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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 83 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: After much play - a disturbing trend is noticed  (Read 5155 times)
Sindyr
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Posts: 795


« on: October 13, 2006, 07:17:28 AM »

OK, gonna bring up something I have been noticing for some time.  At first, I was worried that it may be due to my inexperience with Capes - maybe because I was still focussed on learning the rules - or because my Capes play hadn't "gelled" yet. SO I exercised patience and perservered.

At this point, there can probably be only two causes for it.

What is "it"?

Even now, even at this point where this group seems to have mastered the basic play of Capes, the narratives, the stories we are creating, all seem campy and goofy. Even more so - they seem weak.  No matter what we do.

I realize that the some of the comic books that Capes aims to emulate have camp elements - and that's fine - although many comics books have no camp whatsoever.

But the campiness of your stories goes quite a bit further.  Everything is overexagerated.  Everything is not just larger than life, but pretty goofy.  And many of the narratives are just *weak*.  Last week we were deep into a scene when one player out of nowhere narrates a meteor shower affecting the scene.

It seems overly chaotic.  And I figure that one or both of two things are causing this:
-perhaps the players in my game (myself potentially not excluded) are not of high narrartive or creative caliber - perhaps it is our fault the stories have been overly campy, slapstick, weak, or otherwise unimpressive - more like bubblegum than a fine wine.
-or, maybe it the basic concept of Capes.  My Capes by it's nature suffers from too many cooks.  Maybe integrating 3 or 4 seperate creative visions cannot help but create a narrative that cannot be taken that seriously.  Maybe for "serous" gaming with "classic" narrativesw one needs a strong uniting narrative force - a GM - with a ruleset that supports the GM's central creative vision. Even if you had a game that swapped GMs every session, you would still only have 1 GM at a time.  With Capes, you have 3 or 4 at a time.

In all likelihood, I think it's both.  I believe we have a player that is very gung ho and into Capes, but comes at it from a camp point of view.  I wonder though, even if he "got serious" does Capes still have a tendency towards narrative goofiness, camp, and chaos?

I must confess that I am beginning to think that possibly that may be endemic to having no single GM.

Has anyone else run into this?  Do you know what I mean?

My next step, as I come to understand that I do not want to play in a goofy game week in and week out, is to confront the more my group (and the more campy player) with my concerns, and hope that the problem is not endemic to Capes itself.

Hope that works.
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-Sindyr
oreso
Member

Posts: 67


« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2006, 08:26:08 AM »

I've done three campaigns with Capes and only one was goofy and i was like, playing with kids (young teens anyway) and the goofiness for that one campaign was by choice (Samurai Jack style nightmare future).

The Naruto campaign could have easily become goofy but it didnt. There was betrayal and all sorts, and addressing the themes i wanted (are ninjas just tools? when does the mission matter more than friends or principles? etc). It wasnt played particularly emotional because there was quite a distance methinks between player and character, but the players, young though they were, knew what was an appropriate response. The story mattered to them. 

Just use the comics code to set the tone and some genre ground rules before you play. Talk about your expectations. Dont be scared to point to the code in play if things are getting out of hand.

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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2006, 10:32:07 AM »

My experience is this...

If there isn't much prep work done before the games starts, campiness and goofiness tends to come to the surface.  When I sit down with a group for a pick up game and we dive right into the game without a lot of talk, this happens most of the time.  It probably happens because it only takes 1 person to be in the mood for silliness to shift the game that direction significantly.

If before the game starts, we take 15 to 30 minutes to discuss mood and style and even what characters and plot elements we are going to introduce, we generally (100% of the time for me at least) get what we shoot for.  I even suggest taking a few minutes at the beginning of each session to go over what has happened thus far and discuss in broad strokes what seems to be cool and what doesn't.  It focuses the play again.

I don't know your group so I've got a quick question.  Does it seem like 1 or 2 of the players are looking for a different style of game than the one you want to play?
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Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2006, 11:52:09 AM »

I think that one of our players maybe be wanting camp and goofiness, I will check.

The idea about having 20-30 min of pregame discussion sound like a great one.

Perhaps also a "creative manifesto" of a kind.  Something that doesn't say what we cannot do (like a Comics Code) but something that puts our creative and narrative goal in black and white, a sort of mission statement as it were.

Good thoughts.
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-Sindyr
Hans
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Posts: 576


« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2006, 01:32:31 PM »

If there isn't much prep work done before the games starts, campiness and goofiness tends to come to the surface.  When I sit down with a group for a pick up game and we dive right into the game without a lot of talk, this happens most of the time.  It probably happens because it only takes 1 person to be in the mood for silliness to shift the game that direction significantly.

If before the game starts, we take 15 to 30 minutes to discuss mood and style and even what characters and plot elements we are going to introduce, we generally (100% of the time for me at least) get what we shoot for.  I even suggest taking a few minutes at the beginning of each session to go over what has happened thus far and discuss in broad strokes what seems to be cool and what doesn't.  It focuses the play again.

I'm going to 2nd Andrew's comments here with a couple of examples from convention sessions I have ran.

The first time I ran Capes (at Pandemonium), I ended up with two tables worth of players.  One group of people wanted to try for "serious" Capes (most had played before and experienced exactly the kind of kookiness you describe), one group had just never played before and wanted to play, the "anything goes" table.  I provided nothing to either of these tables beyond teaching interpreting the rules; both tables just went for click and locks and started playing.  Note the only discussion that occurred at the "serious" table before the game was that they wanted it to be "serious", "sort of like the Dark Knight Returns or the Watchman".

The "anything goes" table was a riotous, wacky success; the story was chaotic and verging on surreal, the humour was slapstick and vulgar, and the players were calling their friends over to tell them about this crazy cool game where you could do ANYTHING YOU WANTED TO.  And after the game, all the players said "wow, that was cool, I wonder if a serious game is possible..."

The "serious" table was essentially a failure.  Nothing really happened, there was no cohesion in terms of the story going on, everyone just sort of did their own thing in hopes that someone else would take an interest.  It was serious only in the sense of being humorless and boring.  After the game, the general consensus was "I guess you CAN'T have a serious game of Capes".

Now, when I ran Capes a GenCon, I took Tony's advice and set up a whole set of pregen characters, with exemplar relationships and with premise laden descriptions of their histories, and suggested to the table a tense starting scene (in this case, a anti-war protest in San Francisco in 1967).  The game was fantastic.  Certainly there was humour involved, but some very "serious" issues were also brought up; would the Thing-esque character ever experience true human contact, would the vigilante character save his brother from drug abuse, and essentially everyone explored the issue of whether the '60's were about the opening and flowering of true human love and expression, or about the devaluation and destruction of everything society held dear.  After the game, the general consensus was "Wow, that was a really fun and meaningful game!", and I think almost everyone around the table was truly invested in finding out what would happen next.

I suggest that the difference between these two experiences was the prepwork.  In the GenCon case, I didn't HAVE to be the one doing the prepwork (although it was convenient for me to have done so), but the fact that SOMEONE did it made all the difference.

My belief is that in ANY game there is a set of preparatory tasks necessary to ensure that the story goes in neat directions.  These tasks include setting up some setting in which the story will occur, making up some interesting characters that have reasons to relate to each other, and determining conflict-space in which all these things will play out.  These things have to be done, but they don't have to be done by just one person.
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2006, 07:27:28 AM »

I'll agree with Hans.  Our current Capes game is extremely irreverent, but it's got Heart, and that's largely because of our (10 minutes worth) of prep.  We sat down, brainstormed a few ideas, and finally went with, "Superhero team meets Reality TV show."  There's a lot of humor, but it's staying very focused on the 'genre' we've selected, and we're very fond of our characters, flaws and all.

I think one of the under-appreciated features of American superhero comics is that "superhero story" is NOT a genre in and of itself.  Superhero comics emerged as part of a historical process, which mashed together a bunch of previously independent pulp genres: two-fisted detective stories, science-fiction, sword & sorcery tales, romance stories, horror and monster movies, and childrens' adventure serials, to name some of the biggest influences.  (This is particularly evident in Marvel Comics' titles in the 1960's.)  The idea of the superhero story as some weird little genre of its own didn't appear until much later.

The implication, I think, is that having shared expectations--for example, doing a "science-fiction story with supers"--helps everyone contribute meaningfully to a story, and is also truer to what comics used to be about.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2006, 09:43:24 AM »

As pointed out, Capes can do serious. I ran a game of Capes: Sin City at a local convention, and it turned out very dark and nasty.

In the end, I think it the most important part is talking to the other players beforehand. Second would be setting an appropriate Comics Code. Third would be creating interconnected sample characters. But that's just my gut feeling, supported by only the one personal experience.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2006, 05:27:41 AM »

It might also be worth checking out the thread: A worthwhile exercise.  It doesn't have a lot of content directly in it, but it's got connections to several AP threads that talk about this issue.
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