Creating the Scenario with the Character Sheets in Front of Me

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Jon Hastings:
This is all good stuff.  One thing I would add, though, is that the GM might want to be up front and explicit about using flags in this way, and should make sure the players are actually interested in what they're putting down on their character sheet.

I suppose this touches on the "flags vs. duds" question: while producing a PTA game recently, I built the bangs for one player's spotlight episode by looking at his character sheet and putting together the different elements (f'rex, Bang #1 related the Issue to a connection, bang #2 related his issue to his concept, bang #3 related but his nemesis between his goal and a connection, etc.).  Now, this was exactly how I had prepped for earlier spotlight episodes in the series, and, up until this point, I had had lots of success.  But, with this player, everything just fell flat.  It wasn't until about halfway through the episode that I realized that the player wasn't interested in his character's issue and had only chosen it because he thought it "fit the genre".

Josh Roby:
Quote from: Jon Hastings on December 20, 2005, 02:45:44 PM

This is all good stuff.  One thing I would add, though, is that the GM might want to be up front and explicit about using flags in this way, and should make sure the players are actually interested in what they're putting down on their character sheet.

Yes -- do not do this unless the players are aware this will be happening, especially in games that allow players to gain points by taking disadvantages/flaws/foibles/whatever.  If you, as a GM, pick up on one of the disadvantages they took, not because it was interesting, but because it got them points, and you hammer on said disadvantage, you will be seen as 'picking on' that character.  It is, in stark terms, a violation of the social contract under which they were operating which stated that "We take disadvantages, get points for them, and only let them affect color."  I have a standing "If you put it on your sheet, it ends up in the game" policy that I did not initially make public -- once I did and got the players on board with that, things worked much more smoothly!

Brand_Robins:
Quote from: Jon Hastings on December 20, 2005, 02:45:44 PM

This is all good stuff.  One thing I would add, though, is that the GM might want to be up front and explicit about using flags in this way, and should make sure the players are actually interested in what they're putting down on their character sheet.


Indeed. Others have gone over this, but I thought I'd toss in a couple of other areas in which flags can get misread/used in play.

1. The "protect my ass" motivation. I recently had a Burning Sands: Jihad game in which a player made a character who had the traits The Killer, Artful Dodger, Fearless, Cold Blooded, and Tough as Nails. He also had a 9G sword skill, a personal shield, and two instincts that related to combat and always having weapon and shield ready and on optimal setting. When I asked the player if he really wanted the kind of huge combat challanges his character was set up for his response was "no, I really want to play family drama. I just took that stuff to be sure if there was a fight I'd be ready."

2. The "biggest thing is not the biggest thing" issue. Once we got our signals straight the above player significantly toned down his combat badassitude, but kept a good chunk of it. When I asked him about how important and common he wanted fights to be AGAIN his response was, "Oh, sometimes I want to fight -- but mostly to protect my family or because evil members of my family have forced me to kill a good person for the honor of the house." There were a few beliefes and one trait on his sheet about that family dynamic, and so without talking to him I might have gotten some of them, but I certainly would still have missread the level of importance assigned. He wanted to be a great swordsman, but the story wasn't about the sword, it was about the family that hid behind his blade.

3. The "I really did want it, but, and I'm not sure how to say this nicely... you can't play it right" problem. I've had occasion recently to watch players come to flagged games, both mine and those run by other GMs, put down things that I know they really do want, only to watch them lose interest in them after a session or two. When asked about them they either pass it off as still being interesting (when it obviously isn't), or as some variation of the "I never was interested in that, I just put it down because..." defense. While some of these cases are people not knowing what it was they wanted, other times are pretty patently a case of the GM not being able to give them what they wanted. Obviously communication could help clear this up many times, but when dealing with things like romantic love flags and a GM who doesn't know the inner deeps of how you view love, you're going to have times when a GM just cannot give the player something that feels right. Usually, the solution I've found best for this is somethign like the TSOY version where you can dump one key and buy another -- letting you get out of situations you've come to find unfun.

Bankuei:
Hi Brand,

Quote

Usually, the solution I've found best for this is somethign like the TSOY version where you can dump one key and buy another -- letting you get out of situations you've come to find unfun.

Having the option and ability to change Flags is key.  Especially the longer term play you're aiming for.  Probably a good set of "training wheels" for getting players to recognize what's happening is to discuss informally what's going on as far as the GM decision making...  "I want to do a scene introducing the problems with your sister, since we haven't done that yet, how's that sound?" with the intent no so much to listen to the response- but to listen to the attitude in the response to read how excited or not the person is.  And, to let the player know that you're using the Flags as the direct sign of how you're running the game. 

If you keep getting, "Meh." responses, then maybe stepping back and saying, "Hey, do you want to change this Flag?"  I find that the time to ask those sorts of questions is when the player is engaged in a conflict or situation, which may not have been related to their own.  For example, if another player is having a tense conflict and the Meh-player is getting engaged or interested in it, then you toss in, "Hey, want to change your flag to 'Hate this guy'?" or something similar.

Suddenly the player sees the door open on the thing they're interested in, that maybe they didn't realize they were interested in, and can jump in on it.  I've seen a player or two do this for each other, and I imagine if you had a group full of it, things would be very interesting indeed.

Chris

Judd:
The other really valuable thing that flags and markers do is allow the GM to spot a problem during chargen with greater ease.

Last month I got into a vicious argument with one of my players whose conduct at the table I found lacking.  The argument turned into a My Guy Disconnect and a brutal round of e-mails that turned from a gaming argument to an argument that had nothing to do with gaming at all, tapping into something else, something really messed up deep in the friendship that I just hadn't known was there.

When I looked back at the Beliefs and Instincts he wrote down during chargen, I slapped my head and should have realized that they shouldn't have been allowed at the table; I should have asked him to shape them differently.

The friendship crap it devolved into had nothing to do with flags and markers.

But the My Guy Syndrome that the argument began with was right there in front of me in the Beliefs and Instincts on the character sheet.

Flags and markers = glowing neon signs of player intention.

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