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[D&D] Differing Dynamics

Started by Eric J., October 28, 2005, 12:45:09 AM

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Eric J.


I've gone a while without roleplaying (a number of months).  See, I've recently moved and started college and now I've found a new group to roleplay with.

I was going to wait to roleplay with them before GMing a game but scheduling and inclination means that I'll have to wait months (months!) to play unless I GM a game myself.  This group is heavilly into White Wolf stuff and since they let me borrow some books I've read half of Exalted (I feel like a baby Ron Edwards) and created four characters or so.  However, I felt that if I was going to GM with them I'd want to play something that we had an equal footing on.  Hence, the roleplaying equivalent of pot smoking to rock music: D&D

The problem is our inevitable different approaches.  I have fundamental views about roleplaying like most do (70% of it learned on the Forge).  And of course they reflect in play.  Here are the ones that come to mind right now:

Reward system is now using the keys as seen in a recent thread.  (I think this is Clinton's setup)
You buy feats instead of just getting them every three levels (with experience)
There is no ressurection.  Dead is dead.
Point buy is standerd for character creation.

I'm afraid that some of these will come into a lot of conflict and I'm inquiring into the experience that people have.  This group is a bit older than me (I'm 18, roleplaying 6 years; they're about 24, roleplaying 12 years) which changes the social dynamic somewhat.

The only real problems I've found are the last two things I wrote above.  It's so odd because it's something that I don't even think about now.  He saw me making an NPC and he asked me how I did it without dice which prompted this since I realised that there would be conflicts I hadn't even thought of.

We got into a kind of heated discussion about rolling versus point buy.  His method was to roll untill you got a set that you liked (one time or a thousand times).  I don't really know how much to bend or how to compromise.

This IS actual play, as much as 'actually doing it' is.  Developing a social contract is at least as important as what happens when you let the bones tumble.  I guess my question is: Is there anything else I should pay attention to?  What are others' experiences when moving into a group?  It took me YEARS untill I really understood my old group well enough to have awesome play.  Will this be as bad?

May the wind be always at your back,

Ron Edwards

Hi Eric,

Um. I think you might back up and take a look at this entirely independently of "role-playing" as an activity, and just think in terms of any activity.

1. You're the "kid."

2. You're "not from around here."

3. You're the "new guy." (not the same as #2)

4. You're mouthy, which is to say, when you have a view, your first instinct is to explain it (which other people call "arguing").

Um again.

I think my advice is that your job, here, is to play their way, when they want, how they want, and just as they want. When they say, "We roll our characters," you roll. When they do something that strikes you as blatantly simple-minded or habitual or unconsidered, but it's clearly what they do, you do it too.

I'd suggest sticking with that behavior at about, oh, three months solid. Build friendship, or at least surety that you don't mind being in these folks' company, socially. Demonstrate your strengths as a role-player within their preferred context, and build appreciation on their part for your contributions.

Discover, without shouting "There! There!" and pointing with a trembling forefinger, what they might do that makes one or more of them unhappy, but keep doing anyway. Just note it and look for consistency and repeats.

Learn who's screwing whom, or who used to screw whom, and who still has a thing about it of whatever sort. Do not comment on any of the above. Do not screw anyone, unless you suddenly find yourself selected for that opportunity.

All this is just like volleyball, just like martial arts, just like checkers, just like quilting, just like getting a new job, and just like meeting one's romantic partner's family. Patience is your friend, and if you don't like what you see, you can walk away nicely. If you do like what you see, you aren't tripping any social alarm bells or hot-buttons.


Eric J.


Thanks, Ron.  I think I understand...

Your points really stuck out at me, especially point 4.  I *am* mouthy as hell but with these guys I've shut the hell up.  You're completely correct though.  My first and overwhelming instinct is to try and fix something the most direct and generally difficult way there is.  I've been known to explain WAY too much to answer someone's question about my stance.  Being cautous around them feels weird to me and it's really pushing it when I'm doing something like roleplaying which requires a huge problem-solving element.

But it is something that must be pressed.

Just needed some way to keep it into perspective.  No need to keep the Pyron's Woe's threads in anything other than the past.

Thanks, Ron.  I think that you've opened my eyes a bit.  I think that if you hadn't commented I would have taken my usual route and created a huge elaborate (but elegant) system to compromise.  But I think that things will come in their due order faster if I don't do that.  Thanks.

(I'm thouroughly tempted to put a "Ron's Right" jar on my desk.  It'd be kindof like a swear jar and maybe it'd some day pay for my kid's education.)

May the wind be always at your back,


I´d like to add one final point: You should go though the three - months - keeping - you - mouth - shut - period only if you see a remote chance that you'll get the play you like in the end. If you can get into a "heated argument" with one of these guys over point buy vs. dice rolling ...hum. Do you think they´re ever goint to buy into your more forgy views? If yes, cool. Do as Ron says. Be patient, get to know them a little better, strike bargains, compromise, work something out. If not, spend those three months with a group you can relate to right away. After all, you get some sense of what's possible after your first time at the volleyball club or whatever, too.


Hi there!

I'm not sure whether you were (or are) aiming to refine the group's techniques (for enacting their agenda) or to switch everyone to a different agenda (yours, as it were).

Regarding the latter case (suggested by your talk of "fixing" things and "compromising"), I'd like to point to Mike's Standard Rant #7 (of which there are two, actually) called "You can't sneak up on mode" (mode = agenda) and which can be found here:

If you want to introduce them to narrativist games, I suggest you (a) bide your time as suggested by Ron, (b) heed Mike's advice and (c) have an appropriate one-shot Indie RPG handy. Eventually there's going to be a game night where some people can't make it and there's talk of playing Monopoly or cancelling the whole affair. And Voila!, you can whip out a little something and see whether they like it.



Eric J.


I think that I'll be able to play a game I like before those three periods even if I don't have full control.  Otherwise why would I play right?  I think that Ron's point was that I should be patient before I try new (and revolutionary!) things and practices that're common on the Forge.  This would include things like full disclosure, admitting that D&D is about fair combat potential, using a character map before creating characters, stuff like that.


I don't think it's about switching agendas at all.  I'm fine with all three, really.  It's about understanding what's supposed to be accomplished with the rules and game and then structuring it towards funtionality.  But it's more about how someone with no cred but lots of inspiration can work on a game that everyone will enjoy.

Thanks for the feedack.

May the wind be always at your back,


Good luck.

If I were you id weasel out of GMing.

It seems rather odd that they will let The New Guy GM right away, and yet at the same time, seem really fixed in their ways.

Ron Edwards


That's a really, really good point. It's also a very common behavior and almost always means the new guy is walking into a bear trap that the others (a) set for him and (b) deny to themselves that it exists.

"Make this thing work right for us. Oh, we can't do it ourselves. Oh, look, you're not doing it right, see, here, here, and here. Oh, no, that isn't working either. Maybe you're not the right guy."


Andrew Norris

Oh, absolutely! I've seen (hell, I've been in) groups where they'd always want the new guy to run the game, because their social dynamic was such that none of them were able to do it without the whole thing turning into a bloody mess, but no one was willing to admit to the problems or try to find solutions.

The added "benefit", for a group like that, is that banding together against the new guy who's "not doing it right", and eventually rejecting them, increases group cohesion. After all, they can point fingers at the new guy for all the problems that crop up, so they're obviously not their problems.


It just struck me that I've been in a very similar situation to this. It didn't end too well.

I'm sixteen years old. Sophomore year of HS, one of my game friends who I'd never actually gamed with asked me to run a session of D&D for his group... I guess I've got a bit of a reputation or something. I was fifteen, he was seventeen, the four others in his group were 17, 18, 18, and 19. I was the kid and the new guy. I asked him what sort of stuff they played. His response was, "You know, white wolf and D&D, just like everybody."

I decided to keep my forgey-ness to a minimum, to run some of the strait up new-school Dungeons and Dragons that all the gamer kids in the area have grown up on.

So. I prepped the session. I arrived at the friends' place, met everybody, was informed that the GF of one of the players wanted to learn how to game so would be playing this session, too. I ran the game. To me, it seemed like a disaster. Character creation took for EVER, everyone was constantly goofing off, the two combats each took up way too much time, players weren't being proactive, very little got done, everyone got a bit frustrated. By the end of the night I was feeling rather negative about the whole experience... but they all stated that they'd enjoyed it, a lot, and that I should come again and run a few more games.

That's what happened. I ran another four or five sessions with them, all D&D, all one-shots except for one game that expanded into two sessions. It was exactly the same every time. Things were hectic and confused, I didn't enjoy it very much, they all had fun. I tried introducing a bit of Forge theory, but nothing really changed... in the end, things just didn't work out for me. We amiably went our separate ways, still chat now and again, and that's that.

The moral of the story: Be open minded to their concerns, but realize that you're also a factor in the equation. Take things slow and play it their way for a bit, but if you're not having fun, try to mix things up a little. If that still isn't getting you any payoff, realize that there are other fish in the sea. Tell them that you haven't been enjoying the game very much, say you'd like to take a break from the group but it might be cool to get back together some time in the vague future, and see if there's anyone else in the area with a more compatible play style.
Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other

Callan S.

I had the same "New guy GM's" thing happen to me...I didn't know it was common!

In my case I think the first session went quite well...but there was this definite lack of feedback from players, but a further urge for me to GM. So my games became thinner and thinner on the material that made them good at the start (mostly small chunks of nar). Basically because I was the only real contributor of game material and they were all take and no give (barring colour like 'my gunslinger is silent and brooding' stuff).

Here's an account of it (starts at the fifth paragraph):

I wonder now if it wasn't just how they played, but an attitude like Ron's example. Sort of validating their own poor gaming history by sort of passive aggressive sabotage of play (just by being 'cold fish', contribution wise), so they can say "Well, he couldn't do any better, so what we've been doing must be as good as it gets *tension relieving sigh*".

The alpha of that group took to mentoring me at that time, about how to run a really good game*. I wonder if that was really possible, if they were actually with holding contribution. There's no way to drag it out of someone, so no, it wasn't. I guess what he was really trying to teach me was "how you do it with our group, otherwise we all clam up". Except I'm not even sure he knew, except when liberally applying social pressure and infering bad behaviour.

I spent ages trying to figure that system out. Now I can see how atleast some player investment needs to be brought to the game by players. As gamers with perhaps abused backgrounds, I wonder if they could have brought investment to the table, even if they were so inclined. After my history of gaming, I wonder how impared my ability to bring investment is?

Ah crap, I think that contributes to the thread, but it rambles alot.

* At the time I thought it was a peer exchange of game knowledge...a year or two latter I realised how differently he'd veiwed the friendship from the start. I wonder if that's as common? The amount of shit I listened to from him because I thought it was a peer friendship...but after about nearly two years of this (he loved to give an opinion), I give some hard tac feedback to him and he berrates me like one would an uppity apprentice.
Philosopher Gamer


I think it's safe to say that RPG relationships, on the whole, are disfunctional as often, or moreso, than in the general population.
"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker