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Author Topic: Taking a plunge... (long and a bit waffly, sorry)  (Read 4248 times)
hyphz
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Posts: 157


« on: July 25, 2002, 03:30:47 PM »

I know that a while ago on this group I posted some messages that related to being dissatisfied with a present gaming group.  (Don't worry, this isn't another one of them.)  Now, for some time at a local games club there was another group there who seemed to be good roleplayers as well as reasonable people, and had an excellent GM.  Several times I went to the club and listened in on their games for long periods.  But I never really thought to ask to join in, partly because I didn't like the system (DC Universe) they were playing at the time, partly because I couldn't reliably attend the club, but partly out of fear.

You see, the reason why I didn't hunt down roleplay groups before (preferring to post silly whiny messages) is that I've always been very frightened of joining in (don't ask me why, but 'frightened' is definately the right word) because I'm not an experienced RPer and I might screw it up for others.  Although I try and RP, I've never really played with many other people who really tried to play roles before and thus don't really know if I'm actually any good at it or not.  And I do know that in an RP-centric game it only takes one wag to ruin the atmosphere; in a protagonism-heavy game it only takes one to ruin the stories others were developing.  

This type of experience reached its peak when I was doing some online RP with some more serious players.  They set up a situation my PC was involved in and each said something to set the scene.  Then it was my turn and I had no idea what to say, and I sat there quivering and almost hearing buzzing in my head from what I now clearly recognise as stage fright.  (Yea, I know this makes no sense.  Didn't help.)  Painfully aware that NOT doing anything could be as bad as fumbling, I did the only thing I could think of: yanked the network cable to give myself a plausible reason for having left.  I later admitted the real reason to some of the other players and they were actually really nice about it, so I'm not as bad as that now.

Anyway, back to the point.  I had been away from the club for a while and went down tonight, and wandered over to the group to see what they were playing.  

Nobilis.

Omigod.  This is a game I've been interested in for AGES and always wanted to see played.  This I have got to watch.  

Except they're doing it over e-mail.

That's my first two objections gone.  It's not a system I dislike, and I wouldn't have to attend the club regularly.  There is no chance I could see how they'd play without being on the e-mail list.  Yet that fear about whether I would mess things up for them by bad RP was still there, especially given that (from what I've heard) playing Nobilis while unsure about RP skills is a bit like heading for a black diamond run while not quite sure you know how to do your bindings up.

Figured, however, that continuing to have the fear would only lead to yet more dissatisfaction with groups and general self-destructive behaviour.  Held breath and took what still appeared to me to be the illogical choice.  Left the room with a sheet of paper covered in e-mail addresses and a half-complete character sheet for the Power of Communication.

So my real question here is for any tips from the experienced people here.  I know that the actual methods of how to roleplay well can't really be expressed in words, but could someone suggest how I can minimize the risk of an error harming things for other people (without constraining the type of errors I make - I wish I had the luxury of being able to do that)

One particular issue I'm having is that whenever I try to visualise what a Power of Communication would look like I get a female image (which makes sense, seeing as how they say that lasses *are* better at communicating).  The problem is that if I play it that way, I am making the roleplay harder for myself, and also risking running into a bunch of OOC issues (especially since it's my first game with the group - they wouldn't know that I don't cross gender every single game, after all).  On the other hand, if I don't, my own visualisation gets harder, which might later make it difficult for me.  Any suggestions?
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2002, 04:28:37 PM »

General advice - always, ALWAYS feel free to say "I'm a little lost here folks - give me a minute" or "hmm, I'm not sure where to go - anyone have some ideas?"  Sure, if this is all you ever do, folks will get annoyed, but a sane group will give you plenty of time to work your way into the swing of things.

As far as your gender issues with Nobilis in particular . . . first of all, does this group tend to have issues with cross-gender play?  If it's not obvious, ask 'em - and maybe ask 'em anyway, even if it seems obvious.  They may have one girl who does a great job playing guys, but not like it from anyone else.

That said - by my reading (no play yet), Nobilis (in some ways) makes gender a non-issue - you're practically a friggin' god, what's a little thing like gender mean?  And you could always choose to have been a man who took on a female appearance upon being enNobled as Communication - an interesting little hook that could also cover some gaps in the credibility of a man playing a woman.

That's some quick thoughts,

Gordon
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2002, 06:45:54 PM »

Quote from: hyphz
One particular issue I'm having is that whenever I try to visualise what a Power of Communication would look like I get a female image (which makes sense, seeing as how they say that lasses *are* better at communicating).  The problem is that if I play it that way, I am making the roleplay harder for myself, and also risking running into a bunch of OOC issues (especially since it's my first game with the group - they wouldn't know that I don't cross gender every single game, after all).  On the other hand, if I don't, my own visualisation gets harder, which might later make it difficult for me.  Any suggestions?

If you're going to stereotype, let's talk male-specific communicators and female-specific communicators.  The myth works like this: the women are 'networkers' who listen and commiserate, the men are the orators, reporters, and the speechmakers.

Seems pretty simple really; how about a politician type?  (Senator Cleghorn springs to mind; he sounds like Foghorn Leghorn of Warner Bros. fame for the younger members of the audience.)  How about a used car salesman?  (Remember, a part of effective communication is being able to lie well.)  I certainly think a braggart would be a highly amusing Power of Communication.  And let us not forget that, of all people, Ronald Reagan is know as "The Great Communicator."  (Pft!  "I don't remember...the Iran/Contra Affair." -- Ha!)

Wouldn't the Power of Communication have the power to know all lies from the truth?  Consequently being able to lie completely indescriminantly?  (You can tell I haven't been able to afford the new edition.)  What I am suggesting is you can pick someone like a braggart or a used car salesman and let their 'superficiality' hide any 'mistakes' you think you'll make.

Friendly advice, use it as you like.

Fang Langford
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hyphz
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Posts: 157


« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2002, 01:38:29 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur

If you're going to stereotype, let's talk male-specific communicators and female-specific communicators.  The myth works like this: the women are 'networkers' who listen and commiserate, the men are the orators, reporters, and the speechmakers.


That's a cool idea.  I am still really deciding on the character concept, and it's probably that which will determine the gender at the end (if it's ok with the group).  The networker type was the first I thought of (and Constant Domain: Minor Divination could model it well) but your other ideas are very interesting also.

I don't agree that gender isn't important.  Although it isn't important for the game rules (and therefore cross playing is particularly controversial.. ouch) it is for mythic imagery.  Look at the image of the Power of Traffic in the Nobilis rulebook; in my mind that would have been far less effective with a male Power (ok, you could use a male dancer, but the implications of the image would be different).  This isn't explicit stereotyping, it's just natural reactions.  (Although I realise I could be getting a false result when I tried to visualise based on the rulebook tableaux because I think they only show one male power - Fire - who isn't inhuman or deformed.)

Anyway, the gender issue wasn't meant to be the main point here; I know it came out that way in my post but that wasn't my intent.  I'm more interested in general advice on how to get on with 'serious' roleplaying while being a beginner because that has further application.
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Wart
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Posts: 56


« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2002, 04:16:48 AM »

Quote from: hyphz
Anyway, the gender issue wasn't meant to be the main point here; I know it came out that way in my post but that wasn't my intent.  I'm more interested in general advice on how to get on with 'serious' roleplaying while being a beginner because that has further application.


First, let the others know you're a beginner to "serious" roleplaying so they can support you more.

Secondly, quit worrying and get on with it. From what I read in your earlier post your problems don't stem from lack of ability, they stem from being overly concerned that you might lack such ability. Don't be too concerned about what other people think about your playing style during the game: ask them about it every so often OOC so you can pick up on any tips they have for you but just concentrate on playing the game in a style you enjoy whilst you're playing. If you screw up badly don't think they'll get all wrathful and toss you out with the word "DISFUNCTIONAL" branded on your forehead.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2002, 06:18:24 AM »

Hello,

Gary, I appreciate many things about your post, and it's an appropriate topic for this forum. I especially appreciate the honesty you're bringing in - given the emphasis on actual play at the Forge, it's hard to admit that you're not doing it, or are uncomfortable with it. In that regard, I support you fully.

I'm saying all that so that my actual point, coming in a moment, (a) will with any luck be understood and (b) prompt action on your part that isn't merely a hurt and shocked re-action.

Deciding to role-play is not like, say, taking up martial arts or deciding to stay in college. These activities, which I'm very familiar with, professionally, have benefits beyond their immediate gratification - the former in terms of physical fitness and possibly social acumen; the latter in terms of socioeconomic improvement and increased options in life. I could give a fairly excellent pep-talk regarding either one, which would include the option not to do so, and helping a person see whether doing the activity or not is right for him or her, specifically.

However, I can't do that for role-playing. It's a different activity altogether, more like a sport or game that exists unto itself (like bowling or pool), or a parlor activity like charades, or a personal-creative art like jamming in a band (but not commercially viable), or, God help us but it's true, a specifically indulgent leisure activity like surfing the net for girl-on-girl porn.

Therefore there is no way in hell that I can encourage your desire to role-play unless that desire is synonymous with the activity itself. It's not something that anyone could or should "strive" to do - it'd be like someone who burned with the desire to bowl but did not, for whatever emotional reason. The presence of that inhibitory reason is, for an activity like this, enough for me to say, "Huh, why not do something else that isn't problematic for you?"

Please don't misunderstand me as trying to discourage you. Yes, I know - it's easy to read what I just wrote as saying, "Gary, piss off, go away and do something else." I am not saying that, as the choice is yours. What I am saying is that the choice is only yours.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2002, 06:28:21 AM »

...a specifically indulgent leisure activity like surfing the net for girl-on-girl porn.

Well...one of the benefits beyond immediate gratification is the ability to hang out on online discussion forums and speak with a credible and informed voice about your activities.

Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2002, 06:42:00 AM »

Hi Paul,

You're probably merely teasing me, but you give me the opportunity to explain that paragraph: role-playing as an activity shares of the qualities of the other activities I mention. Whoever's interested, think of each of them existing as a kind of line or "bubble" of activity, and role-playing, as its own bubble, have a degree of correlation with each. It is still, however, its own bubble.

Doing his bit for multivariate eigenvector analysis in our time,
Best,
Ron
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2002, 12:56:35 PM »

There was a MAD TV sketch not too long ago, in which Bob Newhart guest-starred as a therapist whose entire approach to solving whatever problem the patient had was to shout "Stop it!"

You are questioning your roleplaying abilities because you don't want to be "that guy", the one that inadvertantly (or worse, knowingly) disrupts the mood and atmosphere that everyone else is trying so hard to build. The fact that you're questioning your ability says to me that you're already leaps and bounds ahead of "that guy". The fact that you have the concept of atmosphere in mind is a great start. All you have to do is ask yourself, "is what I'm about to say or do going to add to or take away from the mood we're building?"

I know, easier said than done. Sometimes, this can take some analyzing. In email, this is not really a problem, but in FtF, there's the time issue. My brother used to struggle with this a lot, agonizing over evey little decision his character made. One of the problems is that he refused to accept any suggestions from the group. I didn't have a way of explaining it back then, but more recently, I told him that whenever he finds himself in a tight spot as to what to have his character do, the fact that suggestions are even offered should be taken as a supreme compliment, because it means that the other players are paying attention, and more importantly, they actually care about what happens to your character. Nothing pisses me off more than players who can't be bothered to pay attention (they sit there and read game supplements, or wander off and play Diablo or GTA3 or something, or even go to sleep) when their character isn't directly involved with the current scene.

In short: take the plunge, you'll be glad you did. And you'll be surprised at what you can come up with. Start small, email's good. Move to tabletop only when you feel you're ready.

As for the cross-gender thing, I've said it before and I'll say it again (though I wasn't the first to say it): The GM [usually] has to play characters of different gender, why can't the players?
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hyphz
Member

Posts: 157


« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2002, 03:58:10 PM »

Thanks for all your replies.

With regard to the cross gender issue I've had a rethink of the character and I quite like Joueur's idea, but the character would be more of a general wheelerdealer, 'the guy who knows everyone' (literally) than someone tied down to a specific place (like a used car salesman).  I like this because, unlike the original character thought I had, it actually has some active motivation to it. (Nobilis: the game where it makes sense to jump from a character resembling Iwakura Lain to a character resembling Arthur Daley.)  A further thought bubbing around is that of a teacher, since that is a very valuable form of communication (and a Major Creation of Communication could make something communicable that wasn't before, so could create a book that would teach you all the things about (say) playing the piano that you could normally only learn by practice...)  I think asking if the PC can have Elemental Form to become a meme might be pushing it though (and it's too expensive ;) )

Ron, I appreciate what you're saying and I think it's a good point.  But the inhibitory reason has less (I think) to do with the actual roleplaying activity and more to do with the social side; the inhibiting reason wouldn't be there if I didn't know this was a group of good players.  Somebody who was bursting with desire to bowl might not bowl if they had to join a team in order to do so, but didn't want to be the guy who ruined the match record by getting opens over and over again.

Kreskin, I think the stress will be off a bit over e-mail - I'm just worried about what the level of detail expected in the messages will be.  (I know that on MUSHes certainly there is an ongoing d*** size war over the number of screen lines you can take up describing an action.  The people involved never seem to spot that having a battle with four lines of description for every swing is lame because it completely loses its pacing.  But in e-mail, this wouldn't matter since the pace is slow anyway - are huge descriptions common?)  Tabletop, I agree, would be a bit hard at the moment; the problem with tabletop is that doing bad actions can cause problems, but sitting quiet causes just as many problems, even if you were always about to say something just as another player spoke up.  This is some variant of the thing that makes me nervous of GMing (although I have done that on occasion, and every time I've enjoyed it and all the players wound up asking me what the heck I was so stressed about.  But I always get stressed out again next time.  Weird.)
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Mytholder
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« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2002, 05:04:40 PM »

Quote from: hyphz
Thanks for all your replies.

With regard to the cross gender issue I've had a rethink of the character and I quite like Joueur's idea, but the character would be more of a general wheelerdealer, 'the guy who knows everyone' (literally) than someone tied down to a specific place (like a used car salesman).  I like this because, unlike the original character thought I had, it actually has some active motivation to it.

That's a great character to have in Nobilis - the guy who knows who to talk to in order to get things done. It would probably play well in a PBeM, too - you can privately ask the GM for suitable contacts, and then the other players can go through you to find out who they need to talk too.

Quote
...(and a Major Creation of Communication could make something communicable that wasn't before, so could create a book that would teach you all the things about (say) playing the piano that you could normally only learn by practice...)


Hmm. The Estate of Communication.
Ghost Miracles: Give someone the impression they were informed of something, but can't quite recall what it was.
Lesser Divinations: Locate the source of a particular communication. Overhear a conversation.
Lesser Preservation: Make someone permanently remember something they were just told. Keep a television spirit alive. Ensure a message cannot be corrupted.
Lesser Creation: Create a telepathic link between two people. Create an "informational channel" - someone looks at a book, and the contents start appearing in their mind. Make two parties enter into a dialogue. Translate speech instantly.
Lesser Destruction: Make someone temporaily unable to communicate with others. Make a room full of people unable to say anything meaningful (I've been at parties like this). Create a local communications blackout.
Lesser Change: Make someone telepathic. Alter the tone of a conversation without altering the content. Reroute a communication.
Major Divination: Locate and listen to any communication in the world. Find out who said something. Trace the path of a particular idea, and work out where it's going next.
Major Preservation: Keep a conversation going indefinitely. Make an idea a meme.
Major Creation: Force communication between two parties, regardless of other concerns (great for international diplomacy). Create a new form of communication (we talk to each other by precisely timed breathing). Broadcast your thoughts on any communications medium.
Major Destruction: Erase a form of communication. Deny speech to a large group of people. Deny someone the ability to exchange any form of information at all. Shut the whole planet up for a moment.
Major Changes: Completely alter the nature of a means of communication. (Humans now procreate via email.)
 
Quote
I think asking if the PC can have Elemental Form to become a meme might be pushing it though (and it's too expensive ;) )

It's only 2 points. You could end up as a mobile conversation rather than a meme, though...
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2002, 05:43:32 AM »

Stage fright. Hmm. I guess it wouldn't help much to suggest imagining the other players in their underwear. (Though in an online game, they might actually be in their underwear.)

But really, that old chestnut has a worthwhile point behind it. If your estimation of the abilities and standards of the other players is unrealistically high, then you'll not only suffer from stage fright, you're also likely to suffer from disappointment when you discover that they're not so superhumanly capable after all.

I agree with Ron that if this problem saps all of your enjoyment of the activity, there's no problem: just stop doing the activity. But there are many degrees short of that and there are issues worth addressing from the other side as well. "I like camping, I just can't stand being outdoors" is one thing; "I like camping, I just can't stand mosquitoes" is quite another.

Role Playing gaming, like many if not all hobbies, sometimes goes out of its way to promote myths that make the activity sound more intricate and challenging than it actually is. There's the myth of the exalted status of the GM, who of course must have achieved that lofty position by dint of demonstrated excellence during years of "paying his dues" as a player, supplemented with encyclopedic rules knowledge kept sharp by diligent study, all built upon a bedrock of natural storytelling talent. There's the myth of the newbie player who ruins things for everyone due to his lack of rules knowlege or lack of "role playing skill". (I've seen many cases of newbie players ruining things due to their lack of basic social skills, none due to lack of game knowledge or "role playing skill".) There's the myth of experience: that players with deep knowledge of rules, tactics, and setting are more valued by other players and by GMs. These myths serve the interests of those who publish the books and magazines purporting to confer the crucial knowledge and skills on diligent readers.

Perhaps the Forge is inadvertently creating another myth, of the "serious" role players who mercilessly scruitinize each other's every action for any sign of literary weakness. We apply such scruitiny to game designs, with good reason. This might make it easy to imagine doing the same to individual players and their actual play. "Hey Bob, your character was a little inconsistent tonight. Your reaction to the rape scene just didn't take the narrative anywhere, and when you decided not to kill the clown it just cut the knees right out from under the whole redemption theme we've been building up for weeks. Try to focus a little more on the Premise next time, okay? 'Cause I gotta tell you, I've had some complaints and if you keep letting us all down like that, well, I know you can do better so let's just leave it at that." I won't say no one has ever played like that, but if that were the norm I'd seriously consider Ron's option myself.

The simple formula for joining in is: observe carefully, imitate effectively. Not that there isn't something to be said for coming in waving your own personal style like a battle flag. A truly creative group would appreciate that even more. But that's for later, when your own confidence is higher and when you're certain the group you're joining is truly creative, not just merely serious. So for now: observe carefully, imitate effectively.

- Walt
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hyphz
Member

Posts: 157


« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2002, 04:13:23 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag

I agree with Ron that if this problem saps all of your enjoyment of the activity, there's no problem: just stop doing the activity. But there are many degrees short of that and there are issues worth addressing from the other side as well. "I like camping, I just can't stand being outdoors" is one thing; "I like camping, I just can't stand mosquitoes" is quite another.
[/quote="wfreitag"]

This isn't a 'dislike'; it's not an opinion.  I might feel nervous about this sort of thing but I don't want to do so, and I'm not going to get around that if I stop the activity because I'm nervous.

Quote from: wfreitag

There's the myth of the exalted status of the GM, who of course must have achieved that lofty position by dint of demonstrated excellence during years of "paying his dues" as a player, supplemented with encyclopedic rules knowledge kept sharp by diligent study, all built upon a bedrock of natural storytelling talent.
[/quote="wfreitag"]

Actually, I only believe in the last one.. but that's enough to make me worried.

Quote from: wfreitag

Perhaps the Forge is inadvertently creating another myth, of the "serious" role players who mercilessly scruitinize each other's every action for any sign of literary weakness. We apply such scruitiny to game designs, with good reason.
[/quote="wfreitag"]

I'm not so worried about that level of scrutiny; I'm worried about having a failure of ideas mid-run.  The archetypical example that comes to my mind is that once, when I was running Over The Edge, the players wanted to visit the D'Aubainne Hospital, which I hadn't anticipated.  Now, I know about the hospital but I wanted to make the players walk through it a bit (because otherwise they'd miss some of the weird stuff there).  Unfortunately I didn't have much of a description, so I wound up repeating the word "white" about ten times while my brain frantically searched for the next phrase, and then just stopping because I realised what an idiot I looked.

Yes, over e-mail this is a lot less likely but it's still possible, if I totally lose all ideas or I lag the game.

Thank you for your other advice.
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2002, 04:44:29 PM »

My current group consists of two new players and three rusty ones. If you adhered to the gamer-type myths, you'd watch us and think we've been doing it for years. Attitude and a bunch of friendly people go a long way.

We generally do discuss an action before it happens. The whole group will give nods of approval or "Wow!" or even "Man, that wouldn't work! Try this!" In fact, that tends to be the norm when we play. In the end it isn't the acting ability or improvisation skills, it's the cool ideas and fun story we've told together.

With your PBeM, you could try setting up another email dialogue where your group discusses actions before they happen. You could ping ideas off the other players, and they could do the same.
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