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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: jburneko on September 04, 2001, 11:38:00 AM



Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: jburneko on September 04, 2001, 11:38:00 AM
WARNING: This post is an uncensored dump of my personal feelings.  Sarcasim and humor are used heavily and any 'blanket' statements I may make about play styles and individuals are meant only to convey the general feeling behind the thought from *MY* perspective and is in no way meant to be a value judgement or attack on styles, individuals, stereotypes or anything else I may say.  In particuarly take anything I preface with the phrase 'should be' with a grain of salt. 'I would personally prefer' is just too long a phrase.

All that said, I spent this weekend at a Con here in L.A. so all this really does apply to actual play.  So here are the noteworthy experiences both as a player and a game master.

I've never really understood Ron's "Nuking The Apple Cart" Essay.  Now if I recall correctly that essay is pointing out that there's a big difference between games that sell and games that get played.  I have never EVER been hit so hard with that distinction as at this con.  So Curse You Ron Edwards for being once again so insightful.

I was signed up to run three events.  I decided I'd run an intro Deadlands adventure twice and one of my personal favorite Chill adventures once.  My reasoning was as follows: Well, Deadlands is a more current more popular game than Chill.  It will probably generate more interest than Chill.  I was expecting a steady six players for the two Deadlands games and maybe three nostalgics for the Chill game.  I COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG!!!!

The first Deadlands game, I had ONE player.  We recruited a second player from the hallway.  The second Deadlands game had ZERO players.  The Chill game?  SEVEN, count them, SEVEN players.  By early Sunday morning there were rummors floating around the Con about some guy running Chill and did people think there was going to be enough room for them to snag a spot.  I was shocked.  I was just glad it was one of my best adventures.  A good time was had by all.  People were asking me if I planned to run Chill at future cons.

Now on to the more depressing more ranty part of this post which is about my experiences as a player at the Con.

Game #1 In Nomine

In this game we were all Infernals sent on a rather strange mission.  We were conducting an experiment.  We were told by out Superiors that there is an old myth that if a Vampire reads the names of all the inhabitants of a town from atop a church before sunrise then all the inhabitants of the down will die.  We were sent to protect the vampire while the name reading was in progress.  Of course my mind goes: !?

The game quickly devolved into self-parody.  The GM's preparation consisted of a list of 'wanna-be' vampire hunters whom we spend the evening disposing of in increasingly absurd ways.  The with-out-a-clue vampire hunters started with holy-water filled super-soakers and finished up with an armored hummer complete with Gatling Stake Gun.

Now, I own In Nomine.  I've read In Nomine.  I've still to date have never played In Nomine, in my opinion.  In Nomine is one of those games that verges on having a strong Premise without actually stating it all that clearly.  In Nomine's Premise is The Universe As Symphony.  Not QUITE a premise but more than a lot of games have.  

Even better, well over 50% of the mechanics are geared towards this concept.  There are detailed rules for: Attunments, Resonance, Dissonance, Discord and Songs.  Now with all this going for it an In Nomine game should flow like Dark Poetry.  I should be hearing a symphony, even if just imagined.  There should be a flowing musical narrative.  This game had NONE of that.  Not even one ounce.  Even a Humorous In Nomine game should be dark humour.  This was just slapstick.

Game #2 - Changling: The Dreaming

Now, I know that Changling is supposed to be the 'lightest' of the World of Darkness games but it's still pretty grim.  In fact my hopes were raised when the GM walked in and the first thing out of her mouth was Chanlings' Premise nailed right on the head.  She said, "Changling is about the strugle to keep the magic alive in the increasingly banal world."

Then she said, "In this game you will be playing children."  My mind goes: Cool!  Little Fears meets Changling.  Naive Fea Children come to terms with with the mundane world of adulthood.  I love it!  I played a 10 year old Satyr.  I was kind of thinking about Haley Joel Osmunts (sp?) character from A.I.  But with lust replacing love.  So I had all the capacity for lust without really the knowledge of how to wield it.  I wanted him to be kind of creepy, yet wise some how.  So this is how I started playing the character.

And then the GM blew it.

1) She was running the 'adventure', if you can call it that, completely off the top of her head.  It was basically us kids romping and stomping around a 'funland' type area causing trouble with our magical powers for the human patrons and our fea baby sitter.  SLAPSTICK AGAIN!

2) The girl had NO CLUE what I was trying to do with my character.  So, it was clear that our goal was to escape the babysitter because our parents were trying to hide something from us.  So, I went up to this 16 year old girl who I saw had a car and could drive.  I kissed her hand and used my Soothsay ability to read her fate.  I then gave her a cryptic and wise piece of advice.  The reaction I was going for was: startled fascination with much trepidation.  What I got was a slap in the face and the girl walking away from me calling for security because some creepy kid kissed her hand.  I so wanted to assert some Directorial control and say to the GM, 'Look, why don't you just let me handle that NPC for you.'

3) The GM had the AUDACITY to call me over to her later in the con and inform me of my grevious role-playing blunder. She told me that I had totally played the child Satyr incorrectly and that children satyrs were all about running around and having mischivous fun and that they really hadn't figured out women yet.  I WANTED to tell her that I thought she had GMed the GAME incorrectly but I held back, shrugged and walked away.

Now, there was one more game I played but it's these two I want to focus on for a moment.  After these two games I felt very depressed and very disillusioned.  Now, had I not read all the stuff here on the forge I would have been very angry at myself.  I would have told myself that I was being foolish and a moody bastard who has no idea how to have fun.  I would have told myself that I was just Taking It All Too Seriously and that I need to learn to lighten up. I would have told myself to stop being a pretencious elitist snob looking for more where there wasn't anything to be had. But the GNS model and the stances and all the other stuff here on The Forge has given me the ability to feel JUSTIFIED in my disillusionment and depression.

So, Curse You Ron Edwards for giving me the vocabulary to describe WHY I'm disillusioned and depressed.  Curse You All for contributing to my continued quest for more than just slapstick in roleplaying.  You've all saved me from quiting the hobby completely.  Curse You and Thank You. :smile:

The third game I played was an Amber Diceless LARP.  I didn't really enjoy that either but I don't think that was the fault of anyone but myself and a few minor circumstances well beyond the GMs control.  I do not excel in social situations with strangers even if I'm supposed to be playing someone else.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.  The GM was brilliantly organized and the game was very well constructed and executed.

Jesse


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 04, 2001, 12:06:00 PM
I get Cursed like this a lot.

What I'm looking forward to, now, is when Jesse plays in an Elfs demo with James (D.) West at the helm (see the recent post in the Elfs forum).

Best,
Ron


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: jburneko on September 04, 2001, 01:06:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-09-04 16:06, Ron Edwards wrote:

What I'm looking forward to, now, is when Jesse plays in an Elfs demo with James (D.) West at the helm (see the recent post in the Elfs forum).


I *KNEW* you were going to say something about Elfs while I was writing this post.  I own Elfs.  I've read it several times.  I get that 'Not-My-Cup-o-Tea' feel from it.  Not because of the mechanics.  The mechanics are great for what the game is about.  I will probably even give it a run with my players and I'd certainly would be willing to give it a try with others.

But truth be told: I really *AM* a dark moody bastard. :smile:

But in any event, next con is in February.  I fully expect you all to get on planes and come out here.

Jesse



Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Epoch on September 04, 2001, 01:17:00 PM
Jesse,

Some random thoughts:

First, I think I'd probably object to any GM telling me after the fact, "You were playing your character wrong."  Unfortunately, one of the big weaknesses of the White Wolf splat system, I think, is that it encourages an approach to the game that says there's a right way to play a given splat and a wrong one.

There may be some room for a GM to say, "Hey, look, you and I have different ideas for how such-and-such a character type behaves.  Can you bend to my interpretation of it for this particular game because otherwise my adventure won't run well?"  If, in fact, the adventure won't run well without that.

Okay, aside from that, though:

You know that Narrativism is a style of play currently practiced and enjoyed by a small number of people, yes?  (Let's put aside, for the moment, any questions of how many people would or would not enjoy Narrativism if they were exposed to it).  So why do you go into a con game expecting Narrativist play?  You're just setting yourself up for disappointment if you think, "Gosh, I want Director control here," or "This person isn't properly exploring the Premise."

Don't get me wrong:  there are some pretty universal standards.  If the GM is blatantly unprepared (now, I point out that I walked into the first and only con game I ever GM'd with little more than a list of names, and it went swimmingly), or is playing favorites in some severe way, or whatever, that's one thing.

But issues like atmosphere...  I think you've got to give the GM a lot of slack.  It's hard to measure up to the expectations of six strangers, and harder still to give your best game within the restrictions placed on you by a con game.

And, sometimes, there'll be a game that you Just Can't Enjoy, but it's nobody's fault -- the things which interest you just don't really overlap with the things that interest the other game participants.

Anyhow, best wishes for future experiences.


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: jburneko on September 04, 2001, 01:57:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-09-04 17:17, Epoch wrote:
You know that Narrativism is a style of play currently practiced and enjoyed by a small number of people, yes?  (Let's put aside, for the moment, any questions of how many people would or would not enjoy Narrativism if they were exposed to it).  So why do you go into a con game expecting Narrativist play?  You're just setting yourself up for disappointment if you think, "Gosh, I want Director control here," or "This person isn't properly exploring the Premise."


Hold on a second.  I know I was a little heavy on the jargon but I wasn't complaining so much about the lack of Narrativist elements as a lack of respect for what the games I was playing in were about.

I forgot one other game I played in.  It was a 7th Sea game.  It was a standard quest centric simulationist heavy railroaded adventure but I had a blast!  Why?  Because 7th Sea is a swashbuckling game and swashbuckling is what I got.  We performed a daring rescue from a prison caravan and got into a exciting tavern fight.  There were flint lock pistols going off, swords clashing, people swing from ropes, horse chases, brutes getting thrown around and carriages getting over turned.  It was a well thought out pre-plotted straight up role-playing game.  It was blast.

Hell my OWN Chill game was a straight up follow the clues kill the creature in the vain of Call of Cthulhu but it was focused and had meaning and purpose and everyone at the table including myself had a good time.

I walked into an In Nomine game expecting a lyrical battle between the forces of good and evil.  At worst I was expecting an action adventure remenicent of End of Days at best I was expecting a subtle chilling tale in the vain of Stigmata.  What I got was a bunch of people just throwing around silly slapstick ideas that really have nothing to do with what the game is about.

I walked into a Changling game expecting a lighthearted if not somewhat bleak look at the magic that is going out of our lives.  What I got was a juevenile romp around an unplanned scenario with absolutely no meaning and purpose other than some kind of regression theropy of let's find our inner child and pretend we have magic.  Pointless slapstick.  I at least enjoyed the In Nomine game because the GM 'GOT' what I was trying to do with the Character and let me have my fun.

(For your information I was a particularly Intelligent demon so I over analysized what it meant to 'live in the town' and just who was suposed to be on the list.  Since most of the Wanna-Be Vampire Hunters were from out of town I ran around fretting over whether they should be added to the list or not.  I would suggest things like, 'Why don't you go check into a hotel for the night and we'll add you to the list just in case.'  At one point after being silent for a long time I looked up and said, 'You know how they say, "Home Is Where The Heart Is?"' And everyone burst out laughing because they knew where I was going with that.  So, I got into the spirit of the game and everyone complimented me on my interpretation of the character but I was STILL disappointed that it wasn't a "real" In Nomine game because it didn't take full advantage of what the game was about.)

Jesse


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Epoch on September 04, 2001, 02:35:00 PM
Okay, apologies for over-analyzing the jargon.

I'm still not sure I agree with you, though.  While I decry a GM telling you how to play your character, I'm not sure that it's the responsibility of the GM to "get what you're doing," and let you go with it.  I've certainly run games in which some choices of what to do with a given character would have had bad results, and not felt bad about it.  Particularly, I think that your example of a girl getting squicked out by hand-kissing and prophesying is not prima facia out of line.

Similarly, I think that the complaint that such-and-such a game is not being played for what it's about is a Narrativist bias showing through:  most of these games aren't really "about" anything in the sense that Narrativists appear to mean.  They don't have a single, central premise, and, as far as I can tell, don't want one.  Many players are, I think legitimately, quite happy with a game if it uses the setting and mechanics of a particular game, regardless of the atmosphere and themes.

I'd certainly object to someone saying, for example, that my Changeling scenario for A World of Lost Children was "wrong" because it didn't concern itself with magic leaving the world.  Or that the Amber Con game that I GM'd, which was a somewhat humorous war story inspired by the less heavy parts of Saving Private Ryan, was a failure because it had little in the way of intangibles in common with The Chronicles of Amber.



Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: jburneko on September 04, 2001, 02:56:00 PM
Quote

Particularly, I think that your example of a girl getting squicked out by hand-kissing and prophesying is not prima facia out of line.


I will admit that that moment was the most Narrativistic inspired frustration.  I brought that up mainly to illustrate that I now have a vocabularly to describe WHY I was frustrated.  Before I came to the Forge that incident would have frustrated me but I wouldn't have been able to tell you why.  I would have walked away feeling like a player who didn't know his 'place.'  But now I know that I had picked a Theme based on what I THOUGHT was the Premise and I had no power to use that NPC to illustrate my Theme.  Today I can say that, a year ago I couldn't.

Quote

I'd certainly object to someone saying, for example, that my Changeling scenario for A World of Lost Children was "wrong" because it didn't concern itself with magic leaving the world.  Or that the Amber Con game that I GM'd, which was a somewhat humorous war story inspired by the less heavy parts of Saving Private Ryan, was a failure because it had little in the way of intangibles in common with The Chronicles of Amber.


And to a great extent I agree.  You have legitimate solid takes on these games and I probably wouldn't have the same objections.  I liked the In Nomine game more than The Changeling game because I recognized it as a Parody.  However, it just didn't go far enough and came off as weak.  The Changeling game however was just random.  The girl walks into the room, states a clear concept of what the game is about and then totally fails to deliver.

More than anything I'm complaining about lack of direction and focus.  There was NOTHING holding these games together.  No solid Narrtivist Premise.  No Simulationist Pre-Plotted Story or Detailed world.  No set of Gamist Challenges.  Nothing. (But I now have a vocabulary to explain all this.  Before I didn't.) They were random and it was irritating.  I put a lot of effort into giving a good show with my con games I expect the same in return.

Jesse


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 04, 2001, 03:06:00 PM
Jesse?

Oh, Jesse?

They sell these little squishy ball things, or sometimes in a shape like a cute animal or something. You hold one and SQUEEEEEEEZE real hard, and evidently it's supposed to disperse tension and the urge to stick your scissors into your boss.

Maybe ...?

Best,
Ron
who promises to play an RPG session with Jesse at the earliest opportunity, as long as there are no scissors in the vicinity


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: jburneko on September 04, 2001, 03:12:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-09-04 19:06, Ron Edwards wrote:
Ron
who promises to play an RPG session with Jesse at the earliest opportunity, as long as there are no scissors in the vicinity


Ooooooooooooooooo....  If I ever play Elfs with you can I have a giant pair of Gleaming Scissors as my Big Cartoony Weapon?  The Gleaming part is important.

Jesse


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: kwill on September 04, 2001, 03:26:00 PM
jesse

to what extent were these games pre-advertised/blurbed before play?

the only experience I have with cons is our local one, where a limited number of modules are made available, each of which is blurbed in the convention brochure... here we try to give a good idea about the designer's take on the system/setting/whathaveyou

complaints that I have received about modules we've run more often than not have boiled down to a blurb not preparing a player properly for the module (knowing if it is going to be light-hearted or serious, for example)

[I don't think that this is the primary source of *your* frustration, but I would be interested to see if it may have been a contributing factor]



Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Epoch on September 04, 2001, 03:27:00 PM
Jesse,

Sounds like we've got nothing left to disagree about.  :smile:

As I said, hope you have better luck in the future.

[New text after reading Kwill's message]

Oh, hey, that reminds me.  If anyone who's familiar with Amber wants to look over this page and tell me what they think...

Y'see, I'm gearing up for my second-ever con GMing experience, with a somewhat more ambitious game than the first.  The above page is the background material for it.  I worry that it's too much, though tolerance for such things seems to be a bit higher in the Amber crowd than otherwise.  Mostly, I'm trying to give people a really good idea of what they're getting into so that I don't get into one of those expectations/reality clashes that, I think, are responsible for a lot of the disappointment in Con games.

I've still got time to edit that page down to something lighter, or get rid of it altogether and restrict myself to just the con packet blurb, if I decide that's the way to go.

[ This Message was edited by: Epoch on 2001-09-04 19:32 ]


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: jburneko on September 04, 2001, 03:45:00 PM
Quote

to what extent were these games pre-advertised/blurbed before play?


Truthfully, not a whole lot.  The following two lines appeared in my brochure.

In Nomine Tournament
Changeling For Beginners

That's it.

Quote

the only experience I have with cons is our local one, where a limited number of modules are made available, each of which is blurbed in the convention brochure... here we try to give a good idea about the designer's take on the system/setting/whathaveyou


That's not quite how it works here.  If I read you correctly it sounds like the con provides the modules.  Perhaps that's not correct.  Here, if you sign up to run 3 RPG events you get to attend the con for free.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It's a blessing because it encourages me to run events.  As far as I'm concerned I'm getting paid to run events.  It's not a lot but enough for me to treat it with a professional attitude.

It's a curse because I think some people sign up to run events just to get in for free and then make up the games off the top of their heads.  This REALLY sucks.

I've been to this con before but it was almost 10 years ago and I've never had such a string of bad games before.  Every game I went to back then was solidly preped and played out just fine.  Some even had clever twists that only work in a one-shot con game.  I missed those and I wonder where they went to.

Quote

complaints that I have received about modules we've run more often than not have boiled down to a blurb not preparing a player properly for the module

[I don't think that this is the primary source of *your* frustration, but I would be interested to see if it may have been a contributing factor]


It may not be my primary complaint but it certainly is a complaint.  The problem is that when you sign up to run events if you don't sign up three months in advance you don't make it into the printed program.  I didn't sign up until two weeks before the con and I didn't even make it to the WEB page.  

So I suspect that people know that they're going to run a game and they know WHAT they're going to run but they have no idea what scenario or tone or anything so they just send in the notice, "I'll be running In Nomine" or "I'll be running Castle Falkenstein." and so on.

Jesse


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: kwill on September 04, 2001, 05:29:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-09-04 19:45, jburneko wrote:
That's not quite how it works here.  If I read you correctly it sounds like the con provides the modules.


yup -- which is a significant difference I suppose

in general I've found that blurb writing in itself promotes a degree of quality control -- if the module designer is too lazy to write a blurb (and organise two playtests, which each include at least one of the con committee), they're unlikely to pull something decent out of the air at the last minute

I see it as forcing the contributor to jump through a couple of hoops to qualify for the final event, as it were

of course, in the real world, we hardly ever get to second playtesting -- this is not so much of a problem because we know the module writers, trust them, and work with them if needs be -- but this hasn't stopped a couple of bad eggs getting through

in the end though, it depends on motivation -- how do the organisers know if someone is sucking games from thin air just to get in for free? -- a difficult problem

Quote

...they just send in the notice, "I'll be running In Nomine" or "I'll be running Castle Falkenstein." and so on.


hmmm... as an organiser I'd insist on a bit more, or as a player be wary of such one-liners (unless I knew the GM, for example)



Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Mytholder on September 05, 2001, 02:06:00 AM
A few convention survival tips:
1) Don't expect too much. Few con games are that good. Most of the value comes from playing with new people and seeing different games. Occasionally, you'll find someone willing to experiment, to take advantage of the con environment to do something special, but most of the time, con games are railroaded games relying heavily on the commonly encountered tropes of the game.

2) If you find a good con GM, remember their name. People tend to be consistent.

3) Blurbs good, but blurbs not great. Be wary of blurbs that are mostly hype, even it's well-written hype. Blurbs which mention something of the plot imply there's actually a plot. Blurbs which talk about an intense roleplaying experience imply vapourware.

4) Of the games described in this thread, the In Nom sounds okish. It's slapstick, but it looks like fun. At least it wasn't boring. I agree, the GM was out of line by telling you that you played the character wrong, and that would really get up my nose. The character sheet should be been clearer.


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 05, 2001, 06:08:00 AM
Hey,

I was thinkin' ... one comment a fellow made to me after GenCon was how surprised he was at how RELAXED my role-playing was. Mind you, I didn't get to play much. I chimed in on a round of Soap, and I dabbled briefly with the Pool with a couple folks. It was a biz trip and my throat was shot to pieces by 5 pm each evening.

But that comment speaks a lot. I reviewed a bit about my play experiences over the last few years, and yes, I'm pretty relaxed and comfortable as a GM and player (barring, in the latter case, moments of Actor stance).

What have I played since January? Sorcerer, Orkworld, Unknown Armies, Soap (several times), Talislanta, Big Eyes Small Mouth, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Dead Meat, Toon, Wuthering Heights, Human Wreckage, The Pool, Ninja Burger, Munchkins, and Hero Wars. None of these were superficial, although some were intentionally short. They were also sessions of pure, unadulterated, focused, pleasure, and in many cases produced stories of which the group(s) could be proud.

You can't do that sort of thing if you're hung-up about every last person "doing it right" or whether you're "good enough" or what-have-you. Discriminating, fine; agonizing and accusing, no. Life's too short.

This wasn't directed at Jesse, or not at him alone, because I've noted that any number of Forge members are getting pretty TENSE about their actual play ... which, ultimately, is not the goal. Remember, the biggest box of all is FUN, and the inner boxes are about making sure it happens. Since only a halfwit thinks ANYTHING is fun, those inner boxes have structure, judgment, and even personal inclusion and exclusion involved with them. But let's not forget that biggest box, eh?

Best,
Ron


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: jburneko on September 05, 2001, 09:41:00 AM
Quote

This wasn't directed at Jesse, or not at him alone, because I've noted that any number of Forge members are getting pretty TENSE about their actual play ... which, ultimately, is not the goal. Remember, the biggest box of all is FUN, and the inner boxes are about making sure it happens. Since only a halfwit thinks ANYTHING is fun, those inner boxes have structure, judgment, and even personal inclusion and exclusion involved with them. But let's not forget that biggest box, eh?


You actually just reminded me about something.  Even if this WERE directed at me I'd be the first to tell you that you were absolutely correct.  I'm an emotional schizo at the moment with regards to what exactly I'm trying to acomplish with my role-playing experiences.

However, I had a rather odd experience with the Chill game I ran at the con.  The scenario I ran is one I've run before and no group has finished it in under six hours.  So, I was a little worried about craming it into a four hour time slot.  So, I made up my mind in advance that I wouldn't do what I normally do which is try and control the order in which things dawn on the players.  

Basically, I relaxed as a GM.  If the players went some place where they logically could get a certain piece of information then I gave them the information rather than trying to come up with a reason why the information was currently unavailable.  The result was two fold.

Yes, several of the scenes that were meant to be shocking revelations fell a little flat because they'd already figured that part out.  I was surprised that it really didn't ruin the game for myself or the players.  It was clear to all that I had included the scene to get the information to the players but that this group had just been clever enough to get the information earlier by other means.

But most importantly I walked away from the game for the first time in years feeling exhilerated instead of exhausted.  I felt like I'd actually had the good time I was supposed to have been having all the other times.  I saw most clearly that it really IS possible to be planned, organized and focused without necessarily having to be controled as well.

Jesse


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Blake Hutchins on September 05, 2001, 11:26:00 AM
Ron, this point about how tension impacts gameplay is really interesting. I'll add that it's important to know what pushes your buttons the wrong way and to be prepared to make some honest choices should things get tense. I, for example, take my games seriously enough that I have little patience for "vandals." You know, the guy who chimes in with a Monty Python quote during a darkly atmospheric scene. For some reason, this is especially frequent in Vampire games I've participated in, maybe as a subconscious effort to avoid dealing with disturbing emotions that arise from the whole bloodsucking/victimization thing.

Back on point: My wife and I opted out of my buddy's DnD game because although the characters were cool, the setting well done, and the story a pretty decent mirror of the "Ancient Evil Returns" schtick, the system frustrated us at every opportunity, focusing action scenes into tedious (my opinion) and excruciatingly long combat sequences featuring meticulous wargame-style maneuvering. That approach just ain't my style. Despite my friend's attempts to keep the energy level high, a two- to four-hour battle in that vein leaves me as drained as a bullet-riddled bucket. We dropped out because the game on the whole just wasn't fun, and our lack of fun would impact the rest of the group.

I've had other games where I found myself growing impatient -- as a player, I should add -- and had to ask myself what was wrong. Sometimes it's the circumstances (a twelve hour game session, for example), and other times, the GM sucked, other players were embroiled in a pointless rivalry, or the story just trickled out of lifeblood. As a GM, however, I never get tense, though I do grow concerned if it looks like a player or players aren't having fun.

I totally sympathize with Jesse. If anyone tells me as player or GM that a game "should" or "shouldn't" be played a certain way, I'm liable to tell that person to take a long walk off a short pier.

Best,

Blake



Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Blake Hutchins on September 05, 2001, 11:31:00 AM
Ron, this point about how tension impacts gameplay is really interesting. I'll add that it's important to know what pushes your buttons the wrong way and to be prepared to make some honest choices should things get tense. I, for example, take my games seriously enough that I have little patience for "vandals." You know, the guy who chimes in with a Monty Python quote during a darkly atmospheric scene. For some reason, this is especially frequent in Vampire games I've participated in, maybe as a subconscious effort to avoid dealing with disturbing emotions that arise from the whole bloodsucking/victimization thing.

Back on point: My wife and I opted out of my buddy's DnD game because although the characters were cool, the setting well done, and the story a pretty decent mirror of the "Ancient Evil Returns" schtick, the system frustrated us at every opportunity, focusing action scenes into tedious (my opinion) and excruciatingly long combat sequences featuring meticulous wargame-style maneuvering. That approach just ain't my style. Despite my friend's attempts to keep the energy level high, a two- to four-hour battle in that vein leaves me as drained as a bullet-riddled bucket. We dropped out because the game on the whole just wasn't fun, and our lack of fun would impact the rest of the group.

I've had other games where I found myself growing impatient -- as a player, I should add -- and had to ask myself what was wrong. Sometimes it's the circumstances (a twelve hour game session, for example), and other times, the GM sucked, other players were embroiled in a pointless rivalry, or the story just trickled out of lifeblood. As a GM, however, I never get tense, though I do grow concerned if it looks like a player or players aren't having fun.

I totally sympathize with Jesse. If anyone tells me as player or GM that a game "should" or "shouldn't" be played a certain way, I'm liable to tell that person to take a long walk off a short pier.

Best,

Blake



Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Cameron on September 05, 2001, 02:13:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-09-05 15:26, Blake Hutchins wrote:
Ron, this point about how tension impacts gameplay is really interesting. I'll add that it's important to know what pushes your buttons the wrong way and to be prepared to make some honest choices should things get tense. I, for example, take my games seriously enough that I have little patience for "vandals." You know, the guy who chimes in with a Monty Python quote during a darkly atmospheric scene. For some reason, this is especially frequent in Vampire games I've participated in, maybe as a subconscious effort to avoid dealing with disturbing emotions that arise from the whole bloodsucking/victimization thing.


Wow Blake, you just condensed every frustration I've had as a "dark, atmospheric Storyteller" into a short, concise paragraph.  I can run a game for laughs. In fact, I can probably do it better than the dark brooding stuff. Sometimes, though, I WANT dark and brooding. Nothing ruins that more than a player who isn't willing to drop their guard for an evening and get into it with me.

It isn't even that my players want to be playing Elfs or something in that vein. They tell me they want a "storytelling game of personal horror." The characters are made and SEEM appropriate. Everything is going great. Than one of them can't resist the opportunity for a joke (and, in all fairness, some of my past players have been hilarious in real life). They may say it quietly and out of character, but then it's too late.

In my experience, lack-of focus is a virus that quickly spreads out of control. I would be okay with one player playing a sardonic comic relief character, but my players used to COMPETE for this coveted position. They all wanted to be the comic relief in an otherwise dark and gloomy game. Then they act surprised and a little disapointed when the game isn't able to support a dark mood anymore. Of course, there was always one player trying desperately to keep the game grounded, but it was always too little, too late.

That reoccuring nightmare was the closest I ever came to Knights of the Dinner Table moments I hear about from other gamers. It was like Silence of the Lambs with Jeneane Garafolo as Clarice and Rowan Atkinson as Dr. Lector.

I've had better luck since then, but have found that running games with more energetic moods (like 7th Sea) avoided the problem entirely. Now I'm thinking about getting back to a good dark Vampire story and am worried about finding players who will be able to take it seriously enough to be worth my time.

Damn the Vandals. They sacked Rome and then my Vampire chronicles!


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 06, 2001, 06:07:00 AM
Cameron,

"In my experience, lack-of focus is a virus that quickly spreads out of control."

If this is the case, then something's wrong with some of the basic dynamics. Or, more accurately, I agree with your basic statement, but it surprises me that ONE out-of-character, offbeat comment can generate the spread. THAT'S what rings the alarm bell for me.

The darkest, most awful-horrific stuff I've EVER run was a while ago, with The Whispering Vault, Shattered Dreams, and certain brands of Sorcerer. More recent examples, in which the horror was not the #1 priority but nonetheless important, include Orkworld, Obsidian, and Hero Wars.

In these games, the horror was successful, and more importantly, the overall "saga" or "point" or what-have-you turned out well, with the horror feeding its success. But you know something? PLAYERS, INCLUDING ME, OCCASIONALLY CRACKED JOKES. It's all right. It's OK. It didn't spoil anything or divert the group effort.

One of my most crucial insights in the last few years is that focus and immersion are not the same thing. One can stay focused on play and still "pop out" into plain old hangout mode, for a little bit. The group can share a big laugh, or even a brief movie discussion or other totally non-game interaction, as a non-scheduled break, and then get back to it. (One of the true strengths of a Champions GM is to realize that the players WILL make up terribly accurate puns on your supervillain names, none of which you anticipated, and not to get upset about it.)

Now, that brings me to consider what you are describing, with which I am ALSO familiar, most recently from some of the games at the campus club group. Here, it's different (it helps to be 16-18 years older than the perpetrators, to see this) - the person in question is there ONLY for the humorous disruptions. He lies in wait, basically, figuring out which other individuals have shorter attention spans or are otherwise easily co-opted. His or her character does and says nothing unless prompted. And then, at the maximally disruptive moment, he directs his attention to another person, and jokes AND laughs.

See how that works? It's just like bullying, in two ways. (1) The MORE unfair a bully's actions or words, the BETTER the bullying. Appealing to fairness or sense only reinforces the bully's achievement. (2) The real goal of a bully is to enlist the support of a THIRD party in that same unfairness.

Therefore, my response to the offending person: "[Name], shut the fuck up." Delivered almost impassively, with neither heat nor disarming smile.

This is not a GM role necessarily. I was a player at the most recent example. Ideally, it would be several people at the table.

Now, if any of you are balking at the idea of being so remarkably rude - and in fact, socially vicious - toward another human being, consider this. (1) Such behavior toward a fellow player WOULD be intolerable; silencing another player is a terrible thing in role-playing. (2) However, the person committing the acts we're talking about is NOT a player. He is counting on our commitment to #1 to mask and support his bullying of the collective effort.

Thus the harshness of my tactic. It may not be for everyone; some might say that my personal presence and style of speech makes such a phrase especially chilling, or that my warm support of anyone's positive role-playing behavior is so definite that the people present can see the difference. Others might be suspicious that I am willing to use personal (verbal) force to "get my way" and "make" the group be as I want them to be.

But my goal is to establish (for everyone else) that relaxed, enjoyable, low-pressure but highly creative atmosphere that I was talking about in the previous post. And fortunately, such individuals are usually self-selecting themselves out of that kind of group anyway.

Best,
Ron



[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-09-06 13:15 ]


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Cameron on September 06, 2001, 11:07:00 AM
Ron,
It was even easier than that for me to solve my problem. I realized that it was a weird comraderie thing between the two most disruptive players. Once I split them up (that is, never attempt to run a dark game with both of them playing), everything was fine. Individually, they were able to take the whole thing very seriously and get into the moods and themes of the game. It was only when they were acting like catalysts on each other did it become a festival of sillyness. Without those two ebola monkeys, the other players never acted out either.

I don't know what it was about putting those two together, but I suspect that they were showing off to each other ("see how funny I am") and were allowing some sort of social caste system from the real world to bleed into the game. There might have also been a little homoerotic attraction, but I can't say for certain.

-Cameron


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: kwill on September 07, 2001, 04:47:00 PM
how to be a Bastard GM in-game:
Up Against The Wall! by John Tynes
(particularly orientated towards horror)

how to be a Bastard GM out-of-game:
Hit 'em Where It Hurts by John Wick
(particularly orientated towards Edges & Flaws type games)

"Bastard GM" is used in a positive sense here, really ;>


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 07, 2001, 07:24:00 PM
David,

Actually, I'm not fond of either of those essays, as they seem, to me, to be exactly the kind of over-controlling, up-tight attitude that I warned Jesse about earlier in this thread.

[One of the Johns is aware of the high regard I have for him, and the other one probably really doesn't care whether I respect him or not (I do though).]

I do want to call attention to the way that these essays do not really draw a distinction between "person who is role-playing, but not in the way I'd most like," and "person who is simply not role-playing at all, despite being present, and is causing hassles."

I, on the other hand, draw a HUGE distinction between the two. The first requires an adjustment of MY behavior (as GM); the second requires a quick and decisive social amputation of the person from the group.

Neither essay seems to admit of the first possibility; no, the GM and his plans for tonight's scenario are God, and ne'er shall they be swayed. It astonishes me that Tynes would suggest physical coercion in support of this attitude. If anyone tried that on me as he suggests, he'd go to the hospital.

Best,
Ron


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: kwill on September 07, 2001, 09:06:00 PM
point taken -- I definitely take both of these with a good portion of salt


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Ian O'Rourke on September 10, 2001, 07:28:00 AM
I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of the playing with strangers gig – as the gaming group/con games I’ve played in have not been fun. It goes back to the band analogy – everyone’s not on the same song sheet.

I know someone who played in the Exalted game at GenCon UK, while the GM was quite good, who was surrounded by players who insisted on playing timid and cautious first level D&D characters – not the mighty Exalted facing off against mooks.

As a result, the game did not go to well. I think he’s writing an article about his Con Gaming experiences for FLN as we speak.


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: Emily Dresner on September 10, 2001, 08:39:00 AM
It's important to remember that gaming is a game.  It's a way to pass the time in an enjoyable way with friends, just like mountain biking, rock climbing, or hunting.  Neither your bills, nor your career, nor your finances rely in the slightest on gaming night.  If gaming night evaporates, there is neither pain nor gain.  

Next time you're feeling irritated with your friends because they aren't as "focused" as you, remind yourselves:

1. This is only a game.
2. These are my friends.
3. This is supposed to be fun.  The moment I get irritated or angry, it is no longer fun.
4. The instant the game is no longer fun, it is time to stop.

And when it is time to stop, it might be time to buy a bike and go tooling around.  You must stop.  You need to stop, because you're angry and it has ceased to be fun.  

Cons are kind of a catch-22.  You can't really leave, because you paid.  You can't get rid of players, because they paid.  If you're unwilling to take the risks of lousy games at cons, don't play.  It's just a game.  And if it gets you all riled up, use the money to go stay for a weekend in the woods or at the beach, instead.  


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: james_west on September 10, 2001, 08:45:00 AM
Hello all -

Once again, a really nice collection of essays here. Quite impressed with everyone's thinking.

Several thoughts crossed my mind while reading this thread.

First, after my experience at the latest convention, I think I've decided that most of the players out there really enjoy having strong directorial power, and can even use it appropriately, assuming that you're all on the same page about what sort of game it is.

Second, I've also decided that the key to having a player enjoy a game is to essentially not only let him decide what his character attempts, but pretty much determine the outcome of what the character attempts. That way, you never have one of those jarring, "That wouldn't happen to my character !" scenes. The problem only lies with players who are just unwilling to describe failure of any sort for their character.

For instance, in the satyr/16 year old scene, I'm sure Jesse would have been less annoyed if (had he rolled a failure), he had been able to describe the reason that his attempt had failed, rather than having a description that blew his character conception/world view.

In my second "Elfs" session, I was essentially using the Elfs mechanic for a "serious" game, and it worked very well. The players interpreted the dumb luck rule to mean that if they failed a roll, they got to describe what happened then, too. I ran with it, because I thought it was an intereting interpretation, and they always did a good job (well, once or twice I had to tell them to amend it). Anyway, makes me think that such a mechanic would work very well as a standard piece of RPG.

On a different topic, many a GM (myself occasionally included) reflexively falls into the role of "figure out why the players' plans don't work." This, I think, leads to a lot of frustration. As many people have frequently said, games are more fun if the GM instead throws information and success at the players as fast as possible, and lets them work out what to do next. Of course, you have to throw in plot complications to keep things interesting, but these ought to take the form of something new and dynamic, instead of the form of, "That didn't work either, try something else."

Bottom line: what makes a game fun for players is having their characters work the way they expect them to, and having things continuously happening. What makes the game fun for the GM is to have the players properly address his premise and produce innovative solutions to his conflicts. I think the way to handle this is to give the players rather more power than is usual even in games that give a lot of directorial power, but make sure up front that they're familiar with the genre conventions and premise that you're trying to play from.

                 - James


Title: Taking It All Too Seriously or Curse You Ron Edwards
Post by: contracycle on September 13, 2001, 02:24:00 AM
Hmm, well, I have some sympathy for these ideas as applied specifically to HORROR gaming.  I suspect that voluntary participation in a horror game implicitly grants a certain license to GM's to cross the normal bounds of the RPG interaction.  I make a point of asking players in horror games if they have any particular bugbears, buttons I should not push.  But once these no-go areas are established, I'm quite willing to push the bounds in order to generate the aura of tension and fear at quite a visceral level in the players proper (rather than the characters).