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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 166 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [D+D-like system] Analysing play styles  (Read 10194 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2006, 07:12:56 PM »

I think this account is pretty indicative - but it'd be nice to know the players expressions/turns of phrase during it.
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the times when the aforesaid Optimistic Dwarf threw himself headlong into combats where prudent council would have dictated otherwise, and by a combination of sneaky tactics (mostly involving the rolling-on-the-floor school of brawling) and good luck, managed to prevail over far more dangerous opponents, such as a high-level wizard. Also the time when he hitched a ride on a Black Pudding, and then set fire to it using his lantern.


Hi David,

I think that this guy isn't contributing to your planning process. What he's doing is daring you. That's not an optomistic hope, that's a 'Come on, I rekon we could do it...go on, take the big gamble, I dare ya!'.

That's clashing with your planning, where your looking for good solid solution. The problem is, he wants to take that gamble...but he can't make you take on that as well. This optomism is annoying, because while he loves the big gamble and wants everyone in on it, he isn't actually daring you all to take it on as well. He's not saying it that way...it's kind of like saying "People have won $100 at the casino" rather than "I dare you to try and win $100 at the casino". The former is kinda limp and annoying - it doesn't say anything, really. I'd recommend telling him to state it as a dare, rather than an optomistic hope.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2006, 01:21:06 AM »

It occurs to me I may have distorted the discussion by requesting moments of smiling and so forth; I did not specifically mean to refer to moments that comedic, but ones which were important, or profound, or the kind of thing you wished would happen every time you sat down to play.
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David Hallett
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Posts: 23


« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2006, 02:40:35 AM »

Ooh, that's a few answers to deal with at once. Thanks, everyone.

For future reference, the player of the Optimistic Dwarf is actually a "she", though her character is male. This doesn't seem important to me, except to explain my choice of pronouns, which would otherwise be confusing, I imagine.

Tommi and Kesher: I see your point, that staying in character could be construed as a form of Stepping Up. But it makes me wonder sort of things would I have to say to make you think this person had more of a Sim agenda. As you point out, staying in character no matter what is only a technique, and can be used by anyone, despite it's near-compulsory use by some hardcore Simmers. But if this game were a Sim game (and most of this GMs games are, I think), the genre being Simmed would be Heroic Fantasy, which the Optimistic Dwarf is certainly living up to! What inclines you towards the one rather than the other?

Btw, I don't think the group is unaware of my agenda. They know I like character roleplay, and my sometimes lengthy tactical discussions are hard to ignore. Fortunately we're a pretty happy, easy-going bunch on the whole. So you might deduce there are no major style clashes.

Anna: I don't honestly think she was bothered, except to wonder why I seemed to be. I'll ask her sometime. I understand (I think) that a game design can support (or not support) different CAs (and can't usually give solid support to more than one), but if individual moments of play don't have CAs, where does it all come from? Or do you see it as some kind of emergent property, not resident anywhere except in the whole? If you're right, perhaps I'm on a wild goose chase, but it seems to make the theory a lot less useful if you can only analyse games as a whole. To answer part of your question about rewards, one noticeable difference from D+D is that XPs are handed out equally to all players, more or less by GM fiat, after major encounters only. And your character only gets the XP if your player was there for the play session. Partly because if you're not there, the GM will keep your character alive. And partly to encourage you to turn up! I don't think he actually gave us anything for the Derro. All other rewards are in-game only, e.g. stuff you find, etc. Quite Sim in that respect.

Callan: Yes, you could be right. I'm not sure what I'd gain by asking her to restate though. Can you explain what you're hoping for?

contracycle: Hmm. Well, if I'm honest, this game is a bit of light relief for the group, and we don't get anything very profound out of it, so far. There's also an Everyway game going on, but I lack the time to join in right now, so I can't tell you much about it. To give you an idea of what the group enjoys, recent years have included Ars Magica, Amber (both same GM as this game), Champions, various homebrew games with unique settings and system (one in medieval France where the players were monks, one on the Moon, in a SF world a bit like an understated Alpha Complex) (both with the OD player as GM), CoC (mostly me as GM). I've also run a Jorune campaign, but only one of the current group played in that. There may well be others I've forgotten about. So this game is mainly for fun and a bit of nostalgia for those of us who last went on a dungeon crawl more than 20 years ago...
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John Burdick
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Posts: 105


« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2006, 05:59:53 AM »

David,

I think the fact that this is a change in pace complicates your perception. Back when I played D&D with my older brother in the early eighties, we played Narrativist when he was the GM, and Gamist when I was. It never took any thought to switch back and forth, it just happened depending on who was GM.

Since a person in my group (Jason) is notorious for switching games as GM, we concentrate on one-shot games. Sometimes after a game, I'll voice my assessment on what agenda I perceived in the game. Since Jason managed to get players making their own choices, I don't recall having any disagreement on the assessment. Before that there was a lot of incoherence. When he'd run a game under the pretense of continuing on only to drop it as usual, the game would often have no agenda because it went nowhere.

Without examples of how you guys play those other games, titles don't tell us much.

With the XP being awarded to the group per major encounter, who determines when major encounters happen? If the GM decides when they occur, you've got an attendance reward. If you create them through character actions, that could still be a reward for stepping up at a bigger scale than head-counting. And the role loot plays can vary also.

John
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David Hallett
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Posts: 23


« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2006, 07:32:57 AM »

John:

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the fact that this is a change in pace complicates your perception
Agreed.

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Without examples of how you guys play those other games, titles don't tell us much.
True enough. But none of us has time for a complete autopsy on my (and some 7 other people's) gaming history. I was just trying to give you some idea of what I meant by a change of pace.

The GM has been upfront that the XP thing is a reward for attending. He also is pretty clear that he won't allow characters to die in their player's absence, so there may be some connection there. In fact, I'd be surprised if anyone died at all. Maybe right at the end. Most fights we've been in, it's been possible either to surrender if things went badly, or else to run. He's not a very Gamist GM, IMO.

Anna, Callan: I just had lunch with the OD player, and asked for her input. She rejected the daring/stakes suggestion, and said that she didn't like too much OOC talk during games. She also didn't like too much planning during play, especially if it seemed unlikely to her that the characters in question would plan in that way. She conceded that my character was more likely to be a planner than hers. She specifically designed him to be impulsive, as she's quite the opposite, and enjoys playing people who aren't her. Does that help you at all?
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Anna B
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Posts: 32


« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2006, 03:18:25 PM »

Anna: I don't honestly think she was bothered, except to wonder why I seemed to be. I'll ask her sometime. I understand (I think) that a game design can support (or not support) different CAs (and can't usually give solid support to more than one), but if individual moments of play don't have CAs, where does it all come from? Or do you see it as some kind of emergent property, not resident anywhere except in the whole? If you're right, perhaps I'm on a wild goose chase, but it seems to make the theory a lot less useful if you can only analyse games as a whole. To answer part of your question about rewards, one noticeable difference from D+D is that XPs are handed out equally to all players, more or less by GM fiat, after major encounters only. And your character only gets the XP if your player was there for the play session. Partly because if you're not there, the GM will keep your character alive. And partly to encourage you to turn up! I don't think he actually gave us anything for the Derro. All other rewards are in-game only, e.g. stuff you find, etc. Quite Sim in that respect.
 

(Again with the I'm new at this caveat)  Reward systems are what really support different CAs. It should be noted that not all rewards are in game, because positive feedback from other players is also a reward.  Which does make the big model less helpful for analyzing play moment to moment, but very helpful if you want to design  a  rpg.


Most my understanding of this comes from this topic which I started to address some similar confusions I was having.

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David Hallett
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Posts: 23


« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2006, 03:33:39 PM »

Hey, *excellent* thread, Anna. I hadn't seen that one before. So many threads, so little time, which to choose...

But that was a great discussion, which I think I need to read several times. The thing I got from it most immediately was that the system may hand out XPs for this and that, but that's only a reward if getting XPs/going up levels is what your group truly values. Or a friend used to say: "Boring books are interesting if you're interested in boring books". Is that close?

It also helps to explain some of the questions people have been asking me.

*And* Impro is one the most interesting books I have read wrt RP, so the link collection is much appreciated too!

Many thanks.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2006, 07:22:08 PM »

Callan: Yes, you could be right. I'm not sure what I'd gain by asking her to restate though. Can you explain what you're hoping for?
Instead of being mindless optomism, it will become a dare. Her daring you will make you really think. You'll think "Perhaps I can take it...perhaps there's some sort of surprise plan I could pull off that would have her really surprised and imagine the look on her face! etc"

It also lets you simply turn it down. Before she was roleplaying and it was just repetitive optimism. Now you can say "Look, I already declined the dare". Which will prompt her to atleast think of a whole new dare type (unless she's a bore..she isn't, right?). Also, if you turn it down, it'll STILL make you really think! >:) You'll think that perhaps your not being gutsy enough.

It'll add the social oomph that really gets the type of play your describing, kickin'!
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David Hallett
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« Reply #23 on: March 03, 2006, 04:00:56 AM »

Thanks Callan, I see what you were thinking of. Based on my chat with that player yesterday, though, saying that would actually have been quite counter-productive. If anything was frustrating her, it was too much OOC conversation.

I'm not sure how to characterize her CA. She seems to enjoy her dwarf doing dangerous impulsive things in combat. She doesn't like systems much: she feels they never help her do anything, they only assist the GM, making them a necessary evil. I asked her what she would like a system to help her to do (this is an important question for me, as I'm currently designing a homebrew system for a game she'll be playing later this year), and she wasn't able to give a very clear answer. She saw some benefit in stats that gave her a clear idea of what her character could be expected to do - she particularly dislikes the experience of proposing what seems to her a reasonable course of action, and then finding out when it comes to rolling the dice that the chances of completing the action successfully are very low. But that clash with expectations is bad in any CA, AFAICS.

So I'm not sure. If you go by what she says, she's all about the experience of being in character. If her account is accurate, that sounds pretty Sim to me. Or am I all wet?

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Caldis
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Posts: 359


« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2006, 04:49:42 AM »


So I'm not sure. If you go by what she says, she's all about the experience of being in character. If her account is accurate, that sounds pretty Sim to me. Or am I all wet?

I'm afraid you're still talking techniques.  She's getting messed around by the mechanics of the game which are not directly related to CA, though they can be indicative.  The question is what does she want to do with that character she is wrapped up in?  The character is her main tool for affecting the game so what does she really want to do with that character?  Does she want to be creating the story of her character through her in game actions, if so your looking towards narrativism.  If she is willing to accept that there is something more important than telling her characters story, and it may be the mechanical representation of the world or the gm's plot line or a group concession to sticking together, then she is looking for sim.
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David Hallett
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Posts: 23


« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2006, 05:16:39 AM »

I see your point re Narrativism, and I can't rule that out from anything she's said or done.

Your comments about Sim are unclear to me. Probably this means I understand Sim the least well. Maybe I've been too into it in the past to see it at a critical distance and recognize its key features. I've read Ron's essay several times, it seems to make sense, but...

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the mechanical representation of the world
(scratches head) Do you mean mechanical as in play mechanics? That doesn't seem right.  Help!

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the GM's plot
Why the GM's, particularly? Or is that not the point? Do you mean something like: we're playing a game set in Arthurian Britain, so I want certain things to happen (e.g. the fall of Camelot) and will use my character to make sure they do, even if makes the character's personal story less satisfactory?

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a group concession to sticking together
Not at all sure about this. Doesn't sound like the CoC "Never split the party!" maxim. Can you amplify a bit?

Thanks!
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #26 on: March 03, 2006, 10:15:23 AM »

David, let me give you an alternative way of looking at the Sim CA that seems to me to fit what your Dwarf player is talking about. Sim is about the fiction being its own reward. Not the player's ability to engage with some issue or theme that's important, not the opportunity to show how well they can meet a challenge, but just the imaginary stuff for its own sake.

Your player sounds to me like she's got an idea in mind of what kind of character she wants to portray, and what a character like that ought to be doing, and what sort of world that character ought to be a part of, and her jazz comes from getting to make that stuff happen in the fiction. That's the Sim agenda in action.

People get verisimilitude and realism and lots of other highly specified Technical concerns mixed up with Sim very easily, probably because our game texts have been telling us to for a long time.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: March 03, 2006, 03:13:26 PM »

So I'm not sure. If you go by what she says, she's all about the experience of being in character. If her account is accurate, that sounds pretty Sim to me. Or am I all wet?
Being in character isn't something that is inherently sim.

That said, I may be quite wrong about the gamism thing. Could you ask her about a system example? Say she declared she was going to do a move and she thought it was +10 or some such. Really convinced of it. Tell her to imagine that she was so sure of it, she had imagined every little bit of cool, winning action because it's such a big modifier. But when the GM looked up the modifier the book lists it as +2 and she fails.

I'm probing to see if she is a gamist who dislikes GM fiat (my partner is like this) or if she is sim inclined. Would she accept it with a 'Damn, I was so sure' or actually get pissed off because she knows how it would go, better than any damn rules?
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Caldis
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« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2006, 07:32:58 PM »


Let's see if I can give you some examples of what I'm talking about.   The mechanical representation of the world is about the game mechanics but it is really about what it is they are modelling and the motivations behind that.  For instance a typical process in many games is character advancement schemes, now these can be modified to suit any CA but for sim games the accumulation of different scores and abilities can become an end to themselves.  Fully rounding out the character by acquiring new scores and abilities to define them, especially when you include ones that dont really have a gamist application.  Developing the characters personality, beliefs, and a thematic story based around them comes in second to detailing their actual status in the game world  Gurps does this fairly well.

You were right with my comments on the GM's plot, it's not so much the fact that it's the gm's plot as much as it is one that the group is working towards fulfilling.  It works best when the players are invested and committed to it.  The way I've usually noticed it unfold is when the plot or story is more of a background element, or rather the players are not the central figures in the conflict but an assorted team of specialists that aid on one side of the big plot. 

The comments on sticking together refer to a typical group aspect of assuming party unity.  The group will stick together no matter what happens.  Even if you have a paladin in a group with a bunch of thieves, we dont explore the difficulties of that relationship we avoid it in the name of team unity.  The paladin just happens not to be around when the thieves are thieving and any other excuses we need are manufactured.  It's really a predefined theme about party unity that we make work in play.  Allowing us to explore the game world but not worry about the moral quandries.  This is an active avoidance of the character defining issues.

These are all just some examples of how sim play can functionally work and there can be fairly similar examples that are indicative of another CA when used with different motivations.  These are all forms of what Ron called Constructive Denial in one of the last threads in the GNS forum. I can dig up a link if you are interested.

So to relate this back to your incident and how you hope to engage the player in the future I dont see a lot of desire for sim on her part.  It could easily be gamism with more of an emphasis on gamble rather than crunch, if so you could move towards a more rules light game something with less number crunching.  The little bit you've told about the game seems to suggest she is using exploration to back up her approach to gamism.   I also think that her desire to get into the character may be indicative of an interest that could be sated by several nar games.
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David Hallett
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Posts: 23


« Reply #29 on: March 04, 2006, 01:09:25 AM »

Thanks to everyone for their helpful comments. I think we can draw this to a close soon. I feel better informed about differentiating Sim and Gam, which was my goal in posting. It's probably best if I take some time to digest the info presented, and come back with another example if I have more questions. But if you have any further comments based on this post, feel free to add 'em.

Mark: Thanks, that's very helpful. Hearing you describe what a genuine Sim agenda would look like on her part makes me see that there are differences from that, even though there points of agreement too. I don't think the background is really so important to her, compared to her character. It's interesting to me that the Nar agenda is the one I can't rule out still.

Callan: I think I can answer that query, both from observation and from talking. Her focus would be "what would the character do?" and "go with your instinct, because he's impulsive", combined with "don't be too cautious or strategic - he's not like that". She would then announce a course of action, without particularly considering how it would translate in system terms - that's the GM's job, to her. The GM would nod appreciatively, say: roll on this and that. Assuming she got some decent rolls, she would expect a good result, until the GM pointed out that various modifiers were in place, and that it couldn't be seen as an unqualified success. She would sit back, thinking "Bah, I don't understand this system. Why does it block me?", but be re-engaged if the GM (as he usually does) came up with a more interesting result than straight failure ("OK, he managed to parry your dagger, but 200lb of flying Dwarf is still more than he can stand up to. You knock him over, and you are both rolling on the floor"). So long as something interesting happened, she wouldn't be too bothered.

Caldis: Thanks for the clarifications. I think I see now what you're getting at in each case. Yes, a good thread link is always welcome. Anna's was a cracker. I think before I run my game later this year in which I attempt to keep a number of CAs relatively happy, I'm going to get a copy of DitV, and run it with some smaller subgroups (sounds to me like it needs smaller numbers than eight!). Should give me a clue which of my players are closet Narrativists. And it sounds like fun too!
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