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Author Topic: How I bowed out  (Read 4328 times)
Jasper
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« on: April 06, 2004, 07:30:37 AM »

I'd just like to relate my recent experience with bowing out of what would have been a regular gaming night....

So this one guy who I know invites me to game with him and some of his friends.  I've never played with him before, but we've discussed games and have some similar interests, including an appreciation of smaller publications and historical stuff.  Let's call him J.  I've met one of his friends before, and he seems nice enough, but I don't know anything about his gaming habits.  We decide to do one or two short sessions to get to know each other before taking the plunge into some massive campaign.  We settle on TRoS, with me GMing, and set up Thursday night as a time when we're all free.

On the first night, J's friend is supposed to pick me up, at 8 if I remember.  I'm all reved up go to, having not gamed much for a couple of months, since the TRoS game I was in fizzled due to scheduling problems.  Well, long story short, the guy's late, by about two hours.  Now he had a decent excuse - some relationship issues - but that pretty much killed my mood, and I really hate waiting for people.  Plus on the way over we have to stop for snacks, and then we get pulled over by the cops when the guy clips a curb, delaying us further.  The only reason I'm relaying this is that this isn't the only time this sort of thing happened in the couple of times we played, and delays and late starts seemed to be the norm.

Anyway, we sit down and make characters for the game, and discuss what everyone wants.  Nothing strange: no player empowerment or anything; they just want to try out the system, which is okay by me since it's such a short game.  J's other friend is there too: a little hyper, but nice.  Well, character creation takes the whole evening, and - like the ride there - sets up the pattern for how things will go.  When we had first talked about doing this, J had read Sorceror and agreed strongly with the principle of taking gaming seriously: putting effort in, and not bothering if you weren't going to do that....

Well, to be blunt, this group had some serious focus issues.  This really became evident on the first real night of play (of three).  It was bad.  I don't think anyone could say one line without a joke being made and a ten-minute tangential conversation being entered into.  I would be talking to one player, and the other two would just drift off, paying the game no heed.  The TV was on in the room, which was more or less a disaster, but since J's wife was watching, there wasn't much to be done for it.  So of course the whole thing proceded at a snails pace, and I was feeling more than a little put out - after all, I'd spent the better part of two days prepping the adventure, and certainly wasn't having much fun.

I'm not a very heavy-handed GM, nor do I think I should need to corral players into being basically curteous.  I tried to bring things together a few times, but it mostly seemed hopeless.  Maybe some sharp words would have been appropriate, but I wasn't going to be the one to do it: on that particular night I was sick and exhausted.  J knew I was peeved at a few points I think, but still couldn't really restrain himself.  

The other thing that got me turned off was some of J's behavior toward the other players.  He's a bit older, has a strong personality, and has a lot more gaming experience than his friends - like me he's usually the GM.  So he had some strong ideas about how play should go.  Now input into other player's actions, and open discussion of them, is fine by me, It seemed to me that on a couple occasions J ended up seriously shutting down one of the other players, basically by telling him he was role-playing badly.  Now frankness is his style, and it can work - he later told me that he knows more what's necessary to keep the other two players focused - but this was definitely a game where enthusiasm was sorely needed, and I hated to see what little we had defeated.  (I wonder if this might be a case related to the GMs making bad players thread.)

(Frex, one kid, was addressing a rabble-rouser and accidentally thought the guy was the head of the guild he was trying to incite against the Baron.  Certainly a gaff, and would have been avoided if the player had been more on the ball.  My approach - and what I later did - was to just correct him and explain the situation, allowing him to revise what he said.  J jumped in however with ?badly played, my friend.?  Not horrible or anything, but I could see the deflated look on the other player's face.  Maybe that's negative reinforcement he needs, I don't' know, but it seemed self-defeating to me.)

Wow, this is getting long.  Well, long story short, we called a premature halt to the TRoS game - actually J did and I concurred that it wasn't a bad idea, while the other players would have been more or less content with continuing it.  Now I was thinking about what I wanted to do, but decided to see how the campaign might go: J would be GMing Ars Magica and would bring in another friend of his, who he said has a style more like my own.  

But by next Thursday, I've thought it over, and just don't feel like it.  Thursday night isn't a great time either, and since we move so slowly, we usually were finishing by 2 or 3, and I have work all day Friday starting at 9, so that's not so great.  But on top of that, it just didn't seem like a group I wanted to be in, even if I weren't GMing.  I had wanted to try out Ars Magica (which I own but have never tried), but decided it wasn't worth it.  I probably handled the bowing out badly, since I was considering the situation up to the last minute, and just didn't go when J's friend stopped by to pick me up - sort of left them in the lurch at the last minute, which was damned rude, but it seemed like I should quit before the next big thing, if ever.  

Did I give this group enough of a shot?  As J pointed out to me later - a little peeved that I hadn't stuck it out longer - he's had more experience working with his friends, and the group dynamics could change a lot with him GMing and with his third friend.  The TRoS game certainly went horribly though.  It wasn't my finest GMing - though everyone said they were happy with what I'd offered up - but the focus just was not there.

So why am I posting this?  Maybe I subconsciously (I guess it's conscious now) want some validation of my decision, but mostly I just wanted to share: I've read quite a few stories here about lingering, dysfunctional groups, and often the advice is to bow out if nothing seems to be working.  Well, I bowed out.  So thanks to Ron for advocating serious gaming, awareness of your own style, and the idea that not everyone can role-play together successfully.  

FYI, I'm still friends with everyone involved, except the new player who I never met.  J and I do historical combat together, and the other two players have recently been getting involved in that too.   So, I'm not playing in a game I always wanted to try... but I'm not wasting five hours a week just to do it, or just for the sake of gaming, or just for want of social activity.  I didn't alienate anyone too badly, and everyone else seems to be having fun with the Ars Magica game.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2004, 08:41:29 AM »

Well, I'd say you have the first half of a successful story.

I think bowing out was almost certainly the right thing.  Because regardless of whether or not you gave them a fair shake, if it didn't feel like a group you wanted to be a part of, then it didn't feel like a group you wanted to be a part of.  No harm no foul on anyones part.  (well except for that last minute ditching thing, but you already acknowledged that, and from the initial late pickup to the TV being on common courtesy doesn't seem to be too high on the list of priorities with this group anyway).

But the second half, to make this a successful story would involve you finding the group that you feel you do want to be a part of...even if that means you have to do a lot of shopping around or creating gamers from scratch.

That would make for a great complete story.
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Jasper
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2004, 09:02:44 AM »

Good point Ralph.  I haven't been actively looking for a group, but after this and the disolution of the TRoS game, I think I'll have to start.  You'd think being in an area with no fewer than four gaming stores and five college campuses would make it easy (and it is easy to find warm bodies, but that's not the same).  I tell ya, schedules are a bitch, but if nothing else, I gotta get a playtest of ABSQVE ROMA in, right? ;)
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
silburnl
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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2004, 03:14:36 AM »

I'm surprised you gave it as long as you did quite frankly. I know it was a new group and maybe I'm a grouchy perfectionist in my old age, but at the very least I'd have scrubbed that first session when your lift didn't arrive until 10pm - RPing needs a degree of concentration that just isn't going to be forthcoming in a session that kicks off at 11pm, especially if you need to be working the next day. This goes double for the GM and double again for a new system. Sure I've pulled some crazy all-nighters in my time but (a) I was young and stupid, (b) they were with established groups who were comfortable together and (c) they were never great successes in any case.

Second thing was having the TV on and g/friend present. If the host can't sort out a room where you won't be disturbed by and/or disturbing others then they shouldn't really be hosting in my book. Again I'd have scrubbed the session and fallen back to 'getting to know you' chit chat and some talk about character concepts and general background in preparation for next time.

For the rest, well... bailing at the last minute wasn't a good thing so you need to square that with the rest of the group if you haven't done so already.

Regards
Luke
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Jasper
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« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2004, 03:57:37 AM »

Quote
RPing needs a degree of concentration that just isn't going to be forthcoming in a session that kicks off at 11pm...


I would absolutely agree.  The rest of the players work on a different schedule from me though, routinely staying up until 4 AM, and so didn't think much of it.  The funny thing is that they did eventually realize how obnoxious it was, and apologized routinely for their lack of focus and lateness. But while apologies are good, not needing to make them again is a whole lot better.

Quote
Again I'd have scrubbed the session and fallen back to 'getting to know you' chit chat and some talk about character concepts and general background in preparation for next time.


Well on the first night this is what we did -- in fact we had been planning on playing some card games or something to get to know one another, but didn't have time thanks to getting there late and chargen taking an obscene amount of time.  But the TV thing continued each night we played.

And I think the reason I did stick with it so long was because I liked the idea of gaming (with them).  Common problem methinks.
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Jasper McChesney
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2004, 06:54:05 AM »

Hey Jasper:

I went through a similar situation last year with a group that included one of my oldest friends. I could write pages and pages about that group, but suffice to say they didn't click with me.

While I'm glad to be gaming with people that I really like gaming with, it sucked, a lot, to stop gaming with my friend.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2004, 07:09:51 AM »

Hi folks,

This all goes back to my points about Social Context, from the Infamous Five.

Role-playing is not, itself, friendship.

If you role-play to substitute for or to form the actual stuff of friendship, the the imaginative and procedural acts of role-playing are under intolerable pressure.

The only thing that defines and sustains friendship is honest support (which may include both harshness and kindness) through actual, real-life conflicts.

Creative Agendas do not consitute such conflicts; they concern imaginary inventions. When a person mixes up "role-playing" with "friendship" (conceptually speaking), he or she forces the imaginary material to become a crisis, in order for the friendship to come into existence (putatively).

People always misunderstand me about this. They think I mean that you shouldn't role-play with friends (incorrect), or that you can't become friends with people you role-play with (also incorrect). What I am saying is that the role-playing per se, itself, is not the friendship, even if that's the primary activity that two friends happen to enjoy together.

It seems to me that this is the fundamental broken element of role-playing as a hobby, at the levels of Social Contract, Exploration, and Creative Agenda. It is no surprise to me whatsoever that gamers who cannot process this idea correctly, when dealing with others, represent the least satisfied portion of the hobby population - and tragically, the most committed to remaining active in the hobby, because they unreasonably substitute the hobby-activity for the perfectly reasonable social goal of having friends.

Best,
Ron
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Peter Hollinghurst
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« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2004, 12:34:14 PM »

I must admit that the whole issue of friendships and rpg as a hobby has been a big one for me as well. I dont think its the whole story though. When I started rpging back with the first dnd books in the UK in the late 1970s I played with friends from my school-we were friends first and gamers second (this was aftera rather intriguing misconception that my family would all happily play like we did with board games, and my parents and grandmother all had a go-fun, but it proved not to be their 'cup of tea'-I mention it because it reflects a needed change in understanding of what a game 'is'-we only thought in terms of board games then and rpgs required a huge shift in our view of things).
Those early games were generally chaotic, but fun, and the friendship dynamic was good. While it lasted, and for a while when there were still enough friends in the mix, the games were great.
Over time life issues (jobs, university etc) meant the group dissolved, but I kept on with some of the other people had joined in for a while. Eventually the group evolved into one where it was game first, friends afterwards, and more recently, the game became the only real point of contact. This was fine until the next paradigm shift occured for me (the first being the transistion from 'normal' games to rpg).
I was already dissatisfied with the assumptions of many in the game group, and they tended to take the GM (me) very much for granted and were often awkward and petty in games-I started dreading playing but still loved the creative aspect so much it was very very hard letting go of the group. For a while I did stop, but got back into playing partly to introduce my wife into the hobby (which she loves).
At this time my own life was undergoing a major shift into recognising the emerging counter culture inspired by shifting worldviews into a more post modern one(sorry to use the term here, but its still the closest one to describe it even if it can be contentious and have multiple interpretations). I had always felt more orientated towards such a worldview, but a point came where I started to 'go with it' instead of hiding it away. One of these transistions was regarding what I feel comfortable with rpg wise. I stopped feeling happy just gaming for the sake of it and started exploring more radical emerging playing styles and concepts.
None of these are exactly easy to explore with many of my current crop of players-they are mostly die hard traditionalists, and definately have NOT made the same sort of paradigm shift I have. When I play with people that have, everything feels right and games are amazing-when I dont, games become a drudge.
Now-I dont think the fact that those I was playing with were not really friends first-more aquaintances found through gaming is the whole story, but it has been a part of it. Friends hold more in common, and tend to be able to 'ride a wave' together to some degree simply because they are friends. Aquaintances dont do that. They stay put when you move on.
I suspect a lot of the sort of disruption some find when exploring emerging game concepts comes down to this-an inability for a group to 'ride that wave' together. Partly this may be down to an issue of friendship and how strong or rooted it is, but I suspect its primarily one of cultural shifts in worldview. Normally friends are friends partly because they do share a common worldview, and you need that to make experimenting with many of the game concepts here work in your group. Perhaps  the key is finding people who have also begun a transistion into a different way of seeing the world. Chances are they will become friends simply because they are travelling a similar road.
Im moving on from my decaying group of modernist trad rpgers not because I want to, but because I cant go anywhere else and remain true to myself. Fortunately my wife is on the same journey so we at least are together on this. Finding others on that route will take time.
Hmmm-Im rambling abit here, partly because its very personal, and partly because there are a lot of deep issues here. The heart of what Im trying to say is that so far as I see it, the sort of concepts discussed here are part of a cultural rejection of modernism, a sort of post structuralist play centered around radically challenging traditional concepts of authorship and control in rpgs. Perhaps some of the discussion is leading to designs that have actually evolved beyond rpgs altogther and have become something else-a new game form with as radical a shift as dnd was for many people when it first came out.
Some people just wont 'get it' because they are still modernist at heart, while others will embrace it-many of whom i suspect will come from groups that have tended to reject rpgs in the past (I think women are MUCH more likely to get the concepts for example).
Now-friends riding the same wave will 'get it' too, and the experiments will work. Those who arent wont, and it will take a major shift in how they see things to bring them along with you.
Is it worth the bother or not? Or do we hunt for those who will embrace it as the sort of games they have already been looking for? Does it become a way to discover new and suprising friendships?

If anyone wants to have a go at unscrambling this please be my guest! I will go off and quietly explore some post modern angst for a while...
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Jasper
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« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2004, 05:14:09 PM »

Ron, you said:

Quote
People always misunderstand me about this. They think I mean that ... you can't become friends with people you role-play with (also incorrect).


Do you think that at least the potential for friendship is an initial reguisite for good role-playing?  I'm inclined to believe it is, inasmuch as friendship requires some degree of compatability, and so must gaming.  The question is what kinds of compatibility, and are they the same?

Peter,

I can certainly see that role-playing has meant a lot to you!  I'm a little awed by what seems to be your total embracing of RPG into your worldview.  I'm still considering it all so I won't say too much.  However....

I agree that it's certianly possible to "move on" while fellow-RPGers don't, making gaming impossible -- and that this can be a major factor in a group splitting up.   (and I don't think role-playing is in any way unique in being susceptible to this -- happens with groups of people in almost any pursuit)  I also agree that friends may be more likely to follow along, but they certainly don't always.  When I began moving away form traditional games, most of the people I know -- friends and regular gaming buddies -- remained uninterested.  I still try to get them to try new things, and they do, but they prefer the traditional stuff.  Luckily, in my case, I don't think a rift will be created over this, but it does mean I don't get to try out some of the more "avante guard" games."
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Andrew Norris
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« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2004, 10:10:35 PM »

Quote from: Jasper

Do you think that at least the potential for friendship is an initial reguisite for good role-playing?  I'm inclined to believe it is, inasmuch as friendship requires some degree of compatability, and so must gaming.  The question is what kinds of compatibility, and are they the same?


Not to answer for Ron, but here's my opinion on the issue, based on my take of the essays on the site:

Roleplaying is a group activity, and so it should be done with people who you would enjoy performing a group activity with. (I know, it sounds like a tautology.) A good rule of thumb for me is if I'd enjoy going to dinner with a group of people, or sitting around discussing books or movies, then I'd be willing to consider gaming with them.

How I read what Ron means is that if the only reason you'd possibly consider spending time with certain people is to play a game, then it's likely issues could arise. Or rather, if your interest in playing a game overrides the feeling that you'd really not rather mingle with them, there's a problem. Because you are mingling with them when you game.

I can relate to the idea of struggling to bring in my particular take on gaming (as it's evolved over time) to a group who's interested in more traditional fare. Again, I think this is where being friends (or just friendly) with the people in the group matters -- I feel comfortable discussing gaming issues with my friends because things like "how we play" aren't the cornerstone of our relationship.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2004, 10:32:43 PM »

Hi there,

Andrew, you've nailed my take on the issue as well, and stated it beautifully.

Best,
Ron
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Peter Hollinghurst
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« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2004, 10:46:21 PM »

Jasper-
Its not so much that rpgs are a major part of my worldview, rather that my worldview effects everything I do-and by extension rpgs.

The issue for me at the moment is if I continue to play with the group of players that I accrued over the last few years who are not really friends, and do not share that worldview. For me rpgs are great, but not worth the hassle that inevitable conflicts in viewpoint create. Since they are also very manipulative as players, seeing any preparation I make for games as something they can walk all over and take very much for granted, I am moving more to a position where I will keep to small 1-1 games with my wife until we can find some more progressive, like minded gamers that want to become part of a shared gaming process rather than act like leeches on my own overburdened creativity.

What is particularly annoying is that they constantly question my rational capabilities over emerging gaming styles-its not just a matter of 'gosh thats radical, Im not sure I could play that', but 'stop talking rubbish-these styles of gaming are impossible and you are stupid and dont understand what rpgs are or how they work' before they start accusing me of wanting to start an impro theater group (!??*?).  They also flatly refuse to believe that ANYONE has ever played these game styles or even could.

So-its a combination for me-they treat me like dirt when I GM games the way they want, and they treat me like an idiot lunatic when I suggest trying games the way I instinctively feel I would like to. Not exactly a gaming group to hang around with really.

I think my point with the whole worldview thing is simply that I tend to find friendships easier with people with similar worldviews, and that by a lucky coincidence, such people are more likely to readily understand and grasp the sort of alternative indie games concepts I would like to play-hence I am looking to build any future gaming group from such friends or possibly find friends through such a group. My own experience suggests strongly that the one thing that cannot work (unless its a case of being paid to Gm or something) is to play rpgs of any sort (but especially alternative ones) with people that you share little to nothing in common with outside of rpgs.
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Jasper
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« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2004, 07:09:41 AM »

Quote from: Andrew
A good rule of thumb for me is if I'd enjoy going to dinner with a group of people, or sitting around discussing books or movies, then I'd be willing to consider gaming with them.


Sounds like a good idea, Andrew, and basically how I've tried to operate.


Quote from: Peter
So-its a combination for me-they treat me like dirt when I GM games the way they want, and they treat me like an idiot lunatic when I suggest trying games the way I instinctively feel I would like to. Not exactly a gaming group to hang around with really.


I think can say with full certainty that it's a good thing you've given up on these jerks.  And it sounds to me like viewpoint over RPGs probably far less the immediate concern than social incompatability -- though certainly, as you say, that compatability and a similar view on RPGs may go together.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Peter Hollinghurst
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« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2004, 08:07:27 AM »

Its a mix of both Jasper-though in many ways the social concern is probably the most important (since I am actually happy to be involved in playing rpgs that are 'old style' even if I do wish to experiment more). I sympathise with your initial post where you mention "Maybe I subconsciously (I guess it's conscious now) want some validation of my decision"-very much how I have been feeling. Have you found that your own gaming group is a mix of people you find great to play with and others that bog you down? I think if so, that does make it harder to make a break or to experiment more. Its especially difficicult if you are play testing your own system.
The dynamics in my group are odd anyway-certain combinations of players spell really bad news, while others work ok. The difficulty I have had is that they stick together like a herd of cows-you want one, you get them all!

Im starting to see that where my own game Im trying to get playtested is concerned that perhaps I need a more interesting mix-because its a bit of break with old style rpgs it may have more understandability and appeal to those who have had no previous interest in gaming (especially women). That makes it problematic marketing-wise since it suggests that the main rpg market may have trouble taking it up (so I decided I can use some old rules to make an rpg version, while the more emergent game will be a 'story game' not an rpg as such-both can still safely share a lot of the same material thankfully).

Do you feel that the whole situation you are facing is making playtesting ABSQVE ROMA much harder? I hope not-it looks good. If I actually had much of a group at the moment who could I would love to playtest it!

Anyway-I suspect that my own experience has nicely demonstrated the wisdom of Ron's comment about gaming being no substitute for friendships. Where I live in the UK it is very hard to do much else alas-my friends have mostly moved quite some distance away and Im stuck in a very 'dead' part of Sussex with zero places to really meet new people in any meaningful way. Basically its a 'bedroom' town. Even finding ways to gather likeminded people together is hampered by a lack of good local communications and places to meet. I suspect I shall have to look further afield...
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Jasper
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« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2004, 01:00:01 PM »

Peter,

Sounds like a tough position you're in, with some players you like and others who are impossible.  Does the group -- or even just some individuals -- understand that you're unhappy with the way things have been going?  You've said that the group tends to stick together like cows, but maybe you could set up a separate game with just the better members -- maybe even explicitly bill it a a small side-game which onlythe interested people should play in.  This way you can experiment with something new without making the big leap to ditching the whole group at once.  

Quote
Do you feel that the whole situation you are facing is making playtesting ABSQVE ROMA much harder? I hope not-it looks good. If I actually had much of a group at the moment who could I would love to playtest it!


Get a better group, get one now! Go go go!  :)

Seriously though, thanks, I'm glad it looks interesting to you. Certainly it's harder to do playtests when you don't have a fully functional group that's ready to hit the ground running even with a less-than-complete product.  Back in highschool when I did have a solid group, playtesting was a snap: every couple of months I'd announce a new game and everyone would readily agree to at least a couple sessions of it.  Now I appreciate how much of a luxury that was.

At the moment, I have scattered role-player friends, but most of them don't live near me anymore, and most are on busy schedules.  This is sort of why I'm consdidering taking the net-game tack.   Like many of the members of your group, some of these people do tend to shy away from less conventional games, but I think my enthusiasm for the project is somewhat contagious, so they're willing to give it a whirl anyway.

If I were in your case, I'd definitely just try to explain my position to the group, in terms of what you want (and where you want to go) and what's not working for you at present.  Maybe even tell them you've considered dropping out, given the outright rudeness you describe.   If you're lucky, the more reasonable players will see your position, and maybe something good can come of the group afterall.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
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