*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 24, 2022, 07:15:43 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 92 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
Pages: 1 2 [3] 4
Print
Author Topic: [d20 Fantasy] Bangs don't always stop the Railroad  (Read 15356 times)
Kerstin Schmidt
Member

Posts: 289


« Reply #30 on: July 05, 2005, 12:56:06 AM »

Quote from: Chris Geisel
Kerstin's given me an idea of how to set up some explosive situations, so I think I have a handle on Sydney's Step 1.
...Assuming they are, next up is Step 2. However, I strongly suspect that when I pose these ideas to the group, the general response will be that these choices are up to me, the DM. I bet the most common response will be variations of "these all sound good".


Actually what I had in mind didn't quite have Sydney's step 2 in it, or not in a fully fleshed-out form.  Not at all because I disagree with him (that was brilliant advice) but because I didn't think you had the time to start a proper discussion before the actual session.  That's why I suggested to present choices at the start of the session in this case, and to give the info straight to the PCs as well.  (Kind of briefly touching on step 2. My bad for not making clear how I thought this should work.)

If you drop those choices right into the game with NPCs asking PCs for help as I suggested, it's clear it's not a "DM's job" to choose the path to follow.  It's been presented to the PCs, so obviously the players are supposed to deal with it somehow.

If your players are anything like a group of D&Ders I used to GM for, they'll now regard the choice put before them as some kind of obscure and tricky challenge, and will try to work out which option is the tactically most sound/least suicidal to take. They may suspect you of trying to screw them over by offering two "death traps" and only one viable choice.   Assuring them that that isn't what you're doing likely won't help (as Ron said in his post - I wish I'd had that when I was still wrestling with my D&Ders!), but hey. Let them approach their choice tactically and suspiciously if they insist.  It'll give you a chance to hang back and respect their decision, if nothing else.

Still, use Sydney's step 3. Listen for what the players sound excited about and consider combining their favourite ideas. This may well also include cues for ideas you hadn't even thought about like, "Maybe we should take a shot at that shaman." - "Don't you wish. Wish we could get back at that NPC NN too, wasn't he one arrogant bastard." (Typically followed by general assent and lots of disclaimers about how NN is likely faar too dangerous to meddle with...)    

And if they genuinely (as opposed to sulkily) say "these all sound good", well you could say, "Oh cool, then let's figure out a way to play them all. What do you think should come first?"  



And I now realise there's one thing I completely omitted to say in my earlier post, but should have. The way I set up these three choices it may look like the players can afford to have their PCs sit by the fire discussing their options to death and do nothing, and nothing will happen as a result.  Not good.  In fact, that's what you very, very, very much don't want to happen.  

But it's a bit tricky to deal with.  The instant you have NPCs do even the most minor thing to show that non-action will have consequences later (say, in a first step NPC X is jostled aside and insulted by the rival he means to challenge with the PCs' help), the players likely will leap up and run after that perceived "plot hook".  

So don't.  Instead do pretty much what you were going to do before I barged in, explain choices (except you do that after you've set up specific situations like the examples I suggested, so you'll be quick to start play).  
Show the players how their choice will lead to cool (but different) things for the PCs.  

Like, if the PCs successfully take out the shaman who's been controlling the warband with an iron fist, there's going to be lots of infighting later - tons of hitting things and chances to become renowned as brutal warriors.  If they manage to take out or subdue their rivals, the shaman will be have only the PCs as his elite hunting unit - a good position to be in to curry favour and lord it over other orcs.  Etc.   In your explanations show how you see the PCs ending up as cool people: this isn't about "power struggle" as such, it's about what the players want the PCs to be. The people with the big club who crush someone powerful and fight for dominance? Or the people who grasp an opportunity to use someone powerful to their own advantage? Or something else entirely that they may come up with.  


I know it's not an ongoing game, but give the players the feeling that they are making big-time choices for their PCs, in the sense that they can decide how their PCs will turn out in a major way.
Logged
Andrew Cooper
Member

Posts: 724


WWW
« Reply #31 on: July 06, 2005, 04:57:56 AM »

Quote from: Chris Geisel
Assuming they are, next up is Step 2. However, I strongly suspect that when I pose these ideas to the group, the general response will be that these choices are up to me, the DM. I bet the most common response will be variations of "these all sound good". Any thoughts about how to approach the rest of the group? Or how to proceed if I don't get much feedback?


Yes, I've had this problem before too.  I got around/through it by remember something I read in Stephen King's book, On Writing.  He said that one author friend of his told him that whenever he was at a loss for what should happen next in a book, he just had a guy show up with a gun.  He did it without knowing who the guy was or what his motivations were.  He figured all that out during the process of writing what happened.

Adapt this to your current situation.  The "guy with a gun" is some NPC, Monster or situation that shows up and *makes* the PCs do *something*.  You don't know what they're going to do but make it so they have to do something.  Anything.  Get over the initiatial creative inertia and things will probably go smoother from there.  Once they get going, you've already told them some of what their options are so they'll probably head towards one of those but they might do something totally different.  That's cool.  Let them.  That's what keeps it from being Illusionist or Railroading.
Logged

Thor Olavsrud
Member

Posts: 349


WWW
« Reply #32 on: July 06, 2005, 01:29:28 PM »

Hey Chris,

I think you need to back up a little bit and really think about what your players are into. Characters are just fictional constructs. Bangs don't work on characters. Bangs work on players.

So think about who your players are, what they're interested in, what they care about, and how those things are reflected in the characters they've made.

We can only stab wildly at possible bangs here unless we have an idea of what the players are about and why they care about their characters. Once we know that, creating potential bangs for them should be fairly easy.
Logged

Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #33 on: July 07, 2005, 01:31:34 PM »

Wow, lots of great advice here.

So I'm almost loathe to do the following, and make an admission about my recent play that will hopefully highlight an important principle.

Recently I've been messing up on my own supposedly bang-driven play.

Now, what I don't want that to do is to discourage anyone. If Mike's messing up, and he's the one teaching the stuff, how can I do it? Just shows that I'm human and that there's hope for us all. Because I caught it and fixed it (I hope). And it turns out that it's practically the same mistake that you made in some ways.

What it comes down to is that the presentation of the style of play is really very important. Ralph talks about this a lot, but it's all about keeping the metagame chatter going. See, I've been playing a lot of IRC and PBEM lately, and in no less than three games that I've been running, I simultaneously noticed the same problem occuring: players were starting to turtle.

What the hell was I doing wrong that was causing these good players to turtle? Took me a bit to figure it out. I was getting lazy because keeping up with all the extra typing is a hassle. What was I ommitting?

Basically if you present a bang that looks like it's part of a GM originated plot, players will respond to it using their old trained sim tendencies. I had players in all three games who were "playing along" waiting for me to reaval the plot. Which is really problematic since I don't have a plot!

But these were carefully designed bangs, thought I. How could they not see that? Well, becuase sometimes it doesn't matter how interesting the question that you pose, if you pose it in the wrong way, players think there's only one right answer. Or don't care about the answer at all (since they're not getting to make it, or so they assume).

And it's a really simple cue that I was blowing. This is a crucial thing, though it seems really minor.

Never ask the players, "What is your character doing next?" See, I'm playing most of my games with a pretty traditional power split, as I assume you are. So, really, they only have control over their characters technically. But that idea can lead to actor stance responses if you don't try to shake them into author stance once in a while.

There are a few easy techniques to do this, but I was not prompting on any of them. That is, for example, though there is a traditional split I make it explicit in my games that players are free to ask me for whatever scene they think would be fun next. When players play this way, they're automatically catapulted into author stance. But though the option was theoretically open, since I wasn't prompting on it correctly, people felt as though the option was gone.

That is, instead of saying "What does your character do next?" I should have been asking things like, "What sort of conflict would you like to see in the next scene?" Or, "Who is your character tracking down and why?"

Definitely never say, "What are you doing?" That's even worse than what I do because it "expects" an actor stance response (a lot of this has to do with person and tense use per my recent discussion). Language is powerful.

What does this have to do with bangs? Well, let's look at your best bang:

4. The Elves are rescuing slaves that are reincarnated Elf Souls. One or more PCs are identified by the Elves as one such reincarnation (to mutual surprise).

Good bang. I take it that what it asks is: Do they capture the elves to save themselves, or refuse at this point?

(When you write down the bangs write what question it asks the players to answer, and you'll be sure it's a bang and not just an event. Keep in mind you'll probably have some events, too. You don't have to make everything a bang.)

OK, here's the obvious what not to do, "Well, you could join the elves, but the shaman is vastly more powerful than them, so you're really risking things." Even if this is true, such talk says to players, "He has a plot that we're supposed to stick to." GM's are trained to do this to avoid a gamism response of "That wasn't fair, you blindsided us!" But that's not the mode you're worried about here. Anyhow, even if you're not doing this, less subtly, don't say, "Well, the elves are there, what do you do? " Or even "Well, the elves are there, what do your characters do?"

Actually say, "Well, the elves are there, what sort of outcome do you think would be cool, Bob?" Where Bob is the player. When Bob says, "Oh, I'd like to see my character betray the elves!" then say, "Cool, how does he go about doing that?"

Now this is a stilted example, but it illustrates the technique. And you don't have to do it every time. But do it enough that people know that "What is your character doing?" is code for "What are you going to have your character do so that you get the coolest outcome you can imagine?" Start with a question directly to the player. After getting the player to state their intent, then ask them for how they're going to make that happen in-game.

Makes a whole ton of difference.

Another thing to do is (as somebody mentioned, I think) to simply discuss it with your players so they know that they have the authority to do whatever they want when the bangs come up. The only problem with this is, per my experience, we can all tend to fall back into old methods easily without the appropriate prompts. So make sure you prompt correctly and often.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #34 on: July 08, 2005, 09:17:17 PM »

Hi Mike,

What do you think about reflexive actor stance though?
GM "Jim, what do you want to do with the situation I just proposed?"
Jim "...Ummm, I guess what what my character would do is (thinks) start looking for traps."
GM "Well, I'm more looking for what your interested in as a player?"
Jim "...Well, what can my character see?"
GM "What would you like him, as a player, to see?"
Jim "I don't get what you mean?"
GM "What do you want to happen next?"
Jim "Oh, anythings good!"

Actually, that final line looks like it ties into the previous advice I gave. Is there anything else to be done? whatcha think?
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Warren
Member

Posts: 167


WWW
« Reply #35 on: July 09, 2005, 06:20:55 AM »

This is something I found with my DitV game I ran this week. All the players have only really played simple dungeon-bash AD&D before, and I've come along to the club and introduced a whole new world of indie madness. Most of them like it, but I find the kind of conversation Callan describes above to be fairly common. I have to remind them each time that I'm interested in what the players want to achieve, and then we will set the stakes and resolve the conflict.

It seems to be working, and they all seem to like the fact their characters get to look a lot 'cooler' than simple D&D 'I swing at him' narration.
Logged
S'mon
Member

Posts: 126


« Reply #36 on: July 11, 2005, 03:36:58 AM »

Quote from: StalkingBlue
If your players are anything like a group of D&Ders I used to GM for, they'll now regard the choice put before them as some kind of obscure and tricky challenge, and will try to work out which option is the tactically most sound/least suicidal to take. They may suspect you of trying to screw them over by offering two "death traps" and only one viable choice.   Assuring them that that isn't what you're doing likely won't help (as Ron said in his post - I wish I'd had that when I was still wrestling with my D&Ders...


To be fair, you did actually kill all our PCs, and most of those deaths seemed due to our lack of tactical acumen or the lethality of the ruleset combined with the lethality of the Midnight setting.  You even told us once or twice "If you hadn't done X you would have all died", so I don't see how this was an issue of players at fault for thinking in a d20 mindset.

On topic - I also don't think there were any actual Bangs in the OP. Just a standard plot-railroad.  >:)
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #37 on: July 11, 2005, 05:24:54 AM »

Quote from: Noon
What do you think about reflexive actor stance though?
Play D&D.

Rather, players who are already canalized to this sort of play, and can't seem to get out of it, are, in fact, going to have more problems than a little prompting can solve, likely. It might take some outside of play discussion about the style you want to play, or something. Or, perhaps, they're simply not the sorts who are going to like this sort of play.

But you can prompt more powerfully if you really want to do so. For example, in a bang situation, ask them the bang question in an OOC fashion. Like:

At this point there are probably lots of things your character can plausibly do. For instance, betray the elves, or join their side. Either way would be lots of fun. Which do you think would be coolest? It's your character, you decide where this is going to go.

Don't present open-ended options if you can't take the "oh, anything" response, or suspect that's what you'll get.

The thing is that you don't have to really give the player any more power than the traditional GM/Player split. That is, with a real bang, just controlling the character can produce the appropriate results. Yes, even an actor stance decision in this case is actually not a failure. It just means that you can't be sure that the player was playing according to his desires, and, therefore, what their desires are. The prompting is to get that player opinion out in the open, so the player knows it's OK to show it.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #38 on: July 11, 2005, 08:53:47 PM »

We do play D&D! :) The thing is, for various reasons I really don't want to write up trail blazing session notes. I want to take the direction where players will suggest their own challenges...not just saying that they side with the elves, but also what they hope to earn by that and roughly what difficulties they would face in earning that. Those last two items have to be open ended questions, unless I go back to writing trail blazing session notes again.

Edit: I suspect I'm going to (perversly?) compare this to when we play the PS2 game "Time splitters", to get the idea across. In the multiplayer for that weve all sat down many times to decide the mission type, decide how many bad guys we will face (and at what level of AI) and what weapons will be involved. Same principle really.
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #39 on: July 12, 2005, 06:45:54 AM »

Well,  as always, you know my thoughts about using the wrong system to play a particular mode. Bangs don't work well with D&D, because D&D informs the player that their role is that of problem solver. Not theme creator. So when looking at a bang, the player will always be looking for the solution that gets them the most EXPs. Which often bangs won't have balanced out. Meaning only one choice.

Play TSOY instead.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
S'mon
Member

Posts: 126


« Reply #40 on: July 12, 2005, 07:06:30 AM »

I agree with Mike that D&D is oriented towards Gamist play.  OTOH it's certainly possible to let the players know that their PCs have a range of viable options, and that they should decide based on preference.  If the players are paranoid (as we were playing Stalkingblue's Midnight game, after the first few PC deaths) it's best to do this out-of-game; it's fine for the GM to say "These are all valid choices, all with potential dangers and rewards, none is a death trap", if you like.

Edit: While I have seen Bangs in D&D, they tend to be emergent in play, not pre-planned or pre-negotiated.  In SB's game, because we lost a battle, my PC Zana had to decide whether she preferred an honorable but futile death in battle, or surrendering to try to save the life of her friend Jez.  I always felt that the way SB GM'd, either choice was potentially valid, and there were several others like this in the campaign - like "Do I kill the prisoner, or risk him alerting the enemy?"  I think a combination of SB's talented GMing and the dramatic nature of the Midnight setting enabled a fair bit of 'driving with bangs' despite the potential handicap of the d20 ruleset.
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #41 on: July 12, 2005, 07:46:29 AM »

Gamism Bangs? I suppose.

But presuming players in the gamism mode, this presumes that they want challenge. Meaning that the GM should, in fact, not be presenting equal options, but ones that do have better and worse outcomes. So that picking the right one is, in fact, a challenge.

This is the basic modal incoherence between gamism and narrativism. Narrativism options have to have the same ability to provide theme. Gamism options have to have disparate outcomes. If they are all the same, then there's no challenge in selecting the right outcome.

Now you can mix, certainly, but then you run the risks inherent with incoherent play. One of the largest is that, somehow even when you talk about this sort of thing OOC, even when you get players nodding that they understand, somehow the game rules mess with players heads, and they fall back into a familiar pattern.

"Why did we kill the baby kobolds? Because they weren't worth any EXP alive."

To use my campy example. If it works for your group, great. But if you feel that your game needs bangs, then I think you are probably also feeling a need for a system that supports that mode of play.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #42 on: July 12, 2005, 06:51:18 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Gamism Bangs? I suppose.

But presuming players in the gamism mode, this presumes that they want challenge. Meaning that the GM should, in fact, not be presenting equal options, but ones that do have better and worse outcomes. So that picking the right one is, in fact, a challenge.

I gree with your entire post, but I think in terms of gamism it has the oversight that I'm trying to deal with. The idea that the GM only ever presents choices as a challenge. When I mentioned setting up a co-op game of time splitters deathmatch, it's because when one of my friends suggests "Okay, how about ten stupid bots with machine guns? Or perhaps only a couple of tough as nail bots with rocket launchers?" he's not presenting me with options where I'm supposed to evaluate the best one and take that. It's really my choice as a player what sort of challenge I want to jump into.

Whatever the gamist GM says, can it only ever be treated as a trick question?
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #43 on: July 13, 2005, 12:19:28 AM »

I agree with Noon's point.  Thinking about things like Power/Evil has recently priompted this idea: why not be much more explicit about the challanges that are posed?  Why not even let players choose them?  Further, why use an abstract reward system when a concrete one could also be used?

To explain the last point first, the distinction I am claiming between abstract rewards and concrete rewards is the distinction between a bunch of XP and an actual change on the charsheet.  That is, conventionally we award XP and allow players to spend them on whatever they want, but why not offer them what they want up front?  Then you can say, this challenge carries the reward "4 levels of Swordsman skill" or something like that.

Prompted by some elements that have become standard in PC games, like checkpoint saves and explicit goal lists accessible through the game menu, such challenges could also be checkpointed up front so that the player knows what the express goals are.  So the challenge associated with the above reward of 4 levels of Swordsman skill might be:

Rescue the Princess
1) Break into Castle Dread
2) Kill the Evil Count and get the dungeon key
3) Find your way to the Dungeons
4) Escape via the sally port

The reason we do not conventionally do this sort of thing is in order to retain the "surprise" and discovery associated with Sim.  But for strict gamist purposes such concerns can be ditched.  Such an explicit structure would facilitate scene framing, by having clear points at which the process has developed from one stage to the next.  In addition, the use of concrete rewards might prompt more discussion between player and GM as to what they want ourt of the game and their characters.

It also opens the possibility that individual players could be pursuing individual challenges that coincide or overlap, if such is even necessary - conceivably an explicit system like this could be re-integrated with open, Tourist sim in a manner reminiscent of MMORPG's.[/b]
Logged

Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #44 on: July 13, 2005, 01:38:28 AM »

Just a quick thought on the parallels between Narrativist Bangs and the idea of Gamist Bangs.  What contracycle proposed seems to incorporate overtly, as in the Gamist equivalent of overtly discussed Narrativist scene framing based on Premise issues, the notion of Ron’s Go’s or “Go lengths” in the Gamism essay.  Contracycle’s proposition sort of fills in the other half of the “Go length” coin.  IOW’s the player’s are aware of the Go’s and can have a say in them.  There may be some good stuff to be mined in this type of game design.

Sorry to disrupt, back to the topic at hand…
Logged

Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Pages: 1 2 [3] 4
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!