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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 126 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Cold Iron] More Tekumel  (Read 3051 times)
ffilz
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« on: March 14, 2005, 08:29:47 PM »

I have some more Cold Iron play since the last post. I'm really starting to think this campaign just isn't going to fly.

Our last session started late due to other stuff I had to do. Additionally, I started off almost out of energy due to lack of sleep and the other stuff. I spent a significant amount of time trying to come up with an encounter for the party on their travel to the capital to do more research on the group of assasins they have been tracking. I think I'm starting to really get out of the mode of wilderness encounters, which is probably a good thing, but it means that I have to work harder to make the game interesting. I ended up having them encounter a non-human selling "dreams" (the PCs pretty quickly cottoned on that this wasn't something they were interested in). In the middle of the night, the dream customers started waking up screaming, and then keeling over dead, except for one chap who stood up and took a swing at the PC who went to investigate. This scene resulted in an ouch because I hadn't caught on that the PC actually took his sword with him, but it was still a bit of a surprise attack.

When they got to the city, they started doing their research. During dinner the first night, the secret police (well, they aren't really secret) demanded their presence. They were questioned individually about what they knew about the assasins. After this, they were given comfortable lodgings (but not back at their clan house). In the morning, each was called in individually and offered a job (no details yet though).

All of this play energized me pretty well, and I think it engaged the player of the half-demon, but it really fell flat on the young couple. The young wife is just so challenged that she just can't process things at all. We had to coax her through the whole interview and job offer process (and it's not like I was expecting the players to talk in character, lots of director stance here).

After the session, the young husband complained about how things played out, clearly voicing that he felt de-protagonized. He had also made complaints about how his undead character was de-protagonized. Oops.

This weekend, the young couple came over (no one else could make it) to play something. One thought was to try out Fireborn, but I wasn't enthusiastic about it. I just can't see the young wife ever dealing with their combat system. I also haven't been engaged by the default setting (modern London and a somewhat amorphous "Atlantis" fantasy era). In the end, I decided to have the wife create a new character to run with the undead. But the session was a total flop. I was so wiped out, and not getting engaged that I actually drifted off to sleep a couple times.

I have tried to engage the young husband in learning about the world, but he has steadfastly refused to read anything because of his learning disability (yet, he read enough of the Arcana Unearthed book to show up to one session last year with a bunch of NPC companions for his PC). The wife doesn't really contribute much to play at all. So clearly these two players just aren't going to be majorly engaged in a setting heavy Sim campaign. Further, they have become a serious bottleneck in scheduling. Mostly I think because they are disengaged, but I wonder how much it's due to their feeling like they have a guaranteed place at my table (when I first met them, it was clear the husband was desperate to find a game to play in, and it's clear that their disabilities make it hard for them to find games to play in). I'm just honestly not sure I can successefully engage these two in a game, but I'm also uncomfortable in just giving them the boot.

I'm not sure if the various other players are really engaged at all. The half-demon player seems to be engaged, though Saturdays have become untenable for him, but at least he has responded with a complete breakdown of which evenings would work and not work for him. The aristocrat player is clearly gone (and I'm thinking he's looking for a Nar game, or at least a very different game from what I'm currently running).

So all of this leaves me just about ready to give up on RPGs. I just can't seem to connect with players who would actually thrive in my games. I'm not even remotely interested in running D&D, so I'm constantly dealing with trying to recruit players for systems no one has ever heard of (I won't do Vampire either). With my poor batting average as a player, I'm not willing to hang my neck out and play in a game (without having built some trust in the other players, and especially the GM, first). I'm wondering if my GMing style is really even functional (though it seems like when I run games, I do get players who keep coming back, but perhaps they're just desperate, or just have never experienced really good gaming, I don't know). I do know that RPGs do something for me that no other activity that I've tried comes close to doing, a cooperative intellectual exercise is somehow part of it.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2005, 05:15:34 AM »

Hi Frank,

The person who sounds disengaged is you. What's with all this "so tired," "lack of sleep," "wiped out" business? How can you expect people to get engaged when you're doing the narcoleptic act?

Would you participate in a demanding sport or physical event when you were completely fried? I hope not. The same goes for social and creative stuff.

Best,
Ron
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Stickman
Member

Posts: 63


« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2005, 05:50:38 AM »

Hi Frank,

it does sound like you need to get excited about a game before your players catch that buzz. In that past I've gotten that from running something completely off the wall from my usual style of game (last time it was Capes, but before that Feng Shui did the trick).

In my experience a lot of give and take is involved. You've said you won't run DnD, but if that's what the players are hankering for, why not try to meet them half way. What do they want in a game? What is it that you want from the game? Can you have a game with a touch of each style in it? Maybe just try run *exactly* what they want for a short spell, and try to find pleasure in that. Sure, in the long term it's not your bag, but if you give your services as a DM to them on thier grounds, it seems more likely that you'll get a return on your terms.
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Dave
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2005, 06:03:40 AM »

Frank,

I'm in the same boat with respect to what games I'd like to play vs what my players want.  I've recently been hankerin to play some cool Narrativist games like TSOY or The Pool or others like that.  However, my gaming group is mostly of a Gamist bent and they like D&D.  They want to play D&D.  They aren't really interested in trying those other games at all.  So, what did I do?  I put on my Gamist hat and I'm running a D&D campaign.

It helps that I don't mind playing Gamist.  In fact, it can be a lot of fun.  It helps that I think D&D works well for that CA.  Still, the fact remains that I'm getting engaged with what I'm preparing even though it isn't my first choice, so that my players will engage with it also.  If you can't engage with the material, you can bet that they won't.
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ffilz
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« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2005, 09:07:11 AM »

Hmm, trying to craft a response here... It's degenerating into rants about D&D and the young couple.

I guess it comes down to I'm trying too hard to have fun with something that isn't really fun for me. I don't know if it's that gaming at all is no longer fun for me, or that I'm just not finding the right crowd. There certainly is no socialization with the players outside the game.

I know part of my problem is that I get really excited about something, but I can't seem to sustain the excitement or spread it to others. All too often, I have been really excited about some scenario or such, and when I actually ran it, the whole thing just fell flatter than Kansas.

One thing I really seem to have a problem with is translating things into words (and that's why I really struggle posting here). I visualize things in my head, and I think I do pretty good at translating those visions to visual media (except I can't draw or paint very well). Everway's character creation really pshyched me. The actual game was a disaster though (but the character creation was a disaster for a friend who isn't visual). I'm guessing that I enjoy the tactical, miniatures based, combat because it's visual. In fact, I was initially not interested in D&D way back when because it sounded totally non-visual. Then I saw the dungeon maps, and quickly discovered miniatures. And most importantly, I discovered the cooperative nature of the game (because the one thing I hate most in life is competing).

Frank
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Frank Filz
ffilz
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2005, 01:18:34 PM »

After a nights sleep (complete with two bad dreams - I must have been doing some heavy duty processing here...), I woke up this morning with a sort of radical idea of how to move forward in gaming. I'm going to start here, and move to RPG Theory if these ideas spark some discussion.

The elements I want in a game are:

1. A game setting that appeals to my visual senses, a nice looking map that evokes ideas of things that might go on in the world and presents a non-abstract framework for relationships between places.

2. Miniatures like combat resolution. This really is just an extension of #1.

3. Cooperative play (this is a biggie that I don't think I've really been attaining) with room for me to be a "player" also.

4. Continuing characters, probably with character improvement.

5. Something that ties the combats together into something (not necessarily a story). Really just an implication of #4.

6. Something a bit easier to recruit players for than homebrew systems using obscure settings.

So a radical idea I thought up is to craft a GMless D&D and address my major complaints with D&D. D&D has two big things going for it. First, it's the system most people play. Second, although I have complaints about the magic system and the prep work, the combat system works well for me (easily satisfying #2, #4, and #6).

I'm thinking going with a less detailed setting (to dodge the issue of players not wanting to spend time reading about the setting), using either Blackmoor or Wilderlands of High Fantasy (both of these have maps that meet my #1 need above).

So #3 (and #5) are the biggies. My thought is that rather than a GM coming up with a scenario (often requiring participationism to move forward - something that broke at least a few times with my Arcana Unearthed campaign), the players would propose scenes, which could be combat challenges, traps, or something else. There might be a stage of proposing and accepting a "module" to provide the basis (that might help with #5, also ties back to #1). Players might prepare combat encounters outside of the session, or they might just say "Hey, let's fight a Dragon. Hmm, let's make it an EL+4 encounter, so since we average 5th level, we need a CR 9 Dragon"  Open Monster Manual, flip, flip, flip...

One question is do we use a formal meta-gaming system to make sure everyone has an opportunity to propose scenes?

Some nitty gritty details:

Each player would be responsible for keeping their treasure in line with the treasure guidelines. They can propose treasures for the encounter that fit those guidelines ("Hmm, I'd like to find a Flaming Sword." "Ok, let's put that in the dragon's treasure.")

I'm also thinking of having character temporary resources (spells, "per day" abilities, hit points, and such) refresh at the end of sessions (no more keeping track of this stuff between sessions). I'm thinking this might reign in the spell casters a lot since sure, they can blast several encounters with their spells, but when they run out, well, there's still time in the session, so the fighters will get some encounters. Also, the players can propose scenes that will allow the spell casters to use some of their not so direct combat spells.

Healing spells would be useable to replenish hit points during a session. Oh, and "death" would just be another resource. If your character dies, unless you actually want the character to die, he just recovers at the end of the session. Of course, if the character is raised during the session, he can return to play (and any level loss would just affect the rest of the session - same for level draining effects). There would be no healing up or regaining spells by resting.

One problem is how this maps to session length, do the players have enough resources? A long session could have a refresh in the middle.

Players of incapacitated characters of course aren't totally out of the game. There's always monsters to be played, and the player can still present scenes (and possibly even introduce a treasure that will bring their character back into play).

So, I don't know where this goes, and if it really solves anything. It certainly would distribute the responsibility for creating fun to all. Also, not sure what CA this is heading for (and maybe it just leaves the doors wide open for incoherent play as people have Sim, Gam, or Nar agendas and propose scenes and act towards their agenda).

I do still wonder if this does anything to bring the young wife more into things. What I am seeing is that she really has a hard time making decisions.

Thoughts?

Frank
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Frank Filz
JusticeZero
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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2005, 04:48:04 PM »

A couple things I noticed in your game.

First, you did what I have seen a lot of fantasy games do. We spent a lot of time in the woods. Many fantasy games devolve into a state of "We spend three sessions walking to town X, which we have never been to and will never see again. When we get there, noone knows anyone, so we spend an hour at one bar, get a hotel room, then set out walking to another town where we don't know anyone and will never return to."

This is a good way to use the wilderness monsters, but it kills games. The characters who have hooks forget the hooks because there is nothing for the hooks to interact with. The characters who want hooks find nothing to connect to. This situation started to improve when the party took over the one dungeon, because then we had the potential to develop complexity with characters who we would encounter more than one time, but you HATED that rootedness and worked against it at every turn. In the end, I resorted to trying to railroad my one hook over the rest of the party because there simply wasn't the opportunities to connect.
It's not that bad. You did provide a few "roleplaying opportunities". But generally these were hard to access (the city in which everyone spoke a language that noone in the party actually knew), and we would go in knowing that we wouldn't ever see it again, hence no motivation to be involved in it.

You are in a car driving from New York to Phoenix. You stop in a hotel in Fish Head, Nebraska. You're tired from the road and it's late. In the hotel diner, you are exposed to a number of potential plots, the troubled farmer's daughter, the dutiful son caught between his duty to his family and his talents as an engineer, the old man at the edge of town acting strangely protective of the mill pond.. but who cares? Your goal is to get to Phoenix by Wednesday, so you have to leave in the morning. And then when you get to Phoenix, you will drive into town, sound your horn in front of a certain house, unload a box, and start driving to Spokane. Can you see how this would discourage involvement in the environment?

If you want depth, you cannot travel. You can have a road trip; a road trip implies that the party is making a journey of limited duration to a foreign setting, where they will do X, then return to their home again. But if the party is uprooted from their base of operations and the NPC's involved, you may as well cut all the budding character hooks off with sheet metal snippers, polish them smooth, and pull out a video game, because you are cutting them off from all the things that give them the roleplaying depth you want. While your 'cooperative' concept sounds good, in the AU game it would have flopped simply because we were operating in a vacuum. It strikes me that it would end up being a lot like the KoDT where they were put through a session that involved fighting their way through the monster manual in alphabetical order. We had no continuing plots because there was nowhere to attach them. Then we got the dungeon and every session became an attempt by the GM to drag us away from our home base into an area devoid of interaction or repeatability.

Maybe the latest game is better, I don't know. In AU, most problems seemed to come down to the fact that the fighters simply were too squishy to do anything that might be perceived as their job, and so no amount of tactical manipulation could come near the effectiveness of an AOE nuke or three. Plus, any one of those nukes would often cause more mayhem than the rest of the party combined, simply because the fighters dropped like ants at a tap-dancing marathon whenever they were pressed into battle.
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