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Hi, I'm A2K, and I'm a 'turtle'.

Started by alexandria2000, October 12, 2004, 06:36:04 PM

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Christopher Kubasik

Hi Alexandria,


In your first post, you revealed a deep concern that nothing you were doing was making any sense. By the time you were trapped with random bad guys -- having nothing to do with your mission, and having no chance of rescuing the "hostages" -- you started really wanting to grab hold of some sort of justification for your PC to be there and be in that story.

Now, in your last post, you went into detail about how you want your character to matter.

I think this was very telling.  You didn't just write "background". You described the kinds of choices and situations you wanted to find yourself in.  But as it stands, you're being bounced from story moment to story moment by the GM without concern for your PC's background and concerns.  (I love your superhero PC, by the way.)

While finding the players for such a game is a seperate issue, I want to make it clear there are plenty of games, styles and techniqes of play that encourage the very kind of game I think you would love.

Riddle of Steel and HeroQuest leap to mind as games brilliantly suited for this sort of play.  Make a PC, let him deal with the consquences of his desires and passions.

I'd also look into Dogs in the Vineyard.  A very different kind of RPG than you might be use to -- but everything you wrote in your description of your Paladin made me think your brain might just burn hot white looking at the possibilties of that game.

I'd also love it if you checked out the playtest PDF of The Mountain Witch.  I'd be curious, more than anything else, just to hear your reaction.  You can find the PDF  here: .

Again, I think this game might well be your cup of tea.  If anything, it'll rattle your brain in new ways that one might play RPGs.

I think just checking out the possibilties of what is playable is the first step in having fun with this stuff again. You might find possibilties you hadn't considered before.  And then you'll be able to sniff out the players who might like the kinds of games you want.

Finally, in terms of players, my guess is that a lot of these other groups consisted of self-styled "gamers."  As someone's already suggested, the best players to play with are often the people we're already comfortable with.

It's a knotty issue, but I'd argue that when we play with people simply because they're warm bodies at the gaming table, we end up surrendering our taste, interest and passion to "fit in" "get along" and "play right." Sometimes we can go along with this.  And sometimes, as in your case, it doesn't work.

Nothing wrong with that at all.

So, to answer your questions from the first post, I'd offer:

1) Check out some new-fangled games.  (I know you already have HeroQuest from your posts at .  I'd offer that you *not* try to translate everything to Exalted for the moment.  My guess is you'd work hard to make the game the kind of game that you know the people you already game with would like -- and frankly, I don't think that's the game you want to play.) I'd check out Sorceer. The Mountain Witch (currently FREE!).  Dogs in the Vinyard.  The Pool (and it's wonderful daughter, The Questing Beast.)  Riddle of Steel, paying special attention to the SA.  My Life With Master.

You can find links to the above in the "Resource" section above.  And you'll find lots of discussion around here.  I know you've been hanging out for a while. But, for example, go check out the discussions on HeroQuest here. I think you'll find them enlightening.

It's not that you'd play all of these its that.  It's that you sound like I did when I knew I wanted to play RPGs but had no idea who to play with or what to play.  Hanging out here and checking out the games being tossed around changed the possibilitites in my head of what an RPG could be... all for the better.

2) Then choose a game you'd like to play.

3) Then invited 2 or three people you like to play with you.

Good luck,

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


I have Heroquest, and I'm reading it. I do like the freer hand it has with character generation.

I keep hearing good things about Riddle of Steel, and I might just have to hunt that down as well.

And I'm looking at Mountain Witch right now - my husband loves Japan, and he'd be willing to play this. If I get a chance, I'll run it and let you know how it goes!

Thanks, everyone. This really *does* help - getting my thoughts down and tossing them at people. I was hoping you'd see something I wasn't, and you did.  :)

I feel a lot better now.  Turtling may just be my bane, but it might not matter if I'm with a group who gives me a chance to breathe and just *play*.

Matt Snyder

QuoteWell done for quitting that group, you deserve better than that from your game sessions. I hope this thread contributes in some way to helping you find it, and keep it, with your new group.

Whoa! Deserve better? Does this mean the group had it gaming All Wrong?

Seems to me much more likely a simply incompatability. I'm all for supporting Alexandria2000 (what's your name, btw?) for seeking a new group arrangement. Good for her! Pay attention to Kubasik, by the way. Good advice there.

But, I'm not all for dissing that group because they didn't give her what she "deserved." There is some minor indication that the GM wasn't treating people well. But, there is plenty of other indication that the group isn't really doing anything wrong. There's nothing wrong with combat, nor "what are you doing" kind of play. It's just not for everyone. (shrug)

EDIT: Hmm, open mouth, insert foot. Sorry. Upon re-reading, I think you're merely supporting Alexandria2000, which is totally cool. I still want to leave this post, though, because I think other readers can easily, and dysfunctionally, conclude that such play is all wrong. It ain't.
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra


I allow that.

They're having fun the way they're playing. More power to them.
It's just not what I like anymore. I may have once, but not as much anymore.  :)

However, I was more concerned if there *was* a way of fixing my problem with turtling.

Precious Villain

Hi, A2K.  Maybe this suggestion is way off what you want to do, but I thought I'd broach the idea anyhow so here goes:

Have you thought about playing a character who doesn't make all of his/her own decisions?  I don't mean a character that never makes decisions like the splat fighter, but rather a person that looks to another character for guidance and direction in a crunch.  In the superhero genre this person is called a sidekick, but they show up in other genres as well: wizard's apprentices, acolytes, bodyguards, etc.  

There isn't a whole lot of advice out there for creating and running this kind of character (most games have an underlying assumption that the player characters have to be social equals).  However, the AD&D sourcebook "A Mighty Fortress," which is about Elizabethan roleplaying, does address it a little.  The book included a character class who was based on a thief but with a lot less abilities.  These characters were sort of buffoons who also served as servants and foils for their "betters" who were more aristocratic.  The book suggested that the player of the "fool" would have to work closely with the player of the master in order to come up with acceptable boundaries and attitudes.  It carried an explicit warning that the fool's player wouldn't always be as involved, but that I think was due more to the rigid social strata of Elizabethan Europe than to any limitations inherent to the arrangement.

If you work with another player closely on making your character (your husband may be a good candidate) you can hash out just *why* your character is hesitant to act alone or is motivated to consult or work for another person.  Is it something in her personality?  Or perhaps something purely social?  Does your character owe a debt or obligation?  Is the character a family member who needs to be protected?  Or stopped?  You get concrete reasons to be in every scene, no matter how random.  You also get conflicts and plotlines into the SIS without relying on anything special from the GM.  The relationship between the master and the trusted servant is famously rich and complex.  Probably more so in literature than in real life, but hey we're playing a game and we can make the people up.

I know this won't do what you reallly want, which is to not have that "What do I do now?" crisis that you've described, and it certainly won't solve game group incompatibility but it might just provide you with a leg up in dealing with other games.  After all, if you close yourself off to all other gaming groups that can't meet your full comfort level you'll have a hell of a time with Cons, one shots and what not.
My real name is Robert.

Bill Cook

Changing out system and trading groups to match are good medicine. I think, also, you should consider the interpersonal dynamics of relating to someone like you, i.e. a player who deeply processes. It sounds like there're all kinds of cool connections germinating in your mind. Those need to be expelled into the story. Or SIS, if you like. A system that builds play from character motivation, authored by its player as investing, goes a long way to this end. You also want to play with GM's who can recognize that you're processing and support the revelation of your concerns with their patience and by digging into your musings with questions.

I train dogs as a hobby, and it's very telling how most people talk themselves out of any chance at communicating. They can't recognize when their dog is processing a command (or that it needs to do that), they assume that it doesn't understand, they repeat themselves and confuse the dog, terribly.

If you learn the cues and pace yourself to their processing events, it becomes a far more nuanced relationship; and their considerable intelligence is revealled.


Look!  It's my first post!  I'm excited.

Hi A2K.  Your first post seems to have drawn out mine.  Let's see if I can make a useful contribution.

Quote from: alexandria2000Hi. Long time lurker, and I don't think I've ever posted.  I'm better known over on RPGnet.

But an old thread here in Actual Play slapped me in the face and said 'you need to read this.'  It was on 'turtling' players.

And in the thread was this:

Jeez, I feel like I'm trying to psychoanalyze this guy on the basis of a few posts... but he sounds really anxious. I wonder if a lot of his behavior -- the anxious chatter, the refusal to engage, the intense reaction to criticism -- is related to a form of social anxiety. He may not be as frightened for his character as he is afraid of looking foolish or inept in front of other players. This is, of course, a vicious circle, because the more anxious and obstructive he gets, the more negative feedback he gets, which drives his anxiety up another notch.

This, I hate to say, describes my playstyle and emotional state at the table  in a nutshell, and it's making me utterly miserable. Recently I quit all my games but one, because I get so anxious about play.

Yes, I turtle. However, it's *not* because I'm afraid of anything happening to my character (which is what many of them think) - it's because I can't think on the fly of what my character's going to, or should, do or say. I quite literally get panicky when it's my turn - can I think of something to do that will fit into the game that everyone else can enjoy?

Look at the bold section.  It seem to me there are two concerns here.  Firstly, can you come up with something that will fit into the game, and secondly, will everyone else enjoy it.  If you are in fact trying to do two things at once that could be a potential source of your paralysis,  particularly if what you think will fit isn't what you think the other players want.  For example, if you think it makes sense for your character to search the crime scene while you think the other players want to chase the fleeing bad guys you might get stuck.  

QuoteIn most cases, no.  And 'so, what're you going to do?' does not help matters any. I end up feeling utterly stupid at the table, and thus no fun is had.

Here's an example - the one, actually, that made me say goodbye to most games I was in.

Superhero campaign. I'm playing a teleporting, triplicating girl who isn't very fond of being a superhero, but she does it because 1) it's what her superheroic family would expect of her, and 2) she regards it as a form of competition with her twin brother, who's been in 'the life' since he was fifteen. But in a way, she's beginning to get a thrill from superherodom.

In her group, there was a guy with a katana, and her brother, who was a gadgeteer in a power suit.  We were lead by the GM's NPC, a out-and-out brawler with absorption abilities.

Anyway. Recently, the game went the way of Apocalypse - the two major NPC villians pretty much put America to the sword with a few carefully placed strikes.  And in time, it fell to our group to try and wrench some order out of all the chaos.

We're sent to Chicago on a mission to re-establish contact with an agent.  When we get there, we're completely hammered by a passing speedfreak villain (one blow and I'm knocked unconsious and in the river for the rest of the fight).

Okay, whatever. Brush that off, head to City Hall, where said villainness said we could possibly find who we're looking for.

There, we discover it's been taken over by a gang. Said gang's leader has no idea who the fritz we're talking about.

However, said gang has also taken most of the people in City Hall hostage. Given that they're not in the room, we have no idea where these people are.  And then we're surrounded. 40+ gangsters and their leader, seems like.

Okay, obvious combat situation. However, I was trying to figure out what I needed to know, as our group is not exactly primed for combat.  How big is the room? What's in it? Can we hear the hostages anywhere?  What are these gangsters carrying? Do any of them look vaguely superhuman?

Hell, why the heck are we *here* if what we're looking for is nowhere near here?

And that's when the GM says "Okay, when are you guys going to quit talking and be fucking superheroes?"

The italicized section above shows a break in the suspension of disbelief.    I read this as indicating a feeling of "this just doesn't make sense" on your part, disrupting your ability to stay immersed in the game world while, as the bold section indicates, it makes perfect sense to the GM as an opportunity for the superheroes to do what "real" superheroes do, namely fight.  

QuoteAnd that's when I completely shut down. I just couldn't do it anymore.  I just picked up my stuff and left, and resigned from the game shortly afterwards. And then I cut down my games to just one - primarily because the people in those games were in all the others as well, and I don't feel comfortable gaming with them anymore.

I find out later some of them are very happy about this because I've annoyed them with my behavior before.  However, none of them had said anything...

Now, how can I fix this behavior?  Maybe it's simply a matter of needing a new gaming group - the one game I'm in I'm enjoying because all but one of them are new people.

Maybe I should be in smaller games, as well. I'm presently running a game for my husband and a couple of people, and I feel comfortable doing that.  I also game online, and I have less problems there too - I get the time to think and write out what I want to say and do.  However, I'm more concerned about my tabletop abilities.

I've also noticed that I feel better when there are less dice on the table and I have to worry less about dice pools and whether what I'm about to do will succeed based on a roll.  

Maybe I should make characters that are more combat-oriented, instead of social? However, I feel like a twink whenever I load lots of points into melee or Martial Arts or what have you, and tend for 'jack of all trades' type characters, or what I know best - being the info pool.

Any suggestions? I really want to fix this and have fun gaming, but this is my big brick wall I can't see a way past right now.

-utterly miserable A2K

To go all Doctor Phil on you (cue vaguely southern accent) I'm not convinced you need to do anything...

QuoteI spoke to the GM at length about this after the session in which I quit, and offered to make another character instead - something that better fit the new direction he was taking. Something more combat oriented. Since my character was the main means of group transportation, I offered to let him take her as an NPC, and I'll think of something else.

Instead, he suggested ways I could improve the present PC's combat capabilities. And I felt that he wasn't listening. She doesn't *fit*.

So I dropped the game totally. His style doesn't fit mine, I suppose.

and this is why.  You want different things from your roleplaying experiences.  He wants combat/action etc. while you are looking for something else.  What you have is a basic incompatibility in roleplaying goals (would forge-speak for this be different creative agendas?)  which you may to be internalizing and taking responsiblity for as a problem with yourself.  The fact that your styles are incompatible doesn't mean it's your fault, it just means your styles are incompatible.  

QuoteDoug Ruff wrote:

I'd like to answer your question with some more questions, hope you don't mind.

Firstly, about something you said:

Do you feel generally unable to think of anything that your character could do, or is it a need to make your action entertaining that gets in the way of your choices?

(A2K)  1. It's often a cross between the two. And I think it's partially because I can't *picture* what's in front of my character.

I play lots of Exalted, and there's less of that problem there, because most GMs tend to give you plenty of setting to stunt off of. The setting is as much a part of the combat as what you're doing.

Once I see what the setting is like, I can start coming up with stuff to do.

As for having trouble *saying* things, this is the more aggravating of both of 'em. I know what my character is like, I know how he'll react...but I open my mouth and all I can get out is 'oh', or stutter out something relatively inane that does nothing to forward the conversation.

It could be that you just can't come up with anything.  It could also be that you have trouble "saying" things because  the group doesn't respond positively when you say what you think would be in character, so you wind up discouraged by their lack of support and second guessing your instincts in as attempt to come up with something they will approve of, which only exacerbates your dilemma.

QuoteTonyLB wrote:
And, to add one question to Ron's excellent ones: You say that you prefer running Jack of All Trades characters to (for instance) big dumb brutes whose response to conflict is to pound it flat. When you did play such a hulking brute what were the specific problems you encountered?

Simply put, I was *bored*. Whee, combat.

. o O (anything else happening?)

It seems that a lot of GMs in my experience look at a combat-intensive character and then say 'look, fighter. He needs no plot.'

Someone once suggested to me that I just make a character, and give him very little background. Maybe then I'd have fun, because the character would develop in-game. I don't get this, because I don't think that way.

I like characters that have *reasons* for what they do, even if it was just a boy who inherited his grandfather's sword. If I was going to play anything that 'pounded things flat', I'd probably go grab a Paladin and play that. Why? Because he's kicking ass for God (insert deity of choice here).

Why is he a Paladin? What happened to him to make him choose this path, since it's not the easiest of vocations. Even though you're told to go slay evil for God, determining what's evil and what's not is a daily trial, and even then people who have done wrong are deserving of mercy and direction. And then I'd throw in 'He loves his god, but he really hates people who just 'phone it in'." And then branch off with a bunch of contacts and rivals that made him what he is today.

There, character. Some people argue that's too much info for a starting character. But without that, I couldn't even *think* of playing them.

This seems to confirm my earlier statement that you simply have incompatible styles.  The GM and group like combat, you like designing and playing psychologically complex characters.

QuoteI feel a lot better now. Turtling may just be my bane, but it might not matter if I'm with a group who gives me a chance to breathe and just *play*.

QuoteHowever, I was more concerned if there *was* a way of fixing my problem with turtling.

Okay, let's put it all together.  You think you're a turtle.  On the other hand:

- you are GMing a game.  Since you are continuing to do this, I presume it's going well.  It's pretty much impossible to be a turtling GM, so maybe you aren't.

- you seem to do fine in the new group.  If you're a turtle shouldn't you be a turtle in all groups?  Since you aren't turtling in the new group, maybe you aren't a turtle.

- your problem with the old group seemed to be one of
a.  incompatible goals, b.  your play being dismissed (is this at all accurate or am I making a completely unjustified leap here) and unsupported by the rest of the group, c.  dissonance between what you think the character would want to do and feeling a need to act so as to please the other players and d.  a lack of description making it difficult for you to visualize the situation.  Add it all up.  That a heck of alot to deal with.   ANYONE would turn into a turtle with all that to deal with.

I don't think you're a turtle, and I don't think you have a turtling problem that needs fixing.   I think you were playing in the wrong group, and I think you solved any problem you may have had by leaving.  Given that you have a new group that you seem to function fine in I don't think you have anything to worry about.  

Play on.



I'd just like to chip in a little bit of my experience here..

A2K mentioned that the superhero game she had trouble in was run using Tri-Stat SAS.  I've had a similar problem getting new gamers into an Anime based game using Tri-Stat BESM, except it was caught at character generation because not all of the players were new.

Basically, the game's balancing mechanic is that everything is done with stat rolls.  You have points that you use to buy stats and abilities.  The difficult and unusual thing is that putting extra points into an ability makes it more powerful (teleport further/hit harder/jump higher etc.) but doesn't give you a bonus to succeed at using it - you still have to make a stat roll.  In fact, making your ability powerful effectively gives you a penalty, because you're spending points you could otherwise have spent on the stat.

The result is that character generation in Tri-Stat is based on making a tradeoff between having powerful abilities and having ones that work! This is quite frankly bizarre given the source material.  In the comics, Spider-Man can do lots of things with his webs because he can use them so skillfully, but in Tri-Stat, if Spider-Man has the potential do lots of things with his webs, he has to pay back the points by not actually successfully doing any of those things very often.

So, A2K, the "my character is an expert at this but they fail at even simple tasks" business is most definately not your fault nor is it endemic to role-playing - it's a rather unfortunate oddity of the system being used.

John Burdick

Quote from: alexandria2000
It got frustrating because this is a superhero game, and was supposed to be four-color with a hint of gritty.

If my character knew how to teleport by the time she was six, (she had the ability to teleport to the moon and back) she shouldn't be whiffing like this.

Yet she did. Every Frigging Time. She even failed teleporting back to her house.  When she was wide awake, totally rested, and not distracted by anything.

I know BESM and SASd20, and I can't imagine why you would roll dice for an uncontested routine action. Tristat isn't intended to work when you roll dice for trivial actions. BESM says that using a power is automatic unless a challenge exists or the power states otherwise. In d20 you take 10 as usual for d20.

Onto the real topic, absent any clear reason to do otherwise I tend to caution and withdrawing from uncertainty. I've had good results with systems that use established "drama elements". These are written on my character sheet as things we want to explore with this character. It could be something about the character, such as pride or a relationship with other PCs, or some aspect of the situation. Bringing these things into play is rewarded. One time my guy charged a dragon along with his friend; the GM knew that wasn't my standard action and rewarded my friendship relation. The rewards can be used to benefit from the same range of elements. This helps me decide what action will enhance the game. When I don't know what to do looking at the priorities and connections on my sheet reminds me not only what this guy would do, but also what the other players want to see. If I feel what he should do, but can't articulate it, I might be able to use the agreed elements as a communication point.



Quote from: hyphz

(spot-on analysis snipped)

The result is that character generation in Tri-Stat is based on making a tradeoff between having powerful abilities and having ones that work! This is quite frankly bizarre given the source material.  In the comics, Spider-Man can do lots of things with his webs because he can use them so skillfully, but in Tri-Stat, if Spider-Man has the potential do lots of things with his webs, he has to pay back the points by not actually successfully doing any of those things very often.

So that's it. I wasn't sure *how* to say it, but you've got it.

And to think I liked this one because it was like 'Hero-lite' - and I never could grok Hero to save my life.


not to drift to far off topic, but you can purchase "Power Skills" with points, which somewhat mitigates the problem that hyphz is suggesting.  it's still a problem, and the point trade off is definitely non-intuitive...

as for the topic of the thread, i'm going to have to agree with those people who suggested playing a game like HeroQuest or Dogs in the Vineyard.  in games like these, you write situations, feelings and beliefs into your character and THAT is what the game is about.  sometimes there are restrictions (e.g. we are playing a game about people struggling with inner-demons, so make a character), but the idea is that you can make a character that is interesting in that context AND get to play through situations/conflicts that you want that character to experience.
-- Chris Rogers


It's nice to see you here, A2K, I always enjoy your posts on  

My two bits, not advice but something that I find helpful, is to make blatantly dysfunctional characters in some regards.  I don't worry nearly as much about doing the right thing if I've got a character who's bound to do the wrong thing.  By the "wrong thing",  I  mean a character who will, by his nature, plunge into conflict.

To use Forge lingo, this is trying to harness "My Guy"-ism to a good purpose.