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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Eric J. on January 26, 2003, 02:07:55 PM



Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 26, 2003, 02:07:55 PM
I've been RPing with my group for a while, and made few Forge posts because of several reasons.

1. I get similar responses each time.

2. My players get mad (one or two of them, whether they read my posts or not).

3. The effect comes to the same thing.

That being said, I can begin my post with a sort of recap on what we've done recently.

Charly GMed a D&D oneshot. Cody has started a new Mechwarrior game.  I've tried 8-bit theater session, and relised that the players aren't to a point where they (can?) play a freeform game and enjoy it.  I started a Star Wars D20 campaign.  That is where it hit me.  It hit me very hard, and it hurt very much.

My players enjoy dissfunctional play more than functional play.  Now, the immediate response would be, "That doesn't work Eric.  The definition of function is to be 'Capable of performing; operative'.  It is of greatest likelleyhood that your 'functional play' isn't that."  Well, yes and no.  I will go backwards.  Here's how SW started...

We went over to Jesse's house.  My players were Anthony, Charly, Avery and Jesse.  I decided to go a "sim./gamist stance" and told each person to create their ideal character for the class that they decided to choose.  "Background isn't important.  However, description is." My idea was to protaginize the characters and create a play style that was similar to what I used to run in the older days of Star Wars, when I was still learning to gamemaster.

This was a HUGE mistake.  I got, once again, characters without personality or other descrioption.  I'm sure that my players will respond with objection, but I will disagree.  It took 3 and a half hours to create characters, and by that time it was 9:30.  I started a little bit and decided to try an experiment.  I would shoot for disfunctional play, gming like an idiot.  Jesse was a human-scout.  I decided to put him in an unemployment line since he was complaining without rest about how little money he had started out with (500c out of a 3000c maximum).  The disfunctional element included making the situations extremelley easy and making stupid jokes (that I didn't find funny) at every chance. The players seemed to really enjoy it.  It was downhill from there.  It wasn't 'bad' but it did suffer from my players' conistant groaning that 'we didn't really get anywhere.  Avery was entirelley passive in his encounter refusing to do anything.  I had a hard time after that, but saved the situation by pulling the rest of the session out of Cowboy Beebop, which may prove to be a good or bad thing.  

Anyway(I know that it is a little late for one of these)- Is my theory plausible, or a scapegoat justification for my inability to gamemaster?  These are just some of my questions that I've been asking myself.  Any questions you could ask me would be appreciated.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Aragorn on January 26, 2003, 05:16:09 PM
Eric the time to create the characters is not a fair thing to say. Let me simply remind you of one, well "small" matter, WE ONLY HAVE ONE BOOK TO MAKE THE CHARACTERS WITH! I really don't want to lay the blame on anyone, but if we had to lay it on someone, lay it on Charlie. Let me remind you yet again that Charlie had the book for the majority of the time because he was always doing something else at the same time, its a delay factor. Shit happens eric, you can't just lay the blame on the people that are playing in your RPG's, you can't just think of something you want us to do and expect us to do it. No one thinks alike, we can't read your mind and you can't read ours, we are going to do something your not going to expect, thats what is so much fun about RPG's in my opinion.

Now for my other, umm shall i say "complaint?" With my character I tried what i could think to do, but everytime i thought of something you said i couldn't do that. My transport is being surrounded by 3 fighters, i can't hack into their computers because when i try to do something that is possible, you say i can't. Eric with a computer use of +12 and disable device of +9, i can do a lot of things that normally you couldn't do, did you perhaps forget that i was a Slicer??? o and don't forget about my 16 intellegence. And when the 2 guards came on my ship, of course im not going to do anything, they have 2 blasters, and what do i have? Gee let my think 4 knives! Oh i can kill one, ONE. Then there is a blast followed by another blast and gues who just died?? ME!


Title: All Arguments Aside
Post by: Le Joueur on January 26, 2003, 06:17:44 PM
Hey Eric?

This might be a little forward, but I don't think that your players have a "dissfunctional" [sic] style of play.  It sounds like their preferred manner of play works just fine for them.  What sounds dysfunctional is that it sound achingly 'not fun' for you as a gamemaster.  Then the dysfunction comes from who is playing with whom, not how anyone plays.

When it comes right down to it, 'functional play' is simple; it's fun.  That's all there is to it.  If one person - such as the gamemaster - isn't enjoying themselves, well...it doesn't happen to be anyone's fault.  It just isn't.  It's like trying to play chess at a checkers convention.  Neither chess nor checkers is dysfunctional; nor are the people who play them, but pit a checkers player against a chess player and I bet somebody won't be having fun.

All knee-jerk reactions aside, can we skip 'what was played' and 'who had the books' type of issues?  Did anyone have fun?  Did anyone not?  Was the problem because the people who had fun approached and practiced play in a fashion that did nothing to inspire fun in those who didn't have any?  I think that's the central issue by the sound of it.

There doesn't seem to be anything inherently 'wrong' with how you gamemaster.  It just doesn't suit.  Let me delve into what you've given us on the face of it.  You "decided to go a 'sim./gamist stance.'"  (First of all, they're called modes if anything, stance is different, and second, one rarely makes the conscious decision to 'go a certain way;' the modes are about what already happened in terms of looking for each player's preference.)  "Description is important" and "to protagonize the characters" speaks very heavily of a gamemastering approach concerned with having the characters drive the story.

"The players seemed to really enjoy it" and "without personality or other description" sounds like players who go for the 'rollercoaster ride' type of play; the game doesn't force them to make any difficult decisions ("extremelley easy" [sic]) like one expects from a protagonist and it is just a wild ride (the reason they groan "we didn't really get anywhere" is because they expect you to take them for a ride).

This is a common recipe for dysfunction; the problem is it is neither side's fault.  You have a gamemaster who wants the players to 'drive' and you have players who expect the gamemaster to 'drive.'  Is it any surprise that 'the car don't go nowhere;' everybody is in the back seat.  The problem isn't your gamemastering, it just sounds like you don't gamemaster their kind of game very happily.  (The big hint for me was the lack of "personality or other description;" that's a hallmark for people who basically play themselves as a form of escape.  Think of it as one step better than watching television; it gives the feeling that 'you are there' that television cannot.)

I see two basic problems; solve either and you may be able to make it work.  The first is 'what is fun for one, isn't for the other;' this works both ways.  You said the players can't "play freeform and enjoy it" and you don't seem happy 'operating the rollercoaster.'  Finding a compromise is one solution.  The other problem is probably going to be something like 'I can't find anyone else to game with.'  This is a common problem as gaming isn't as popular as we'd like.  This kind of conflict will either lead to always having one side 'not enjoying it' or a separation; sometimes there are people who get such different things out of gaming that you simply can't have fun gaming with them.  So quit, you're going to be miserable either way; nobody is 'making you game.'

The most important thing to take away from my advice is that there is no one 'right way' to game.  You can't be gaming dysfunctionally if you enjoy it.  It wasn't dysfunctional for them, just you; now that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong either, just that you are doing it wrong for them.  Accept that it really is possible for you both to have your own ways of having fun gaming (neither being separately dysfunctional) that just don't mix.  That's all.

Fang Langford

p. s. Sorry I hit "submit" half way through and then cross-posted with the first return salvo.

Eric, if you don't want to talk about issues involved with the specifics, then don't.  Try to 'get the last word in' is how your thread "degrade."  You don't like his response to the time issue = ignore it.  Furthermore, drop the "I want a player to improve" attitude; they aren't there to entertain you; gaming isn't only your way.  This is a group, not a dictatorship; if you don't like the way somebody plays and it gets a 'pass' from the group then it's your standards that are out of whack.  Just because your the gamemaster doesn't mean that you get to tell everyone what to do (especially if you avoid the 'rollercoaster operator' mode).


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 26, 2003, 06:41:17 PM
I adress the first paragraph.  Let's look at what it's focused on:

Quote
This was a HUGE mistake. I got, once again, characters without personality or other descrioption. I'm sure that my players will respond with objection, but I will disagree. It took 3 and a half hours to create characters, and by that time it was 9:30.


This is blaming no one.  Every one took about equal time, except Anthony, due to his experience with the sytem.  My purpose in stating this was to give an example on how the system hurt play and showing that one of my expectations was not met (Starting by 8:30).  

Anyway I'll now adress your second paragraph which is a response from:

Quote
Avery was entirelley passive in his encounter refusing to do anything.


Now this may be a little subjective, but you really didn't try.  For example, you shut down your ship on demand, and then let them take you into custody.  This is an example of being passive, because you didn't object to others' demands.  I also would say that you didn't do anything, because you didn't really talk much during the encounter or try any creative actions and then follow up on them (hiding on the corner of the ceiling and refusing to suprise the guards).

I really don't want this thread to degrade like all of the others.  Furthermore, I think that you missed the point entirelley.  If I want a player to improve their actions or attitude I'll talk with them directly.  I am adressing the theory that my group enjoys disfunctional play more than functional.  Beyond that, you can talk to me directly.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on January 26, 2003, 07:08:16 PM
Well, Eric, I'm going to be honest. You are not going to like it.

I will say that it sounds like you are a fairly inexperienced GM, regardless of how long you have been GMing. This is not a crime in itself. However, you seem to have picked up some Forge terms and are using them to point your finger at your players, as in "Here's what those chuckleheads are doing wrong." Unfortunately, you seem to have a less-than-perfect if not dead wrong impression of what the terms mean. Your players don't prefer "dysfunctional" play. To be frank, I have no idea what they prefer your presentation is trying to skew things so much.

I don't know what to tell you at this point. I don't think there any bit of advice that can be given to help you with these woes at this point because after several such threads, similar "problems" keep coming up. This tells me that behavior modification on both you and your friends' part just isn't happening. At this point, and I think we were at this point three threads ago, it's like "What do you want us to do about it?"

To answer your question, I think you'r just a little inexperienced, like I had said, but this is not a problem if you learn from it, chalk it up to experience and move on. Instead, it seems to me like you're more interested in laying blame. Most of your post here was laying the blame on your players, but with the final question, you abruptly shift focus and ask if the balme lies on yourself. I would say stop looking to fix the blame but fix the problem instead and get back to having fun roleplaying.

I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 26, 2003, 08:26:23 PM
This is going to be a hard post.  I seemed to have cross posted with Le Joueur.

The first thing that I would like to say is that the last thing that I would like to do is to place blame on any party, including myself.  I made my posts hoping to be past that, and make this one with that same thought.

First a response to Fang's: Rollercoaster seems to be a much better term than dysfunctional for what I'm describing.  However, I used the term dysfunctional because it seemed to best describe the light, style that they wanted (encouraging out of game commentry that has no function; comic situations; etc.)  To that matter of GNS.  I said stance, which means something different when regarding Ron's essay.  I should have been more aware of what stance meant here at the forge.  What I meant would be better described as mode, which you picked up on.

You've given me much to think about. BTW-I'm looking forward to your post, Anthony.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Roy on January 26, 2003, 11:04:49 PM
I've got to agree with both Fang and Jack on this, Eric.

Quote from: Eric J.

I've been RPing with my group for a while, and made few Forge posts because of several reasons.

1. I get similar responses each time. ....


Could it be that the same problems keep coming up over and over again and we've been trying our best to help you?  Why should we continue to waste our time by giving advice and guidance that is ignored?

I offered to GM an online game for you and your group so we could try to confront the issues within your group, but you never took me up on it.  You won't find many people willing to make an offer like that, Eric.  

You come here and ask for help, but when it's offered you don't take it.  Why?  I think the answer to this question is at the core of your problems.  

As my wife would say, "it's time to put up or shut up."  The gauntlet has been thrown.  Will you take up the challenge?

Roy


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Balbinus on January 27, 2003, 03:27:43 AM
Eric,

Did you see my comments on the 8-bit thread?

Anyway, on the basis of what you describe here and on other threads I don't think your players are remotely disfunctional, I think they like getting together and having some fun at a gaming session.  Is that so bad?

I read with great interest Cody's thread describing his mechwarrior game.  My impression was that it consisted of some big-ass fights linked with some humorous character interplay during character downtime.  So, the PCs kick ass then everyone RPs the PCs hanging out and chewing the fat until that gets dull, then they kick some ass again.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding it.  My point anyway is that it sounds fine.  It sounds to be honest like most action movies and I can see why people would find it fun.  What's not to like?

Moving back to your post, here's the problem.  On the posts of yours I read you often seem to be stopping the players from doing stuff.  Let them do stuff and then run with it.  Let Aragorn hack the fighters' computers and while there he succeeds but maybe someone else notices the hacking later.  Don't say no, say yes but, then add in an interesting complication.

Let go of control a bit more.  Let the PCs do stuff, let their characters be important.  I'm not remotely saying that you can't gm incidentally, but I think you may be overGMing - taking too much control of what happens in play.  Forget all the jargon you find here, run a rip roaring Star Wars game and remember at all times that the PCs are the heroes and the whole point is for them to do cool stuff.  That's what heroes do.  If Luke Skywalker had had a hacker companion could that hacker have got into the fighters' computers?  Of course they could, so should the PC - unless you have something really cool waiting to happen if they fail.

Then, while they're doing the cool stuff you can slip in more complex stuff and it will work fine as it will be part of a larger game (though I'd avoid moral issues in a SW game personally, they don't come up in the movies much).


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Balbinus on January 27, 2003, 03:36:12 AM
How did Charly's oneshot go?  I don't mean who did what and who played what, I mean what was the style of play and was it a success on the night?

Now, sometimes it sucks on the night because people are tired or whatever and so it goes, so if that's the case there's probably not much to be learned.  But if Charly did a freewheeling dungeonbash and everyone loved it that's interesting.  If Charly did a tale of adventurers fighting through insuperable odds and people got bored by that concept that's interesting too.

So, lets have some details of Charly's game and how that went.  That might make it clearer what your group are into.

Oh, if Charly's reading this I'd be interested on his thoughts on what he did right and what wrong as well.

Final point, I notice Eric you mention running SW like when you were learning to GM.  I've been GMing for over 20 years and I still regularly come across stuff which helps me do it better, or different.  You don't stop learning and sometimes all that learning is no damn use if inspiration just isn't there on the night.  So it goes sometimes.  Maybe this just wasn't a successful night.  It is possible to overanalyse these things.

[Edit:  Apologies if anything sounds brusque by the way.  I'm quite tired and it may affect my tone more than I realise.  If anything sounds aggressive feel free to call me on it.]


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Balbinus on January 27, 2003, 03:50:54 AM
Found it!

Here's a link to an IMO excellent article about running Star Wars games and what makes them Star Wars:

http://ptgptb.org/0022/theforce.html

I recommend every word and intend to apply it next time I run anything similar.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: hyphz on January 27, 2003, 05:00:25 AM
Quote from: Eric J.
This is going to be a hard post.  I seemed to have cross posted with Le Joueur.

The first thing that I would like to say is that the last thing that I would like to do is to place blame on any party, including myself.  I made my posts hoping to be past that, and make this one with that same thought.


Well, let's put it this way:  if (for whatever reason) you're not enjoying your gaming at the moment, then somebody is going to have to change.  Now, yes, your players can't be "blamed" for playing the way they enjoy and you can't be "blamed" for having a particular opinion of their style.  But don't assume that the fact there is no blame means that there is no responsibility to change.

And making a statement like "the problem is, my players enjoy dysfunctional play" sounds awfully like blame to me.

Quote from: Eric J.

First a response to Fang's: Rollercoaster seems to be a much better term than dysfunctional for what I'm describing.  However, I used the term dysfunctional because it seemed to best describe the light, style that they wanted (encouraging out of game commentry that has no function; comic situations; etc.)  


Dysfunctional means "opposing its own intended function".  The intended function of a game is for folks to enjoy themselves - and those folks get to choose for themselves the kind of stuff they enjoy.  If your players enjoyed the game, it clearly wasn't dysfunctional from their point of view, and so it's wrong to say they enjoy dysfunctional play.  

I agree a lot with what some others are saying here, because I've been through similar things as well.  I'm not a particularly experienced GM (I don't know if you are or not), and I also was intriuged by GNS and other properties discussed on the Forge, and started taking them really seriously and things like that.  That was until one day I woke up and realised that all I'd actually achieved was a) creating a huge number of evermore sophisticated excuses for not playing at all or for not enjoying the game, b) that gaming must be really intense and serious, and c) convinced myself that gaming done 'right' was some sort of revolutionary, transcendental creative experience, and that therefore I 1) absolutely had to experience it, 2) wasn't 'worthy' of joining a new group who were doing it because I "lacked the experience and ability".  (In doing what?  Uhhh, I don't know, whatever stuff you do when you're gaming well, right?  Uh-oh, if I don't know what it is I obviously can't do it yet, darn..)

You sound like you're having a similar thing with a) and b).  I find it very, very hard to put into words the insight I had which snapped me out of this perception, but it was something to do with seeing some play logs and some RL actual play with a different group, and also reading Elfs and octaNe and knowing who wrote them (which should certainly disabuse anyone of the notion that comic situations are dysfunctional or that the Forge's discussions imply that gaming must be a heavy and serious matter).  The Forge's techniques should IMHO be applied where they will make games lighter, easier and more fun than they were before.  They should not be used to make games heavier, harder and more serious.  And they should likewise not be used to try and 'sweeten the pill' of making play more serious in a group that doesn't enjoy that style.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Valamir on January 27, 2003, 05:23:53 AM
I'm going to take a slightly different approach.  Not because I don't believe the above is spot on, I think it is (and that I can't offer anything further in that line), but rather I think a more specific example is in order.

I've obviously never gamed with you Eric, but your posts seem to all relate to a certain style of GMing that your players aren't interested in.

To take examples from the above:  a player's ship was surrounded by the enemy, the player wished to hack the enemy ships as a way of escape. You said no.  The player's ship was boarded and men with guns ordered the players surrender, being out gunned the player complied and you label this as passive and do nothing.

Let me tell you what I see as having happened in this game.  You as GM had a certain collection of "cool scenes" in your head that you wanted to see played out.  You as GM thought it would be fun and entertaining to have a situation where the player was captured by enemys boarding his ship and then had to fast talk or fight his way out (ala Han Solo on the Death Star).  Your player found an alternative way to deal with the situation, one that would not have lead to your preconcieved "cool scene" so you you forbade it.  You then ramroded the situation to set up the scene you wanted and were disappointed that the player didn't jump through the hoops you set for them.

This is not good.  This is a mistake.   Unless you are playing with players who enjoy having you play their characters for them this is not going to work.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on January 27, 2003, 09:21:20 AM
Quote from: Valamir
Let me tell you what I see as having happened in this game.  You as GM had a certain collection of "cool scenes" in your head that you wanted to see played out.  You as GM thought it would be fun and entertaining to have a situation where the player was captured by enemys boarding his ship and then had to fast talk or fight his way out (ala Han Solo on the Death Star).  Your player found an alternative way to deal with the situation, one that would not have lead to your preconcieved "cool scene" so you you forbade it.  You then ramroded the situation to set up the scene you wanted and were disappointed that the player didn't jump through the hoops you set for them.

This is not good.  This is a mistake.   Unless you are playing with players who enjoy having you play their characters for them this is not going to work.

I'm quoting this bit because it bears repeating.


Title: Not good, but an honest mistake
Post by: stingray20166 on January 27, 2003, 10:50:24 AM
OK, I agree this situation could have been handled better.  But I read it as more of an honest mistake.  It's not easy when your players come up with something you haven't thought of.  And as a beginning GM there were times when I did something similar -- not because I was trying purposefully to ramrod the action but because I was scared of diving off into something I hadn't prepared for.  

Once I learned to relax and love the bomb I was fine. :)

I think you need to trust yourself that you can handle whatever your players throw at you.  Once you handle it a few times you'll find that you enjoy what they come up with.  Don't forget that you are only telling half the story (or less!) -- the players are doing the other half.

Regarding the character creation -- it sounds like your night started off badly and that might have colored the rest of the actual playing.  If you want the game to start at 8:30 be draconian -- "I'm picking up the character sheets at 8:30" or be Hitchcockian -- 8:30 chimes: "Three imperial guards burst into the room with weapons drawn.  What do you do?  Fill in your character sheets later, there's a guy with a gun pointed at you -- what are you going to do?"

By the way, Balbinus, thanks for the posting of http://ptgptb.org/0022/theforce.html
Great aritcle.


Title: Not good, but an honest mistake
Post by: stingray20166 on January 27, 2003, 11:11:58 AM
OK, I agree this situation could have been handled better.  But I read it as more of an honest mistake.  It's not easy when your players come up with something you haven't thought of.  And as a beginning GM there were times when I did something similar -- not because I was trying purposefully to ramrod the action but because I was scared of diving off into something I hadn't prepared for.  

Once I learned to relax and love the bomb I was fine. :)

I think you need to trust yourself that you can handle whatever your players throw at you.  Once you handle it a few times you'll find that you enjoy what they come up with.  Don't forget that you are only telling half the story (or less!) -- the players are doing the other half.

Regarding the character creation -- it sounds like your night started off badly and that might have colored the rest of the actual playing.  If you want the game to start at 8:30 be draconian -- "I'm picking up the character sheets at 8:30" or be Hitchcockian -- 8:30 chimes: "Three imperial guards burst into the room with weapons drawn.  What do you do?  Fill in your character sheets later, there's a guy with a gun pointed at you -- what are you going to do?"

By the way, Balbinus, thanks for the posting of http://ptgptb.org/0022/theforce.html
Great aritcle.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Jason Lee on January 27, 2003, 11:16:10 AM
The whole "hack the ship" railroading example has already been way covered...so, I'd just like to say I agree and leave it at that.

In my experiences with the "rollercoaster ride" style of play the fun for the players tends to lie with making decisions and seeing those decisions have an outcome on the chain of events in the game.  This sounds like any roleplaying, but the difference is that having the responsibility of authorship over setting/background/narration detracts from "ooo...I've got an idea...I do this...tell me what happens?"  If you remove any of their decision making ability you'll get cranky players who won't do anything because they think you won't let them.  I happen to think this style of play is very function, in addition to being very common.  I also think the style has a lot of similarities to the way video games function.

When you ask your player "What do you want to happen?", and he says "I dunno, what do you think should happen", throw him a bone and tell him what starts to happen.  From there he'll probably start saying things like "Oh, then I do this"...voila! you're playing.  On the flip side if you actually tell him what happens he'll get frustrated and go back to doing nothing...sometimes people don't say what they mean.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 27, 2003, 02:52:41 PM
I'm sorry, but I don't understand.

Quote
To take examples from the above: a player's ship was surrounded by the enemy, the player wished to hack the enemy ships as a way of escape. You said no. The player's ship was boarded and men with guns ordered the players surrender, being out gunned the player complied and you label this as passive and do nothing.

Let me tell you what I see as having happened in this game. You as GM had a certain collection of "cool scenes" in your head that you wanted to see played out. You as GM thought it would be fun and entertaining to have a situation where the player was captured by enemys boarding his ship and then had to fast talk or fight his way out (ala Han Solo on the Death Star). Your player found an alternative way to deal with the situation, one that would not have lead to your preconcieved "cool scene" so you you forbade it. You then ramroded the situation to set up the scene you wanted and were disappointed that the player didn't jump through the hoops you set for them.


Actually, he didn't try to hack the enemy ships.  He turned off all power, and let them board it.  I then felt that it would be interesting to see how he would do in a boarding situation.  I feel that I left a number of options:

Option A: Find a way to hack the ships.  (He was a tech after all)  The problem with this is that you need a way to interact with their computer systems.  No methods were tried.

Option B: Combat the enemy ships/escape or something.  He switched off all power.

Option C: Foil the boarding party/capture them or their ship or something.

My fear is that he didn't try anything because I'm too hard as a GM.  I kinda have a perfectionist nature that makes a lot of things impossible, because they really couldn't happen in the Star Wars universe.  (Hacking enemy ships by sending commands through the com. etc.)

Avery is also inexperienced, and I should have teamed him up with some more experienced players near the beginning.  The fault was mine.


As for the condition regarding these threads and the Forge: I feel that they have contributed to the Forge, as they've been refferenced and have benefitted my players and myself.  I have seen new ground covered in nearly each new threads and will continue to spawn them until they aren't helpful or are given the suggestion to stop by a forum administrator.  I'm not implying that I've been discouraged, but I feel that explaining my mindset for them will help.

BTW-I'll ask Charly to write up his session on a seperate thread.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: hyphz on January 27, 2003, 03:34:59 PM
Quote from: Eric J.
I'm sorry, but I don't understand.

Actually, he didn't try to hack the enemy ships.  He turned off all power, and let them board it.  


He said that he DID try to hack the ships, so if you think he didn't, there's some communication problem here.

Quote

Option A: Find a way to hack the ships.  (He was a tech after all)  The problem with this is that you need a way to interact with their computer systems.  No methods were tried.


I suspect you had an 'abstraction fault' here: in other words, he may have thought that finding out how to connect to the enemy ships' computers would be part of the hacking test/roll.  Did you have some plan for how they might be able to get access, some specified way in which the ships' security worked?  Or did you want to play that any reasonable plan, well expressed, would succeed - but saying nothing would not?

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Option B: Combat the enemy ships/escape or something.  He switched off all power.


Was he trying to fool them into thinking that the ship was already disabled?

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My fear is that he didn't try anything because I'm too hard as a GM.  I kinda have a perfectionist nature that makes a lot of things impossible, because they really couldn't happen in the Star Wars universe.  (Hacking enemy ships by sending commands through the com. etc.)


Imagine that one of the main heroes in a Star Wars movie was a techie and their ship got surrounded by the enemy.  Would they be able to hack the enemy ships?


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 27, 2003, 04:17:40 PM
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He said that he DID try to hack the ships, so if you think he didn't, there's some communication problem here.


He asked questions on how to do it.  He speculated on how to do it.  However, he never actually rolled for the attempt.

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I suspect you had an 'abstraction fault' here: in other words, he may have thought that finding out how to connect to the enemy ships' computers would be part of the hacking test/roll. Did you have some plan for how they might be able to get access, some specified way in which the ships' security worked? Or did you want to play that any reasonable plan, well expressed, would succeed - but saying nothing would not?


Yes.  He would have to have created a link, which would have needed the any participant's consent.  Example: I want to update your ship with all of the Nav. coordinates that I used to make it this far.  I don't think that you would have any problem with that, considering that you have 3x as much firepower as I do.  (Bluff check) Thinks to himself: Okay.  I'm in.  Let's take control of the ship and use it do destroy the others...  He is used to a style of play where you can just say: I hack into their systems and take control of their ships (traditional D&D).  Roll a D20.  I simply thought that making this more difficult, would

A) make the situation more interesting.

B) Give the player a better sense of pride.

C) Be more true to the Star Wars universe (because it is based on an example from one of the novels)

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Was he trying to fool them into thinking that the ship was already disabled?


He might have been.  I don't know.  If he did, he didn't follow up on it.

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Imagine that one of the main heroes in a Star Wars movie was a techie and their ship got surrounded by the enemy. Would they be able to hack the enemy ships?


My instinct tells me no.  Then again, my instinct tells me that it would be an exception for a techie to appear as a protagonist.  I felt that the situation would have allowed for it, though, and it would be an interesting development to the character.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Aragorn on January 27, 2003, 04:52:36 PM
I'm back to reply yet again

Eric wrote
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Actually, he didn't try to hack the enemy ships. He turned off all power, and let them board it.


This is entirely NOT true. I tried several different things to hack into their ships and disable. Everytime i said i was going to do something, you said that its not possible. so when u said
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He asked questions on how to do it. He speculated on how to do it. However, he never actually rolled for the attempt.
i could never actually roll to attempt it because you wouldn't let me. You said that i needed to think or something different. I thought and tried two things:

A). When they were CONNECTED to us with their communications link, it is perfectly possible to get into their computers through that, its hard but its still very possible. May i remind you again of my computer uses of +12 and my disable device of +9.

B). Try to send the fighters information about the ship that they may need during the boarding and during or with the file hack into their ships and disabling them to the point where they cannot fight, or even better yet, set of their self-distruct system on their fighters and make it so that they cannot shut it off.

Then what do you say in return to me saying this? Nope im sorry but you can't do that. So then i tried something else, i went into the cargo hold and used my grappling hook thingy to fly up onto the ceiling in some shadows and when the guards come into get the captain, i go into their ship and disable the fighters from there. Grab a gun walk back to my shit and kill the guards. Then what do ya know, i servive and so does the captain (who is now dead) and i escape to the planet and another one of your problems is solved. That problem is getting the party together.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 27, 2003, 05:48:53 PM
Avery, while you make some valid arguments, I think that you're missing the point.

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This is entirely NOT true. I tried several different things to hack into their ships and disable. Everytime i said i was going to do something, you said that its not possible. so when u said Quote:

He asked questions on how to do it. He speculated on how to do it. However, he never actually rolled for the attempt.

i could never actually roll to attempt it because you wouldn't let me. You said that i needed to think or something different.


This supports the theory that I restricted you too much.  Anthony supports the theory that I didn't give you enough hints as to what you were supposed to do.  I should have given you more direct instructions as to how to set up the link, but I stand by my decision that you could not have dissabled their ships by means of the com. system.

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Try to send the fighters information about the ship that they may need during the boarding and during or with the file hack into their ships and disabling them to the point where they cannot fight, or even better yet, set of their self-distruct system on their fighters and make it so that they cannot shut it off.


I'm sorry Avery, but you did not say this.  You spent minutes thinking as to what do to and I have no doubt that your plan was this detailed.

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B). Try to send the fighters information about the ship that they may need during the boarding and during or with the file hack into their ships and disabling them to the point where they cannot fight, or even better yet, set of their self-distruct system on their fighters and make it so that they cannot shut it off.

Then what do you say in return to me saying this? Nope im sorry but you can't do that. So then i tried something else, i went into the cargo hold and used my grappling hook thingy to fly up onto the ceiling in some shadows and when the guards come into get the captain, i go into their ship and disable the fighters from there. Grab a gun walk back to my shit and kill the guards. Then what do ya know, i servive and so does the captain (who is now dead) and i escape to the planet and another one of your problems is solved. That problem is getting the party together.


While that could have worked, I really saw no initiative to get it to do that.  You hid on the ceiling which I found creative.  However, one of the guards noticed you eventually, and shot you.  It was a total of 8 rounds in which you made no attempted actions.

I am not trying to blame you with this.  I am simply trying to explain to you how I percieved the situation.  From yours and other comments, I think that I understand better and can adapt to make the sessions play better in the future.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Valamir on January 27, 2003, 07:10:30 PM
Quote from: Eric J.

I am not trying to blame you with this.  I am simply trying to explain to you how I percieved the situation.  From yours and other comments, I think that I understand better and can adapt to make the sessions play better in the future.


Then this thread is at least, in part, a success and can probably end here.  Hopefully your next one will contain a little more triumph and a little less woe as a result.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Daredevil on January 28, 2003, 01:19:31 AM
To Eric and the group,

It seems to me that there's one thing that constantly pops up in posts concerning your group and especially in the posts you make to each other. Your 'playing environment is very competetive and I don't only mean in the fashion of "let's get more XP", but in that you're constantly trying to prove each other wrong (and you also often refer to which one of you is more experienced than the other). You spend too much time arguing. Role-playing at its best is a very cooperative effort and especially so when trying the more free-form approach. You need to work for each other, not against.

That said, keep at it. You don't necessaruly have to get everything "right" first time, either. Just remember that it's ultimately about having fun. :)


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: hyphz on January 28, 2003, 03:50:41 AM
I'm posting here with a bit of caution as I don't think that the two of you discussing what did/didn't happen in your game on the forum is a Good Thing.  If you want to talk it over in e-mail and post if something useful to others as well comes out of it, then alright..

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Yes.  He would have to have created a link, which would have needed the any participant's consent.  Example: I want to update your ship with all of the Nav. coordinates that I used to make it this far.  I don't think that you would have any problem with that, considering that you have 3x as much firepower as I do.  (Bluff check) Thinks to himself: Okay.  I'm in.  Let's take control of the ship and use it do destroy the others...  He is used to a style of play where you can just say: I hack into their systems and take control of their ships (traditional D&D).  Roll a D20.  I simply thought that making this more difficult, would a) make the situation more interesting, b) Give the player a better sense of pride, c) Be more true to the Star Wars universe (because it is based on an example from one of the novels)


But you do need to understand that there's a good reason that games similar to D&D wrapped all that up into a single D20 roll: because the player may not have the knowledge that the character would have.  Now, if you want more than that D20 roll - and I can well understand that you would - you need to work out how to get around that problem.  I'm going to talk about GNS for a moment, but please accept the disclaimer that I'm not a GNS expert and I'd really like to hear from others who have more experience than me.

If you want to do it in a simulationist way - which you seem to have mentioned here several times - then you'd need to work out the details of how the Empire's computers worked so you could simulate them, and you'd need to give some of that information to the techie's player so that HE could simulate being somebody who knew about hacking.  Or you could do it in the narrativist way, and say that as long as he comes up with a convincing and cool way in which he hacked the ships, he can roll/get a bonus/succeed automatically with no concept of checking whether or not what he said was "correct".  How you'd do it in a gamist manner I can't really say, to be honest, and I'd be interested to know from others here who know more about these models than I do.

What you've done, it seems, is to pick a solution on some basis or other and then ask the player to guess it.  Picking the solution on the basis of a coherent simulation isn't going to work too well if the PC can't take part in that simulation because the character's knowledge isn't being simulated.  The straight dice roll provides that simulation, at the cost of abstraction.  Consistency seems to me to be the single overriding message of GNS theory.

(Oh, and in case you care, a pretty practical way of hacking in that situation wouldn't involve the social engineering you describe - more likely they'd start by sniffing any data that was being sent between the three enemy ships to coordinate their attack, and then trying to copy the security header or just screwing things up by replaying the data.  But I can only come up with that because of my knowledge, and that is about real-world computer security rather than Star Wars computer security.  If you wanted me to come up with something similar about Star Wars computer security, then you'd have to tell me about it first.)

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My instinct tells me no.  Then again, my instinct tells me that it would be an exception for a techie to appear as a protagonist.


Your game has a techie as a protagonist.  Welcome to exceptionville.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Ian Charvill on January 28, 2003, 06:33:04 AM
I've run up against a particular style of GMing - similar to the type you seem to be describing - which I have certain issues.  Which amounts to the following may have less to do with your group, than with groups I've gamed with in the past.

I think with certain strong genres the GM feels the need to protect the genre from the players.  This tends to happen either in games with prominent metaplots or, as in this case, with well known source material.

It feels to me like a trust issue: the GM - implicitly or explicitly - doesn't trust the players not to mess the game up.

To ask a concrete question: what bad things do you think would have resulted from your allowing the character to hack over the com?


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 28, 2003, 08:05:47 AM
Hi Eric,

Some very important things have been presented for you in this thread so far. I strongly recommend reading them and not concerning yourself with dialogue with your fellow players, on this thread. Really - see what Joachim (Daredevil), Ralph (Valamir), and everyone else are saying. It's a big deal.

Best,
Ron


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 28, 2003, 01:53:17 PM
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To ask a concrete question: what bad things do you think would have resulted from your allowing the character to hack over the com?


My biggest problem with this is that it doesn't work in any mode of GNS really with respect to Star Wars.

Gamist: If the character could do that, he could take out Star Destroyers with a dice roll.

Sim.: It doesn't reflect how computer systems work or how they do in Star Wars.

Nar.: Star Wars is about blasting your way or talking your way out of situations.  Look at TRotJ.  Han tries to hotwire his way into the installation.  Does he succeed? No.  That wouldn't be interesting.  He eventually tricks them into coming out of the instalation.

As for our game: Most of my sessions are good, and this wasn't an exception.  Even Avery says he liked it.  However, I am a pessimist and like adressing specific problems with certain styles, and feel that progress is made each time.  Pyron's Woes is a term coined by some one who made refference to one of these threads a while back, and the term stayed with me.

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If you want to do it in a simulationist way - which you seem to have mentioned here several times - then you'd need to work out the details of how the Empire's computers worked so you could simulate them, and you'd need to give some of that information to the techie's player so that HE could simulate being somebody who knew about hacking. Or you could do it in the narrativist way, and say that as long as he comes up with a convincing and cool way in which he hacked the ships, he can roll/get a bonus/succeed automatically with no concept of checking whether or not what he said was "correct". How you'd do it in a gamist manner I can't really say, to be honest, and I'd be interested to know from others here who know more about these models than I do.

What you've done, it seems, is to pick a solution on some basis or other and then ask the player to guess it. Picking the solution on the basis of a coherent simulation isn't going to work too well if the PC can't take part in that simulation because the character's knowledge isn't being simulated. The straight dice roll provides that simulation, at the cost of abstraction. Consistency seems to me to be the single overriding message of GNS theory.


This, I think is very very valid.  The computer system's function was complex, and I should have presented it clearer.

BTW- I think that a part of my last post was cut off.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Mike Holmes on January 28, 2003, 02:55:25 PM
Quote from: Eric J.
Gamist: If the character could do that, he could take out Star Destroyers with a dice roll.
Which would be great Gamist play. Your assumption is still that this has to be hendled in a certain way to be, well, Star Wars. IOW, you can't get past your own preconceptions. This is not Star Wars, it's the Star Wars RPG. Star Wars is a movie. You can't reproduce that. Sorry. Give it up and play the game. You realize that forcing the players to guess the winning plan from what you have already decided it to be is completely Gamist, right?

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Sim.: It doesn't reflect how computer systems work or how they do in Star Wars.
Really? You're an expert on both, I take it? Moreso than your friends? Moreso than say, me? Given that data transmission can occur in any medium (already you can buy computers networked by radio, a technology that's existed since before computers), it seems just as viable a way to hack into something than anything else. And don't ask me how I know.

As far as how computers work in Star Wars, I think there is so little data on this subject that even bringing it up is ridiculous. Basically, everything in Star Wars works just the way Lucas needs it to in order that it be interesting. As such, of course you can hack a computer remotely. As long as one of the protagonists is a techie. Oh, lookee.

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Nar.: Star Wars is about blasting your way or talking your way out of situations.
Hacking's a lot like talking your way out of a situation. In any case, somehow people like William Gibson managed to write whole books revolving around it. If you think that's not thematically appropriate, then your mistake was allowing the hacker character in teh first place. How is he going to be protagonized if he can't hack.

And, hey, if Han Solo can waltz past the Death Star security cordon (or think he can, anyway) with a stolen identity, um, how is that not hacking of a sort? Seems very suitable to the genre to me.

You just can't get the idea that this game you're playing with your "friends" is not "Eric's Game of Star Wars". Every RPG is shared between the players and GM. The GM has a central role, but it's not as sole author of all that's going to happen (or only very rarely, and not with your players, ever). For your players to have fun you have to, at the very least, give them some ability to decide what their own characters are doing. I've walked out on games for play that was less strictured than what you portray here. And the funny thing is that you defend it, "It was funny!", "It's cool!" Yay, lets all sit around and watch Eric tell a story and occasionally roll dice when he tells us to, that'll be fun. Have you even thought to think of how it must seem from their POV? Instead of trying to compete with them to figure out who's right?

Who cares who's right. It's about player satisfaction, and you're not delivering.

What Eric should have done:

Player: I'm going to hack into that Star Destroyer's system using my mad Haxor Skillz.
Eric: Cool, roll for it, but the target's realy high because of the security measures programmed by Vader himself for the Imperial Fleet.
Player: I made the roll!
Eric: Cool, you have managed to get control of the weapons subsystems and have locked them down. The massive Star Destroyer turns in your direction, and the ship's computer reports: Five seconds ot impact.
Player: Damn, they're going to ram us, run for it!

Now Player B gets to roll his cool piloting skill to get away from the impending collision, or whatever the players decide to do about it. No GM set of potential options that the players have to discover. Just creative use of their brains and their character's abilities.


Had a plan that would allow the hacking? I've got news for you, few players (and ceratinly not yours) want the GM to be making their plans for them, or even having to guess what they are from a preprepared list of possible actions ("I left a number of options"). Let them figure it out, and just let it work if the roll goes right. All sorts of crazy silliness works in the movies. I can just see it (Imagine Eric playing just after seeing the first film, episode 4):

Player: OK, I'm going to pilot the Millenium Falcon into the heart of the still incomplete Death Star and attempt to blow up the main reactor.
Eric: No way that would work, you have to fire torpedoes down the ventilator shaft.

Betcha in the last installment coming up that someone hacks a Star Destoryer remotely (leading to a later Apple computer ad for their "Air Port" technology). Anyone want to put money on it?

Mike


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 28, 2003, 03:31:30 PM
First of all - great analysis/advice here, and Eric, my compliments and respect to you for seeking it out.

Quote from: Eric J.
Nar.: Star Wars is about blasting your way or talking your way out of situations. Look at TRotJ. Han tries to hotwire his way into the installation. Does he succeed? No. That wouldn't be interesting. He eventually tricks them into coming out of the instalation


Mike's point that if you feel this way, you shouldn't have allowed a hacker character, is a good one.  If Han had been a hacker instead of a charismatic fast-talking pilot, it's the "trick" that would have failed and the hotwire that would have succeded.  But I also want to point out that your argument here has NOTHING to do with Narativism - you're talking about simulating Star Wars "correctly."  

That's probably a side issue to the main thrust of this discussion, but . . . Narrativism is about prioritizing "Story Now," about having the PC's be the protagonists, and about engaging with a Premise that the players find interesting.  To say you want a Nar approach to Star Wars isn't to say you want a story with the same sort of color as Star Wars - a Nar Star Wars captures the "themes and meanings" of the movie/universe.

(I will set aside comments about the possibly-herculean task of finding coherent "themes and meanings" in Star Wars.  You can come up with some that'll work just fine for a light and fun RPG - coming of age (and other forms of personality change) or whatever.)

Gordon


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: erithromycin on January 28, 2003, 04:48:40 PM
One of the key things to remember about Star Wars is that, when the pressure is on, it's the snap decisions that continue the story. The way Star Wars works is a series of crises intersperesed with brief moments for folks to catch their breath [usually at the end of the film]. Then it's straight back into another firefight, or assassination attempt, or invasion.

I'd argue that, when serving as a GM for Star Wars, your real concern is making sure that there's always more trouble for your players to find themselves in. Let them try and figure their own way out of it - your responsibility there should be having a reasonable grasp of the target numbers, and making sure that the players are aware that there's no fixed solution.

What's most interesting is usually the best way to go. After all, what reasonable group of people would attack a battle station the size of a moon with fighters? A group of people who've been pressured into doing something, not a group who've been pushed into doing that one thing.

Now, don't think for a second that I'm saying you shouldn't make things that'd be hard to do difficult, if not nigh on impossible - overcoming overwhelming odds with a little cunning, ingenuity, and luck, is part of the essence of Star Wars. It strikes me that the plan to hack the fighters was an ingenious thing to do for the character. Difficult, perhaps, but not impossible.

Which brings us to the characters that you have in this game - did you give any guidelines about what kind you had in mind? You seem to have had your heart set on rogues in space [and there's nothing wrong with that - Han Solo is a fantastic character], but if you didn't tell your players that then you've got a problem. Look at it this way - the scenario you envisaged, of a guy using his communication skills under pressure to fool some Imperials works if the communication is verbal, electronic, or, hell, the way he flies his ship.

Don't focus on the details, but on the intent. In other words, don't worry about preserving the setting - worry about preserving the feel.

- drew


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Psycho42 on January 29, 2003, 02:20:58 AM
Hi,

here's my 2 cents...

Quote from: Eric J.

Gamist: If the character could do that, he could take out Star Destroyers with a dice roll.


If the character was good enough to do it, he could take out a Star Destroyer with a dice roll and should be allowed to do it.

Quote

Sim.: It doesn't reflect how computer systems work or how they do in Star Wars.

Sorry, you are wrong. See "New Hope" R2 hacks the computer and helps Luke, Han... get out of the trash compactor. Computer systems in Star Wars can be hacked.

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Nar.: Star Wars is about blasting your way or talking your way out of situations.  Look at TRotJ.  Han tries to hotwire his way into the installation.  Does he succeed? No.  That wouldn't be interesting.  He eventually tricks them into coming out of the instalation.

Wrong again. see my above example with R2. Han didn't talk the trash compactor into opening or blasted his way out...

I think the most important lines in this discussion are:
Quote from: Mike Holmes

Player: OK, I'm going to pilot the Millenium Falcon into the heart of the still incomplete Death Star and attempt to blow up the main reactor.
Eric: No way that would work, you have to fire torpedoes down the ventilator shaft.


Perhaps I should repeat them a few times, but really that's what I think is your problem. You have a story made up in your mind and your players are allowed to act it out for you, but you don't allow them to choose their own way.

sorry if this sounds harsh...

Frank


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Balbinus on January 29, 2003, 03:50:24 AM
Quote from: Eric J.

My biggest problem with this is that it doesn't work in any mode of GNS really with respect to Star Wars.

Gamist: If the character could do that, he could take out Star Destroyers with a dice roll.

Sim.: It doesn't reflect how computer systems work or how they do in Star Wars.

Nar.: Star Wars is about blasting your way or talking your way out of situations.  Look at TRotJ.  Han tries to hotwire his way into the installation.  Does he succeed? No.  That wouldn't be interesting.  He eventually tricks them into coming out of the instalation.

As for our game: Most of my sessions are good, and this wasn't an exception.  Even Avery says he liked it.  However, I am a pessimist and like adressing specific problems with certain styles, and feel that progress is made each time.  Pyron's Woes is a term coined by some one who made refference to one of these threads a while back, and the term stayed with me.


GNS is really not helping you here Eric, it seems to be simply getting in the way.  I strongly suggest you stop using it for the time being.

Leaving that aside, you're points simply don't make sense.

Gamist:  Nonsense.  If I can hack into your home computer does that mean I can hack into the Pentagon?  Levels of difficulty, hacking into the fighters would logically be easier than hacking into the Death Star.  In game terms the DC would be quite different.  Maybe 15 for the fighters and 45 for the Death Star.

Sim:  How computers work in Star Wars?  They work however the GM says they do surely?  Where in Star Wars does it contain detailed schematics of how computers work?  

Nar:  And here we get to the crux of the matter, the same crux as before I note.  Control.  You have a vision of Star Wars which does not involve hacking.  For some reason you allowed a player to create a hacker character, something Mike Holmes rightly queries, you then don't allow that person to use their skills because it conflicts with your vision.

Why bother letting Avery turn up at all?  Why let him play?  If in your vision of Star Wars techies aren't heroes why on Earth did you let someone play a techie?

This is the core issue Eric, I see it in each of your threads.  You're not sharing the game, you're not letting the players create with you.  You're telling a story, not creating one with your players.

This is not a GNS issue.  Leaving aside that I don't think you're using the terms correctly anyway, the problem here is not a mismatch between the preferences of you as GM and the preferences of your players.  The problem is the much simpler one that you are not letting your players play.  Misusing GNS is letting you duck that, you think instead that you are a narrativist while they are all gamists, you don't recognise (although I am far from the only one here to raise the point) that you are to be blunt railroading your players mercilessly in order to get the game you want.

Was there any idea in all honesty Avery could have come up with which would have enabled him to hack the fighters?  Or is it more accurate to say that you would never have allowed it no matter what he said because it didn't fit your vision of the scene?

A last quote, from an earlier post:

Quote from: Eric J.
This supports the theory that I restricted you too much. Anthony supports the theory that I didn't give you enough hints as to what you were supposed to do. I should have given you more direct instructions as to how to set up the link, but I stand by my decision that you could not have dissabled their ships by means of the com. system.


No, you should not have given him more direct instructions.  You never should.  It's his character, not yours.  You should have either let him make the roll or not allowed that character in the first place.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Roy on January 29, 2003, 04:24:44 PM
Eric,

You've got a lot of great feedback in this thread.  The real question is what are you going to do with it?  Have the courage to challenge yourself.    

Roy


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 29, 2003, 06:52:47 PM
Sorry for the lack of responses.  I've had a few problems, homework, a Magic tournament, installing Linux... etc.  My response seemed a bit too hostile when I last attempted to make it, and I really don't see a way to correct it.  Anyway-

Let me try this a different way.  For good gamist play, I feel that it would be inapropriate for the situation.  It would simplify far too many situations.  It would greatly dissbalance the character.  It would conflict with the skill description:

Use this skill to access computer systems and write or midify computer programs, to reprogram droids, and to override or bypass computer-controlled devices.

Furthermore they go into its ability to -

Operate Remote: Many devices-security cameras, communications arrays, door locks, sentry guns, alarms, and so forth- are computer-operated via remote links.  A slicer can access these various systems and either shut them off, or change their operating parameters (to make Corporate Sector cameras identify CSA agents as enemies, for example, or to set an automated Imperial sentry gun to attack stormtroopers).  If the check fails by 10 or more, the security system immediately alerts its administrator that there has been an unauthrorized entry.

Now this can be interpreted several ways.  However, the system designers take all skills into account when creating the system, and modifying a skill spontaniously to that degree could easily balance play.

Quote
Really? You're an expert on both, I take it? Moreso than your friends? Moreso than say, me? Given that data transmission can occur in any medium (already you can buy computers networked by radio, a technology that's existed since before computers), it seems just as viable a way to hack into something than anything else. And don't ask me how I know.

As far as how computers work in Star Wars, I think there is so little data on this subject that even bringing it up is ridiculous. Basically, everything in Star Wars works just the way Lucas needs it to in order that it be interesting. As such, of course you can hack a computer remotely. As long as one of the protagonists is a techie. Oh, lookee.


I would argue that you need more than data transmission when hacking into another system.  It has to be recognised by the computer.  It has to send back signals, and this has to continue.  If he had sent a virus and masked it as data, I would have been fine with it.

There is also the factor of whether it would be an allowed action whithin the Star Wars trilogy.  My reaction is "no," unless it was tied to a creative action.  They do a good job asserting that technology is not often the sollution to problems.  It isn't interesting, or creative unless there is a challenge in the operation.  I created a challenge that makes sense (having to have a network to hack) to make play more interesting.

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Mike's point that if you feel this way, you shouldn't have allowed a hacker character, is a good one. If Han had been a hacker instead of a charismatic fast-talking pilot, it's the "trick" that would have failed and the hotwire that would have succeded.


You raise a very good point.  However, I would have to say that it is very different in a major respect.  The enemy fighters were the only conflict in the scenerio.  The conflict was to destroy the shield generator in that scenerio.  This required not only gaining access to the base, but to also defeat a massive number of troops.  What would have happened if, in episode I, they had jammed the frequency for controling the droids instead of assaulting the battlestation?  It would have been stupid.  It would have required no creative thinking.  Sure they could say that the person who jammed them did it creativelly ("They found a back door into the system!  He created an inverse subspace signal that canceled the other one out!  Wow!") but it wouldn't be visual, and in the case for the RPG, it would be solving a situation that should require player thinking with character thinking.

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Which brings us to the characters that you have in this game - did you give any guidelines about what kind you had in mind? You seem to have had your heart set on rogues in space [and there's nothing wrong with that - Han Solo is a fantastic character], but if you didn't tell your players that then you've got a problem. Look at it this way - the scenario you envisaged, of a guy using his communication skills under pressure to fool some Imperials works if the communication is verbal, electronic, or, hell, the way he flies his ship.


Yeah.  I really should have given them more guidelines.  I told them before the game to envision the perfect character for your class and then do your best to create that character.  I really enjoy getting diverse characters together to form a group.  However, in this case many of my players really didn't make their characters detailed at all (new to setting and game in general for most), and left me kina' hanging.

This is an actual conversation that I had with Avery before the game:

"Me: So, how would you describe your character?"  

Avery:"Umm.  He's a human tech specialist."  

Me: "Yeah, but what does he do?  What are his motivations?"  

Avery "He's a...um...Slicer, right?"

"Yes, but what does he do?"

"I don't know."

"Doesn't he work for an orginization?"

And so on.  I basically had to give him a list of choices for his background.

I'm not trying to criticise him.  He's new to the setting/game.  However, it also shows that we have conflicting goals.

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If the character was good enough to do it, he could take out a Star Destroyer with a dice roll and should be allowed to do it.


Why?

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Sorry, you are wrong. See "New Hope" R2 hacks the computer and helps Luke, Han... get out of the trash compactor. Computer systems in Star Wars can be hacked.


Quote
"Back then we linked the ships together because the Falcon's navicomputer wouldn't work."  He raised his eyebrows and spoke very slowly.  "Listen ... we've still got the Sun Crusher's control codes in here."

Suddenly Han understood.  "Can you do anything with that?  You're not even familiar with the Sun Crusher's systems."

"Don't have much of a choice, do we, buddy?"

"All right," Han said in a needlessly low voice, because the voice pickup was switched off.  "I'll keep him talking-you work to deactivate the Sun Crusher."  

Lando, with a skeptical but determined frown, continued his programming.

-Champions Of The Force

Kevin J. Anderson Copywrite 1994.

Now this strongly implies that control codes are eccential to taking control of other ships.  It also implies that knoledge of a ship's systems is required.  A high roll on a knoledge check might have allowed information like that.  However, he didn't have the "Knoledge: Starships" skill or any that applied.

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Leaving that aside, you're points simply don't make sense.

Gamist: Nonsense. If I can hack into your home computer does that mean I can hack into the Pentagon? Levels of difficulty, hacking into the fighters would logically be easier than hacking into the Death Star. In game terms the DC would be quite different. Maybe 15 for the fighters and 45 for the Death Star.


So I should let him take control of Fighters 90% of the time without the use of force points?

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Sim: How computers work in Star Wars? They work however the GM says they do surely? Where in Star Wars does it contain detailed schematics of how computers work?


Not detailed, but see above example.

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Was there any idea in all honesty Avery could have come up with which would have enabled him to hack the fighters? Or is it more accurate to say that you would never have allowed it no matter what he said because it didn't fit your vision of the scene?


See above in this post and examples from earlier posts.  I'm sure that Anthony could think of a few and post them here.

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No, you should not have given him more direct instructions. You never should. It's his character, not yours. You should have either let him make the roll or not allowed that character in the first place.


Rather than forcing him to solve the problem using more creative tactics?


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 29, 2003, 07:16:35 PM
Hi Eric,

I'm going to address the last quote in your post and your response to it.

The answer is, "Yes."

Without forcing him to do anything.

You wanna play Narrativist? Take it from the guy who invented the term and reminded a whole generation of frustrated role-players that what they wanted was still possible:

He plays lead guitar. You play bass. The solo is his.

Best,
Ron


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 29, 2003, 07:34:45 PM
Well I was asking it Rhetorically =].  However, if a short answer works...

Anyway-  I hope that I didn't lead anyone into a misconception that I'm striving for Narrativist play.  If I did that, I'd be taking a completelley different approach... Using D6 for one...


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: clehrich on January 29, 2003, 08:50:19 PM
The devil's advocacy department in me seems to be filing a lot of briefs lately, and this thread has finally gotten into court.  Er, stop that metaphor before it gets to the children....

First of all, I want to say at the outset that I do agree with most of what's been said here about GM-ing, Narrativism, and generally not dominating what the players do.  But....

I think Eric actually raises a number of interesting points that ought not to be lost in the shuffle, particularly in his last long post.

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For good gamist play, I feel ...

I just want to note that at the outset, Eric wants to set his priorities here --- not in straight narrativism.  But let's mostly set aside GNS, right?

Here's the really important one:
Quote
What would have happened if, in episode I, they had jammed the frequency for controling the droids instead of assaulting the battlestation? It would have been stupid. It would have required no creative thinking. Sure they could say that the person who jammed them did it creativelly ("They found a back door into the system! He created an inverse subspace signal that canceled the other one out! Wow!") but it wouldn't be visual, and in the case for the RPG, it would be solving a situation that should require player thinking with character thinking.

There are a few other hints here and there, but this is the essential one from my point of view.  While I think Eric's proposed alternative is kind of a straw man, the point is that he's hit something essential for his conception of Star Wars, and one I happen to agree with: it must be visual.

Now what does that mean, in an RPG?  Here's where I think things run into a lot of trouble.  For Eric, it's a quite specific vision; I have the impression that he can see the game quite clearly before him, kind of like a hazy film, and that the way he's assessing character actions is by whether this film is good, bad, or not a film at all.  It's not necessarily that he's railroading, because he hasn't seen the next scene yet, as it were; rather, he's playing continuity editor, trying to keep the film visually exciting and consistent.

My problem is that Eric may push too hard for the good side, as it were, and be impatient with the mediocre.  But as for assessing actions in terms of a mental film?  I think that's exactly what one has to do with this sort of game, which simulates (I know, bad word, but I mean exactly that) a film after all.

So what should be done here?  Allow the characters to do whatever they like?  Yes.... but.  Lots of people have pointed out that you can let the characters do whatever they want, then more or less let the universe punish them for acting stupidly.  But if the situation is as Eric describes, will this really help?  What's happening here is a major failure of communication: the other players are not seeing the film reeling back and forth in Eric's head.  Simply shifting from punish first to punish later isn't necessarily going to improve matters.  And I think for Eric (and I have some sympathy here), to say, "scrap the film in your head" is essentially to say, "stop playing Star Wars because you're doing it wrong," which is exactly what none of us should ever be saying to anyone.

I think you need better communication, Eric.  Show the film, to be blunt.  Remember all those dreadful little descriptions in D&D modules and whatnot ("The water drips slowly on the slime of the dank dungeon walls.  The corridor is 10' by 10', and there is a carpet of gray lichen underfoot....")?  Do it.  But better, obviously.  Desribe the film.  Make the other players see the film in your head as it reels along.  If they see the same picture, they may certainly make alterations, but they will not be as likely to choose to do something that can't be filmed, or would be boring to watch.

I don't know, just my view (as it were) of this argument.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Jason Lee on January 29, 2003, 10:18:41 PM
Quote from: clehrich
So what should be done here?  Allow the characters to do whatever they like?  Yes.... but.  Lots of people have pointed out that you can let the characters do whatever they want, then more or less let the universe punish them for acting stupidly.  But if the situation is as Eric describes, will this really help?  What's happening here is a major failure of communication: the other players are not seeing the film reeling back and forth in Eric's head.  Simply shifting from punish first to punish later isn't necessarily going to improve matters.  And I think for Eric (and I have some sympathy here), to say, "scrap the film in your head" is essentially to say, "stop playing Star Wars because you're doing it wrong," which is exactly what none of us should ever be saying to anyone.


This is an excellent point.

I'd just like to add that if the player is actually interested in playing he'll be choosing actions that protagonize the character.  Using hacking as an example (I know this is not actually what happened in the game), the player's intent is to succeed in hacking the ship and gain some sort of victory.  The player did not intend to still be hacking the ship while the enemy burst on board and shot him in the back, even if this is a perfectly reasonable outcome.  If the player picks an action that you know will backfire on him, pause, and suggest a modification to the action or let him know what the consequences are likely to be.  Chances are the character would have a firmer grip on the consequences than the player would anyway.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Balbinus on January 30, 2003, 04:21:18 AM
Quote from: Eric J.
Rather than forcing him to solve the problem using more creative tactics?


Absolutely, the fact you would even consider forcing a player to do anything is a serious problem with the way you're approaching GMing.

Incidentally, and trying to put this as politely as I can, I note that while you quoted huge chunks of my and other people's posts you utterly sidestepped the issues I and they were driving at.  You're not engaging here Eric, you're picking out specific items you can respond to and ignoring the more fundamental points that are being made.

Don't just focus on little bits of posts you can pick at, try and respond to the real points.  About protagonisation, the relationship between GM and player, about GM vision overriding player's wishes, about story being a joint effort not GM imposed.

It feels to me like you want us to agree with you and you want to vent, not like you genuinely wish to understand what is happening with your group.  Whenever anything gets difficult you ignore it, responding instead on minor details of computer specification and further comments on what your players did wrong.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Psycho42 on January 30, 2003, 06:18:42 AM
Quote from: Eric J.
Quote
Sorry, you are wrong. See "New Hope" R2 hacks the computer and helps Luke, Han... get out of the trash compactor. Computer systems in Star Wars can be hacked.


Quote
"Back then we linked the ships together because the Falcon's navicomputer wouldn't work."  He raised his eyebrows and spoke very slowly.  "Listen ... we've still got the Sun Crusher's control codes in here."

Suddenly Han understood.  "Can you do anything with that?  You're not even familiar with the Sun Crusher's systems."

"Don't have much of a choice, do we, buddy?"

"All right," Han said in a needlessly low voice, because the voice pickup was switched off.  "I'll keep him talking-you work to deactivate the Sun Crusher."  

Lando, with a skeptical but determined frown, continued his programming.

-Champions Of The Force

Kevin J. Anderson Copywrite 1994.

Now this strongly implies that control codes are eccential to taking control of other ships.  It also implies that knoledge of a ship's systems is required.  A high roll on a knoledge check might have allowed information like that.  However, he didn't have the "Knoledge: Starships" skill or any that applied.


ok, short summary of the discussion.

Your first excuse: "You can't hack into the computer, because you don't have a link".
you were proven wrong...
2nd ex. "You can't hack into computers in the SW universe..."
you were proven wrong...
3rd ex. "you need controll codes and it's sooo difficult"

to make this one short (because, honestly I don't think that you'll accept the argumentation anyway), what's the difference between access codes and passwords? And you know that password can be broken either be a lucky guess or a brute force attack. Why did you allow a slicer character, if you don't let him hack?

Quote

Incidentally, and trying to put this as politely as I can, I note that while you quoted huge chunks of my and other people's posts you utterly sidestepped the issues I and they were driving at. You're not engaging here Eric, you're picking out specific items you can respond to and ignoring the more fundamental points that are being made.


1000% true.

cheers
Frank


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 30, 2003, 07:31:57 AM
Hello,

I should like everyone to abandon any discussion of hacking, computers, passwords, code, bytes with or without prefixes, internet transmissions, compatibility, software, hardware, or similar.

We're not talking about in-game plausibility; we're talking about social interactions and the imagination. Eric, Chris (clehrich) has provided a very good point that a lot of us were probably missing. Max (balbinus) has also reinforced the point that a lot of us were getting at.

Best,
Ron


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: GreatWolf on January 30, 2003, 08:57:56 AM
Quote from: clehrich
For Eric, it's a quite specific vision; I have the impression that he can see the game quite clearly before him, kind of like a hazy film, and that the way he's assessing character actions is by whether this film is good, bad, or not a film at all.  It's not necessarily that he's railroading, because he hasn't seen the next scene yet, as it were; rather, he's playing continuity editor, trying to keep the film visually exciting and consistent.


I can appreciate this style of play.  Often times, in my head, there is a film running as well, complete with slo-mo, dramatic editing, and even theme music.

In fact, one of my most famous scenes in my old gaming group played out in just this way.  It was a game of Mage, and the scene was an MiB NPC (Jack) being executed by a traitorous subordinate in front of his wife.*  I definitely had a film going in my head for that one, and I even pulled out the theme music for this one.  So, I stood up and described the subordinate's gloating as he pulled out the special bullet that he had been saving for just this moment.  The PCs that were in the scene were wounded or incapacitated.  (One of them was even dead, as I recall.)  So I mimed the traitor putting the bullet into the gun.  In the background, I was playing the "Theme from Harry's Game" by Clannad.

Then Jack turned to his wife, who was being held by one of the traitor's henchmen.

"Look away, dear."

Bang.

The captured PCs were dragged away.  Their surviving companions staggered downstairs to see the taillights of the car driving away from the building into the night.

The point of this exercise is NOT to share a cool gaming moment.  Rather, I want to point out something critical.  I had a film running in my head, but, through my actions, I conveyed that film to my players.  I didn't say, "Then he shot Jack in the head."  I actually said, "Bang."  In my mind, it brought out a close-up image of the gun going off (like the scene at the end of the Matrix where Agent Smith shoots Neo).  It provokes a silent cry of denial in the audience, and I think that it worked.  But it only worked because my players were watching the same movie.  (How do I know this?  I've compared notes with my players, and they've told me that they were seeing a similar scene to my own.)

If clehrich is right and this is what is going on, I'd like to offer you some suggestions:

1)  Communicate the feel of your game clearly.  (Yes I know that this has been said, but it bears repeating.)  Specifically, say that you are wanting to reproduce the visual feel of the movies.  You want swashbuckling, seat-of-the-pants, make-it-up-as-you-go action that would look good on film, if you were actually filming it.

2)  As your players are making decisions, ask them these questions:  "If this were a Star Wars movie, what would you want your character to do?"  and  "If this were a Star Wars movie, what would be the coolest thing to happen right now?"  This gets everyone on the same page.

3)  Reward your players for doing cool things.  This point is critical.  Especially for a cinematic game, bogging down in the details will destroy the game.  Let your players attempt to do absurd things, just like in the Star Wars movies.  Give them bonuses for actions that are cool or dramatic, demonstrating derring-do and gusto, or otherwise epitomize the feel that you are trying to encourage.  This point is so important that I'm going to repeat it.  Reward your players for doing cool things.

4)  Ditch the details.  For this game, they will only get in the way.  IMHO, part of the problem with the Extended Universe of Star Wars is that they are trying to create a consistent world out of a setting that was never intended to be consistent.  So don't worry if attempting a given action is "unrealistic" or "out of character with the setting".  The only actions that are "out of character" for the Star Wars setting are boring ones.

So, for this hacking attempt that everyone has been analyzing to death, you shouldn't have been encouraging your player to think through the steps to hack the starfighters.  Rather, you should have been encouraging him to think up a cool, dramatic, visual, Star Wars-ish way to hack the starfighters.  Security codes?  Datalinks?  A Jedi craves not these things.  A Star Wars hacking attempt (by a human) would involve a frantic slicer furiously typing away at a computer while his buddies desperately try to hold off the bad guys and keep their slicer pal safe.  Think of the hyperdrive repair attempts in The Empire Strikes Back.  No one cares about the mechanics of hyperdrives.  Rather, we care that Solo is trying to escape the Imperial Fleet with one hand and fix his disabled hyperdrive with the other, all the while desperately racking his brain for a better solution.  (It's also the running joke of the movie, but I digress.)

This could even be combined with the several steps that you listed.  Allow for several skill rolls to be made...while in combat.  So your slicer is desperately trying to hack through these systems while your pilot is trying to evade the starfighters...or the rest of the PCs are fighting a holding action against the boarding party.  Let the slicer fail some rolls.  Also, let him come up with cool technobabble ideas that give him bonuses.  "I just remembered that the X-10 fighter is vulnerable to a Trojan Horse assault using Dynatech virus technology."  Of course the slicer happens to have Dynatech virus technology and he gets a bonus to the roll.

Did Dynatech virus technology exist before this point?  No.  But that's okay.  The beauty of this method is that it is not just an excuse to get dice bonuses.  First, the feel of the game is preserved.  Secondly, it gives you (the GM) additional opportunities to provide conflict to your PCs.  So the slicer uses a Dynatech virus to hack the fighters and the PCs escape.  Isn't it a pity that Dynatech viruses are illegal on almost all worlds?  What if the word gets out that your slicer PC is using them?  Notice that this is not punishing your PCs for their good ideas.  Rather, it is taking advantage of the story hooks that your players hand to you.  Just make sure that your players understand this.

To sum up:

--Communication is key.  Make sure that your players understand the feel of the game that you're wanting to run.

--There are techniques that can be used to reinforce and enhance that feel.  Make sure that you're not shooting yourself in the foot by conflicting your goals and your techniques.

I hope that this is helpful advice and that your game can be assisted because of it.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf

*(I'll admit that this was definitely a case of "GM cool scene" syndrome, but most of my players were happy with it, and that's somewhat of a side track to the main issue here)
Edited to finish typing my footnote.  Duh.  Sorry folks.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 30, 2003, 02:23:30 PM
I'm just going to take a section from everybody's posts that I found most useful and respond to them.

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So, for this hacking attempt that everyone has been analyzing to death, you shouldn't have been encouraging your player to think through the steps to hack the starfighters. Rather, you should have been encouraging him to think up a cool, dramatic, visual, Star Wars-ish way to hack the starfighters.


Damn it! That's what I've been missing!

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I think you need better communication, Eric. Show the film, to be blunt. Remember all those dreadful little descriptions in D&D modules and whatnot ("The water drips slowly on the slime of the dank dungeon walls. The corridor is 10' by 10', and there is a carpet of gray lichen underfoot....")? Do it. But better, obviously. Desribe the film. Make the other players see the film in your head as it reels along. If they see the same picture, they may certainly make alterations, but they will not be as likely to choose to do something that can't be filmed, or would be boring to watch


This is interesting.  Anthony wants me to go heavy on the descriptions as well.  

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If the player picks an action that you know will backfire on him, pause, and suggest a modification to the action or let him know what the consequences are likely to be.


This is one of the things that I've been saying.  However, there seems to be a great conflict.  One side is screaming: Let the damned player do what he damn well feels like!  This is Star Wars, not Star trek!  What kind of GM tries to control their players anyway?

The other side is screaming: Eric!  You need to set priorities and stick to them! STICK TO THEM!

It really is interesting.  I think that I wanted the latter.  I think I'll try a bit of the former next session.

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Absolutely, the fact you would even consider forcing a player to do anything is a serious problem with the way you're approaching GMing.


This confuses me.  A GM who has no control over the player's actions has no control over the game.  Even if you don't believe in illusionism, it is hard for me to understand the concept of "zero GM control".

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Incidentally, and trying to put this as politely as I can, I note that while you quoted huge chunks of my and other people's posts you utterly sidestepped the issues I and they were driving at. You're not engaging here Eric, you're picking out specific items you can respond to and ignoring the more fundamental points that are being made.

Don't just focus on little bits of posts you can pick at, try and respond to the real points. About protagonisation, the relationship between GM and player, about GM vision overriding player's wishes, about story being a joint effort not GM imposed.

It feels to me like you want us to agree with you and you want to vent, not like you genuinely wish to understand what is happening with your group. Whenever anything gets difficult you ignore it, responding instead on minor details of computer specification and further comments on what your players did wrong.


Allright.  I'll quote entire posts, and everyone will try to be more concise with their points okay?

I don't really wish to vent.  I can vent to my players.  Trust me.  If I were venting, this thread would have been closed right after I started it.  I've had people comment on how the discussion is working on this thread is good.  If you don't find it useful, I would suggest that you not add to it or view it.  This is especially true if you feel that any points you make are totally ignored.

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1000% true.


The mathematics used to find this is especially interesting to me.

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I should like everyone to abandon any discussion of hacking, computers, passwords, code, bytes with or without prefixes, internet transmissions, compatibility, software, hardware, or similar.

We're not talking about in-game plausibility; we're talking about social interactions and the imagination. Eric, Chris (clehrich) has provided a very good point that a lot of us were probably missing. Max (balbinus) has also reinforced the point that a lot of us were getting at.


All that I can say is that I agree.

Quote
-Communication is key. Make sure that your players understand the feel of the game that you're wanting to run.

--There are techniques that can be used to reinforce and enhance that feel. Make sure that you're not shooting yourself in the foot by conflicting your goals and your techniques.


Heck, this deserves restating =).


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Shreyas Sampat on January 30, 2003, 02:44:37 PM
I pose that there aren't two opposing sides that are giving you conflicting advice.

Rather, the one group is telling you, "you need to let the players feel important - make them able to make decisions", and the other is saying that "you need to make it clear to the players what the 'tone' of play is, and encourage them to act within that tone."

In other words, hacking is great, as long as it's over-the-top Star Wars cool.  No sitting at your keyboard typing, unless you're frantically watching people break into your ship on another screen, or trying to operate your weapons systems at the same time.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: GreatWolf on January 30, 2003, 03:11:05 PM
Shreyas speaks wisdom.  That is exactly what we are all saying.

"GM control"="ensuring that tone is maintained".  (Yes, I'm leaving "tone" undefined for now.)  Ron's bass player analogy is good.  You lay down the beat that others riff off of.  In this case, that means that you're making sure that everyone is working in the Star Wars mode, including yourself.  However, so long as an action is within the Star Wars mode, you should leave it alone, even if it messes up your pre-conceived notion of the way that the story "should" go.  There's the balance that you should be maintaining.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf


Title: The Conflict is Yours
Post by: Le Joueur on January 30, 2003, 03:31:41 PM
Quote from: Eric J.
There seems to be a great conflict.

One side is screaming: Let the damned player do what he damn well feels like!  This is Star Wars, not Star trek!  What kind of GM tries to control their players anyway?

The other side is screaming: Eric!  You need to set priorities and stick to them! STICK TO THEM!

It really is interesting.  I think that I wanted the latter.  I think I'll try a bit of the former next session.

I see no conflict at all.  Put letting the player do what suits them and Star Wars at the top of your priorities.  After that comes things like 'spread the spotlight' and 'pacing, pacing, pacing.'

At least I saw no conflict until...

Quote from: Eric J.
Quote
Absolutely, the fact you would even consider forcing a player to do anything is a serious problem with the way you're approaching GMing.

This confuses me.  A GM who has no control over the player's actions has no control over the game.  Even if you don't believe in illusionism, it is hard for me to understand the concept of "zero GM control".

The mistake you are making is onto everything we've said here, you've projected your obsession with the gamemaster who controls the game.  Forget it.  Leave it behind.  A gamemaster who controls the game is an attention-starved author who should be writing, not gaming.

The very first thing you need to do to improve as a gamemaster is strike from you mind the idea that the gamemaster should control the game.  That alone is probably responsible for every one of your conflicts with the players and the source of your own lack of pleasure in gamemastering.

You know what happens when you don't control the game?  Back in Scattershot, we call that sharing.  That's right, a bunch a guys get together with some rules and share creating a cool game.  The two best pieces of advice I can offer is don't plan and don't plan.

Don't plan out what game will do (they go here, they go there, they do this, the end).  Any time you do that you are assuming two things; your ideas are inherently better and that the players 'not knowing' will keep them from screwing up a wonderful plan.  Sooner or later we call that 'railroading' because the players eventually catch on that they're only being taken for a ride.
    You want to gamemaster something that comes out like
A New Hope?  All you need is the character write-ups (one lives on a farm, another is a hermit, the third lives by his wits from payload to payload, and the last - a non-player character - has the plans), some vague idea where things will climax (the death star), and that's it.

You set the stage by giving the plans to the robots and the robots to PC#1 to give to PC#2.  What do the players do?  PC#1 wants to go 'back to the farm,' not cool - think of something on the fly - blow up the farm!  Okay now they're off on the quest.  Cut to the chase, don't bother actually giving them a choice who to hire simply run the scene until their sitting at the table with PC#3 (maybe a little cool lightsabre action for just color).  Scene starts getting to slow with 'negotiations;' time for stormtroopers to show up.  Why?  Um, um; oh yeah, the lightsabre antics.  Toss in a scene with a bounty hunter to make PC#3 feel cool (for no more reasons than pacing, remembering the character write-up, and to 'push things' not just forward, but in any direction).  Off they go....

Next you need to put some punch into the 'what are the plans for;' Alderaan is gone when they get there.  Was this a part of some plan?  Is the gamemaster controlling the game.  Heck no, it was late and you realized that a bunch of sneaky stuff planetside would be boring.  You can blow up planets on the fly, you're the gamemaster.  Next, capture them by the 'big bad evil thingie.'  Don't even run it, just tell the 'now your captured and in the hold, think of something cool to keep yourselves out of the brig.'

And they do, soon their hacking the deathstar and sneaking around in stolen stormtrooper costumes.  The plan?  That they'd come up with something cool and they did.  ('Where did you get those hidey holes?'  Um, um; I'm a smuggler right?)  They'll need to do something while they're there; and things are picking up a lot of pace; what's left?  Save the princess and destroy the fortress.  Okay, that puts the princess on the deathstar; did you plan her there?  No, you thought she'd be somewhere planet side or something, it hardly matters now.  So off hoots R2D2, "she's here, she's here; I found her" and away they go.

Confronting the guards in the brig is stupid with a capital 'S.'  But damn cool, go for it.  Just let 'em get her, why not?  You can always have the reinforcement beating down the doors as they leave if you need the tension.  And that garbage disposal thing?  Who saw that coming?  The players make up something on the spot, you didn't even consider space station sewage, but having them in the trash compactor is a great place to let them squirm and then just let them go.  A few more chase scenes and since they haven't invented a destruction for the fortress, you just let them escape.  (But hey, Bob isn't gonna be there next week, let's kill off PC#2 just to 'up the ante.')

And so on.  None of it is a matter of planning but simply responding to player choices (which are actually inventions with things like the compactor) and continually turning up the tension level and the pacing.

That's really all there is to it.[/list:u]Don't plan; don't get hung up on cool places or cool villains so much that only a railroad will take the player to them.  Remember let the players decide where to go and just put the maguffin in their way along the way.  (In the above, you had some nasty fortress; you didn't 'control' them to there, you kept moving it 'on the board' so it was in front of them.  Think about it; at any time, did the movie goers know where the deathstar was relative to the motion of the characters?  Only when they used the word Alderaan, you could just as easily establish that after the fact when play is done.)

So what I am saying is that you make your own conflict by deciding that 'you know better' and should be 'in control' of the game.  I'm not surprised you didn't have fun, they weren't being obedient little characters like when you write a story.

So pick one: gamemaster or sole-author, ya can't have both.

Fang Langford

p. s.  In case you think I meant all that, watch as I take my tongue out of my mouth and go reread it.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Balbinus on January 30, 2003, 03:37:37 PM
Shreyas is spot on, we're not contradicting each other we're focussing on different sides of the same issues.

Nicely analysed Shreyas.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Jason Lee on January 30, 2003, 04:05:03 PM
Quote from: Eric J.
Quote
If the player picks an action that you know will backfire on him, pause, and suggest a modification to the action or let him know what the consequences are likely to be.


This is one of the things that I've been saying.  However, there seems to be a great conflict.  One side is screaming: Let the damned player do what he damn well feels like!  This is Star Wars, not Star trek!  What kind of GM tries to control their players anyway?

The other side is screaming: Eric!  You need to set priorities and stick to them! STICK TO THEM!

It really is interesting.  I think that I wanted the latter.  I think I'll try a bit of the former next session.


You may have gotten it, but...   My point here was that preserving the intent of the player's action is more important than preserving the player's actual action.  The player wants something out of his character's action, chances are you can give it to him.  You can work with the player to give him what he wants without violating your setting/feel/head-film.

In line with the "film in head" context (assuming a traditional GM-player relationship)...miscommunications in setting will arise no matter how hard you try.  You will miss details, the players may bring different expectations of the genre to the table than you, and sometimes a player will simply not be paying attention.

A little meta-game communication when it's needed is all it takes to keep a consistent setting and preserve player freedom.

Real Life Anecdote:
I've got a player who tends to decide what a setting is like without actually listening to what you are saying.  He'll turn it into something he saw on TV...radiation poisoning I guess.  This doesn't make him a bad player, he's just one of those people who is only listening when he is talking.  It means sometimes you need to do some repeat explaining.  When you do the repeat explaining, he'll get it - he never actually meant to miss it in the first place.  The problem is you can't slow down game to argue about how something isn't supposed to be like Cowboy Bebop, no matter how cool it is.  The solution is simple, when he picks an action that drastically contradicts the setting work with him to fix it and let him know why it contradicts.

For example, the player says he want to take so-and-so to the beach for a pick-me-up picnik.  Well, we happened to be on a cyberpunk world at the time.  Rather than send him to the beach; then explain that the beach is overcast with smog like everywhere else and there is a dead hooker floating in the bay amoungst the slime and trash; I suggest the park inside Megacorp-A's archology would be more appropriate because this world is heavily polluted.

Player intent and setting consistency preserved, but action slightly different.


EDIT: In other words:  What Shreyas/GreatWolf/Fang/Balbinus said.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 30, 2003, 05:03:02 PM
This has all been very useful.  If the centeral issue is indeed control, I think that we should discuss it more.  One thing that I found funny is Fang's refference to writing.  Well you see...

I write things... a lot (well considering my free time).  Heck.  I wrote a 50 page story conversion for a video game that I like (Chrono Trigger of course).

So, you can imagine.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Jason Lee on January 30, 2003, 05:47:18 PM
First of, Eric, this thread has been four pages of criticism (though highly constructive).  It was pointed out once, put I'll mention it too - the fact that you are trying to improve says a lot of good things about the quality of your GMing.  The worst GM's I've playing with are the one who refuse to improve (more on that later).

The way I see it, successful GMing is really quite simple (intellectually anyway).  Just keep the following in mind:

Conflict:  Conflict needs to be present and balanced.  Challenging, yet attainable.  Too is easy is boring (unrewarding, but maybe a little cathartic), but impossible is even more boring (why even bother to play?).
Player Participation:  Paying equal attention to each person.  Preserving the player's ability to make decisions.  This include character protagonization as an expression of the player's participation in the story.  Game balance, to faciliate equal character protagonization.
Immersion:  Whatever this means to you.  Allowing each player the chance to get into character.  Consistency of setting, and all other matters that could be classified as 'suspension of disbelief'.
Color:  All that coolness factor stuff.  I honesty don't think this one is that important, because you are really limitted by your creative ability in this department.

You seem to be having your troubles in pieces of the Player Participation department.  This seems to be the most common area to slip up in.  I've got a pet theory why most people have trouble with this.

The traditional definition of the GM in game texts is that he is God.  What he says goes, and poo on you for disagreeing.  Fine, ok, the GM is above the system, the setting, and even the characters.  This does not mean he is above the players, and I think people can forget this distinction.  GMing is a responsibility to the players, not the right to stuff the players into a story you think is cool.  There is a social contract here that the GM is going to provide the players with entertainment.  If Joe Butt says he'll drive you to the airport, then it is expected he'll show up at your house on time and drive you to the airport.

We rotate GM's with settings in our game, and I see the same people make the same mistakes with Player Participation over and over again.  You give them contructive criticism, and they say "Hmmm, yeah, maybe you're right, I'll think about it" but it never sinks in.  I personally think it never sinks in because they just don't get the fact that the GM isn't God.  Or worse yet, they wave it away as simply untrue (I hate this, it shows a complete lack of desire to improve).  You can tell them it isn't any fun, but for some reason they still think it's their right to make it no fun if they want to.  To be fair, you can say the words and say you agree, but I think it is actually very hard to actually understand this idea.  

You may very well not have this problem at all, that is for you to decide.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on January 30, 2003, 06:02:05 PM
I think I do.  The biggest problem is that we are all fairly inexperienced.  Players have a hard time being independent for several reasons, that I've been trying to analize.  I think that many people are saying that I'm too controling.  This is primarily because I am.  

For example:  Charly used to be (hard to say this) really really bad at RPing, particurally at backgrounds.  However, about 2 games ago, I was simply amazed at what he made.  The problem there is that he game didn't go far.  However, he has continually made good backgrounds, and I have no doubt that he will do so further.

The problem with player progression is that it's slow, especially without an experienced gamemaster.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Roy on January 30, 2003, 06:34:30 PM
Quote from: Eric J.
This confuses me. A GM who has no control over the player's actions has no control over the game. Even if you don't believe in illusionism, it is hard for me to understand the concept of "zero GM control".


I believe a GM's job is to present an interesting situation then let the players roleplay through that situation.  After they've roleplayed through that situation, you present another interesting situation for them to roleplay through.  Repeat as necessary.  

You have a ton of power as a GM.  You frame the scenes, you create NPCs on the fly, you play every character that isn't a player character, you present events for your player characters to respond to, you are in control of everything ... except for the player characters.  That's the sacred domain of the player and you have to learn to respect it.

Roy


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Valamir on January 30, 2003, 08:17:29 PM
I think the best advice left here Eric is this.  Go back up a few posts and read Fang's depiction of A New Hope as an RPing session.  Print it out.  Tack it up on the wall of your bedroom.  Read it three times every time you sit down to prepare the next session.  Read it three times before going to GM your next session.  Write a little "What Would Fang Do" abbreviation on your hand to help when you get stuck.

That said, I STRONGLY recommend ending this thread here and taking the next level of conversation to a new one.

PS:  Fang...brilliant.  Gol Darn Brilliant.


Title: continued more woes the third
Post by: Jesse on February 01, 2003, 01:16:20 PM
I bet this has all been said a time or two... or a bunch, before, but I'm putting my spin on it.

I think that Eric really tries, especially with a confused (best word I could find for us) group like ourselves. I think that you just miss some things. Like when you thought that avery (aragorn) just sat and did nothing, he as a player didn't know what to do. He had very very rarely played D6 SW before if ever. So he had no clue what specifically to tell you, heck, I doubt that anyone on this planet has that much into computers (+12 is really dang big, ya' know). He just didn't know what comms system thingee to use and how, so he just said he would do it. You were against letting us have dice to roll except for when you gave them to us in that session, so he obviously couldn't take much initiative there. He really had no options.
But that's just an example.

With as, ummm.... 'diversely operation' a group as we have put together, it takes a lot of GM skill, it has to be railroaded enough so we know what the heck we're doing, but free enough that we feel we have options. I will bring up another case-in-point, a good one this time (has anyone on the Forge ever seen us with one of those before?). Your mercenaries campaign, as I have said many times before, was in my opinion the most successful campaign I've ever been a part of. It felt free... heck, I tried a persuade check on Flashy...boy oh boy. And yet, as you mentioned to me, you had complete control. I bet it's rare when people try to kill a giant preying mantis thingee by chucking a blaster power pack at it and shooting it.
It was free, but we were still going somewhere.

I hope my examples have helped


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: clehrich on February 01, 2003, 02:00:07 PM
Jesse wrote:
Quote
I think that Eric really tries, especially with a confused (best word I could find for us) group like ourselves. I think that you just miss some things. Like when you thought that avery (aragorn) just sat and did nothing, he as a player didn't know what to do. He had very very rarely played D6 SW before if ever. So he had no clue what specifically to tell you, heck, I doubt that anyone on this planet has that much into computers (+12 is really dang big, ya' know). He just didn't know what comms system thingee to use and how, so he just said he would do it. You were against letting us have dice to roll except for when you gave them to us in that session, so he obviously couldn't take much initiative there. He really had no options.

This is fascinating.  I think we've focused so heavily on Eric that we've forgotten about the players.  Let's take everything that's been said about GMing for granted for a moment.  Okay, so this infamous hacking situation comes up.

Now regardless of what Eric does or does not do, the player in question also has a job to do.  In order to make the scene visual and SW-like, the player cannot say, "I'm going to hack into the computers.  Can I roll for it?"  To do so essentially says to Eric, "I'm doing this thing; please film it for me."  To the extent that the players hand over control to Eric, he is required to fill in the relevant detail.  Of course it's going to seem as though he's forcing them one way or another: they just told him to.  And if the players surrender essentially everything except which skills they use to the GM, they can hardly complain that they feel controlled.

Clearly Eric needs to encourage the players to describe their actions, to set the scene around themselves, and generally do visual things.  We've talked about that.

Meanwhile, the players need to go ahead and do it.  If your character is a Slicer with a +12, and you say, "I hack the computer," IMO in an ideal gaming group you ought to fail horribly.  If on the other hand you start wambling on about inverse com-link flux transponders and rerouting negative feedback through the mainframe-droid syntactic transducer, you should succeed.  In SW, you should also make this technobabble relatively visual; in a different game that may or may not be a priority.  But you've got to describe what you're doing in setting terms; you have to tell a story.

If it's entirely Eric's problem to make a story and a good, visual film out of mechanical action descriptions, you're going to end up with the Eric Show.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on February 01, 2003, 06:17:17 PM
Really intersting stuff.

I especially agree with:

Quote
Clearly Eric needs to encourage the players to describe their actions, to set the scene around themselves, and generally do visual things. We've talked about that.


Anyway- Jesse.  Thanks for taking the time to get on and respond.

Quote
With as, ummm.... 'diversely operation' a group as we have put together, it takes a lot of GM skill, it has to be railroaded enough so we know what the heck we're doing, but free enough that we feel we have options.


I think that this is correct, but I think that better techniqes can be used than railroading. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't railroading when the GM limits player options so that they get to a certain situation?  I believe in illusionism, myself.

I don't know why I made this post, but I've said what I needed to say, I think.


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 01, 2003, 10:21:49 PM
Hi Eric,

I'm pretty sure that by "railroading," he really meant "GM input" and especially "social confirmation" (just knowing that you, the GM, are happy with their choices and know what to do next). Illusionism seems to be the shared goal, which is a great start.

Unless you object (Eric, specifically), I agree with Ralph that this thread has done its duty.

Best,
Ron


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Eric J. on February 02, 2003, 04:20:49 PM
I've learned a lot.  This thread has even sprung another.  I declare that Ron has my concent to close this thead!


Title: About time for another Woe...
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 02, 2003, 07:38:40 PM
So closed.

Thanks to everyone; this was a great set of interactions to see and to participate in.

Best,
Ron