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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Stupid Player Tricks  (Read 11169 times)
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 669

« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2001, 10:07:00 AM »

Paul summed that up better than I could have, but there's a sub-Premise present in the game I'm going to attempt to run, and it has never been voiced as such.  It deals with family and parenting, and runs the gamut from television becoming a surrogate parent to the ways in which celebrity can destroy youth and innocence.  All of the players picked up on this immediately, as witnessed by the characters and Kickers they created.  It's a good example of "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile."  In roleplaying games, that's a good thing.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2001, 10:52:00 AM »


This is in response to Jack's (pblock's) good point that friendships are involved too. However, I'm going to suggest something that might shock people.

*A friendship that relies on continuing ONE specific activity between friends is no friendship at all.*

In other words, if the friendship cannot survive the dissolution of the activity, then I don't think it's worth much. Real friendships are predicated on more than that.

Why endure a bad game for the sake of a lukewarm friendship? Or conversely, why preserve a lukewarm friendship for the sake of an un-enjoyable game?

Ron (way beyond Tough Love)

Posts: 276

« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2001, 11:12:00 AM »

I read all of these posts and I keep thinking that this is a great GM and a great group, so what's missing?  Then Czege hit on it exactly.  Lack of premise.  Maybe its absence is being over-emphasized.  

Either that, or these players are totally new to gaming.  Because I don't see a narrativist lacking the skills to *role* play effectively, recalling names, etc., and building the adventure.  

I'm also wondering, do they speak in character?  I don't mean describing (no matter how lavish) how their character is behaving, but actually becoming their character.

Jeff Diamond




Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.

« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2001, 10:07:00 AM »

Long post replying to many different points by folks:

How experienced are the players?
Two of the players in the group are relative newbies, having played sparsely, if at all, previous to this game (one played in my previous game for a few months...the other played L5R once, or something).

One other player has gamed for many years, but only with one other GM.  Before this game, she'd never had to roll dice or reference her character sheet, and her only exposure to gaming was with prescripted scenarios, no character death and endless ego-based "role"-playing.

The other player is an experienced, long-time gamer, and I should say I have less problems with him than anyone else.

And to answer the question about them speaking in character, yes; actually, TOO much.  

This is what I was talking about when I mentioned the idealized ego-play that the game sometimes drifts into.  There are long bouts of in-character interaction that do not accomplish anything or have any meaningful result; they are, in essence, hour-long in-character conversations or bitch-sessions (I don't consider it role-playing).

The real problem, the honest-to-Gods real problem is that they aren't bad role-players, they just have bad habits which have been reinforced by years of exposure to nothing but those bad habits passed off as the norm.

Much like me, I do not believe it is so much that they are not narrativists, but they are unaware narrativists.  They know, vaguely, what they want from a game, like me six months ago, but they lack the ability to express that concretely and alter their style to fit what they want.  It isn't because they lack the tools, it's the same problem I had: they want something else out of the game, something better, but they don't know it or know how to do it.

Right now it looks like wanna-be narrativism...that's where they want to be, though they don't have the tools to get there or a real idea of what "there" is like.

So they keep playing the same way they always have, because it is the closest thing they have to "there", and perhaps they're doing it wrong and maybe, just maybe, they'll get it right once and then they'll start enjoying the games again...of course, that will never happen: it's a dog chasing its tail, hoping that one of these times they can catch it and get that thing to stop chasing them.

Or perhaps this isn't a narrativist issue at all, as Paul considers, perhaps they're simulationists and they're just BAD simulationists, or gamists and BAD gamists.  So the question is not how to get them to be better narrativists, but how to get rid of the bad habits and make the game move, how to get them to engage.

I'm firmly convinced that no matter which stance you take, in-game movement towards some goal is essential to an enjoyable session...perhaps then the goal is lacking, because an out-and-out Premise to riff on has not been stated.  I would need to develop one concretely and then somehow explain to my players that this is what the game is about and they should feel free to develop their characters towards reflecting that premise.

I should also point out that I'm not really shooting for pure Narrativism (I don't think); I'm shooting for immersive, player-driven story-telling in a non-medieval heroic fantasy style.

I honestly don't know if I *could do a good job with pure Narrativism and I'd really like to participate in a good narrative session before I go and try to expose my players to it (I'm thinking "Elfs" is going to be my and my group's stepping stone).

Note this game started before I had a real cognitive grasp of Narrativism and techniques, and the explicit "no story" was a reaction to the railroading and preplotting that I'd already experienced and been running previous to this...it is an attempt to put the burden of story-movement back on the players, where it belongs IMNSHO.

I see my role as facillitator of those things which players would have no knowledge or control of, or desire to control (we have not moved into Author-stance yet in my game...though perhaps that's another way to solve the problem...more control to the players), and that it is up to them to take the game wherever it goes, not me.

The lacking thing is still the long-term engagement, finding that magical "engagement" button for this group and pushing it.

As I said, when they do engage, the game is fantastic because they are excellent players.

Ron does make a couple good points about when to drop a group, though in this case that is the harsh road I'm not ready to take yet.

I can't or won't sever my ties to the group, take your pick.  If I do sever ties, I'm out a group to play with, period; no way around it.  I won't be role-playing for months or even years because of where I live and the utter lack of gamers in this area (no, they won't crawl out of the woodwork, I've checked there).

People here still think D&D = Satanism and blood sacrifices, plus I've no local friends (I don't really like the people around here as I'm not a gun-totin', beer-guzzlin', meat-eatin' redneck)).
Hence I'd prefer to work with my group than just abandon them and screw myself in the process; after all, I am screwed either way, "bad" group or no group, which is the lesser of two evils?

So, all that said, I think I'm going to speak to my group Thursday, ask them if they are enjoying the game, what they're enjoying about it, and also state that I'm not having fun with the current game because I feel too much like I'm pushing things, reminding them of too many details and that it seems there isn't enough movement per session (spending two sessions standing around talking isn't my idea of story-movement).  Ask what they think we can do about that, if they want to do anything?

If they can't stand the current game, either, we'll have to talk about what they want to do to improve it, what they would like to see changed or try, and if they can't come up with anything, I'll have to suggest things.
I might suggest they must make a log/notes and show it to me at the end of every session as well, and ask what would help THEM remember important details better (perhaps providing a list of obvious current possible goals with each pre-game e-mail).
I'll also bring up creating a premise to riff on, and describe how to do that...basically, "just act as though the reason for playing is to highlight the premise."

And get them to play Elfs.
(That's going to be like pulling teeth for some of them...Hrm, how's this sound, "I need a break from the current game and its system.  I'd like to try something new, a short 'Elfs' session; three or four nights.  Then back to this whether we finish that or not.  Or if you like, we can keep playing that for a while.  We can decide later.")

I'll let everyone know how all the above turns out.

Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
"Homer, your growing insanity is starting to bother me."

[ This Message was edited by: greyorm on 2001-07-11 14:16 ]

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Posts: 258

« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2001, 01:57:00 PM »

A couple of thoughts I hope might be useful:

1) It sounds like you're running a simulationist campaign but looking for narrativist behaviors. As you note, you've announced no premise, and informed the PCs that you have no pre-planned story in mind. As the discussion among narrativists on this site proceeds, I think I am actually getting a handle on the concept, and the way Ron and Paul etc. make it sound, announcing a premise is something of a prerequisite for authorial and directorial behavior on the part of the players - it's that bit about limits making for power again.

2) Assuming I am not plain wrong, the question is why number 1 is the case. I see two utterly distinct possibilities:

a) You really are the simulationist you claimed to be historically and your first attempt at narrativist RPGing is simply having the maiden voyage shakeout problems one would expect.

b) You really are the simulationist you claimed to be even still, and your heart really isn't in narrativism, so you are avoiding things like premise-promulgation that our most advanced narrativist thinkers consider essential to the whole thing.

Needless to say, for where you go from here it matters hugely which of the two is the case.

3) It remains possible that the players are having fun with all that "unproductive" actor-mode stuff. That doesn't mean you should settle for not having fun, of course - you're the GM and it has to be fun for you if it's to be sustainable. But it would be a non-negative reason why they wouldn't complain.

If they are having fun, then the earlier suggestion (subclass "vaunted communication") that you should approach the players on the "How can you help me have more fun?" level may be especially productive. Of course the flip side is that they may enjoy "unproductive" in-character conversations so much that they will be fatally resistant to changing.

4) It's a truism of GMing that the one thing you can count on players failing to do is solving what seems to you to be the simplest possible puzzle. (A personal war story of mine involves Lex Luthor, a barrel of tea leaves and a video monitor, but therapy has done wonders.)

I admire your unwillingness to give up on your players and I hope things work out.



Unqualified Offerings - Looking Sideways at Your World
20' x 20' Room - Because Roleplaying Games Are Interesting

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.

« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2001, 03:35:00 PM »


One thing springs to mind in response to your comments: the main problem I'm having (and perhaps I'm not being clear enough) is in-game movement based on player participation.

I'm pretty certain I know when my players are getting bored, and I know how they work (I've been playing with them long enough): discussions are the slippery slope into long, boring segues which can last for five or six sessions where nothing whatsoever happens and everyone sort of utterly loses interest.

This has happened before and isn't an exaggeration, can you imagine running six sessions where nothing important happens?  Six sessions?
(That, tangentially, is when I started using narrativist scene-resolution style play, conflict-resolution, to try and make things flow: situation, conflict, resolution)

Does anyone here, even the hardcore simulationists, feel that spending a session haggling over equipment or the price of your horse, is a worthy exercise for the time spent?  Even in a simulation?

I don't have that much time to game during the week...I don't feel that it is worthwhile to spend my gaming session doing this, even if it is accurate and "what the characters would do."  I feel this, along with describing bodily functions and how one eats one's meals, is one of those things that can be safely glossed over without ruining the versimilitude of the simulation.

Because such things are nothing short of boring and uninteresting, they are utterly without useful end.  If it is simulation, it is bad simulation because no one is doing anything.

I can think of about a dozen things I'd rather do than play out horse-haggling, no matter how "in-character" it is, because it ultimately accomplishes nothing of importance.
I have, at times, gone to do other things while my game is running, and come back twenty-minutes, even a half-hour later, and the game is still going, completely without me, and it is still the same thing I left.

And, as I said, it is boring to the players, who swiftly lose interest themselves, even though they initiate it...they can't seem to figure out on their own how to move forward.

Therein lies the "engagement" problem.


4) It's a truism of GMing that the one thing you can count on players failing to do is solving what seems to you to be the simplest possible puzzle.

I personally think that has more to do with "broken" gaming groups than it being a truism.  I mean, honestly, presenting an object with a note saying "This is the key" and then presenting a locked door should not require even a small amount of intellect to figure out...obviously something more than "players always fail to figure the simple things out" is going on IMO.

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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