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Author Topic: [D&D 3.0/3.5] At long last, a dungeon  (Read 12966 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2006, 04:15:44 PM »

Hi there,

Rob, you summarized:

Quote
Players and GM talk, either "in character" or "out of character," about a subject.  Either the player or the GM calls for a skill roll - which is done on the spot.  Then, depending upon who wins the skill roll, the direction of the conversation changes (or continues).


Yes, with this crucial addition: or concludes. Because the roll is a conflict-resolver; the key conflict at issue for the conversation or confrontation is really at stake for its outcome. If you are trying to get Lord Khoros to delay the funeral, and he doesn't want to bend the law that far, then it's Diplomacy on Diplomacy - and guess what, you lose. He ain't delaying it past a few hours, as he said initially.

Talk until you're blue in the face after that point, but de roll is de roll. Sometimes, it's fun to play out the rest of the conversation or get in a last one-liner or something; other times, the roll ends the conversation.

There are some difficult areas with this tactic if we're talking about D&D 3.0/3.5 or with similar skill systems (i.e. nearly all modern RPGs). For instance, what if the player decides to intimidate now, instead of negotiate? I tend to say that's worth a new roll, as it will yield significantly different kinds of success and failure than the previous one.   

The D&D rules try to deal with the grey area by pitching the results over optionally to the DM fiat rule, which I recognize is a common solution, familiar to most role-players, but I choose not to employ it. You can see a more concrete and functional set of techniques inherent in the Sorcerer dice/conflict system, though.

Also, in your example, you were describing an interrogation scene. Whole reams of essays and threads could be employed just to discuss interrogation scenes. That brings in so many problematic aspects of role-playing as currently conceived, it's practically the entire GNS essay and the three sub-essays at once. I don't really have the energy to tackle that at the moment, but keep it on hold for now. I'd like to do that relatively soon.

Best, Ron
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2006, 06:09:38 AM »

The D&D rules try to deal with the grey area by pitching the results over optionally to the DM fiat rule, which I recognize is a common solution, familiar to most role-players, but I choose not to employ it. You can see a more concrete and functional set of techniques inherent in the Sorcerer dice/conflict system, though.

I'm curious about one thing, namely how involved (or not) is fiat in the setting/approving of the conflicts in the first place? Like, if someone says "I roll to convince him that I am the God-King of the universe, and he should donate all his wealth and armies to our cause," do you draw the line and say "that's not a reasonable goal"? (assuming that the story HASN'T led up to that point, that is!) Even in less extreme cases, there's still got to be some degree of judgment call involved, right? Like in the "intimidate the guards" example, presumably a goal of "convince the guards to accompany and fight alongside us" would be less reasonable than "cinvince them to let us keep our weapons."

Regrettably, I haven't yet been able to check out Sorcerer, so I don't know if those rules answer this question at all.

Peace,
-Joel
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Roger
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« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2006, 07:39:31 AM »

(I am using the cube description from the 3.0 book; I was a little dubious that one could be engulfed but not paralyzed, but the description there doesn't contradict that reading. This might be another error on my part, but if so, it was a fun-making error.)

As far as I can tell, you handled it exactly correctly.

Quote
Dan provided an interesting observation, that in this adventure, finding treasure just wasn't a big deal. Although his early D&D experiences peeked through occasionally, he made a kind of personal shift from search-and-loot to why-we-fight, and noted it when it happened.

Huh.  I wonder if this had anything to do with the approaching end of the campaign?  Treasure is more-or-less a form of character advancement in D&D, and I'd imagine character advancement becomes less of a concern if you know you're putting the character into a drawer after another session or two.  Or it might well be something else entirely.

Quote
2. Christopher's characters didn't have a good day.

Did you find yourself at all tempted to use just a little bit of Illusionism to "fix" these problems?

Quote
It also occurred to me, for the first time in my history as a role-player, and given the cleric-heavy, Hieronymous-heavy scenario, that resurrecting a player-character might actually be a fun and dramatic topic for a later scenario, rather than a lame-ass "oh let him keep playing" add-on.

I've got good news and bad news.  The bad news is that characters killed by a death effect, like the death touch from the Death domain, can't be raised or reincarnated.  The good news is that resurrection and other powerful magics will work just fine.  Just for your information.


Cheers,
Roger
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2006, 02:49:40 PM »

Hi there,

Joel, "fiat" isn't the right concept for the set-conflict processes in any role-playing game. However, the functional ways in which this is accomplished vary widely, and are currently ill-described by current RPG jargon.

I suggest that a great deal of your question, however, is irrelevant. Shared commitment to the SIS is a powerful thing. If a participant in the game were to ask for or instigate such an irrelevant, wacked conflict, it's almost certain that the person is disrupting the SIS, on purpose, for some agenda of his own that has nothing to do with the shared medium. A lot like getting up and doing a belly-dance on the sofa when the rest of you are trying to play a game of cards or watch a movie together. Or building a card-house with one's hand during a poker game, and saying, "What? I'm playing cards with you, aren't I?"

If you can provide a real, actual-play example of such a conflict being proposed or established, which is not an instance of such disruption, I'd be interested to know about it, in its own thread.

Aside from disruptive examples, I submit that Trollbabe is probably the game to check out for a rules-set that solves the issues you're concerned about without fiat - merely authority. But that's off-topic here, I think. All I can say here, productively, is that D&D offers no procedures to deal with that except to invoke the rule that says "DM really decides" following the roll, for some of the social skills, especially Diplomacy. That is indeed a form of social correction, or an attempt at one, although I don't think it would be very effective.

Roger: no temptation whatsoever. Any such hint of that temptation has been burned out of my RPG desires or habits by years of Sorcerer, which has taught me that it is simply and clearly more fun to see where things go, rather than to try to spin the two dials of "how the rolls turns out" and "how the situations turns out" simultaneously. It's not that I merely don't want to do it ... it's that I can no longer even imagine wanting to fudge a dice outcome or to tweak a narration, in order to make Christopher's characters look better or succeed a little more or have an opportunity arise. At present, my reaction to such a thing is not much different from direct, repulsed aversion. If you, for instance, were to state that this was a technique you'd be willing to employ as a GM, it would be a strong disincentive for me to play with you.

Best, Ron
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2006, 06:04:41 PM »

Hmm. . .I think I'm starting to see that at the very least my concepts of "fiat" vs. "authority" need some heavy examination. I'll try to come up with some AP examples and perhaps work up a new thread.

Peace,
-Joel
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greyorm
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« Reply #20 on: June 30, 2006, 06:21:42 PM »

At present, my reaction to such a thing is not much different from direct, repulsed aversion. If you, for instance, were to state that this was a technique you'd be willing to employ as a GM, it would be a strong disincentive for me to play with you.

During an AD&D game I played in some years ago, a scene arose where the guardian of some crypt or another (I forget the exact details) demanded the sacrifice of one of the party in order to let the rest of us pass deeper into the crypt and retrieve the whatever important thing it was we were looking for.

Now, in that game my character owned a sword: an intelligent, cruel, blood-drinking sword. My character also happened to be a paladin of the goddess of magic and illusion. As such, he was sworn not to destroy the sword, because items of magic were sacred to his goddess (and it was colored sacred red to boot).

Now, I'd fought for that sword, I'd wrested it from its foul owner, and I was invested as a player in having my character bring that sword "into the light" -- get it to confess its sins, understand how its sins were wrong, and to come to serve the goddess as his very own holy blade.

What I do recall of that session, and vividly, is when that choice came up, I offered up the sword as the sacrifice. I was using that offer as a threat, trying to get the sword to swear it would never again try to attack an innocent. The plan was to retract the offer once the pledge was made. It was careful psychological manipulation...and it backfired.

The sword was obstinate, it didn't make the promise...not until it was handed over -- it didn't think I would go through with it, couldn't concieve its grasp on me was tenuous at best, couldn't believe I would willingly hand it over -- and then it screamed and pled.

Now the GM could have fudged things and given the sword back to me somehow, knowing that I was losing something precious and important to my character, but he didn't. The guardian took the sword, and we were teleported away.

But I'd realized a moment after making that choice...I didn't want to make the choice I just had. Yet I'd walked into it eyes wide open, I'd made the choice knowing the consequences...and here I was, and no one fudged my way out of it.

I'd just handed a powerful, magical, evil sword into the hands of creatures who would befoul it bt indulging its wicked desires, and destroy all the work I had done so far. I would never get to complete a task I had set myself as a player, because of what I'd chosen to do, what I'd tried and failed at.

I was upset, the rest of the night's game was ruined for me because I was focused on my loss. Maybe because I expected the GM to pull fiat out of his hat to save my butt...because that was the way the game had worked thus far. I don't know.

It HURT. I wanted to take it back so badly, and I couldn't. It was too late. There was nothing I could do. It was also one of the most poignant and memorable moments of gaming I had had in years. It was emotional, engaging, meaningful.

Whenever I roll the dice today or otherwise make a decision, I expect the fallout. I WANT it. If I make a bad choice or a bad roll, I don't want the GM saving my butt. (Of course, I also expect the consequences to be fair and expected, and the rolls to be non-arbitrary.)

I chose to make the roll after all, thus it is absolutely essential I deal with the consequences of it, or the entire point of making those rolls and making those decisions is undermined: they become completely meaningless as actions, they are playing pretend.

If the decisions I make matter, if the outcome of a roll matters, then I want it to matter. I don't just want to pretend it matters with a wink and a nudge.

As such, I can completely understand exactly where Ron is coming from regarding his aversion to fudging rolls and spinning situational dials to soften the blow.

Given that, Ron, and given Christopher was obviously becoming quite frustrated with his character's ineffectiveness, what do you feel would be a functional solution to the player's frustration? (Either in Christopher's specific case, or in general?)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: June 30, 2006, 07:49:08 PM »

Hi there,

You guys are responding as if the minor and healthy reaction of a twelve-year-old boy were a problem, or as if the response of the father and adult friend (i.e. to ignore it, which we did) were a problem.

Neither is a problem. We were enjoying an activity that includes, as part of what's in it, the failure of actions. It takes place over several sessions (or as to its fullest potential, many[/] sessions), and as expected, the sessions vary in terms of how successful or significant a given character's actions are at any particular moment. Right? As expected. Given the resolution system, given many features of this particular game, that's how it works.

You guys get that, right? There wasn't a problem. This wasn't a crisis. Christopher is not scarred. His characters performed many, many heroic and dramatic acts during play - you read about them, remember? He loved the game. Don't get all bent out of shape at a kid his age going "grump grump" in an extremely minimal way when his characters have an off-kilter series of rolls; it's disturbing to read.

Best, Ron
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Paul T
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« Reply #22 on: June 30, 2006, 08:43:48 PM »

Hello.

I would like to ask a question about something Ron has only touched briefly in the "D&D: the kid two houses down" threads.

(As I am new to the Forge, please let me know if I am violating any established etiquette. In particular, I don't how much I should bore you by describing where I'm coming from, what my experience with roleplaying games is, and so on. Please feel free to ask for more information, and I will oblige. I'm also concerned that I may not be handling the "quote" function incorrectly, so please bear with me if the quotes don't come out right.)

My question is about the discussion that prefaced the whole game:

In other words, someone without the neurosis in the first place doesn't need therapy-based jargon in order to help themself enjoy doing something. All we did was that two-minute talk in the beginning about what sort of play we'd like, and since that talk wasn't swamped in meaningless garbage like "realism" and "balance" and similar, it was productive and sufficient.

In the original thread, Ron, you mentioned that you discussed the game briefly, identified a Creative Agenda (a potential one, perhaps, or only a possible one?), and gave the players a warning about the nature of challenges in the game:

We all had a little talk about what we'd like to do, and my jargony conclusion from what they said is, "light-hearted Narrativism, with necessary attention to strategy in order to keep characters alive." So no gonzo Gamist Magic-deck style Feat combinations, no crazed perusing of spell lists from every possible supplement, etc. [...] And bluntly, when it comes to looking over every little box on the sheet and figuring out that they should be getting +7 instead of +5, well, I warned them - that's not my job. I'll be hitting them with penalties and AC bonuses to foes, and if they don't track their +'s for various things, too bad.

I would really love to hear what kind of discussion you had, what kind of questions were fielded, and so on. I'm really interested in what kind of discussion can be helpful to nailing down these priorities or Contract-related issues before play.

With hardline roleplayers, as you point out, it can be very difficult to get past discussion of "game balance", "realism", "metagaming", or whatever baggage they feel particularly important to pound into the ground.

With people new to roleplaying, it can be difficult to get any input at all, since new players are more likely to be shy/reticent, and anyone unfamiliar with a game is not going to know what they might like or dislike, since they might not have any idea of what to expect from play.

I'm really interested in figuring out how to have a "jargon-free, productive and sufficient" talk with my fellow players, whether they belong to the former group or the latter (although I am more interested in the latter at the moment). Are there any particularly good questions you have come across? What approaches have worked, and which haven't? Athough I am pointing this question at Ron, I would love to hear from anyone here at the Forge.

If this topic has already been discussed in-depth, I won't waste your time, but would really appreciate it if someone could post a link to the appropriate discussion, instead. Finally, if this is something that people are interested in discussing in more depth, I would love to start a new thread on the topic. If so, what would be the most appropriate forum?

Thank you very much! I've been reading discussions on the Forge for several months now, and have found it to be a repository of useful and insightful advice, without any of the rude and unfocused conversations so common on other internet fora.

All the best,


Paul
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greyorm
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« Reply #23 on: June 30, 2006, 09:02:00 PM »

You guys are responding as if the minor and healthy reaction of a twelve-year-old boy were a problem, or as if the response of the father and adult friend (i.e. to ignore it, which we did) were a problem.

Neither is a problem. We were enjoying an activity that includes, as part of what's in it, the failure of actions.

Hah! Cool. That's exactly the answer I expected, at least for this particular situation.

So why the reactions? Keep in mind, too, a lot of us, especially long-time D&D players have a personal, emotional history with the whiff-factor, because in the environment in which D&D usually exists as an activity, we get completely hosed by it and the GM, time after time after time. Failure isn't made out to be cool or interesting or something that just happens -- many times it is used to socially hose the player among his peers.

Course, I know you know that because it is why we have talked about these very issues for years, so, yeah, jeez, no wonder it disturbs you. You're looking at thick, yicky scar-tissue.

All of which is drifting the thread away from your game, your players, and your play as the topic, so I'm stopping there.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: July 01, 2006, 07:39:03 AM »

Raven, do not set me up with what look like serious questions, only to say "Ha! That's the answer I hoped to elicit." It's patronizing and annoying. If you have a viewpoint on a topic, simply present your viewpoint, and spare me this coffee-shop version of the Socratic method.

Paul, welcome to the Forge, and your posting here is perfectly acceptable. I do encourage you to start your own Actual Play thread, regarding any RPG experience you've ever played.

I'm going to disagree with one distinct point you made. When you see what it is, and what I'm saying, I think you'll see it's the foundation for my overall answer to your question. You wrote,

Quote
With people new to roleplaying, it can be difficult to get any input at all, since new players are more likely to be shy/reticent, and anyone unfamiliar with a game is not going to know what they might like or dislike, since they might not have any idea of what to expect from play.


I disagree with this claim. I suggest, instead, that what you (the role-player) are remembering or encountering with non-role-players at their first game, is the second thing they demonstrate, not the first. They demonstrate this second thing (exactly what you describe) upon receiving fierce, unified, marginalizing feedback from the role-players they're with, about how they're doing it wrong, or reacting wrong, or not getting it in some way. That's when they become shy and reticent, as well they might.

Since Dan and Christopher were not in this position, I was free to deal with their first reaction, which as I know from many years of "working with" (terrible phrase) new role-players, is the simplest and most easy thing ever.

It would be hard to reproduce the conversation, because it was so basic and normal and unstressed. From reading a number of posts here at the Forge over the years, I get the idea that role-players think these discussions need to be encounter groups - ripping the emotions out, revealing long-standing trauma, hugging as they collapse into, at last, honest tears. Maybe it does have to be among role-players, although I don't think so, but it certainly doesn't have to be so among non-role-players.

Let's see ...

Me: OK, there are two main ways we can do this. One is more like a video game, where overcoming the monsters and traps is the point. I'd set up a maze and you guys would try to clear it, win or lose. The characters' personalities are there mainly for fun, but not a big deal. The fighting rules are really cool and part of playing would be to get better at them. The other way is more like writing a script as we go along, where the characters are in a difficult situation and have to make decisions and put their lives on the line about it. Their personalities are therefore a really big deal and you should know, I won't be able to dictate what they do or what they think is important. Oh, and don't forget, they can die in the second kind of play, too.

Christopher: The second way.

Dan. The second way.

And that was it, and that's exactly what happened without fail, and without apparent effort or need to remind ourselves at any point - not one - during play.

Also, to fend off any reader-based projection, no, I did not curl my lip or otherwise imply with my tone or expression that "video game" type play was a lesser thing. I presented the options fairly and said I was willing to do my best as DM either way.

Best, Ron
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #25 on: July 01, 2006, 08:13:27 AM »

Ron, I'll speak up with an actual play example that describes what I think Paul is talking about. Situation is  very similar to your description, although the game is Call of Cthulhu. Neither of my two prospective players has much RP experience - a little bit of high school D&D in one case, some Vampire LARP in the other. I described the choice as between a Stephen King kind of story, in which normal life is menaced by a monster and the characters need to figure out its secrets so that it can be defeated, and a Clive Barker kind of story, in which people come into contact with the supernatural and are pushed to the point of destruction or transformation by it. What we had was a highly digressive conversation that amounted to "well, I like this about choice one, and that about choice two, and I don't know which I'll like better - so you choose. You've done this before." Essentially, the new player(s) deferring to presumed expertise on the part of the experienced player, absent the kind of bullying you suggest.

At least I think I didn't bully. It can be tough to be objective about these things.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: July 01, 2006, 08:50:03 AM »

Ah, Mark. Mark.

You didn't provide them with Agenda-specific options. You described stuff which, to a role-player, would make sense in terms of nuances of Character Exploration and the expected success/fail ratio. They had no idea what you were talking about.

No, not even "defeat menace." That is not a Gamist flag to a non-role-player. You have to be specific about the human reality of a given CA. You have to talk about Step On Up in some explicit way.

Print out my little dialogue with Dan and Christopher, above, and your summary in your post. Put them side by side. Now draw, on the Big Model diagram, what each text piece is talking about.

You'll find that mine is totally aligned along the arrow of the Creative Agenda, and that yours is firmly embedded in the Components of Exploration section, mostly Character and a little bit of System (i.e. outcomes, failure/success).

Non-role-players, quite reasonably, assess the things they want to do along the line of agenda, in this case, Creative Agenda because it's a creative activity. Role-players, unreasonably, are largely unable to talk about CA and exist in a state of verbal denial that it even exists. Nothing you described to them had anything to do with what they needed to know.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: July 01, 2006, 08:54:05 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
greyorm
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« Reply #27 on: July 01, 2006, 10:07:24 AM »

Raven, do not set me up with what look like serious questions, only to say "Ha! That's the answer I hoped to elicit." It's patronizing and annoying. If you have a viewpoint on a topic, simply present your viewpoint, and spare me this coffee-shop version of the Socratic method.

This is me grumbling and grousing and giving you the Vulcan stare. We aren't communicating in a variety of ways. I don't know what you think I'm saying/doing, but your reactions have twice been incongruous with my idea of what I'm saying/doing. That's not good; we'll have to save this discussion for some other time, preferably in real-time.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Paul T
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« Reply #28 on: July 01, 2006, 12:27:32 PM »

Ron,

Thank you very much! That's exactly what I was hoping for. I'm sure I'm not the only one who
will find that kind of example useful.

Paul, welcome to the Forge, and your posting here is perfectly acceptable. I do encourage you to start your own Actual Play thread, regarding any RPG experience you've ever played.

I'm going to disagree with one distinct point you made. When you see what it is, and what I'm saying, I think you'll see it's the foundation for my overall answer to your question. You wrote,

Quote
With people new to roleplaying, it can be difficult to get any input at all, since new players are more likely to be shy/reticent, and anyone unfamiliar with a game is not going to know what they might like or dislike, since they might not have any idea of what to expect from play.


I disagree with this claim. I suggest, instead, that what you (the role-player) are remembering or encountering with non-role-players at their first game, is the second thing they demonstrate, not the first. They demonstrate this second thing (exactly what you describe) upon receiving fierce, unified, marginalizing feedback from the role-players they're with, about how they're doing it wrong, or reacting wrong, or not getting it in some way. That's when they become shy and reticent, as well they might.

Since Dan and Christopher were not in this position, I was free to deal with their first reaction, which as I know from many years of "working with" (terrible phrase) new role-players, is the simplest and most easy thing ever.

You're quite right that this sort of pressure will often take place, and, furthermore, that the way most roleplayers will attempt
to communicate about their games is counterproductive. It is simply astounding to me to see how bad most gamers are at communicating about their games. I include myself in that category, since it's always more difficult than I would have expected to
explain those things.

However, I have found what I described absent any bullying or "unified, marginalizing feedback". The times I have attempted roleplaying with people new to the hobby, no other gamers were present, and I usually let them do as much talking as I can before saying anything. Generally, I would simply ask something like this: "So, you'd like to try roleplaying? Can you tell me what appeals to you about it? Do you have any preferences about what kind of game you'd like to play, or what kind of story you'd like to be involved in creating?" Then I try as hard as I can to stay quiet until they've had their say.

Rather, what I have encountered is that people aren't really ready for the creative, collaborative aspect of roleplaying. There are few decisions to make before trying any other kind of game--when your friends invite you to play "Monopoly", you're not going to have a discussion about what kind of game it will be before you begin. In my experience, people want to sit down and just see what it's all about. They are shy about making any statements because they want to see the thing "au naturel".

Not knowing the nature of play, they can't really have any idea that, for example, a roleplaying game could exist without a Gamist agenda, or without a Nar agenda, or whatever may appear central to what they've heard about roleplaying or imagined in their heads (this is true of many, if not most, roleplayers as well).

This isn't necessary a bad thing. My experiences with people new to roleplaying have been almost universally very positive. Almost exclusively, however, they have involved getting together a whole group of people who were new to the hobby, as opposed to trying to incorporate one "newbie" into a group of hardline gamers, so the whole "bullying" thing has never really come up. As or myself, I always try to go with the new players' playstyle--if the players begin using some Author or Director stance, I usually let them go with it, and so on. The group develops its own style as a result--there's no one there to shout and explain that it's "not done that way".

The key reason that you had proper communication in your game, I feel, is because you came up with a good way of narrowing down the options for the players. You gave them option A and option B, and they were able to choose the one they found more appealing. Learning how to present those options is what I'm interested in.

Anyway, this thread is about your D&D game, and I feel like I've just about highjacked it, so I'll stop there. I just wanted to thank you for your reply, and, hopefully, to temper cynicism with a positive account of experienced roleplayers interacting with people new to the hobby. If, on the other hand, it still sounds like I'm misunderstanding something, please let me know.

You also suggest that, for further discussion on this topic, I should begin an Actual Play thread. That seems obvious in retrospect. I will do so as soon my most recent upcoming experiment with non-gamers takes place.

All the best,


Paul



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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: July 02, 2006, 07:23:10 AM »

Hi Paul,

One speedbump I'm encountering with your post is that I can't tell whether you're agreeing or disagreeing with me. It starts one way and seems to end up another.

Forging ahead a little blindly, I suggest my answer to Mark may apply to your case as well. For whatever my value judgment is worth, it's good that you didn't include bullying and negative reinforcement to mold others into your own model of play; both of you seem to have avoided that without trouble. But absence of negative stuff is only half the battle. The "positive," which is to say the constructive in the most literal sense (stuff to build with), is Creative Agenda, in concrete, human-interactive terms. And although I didn't mention this before, the touchstone for that in terms of procedures ("what do we do here?") is the reward system.

I suggest that in your case, based on what you've said here (because I wasn't there and cannot be sure), you might introduce, say, Tunnels & Trolls as follows:

The goal is to "beat my dungeon." The only way to do that is to progress as many of your characters upward through as many levels and abilities as possible, because I'll be amping the foes up the whole time. You'll need imagination and to think laterally a lot of the time, because the system is highly flexible and you can do stuff that isn't explicitly listed there. Sometimes it'll involve working as a team, and sometimes it'll involve screwing one another over in small ways.

Compare that to:

You make up characters and act out their dialogue!

Thud. The non-role-players' resulting stare of puzzlement and hesitancy is fully justified. Why would anyone want to do that? Of course they'll be unsure; they're looking for the part which any social/fun activity has to have in it - the social and procedural reinforcement process. What do they do which "works?" Without that, and even without the negative practices I mentioned before, they won't have received the explanation they were looking for.

It'd be like explaining Monopoly by saying "we move pieces on a board!" and leaving it at that. Without even knowing what a turn is, or how you get money or how you know someone wins, they are definitely going to hesitate as play begins, or even as they sit down at the table.

My next point may be a little jarring to role-players, who are used to coping with a diversity of strongly-felt, inarticulate Creative Agendas or incoherent versions of them. Instead of saying "Gee, the floor's open, what way shall we go?", which is reasonable in the face of the role-players I just characterized, with non-role-players, especially in a group of'em as you describe, you need to be singular and concrete. This Creative Agenda, procedurally reinforced in this way.

I provided Dan and Christopher with two, but only because we were dealing with D&D 3.0/3.5, with its plethora of associations. If it had been Tunnels & Trolls, I would have described raw, bouncy Gamist play; if it had been The Mountain Witch, I would have described highly player-interactive Narrativist play; and in neither case would I have provided Column B.
Best, Ron
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