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Author Topic: Rewards for setting up  (Read 2454 times)
Callan S.
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« on: August 25, 2004, 08:06:41 PM »

We talk alot about game rewards here at the forge, so I thought I'd ask about those for setting up. By setting up I mean what's needed for a session to begin and keep going, like:

* Someone writes up some material (perhaps a story written by the GM)
* Everyone has learnt the rules
* Everyone brings the rules to mind, rather than letting their minds wander too much.
* Lots of listening and remembering what's said.
* Formulating responces within the agreed framework
* Many more things

If you actually look at what you do for roleplay, it's a fair bit of work.

Now, you can have in game rewards, like XP for killing a monster in D&D or XP for pursuing an SA in riddle of steel.

But the thing is, these rewards don't do much until the set up has occured. XP is worthless while the set up hasn't taken place.

Which means rewards for setting up are pretty vital, if as a designer you want people to get to the in game reward stage.

Now, for most board games the reward of their required set up is that someone will come away a winner.

Most RPG's have neatly eliminated that. So what is the reward for setting up an RPG? In game rewards are only valuable in game. You might say being able to boast a 5th level fighter can also be an outside game reward. But unlike telling someone you won a board game, telling someone your a 5th level fighter requires setting up that other person with the significance of it, assuming they don't play the system you do.


Also, I'm wondering if one of the rewards that might be mentioned which are good times and good roleplay moments/memories, can actually have a negative effect.
What I'm saying is that instead of the above being a pleasant result of roleplay, it instead must happen to reward the effort of setting up.

I think that's an unrealistic expectation...that a good memory or good time can be produced on demand to pay for the effort of set up. And I think it can put people off roleplay
"I'm too tired to game" means "I'm too tired to put in enough effort to make a good enough game"

I've heard the former many times and even the latter. They aren't too tired to do other games, like timesplitters. But living up to the expectations of roleplay, they are too tired to deliver that.


So what are some out of game rewards typically involved in common RP? Keep in mind that the smaller a clique the reward is valuable to make a proportionate reduction in the rewards value (or so I assert. Argue it if need be). At some point it can easily be smaller than the effort of set up.
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Doctor Xero
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2004, 09:54:40 AM »

Quote from: Noon
By setting up I mean what's needed for a session to begin and keep going, like:

* Someone writes up some material (perhaps a story written by the GM)
* Everyone has learnt the rules
* Everyone brings the rules to mind, rather than letting their minds wander too much.
* Lots of listening and remembering what's said.
* Formulating responces within the agreed framework
* Many more things

In several of the groups with which I've gamed, we defer much of the set up until after the first game.

Players don't worry about writing up character backgrounds or truly having the rules remembered until after the third session.  Up until that point, the game master walks us through the rules, and we all accept that  the game sessions are going to be a bit more plot-driven and involve a bit of railroading because the game master has no character backgrounds to enable her or him to run the more character-oriented campaigns we prefer.

After both the first and second session, players and game master together discuss what we really enjoyed about that evening's session, discuss directions which we think might be interesting to pursue, and discuss what we disliked about that evening's session (COURTEOUSLY!), not only in terms of the game mastering but in terms of ourselves and our fellow players.

Three sessions is enough time for the game master to know for a certainty that he or she wants to run this campaign with the group chemistry we've developed for this campaign, enough time for the players to know their player-characters well enough to write up some proper character backgrounds, enough time for everyone to get a sense of the rules framework for this particular campaign in this particular game system, and enough time for all of us to develop an enthusiasm grounded in this specific campaign.

And after the third session, the game master refuses to run again until all the players have submitted character backgrounds and other set-up work (and any player who has no grasp of the basic rules by the beginning of the fourth session finds himself or herself the target of considerable group annoyance).

So, what is the reward for set-up once this occurs?  THAT WE GET TO PLAY AGAIN!

Doctor Xero
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Marco
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« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2004, 12:54:27 PM »

Many of the games I play in (and some I run) have no mechanical XP system in use at all (it's there--but the game is short term, one-adventure and getting XP at the end of it doesn't count for anything in terms of actual play).

Rewards in those games are either in terms of SiS (you get to experience/imagine [whatever]) or perhaps meta-game (you get to take part in the creation of this cool story).

I know that one player explained RPGing to me as follows:

"The GM is trying to tell his story and the player is trying to tell his character's story."

(the terms were not Forge-style and I'd be careful drawing inferences about story-now, story-later, or railroading from that--but the idea of telling the story of a character seems a valid reward).

I think you hit on it here though:
Quote

Now, for most board games the reward of their required set up is that someone will come away a winner.


In RPG's, if the session is good, everyone comes away a winner.

-Marco
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clehrich
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« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2004, 01:26:02 PM »

Doesn't Castle Falkenstein provide rewards for doing this sort of setup work?  I think several other games of that period do as well.  And certainly most of the games I'm in these days hand out XP or equivalent for showing up and not being an ass rather than for something particular you did during the game; sometimes you get a little pat on the head XP for something cool, but mostly it's being present and involved.

To my mind, the simple way to reward setup work is to provide narrative control.  For example, in the espionage game I'm in now, based somewhat loosely on the Shadows in the Fog rules, we have huge narrative control over whatever we want.  But the more preparation you put into things, the more control you get.  This isn't a formal thing; it's just a question of how much time and effort you're willing to put into it out of game.  And since it's all reward and no punishment, people who don't have the time or inclination to spend hours writing intelligence documents don't lose anything and in fact can more rapidly build from what the crazies (like me) have put together.

So for example, we were supposed to have simultaneous mole-hunts within MI5, MI6, and the CIA, and as I'm the resident MI6 officer I started work.  The thing is, the MI5 guy wasn't able to be at the game for a while, no fault or blame attached, so we focused mostly on the CIA end of things (the other characters are all CIA except for one NSA guy).  MI5 got pretty much dropped, but this all left the England side of the equation on the margins, even though all of this was happening in London.

So I started generating lots and lots of documents about the investigation I was running within MI6, none of which was directly played out during game time (although it did get referred to periodically, by me and by others).  This allowed us to keep the play focus where it was most dramatically effective, and also generated all sorts of plot complexities about the CIA mole situation.  My reward for doing all this was that I got to make up whatever the hell I wanted, and the GM never gainsaid me (of course I didn't break with anything established).  Everyone else's reward was that they had more material to play with without their having to put huge amounts of time into it outside of gametime.  And finally, of course, all the characters and players could be fully involved in the whole play situation without my essentially having to have my own play sessions.

Is this sort of thing really all that uncommon?
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Chris Lehrich
Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2004, 03:15:08 PM »

Interesting responces, but they seem to be drawing on in-session rewards, not out of session rewards. XP is only really valuable once your set up and playing.

The reason I mentioned the idea of winning, is because it requires no set up to be a valuable reward. Since it doesn't need set up, its something that's valuable outside set up/the game. An out of game reward.

So I'm really concentrating on what reward you can get from the game,  which is valuable even when the game is not actually being run. XP or narrative control are really only valuable inside game play.

Telling a story(/story of a character) is one reward that endures after the session ends. But it's still almost requires game set up, as it only effected those who played in the game.

Finally, on "In RPG's, if the session is good, everyone comes away a winner.", as I said before I think it's a damaging expectation. I think the special qualities that you can get in an RPG can't be produced on demand...they just sort of happen sometimes. So what is the reward when they don't just sort of happen? As I noted before, I've observed people unwilling to play because they don't have enough energy to (hopefully) support a winning game. Making a winning game the reward means provoking less play (well, not when were teenagers and had lots of energy, but when were older and working).
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Bill Cook
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2004, 04:12:56 PM »

I see two ends of a range for one dynamic of prep: (1) all on the GM and (2) spread throughout the group. Prep can represent internalizing rules (initially) or providing story material (continually, per campaign). Also, another dynamic: (1) all up front and (2) sprinkled throughout. This brings to mind the question, is prep play?

I don't know what you'd call these. Maybe distribution and issue? So you could have (a) limited distribution and a single, preliminary issue, (b) limited distribution and frequent samples, (c) highly distributed and a single, preliminary issue or (d) highly distributed and frequent samples.

Basically, with distribution, you trade control/impact to gain novelty/manageability. And with issue, you trade continuity to gain immediacy. I think the perceived workload of RP is exaggerated by rigid approaches to the above.

(Oh, shit! I'm late! More later . . .)
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Marco
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2004, 06:59:20 PM »

Quote from: Noon

Finally, on "In RPG's, if the session is good, everyone comes away a winner.", as I said before I think it's a damaging expectation. I think the special qualities that you can get in an RPG can't be produced on demand...they just sort of happen sometimes. So what is the reward when they don't just sort of happen? As I noted before, I've observed people unwilling to play because they don't have enough energy to (hopefully) support a winning game. Making a winning game the reward means provoking less play (well, not when were teenagers and had lots of energy, but when were older and working).


Well, I take my gaming now more seriously than I did then: when I (rarely) get to play (as opposed to GM, something I do more frequently), I freaking organize things, take days off of work, make sure characters and descriptions are all in before hand, etc.

And if it doesn't happen? Well ... if I ran into a long enough stretch of bad gaming, I think I'd give up until some condition changed--but that's hardly unexpected, right?

-Marco
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Just Released: JAGS Wonderland
Bill Cook
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Posts: 501


« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2004, 08:16:54 PM »

(Returns, fresh from the sale.)

Xero:

It sounds like you approach prep in stages. That's cool how your group (a) just gets started, (b) looks for a feel and (c) certifies a direction. It's like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

Marco:

I, too, favor immediate rewards.

Chris (clehrich):

I read your experience to suggest SIS impact rewards prep. Kind of like Universalis, but with pages of background instead of coins.

Callan (Noon):

Unless I'm misunderstanding, I think you want to arrive at some kind of design principle that provides an out-of-game reward for performing setup duties. Well, as my musings upthread describe, I think there's some debate over whether setup or prep is necessarily singular and preliminary to play; or that it's not play or necessarily the work of one person. I mean, that's kind of tradition, but obviously, there are systems that support other cases for prep.

I don't think keeping reward out-of-game is the trigger to mobilize players. I mean, even if you wanted to go one-man-show, complete setup up front, and everyone threw in a dollar for the GM's trouble, it's still bloody work, isn't it?

It's striking that you raise this topic. My recent design efforts have been in part motivated by the fact that I'm getting older (read: more time demands, less energy to assume prep duties) and have had this nagging sense that with five people at the table, generally, four minds are going to waste. And I have reflected, on occasion, that I busted my ass for a week just to create an opportunity for group involvement. So I lost twice. I missed out on input to prep and assumed all the risk of a failed attempt.

I think the way through is to fiddle with the above dynamics of prep.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2004, 09:56:04 PM »

Hi Bill,

Quote
It's striking that you raise this topic. My recent design efforts have been in part motivated by the fact that I'm getting older (read: more time demands, less energy to assume prep duties) and have had this nagging sense that with five people at the table, generally, four minds are going to waste.


Can I refer you to a post of mine on out of game rewards, from a few weeks ago. It's main content is actually from another author who shows a slothful player without rewards/reward goals to aim for, but once he got them he started going for them hard! http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12230

Anyway, I think what your suggesting is spreading the workload of the game set up. At first this works...if they contribute to the work required, they will loose if they don't then contribute in game.

The thing is, I bet they'll figure out that if they don't take up that work in the first place, their still in a good position. See, the only thing motivating them is that they did work and will loose out/suffer a penalty if they don't then contribute. In the tradition of system does matter, they'll avoid the penalty by avoiding the work (once they figure this out).

Dodging penalties makes sense. Dodging rewards doesn't. 'Most interesting story idea for the month' award (perhaps with some ingame reward tied to it), for example, is more likely to have them contribute to that set up process. Or not, what does the idea provoke for you?
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