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Author Topic: [Mage: The Awakening] Here goes nothing...  (Read 8377 times)
Reithan
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« on: October 12, 2006, 09:24:40 AM »

Ok, after wanting to do this, being told to do this, still wanting to and generally dreading doing it, mainly for the reason that I haven't a clue how to create a good "Actual Play" post...here goes nothing.

I've been running a game over Ventrillo (Group Voice Chat) and MSN Messenger for a geographically distanced group of friends. I originally planned the game, and pitched the game to them, with rather Narrativist goals, possibly Simulationist. I described the game I wanted to play as "X-Files with magic, spirits and a bit more horror than normal". I explained that I wanted to play up inter and intra party strife, politics and mystery.

Once we moving into character creations, some people seemed to stick with that goal, others didn't, and some others really didn't seem to have anything coherent in mind.

The group, at start, ended up being:

Dark - An ex-military special agent man, a Guardians of the Veil Mastigos focusing on Space magic with lots of points in firearms and investigation type skills. A hand-on kind of spy type character.

Sword Spider - Another GotV Mastigos, this time a girl, Focusing on Mind magic. Chose the flaw "Paranoia" and statted the character as a hacker with strong emphasis on social skills.

Masha - A bookish Mysterium girl, Moros focusing on Death (at the start of the game). Skill choices where generally chaotic and not very focused in one direction or another. Took the flaw "Amnesia/Flawed Memory" and used that as an excuse for the sketchy character design.

Vienas - The THIRD GotV Mastigos, another character that started with no real focus, later during character creation a few points were shifted around to focus on stealth and larceny and the character was portrayed as a young-ish (late teens, early 20s) male sneakthief.

Forest - An extremely large (Giant Merit) Adamantine Arrow Thrysus with a focus on Life magic with a secondary out-of-school focus on Matter to support it. The character's skill focus was on survival and hunter/gatherer type skills. Forest was backgrounded as being a wilderness recluse for many years before being draw back out into modern society by the peril of his friends at the hands of organized crime.

And the cherry on top:

Caligo - was portrayed at first as a Mysterium Obrimos. Was, in reality, a plant. Was a Seers of the Throne spy embedded at the start of the game and played by a player that agreed to play a 'hidden threat' to jumpstart the paranoia and conflict.


SETTING:

The game I set in Monterey, CA. I did a little research and put together a highly detailed and graphical guide of the city for the players in PDF format (I do graphic design for a living). They seemed psyched about it and about a week or two later play started.

I started the game with them as fledgling (just out of order training) mages who'd be brought together to fill a power void in an area that no one was too interested in. They were dropped off in Monterey by portal with a bit of money each (I didn't give out exact numbers, just told them about enough to rent an apartment and pay for food/cab fare for about a month) and told to meet a GotV master at the DoubleTree hotel in one week's time.

Forest and Dark teamed up (mainly due to OOC friendship, I think) and set up a small camp in the woods on the edge of town.
Sword Spider and Vienas both went out solo and got their own apartments.
Masha and Caligo decided to pool their money and get a nicer apartment. With what Caligo had left he got a motorcycle to cruise around with.

On the day of the meeting, Vienas decides to go get some lunch and see the town before the meeting time. He has a sandwich at an open-air cafe and realizes he's being watched by another patron. The patron approaches him, stares at him awkwardly for a few moments and steps out into the street in front of an oncoming bus. Spattered with blood and a little shaken, Vienas meets the others at the DoubleTree.

The group meets with the master, Rondel. He tells them that recently the military confiscated an artifact uncovered in the East by an American archaeological team and it's en route back into the states through Monterey and will be staying the night in the local base in a few days. They are to retreive the artifact and bring it to him. He warns them not to touch, use or otherwise 'mess with' the artifact in the process.

They convene to a small grove of trees in the park behind the DoubleTree to stategize the mission. During their meeting Dark decides to sit on a lower branch of one of the trees. Dark feels a few wet droplets on his back and shoulders and comments about the weather. The rest of the group looks around and Caligo replies that it's not raining... After a few more splashes Dark touches his hand to the wetness on his neck and looks at what it is. He finds himself spattered with fresh blood.

The groups becomes moderately freaked out and Vienas, who hadn't had a chance before, tells them what happened to him at the sandwich shop. The group, incorrectly, decides that the spirit of the guy who got hit by the bus is 'after them'. They proceed to trying hacking into different information sources, like the city morgue, the police, etc, to try to figure out who the guy was and why he might want to 'get them'. After wasting a lot of time on it (in and out of game), they decide they're not getting anywhere with it and finish planning the heist.

The heist is pulled off without too much trouble. Caligo shorts out the base's power and the group uses a portal to get into the armory where the crate the artifact's in is being stored before emergency power comes online. They's seen by the guards, but Dark puts them down with a couple tranq. darts he acquired during the planning stage. They escape without a hassle.

Upon returning the artifact to Rondel, they also meet Uther, Rondel's spy. Rondel explain that he sent Uther to tail them and monitor their activities, including planning, execution and clean up - if necessary. Uther derides the group's skills, appearance, life choices and generally anything that comes up in his presence. After the Caligo (who has a temper) starts getting into it with Uther, Rondel tells them both to cool it. He explains that he's already gotten Uther's report and "grades" the GotV members of the group, declining to judge the others as it's "not his place". He gives B+ for efficiency, but tells him he needs to work on his teamwork. Sword gets a B- for being too blatant when the group tried to steal a van to use for the mission. Dark gets a flat B for being covert and working well as a team player, but generally taking the 'long way around' and not being very efficient.

As the group leaves the hotel, they hear a news report on a TV at the bar exposing a recent rise in worker deaths in local construction sites and annoucing an upcoming "expose`" on workplace safety.

NOTE: This is happening over several game session, and between sessions players have the chance to run "side-chapters" with their characters, either solo or in small groups to investigate things, plan/plot or generally muck about the city.

Side Chapters:
Caligo decides to go looking for a bar and finds an underground rave in a bad area of town. The bouncers easily identify him as a mage, much to his surprise, and rough him up a bit when he gets belligerant.

Later on (in a seperate side-chapter) Forest & Dark decide to explore the city a bit, and arbitrarily pick the same area of town as they want to "check in" on the criminal elements they may be dealing with in the future. They cross paths with a couple drunken frat boys that Caligo roughed up and mugged on the way to the bar, but can't make heads or tails of their drunken rambling. They, also, are picked up on entry by the bouncers and told to 'mind their manners' and not to use any magic in the club. They blatantly disregard this and start scoping out the club on the supernatural level and find a concealed cabinet or locker of some sort in the wall behind the bar. Dark decides to take the blatant route, again, and simply asks the bartender about it. The bartender tells him to "hold on" and he'll get the manager. When the bartender walks off to get the "manager" (the bouncers, in actuality) Forest ducks behind the bar to investigate while Dark begins downing obscene amounts of pilfered booze and being the "lookout". The bouncers get the drop on Dark and put him down before he realizes they're there with a blackjack. They try similar on Forest but he notices them and Forest ends up getting his claws (literally) into a bouncer pretty badly before he's knocked out as well.

Forest and Dark awake the next day in a dumpster behind a chinese restaurant, covered in rotting chow mein and stitched together at the chest. When they cut themselves apart (painfully) they find a note stating that they, and their filthy mage friends, are no longer allowed in the club and will be killed on sight. Forest tries to heal their wounds, and although successful, invokes a paradox which inflicts him with paranoia (temporary) and he turns on Dark chasing him off.

--resume normal sessions:

Caligo decides to enlist the group's help in finding out what's going on with the bouncers in the club he visited during the night of the planning stage of the mission and it comes to light the Dark and Forest may have had a run in with them as well (they're reluctant to tell the whole story). The group sneaks into the club and rifles through their records. Caligo, waiting outside for the more stealthy members to come out, decides it'd be fun to get the others caught in a police 'raid' and calls in a favor with a cop he knows in the local precint (he used to live in Monterey and still has some friends here) to bust the place. Right before the police arrive the bouncers and other staff make off with in a black van carrying a safe that looks way to heavy for a normal human to lift. The group all escapes the police without being noticed, to Caligo's displeasure.

They use soe scrying on the bouncers to track them back to a small, but extremely expensive, house in a better area of town. They bust in on the place the next day, looking to get some revenge and to find out what sort of supernatural mojo is going on. Forest leads the assault with a swarm of magically enhanced ants that tear into the bouncers, killing one and injuring another. Dark and Caligo kill the second bouncer, but the third escapes with a few bad injuries out the back door. The group explores the house and finds a sleeping vampire in the basement. They douse the room with gasoline, from the second stolen van so far, and Caligo lights it, amplifying the flames to insta-cremate the bloodsucker.

ok...this post's getting WAY too long...I'll post more later.

The main things I want to find out with this though are:

1. What is the reward mechanic at work in this game? I can't nail it down...

2. Why am I ending up with Gamist play when I originally wanted Narritivist or possible Simulationist?
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Danny_K
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2006, 11:58:58 AM »

I believe that most White Wolf games are incoherent in the GNS sense of the word.   They can support different styles of play with some drifting, but the default state is an uneasy mix of all three styles.  Most of my RPG experience before discovering the Forge consisted of playing in big World of Darkness games where I tried to get my Narr/Sim jollies in the interstitae between full-on Gamist struggles.  So frustrating!  Anyway, for you that means you can't really count on the system to get you where you want.

Could you say more about your campaign design?  I've read your summary and I can't really tell where you're going with it.

I don't want to be too critical, but the main events you've described so far are absolutely stock RPG elements: the powerful guy who tells you to steal something valuable, and the bar fight.  You also haven't mentioned your players at all, but if they've got a strong grounding in D&D or Shadowrun, they may just be reverting to type and playing Mage in the same way.  That can be a lot of fun, but obviously it's not what you were hoping for.

Finally, the game seems really de-protagonizing to me, which might be stifling any Narrativist tendencies.  The players are working for a Mage and getting dissed by the Mage's lackey, not even the Mage himself.  Then two of the toughest-sounding characters, Forest and Dark, get beaten and mutilated by a bunch of ghouls.  No wonder the characters become arsonists.

I don't mean either comment as a criticism of you or your game, but that's what really jumps out at me from your post.
Danny. 
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Reithan
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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2006, 01:01:55 PM »

Well, the bar wasn't my idea, that was precipitated by character action, so that's only as cliche` as they wanted...but the "Powerful guy asks you to steal some crap back for him", that was meant as a pretty easy, cliche` lead-in for the game, sort of an intro to the system, since most of the players were new to Mage, or even NWOD in general.

The 'getting dissed by his lackey thing' was done to sort of enforce the "everyone thinks you're 'bottom-of-the-totem-pole' material" start of the campaign. Part of the game I was envisioning was them working to become powerful and respected within the local community, not just starting out that way. That was conveyed to them at the beginning, IIRC.

As for the incident with the ghouls, I made sure as they entered that scene to reinforce the fact that they were 2 'newbie' mages dealing with 3 well-armed, muscled and seasoned NPCs on said NPCs home turf. (I.E: This is a non-combat scene - engaging in combat here would be utter suicide unless you have one hell of a plan) They understood, took the hint...and then decided to ignore it for some reason. I'll decline to comment on the wisdom of said actions.

The format of the game I left somewhat open. My habit is to create several plotlines, a setting and turn the characters out into it. As they follow (or not) the plotline(s) any plots not being engaged sort of fester until they're dealt with. As plotlines are completed/solved/defeated/etc I add others, or fill the void with player-created plots.

In this instance, I think due to the player's backgrounds, they seem unwilling or incapable of persuing any individual goals or investigating or working on plot elements unless I drop something right in their face. By backgrounds I mean Vienas has what seems to be a strictly D&D background, mostly 2nd & 3rd ed from his coments, I'm guessing. Caligo's got background in D&D fiction, but not much gaming, I think, and some old WOD. Sword's background is D&D, OWOD and Shadowrun I think...

The lot of them are great writers (well...Dark & Forest's is a bit rough, but with spellcheck & editing it turns out great) (and I don't think I've seen any of Vienas...gah sidetrack)...lemme start that sentence over...too many parenthesis. Save Vienas, who's writing I haven't seen, they all are moderate to excellent writers and generally address decent themes and whatnot in their writing. They seemed psyched by the idea of running something story/character driven that wasn't "hack & slash" oriented. But as the game progresses it seems to continually drift back into "Hack & slash" simply becuase they ignore or blow off every non-combat story hook I throw at them, seem generally unconcerned or derisive to social or even non-combat situations and generally seem to, almost on purpose, perhaps, screw things up until they devolve into combat.

Now, I have no aversion to running a Gamist game. I honestly enjoy any of the 3 CAs...provided there IS some cohesive CA. And I have run successful games in the past...but for some reason this one just keep devolving into chaos.
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Glendower
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2006, 01:49:34 PM »

The first thing I'd like to suggest is that there is no reward mechanic in place.  When players start doing foolish or aggressive stuff with their characters, it is usually because they're bored. 

Now, I imagine the heist was something that got some interest, and since Vienas is a thief-type it plays into his character concept, and that's the kind of thing the player wants to see. 

Forest had a background that talked about friends in danger.  Where were his friends?  Where was the danger to his friends? How was he helping fight that danger? I didn't see any reference to that in your actual play. 

Was Caligo getting orders from the Seers?  I seem to remember the fact that the new Mage "bad guys" tend to get ordered to do some bizarre stuff for their evil masters, was there any of that in play? 

Masha's decision to choose amnesia would have been great had she indicated some sort of life before losing her memory.  Does she want her memory back?  Does she remember a specific person/place/thing?  The big question is what she wants to do with this. 

My point is that if what the players want is not addressed, and if they are simply handed a task from your imagination, they won't be compelled to go through with it.  My games worked best when I took what the characters gave me and made it the story, running with it to the end of the line.  My games fell apart when I handed them "my story" and expected them to saunter through it.  I've got a few APs a year back that show some "muddle around and figure out what to do" play that wasn't that fun.

If you address their concepts and backgrounds, they will be rewarded for their efforts. 

As for the second question, I'd suggest you remember people play the way they enjoy best.  I'm not sure if your players have read the Big Model and Creative Agenda theory at the Forge, but if they haven't there is NO way you can expect them to go "Narrativist" like flicking a switch.  That'd be like telling someone to play "CFL rules Football" without explaining the differences in play.  If you are looking for a specific agenda, then you need to have a lot more discussion with your players. 

And remember, Narrativist play means you focus on an issue that needs to be addressed.  There is no issue that needs addressing in your game.  They're just dicking around Monterey looking for something to do.
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Reithan
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2006, 02:15:15 PM »

Ok, you made a few good points here.

Forest had a background that talked about friends in danger.  Where were his friends?  Where was the danger to his friends? How was he helping fight that danger? I didn't see any reference to that in your actual play. 

Actually, he kind of ended the story with that conflict resolved pretty much, I wasn't really sure what else to do with it. He didn't really leave any way further for his 'friends' to contact him, and they weren't in danger anymore...so it seemed like anything to do with that came off as rather 'contrived'.

Was Caligo getting orders from the Seers?  I seem to remember the fact that the new Mage "bad guys" tend to get ordered to do some bizarre stuff for their evil masters, was there any of that in play? 

Well, I didn't want to leave Caligo's player as just a random GM plot device, so I threw some stuff at him in later sessions to challenge him to see how 'inhuman' or 'evil' he really wanted to be and to what lengths he was willing to go to that end. I actually made it a point in his character's developement that the Seers actually DIDN'T contact him much...mostly as a way to make him a little paranoid. It worked rather well, unfortunately once I got around to the Seers actually getting back in touch with him, his character died shortly afterward (he's since moved on to other characters).

Masha's decision to choose amnesia would have been great had she indicated some sort of life before losing her memory.  Does she want her memory back?  Does she remember a specific person/place/thing?  The big question is what she wants to do with this. 

Masha actually, from the start played this game entirely disconnected. I encouraged her to tell me more about what she wanted to do with the amnesia element, but she avoided anything to do with her character or the game really. She sat and observed the games, mostly, and only interacted with the game once or twice. She seemed, from character creation to be playing mainly just since I asked her to...although I never really asked her to. Sort of a she was doing it because she thought I wanted her to kind of thing? (She's my fiance, btw)

My point is that if what the players want is not addressed, and if they are simply handed a task from your imagination, they won't be compelled to go through with it.  My games worked best when I took what the characters gave me and made it the story, running with it to the end of the line.  My games fell apart when I handed them "my story" and expected them to saunter through it.  I've got a few APs a year back that show some "muddle around and figure out what to do" play that wasn't that fun.

If you address their concepts and backgrounds, they will be rewarded for their efforts. 

As for the second question, I'd suggest you remember people play the way they enjoy best.  I'm not sure if your players have read the Big Model and Creative Agenda theory at the Forge, but if they haven't there is NO way you can expect them to go "Narrativist" like flicking a switch.  That'd be like telling someone to play "CFL rules Football" without explaining the differences in play.  If you are looking for a specific agenda, then you need to have a lot more discussion with your players. 

And remember, Narrativist play means you focus on an issue that needs to be addressed.  There is no issue that needs addressing in your game.  They're just dicking around Monterey looking for something to do.

Well, I only recently started reading into "The Big Model" and Creative Agendas here, but I've since gotten Caligo and Sword's players into the theory as well, and Forest's read a little...but doesn't seem too interested.

I originally pitched the idea as just being focused on non-combat mystery, horror and political elements. But whenever I present them with a mystery they ignore or avoid it until it escalates to combat.

I am not the kind of GM/DM to simply present the characters with "my story" and let them muddle through. Even from the beginning I let them start their own conflicts (as with the bar scenario). I started off with 3 plots of mine running, ended up with Dark, Caligo and Sword each starting at least one other plot each, some of them starting more than one. I kind of initiated a cutoff on "no more new plots" at about 10, until they resolved some of the ongoing ones.

I told them when we started. I'm only the "Storyteller/Gamemaster/DungeonMaster" because that's what the common parlance is. I'm just another player here. I get to have some fun with NPCs and coming up with a few plots and fun concepts to throw around, but you guys can do all that stuff, too. I've been expecting them, since the beginning, and they've been informed of my expectation, too, to come up with their own actions and plots and to investigate the events going on around them.

Perhaps not Narrativist, as I don't think I really had any more cohesive themes than, "Power corrupts" and perhaps "Inactivity Kills" or somesuch. They were never really codified...but even now, I'm not sure if they really NEED to be set in stone...

That being said, even though I had Narrativist goals, I think I played my hand more Simulationist, and they're doing nothing but Gamist...leaving the whole state of affairs confused at best.

As for there being NO reward mechanic, perhaps your right. Character advancement really isn't it...the XP rewards have been moderate to generous and abilities have increased, but it's been so matter-of-fact that I can't see it as a reward mechanic, as no one focuses on it...

I'll think on it more and await more thoughts.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2006, 02:43:39 PM »

Guys! What did I just demonstrate in no less than three Actual Play threads in the last month?

Use the Big Model. Never mind "reward" or "GNS" yet. Figure out and verify, through questions, every layer of the Big Model, starting with Social Contract. Focus on sessions, scenes, characters, whatever you have to, and always start with questions. Not random ones either - think about the layers and what actually has to happen at each one for role-playing to occur at all.

C'mon, I can't be the one to do it every time. Try it this way.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: October 12, 2006, 02:46:38 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Selene Tan
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2006, 05:01:38 PM »

Hiya, Reithan!

Writing good actual play reports is a skill. It's why Ben Lehman had a contest about it last year (what happened to it, Ben?). So don't stress out too much over it. But I hope you don't mind a few more questions!

I'd like to know a bit more about the players in your game, and who played what. Have you played with any of them before, and in what medium? (face-to-face, voice chat, e-mail, forum, etc.) How closely do other things they've liked coincide with your goals for this game?

How did all of you decide what to play? Did you decide everything, and then pitch the whole ball to your friends, or was there more discussion? How interested did your friends seem to be when you first pitched the game to them?

She seemed, from character creation to be playing mainly just since I asked her to...although I never really asked her to. Sort of a she was doing it because she thought I wanted her to kind of thing? (She's my fiance, btw)

Has your fiance played RPGs before? Have you previously expressed a desire for her to play an RPG? If the answer to the first question is "no" and to the second question is "yes," it is possible that she was playing because she thought you wanted her to.

How did you go about character creation? Did your players know what characters the other players were making? When you saw characters that didn't quite fit your vision of the game, did you discuss with the players in question to get everyone on the same page?

In your first post, you said "I explained that I wanted to play up inter and intra party strife, politics and mystery." How were you planning to handle and/or mediate intra-party strife? There's a bit of talk about intra-party conflict in Keys and Griefers. Mostly I want to quote Brand:

Yea, that's what I was talking about. "Party Must Work Together" = Safe. "There is No Party, FIGHT!" = Safe. "There is a party, but the game is as much about how they fight as anything else" = Difficult, but possible with the right system (PTA, Capes, Universalis, Dogs). "There is a party, sometimes they solve missions other times they fight, sometimes they do both and it is never clear which" = DISASTER.

Yes, sometimes it will work out. Juggling knives works out sometimes too. But sooner or later you end up missing fingers.

From what you've mentioned so far, I can't tell yet whether/how much intra-party conflict was a problem for the game. Since you didn't describe much, it may not have turned out to be much of an issue compared to other things.

-Selene
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Reithan
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« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2006, 06:14:15 PM »

...I hope you don't mind a few more questions!

Never. ...Well...maybe sometimes, but not now, anyway.

I'd like to know a bit more about the players in your game, and who played what. Have you played with any of them before, and in what medium? (face-to-face, voice chat, e-mail, forum, etc.) How closely do other things they've liked coincide with your goals for this game?

We'd played MMOs (mainly Lineage2 and EVE) together before, and most of them had expressed intrests in PnP RPGs before. The others I simply asked if they were interested. Some who didn't play (obviously) said no, others said yes, and thus was the group built.

How did all of you decide what to play? Did you decide everything, and then pitch the whole ball to your friends, or was there more discussion? How interested did your friends seem to be when you first pitched the game to them?

I pitched the idea initially as a VERY loose sketch, they all seemed interested, to differen degress varying from 'moderately' to 'very'. Then, to hash out the specifics I used my forums and a series of polls, as well as voice-chat discussions over Ventrillo. So they all had a say in the final setting and game disposition.

Has your fiance played RPGs before? Have you previously expressed a desire for her to play an RPG? If the answer to the first question is "no" and to the second question is "yes," it is possible that she was playing because she thought you wanted her to.

Oddly, rather than "No;Yes" the answer is "Yes;No". She's played RPGs with me and others before to varying levels of participation and success. Although whenever I start playing a new game I always inform her and ask her if she'd like to participate, but I've never really "asked her to". I always make sure to tell her thatit may be fun to do together, simply as a group activity, but that if she doesn't want to that's fine as we have plenty of other things we can spend time together doing as well.

How did you go about character creation? Did your players know what characters the other players were making? When you saw characters that didn't quite fit your vision of the game, did you discuss with the players in question to get everyone on the same page?

I did character creation mostly on a first-come first-served basis, and each character's basic design was made public to the others as they were created to avoid duplicate or conflicting characters. When I saw characters coming that didn't really mesh with the general idea of the game, I warned the players in question and informed them that creating "combat junkie" characters might leave them feeling a little left out in (what I had hoped to be) the more prevelant social and mystery/horror scenes. Most either reformed their characters somewhat to fit better, others said that that was fine and they simply felt the group needed SOME muscle in case things turned ugly. I can't quite argue with that logic as NWOD, like an 'horror' setting does tend to get violent/dangerous every so often regardless of the chronicle's focus.

In your first post, you said "I explained that I wanted to play up inter and intra party strife, politics and mystery." How were you planning to handle and/or mediate intra-party strife? There's a bit of talk about intra-party conflict in Keys and Griefers. Mostly I want to quote Brand:

[Quote Omitted for Space]

From what you've mentioned so far, I can't tell yet whether/how much intra-party conflict was a problem for the game. Since you didn't describe much, it may not have turned out to be much of an issue compared to other things.

-Selene

The intra-party conflict was exactly as much of a problem as I had hoped it'd be. I've played heavy intra-party conflict games before and I generally know the limits of such play. We've only had one problem so far with such and it was resolved fairly quickly.

The way I described the situation of the intra-party conflict was something along the lines of "you all don't necessarily like each other, trust each other or even agree to the ongoing existance of each other, but what you do agree to is that you are all useful to each other's survival at current. If you begin to feel that a member of the group is not pulling his/her weight, or becoming a liability to the group...react according as your character would, but be aware that fallout from such actions is rarely good for your health". IIRC the actual description was a bit wordier, as i explained it a bit more...but that's the general jist of it. Sort of a parasitic/symbiotic relationship. Within that framing, some friendship and working relationships DID form, some false, some real. As well as rivalry and hatreds (in-character).

The one problem we had was when Dark's player felt that Caligo's player was being vindictive for OOC reasons toward his character. The reasons, actually, were completely in-character and MOST were obvious to the group at the time. I simply explained most of them to Dark, had the two talk on an OOC basis and clear the air and explain that all hostility was completely IC and that they were still cool OOC. Thus the conflict came to an end....OOC anyway. The IC conflict was good stuff and I didn't want it to end. It was mainly a problem of Caligo's player being in-character during game sessions for about 95% of the session and Dark's player not being able to figure out what was the IC and what was the 5% of OOC.

To give a description of the intra-party conflict so far, we've had 3 character deaths so far, after about 15 games and probably about 10 side-chapters, so about the equivalent of about 20+ games altogether. All 3 were killed by NPCs, although one WAS a hit called in by one of the PCs. There was a 3rd incident where a character was run off and later brought to the consilium for judgement due to him trying to attack another group member. He was summarily banished from the area after being 'punished'. Overall, I'd cann it "just enough conflict to keep the players guessing." And that's what I was going for in that area. I'd have to say it's probably the ONLY thing that's really been working as planned.
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2006, 02:55:37 AM »

2. Why am I ending up with Gamist play when I originally wanted Narritivist or possible Simulationist?
Without wandering into agenda thingies;

You know the sort of stuff you want. In point form, what structures have you added to play to get to that stuff, minute to minute in play? It doesn't matter if it was informal or quite formal, it'll help give an outline.
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2006, 06:30:45 AM »

Well, let's see, I can probably cover that in a poin-based format:

1. Horror
Horror has been fairly successful. I've mainly just thrown in a few really freaky scenes to "squik" the players, then while they're reeling from that, throw in some dark hooks and reel 'em in. Been working fairly well. Also tried the "bait-and-switch" horror tactic, where you throw something 'too' cute at them, then either replace it, destroy it or corrupt it with something horrible. The only one that wasn't really 'buying into' the horror at all was Masha...but she wasn't really 'buying into' any of it.

I've had other characters at times tell me things like "I almost threw up....OOC" or "OMG, that seriously freaked me out, I think I'm going to have nightmares tonight." So I think "Horror is GO."

2. Mystery
This category is an UTTER failure. I was trying to get this by basically throwing things at the party that I thought were interesting, creepy, dramatically charged, or some combination of the above, and a couple good avenues for discovery and...well...hoping they'd investigate. Unfortunately in every case except MAYBE one they simply don't. I throw things at them that muliple characters in the group have aptitudes in to figure out, have IC features and hooks towards...and the players simply ignore the mysteries.

Like, I have multiple characters in the party that took high levels of Occult, one specialized in Demonology, even. Then, a character, at one point, to try to creep out a vampire assassin who they'd got on their tail after the bar thing, used a spell to make his voice into a 'persistant echo' in a certain area...and the echo that came back wasn't his voice, it was a fairly demonic sounding murmur. The character with demonology tried to decipher what they were saying, and I told him it was something about 'free', 'dark' and 'we', but he couldn't make it out completely because it was a VERY archaic and ancient dialect. Previously I had thrown a bit of foreshadowing and avenues for investigation to the party BEFORE this point...

So, to put this all together. We now have characters who've heard demons in the area (old creepy ones), have high levels of occult knowledge, one even specializing in demons...they know where they can find out more and what do they do? Ignore/Forget about it. They couldn't have dealt with it at the time, as they were in the middle of a fairly hairy situation, but they had several points after that when they could have...and chose not to. Actively chose not to. As in one goes, "What about that demon echo thing?" and the rest go, "Meh."

That's just one example out of a few.

3. Politics
Politics have been kind of hit-or-miss. The party really seems only interested in persuing any political agenda when they have some direct favor or agenda to persue. They tried once to simply engage in politicking, but the player's attempt was so HORRIBLY, fabbergastingly bad that I really couldn't find any way to give the scene to him. Even the other players were like, "Wait, he said what??"

I may have let him try again, or roll a skill to try to avoid looking like an idiot...but it was FOREST. He had nothing, skill-wise, to support to encounter, and his player was totally lost.

Unfortunately, it seems Forest was the only one willing to actually try to bring the group into the local politic. The rest seem to only want to run to the consilium when they have a problem or want a favor. I've made apparent, both by showing it, and by outright SAYING it to them, that that WON'T fly. If you want the local politic to take you seriously, you need to show up on more than a "OMG! Save us!" basis.

They HAVE, once or twice, managed to get help, if you could call it that, simply because they'd FUBAR'd a situation so badly the consilium had no choice but to step in...and once in the form of a sort of "babysitting service" when the consilium was worried about them really screwing the pooch.

We had one player that joined us for 1 game. She made a 100% politically based character and I was like "YAY!" ...then she picked up a longsword and dived headlong into combat. The character was pretty much instantly mulched. Both the group and I had ALL, I think, at various points, told her "Political Character != Combat Character". And she said, every time, "Ok, that's great, I'm not interested in combat." And, IIRC, right before she engaged in her longsword antics, I told her "you realize you have no skill with that weapon, no combat-oriented rotes and, in fact, no armor, either, right?" Then, as she did it, "Are you SURE you want to do that?"

So, overall, I'm not guilty at all about what happened...just amazed, really.

Anyway, politics - FAILURE.

4. Intra/Inter-Party Conflict
This was covered in the previous post and is going swimmingly.
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2006, 12:04:25 PM »

Hey there.  On Ron's suggestion, I'm gonna stick with Social contract-type questions, mostly because there's a few things I gotta know.

I have run games using instant messenger, but using a VOIP to get stuff done sounds like it can get crazy confusing.  To start with, how do you deal with people talking at once?  I've used Ventrillo, having two or three people talking at once usually means a garbled mess of noise. Did you set up any rules regarding this?  Is there some sort of "I hold the stick of talking" turn taking?  Can people interject during those times, or is it forbidden to do so? And how do you establish who does what when? Do you just go down the list alphabetically, or is is there a kind of "polite chaos"?  Is there one person who does a majority of the talking?  A person who does the least?

Since I've never roleplayed in that medium, I'm trying to get a headspace around how it would work, socially speaking.
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2006, 01:35:03 PM »

Oddly enough, thinking about it in retrospect you'd expect it to be chaotic as hell, but it's not.

I suppose it's closest to your "Polite Chaos" idea. There's no real set rules as to who talks when, no one really monopolizes it either.

Some people prefer to type more than talk, some talk more than type, some (like me) swap back and forth randomly. As for the 'everyone talking at once' thing...well you'd have the same problem sitting around a table, too, wouldn't you? We just use semi-quasi-decent manners and try not to cut each other off too frequently.

Really the VOIP's a complete non-issue. I guess that comes from our MMORPG background. You kinda get used to using VOIP for those things.
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2006, 01:43:56 PM »

Thanks Reithan, that was a good point form. Now, referencing it against your AP account:
Quote
The groups becomes moderately freaked out and Vienas, who hadn't had a chance before, tells them what happened to him at the sandwich shop. The group, incorrectly, decides that the spirit of the guy who got hit by the bus is 'after them'. They proceed to trying hacking into different information sources, like the city morgue, the police, etc, to try to figure out who the guy was and why he might want to 'get them'. After wasting a lot of time on it (in and out of game), they decide they're not getting anywhere with it and finish planning the heist.
To contrast this, some GM's would have gone 'Oh yeah, spirit stalker, cool' and incorporated the idea into the story. In terms of structure, would you say in your play if you've gotten the wrong lead, you've just gotten it wrong? Essentially a fail state?

Quote
Upon returning the artifact to Rondel, they also meet Uther, Rondel's spy. Rondel explain that he sent Uther to tail them and monitor their activities, including planning, execution and clean up - if necessary. Uther derides the group's skills, appearance, life choices and generally anything that comes up in his presence. After the Caligo (who has a temper) starts getting into it with Uther, Rondel tells them both to cool it. He explains that he's already gotten Uther's report and "grades" the GotV members of the group, declining to judge the others as it's "not his place". He gives B+ for efficiency, but tells him he needs to work on his teamwork. Sword gets a B- for being too blatant when the group tried to steal a van to use for the mission. Dark gets a flat B for being covert and working well as a team player, but generally taking the 'long way around' and not being very efficient.
Here I see a very strong structure added by you, one of peer evaluation. Sure, it was between characters, but someone had to decided what Uthur says. And I don't mean 'just decide' - you yourself evaluated the players efficiency, right? Evaluated their performance. And I almost see a technique there for making it not in your face 'you suck', by the derisory NPC being patronising told to pipe down by another of your NPC's, which is a very clever and supportive technique (if I'm spotting it right). That's the structure I see, what do you see now?

Trying this into just the mystery point, briefly - the mystery example is very 'one way' - there's so little there (to begin with) you can't approach it from another angle - like befriending the voice or something (I can't even think of examples, it was so one way). The example above where they thought a spirit was stalking them, shows how another approach angle (even a negative one for them) just isn't available. The only approach here is to unravel the mystery - which means the usual wide open exploration of game play has just been funneled down to one approach angle. That's a big loss of exploration and not very fun sounding to me even. BUT! But what if the idea was to beat the mystery - to unravel it and suceed? There's some tasty meat!

Suppose they had pursued the voice. Could you write out a fake AP account of one way they could have unraveled the voice mystery? Write it so they pass every hurdle, but clearly note where failure could happen and its consequences (even if that's NPC's rating them C-). You know what I mean? Like 'Then Dark would have done this, then Masha would have done that and that would reveal the hidden shrine. But if they'd stayed in that room, guards would have caught up with them and hell broken loose'.
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« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2006, 01:59:18 PM »

Thanks Reithan, that was a good point form. Now, referencing it against your AP account:
Quote
The groups becomes moderately freaked out and Vienas, who hadn't had a chance before, tells them what happened to him at the sandwich shop. The group, incorrectly, decides that the spirit of the guy who got hit by the bus is 'after them'. They proceed to trying hacking into different information sources, like the city morgue, the police, etc, to try to figure out who the guy was and why he might want to 'get them'. After wasting a lot of time on it (in and out of game), they decide they're not getting anywhere with it and finish planning the heist.
To contrast this, some GM's would have gone 'Oh yeah, spirit stalker, cool' and incorporated the idea into the story. In terms of structure, would you say in your play if you've gotten the wrong lead, you've just gotten it wrong? Essentially a fail state?

I so TOTALLY have no idea what you just said. O.o;'

Quote
Upon returning the artifact to Rondel, they also meet Uther, Rondel's spy. Rondel explain that he sent Uther to tail them and monitor their activities, including planning, execution and clean up - if necessary. Uther derides the group's skills, appearance, life choices and generally anything that comes up in his presence. After the Caligo (who has a temper) starts getting into it with Uther, Rondel tells them both to cool it. He explains that he's already gotten Uther's report and "grades" the GotV members of the group, declining to judge the others as it's "not his place". He gives B+ for efficiency, but tells him he needs to work on his teamwork. Sword gets a B- for being too blatant when the group tried to steal a van to use for the mission. Dark gets a flat B for being covert and working well as a team player, but generally taking the 'long way around' and not being very efficient.
Here I see a very strong structure added by you, one of peer evaluation. Sure, it was between characters, but someone had to decided what Uthur says. And I don't mean 'just decide' - you yourself evaluated the players efficiency, right? Evaluated their performance. And I almost see a technique there for making it not in your face 'you suck', by the derisory NPC being patronising told to pipe down by another of your NPC's, which is a very clever and supportive technique (if I'm spotting it right). That's the structure I see, what do you see now?

Trying this into just the mystery point, briefly - the mystery example is very 'one way' - there's so little there (to begin with) you can't approach it from another angle - like befriending the voice or something (I can't even think of examples, it was so one way). The example above where they thought a spirit was stalking them, shows how another approach angle (even a negative one for them) just isn't available. The only approach here is to unravel the mystery - which means the usual wide open exploration of game play has just been funneled down to one approach angle. That's a big loss of exploration and not very fun sounding to me even. BUT! But what if the idea was to beat the mystery - to unravel it and suceed? There's some tasty meat!

I understand this marginally better than your first point, but I'm still mostly lost.

Suppose they had pursued the voice. Could you write out a fake AP account of one way they could have unraveled the voice mystery? Write it so they pass every hurdle, but clearly note where failure could happen and its consequences (even if that's NPC's rating them C-). You know what I mean? Like 'Then Dark would have done this, then Masha would have done that and that would reveal the hidden shrine. But if they'd stayed in that room, guards would have caught up with them and hell broken loose'.

I would do this, but I'd rather have you sort me out on the first two bits first, otherwise my "Fake AP" would probably miss the point completely.
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« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2006, 04:10:31 PM »

The first thing: The spirit wasn't after them, right? You said they decided that incorrectly. So pursuing it as if it existed, is essentially losing. Right? I'm talking losing like shooting a basket ball for the hoop but missing, losing.

The second thing: You, not the character, were grading the players (not the PC's) performance. Sure, it was done in a PC to PC manner. But you were giving feedback on how good at gaming they were.

I'd like to have some feedback from other forgites, in case I really have been confusing. Cause I think I didn't complicate my basic point of 'players evaluate how good each other are at gaming'.

I'd also really like that fake AP (just a paragraph or a sentence or two will be fine). Remember, the AP should lead to them unraveling the mystery and note any hurdles where they could fail in that.
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