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Author Topic: [D&D 4E] Basic Understanding Of Roleplaying This Character  (Read 3096 times)
Big J Money
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Posts: 22


« on: December 01, 2008, 06:25:30 PM »

This one will be quick.  I was the DM in our D&D Adventure last week; we're "running through" the first published adventure to get acclimated with the system and decide if we want to make the effort to take 4E farther in some direction afterward.

So the characters are in a tomb and one of them remains back near the entrance, refusing to get near the elaborate coffin or assist the other characters in opening it with the priest to see what can be discovered.  As the tomb is opened, the lid shatters and the ghost of the dead Lord appears to challenge the characters' motives for entering the keep.  It so happens that the ghost is bent on destroying any he suspects have come to remove the wards he protected years ago, but with enough convincing can be led to see that maybe those seeking entry are here to preserve and protect the sanctity of the place.  One of the qualities he was looking for in such a group of heroes was a toughness and determination.  Since this player's character had chosen his character to be skilled in being intimidating, I figured it would come across as a well-suited encounter if the ghost sought some kind of approval of that character's gritty resilience.  Game terms, this meant the player rolled an intimidate check as their character was confronted with a verbal challenge from the ghost and acted out or said some words that could be seen as suitably tough and intimidating.  If it sounded good to me, I'd grant a bonus to the roll.

He instead decided to be humble and give the answer, "Well, I'll do my best, but I'm not sure exactly what I'm capable of." when asked would he press on against the darkness when all hope is lost and all his companions have forsaken him.  I still asked for an Intimidate skill roll since that was what the ghost was looking for, but I decided to simply give no bonus since the answer was not a convincingly appropriate one.  (I was tempted to give a penalty but the game mechanics didn't call for them in this case; though I might start house-ruling if I run similar encounters in the future.)  Now, this is what I'm confused about.  After the session he mentioned this and mentioned that he felt as if the group was not understanding how he "was playing his character correctly" and that they were pressuring him to play his character differently.  I'm noticing this happens with this player every session.  Each session he feels the need to defend his choice of play from one or more other players whenever they make alternate suggestions about things his character might consider doing.  This seems to be a very big deal to this player because he seems to get frustrated and maybe a little stressed about it.  It's as if his character and all his future decisions are already mapped out in his head and to alter from that course would be to upset his game experience; the different situations that might arise be damned.  So, I'm left with this weird feeling that one of the players created a persona that he understands exclusively, and to him playing the game is the simple act of throwing that unchangeable persona against the different challenges and scenarios I present to the group.  I'm left feeling like this is somewhat selfish and hard to please.

So this is what I really want to know.  Are there some things I am unaware of that I can do to run my game better for a player like this?  He said to me later that he had actually already decided his character would have a personality quirk of being particularly unsettled about the idea of upsetting graveyards, although he never told me or any of the other players this when we started playing.  If I had known that, maybe I could have altered the situation, expecting that his character would not have wanted to participate directly with an undead personality.  Maybe I could have made a comical situation out of it, or maybe I could have given him a shot to gain a reward for overcoming his fears with some very obvious potential plot-line prodding.  Otherwise, I'm stumped as to how I can help this guy contribute to the group, beyond simply trying to escape into this character he's created.  Does this make sense, or am I being silly?  Also, if he is going to continue to create this character quirks and not tell me, how can I hope to devise (or modify) role playing encounters that are engaging for his character? 

To be fair, my DMing play style (with this published adventure) has also incorporated some pretty unmutable elements.  I tend to throw situations and encounters at the players with little modification unless absolutely required.  When the ghost wanted to size up the most fearsome member of the adventuring party and found him to be humble, I decided to stick with my guns and have the ghost be disappointed.  I could have allowed the player to make some different kind of check, and played the ghost impressed and made up some line about the quiet, calm reserve of a pure and steady heart.  But I didn't.  I had planned for this encounter to require an Intimidation skill check and I used that.  (In previous sessions I had been more direct about what skill checks would be required to succeed at something, but the player's seemed to not like it.  I get the sense that being too open harms some of what they would call (yikes) immersion.  It's like it's better somehow when I don't directly explain that the ghostly Lord wants to see an intimidating and fearsome hero among them.)

Thanks,

-- John M.

(BTB, these portions of play account for about 25%-33% of our game.  The rest is minatures based combat and puzzle solving which everyone seems to work together very enjoyably on.)
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gsoylent
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Posts: 62


« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2008, 12:45:00 AM »


To me, it sounds like it was just a poorly written scenario.

Well the way I see it is. If the GM sets me, the player, a problem and also tell me how I should solve it, I start think why does the GM even need me. He can just roll the dice for me and I can go and watch Futurama reruns this way we both win!

The fun for a player like me is not just rolling d20s on demand, a robot can do that. What is fun for me as player is to be able to express myself creatively and do things I find interesting and feel true to my character and the current situation.

In the specifc case you present, I happen to think that humble is a perfectly natural and genre appropriate reaction to seeing the ghost of a lord. In thefantaasy mindset, you are meant to respect the dead and you are meant to respect nobility. Unless there was some other clue earlier in the scenario on how to approach this encounter, it should be up to the players to decide how to solve it.

As a GM I would have thought your best bet is to ignore what scenario says and go with the moment. Respond to what the players are actually doing now and not to what was written and months and months ago by some guy. The scenario writer isn't there with you, he doesn't know your players.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2008, 04:58:36 AM »

Hello,

I suggest that the key lies in this sentence of yours:

Quote
I figured it would come across as a well-suited encounter if the ghost sought some kind of approval of that character's gritty resilience.  Game terms, this meant the player rolled an intimidate check as their character was confronted with a verbal challenge from the ghost and acted out or said some words that could be seen as suitably tough and intimidating.  If it sounded good to me, I'd grant a bonus to the roll.

I am going to paraphrase this: "The players will enjoy this most if one of them does exactly what I want." You basically played the scenario in your head before play, and decided that it would be successful only if specific things happened. And by specific things, you meant that a given player would have his character behave and say particular things. Futhermore, although in the fiction the characters are being presented with a choice and some possible danger, in reality you had no intention whatsoever of this encounter going in any direction except for this particular way.

Quote
... with enough convincing can be led to see that maybe those seeking entry are here to preserve and protect the sanctity of the place.

Again, that means that the players are supposed to try to convince the ghost they are here for decent purposes. And you even decided beforehand which character would respond in a particular way.

That's called railroading. I recognize it because I did it for years and years. And during all those years, I kept saying, "Why won't they play their characters well? Why don't they want a good story?" Only after far too long did I realize that by "play well," I meant, "do exactly what I anticipated and wanted them to do," and by "story," I meant, "every scene turns out exactly the way I want it to in order to lead to another scene I have in my notes."

It might make sense to talk about it in physical terms. The characters are faced with a spiked wall moving toward them. They'll be impaled and crushed. The GM has decided that if they all blast the wall with their strongest attacks, it'll be destroyed. But for some reason, one character starts digging a hole. A hole! In the floor!

The GM is flabbergasted. Doesn't the player know that if he only does the "right thing" that everything will be OK? Doesn't the player know that this encounter was actually an intermediary scene, to help them get to the really good fight planned for the next step? Doesn't the player know that the GM will be forced to kill his character and maybe all the rest if he doesn't help blast the wall? Why won't he play his character right?

I also must call out the vast majority of published adventures, particularly those which followed upon the publication of D&D3.0, as being the most unplayable railroading trash in role-playing history. By unplayable I do not mean cliched or not to my taste. I mean literally unplayable. No one wants their characters to be played by a GM. No one wants to have to play "guess what I'm thinking" in order for their characters to survive or merely to get to an important point. I would like to know which published adventure you're talking about, but if it's anything like the literally hundreds I've seen, every encounter is written something like:

"12 hyenas attack! After the characters deal with the hyenas ..."

All of which means the authors are being stupid and lazy. They aren't writing tools for actual use during play by real people. They're writing extremely poor fiction through the deceptive medium of talking as if it were being played. I don't blame you for being sucked in by that; it's exciting to read and imagine your players going through it, but upon reflection I hope you see that such readings completely disrespect the people you're playing with when real play comes along.

Fact: if you wanted the ghost befriend the characters and give them information, then have it befriend them and give them information as long as they aren't so stupid as to attack it outright. Don't make it contingent upon what a player will ("is supposed to" or "should obviously") do, and don't put in risks, like a possible fight with the ghost, that you as GM aren't willing to take.

Here's another point: in-fiction justifications or debate about any of this are not valid. What the ghost would or must do. What the character would or should do. The player's talk about "his character" is one symptom of this common error. We're really talking about the people, you, him, and the others. The question is whether you are able to fulfill the role of GM (DM in this case) without expectations of how the characters must react in order for play to proceed.

Best, Ron
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2008, 11:57:25 AM »

Hi, John!

I just wanted to add my experience to the pool in support of what Ron's saying. I went through a looooong struggle in my gaming life of feeling like if the other players would just play their characters right, our games could be so awesome. It's a recipe for bitterness and dissatisfaction.

My own bout of "why won't the player respond correctly?!" is documented in the thread, [Over the Edge] Killing the Dilemma, where I got miffed that a player didn't have exactly the same aesthetic judgment as me of the characters and situation I presented him with. My stance was especially poisonous because I was steeped in all kinds of new-fangled principles and techniques gleaned from around here, and thus feeling like I had "fixed" my bad habits and doing awesome gaming, and my dumb ol' dyed-in-the-wool gamer buddies were dragging their feet and ruining all my "scene framing" and "bangs" (by the way, what I used in this incident was a damn lousy Bang).

So this is not to dogpile you but to say, alongside Ron, "I was that guy." And maybe give you a picture of why being "that guy" wasn't too fun for me or those I played with. Note that this does NOT mean you can't have a personal aesthetic judgment of other players' input. See my current Cascadiapunk thread for a case where I played in a game where our aesthetic (and procedural) standards were not in accord, and we (wisely, I think) called it off. This is just to say that roleplaying with real shared input means definitionally opening yourself to the real risk that someone's input will be unsatisfying to someone.

I think it's worth the risk.

peace,
-Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2008, 02:50:10 PM »

Hold on all. It's perfectly all right to frame a scene and then declare the required roll. Framing a scene doesn't automatically mean that system grants players a choice.

John, how did you describe entering the tomb? I'm wondering if you described it rather like a cut scene in a video game, where their all going in very cautiously, but as players, they just watch this. But then at the end one player declares they actually stay at the door and - here's the problem - trying to be a fluid GM, you go with that.

I'm thinking you had imagined the whole thing in advance, like a cut scene following directly into a skill roll. But then you accidentally gave the player a choice - a real choice. And things fell apart from there.

Did you want to give the player a choice, or did you give them one by accident?

If the set up was that they get a choice, then pay attention to what Ron and everyone else posted. If you gave a choice by accident, then it's as simple as that - it was accidentally given. Dang! In that case I'd ignore the other posts (sorry guys) because they appear to hinge on the idea the player must get a choice at this point, regardless of what the actual system is.

And on to your actual question: How to please this player?

Well, I think the question is, rather than you pleasing him, can what comes naturally to him without any real effort, please you? For example, say the situation was that some well liked NPC had been bitten by a monster and would suffer great scaring on the leg and a gimpy leg unless this players PC goes into a nearby crypt right now and gets some grave moss to tend the wound. Does he go?* I'd enjoy it if he went in. I'd enjoy it if he stayed out. Both are really interesting results to me. I'm guessing they would be interesting and pleasing to the player too. Would either result be interesting to you, or only the one that 'gets on with the story'? If it's the latter, you don't appear to match. Either you'd be forcing him to play your way, or you'd be forcing yourself to play his way. That's my rough, overall estimate. Take it with a grain of salt.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Big J Money
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2008, 07:17:47 PM »


I am glad I waited to read Callan's post before replying, which says what I was thinking a little better.  Yes, the players had a choice (although insignificant, I would say) of whether to enter the Tomb, but it was purely binary.  Enter Tomb?==Yes means optional scripted encounter with a possible reward at the end.  Enter Tomb?==No means no optional encounter.  So I think the answer you are looking for is "no".  The real question to me now is, do I really want this kind of play.  And I'm frustrated that a D&D product has put me in the position of having to ask myself this question after we have alread started playing.  However, I consider the railroad discussion the tertiary discussion (but will take the next step anyway) and I will focus on responding to what I was really trying to get at in my OP.


CLARIFICATION

To me, it sounds like it was just a poorly written scenario.

In hindsight, it was a very poorly written encounter, and it could be that the entire product is poorly written as well.  For Ron's interest, I'm talking about "Keep On The Shadowfell", the adventure that came out the month before D&D 4E was released.  This encounter was a very, very poorly example of D&D 4E's "skill challenge" rules whereby players are presented with some kind of non-combat adventuring challenge and roll dice  to determine if they succeed or not.  By the rules the DM predetermines a few skills that can be used to make progress against the challenge, but the system additionally calls for players to be creative and offer their own suggestions for actions they wish their characters to take and make rolls appropriate to that.  This encounter was set up only with predetermined rolls and offered no further information.  So hopefully now if I continue to use premade adventures, my bullshit detector is trained and I will be aware.  Ultimately, I think even the Skill Challenge rules as presented in the 4E material are woefully inadequate for satisfying play (in my experience, so far) and I briefly mention a possible solution, below.

Fact: if you wanted the ghost befriend the characters and give them information, then have it befriend them and give them information as long as they aren't so stupid as to attack it outright. Don't make it contingent upon what a player will ("is supposed to" or "should obviously") do, and don't put in risks, like a possible fight with the ghost, that you as GM aren't willing to take.

I may misunderstand you here, but the possible fight with the ghost was not a risk I was not willing to take.  It was the intended reward for failure of the (admittedly lame) diplomacy encounter with the ghost.


BACK TO MY ORIGINAL PROBLEM

Here's another point: in-fiction justifications or debate about any of this are not valid. What the ghost would or must do. (a) What the character would or should do. The player's talk about "his character" is one symptom of this common error. We're really talking about the people, you, him, and the others. (b) The question is whether you are able to fulfill the role of GM (DM in this case) without expectations of how the characters must react in order for play to proceed.

Here is what I see from where I am: Issue (a) is what I was originally asking about.  I'm not sure the railroading discussion is relevant to this item or not, but it is the warning light that goes off for me whenever this player expresses displeasure with the rest of the group.  A better example may be an earlier session when the players came upon a burial sight for a dragon.  At first, the players had the notion that the cult leader they were after was excavating the grave to raise an undead dragon.  The players' characters went along with that notion.  At first they were so concerned they considered taking take time away from the urgent (main adventure) quest to discover some way to stop this believed raising of the dragon from taking place.  [Aside: As the DM I had no preference whether they did this or not.]  Then one of the players realized that this was an illogical concern because if they succeeded at destroying the evil personality in question (the main quest) then he wouldn't be around to raise the dragon.  Why worry about researching rituals to prevent the raising of a dragon when you can just kill the necromancer who (only maybe) wishes to do so?  Well, the player I have mentioned decided that it made sense for his character to be afraid someone was going to raise the dragon anyway.  When it was explained to him by the other players that the only known person to be powerful enough to do it was the very evil cult leader they were going to confront, his reply was that maybe even less powerful more common mages could do such a thing.  He than said that, he personally didn't believe this, but that his character did.  Since the other players seemed confused enough to require further explanation, he explained that his character is a soldier and doesn't understand magic.  Another player who is playing a soldier (who added "Hm, my character also doesn't understand magic") explained that that was illogical because it would mean that undead dragons would be a common sight, which they are not.  Of course the first player stuck to his guns that it was 'realistic' for his character to be believing this and that everyone else should be able to see why this was 'plausible' and accept it for that reason. 

The reason this is an issue for our group is only because it's an issue for him and I don't like to see him get so frustrated.  The group tends to ignore this stuff when plays by it, which upsets him because he sees his input being rejected simply by being ignored.  Another way to describe it would be that he seems to come from the position that he is the only person who can understand his character and that's what makes him right.  It's not because the rules give him the authority to be in control over his character, it's because he knows who this imaginary character is and what it is thinking.  Like I said in my original post, this might seem like a silly thing for me to think, but this is the impression I get about this one recurring situation in our group.

I don't think issue (b) is a problem with me as far as fiction-justification is concerned.  I don't prepare things to turn out a certain way because my imagined fiction carries some special importance to me.  Actually, it's quite the contrary.  It's easier to say, "This encounter would be super cool, and I think it would be fun and engaging if the rules went like this:"  and then I just throw it at the players, letting them tackle it as-is, employing their own creativity to create color and dialogue around the situation.


THE SUBJECT OF RAILROADING
(If this is so tertiary as to not warrant continued discussion, feel free to ignore it.  Actually, I'm not even sure if this is an acceptable continuance of the AP report or not, so I'd rather someone just tell me if this is useful discussion or not.)

You basically played the scenario in your head before play, and decided that it would be successful only if specific things happened. And by specific things, you meant that a given player would have his character behave and say particular things. Furthermore, although in the fiction the characters are being presented with a choice and some possible danger, in reality you had no intention whatsoever of this encounter going in any direction except for this particular way.

And you even decided beforehand which character would respond in a particular way.

That's called railroading. I recognize it because I did it for years and years.

Okay, so it's called correctly.  Let's admit that the particular example I gave was a horrible piece of railroading garbage.  However, I'd still like to ask the question, "Is railroading really always bad; can it not be considered a legitimate technique" because the way the encounters are designed in the published adventure still follow a basic railroad format.  Okay, here's my mental pitch for railroad play: the players get to play the heroic protagonists in a story with the crucial parts predetermined.  They will face challenges and battles that allow them to make creative and tactical decisions regarding use of their heroic abilities.  Of course, ignore the fact that I did a horrendous job running the Ghostly Lord encounter almost as it was written.

[Note: I'm in the process of designing a major homebrew revision of the skill challenge system that is more straight-forwardly presented to the players and which encourages and actually requires creative player input about their characters.  In fact, one of the things I'm trying to judge right now in its design is "am I asking for too much player input" with the concern that players who come along willingly for a railroad ride wish to be only so responsible for table contributions.]

[...] I also must call out the vast majority of published adventures, particularly those which followed upon the publication of D&D3.0, as being the most unplayable railroading trash in role-playing history. By unplayable I do not mean cliched or not to my taste. I mean literally unplayable. No one wants their characters to be played by a GM. No one wants to have to play "guess what I'm thinking" in order for their characters to survive or merely to get to an important point.

So I have to ask, are you sure?  "Guess what I'm thinking" is a game.  I fondly remember playing "Eye Spy" as a kid.  Is the use of railroading to establish hard plot and situation boundaries a roleplaying game breaker?  I'm posing this question now in all seriousness because I will be at a crossroads soon where the published adventure ends and I must make a decision to radically change our play-style or stick with it.  The players so far have seemed to enjoy themselves.  I will definitely be bringing up the issue of the published adventure and railroading in general to their attention for feedback.  Although I hesitate to use the word "railroad" because that could elicit negative responses even if there is disparity between us over the meaning.

Finally, I'd like to apologize that I happened to choose such a bad example to start the discussion.  In hindsight it's embarrassing I went with that encounter as written as if I was satisfying some kind of 4E product purity goddess.

Thank you,

-- John M.
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greyorm
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« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2008, 12:41:46 AM »

Quote
Ultimately, I think even the Skill Challenge rules as presented in the 4E material are woefully inadequate for satisfying play

According to the gaming blogs I read, this issue of the skill challenge rules not achieving the desired objective for their design has been noted by the 4E design team and apparently fixed via publication of an article in Dragon magazine (but don't quote me on that). Here's more information on skill challenge issues as well as a link to the fixes implemented by the design team (down at the bottom).
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2008, 12:53:55 AM »

i]he had made that character in the first place an he<everybodyhe<everybody
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NN
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« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2008, 03:08:57 AM »

I think the nub is this:

"Of course the first player stuck to his guns that it was 'realistic' for his character to be believing this and that everyone else should be able to see why this was 'plausible' and accept it for that reason".

Heres the thing: Was he just insisting on his characters right to be a dolt, or was he insistent that everyone else accepted his characters doltish plan?

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2008, 07:10:41 AM »

Hey John,

Apologize? No way, don't do that. This is a really good topic. I see now exactly how your example brought in different issues from your intended topic.

To stay with that other issue, briefly, I'm thinking ... well, first, we developed a term here a while ago called Force, meaning when anyone reaches over the table, verbally and mentally speaking, to play someone else's character. Railroading is a term for Force being employed by tacit expectation, by deception, or by bullying - basically without full permission.

You're absolutely right that Force in and of itself is not a bad thing, particularly when everyone buys into it and "the story" is acknowledged to be one person's job. We ended up calling this application of Force Participationist play, as opposed to Illusionist in which the GM tries to hide the Force he or she is relying on. There are a number of threads here about how to make Participationist play successful; Illusionist play is more generally perceived to be unsuccessful in the long run.

Anyway, that said, it's up to you whether to pursue the railroading issue here, which is perfectly OK by the rules of the site, and I can provide some serious linkage to useful discussions. Also, I want to stress that I'm not calling you on being a Damned Railroader or anything else accusatory. My take is that you got temporarily bait-and-switched by the publication, and are thoughtful enough to want to figure out how it happened and how not to find yourself there again. I call that responsible.

Let's focus on the guy in your group, then. As I wrote above, one issue is that dissatisfaction with play is only being addressed in terms of "my character," meaning that this fictional construct who is entirely under the control of a real person is supposed to be referenced as if he, the character were real. There is some integrity to this notion, in that the player's art (or contribution, or shared-imagining) should be given respect by everyone else ... but unfortunately, the notion can become distorted into what Forge-speak calls My Guy Syndrome.

My Guy Syndrome is pretty recognizable - it doesn't matter what the fundamental disconnect is between one player and everyone else, but whatever it may be, it's practically constant during play such that the fun-level is bottoming out. Typically the character either attacks ferociously and randomly ("The merchant smiles and says ..." [interrupting] "I kill him!!") or refuses to do anything ("I say nothing." "OK, what do you do?" "Nothing."). The person always justifies himself by saying "My guy would do it that way." What's happening here is that the fiction is being blamed for being lousy fiction (and here I don't mean "story" but rather the basic imagined medium of play), which is circular logic. If the other members of the group get sucked into that pit of false logic, then they'll wrangle endlessly about what the character "would or would not" do - a hopeless task, because the character does not exist.

Quote
... he seems to come from the position that he is the only person who can understand his character and that's what makes him right.  It's not because the rules give him the authority to be in control over his character, it's because he knows who this imaginary character is and what it is thinking.  Like I said in my original post, this might seem like a silly thing for me to think, but this is the impression I get about this one recurring situation in our group.

I don't know where this player and your group fall into the spectrum between respect-my-fiction-in-our-fiction at one end vs. My Guy Syndrome at the other. I am certain, however, that trying to address the issue by continuing to reference the character isn't going to work well. When the group experiences dissonance of this kind, I think it's pretty much given that someone must say, "Look, I'm not talking about your character, I'm talking to you and about what you do." And, I hope, "About all of us together" rather than "you vs. the rest of us," but that's a matter for each group to cope with.

Regarding "guess what I'm thinking," that's a good question and yes, very relevant for published-adventure design. Clearly uncertainty, and the tension between prep and actual play, can be excellent things. However, I suggest that it all works as a good thing when everyone knows (a) that we're doing it and (b) about what. Eye Spy works mainly because I know I'm guessing about what you're able to see right now, and we also both know who is the guesser and who is the guessee. The problematic situation I'm talking about is when none of that is certain.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2008, 03:07:07 PM »

Hi again, John,

Something else to keep in mind is that you yourself and the rest of the group seem to have a strong focus on 'the group stays together'. Not that that doesn't make sense in RL practical terms - I think it's a pain in the arse in D&D for the party to be split up and it's hardly supported by system. But your really strong focus on this means when one character decides to decline the optional skill challenge, because the rest of the group goes in and because 'the party stays together', he's in there and having to do this ghost roll. Or because 'the party stays together', when he thinks lesser mages need to be stopped from raising a dead dragon, you don't leave him behind, you kind of argue him into coming with you since 'the party must stay together'. Indeed you even think he's acting as if he's right about what the whole party should be doing. That you think as a player he's talking about what the whole party must do kind of shows how much you focus on the party always staying together.

That's something to consider - whether your focusing on, and thus enforcing 'the group stays together' regardless of what choice you gave the player (like the choice to stay out of the crypt).

Just quickly I'd like to add a note to Ron's advice that I think applies (maybe it doesn't)
Quote
When the group experiences dissonance of this kind, I think it's pretty much given that someone must say, "Look, I'm not talking about your character, I'm talking to you and about what you do."
Even this I think isn't aimed right at the real world problem. Taking the example of "I say nothing." "OK, what do you do?" "Nothing.". I'll stretch it out to it's apparent full implications:
"OK, what do you do? And by leaving 'do' open, I'm including the option of doing nothing"
"I do nothing"
"Gah! Why are you doing that? Look, I'm not talking about your character, I'm talking to you and about what you do!"

I think the real problem is accidentally giving the player choices you didn't intend to give them. Talking to them about what they as a player do, misses that. The problem is not that the player actually took a choice given to him (which was do nothing). It's what you've done/given permission for that is the problem.

It's a bit like the idea of casting a spell - got to get the words just right! Otherwise it's all magicians apprentice with brooms all over the place, or deadites if your Ash and try and cough through the last word that you forgot... Smiley [/lame humour]
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
masqueradeball
Member

Posts: 170


« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2008, 04:05:00 PM »

This post really brings up a lot of memories and feelings about similar experiences with D&D.

Let me make a few points and you can tell me if they apply or might apply to the situation your talking about:

1) It seems that there's a chance here that this "problem" player is doing his best. His definition of "good role playing" has a lot to do with the notion of sticking to his guns about how he interprets his character and he doesn't really grokk approaching play differently. It may just take some good discussion and experimentation with other ways of thinking about player authority and what "good role playing" is for this group of players playing this game. I have a number of intelligent, creative friends, who got an idea of what "good gaming" was from early experiences and haven't thought about it since, and this lead to seriously shitty play between me and them. So maybe there's a fundamental disconnect where this guy just can't hear whats being said to him because of how he conceptualizes the whole thing.

2) There also seems to be a problem with the question of authority over in game content. D&D has quantified mechanics that detail a character's intelligence, wisdom and level of knowledge. Was this system ever used to address whether or not the character would mechanically have an understanding that dragons could be raised from the dead, or who would be capable of doing it. Is the problem that the player's interpretation of the shared fictional world is different than the rest of the groups, and that there's no "series bible" that can address this.

I'd also like to know more about how you run your games. Ron and others are taking the stance that you use too much Force, but I wonder if perhaps its the opposite. How involved were you in the conversation/arguments/discussions between the players over issues like the dragon skeleton? Could it have been resolved by someone in the group (presumably you, the DM) had stated firmly how common the knowledge of necromancy was in the fantasy setting (as these things are left very ambiguous, despite the above mentioned rules) by the game text.

Finally, the way skill challenges are addressed in the text of the DMG (and presumably Keep on the Shadowfell) are, according the designers, poorly written. If your going to continue playing D&D 4, I'd suggest reading some of the designers blogs or checking out some of the early pod-casts about how the skill challenge system was intended to operate. For instance, if the character wasn't being Intimidating, he should have been allowed to suggest a different skill (Diplomacy, for instance) to achieve his goals. The samples in the DMG do a terrible job of explaining how fluid the system was/is intended to be.

Hope this is on topic and helps further the conversation,
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Nolan Callender
JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2008, 10:36:10 AM »

Force is useful when players cannot handle all the creative stuff they might be required to do; when it doesn't come easily to them, or they don't think they can or don't want to do it. In my experience everyone who has had this attitude has actually found that when they came to do it, it was awesome, and so gained a greater appreciation of their own ability, but my sample size is small!

Secondly, I think the problem is actually confusing levels of interaction: Say the players want this player around, but they find his character annoying. If a player really wants to split character from player, then he must be willing for that character to be left behind or forced to comply in ways that wouldn't work at the player level. Basically if the player wants to play an ignorant character who is highly sure of his opinions, then the players characters may leave him behind. We have party cohesion vs player cohesion and it seems like

So what happens if he does get left behind? Does the DM follow his path? Or does he say "This is the path of the adventure, your character has stepped out of it, so he's out of my hands." The limits on the Shared Imaginary Space are quite important to work out; I once walked my PC out of a building and my stressed GM said "You find nothing!" which I thought slightly awesome!

Is this a betrayal of his character? Not really, as you agreed to sit down and play that adventure, and he wanted a character who was not fully limited by it's parameters. No problem, it just means that sometimes stuff he does is outside the adventure. You could even have him on his crazy quest as a separate campaign later on, with new PCs from other players more suited to this.
So what does the player do in the meantime? Well the characters may need another party member, so he could be one of the people they interview etc. Then the player will see that collaboration requires flexibility or pre-arranged harmony, and if his character has neither then he will simply end up leaving the collaborative space. This has happened a number of times with us, but occasionally has lead to an ad-hoc piece of troupe play as someone else has taken up GMing for the new set of stuff, although because it was ad-hoc with substantial compatibility issues that stopped us re-integrating them.

Also on skill challenges, I love them, although I might be biased because they match up to my own system for doing challenges I semi-lifted from Shadowrun. Here's what it seems like your missing: The given skill uses only show the standard way to complete the challenge, if I am not mistaken you should pick skills to roll not by what the spirit wants, but by what fits what they player wants to do, then set the DC by what the spirit wants. So if it is less likely push the DC up. And do not assume only one player must be the one to intimidate; what stops another character stepping up to the plate and intimidating? There's usually a chance, even without the +8 or so for being specialised at it.
Secondly the DMG suggests that whenever you run an encounter, you hide clues as to how easiest to complete it, such as pointing out the cracked structure of a golem or the pungent smell coming off a river. This in character information leads to players being able to take more meaningful choices.

Finally just because someone's character is good at something doesn't mean they always want to do it. They might end up in a situation where the easiest mechanical way to get what they want is to steal some widows savings, because her low influence means inconveniencing her will not effect their chances too much. Obviously not all characters are going to go for that, even ones with identical thieving skills. This is why I like additions like Rustbelts psycho-dynamic system, where you can just stick on the character sheet "by the way, my character will never rob from innocent destitute people". I think adding fears to such a system could be useful cues as well, so people know "this guy can't stand undead". Do you think that may be why the character also wanted to stop the raising of the dragon? One character with high insight sitting down with him might find out that he has a past history problem with undead, and is acting in an obsessive way to compensate. Now how's that for a thematic bomb to drop on that player? It's not longer "just his character", but his motivations can be explored!
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mcv
Member

Posts: 34

Martijn Vos


« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2009, 05:13:46 AM »

However, I'd still like to ask the question, "Is railroading really always bad; can it not be considered a legitimate technique" because the way the encounters are designed in the published adventure still follow a basic railroad format.
Railroading can be very fine, as long as everybody is willing to go along for the ride. But tell them in advance: I'm going to railroad you. Sit tight, and it's going to be a fun ride.

Some people prefer to do their own exploring, and expect to be able to do that in a RPG. If you don't want them to do that, notify them in advance, otherwise you'll get big misunderstandings.

IMO there are a couple of situations where railroading can work great. for example to get a campaign started in a particular direction. The players may not know what to do when you set the loose in a new campaign, so guide them. And once they figure out where they are, they may want to jump off the railroad. Or maybe they'll derail it completely. Let them; somethings you can find wonderful things among the wreckage. (I think I need to stop pushing the train metaphor any further.) Or they really all enjoy the ride and are willing to sit back and go wherever you take them. Just don't expect too much player initiative in that case. Because if they do take initiative, they will derail your train.

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Okay, here's my mental pitch for railroad play: the players get to play the heroic protagonists in a story with the crucial parts predetermined.  They will face challenges and battles that allow them to make creative and tactical decisions regarding use of their heroic abilities.
Which means they get to play the heroes you want them to be. It may be fine for some, but not for everybody.

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So I have to ask, are you sure?  "Guess what I'm thinking" is a game.  I fondly remember playing "Eye Spy" as a kid.
They can be great games if you know that's what you're playing, and if that's what you want to play.

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Is the use of railroading to establish hard plot and situation boundaries a roleplaying game breaker?  I'm posing this question now in all seriousness because I will be at a crossroads soon where the published adventure ends and I must make a decision to radically change our play-style or stick with it.  The players so far have seemed to enjoy themselves.  I will definitely be bringing up the issue of the published adventure and railroading in general to their attention for feedback.  Although I hesitate to use the word "railroad" because that could elicit negative responses even if there is disparity between us over the meaning.
Then call it something else. But realise that you are forcing your players in a particular direction, and you're denying them choices. If they were looking forward to those choice, or if they like freedom, then they may be disappointed.

As for your problem player, I think I understand him. I'm just like that. My best characters have a personality all of their own, distinct from mine. And in play, I try to do justice to that personality. Now I'm devious enough to tweak that personality in such a way that I can do justice to it without disrupting play too much (unfortunately another player in my group sometimes revels in disrupting play), but I'd hate to see my character's ability to make his own choices limited by the GM.

On the other hand, if the party wants to go one way and the character wants to go another way, the character has a choice to make: does he want to leave the group or does he want to stay with them? My characters usually have some reason to stay with the group.
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Martijn Vos - gamer, coder, soon-to-be dad
Frank Tarcikowski
Member

Posts: 277

Hamburg, Germany


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« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2009, 08:09:23 AM »

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If you come across a post by a guest called Frank T, that was me. My former Forge account was destroyed in the Spam Wars. Collateral damage.
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