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Author Topic: Dominating Play (long)  (Read 5938 times)
Andrew Martin
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Posts: 785


« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2002, 02:43:37 PM »

Quote from: wyrdlyng
I guess the main point of frustration is that the newer players don't provide hooks for their characters or don't react to them when they appear. So in order to keep from sitting at the table staring at each other in silence I have my character follow one of his hooks.

So my question is how to you get players to Protagonize themselves? If we could do this I wouldn't feel the need to grab the reins, so to speak.


To get players to Protagonize themselves, you need to use a system that rewards the players for doing "nasty things" to their characters, and penalises the players for making things nice for their characters. This encourages, for example, the Dwarf's player to state that the shadow creatures are those that attacked his homeland. Unfortunately, D&D3E rules don't provide this encouragement.

As a suggestion, the token system from my Star Odyssey game does provide this encouragement, but it means throwing away adventure modules and discarding the GM position, as all players have the power of a GM. It does make games exhilarating! :)
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Andrew Martin
Clay
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« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2002, 02:10:53 AM »

Quote from: hyphz

This *is* railroading.  You're making one option (going to the NPC's aid) obviously better than all others.  The player has the 'choice' of going after the guy who helped him or having his ability to function shut down.  I do not think it will take him long to decide, or that it will make him feel like a protagonist.


Hypz,

If you don't like my proposed method, please feel free to offer an alternative. It takes trouble to cause someone to change.  I offered up trouble.  Find an alternative trouble if that one is undesirable.  Or modify it. The GM doesn't have to mandate that the character is captured. Maybe the character can fight/flee his way out. The real point is that the character needs to have a pressing problem that can't simply be resolved with a roll of a die. It has to be something that's not going to go away easily.

A little bit of reading might be in order. Detective novels deal quite well with forced protagonism. Sitting back and not taking action is never an alternative within this genre. The trouble will come to you if you don't go to it. Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Sara Paretsky and Walter Mosley are all good choices, with characters who are frequently plunged in over their heads from the word go.

Let's take a look at Devil in a Blue Dress, from Walter Mosely. Our hero is forced to help out a very seriously bad actor because he needs the money to keep his house. That house represents a lot to him. Giving it up would mean rejecting what he valued in himself. Running away to distant Texas is an option for him all the way through, if he's willing to accept going back to being some dirt poor negro with nothing to show for himself. He doesn't want that though; he's been a dirt poor negro, working what his psychopathic friend Mouse calls "little nigger jobs" all his life.  The non-hero role came at too high a price; essentially the same price I was presenting in my example.
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
hyphz
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Posts: 157


« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2002, 03:21:27 AM »

Quote from: Clay

If you don't like my proposed method, please feel free to offer an alternative. It takes trouble to cause someone to change.  I offered up trouble.  Find an alternative trouble if that one is undesirable.  Or modify it. The GM doesn't have to mandate that the character is captured. Maybe the character can fight/flee his way out. The real point is that the character needs to have a pressing problem that can't simply be resolved with a roll of a die. It has to be something that's not going to go away easily.


It is my opinion that these problems CANNOT be dealt with in an IC manner and that only OOC discussion will suffice.  "Protagonism" for an PC in an RPG has a different meaning to "protagonism" for a character in a book.  Most notably, it involves the out-of-character feeling of a freedom of choice for the character's actions.  By definition this cannot be forced, since a choice that is forced isn't really a choice.

Quote from: Clay

A little bit of reading might be in order. Detective novels deal quite well with forced protagonism. Sitting back and not taking action is never an alternative within this genre. The trouble will come to you if you don't go to it.


Fine, this may work well in a book.  In an RPG, given the choice of "take action, or don't take action and have bad things happen", most players who exhibit the symptoms described will indeed have their characters take action.  But they will not feel that they have *chosen* to do so.  They will feel that the GM wished them to take action, and therefore rigged circumstances to ensure that acting would be the best choice.
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damion
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2002, 12:08:12 PM »

I agree with Hyphz, one cannot force protagonism. The best solution is to set things up so that any choice is protatgonizing.
An example would be makeing them choose a side in a conflict.
Thus they will pick one or th other, or possibly play one against the other or work for both. All these are interesting.
Other options include giving them a leader role, for example they could lead a bunch of incompetent NPC's. This forces them into a leadership plan, or they are stuck with some silly plan. (Wish I could remember who came with this idea)
I think that part of the problem is DnD's 'modular' nature. Thus if players stray from the 'path' bad things tend to happend to them. Thus, unless a clear call to action comes from the GM, they don't do anything, as they have learned that protagonism=charachter death/problems. Thus, no protagonism. Unfortunatly the only way around this is to gain their trust, probably through a combination of telling them OOC and encouraging them when they do something protagonistic(say by letting it be helpful, or at least not to harmful).
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James
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2002, 02:16:23 PM »

Hello,

These last few posts about protagonism are interesting, but I think people are dodging the core issue: that Alex's group is not socially oriented toward role-playing in any GNS-coherent way.

We could arrive at some Golden Method of protagonizing player-characters and it wouldn't mean a thing. The group was formed out of convenience, and its imaginative components are constructed out of pre-existing characters and situations from previous play. We have two GMs, neither of which has Buck Stops Here authority over the other, and I have seen such situations become extremely dysfunctional in the past.

Alex, frankly, I don't see your position as being good. For one thing, you've phrased your questions very much along the line of "How can I make this group play more like I want them to," which I think is presumptuous. For another, I don't think your "authority," for lack of a better word, is socially arranged in a functional way. Please review your reply to me, above - I may be wrong, but I think you missed the entire point of my post, which I've tried to present more clearly in this one.

The current line of discussion is composed of what the posters would want out of playing with Alex - it is, as I say, interesting, but it's meaningless. The same goes for the railroading issue; I could direct people to a number of threads about why Bangs are not railroading, but it's irrelevant to the topic.

Alex, I guess what I want is to ask: speaking in terms of the group's enjoyment of play, who is the problem here - them or you?

Best,
Ron
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wyrdlyng
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« Reply #20 on: July 23, 2002, 10:12:13 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Alex, I guess what I want is to ask: speaking in terms of the group's enjoyment of play, who is the problem here - them or you?


I've been carefully considering this. My "guiding" the group along hasn't been the true problem though I do plan to cut back on that and let what happens happen. I've also "stepped back" and considered how the rest of the group relates to each other.

Considering the group as a whole and as individuals, and after having talked to most of them separately,  I would say that the group is mixed as follows: 2 strong Narrativists, 3 mixed Narrativist/Gamists and 2 strong Gamists. The conflict is coming from frustration, not just mine, regarding the 2 strong Gamists. But I would not even say that the problem is Gamist play. It's D&D so we all have an eye on Gamist goals to an extent.

It comes down to the reluctance of the 2 strong Gamists to role-play. I would even break this down further and say that 1 is reluctant/refusing to "play" his character outside of combat while the other 1 just seems to struggle with himself to let himself role-play his character. The first one is the one that will not bite a story hook no matter how you dangle it before him and tends to goad the group to rush from one combat to the next. The second tries every so often, and does make an effort, but then falls back into strict Gamist mode (but he also does have a very short attention span so I wonder if that isn't contributing as well).

The rest of the group does role-play their PCs. They base their decisions upon the natures of their PCs and what would make for an interesting story. When combat arises the more Gamist goals of winning the battle takes over but not always completely. Out of combat they interact with each other and NPCs "in-character".

This conflict between the "in-character" vs. "no-character" groups became very evident last session when the cleric died. The strong Gamists wanted to keep going deeper into the moathouse while the rest of the group wanted to go back to town a) for more supplies and b) to mourn the cleric (even those who had just met him earlier that day). This is what led to the 30 minute debate.

Thinking about it, the debate also ran odd as one group (3 players) talked in-character while 1 player flip-flopped between himself and his character and the other player talked completely as himself. This has also led to some tension in-game as those who wanted to leave have stated that they will not go out of their way to assist the other two who wanted to stay.

I think the majority of the group falls towards a mix of Narrativist & Gamist styles (even the reluctant Gamist) with the exception of the 1 strong Gamist.

Do I have a problem with the strong Gamist player? Yes. I don't like his style of play and think he treats the games like a face-to-face Diablo game. The other Gamist can be coaxed into treating his character as something more than a collection of numbers.

Possibly drifting, definitely ranting: I also think that part of the conflict is a difference in maturity levels. Our group ranges from 24 to 38. Some of us are or were  married, some have kids, some are going to school, most of us have steady jobs and financial responsibilities. The 1 player I have a problem with does not have any of the above. He can't hold down a job, doesn't have a vehicle, lives at home, can't manage to go to school and doesn't do much more than go out drinking and playing M:tG. He is not the youngest in the group; the youngest one works two jobs, goes to school, has her own car and her own apartment. I think that the rest of us take the game more seriously because we have considerably less free time than him and this is the only time we can get together and play (especially since school started again and several people take Saturday classes). I know that I am not the only who one who feels this way. At one point or another just about every other person has commented on the other player being unreliable, especially when we have to wait for him to make it to the game on the bus. We can only play for a few hours before wives start paging or it's late and people have to do things the next day. The thing is that the person is smart he's just lazy and other people pick up the slack for him (our boyfriend & girlfriend players have argued over this before several times). His play style and personal lifestyle just aren't compatible with the rest of the group.

Okay, I know I'm ranting. I apologize. I think the best thing to do is to let this player go. I know this seems obvious to everyone else but it's easier to see something when it's written out and you can take a step back rather than when it's bouncing about in your head.
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Alex Hunter
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: July 23, 2002, 10:25:28 AM »

Hi Alex,

First, less importantly, thanks for tolerating my harshness in this thread. I know I can be kind of relentless about this subject, and I was concerned I'd been too surgical in this case.

Second, most importantly, that was a brilliant and amazing post, not a rant at all. You really nailed exactly what seems to be the trouble, and arrived at what seems to be the only solution.

I think we've dealt with a very common problem in role-playing, and that this thread may become one of the most valuable "go look here" touchstones available at the Forge.

Best,
Ron
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wyrdlyng
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Posts: 193


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« Reply #22 on: July 23, 2002, 11:52:57 AM »

Ron, you were honest, not harsh. I can respect the difference. And it was all very cathartic. An old friend of mine once gave me good advice for roleplaying: "Don't game with someone you wouldn't spend time with outside the game." This was one of the times that I took a chance and it didn't work out.

Aside, I guess in a way I felt sorry for him because everyone seems to put him down. Two of our players know him (the boyfriend/girlfriend) from before we started gaming. I went to the boyfriend's birthday party which included our problem child and obviously the girlfriend. While there I noticed that all of their friends seemed to put the problem child down and make him the butt of their jokes. After a while I realized that it's because of reasons similar to what I mentioned (they all have jobs and families but he doesn't want to get his act together and they're tired of carrying him).

At first I thought it was because he was young but then I learned that he's in his late 20's. If you a) can't hold down a job at Denny's because of your attitude, b) can't make payments on a car but buy M:tG cards by the box, c) live from friend's couch to friend's couch, d) can't go to school because you got angry and broke a glass door (and can't take a class until you pay), e) rely upon your friends and family to always bail you out of trouble and you're in your late 20's then you really need to take a look at your life and where it's going.

I've known him for over a year and thought that he might change but there doesn't seem to be any chance of that happening.

In the end it does come down to the fact that gaming is a social activity. If you wouldn't be friends with someone why would you game with them?
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Alex Hunter
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