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Author Topic: The Roots, The Radicals  (Read 3180 times)
Dav
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« on: June 12, 2001, 10:27:00 AM »

Okay,

There has been some recent discussion about fun in roleplaying.  Fun being rather nebulous as a concept, I understand, but go with it.

I've always enjoyed roleplaying.  From my first dungeon crawl to the latest issues of dying the good death as an ork in the Land That Time Forgot.  A great time to be had by all.

However, three or so years ago, I got my girlfriend into RP.  She loves it.  She has this incredible bloodthirsty, gotta-kill-'em-all, nothing-beats-me attitude inside the game.  She can play a cerebral character with some flair, but excels at the "gun-toting maniac" personality.  

Watching her get into the action (to reference an Orkworld game we played: "I want to jump from the boulder, do a tuck roll beneath its legs, avoiding the tail, do a 180 spin and use that momentum to launch my spear into the dinosaur's eye.")

That is flair.

But the delivery is the true killer.  She gets into it to the point that she is all but standing up in our living room, holding her pencil like it is a weapon of mass destruction and launching guttural "Kiai's" as she tells us her action.  Fun city.

I must admit, upon reflection of this, that half of the fun is watching players get into the action.  Watching the GM's eyes widen in terror/excitement as he realizes that if the player before him slips into the character any further, he may suffer bodily injury.  A good group always propels a game to a new level, in terms of fun and depth.

Maybe some people have not found the right rhythm to their play.  I dunno.  It's beyond me.  But when you see people laughing uproariously in exultation as the spear does indeed strike a telling blow on the ravenous carnivore before you, you know you have a winning combination.

My question, then, while light and not as deep as many, is:  what is your fondest scene from a roleplaying session?  Maybe if we get a bunch of these together, we can start to see patterns to the games that hint at a certain direction that "works".

Somewhere between my girlfriend playing a barbarous ork on a rampage, and her Sorcerer character bouncing off walls and performing spinkicks to drop Michelle Yeoh in her tracks, I think I've found what "works" for me.

So let me hear it from everyone out there.  I've heard some gruesome tidbits from Ron's Hero Wars game.  I can only imagine what the rest of you have.

Dav

[ This Message was edited by: Dav on 2001-06-12 14:27 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Dav on 2001-06-12 14:28 ]
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2001, 01:47:00 PM »

Um, ok, I remember this one time, we were like sitting around a table and stuff, and this guy said "I swing my sword at it" and then he like, you know, rolled a die or something, and it came up a 1, and the GM said "you fumbled and dropped your sword".  That was kewl.

:wink:
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Dav
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2001, 02:33:00 PM »

Valamir,

There is a private message in your box.  This is what it pertains to.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2001, 07:21:00 AM »

Dav,

For me, I know it's working when the players react to a FAILURE as positively as they do to a success.

By "positively," I mean that they are happy to work with it and have not been psychologically "pushed" away from enjoying the game. Granted, the jubilance of success isn't going to be the same. However, when they do NOT perceive a failure as being hosed by the dice, or hosed by me, or basically a setback in any sort of PLAYER-goal context, then we're in good shape.

In my preferred mode of play, failures and successes of individual actions are shared material for continued story-creation for anyone and everyone. This goes all the way up to character death, which in my mode of play is totally different from the Big Failure that it is in the most common/historical Gamist mode of play. Therefore, in a recent Hero Wars run, I mentioned to a player that his character could very well die in the current conflict. He thought for a minute, and then nodded. You see, in other circumstances, that player has been known to say, "Really? In that case, it's not so important to me," and have the character go down in stunned defeat rather than push it to the mortal-level of conflict. But in this case and in this conflict, he decided that he COULD ENJOY the death of his character, if it happened.

Our recent session of Orkworld (in its own thread in the Actual Play forum) represents an attempt of mine to see whether the group had hit this point with me.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2001, 08:37:00 PM »

Hey Dav,

My question, then, while light and not as deep as many, is: what is your fondest scene from a roleplaying session?

One scene I particularly enjoyed is from perhaps ten years ago. Playing Puntila, a third level halfling thief, I managed to slaughter a much higher level wizard by torching him with flaming oil and then gutting him while he burned. He'd levitated up to a rooftop in pursuit of me after setting his soldiers to raiding the thieves guild headquarters. I'd made a series of lucky die rolls to scale the wall ahead of the soldiers, and had also inadvertently discovered the ring I'd agreed to have identified for another party member was in fact a ring of invisibility. The wizard was a significant NPC. Puntila was a goateed halfling who smoked hand-rolled cigarettes. I baked the wizard with an oil spraying plunger device I'd made from a scroll case, dowel and cork, by spitting my cigarette onto him.

I know you're interested in patterns behind what players identify as their favorite scenes, but it's hard for me to analyze my psychology here. I've got at least three possible reasons for why I rank this scene among my favorites, but I'm struggling to figure out if any one of the three is ultimately the deciding factor.

1. You've cited combat examples as some of your favorite scenes, and so have I. I suspect combat scenes are the favorites of a lot of gamers. It's hard to decide if maybe that's just because game systems are generally constructed to make combat scenes compelling.

2. Having detailed my thoughts about "niche selection" in the "Soap in action" thread, I can say here that my historical niche has always been significance through cleverness and boldness. My Puntila character was also responsible for punching out a quirky NPC guide who wouldn't shut up and who was obviously (to me) distracting the party from our true goals. However, my strategy of cleverness and boldness more often resulted in character death than in actual significance. The sequence on the rooftop was enough of an anomaly to perhaps account for it ranking among my favorite scenes.

3. The wizard I killed was a significant NPC in an otherwise heavily railroaded scenario. It was obvious to me that the GM was amazed and disoriented when I orchestrated his demise. That the scene was an isolated incident of significance for me as a player in a railroaded scenario where character significance was entirely pre-scripted by the GM is probably also enough to account for it being one of my favorites.

Overcoming a superior foe in combat? Proof of worth through exemplification of a chosen niche? Or significance apart from what would have been handed to me in a railroaded scenario? Whaddya think?

Paul



[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-06-14 00:44 ]
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2001, 09:35:00 PM »

My favorite (er, besides "private" roleplaying sessions with the ladies) was at a Vampire LARP.  I was a Giovanni Elder and I was doing the whole "Father Knows Best" lecture to a young Brujah who was trying to police the domain.  It was really cool...all of a sudden, I was listening to the character speak.  Like a Possessor demon had stepped in, heh. :wink:  It doesn't happen often, but when it does...wooo boy.  Fun.

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[ This Message was edited by: Jared A. Sorensen on 2001-06-14 13:35 ]
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2001, 09:32:00 AM »

Probably one of my favorite scenes from a game I've participated in came a few years ago when I ran The Whispering Vault for a couple of my buddies.  It was hastily put togther - the sort of thing where the three of us just decided at two in the morning that we needed to play a game.

The Stalkers arrived in a small midwestern town, circa 1955.  They eventually tracked the problem to the local malt shop, and proceeded to kick some Aesthetic ass in true Stalker fashion.  That is, until the Unbidden revealed his true form and started fighting back in earnest - with ice cream scoops and five-gallon pails of vanilla and chocolate.  At one point he even tried to push a Stalker's head into the malt machine.

Of course, the players eventually triumphed.  The written word can't capture the manic glee of that particular run.  Part of it was because of the general weirdness of the whole thing - giant corpulent baddies from beyond time and space swinging tubs of ice cream as melee weapons is just a fun image, and something only possible in games like The Whispering Vault.  Part of the fun, too, was that one of the players was a non-roleplayer - he had played in a total of about five games his whole life, and didn't enjoy them - but on this evening he wanted to give it another shot, and to this day his eyes still shine if I bring up that session.  It did something for him, and consequently it did something for me.
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2001, 11:01:00 AM »

Fondest scene?  I think that was in my on-again-off-again-for-years-and-years Talislanta game, when Vianna (our Bane PC) was awarded citizenship by the Wizard King in a grand court ceremony (that also involved my gnomekin Gao pirate being named a Defender of the Realm).  Not my character, but it was the culmination of a subplot (and occasionally main plot) involving political intrigue, in-game nature vs. nurture philosophizing, and the triumph of "submen are people too" in the face of the growing "racism" as the subman invasion got closer and closer to the heart of the Seven Kingdoms.

Involving one of my characters? hmmm . . . I go way back to an oD&D game, in the Frost Giant module.  We'd "blown" our stealthy assault, and the whole module was basically coming at us in one big stalag-and-stalac-tited cavern.  I was Taliesin (sorry - I really did use the name), an old style Bard - you know, pretty damn good at everything?  I played him as over-confident, a little irritating, but so charming (high Charisma, doncha know?) most people let him get away with it, and of course since a Bard was over-powerd, the game let him get away with things too.  Anyway, it was a titanic battle, took us 2 sessions to run, laid out a big pane of glass over a paper hex map (hey, I said this was years ago, didn't I?) and wrote on it with china markers.  It wasn't looking good - we were semi-muchkinoid magic-item tricked out high level characters (do you know what damage an elevn thief with Gauntlets and Girdle of whatever strength and 3 darts/hand/attack could do in those days?  Ouch!), but my Bard had a plan - he got invisible (I forget how), Stone Shaped himself a tunnel through the cavern floor, up into a stalagmite behind the Frost Giant King, and backstabbed (yes, I said backstab - none of this namby-pampy "sneak attack" stuff") hisself up one doozy of a smack-down . . . 100 pts of damage, or more.

The King didn't drop.  He spun about, smashed down with some godawful huge weapon, and Taliesin was down (it being D&D, he was healed at the end of the battle, but  . . . oh, I felt his pain).  I think the Dwarven fighter finished Ki- (wait a minute, it was Jarl, wasn't it?  Yeah, that's right, Jarl) Jarl Frosty with a thrown hand-axe a little later.

What was so appealing about this?  Well, from the Simulationist end, we stuck with verisimilitude - no "the monsters wait for you to come to them in their little rooms".  We made a ruckus, and EVERYTHING came at us.  The backstab wasn't quite enough damage, Big Frosty didn't die.  There was the Gamist satisfaction of coming up with a clever combination of uber-abilities to throw at Jarl Frosty (and it was a desive moment in the battle, even if poor old Talesin idn't discover that for some time).  And there was the pure, in my face Narrative climactic-moment of over-confident Taliesin getting his comeuppance.  I'm not sure I'd experience it the same way nowadays, but somehow it lives as some kind of ideal "marriage" of everything (well, most everything) that's fun about RPGs.

Wow, that's long - must be RPG withdrawl.  Last few weekend sessions fell through (sickness, not flakiness, mostly) :sad:  Might as well add one more . . .

This is Uhrrenn, the gnomekin Gao pirate from the Talislanta game.  Another party member, a Xambrian (serious doom-and-gloom avenger type, although the player - eventually my SO - played her a little lighter than "typical") had come into possesion of a "Destiny Coin", some sort of unique item that "appeared" after some "higher forces" aided her and a comrade in a battle.  Anyway, she was discussing this coin with someone, and Uhrren - did I mention that Uhrren is a coin collector? - chimes in with "oh, you mean this coin?"  I was sitting at the table with my hand in the air, and everyone was staring at me like they could actually see the coin sparkling at them.  There was shock and amazement - everyone (me included) knew it COULDN"T work this way - I'd made no pick pockets roll, no statement of intent to use Prestidigitation or whatever (I didn't even have such a skill/ability), but it was just so RIGHT, everyone wanted to let it be so.

We had tons-o-fun with this little theme as the campaign progressed (the coin appearing, disappering, the Xambrian angrilly accussing Uhrrenn of stealing it, only to discover it in her other pocket, etc.), but we never got entirely comfortable with the Author (or would this be Director?) power represented here.  When I came across the GNS et al discussion a while later, I understood why, and this incident is a favorite not only because it was cool/fun, but because it represents a stylistic change/addition/direction I'm interested in pursuing.  I think for myself and my group, we need a "system" to support such acts, otherwise it don't feel right . . . but it was an important realization.

And now, I better get to work.

Gordon C. Landis
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gentrification
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« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2001, 12:33:00 PM »

My favorite scene ever happened while running The Power Behind the Throne in our Warhammer game. The group had split up for the evening: the wizard and thief characters put on their best duds and went to the opera, while the two fighter characters broke into a guild headquarters looking for incriminating evidence against one of the city officials.

Now, this is a bit complex, but bear with me:

The wizard was supposed to be on a date with the deputy head of the city's wizards guild. The player had been trying to establish a romantic relationship with the NPC, partially because she would be a good source of information, but also because it made for a fun subplot. However, the wizard was also supposed to be meeting with a high-ranking courtesan known throughout the city for her sexual appetite and fondness for gifts of jewelry. Both meetings were to take place at the opera on the same night, and neither woman realized he was meeting with the other.

Meanwhile, the thief was supposed to be meeting with the royal chancellor to give him drugs in exchange for information. The chancellor was cowardly and easily manipulated (and totally addicted to the drugs), but totally socially inept.

Meanwhile, the two fighters had before them a fairly straightforward bit of B&E, with the caveat that if they were caught, they were totally screwed (because every high official in the city knew their faces). And neither one of them had any stealth skills to speak of.

So you can see how hilarity must have ensued with the wizard. He spent the whole evening sprinting desperately back and forth between the two women like the hapless hero of a zany British sex farce. At the same time, I'm constantly cutting back to the two fighters, who are tiptoeing around the various rooms like Abbot and Costello, trying to avoid the single dimwitted guard (for whom I used the voice of the guards in the Thief video game) as he made his patrol.

But that's not the best part. The best part is that the opera was called "The Barbarian of Seville" -- which was actually Games Workshop's bad pun, not mine. But I ran with it, and came up with this whole plot involving "O'Feegar," the Barbarian of Seville, and cobbled together these scenes based on what little I could remember from having actually scene "Barber of Seville" combined with stuff from "Noises Off" and Neil Simon's "Rumors", and every time I cut back to the opera I would open it with a summary of what was happening on the stage, which during the height of the two-dates-at-once zaniness was actually paralleling what was happening to the wizard. I was literally making it all up on the spot: I would excuse myself to the bathroom every fifteen minutes and just stand there, thinking up the next scene in the opera. And everyone had the music from "Barber of Seville" -- the theme they use in the cartoon when Bugs Bunny is rubbing the tonic into Elmer Fudd's scalp -- running through their head.

The climax came when the two fighters had gotten themselves cornered in a dusty attic with no exits, the dimwitted guard thumping up the stairs behind them, and they quickly hide only to look back and realize they've left clear footprints in the dust... and then I cut back to the opera as the deputy chief of the wizard's guild goes to look for her date, and the thief starts to go after her, and suddenly the royal chancellor stands up in his balcony and starts waving and stage-whispering at the thief because he wants his drugs, and the thief freaks out, and the wizard's date finds the balcony where he's trying to make good with the courtesan, and the whole gig looks like it's well and truly up in smoke...

...and the player who's playing the wizard drops to his knees like Willem Defoe in Platoon and wails: NOOOOOO....

All that anguish, and no one's life or hit points were ever in any danger.

I thought to myself: Mike, you've accomplished something great here, tonight.

On stage, the lights came up to reveal everyone caught in compromising positions with everyone else. They all make comical "whooops!" faces at the audience, and the curtain goes down.

Applause.

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Michael Gentry
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2001, 07:21:00 PM »

Hey Gordon,

I go way back to an oD&D game, in the Frost Giant module.

I remember the giant modules with favorability myself. One of the three scenes I considered as possibilities for describing in my first post to this thread was from that era of AD&D. Something I realized last year was that with all the AD&D modules prior to Dragonlance, the characters were basically the center of the universe. For all practical purposes, their actions were what the world reacted to. My enchantment with AD&D dropped off sharply when the Dragonlance modules introduced metaplot to gaming. It was a plot that dragged the players along for the ride.

In many ways it marked the end of a prolific and extended stint as DM for me. Other players seized upon Dragonlance and began DMing at that point, and I drifted dramatically into a marginal role in relation to the group. It makes a lot of sense to me how that happened, in retrospect.

Paul
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2001, 10:33:00 PM »

Quote

My enchantment with AD&D dropped off sharply when the Dragonlance modules introduced metaplot to gaming. It was a plot that dragged the players along for the ride.


Interesting.  One of things I remember fondly from my early D&D days was creating all the "background" the modules left out.  My high school group made a whole fantasy world out of the Outdoor Survival map mentioned in oD&D, and a later group adapted Greg Costikiyan's "Swords and Sorcery" SPI boardgame (which I understand kinda-sorta led to the Dugeonquest game).

Then I fell out of gaming for a while - or rather, the few spurts I had were very unsatisfying.  I was a committed gamer, though - I ended up buying just about every T&T solo module, and just about every Melee/Wizard Microquest.  And I kept trying to find a group that'd be fun again . . .

(This is where I get back to your point;-) . . .)

When I finally started having some luck with new game groups (after moving out to CA), I found there just wasn't time for the massive creations that we used to indulge in.  I *wanted* a Dragonlance-like experience, because I thought "SOMEONE has to put all that work in, and if isn't me/my group, maybe we can just buy it."  I had no idea how to capture the "good stuff" without spending hours and hours debating, discussing, slaving away at hexsheets and whatever, etc.  Probally why one of my most succesfull game experiences since then is in Talislanta, a pretty setting-rich game, and with a Mekton GM who's an insomniac and creates gameworld stuff when he can't sleep.  The last thing I tried to GM was 7th Sea, thinking "metaplot done right - cool!".  My limited experience (we've only managed 3 sessions, over basically the entire life of the game line) revealed this is actually NOT an ideal solution, but maybe that's because AEG apparently decided to make you buy the next year-plus output of supplements before moving the plot along.  The feel just never quite made it to what I wanted - but I love the "pieces" of the game!

Anyway, what I'm excited about from listening/joining in on GO and here is getting the "good stuff" without all that overhead.  I've tried it in small ways with my group (as a player) and so far, I think people are liking it.  Some day soon, I'll run 5-10 seesions of something in, oh, Story Engine, or Jared's Octane, or maybe even find a way to adapt Sorceror to work for my group.  Then I'll really see what this GNS stuff is good for . . .

Gordon C. Landis

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