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Author Topic: GM running WGP this weekend for the first time.  (Read 7160 times)
bigcape
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« on: June 16, 2005, 06:37:35 AM »

I just bought WGP preview and I have now read it and the interim edition through a few times.

I am going to run WGP for a few of my players this weekend. One of the players in the on-going campaign is gone this weekend and we need a one-shot. I volunteered to run something. I always volunteer for one-shots because I love reading and playing new games. I am excited about trying WGP but also a little apprehensive.

My players are hard-core fantasy gamers. The switch from fantasy to superhero is jarring enough... add to this the unique game system of WGP and I'm not sure how my audience will respond.

Then it occurred to me, WGP is not about Superheros. It is about internal struggle and the human condition. WGP can be applied to absolutely any setting with absolutely no effort or change in the rules. So, I am going to be hitting my fantasy gamers with a whole new way to role-play... so why not ease them in by giving them an adventure style that they favor?

High Fantasy! I set down and tried to plan out an "adventure" and the way that I see the story progressing. I plan to take this to my players this weekend and we will be playing WGP.

I present my entire "adventure" outline below because I wanted you to see how I envision all of this in my head after reading the rules. Is the pacing and events I describe below consistent with the kinds of things you have actually experienced while playing the game? Or am I getting everything wrong?



---------------------------------------------------



"The Sword of Veras" A one-shot adventure for "With Great Power"

The struggle: Family Loyalty/Obligation versus The Call to Adventure/Wanderlust

This adventure is not a comic book superhero adventure, but rather a high fantasy adventure.

Players all start in a small isolated farming village. The village is called Veras, named for an adventuring hero who founded it over 100 years ago.

The characters live with their families and a future of farming and family is likely all that awaits them. But, each character has also learned a little something special (maybe a little magic, or sword play?) or obtained a special object (maybe a sword, or a piece of armor, or a spell book) that has become the focus of a yearning for a different life.

I will present the above information to my players and then discuss with them what Aspects are and help them to select some Aspects appropriate to their setting and their struggle.

Obligation Aspects (Family): Mother or Father, siblings? A romantic interest? Their chores/The Farm?

Wanderlust Aspects (Adventure): A "crazy" relative who fills their heads with wild stories? An inherited weapon or spell book? Armor?

Once the players have selected some Aspects, they each draw 5 cards and me 4 per deck.

Then I will run an enhancement scene for each of the players.

Then I will do a quick enhancement cut-away to seed the adventure as follows:

A band of orcs are planning an attack on the players' small village. It seems that someone in the village (one of the player's aspects... the "crazy relative" would be perfect. If a player has chosen to prime such a relative in a previous scene, then that would be the one to use...) has a magical key into the Tomb of Veras.

The Tomb of Veras is located in a cemetery not too far from the village. The tomb is magically sealed. It is rumored that Veras is buried with a magical sword of great power. This is what the orcs plan to get.

Muuraav, Orc Captain
Aspect: Orc grunts at his command
Aspect: Knowledge of the Key
Aspect: Knowledge of the Tomb
Aspect: Lust for the Sword of Veras

First I will prime, Aspect: "Orc grunts at his command." I will also prime, Aspect: "Loyal to Muuraav"  (see below for the grunts). A small boy from the village sees the monsters in the woods. A twig snaps and the boy is discovered. The boy runs, the orcs pursue.

The stakes: catch the boy (kill the boy)... maintain the element of surprise.
or: The boy gets away and warns the village. The village learns that orcs are coming and surprise is gone.

The orcs want to kill the boy so if they win the stakes this will happen.
I as a GM think it will be more interesting if I loose this one.
I am priming 2 Aspects so the challenge card will have a value of +2.
I should have no problem loosing this.

The attack on the village will be a conflict scene.

At this point I will talk about the story arc... about the way a story is meant to build... about how to concede defeat in a conflict and play a card to the arc.

The players should loose here and play some cards to advance the story arc. (2 players will be playing. If both fall, the arc can get 2 cards - Story Arc reaches stage 2)

The orcs will escape with the key and its guardian. Muuraav needs the "crazy relative" to tell him how to use the key (it's in the form of a medallion). So, he will stop outside the cemetery and try to coerce the information that he needs from the "crazy relative".

I think a few more enhancement scenes in the aftermath of the attack will work well here as the players' characters decide to go in pursuit of the orcs to try and rescue the "crazy relative," and concerned family members try to talk them out of it.

Then one enhancement scene for me as Muuraav stops outside the cemetary to interrogate the relative about the key. I will be able to prime: Knowledge of the Key of Veras. This will also reveal to the players the reason for the attack.

If Muuraav wins he will get the knowlege to open the tomb.
If Muuraav looses he will still go to the tomb and try to figure this out for himself.

The players encounter the orcs just as interrogation ends and I see this as another conflict.

This time, Muuraav is anxious to get to his goal and leaves some grunts behind to deal with the players. He moves on with haste to the tomb.

Orc Grunts (2)
Aspect: Loyalty to Murraav (primed in first scene)

In the first orc attack, the grunts were merely one of Muuraav's aspects and all defeating some of their number accomplished was the stressing of that aspect. Now I will play one grunt per player in a person to person conflict. Last time, both players fell adding 2 to the story arc. This time, I will have each individual grunt fall, and add 2 cards to the Story Arc myself.

Two grunts will die covering Murraav's escape... (2 cards to the Arc - Story Arc at stage 4)

Scene with the relative as he is freed and he explains to the players what the Orcs are after, "Don't let them get the sword..." The players already knew what was going on... but their characters did not... this is the chance to clue the hero characters in on the plot. This can be another enhancement scene for a player (especially the player whose relative this is...) if desired.

This is followed by My GM enhancement scene to prime "Knowledge of the Tomb of Veras" as Muurraav opens Veras' Tomb and vanishes inside.

Players run into 2 more orc guards in the cemetary and we play another conflict scene. The players will win but I can only play one more cards to the arc (stage 5)... as one orc falls. Stage 6 requires a wild card and the rules say that this must come from a player... so one of my two players must concede a page in this conflict (a player who has a wild card on their page).

If the story arc is on course, this will add 2 cards to the story arc and get us to stage 6. (I hope to have the arc to stage 6 so that the players can defeat Muuraav in the next conflict)
Finally, Muuraav gets the sword in his last little enhancement scene that primes, "Lust for the Sword of Veras" and we are ready for the final fight!!

Muuraav emerges from the Tomb, brandishing the Sword of Veras over head!!

The players should win this one and destroy (devastate) Muuraav... Again the last card to the story arc has to come from a player, so the players must time it out in such a way that one of them concedes but the other has enough juice left to finish off Muuraav.

The final card in the arc will the characters to redeem devastated aspects. This is the character growth/advancement stage... Maybe they've grown beyond the village... maybe the time has come to move on...



---------------------------------------------------




This is the game I have envisioned for this weekend.
Am I on track?
Is this how you plan for adventures?
Does the pacing sound right for a one-shot?
What do you think?



Jeff Moore
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2005, 09:03:47 AM »

Hi, Jeff!

Wow. I'm glad you liked the game enough to run it. You were right on target about the game being about internal struggle. I don't think that the switch from superheroes to High Fantasy should be too much of a problem.

As for the your understanding of the rules, as summarized in your post, you're right on all counts except for one: The GM may never add cards to the Story Arc. Only players can do that. What I do when I have limited players and limited time is that I allow each card the players contribute to the Story Arc to fill TWO spaces. So the first discard to the Arc fills spaces 1 & 2, second fills 3 & 4, and third fills 5 & 6. With this in place I can teach two players the rules and run them through a full Arc in 3.5 to 4 hours with pre-gen characters.

Hero creation will take a bit longer, but I suggest limiting them to 3 Aspects in Hero Creation. They can add more as play goes along. Have them create one Apect to answer each of these questions:

1. How does your hero excel?
This is where you'd get your dusty armore, uncle's ring, magic lamp kind of thing. They'd be Power and possibly Origin types. Maybe one of them has the best estate around and thus their "Origin" is "Nobleman" and it counts on the "Obligation" side of the Struggle, rather than the Wanderlust side. See what they players come up with.

2. Why does your hero fight the good fight?
This is where we get into Duties and Motivations. Every hero needs one. Remember, if they can't think of a way it might Suffer, they can't have it as an Aspect.

3. Who is important to your hero?
As you mentioned, mentors, damsels in distress, sidekicks, and the like are the stuff of great story. Use them.

There is one problem that I do foresee. A rather big one, actually. You haven't even sat down with your players yet and you've already played the game. Where's the fun in that? Let them entertain you while you entertain them.

But what do I prepare? you might ask. Well, here's where you're getting a little tiny bit ahead of me. The GM's side of the game has come a long way since the Interim Edition, I just haven't finished writing it yet. Here's the high points that will get you through:

1) Add one extra step to hero creation. After everyone has created their Aspects, each player chooses one Aspect as their "Strife Aspect" for this story. Rules-wise, whenever anyone changes the level of Suffering of a Strife Aspect, one card more than normal is involved. Moving from Threatend to Imperiled normally gets you 3 cards, but for a Strife Aspect it's 4. Same for decreasing Suffering. It costs one card more.

2. Design your villain's Plan around them. Keep your Orc cheiftain. He's fine. Just don't decide what he wants. Let the players do that. You have a list of Strife Aspects that they chose. These are what your villain wants. Forget the temple and the key, unless one of your players comes up with it. Call a 15 minute break after Hero Creation and look at your list of Strife Aspects. It is vitally important to your villain to Devastate these Aspects. As GM, your job is to answer: "Why? Why does he want these things?" That is the your villain's plan. Maybe he wants the hero's girlfriend for a sacrifice. Maybe he wants her for his wife. Maybe he wants the magic armor so that he can become king of the orcs. Maybe he wants it because the hero's grandfather stole it from its rightful owners.

It's really simple. The player's tell you what the villain wants. You get to make up why he wants it. At the beginning of any scene that you frame about your villain, you get to say what he's trying to do to get it. If the players try to stop him, they've just started a page of conflict. If they don't try to stop him, use the enrichment rules. Then, go to the next person at the table.

Oh, and don't forget the Thought Balloon. I mean it. When those Motivations start Suffering, you'll thank me for it.

Back to work. I'll write more later, but feel free to hit me with questions.
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Per Fischer
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2005, 01:09:40 AM »

Michael, great advice.

And on a slightly OT note: we NEED that next writeup of WGP, whether it's an interim 2 edition or the finished game. We need it :) We want it.

If you need practical help, proofreading and stuff, just say it.

Per
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Per
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2005, 03:22:09 AM »

Per: Thanks for the encouragement. Two more months till the Full Edition. The main thing I need is to be able to write faster and for longer periods. Luckily, I leave today for a week's family vacation. Just my family, a cabin in the woods, and me chained to my laptop while they frolic in the sylvan grandeur. So work is being done. I've got a talented artist and a great editor on-board. Check out the site for a peek at the art work.

Jeff: Re-reading what I wrote, I realize that it seems awful intimidating to walk in with nothing prepared. But I don't see how else you'll be able to infuse the game with your players' creativity as well as your own. That's really what it's all about. You're all there to make a better story together than any one of you could have made separately. If you run it the same way you run everything else (i.e., following the outline you posted), WGP will still do some neat card tricks, but it won't really be substantively different than what you've done before.

Y'see, particularly with a one-shot, you don't have time to waste trying out ideas. You've got to get to the good stuff immediately. Running games the outline way is one form of "trying out ideas." It's you coming to the table and saying (not in words, but in actions), "I think a good story would be about your characters' struggling against an orc cheiftan bent on opening this tomb and getting this awe-inspiring magic sword. Let's play it for the next four hours." And then you spend four hours playing it. And then maybe your players say (again, not it these words), "You were right, Jeff. That was a good story. Thanks for letting us tag along." Or maybe they'll say, "Thank was a decent enough story, but I was kinda hoping we'd get to slay a dragon, rescue a princess, overthrow a wicked king, or whatever story I've got locked away deep in my heart." With the outline model, you'll never know if they've liked it until after they've put in the time to play it all out. Your idea might be a hit. But more likely it'll land in the "almost" or "miss" categories. And why? Simply because hitting a target that you can't see is really, really hard. Spinning a story in the outline way is like that. Your target is the players' hearts and you haven't given them a chance to show you what they are.

With the model I outlined above, the players' choice of Strife Aspects is their way of showing you where their heart is at--what kind of story they're in the mood for right now. Particularly because it's a one-shot you've got to give them what they want immediately. They're going to make a character defined by three Aspects and pick one of them that's bound to get into trouble. So your job is to get that Aspect into trouble. Any and every kind of trouble you can think of. Bt since you won't know what Aspects they're going to pick before you get there, don't finalize your idea of trouble until you get there. It's not nearly as hard as it sounds. How long did it take you to come up with that outline? I bet it took you longer to type it than to think it up. You can do that at the table. Just don't be ashamed to call a break every now and then if you need to think. And discuss it with your players. "It's time for another scene. I need to prime some of my villain aspects, but I'm not sure how best to do it. Any ideas?" It won't kill you.

One other side suggestion: WGP is built to handle superheroes ranging from Batman and Daredevil to Superman and Thor. Why do they need to be peasants struggling with the call to adventure? Kings and wizards and nobles also face the Struggle of Obligation versus Adventure. Look at Richard the Lion-hearted, Frederick Barbarossa and Henry V. Since it's a one-shot, think about letting them really play ANY character they want. Maybe the local dragon is torn between Obligation and Adventure. Who knows?

BTW, as I mentioned above, I'll be gone all next week and will likely not be checking e-mail or the Forge. However I do really want to know how the game goes. Please post about it. I'll look for it when I get back.
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bigcape
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2005, 08:18:05 PM »

I have been thinking about your feedback and trying to determine the how I should respond. WGP is a playable preview edition for the purpose of testing and evaluation. That being the case, I need to play WGP as you intend it to be played. Anything else does not provide a valid play test, quite simply because anything else would not be WGP.

I will utilize your advice exactly as given and run my game Saturday exactly as you intend WGP to be played (or as close as I can come to it with my current understanding). I am not even going to settle on the high fantasy theme until after speaking with my players. Although, knowing my group as well as I do, I imagine the fantasy theme will be the one they end up agreeing upon.

I am not uncomfortable with coming to the game table without preparing something first. I have done so many times in the past. I am actually pretty good at thinking on my feet. I am uncomfortable with improvising a game when I have never run or experienced the play of the game system before. For this reason, you are correct. In my head (and then on paper,) I already played the game. I tried to imagine how things might go. Tried to envision how scenes played would contribute to the story arc.

Yes, I misunderstood the playing of cards to the story arc. There was a rule that said that the Joker from the GM’s deck can never be played to the story arc. This is what threw me off. Of course I realize now that it will be a simple thing for the GM’s Joker to land in a player’s hand. But at the time I misread the intent of the rule and turned it around to mean, “The GM can never play his Joker to the story arc.” This was the mistake that lead me to assume that I, as the GM could play other cards to the arc… just not my Joker. I understand that mistake. Perhaps you could add a simple statement somewhere that spells out, “The GM never discards a card to the story arc.” Not that others will make my mistake… but it’s possible.

Back to the “adventure” outline that I submitted: I think any referee who runs games in the traditional RPG mold will play a night’s adventure through in their head ahead of time. They try to anticipate the reactions of their players and prepare contingencies for these actions. This game of “what if…” is part of the GM’s creative process. It’s a big part of what constitutes the GM’s contribution to the more traditional RPG.

Aspects replace a lot of this in WGP. Rather than prepare a story in advance the GM improvises the story based upon input from the players. This is an innovative approach that involves the players more fully in the story creation process. But I am a little worried that this might be taking too much away from the GM.

I am an old fashioned gamer. I have not played any game before that changes the GM’s traditional role the way WGP does. That being said, any criticism that I make regarding the changes made to this role are admittedly premature. I present my concerns here in any event, if for no other reason than to have something to compare to after I play the game tomorrow.
I want to start by looking at some of the advice you have given me a piece at a time.


Quote

“What I do when I have limited players and limited time is that I allow each card the players contribute to the Story Arc to fill TWO spaces. So the first discard to the Arc fills spaces 1 & 2, second fills 3 & 4, and third fills 5 & 6. With this in place I can teach two players the rules and run them through a full Arc in 3.5 to 4 hours with pre-gen characters.”



Great! The single card filling a double space in the story arc thing does seem like it will allow the right number of conflicts in an evening. (Another rule that I overlooked was that no more than one card can be played to the story arc in a single scene. This is plainly spelled out in the rules. I just forgot about it when I was planning my outline.)

The one thing in the above statement that does confuse me is the “... with pre-gen characters.” comment. I thought the problem with planning my adventure ahead of time was because I don’t know what characters my players will want to play or what Aspects they will choose, and it’s vital to the proper function of the game system to allow my players to make these decisions as part of the game play session. If this is the case, how can there exist pre-gen characters? What do you envision as a pre-gen?


Quote

Hero creation will take a bit longer, but I suggest limiting them to 3 Aspects in Hero Creation. They can add more as play goes along. Have them create one Apect to answer each of these questions:

1. How does your hero excel?
This is where you'd get your dusty armore, uncle's ring, magic lamp kind of thing. They'd be Power and possibly Origin types. Maybe one of them has the best estate around and thus their "Origin" is "Nobleman" and it counts on the "Obligation" side of the Struggle, rather than the Wanderlust side. See what they players come up with.

2. Why does your hero fight the good fight?
This is where we get into Duties and Motivations. Every hero needs one. Remember, if they can't think of a way it might Suffer, they can't have it as an Aspect.

3. Who is important to your hero?
As you mentioned, mentors, damsels in distress, sidekicks, and the like are the stuff of great story. Use them.



Here you go on to talk about Hero creation as an alternative to pre-gen, but I guess I am back to my previous question. As for your advice concerning character creation, it will be adhered to. Thanks for this. I wound up printing out your entire post to take with me tomorrow. All the advice you have given here, is really helpful.


Quote

Y'see, particularly with a one-shot, you don't have time to waste trying out ideas. You've got to get to the good stuff immediately. Running games the outline way is one form of "trying out ideas." It's you coming to the table and saying (not in words, but in actions), "I think a good story would be about your characters' struggling against an orc cheiftan bent on opening this tomb and getting this awe-inspiring magic sword. Let's play it for the next four hours." And then you spend four hours playing it. And then maybe your players say (again, not it these words), "You were right, Jeff. That was a good story. Thanks for letting us tag along." Or maybe they'll say, "Thank was a decent enough story, but I was kinda hoping we'd get to slay a dragon, rescue a princess, overthrow a wicked king, or whatever story I've got locked away deep in my heart." With the outline model, you'll never know if they've liked it until after they've put in the time to play it all out. Your idea might be a hit. But more likely it'll land in the "almost" or "miss" categories. And why? Simply because hitting a target that you can't see is really, really hard. Spinning a story in the outline way is like that. Your target is the players' hearts and you haven't given them a chance to show you what they are.



This would seem to assume that as a referee building an outline for an adventure that the GM doesn’t consider the tastes of his playgroup. This simply isn’t true. I have always considered those things that my group likes (and those that they don’t) while creating an adventure. Any GM who is any good at all, thinks about his players when he sits down to create. A good GM knows his audience and creates for them. Some of the immediacy is gone, but I don't feel like I'm shooting in the dark.


Quote

1) Add one extra step to hero creation. After everyone has created their Aspects, each player chooses one Aspect as their "Strife Aspect" for this story. Rules-wise, whenever anyone changes the level of Suffering of a Strife Aspect, one card more than normal is involved. Moving from Threatend to Imperiled normally gets you 3 cards, but for a Strife Aspect it's 4. Same for decreasing Suffering. It costs one card more.

2. Design your villain's Plan around them. Keep your Orc cheiftain. He's fine. Just don't decide what he wants. Let the players do that. You have a list of Strife Aspects that they chose. These are what your villain wants. Forget the temple and the key, unless one of your players comes up with it. Call a 15 minute break after Hero Creation and look at your list of Strife Aspects. It is vitally important to your villain to Devastate these Aspects. As GM, your job is to answer: "Why? Why does he want these things?" That is the your villain's plan. Maybe he wants the hero's girlfriend for a sacrifice. Maybe he wants her for his wife. Maybe he wants the magic armor so that he can become king of the orcs. Maybe he wants it because the hero's grandfather stole it from its rightful owners.

It's really simple. The player's tell you what the villain wants. You get to make up why he wants it. At the beginning of any scene that you frame about your villain, you get to say what he's trying to do to get it. If the players try to stop him, they've just started a page of conflict. If they don't try to stop him, use the enrichment rules. Then, go to the next person at the table.



As I mentioned at the top of my post, I will be running my game just as you intended in the interest of providing a proper play test of WGP. I recognize that to do any less would not be playing your game, but something else.

That said, structuring a story in the way you describe just feels wrong to me. Like peeking at the ending of a book. If the players have too much information about a story going in, where is the surprise of discovery as the story unfolds? Aren’t you afraid that having a rule that tells the GM to always target a player’s Strife Aspect will make the story building predictable for your players? Wouldn’t you rather surprise them with something they didn’t know was coming?

The above sounds to me like reducing the creative role of the GM to little more than multiple-choice. Players choose one of three Aspects to be their Strife Aspects. I target the Strife Aspect that is selected. Multiple-choice, where I don’t even get to select the answer. I am being too literal and too general, I know. I understand that these changes are to ensure that as a GM, I create a story that is catered specifically to my players. And that is exactly what WGP appears to be designed to do. To give the players as much control over the story creation process as possible. That is a noble goal and I support it! These rules are good for giving more creative power to the players. But I think that this will ultimately also take creative power away from the GM. I guess my big question is, “What have you replaced this with? What new thing have you given the GM to balance those things that you have taken away?

I am going to GM WGP tomorrow and I will work within your strictures as absolutely as I can, but I am afraid that even if everything goes perfectly and my players have a super fun time, that I as the GM might come away feeling short changed.

I will post again after we play. Hopefully my concerns are unwarranted and I will look back at this post and laugh at myself for being a fool.
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Christopher Weeks
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2005, 04:25:57 AM »

The stuff at the end of the last note is great!  Your role as the implementor is slamming out Story Now.  You'll actually still have more directorial power than the other players.  The previous creative authority that you're worried about losing is replaced by the wonder that comes from participating more equitably with your other players to build the story/game experience.  I don't think you'll feel short-changed.  

And there are games around here that take the old GM role and split them totally among a body of players so that everyone is literally equal.  They're still RPGs.  They're fun!  When you're playing Universalis or Capes with three other people, whenever you're acting, you have three GMs instead of just one!  And everyone gets that kind of treatment and attention.
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bigcape
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2005, 06:05:31 AM »

Thanks for the reply Chris.

In the other games you mention where every participant takes a GM/Player role, it does seem that the GM is given something to compensate for the loss of his traditional role... he gets a player style character... a recurring growing PC that makes him as much a player as he is a GM. Something is given to the GM to replace those things that are sacrificed. I am going to take this discussion in a more general direction for a moment. As I have not yet GM’ed WGP I’ll forget it for a moment and just talk about the GM in general. I am speaking of the GM that I have become. One molded from the playing of a great number of the more traditional RPG’s.

I will be playing WGP tonight so I will have a chance to weigh the GM experience against that in a more traditional game. To me, the way to sell a game to a group is to ensure that the GM aspect is as rewarding as possible, to give the GM role as much attention and innovation as the player role. After all, no matter how the GM might function mechanically within the system, there does always seem to be that one person who takes on the job of running the game session. Not running the game, but the session. This person is almost always also the GM.

This is the one person who has gone out and bought the rules. They read the rules... learn the rules... they take the responsibility for teaching the rules to their friends... they call everyone up and arrange a time and date to play... they clean their house and find a babysitter... they get everything arranged and everyone together... then the entire group at last gets to play.

If the one person who puts all the effort into organizing the gathering does not feel gratified with their role within the "play" portion of this whole thing, then that person might not feel inspired to put the considerable effort into organizing another gathering for the purposes of recreating that particular style play experience. The GM will dismiss the session as an isolated distraction and toss the game rules on a shelf with all the other distractions... (and there are many).

All of this is presented hypothetically. I have not played WGP yet. But I am trying to imagine, now that I have resigned myself to a reactionary GM role rather than a proactive one, How I might feel about playing more than one session. I won’t be building and planning some grand campaign. I am loosing site of the big picture. Much of my previous enjoyment as a GM has stemmed from activity occurring not during play but in between sessions with the building of a landscape that I can watch the other players discover and explore for the first time. It’s largely the anticipation of unveiling the efforts of this creativity that gets me off my ass to clean my house and organize the gathering in the first place.

When I was in high school, we played in a friend’s garage. Almost every night of the week and all day on Saturday, we played. It was easy. It was everything to us. We lived for it. Today, we have wives. We have children. We have other avenues for interactive escapist entertainment (World of Warcraft). Someone does have to take the role of organizer. And that someone has to have gaming firmly planted in their brain, to push past the distractions and other obligations to ensure that everything goes forward. We as gamers are all facing the struggle of “GAMING versus REAL LIFE.” In the past, games with rich backgrounds that have inspired me to spend many man-hours planning, sculpting and plotting a course of adventure have kept me able to fight the gaming battle and not let it vanish behind the other distractions of my day.

Now granted, the little one-shot outline that I presented above is no epic and was barely an hour’s work. Actually, what’s been keeping me juiced for gaming this session is posting my thoughts to this forum. And I may be belaboring a point. But since it’s come to this, I guess I should ask. When you design a game, do you regard the GM’s role in this game with as much attention to detail and with as much of an eye to generating a “fun” experience as is done for the player characters of the game? If not, shouldn’t you? Isn’t the GM the one who will buy your game? Isn’t the GM the one who will get excited about a game and convince those others in their group to play it? Isn’t the GM your most important consumer?
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bigcape
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2005, 06:20:08 AM »

Quote

One other side suggestion: WGP is built to handle superheroes ranging from Batman and Daredevil to Superman and Thor. Why do they need to be peasants struggling with the call to adventure? Kings and wizards and nobles also face the Struggle of Obligation versus Adventure. Look at Richard the Lion-hearted, Frederick Barbarossa and Henry V. Since it's a one-shot, think about letting them really play ANY character they want. Maybe the local dragon is torn between Obligation and Adventure. Who knows?


I didn't really think about this... beginning as ordinary peasants is a way to tell a "birth of a hero" kind of story. It's the origin portion you talk about writing in the rules. Has any of the players that you have played with expressed an interest in role-playing their character's origins (you mention flash back enrichment scenes to relive a character's origin). What about starting an entire group as normal people and playing out a shared origin during the game session? Like starting off as a test pilot, a scientist, the scientists girlfriend and her kid brother and seeing what will happen when you all blast off into space together?
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bigcape
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2005, 09:52:26 PM »

Well, we played WGP.

The session went well enough, although, I was unable to effectively weave a story that considered the strifed aspects of both players together and the story tended to lean in the direction of just one of those players. Maybe the problem was getting both players together immediately in the session and then keeping them together. The tendency to keep the players together as a group is a side effect of years of GM conditioning that preaches, “Don’t let the party split up.”

As I think about it, trying to enrich and develop story for two different players and two different aspects (or more with larger groups) all at the same time may require the development of independent stories for each player running simultaneously. This is something that my more traditional GM’s instincts was not ready for. I instinctively kept my two players together, and because I wasn’t clever enough to develop two story lines for their individually strifed aspects and find a way to intertwine them, I wound up concentrating on only one story line.

I think if this had been one session of many in a campaign, I would have had more ability to mingle everything together as the campaign and its characters evolved. Also, in a campaign, featuring a single player’s story as the highlight might be okay because a future session might always highlight someone else… eventually everyone can have the spotlight.

Still, the story that did evolve went well enough. I sat down with the players and told them about the game. I talked about internal struggle and how it relates to what’s important to a character in a story and I used Spiderman comics and movies for examples. We talked about the kind of stories we might like to play out. I was prepared to cater to anything the players desired and a discussion of theme came about. We talked about superheroes and fantasy and things like that. One player said that he would really not have fun telling any kind of story, except a fantasy story. He said that contemporary settings, even comic book ones were boring to him and that in all of the games that we have played he does not like non-fantasy games as much. The other player said that he liked it all equally and would be just as happy telling a fantasy themed story as any other sort and so, we did end up playing in a high fantasy sort of setting after all.

The struggle was adventure versus obligation and one player was a farm boy who yearned for adventure while the other a member of the local royalty who balanced his obligations to his family with a desire to join the church and become a druid.

I worked the two worlds together as best I could as we learned that the farm boy’s horse (the player’s chosen strifed aspect… his horse, named: Freedom,) actually had once belonged to the prince and was stolen. (This came out after the player revealed that he had won the horse while playing a game of poker.) The story progressed and eventually the prince arrived to reclaim the horse. The horse attacks the prince and this creates the longest lasting and most interesting of our conflict scenes. The prince turns out to be a doppelganger and the heroes inevitably save him. The prince tells the farm boy to keep the stallion as they have obviously grown close and things have a happy ending.

Both players enjoyed the story and said as much. What surprised me, is that the card play did not go over nearly so well. The enrichment scenes worked fine. Once the stakes were decided upon and the consequences for success or failure understood, the card play served to resolve the task and everyone was happy.

The conflict scenes were another matter. The players had some trouble understanding the nature of descriptive conflict. I would describe one of the Prince’s squires lunging forward with his sword and grazing a player’s character. The player had trouble understanding and responding to this (I really did try to explain that the entire conflict was just an exchange of narration… but the concept seemed too nebulous for them – especially the player who said he can only play fantasy games.) “How do I know if I hit or miss?” (“It’s up to you and the way you describe your attack.” came my answer. Imagine your character in the scene and describe what he does like you are the author of a book… if it makes sense to the story you’re telling that the character should successfully hit, then describe that.) They wanted to know how much damage they did with an attack (as much as you describe… I would explain… when I add to your narration with one of my own, I have the option of stressing one of my aspects… that stress is the damage of combat…) I would get shrugs and a “let’s just play it and see…” response.

The “fantasy gamer” really had trouble… (he was the Nobleman who wanted to join the church character)… the player wanted a list of spells that he could cast… a selection from the rules that told him exactly how much his character could do, how much effect every action he took had, how much damage each individual attack would inflict and a probability for success for every action that he took. WGP was simply not the game for him, and he hated the cards.

Both players were uncomfortable with the “thought balloon” and the fantasy gamer wouldn’t even touch it. The other player tried a few times and I encouraged it, but as the other player really thought this was stupid, it did ultimately get abandoned.

The fantasy gamer ran himself out of cards during an early conflict scene where he did actually concede the conflict and play a card to the story arc. Then in the next enrichment scene he found that he had no cards at all to play. I allowed him to draw 5 new cards (like at the start of the game) as there were no rules to cover this. No other cards were played to the story arc at all during the night, the players were simply unwilling to concede a page. I explained the difference between their character’s goals to achieve an given objective versus their goals as players to try and tell a dramatic story. I believe the reaction I got, again from the fantasy gamer, was… “So in this game, we only get rewarded for playing scenes where we loose… we can never play scenes where good things happen to our characters? We have to go through an entire evening of playing this game before we are allowed to win any of our battles?” or words to that effect.

In summation, WGP simply wasn’t the right game for Fantasy Gamer. Actually, I don’t think any game except D&D really is. That being said, the other player enjoyed things well enough. Though he also had trouble grasping the concept of the conflict scenes and never played a card to the story arc. I am sure that I handled things terribly. I wish I could try this again, but I’m not sure that I will be given the chance.

My group certainly did not provide a golden example for how to play your game, but I think that there are also a lot of groups out there with players like “fantasy gamer.” With that in mind, I will make some suggestions based upon my play test. These suggestions may provide constructive criticisms based upon my experience with the game or they may simply demonstrate that I did not interpret certain rules correctly and was perhaps simply presenting and playing the game incorrectly. Either way I believe the suggestions will have their use.

1. Some other way to advance the story arc besides conceding a page of conflict. I am surprised you do not meet with more resistance to this mechanic. The way it’s presented, it seems that characters have to rack up 6 combat losses to claim a single victory. The ratio seems extreme.

2. Conflict exchanges could be more tightly defined. Perhaps something like this.

Attacking:

Choose one of your opponent’s aspects to attack.

You may not target an Aspect that has not been primed.

Describe your attack in a way that is relevant to that aspect.

Unless your opponent is able to counter the affect of your card with an identical card, your attack is successful.

Have your opponent resolve damage.

Resolving Damage:

Your opponent must stress the aspect that you have targeted.

This may allow your opponent to draw some cards into their hand.

If a devastated aspect is successfully targeted and takes damage, the target must concede the page of conflict.

Counter Attack:

If your opponent did not concede the page of conflict they may respond with an attack of their own.

Return to the top of the sequence.

Well, something like that, adding specific rules for damage and a way to “over-power” a character into conceding a page may help to escalate the filling of the story arc.

3. What happens if someone runs themselves out of cards in a conflict scene and is then called upon to play an enrichment scene?

Maybe a simple rule that allows players to draw one card at the start of an enrichment scene? Or is there a rule about drawing cards following a conflict that maybe I missed or forgot?


I realize that these suggestions are about catering to my specific group and are the result of an isolated attempt to run the game. I realize that my group may have been the wrong one to attempt your game. We may not be your intended audience at all. We may be better off playing a more traditional RPG. And there are plenty of those out there. But I provide you with this data all the same, to evaluate as you see fit.
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Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2005, 06:31:16 AM »

Its really kind of scary to think how many "Fantasy Gamer" players are out there.  What a sad rut to be stuck in.  I mean, most everbody has played that way at some point, I certainly did and enjoyed the hell out of it.  Every now and then I get a jonesing to play that way again.  But for that to be the ONLY way you're comfortable playing...  

To more or less self sabotage your own enjoyment by dwelling on how a new game doesn't allow you to retreat into your security blanket of what you're used to...under the guise of "what I enjoy"...is really very very sad.

When "What I enjoy" essentially translates to "What I'm familiar with" and prevents you from expanding your horizons there's something very wrong.
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bigcape
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2005, 10:17:05 AM »

I agree with you. I really enjoy trying new games, but there are some people whose definition of fun comes saddled with too many qualifiers. I try not to place any qualifiers on what I call fun and attempt to undertake every new experience with an open mind. I may not always succeed at this, but I put forth a better effort than some.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2005, 08:52:21 AM »

Hi, Jeff.

It's great to get back from vacation and read about someone running my game. Even if it didn't go as well as you hoped. Thanks.

I've got lots to say, and not a great deal of time, so here's the highpoints. I'll add more comments on the differences between "undefined GM role" and "limited GM role" a bit later.

Comments on session itself

  •  What were your villains? Why were the Strife Aspects vital to your villain's needs? What was the prince's Strife Aspect? I'm assume the doppleganger prince was your villain. Why were the heroes' Aspects vital to his dastardly plans?

  • As for the flow of cardplay, it is different than your average dice-based game. The text of the Preview and Interim editions doesn't really get that across too well. but I've completely rewritten the Conflict section for the Full Edition, so you points are covered: You begin a panel by describing the culmination of your opponent's action, and then describe the beginning of your own. They respond by describing the culmination of your action, and then the beginning of their own. The card played limits how you can describe those actions (i.e., as escalation, or a change of style, or a cancellation).

  • About running out of cards: When someone yields in a conflict, their opponent wins the Stakes and targets one of their Aspects, the Aspect's Suffering is increased, the victor takes the appropriate number of cards from the defeated's hand, and then the defeated redraws a number of cards equal to one less than however many the victor took. If the defeated doesn't have enough cards, the victor takes them directly from the defeated's deck.

Comments on With Great Power... specifically

  • You're absolutely right that I'm not catering to the standard, run-of-the-mill "fantasy gamer." They've got far too many games to choose from, I'm certainly not about to add one more.

  • It's not that you can't win *at all* before the Story Arc is entirely filled, but that you can't permanently affect the villain until the Arc is filled. Along the way, you get to choose what you will save, and what you will allow to suffer. WGP... is definitely a game about the costs and consequences of doing the right thing. If someone wants a game where success comes easily and without a price tag, With Great Power... ain't it. If your "fantasy gamer" ran out of cards in a conflict, then he didn't Assess often enough. Which is a valid choice: He chose to keep the Aspects of his character safe and sacrificed whatever was as Stake in the conflict. Sometimes we see stories where Spiderman is getting along great with Mary Jane, and he just lets Doc Ock ride roughshod over the city. They usually lead to a change of heart, but that's still an important part of the story.
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