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Author Topic: [RuneQuest] A tortuous session  (Read 6188 times)
ffilz
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Posts: 468


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« on: August 16, 2006, 01:52:46 PM »

Last night we had a RuneQuest session that was very painful.  Iím curious if my read on things makes sense.

Some background first:

The players and their characters:

The young learning disabled couple: these two players have been playing with me for two years now.  The wife is usually pretty disengaged from things, though she will chime in with off the wall comments every once in a while.  The husband is almost always well engaged, though he has a habit of creating characters that donít quite mesh with the group, and sometimes goes off on side excursions.  He is on his second PC after his newtling died (while off on his own, instead of backing away from an encounter, he charged right in).  These two players are basically uninterested in delving into source material or thinking about how their character fits into the world.  The husbandís current PC is an Agimori worshipper of Lodril.  The wifeís PC is an elf worshipper of Aldrya and is the partyís healer.

The insurance man: This player has been playing with us for over a year.  He is on his fourth PC, one having died due to not totally understanding the rules, the other two from random death (one from poison, one from a crit to the head).  He is a little interested in the world, but not in too much depth.  His current PC is a Humakti warrior (as were two of his previous PCs, his 2nd was a Bison rider worshipper of Daka Fal).

The Yelmalio brothers: these players are the newest recruits.  They both have been playing RuneQuest and in Glorantha for years.  They are playing a pair of Yelmalio characters who grew up together (I donít think the PCs are actually brothers, nor are the players).

The lawyer: this player played a few times in my Arcana Evolved game last summer, dropped off the face of the earth, and then suddenly popped back up a couple months ago.  He is playing a Humakti character, shooting for priesthood.

Attendance and scheduling Issues:

One thing that has been brewing more and more is attendance issues.  The young couple are the most reliable players.  They almost always arrive within a few minutes of the advertised 6:00 starting time (if not they call from the road).  While in the past, they basically never missed a session (in the first year of play, they missed like one or two sessions, and when the Arcana Unearthed campaign started two years ago, the husband got his work schedule changed so he was free on Saturdays), they are missing more sessions now.  The insurance guy is the next most reliable player, though while he used to also arrive within minutes of 6:00, lately he sometimes doesnít make it until after 6:30.  Heís also started missing sessions (last year, he basically never missed a session).  The lawyer has been very variable, and I assume he isnít coming unless he says he is.  Of the two Yelmallio brothers, one is an IT guy who pretty much canít make it before 7:30, and never knows until he can actually escape work if he will be able to make it.  Sometimes he calls to let us know he wonít make it.  The other was pretty regular (though 6:00 was hard for him to make), but lately has been less available, and no call that he isnít showing.

So last night got off to a bad start because we didnít know who was showing when.  The young couple and the lawyer were all there by 6:00.  We finally decided to get things moving at 6:30 and the insurance guy showed up a few minutes later.

They have been involved in an investigative adventure for several weeks, trying to bust a drug smuggling ring.  This week, they were off to an archeological dig in the swamps that was associated with the smuggling, and they hoped to nail a key player.  As they approached the dig, the boatmen (who have uneasy dealings with the Lunars who are running the dig, and were willing to help the PCs take them down a notch), warned them they were approaching a dock.  The players decided to get off the river before the dock, and traipse overland.  Two guards were on the dock, with a warning bell.  It also bears note that the PCs are working for a Lunar noble who was severed from his ancestral lands (wrong side of some homeland dispute) and sent to colonize Prax (Duke Raus for those familiar with the setting Ė Iím using some of the Borderlands material Ė this scenario is from a recent HeroQuest fan supplement Ė Borderlands and Beyond).

Hereís where the first problem came up.  Of course thereís no good way to resolve silencing the guards without them sounding the alarm.  The guards are also Lunar soldiers, so thereís some discussion about how to silence them.  Mostly between the lawyer guy and me (pointing out that they are working for a Lunar, and killing Lunar soldiers just because they happen to be guarding someplace that might be involved with the smuggling isnít going to make their employer happy).  The game is definitely starting to break down here.  The other players are mostly tuning out.

They do end up taking down the guards without too much pain using befuddle spells, though since one didnít work, one guard had a chance to start ringing the bell before a 2nd befuddle spell shut him down.  A bit more discussion of what to do with them ensued, and the guards were brought back to the boatmen.  The PCs waited in ambush for a while before deciding the alarm had not been raised.  They headed up the trail and were jumped by a pair of dragon snails (chaos creatures).  After the dragon snails were eliminated, the lawyer guy started talking how as friends of chaos, anyone involved now was on his kill list.  More discussion ensued about my pointing out that the Lunars are well known for using chaos, and if his PC really was that rabid anti-chaos (weíre not talking Storm Bull worshippers hereÖ), it would be unlikely that he would work for a Lunar duke.  Everyone was totally engaged in the combat.

Then he decides they need more information from the two guards.  And here is where things really totally broke down.  He wants to torture the guards and that bangs right into something I donít enjoy running, so I make the point that torturing people isnít going to get reliable information.  And we launch off into a good half hour debate, again with the other players basically tuned out (the insurance guy did chime in a bit).  The lawyer guy did make a comment once about who was he arguing with.  Perhaps I should have stepped totally out of game with all of thisÖ

Now, my thoughts on what is going on here:

First, I think thereís a creative agenda disconnect.  There are some definite suggestions the insurance guy and the lawyer guy are totally looking for gamism.  The insurance guy after losing his latest PC (just two weeks ago), complained how could he keep up if his PCs kept dying.  The lawyer guy is constantly bucking for experience rolls (Iím not doing them every session Ė which the way weíre going would amount to almost every combat, and would make training, and thus the cults, almost irrelevant).  Both players are optimizing their characters for combat and maximizing the gifts they take (from Humakt), but not really digging what the geases imply about their cult (and I keep having to remind the lawyer guy that his PC has a gease not to lie to members of his cult or friendly cults Ė and the dukeís captain, who takes their reports, is a Humakti rune lord).  Unless Iím not interpreting agenda right, Iím looking for simulationism (and I admit, I donít think I communicated what I was hoping for well enough).

A second big issue is how investigative scenarios work.  I realize now what the problem with them usually is.  The problem is that when the investigation is made the goal of the game, itís not interesting if you fail.  And it isnít interesting if youíre guaranteed success.  I was contrasting this in my mind to Dogs in the Vinyard, where the process of investigation just sets the stage for the climactic conflicts while providing conflicts to get things going.  It provides the meat the players will judge.

On the whole torture thing: I think in this case, itís a player reaction to frustration with investigation (whether raw because of the current scenario, or internalized from past gaming experiences).  It may also stem from a gamist reaction to a system that doesnít support gamism well, especially lots of random death which makes the players want to stack the combat deck way in their favor.  The problem of course is that the resolution system doesnít provide a way to resolve anything other than combat.  Oh sure, there are skill rolls and charisma rolls, but with task resolution, nothing is really resolved by those (and Iíll admit that one reason I dislike allowing a simple charisma roll to resolve things, especially with a gamist agenda, is that is bypasses the challenge, and places too much importance on a good charisma to resolve encounters without risk).

Frank

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Frank Filz
Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2006, 03:33:32 PM »

Hi Frank

I am pretty familiar with the setting and I have some input here on the gameplay and other stuff, so I'lljust say a few things.

About the Scheduling

It sounds like it works for you. There may be a couple of guys who you would like more commitment out of, but there you go. Once you stop gaming with college and school friends then you just have to accept some pain with the scheduling. Thats my opinion.

Basically, and this is meant to be constructive, you invite a bunch of people over to play in your game, and you really can't handle it if they do stuff that interferes in you immersion in the setting. You sound like you frequently overrule and almost take over player characters when they dont behave in a way you think they should. Especially if you dont think they are 'playing them right'.

I dont think the problem is necessarily the players, but rather your GM'ing that could use a tweak here and there.

When they could not find away of conviently,as you put it, silence the guard you told them that they shouldn't kill the Lunars. What you should have done, in my opinion, is tell them that killing Lunars would be bad news, but that its up to them. No I mean it, its up to them. Its a small difference, but its powerful. Theplayersfeel control over their characters. This will be good for your game. The thing is your job is to entertain the players, not dump on them. If they kill the Lunars then you can make up some fun complications for them - they'll enjoy that. Just dont use it as an opportunity to punish them for 'not playing right'.

Here's the trick, you can't expect them to play a certain way. You can inform the groups style of play by the way YOU GM.  If you want to get them into their cult backgrounds, then you need to start bringing in elements into the scenario that make them engage with their cults. At the moment I bet the cult is just where they get cheap training and magic at a discount. If the Humakti have geas, then find ways to challenge those geas. Can't lie? Then engineer a situation where they may have to lie. You have to balance it so that you don't know which way they'll choose, but you are prepared for either eventuality. The key is not to stack it so they feel they have to break their geas, and you are pretty certain they will. Unless you finely balance it, then the decision will not be fun for the player, or you for that matter. Try it, it works.

I'll close off now and give you a chance to reply.

Regards
Rob

PS: Here is a thread about Ron running a gamist game. I think you might find it interesting,

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19311.0
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Ricky Donato
Member

Posts: 156

Just chillin'


« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2006, 04:08:53 PM »

PS: Here is a thread about Ron running a gamist game. I think you might find it interesting,

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19311.0

This thread is actually about Ron running a Narrativist game. He described it as "light-hearted Narrativism, with necessary attention to strategy in order to keep characters alive."
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Glendower
Member

Posts: 182

My name is Jon.


« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2006, 04:23:21 PM »

Then he decides they need more information from the two guards.† And here is where things really totally broke down.† He wants to torture the guards and that bangs right into something I donít enjoy running, so I make the point that torturing people isnít going to get reliable information.† And we launch off into a good half hour debate, again with the other players basically tuned out (the insurance guy did chime in a bit).† The lawyer guy did make a comment once about who was he arguing with.† Perhaps I should have stepped totally out of game with all of thisÖ

I have some sympathy with you on situations like this. †In a D&D game I ran, I had a player begin to describe in detail how he was torturing a captured enemy. †In horrible horrible detail that I won't share here.

Three of the players at the table recoiled in horror. †One player turned to him and said "Fuck's sake, we're supposed to be the good guys!" †His response? †"Your character isn't here to say that, and your character doesn't know it's happening. †This is what my guy would do."

And I'm sitting there, thinking about how much I wanted to leave gaming forever and take up badminton as a hobby.

Forge wisdom says a few things we as a group could have done to either prevent or handle this issue. †We could have established a list of things that we didn't want to see in game, like no rape or no torture. †We could have allowed players to talk to one another, allowing for opinions to be spoken and the "your character's not here, so shut up" notion to take a hike out the nearest window". †We could have established at the beginning of the game to create good guys with a moral code of right and wrong. †

Sadly, at the time I didn't have that kind of wisdom. †I played the scene to it's awful conclusion, the entire game crashed to a halt, the player was asked not to return to the table, and we rolled up new characters in a new setting to get away from the bad taste. We still talk about it with a shudder. †And we learned the hard way to make damn clear what we won't put up with before any new game started .
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Hi, my name is Jon.
Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2006, 03:51:23 AM »

Hi

The torture type thing came up in a game I GM'd. I was uncomfortable with it, but you know, I dealt with it the Forge way in the end  - show consequences. In our game (set in Glorantha coincidentally) the characters murdered and mutilated this innocent merchant. They had a reason, but not a good enough one for such barbarity in my opinion. But there you go, I went with it. I brought in human issues relating to the merchants family, stuff like that, and loved ones and their horror at what the pc's had done. Real world type reaction. Hey and I wasn't trying to teach a lesson, but I think the players enjoyed to emotive story line that flowed from what was ostensibly a story direction I wasn't prepared for or comfortable with.

I'm not saying your wrong, but that there is another perspective.

Regards
Rob
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ffilz
Member

Posts: 468


WWW
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2006, 10:40:28 AM »

Rob - Sure, the way I went about talking about killing the guards was wrong, and no doubt that led to further frustration (and may have lead to the decision to try torture). My question though is am I reading things right that we have differing agendas going on?

You suggest showing the consequences or forcing the Humakt to decide between lying or not. On showing the consequences, I've never really found that successfull, but maybe I've done it wrong in the past. On the forcing the Humakt to decide, that sort of sounds like a bang, which sounds like narativism, but I'm pretty sure the players aren't looking for narativism here.

A bit more information about this lawyer guy and his joining the group, and the issues about spotty attendance:

The lawyer guy joined the session after a session that ended with the Yelmalio brothers suggesting the group hire on with Duke Raus. They were not able to make the next session at all, and lawyer guy ended up being the one doing all the contract negotiation. There just seems to be a lot of disconnect happening because a group of players iniates one course of action, and then a different group of players picks up. In fact, for the most part, lawyer guy and the Yelmalio brothers have not been at the same sessions (certainly for this whole investigative scenario), and these are the players who are taking the most lead. So the tone of the sessions flip flops between lawyer guy's seeming non-interest in the setting, and the Yelmalio brothers deeper interest.

Lawyer guy especially seems to be bucking for "kill things and take their treasure" gamism, looking at the cults as just sets of abilities. But maybe I'm reading that all wrong.

Glendower - your suggestion of establishing "good guys" in social contract negotiations is a good one. I forget what we actually talked about at the start. There was definitely a problem that lawyer guy joined in the middle though and I didn't really have a chance to talk to him about the aims of the campaign up front, and perhaps I should have not let him start without that conversation. So I guess a side question is how to you bring a new player up to speed on the group's social contract?

Frank
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Frank Filz
Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2006, 01:05:22 PM »

Hi

Rob - Sure, the way I went about talking about killing the guards was wrong, and no doubt that led to further frustration (and may have lead to the decision to try torture). My question though is am I reading things right that we have differing agendas going on?


Yes, is the short answer. But don't get bogged down in what CA people are presenting. See 'System Does Matter'. If the system is incoherent and the GM is pushing a CA and the players are pushing their respective CA's then you can run into trouble.

Its like this, Runequest supports gamist play. The setting supports Sim or Narratavism. But then D&D forgotten realms is like that as well yes?

What I think you need to decide is this,

Do you want to enjoy the setting? Do you find the system interferes with that because folks keep having to make up new character's every other week because of shitty die rolls.

Do you really enjoy the mechanics of the game system? Do you get a buzz out of testing the player characters combat abilities?

Maybe you want to do both!

You suggest showing the consequences or forcing the Humakt to decide between lying or not. On showing the consequences, I've never really found that successfull, but maybe I've done it wrong in the past. On the forcing the Humakt to decide, that sort of sounds like a bang, which sounds like narativism, but I'm pretty sure the players aren't looking for narativism here.


yes it is a bang, of sorts. But its also a valid general technique for getting the players to recognise their characters commitments. Look at the Yelmalio geas,† a lot of them are about not wearing armour in various locations. That is an ever present reminder of the price they pay for their cool gifts. With the Humakti, you have to put him in a situation every now and then to test him about his geas. Its just my point of view.

I will butt out now and let other more sage than I help. I hope that my contributionmay of been some value though.

And keep that Glorantha flag flying!!

Regards
Rob
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Glendower
Member

Posts: 182

My name is Jon.


« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2006, 02:44:36 PM »

Glendower - your suggestion of establishing "good guys" in social contract negotiations is a good one. I forget what we actually talked about at the start. There was definitely a problem that lawyer guy joined in the middle though and I didn't really have a chance to talk to him about the aims of the campaign up front, and perhaps I should have not let him start without that conversation. So I guess a side question is how to you bring a new player up to speed on the group's social contract?

I'm a big fan of an actual written contract for the social contact.  I'm sure the Lawyer guy would get a kick out of it!  And there's no wrong time to sit down and go over what people expect from the rest of the group.

Make sure everyone gets input on it, and write it out for all to see.  Talk about stuff you all expect from each other, like calling/emailing if they're going to be late to a game, or making sure you don't smell like a sweatsock when you arrive, or providing for your own food/drinks, or money for pizza, or turning the cellphone off for a few hours of play.  You get the idea.  It's amazing how much healthier social gatherings can be if people know what the other people involved are comfortable with.
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Hi, my name is Jon.
ffilz
Member

Posts: 468


WWW
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2006, 02:59:59 PM »

Man, I have a hard enough time getting people to really talk about social contract, let along planning on writing it down (mostly).

Part of that I think is that most of the time implied social contract works just fine. Of course the problem is when those implied social contracts are different...

That said, in my doings at church, we have actually had meetings where not only did we explicitly negotiate social contract, but we then wrote it down (and I think at least once we've even signed it).

For a while (after reading Robin's Laws), I tried e-mailing folks a basic list of things I expected. It basically got ignored. Since then I've stopped trying to get into too much detail beyond what we're playing, when we're playing, etc.

I'm all ears for suggestions on how to improve this process, but I've tried a variety of things, and I guess either the choice is to be really picky about players (and who knows where that would actually lead), or to live with some ambiguity.

It is getting to the point where I may need to do something about cell phones though (on the other hand, the few times the IT Yelmalio brother has actually called to let us know he will be late, or just plain not making it at all, he's called the other guy's cell phone - I guess he's not programmed my phone number into his cell phone).

Frank
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Frank Filz
Glendower
Member

Posts: 182

My name is Jon.


« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2006, 03:24:10 PM »

That said, in my doings at church, we have actually had meetings where not only did we explicitly negotiate social contract, but we then wrote it down (and I think at least once we've even signed it).

Social situations benefit from this.  I signed a "good sportsmanship" paper when I played in a baseball team, and an "expectations of behaviour" form at work, and when joining a members only pub near where I work, they had me sign their "good patrons" agreement.  All of them contained a written list of what was ok, and what was not ok.  At that point, I knew how to act in each of those environments, and more importantly I knew how everyone else was supposed to act.

Roleplaying games are no different.  If anything, it's doubly important to do something like this.  The stuff you learned negotiating a social contract in those meetings would be really useful to bring to the table.   

Hopefully the people at the table are your friends.  If they're friends, and you tell them something is bothering you, they'll listen up. 
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Hi, my name is Jon.
ffilz
Member

Posts: 468


WWW
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2006, 07:21:48 PM »

Ok, codes of conduct/ethics are something I have signed (digitally in the case of work) for work and for working with youth at church. While they are certainly part of the spectrum of social contract, I do see them a bit differently than a gaming social contract which should be more open to input from all (though I do think it's also reasonable for a GM, especially who is also hosting, to impose some elements). I'll have to give that more thought.

The thing that's always much trickier is how to raise the fact that you are uncomfortable with something during the activity. In an RPG, it can be very tempting to raise the issue in game, which almost always fails.

But beyond the social contract issues here, I'm wondering what others think about my thoughts on creative agenda. Am I diagnosing creative agenda right in this case? Need more data? Or is the issue totally social contract? (In that I realize that a poor social contract can make it impossible to have a shared creative agenda.)

Rob - It's interesting you claim RQ as a gamist supporting design, Ron calls it out in Simulationism: The Right to Dream as a simulationist supporting game. Ron - do you still feel that is true? If so, is the simulationist support enhanced or weakened by the supplements (especially Cults of Prax)? Did RQ3 (Avalon Hill edition) change this? (I should note that while I own and have read RQ3, I run RQ1/2 with a few bits and pieces borrowed from RQ3).

As to enjoying the setting - definitely, and as far as I'm concerned, RuneQuest and Glorantha go together. I could not imagine using RQ as a pure gamist system (I will admit that I do enjoy some challenge in combats). I have had one really good RQ campaign in the past that I'm pretty sure was simulationist.

Thinking about Ron's essays (I re-read most of them today), one thought on the Humakt and Yelmalio geases (in RQ2, Humaktis get deprived of armor also...) is that as a simulationist game, presenting the Humakti with a conundrum about lying, there isn't a question if he lies or not (assuming he has that geas), he doesn't, so that's not really a bang and the player won't be addressing premise. I have been reading the old e-mail list archives, and have noted that people consider that a good Humakti (or Yelmallian) would see all of the geases as ideals of his cult to live up to - an interesting point that I have pointed out, though don't feel I can hold the players to (though it seems like a simulationist would be willing to accept that point, even if raised after chosing the cult and playing for a while, whereas to a gamist, that's changing the rules on him, negating his strategic choices).

Frank
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Frank Filz
Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2006, 03:49:49 AM »

Hi


But beyond the social contract issues here, I'm wondering what others think about my thoughts on creative agenda. Am I diagnosing creative agenda right in this case? Need more data? Or is the issue totally social contract? (In that I realize that a poor social contract can make it impossible to have a shared creative agenda.)


Check this thread out. Does it help? Report back.

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20917.msg216893#msg216893


Thinking about Ron's essays (I re-read most of them today), one thought on the Humakt and Yelmalio geases (in RQ2, Humaktis get deprived of armor also...) is that as a simulationist game, presenting the Humakti with a conundrum about lying, there isn't a question if he lies or not (assuming he has that geas), he doesn't, so that's not really a bang and the player won't be addressing premise.


Here's the thing; my opinion is that you are seeing these things too black and white. What you have to do with the geas is tempt the players. They say, but I can't lie. Your response is, 'Sure you can lie, you cult vows tell you that you shouldn't.' Leave the choice to them. Man, I'd even let them get away with it occasionally just to mess with them a bit!!! :^ )

Even if it isn't a bang, you still get the player to understand what it is to be a Humakti who shouldn't lie. If you like thats simulationist right there.

I would suggest if the Humakti does lie, and that lie saves a friend then you can say the premise is 'Friendship over Religion' , with the player making a very powerful thematic choice. Man I'd love it if a player in my game actually had the balls to do just that and lose the power of his god. Cool.

Regards
Rob

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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2006, 06:47:06 AM »

I have to somewhat differ with people here, and agree with Frank to an extent. I personally believe that it's possible to have a social contract that's maleable and negotiated pretty tacitly and still have it be functional. After all, the only social contract issue I've ever heard of with Monopoly is cheating, and everybody knows that's against the social contract without even talking about it. And nobody ever discusses "social contract" before playing Monopoly before playing.

I don't know where the idea that RPGs have social contracts became a need to set them out explicitly - though I think that perhaps even I have made that error in the past. But I'm over it now, and I'd encourage others to do so as well.

My thoughts on this now are that there is one and only one requirement to being able to have a good social contract for play, and that's an understanding that every player has a right to speak about what they do or do not like as players. The real problem here is the example above of classic "my guy" behavior. A player who feels that he can get away with doing whatever he feels like, despite player discomfort, simply because "my guy would do that." No, you don't have to set up before hand that you don't like torture...if you do this you could go on forever with specifics of what you find offensive or dislikable. You should simply be able to say on the spot, "Hey, let's not go there, OK?" and that should stick.

The fact that this is not always the default in RPGs is quite troubling. And it speaks to some weird training and such.

Part of this is a question of how well you all know each other. How did the group get together? Do the players trust each other as friends or aquaintances? Would they, or do they, do other things together? If the answer is no, then this is where your problem starts.


Next problem: there are likely agenda differences here, but I wouldn't dwell on the particulars. RQ, quite simply, being a relative of the CoC RPG is pretty much undeniably a game that tends to produce incoherence. My experiences with it are quite like yours, actually. And I suggest that while you're playing with the system that it's going to be an uphill battle (maybe an impossible one), to get play to be coherent.

No, I'm not going to suggest Hero Quest instead, perhaps to the surprise of many. It's actually somewhat incoherent itself. I think it would be an improvement from RQ, but would leave many of the same problems in all likelihood. Perhaps for the form you're looking at, DitV would be better?

Anyhow, the other problem is that you're playing the classic party style. Party style says, "Subsume your feelings about what would be fun to have your character do, in order to facilitate play. Yet, to further support party play, have the character do things that are implausible." That is, often in such play, players can give you no real reason why their character is in the room with everybody else. They have their character "go along" just because that's where the game action is. They're asked to use metagame reasoning to keep their character with other characters. Yet, if they feel that they have something that they want their character to do, they're told to suppress their metagame urge to do these interesting things in order that the party remain together.

This is, IMO, the most messed up thing about RPGs today. How can players be interested in their characters when they're not allowed to pursue their characters' interests for fear that the party will "split up"? They have to pray that the GM feed their character interests at the expense of the others.

Move to play where the assumption is that the characters are on their own, but simply happen to be involved in the same circumstances. There are tons of threads we can direct you to for these techniques. This is not a narrativism thing, it's good technique for any sort of play, I'd argue.


You're play, Frank, seems demonstrably gamism based, interestingly. That is, you criticize a player for going off and getting his character killed because he "would not back off." Well, this player isn't playing gamism at all, he's playing narrativism. He thinks it would be cool for his character to dive headlong into battle like Conan or some character he's read about would, but when he does, the game punishes him. Glorantha is supposed to be about heroes, but RQ says, "If you play heroically you will be punished as a player as harshly as possible, by having your carefully crafted character taken away from you." How unfun is that? At least for the player in question? (Here I would use HQ to remedy this).

That is, you want the players to pay attention to the rules, when some of them at least, really don't like what the rules are supporting.

You don't have an attendance problem. When people like the game they're playing, they show up. When you find flakey attendance, that means that players are finding the social aspect OK (probably, but you want to check that, too), but the game they actually are not liking playing. Oh, they probably have moments that they like, but it's the whole "20 minutes of fun packed into 4 hours of play" phenomenon. If you fix the issue about being able to talk openly about what players like and don't like, I think most of this will go away as the contract and agenda right themselves.

OTOH, it could also be that, from appearances, you're playing hugely long-term games. Have you considered running shorter-term games? Yeah that's probably another reason to leave RQ. That's not to say that you can't come back to some of the same characters. What it means is that you call an end to play occasionally, and have players re-evaluate what characters they're playing (and even what game). This way players can constantly be moving to characters that are more interesting to them and away from characters who are played out.

Mike
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Ricky Donato
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« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2006, 07:18:25 AM »

I have to somewhat differ with people here, and agree with Frank to an extent. I personally believe that it's possible to have a social contract that's maleable and negotiated pretty tacitly and still have it be functional. After all, the only social contract issue I've ever heard of with Monopoly is cheating, and everybody knows that's against the social contract without even talking about it. And nobody ever discusses "social contract" before playing Monopoly before playing.

I don't know where the idea that RPGs have social contracts became a need to set them out explicitly - though I think that perhaps even I have made that error in the past. But I'm over it now, and I'd encourage others to do so as well.

My thoughts on this now are that there is one and only one requirement to being able to have a good social contract for play, and that's an understanding that every player has a right to speak about what they do or do not like as players. The real problem here is the example above of classic "my guy" behavior. A player who feels that he can get away with doing whatever he feels like, despite player discomfort, simply because "my guy would do that." No, you don't have to set up before hand that you don't like torture...if you do this you could go on forever with specifics of what you find offensive or dislikable. You should simply be able to say on the spot, "Hey, let's not go there, OK?" and that should stick.

The fact that this is not always the default in RPGs is quite troubling. And it speaks to some weird training and such.

Hi, Mike,

I agree that it is troubling, but I don't think it comes from "weird training", as you put it. I think it comes from the massive amount of freedom that RPGs give in comparison to, say, Monopoly. For example, in Monopoly you don't create a character - you all play copies of the same character, with a difference in Color (are you the shoe or the car or whatever) just so you can distinguish between these characters that are otherwise identical. By contrast, RPGs give you an infinite number of choices for character creation. THAT'S what causes so many issues with social contract, I think.
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« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2006, 08:12:38 AM »

Mike - lots of good thoughts to mull over (others - please don't flood this thread with replies until I have a chance to reply to stuff already posted).

One comment I will make now is that thinking back, I realize now my successfull simulationist games really centered on one to three players (the Traveller game really just had one core player for example, the RQ game started with three core players, but soon dropped to two). The party problem you mention is much less of an issue with a smaller group of players (and the occaisional players will find it far easier to justify "going along"). In the Traveller game, there was also significant constraint on new characters that they had to be created to fit in ("No, you can't create yet another pilot, we need a scientist, or another marine, or another gunner.").

Definitely agree that the game is playing out gamist, and certainly I'm contributing to driving it that way.

More thoughts after I have a chance to absorb everything.

Frank
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