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Author Topic: HERO System, M&M and assessing incoherence  (Read 19289 times)
buzz
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« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2006, 07:55:09 AM »

First, Buzz, I'm going to call you (and Rilestone) on something. This business about your goal being to "play your cool character, in a satisfying way in an interesting setting?" That's like someone whose knees have been shot out saying, "I just want to walk." Which means that my points about Creative Agenda are not applicable yet, because Creative Agenda concerns where and how you want to walk.

So, just so I'm clear on this, you're saying that we need to get my knees fixed before we can get to the walking lessons? :)

All right, now let's get concrete with Champions, although I'd really like a sit-down with the GM and his dog-eared notebook, to ask some question about how long he played the previous edition(s), which supplements from those days he does and does not utilize, and so on. I suspect there's more 3rd edition in there than one might think.

First off, let me ditch the codenames. M. is Mike and B. is Bart. They are our primary GMs. Mike's wife is Kathy, her brother is Bill. Bart's wife, Steck, is also in the group, as is Jason and myself. The two married couples are, I believe, the oldest in the group, i.e., late 30s/early 40s. Bill and I are in our mid-30s, and Jason is the youngun, in his early 30s.

What I know about his history with the system is that Mike has probably been playing since 1st ed., and he, his wife, and her brother have all been playing together for most of that history. Mike introduced them to Champs; based on when he and his wife met, it was probably 2nd or 3rd ed. Bart, the other GM, has been playing just as long and does a lot of HERO events at conventions.

I've been playing Champs since 1st ed., though I didn't play it extensively at the time. I missed out on 3rd ed. (the "b" era in your post), and then got back into 4th (the BBB) in college and ran a short campaign. Then, many years passed and I got into 5th ed. and found myself a group. This group got together via a posting on the Hero Games forums. The four "component subgroups" (Mike, Kathy, Bill; Bart, Steck; Jason; me) did not know each other prior to forming the group.

But here's a loop to throw you for - just for a minute, consider D&D... Check out the essay if you'd like.

Already done. :)

No particular detail in terms of the imagined content is going to be a give-away for any of these. That's the big error in talking about Champions and Creative Agenda - to focus on what the characters do and what they're like. Instead, we have to talk about the real people and what they do, and what they like.

Would it help for me to post more actual play?

Hence the expert-GM and his dog-eared notebook.

Nitpicky point: Mike does not have a dog-eared notebook, but just a dog-eared SPD sheet. I have honestly almost never seen him bring any notes to the table. The only notebook I ever see occasionally is a tiny 3" x 4" spiral book, from which the SPD chart was ripped out. Really, all I see him bring to the table consistently is HERO books and dice.

In your group's case, what I'm seeing is the kind of play that ultimately was to inspire the design of Exalted, almost verbatim, with the additional influence of Magic: the Gathering.

I'm not sure I'm familiar enough with Exalted to fully understand what you're saying here.

Whew!! That was a big chunk o'something-or-other. Buzz, here's my next question. Do you want to delve into what your group is doing right now in Big Model terms? Or do you want to talk about what you'd like to see, or get from play, and discuss that?

I'm not sure; do we need to deal with the former before we can move to the latter? The latter is probably closest to what prompted me to post in the first place.
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buzz
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« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2006, 08:21:16 AM »

Quick fanboy moment: Storn, I love your work. I really wish DOJ would commission more pieces from you.

However, I do think it needs to be seriously adjusted, for me and players like me, to absorb some of the last 20 years of RPG theory.  It could be even stronger, even more flexible and even more elegant.

I recall some discussions over on the HERO boards where you mentioned most of the sentiments in your post here. I don't want to divert into abstract system discussion, as I'm thinking that's not the point Actual Play... but I do agree with a lot of what you say. I think Steve Long's preference for the gritty (e.g., Dark Champions) informs a lot of what HERO is right now.

That said, my opinion varies on Hero Points/Bennies, if only because of a comment by Mike Mearls (whom I respect quite a bit) that "fudge point" mechanics are sort of a kludge. To paraphrase what he posted in one of his blog entries: if the system did what it was supposed to do, you wouldn't need "fudge points". Iron Heroes, is a good example of this line of thinking. In IH, you accomplish amazing, wahoo things by taking a penalty on a roll. Sort of a stake-setting: I'm going to risk X to get effect Y. In some ways, the Power skill method in HERO is akin to this.

Anyway, I have been giving some thought to "fudge" mechanics for potential games I may run for this group. I figure that, if there's going to be fudging, we might as well do it out in the open, with "rules, borders, and an end zone", as it were. :)
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A.k.a., Mark Delsing
Storn
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« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2006, 07:57:38 AM »

Quote
I recall some discussions over on the HERO boards where you mentioned most of the sentiments in your post here. I don't want to divert into abstract system discussion, as I'm thinking that's not the point Actual Play... but I do agree with a lot of what you say. I think Steve Long's preference for the gritty (e.g., Dark Champions) informs a lot of what HERO is right now.

I think it is very much YOUR Actual Play.  You have stated that your 35 INT is not being addressed, used, acknowledged.  My beefs with Champions/Hero system (which predates Mr. Long's involvement) is that it *TENDS* to reward superman clones and channel GM arbitration into the areas that are making you gnash your teeth a bit.  It does a piss-poor job, in my estimation, of emulating superheroic comic fiction as it emphasises only one aspect, kicking ass and taking names... or one is forced to have every freakin' overlapped skill in order to do Batman or every martial art to do Capt. America.  That is Steve Long, IMO, trying to make up for the fact that Champions base philosophy 5 xp = 1 die is not flexible enough to have Batman's Deductive and Streetwise abilities... nope, we have to have a list of 15 or so narrowly defined skills to make up that gestalt of abilities.

Your character is not optimised for kicking ass and taking names.  So, what do you do, you come in with a Supe clone.  A perfectly valid response.

However, I think your 35 INT character is a wonderful idea...a great concept.  He, too, should have his day in the pantheon of superheroic comic fiction... as many characters in comics solve problems with intellect.

When there is a M&M like game mechanic, where your Character can have all kinds of attempted solutions to problems by throwing a limited resource Hero pt... then this *TENDS* to channel GM arbitration into a much more open mind.  It helps channel a Mr. Fantastic kind of solution as opposed to only a Superman kind of solution.  Especially 2nd Ed, which open up the Hero pt rules dramatically.

System matters.

But some of this is just education and communication...

Quote
This group got together via a posting on the Hero Games forums. The four "component subgroups" (Mike, Kathy, Bill; Bart, Steck; Jason; me) did not know each other prior to forming the group.

You guys don't know each other.  YOu don't know where the "break pts" of emulation are between each other.  I think you need to gently say that your 35 INT should have equal weight as +7d6.  That non combat application of your PC's Power/Skill set is interesting to YOU.  And that if given the opportunity, you will help drive story and make it EASIER for the GM to do his job.  Getting info in the hands of Players is tricky business... there is a definite ebb and flow and balance to consider... let your PC be a conduit!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2006, 12:05:51 PM »

Storn, your enthusiasm is all well and good, but you are falling into the same trap as people do in most D&D discussions. Your preferred way to play Champions is the way - for you. It seems so solid to you, so perfect, and so justified by every imaginable element in the rules, to you, that it seems anyone sensible will strike their foreheads with surprise and say, "Thanks! I get it now!"

The trouble is, it will mean jack shit to the GMs in question, because their way is the right way, and they know it, sure as shooting, rock-solid, with just as many decades and as solid a social experience of play to back them up as you have. Your currency-based argument, that 35 points equals 7 dice in any and every application, will mean nothing to them.

Absolutely. Nothing.

What you are describing as "communication" and "education" will be perceived as taking over, patronizing, and disrupting. It doesn't matter whether you point with a jabbing finger at this-or-that section of the rules. All of your input, at this time, tells us only one thing - that your Champions is not these guys' Champions. But we knew that. You have to get over the idea that your certainty that you understand, use, and respect the rules better than they do, will carry any weight with them at all. They know they have the true religion and that you're just another cargo cult.

It just so happens that my play-preferences agree with your assessment. In my old Champs game, points were everything - if you spent points, it mattered, and negative points from Disadvantages were just as important to play as positive ones spent on powers. But it doesn't matter to this discussion. It doesn't matter. Your fervent statements that explain your viewpoint and urge Buzz simply to "communicate" it to them do not carry logical, rhetorical weight, but only the emotional heat from your own group's achievement at making the Champs car go.

Their car goes too, using different equipment, ignoring the parts you so carefully integrated into your drive-shaft ... and it goes a different direction, using different fuel. They really. Don't. Care what you did with yours. To them you simply "play wrong," and I'd bet you dollars to dogshit that the minute they heard that point-talk, you'd be branded a stinking, point-mongering Gamist and ignored instantly.

I'm asking you to withdraw your intensity about what Buzz should do or explain or advocate to this group. He's called for an understanding of Champs which will permit his goals to be met, and yes, your preferred focus on the currency is a good start. But let's keep the discussion focused on those goals, and not turn into a polemic on how Storn will inform the world how to play Champions right.

Best, Ron
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Storn
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« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2006, 01:32:22 PM »

Ron, good points.

But.  I am not an academic nor a writer.  I probably didn't preface the part about 35 Int getting the same weight as 7d6 correctly.

It is away from the-table suggestion for Buzz to try as a "hey, here is something to consider".  Especially since it is group of new players to each other with vast experiences..  Maybe it will work, maybe it will not.  One has to start the conversation with this group somewhere; its the long haul, quoting you; "
Quote
If your chief aim is to enjoy playing (and I mean playing, not just getting together with friends and cobbling together solitary imaginative satisfaction once in a while), at all, then it's going to be a long haul;

Where do you suggest the conversation of the long (over?)haul begin?

I don't put that much stock in 35 INT as the same weight as 7d6 to be honest.  Precisely because of the context issue...  its not MY group, its not my read on the situation.

I don't think the Champions Car goes all that well.  I think it coasts in areas that are dated and take a lot of "handling" to get the car to go in the directions I *think* Buzz wants to go.  But if he's going to stick with Champions, helping (not lecturing, not pointing fingers) the GM and the fellow players make the adjustments to the car so everyone is on board.... it takes some discussion.

I still think system matters.  It channels certain patterns of thinking.  I think Champions channels some very good things, getting people to think about the Flaws of the Hero thru Disadvantages for example... but it also Channels a very wargame-y, if ain't on the character sheet, there ain't much ya can do about it dot the "i's" and cross the "t's" that I don't much care for.  Not that it is wrongbadfun.  Just not goodrightfun for me.

And I think there are systems or at least subsystems that show what difference flexiblity can make in the play experience... and I've tried to point out some options.  Not as this is WHAT I would do.  But rather, "hey, here's a suggestion, it works for some other folks.".

But some of this is simply rust of a new group.  Having nothing to do with game system.  Its rust because these folks are going into new waters with each other.... THAT's what I mean by communication and education... educating each other in THAT group... not educating about Storn's Way of Champions.  What does Buzz want from a supers RPG?  What does Mike want?  Bart?  The rest of the group?

Personally, from my Actual Play experience, I will probably never run Champions again.  That's Storn's Way of Champions.  But I don't think anyone is clamoring for that thread. <g>
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Storn
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« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2006, 01:34:43 PM »

I do want to say that if Champions is a good enough car for Buzz and group... that's cool.  I'm not trying to be this big huge detractor of the system or tell people how to run their games. 

Now I will shut up.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: April 23, 2006, 07:33:54 AM »

Thanks for clarifying, Storn. Our perceptions of the group differ a little. Although I recognize that the group as a whole has come together for the first time, the two GMs are arriving not only with powerful support members, but also with extremely developed histories of play. At least one of them is using his old play-history as background - he may well consider this not to be a new group, but a batch of new players for his onoing game. If I'm reading him right, based on Buzz's description, he may even consider it his duty to make sure that the group knows how to play Champs "right," in which case discussion of how, for instance, skills might be an important arena of conflict is right out the door.

All right, Buzz, let me go with your statement that you'd like to discuss how you'd like to play. Here's step 1. Give me an example of an unmitigated success, in your experience, of role-playing. A great time with great fun, perhaps a session or two's worth. When was it, what were you playing, and what happened?

Best, Ron
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buzz
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« Reply #22 on: April 23, 2006, 09:29:56 AM »

What you are describing as "communication" and "education" will be perceived as taking over, patronizing, and disrupting.

FWIW, everyone in this group is very good-natured and communicative. That said, I would much prefer to "lead by example", as it were, than try to "correct" the way Mike or Bart run their games. Regardless of what we are revealing about how they GM in our analysis, I can say that their intent is always to provide a fun game. I don't feel like there are any unspoken power-struggles or secret agendas in the group's relationship. It's more just ingrained habits, afaict.

Ergo, I'd rather run a session or two with techniques informed by our discussion here than try and tell these guys, point-blank, how to GM. That's my current thought, at least.
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buzz
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« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2006, 10:40:50 AM »

At least one of them is using his old play-history as background - he may well consider this not to be a new group, but a batch of new players for his ongoing game. If I'm reading him right, based on Buzz's description, he may even consider it his duty to make sure that the group knows how to play Champs "right," in which case discussion of how, for instance, skills might be an important arena of conflict is right out the door.
FWIW, when the group was first coming together via email discussion, what kind of HERO campaign we'd be playing was up in the air. I.e., Mike did not say "I'm looking for people to join my Champs campaign." It was, "I'm looking to put together a HERO group, and here are some ideas for the kinds of campaigns I'd be happy to run." The group unanimously voted for a standard-power Champs campaign. FYI, Bart and Steck joined the group the second session, so Bart-as-GM was not a factor initially.

Whether he's trying to show us how to play "right", I dunno. He doesn't comment or interfere when Bart is running his campaign. Granted, their two styles are fairly similar, though Bart doesn't seem to plot out his game as much. It's mostly, "Here's the situation, let's go."

All right, Buzz, let me go with your statement that you'd like to discuss how you'd like to play. Here's step 1. Give me an example of an unmitigated success, in your experience, of role-playing. A great time with great fun, perhaps a session or two's worth. When was it, what were you playing, and what happened?

I'm assuming you mean an example from any RPG I've played, not just examples from this group. I'm also limiting myself to 2001 and forward because most of my gaming prior was '92 and earlier, and my memories are very foggy.

The session that sticks out most in my mind as an unmitigated success was a demo of Arcana Unearthed run by Mike Mearls at GenCon '04. Despite everyone at the table being total strangers, we managed to have a group where every person at the table: knew the rules well, could roleplay (i.e., talk in character, do actor-ly stuff) without going overboard or hogging the spotlight, came to the table seemingly ego-less ("your fun is just as important as my fun"), and were focused on playing the adventure. Mearls was very clear about our objective, and I don't think we spent even a second of play on trivial or tangential aspects of the adventure. Every moment was as step forward towards our goal. The RAW were adhered to without ever bogging down the game, and I did not perceive that Mearls was fudging anything. Our PCs were challenged, yet never getting their asses irrevocably kicked; each PC got to shine, and it was never artificial. PC death was always on the table, but there was balance.

For example, my litorian warmain (iirc), at the climax of the final battle, spent a Hero Point to accomplish a great, cinematic combat maneuver against one of the main villains, saying the perfect line as he did so. (He wielded some wicked dire weapon, so it was a very "Lt. Worf has just kicked your ass with his bat'leth" moment.) The whole table was applauding. The best parts were that: a) I think every PC had a moment like this, and b) the cool moment happened because *I* made it happen. Sure, the location of the fight had some special terrain that made the move possible, but my actions set it all up and made it happen. Mearls just stood back and let us do what we wanted to with the situation, running the NPCs accordingly.

This session has informed my attitude towards GM'ing more than probably any other (in a positive "do it like this" sense, as opposed to a "Don't ever do this" sense.).

The campaigns with my HERO group have had many enjoyable moments, but they number far greater in the "cool character/story stuff" category. IOW, I can't think of many memorable fights, but I can think of lots of funny character moments and story events.

The only combat from Mike's game that I can remember was resolved by means other than whittling down STUN was a battle with VIPER agents in their nest in which my PC was able to use his Electronics and Inventor skills to disarm a self-destruct mechanism. That, and the aforementioned Big Campaign Moment when my PC ordered Steck's gun-totin' PC to take a head shot on a villain who was about to destroy the world. Given my PCs code v. killing, it's wasn't the most in-character thing to do, but I didn't see any other way out at the time (and am pretty sure there was no other way out). Naturally (sic), the big villain then reverted to her formerly super-good self and saved the world (undoing what her evil self did) before dying dramatically.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: April 25, 2006, 07:38:24 AM »

Two things to call you on!

1. Remember, I know Champs well. When I say you're diddling about with character creation as a substitute for play, I totally know that you could be doing so with a single character. In fact, I can think of any number of people for whom this endless, single-character reconstruction was the primary reason to identify as Champions players; actual play was the last thing that interested them.

2. So they're all good-natured and communicative, are they? Is that why your 35-INT character with all those deductive and perceptual skills was ignored as such? Your solution to that situation was to rewrite the character without the skills. Is that "communication" with Mike? I don't think so, unless communication means you simply play the way that he wants.

I'm going to ask you to stick very closely to your initial reasons for starting this thread - dissatisfaction. A lot of your posting since then seems to backpeddle about this and to try to reassure me that, hey, they're all really good people, and not so bad, and everything's really fine. I'll tell you now, I'm OK with them being good people. I'm also aware that gamer-culture insists we stick up for our fellow group members no matter what. But you came here (a) to bitch and (b) to seek avenues for improvement. To get to (b) effectively, you gotta stick to your own guns about (a).

You wrote this:

Quote
I wouldn't be conspiring with the GM to contrive the entrance of a new PC for me if I was still having a blast with my main PC. And I'm the second person in the group to do this, AND I know of two other members who have talked about bringing in different PCs.

Grab onto that dissatisfaction as the foundation and driving force for this dialogue. You can take it as given that I'm not saying Mike or Bart or anyone is a bad person, and you don't have to keep telling me they're not, and then qualifying yourself again because you're not very satisfied. That'll just go 'round and 'round forever.

Now for the next step. Let's stick with the anecdote from Mearls' game. I see several points jump out automatically.

1. You want to contribute to a resolution through a series of decisions, not just being permitted to roll at the pre-arranged moment at the end. At present, your most familiar context for this is a sequence of events during a fight. I'm guessing that you haven't had much experience in applying the same idea to an entire story-in-creation, i.e., having character decisions set up the important conflicts in the first place.

2. Everyone's engagement and appreciation is important to you. You want to be interested in what others are doing; you want others to be interested in what you do. You're bringing a lot of good will to the table. You'd like mechanics to be involved in this as well, e.g. spending Hero Points is something that others should notice and appreciate.

3. You are deadly, deadly sick of wasting time. You want events, decisions, action, and consequences. To date, your experiences have associated this priority with having a shared objective assigned to the group - well-defined villains to defeat, problems you have to solve, etc.

4. You're also tired of being taken out of play, especially early in a sequence of events. I'm guessing that your experience of characters being knocked out or killed is synonymous with you being unable to contribute to what's going on, and also with the character not getting to shine either before or later - just being taken out and "gone."

5. Long-term play has not yielded much satisfaction for you, for the above points. Check me on this - has any long-term play been a solid source of fun for you, reliably and consistently as the months go by? And I mean solid fun, not intermittent or provisional.

You mentioned that,

Quote
This session has informed my attitude towards GM'ing more than probably any other (in a positive "do it like this" sense, as opposed to a "Don't ever do this" sense.).

When you say your "attitude towards GMing," you're mainly talking about your view toward others being the GM, while you remain a player, right? In other words, this is what you want from the GM's input at the table.

Well, it's pretty easy to do with Champions. Storn's advice is spot-on, because the game comes with a great, if awfully detailed currency framework that can be used as signals between GM and players about their priorities. If I get 40 points from some yahoo who's hunting my character, the GM makes a special effort to make the yahoo interesting to everyone including himself. If I spend 60 points on some power or power-framework, then I expect (a) to get my dice's worth from it and (b) to face threats that are going to make me sweat, even armed with this firepower, and for whom this firepower is relevant.

However, just because it can be done with Champs doesn't mean it's going to happen. Right now, it seems to me as if your priorities are at odds with both GMs' priorities.

Their priorities are to develop their own wonderful long-term stories, using certain cues and hooks to involve your characters, and to have you guys act them out. Your priorities are to shine and engender a lot of right-here, right-now fun among a group of creative people. And it seems very clear to me that these just don't mesh as well as everyone thinks they automatically should. The dead giveaway is that non-combat points and abilities are ignored, so that you guys are not really able to contribute except in terms of who hits whom during a fight, or in terms of who gets to act out a certain scene and conflict as framed by the GM. So a hell of a lot of play seems to be about waiting for your turn - which isn't shining and engendering that right-now fun, the kind you saw in the Mearls session.

(For people who are interested, Buzz is facing the kind of Champions play which is the absolutely direct, do not pass Go, progenitor of Exalted.)

All right, so where does that leave us, and you? I'll take off that bent-topped pessimist hat I always seem to be wearing in these discussions, and say, "Go ahead. Communicate." Let everyone (not just Bart and Mike!) know about what you want. Describe it just like you did here based on the Mearls session, and say that you like the overall developing story, but you want more of this sort of thing per unit play. If you want, point out that non-combat scene influence is something you like to do, and would like those scenes to be more open-ended so that you're not just moving on to the next set-piece.

I'm still holding that hat, even if I'm not wearing it, so I have to say, I'm not real optimistic about the response you'll get. But I hope I'm wrong and they'll say "No problem!" Let's see.

Best, Ron
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buzz
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« Reply #25 on: April 27, 2006, 06:10:15 PM »

Grab onto that dissatisfaction as the foundation and driving force for this dialogue. You can take it as given that I'm not saying Mike or Bart or anyone is a bad person, and you don't have to keep telling me they're not, and then qualifying yourself again because you're not very satisfied. That'll just go 'round and 'round forever.

It's a fair cop. :) I guess I just didn't want to make it sound like I was miserable... but, yeah, I'm not satisfied. Not consistently. I was in awe of Mike's GM skillz when we started out. Now, I can appreciate his genre expertise and storytelling, but the play itself is lacking.

I'm guessing that you haven't had much experience in applying the same idea to an entire story-in-creation, i.e., having character decisions set up the important conflicts in the first place.

I guess not. All I can really say is that I've had character decisions determine when the conflict is encountered. I definitely can't think of an example that proves otherwise.

I'm guessing that your experience of characters being knocked out or killed is synonymous with you being unable to contribute to what's going on, and also with the character not getting to shine either before or later - just being taken out and "gone."

Yes, though if my character is eliminated fairly (I make a lame tactical choice or whatever), I don't mind as much.

Check me on this - has any long-term play been a solid source of fun for you, reliably and consistently as the months go by? And I mean solid fun, not intermittent or provisional.

The primary Champs campaign and one of the two D&D games I'm currently in are probably the only really long-term games in which I have ever been involved. Growing up, logistics made for endless one-shots. In college, there were a few short-lived campaigns. My other current D&D group switches off campaigns quite frequently, so no one campaign has been going very long.

I want to say that the Champs game was great fun for a while, or is generally, but that's usually more of a "fun as a spectator" or "fun seeing what the GM comes up with" way. It's never consistently provided anything like the Mearls game.

Quote
This session has informed my attitude towards GM'ing more than probably any other (in a positive "do it like this" sense, as opposed to a "Don't ever do this" sense.).

When you say your "attitude towards GMing," you're mainly talking about your view toward others being the GM, while you remain a player, right? In other words, this is what you want from the GM's input at the table.
Actually, I meant it as my view towards being a GM myself. I.e., this is what I need to be striving for. But, yeah, it's also the yardstick by which I measure GM I play under.

(For people who are interested, Buzz is facing the kind of Champions play which is the absolutely direct, do not pass Go, progenitor of Exalted.)

Can someone please explain to me the Exalted thing? Point me to a thread?

Let everyone (not just Bart and Mike!) know about what you want. Describe it just like you did here based on the Mearls session, and say that you like the overall developing story, but you want more of this sort of thing per unit play. If you want, point out that non-combat scene influence is something you like to do, and would like those scenes to be more open-ended so that you're not just moving on to the next set-piece.

I'm still holding that hat, even if I'm not wearing it, so I have to say, I'm not real optimistic about the response you'll get. But I hope I'm wrong and they'll say "No problem!" Let's see.

Hmm... I'll need to work up a good way to present my thoughts to them. I'm hesitant, but there's no point in being a turtle.

So... what about from the "lead by example" side of things? How can I approach HERO in a way that incorporates what we've been talking about and what I've been learning from the Forge? How do I give these players a game that meets my Mearls standard, but that they will enjoy as well?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2006, 06:41:50 AM »

Hi Buzz,

Thanks for sticking with me on this.

I think you're really going to like these threads: Bumpy Exalted game and [More Abyssals] CA clashes and holes in Gamist systems. An earlier one Exalted: searching for my face will be most useful to you if you read it last.

I should emphasize that RPG.net threads on Exalted - which I followed carefully for a long time, before the search function was axed - always demonstrated the same pattern. They'd start with great consumerist enthusiasm about which books they'd bought and how cool they were. Then they started with great enthusiasm about the incredible play they were having, but if you read again, they're really talking about how cool their characters look and the neat Feat combinations they'd figured out. Then play reports become more problematic, especially with those painfully-revealing thread titles like "Learning to love what you hate about Exalted." In fact, they all start to sound like you, full of effusive justifications for why and how the GM is so good except that play doesn't seem to be working, oh, "here and there." Much debate ensues about interpretations of Feat rules, but most especially about your exact issue in your Champions game - how resolution of skills and Feats should be handled during non-combat scenes, and what those scenes accomplish in player terms. The process goes on a long long time, often re-fueled by someone buying a few new books and re-energizing the game with "Fun this time, guys!" enthusiasm. At best, they manage some Ouija-Board satisfaction. Posts then take on a weary, weary, bravely-smiling insistence that it's the best game with the best people ever. After dropping hundreds of dollars on the books and studying them harder than anything they ever paid tuition for, what can one expect?

It's like clockwork. I've watched this progression many times regarding this game. I have concluded that Exalted perfectly commercializes a particular form of long-term, "Fun soon" promises that I learned allllll about during my tenure with Champions, and ultimately the players' primary enjoyment is re-diddling their characters in their off-time. To be clear about that, though, make sure to check out my comments above on Champions diversity and see that I'm talking about a particular usage of Champs, not "it" as a game, period. Unlike Exalted, in which the "it" seems to be locked down into the same pattern.

Now for really discussing what to do next. Here's the bad news first, courtesy of Forge maestro Mike Holmes: Mike's Standard Rant #7: you can't sneak up on mode. Everything he says there is pure wisdom, and it should explain why your phrase

Quote
what about from the "lead by example" side of things? How can I approach HERO in a way that incorporates what we've been talking about and what I've been learning from the Forge? How do I give these players a game that meets my Mearls standard, but that they will enjoy as well?

needs some heavy revision in order to work. Bluntly, you can't guarantee they will enjoy anything. There is no way to say, "Hey guys, this is what I'd like to experience more in our game" and know that it's going to be a Dead Poets Society moment when everyone discovers the joy of learning, or whatever. You are in a social situation performing a shared, leisure activity. In order for it to be more satisfying, you have to address it in social terms "This is what I'd like to be getting out of my role-playing," using the Mearls example. Let's hope that in this case, you can all arrive at some revisions in the activity. But you cannot make or expect anyone else actually to want what you want - all you can hope to do is either (a) to find that at least one other person agrees with you (although brace yourself for the same kind of dodging you've been doing in this thread, including stuff I didn't call you on), or (b) willingness on others' parts to accomodate you.

The good news is that you can approach the Hero System quite easily and happily with what we're discussing, and with material that's scattered all over the Forge. But clarify something for me first: are you talking about GMing for this group, in that question? I know you said you did so once, but the current question ("how can I give them a game") disturbs me in a number of ways. Are you planning to GM for the group again? Give me some more context about that.

Best, Ron
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2006, 08:47:48 AM »

Ron,

If you want to say, "I watched Brand Robins founder around like an ox in mud while playing Exalted" just come out and say it. We all know you're talking about me (and hundreds of other people exactly like me)!  ;)

The one thing I will add to this discussion is that I did finally manage to break out of that mold with Exalted -- and got a game I was really happy with. But at the end, when I stopped and looked back, I realized we hadn't been playing Exalted at all. We'd been playing an unholy combination of Sorcerer and Riddle of Steel hiding beind a mask of being Exalted. And all the pain we'd faced along the way had been because we weren't willing to let go of the old ideas of the long term story just over the hill, the concept of tinkering the character as source of fun, and the idea that new books would give us new ideas. We were all on the same page about what we were doing, and we still almost failed a million times (and did fail in the short term several times), because we were trying to creep up on things, rather than just doing what we really knew we wanted to.

So, I'll second the stuff in Mike's post about not sneaking up on mode. You have to figure out what you want, and go for it. The other ways all lead to pain.
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- Brand Robins
Storn
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Posts: 228


« Reply #28 on: April 29, 2006, 05:56:39 AM »

First, wanted to say, since my experience I *think* parallel's Ron's with Hero/Champions, I'm learning a lot... especially because it is being plugged into an actual scenario.  so thanks.

From Mike's Rant 7: 
Quote
Does this mean that you can't change the play mode of a group? No, actually there's a simple solution. Just play a game that strongly supports that mode from the ground up.

This is the conclusion that I came to with my Champions group.  I don't GM it anymore.  And many of our group's houserules are tyring to graft Narr mechanics into the system.  good news, many of them work.  So, I can back Ron's assertion: 
Quote
The good news is that you can approach the Hero System quite easily and happily with what we're discussing, and with material that's scattered all over the Forge

..with similar experiences over the last 5 years.  And while I hunger for other simpler/ more elegant/ more Narr game experiences, the house ruled Champions is still working for most of the players in that Champs game.  I'm just happier with other projects and therefore am only a limited, once in awhile, support player now.

And for my GMing, I have moved over to more "supported mode from ground up" game systems.  My players are a bit different too... some from the Champs game... some from the more flexible (as in, we like many systems, system tailored for campaign concept) group of round robin GMs.

I wish I had more to offer Buzz in terms of how to do the soft approach.... but I will let the smarter guys here do that.  All I can say in a wrap up... is that despite my moving away from Champions, I do think that Hero System can absorb many Forge ideas... I've seen it happen. 
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buzz
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« Reply #29 on: April 29, 2006, 12:01:28 PM »

A more in-depth response is forthcoming. This is the one forum where I really need to mull over posts for a day or two before being able to provide coherent responses.

(although brace yourself for the same kind of dodging you've been doing in this thread, including stuff I didn't call you on)

If there's more for you to call me on, please do so. Don't hold back. I want to be well again, doctor. ;)

But clarify something for me first: are you talking about GMing for this group, in that question? I know you said you did so once, but the current question ("how can I give them a game") disturbs me in a number of ways. Are you planning to GM for the group again? Give me some more context about that.

My plan is to GM for the group again, yes. Based on Mike's rant linked to above and Chris Chinn's commentary on this thread in his blog, I'm now considering a one-shot of something like Burning Wheel instead of a "here's how we should be playing HERO" campaign.

As to the original topic, I feel like I'm still waiting for practical advice with specific regards to HERO. Or are we simply not at that point yet? Or is it just a matter of reviewing what Storn posted?
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A.k.a., Mark Delsing
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