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Help me analyse this game

Started by droog, July 17, 2005, 07:36:29 PM

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Frank T

I have seen many a game like this. Even run. Even enjoyed. Nowadays, I'd rather write an essay on tax law. (And I'm talking about German tax law here.) I've been poking this thought for long. My girlfriend just started her very first game, in a round of "Das Schwarze Auge" which is much like that d20 game. They do a lot of IC dialogue that doesn't really serve a purpose. The question "is there anything you want to do?" comes up frequently. The GM doesn't really seem to have decided whether he wants to railroad his plot or react to the characters, for he switches between both approaches without a recognizable pattern. Sometimes he forces events on the characters in the most brutal way, including things that "break" the character, and then again sometimes he leaves them "to themselves". It sounds absolutely awful, and yet my girlfriend is enjoying herself.

Now as she listened to my recent rpg workshop at our local convention, she immediately said to me: "You know, I'm a casual gamer." So maybe she isn't a good example, because she's there just for the socializing. But.

Here is my conclusion to why so many people play that way, even though they don't like it: When you roleplay for the first time, the concept in and of itself is fascinating enough to make you have fun. Granted, there are limits. But if you never roleplayed before, it's like trying out a new toy. I meen, if you never played Badminton before, you might play awfully bad and still have fun, cause it's something new.

Especially with those IC dialogues, doing it for the first time is just cool. At least it was to me. It was something I had never tried before, something I could do for a while. Something that seemed more interesting than just fighting (because just fighting was like board games, so it wasn't new). I had tons of fun acting out IC dialogue, depicting my character and showing off with my cool setting knowledge. And then it started to get boring, because it was always the same. It had no meening. No matter what you talked about, it was just empty words.

I think the reason why many people still maintain to go on doing endless IC dialogue over nothing is a simple misperception: They think if they once had fun with it, they can do it again. It's like, hey, this used to be fun, and now it ain't, so I must be doing something wrong. I gotta keep on trying.

Of course, habit is an important factor in this. Also, the poor advice given on how to roleplay in many standard rulebooks. But consider: It once was fun. When you were a bloody beginner hungry for anything that was roleplaying. Before the Forge sophisticated you. That's a part of the riddle.

- Frank

Jack Aidley

Regarding the IC character dialogue:

Thinking back to the games I've run and played in, IC dialogue has indicated two apparently opposite situations. When the game's rocking - seriously; I've never played in a really, really good game where there wasn't plenty of in-character conversation and interaction going on. And when the game's sucking - at which point about the only fun thing to do is IC dialogue, 'cos it's always fun and you only need to get one or two other people involved to get it to work and you can choose them. You don't need the GM to engage, you don't need the guy reading The Complete One-Armed Falchion Wielder to concentrate and roll the bloody dice. In other words going to IC dialogue allows you to define and control your terms and cut those who aren't delivering fun out of the loop.
- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter

Frank T

One more thing: if this style of play becomes dysfunciontal, as seems the case in said d20 group and was in many a group I have seen, that doesn't necessarily meen people are aware of that. Of course they know the game isn't fun, but not everyone analyzes his play in depth. For lack of interest or capability, they can't or won't figure out what's wrong with their game, and fix it.

The question remains why they keep playing then. Well, many don't. They quit. Others stay just to please the GM. Often you will find that the GM is the one who drives the group on, because he enjoys designing his plots and unfolding them in front of the players. If the players don't react "right", he won't draw the conclusion to change his style of play, but rather to try and change their behavior. He will see the game not as it is, but as it ought to be (from his point of view), because he's got it all planned. That's why he'll urge the others on. Plus, he's invested all that preperation time and read all those books, and doesn't want to waste that. People can be very stubborn.

- Frank

droog

So, attempting to synthesise the last few posts, the excessive IC dialogue results from the players attempting to put their own mark on the game in the absence of opportunities for meaningful input. Possibly the players are attempting to play a miniature LARP at the table. And much of this stems from inability or unwillingness to face the problem and change their approach.

I have a great deal to thank the Forge for, it seems. Just a few years ago I (already) would not have enjoyed this game, but I would have simply put it down to 'bad GM' or 'crap system'. And perhaps I would have gone ahead and run a very similar game. Now I can understand more clearly how to attack the problem, at least when I run a game.

I feel sorry for these people. I feel like I'm looking at them through the wrong end of a telescope and they're so far away that I can't even shout out and help them. Then I feel patronising for feeling this way. It's like wanting to rip the plastic light-sabre out of a kid's hands and give him a bicycle pump.
AKA Jeff Zahari

Ron Edwards

QuoteI feel sorry for these people. I feel like I'm looking at them through the wrong end of a telescope and they're so far away that I can't even shout out and help them. Then I feel patronising for feeling this way.

Whew - strong statement. I think the way to avoid the pitfall is really to observe whether the folks in question are happy with what they're doing. If so, and to use your kid/lightsabre analogy, it's really none of your or my beeswax what they do with their time. I'd quibble with whether what they're doing has anything to do with what I and my friends are doing, although we're all using the blanket term "role-playing." But there's no reason to quibble with them.

However, I also suggest that many such folks are not, actually, happy with their activities. Even the ones who have been doing it forever and a day, and who, if queried, would check the "we have the bestest fun with the bestest GM ever!" box on a survey. And especially the ones who check the "it would be fun if we could just get it right, and the next campaign, I swear it'll be the right one" box.

The above is my suggestion. Fact? Who knows?

Best,
Ron

greyorm

Quote from: Frank T on July 19, 2005, 09:18:55 AMI think the reason why many people still maintain to go on doing endless IC dialogue over nothing is a simple misperception: They think if they once had fun with it, they can do it again. It's like, hey, this used to be fun, and now it ain't, so I must be doing something wrong. I gotta keep on trying.

My god, Frank, this describes exactly my experience with one of the games I played in for a number years with my wife, until I decided to leave it because I was bored out of my skull. You may have heard me complain in the past about "Soap Opera Role-playing". The above is it. It is exactly what I've always referred to by that term. "Blahblah blahblah blahblahblah," pose, pose some more.

It all seems like it is important, because you are "characterizing" or "playing a role" (and that's what you're supposed to do in an RPG, right?), and things get emotional, etc. but in the end nothing happens. It ends up just being filler for the spaces in between the actually meaningful events. In the case of our game, the meaningful bits were the DM presenting some new information or background regarding his plot to us via NPCs or whatnot, or us moving forward in regards to our goals, rather than standing in place making shadow puppets.

Your post also explains a possible reason why she was having fun with it and I wasn't, as she was basically new to role-playing whereas I had been playing since grade school. I never could understand why she thought it was enjoyable, and she was not certain why I did not like it. What you explain may be the reason.

I would literally rather have teeth pulled than sit through any more sessions of this stuff because it is so meaningless and empty, unfulfilling and boring. It causes nothing, it means nothing, it achieves nothing. Yet, interestingly, I did not leave the game originally because I did not want to hurt the DM's feelings by expressing my displeasure and nonexcitement with play. At the time I also thought perhaps I was simply being selfish, so I stuck with it, but as time wore on I realized it could not just be me: when whole sessions were going by and so little of interest or note was happening, that a year of games could pass without anything of real note occuring, I figured it was not simply my problem.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Darren Hill

Quote from: greyorm on July 19, 2005, 05:35:59 PM
My god, Frank, this describes exactly my experience with one of the games I played in for a number years with my wife, until I decided to leave it because I was bored out of my skull. You may have heard me complain in the past about "Soap Opera Role-playing". The above is it. It is exactly what I've always referred to by that term. "Blahblah blahblah blahblahblah," pose, pose some more.

Hey, I've used that same term to describe the group I referred to up in the 2nd post in this thread. Frank's description seems spot on.

Travis Brown

It is a very interesting phenomena to say the least. Based on the composition of who you have in the group and the fact that none of their one on one role play interaction seems to be aiding the overall plot, I'd say they are just using the RPG sessions as an excuse to socialize. After all RPG's are a very social event.

I often find the opposite happens in my group occasionally. Sometimes I have such plot involvement and so much stuff for the group to work through that it actually seems like work. They seem to overall enjoy it most of the time, but I do often get more looks of boredom, especially with larger groups. I need to engineer the nature and complexity of my campaign based on the group size.

But to get back to point... A certain amount of one on one role playing between characters is good, very good, in fact necessary in my world, often times it is the only way in which players can get information about one another's back stories and hence their involvement in the group. I tend to have a wide range of character types from the pious paladin to the murderous scoundrel and they all end up needed to work for the better good, and thus motives come into play, motives which I deliberately do not reveal as general information to the group. Some games I would give personalized updates to each person and often times would even instigate PvP triggers which they would follow in character to advance the plot. So in short doing one on one character interactions can really advance the plot, but by the sound of the game you are in, there seems to be a glazed over objective that doesn't have a whole lot of depth and thus the one on one interactions are also only superficial.

Uninteresting and unfocused one on one role playing can also be evidence of boredom, though i find that if people are bored they simply go off on tangents and start talking about things off topic. This game may have been running long enough however for everyone to realize by this point that the GM breaks up out of character talks, so everyone basically screws around in character.... allot of that may have to do with the fact they are LARP players as well.

Then I guess you could ask yourself what is is about this RPG session that you like so much that keeps bringing you back there, and perhaps you may have an indication of where some of the other people are coming from as well.

droog

Quote from: Travis Brown on July 20, 2005, 04:48:14 AM
Then I guess you could ask yourself what is is about this RPG session that you like so much that keeps bringing you back there, and perhaps you may have an indication of where some of the other people are coming from as well.
The fact is that I don't enjoy the game at all. The people are really quite nice, and I appreciate the fact that they have been friendly and welcoming despite the fact that they don't know me from Adam. That in itself wouldn't be enough to make me go to the sessions, though. There are plenty of nice people in the world, and I find roleplaying an inefficient way to socialise.

I suppose I'm going (a) as others have said, out of politeness (b) as I've said, to observe the mistakes I think they're making. I'm a bit peculiar like that--I once went as far as to get myself baptised because I was observing a group of Pentecostalists.

But back to the game: I think that people aren't really having that much fun with it. There are many indications that would take me too much time and space to set down. This thread has convinced me that this isn't even unusual. I wonder just how many groups are out there marking time and waiting for that great roleplaying experience to come along and fall in their laps, like heroin addicts trying to recapture that first amazing hit.

Thank you all very much for your insights.
AKA Jeff Zahari

Frank T

#24
By the way: In my German RPG board, we call this style of play "DSA-Hartwurst-Syndrom", DSA refering to "Das Schwarze Auge", the popular German fantasy RPG I already mentioned, and Hartwurst refering to hard cured sausage. Very chewy indeed. I think there are three reasons why you'll so often find the Hartwurst syndrome with DSA players:

First, the system promotes it. There are lots of skills, so lots of checks to be made for pointless things like bargaining, recognizing a crest, making fire in the wilderness, etc.

Second, the setting promotes it. There is tons of detailed information about the setting to be explored, so expect both GM and players to show off with their setting knowledge. I mean, they didn't read those 400 pages to now keep quiet about them, did they?

Third, the official adventures you can buy in the shops are heavily railroaded. As in, total plot control by the GM. There is literally nothing meaningful the characters can do, no matter what the players want. So how else are they going to entertain themselves, beside coming up with a genius tactical idea in combat every now and then (that doesn't affect the outcome, but may gain them compliments)?

- Frank

Travis Brown

Quote from: droog on July 20, 2005, 07:38:15 PM

The fact is that I don't enjoy the game at all. The people are really quite nice, and I appreciate the fact that they have been friendly and welcoming despite the fact that they don't know me from Adam. That in itself wouldn't be enough to make me go to the sessions, though. There are plenty of nice people in the world, and I find role playing an inefficient way to socialize.


Not an effective way to socialize? you seem to be attending and observing these sessions entirely as a sociology experiment, and you're stating this result as if it were your findings rather than your personal opinion as far as yourself is concerned. Am I right in assuming that your assessment is from a personal preference standpoint? I can see that it most likely would not be the best situation for you to socialize it, but for others quite frankly it fits the gap quite nicely. After all socialization is merely the association of individuals who share a like interest, and if you do not find it fulfilling on a social level, then I guess RPG groups in general are not really your thing like it is for these individuals.

Over all though from the sound of it, these people are just using the game as an excuse to get together and hang out, rather than actually running an effective game which brings enjoyment.


Quote from: Frank T on July 21, 2005, 05:59:26 AM

First, the system promotes it. There are lots of skills, so lots of checks to be made for pointless things like bargaining, recognizing a crest, making fire in the wilderness, etc.

Second, the setting promotes it. There is tons of detailed information about the setting to be explored, so expect both GM and players to show off with their setting knowledge. I mean, they didn't read those 400 pages to now keep quiet about them, did they?

Third, the official adventures you can buy in the shops are heavily railroaded. As in, total plot control by the GM. There is literally nothing meaningful the characters can do, no matter what the players want. So how else are they going to entertain themselves, beside coming up with a genius tactical idea in combat every now and then (that doesn't affect the outcome, but may gain them compliments)?


I'm not familiar with the system personally but I can relate to what you are saying. I don;t know if you are familiar but I;m sure some people will catch the reference when I say that this sounds exactly like a choose your own adventure book, a series of books released in the 80's where you would read through a linear story and make choices at specific pages (which would direct you to certain pages to see the outcome) and only certain choices led to a successful conclusion, with no digression from the overall story as it is told.

This is a very ineffective way of playing a game and really an act of drudgery. If the guys playing this game session are running a story similar in concept to this, in that they are merely going through the motions, no wonder they are simply using the situation as a chance to socialize. I guarantee that if this group were comprised of an assortment of general friends, new people, and casual acquaintances, the "game sessions" would not be as fun, and people would have no reason to show up.

I like a good in depth world and campaign which plots out in a linear fashion as long as the GM is smart about it and allows the players to diverge from their given path and allows them to accomplish things that at very least seem to have an effect on the world around them and the story at large. The key here is to escape the possibilities of the players killing off key people at the wrong time, otherwise the GM needs to become very creative then. It all comes down to GM experience at that point.

droog

#26
Quote from: Travis Brown on July 23, 2005, 01:46:37 AM
Not an effective way to socialize? you seem to be attending and observing these sessions entirely as a sociology experiment, and you're stating this result as if it were your findings rather than your personal opinion as far as yourself is concerned. Am I right in assuming that your assessment is from a personal preference standpoint?
Of course. What else? That said, it still seems to me that you might as well just hang out and watch videos, or chat.

It's my firm opinion, based on my observations*, that they aren't having that much fun. What else do you want from me?


[EDIT] * My observations as well as my reading of various testimonials in this thread.
AKA Jeff Zahari

Travis Brown

Quote from: droog on July 23, 2005, 05:38:33 AM

Of course. What else? That said, it still seems to me that you might as well just hang out and watch videos, or chat.

It's my firm opinion, based on my observations, that they aren't having that much fun. What else do you want from me?


I think you may be misinterpreting my quote as an attack on you, I'm just trying to clarify if you are attending the game sessions out of a desire to play the game and have fun, or are merely there as a sociology experiment, that's all....

Quote from: droog on July 17, 2005, 07:36:29 PM
I would love to get a closer analysis. Is it just habit that keeps these people playing? Why, despite the fact that I'm bored, are my contributions welcomed? Is there any significance to the fact that most of these people play together in LARPs?


but to re quote your closing line hopefully I can sum up your actual questions:

Is it just habit which keeps these people playing?     I think that this particular group of people would be better off attending sci-fi conventions and star wars cons instead of playing a star wars game. It sounds as if this session is poorly organized and the GM has no real agenda for the game sessions. I find that it feels at times that my sessions are somewhat repetitious and not as fun and involving as I'd like at times, but that is in part my delivery and directing of the players into taking initiative for their characters.

Why, despite the fact that I'm bored, are my contributions welcomed?     I can only assume that since it is obvious that this is not a true role playing game session as opposed to a social exercise, that they would welcome any participant's involvement. It's also very possible to be bored at the same time that you are being the greatest player in the group. I find however that if one person who is bored, but performing well starts to get good attention and praise they cease being bored.

Is there any significance to the fact that most of these people play together in LARPs I think this has the biggest relevance of anything. I'm not experienced with LARPS personally but as a person with an extensive theater background I understand the concept entirely and can say that certainly these people are using the table top RPG session as a social event rather than a true RPG session. LARPS are even better and more fun in many ways I'd image due to the hands on nature and the simple chemical reactions of being up and active in the course of enjoying your game. But why not just LARP instead of doing a table top RPG session? simple, LARP takes a much more significant amount of time and resources to play out effectively. Most LARP sessions require a weekend to do them justice and also a handful of props and also a proper setting in many instances, more planning. This group who plays D20 Star Wars have a casual setting to get together and BS with one another and under the guise of involving new Role Players to sort of stoke the fire so to speak, they have the possibility of getting more people in to their games to socialize with and perhaps even get to play on a more serious basis or even join in on their LARP sessions perhaps.

droog

Quote from: Travis Brown on July 23, 2005, 06:04:53 PM

I think you may be misinterpreting my quote as an attack on you, I'm just trying to clarify if you are attending the game sessions out of a desire to play the game and have fun, or are merely there as a sociology experiment, that's all....
The context is that I joined a club looking for new people to play with. I was invited to join the game, and it became clear to me within the first session that it wasn't going to be much fun... so it turned into observation (I'm more anthropologist than sociologist, though). But as I said before, I have no wish to be rude. It was a friendly act to invite me to play and I appreciate it.

I did think that you were being testy, and I couldn't quite see why. Sorry.

Thanks for your answers. I'm afraid that they ring true (except that having theatre background myself, I don't cease being bored when my 'performances' are received well in a roleplaying context). Also, are you suggesting in the second answer that a fair bit of the blame lies with the GM? If so, I'm not sure I agree. Power is consensual, right?

Each small piece of this puzzle suggests that these people simply aren't there for the same reasons I am. But once again: I am so sure that they're not really enjoying what they do. The signs of boredom I see are so clear to me--aimless IC talk, Turnin', desultory conversation about dice, talk about past glories etc
AKA Jeff Zahari

Travis Brown

I think the delivery of my message was a bit confusing, so sorry as well if I came off poorly, my request for more information came off with an air of debate.

Yes I do think that the level of attention and subsequent boredom do to a lack thereof can be the GM's fault just as much as the players. I recall you mentioning something that the GM would tell a basic story and have a combat situation in the session somewhere and then the players would basically sit back and wait for the GM to feed the next story development. That sort of description lends me to believe that the GM is sort of just going through the motions and not providing much material for the players to feed off of and fuel a player driven story. As I am discussing in a thread I started about campaign plotting vs outline form (where the GM makes a "railroad" point by point plot vs a basic outline of milestones) It generally sounds like the GM is putting some basic material before the players expecting them to take the bait and run with it, but they don't seem to be doing so. I would think that if the GM took more of a "Railroad" approach and led this group by the hand into some carefully designed and engineered plot for awhile to really emerge them individually, they may well be more attentive and he can ease back and allow the players to retake the gamist control of the story development from there. Almost like resuscitating the progress of the overall campaign by breathing a bit of depth into it, even if by artificial resuscitation. GM led sessions should be an easy transition for this group since they appear to not do much on their own anyways. An equally bad overcompensation can occur however when they do take notice of the depth and involvement in the plot, but the GM may not be through the cycle and ready to give plot progression control back to the players at that point, they can easily split right back into boredom socialization mode.

As far as power being consensual I think there is a certain amount of "suspension of disbelief" which all players must have especially in a familiar game setting, which with it, urns a certain degree of executive power over to the GM. It depends greatly on the system as well where some the rules are so extensive and complex that they control everything, and other systems give trump powers to the GM, which I prefer as long as the GM can substantiate them with good reasoning, story, and/or rules to back their choice. It seems in general though that there is no vie for power between the Gm and this group resulting in what appears to be a "Ho Hum" mentality toward the plot progression itself and thus the overall progression of the game as a whole.

I think bottom line is, you are in the wrong play group. Am I right in making the assumption that you'd like to be in a play group which stays on task more, has fun and is interested in the plot and interactions with the other players in order to progress that story? A sort of give and take between the GM leading the plot and the players forging into the next objectives?