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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 57 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Teaching a co-narrative game to traditional players  (Read 6421 times)
Cooper
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« on: November 30, 2007, 08:16:15 AM »

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Hans
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Posts: 576


« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2007, 05:30:43 PM »

Hi Cooper:

It sounds to me like it is not a matter really of reading the rules, its more a matter of one or more of the players not really into taking the full narration rights a game like Dust Devils or PTA not only gives, but pretty much requires them to use.  There are three possible reasons for this:

* They don't really want to narrate things like a GM would.  Let's face it, there are a lot of ways to enjoy role-playing games (GNS anyone?).  For example, I have found some players really hate narrating things in a GM-like way because it takes them out of the place they want to be; playing their character in an immersive fashion.  Every time I ask them as GM to narrate another character do something, or ask them to come up with some setting element, they just get annoyed, because that has nothing to do with their character's reactions and emotions.  That kind of play is really just incompatible with Dust Devils or similar games, I'm sorry to say.  More GM-centric games just work better for those players (such as Heroquest, or Spirit of the Century). 

* They are incapable of narrating things like a GM would.  Let's face it, not everyone has the quick witted imagination to come up with cool stuff in the moment.  I don't mean that as a criticism.  I will never be able to write a good novel, or write even a mediocre piece of music.  GM-like narration is an art form, that needs both talent and skill to do well.  Not everyone has the talent, and often these players know their limits very well.  We all know people who have played RPG's for years and never once considered GMing.   If you have players like this, just admit it to yourself, and work around it.   They might enjoy a game of Dust Devils very much, as long as you don't push them to hard, and back them up.  Talk it over with them and give them "permission" to hand off the narration when they want to.  Ask them if its ok if the other players make suggestions, with full understanding that they have the last word on what happens.  They might feel more comfortable letting others do most of the heavy lifting.

* They lack confidence and training at narrating things like a GM would.  These are players that simply need practice, and lots of encouragement.  At first, it will take them a while to come up with things; be patient, and don't be too quick to offer suggestions (as opposed to the 2nd sort of player, above).  Let them know that YOU know they are really cool and imaginative people, and you trust them to come up with something that will really be neat.  It is only by coming up with cool stuff, and then getting the affirmation of their friends that it WAS cool stuff, that these players will learn the skills they need.  The more they do it, the better they will get.

As to reading books: there is absolutely no reason why players should have to read Dust Devils.  Nine Worlds, on the other hand, has a significant layer of complexity, both rules related and setting related, that probably requires the players to at least skim the book.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2007, 07:03:18 AM »

Hello,

I have a slightly different viewpoint regarding the books, especially for these games. Matt has produced two eminently readable, well-edited, well-organized, and fascinating texts. They're also attractive, well-illustrated, and interesting as objects. Neither is particularly long, especially compared to other RPGs with similar settings.

I suggest that game-play for both benefits greatly if the books are treated as common property, not merely for reference, but as reading texts. I do not greatly value the classic vision, in which the GM reads the book and then mentors the players through the processes of play as well as reveals the setting through play. I think that vision goes hand in hand with indigestible, arcane, and mostly-unusable material in the book.

It may be that your group members have bought into that classic vision of the role-playing experience, in which reading the book is associated with (a) GM prep and (b) rules confusion. If that's the case, then you'll have a problem - for these games, the GM is not the rules-interpreter and rules-arbiter; he or she is a fellow player who is responsible for following the rules like any other player. By this viewpoint, anyone should read the book, and whoever understands the rules best should be consulted about them during play if necessary. The book does not stand at a GM/player divide.

I do not know the people involved, but if one or more of them is flatly resistant to the idea that he or she "owns" the book/rules as much as anyone else at the table - and is responsible for that ownership during play - then you may have a problem. This is, I think, an ongoing hassle when Nine Worlds, especially, is involved (Sorcerer is like this too). The GM is forced to explain and explain, when the relevant text is both present and clear for anyone to read, not just that one person. But the explain-ee benefits from this situation, because they can balk and criticize and fight back to the first person's face, ad hominem, and never actually sit down and try to understand it - it's more powerful and emotionally safer to keep resisting.

Anyway, that is a worst-case scenario. I've also seen the happy alternative, which is merely to say, "Hey, I really want to play this game because I read this book, and I'd like you to read it too, or whatever parts of it you want, to see if you get excited about it too." Then, whoever does that over the next month or two while you guys all play something else, well, those are the people you play with.

Best, Ron
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Hans
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Posts: 576


« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2007, 09:13:07 AM »

I should qualify.  I don't think people need to read Dust Devils to be able to play the game with you.  I think people SHOULD read Dust Devils, because it is cool, and worth reading, as Ron points out.  Its hard to imagine how a game would be worse if people read the book. 

I think people should BUY Dust Devils, because I want Matt to keep making games, and the cash has to help..
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Cooper
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2007, 12:36:07 PM »

Since posting that, I have talked with my players about what might be the problem. The cool thing about waiting to post like I did, you two have enlightened me a little more on the subject (thank you). Since there is not a consistent source to why co-narration is not working, I am very frustrated.

Hans: all three of your examples apply, but with different players. The sad thing is that two of the players (the traditional D&D players) have grown impatient with me and another is very uncomfortable about being put on the spot (having to narrate when getting the highest card). The other two players are really up to it, but just have not figured out how this all works.

Getting to Ron's advice (thank you too, btw): Personally, I have been trying to get them to read these games because I was hopping it would start changing my friend's playing styles (and they are good books). But main reason why I had asked everyone if they could take the time to go through the rules is really that this style of story telling is new to me. If at least one (if not more) could have gone over the rules, then I would not feel so outnumbered when it came to have to remind the players what it takes to set up a scene.

This is a player issue and not a game issue (crap!).
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2007, 01:29:50 PM »


This is a player issue and not a game issue (crap!).

Not necessarily "crap".  There's no rule that says you all have to play the same game at the same time always.

Play the co-narration games with the players who are into it separately while continuing to play the games you all enjoy with everyone.

The players who are into it, may wind up (through their descriptions of how much fun they're having) convince some of the others to try as well...but if not...hey you're having fun both ways.  Win-Win.
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Hans
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« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2007, 01:43:30 PM »

Hans: all three of your examples apply, but with different players. The sad thing is that two of the players (the traditional D&D players) have grown impatient with me and another is very uncomfortable about being put on the spot (having to narrate when getting the highest card). The other two players are really up to it, but just have not figured out how this all works.

Finding the right game for a group like the one you describe is not easy.  Just going to traditional games won't help, because some of the players (at least you, I suspect) would be unhappy with that.  But moving out into the wild expanses of sharing out GM-duties is also a problem.  

Is it that the unhappy players are unhappy with all the GM-like responsibilities, or just some?  For example, do they mind scene framing?  Narrating conflict resolution?  Contributing setting and situation elements outside of their characters?  Are there any GM-like responsibilities they enjoy?  

I ask because indie games have a wide variety in how these elements are divided up.  It could be that by avoiding the ones that stress the kinds of responsibility your players don't like, you can find one that has a division that every can enjoy.
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Cooper
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Posts: 54


« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2007, 08:23:18 PM »

Play the co-narration games with the players who are into it separately while continuing to play the games you all enjoy with everyone.

The players who are into it, may wind up (through their descriptions of how much fun they're having) convince some of the others to try as well...but if not...hey you're having fun both ways.  Win-Win.

MAN! I tried suggesting that and one of the players blew up at me and said I was trying to ruin a good thing by separating the game group up! It is all kinds of drama that does not need to happen basically. The games I have tried to run are not the only games we do in this group (one guy runs Warhammer and soon Sorcerer... which, ironically he has no trouble with), but some people can be really sensitive about these things.

I really do agree about taking the players who like these kinds of games and just have them play PTA, Nine Worlds or Dust Devils. The sad thing is, that will be me and two other players.
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Cooper
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2007, 08:43:21 PM »

Is it that the unhappy players are unhappy with all the GM-like responsibilities, or just some?  For example, do they mind scene framing?  Narrating conflict resolution?  Contributing setting and situation elements outside of their characters?  Are there any GM-like responsibilities they enjoy?  

I ask because indie games have a wide variety in how these elements are divided up. It could be that by avoiding the ones that stress the kinds of responsibility your players don't like, you can find one that has a division that every can enjoy.

We had major problems bringing in the elements for scene framing. I would end up having to give most people a major hand. On the plus side, no one had trouble jumping into the roleplaying. They would just do it before we finished framing the scene (stuff that could be worked out over time).

One player had a major problem with the resolution system for PTA, and I blame D&D for that. Ironically that player was the only person that was decent at framing scenes (he is a GM too). I do not need to explain how not only PTA, but Dust Devils and Nine Worlds have great resolution systems (well, I have only played the first one so far, but you know what I mean).

Two players just did not understand how things worked, but were enthusiastic. And the two other players did not like working for their game (my wife was one of them).

Now, I have not played it yet, but in Nine Worlds, do you have to have the player's frame scenes all the time, or just if they have something they want to tell? Because it is my belief that actively having to help tell the story was what the biggest obstacle was.

In Don't Rest Your Head, the story has a setting, but the story is centered around the player's characters. If they do not want to narrate a scene, then the game still works (I have read this, but it is on a list of "soon to be played"). Is Nine Worlds like that and if it is not, can it be played that way without ruining the feel of the rules? If it can be, I think once they get used to that, they may be willing to take it further and start helping tell parts of the story (the way I believe it was intentionally created).

I am afraid that I got off topic with the original question on how to teach these players co-narration, and I am sorry about that.
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Cooper
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Posts: 54


« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2007, 08:37:48 PM »

Well, well...look what practically fell into my lap:
http://www.lulu.com/content/1436677

Now, I will have to convince my players to read this too ;-)
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2007, 09:38:01 AM »

Now, I have not played it yet, but in Nine Worlds, do you have to have the player's frame scenes all the time, or just if they have something they want to tell? Because it is my belief that actively having to help tell the story was what the biggest obstacle was.

In Don't Rest Your Head, the story has a setting, but the story is centered around the player's characters. If they do not want to narrate a scene, then the game still works (I have read this, but it is on a list of "soon to be played"). Is Nine Worlds like that and if it is not, can it be played that way without ruining the feel of the rules? If it can be, I think once they get used to that, they may be willing to take it further and start helping tell parts of the story (the way I believe it was intentionally created).

Hi, Cooper. So far, people are giving you superb suggestions. In fact, I'd argue it's better for them to explain than for me to in many of those issues because they can better provide advice "outside" my specific game-design head.

Anyway, to your question.

Ok, yes, it is possible to play Nine Worlds by having the GM frame scenes, and the players reacting within those scenes. That can be totally enjoyable. My only warning is that this process still requires the players to get involved once things are set (i.e. framed). So, I'm assuming you and I are talking about the same thing when we say "frame scene."

I see it as taking away some of that intitial intimidation, and then giving them a play space in which to exercise their narration should they win a victory (and narrate).

Also! Keep in mind that offering up suggestions is a great way to help someone find their confidence to narrate. They can incorporate other players' ideas freely.

Now, my experience with that is that sometimes a player just never will go beyond that. Frankly, that's often a sign Nine Worlds (and other games) just aren't their style. But, sometimes it's all a player needs to get jump started. I find this to be particularly true of traditional gamers (as opposed to someone with very little RPG play experience, for example). They often have a kind of ritualistic understanding of "talking" boundaries, regardless of what the game's rules and their fellow players are telling them is ok to do. Once they start to see those boundaries fall away, it's sink or swim time. Some people swim, and turn out to love the game and narration. Others sink; they have a miserable time with the game because it's not where they feel safe. That's ok, other games are for them.

I hope this is helpful.
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Matt Snyder
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"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
Cooper
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2007, 08:02:58 PM »

Yes that was helpful. Thank you and thanks to everyone who has offered their advice.

I think Dust Devils might be a good way to ease into this. It's concept is really easy to understand and we all like westerns.

The reason why I am wanting to play Nine Worlds so much is that it has potential to go on for longer. Also, the game reminds me of Sandman and that right there hooked me. I know the rules are more involved than Dust Devils or PTA, but are they really harder than D&D? I think the reason why people think D&D is easy is because we have all ignored most of the rules. But if you play the game literally, it is really complicated.

150 pages of Nine Worlds (well, half of that is background and setting) compared to the 300 pages of the Player's Handbook (I know some of that is spells) is not a lot to ask to read if we will be committing to a campaign.

Two of my players said that if I can loan them the book at least two weeks before the game, they will read it. So, if there are three of us that know the rules, I think it will help the other three.

Thanks again!
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Cooper
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« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2008, 08:32:40 PM »

You know how I was complaining that my players were not getting the whole "Co-narrative" game concept with PTA (which was going to hinder the other games I wanted to run)? Well, it was the other GMs time to run a game and he ran Warhammer. My wife and I could not make it to the game, which sucked because something really cool happened at that game. One of the players requested a scene: Her Dwarven entertainer wanted to start pit fighting and she wanted our wizard's apprentice  to use magic to help rig the game. The GM did not expect this at all, but decided to go with it. It ended up were the wizard's apprentice missed a role and got spotted by the local thieves' guild for what they were trying to do. The game was left off with all of them being blackmailed into rigging pit fights by the local thieves' guild.

None of that was planned by the GM, but because one of the players requested a scene and her husband added onto it, it inspired the GM to come up with a new dilemma and plot.

So, you know what I was thinking after they told me that? They are ready for Dust Devils!
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