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Earliest I've ever had conflict in a game

Started by TonyLB, October 03, 2004, 02:08:48 PM

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TonyLB

Danny's running a short game set in the Stargate: SG-1 universe, a month from now.  He's recruited me and a bunch of the folks who play in another game I play with him.  Danny's a real fun GM, particularly for the sort of cinematic swashbuckling that I associate with this setting.  I'm excited about the prospect.

He's also recruited a friend of ours called Jim.  I think Jim's a great guy, and I regret that I don't know him better.  But I tend not to game with him because he's pretty hard-core gamist, and I'm obsessively narrativist.  We just don't mesh real well.  Danny knows this (though he attributes it to personal disagreements that I just don't think exist) and so he raised the question of whether we'd be able to play in the same game.

My response was:  "I think we can play in a short game if we have a system where we can both pursue our goals without feeling that we're being shafted by the rules.  So Jim will want the ability for tactics to make an impressive impact, I suppose.  And I'll want the ability for emotional resonance and important moral choices to be important.  And we'll want the rules to support both, explicitly."  I gave Danny a few recommendations, and he said he understood the issue and would figure something out.

That was two weeks ago.  After our Slayers of the Carribean Buffy/Pirates game, folks get to discussing the upcoming SG-1.  Everyone in the Slayers game has since been recruited, so there is considerable interest in the room.  There is also considerable surprise when we learn that the game will be run in D20 Modern, which nobody in the room likes.  But Jim (not present) loves it, and Danny apparently thought that... I don't know what he thought.

"Danny," I say, "If we play D20 Modern then the rules are only going to support a narrow tactical focus.  They do that quite well, but it's not what I'm looking to play.  I told you that."

"Oh, don't worry about the rules," Danny says, "Jim has offered to write up the characters for everyone, so he'll be the one dealing with all the rules.  You won't have to worry about them."

At which point (thankfully) I was prevented from saying something stupid because Eric quickly said "So now that Jim's convinced you to use the rules that only he likes, he's leveraging that to totally take over every element of the game!"

Now I wish we'd had Jim actually there to talk to.  I just didn't feel right having the conversation at all in such a one-sided way.  We listed some objections, made some suggestions, and adjourned.  Nobody was at all happy with the situation.

But what freaked me out most, I think, was Danny's complete look of bafflement.  He genuinely thought that running in D20 Modern with pre-generated characters would solve all our problems.

And that bewilderment is really whittling away at my ability to be insistent about this.  After all, it's his game, he doesn't need this kind of grief coming at him from every side.  I think he's headed for a train-wreck, but even if I'm right is there any polite response other than to say "Thanks all the same, but I think I'll take the next train instead"?
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Ben O'Neal

I feel like I've just seen an alien land on my front lawn, walk up, and punch me in the face.

People like this Jim and Danny actually exist?!

Wow.

I don't think I'll ever get over someone offering to write up the characters for a bunch of gamers. Non-gamers, yeah, maybe. But not regular gamers. He might as well be saying "Don't worry guys, I'll make sure you don't say anything stupid, just sit there and let me do all the talking".

QuoteBut what freaked me out most, I think, was Danny's complete look of bafflement. He genuinely thought that running in D20 Modern with pre-generated characters would solve all our problems.
Picture a deer in headlights. That's me right now.

The only recommendation I can give, is what you already know, and don't want to hear, and that is to just let them know that you won't be playing in this particular game. My guess would be that as soon as one of you does this, the rest will drop out too. But of course, there are social undercurrents and geek fallacies to deal with here.

-Ben

Matt Wilson

QuoteAfter all, it's his game, he doesn't need this kind of grief coming at him from every side.

Phooey to that. It's everyone's game. If he doesn't want grief, he shouldn't be making decisions on everyone's behalf.

I think it's kind of weird that you didn't decide which system to use as a group, or that he didn't say "I'd like to use d20, what do you guys think."

The GM typically has a special authority role during play, but it seems all too often to be misapplied outside of actual play. He's just another player like you, and you all should have an equal say as to what you're going to be playing.

clehrich

Now come on, you guys really don't know folks like Danny and Jim?  I do.  They're not aliens, they're just looking at things very differently.

Danny's notion, I suspect, is that "tactics and stuff" means "mechanics."  Tony didn't say how he defined his goals and interests, exactly, but I suspect that Danny thinks "emotional stuff" or whatever has nothing to do with mechanics.  In other words, system only matters to tactics people.  So he figures he'll use a system that's good for Jim and Tony will focus on other things, and everyone will be happy.

Sure, here on the Forge we pretty much take it as given that System Does Matter, even when we're not interested in tactics-crunchy stuff, but that's hardly a universal perspective.  I'm not at all surprised that Danny is boggled by everyone else's responses; he thought he had it settled by just handing over the tactics to Jim and leaving the rest to you.

He's also, I suspect, thinking that D20 Modern is pretty open-ended, i.e. it doesn't force anything in particular.  He's wrong, but this is a common claim of "generic" type systems, and he's bought the claim.

As to "Jim will design the characters," what I would guess he's thinking is something like this.  If everyone designs their own characters, then people like Tony will spend points on stuff like personal weaknesses, a fascination with tactically unhelpful skills, lots of languages, and so on; you know, a well-rounded person, but not a combat-effective guy.  That will make Jim's character a combat monster by comparison, and things will be all unbalanced, and nobody wants that.  If Jim designs the characters, based on what others have said they want, then everyone will be min-maxed in similar ways.  Tony can still spend as much time as he wants messing around with his personal emotional traumas and stuff, which is what Narrativism is, right?, but that won't screw up the tactical efficiency and effectiveness of the team.  And furthermore, Tony isn't into tactics and stuff, so that means he doesn't like mechanics and numbers, so he won't want to design up a character point by point because that would be focusing on all those things he doesn't like.  Jim likes that, so he'll do the designing.

It's all totally reasonable, but it's also wrongheaded.  Basically Danny is thinking that if you're not into tactics and so on, you aren't interested in mechanics and you would rather not think about them.  He also thinks that effectiveness in combat and such is something only Jim cares about.  He probably thinks, most likely not consciously, that Tony's interests are really sort of dicking-around hamming-it-up personal agonizing.  So he figures that as long as Tony doesn't have to worry much about mechanics, Tony can pretty much do his thing regardless of system, and he thinks that by making it so that Tony doesn't have to crunch numbers and worry about balance and so on, Tony will be happy.

Do you see where he's coming from?  I don't know Danny, of course, but I know a lot of guys like him, and have played in campaigns run by them.  There is a basic failure of communication here, which I don't know how to solve, but Danny isn't an alien or an idiot; he just doesn't really get that System Matters and he doesn't get at all what Story Now entails.
Chris Lehrich

hanschristianandersen

QuoteAnd that bewilderment is really whittling away at my ability to be insistent about this. After all, it's his game, he doesn't need this kind of grief coming at him from every side. I think he's headed for a train-wreck, but even if I'm right is there any polite response other than to say "Thanks all the same, but I think I'll take the next train instead"?

If you think you aren't going to enjoy the game, then don't play in it.  What are you worried about?  Are you worried that Danny will take it personally?  Is saying "No, I'm not really interested in playing, thank you" such an unprecedented event in your group that you're worried about what would happen?
Hans Christian Andersen V.
Yes, that's my name.  No relation.

TonyLB

I think that I could very much enjoy the game, if I am permitted to do my premise-addressing thing.

And maybe... in fact, definitely, I'm a bit peeved at the situation.  It feels like I'm being pushed out because I won't unilaterally demand we play it my way.  That stinks.

I have recommended to Danny that he get himself out of the middle of all the players pushing for their own individual goals.  Being the focal point of that jockeying is clearly not fun.  

Personally, I think we should have a group discussion, without his involvement as anything other than another interested player.  We could each say "This is what I want from the game" and then all try to figure out "Which of these things are compatible, which are contradictory".  I don't know whether that will do any good, but I feel a lot better about it than giving up without an effort.
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Callan S.

It'd be funny if you suggested a rule where you note down a...oh, what's a good word for it...passion, and up to five times a day if that passion applies you get +2 to attack or something.

Yes, I'm talking ripping off spiritual attributes. Yeah, I know...'five times a day!?'. But your never going to fight more than five times a day anyway, and it looks more befitting of the system this way.

I mean, TROS is pretty damn gamist, with just a small but powerful narrativist mechanic stuck on.
Philosopher Gamer
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TonyLB

TROS was, it turns out, precisely what I recommended for this game.

I wouldn't suggest it for many gun-era genres, since melee combat often has a different dynamic from ranged combat.  But SG-1 clearly has melee-gunfights.

i.e. The bad guys take a couple shots, and the good guys aren't hit but they are "forced" onto the defensive, grabbing cover.  And then when the bad guys get sufficiently overzealous in trying to blast them, the good guys "take advantage of the opening" and jump out with suddenly increased chances to hit their opponents.
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Alan

Tony,

This thread reminded me of something I learned once I understood GNS preferences.

First, I realized, that I have been struggling to experience narrativist play for decades.  It was only after discovering various Forge-inspired games, that I got it.  

With the understanding of the different preferences, and the satisfaction of finally playing ten or twelve sessions of various narrativist-supporting games, and with the assurance that I'll have it again sometime soon, I'm now much more willing to set my preferences aside and play those agreed on by the group.

In fact, I've also observed that trying to consistently satisfy more than one agenda in the same session produces frustration for everybody.  Even when it's not my prefered agenda, I have more fun if I commit to whichever is dominant in the game.

I think I can do this because the group I'm with is flexible and fairly "Big Model" conscious.  The GNS preference for a particular game is usually discussed before play, and we agree that one mode will dominate.  We also shift games every two or three months, so we try different preferences.

Adding agenda flexibility to the group you describe may require considerable leadership: offering to GM narativist intro games like InSpectres, Soap, etc., might give them a new perspective.  Or it might not.

What I'm saying is you may be faced with playing it their way.  In this case, I think you'll find the most enjoyment by committing to their agenda when you play with them.  In such a case, you'd be better off seeking your narrativist satisfaction with others who also want that.
- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com