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Author Topic: [Delve] fast-forwarding through meaningful decisions?  (Read 3325 times)
David Berg
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« on: February 04, 2010, 10:48:30 PM »

My game Delve gives out significant rewards in the form of useful connections and materials.  A recent session included a new tool to sculpt an unbreakable rock, and a creepy wizard offering info.  The players were very excited to tackle both opportunities.  They wound up spending a lot of time debating how much secret knowledge to share with the wizard in order to foster his cooperation, as well as debating what to make out of the rock.

Unfortunately, these situations arose at a moment in play when the players were tired of planning and wanted some action.

In Delve, I allow players to fast-forward through pretty much anything they want.  But it is our general practice, and it was my assumption when I established that option, that we will fast-forward mostly through situations that:
a) offer little uncertainty, and/or
b) won't be influenced very much by player decisions, and/or
c) aren't terribly important

And, indeed, my players chose to discuss what to tell the wizard and what to make from the rock, and these discussions took up a lot of time due to indecisiveness and the large number of possibilities and considerations.  This process became frustrating, because everyone was eager to go kill this smuggler dude who'd pissed them off. 

This problem seems unsolvable to me; like I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too.  I'm starting this thread in the hope that someone can offer a fresh perspective and see an option that I've missed.

Thanks,
-David
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2010, 11:59:12 AM »

Hi David,

My immediate practical take is that you should have had the creepy wizard cough up the information - basically, considered it a "no conflict" situation, enjoyed playing the creepy guy in terms of pure Color, made it clear to the players that this is what you had for this scene/guy and there wasn't anything else to gain, and moved on.

Or if that isn't viable for some reason, to go all the way up to the Social Contract and say, "Guys, this is boring me senseless. I don't know what you're doing, it looks to me like you don't really know what you're doing, and my impression is that you really want to go kill the smuggler dude. Correct me if I'm wrong - but if I'm right, let's just cut to the point where you're setting up to kill that guy. I can tell you flat-out that I'm not holding out on you regarding anything you think you might be fishing for, regarding this creepy guy and the rock."

What I'm saying in Big Model at-the-Techniques terms, is that successful play of all kinds may only proceed when people understand when a given scene has provided the limits of what it can provide, or reached the limits of one person's ability to stay committed to contributing. Reaching that understanding occurs through many means. Sometimes that has to be stated from person to person, rather than being established through CRPG-game style, poke-every-pebble, cough-it-up, outlasting-style in-fiction actions.

Best, Ron
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David Berg
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2010, 12:48:26 PM »

Hi Ron,

Nah, these weren't "poke every pebble" moments.  As I said, that's the stuff we generally fast-forward through: stuff with no meaningful decisions.  Instead, the wizard interaction was ripe with decisions.  "Are we willing to give this guy info about us?  About things that could make him more powerful?  Can we concoct any clever lies?"  This sort of scene has often been very fun in the past -- especially when the players have come up with ways I hadn't anticipated to get info I hadn't planned on revealing.

The problem was that we just weren't in the mood for it this time.

Delve strives for a "What would you do if you were there?" experience based on character knowledge.  I've consistently found this less fun when combined with player-only knowledge (like, "guys, there's nothing else you could possibly gain here no matter what you do").  So my design intent is to resolve any slow scenes at the Social Contract level, by saying, "Let's speed through this."  I even made a little diagram to facilitate signalling on that front.

This usually works fine.*

The problem arrives in the form of decisions that the players do care about making ("create an unbreakable pick or an unbreakable shovel or something else?"), but aren't in the mood to ponder at the moment ("I want action!").

I've thought about enabling players to establish some character decisions retroactively (either facts only or full "flashback" scenes), by making decisions when they're ready to.  But I'm not sure how that could be structured: 

1) If you wait until it's obvious what the optimal outcome would be, then there's no real decision left ("Now that I know I'll need a shovel, let's go back and establish what we made yesterday.  I think I would have decided to make a shovel.").  Maybe the players wouldn't miss those decision opportunities too much if the outcomes were always optimal... but if the outcomes were always optimal, they'd never make decisions in advance!

2) If you wait until right before it's about to become obvious what the optimal outcome would be, then you risk interrupting a good dramatic/action sequence with a lot of pondering.

I haven't actually tried either of these yet.  I'm hoping there are other approaches that haven't occurred to me.  Ideas welcome!

Thanks,
-David

*We usually aim for compromise.  I wonder if "most bored player wins" would be better.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2010, 08:44:05 AM »

Hi David,

OK, let's see if I have this straight: the group was unable to extricate itself from persisting with a given series of rolls and indeed a particular scene as a whole, because they wanted to do it and cared about it, but weren't in the mood to do it. This is basically repeating one of your sentences. I trust you can see that this is not immediately easy to grasp, in logical terms. I will refrain from constructing any analogies to romantic relationship problems, because it'd be too easy.

I mean, musing about psychology aside, the fact is that what they're doing is fun-right-now, or it isn't. If it isn't, then ipso facto, they can't be "caring about it," or at least not enough to be "in the mood" actually for it. I'm very skeptical that they did in fact care about those "meaningful decisions," rather than somehow getting stuck.

Quote
Delve strives for a "What would you do if you were there?" experience based on character knowledge.

I understand that and I support you in it. I think you may be confronting the fact that this ideal is indeed something to strive for, but should not be considered a bedrock foundation to rely upon, or as a fixed parameter which may not be transgressed. When I think about desired experiences for a given game I'm designing, I try not to mix up the features of required commitment with the features of emergent enjoyment. This may be a useful distinction for you regarding Delve in particular.

It seems to me that you've already made it most of the way, actually, regarding the "Let's speed through this" option. My question is whether you used that option this time. Did you, in fact, openly say, "Let's speed through this," when you became bored and/or recognized that the others' enjoyment was dropping? If you didn't, why not? If you did, then what did they say?

That's the crux of this thread: whether we are even talking about the need for additional rules at all. My take is that you probably don't. On the other hand, just in case you do, here are my thoughts on your 'retroactive' idea.

Quote
I've thought about enabling players to establish some character decisions retroactively (either facts only or full "flashback" scenes), by making decisions when they're ready to. But I'm not sure how that could be structured:

1) If you wait until it's obvious what the optimal outcome would be, then there's no real decision left ("Now that I know I'll need a shovel, let's go back and establish what we made yesterday. I think I would have decided to make a shovel."). Maybe the players wouldn't miss those decision opportunities too much if the outcomes were always optimal... but if the outcomes were always optimal, they'd never make decisions in advance!

This is actually more fun than it looks. One of the first games to use rolls to establish "hey, I have what I need right here!" was Extreme Vengeance; in fact, that was the default for that game. By utilizing Fortune (with actual damage taken from a failed roll) and a limited Resource (your ability to do it shrank with use), it became quite functional. But again, I am very skeptical that this kind of thinking is necessary for Delve in the first place. For Extreme Vengeance, the relevant score, Coincidence, was front-and-center in play as it decreased with use, matched only by its partner score, Guts, which increased every time the character got his or her ass kicked. But in your case, it seems to me that you're looking for a patch-rule, and that's not a good sign.

I suggest that you already have the right rule: the explicit "let's speed through this" option. The question is why and how it didn't work this time, so I'd like to know the answers to my bolded questions above. I think that'll tell you what you need to know too.

Best, Ron
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Alex Abate Biral
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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2010, 10:21:19 AM »

Ron, From reading David's post, it seems to me the problem is that the players cared about the effects of the scene, about what direction it could steer the game, but didn't care for the scene itself. I think they wanted to be done with the scene quickly, but didn't speed forward because they wanted to make sure the results of the scene were to their liking. Also, it seems that, to further complicate things, while they didn't care for that scene per se.

David, if that is correct, I think that you really should skip forward in these cases. If every player agrees the current situation is not what they want (at least right now), I think that maybe you could all agree to solve the situation in some manner. Sure, there may be consequences down the road, but it probably won't be anything earth shattering, anything that will change the game too much (because if it is, and the players don't care for it right now, then it probably isn't a good day to play that game). What do you think?
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David Berg
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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2010, 01:47:05 PM »

Alex,
I think you're describing it accurately.  There was a tension between caring about the outcome but not enjoying the process.  "We want to skip ahead!  We're just not sure how to establish the outcome in a way that works for the game overall."

Ron,
Thanks for the focusing-in questions.  Regarding this particular session, I think I can best answer those with a play account:

The conversation with the wizard was actually extremely enjoyable.  I think it nonetheless contributed to a mounting frustration in the session, but I'll come back to that later if it seems important.

The rock-carving portion of the session is probably best recapped in approximated quotes:

Dan: "Okay, finally, we're done stashing our stuff, we've fetched our intern, and now we can head to Delsiford to deal with the smuggler."

John: "Well, while we're up north, we should take care of the rock."

Dan: "Oh, crap, right, the rock."

John: "We don't want someone to steal it or something."

Dave: "Dude, it's really heavy."

John: "Well, if we can carve it, maybe someone else could too."

Dave: "Anything's possible."

Merlin: "Well, we are in the neighborhood.  It'd be stupid to travel three weeks here and back later."

Dan: "Okay, let's do this quickly."

Everyone else: "Yes.  Let's."

Dave: "Okay, you're there.  The rock has grown a bit, but not much.  You wait until the moon's shining down?"

John: "Yeah.  The I poke at the rock."

Dave: "Just where the moonlight strikes it most directly, it's slightly soft."

Merlin: "Let's try to focus the moonlight with the crystal rods."

Dave: "Oh, neat.  Okay.  Yeah, it melts away from the little beam you create."

Dan: "Okay, let's get all of our rods out and work as a team to carve stuff."

Dave: "Hmm.  How's this gonna work?  You can't get under it..."

John: "We'll hack off chunks and then whittle them."

Dave: "Oh, yeah, okay, cool."

Merlin: "So what should we make?"

John: "Unbreakable swords!"

Dave: "Just the blade, or whole weapon in one piece?"

John: "Whole weapon!"

Merlin: "That might cause weighting and balance issues."

Dave: "Oh yeah.  It would."

John: "Okay, just the blade, then."

Dave: "Cool.  Just FYI, this stuff is heavier than steel, so it'll be unwieldy."

John: "If it's unbreakable, we can just make it paper thin!"

Merlin: "Paper thin unbreakable stuff?  We should make armor plates out of that."

[Here John and Merlin begin discussing how to achieve the optimal blend of protection and flexibility.  Occasionally, I can't visualize what they're talking about, and ask for clarification.]

Dan: "Jesus christ, this is taking forever."

John: "I'm trying to go fast!  But this is important!  We need to figure out what we do here!"

Dan: "I know.  Okay, look, I have to go home soon anyway.  There's no way we'll get through this and then still have time to attack the smugglers.  So let's break for tonight and deal with this next time, or over email or something."

Everyone else: "Sounds good."

This account may seem like a weird special case, but the general feeling of "want to skip ahead but can't" has cropped up at other times in play.  I'll try to pull up more examples if it becomes necessary.

Thanks,
-David
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JoyWriter
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2010, 04:51:53 PM »

Flashbacks.

Currently your method for maintaining interest is to have game time and real world time have a stretchy correspondence, one passes faster than another at different times. That might not be enough; sometimes as you observe, something must be settled, but doing it right now is a chore. To keep the rhythm of a game fun for the players, even while the characters interests would require them to knuckle down and resolve the problem, means that you have to disconnect player time and character time more substantially.

Now in this specific case, choosing a flashback has mechanical significance; to maintain consistency, the team cannot have the swords/armour ready by the time they go to fight the smuggler, or if they have them it mustn't be relevant, which could be seriously annoying if you have to retcon in loads of excuses why they didn't.

For example, say you skipped ahead at the discovery the rock could be carved, then the idea of moon-carved swords or armour wouldn't have been introduced yet, so you'd have to give a reason why either were kept secret. If you skipped at the point of the sword, then you'd have to avoid talking about them much, and give an excuse for the moon-carved armour not being used etc.

But in other situations, it's totally fine to come back to something like that after the action has reached an apex. They are disconnected enough that it makes no difference.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2010, 03:18:01 PM »

Hi David,

What rule you need is an 'ignore John' rule. Wink

Or more to the point, for some reason they are following his leadership even though it's not fun for them to do so?

Also he's painting the idea it could get stolen, or carved by someone else...he's inventing fears to continue this.

Then Merlins backing him up.

I mean, maybe John likes this and perhaps Merlin too. But probably because of the cutural roleplay habit of 'neva split da party!' everyone stays on the same thing.

So
1. potentially part of the group is enjoying it and the other part isn't.


Also
2. I'd argue against the 'speed through it' idea...speed through something you don't like doing? Why not just stop?

Why can't you/they just walk away? Even if the rocks stolen or carved - ha, who cares! More gristle for future events!

No, there seems to be a strong focus on getting a conclusion - like reading a book right to the last page, even if your bored with it half way through. Even in Ron's and Alex's comments
Quote
What I'm saying in Big Model at-the-Techniques terms, is that successful play of all kinds may only proceed when people understand when a given scene has provided the limits of what it can provide
No, it hadn't provided the limits...but just walk away anyway. Put the book down, half unread. Maybe come back another day. Maybe never.
Quote
I think that maybe you could all agree to solve the situation in some manner.
You don't have to solve it - just leave it floating...

I'd actually argue for more of a CRPG approach rather than less - in a CRPG, if something bores you, you walk away or do some other part of the game (assuming it's not entirely linear).

Leave the book half unread.

3. And gosh, if John doesn't actually enjoy this - well, you are actually entirely self destructive as a group to your own fun. Your all forcing yourselves to complete stuff you don't find fun (I've heard accounts of this in CRPG's and MMORPG's as well), or some of you are and some are just going with that flow even though it bores them.


But given their nerdy talk about optimising flexibility and protection (man, I've heard a few discussions like that), I'd figure they were getting some sort of fun out of it. It just didn't match the rest of the groups idea of fun.

Split da party! And if John starts telling them they need to stay to carve the rock, despite the fact that in real life that bores almost everyone else...well, it depends if he acts hurt/acts as if his fun is spoilt if they don't, when at the same time he's ignoring if they are having their fun spoilt by sticking around the rock.

In which case John is a disruptive player...correction - this goes outside the games SC. John is a disruptive person...subtley, but disruptive none the less. Or atleast what I'd call disruptive.

But if his character whinges but as a player he supports other people making their own choices and leaving for other stuff, then cool - play on!
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JoyWriter
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2010, 05:33:31 PM »

Or more to the point, for some reason they are following his leadership even though it's not fun for them to do so?

Yep, it's no (or little) fun now for a feeling of accomplishment and hopefully more fun later. Like game design sometimes is, but on a shorter timescale, it's not all fun all the time, but the satisfaction of putting the effort in and seeing the results can make it all worthwhile.

If the game pays back this kind of investment, and it is an expected part of play, then the game has two reward systems running simultaneously:

Apply resources cunningly to defeat demon/spirit thing->get payoff in magical item/new form of magic
work out how to use magical item/new form of magic->get payoff in satisfaction of being able to use that extra resource

In other words this game has an extra step that the dramatic structure might not be accommodating: In order to end a game on a high, you want it to end with the payoff, but in this case the payoff must be unlocked with a task. It's like revealing a parcel after a big build-up but finding that it takes too long to unwrap.

David, perhaps a better dramatic ending point is to stop with the unwrapped present, full of potential!

Then for those who really like unrapping it, that can be done in the next session after their brains have hummed through all the possibilities in the break (which is sort of what you did, but doing it by principle seems wise).

As a general rule, it's sometimes good to round down when dealing with indivisible units; stop early wanting more rather than stop late overloaded, in line with what Callan suggests, it's often better to not read that extra chapter at night, but to just get some sleep, because pushing past the limit will hinder your enjoyment anyway.

It occurs to me that another thing might be opperating here, it may be that for the purposes that Dan currently has, the addition of this extra factor is what they call in magic cards "Win more" ie surplus capability. If you have enough to achieve your purposes you don't need to keep going. In contrast, a future threat or possibility might require something like the capacity that this stone has. (or rather had given your retcon of it's softening) If it could become important enough, then going back that way to sort it out might become a worthwhile trip.

Now this problem puts a divide between those seeking tool use and those interested in tool creation; obstacles unite them in improving the current tools, whereas when the path is clear, that creativity is no longer interpreted as valuable.


Split da party! And if John starts telling them they need to stay to carve the rock, despite the fact that in real life that bores almost everyone else...well, it depends if he acts hurt/acts as if his fun is spoilt if they don't, when at the same time he's ignoring if they are having their fun spoilt by sticking around the rock.

In which case John is a disruptive player...correction - this goes outside the games SC. John is a disruptive person...subtley, but disruptive none the less. Or atleast what I'd call disruptive.

But if his character whinges but as a player he supports other people making their own choices and leaving for other stuff, then cool - play on!


If a divide appears in playing preferences, to label a player as disruptive because he happens to be currently getting his way seems a little unwise; by that logic your just picking one form of "disruption" over another, and hoping that the side you favour outnumbers the other, so you can say your being more disrupted than he is. That's one approach to democracy, but it's not the one I prefer.

I prefer to distinguish between those who are trying to damage a form of enjoyment they observe, and those who are accidentally damaging it by obliviously following incompatible objectives. The latter is worth working with and finding ways to make the two ways compatible again, or even taking turns. The former is worth focusing on the person themselves, and may well relate to issues going beyond the game.

But back to incompatible objectives, don't forget that many people can do harm by thinking they are helping! They can be like "Hang, on you'll see, this will help you with that thing you want to do", not seeing that the other side effects outweigh the positive effect.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2010, 07:53:47 PM »

Josh, I don't think you've read my post properly and if so, coincidentally, that's disrupting conversation a bit. I've refered to a guy who acts up and demands changes in behaviour if his fun is spoiled, but if someone elses fun gets spoiled he doesn't care. A kind of prima donna. And no you can't work with this guy or find ways - he doesn't care. That's precisely why he's disruptive - because he wont be working with you.

That's one alternative, and hopefully it is not the case here and instead John is just very passionate about his stuff and the rest of the group are too used to going with the flow and staying with him (or there's some missplaced sense of never splitting the party).

Read me through again.
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David Berg
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« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2010, 09:52:15 AM »

Callan,

Yeah, I'm tempted to blame John.  I agree that, at the point where his behavior is selfish and disruptive, social sanction is the logical recourse.  However, I feel like it's partly my fault for putting him in an awkward position, where he has to choose between (a) reaping the fruits of some activity his character would be more than willing to do, or (b) having fun right here, right now.

Your idea that John can carve stuff while Dan can go do something more exciting is interesting.  I think it's only actionable, though, if Dan can find excitement without danger.  If there's danger involved, it's nonsensical in game to go in without your party -- that's basically rolelaying suicidality.  I can't think of an in-game activity that consistently yields excitement without at least the apparent threat of danger -- conversation with hostile folks in cloaks, or exploration of a mysterious new place.  None of this is stuff that Dan's character would do alone.

The same problem arises if the players say, "Screw this task, we're not in the mood for it."  It's really hard to justify that in-character.  "We have a rare and precious resource we can milk for adventuring value... but, nah, let's go adventuring without doing that."  Dan is actually playing a pretty impulsive, impatient character, so that gets us closer, but there are limits.  "Impatient" remains ultimately subordinate to basic practicality.

I wonder if it's possible for the characters to all go explore a mysterious new place, and have Dan and Merlin focus their attention on that, while John finishes deciding what exactly they carved from the rock in the last scene?  This could last only until the first moment in the exploration scenario when it mattered what tools were on hand.  This seems like it might occasionally work, but not often, or for very long.

Maybe a solution is that there should always be a ticking clock of some sort?  At least one exciting thing on the map is always threatening to expire or worsen?  This would be all the in-fiction justification Dan would need to say, "We'll come back to the rock later; we need to save Watertown now!"  I have a fair amount of time-sensitive things going on in the game at most times, but I haven't made it a priority to make sure I always have one.


Josh,

Good idea about stopping with the unwrapped present, and then encouraging some between-session pondering.  Unfortunately, logistics render this unfeasible -- we only have so many hours in so many sessions per month, and we don't want to scrap an hour or two of play time because a good in-fiction stopping point arrives.  I imagine many (most?) play groups are in a similar situation.

Your mention of "surplus capability" touches on a key point.  Everyone is totally exited about rock-shaping when they are solving an extant problem.  The ability to create now what you need now, and come back later to create what you need then, is awesome when the fiction supports it.  Trust me, though, that the fiction doesn't always support it.  (Whether the example I've used in this thread is perfect or not.)  I'd love to establish some in-fiction process of getting your stuff when you need it, but with no clairsentience or teleportation or automobiles or phones, I can't think of one.  Paying peasants to do tasks works occasionally, but is far from all-purpose.
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Locke
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« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2010, 01:32:55 PM »

i think you need a cut scene.  There is montage and fast forward when the players want it, but as a GM you can say STOP, and cut scene in.  The players are stuck in the cut scene until they can find a way to solve the problem or they leave it of their own free will.  It simple but might work.  Also you could control the time of the cut scene.  If they discuss too long, you could figure the out of game discussion takes as long as the in game one does and that the group is running out of time.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2010, 03:25:57 PM »

Hi David,

I had thought 'the party sticks together' might apply here
Quote
Your idea that John can carve stuff while Dan can go do something more exciting is interesting.  I think it's only actionable, though, if Dan can find excitement without danger.  If there's danger involved, it's nonsensical in game to go in without your party -- that's basically rolelaying suicidality.
Why?

I mean, I'm looking at you, the GM...aren't you god here? Or pretty much?

You could change this. Are you keeping it cause you enjoy the idea a party split is death? Or do you and the rest of the group think it's death simply out of habit, without any sense of fun attached? If it's the latter, it's a no brainer - give it the chop!

Quote
The same problem arises if the players say, "Screw this task, we're not in the mood for it."  It's really hard to justify that in-character.  "We have a rare and precious resource we can milk for adventuring value... but, nah, let's go adventuring without doing that."  Dan is actually playing a pretty impulsive, impatient character, so that gets us closer, but there are limits.  "Impatient" remains ultimately subordinate to basic practicality.
Justify it to whom? If it's another player or you the GM, well stop being so picky - it's getting in the way of people doing what they want.

If it's players trying to justify it to themselves, because it'd be a split from character...well, this seems to be where nar and gamism don't mix. The only thing going on is gamist make effective armour stuff, yet they are trying to really adhere to their characters...non compatable.

Quote
I agree that, at the point where his behavior is selfish and disruptive, social sanction is the logical recourse.
I only said this if he tries to make a fuss in real life about other people splitting the party. And I'm not sure social sanction will mean shit...if this is how he acts, then this is how he acts towards people in life, in general. You can't play his parents.

Again, hopefully it's not the case and he'd be fine with anyone splitting their character off - he's just passionately pursuing what he wants too, which is good passion.

Quote
This could last only until the first moment in the exploration scenario when it mattered what tools were on hand.
Is he really that intense about not losing? And how often have characters died in your game?

Sometimes people get intense about not losing in games they can't really lose. I had a friend who played GTA3 and would reset the console every time he died, so he never had a death recorded on his stats (even though the character never really died).

Perhaps he's intense about not losing, and no one else else, so they aren't enjoying any of that tension he is, at all?
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JoyWriter
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2010, 05:45:22 PM »

I've refered to a guy who acts up and demands changes in behaviour if his fun is spoiled, but if someone elses fun gets spoiled he doesn't care. A kind of prima donna. And no you can't work with this guy or find ways - he doesn't care. That's precisely why he's disruptive - because he wont be working with you.

Yeah, you can define a class of behaviour like that if you like, but it may not apply to that person. And I'm not sure even now that your suggested methods for scoping out that kind of behaviour limit it to just that. There are a number of well meaning attitudes that could get tarred inaccurately.

I felt for the poor guy; I couldn't tell if you understood why someone would even want to play that way, and I thought it a bit harsh that he could be wanting to provide people with tools, and basically add richness to other people's experiences, and yet you could be expanding from that attitude to suggest that he is in some way deficient in feeling towards other people! I didn't want to see some guy get demonised for being oblivious.

But hey, you've qualified it now, yeah maybe he just really likes doing it and other people stick with it, maybe it's something more daft, probably given David's feedback more to the daft!

I don't think "run off and see if he shouts" is enough to qualify someone as a prima-dona, although I do think that a dramatic change of the status quo can force people to talk about their differences and sort them out, and allow you spot people who are just being intransigent. The latter has more subtlety, and if you mean doing something like that, rather than superficial binary distinctions, then I can get right behind it.

More broadly the heuristic you supply is "if someone is involving you in something that doesn't interest you, walk away, don't feel under obligation to stick with it".

There's some real value there when properly qualified, because it stops you just getting trapped in the limitations of a content-form when you need to just give up on it, you can jump out in a really zen way. But conversely it can encourage a very juvanile attitude of just going "I'm booored" and jumping ship because something doesn't interest you, instead of engaging conceptually with the other players view on play, why it's rewarding for them, so you can get on board with it. The latter alternative is so much better; people getting a grip of each others values and interests and using them to enliven situations that were previously dull. There's also those times where people pick up the aesthetic equivalent of enlightened self interest, and realise that in certain circumstances someone making something he loves can help you make something you love.

Now I'd rather work out why that is the case, how it happens and can be encouraged, and construct a setting in which a working "party" is natural, rather than softening those links so everyone can just go anywhere and do unrelated stuff. There's value there not just for games but because it gives skills for the general problems of having flatmates etc. The characters relationships form a model of cooperation despite conflict that players can use elsewhere.

But having said all that, that is a hard and rewarding thing, and so it's not something people should be engaging in near the end of a session, and it's probably something that would need it's own measures to watch out for; insuring that you don't hit the faultlines between players too heavily, etc.

And on the other other hand, I think it is good to have a way to handle split parties etc and the consequential increase in GM load, I just think it's better to solve the problem above rather than avoiding it with other methods. That way instead of agenda incompatibility being limited by GM overload, the amount of splitting is formed in a much more positive sense.

David, how often do the rewards get fixed to a certain place like this? Because doing that tangles up a straightforward reward in the issues of pathing and territory control, aside from the other things about "adventure game inventory". I suppose it's a bit like giving them an oil well! Are you planning to have them start having the option of being lords of areas and stuff? If so this kind of thing is the perfect way to make them make that choice, although they may be too early in their character's careers for them to take it that way.

It seems to me that as they grow in power, or more specifically in insight into how your system works, then you can give them prizes that are valuable in an inaccessible way, sufficiently so that they can be confident that people won't nick it (which would otherwise be an implication of the generalised value you give it) or that it won't disappear over time in other ways.

Now one way to do this is shift from environmental clues to more of a science lab approach; if the trigger is moonlight and it's likely to be in the moonlight a lot, then people will naturally be concerned that some random shepherd will come across it and work it out. If it is immobile but requires you to be mobile in order to have the tools to unlock it's secrets, then you no longer have to worry about the local people.

Secondly you can put it in places where it will not be eroded or otherwise destroyed, or make it easy to take it to such places, so people can stash up a load of magic items like buried treasure and only come back when they need them.

The next trick is to make threats with a relaxed time frame on them, not negligible, but lax enough that it becomes worth travelling all that distance. Remember they said "seen as we're not coming this way again"? Well the backtracking could be expressly because of the item, allowing you to use the journey to show the changes they have produced, or just fast-forward to the rock if the dial swings that way.

In this way things like that can be landmarks, or resources to fight over, likely shifting towards the latter if people start seeing how they do their stuff and trying to copy them, opening up previously inaccessible assets to theft. I wonder would that encourage the players to start turning into obfuscating alchemists, hiding their knowledge with misdirection, or turn into land-grabbing sorcerer lords! Maybe you don't want either tendencies to be encouraged, in which case you'd probably want to avoid fixed uncarryable assets!

That point about scheduling is unfortunate, but my attitude is always "is it really a lost hour?" I know times I've tried to use an asset because I have it, and have ended up defeating my own objectives! Maybe in the future you can make items with less substantial or immediately open ended effects, or do some of the above, but I'm sure there will still be times when you're running out of steam early, because something that would otherwise be fun is just too much mental effort for your tired brains! On the other-hand sometimes you just have to over-run, and it' better to loose a little sleep than finish there.

My reflex is to say "damn the slots and play by what makes sense!" but on the other hand there are probably ways to match scene pacing to time constraints. That dial of yours is lovely for that purpose, but it seems to get subverted by setting-mandated choice, where else have you noticed this going on?
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David Berg
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Posts: 612


« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2010, 07:04:05 PM »

Josh and Callan,

I'd prefer to keep this thread focused on the specific issue which I outlined in my first post, in the context of the priorities I listed in my second post.  The last two posts have diverged from that (in my opinion), and I'd appreciate it if you could respond to each other elsewhere.

I will return soon to address what I can, I just wanted to get this request out there first.

Thanks,
-David
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