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Title: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 12, 2006, 09:24:40 AM
Ok, after wanting to do this, being told to do this, still wanting to and generally dreading doing it, mainly for the reason that I haven't a clue how to create a good "Actual Play" post...here goes nothing.

I've been running a game over Ventrillo (Group Voice Chat) and MSN Messenger for a geographically distanced group of friends. I originally planned the game, and pitched the game to them, with rather Narrativist goals, possibly Simulationist. I described the game I wanted to play as "X-Files with magic, spirits and a bit more horror than normal". I explained that I wanted to play up inter and intra party strife, politics and mystery.

Once we moving into character creations, some people seemed to stick with that goal, others didn't, and some others really didn't seem to have anything coherent in mind.

The group, at start, ended up being:

Dark - An ex-military special agent man, a Guardians of the Veil Mastigos focusing on Space magic with lots of points in firearms and investigation type skills. A hand-on kind of spy type character.

Sword Spider - Another GotV Mastigos, this time a girl, Focusing on Mind magic. Chose the flaw "Paranoia" and statted the character as a hacker with strong emphasis on social skills.

Masha - A bookish Mysterium girl, Moros focusing on Death (at the start of the game). Skill choices where generally chaotic and not very focused in one direction or another. Took the flaw "Amnesia/Flawed Memory" and used that as an excuse for the sketchy character design.

Vienas - The THIRD GotV Mastigos, another character that started with no real focus, later during character creation a few points were shifted around to focus on stealth and larceny and the character was portrayed as a young-ish (late teens, early 20s) male sneakthief.

Forest - An extremely large (Giant Merit) Adamantine Arrow Thrysus with a focus on Life magic with a secondary out-of-school focus on Matter to support it. The character's skill focus was on survival and hunter/gatherer type skills. Forest was backgrounded as being a wilderness recluse for many years before being draw back out into modern society by the peril of his friends at the hands of organized crime.

And the cherry on top:

Caligo - was portrayed at first as a Mysterium Obrimos. Was, in reality, a plant. Was a Seers of the Throne spy embedded at the start of the game and played by a player that agreed to play a 'hidden threat' to jumpstart the paranoia and conflict.


SETTING:

The game I set in Monterey, CA. I did a little research and put together a highly detailed and graphical guide of the city for the players in PDF format (I do graphic design for a living). They seemed psyched about it and about a week or two later play started.

I started the game with them as fledgling (just out of order training) mages who'd be brought together to fill a power void in an area that no one was too interested in. They were dropped off in Monterey by portal with a bit of money each (I didn't give out exact numbers, just told them about enough to rent an apartment and pay for food/cab fare for about a month) and told to meet a GotV master at the DoubleTree hotel in one week's time.

Forest and Dark teamed up (mainly due to OOC friendship, I think) and set up a small camp in the woods on the edge of town.
Sword Spider and Vienas both went out solo and got their own apartments.
Masha and Caligo decided to pool their money and get a nicer apartment. With what Caligo had left he got a motorcycle to cruise around with.

On the day of the meeting, Vienas decides to go get some lunch and see the town before the meeting time. He has a sandwich at an open-air cafe and realizes he's being watched by another patron. The patron approaches him, stares at him awkwardly for a few moments and steps out into the street in front of an oncoming bus. Spattered with blood and a little shaken, Vienas meets the others at the DoubleTree.

The group meets with the master, Rondel. He tells them that recently the military confiscated an artifact uncovered in the East by an American archaeological team and it's en route back into the states through Monterey and will be staying the night in the local base in a few days. They are to retreive the artifact and bring it to him. He warns them not to touch, use or otherwise 'mess with' the artifact in the process.

They convene to a small grove of trees in the park behind the DoubleTree to stategize the mission. During their meeting Dark decides to sit on a lower branch of one of the trees. Dark feels a few wet droplets on his back and shoulders and comments about the weather. The rest of the group looks around and Caligo replies that it's not raining... After a few more splashes Dark touches his hand to the wetness on his neck and looks at what it is. He finds himself spattered with fresh blood.

The groups becomes moderately freaked out and Vienas, who hadn't had a chance before, tells them what happened to him at the sandwich shop. The group, incorrectly, decides that the spirit of the guy who got hit by the bus is 'after them'. They proceed to trying hacking into different information sources, like the city morgue, the police, etc, to try to figure out who the guy was and why he might want to 'get them'. After wasting a lot of time on it (in and out of game), they decide they're not getting anywhere with it and finish planning the heist.

The heist is pulled off without too much trouble. Caligo shorts out the base's power and the group uses a portal to get into the armory where the crate the artifact's in is being stored before emergency power comes online. They's seen by the guards, but Dark puts them down with a couple tranq. darts he acquired during the planning stage. They escape without a hassle.

Upon returning the artifact to Rondel, they also meet Uther, Rondel's spy. Rondel explain that he sent Uther to tail them and monitor their activities, including planning, execution and clean up - if necessary. Uther derides the group's skills, appearance, life choices and generally anything that comes up in his presence. After the Caligo (who has a temper) starts getting into it with Uther, Rondel tells them both to cool it. He explains that he's already gotten Uther's report and "grades" the GotV members of the group, declining to judge the others as it's "not his place". He gives B+ for efficiency, but tells him he needs to work on his teamwork. Sword gets a B- for being too blatant when the group tried to steal a van to use for the mission. Dark gets a flat B for being covert and working well as a team player, but generally taking the 'long way around' and not being very efficient.

As the group leaves the hotel, they hear a news report on a TV at the bar exposing a recent rise in worker deaths in local construction sites and annoucing an upcoming "expose`" on workplace safety.

NOTE: This is happening over several game session, and between sessions players have the chance to run "side-chapters" with their characters, either solo or in small groups to investigate things, plan/plot or generally muck about the city.

Side Chapters:
Caligo decides to go looking for a bar and finds an underground rave in a bad area of town. The bouncers easily identify him as a mage, much to his surprise, and rough him up a bit when he gets belligerant.

Later on (in a seperate side-chapter) Forest & Dark decide to explore the city a bit, and arbitrarily pick the same area of town as they want to "check in" on the criminal elements they may be dealing with in the future. They cross paths with a couple drunken frat boys that Caligo roughed up and mugged on the way to the bar, but can't make heads or tails of their drunken rambling. They, also, are picked up on entry by the bouncers and told to 'mind their manners' and not to use any magic in the club. They blatantly disregard this and start scoping out the club on the supernatural level and find a concealed cabinet or locker of some sort in the wall behind the bar. Dark decides to take the blatant route, again, and simply asks the bartender about it. The bartender tells him to "hold on" and he'll get the manager. When the bartender walks off to get the "manager" (the bouncers, in actuality) Forest ducks behind the bar to investigate while Dark begins downing obscene amounts of pilfered booze and being the "lookout". The bouncers get the drop on Dark and put him down before he realizes they're there with a blackjack. They try similar on Forest but he notices them and Forest ends up getting his claws (literally) into a bouncer pretty badly before he's knocked out as well.

Forest and Dark awake the next day in a dumpster behind a chinese restaurant, covered in rotting chow mein and stitched together at the chest. When they cut themselves apart (painfully) they find a note stating that they, and their filthy mage friends, are no longer allowed in the club and will be killed on sight. Forest tries to heal their wounds, and although successful, invokes a paradox which inflicts him with paranoia (temporary) and he turns on Dark chasing him off.

--resume normal sessions:

Caligo decides to enlist the group's help in finding out what's going on with the bouncers in the club he visited during the night of the planning stage of the mission and it comes to light the Dark and Forest may have had a run in with them as well (they're reluctant to tell the whole story). The group sneaks into the club and rifles through their records. Caligo, waiting outside for the more stealthy members to come out, decides it'd be fun to get the others caught in a police 'raid' and calls in a favor with a cop he knows in the local precint (he used to live in Monterey and still has some friends here) to bust the place. Right before the police arrive the bouncers and other staff make off with in a black van carrying a safe that looks way to heavy for a normal human to lift. The group all escapes the police without being noticed, to Caligo's displeasure.

They use soe scrying on the bouncers to track them back to a small, but extremely expensive, house in a better area of town. They bust in on the place the next day, looking to get some revenge and to find out what sort of supernatural mojo is going on. Forest leads the assault with a swarm of magically enhanced ants that tear into the bouncers, killing one and injuring another. Dark and Caligo kill the second bouncer, but the third escapes with a few bad injuries out the back door. The group explores the house and finds a sleeping vampire in the basement. They douse the room with gasoline, from the second stolen van so far, and Caligo lights it, amplifying the flames to insta-cremate the bloodsucker.

ok...this post's getting WAY too long...I'll post more later.

The main things I want to find out with this though are:

1. What is the reward mechanic at work in this game? I can't nail it down...

2. Why am I ending up with Gamist play when I originally wanted Narritivist or possible Simulationist?


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Danny_K on October 12, 2006, 11:58:58 AM
I believe that most White Wolf games are incoherent in the GNS sense of the word.   They can support different styles of play with some drifting, but the default state is an uneasy mix of all three styles.  Most of my RPG experience before discovering the Forge consisted of playing in big World of Darkness games where I tried to get my Narr/Sim jollies in the interstitae between full-on Gamist struggles.  So frustrating!  Anyway, for you that means you can't really count on the system to get you where you want.

Could you say more about your campaign design?  I've read your summary and I can't really tell where you're going with it.

I don't want to be too critical, but the main events you've described so far are absolutely stock RPG elements: the powerful guy who tells you to steal something valuable, and the bar fight.  You also haven't mentioned your players at all, but if they've got a strong grounding in D&D or Shadowrun, they may just be reverting to type and playing Mage in the same way.  That can be a lot of fun, but obviously it's not what you were hoping for.

Finally, the game seems really de-protagonizing to me, which might be stifling any Narrativist tendencies.  The players are working for a Mage and getting dissed by the Mage's lackey, not even the Mage himself.  Then two of the toughest-sounding characters, Forest and Dark, get beaten and mutilated by a bunch of ghouls.  No wonder the characters become arsonists.

I don't mean either comment as a criticism of you or your game, but that's what really jumps out at me from your post.
Danny. 


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 12, 2006, 01:01:55 PM
Well, the bar wasn't my idea, that was precipitated by character action, so that's only as cliche` as they wanted...but the "Powerful guy asks you to steal some crap back for him", that was meant as a pretty easy, cliche` lead-in for the game, sort of an intro to the system, since most of the players were new to Mage, or even NWOD in general.

The 'getting dissed by his lackey thing' was done to sort of enforce the "everyone thinks you're 'bottom-of-the-totem-pole' material" start of the campaign. Part of the game I was envisioning was them working to become powerful and respected within the local community, not just starting out that way. That was conveyed to them at the beginning, IIRC.

As for the incident with the ghouls, I made sure as they entered that scene to reinforce the fact that they were 2 'newbie' mages dealing with 3 well-armed, muscled and seasoned NPCs on said NPCs home turf. (I.E: This is a non-combat scene - engaging in combat here would be utter suicide unless you have one hell of a plan) They understood, took the hint...and then decided to ignore it for some reason. I'll decline to comment on the wisdom of said actions.

The format of the game I left somewhat open. My habit is to create several plotlines, a setting and turn the characters out into it. As they follow (or not) the plotline(s) any plots not being engaged sort of fester until they're dealt with. As plotlines are completed/solved/defeated/etc I add others, or fill the void with player-created plots.

In this instance, I think due to the player's backgrounds, they seem unwilling or incapable of persuing any individual goals or investigating or working on plot elements unless I drop something right in their face. By backgrounds I mean Vienas has what seems to be a strictly D&D background, mostly 2nd & 3rd ed from his coments, I'm guessing. Caligo's got background in D&D fiction, but not much gaming, I think, and some old WOD. Sword's background is D&D, OWOD and Shadowrun I think...

The lot of them are great writers (well...Dark & Forest's is a bit rough, but with spellcheck & editing it turns out great) (and I don't think I've seen any of Vienas...gah sidetrack)...lemme start that sentence over...too many parenthesis. Save Vienas, who's writing I haven't seen, they all are moderate to excellent writers and generally address decent themes and whatnot in their writing. They seemed psyched by the idea of running something story/character driven that wasn't "hack & slash" oriented. But as the game progresses it seems to continually drift back into "Hack & slash" simply becuase they ignore or blow off every non-combat story hook I throw at them, seem generally unconcerned or derisive to social or even non-combat situations and generally seem to, almost on purpose, perhaps, screw things up until they devolve into combat.

Now, I have no aversion to running a Gamist game. I honestly enjoy any of the 3 CAs...provided there IS some cohesive CA. And I have run successful games in the past...but for some reason this one just keep devolving into chaos.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Glendower on October 12, 2006, 01:49:34 PM
The first thing I'd like to suggest is that there is no reward mechanic in place.  When players start doing foolish or aggressive stuff with their characters, it is usually because they're bored. 

Now, I imagine the heist was something that got some interest, and since Vienas is a thief-type it plays into his character concept, and that's the kind of thing the player wants to see. 

Forest had a background that talked about friends in danger.  Where were his friends?  Where was the danger to his friends? How was he helping fight that danger? I didn't see any reference to that in your actual play. 

Was Caligo getting orders from the Seers?  I seem to remember the fact that the new Mage "bad guys" tend to get ordered to do some bizarre stuff for their evil masters, was there any of that in play? 

Masha's decision to choose amnesia would have been great had she indicated some sort of life before losing her memory.  Does she want her memory back?  Does she remember a specific person/place/thing?  The big question is what she wants to do with this. 

My point is that if what the players want is not addressed, and if they are simply handed a task from your imagination, they won't be compelled to go through with it.  My games worked best when I took what the characters gave me and made it the story, running with it to the end of the line.  My games fell apart when I handed them "my story" and expected them to saunter through it.  I've got a few APs a year back that show some "muddle around and figure out what to do" play that wasn't that fun.

If you address their concepts and backgrounds, they will be rewarded for their efforts. 

As for the second question, I'd suggest you remember people play the way they enjoy best.  I'm not sure if your players have read the Big Model and Creative Agenda theory at the Forge, but if they haven't there is NO way you can expect them to go "Narrativist" like flicking a switch.  That'd be like telling someone to play "CFL rules Football" without explaining the differences in play.  If you are looking for a specific agenda, then you need to have a lot more discussion with your players. 

And remember, Narrativist play means you focus on an issue that needs to be addressed.  There is no issue that needs addressing in your game.  They're just dicking around Monterey looking for something to do.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 12, 2006, 02:15:15 PM
Ok, you made a few good points here.

Forest had a background that talked about friends in danger.  Where were his friends?  Where was the danger to his friends? How was he helping fight that danger? I didn't see any reference to that in your actual play. 

Actually, he kind of ended the story with that conflict resolved pretty much, I wasn't really sure what else to do with it. He didn't really leave any way further for his 'friends' to contact him, and they weren't in danger anymore...so it seemed like anything to do with that came off as rather 'contrived'.

Was Caligo getting orders from the Seers?  I seem to remember the fact that the new Mage "bad guys" tend to get ordered to do some bizarre stuff for their evil masters, was there any of that in play? 

Well, I didn't want to leave Caligo's player as just a random GM plot device, so I threw some stuff at him in later sessions to challenge him to see how 'inhuman' or 'evil' he really wanted to be and to what lengths he was willing to go to that end. I actually made it a point in his character's developement that the Seers actually DIDN'T contact him much...mostly as a way to make him a little paranoid. It worked rather well, unfortunately once I got around to the Seers actually getting back in touch with him, his character died shortly afterward (he's since moved on to other characters).

Masha's decision to choose amnesia would have been great had she indicated some sort of life before losing her memory.  Does she want her memory back?  Does she remember a specific person/place/thing?  The big question is what she wants to do with this. 

Masha actually, from the start played this game entirely disconnected. I encouraged her to tell me more about what she wanted to do with the amnesia element, but she avoided anything to do with her character or the game really. She sat and observed the games, mostly, and only interacted with the game once or twice. She seemed, from character creation to be playing mainly just since I asked her to...although I never really asked her to. Sort of a she was doing it because she thought I wanted her to kind of thing? (She's my fiance, btw)

My point is that if what the players want is not addressed, and if they are simply handed a task from your imagination, they won't be compelled to go through with it.  My games worked best when I took what the characters gave me and made it the story, running with it to the end of the line.  My games fell apart when I handed them "my story" and expected them to saunter through it.  I've got a few APs a year back that show some "muddle around and figure out what to do" play that wasn't that fun.

If you address their concepts and backgrounds, they will be rewarded for their efforts. 

As for the second question, I'd suggest you remember people play the way they enjoy best.  I'm not sure if your players have read the Big Model and Creative Agenda theory at the Forge, but if they haven't there is NO way you can expect them to go "Narrativist" like flicking a switch.  That'd be like telling someone to play "CFL rules Football" without explaining the differences in play.  If you are looking for a specific agenda, then you need to have a lot more discussion with your players. 

And remember, Narrativist play means you focus on an issue that needs to be addressed.  There is no issue that needs addressing in your game.  They're just dicking around Monterey looking for something to do.

Well, I only recently started reading into "The Big Model" and Creative Agendas here, but I've since gotten Caligo and Sword's players into the theory as well, and Forest's read a little...but doesn't seem too interested.

I originally pitched the idea as just being focused on non-combat mystery, horror and political elements. But whenever I present them with a mystery they ignore or avoid it until it escalates to combat.

I am not the kind of GM/DM to simply present the characters with "my story" and let them muddle through. Even from the beginning I let them start their own conflicts (as with the bar scenario). I started off with 3 plots of mine running, ended up with Dark, Caligo and Sword each starting at least one other plot each, some of them starting more than one. I kind of initiated a cutoff on "no more new plots" at about 10, until they resolved some of the ongoing ones.

I told them when we started. I'm only the "Storyteller/Gamemaster/DungeonMaster" because that's what the common parlance is. I'm just another player here. I get to have some fun with NPCs and coming up with a few plots and fun concepts to throw around, but you guys can do all that stuff, too. I've been expecting them, since the beginning, and they've been informed of my expectation, too, to come up with their own actions and plots and to investigate the events going on around them.

Perhaps not Narrativist, as I don't think I really had any more cohesive themes than, "Power corrupts" and perhaps "Inactivity Kills" or somesuch. They were never really codified...but even now, I'm not sure if they really NEED to be set in stone...

That being said, even though I had Narrativist goals, I think I played my hand more Simulationist, and they're doing nothing but Gamist...leaving the whole state of affairs confused at best.

As for there being NO reward mechanic, perhaps your right. Character advancement really isn't it...the XP rewards have been moderate to generous and abilities have increased, but it's been so matter-of-fact that I can't see it as a reward mechanic, as no one focuses on it...

I'll think on it more and await more thoughts.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 12, 2006, 02:43:39 PM
Guys! What did I just demonstrate in no less than three Actual Play threads in the last month?

Use the Big Model. Never mind "reward" or "GNS" yet. Figure out and verify, through questions, every layer of the Big Model, starting with Social Contract. Focus on sessions, scenes, characters, whatever you have to, and always start with questions. Not random ones either - think about the layers and what actually has to happen at each one for role-playing to occur at all.

C'mon, I can't be the one to do it every time. Try it this way.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Selene Tan on October 12, 2006, 05:01:38 PM
Hiya, Reithan!

Writing good actual play reports is a skill. It's why Ben Lehman had a contest about it last year (what happened to it, Ben?). So don't stress out too much over it. But I hope you don't mind a few more questions!

I'd like to know a bit more about the players in your game, and who played what. Have you played with any of them before, and in what medium? (face-to-face, voice chat, e-mail, forum, etc.) How closely do other things they've liked coincide with your goals for this game?

How did all of you decide what to play? Did you decide everything, and then pitch the whole ball to your friends, or was there more discussion? How interested did your friends seem to be when you first pitched the game to them?

She seemed, from character creation to be playing mainly just since I asked her to...although I never really asked her to. Sort of a she was doing it because she thought I wanted her to kind of thing? (She's my fiance, btw)

Has your fiance played RPGs before? Have you previously expressed a desire for her to play an RPG? If the answer to the first question is "no" and to the second question is "yes," it is possible that she was playing because she thought you wanted her to.

How did you go about character creation? Did your players know what characters the other players were making? When you saw characters that didn't quite fit your vision of the game, did you discuss with the players in question to get everyone on the same page?

In your first post, you said "I explained that I wanted to play up inter and intra party strife, politics and mystery." How were you planning to handle and/or mediate intra-party strife? There's a bit of talk about intra-party conflict in Keys and Griefers (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21555.0). Mostly I want to quote Brand:

Yea, that's what I was talking about. "Party Must Work Together" = Safe. "There is No Party, FIGHT!" = Safe. "There is a party, but the game is as much about how they fight as anything else" = Difficult, but possible with the right system (PTA, Capes, Universalis, Dogs). "There is a party, sometimes they solve missions other times they fight, sometimes they do both and it is never clear which" = DISASTER.

Yes, sometimes it will work out. Juggling knives works out sometimes too. But sooner or later you end up missing fingers.

From what you've mentioned so far, I can't tell yet whether/how much intra-party conflict was a problem for the game. Since you didn't describe much, it may not have turned out to be much of an issue compared to other things.

-Selene


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 12, 2006, 06:14:15 PM
...I hope you don't mind a few more questions!

Never. ...Well...maybe sometimes, but not now, anyway.

I'd like to know a bit more about the players in your game, and who played what. Have you played with any of them before, and in what medium? (face-to-face, voice chat, e-mail, forum, etc.) How closely do other things they've liked coincide with your goals for this game?

We'd played MMOs (mainly Lineage2 and EVE) together before, and most of them had expressed intrests in PnP RPGs before. The others I simply asked if they were interested. Some who didn't play (obviously) said no, others said yes, and thus was the group built.

How did all of you decide what to play? Did you decide everything, and then pitch the whole ball to your friends, or was there more discussion? How interested did your friends seem to be when you first pitched the game to them?

I pitched the idea initially as a VERY loose sketch, they all seemed interested, to differen degress varying from 'moderately' to 'very'. Then, to hash out the specifics I used my forums and a series of polls, as well as voice-chat discussions over Ventrillo. So they all had a say in the final setting and game disposition.

Has your fiance played RPGs before? Have you previously expressed a desire for her to play an RPG? If the answer to the first question is "no" and to the second question is "yes," it is possible that she was playing because she thought you wanted her to.

Oddly, rather than "No;Yes" the answer is "Yes;No". She's played RPGs with me and others before to varying levels of participation and success. Although whenever I start playing a new game I always inform her and ask her if she'd like to participate, but I've never really "asked her to". I always make sure to tell her thatit may be fun to do together, simply as a group activity, but that if she doesn't want to that's fine as we have plenty of other things we can spend time together doing as well.

How did you go about character creation? Did your players know what characters the other players were making? When you saw characters that didn't quite fit your vision of the game, did you discuss with the players in question to get everyone on the same page?

I did character creation mostly on a first-come first-served basis, and each character's basic design was made public to the others as they were created to avoid duplicate or conflicting characters. When I saw characters coming that didn't really mesh with the general idea of the game, I warned the players in question and informed them that creating "combat junkie" characters might leave them feeling a little left out in (what I had hoped to be) the more prevelant social and mystery/horror scenes. Most either reformed their characters somewhat to fit better, others said that that was fine and they simply felt the group needed SOME muscle in case things turned ugly. I can't quite argue with that logic as NWOD, like an 'horror' setting does tend to get violent/dangerous every so often regardless of the chronicle's focus.

In your first post, you said "I explained that I wanted to play up inter and intra party strife, politics and mystery." How were you planning to handle and/or mediate intra-party strife? There's a bit of talk about intra-party conflict in Keys and Griefers (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21555.0). Mostly I want to quote Brand:

[Quote Omitted for Space]

From what you've mentioned so far, I can't tell yet whether/how much intra-party conflict was a problem for the game. Since you didn't describe much, it may not have turned out to be much of an issue compared to other things.

-Selene

The intra-party conflict was exactly as much of a problem as I had hoped it'd be. I've played heavy intra-party conflict games before and I generally know the limits of such play. We've only had one problem so far with such and it was resolved fairly quickly.

The way I described the situation of the intra-party conflict was something along the lines of "you all don't necessarily like each other, trust each other or even agree to the ongoing existance of each other, but what you do agree to is that you are all useful to each other's survival at current. If you begin to feel that a member of the group is not pulling his/her weight, or becoming a liability to the group...react according as your character would, but be aware that fallout from such actions is rarely good for your health". IIRC the actual description was a bit wordier, as i explained it a bit more...but that's the general jist of it. Sort of a parasitic/symbiotic relationship. Within that framing, some friendship and working relationships DID form, some false, some real. As well as rivalry and hatreds (in-character).

The one problem we had was when Dark's player felt that Caligo's player was being vindictive for OOC reasons toward his character. The reasons, actually, were completely in-character and MOST were obvious to the group at the time. I simply explained most of them to Dark, had the two talk on an OOC basis and clear the air and explain that all hostility was completely IC and that they were still cool OOC. Thus the conflict came to an end....OOC anyway. The IC conflict was good stuff and I didn't want it to end. It was mainly a problem of Caligo's player being in-character during game sessions for about 95% of the session and Dark's player not being able to figure out what was the IC and what was the 5% of OOC.

To give a description of the intra-party conflict so far, we've had 3 character deaths so far, after about 15 games and probably about 10 side-chapters, so about the equivalent of about 20+ games altogether. All 3 were killed by NPCs, although one WAS a hit called in by one of the PCs. There was a 3rd incident where a character was run off and later brought to the consilium for judgement due to him trying to attack another group member. He was summarily banished from the area after being 'punished'. Overall, I'd cann it "just enough conflict to keep the players guessing." And that's what I was going for in that area. I'd have to say it's probably the ONLY thing that's really been working as planned.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Callan S. on October 13, 2006, 02:55:37 AM
2. Why am I ending up with Gamist play when I originally wanted Narritivist or possible Simulationist?
Without wandering into agenda thingies;

You know the sort of stuff you want. In point form, what structures have you added to play to get to that stuff, minute to minute in play? It doesn't matter if it was informal or quite formal, it'll help give an outline.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 13, 2006, 06:30:45 AM
Well, let's see, I can probably cover that in a poin-based format:

1. Horror
Horror has been fairly successful. I've mainly just thrown in a few really freaky scenes to "squik" the players, then while they're reeling from that, throw in some dark hooks and reel 'em in. Been working fairly well. Also tried the "bait-and-switch" horror tactic, where you throw something 'too' cute at them, then either replace it, destroy it or corrupt it with something horrible. The only one that wasn't really 'buying into' the horror at all was Masha...but she wasn't really 'buying into' any of it.

I've had other characters at times tell me things like "I almost threw up....OOC" or "OMG, that seriously freaked me out, I think I'm going to have nightmares tonight." So I think "Horror is GO."

2. Mystery
This category is an UTTER failure. I was trying to get this by basically throwing things at the party that I thought were interesting, creepy, dramatically charged, or some combination of the above, and a couple good avenues for discovery and...well...hoping they'd investigate. Unfortunately in every case except MAYBE one they simply don't. I throw things at them that muliple characters in the group have aptitudes in to figure out, have IC features and hooks towards...and the players simply ignore the mysteries.

Like, I have multiple characters in the party that took high levels of Occult, one specialized in Demonology, even. Then, a character, at one point, to try to creep out a vampire assassin who they'd got on their tail after the bar thing, used a spell to make his voice into a 'persistant echo' in a certain area...and the echo that came back wasn't his voice, it was a fairly demonic sounding murmur. The character with demonology tried to decipher what they were saying, and I told him it was something about 'free', 'dark' and 'we', but he couldn't make it out completely because it was a VERY archaic and ancient dialect. Previously I had thrown a bit of foreshadowing and avenues for investigation to the party BEFORE this point...

So, to put this all together. We now have characters who've heard demons in the area (old creepy ones), have high levels of occult knowledge, one even specializing in demons...they know where they can find out more and what do they do? Ignore/Forget about it. They couldn't have dealt with it at the time, as they were in the middle of a fairly hairy situation, but they had several points after that when they could have...and chose not to. Actively chose not to. As in one goes, "What about that demon echo thing?" and the rest go, "Meh."

That's just one example out of a few.

3. Politics
Politics have been kind of hit-or-miss. The party really seems only interested in persuing any political agenda when they have some direct favor or agenda to persue. They tried once to simply engage in politicking, but the player's attempt was so HORRIBLY, fabbergastingly bad that I really couldn't find any way to give the scene to him. Even the other players were like, "Wait, he said what??"

I may have let him try again, or roll a skill to try to avoid looking like an idiot...but it was FOREST. He had nothing, skill-wise, to support to encounter, and his player was totally lost.

Unfortunately, it seems Forest was the only one willing to actually try to bring the group into the local politic. The rest seem to only want to run to the consilium when they have a problem or want a favor. I've made apparent, both by showing it, and by outright SAYING it to them, that that WON'T fly. If you want the local politic to take you seriously, you need to show up on more than a "OMG! Save us!" basis.

They HAVE, once or twice, managed to get help, if you could call it that, simply because they'd FUBAR'd a situation so badly the consilium had no choice but to step in...and once in the form of a sort of "babysitting service" when the consilium was worried about them really screwing the pooch.

We had one player that joined us for 1 game. She made a 100% politically based character and I was like "YAY!" ...then she picked up a longsword and dived headlong into combat. The character was pretty much instantly mulched. Both the group and I had ALL, I think, at various points, told her "Political Character != Combat Character". And she said, every time, "Ok, that's great, I'm not interested in combat." And, IIRC, right before she engaged in her longsword antics, I told her "you realize you have no skill with that weapon, no combat-oriented rotes and, in fact, no armor, either, right?" Then, as she did it, "Are you SURE you want to do that?"

So, overall, I'm not guilty at all about what happened...just amazed, really.

Anyway, politics - FAILURE.

4. Intra/Inter-Party Conflict
This was covered in the previous post and is going swimmingly.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Glendower on October 13, 2006, 12:04:25 PM
Hey there.  On Ron's suggestion, I'm gonna stick with Social contract-type questions, mostly because there's a few things I gotta know.

I have run games using instant messenger, but using a VOIP to get stuff done sounds like it can get crazy confusing.  To start with, how do you deal with people talking at once?  I've used Ventrillo, having two or three people talking at once usually means a garbled mess of noise. Did you set up any rules regarding this?  Is there some sort of "I hold the stick of talking" turn taking?  Can people interject during those times, or is it forbidden to do so? And how do you establish who does what when? Do you just go down the list alphabetically, or is is there a kind of "polite chaos"?  Is there one person who does a majority of the talking?  A person who does the least?

Since I've never roleplayed in that medium, I'm trying to get a headspace around how it would work, socially speaking.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 13, 2006, 01:35:03 PM
Oddly enough, thinking about it in retrospect you'd expect it to be chaotic as hell, but it's not.

I suppose it's closest to your "Polite Chaos" idea. There's no real set rules as to who talks when, no one really monopolizes it either.

Some people prefer to type more than talk, some talk more than type, some (like me) swap back and forth randomly. As for the 'everyone talking at once' thing...well you'd have the same problem sitting around a table, too, wouldn't you? We just use semi-quasi-decent manners and try not to cut each other off too frequently.

Really the VOIP's a complete non-issue. I guess that comes from our MMORPG background. You kinda get used to using VOIP for those things.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Callan S. on October 13, 2006, 01:43:56 PM
Thanks Reithan, that was a good point form. Now, referencing it against your AP account:
Quote
The groups becomes moderately freaked out and Vienas, who hadn't had a chance before, tells them what happened to him at the sandwich shop. The group, incorrectly, decides that the spirit of the guy who got hit by the bus is 'after them'. They proceed to trying hacking into different information sources, like the city morgue, the police, etc, to try to figure out who the guy was and why he might want to 'get them'. After wasting a lot of time on it (in and out of game), they decide they're not getting anywhere with it and finish planning the heist.
To contrast this, some GM's would have gone 'Oh yeah, spirit stalker, cool' and incorporated the idea into the story. In terms of structure, would you say in your play if you've gotten the wrong lead, you've just gotten it wrong? Essentially a fail state?

Quote
Upon returning the artifact to Rondel, they also meet Uther, Rondel's spy. Rondel explain that he sent Uther to tail them and monitor their activities, including planning, execution and clean up - if necessary. Uther derides the group's skills, appearance, life choices and generally anything that comes up in his presence. After the Caligo (who has a temper) starts getting into it with Uther, Rondel tells them both to cool it. He explains that he's already gotten Uther's report and "grades" the GotV members of the group, declining to judge the others as it's "not his place". He gives B+ for efficiency, but tells him he needs to work on his teamwork. Sword gets a B- for being too blatant when the group tried to steal a van to use for the mission. Dark gets a flat B for being covert and working well as a team player, but generally taking the 'long way around' and not being very efficient.
Here I see a very strong structure added by you, one of peer evaluation. Sure, it was between characters, but someone had to decided what Uthur says. And I don't mean 'just decide' - you yourself evaluated the players efficiency, right? Evaluated their performance. And I almost see a technique there for making it not in your face 'you suck', by the derisory NPC being patronising told to pipe down by another of your NPC's, which is a very clever and supportive technique (if I'm spotting it right). That's the structure I see, what do you see now?

Trying this into just the mystery point, briefly - the mystery example is very 'one way' - there's so little there (to begin with) you can't approach it from another angle - like befriending the voice or something (I can't even think of examples, it was so one way). The example above where they thought a spirit was stalking them, shows how another approach angle (even a negative one for them) just isn't available. The only approach here is to unravel the mystery - which means the usual wide open exploration of game play has just been funneled down to one approach angle. That's a big loss of exploration and not very fun sounding to me even. BUT! But what if the idea was to beat the mystery - to unravel it and suceed? There's some tasty meat!

Suppose they had pursued the voice. Could you write out a fake AP account of one way they could have unraveled the voice mystery? Write it so they pass every hurdle, but clearly note where failure could happen and its consequences (even if that's NPC's rating them C-). You know what I mean? Like 'Then Dark would have done this, then Masha would have done that and that would reveal the hidden shrine. But if they'd stayed in that room, guards would have caught up with them and hell broken loose'.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 13, 2006, 01:59:18 PM
Thanks Reithan, that was a good point form. Now, referencing it against your AP account:
Quote
The groups becomes moderately freaked out and Vienas, who hadn't had a chance before, tells them what happened to him at the sandwich shop. The group, incorrectly, decides that the spirit of the guy who got hit by the bus is 'after them'. They proceed to trying hacking into different information sources, like the city morgue, the police, etc, to try to figure out who the guy was and why he might want to 'get them'. After wasting a lot of time on it (in and out of game), they decide they're not getting anywhere with it and finish planning the heist.
To contrast this, some GM's would have gone 'Oh yeah, spirit stalker, cool' and incorporated the idea into the story. In terms of structure, would you say in your play if you've gotten the wrong lead, you've just gotten it wrong? Essentially a fail state?

I so TOTALLY have no idea what you just said. O.o;'

Quote
Upon returning the artifact to Rondel, they also meet Uther, Rondel's spy. Rondel explain that he sent Uther to tail them and monitor their activities, including planning, execution and clean up - if necessary. Uther derides the group's skills, appearance, life choices and generally anything that comes up in his presence. After the Caligo (who has a temper) starts getting into it with Uther, Rondel tells them both to cool it. He explains that he's already gotten Uther's report and "grades" the GotV members of the group, declining to judge the others as it's "not his place". He gives B+ for efficiency, but tells him he needs to work on his teamwork. Sword gets a B- for being too blatant when the group tried to steal a van to use for the mission. Dark gets a flat B for being covert and working well as a team player, but generally taking the 'long way around' and not being very efficient.
Here I see a very strong structure added by you, one of peer evaluation. Sure, it was between characters, but someone had to decided what Uthur says. And I don't mean 'just decide' - you yourself evaluated the players efficiency, right? Evaluated their performance. And I almost see a technique there for making it not in your face 'you suck', by the derisory NPC being patronising told to pipe down by another of your NPC's, which is a very clever and supportive technique (if I'm spotting it right). That's the structure I see, what do you see now?

Trying this into just the mystery point, briefly - the mystery example is very 'one way' - there's so little there (to begin with) you can't approach it from another angle - like befriending the voice or something (I can't even think of examples, it was so one way). The example above where they thought a spirit was stalking them, shows how another approach angle (even a negative one for them) just isn't available. The only approach here is to unravel the mystery - which means the usual wide open exploration of game play has just been funneled down to one approach angle. That's a big loss of exploration and not very fun sounding to me even. BUT! But what if the idea was to beat the mystery - to unravel it and suceed? There's some tasty meat!

I understand this marginally better than your first point, but I'm still mostly lost.

Suppose they had pursued the voice. Could you write out a fake AP account of one way they could have unraveled the voice mystery? Write it so they pass every hurdle, but clearly note where failure could happen and its consequences (even if that's NPC's rating them C-). You know what I mean? Like 'Then Dark would have done this, then Masha would have done that and that would reveal the hidden shrine. But if they'd stayed in that room, guards would have caught up with them and hell broken loose'.

I would do this, but I'd rather have you sort me out on the first two bits first, otherwise my "Fake AP" would probably miss the point completely.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Callan S. on October 13, 2006, 04:10:31 PM
The first thing: The spirit wasn't after them, right? You said they decided that incorrectly. So pursuing it as if it existed, is essentially losing. Right? I'm talking losing like shooting a basket ball for the hoop but missing, losing.

The second thing: You, not the character, were grading the players (not the PC's) performance. Sure, it was done in a PC to PC manner. But you were giving feedback on how good at gaming they were.

I'd like to have some feedback from other forgites, in case I really have been confusing. Cause I think I didn't complicate my basic point of 'players evaluate how good each other are at gaming'.

I'd also really like that fake AP (just a paragraph or a sentence or two will be fine). Remember, the AP should lead to them unraveling the mystery and note any hurdles where they could fail in that.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 13, 2006, 07:26:25 PM
Sorry, it wasn't really your point that weas conufsing, but your language. I just read through it a couple times and ended up sitting there going "Huh?", but it's clear now.

Well, I suppose the way it worked out, yes it was like losing to persue an incorrect lead. But I'm not sure I like the implications of that. I suppose then that I should either be ready to 'morph' the mysteries to fit whatever the players want...but then they're not really mysteries anymore...if the players can just go "well, this is what's happening" and I go, "sure, that's what's happening"...well, they haven't really figured anything out, therefore there's really no "mystery" mechanic. I suppose a better thing to do would be to find some way to 'reward' players for TRYING to solve the mystery, even if they don't figure it out...food for thought, anyway.

Yeah, it was me grading. Like I said, that was a setup to lead the characters into the system. A little slow, cliche`d start for them to see how things worked, and the entire storyline's about the mage society 'grading' the players' characters. They put them in what they THOUGHT was going to be a quiet little 'nothing' of an area, just to see how they worked out as new members of their society. I figured a literal grading of their characters' performance might drive that home. But, in the end, yes I had to come up with those evaluations myself.

Again, though, I'm not sure I like the implication of "players evaluating how good each other are at gaming". I really didn't mean it or present it like that. I think I can have an NPC say to a player's character "you didn't do _X_ very well." without passing judgment on their performance as a player. Simply because your character fails a die roll or two doesn't make you an inferior player... I don't think it came off like that during the game, and if it did, I think I would regret it.

Umm... as for the voice mystery and the suicide/blood spatter mysteries, a simulated AP...lemme try that:

After seing the suicide, presenting it to the group and having Dark spattered with blood in the park, they could have utilized a bit of actual investigatory skills (which sever of them had) to go back and investigate the scene of the suicide. There they could have used magical and mundane means to figure out what may have happened. What they DID do that was pretty good is analyze the blood spatter itself, analyze where it may have been coming from, and pull up records as to who the suicidee was. It was his blood and he was basically a "John Doe", a nobody. No one of any real importance. No history of mental defect or anything remarkable really.

Where they departed from this though, is they assumed since they blood was connected he must be some sort of ghost or spirit or evil sorceror out to get them and started prying into every aspect of the guy's life. And the more they pried the less meaningful information surfaced. I went so far as to call the victim a "meaningless nobody" at one point, simply trying to drive the point home that they were looking in the wrong direction...

In my mind it's the equivalent of, in a D&D campaign of a kobold throwing a rock at the party from concealment. Rather than trying to figure out where the rock came from and investigate/solve the problem, the party picks up the rock, casts identify on it 5 times, bring it to a local geological expert for analysis and eventually has it set on a chain as a pendant for the party's cleric to symbolize the mystery present in the world about them.

As to the voice thing, well, they had been told both in game, and in the printed setting guide for the game, that there was "occult-related" architecture built into the base central to the town that was associated with "creepy echoes" and later in game they were told that the architect of the "occult-related architecture" was rumored to be a member of a doomsday cult. So, I thought when present with "demonic echo voices" while in an area adjacent to the base in question, 1+1+1=3...but that didn't happen. This, though, wasn't really a loss, it was a failure to play at all. To steal your metaphor: They didn't miss the basket, they picked up the ball, looked at the basket, and then left to go home without ever attempting a shot.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Ice Cream Emperor on October 13, 2006, 09:48:19 PM
Quote
Rondel tells them both to cool it. He explains that he's already gotten Uther's report and "grades" the GotV members of the group, declining to judge the others as it's "not his place". He gives B+ for efficiency, but tells him he needs to work on his teamwork. Sword gets a B- for being too blatant when the group tried to steal a van to use for the mission. Dark gets a flat B for being covert and working well as a team player, but generally taking the 'long way around' and not being very efficient.

Just to elaborate (or merely repeat, as backup) Callan's point about the 'grading': when I first read that part, it seemed completely possible to me that what was going on was that you, as a GM, were rating the other players based on how good a job they did at playing through your story. That when Rondel tells Sword that he is being too blatant, that means that you as a GM thought the actions the character took were too blatant as well. As a player in that situation I would have a lot of trouble pretending that it was merely an in-character evaluation, and had no relevance to what you as a GM thought of me as a player.

However, it is possible that I am understanding this situation completely wrong. It is possible that you were actually using this scene as a tool to express the NPC's personal, in-game preferences for how things should go -- and that these are unrelated to what you, as a GM, think is the "best" way to accomplish the mission. For example, if the NPC had some personal reason to hate guns, and docked a PC several 'marks' because he shot at someone, that would express something about the NPC. There are other possibilities as well, of course.

Based on your description, the "grades" seem like a very strong way for you, as the GM, to reinforce the kind of play you want to see. The problem as I see it is that based on your preferences, you are reinforcing play along a very different axis than the ones you are interested in. For example, none of your stated goals include "efficiency" -- so when you rate someone down for being inefficient, it doesn't help get you any more horror or mystery in the game. In fact, this sort of grading could have a very detrimental effect on your game's focus, if players understand it the same way me (and I think Callan) did -- because it will actively mislead them into thinking that the point of this game is to get better "grades" for their characters. While this may incidentally increase the amount of inter-party strife, it sounds like that's the one element you're not having trouble with so far.

Now, this is not the case if we're just misreading how that scene went down, and what the other players took away from it. For example, you mention that he graded only certain PCs for political reasons -- and the idea that players will have to compromise their personal style for an authority figure is also an important political element in the game. But that's only the case if it's very clear to players that you, the GM, don't share this NPCs opinions at all -- that you could care less of players are efficient or blatant or anything at all.

So I guess the question I would ask is: do you care if players/characters are efficient or blatant or not? Is it important to you how well the characters do at the missions, and do you think that the players should make this one of their primary goals? Some of the statements you've made -- for example, about how characters and players wasted lots of time on a "wrong" avenue of exploration re: the suicide -- suggest that this is the case.

If it's not the case, can you see how your players might be misunderstanding the situation, based on the "marks" and the "you have the wrong approach, you get nothing" investigations?

(some cross-posting going on, but I'm still hoping the additional perspective might help. Reithan, if you feel like you've already addressed this, feel free to ignore it.)


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Ricky Donato on October 13, 2006, 09:52:56 PM
Hi, Reithan,

I agree with Daniel. I would like to help you, but you are contradicting yourself. You say:

Again, though, I'm not sure I like the implication of "players evaluating how good each other are at gaming". I really didn't mean it or present it like that.

You then turn around and say the exact opposite:

What they DID do that was pretty good is analyze the blood spatter itself, analyze where it may have been coming from, and pull up records as to who the suicidee was. It was his blood and he was basically a "John Doe", a nobody. No one of any real importance. No history of mental defect or anything remarkable really.

Where they departed from this though, is they assumed since they blood was connected he must be some sort of ghost or spirit or evil sorceror out to get them and started prying into every aspect of the guy's life. And the more they pried the less meaningful information surfaced. I went so far as to call the victim a "meaningless nobody" at one point, simply trying to drive the point home that they were looking in the wrong direction...

Emphasis added. Every statement I bolded above is an example of your judgment of the players' skill. "Here they did well, there they did poorly." You made that judgment clear to the players, through such cues as language (calling him a "meaningless nobody") and in-game events ("the more they pried the less meaningful information surfaced"). This is the crux of your problem, Reithan.

Your instinct on reading my post may be that I am attacking you. If you feel that way, I ask for a favor; don't reply immediately. Step away from the computer for an hour or two, then come back and re-read what I posted.

Looking forward to your reply.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Callan S. on October 13, 2006, 09:56:11 PM
Sorry, it wasn't really your point that weas conufsing, but your language. I just read through it a couple times and ended up sitting there going "Huh?", but it's clear now.
Yup, I tend to string together to many references in one sentence. I sometimes come across posts I wrote six months ago and think 'What the hell was I saying?'. Then I reread it and it clicks into place. Sorry, I really think the broad range of references are important to get across in one or two sentences.

Quote
Well, I suppose the way it worked out, yes it was like losing to persue an incorrect lead. But I'm not sure I like the implications of that. I suppose then that I should either be ready to 'morph' the mysteries to fit whatever the players want...but then they're not really mysteries anymore...if the players can just go "well, this is what's happening" and I go, "sure, that's what's happening"...well, they haven't really figured anything out, therefore there's really no "mystery" mechanic. I suppose a better thing to do would be to find some way to 'reward' players for TRYING to solve the mystery, even if they don't figure it out...food for thought, anyway.
Nope, I don't think you should have to be ready to 'morph' the mysteries to fit player perceptions. And yes I agree that if you did, it wouldn't be a mystery. You want something different from the 'morph' GM and I dig that...I think I want something similar to you.

And you beat me to it: Rewards for TRYING to solve the mystery would be great. A quick suggestion of my own is some small rewards (XP or something sweet) if they put five minutes of real life time in, then something for every ten minutes after that. A sort of entree reward, followed by rewards for putting a bit more serious work in. And really advertise that it's there - don't let them forget it!!

Quote
Again, though, I'm not sure I like the implication of "players evaluating how good each other are at gaming". I really didn't mean it or present it like that. I think I can have an NPC say to a player's character "you didn't do _X_ very well." without passing judgment on their performance as a player. Simply because your character fails a die roll or two doesn't make you an inferior player... I don't think it came off like that during the game, and if it did, I think I would regret it.
I think you've got a gamer missconception. Think of the last school class you did - if you were learning to touch type or play guitar, would you expect yourself to be wonderful straight away? Would you be inferior for not being great straight away? Of course not! Would a teacher be calling you inferior when they score your progress? Of course not! It's just the way you learn skills.

It IS possible to be really horrible to others when evaluating how good each other are at something. But frankly you can do a game of peer evaluation in a very nice, supportive way, and show the fucking door to anyone who tries to be a dick head. :)

Quote
So, I thought when present with "demonic echo voices" while in an area adjacent to the base in question, 1+1+1=3...but that didn't happen. This, though, wasn't really a loss, it was a failure to play at all. To steal your metaphor: They didn't miss the basket, they picked up the ball, looked at the basket, and then left to go home without ever attempting a shot.
Thanks for the sim AP. I think your use of the basket ball analogy is good. Here's an angle for you: Do you think they knew they were supposed to play? Or were they looking at the rubber orb in their hand, and the metal ring up there and thinking 'Eh, what does either of these things mean?' and then wandered off?

It might seem crazy to ask. What you do with a basketball and ring seems so obvious. But to some gamers - well, they go and make it into a stupid pendant that symbolises the mystery of the world, like your example below. Or they just ignore it entirely, like nothing was there!

Already you've come up with the rewards for trying, which is great. It might also take some explicit instruction about what they should be attempting. How confusing have I been so far? Am I on target? If so, we can talk about those instructions.

Quote
In my mind it's the equivalent of, in a D&D campaign of a kobold throwing a rock at the party from concealment. Rather than trying to figure out where the rock came from and investigate/solve the problem, the party picks up the rock, casts identify on it 5 times, bring it to a local geological expert for analysis and eventually has it set on a chain as a pendant for the party's cleric to symbolize the mystery present in the world about them.
That's funny cause it's true! :) I've thought stuff like that when reading some actual play accounts - some of the stuff people do is just so bullshit non practical!


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Reithan on October 14, 2006, 05:17:45 PM
However, it is possible that I am understanding this situation completely wrong. It is possible that you were actually using this scene as a tool to express the NPC's personal, in-game preferences for how things should go -- and that these are unrelated to what you, as a GM, think is the "best" way to accomplish the mission. For example, if the NPC had some personal reason to hate guns, and docked a PC several 'marks' because he shot at someone, that would express something about the NPC. There are other possibilities as well, of course.

...

Now, this is not the case if we're just misreading how that scene went down, and what the other players took away from it. For example, you mention that he graded only certain PCs for political reasons -- and the idea that players will have to compromise their personal style for an authority figure is also an important political element in the game. But that's only the case if it's very clear to players that you, the GM, don't share this NPCs opinions at all -- that you could care less of players are efficient or blatant or anything at all.

So I guess the question I would ask is: do you care if players/characters are efficient or blatant or not? Is it important to you how well the characters do at the missions, and do you think that the players should make this one of their primary goals? Some of the statements you've made -- for example, about how characters and players wasted lots of time on a "wrong" avenue of exploration re: the suicide -- suggest that this is the case.

If it's not the case, can you see how your players might be misunderstanding the situation, based on the "marks" and the "you have the wrong approach, you get nothing" investigations?

Ok, hadn't really thought about it from that angle. Yes, I was meaning from a character's perspective. Not from mine. From my perspective they advanced the plot, had a lot of fun and investigated some things (even things that NPCs told them not to). So, from my GM's perspective, it was a complete success. However, the NPC was a master mage from a "The Guardians of the Veil". A Secret Police/Espionage society. They didn't do a great job of concealing their actions, their teamwork was a bit lacking and they didn't make the best use of their time/effort. Those would be things the NPC cared about, but not me, too much.

Thinking back, I'm not sure HOW the players took it. I hadn't thought that they'd take it as a "GM to Players" evaluation, rather than a "NPC to PC" evaluation.

The only instance of ME getting annoyed about 'inneficiency' was them continually failing to solve any mystery I present. But it's not so much that I'm annoyed that they're innefficient, it's rather that it annoys me because it annoys THEM. I'd rather them get into an enigma, gets some progess, figure something out and have some fun with it. Instead, they fumble around, generally get confused and annoyed and don't end up having any fun with those bits of plot.                             

Callan S.:

Yeah, I think upon readin the replies here, either at, or BEFORE our next game I thin kI'll sit down with everyone and re-work the default XP table to better support the goals we went into the game with.

As for wether or not they knew what to do with the echos, well I suppose, I can't really be sure without directly asking them...though, the background for it was in the guide, elements of it had been mentioned, and then it was presented in person...I suppose that, rather than something to be 'figured out' or 'solved' they may have simply just identified it as an element of the setting and went "oh that's cool...moving on..." Though, with this situation, I'd rather not directly ask them about that one...as it somewhat tips my hadn as to the intention of that element a bit too much, maybe.

Ricky Donato:

Points taken. And I'm not giving them back. So, neener neener.

Seriously though, I see what you're talking about, and I think the previous sections of this post address the issues...if not, please elaborate more.


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Selene Tan on October 14, 2006, 07:11:22 PM
I suppose that, rather than something to be 'figured out' or 'solved' they may have simply just identified it as an element of the setting and went "oh that's cool...moving on..."

It's also possible that the players figured that investigating the echoes would go the same way as the investigation of the spirit of the guy on the bus--nowhere. The "meh" response may have meant "Let's not waste time on red herrings again. It was boring and frustrating enough last time."


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Callan S. on October 14, 2006, 10:19:26 PM
Quote
Yeah, I think upon readin the replies here, either at, or BEFORE our next game I thin kI'll sit down with everyone and re-work the default XP table to better support the goals we went into the game with.

As for wether or not they knew what to do with the echos, well I suppose, I can't really be sure without directly asking them...though, the background for it was in the guide, elements of it had been mentioned, and then it was presented in person...I suppose that, rather than something to be 'figured out' or 'solved' they may have simply just identified it as an element of the setting and went "oh that's cool...moving on..."
Cool on the restructure. Also remember your own genuine excitement reinforces mechanical rewards :).

And I think that's a strong observation, from what I've seen I agree and I'd be on the look out for that next time. I think you've really gotten onto something to take to your next game. I can't add any more myself, but looking forward to your next thread! :)


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Paul T on October 15, 2006, 09:14:32 AM
Reithan,

I don't know how much this will help you, but I've run into (and seen other people run into) problems with mystery-type scenarios much like the one you describe: if the players aren't on the "right" path, and don't immediately understand that they need to throw the ball into the hoop, play stalls and (potentially) becomes boring and frustrating for everyone. In my opinion, the GM's involvement in such a situation tends to drop in quality.

Also, If your game is set up so that the goal for the players is to figure out that they need to throw the ball into the hoop, that's a challenge you're putting to them. If gameplay suffers when they pursue a less "correct" path or avenue of investigation, you've got a situation where the quality of play (for everyone) is dependent on how well the players make those decisions (as judged by you). Are they (the players) smart enough to figure out the mystery? I hope you can see how this part of the game, at least, is bound to pull into Gamist territory...

I don't want to derail this thread or jump the gun, so I'll just add a link to a thread where I discussed a related topic:

Silent railroading and the intersection of scenario prep & player authorship (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20791.0)

You only really need to read the first half of the opening post--most of the discussion that follows is not relevant to your game.

All the best,


Paul


Title: Re: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...
Post by: Marco on October 15, 2006, 11:22:12 AM
Here's a few suggestions based on your feedback: I think I've had similar experiences in terms of presenting content XYZ and getting Player-Response "A" (which was not what I was looking for).

1. From what you have said, I think it is probable that the players are looking for cues from you as to what the interesting bits of the game are. That is not to say I think they are looking for you to do all the story-telling or control their characters or any nonsense like that--but rather, they are looking to engage with your situation and some avenues of "engagement" are clearer than others.

You present a mission very well. The mission is assigned. It's cool. They engage (go do it).

You present mysteries, I'm going to guess, less well. The blood-splatter and the guy stepping in front of the bus are "clues"--but what do they mean? How do I as a player follow up? Etc.

Same for politics: maybe the players are not clear on what their characters want? Or maybe what actions to take to get what they want?

2. Suggestion: more transparency. By 'transparency,' I mean, more plain, clear, explanation about what the situation is. Instead of simply presenting the clue of the rain of blood, you could even go so far as to narrate a 'sense they get' which gives some clearer indication about what is going on (i.e. "The blood does not feel hostile--there's no sense of threat about it--more like ... a sense of presence ... someone asking for your help."). This will give them a better idea of how to interact with the situation.

The same thing works very well for political situations: an NPC can, for example, give them a list of potential patrons. Each has an advantage and drawback and something that might make them like the PC. This can be done very quickly, but once the situation is established, the PCs know exactly how to manipulate it.

NOTE: I'm not advocating that any of this 'transparency' or information or options indicate the "only" way to interact with the situation--simply that more 'hidden knowledge' (what the GM knows) is shared up front rather than having to be uncovered. If you list three potential patrons, try to ensure that they're all at least reasonably viable as a choice. If a PC comes up with a cool way to influence one that you didn't think of--or decides they don't need patrons entirely, you'd respect that, of course--but my suggestion is to "set the stage" more clearly and aggressively than you are doing.

3. One trick for that, which I have used, is OOC information like a very quick, very clear, narration like a movie-cut that shows the PCs what is happening when they are not there. I don't usually do this to impart information that is *explosive* (which would lead to a temptation to make dramatic in-character actions for no in-game reason) but rather *expository* which simply gives them information that a character might "know on a hunch" or through "intuition" (such as that the blood drops don't indicate that the person is 'hunting them.')

Another trick for political situations is the Dramatic Persons document--give the players a printed sheet with the names of important people and the one-line descriptions of who they are and what they (generally) want. This sheet may be read to assume that the PCs have more data (due to 'really being in the world and talking to people off scene, between games, etc.) than the players would have (or it can just be OOC knowledge). Either way, the sheet provides a *clear* reference about the political structure of the world and a set of "buttons to push" (I can see that if I go talk to character-X, I'll get some information about situation-Y so when that becomes relevant, I know what to do).

-Marco