more aggressively.  These are all things I should be doing anyway, but I'm still learning too.  So I'm looking for other places to trim a bit of time, one of these being character creation.

To that end, I've created a number of documents that I call Quick Draw templates.  The goal is to allow players to create characters they can invest themselves in quickly and easily without resorting to pregens which I feel would remove a lot of the "punch" from a DitV game.  They're basically a way to focus the player's choices without limiting them too much.  Please let me know what you think and if you feel there are changes I can make to better meet my goals:

Well Rounded - Man of Faith (http://www.coffeestain.org/dogs/Quickdraw%20WR.pdf)
Strong History - Former Territorial Authority Lawman (http://www.coffeestain.org/dogs/Quickdraw%20SH.pdf)
Complicated History - Reformed Criminal (http://www.coffeestain.org/dogs/Quickdraw%20CH.pdf)
Strong Community - Steward's Daughter (http://www.coffeestain.org/dogs/Quickdraw%20SC.pdf)
Complicated Community - Converted Mountain Person (http://www.coffeestain.org/dogs/Quickdraw%20CC.pdf)

In addition, any other suggestions for trimming down the time it takes to play an introductory game (more complete than a demo but with greater time constraints than a regular game) would be appreciated!

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Warren on January 09, 2006, 06:00:55 AM
When I want to speed up character creation, I simply get everybody to do everything one step at a time before proceeding onto the next step. I also tell 'em that they need to hurry and not worry too much about things. And then I relentlessly hurry them on if the drag their heels. That, along with having four other players - who had already done that step - glaring at them/offering suggestions seemed to keep things fast.

That being said, I quite like what I see with a skim of the quickdraw sheets. I'm aiming on starting a new group on Dogs in a couple of weeks and I may bring these with me as a prompt if people get stuck. I'll let you know how it goes.


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 06:08:00 AM
Warren,

Thanks for the reply!  Now for my questions:

When you've used this method, do you have an entire group of brand new players, or a brand new player in a group that's played before?

Are they familiar with indie/Forge games?  I tend to find that the people I'm teaching are paralyzed by indecision and a lack of familiarity with the rules, so they spend a lot of time trying to anticipate how to be effective, regardless of what I say to them.

How do you go about encouraging the players to offer suggestions to one another?  I've found this to be near impossible, both during character creation and during the game, even after a number of sessions.  I require everyone to "approve" the other characters before play begins, explaining that if they don't find them interesting and compelling it will lead to a less enjoyable game, but I've never received anything except rote, unenthusiastic acceptance.

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Vaxalon on January 09, 2006, 06:11:22 AM
In the course of about three hours, our group did complete character creation.  If we had had five hours instead of four, there would have been plenty of time for an initial, uncomplicated town.

Character creation can go quickly if you start with solid concepts, and then everyone cooperates in making suggestions to bring those concepts to manifestation.

The group I had were people brand new to DitV, and most had never played an indie game before.

I have never had trouble eliciting suggestions from other players.


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 06:19:34 AM
Fred,

Do you do or say anything in particular to emphasize the usefulness of player suggestions?  And also, were the players you approached familiar with the styles of gaming that encourage it?

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: oliof on January 09, 2006, 06:40:55 AM
coffeestain,

a quick look at the quickdraw characters show you put a great deal into developing character 'templates'. I could imagine using them for a convention where I really only have two or three hours to play, to skip a bit of the character development time. On the other hand, that time has proven to be important, because character generation is not isolated for each player, but  a group effort.

IMHO, you should add a note that d4 traits are really going to get you into trouble. And more d4 traits are really really going to get you into trouble. Also, I am not convincd telling people to pick a fixed number of traits is OK, but it might work out for a quick game.

Also, I would write down the steps to introduce new players to DitV differently:

1) Talk a bit to the players about the background

2) Start character creation, going round robin for each of the five steps (basically, like Warren said).

Honor other player's input into the process when it is relevant (it mostly is). This will lead to characters that are fitting the story the group wants to tell. If people want to change their characters later on, they will have plenty of opportunity. If all else fails, their current dog retires and the player can make up a new one. The Steward of the Dog's Temple assigns the Dogs to their group anyway.

3) Teach rules and techniques during the Accomplishment phase.

This is really really important. Explain every step during the accomplishment phase very slowly and in detail, using a living example. Try to help people come up with a really interesting accomplishment, and play through it hard and fast. As a GM, you only have 8 dice, so each accomplishment is limited to at most four to six raises and sees (more than four only if you roll very good and the player rolls very bad).

4) Take a straightforward town the Dogs as the posse's first assignment.

Whenever possible, take the new Dogs to their first town right after accomplishment. This is really important because after accomplishment everybody should be really excited and have an 'a-ha!' about the other characters in their mind - if not from the chosen trais, from the stuff that happened during accomplishment.

If that is not possible, reflect the issues touched during accomplishment and try to integrate them into the first town the Dogs come into. The town building rules are quite powerful (and portable to other games as well), so do trust Vincent. He really built a great game here.

Regards,
    Harald


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 06:54:58 AM
Harald,

Thank you!  And yes, these would only be used in the situation you described: 3-4 brand new players with 3-4 hours to learn the game and get satisfactory play from a completed town.  The groups I regularly run DitV for (as well as, hopefully, these new players if they decide they enjoy the game) use standard character creation from the book.

I'm sorry if I created any confusion with my list of things that must occur during the first session; they weren't meant to imply consecutive steps.  I do teach the rules during the accomplishments and find that, generally, after the first player has gone through their accomplishment, the rest of them require a lot less coaching.

I'll include a bit about what d4s mean, as I think I have the room to do so without pushing it to three pages.  That was an oversight of mine.

As for the towns I generally run for new folks, they're typically straight forward with one very obvious point of sin and a couple smaller, more morally ambiguous ones.  My hope is that they generate a satisfying experience for those fixated on the blatant issues, but also allow players to engage some more difficult choices if they prefer.  I would, of course, use the town generation rules and change the NPCs to accommodate the relationships chosen by the players during character creation as A) this would be a one shot and B) I'd want to show the relevance of relationships.

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Eric Provost on January 09, 2006, 07:00:22 AM
At a recent convention in HighPoint NC, I ran a five-hour session of DitV for six players.  None of the six had ever played DitV before and only one had even heard of it or the Forge before.  Here's a link to the actual play post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17618.0).

It's worth noting that, in those five hours I ran every player through character generation, initiation, and a complete town.  The whole enchilada.  I had three techniques I brought to the table to keep things flowing;  cheat-sheets for the players, an anti-waffling attitude on my part (which failed to fire a couple of times), and a town Steward that would lay everything on the players laps in under ten minutes.

First, I had character-generation cheat-sheets prepared.  "Ok, everyone look at step 1 and make a decision...", etc.  The hard part was, of course, Traits.  I would generally say "Tell me about the character... uh huh... uh huh... ok, write THAT down."  

Initiations went pretty fast after the first one.  For the most part.  I made sure that everyone paid attention during the first one and we went around the table from most-confident player to least-confident.

If I remember correctly, it was about two hours to complete the characters and the initiations.  But then, take a peek at that actual play report.  I had at least two players that were anchors to the timing.  They were there because their significant others had brought them along, not because they were excited about new game mechanisms or justice for the faithful.  

And introducing the town.  I had the steward meet them on the edge of town and explain -everything- before the characters got anywhere to do anything.  The players had decisions to make pronto.  

Here's the mistakes I made;

Too many NPCs.  I had eight named NPCs for that town.  It was just too thick for a short session.  Four NPCs makes for a good intro game in my opinion.  Lots o' peoples keep talking about 'Straightforward Towns'.  Now, I'm not dissing them or anything, but I really don't know what makes for a straight-forward town.  Except maybe the number of NPCs that are out for the Dogs' attention.

Too many players.  Holy crap!  Six players who've never played before, five of which have never heard of it, and three of those weren't excited about the game, just looking for something to do.  Whew!  Way too much at once.  At future cons I'll be keeping the limit to my DitV games at a hard 4.  

So, to recap, my advice is not to shortcut anything about character generation or anything else.  Just find the ways that you can bring the whole package down into a more managable timeframe.  That's the advice I got before going to the convention, and I'm sure that my game was better for it.

-Eric


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 07:10:05 AM
Eric,

This is awesome stuff, thanks!  I'm looking to squeeze things into four hours, but I bet if I didn't have six players (I pity you), using the same techniques would result in a complete game more quickly.  I'm going to take a look at your actual play when I have a moment, but I wanted to ask if you happen to have any of the cheat sheets you created for this?

I don't know if I've ever created a town with only 4 named NPCs, but I'll have to give it a try.  As far as "straight forward", I think they mean towns with fewer complex moral ambiguities and relationship maps with fewer inter-connected branches.  Also, the higher you go on the heirarchy of sin, the simpler the judgments (generally speaking).  It's a lot easier to judge a murdering sorcerer than it is a guy who's envious of his neighbor's crops.  That's my understanding, at least, and I could be completely wrong.

Traits are generally where we get slowed down, also.

Very good and useful advice!

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: lumpley on January 09, 2006, 07:17:05 AM
I've never had character creation go over an hour and a half, including initiations.

The place where people get stuck is traits, right? Everybody can pick a background and assign stats, in my experience. It's traits that give people trouble.

First thing I say is, "name your traits, give yourself four or five, and THEN go back and assign dice to them. Do NOT try to name traits and assign their dice at the same time."

Typically, in a group of new-to-Dogs players, that'll be enough for one of them. She'll be fine and I don't mess with her.

If anybody goes, like, just a bare minute, sometimes just 30 seconds, without writing their first trait down, I zoom in on that person. "Stuck?" I say. "Try this. Write down 'I'm a good shot.'"

If they do, I say "Awesome. Now, you became a good shot somehow, maybe hunting with your brother, maybe shooting cans off a fence with your mom? How? There's your second trait - 'I used to hunt with my brother.' Now choose something counter to being a good shot, like 'I know lots of songs' or 'I can name the stars' or..."

If they won't take "I'm a good shot," I say "awesome, perfect. Write down 'I'm a lousy shot.'" Sometimes they do, sometimes they protest - but if they protest, they always say the trait they want instead. "I'm not a lousy shot, I'm just nearsighted!" Then I'm like, "cool, excellent, write that down, 'I'm nearsighted.' Now choose something you are good at..."

Either way, this never needs to take more than five minutes per player. Whenever they say a trait out loud, just jump in and insist, tell them to write it down. "Write that down!" I say, pointing at their character sheet. "'I'm good at breaking horses.' Perfect. Write it." Then once they've got their list of traits - five minutes, I'm serious - most of them will be able assign their dice without further help.

Occasionally, someone will have a list of traits but be unable to assign dice, because they don't know what's good and what's weak. Then I say, "all right, all right, you know what? Here's how it works. More dice is better than bigger dice. More bigger dice is best of all. The 2d8? That's your best trait, put that in your best trait. Now how do you want to split up those d6s?"

Since it doesn't matter how they assign their dice - since every possible assignment of dice is interesting and fun - all you have to do is help them get an arrangement they're comfortable with. Sometimes all you have to do is reassure them that their character will be a badass: "you're putting your 2d8 in 'I'm not afraid to die'? Daaaang."

They like it when you respond to their choices with "daaaang." They're like, in their little hearts, yeah boy, dang THIS, you ain't seen NOTHING. And they're right.

Then relationships are easy: "No! Choose only one! Two if you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO, but choose only one!"

And belongings are easy: "Assign your belongings' dice by how other people are going to respond. So when people meet you, are they going to be like, 'dang friend, that's a fine book you got there,' or are they going to be like, 'dang friend, you're luggin' that great monstrous thing around with you?'"

Now, when it comes to initiations, someone's always going to want something really badly abstract. "I hope I won faith in the rightness of my calling." DON'T ask these people to narrow it down, you'll be there all night. Propose more concrete stakes yourself instead: "so, like, what, you hope that someone challenged your calling and you shot 'em down?" All you have to do is put a person on the other side, but you'll never get the player to do it. Just go ahead and do it yourself. You may have to suggest two or three before you land on the right one, but that's okay.

Like I say, I've never had character creation go so long that we can't play a town after.

For the town: love triangle, bitterness, sorcery, illegitimate kid, murder. 5 or 6 named NPCs, tightly entangled, at least one deceased. There's your wham-grabby one-shot town.

-Vincent


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 07:30:21 AM
Done and done, Vincent.  I guess I'm just not being pushy enough.

I guess I'm just not being pushy enough.  I'll give this a try the next couple of times and see how it works out.  Too many of the folks are like, "I gotta make a background and then come up with Traits that reflect that background, so what's this like?  How's this work?  What's here?  Who's this?"  I usually try to let them work that out amongst themselves and that's probably where my failing is.

However, I'm still VERY interested in Eric's cheat sheets.

Thanks!


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: oliof on January 09, 2006, 07:41:14 AM

[...]
And introducing the town.  I had the steward meet them on the edge of town and explain -everything- before the characters got anywhere to do anything.  The players had decisions to make pronto.  
[...]
  Lots o' peoples keep talking about 'Straightforward Towns'.  Now, I'm not dissing them or anything, but I really don't know what makes for a straight-forward town.  Except maybe the number of NPCs that are out for the Dogs' attention.
[...]

Less people, and one central sin.  Take one central issue, and build upon that. In last night's game, some NPCs were just to stupid to avoid being the target of pride and injustice. Give the PCs something to judge quickly, and save moral ambiguities for later. That doesn't mean the town shouldn't be grabby. This might be a sideline to coffee stain's questions so we should break out the definition of 'straight towns' out of this thread...

Oh, and coffeestain (what's your real name, by the way?): There are cheat sheets available from vincent's site that my group uses frequently. If Eric has something even more, I'd be interested as well.

Regards,
    Harald


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Warren on January 09, 2006, 08:07:47 AM
When you've used this method, do you have an entire group of brand new players, or a brand new player in a group that's played before?

Are they familiar with indie/Forge games?  I tend to find that the people I'm teaching are paralyzed by indecision and a lack of familiarity with the rules, so they spend a lot of time trying to anticipate how to be effective, regardless of what I say to them.

Well I actually created characters twice - once for three Dogs who were new to indie-rpgs (but were familiar with AD&D and the like), and then a second group of two more when a couple of players of the first group were around to watch/listen/comment. I can't remember how long the first group took, but the second set of Dogs were ready for Accomplishments in half an hour or so.

Both times it was the Traits that slowed people down, but I found that as soon as one person "got it" they came up with a dozen more in a couple of minutes at most and could help the others.

I have also used the "I'm a Good Shot" trick that Vincent describes as well to introduce them. Relationships I kinda hint at, but let them leave most of it unassigned. And all my players love getting Belongings; it's half the trick to stop them spending more time making up "My excellent riding dress, 2d6" and "My beat up old saddle, 1d4" then the rest of the character!

Finally, to stop paralysis, I allow them a 'pilot' session. If they really want to tweak thier characters after the first session, I let them. And for a one-shot, I suppose it doesn't matter. It takes the the "how to become as powerful as I can" or "how do I stat up this character in my head effectively" pressure off a bit.

How do you go about encouraging the players to offer suggestions to one another?  I've found this to be near impossible, both during character creation and during the game, even after a number of sessions.  I require everyone to "approve" the other characters before play begins, explaining that if they don't find them interesting and compelling it will lead to a less enjoyable game, but I've never received anything except rote, unenthusiastic acceptance.

I can't say I've ever had this. It just happens in my group, so I can't help there I'm afraid.


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Eric Provost on January 09, 2006, 08:13:52 AM
I was going to put up my one-sheet character generator to my designs page, but it occurred to me that it's mostly just cut & paste from the text of DitV.  I made it for my own private use and for play at the conventions.  It'd be pretty rude of me to post it up without Vincent's permission, so if you're interested in how I took the DitV character generation information and organized it onto a single page, send me a PM and I can email it to you.

-Eric


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: lumpley on January 09, 2006, 08:21:08 AM
Eric: or you could ask me for permission, which I'd grant without reservation, and then post a link.

If you feel like it, we can even consider the first two steps hereby done. Up to you!

-Vincent


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Eric Provost on January 09, 2006, 08:45:02 AM
Heh.  Don't know why I didn't think to just ask permission right away.  Thanks Vincent.

If you follow the link to my Designs in my signature, then through to my DitV page you'll see it there.

-Eric


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: lumpley on January 09, 2006, 08:47:56 AM
Hey, that's a good-looking sheet.

Thank you!

-Vincent


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 08:52:30 AM
Eric,

That sheet rocks, thanks!

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Graham W on January 09, 2006, 12:48:55 PM
Daniel,

I played Dogs for the first time at a convention in August. I hadn't played any of the weird games that these Forge people play before. The GM, Steve, took us through character creation and the town "Fort Lemon" in slightly over three hours. It didn't feel rushed.

(I'd let Steve tell you this himself, but I think he's ill at the moment, so you get my second-hand version instead).

There were four players. Character creation was quick: definitely less than an hour. Steve started by reading instructions and getting us to write things on our character sheets: "OK, choose a name. OK? Now choose a background. You can have Well Rounded, Complicated Community" etc etc.

Then we went through the traits and Accomplishments. Throughout this, people wandered off to get drinks or go to the loo and came back. In other words, the 15 minutes that it usually takes people to settle down was used doing character creation.

Steve didn't explain rules in advance. He didn't give us much background, either, except to say it was set in the Wild West and we were going round delivering God's judgement. The Accomplishments were used to explain the rules, although he also caused a conflict early in the game, just to make sure we all got the point.

(As an aside, I actually think the rules are much easier to explain if you play them through in the game. If I try and define exactly how to Raise, it's difficult. But if we play through a conflict, we'll quickly get the hang of how to Raise and See, even without being consciously aware of all the rules).

Hope that's of some use.

Graham


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: coffeestain on January 09, 2006, 12:56:16 PM
Graham,

Wow, 3 hours total?!  How long would you say the actual character creation/accomplishments took?  An hour?

Apparently, I just need to be more forceful and less hands-off.

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: One shots for new players
Post by: Graham W on January 09, 2006, 01:41:51 PM
Wow, 3 hours total?!  How long would you say the actual character creation/accomplishments took?  An hour?

Slightly over three hours. I can't really remember. I know we started just after 10 and we were having lunch by 1:30. And, yes, I'm fairly sure we were through with the character creation within the hour.

Apparently, I just need to be more forceful and less hands-off.

Honestly, I think Vincent's suggestions would get you through character creation in that hour. That phrase "Write that down" is great. What do you want your character to be like? Write that down. What else? Write that down too. It's not so much being forceful as keeping things moving.

Not that I know much, of course, I've only played the game three times. But it sounds right to me.

Graham