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[GenCon/L5R] 5 minutes of fun packed tightly into 4 hours of dysfunction.

Started by Eric Provost, August 25, 2005, 04:24:29 AM

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Wow, Eic's experience is a real contrast to Gaerik's post over on the Gencon, GNS and the Games I Played thread.

QuoteOne of the reasons I have found Theory, GNS and Actual Play threads here on the Forge to be so important to me and my hobby is that it has allowed me to enjoy a variety of play that I never was able to before.  That might seem odd to some.  Either you like a certain style of play or you don't, right?  I'm not so certain that's true anymore.  

[snippage by me]

Vampire: The Masquerade

Totally different session.  I arrived and 2 other players showed up.  The session could handle 6 but no one else arrived so we went with 3.  It didn't make any difference.  Once again I listened to the Storyteller give his introduction to the adventure and I listened to the conversation around the table by the players.  It was all about the Vampire setting and how cool the World of Darkness was.  I don't remember all the conversation but I do remember thinking to myself that this had all the trappings of a really Sim oriented session.

Sure enough, I was right.  The whole session was pure Participationism and Sim.  We all were there to experience being Vampires in the World of Darkness.  We, as players, let the ST tell his story and we provided all sorts of cool color in the telling.  Nothing we did was going to really affect the outcome of the module.  Our job was to help the ST make getting from beginning to end as interesting and cool as possible.

I'm afraid the major dysfunction that I'm seeing in this post is that Eric participated to the point where he was really unhappy, despite having a lot of cues that indicated the game was going to be played in a very different style from the ones he enjoys. Gaerik seems to have picked up on a very similar situation and ran with it ( with an admittedly better GM from the sounds) and came away with a pleasant experience.


Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys

Eric Provost

Except that we weren't allowed to add color to the story either.  Just nod and agree.



QuoteExcept that we weren't allowed to add color to the story either.
Ever? Zoinks!
How did the other players react to all of this?
Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys


It seems to me that no "CA Train" was present to hop onto. A group needs to play toward a CA mindfully, and from your description, Eric, it seems like there was no clear agenda in sight. I don't think the GM had a mindful, coherent play style. Rather, he played--like most players I know--based on a jumbled mix of preconceived notions of how RPGs should be played. These notions do not usually group up to a particular CA. They do not present a coherent structuring and reinforcement mechanism. So you can't really participate in a fun way other than by supporting this strange mix that leads nowhere in particular.

Most people who haven't thought about it and adjusted their approach are just not playing with a purpose. Shit, I played like that for many years.

Larry L.

Quote from: JC on August 25, 2005, 09:44:10 AM
I'm not sure whether you're implying L5R just plain sucks, or that it just sucks at cons (I don't have the Forge lingo down completely yet)

I'm not quite sure why, but this is the funniest thing I've read in a week. (Don't take that as a put down, JC. Best dis of the Forge evar.)

Chris, I so get the gai-JEEN thing. Same sort of pretension as using tres to modify an English word. Kinda reminds me of a Wing Chun instructor I once sat in on.

Ron, what specifically amused you about this gaming anecdote? The way Eric makes it sound, it was painfully clear to you what the problem was.

Ron Edwards


What was funny, was the actual physical notes taken by both Eric and Lisa. They began as plain old scenario notes, clearly written by someone who's trying to play fairly and listen carefully. They quickly changed to statements of horror, descriptions of especially painful peccadillos (e.g. the roll-til-you-fail, hence you fail; the swimming in armor, etc), and then each successive dysfunctional moment got annotated with Forge jargon, hilariously. It was very unfair to say "Sim = tehsuk, Narr = roxxor" in your notes, Eric, but on the other hand, as a statement of preference rather than of universal judgment, it was really funny to see that equation just emerge from note after note of agonized, dawning awareness of just how wrong the whole thing was.


P.S. And yes, the problems are "failure to role-play at all" and "Typhoid Mary," not Sim per se. No Simulationist-preferring persons, or games they like, were harmed either by Eric's and Lisa's notes, or by myself in discussion at any time. Notarized documentation of this claim is available.



On a related note, my notes during Wick's talk also noted rather interestingly when he himself pointed out that playing a clan samurai is vastly different from playing a ronin is vastly different from playing a courtier- to the point of being completely different games altogether.  I was also amazed when I got back and realized neither 1st nor 3rd edition L5R has ANYTHING in the way of actual play instructions set up for GMs in terms of session advice.  Lack of clear reward system + lack of advice on how to run it + assuming just because all these different possible situations share setting is "good enough" = super shakey ground upon which to hang play.


Eric Provost

Quote from: komradebob on August 25, 2005, 04:46:42 PM
QuoteExcept that we weren't allowed to add color to the story either.
Ever? Zoinks!
How did the other players react to all of this?

Well... as I recall... no one besides Lisa and I even tried.  I had this little quip in the beginning about how I was on a Quest to Fix a Broken Shoe.  And I narrated hobbling about.  When I was summarily ignored by the GM I kinda gave up.  Lisa's issue with her combat narration I've already mentioned.

Everyone else?  They just did what they were expected to do.  They sat there and nodded, occationally discussing some aspect of the setting that had no bearing on the story at hand.  So, I can only assume that they were used to, or otherwise prepared for the lack of color.  

I didn't mention yet that the GM didn't even add any color to the game.  Remember my confusion over the attack occurring on a cliff-face vs. a rice paddy?  I wasn't kidding or exagerating.  I had no idea where our characters were half the time.

For the record, while I may have less interest in Sim than the other CAs, my recount of this game is in no way an attack on Sim.  There really was no Sim there to attack.  A Sim CA kinda implies that there's gonna be some collaborative causality in the works.  There was nothing collaborative about this game.

Mike Holmes

Robert, I was specifically addressing the ideas from that other post. That is, I think Eric could and would (and probably did) play Gamism, or simulationism has that been presented. But there was no mode presented.

In most cases.

As Eric admits there was 5 minutes of fun. Meaning that what I think we're seeing is the worst stuff being reported here. I'll bet that at some point during the game (though I could be wrong), that there was an opportunity to have some sim participation. Eric, think back to the game, and try to remember if there were any moments that were good, or, if not good, at least allowed you some sort of participation.

Basically what's likely here is that you have some standard sim with a high number of moments of complete railroading - where I mean railroading to mean not providing the player with some sort of way to participate meaningfully (like ignoring your description of your character strolling out to meet a bad guy and narrating what you want instead). Likely the play wasn't absolutely 100% dysfunctional throughout, just largely dysfunctional.

So what's going on here is some dysfunction (failure to play style), some incoherence both in play and presentation, and perhaps some small amount of functional play (Eric will have to say). The interesting thing about the session is not that there was dysfunction - that's common enough. Many games have some small amounts of dysfunction that don't make the game a total wreck. The interesting thing is that such a large percentage of the game was dysfunctional. Basically, certain of the GM's approaches to play were dysfunctional from the start.

What I think is interesting is how a GM gets to where they believe that these tactics are sound. Often this is the result of incoherent play, and the GM taking more and more control of things just so that the incoherence doesn't rear it's ugly head. If you don't give players control of their characters, they can't delve into dirty gamism, you see. Or whathaveyou. Could be other reasons that GMs get to this point as well. Abusive players, for instance.

If, in fact, the other players were having fun, then we're looking at some extreme Participationism form that's little different than storytelling where you put the audience in the narration as "you." Eric, while you might not have had any clear picture of the particulars of the scenes at all, what you did have was the series of general events. That is, you understood when your characters had gotten the next ingredient, for instance. Or that they had moved on to some new town - even if you didn't know the name or what it looked like. These things are narrative, just a very "wargamey" narrative focusing on the "scenario" elements. I point this out, because we have to indicate just what was going on for the four hours in question. Mostly the GM moving the plot on from pre-scripted situation to pre-scripted situation. Sound right?

Member of Indie Netgaming
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Eric Provost

Quote from: MikeSound right?

Almost to the letter Mike.  Unfortunately it's difficult for me to have a proper perspective on this game as it was completely at the far end of the spectrum of my experiences.  That is, this was the worst game I've ever been on this side of the screen in.  I'm ashamed to say that I probably have GMed worse sessions than this.

QuoteHello everyone, my name is Eric and I'm a recovering RailroadAholic.
Hi Eric!

So, from my perspective how much fun was there?  Well, I think it may not have been a literal five minutes, but I think I can safely say that it wasn't more than 30 minutes.  And every moment of fun I can recall from that session blended into a GM kick in the jimmies. 

Me:  I've got a neat bit of flavor about my shoes.
GM:  Don't care.
Me:  Ok, lemmie demonstrate my character's usefulness as a bodyguard type.
GM:  Let me show you how desperately outclassed you are.
Me:  Ok, lemmie interact with that NPC you seem to obviously want me to interact with.
GM:  Now that you've seen how UberKewl that NPC really is the scene is over.
Me:  Fun!  *banging my head on the table*

My fun was thoroughly pooped on and flushed.

Ron Edwards

Hi Mike,

You have tripped Eric's better nature switch, and you get the "find the good in anything if at all humanly possible" award, but ...

... if the GM was Geoff, then I know this guy. I've played Seventh Sea with him as GM. Didn't realize it might have been him until this thread. And ...

... if it was him, then I'm confident there was nothing good, not even five minutes. I'm talking about hours of screaming-meemy, bizarre interaction (or lack thereof) in which the only imaginable fun is talking to the girl that you don't know a couple seats away. Not Participationism. Not anything. Fights which don't use the system, strange calls for rolls and enthused discussion of critical-hits for trivial acts (like reading a map, but without giving any content-insight about the map), and resolute blocking of anything a player-character actually does. Lots of giggles, non sequiturs, and name-dropping about what an AEG insider he is.

Four hours of Seventh Sea play, Mike. Not one ... single ... solitary sword-fight even though we literally begged him for one. No, I tell you - there was not five minutes of fun. This was not role-playing of any kind, and could not by any stretch of the imagination be called a "game" or a "session" of anything at all.


Eric Provost

Ron Edwards

I mean that Mike's post led you to try to find as much good in the experience as possible. This is a fine thing ... until we bring it to role-playing. Memory is very easily revised, especially in public dialogue of this kind. I remember when you and Lisa returned from the demo, straight to the booth like homing pigeons. Right afterward. I got the raw humor/horror lowdown, not the "hmm, maybe some was good, let me think" public statement.

Again, if it was Geoff, then I will step up and release your better nature from trying to make things nicer than they were. What that guy does, despite the fact that he has a game book open on the table and occasionally rolls dice, is to role-playing what (ummm) carpet bombing is to traffic patterns at stoplight intersections.


Eric Provost

Ah, I gotcha.  The funny part is, I thought you meant it the other way around. 

Ok.  I'll be very clear and drop all online PCness for one moment.  As I recall it, that game sucked donkey ass.  Every time I hoped for something interesting, everytime I gave a fleeting gesture of participation I was shot down.  Hard.

When he narrated my character running outside to bash the baddie on the noggin when I explicitly stated that I was calmly strolling... I wanted to throttle that little fucker and throw his hairbrush across the room while I lecutured the little bastard on what a crappy GM he was.

When the little shit told me that I couldn't get to the baddie that had just thwunked me in the noggin with a tree I gave him such a stare that one of his regular players immediately jumped to his defense and also began lecturing me on what an UberKewl NPC this was.

I think if there hadn't been those few minutes of fun here and there I never even would have started with my notes looking the way they did.  I mean, if I was feeling pissed on every moment I never would have bothered to take notes about what the story was about.  Those moments just happen to have been overshadowed by really unfun stuff.


Larry L.


It might be fun if you could image your notes and post them somewhere.