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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 139 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Curse of the promised land  (Read 2344 times)
Bjorn
Member

Posts: 12


« on: November 26, 2007, 03:03:26 AM »

First off, i'm not 100% sure this topic is appropriate for this forum.
It has to do with things related to the site but not in the technical sense.
If inappropriate feel free to move or delete.

Over the last couple of years I feel that roleplaying discussion both here, on other internet sites and in the RPG comunity in general has been lifted to a much higher and more theoretical level. And while it is quite difficult to pick out exactly what comes from where in the internet age I think most would agree that "The Forge" and some of the people here have been among the most important catalysts for this "new era" of rpg methodology. What used to be done by "gut feel" and anecdotal experience can now be explained in a framework of creative agendas, stances and various defined techniques.

On one hand I think this is great, a lot of this has helped me become better both as a GM and as a player. To some extent I do stuff today that I wouldn't even have thought of 3-4 years ago. That beeing said I was enjoying what was hapening in the "old country" quite a bit. For most of my twenty-odd year roleplaying "career" I was pretty much content with what I had, and I have pretty strong indications that my players (when i was GM) was enjoying themselves as well.

Nowdays I don't quite feel that way, I still enjoy both playing and GMing but i often have "performance anxieties" before and after playing sessions (espesially if GMing). Often I feel that I don't measure up, that even if I have improved and continually strive to improve the "bar" for what is (or perhaps rather what I consider) "good gaming" has improved much more and I'm strugling to keep up with (mostly my own) expectations. Somehow I can dream of a "promised land" of crystal sharp creative agenda focus, total stance-consiousness and so on which sometimes seems just beyond the next bumb in the road and sometimes far, far away...

Does anyone else recognize this problem and have you had any success in handling it?

/Bjorn
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Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2007, 03:24:33 AM »

Hi Bjorn,

Before I delve into your topic, could you please give us some more details on what you mean by "performance anxiety"? It would be particularly useful if you could give us actual play examples, stating what game you were playing with which players, what parts were particularly anxiety inducing, how you managed it, etc.

This is not a trap question. I left "performance anxiety" behind since I play "forge games", so I really need more data to connect to your issue.
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Regards,
Christoph
Bjorn
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2007, 06:06:17 AM »

Hmmm, I will try to exlain further.

First off, most (almost all) of these problems are actually away from the game table. Either during prep work or simply when thinking about the game either before or after. Once playing I'm usually "into it" enough and/or simply to buzy doing it (playing/GMing) to think much about these things.

As for the feeling itself it can take different forms. Often I get a "knot in my stomach" while sitting on the buss/train going to a game that I'm GMing thinking that the session will be bad, that my performance won't be good enough etc. I almost never got this in the "old days" and when I did there was more or less always some concrete problem (lack of propper prep mork mostly). Now I get it almost every time, even though I'm very well prepared both in regards to quantity and quality and despite the fact that I'm much more foccused in what I want to achieve in my games. Other things that happen is that I end to second-guess myself much more than I used to, even if the session was enjoyable (both for me and as far as I can tell for my players) my thoughts on it afterwards tend to go to the few things that were not so good rather than enjoying the bulk of play that went well...

As for individual games I will give two examples from what I have GMed in the last half year or so...

DD3E - Kranopolis
An extremly action/combat oriented "campaign" of individual 3-4h adventures/scenarios in a homemade setting.
In forge terms strictly gamist, one of the things I wanted to work on tempo and pace, in our group we play quite short sessions and I felt that often each session tends to be too "climax-less" and just blend into the next one. Hence I wanted to try make each episode as "self-contained" as possible. We have done quite a few things we don't normally do, such as almost completly open game mechanics (which I find a big help, since I'm a bleeding hart GM). If I had managed to run this game say five years ago I would have completly blown myself away. Now it feels not much more than acceptable...

Star Trek - Deckhands
I have only recently started this, a "lower decks" (i.e. the players play junior crewmembers) campaign aboard USS - Voyager and following the actual timeline from the TV-series. This is something I've been thinking about for years but been afraid to run because of the many possible problems but given new insight from "new era" techniques and therory felt could be run. We use LUGs game system and play is structured mainly to explore the kind of "quasiphilosphical" questions typical of the various Star Trek TV-series and experience the rich Star Trek setting even if there is some problemsolving and/or action thrown into the mix so as to not bore certain players. We've only played two sessions (i.e. episodes) yet so it is quite early to tell. There is certanly a "Star Trek feel" to our play, and no one has expressed any disspleasure so far.

Too get back to the subject at hand, last game session my players were put in a dilema concerning the prime directive where a primitive neolithic race was exploited by kazons and vidiians on a jungle planet. They actually came up with a very creative solution which had both tactical finesse and moral quality that I hadn't thought of at all and that feelt very "trekky". As it were the session played out great, but when I think back on it I mostly think about if I couldn't have made it even greater if I had somehow anticipated a solution at least somewhat along the lines they chose and hence been better prepared.

It's like my mind is stuck in a place where a good fun game session is not enough, nothing short of magic is acceptable...

/Bjorn
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Christoph Boeckle
Member

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2007, 06:22:14 AM »

Hi again Bjorn

Let me restate what I understand about your issue:

    You have discovered a high level of theoretical discussions and discovered a lot of new tools for the preparation and actual play of your sessions. However, since this, you tend
    (a) to feel performance anxiety before play, or
    (b) to be much more demanding, and sessions that would have been good before just aren't quite as good now

If this is not precise enough, let me know.

I believe these two issues aren't necessarily related, so I'll tackle them one by one.

Performance anxiety
It seems like you take on a lot of preparation before play and that you view this as the key to a good play experience. Hence, a lot of responsibility sits on your shoulders.
Is it safe to say that your theoretical investigations have helped you to understand this situation more clearly, thus increasing your anxiety?
There are a number of corollaries to these thoughts that actually provide interesting solutions to lessen the stress.
For example, have you checked out the thread on forms of leadership?
Otherwise, try out a game without any necessary preparation, for a change of pace and see what you think of it. Good examples I know of are Dirty Secrets, Polaris and My Life with Master. These games also explode in-game authority across all participants in peculiar ways, meaning that there isn't just one guy who is responsible for the fun.
These games have been a tremendous relief and improvement in my roleplaying concerning this issue. It helped me to let go of some of my control-freakness too.


Not good enough any more
One effect roleplaying theory has had on my enjoyment of games was that I have become able to identify more clearly what exactly I enjoy in RPGs. Your D&D example speaks huge amounts to me, because it was the game with which I started roleplaying. I left it for other games because I didn't enjoy myself a lot. Recently, I mastered a series of four sessions with the 3rd edition rules, slightly hacked to focus even more on the crunchy bits. Same observation as yours: had we played like that a few years back, we'd have been quite impressed. Now I enjoyed myself all right, but you know, there are those other games with which I have more affinity.
And I know quite well what I like know, having explored quite a few weird games in the last two years, some I enjoyed, some not, so I can always go back to stuff that's a blast. The Pool is particularly interesting for making the stuff you like evident, in my experience.


Have you had any experiences with those "forge" games? If yes, did the two issues you mention arise too? How have your theoretical understandings influenced your enjoyment as a player?
Please include actual play examples when possible, the two you mentioned really helped me get an idea of your general context.
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Regards,
Christoph
Bjorn
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2007, 02:54:51 PM »

Performance anxiety
It seems like you take on a lot of preparation before play and that you view this as the key to a good play experience. Hence, a lot of responsibility sits on your shoulders.
Is it safe to say that your theoretical investigations have helped you to understand this situation more clearly, thus increasing your anxiety?
There are a number of corollaries to these thoughts that actually provide interesting solutions to lessen the stress.
For example, have you checked out the thread on forms of leadership?
Otherwise, try out a game without any necessary preparation, for a change of pace and see what you think of it. Good examples I know of are Dirty Secrets, Polaris and My Life with Master. These games also explode in-game authority across all participants in peculiar ways, meaning that there isn't just one guy who is responsible for the fun.
These games have been a tremendous relief and improvement in my roleplaying concerning this issue. It helped me to let go of some of my control-freakness too.

I wouldn't say that I view good preparations as "the key" to a good play experience but certanly as "one key". I used to be quite miminmalistic as far as preparations go and rely a lot on improv during play but after some soulsearching I realized that this was something I wanted to improve. Also some parts of GNS theory made me realize that I could prepare some stuff that wouldn't have occured to me in the old days and by doing so enhance play.

To take the example from my DD3E game where I might before (in this type of game) just put down some monster statistics and then just "ad hoc" the play of the oposition I now try to think about and prepare tactics and ploys and such that the monsters/foes might use. After all, the players have multiple brains each controling a single character that they know intimatly while I have a dozen or more "criters" that are new to me and I've figured that to then expect to maximize the "step on up" aspect of the game "on the fly" isn't very realistic.

As for the responsibilty I would like to say that I assume a lot of responsibilty for the success of the game at hand, espesially if GMing. However even if not put into so many words I belive we have a pretty strong consensus in our gaming group that each participant has a personal responsibilty to make sure they enjoy the experience themselves and help make sure it is enjoyable by the rest of the group, but perhaps with somewhat more responsibilty for the success of the game residing with the GM. (Which I personaly think is pretty reasonable in a game with "traditional" GM-Player roles.)

As for games that do away with the traditional GM-Player splits that is certanly something I would like to try. If nothing else as a learning experiment, but quite frankly I don't think this is something my current main group is either ready for or intrested in. Plus I want to make it very clear that this problem is ALL me. I have no indications whatsoever that anyone else has had any complaints, the few times I've aproched the subject in fact everyone assures me it's fine...

And I'm pretty sure it's not just politeness either, I've gamed with some of these guys for ~20 years and I'm reasonably confident that I would see through it if they were seriously displeased. If anything I am starting to find it sligthly annoying that the other members of my group are so pleased with everything. In some way I feel that we used to be roughly on the same page in terms of ambition. We took the game seriously (when playing) and were not content with just "having a good time" (as in hanging out and socializing) but we were satisfied with "having fun" (as in enjoying the game). I feel that the rest of the group is still more or less there, while for me I seem to have gone to a plce where I don't just take the game seriously but want to be devoted to it and where merely having fun isn't enough anymore. Maybe I'm just fooled by a vision of lots of (or at least some) other gamers having consistently "life-changing" game experiences using all of the trapings of a new paradigm. ("Life-changing" is probably not the right word for what I am trying to say here, I feel my english is letting me down some. What I'm probing for is perhaps more the half-way point between Life-changing and enjoyable.)

I might get back to the other half of your post, but it's getting late. Plus in some way I think you might have helped my answer my own question, When rerading that last paragraph I seem to see a few things a bit more clear, hopefully it still makes sense in the morning...

/Bjorn
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