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Author Topic: Dealing with Simulationism  (Read 4357 times)
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« on: March 15, 2005, 08:17:41 PM »

During our last 3E session, one of the players revealed to me that he doesn't care about XP, which is why he has not been using the TROS-based XP system I had cobbled together. This system allows one to create "Ties" in order to gather XP (ie: the system is that player basically spends some amount of XP in order to gain a bonus to rolls dealing with the subject of that Tie, which then provide the character with XP when a die is rolled and the Tie bonus is used).

To quote the player, "Strange as it may seem, I don't care that much about XP. I'm more into just enjoying 'living' the story." Crap, I thought. And also "Ok, it's a Simulationist preference", and his play style seems to support that labelling. But to tell you the truth, even knowing this, I still don't know what to do here.

It seems that D&D of any stripe would be right out as the game to utilize in play. I mean, the entire system is structured towards a growth in character power via the gain of experience points. There's nothing in the system at all that supports, reinforces, or helps one to 'live' a story. The system makes it problematic, in fact. (ie: you're stuck dealing with blatant metagame elements like skill-levels and level-based powers instead of being able to concentrate on character concept and playing the character/experiencing the world as that character).

A game system more like Sorcerer, where character improvement is not what the game's about at all, would be vastly more preferable and supportive of the desired play style -- since one could BE the character without worrying about whether one's Stats matched the character concepts, and situations where the levelling-mechanics grated against playing one's concept (a situation I've run into numerous times in Sim-heavy D&D).

For those that do not understand what I am getting at, imagine you are a two-century old elf, gifted in bow and sword, with years of craft-work behind you and a bit of elven magic. Now, you're first level. There is only one phrase that describes trying to play this concept with those rules, "Yeah, right." The concept is limited to certain parameters by the rules.

Which leads me to wonder...well, what's the point? I don't want to just tell a story. I want proactivity, damnit. Is there any way to engage a Simulationist such that they provide it? Or rather, the question for me is HOW do you engage a Simulationist, especially when the reward system is of no interest to them? What other sorts of reward systems can be utilized in such a situation? What sorts of games support Simulationism like this?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Bankuei
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« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2005, 08:29:46 PM »

Hi Raven,

While D&D may not be the #1 choice for Sim players, many of them go with it just the same.  The only thing Sim requires is plausibility and exploration, and D&D has formed its own branch of fantasy and definition of "plausibility", not to mention that getting to play with people you like pretty much gives you a basic exploration engine- the question is how much the other CA's step on his personal preferences and focus.

If we're talking Sim with active player input, then its a matter of making it a plausible reason for the character to be proactive in situations... This is where a floating "adventurer" type with no responsibilities falls apart in most cases.  Characters who hold responsibilities and duties become "plausible" in many cases to take active action in service to those interests... so if the player's character was given a duty by a superior, or happened to be a leader of a given people, it's likely he would see it as plausible and reasonble to start taking a more proactive approach to things.

If we're talking Sim/Participationist Sim... ugh. Proactive play and Sim/Ill play don't coexist at all.

Hopefully its the first situation, in which case it becomes a task of establishing good logical reasons that put a lot of responsibility in the hands the player's character, with clear motivations put forth.  If its the second case... um, yeah, not much help anyone can really give you.

Chris
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John Kim
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2005, 11:39:25 PM »

Quote from: greyorm
Which leads me to wonder...well, what's the point? I don't want to just tell a story. I want proactivity, damnit. Is there any way to engage a Simulationist such that they provide it? Or rather, the question for me is HOW do you engage a Simulationist, especially when the reward system is of no interest to them? What other sorts of reward systems can be utilized in such a situation? What sorts of games support Simulationism like this?

I've got an essay on proactivity in PCs, which works from a standpoint of simulation (or rather from Virtualism).  cf.
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/plot/proactivity.html

To motivate and empower Virtualist players, motivate and inform and empower their character.  Instead of telling the player "You can cut to any scene anywhere", give the character teleportation.  That gives the player power on the level that she prefers.  Most importantly, give out more information.  Lots more information.  If the character cannot determine what action best serves their purpose, that breeds inactivity.  If the character knows exactly what is going on and is disatisfied by it, that prompts action.
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- John
Silmenume
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« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2005, 02:08:37 AM »

Hey Raven,

I with Chris on this.

Quote from: Bankuei
Characters who hold responsibilities and duties become "plausible" in many cases to take active action in service to those interests... so if the player's character was given a duty by a superior, or happened to be a leader of a given people, it's likely he would see it as plausible and reasonble to start taking a more proactive approach to things.


The only thing I would add to this is that a Character has many ties beyond that of duty to a superior or leadership.  Family.  Friends.  Oaths.  Enemies.  Needs – like hunger or thirst.  Survival – as in that Character’s village/town IS being overrun RIGHT NOW!!  The Character gets swept up in a peasant levee.  His friend is murdered right before his eyes.  His lifelong friend kills the Character’s father right before his eyes.  The Character is the firstborn son of a minor nobleman – he’s a knight commander.  The Character is a second born son and thus has no inheritance and must move on and make something of himself or starve to death.  Needs, needs, needs.  Needs drive people and they drive Characters.  Socially link the Character and then pull on those links.

Quote from: Bankuei
If we're talking Sim/Participationist Sim... ugh. Proactive play and Sim/Ill play don't coexist at all.


Emphatically agree.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2005, 04:30:44 AM »

Good advice all around, I think. Bear in mind that you may be dealing with an insurmountable Creative Agenda clash.

Using my terminology, John's Virtualism in this case is squarely in the Narrativist zone - it assumes that given the right authority and opportunity, the player will become proactive in a thematic manner.

If this applies to your player (which term, V or N, doesn't matter), then great. If not, then frankly, you're going to have to find an overlap in Creative Agenda in order to enjoy playing with this person at all.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2005, 04:33:10 AM »

Give the character's an in-game situation to respond to. Make sure that:
1. The situation interests you (that is, it can be heavily thematic in a non-guided fashion).
2. Is of some interest to the player (that is, if you can figure out what sorts fo things the player would like to see their character do, play to that).
3. Is of interest to the character and gives the character the initiative.

As John pointed out, this means giving the character a good deal information and license to act. I don't think it needs to be "power" in the high-level sense as the situation can be tailored to suit the character's abilities (instead of having a great, evil necromancer with a legion of undead troops threatening the land, the situation involves the machinacions of a petty landlord and a bunch of moderately noble peasants who are going to be displaced).

In either case though, it should be made clear to the character that (a) he has some duty/responsibility in this and (b) he has the initative (for now) to act.

-Marco
[ Note: this advice wouldn't be any different for Narrativist gaming, IMO. ]
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komradebob
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Posts: 462


« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2005, 09:54:27 AM »

Iy sounds like your player might like to play in a way that I can relate to, so here are a couple of thoughts about that style ( Note: I may be incredibly off, here so...)

1) Look at the character's alignment.
D&D has a really useful clue to what sort of stuff the player will be interested in because it forces you to choose an alignment for your characer. Lawful-something usually indicates an urge to uphoid some sort of existing structure. CG, NG, N, CN usually indicate that the player wants a large latitude of action with their character in terms of what they can do in-game without running into accusations of alignment conflict. Something-Evil usually indicates a fair amount of proactive behavior and self interest.

IOW, ask the player why they chose a given alignment.

2) "1st Level Character" and "200 Year old skilled elf" is a seriously conflicting pair of concepts for a simulationist.

From a sim POV, that doesn't make any sense at all. Even a bookworm hermit that is 200 years old will have picked up some kind of skills during that time. A 1st level character's general weakness and whiff factor fly completely in the face of this.

The 200 year old elf concept might be better served by having a higher level character, say in the 5-7 level range. Of course that likely creates a conflict with everyone else playing ( assuming the growth in power is part of the  interest for them). On the plus side, the elf player may not be terribly interested in gaining power levels above that "sweet spot".

3) Integration into setting.
If your player has sim preferences, they may well go through a period of seeming inactivity. They may even seem to want to be lead around by the nose. Chances are this reflects that the player wants to have some time to explore where his/her character fits into the setting. They'll play around with connections/duties/responsibilities for a while. Only once the player feels that they have some place in the setting are you likely to see any proactive response from the player. Also, it wouldn't be unbelievable for the player to flirt with some seemingly more gamist or narrativist style of play once they feel "at home".

Gamist Flirtation: Sim players can enjoy tactical battles as much as a gamist-it's just that their end goal isn't the same. The sim player likes the tactical combat because it is a way to save the kingdom, or utilize resources effectively, or whatever. The sim player may not care at all about the xp/level bump.

Narr flirtation: Sim players may enjoy an exploration of character in a way that borders on address of premise. A given hatred for an enemy, a sense of duty, a particular obsession- all of those are possible angles that a sim player may bring to the table and pursue. However, it's unlikely that they will pursue those related issues to the degree or with the regularity that a narr player might. The sim player is more likely to look at this as a rounding out of their character and bringing that character to life than making a statement on a human issue/premise.

4) Rewarding Sim players:
Not a reward for a Sim player: +1 sword, +2 versus goblins, glows when orcs or goblins present. When a better blade comes along, the character sells this old piece of junk.

Reward for a Sim player: The ancient elfblade " Goblinslicer", thought lost in the razing of the elfen city of Greenglade during the Time of Sweeping Darkness (+1 sword, +2 versus goblins, glows when orcs or goblins present). The player never sells this. Why would they? It's an artifact from a deeply important time in the history of his people! Suggested solution: When a better blade would come up in adventure, add the abilities of that blade to Goblinslicer- here it represents the way that Elf character is becoming attuned to the blade and learning its full potential. ( When adding pluses, simply use the biggest plus- don't literally add. If the character would haver found a+2 sword, Goblinslicer becomes +2, not +3 for general use, for example).

In general, Sim players appreciate in-game rewards. A better reputaion, better connections and so forth. A stack of gold doesn't really interest them. Winning the rights to a castle that would have cost an amount equal to the gold might, especially if it establishes further connection beteween the character and the game world.

Again, these ideas are all reflections of MY preferences as a sim-oriented player.

Robert
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2005, 09:56:37 AM »

Thanks for the helpful replies, everyone, and thank you for the pointer to that essay, John!

I'm wondering if this is simply me worrying overmuch, over-reacting -- and it may be. Though I am still glad I made the post, even in that case, as the advice/clarifications provided have proved helpful in pointing out the obvious.

Ron notes this could be an insurmountable CA conflict, and he is right, it could be. I'm willing to wait a bit to see if it is, however, as well as discussing it with the player to see what specific sorts of events he would like to see in play (ie: does he want protagonism? or does he just want to "be the guy"?) .

So, yes, I know what you are all saying! These are the same characters who were created together in a group session, to have a common bond and reason for undertaking the adventure the players decided upon, beyond "Unh, you all meet in a bar and this farmer/town/kingdom is in danger..."

This particular player is running a character whose guiding sense of purpose is provided by the fact that if he fails to come through on this venture, his only daughter (a girl who doesn't even know him, and he doesn't want her to because he doesn't exactly live a "good" life) will be taken as "payment" by the thugs he owes far too much money to.

I am thinking of making this idea of the "protective father" a little more immediate by way of a surrogate, via the introduction of a female child (perhaps a baby) whose life-and-death are put into his immediate hands, and would be set thereafter. At least if the player chooses to go this route.

He may very well allow the wizard he is (uneasily) working with to kill the child (which is their goal right now -- the players are expecting to find the "prince" of a hated rival city-state, whose death would likely give them the upper hand in a long, bloody war). Or even saving the child from the wizard, he might give it up to the crew of the ship he is on and let them drown it.

I figure that since he created the idea of fatherhood in the character, he is probably interested in exploring that aspect of the character, and given that the character's real daughter is hundreds of miles away, this might be the best way to handle events focused around that character-issue.

As Jay notes, that's an immediate hook for the character, and hopefully for the player in this instance.

EDIT: I cross-posted with you, Robert. Thanks for the advice on rewards! Keeping that in mind will definitely help me out.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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apparition13
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« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2005, 11:37:54 AM »

Hi Greyorm.

A couple of questions.  You say the player revealed that he doesn't care about experience.  In what way did he reveal this?  Was it a complaint?  An offhand comment in a larger discussion that became a new topic?  Is he happy with the game and his participation so far?  Do you have a "happy sim" player who just enjoys being there and experiencing events, or an unhappy player who is expressing frustration?  If the former, you may just need to tweek the experience system for that player so he doesn't get left behind;  if the latter, that's harder to resolve.
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apparition13
apparition13
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« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2005, 12:45:45 PM »

I've been mulling this over a bit, and think I should expand on this from my post directly above:
Quote
you may just need to tweek the experience system for that player so he doesn't get left behind


What I mean by this is consider adapting the game to the player rather than forcing the player to adapt to the game in a way he isn't interested in.  In other words, tailor the experience system to each player.  

I'm assuming your concern is that the character will be left behind and become marginalized, reducing enjoyment for the player.  If that's the case, I'd start by saying that upfront, and then asking the player what he thinks the character should get experience for and see if he can phrase that in a vaguely TROS-based form.  If he is then getting too much or too little experience in relation to the other players, adjust the awards in play to compensate.  Your players who are enjoying using a more narrative reward system will continue to be happy, and your sim player can continue to enjoy the SIS without getting left behind.  I suspect that he will eventually move in that direction as well.
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apparition13
komradebob
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« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2005, 12:48:50 PM »

Well, it may be a little late once the game is under way, but you could try allowing players who choose to to start characters with xp "debt". This would be like having a player roll up a charcter, but start them at some limited level beyond 1st ( say, up to 5th). The starting character doesn't get much in the way of gear beyond what a starting first level character would get, but they do get the hps, spells, abilities, etc. of their bumped up level. The character then cannot advance again until all the unpaid xps are accumulated through normal adventuring. This is definitely something to be discussed with the group as a whole, of course.

Here are some advantages, however, from a sim perspective:

Competent characters are actually more the norm in fantasy fiction, than total newbies. When newbie characters do appear, they seem to mostly fulfill the function of introducing readers/viewers to the setting as they explore it.

Bumped up characters are less likely to die from being gnawed on by squirrels or tripping on the sidewalk. Being gnawed to death by a squirrel, even a really big squirrel, is generally not considered to be a properly heroic death in fantasy fiction. Neither is tripping on the side walk and crushing your skull in. Unless of course it's all a plot by an Evil Wizard using a curse.

Fantasy characters do not generally play around looting corpses, unless they're looking for a specific item, or are trying to use the uniform for disquise. Exceptions occur, of course. But even then, it isn't generally to gain loot for xps ( admittedly a problem for older editions of D&D, not necessarily for the current editions).

Fantasy heroes can usually take a stab or two before requiring medical treatment. They also don't generally have a ton of healing spells or potions available to them. D&D SOP for adventurers include those things. IOW, some D&D tropes run directly counter to the inspirational material. As a sim-monkey, this makes me want to pull out my hair. I want to play Conan the Barbarian, not Conan the Clumsy Asthmatic Haemophiliac with Divine Health insurance coverage.

Despite all that, players of these bumped up characters might still eventually want to advance. By the time they have accumulated enough xps to buy themselves out of the hole, chances are good that they ( the player) will have explored the gameworld and character and have picked up some more motivations for the character than they had originally. Possibly evil plots are afoot  and the pcs are now in need of more power than before. Hey, Aragorn starts out competent in LotR, but that doesn't stop him from getting Anduril reforged nor showing off previously unknown leadership qualities in the later books.

Later,
Robert

EDIT: I cross-posted with apparition13, but I think his post fits well with mine re: experience and levelling up.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
giblfiz
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Posts: 4


« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2005, 11:01:43 PM »

I think your best bet is to give your simulationist something to build, and then to try to make each plot hook a "unintended consiquence" of there previous actions.

komradebob was right about the +1 sword not being a reward for a Sim player. -but- I don't think that giving the +1 sword a history is going to make it that much more rewarding. (on the same note, you need to give it to him so that he can keep pace with the rest of the party, just don't expect him to give a damn.

On the other hand there are gifts that Sim style players always love. One sure fire bet is a "fixer uper" house. This can make a whole chain of gifts, each of which will be treasured. (I.E. you saved the mayor from a bugbear, he gives you rights to the rundown old wiksaw place.  (which is dirty, rat infested, and has a leaky roof) you stop the ork raiders from destroying the town, the whole town pitches in and fixes the roof on your house. You save a merchant from a giant squirrel he gives you a stained glass window) This trick can generally be adapted a bit based on charicter class (let the cleric build a church, or the wizard build a node of power)

The other great thing about this sort of reward is that they can generally be used to start new adventures. ( the old wiksaw place has a mimic in the attic. It was also the meeting place for a bunch of thugs, who (rather than fight the players) have now thrown old lady knott out of her house and taken over her cottage.) It is important not to suckerpunch players in there reward though, so don't pull the old " a dragon is eating your house" stunt, its old before you even start it. Once you give them the house let them own it, and give them the feeling that you won't take it away. It makes it feel much more like a reward.

A similar tract of rewards could be, say, for  killing the horrible wumpus the duke offers you the hand of his youngest daughter. But don't just hand her out like a pile of gold coins, make the players go through the wedding ( if the rest of the players are gameists make it fast) and make up a bunch of silly traditions that need to be fulfilled. (the groom must provide dancing dogs, for each usher the best-man can best in combat simultaneously 10 years of good luck for the marriage are insured, etc) Once again, the wife is a reward, and possibly a plothook, but you probably don't want to make her a chink in the characters armor. Feel free to give her a hard pregnancy that requires the mystic herbs of wherever, but skip the kidnapping by an evil wizard.

I suspect that your Sim style player will eat this sort of gift up, and I'm also willing to bet that his gameist buddies will start wanting there own house/wife/parish. So the other weird thing about  this sort of reward is that you can give many of them to the other PC's and the Sim style player will be just as happy. I don't know why it works that way but it seems to.

I hope something I said here is helpful, let me know how it goes
-Harry
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Kat Miller
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« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2005, 05:38:29 AM »

Hi,

I'm assuming that you've never played with this person before.  Does the player have any kind of rep?  A quick look through social contract level of other games he has played in might be helpful.  I'm assuming he is an experienced gamer since he knows what XP is, but he's rejecting it.  Then he'll have played in other games . . .does he have a rep as a good gamer?  Can you find out how much he participates in other games?  You might also ask him about other games he's played and listen to what he really liked about them.

Also,
You're assuming he wants a Simulation Agenda game based on this statement-

Quote from: greyorm
To quote the player, "Strange as it may seem, I don't care that much about XP. I'm more into just enjoying 'living' the story." Crap, I thought. And also "Ok, it's a Simulationist preference", and his play style seems to support that labelling. But to tell you the truth, even knowing this, I still don't know what to do here.


but later you give his reason for adventuring with the group is

Quote from: greyorm
This particular player is running a character whose guiding sense of purpose is provided by the fact that if he fails to come through on this venture, his only daughter (a girl who doesn't even know him, and he doesn't want her to because he doesn't exactly live a "good" life) will be taken as "payment" by the thugs he owes far too much money to.


Did the player in question come up with that?  If so He may also like games that allow Narrative Agenda play.

I played a good deal of Dnd and when Mike Miller (husband and GM), read the GNS essays he identified me as a player who plays with a Narrative Agenda, while at first I identified myself as someone who prefers Sim.  I enjoy living the story, But I create characters that are twisted in bits about deeper questions.

Your player seems to be choosing a 200 year old elf who should be more advanced than he will be at first level, but perhaps the player gets into his character's conflict, knowing he should do more and be more, he's old enough, and yet all he can do is this.  


Also I think its interesting that he said living the "story"  



Without knowing how much he participates in the games he plays, and without actually playing with him, I think you might be jumping the gun fearing Sim agenda.
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kat Miller
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2005, 08:48:04 AM »

Greetings Kat,

Sorry, I somehow missed your post previously, so allow me to respond to it now.

Quote from: Kat Miller
I'm assuming that you've never played with this person before.

No, this is an individual from my regular gaming group. We've been playing together for around eight years. The reason we are still fumbling around in the dark regarding all our preferences is because we haven't communicated very much as a group about play, about what we like, about gaming in general, etc. Until very recently, at least.

This is undoubtedly a side-effect of on-line play. We basically get together, play for an hour or two, and then have to get to bed. Not much time to discuss the game as a game.

Quote
You're assuming he wants a Simulation Agenda game based on this statement-<snip quote>

Based on that statement and a few others, as well as knowing how he plays from a number of past campaigns and even how he GMs, I made that call, yes.

Quote
Did the player in question come up with that?

Yes, he did come up with that. However, the idea to set the game up in that fasion was mine: our group recently had a long discussion about player-driven gaming as compared to GM-driven gaming that I had initiated out of frustration.

Given that our last campaign ground to a halt because the characters were so disparate I couldn't keep everyone's interest and keep the characters together: that is, splitting up the party was an option, but not much of one because a) the players felt it wasn't worth playing together if we were all playing "seperate games" anyways and b) it meant each person would get a lousy half-an-hour a night to play, if even that (some of the players were comfortable with that, but I was not).

I'd expressed how it would be easier for me to run a game without those problems if it were set up from the start as one where the characters were together for good reason -- rather than simply being thrown together -- on some predetermined quest where they were all absolutely comitted to that quest, for one reason or another. So we sat down and talked about it for a couple nights and hashed out the current game and adventure.

The referenced idea regarding that character's background was the character's reason to be on the quest, though it has nothing to do with the game itself. As such, it isn't exactly Narrativist: it isn't a Story Now situation, there's no moral question involved in play because of it, or in his choices during play based on that. At best, his character's background is a Kicker, but mostly it is background material to cohere the group.

Quote
Your player seems to be choosing a 200 year old elf who should be more advanced than he will be at first level, but perhaps the player gets into his character's conflict, knowing he should do more and be more, he's old enough, and yet all he can do is this.

Er...

The elf situation was actually just an example of the problem I reference regarding D&D and similar types of power/level-based games. It was not a reference to his character (who is human).

Regardless, in a like situation, this player would not be exploring the conflict you describe because we've already been in that situation with a similar character, in fact. That previous character wasn't living up to the character concept because of the mechanics of the game, and the situation was seriously frustrating to him.

Quote
Also I think its interesting that he said living the "story"

I don't. "Story" means nothing, it's a meaningless filler word that means a dozen different things to a dozen different people.

In fact, the player is very comfortable playing illusionist-style gaming, and GMing the same, because that is what he knows and has played for most of his gaming career -- his choice of words is NOT hiding a Narrativist agenda. He is using "story" exactly as I would have used the word a couple years ago, and exactly as many other gamers use it: "experiencing the GM's plot."

Quote
Without knowing how much he participates in the games he plays, and without actually playing with him, I think you might be jumping the gun fearing Sim agenda.

As noted, I do know him as a player rather well. In either case, I am not "fearing" a Sim agenda. I am trying to cope with it to make sure he has a good experience in my game, hence my desire to understand how best to cater to that.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2005, 06:21:38 PM »

We did not have a game last week, being as one of the players had a family emergency a few minutes before gametime and had to leave. Instead, we used our night to chat about the game, and I had a chance to talk to the Sim-preference player I mentioned previously.

Because I am growing sick of constantly being the GM (it has been 8 years, after all) we were discussing round-robin styles of GMing, where each of us would take a week to GM the game. I suggested we do it within the same adventure to prevent headaches of multiple characters/storylines/etc. The player objected to this and explained, "I would want to have an adventure that heads in a certain direction and not worry about it being commandeered, hijacked, etc. and be unable to take it where I want it when it comes back to my turn."

I can understand that standpoint, even though I don't share it, because that's where I came from before in my own gaming. The "Hey, I have this story I want to tell you all. Now sit there and roll some dice and let me reveal these cool events/scenes to you that I imagined," sort of GMing that is pretty much the standard in gamer circles and most traditional play.

He knows that isn't the way I run my games, so a clash in that area is not a concern of mine, but it does seem to support the Sim preference: Exploration is the key component of play for him, as it relates to the Setting (ie: "experiencing the story").

I almost suspect protagonism is not going to be a major motivation for him based on this, but I don't know: the right environment may simply bring out the active Explorer in him, rather than the passive Explorer necessitated by general gaming tradition. Especially since I've never had the sense from him that he's at a loss as to what I "want" him to do or what the "right"/"best" course of action is (which was a complaint of a different player in my game, who didn't realize at the time that there wasn't one and that was why she couldn't figure out what that was).

From prior play I supsect that if there doesn't seem to be something to do, he'll simply pick a direction and head there, but otherwise he's content to let events carry him from place to place.

We also discussed the idea of a game without XP, where the characters are competent at what they're supposed to be competent at, and there are no levels or character advancement to speak of. I brought up Sorcerer, Wushu, and similar games as examples of systems that worked this way, but the player is also very uncomfortable with the idea of gaining bonuses to his tasks based on the story-impact or coolness of the action (which is why he hasn't been using the Ties-based system for bonuses to his rolls, in addition to ignoring it for XP). As such, those two systems do not work for him.

He has stated he has no problem with gaining bonuses for tactical advantages, however. The difference between the former and latter for him was that, "I think I'm used to that sort of thing because I came to RPGing from board war-gaming, so the mental connection 'feels right'." Which makes complete sense to me.

Given those criteria (no character levels/advancement and tactics-based modifiers), does anyone have any suggestions about a game that might work in this regard?

(BTW, so there is no confusion or worries about stylistic incompatibilities between the player and I, I am completely down with this style of game. I personally think it would be a great deal of fun.)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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